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France Facts: A study of French postmen’s testicles once won an international science prize

France is a world leader in plenty of things and the country can boast Nobel Prize winners and international garlands galore - but it also has a more bizarre claim to fame on the world stage.

France Facts: A study of French postmen's testicles once won an international science prize
Photo: AFP

A bevy of brave French postmen in Toulouse volunteered to have thermometres taped to their testicles in an experiment to find out if both are the same temperature.

The study, conducted by leading fertility specialist Roger Mieusset and Bourras Bengoudifa from the University of Toulouse, concluded that the left one is slightly warmer than the right – but only if a man is wearing clothes.

The experiment outline did not explain why postmen were considered the perfect subjects for testing, but added that a follow-up experiment tested the temperatures of the testicles of 11 bus drivers, with the same result.

The experiment secured the 2019 IgNobel science prize for Mieusset and Bengoudifa, the annual international prize that celebrates the more light-hearted science experiments that 'make people laugh and then make them think'.


Roger Mieusset is a fertility specialist who is a leading researcher into the causes of infertility – which can be impacted by either very high or very low temperatures which damage or destroy sperm.


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France Facts: Paris once had a ‘strike square’

The French have something of an international reputation for being fond of a strike - but did you know that Paris once had a Place de Grève (strike square)?

France Facts: Paris once had a 'strike square'

But in this case the French did not name the square after one of their favourite activities, in fact it was the other way round.

The Place de Grève, in central Paris next to the Seine, was the place where unemployed workers gathered, seeking casual labour.

Over time grève came to signify a group of people who were not working.

After the French won the right to strike in 1864 – 20 years before they won the right to form a union – the word attached itself to workers who were choosing to without their labour, rather than people who were unable to find work.

These days the French are quite fond of une grève, and between 2010 and 2017, the number of French strike days was 125 per 1,000 employees, according to a study by the European Trade Union Institute.

As a comparison, the UK, Germany and Sweden had 20, 17 and 3 respectively. 

The Place de Grève still exists, but in 1802 it was renamed the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville and houses the very impressive city hall of Paris.

The square's other claim to fame is that it used to be where public executions took place, and saw the first public use of the guillotine when robber Nicolas Jacques Pelletier was executed on April 25th, 1792.

And France has seen one or two strikes since 1864.