Amateur gardener grows world’s biggest potato

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The prize potato, grown by Peter Glazebrook, tips the scales at a whopping 8lbs 4oz (3.76kg), smashing the previous world record by 9oz.

The vegetable, Peter’s Kondor variety, was put on show on Friday at the National Gardening Show in Shepton Mallet, Somerset.

It is not the first time Mr Glazebrook, 66, from Northampton, has hit the headlines.

The retired chartered surveyor has previously held the world record for the longest carrot, after producing a 17-foot long specimen.

He has also been the double Guinness World Record holder for the heaviest parsnip, at 13lb, and the longest beetroot at 21ft.

Speaking before his latest triumph, he said: ”The secret to success is starting with the right seed.

”It’s learning how to grow them and putting a lot of effort in and picking up tips from other growers and reading what you can about it.”

The potato was weighed at the show’s Giant Vegetable Competition and Mr Glazebrook is now awaiting verification from Guinness World Records.

World’s biggest clock begins ticking in Mecca (Reuters)

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JEDDAH (Reuters) – A giant clock on a skyscraper in Islam’s holiest city Mecca began ticking on Wednesday at the start of the fasting month of Ramadan, amid hopes by Saudi Arabia it will become the Muslim world’s official timekeeper.

The Mecca Clock, which Riyadh says is the world’s largest, has four faces measuring 43 metres in diameter.

It sits 400 metres up what will be the world’s second-tallest skyscraper and largest hotel, overlooking the city’s Holy Grand Mosque, which Muslims around the world turn to five times a day for prayer.

“The Holy Mecca Clock started with the order of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud … one minute after 12 a.m. this morning, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan,” Saudi state news agency SPA said.

Over 90 million pieces of coloured glass mosaic embellish the sides of the clock, which has four faces each bearing a large inscription of the name “Allah.” It is visible from all corners of the city, the state news agency said.

The clock tower is the landmark feature of the seven-tower King Abdulaziz Endowment hotel complex, being built by the private Saudi Binladen Group, which will have the largest floor area of any building in the world when it is complete. Local media have said the clock tower project cost $3 billion (1.9 billion).

The clock is positioned on a 601-metre tower, which will become the second tallest inhabited building in the world when it is completed in three months’ time.

“Because it based in front of the holy mosque the whole Islamic world will refer to Mecca time instead of Greenwich. The Mecca clock will become a symbol to all Muslims,” said Hashim Adnan, a resident of nearby Jeddah who frequently visits Mecca.

The project is part of efforts to modernise the old city and make it more capable of catering to pilgrims. Around 2 million Muslims visit the city each year for the annual Haj pilgrimage, a once-in-a-lifetime requirement for able-bodied Muslims, and 3.5 million pilgrims visit Mecca at other times of the year.

While many in Saudi Arabia are celebrating the clock tower’s launch, some Mecca visitors are critical of how it will affect the ambiance of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthplace. The complex is built on the land once occupied by an Ottoman fortress.

“I think they are trying to do a lot of luxurious development around the Grand Mosque which is taking away from the spiritual atmosphere of the place, making it more modern,” said Lina Edris, a frequent visitor to Mecca.

“The clock tower is higher than the minarets of the Grand Mosque, which will take attention away from the mosque even though it is obvious the mosque is more important,” she added.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

World’s fastest bus: record-breaking wacky vehicles

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Paul Stender from Indianapolis in the United States fitted the yellow American-style school bus with a jet engine from a Phantom fighter plane.

Here we take a look at some of the records set by other bizarre vehicles:

Blade Runner

- Don Wales cut the world land speed record for a lawnmower to ribbons by hitting 86mph at Pendine Sands, in west Wales earlier this year on an adapted tractor mower.

Mr Wales, whose grandfather Sir Malcolm Campbell set a world land speed record for a car in 1924, smashed the previous record of 80.792mph.

Pedal Power

- Canadian cyclist Sam Whittingham last year set a new world record for the greatest speed reached on a pushbike.

On a dusty stretch of Nevada highway, Whittingham managed to pedal his streamlined carbon fibre Varna Tempest bike up to 82.4mph.

Luxury in the fast lane

- Travelling fast is one thing, but doing so in comfort is another. A company called Goldschmitt solved the dilemma by creating the world’s fastest motor home.

Their specially adapted Hymer motor home hit speeds of 129mph while still providing living space for a whole family complete with all the standard home comforts.

Couch cruiser

- A daredevil driver took the notion of comfort behind the wheel one step further by creating the world’s fastest sofa – with a top speed of 92mph.

The two seater couch – fitted with a petrol engine and topped off with a coffee table, book, pot plans and a cup – was put through it paces at Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome in Lutterworth, Leicestershire by Marek Turowski in 2007.

World’s oldest doodle found on rock

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Cambridge University experts believe the crudely etched circles are the Neolithic version of a modern office worker’s scribbles on a post-it note.

The 6.6in (17cm) chunk of sandstone was discovered by an amateur archaeologist from the bottom of a deep quarry in Over, Cambs., during a university fun day.

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Christopher Evans, director of the university’s Archaeological Unit, thinks the concentric circles were created by one of our early ancestors ”killing time” as opposed to a work of art.

Mr Evans said: ”I think it was a doodle. I don’t think it has any deep and meaningful religious significance.

”In this era of the Neolithic period they had a lot of time on their hands. It could show they were quite bored at times, but we don’t know for sure.

”We do know when they weren’t out harvesting or planting crops they had to find a way of killing time.

”There are Megalithic tombs with concentric circles like this carved into stones – the circles are a form of Megalithic art and typical of the grooved ware pottery of the time.

”They liked to use the concentric circle but we don’t know why, it may have been some kind of way to express their world view.

”Although I don’t believe they had a concept of art, these types of circles were used as a form of decoration.”

The rock was discovered by business language teacher Susie Sinclair, 48, at Needingworth Quarry, alongside the River Great Ouse, near Over, on Saturday July 3.

Ms Sinclair was on a geological weekend course being run by the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Continuing Education.

She said she was ”delighted” to discover the work by a Neolithic caveman, made at the time the pyramids were being built.

She said: ”I had not found many fossils when this rock caught my eye.

”It was just resting against a pile of rocks and the sun was shining onto these two circles. I thought it was a fossilised worm.

”I picked it up and showed it to our course leader Dr Peter Sheldon who realised it was more significant than a fossilised worm.

”He took a photo and sent it to Christopher Evans and the director of Stonehenge and that is when we realised it was serious.

”I’m an accidental archaeologist so I didn’t know what it was. It’s really quite a beautiful object and amazing to think someone did this 4,500 years ago.

”Everyone who has seen it has interpreted it differently. It’s a talking point whether it’s a piece of art or a meaningless doodle.

”Some people think it is a pair of eyes or a map. I think it’s more than just a doodle and I hope one day we’ll find out.”

Historians agree concentric circle “Grooved Ware” art has been found on pottery in other areas of the country, but never encountered in Eastern England before.

The stone will make its first public appearance since it was discovered at the Over Village Carnival today(SAT).

The remains of several prehistoric villages have been discovered in recent years in areas surrounding Over.

According to the latest research at the time the Over Stone was being carved, the countryside was dominated by the snaking River Ouse which broke up the area into a delta-like landscape of small islands, channels and marshlands.

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