Back in the early 1960s, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab created one of the first autonomous robots. They called it "The Beast." From Popular Science, Sep 1964:
A computer brain and a flexible arm with microswitch fingers enable a robot to "stay alive" at the Johns Hopkins physics lab. Called "The Beast," the wheeled, two-foot high robot "senses" when its batteries are beginning to run down. It then feels its way along a wall until its fingers find an electrical outlet, plugs itself in and gets a revitalizing charge. "The Beast" has no function other than to satisfy the impish sense of humor of the Hopkins scientists.
and the Morning Edition of Chuck's News of the Weird Daily for Monday, December 22, 2008
You'll recall from Friday that Your Humble Daily News Editor is taking the rest of the week off (following another post this afternoon). I'll be back on Monday morning, December 29. My pals Alex and Paul will continue to keep you entertained.
Out-of-control performance artist Oleg Kulik has been censored in France
One of his shtiks was a two-week show at a New York gallery ("I Bite America") in which he, naked, pretended to be a dog, on all fours, growling and biting at visitors. Photos of that show were on display in Paris, and since one was of Kulik simulating sex with a real dog, all the photos were yanked. (Among his previous stunts: hanging from the ceiling while covered in mirrors, as the "human mirror ball," which of course, as anyone knows, was a "critique of the worlds of art, entertainment, and mass culture and their crucifixion of the artist." Of course.) The Times (London) Comments 'oleg_kulik'
Brighton, Mich.: land of opportunity
The City Council just passed an ordinance making it illegal to be annoying in public, "by word of mouth, sign, or motions." Unfortunately, violators can't be jailed but only ticketed and fined. Of course, such a law is way-unconstitutional, but courts are busy, and it'll take a while before challenges get there. Could be they're just making a play to become America's Vacation Paradise. Associated Press via Detroit News Comments 'brighton_annoying'
Why do academics do so much frivolous research?
Well, as The Times of London noted yesterday, (1) quixotic gov't and foundation funding, leading people to go where the money is; (2) changes in incentives within the scholarly profession itself, where being known and cited are more important than they used to be; and (3) companies paying dearly for research that will tout their products. The Times's selections of 2008's actual classics included proving that watching junk food ads on TV leads to eating more junk food and that children who lack confidence are more likely to grow up fat. [Ed.: Suggested rules of thumb for academia: (1) News of the Weird will cover any research that seriously attempts to prove something that the NOTW editor's mother already told him. (2) If your research is cited in NOTW, you should be automatically disqualified from research grants five years.]The Times Comments 'frivolous_research'
"Ariel," the maltese terrier, lives better than you
Winnie Ng, who's well off but not filthy-rich, in Melbourne, Australia, has built a major designer wardrobe inventory for Ariel, serves him only organic food (spoon-fed) and mineral water, gives him frequent tummy massages, takes him strolling in the park in his own darling carriage, and bought a convertible car just so Ariel could sniff the wind better. There's more. Herald Sun (Melbourne) Comments 'ariel_pampered'
Stalking m.o.'s that are inexplicable are the most frightening of all
Arpan Shah, 26, was arrested in Cypress, Calif., after (police said) from 13 to more than 100 instances in which he (using FedEx) sent women mysterious shipments (mainly of blank sheets of paper and envelopes) after getting their home and e-mail addresses from Facebook. But that's all the prosecutor's alleging right now. Stalking doesn't have to make sense. Orange County Register Comments 'stalking_cypress'
Adam Owens really, really hated his mom
At his trial in Australia, he received a 17-yr-plus sentence for viciously stabbing her to death and then immediately shouted at the judge that the time was "manifestly inadequate," that he deserved much harsher. He said he had no remorse. "I regret perhaps not having done it 20 years earlier when the idea first occurred to me." Daily Telegraph (Sydney) Comments 'adam_owens'
The 8-yr-old Saudi wife got trapped in a catch-22
Dad dowried her away for the equivalent of about $7,500 to a 58-yr-old man, but her mother went to court to demand that the couple divorce. The judge said no but ruled that the girl should come back to court when she's old enough to evaluate by herself whether the marriage is working out for her. Daily Mail (London) Comments 'saudi_8yrold'
Your Daily Loser
Michael Reed, 50, tried an armed robbery of Eddie's Fried Chicken in Fort Worth, Tex., with the "armed" part being a tree branch. An employee, 56, grabbed a broom and dueled him down. The aristocrats! Dallas Morning News Comments 'michael_reed'
Your Daily Jury Duty [no fair examining the evidence; verdict must be based on mugshot only]
Christopher Rogers's murder trial is taking up a lot of resources of the town of Palmer, Alaska. If they'd only have asked us earlier whether the trial was necessary . . .. Anchorage Daily News Comments 'christopher_rogers'
This was news to me: Australia has one of the largest wild camel populations in the world. There are so many camels there, that they're becoming an environmental problem. Therefore, scientists are urging Australians to control the camel population by eating more camel.
According to Wikipedia, "camel meat tastes like coarse beef, but older camels can prove to be tough and less flavorful."
I'd try camel meat, but I've never seen it on sale in the States. Link: Daily Mail
Posted By: Alex - Mon Dec 22, 2008 -
a) What in the world does it have to do with shampoo?
b) How can a deaf person learn to play a musical instrument?
Some answers to the second question can be found at physorg.com, which notes that deaf people can feel the vibration of sound. Therefore, percussion instruments that make a lot of vibrations are the easiest for them to learn. But what highly accomplished deaf musicians (such as Beethoven and Evelyn Glennie) share is "musical training, perfect pitch and excellent hearing before they suffered its loss."
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.
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.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.