Mark Norell, chairman of palaeontology at the American Museum of Natural History, gave a talk on Thursday, hosted by the Royal Geographical Society of Hong Kong, on the evolutionary roots of birds in carnivorous dinosaurs. Norell – “the coolest dude alive”, according to The Wall Street Journal – was part of a team that announced in 1998 the discovery of two 120-million-year-old dinosaur species in northeastern China. At his New York museum, Norell has curated an exhibition titled “The World’s Largest Dinosaurs” as well as one about the Silk Road. One of the first Europeans associated with this trading route was Marco Polo …

 

The merchant, explorer and adventurer from Venice may not have given his name to the popular mint with a hole but he is credited with having introduced pasta to Italy. Almost 700 years after his death, though, scholars still cannot agree whether or not Polo travelled more in his mind than on his feet. In 2011, a team of Italian archaeologists argued that Polo never made it to China; a year later, a German historian claimed he did. No one knows for sure, then, but that didn’t stop Netflix making a series about Polo and his supposed exploits. Starring in that series, as the wife of the Mongolian emperor Kublai Khan, is Joan Chen …

 

Born in Shanghai in 1961, Chen grew up during what she calls “the worst of times” (the Cultural Revolution, of course) and was determined to join the navy or army until a casting director picked her out at school one day. She is best known as the spoiled royal wife in the film The Last Emperor, the seductive businesswoman in Twin Peaks and Mrs Yee in Lust, Caution. In 2008, Chen wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post criticising the politicisation of the Beijing Olympics. At the Games that year, one runner won three sprinting events in world record times: Usain Bolt …

 

 

Hailed as “a freak of nature” by The Guardian newspaper, “Lightning Bolt” grew up in Sherwood Content, a rural town in the north of Jamaica, where his parents ran a grocery store. He took up cricket as a boy, but he ran so fast, his dad convinced him to drop the bat and hit the track. Bolt was just 15 when, in 2002, he became the 200- metre world champion, beating boys four years his senior. This year, Bolt struck his famous lighting pose with a distinguished visitor to Jamaica: Barack Obama …

 

The first American president to have a half-brother living in Shenzhen, Obama is a huge basketball fan. On the campaign trail, pictures of Obama playing ball helped paint him as young and energetic. In the White House, he has used basketball to advance policy goals, playing pick-up games with members of Congress and high-ranking officials. In 2009, Obama celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing by meeting with the mission’s astronauts: Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong …

 

The first man on the moon was born near Wapakoneta, a small town in Ohio, in the United States. Armstrong had learned to fly by the age of 15 – before he even had his driver’s licence – and went on to fight in the Korean war, flying 78 combat missions as a fighter pilot. Armstrong, who passed away in 2012, was a member of the prestigious Explorers Club, an international society dedicated to the advancement of field research and “the instinct to explore”. As the club puts it, Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind” was “an apex in the history of world exploration”, a claim no doubt endorsed by current fellow of the society Mark Norell.