The Necker Nymph is a $670,000 submersible prototype that is supposed to move through the water like an airplane moves in the sky. Sir Richard Branson, billionaire owner of Virgin, is financing the development of the Nymph for use on his private island. He intends to rent it to guests for $25,000 a week, in addition to the $88,000 the guest must pay for a 7 night stay on the Necker Belle, a luxury Catamaran at the island. The Submersible, which holds the pilot and 2 passengers, is capable of diving to 130 feet for up to 2 hours. It will be delivered for service on 2/20/2010. Branson has plans to build one capable of diving to 35,000 feet at some point. http://www.ubergizmo.com/15/archives/2010/01/render_of_underwater_plane_for_richard_branson.html
Two Indiana middle schoolers have been charged with two felonies each for child pornography. What horrible thing did they do to deserve such serious charges? Both the 12 year old 6th grade boy and the 13 year old 7th grade girl sent naked pictures of their genitalia to each other. So the state of Indiana is calling 2 kids child pornographers for playing 'I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours' via cell phone. Zero tolerance, put them away for years and keep their names on a sex offender list for the rest of their lives. I'm quite sure that was the spirit of the law as it was enacted to PROTECT children. Never mind the perverts, who's going to protect the children from cops with no common sense and knee jerk prosecutors who want to claim they are tough on sex offenders in the next election. http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2010/0128102text1.html?link=rssfeed
When the O'Gorman family encountered still opposition to their proposal to demolish the Edwardian house they owned and use the land for six modern properties they were probably a little miffed, or more than a little, if the name they chose to give the development is anything to go by. Having been given a green light by the local council, the O'Gormans announced that the new cul-de-sac was to be called "Pogue Muhone Court". Pogue Muhone is a phonetic English equivalent to the Gaelic "pog mo thoin", which means "kiss my ass" (Telegraph).
And if kissing ass isn’t your thing, perhaps you’d like to crawl through one instead? You can at a new exhibit called Grossology, which opens at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday. Subtitled “The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body” the exhibits also include a tour of the nose, a giant replica of human skin and an interactive experiment in flatulence called “Burp Man” (Miami Herald).
Not kissing but kicking ass are the pensioners of Bavaria in Germany, who decided not to take the credit crunch lying down. After their financial adviser, James Amburn, handed them losses in excess of 2.3 million euros, five OAPs tracked him to his home in Speyer, kidnapped him, and tortured him into faxing a Swiss bank for the money to pay them back. Instead he managed to alert the police. Mr. Amburn later confided that his four day ordeal was perhaps extended by his kidnappers having to stop a while when they ran out of breath (Mirror).
Also taking a little longer than usual were the German actors appearing in Erofeev’s satirical play “Moscow to the End of the Line”, alternatively billed as a “crazy depiction of one of the most famous alcoholic benders in world literature”. In an ill-considered attempt at method acting four of the performers decided to swap the water in the props for real vodka “as an experiment", only to fall off their chairs, and the stage, before inviting audience members to take a swig. They were later taken to hospital under a police escort to have their stomachs pumped (Guardian).
More outrage now, this time from Great Britain, where in a clear breach of their normal high standards of decorum, British mums have been seen shopping in the Tesco supermarket chain in pyjamas and slippers. In fact more outrage seems to have been directed at Tescos, who have implemented a dress code and now escort anyone so attired from their premises, than at the mums, They should all just be thankful they don’t have Walmarts, that’s all I’m saying (Mirror).
Tonight is the night of the Yule moon, also called the “wolf moon” (the first new full moon of the year), and coincidentally will be the largest and brightest full moon of 2010. This is because the Moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle but an ellipse, with its nearest point to Earth some 31 thousand miles closer than its furthest. And occasionally the full moon will coincide with this closest approach, which is enough for the moon to appear 14% larger and 30% brighter than at any other time this year. Incidentally, this also means the previous new moon was very nearly the smallest it could have been, which is why – along with occurring with Earth at its nearest to the Sun – the solar eclipse on January 15th was annular (Space.com).
Also watching the skies tonight may be Luchezar Filipov, Deputy Head of Space Exploration at the Bulgarian Academy of Science. However, Filipov’s interest is not the Moon, but aliens, who he believes are living among us on Earth at this very moment. Filipov and his team claim to be in telepathic contact with the aliens, who he says are friendly, but could not establish a coherent conversation because of our “lack of evolution”. This lack of coherence appears to have only been one way however, as Filipov was still able to state that the aliens were critical of our immoral behaviour, environmental destruction and use of cosmetics and artificial insemination, which they condemned as unnatural – unlike space travel one presumes. The next meeting of minds between Filipov and the aliens is scheduled for sometime in spring this year (Sofia Echo).
But perhaps the aliens are backing the wrong species, because it’s move over Iron Man and make way for Iron Snail. The scaly-foot snail is certainly well protected for its kind, with an iron rich outer layer that deters piercing, a thick organic middle that dissipates the force of an attack and a calcified inner layer that gives the shell sufficient rigidity to resist attempts to crush it. The snail’s armour is so good that it’s attracted the interest of the Department of Defense, who are seeing if any useful lessons could be learned for application in the man-made versions (MIT).
Someone else who could have benefited from some armour is “Macho B”, who was – until his death in February last year, the last known wild jaguar in South West America. Perversely, it wasn’t poachers who did for him in the end but Arizona’s own Fish and Game Department, who deny it was their intention to capture the jaguar despite setting snares around his territory. Now a federal inquiry has concluded that Macho B was trapped deliberately, and the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to bring charges (NY Times).
But even as the jaguar takes one step nearer joining the dinosaurs in extinction, scientists are one step closer to bringing them back, in our imaginations at least. For the first time, a team from China, the United Kingdom and Ireland have determined the colours and pattern of a dinosaur, a metre-long feathered carnivore called Sinosauropteryx. Turns out the bird-like bipeds were orange, with white striped tails and a “mohawk” display crest on their heads. Despite the feathers, Sinosauropteryx was a flightless reptile who most likely used its feathers primarily for display (CBC).
In one of the most ignorant decisions I've ever heard of, a South Carolina high school will no longer allow any attendance at both boys and girls varsity sporting events. Due to fighting in the parking lot and surrounding neighborhoods following games only players, coaches, other game personnel, school administrators, police and media will be allowed to attend the games. If there is that little control of students behavior then perhaps all extra curricular sports at the school should be indefinitely suspended. Maybe all extra curriculars should be discontinued period, at least till the kids start acting like human beings, the adults figure out how to get control of the situation, or a set of normal children move up into the high school grades. Now, I wonder why the jails are full. http://southflorida.sun-sentinel.com/news/custom/fringe/sns-ap-us-odd-no-fans-allowed,0,1316855.story
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
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