The Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
is one of the great weird news stories of all time. It was a tragedy (21 people killed), but also definitely weird.
What happened in brief: A tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst, causing a 40-foot tsunami of molasses to flood through Boston's North End.
Exactly why the tank burst and why the flood proved so deadly has always been a bit of a mystery. But now scientists have done their thing and have come up with a few answers. As reported in the New York Times
(Nov 26, 2016), interviewing aerospace engineer Nicole Sharp:
"The historical record says that the initial wave of molasses moved at 35 miles per hour," Ms. Sharp said, "which sounds outrageously fast."
"At the time people thought there must have been an explosion in the tank, initially, to cause the molasses to move that fast," she added. But after the team ran the experiments, she said, it discovered that the molasses could, indeed, move at that speed.
"It's an interesting result," Ms. Sharp said, "and it's something that wasn't possible back then. Nobody had worked out those actual equations until decades after the accident."
If the tank had burst in warmer weather, it would have "flowed farther, but also thinner," Mr. Rubinstein said.
In the winter, however, after the initial burst — which lasted between 30 seconds and a few minutes, Ms. Sharp said — the cooler temperature of the outside air raised the viscosity of the molasses, essentially trapping people who had not been able to escape the wave.
News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M503, November 27, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
Australian aviator David Mayman has promised investors that his personal jet packs will hit the market by mid-2017, though early adopters will pay about $250,000 for one, to fly a person at up to 60 mph for 10 minutes. The JB-10 (developed by Mayman and designer Nelson Tyler) has made about 400 test runs in Monaco and over downtown London and New York City, but the partners realize that ultimate success will require that the fuel tanks be downsized so that the craft can be powered electrically--and thus seek crowdfunding both for that model and a larger one to accommodate the Pentagon's (Special Operations Command) tactical needs. [Daily Mail (London), 11-11-2016
The Continuing Crisis
Wild Life: The state agency Colorado Parks and Wildlife filed 21 criminal charges in October against the Squirrel Creek Wildlife Rescue center in Littleton, alleging that some of the orphaned and rehabbing animals Kendall Seifert houses are not being kept according to the state's strict standards--and that Seifert's 15-year-old center is additionally home to his popular swingers' club ("Scarlett Ranch") featuring weekend sex parties. One of the criminal charges suggests that Rescue animals could be stressed by gazing at activity in the Ranch's bar area. Seifert said he will challenge the charges out of fear that many of the raccoons, foxes, song birds, coyotes, skunks, rabbits, and squirrels he would have to relinquish would not find suitable facilities elsewhere. [The Guardian (London), 10-27-2016
In St. Paul, Minn., a 25-year-old woman told police on November 3rd that she was involuntarily roughed up several hours after being voluntarily roughed up at Arnellia's Bar's weekly "Smack Fest"--in which female patrons competitively slap each other's faces for three "rounds" under strict house rules. The woman said she spoke amicably with her opponent, but by closing time, the opponent and several friends, including men, punched and kicked her outside the bar. (In other slapping news, a 71-year-old woman died in Lewes, England, in November while participating in a Chinese healing seminar that emphasizes being slapped repeatedly to rid the body of poisoned blood and toxins. The "healer," Hongshi Xiao, charges clients around $900 to beat what he calls the sha
out of them.) [St. Paul Pioneer Press, 11-7-2016
] [The Argus (Brighton), 11-14-2016
Episode Almost Ended in a Tie: In November, in a remote area of Oregon's Maury Mountains, a 69-year-old man killed an elk and dragged the carcass behind his off-road vehicle up a hill. According to the Crook County Sheriff's office, the vehicle suddenly flipped over backward, and the man landed on, and was impaled by, the elk's antlers. Fellow hunters summoned a helicopter, and the man has apparently survived. [The Oregonian, 11-7-2016
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
(1) In a retail market long dominated by priests, "nonsectarian" funeral eulogizers now offer to give individually-tailored remembrances of the deceased for a fee, according to an October report by New York Post reporter who interviewed two local "celebrants," who cited the declining appeal of "prayers." (2) The British retailer ASOS announced in August that three-foot-long clip-on dinosaur tails had sold out in one of its two models (although New York
magazine, which reported it in the U.S., was, for obvious reasons, baffled about why). [New York Post, 10-23-2016
] [New York, 8-29-2016
The Way the World Works
Brittany Maynard, then 29, became "the face of the Right to Die movement" in 2014, according to a New York Post
column, when she chose a legal physician-assisted suicide rather than awaiting the growth of her terminal brain tumor. In October, terminally ill California mother Stephanie Packer hoped to be "the face of the Right to Live movement" after declining suicide when learning of a new drug that might extend her life--but revealing that her insurance company denied coverage of it--though her suicide drugs were covered (co-pay: $1.20). [New York Post, 10-24-2016
Margaret Boemer's baby LynLee was "born" twice. In an October Texas Children's Hospital interview, doctors described how the need to rid Boemer's fetus of a rapidly-growing tumor required them, at Boemer's 23rd week of pregnancy, to remove the fetus completely from the uterus until it was "hanging out in the air" so that they could cut away the tumor and then re-position the fetus into the uterus. LynLee was "born" again by C-section 13 weeks later. [CNN, 10-20-2016
San Francisco State University researchers revealed in April that no fungi or fecal bacteria were found on the seats of the city's bus line or rapid transit trains (unlike their findings in 2011 before officials adopted easier-to-clean seats) but that a "rare" and "unusual" strain, called Pigmentiphaga
was found--previously associated only with South Korean waste water and the South China Sea. The city's Department of Health said, of course, not to worry. [SFGate.com, 10-28-2016
A high-level policy document released by the Chinese government in September detailed plans to use technology to monitor citizen behavior to such a degree that each person would receive a "social credit" score (similar to a "FICO" score in the U.S. but covering a range of conduct beyond financial) that would be the basis for allotting perks such as government support in starting businesses and whether parents' children are eligible for the best schools. "[K]eeping trust is glorious," according to the document, and "good" behavior promotes a "harmonious socialist society." [Washington Post, 10-22-2016
Kristi Goss, 43, an assistant to a Garland County (Ark.) judge, was arrested in October and charged with stealing nearly $200,000 in public funds, which she used to buy such things as a tuxedo for her dog, sequined throw pillows, a "diamond bracelet" (retailing for $128), and, of course, Arkansas Razorback football tickets. [Sentinel-Record (Hot Springs), 10-26-2016
(1) Motorist Kurt Jenkins, 56, was arrested in November in Boynton Beach, Fla., after a pedestrian said Jenkins, naked, motioned him to his car to take a look. The pedestrian said there were children in the area--and also that Jenkins appeared to have wires running from his genitals to an unidentified "electrical device." (2) Among a stash of pornography found recently on the computer of Michael Ward, 70, were photos of humans having some sort of sex with "horses, dogs, [an] octopus, and [an] eel," according to a report of England's Chelmsford Crown Court proceedings. A pre-sentencing order forbade Ward to have contact with children under 16 (but was silent about possible contact with fish or mollusks). [WPEC-TV (West Palm Beach, 11-2-2016
] [Metro News (London), 11-6-2016
The Passing Parade
(1) At press time, "Bugs Bunny" and "Pink Panther" were on trial in St. Catharines, Ontario, on aggravated-assault charges from a Halloween 2015 bar fight in which "Dracula"'s ear was severely slashed with a broken bottle. "There was a lot of blood," said a witness (but coming from Dracula, not being sucked out by Dracula). (Update: The judge cleared Bugs but was still deliberating on Panther.)
(2) The tardigrade is an ugly micro-organism that is perhaps the sturdiest animal on earth, able to endure otherwise-impossible living conditions and (thanks to gene-sequencing) known to be composed of DNA not seen elsewhere. A Japanese company recently began selling an oversized, cuddlable tardigrade toy "plushie" authenticated by science's leading tardigrade authority, Prof. Kazuharu Arakawa of Keio University. [St. Catharines Standard, 11-8-2016
, 11-18-2018] [BoingBoing, 11-15-2016
A News of the Weird Classic (January 2013)
The usual 20,000 or so visitors every year to Belgium’s 30-acre Verbeke Foundation art park are allowed to reserve a night inside the feature attraction: a 20-foot-long, 6-foot-high polyester replica of a human colon created by Dutch designer Joep Van Lieshout. The area at the end of the structure gives the installation its formal name, the Hotel CasAnus. The facility, though “cramped,” according to one prominent review, features heating, showers, and double beds and rents for the equivalent of about $150 a night [the rate in 2012]. [Huffington Post, 12-12-2012]
Thanks This Week to Jim Doughtie and Gary Krupa and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
More in extended >>
As an experiment in survival, Portland radio announcer Bill Davis spent a week confined in a windowless fallout shelter with his family... and his mother-in-law.
They survived, although Davis's wife admitted, "There were problems."
One of the problems was that four days into the test an earthquake struck Portland, and the Davis family, cut off from communication, thought it was a nuclear attack.
Medford Mail Tribune - Nov 1, 1961
Medford Mail Tribune - Nov 10, 1961
Medford Mail Tribune - Nov 9, 1961
The dairy industry, noting that coffee, tea, beer, liquor, and soft drinks are traditionally served at parties but milk isn't, started plotting ways to make milk a "social drink."
If you add alcohol to milk it could be considered a social drink. Otherwise, I'd say their campaign fizzled.
Akron Beacon Journal - Dec 4, 1960
Port Angeles Evening News - Mar 9, 1960
In 1977, the head of the National Peach Council, Robert K. Phillips, sent the following letter to the U.S. Department of Labor protesting their proposed ban on the pesticide DBCP, which had been found to cause sterility among male agricultural workers who handled it. Phillips noted that some men might actually want to become sterile, so for them infertility would be a welcome benefit of the job.
To: Dr. Eula Bingham, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health
Recently we received the interesting DOL news release concerning worker exposure to DBCP.
It appears to us that you and Secretary Marshall may have overreacted, or at least that is your public posture.
While involuntary sterility caused by a manufactured chemical may be bad, it is not necessarily so. After all, there are many people who are now paying to have themselves sterilized to assure they will no longer be able to become parents.
How many of the workers who have become sterile were of an age that they would have been likely to have children anyway? How many were past the age when they would want to have children? These, too, are important questions.
If possible sterility is the main problem, couldn't workers who were old enough that they no longer wanted to have children accept such positions voluntarily? They could know the situation, and it wouldn't matter. Or could workers be advised of the situation, and some might volunteer for such work posts as an alternative to planned surgery for a vasectomy or tubal ligation, or as a means of getting around religious bans on birth control when they want no more children.
We do believe in safety in the work place, Dr. Bingham, but there can be good as well as bad sides to a situation.
Above all, please don't try to get a ban on the manufacture and sale of the chemical DBCP, because that would cause some losses of agricultural production which would be serious.
Robert K. Phillips
Executive Secretary, National Peach Council
Despite Phillips's appeal, DBCP got banned anyway, because in addition to the sterility it was linked to various cancers. More info: NY Times
, Multinational Monitor
Mother Jones - Apr 1978
I'm not a sentimental guy, but it's with a heavy heart that I report the at-least-temporary closing of Nothing To Do With Arbroath
, likely the most amazing (and valuable to me) one-person blog on the intertubes. The proprietor (who has never, ever run an ad), an energizer-bunny-like Scotsman named Kevin, posts at least 10 "weird news" stories a day sharply at 6 a.m. on the Isles--and when I write "a day," I mean every single damn 24-hour-cycle, new-calendar-page day, every day, every, every, every. His whole archive is there, and y'all should pop over to Arbroath and leave him a Comment on his top page, which unfortunately will be unupdated for a while, because part of the reason he's backing off is his health. (He also cites similar Internet annoyances experienced by Yr Editor Chuck, who gets depressed daily by auto-loading pages, pop-ups, websites' over-converting to mobile and leaving us desktop old-timers behind--as well as "social media"'s snatching our visitors.) Kevin especially loves animal-heavy stories; he's got cute captions for cute ones and never met an exceptionally low-IQ'd animal in distress that he didn't consider newsworthy. I miss the hell out of him already, but we can hope his health improves and that he returns to the keyboard. (All right, I'll stop now before I get all maudlined up. I'm not good at this.)