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Did BMW give cars to Team GB’s male gold medal-winners, but not female medallists?

Not really, no.

The claim originated from comments made on Newsnight by gold medal-winning Team GB rower Anna Watkins, specifically about the situation within the rowing team. That statement then got amplified over numerous tweets to the point where BMW were apparently giving all the men free cars and none of the women. 

BMW gave a statement to the Guardian denying the claim. In short, it makes three main points:

  1. The gift of free cars had nothing to do with whether athletes got a medal - it was to support athletes in their training during the build up to the Games. Indeed, some of the supported athletes didn’t even make it to the Olympics.
  2. Out of 150 athletes supported by the scheme, almost 70 (so slightly less than half) were women. This included gold medal winners Laura Trott and Nicola Adams.
  3. The decision over who to sponsor wasn’t made centrally, but by local BMW dealers supporting local athletes.

Anna Watkins herself clarified her comments, backing up BMW’s claims.

So while there did end up being a gender disparity in terms of the support different athletes in the rowing team got, it wasn’t as a result of a policy on BMW’s part - merely a cluster of independent local decisions all going a certain way in a single specific discipline. Frankly, it would be unlikely that any such decentralised system could operate without producing occasional clusters like this. (Of course, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that individual local dealerships could have been acting in a biased way.)

While there is certainly a strong argument to be made that sponsorship funds disproportionately flow towards male sportspeople, it’s not clear that this is good evidence for that case.

Are those pictures of Mars from the Curiosity rover?

No (mostly). 

That picture certainly is an HD panorama of Mars. But it’s nowhere near being the first, and it wasn’t taken by the Curiosity rover which landed on the planet a few days ago. It was taken by the still-functioning Opportunity rover between December 2011 and May 2012 (you can find the original TIFF, with added data, on NASA’s site). If you look at the home page of the site it’s on, they have HD panoramas from the MER mission (which comprised the twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit) dating back to January 2004. And the first panorama from Mars was actually taken by Viking 1 back in 1976.

Curiosity has sent back a panorama of its location, but it looks like this:

UPDATE: NASA have just released Curiosity’s first colour panorama.

And the picture of “sunrise on Mars” being attributed to Curiosity is also not actually taken by Curiosity:

It was taken by the Spirit rover in 2005. And it’s of sunset, not sunrise. It is on Mars, though.

There’s no shortage of genuinely stunning images coming out of the Curiosity mission, however (there’s even a GIF!) so not every picture ascribed to Curiosity is necessarily misattributed…

UPDATE: Another Martian picture that’s been doing the rounds, also attributed in many places to Curiosity, is this one:

Unlike the others, this isn’t just misattributed to the wrong rover - it’s not a genuine picture from Mars at all. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has a convincing debunking of the image, which he suggests is most likely a rendering from a piece of astronomy software.

Does a London children’s hospital employ Spider-Man window cleaners?

Yes, but also no.

Those Spider-Men are actually cleaning the windows of the Sheraton hotel in Shanghai. The vagueness of “a London children’s hospital” in the description is a bit of a giveaway - as is the fact that, as far as we can tell, none of the children’s hospitals in London (Great Ormond Street, Evelina Children’s Hospital, Barts and The London Children’s Hospital, The Portland Hospital) have windows that look like that…

But one of those hospitals has indeed employed superhero-costumed window cleaners (including one Spider-Man) - the Evelina Children’s Hospital, as can be seen in this article.

(Thanks to Terence Eden for the original tip, and Dan Williams for the information about the Evelina window-cleaners)

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