by Lang Reid
Published in May this year, the Bantam Books paperback
edition of the Guinness World Records 2003 (ISBN 0-553-58636-X) is here now. It
bills itself as "the most complete, authoritative and exciting guide to
every record, statistic and feat of human endeavour and natural wonder
The book is divided into sections, with "every record,
statistic and feat of human endeavour and natural wonder" some of which
are definitely of interest, whilst others are merely public loopiness.
Human achievements are first off, and while I was enthralled
by some of the feats of endurance such as Vesna Vulovic who, without a
parachute, survived a fall of 33,000 feet, or the real life actions of heroes
and lifesavers; but the fact that B. D. Tyagi of India has 4 inch long ear
hairs or that Thomas Wedders of the UK has a 19 cm nose, has me totally
Other categories include nature, society and politics,
objects, planes, trains and automobiles, buildings, military service,
technology, entertainment and sports. Being interested in dinosaurs, I did
glean some new facts, including the fastest dinosaur could lope along at an
amazing 40 kph, and that researchers had found some 160 million years old
dinosaur vomit, which shows that you should always clean up after yourself, you
don’t know who may discover it!
In the entertainment section I was interested to find that
John Lennon recorded and produced music under 15 pseudonyms during his
lifetime. Unfortunately the book does not tell you what they were.
In the pure science section is the data surrounding the two
chemicals ethyl mercaptan and butyl sereno-mercaptan which smell of a
combination of rotting cabbage, garlic, onions, burned toast and sewers. And
you think you’ve got halitosis!
However, for most readers, it seems that the fact that a Kim
Goodman can pop her eyeballs out 11 mm, and other such non-events are the most
fascinating. Oh dearie me!
The review copy was made available by Bookazine and had an
RRP of 350 baht. Whilst I have no intention of getting into a fight with the
Guinness World Records people, there would be those who would claim that
Vanessa-Mae, the "Youngest violinist to record both the Beethoven and
Tchaikovsky concertos" is Thai and not from the UK, and the largest car
engines of 13.5 litres in vehicles which were built in 1912 are not all that
exciting, according to Automania’s Dr. Iain, considering the 1902
Panhard-Levassor also had an almost 14 litre engine, and all of them are
eclipsed by the 21 litre Metallurgique of 1910.
However, the book says that if you think you’ve heard it
all, you probably haven’t heard that the world’s fastest computer can do
35.6 trillion calculations every second. What it doesn’t tell you is how many
times it crashes every day or carries out an "illegal operation" and
shuts itself down.
The 2003 edition of the Guinness World Records remains a tribute to lunacy,
so if you want to know what the nutters of the world were up to last year, this
is the definitive book for you! But not for me!