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2560.  Tue Dec 02, 2003 8:27 am Reply with quote

Briefly: suppose I'm a dealer in some commodity: coffee, say. I agree to sell you some coffee and deliver it in a month's time, priced at 1000 dollars per tonne. I don't need to own it until then, so if the price falls over the next 2 weeks I can wait before I buy it, and when I do buy it I might be able to do so for 900 dollars (and make a profit of 100 dollars) but if the price rises before I secure my supply I'll lose money because I have to supply you at 1000 dollars but I have had to pay 1100 to buy it.

Same deal with shares. It used to be the case that share deals were agreed daily but only settled on certain fixed "settlement days" so you could treat them like the coffee in the example. Nowadays settlement is immediate, so the mechanism's different: I sell to you, borrow the shares in order to deliver them to you, and at some point have to buy them so as give them back to the pension fund or whatever that I borrowed them from.

This is all completely routine in financial markets.

2566.  Tue Dec 02, 2003 8:54 am Reply with quote

Sounds distinctly dodgy to me, and not something calculated to enhance the gaiety of anybody but the share-dealers concerned. But I'm not good on manipulating money (hey, as long as I have enough to live comfortably on, I'm happy...)

I appreciate that it's all routine to you, Flash, given your banking background, but it isn't to a lot of people. If I'm that ignorant, so are a lot of viewers, and maybe at least some of the celebs answering QI questions, so I'm still trying to work out if there's a B question in there.

2576.  Tue Dec 02, 2003 9:30 am Reply with quote

It's not dodgy really: for example, we've sold the BBC a programme we haven't made yet.

2577.  Tue Dec 02, 2003 9:34 am Reply with quote

Good point Flashy - hadn't thought of that one :-)

2608.  Tue Dec 02, 2003 7:38 pm Reply with quote

There's a helpful description of Exchange Alley practice in an 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue where the Lame Duck makes its appearance next to the Bear and the Bull.

A bull is one who buys stock on speculation for time, i.e. agrees with the seller to take a certain sum of stock at a future day, at a stated price: if at that day stock fetches more than the price agreed on, he receives the difference; if it falls or is cheaper, he either pays it, or becomes a lame duck, and waddles out of the Alley, see LAME DUCK and BEAR.

As a fully qualified financial self-harmer I have some sympathy with the duck...

3032.  Tue Dec 09, 2003 8:46 pm Reply with quote

Back to black bears -

New Jersey is allowing hunting of black bears for the first time in 33 years, because the bear population is getting too large. Animal-rights activists argue that the bears should be sterilised, but how?

The New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance advocates using a drug called Neutersol, which has to be injected into the testes, so the bear would have to be sedated and anaesthetised. This involves doing it in winter while the bears are hibernating. The drug costs $80-$100 a shot, but the group are offering to pay this.

However, the drug has only been tested and approved by the FDA for puppies, so the dosage is unknown. State wildlife officers would prefer to use porcine zona pellucida, the membrane that covers the eggs of female pigs. When PZP is injected into a female of another species, the animal's immune system produces antibodies that cluster around the animal's egg, preventing sperm from entering. It has already been used successfully as a contraceptive on deer, horses and black bears elsewhere. It's easier to administer because it can be shot into an animal's backside using a dart. The drawback is that a dose of PZP only lasts a year while Neutersol, if it worked on bears, would be permanent.

At the moment the state sees hunting as the most efficient form of population control.

Information taken from

3433.  Wed Dec 17, 2003 7:18 pm Reply with quote

Until 1995 the Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) was classified as a raccoon, like the Red Panda.

... officially classified, that is. The work which established that the Giant Panda is a true bear was actually published in 1964.

(source: The Encyclopedia of Mammals)

3443.  Thu Dec 18, 2003 4:25 am Reply with quote

...But the work which established that the Giant Panda is a raccoon was actually published in 1985

and then back and then forth and the consensus is...Bear.

3446.  Thu Dec 18, 2003 5:24 am Reply with quote

Bob - thanks for that. I'll post the nub of that link to make it easier to refer to:

"These results must be considered within the context of recent debates on the systematic position of the panda. This animal appears to have followed a partly independent evolutionary pathway, although it seems to stand somewhat closer to the raccoon than to the bear, contrary to other views. New comparative eco-ethological studies of the three species, as a complement to our neuromorphological approach, would certainly clarify the status reached by the panda at the end of its long and lonely evolution."

Quantitative morphology of the panda brain in comparison with the brains of the raccoon and the bear.

Pirlot P, Jiao SS.

J Hirnforsch. 1985;26(1):17-22.

3450.  Thu Dec 18, 2003 5:50 am Reply with quote

Bob: I used the term "officially classified" above, but is that how it works? ie is there a body which makes definitive pronouncements on matters of taxonomy, or is it a consensus/usage thing?

3467.  Thu Dec 18, 2003 11:53 am Reply with quote

On the subject of raccoons, in Japanese folk tales the secret weapon of the raccoons is their ability to make their testicles grow so large they can crush their opponents.


3691.  Sat Dec 27, 2003 9:01 pm Reply with quote

Polar bears are surprisingly hopeless in water - max speed 3 knots - and they will travel long distances overland to avoid short sea crossings. Seal pups will sometimes gang up on a swimming polar bear and force him out of the water.

I have seen it said that bears always have a litter of two cubs, one male and one female. This seems improbable - anyone know better?

3697.  Sat Dec 27, 2003 9:38 pm Reply with quote

The websites I looked at said that although two is the most common number, litter sizes can range between 1 and 3 cubs, born in December or January.

One QI thing that came up on was that although mating season is March to May, the fertilised egg is not implanted in the female's uterus (therefore doesn't start to develop) until September.

Another QI thing is that although the bears are very large, the cubs weigh only from 1 lb 3 oz to 1 lb 6 oz (600 - 700 g) at birth. Their weight is 10% of that of other mammals of similar size because their mother fasts during the pregnancy. The mother bear's body proteins actually break down to provide glucose in order to nourish the young while they are still inside her. Since the baby bears obtain very little nutrients while still inside the mother, they are born prematurely. However, to make up for the lack of nutrients during gestation, the milk of bears is richer than that of other carnivores. Polar bear milk is the richest milk of all the bear family, and because the milk is so rich, polar bear cubs do not need to drink as much milk as other carnivore cubs.

The website linked to above implies that this factoid about bear mothers fasting during pregnancy is true of all bears, not just polar bears, but I'd like to see that confirmed elsewhere.

3742.  Mon Dec 29, 2003 4:41 pm Reply with quote

The business of diapause (where the fertilised egg stops development for several months) is not unique among mammals to bears. Nor is the production of altricial (poorly developed) young. Some mammals (presumably for good evolutionary reasons) are able to run within minutes of birth, others cannot even see. Many marsupials are notable for the extreme "immaturity" of their weans: see famous film Birth of the Red Kangaroo. The daughters' DorlingKIndersley Picturepedia on Mammals claims that mother bear is asleep when she delivers. But can you trust a nature book so resolute in its refusal to use Latin names?

3760.  Tue Dec 30, 2003 1:51 pm Reply with quote

What about the fasting during pregnancy thing though, Bob? That sounds so unlikely that I feel somehow it must be true.


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