Skip to content
Skip to main content
Featured content
Free courses
All content

10 big news stories that happened in 2006 (when OpenLearn was born)

Updated Wednesday, 3 August 2016

How much do you remember about 2006? We take a look back at ten of the biggest news stories from the year.

Find out more about The Open University's Open degree qualifications.

1: A whale takes a dip in the River Thames in London

Fire and rescue services trying to rescue a whale in the river Thames.

On 20th January 2006, people in London thought they were hallucinating when they could've sworn they'd seen a whale swimming in the River Thames. Their hallucinations were confirmed to be, in fact, reality when TV cameras captured a juvenile female Northern bottlenose whale who was five metres long and weighed about seven tonnes. Her normal habitat would have been near the coasts of the far north of Scotland and Northern Ireland, and in the seas around the Arctic Ocean but she appeared to have lost her way. Rescue teams attempted to get the whale (affectionately named Diana) back into the Atlantic but she later died from convulsions as she was being rescued at around 19:00 GMT on 21 January.

  • Journey to the Hawaiian islands and observe humpback whales and their calves in our exclusive video taken as part of our Frozen Planet series.

2: Mumbai train bombings leave 209 dead

Photo of train wreckage after 2006 Mumbai train bombings.

On the 11 July 2006 Mumbai suffered a series of terrorist attacks via train bombings. There were seven bomb blasts that occurred over a period of 11 minutes on the Suburban Railway in Mumbai. The bombs were set off in pressure cookers and killed 209 people and injured over 700. The first bombs went off at 18.24 (IST) but the first rescue efforts were obstructed by the heavy rains and monsoon flooding, so many fellow passengers and bystanders helped victims to reach the nearby ambulances and provided first aid. Nine years later, 12 people were convicted in this case. Faisal Sheikh, Asif Khan, Kamal Ansari, Ehtesham Sidduqui and Naveed Khan who planted the bombs in various trains were all sentenced to death while the other seven accused of the crime—Mohammed Sajid Ansari, who prepared the electrical circuits for the bombs, Mohammed Ali, who allowed people to use his house to make the bombs, Dr Tanveer Ansari, one of the conspirators, and Majid Shafi, Muzzammil Shaikh, Sohail Shaikh and Zamir Shaikh who gave logistical support – were given life imprisonment.

3: Pluto is downgraded from a planet to a dwarf planet

It seems every kid's way of remembering all the planets of our solar system ('My very easy method just shows us nine planets') is now redundant thanks to the IAU's decision to declassify Pluto as a planet. This is because Pluto doesn't meet one of the three criteria for a Solar System object to be considered a planet, namely: "It must have cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit." Since then Pluto has been characterised as a lonely planet with the other eight planets leaving him out in a series of memes. On July 14, 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft became the first spacecraft to fly by Pluto to make detailed measurements and observations of Pluto and its moons, thus giving Pluto some company - if only for a little while.

4: Austrian girl escapes from kidnapper's house after 8 years

Photograph of a house of Wolfgang Prikopil

On 23rd August 2006, after disappearing eight years ago, 18-year-old Natasha Kampusch escaped from her kidnapper's clutches. Wolfgang Přiklopil, the kidnapper, was on his mobile phone while Natasha was vacuuming his car - giving her an opportunity to run and get help from a neighbour. Přiklopil committed suicide before the police caught him. At the time of the initial search, a child witness reported seeing her being dragged into a white minibus by two men, although Kampusch said there was no accomplice. A police search followed this statement and 776 minivans were examined, including her kidnapper's van, although he lied and stated that on the morning of the kidnapping he was alone at home, the police believed his explanation.

  • Discover how the limitations of the human brain and eyewitness testimony can lead to major miscarriages of justice with our free course Forensic Psychology.

5: Hype ensues around the film 'Borat'

Borat in Cologne

In November 2006 shockumentary Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (usually shortened to Borat) was released in cinemas across the UK and USA. Sacha Baron Cohen played the title character, Borat Sagdiyev, a made up reporter from Kazakhstan travelling throughout the USA recording real altercations with Americans. Much of the film is unscripted with Americans responding to Borat's lack of understanding of American customs through a series of interviews. Controversy went hand-in-hand with the film two years prior to its release, and after its release. Even cast members criticised it and some sued the creators. It was banned in nearly all Arab countries except Lebanon and was frowned upon in Russia. Despite this the film played to sold out crowds and received a score on 92% on Rotten Tomatoes with critics saying, "Part satire, part shockumentary, Borat gets high-fives almost all-around for being offensive in the funniest possible way. Jagshemash!"

  • Explore how comedy came about in classical times with our podcast collection The Birth of Comedy.

6: Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein is executed

On 5 November 2006 Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging. On 30 December 2006, the first day of Eid-ul-Adha, Saddam was hanged. Mobile phones captured the execution and the video was leaked to the media and posted on the Internet within hours, becoming the subject controversy across the globe. Prior to his execution he was captured by Americans in 2003 after they invaded Iraq. During this period Saddam was held in a Baghdad detention facility and was interrogated by FBI agent George Piro. In 2004 he was charged with crimes committed against residents of Dujail in 1982, following a failed assassination attempt on his life. This included the murder of 148 people, torture of women and children and the illegal arrest of 399 others. Following the execution, Saddam's body was buried in his birthplace of Al-Awja in Tikrit, Iraq on 31 December 2006.

7: Woman with the first face transplant is spotted in public

While the world's first partial face transplant on a living human happened on 27 November 2005, the patient, Isabelle Dinoire, appeared in public in early 2006 for a media conference with her new face. She underwent surgery to replace her nose, mouth and chin, which had been mauled by her dog. The operation on Isabelle's face was carried out by Professor Bernard Devauchelle, assisted by Professor Jean-Michel Dubernard at the Centre hospitalier Universitaire Nord in Amiens, France. The surgery requires the patient to take the drugs for the rest of her life so that her body doesn't reject her new face. Isabelle later bought another dog to help in her recovery after the surgery.

  • While you wouldn't be able to do this with a face transplant, is there a case for allowing paid organ transplants? Discover the ethics of this with our audio on Organ transplants.

8: Italy wins the 2006 World Cup in Germany

2006 World Cup opening ceremony.

It was another year of hurt for England when Italy came, saw and conquered the 2006 FIFA World Cup. England’s shot at the World Cup ended in quarter-finals when they lost on penalties (what a surprise) to Portugal after a goalless match. Italy won the tournament on 9th July 2006 after they defeated France 5–3 in a penalty shootout, when extra time had finished in a 1–1 draw. Germany defeated Portugal 3–1 to finish in third place. It was also Italy's first world title in 24 years, and their fourth world title overall. This made them the second most successful World Cup team ever.

  • England has one of the worst record for penalty shoot-outs in international football competitions - could purposeful practise end this? Explore with our article Can you train for penalty shootouts?

9: Google purchases YouTube for US$1.65 billion

In October 2006 tech giant, Google, bought video streaming site, YouTube, in 2006 for $1.65 billion. The price tag would've seemed massive at the time - especially as YouTube only started up in 2005 but YouTube continued to grow year after year. At that time it was Google's second largest buy. YouTube now has 1 billion unique users using the service every month. Starting from 2010 Alexa (a commercial web traffic data and analytics service) ranked YouTube as the third most visited website on the Internet after Google and Facebook - this still continues today.

  • See what Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc., believes drives Google in our video What makes Google go?

10: 'Bird flu' discovered in Scotland

In April 2006 a swan, that had been found dead in Scotland eight days earlier, tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza (bird flu). While the virus didn't pose a huge threat to humans experts feared the virus could change and gain the ability to make humans ill and in its new form trigger a flu pandemic, putting millions of lives at risk. This led to many wildlife areas being cordoned off and the population questioning if they could still eat chicken and wondering if their budgie would survive the outbreak.

  • Take a look at the flu virus, infection, replication, mutation, immune responses, pathology, surveillance, diagnosis and treatment in our free course Influenza: A case study.

The Open University launched OpenLearn, a website dubbed 'The home of free learning', in October 2006 and since then it has gained over 40 million unique users and won awards recognising its array of valuable free learning content.
To celebrate OpenLearn's 10th anniversary, we are releasing a new listicle centralised round the number 10 on the 10th of every month in the 10 month lead up to October. Check out some of our listicles below to enjoy even more free learning!


Become an OU student

Ratings & Comments

Share this free course

Copyright information

Skip Rate and Review

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?