Weird Universe Blog — January 31, 2017

Most painful places to get stung

Before 2014, science had information about which insect species delivered the most painful sting, but it didn't have info about how the painfulness of stings varied by body location. So Cornell University graduate student Michael Smith set about to correct this omission. He used honey bees to sting himself in 25 body locations and then rated the painfulness of the stings on a 1-10 scale. He published his results in the online journal Peer J (Apr 3, 2014, "Honey bee sting pain index by body location").

From the article:

Guard bees were collected in a cage, and used immediately. Bees were taken from the cage haphazardly with forceps. To apply the sting, the bee was grabbed by the wings and pressed against the desired sting location. The bee was held against the sting location until the sting was first felt, and kept at the location for 5 s to ensure that the stinger would penetrate the skin. The bee was pulled away after 5 s, leaving the stinger in the skin. The stinger was left in the skin for 1 min, and then removed with forceps.

And the results:

The three least painful locations were the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm (all scoring a 2.3). The three most painful locations were the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft (9.0, 8.7, and 7.3, respectively).

In 2015, Smith received an Ig Noble Prize for his efforts.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jan 31, 2017 - Comments (4)
Category: Science, Experiments, Pain, Self-inflicted and Otherwise

Atomic Seeds

From the American Legion magazine for May 1962.

Posted By: Paul - Tue Jan 31, 2017 - Comments (6)
Category: Nature, Technology, 1960s

January 30, 2017

Seagull Cinderella

My apologies to Paul for barging in on his ongoing series about "Artwork Khrushchev Probably Would Not Have Liked," but I've found a piece that I think fits the category. It wasn't made prior to Khruschev's premiership, so it doesn't fully qualify under the category. Nevertheless, if Khruschev were still alive, I don't think he would like it.

It's the "Seagull Cinderella" by artist Donna Dobson. Also known as the "seagull with boobs."

It stirred up controversy in the summer of 2016 when it was installed on New Bedford's Seaport Art Walk. Local residents started a petition demanding its removal. This inspired a counter-petition by fans of the statue. I think the statue now has a permanent home in Maynard, MA.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 30, 2017 - Comments (7)
Category: Art

World’s Oldest Active Salesman:  1939

Jump to 3:12 for this feature. I hope I move as good at that age as Charles Thurston did.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jan 30, 2017 - Comments (1)
Category: Business, Human Marvels, 1930s, Cars

January 29, 2017

News of the Weird (January 29, 2017)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M512, January 29, 2017
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

Suspicions Confirmed: Schools' standardized tests are often criticized as harmfully rigid, and in the latest version of the Texas Education Agency's STAAR test, poet Sara Holbrook said she flubbed the "correct" answer for "author motivation"--in two of her own poems that were on the test. Writing in Huffington Post in January, a disheartened Holbrook lamented, "Kids' futures and the evaluations of their teachers will be based on their ability to guess the so-called correct answer to [poorly] made-up questions." [Huffington Post, 1-5-2017]

Compelling Explanations

In December, James Leslie Kelly, 52 and with a 37-conviction rap sheet dating to 1985, filed a federal lawsuit in Florida claiming that his latest brush with the law was Verizon's fault and not his. Kelly was convicted of stealing the identity of another James Kelly and taking more than $300 in Verizon services. He bases his case on the Verizon's sales representative's having spent "an hour and a half" with him--surely enough time, he says, to have figured out that he was not the "James Kelly" he was pretending to be. He seeks $72 million. [WFTV (Orlando), 1-2-2016]

In Hong Kong in December, Mr. Lam Chung-kan, 37, pleaded guilty to stealing a bottle of a co-worker's breast milk at work and drinking it--but only to help with "stress" in his job as a computer technician. Undermining the health-improvement explanation was a photo Lam sent the woman, showing himself in an aroused state.) [South China Morning Post, 12-21-2016]


London's The Guardian reported in January that "dozens" of people have been charged or jailed recently for "defaming" the new Myanmar government, which has been headed (in a prime-minister-like role) since April by Aung San Suu Kyi, who was elected after her release from house detention following two decades of persecution for criticizing the longtime military regime. For her struggle for free speech, Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Said the wife of the latest arrestee, Myo Yan Naung Thein, on trial for "criminal defamation" of Suu Kyi's regime, "[What he does] is not insulting [but] just criticizing, with facts. This is freedom of speech." [The Guardian, 1-9-2017]

The Litigious Society

High Finance: Sometime in 2006, a photographer on assignment roamed a Chipotle restaurant in Denver, Colo., snapping photos of customers. Leah Caldwell was one person photographed, but says she refused to sign the photographer's "release"--and was surprised, nevertheless, to see a photo of herself in a Chipotle promotion in 2014 and again in 2015 (and on her table in the photo were "alcoholic beverages" she denied ever ordering). In January, Caldwell said the misuse of her image is Chipotle's fault for ignoring her non-"release," and thus that she is entitled to all of the profits Chipotle earned between 2006 and 2015: $2.237 billion. [KMGH (Denver), 1-5-2017]


In December, Ashlynd Howell, age 6, of Little Rock, Ark., deftly mashed her sleeping mother's thumbprint onto her phone to unlock the Amazon app and order $250 worth of Pokemon toys. Mom later noticed 13 email confirmations and asked Ashlynd if something was amiss. According to the Wall Street Journal report, Ashlynd said, "No, Mommy, I was shopping." [Wall Street Journal, 12-23-2016]

Leading Economic Indicators

The British think tank High Pay Centre reported in January that the average CEO among the UK's top 100 companies (in the Financial Times Stock Exchange index) earns the equivalent of around $1,250 an hour--meaning that a 12-hour-a-day boss will earn, by mid-day January 4th, as much money as the typical worker at his firm will earn the entire year. (Around the same time, the anti-poverty organization Oxfam reported, to an astonished press, that eight men--six Americans, headed by Bill Gates--have the same total "net worth" as the 3.6 billion people who comprise the poorest half of the planet.) [The Guardian, 1-3-2017] [New York Times, 1-16-2017]

An organization that tracks "high net worth" investors (Spectrem Group of Lake Forest, Ill.) reported recently that, of Americans worth $25 million or more, only about two-thirds donate $10,000 or more yearly to charity. And then there is Charles Feeney, 85, of New York City, who in December made his final gift to charity ($7 million to Cornell University), completing his pledge to give away almost everything he had--$8 billion. (He left his wife and himself $2 million to live on, in their rental apartment in San Francisco.) A January New York Times profile noted that nothing is "named" for Feeney, that the gifts were mostly anonymous, and that Feeney assiduously cultivated his low profile. [Harper's Index (February 2017)] [New York Times, 1-6-2017]

A "disturbingly large" (according to one report) number of smartphone apps are available devoted to calculating how much the user has "earned" per day and per year during restroom breaks answering nature's calls while at work. Australia's News Limited's rough calculation estimated US$1,227 for someone making US$55,000 a year, but results might vary since there are so many apps: Poop Salary, ToiletPay, Log-Log, Paid 2 Poo, Pricy Poop, Poop Break and perhaps others. [ via New York Post, 12-9-2016]

People Different From Us

"Every major event in my life has been about insects," Aaron Rodriques, 26, told the New York Times in December, home in New York City during a winter break from his doctoral research at Purdue University on the "sweet tergal secretions" of German cockroaches, and on his way to buy a supply of crickets and hornworms. ("Hornworms," he said, have an "amazing defense" where they "eat tobacco for the nicotine, which they exhale as a gas to scare away predators.") "When I'm feeling stressed out," Rodriques said, he might take one out to "calm me down." He met his first girlfriend when she was attracted to his pet giant African millipede (as long as a human forearm) but admits that "for the vast majority" of time in school, "I was alone." [New York Times, 12-29-2016]


Two years ago, News of the Weird updated previous entries by noting that China's Ministry of Culture had cracked down on the centuries-old tradition of festively over-the-top funerals (ceremonies to assure the family that the deceased did not die "faceless")--by arresting the song-and-dance people (including strippers and pole-dancers) peddling their services to mourners. Even though that ban has been working, nostalgic Chinese can still see great funeral pole-dancing--in Taiwan--according to a January report on the death of Chiayi county official Tung Hsiang, featuring 50 "scantily-clad" entertainers. (Pole-dancing, itself, is still big in China, where the national pole-dancing team recently performed its annual outdoor show, wearing shorts and halter tops, in the country's northernmost Beiji village--where the temperature was minus-33C.) [Shanghaiist, 1-5-20-17] [Shanghaiist, 12-21-2016]

The Passing Parade

(1) Woodstock, Vt., police arrested a 28-year-old man for bank robbery in January, with a key piece of evidence coming to their attention when a disapproving Vermonter noted a paper coffee cup not in its proper recycling bin. The cup held the robber's holdup note and DNA. (2) A 46-year-old man was arrested in December after an evening at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa., and charged with leaving a server a non-monetary "tip"--of a Valium pill. [Valley News (Lebanon, N.H.), 1-12-2017] [Morning Call (Allentown), 12-30-2016]

A News of the Weird Classic (April 2013)

College basketball player Shanteona Keys makes free throws at a 78-percent rate for her career, but on February 16th [2013], she weakly shanked one of those 15-foot shots, causing it to thud to the floor about eight feet short of the rim--the worst collegiate free-throw attempt of all time, according to several sports reporters who viewed the video. Keys explained to that she always brings the ball close to her face when she shoots, “[a]nd my fingernail got caught on my nose, so I couldn’t follow through correctly.” Her Georgia College (Milledgeville, Ga.) team lost to rival Columbus State, 70-60. [, 2-20-2013]

Thanks This Week to Brian Bixby and Mel Birge, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Posted By: Chuck - Sun Jan 29, 2017 - Comments (0)

Most Expensive Pizza

New York's Industry Kitchen recently added to its menu what is being described as the world's most expensive pizza.

They're charging $2000 for the whole pizza (I don't think they sell it by the slice). For that you get a wood-fired pizza "topped with stilton cheese, foie gras, truffles, caviar, and 24-karat gold flakes."

Doesn't sound appealing, at all.

For the sake of conspicuous consumption, you could pair it with the world's most expensive potato chip on the side.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Jan 29, 2017 - Comments (4)
Category: Food, Overpriced Merchandise, Outrageous Excess

January 28, 2017

The Ingredients of Chanel No. 5

February 1972: There was a popular outcry after Jacques Leal, London Chairman of Chanel Ltd., revealed during an interview that one of the ingredients of Chanel No. 5 perfume was the "sweat of the whipped Abyssinian civet cat."

He explained, "We don't usually like to admit, but it's one of those ancient techniques the Chinese invented. They put the cat's head into a sort of torture chamber, whip it, the cat gets mad, and it gives off a glandular secretion."

However, Leal assured the interviewer that the Chanel company itself didn't whip the civet cats. "We just buy the stuff in bottles."

Other Chanel No. 5 ingredients included castoreum from the Canadian beaver, ambergris from the sperm whale of Chile, and musk from the Tibetan deer.

The Provo Daily Herald - July 16, 1972

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jan 28, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: 1970s, Perfume and Cologne and Other Scents

January 27, 2017

The Smell of the Moon

When the astronauts of Apollo 16 re-entered the lunar lander, they reported that the moondust they tracked in with them had an intense smell, like gunpowder.

French perfume designer Barnabé Fillion attempted to recreate and bottle this scent, but not as a perfume. What he created was "a sealed borosilicate glass vial containing scented artificial lunar regolith."

You can buy it for €75 (around $80). But once you buy it, you face a dilemma: "break open the vial and the scent will dissipate over time and just like all the material brought from the moon by NASA it will become devoid of any smell; or leave it sealed and preserved forever, enjoying the precious idea of an out-of-this-world scent."

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jan 27, 2017 - Comments (4)
Category: Spaceflight, Astronautics, and Astronomy, Perfume and Cologne and Other Scents

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.

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