How to fly

By Oscar Quine

Your air miles might read like a gas meter, but do you know what's in your in-flight cup of tea? Science writer Brian Clegg demystifies the art of flying.

"Birds are regularly seen at cruising height, with the world record of 38,000 feet held by a Ruppell's griffon, which was sadly sucked into an engine."

"No need to be scared of the loo – the news story about a woman trapped on a toilet for two hours by the vacuum suction is a myth. It was a story used in crew training about checking the toilet."

"Don't drink the tea. Because of the low cabin pressure on board, water boils on a plane at around 90 degrees centigrade, which is too low to make the ideal cup. Stick to coffee. Or even better drink plenty of water, as the dry air and low pressure is dehydrating."

Rotating column: Marvellous stuff

By Samuel Muston

It was an AWESOME, BEST EVER, AMAZING, sort of a day. Possibly the ONLY DAY I WILL EVER NEED.

Or maybe it was just a ho-hum normal day and I have fallen prey to the hyperbole we are all drowning in.

Sometimes I feel like a person without skin, absorbing all the endless overstatement the internet in its endless facileness beams at me. We live in the age of the gross. Words become hollow vassals, their meanings having elided, and in time disappeared altogether, often up their own fundament. And so I find myself casting around, or perhaps back, for untainted ones. I started saying marvellous in an ironic way a few months ago and now it has inveigled its way into everyday use. Then came fab, supplanting coolio.

What next? Right-ho and smashing? The internet nicked my vocabulary.

Instant ethics

By Ellen E Jones

Dear Ellen

Q. An ex-lover has moved into my building. Is it permissible to ignore their presence?

A. It's permissible, but it will also convey the impression that you're still obsessing over whatever drama made this person your ex in the first place. Is that what you want? Bitterness is not a good look on anyone.


Four play: Famous libel cases

1. Émile Zola*

2. Mountbatten vs The people

3. Jonathan Aitken vs the Guardian

4. Polanski vs Vanity Fair

*Zola brought to trial for libel 7/2/1898

Micro extract: Counting pilcrows

"The pilcrow (¶) is not a mere typographic curiosity, useful only for livening up a coffee-table book on graphic design or a paragraph in a mortgage deed, but a living character with roots in the earliest days of punctuation."

From 'Shady Characters: Ampersands, Interrobangs And Other Typographical Curiosities' by Keith Houston (£9.99, Penguin)

All Good Things

By Charlotte Philby


Trunk call

To mark Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector, showcasing the personal collections of creative types including Andy Warhol and Peter Blake, Blake's daughter Rose has created this charming print (above) inspired by her father's extensive ensemble of elephants. £50,


Piece time

Online concept store 'A Day in a Life' launches this month, featuring "easy, wearable statement pieces and prints, inspired by the modern woman's active lifestyle".


Heaven scent

Our favourite scent for 2015 is French Leather, the sumptuous new offering from MEMO Paris which combines lime essence, rose and suede accord. £168,