Swiss chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut, who supply such companies as Cadburys and Nestlé, think they may be on to a winner after secretly developing a type of chocolate with 10% of the calories of the ordinary kind, and which melts at nearly twice its temperature. The company hopes the new chocolate, codenamed "Vulcano", will appeal both to health-conscious Western markets and to Asian and African consumers who have traditionally shunned chocolate because it melts too readily in the local climate. The new recipe stays hard up to 55°C (130°F) and has crispy, light texture according to Barry Callebaut food engineer Simone Cantz (The Guardian).
FYI: Chocolate was, as everyone knows, invented/discovered by the Aztecs. But what is less well known is that they did so at least 3000 years ago, and were probably trying to make beer. Anthropologists John Henderson, of Cornell University, and Rosemary Joyce, of University of California, discovered cacao residues on pottery vessels dating back to 1000 BCE that are believed to be from a drink formed by fermenting the pulp and seeds (PNAS).
Plans to chop down a tree to make way for a roundabout in Jaslo, Poland have revealed that the oak was in fact planted to commemorate Hitler's birthday when the town was occupied during World War 2. The town's mayor, Maria Kurowska, called the choice between traffic improvements and the living memorial "simple," but not everyone agrees. "It's a historic curiosity," said local Kazimierz Polak, who was present at the planting ceremony as a child 67 years ago, adding, "It's not the tree's fault" (Reuters).
Two Bengal white tigers in a zoo in South Africa have given birth to a tiger cub that's not only white, but stripe-less (London Paper). Surely that's just called a lion?
A spiritual "healer" in Puerto Rico may want to re-read the manual today, after accidentally dropping a lit candle into the bath of alcohol he had instructed he lady patient lie in. The victim, who was suffering financial and marriage issues, can now add 50% burns to her list of problems (Metro).
The Swiss state of Appenzell went the whole of the second world war without a single German invader, so was perhaps unprepared to come under sustained assault by German hikers dressed in nothing but their socks and boots. Naked hiking, which has become a popular Alpine pastime apparently, has generated a stream of complaints from Swiss locals, and the authorities of the Outer and Inner Rhodes provinces of Appenzell have responded by imposing stiff fines of 200CHF ($175) on anyone caught without clothes, though where they expect the hikers to produce the money from is not explained (Cape News). To publicise the ban, the Swiss officials have ordered signs banning nude hiking, to the surprise of designer Dan Walter, who originally drew the sign as a joke (Metro).
The historic city of Bath in England is famed for both the Roman spas that gave the town its name, and for the wonderful architecture of the Georgian houses that were later built to take advantage of them. These homes were all the more beautiful for being built from "Bath stone", a richly honey-coloured limestone that was quarried from mines in nearby Combe Down, now a thriving suburb of the City of Bath. And therein lies the problem. The limestone mines have been abandoned for over a century, and the Georgian miners were none too careful to begin with, meaning that much of the 9 miles of mineshafts are unstable, and some are barely 6 feet below the surface. With over 700 homes at risk of disappearing into the ground with no warning, the local North-East Somerset Council has spent £160 million ($260 million) stabilising the mines and filling them in again with concrete foam in a 10 year project that comes to an end today (BBC News).
Proponents of evolution have long stated that humans are descendants of apes but there has been no evidence of a link between the higher primates and their more distant relatives. Until now. A recent article in National Geographic claims that a fossil, found in Germany, links humans to... lemurs. Paleontologist Jorn Hurum lead the team of researchers who studied the 47-million-year-old fossil and claims, "This is the first link to all humans, the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor." Read the article here (there's video too).
Now I don't generally have a problem with thinking that my great, great, great (many greats) ancestors were apes. Especially judging by some of the men I've dated. But lemurs? Did any of you see the movie, Madagascar?
Imagine the Sahara desert. A vast, arid sandbox with limited plant life. And the Tenere is a region of the southern Sahara with an extremely hot and dry climate and even more limited plant life. But up until 1973, there was a lonely acacia tree known as the Tree of Ténéré (L’Arbre du Ténéré). Being so isolated, the tree became a landmark on caravan routes and earned a place on most maps of the area. It stood for decades as a beacon for weary travelers, until a drunk driver knocked it down. Yup, the only tree in the entire region and the drunk managed to hit it. In remembrance to what was once considered to be the most isolated tree on Earth, a metal pole was put in its place. You'll need a translator for The Story but the pictures are fairly self-explanatory.
Back in 1917, Railroad workers in Alaska who were bored during a long winter, set up a betting pool in which the winner determined the date and time that the ice on the Tanana River would break. Since then the event has grown to become the Nenana Ice Classic which attracts thousands. This year's jackpot is $283,723.00. But the neatest part is how they mark when the ice has broken. A wooden tripod is set up on the ice and wired to a clock in a tower along the shore. The winning time is determined when the ice moves enough to tighten the wire and trip the clock.
But how much is a whole state worth? All the land, natural resources, and structures?
That's what James Addison Reavis stole--almost getting away with the theft too.
Last night I watched THE BARON OF ARIZONA, a 1950 film by Samuel Fuller and starring Vincent Price. It tells the true story of Reavis, who cooked up an incredible con job to lay claim to the entire territory of Arizona in the year 1883.
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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
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.
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