News of the Weird (December 22, 2013)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M350, December 22, 2013
Copyright 2013 by Chuck Shepherd

Lead Story

Redneck Geek: Edward Teller, the famous theoretical physicist known as the “father of the hydrogen bomb” for his work on the World War II-era Manhattan Project, died in 2003, but his daughter Rene told the Free Press of Kinston, N.C., in November that she had recently discovered two of her father’s precious mementoes at a thrift shop near Kinston during a road trip to visit relatives. “[Father’s] work was so demanding” she said, that he needed “recreational activities” and tried “the things you’d suspect,” like chess. However, the two mementoes were competition awards that Teller had won at tractor pulls. “[H]e’d show up at major tractor pulls” riding just a Cub Cadet mower, Rene said, and “leave the competition in the dust.” (Teller’s secret, she said, was using “nuclear fusion-based engines,” which sponsors ultimately had to ban.) [Kinston Free Press, 11-12-2013]

[Ed. OK, I was hoaxed, and I still don't understand why. Don't hoaxes have to have a point? And no, if you're going to say that the physics was inaccurate here and that that was a tip-off, no, the physics could be wrong in a perfectly good story, and I'd be fine with it. The junk shop exists. It's famous for having all kinds of odd stuff. I still don't see why I should've been on the lookout for this story like I've avoided dozens hundreds of hoaxes/exaggerations in 26 years at this game. But there it is. Guilty!]

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

PREVIOUSLY ON WEIRD UNIVERSE: "It will be sort of my unique factor," said indulgent customer Lucy Luckayanko, describing her then-upcoming $3,000 eyeball jewelry implant from New York City’s Park Avenue Laser Vision--the insertion of a piece of platinum between the sclera (the white part) and the clear conjunctiva. Actually, said the shop's medical director, Dr. Emil Chynn, to WNEW-TV in November, it's "pretty safe." [WNEW-TV (New York City, 11-20-2013]

Restaurant Startups: (1) Japan’s “cat cafes” allow the pet-starved to relax while dining by caressing house kittens that roam the facilities, but similar eateries have opened recently featuring owls (the Fukurou Sabou in Tokyo, Owl Family in Osaka). (The owls are not caressable and easily spooked by excessive noise.) (2) Liu Pengfei’s Five Loaves and Two Fish restaurant in Fuzhou, China, is losing money rapidly despite overflow dining crowds, according to a December China Daily report, because he allows customers to pay only what they wish. (They must also wash out their bowls.) “I want to continue,” he said, “as I believe the feeling of trust is contagious.” [News Limited (Sydney), 11-5-2013] [China Daily, 12-4-2013]

Cutting-Edge Science

It may be a cliche of domestic conflict, but physicists recently, earnestly, tackled the dynamics of toilet-bowl “splashback.” A stream delivered by a standing male, because it travels five times farther than a seated male’s, produces a splash easily reaching seat and floor--even without factoring in the “well-known” “Plateau-Rayleigh instability”--the inevitable disintegration of a liquid stream “six or seven inches” after its formation. Short of recommending that men be seated, the researchers (speaking to a November conference) suggest “narrowing the angle” by “standing slightly to one side and aiming downwards at a low angle of impact.” [BBC News, 11-6-2013]

PREVIOUSLY: The Human-Rodent Connection: University of British Columbia researchers, intent on judging whether blocking dopamine D4 receptors can reduce the urge to gamble in subjects other than humans, claimed in October to have devised a test that works on the dopamine receptors of rats--especially those with a gambling problem. With a slot-machine-like device dispensing sugar pellets, the researchers claimed they offered rats measured risks and even determined that rats are more likely to take risks immediately following a close loss (as are humans). [Science Daily, 10-29-2013]

Medical Marvels

Seven years ago, Michael Spann, now 29, suddenly doubled over in pain that felt like he “got hit in the head with a sledgehammer,” and began crying blood. Despite consulting doctors, including two visits with extensive lab work at the venerable Cleveland Clinic, the Antioch, Tenn., man told Nashville’s The Tennessean in October that he is resigned to an “idiopathic condition”--a disease without apparent cause. Spann’s main wish now is just to hold a job, in that fellow workers, and customers, tend not to react well to a man bleeding from the eyes (though his previously daily episodes have become more sporadic). [The Tennessean, 10-17-2013]

The Kingdom

PREVIOUSLY: The sex life of the anglerfish, according to a interview in November with evolutionary biologist Theodore Pietsch is as dismal as any on planet Earth. According to Wired: “Boy meets girl, boy bites girl, boy’s mouth fuses to girl’s body, boy lives the rest of his life attached to girl, sharing her blood and supplying her with sperm.” Ony 1 percent of males ever hook up with females (because the ocean floor is dark), said Pietsch. The rest starve to death as virgins. [, 11-8-2013]

PREVIOUSLY: Professor Pietsch may know his anglerfish, but Marlene Zuk of the University of Minnesota knows her insects, including the mating mechanics of damselflies, crickets, and cockroaches, which she described for the New York Times in November. The damselfly male’s penis is a Swiss-army-knife-like contraption (necessary to access the female’s well-hidden eggs). The cricket easily produces sperm but then awaits its draining through a “long stem” “for several minutes” to achieve fertilization. Cockroaches, Professor Zuk wrote, mate by “blind trust” as they hook-up back to back and, with no neck, cannot even glance over a shoulder to check on their work. [New York Times, 11-30-2013]

Elephant Whisperer: Nirmala Toppo, 14, is apparently the one to call if wild elephants overrun your village, especially in India’s Orissa and Jharkland states, which are still home to hundreds of marauding pachyderms. Her latest pied-piper act, in June, emptied a herd of 11 out of the industrial city of Rourkela. Said Toppo, “First I pray and then talk to the herd. I tell them this is not your home. You should return where you belong.” Somehow, the elephants followed her for miles away from the town, according to an October BBC News dispatch. [BBC News, 10-29-2013]


The daunting problems that faced the launch of the website in October were merely symptoms of the federal government’s often snail-like pace at integrating digital innovations common to everyday America. A December New York Times report revealed that the Federal Register (the daily journal of the U.S. government) still receives original content from some agencies on the virtually-obsolete 3.5-inch floppy disks--and (because of unamended legal requirements) its work-order authorizations from some agencies on hard copies hand-delivered inside the Washington Beltway by courier. Contractors can be frustrated as well since, though they operate with top-of-the-line digital efficiency internally, they must sometimes downgrade to interface with their government clients. [New York Times, 12-6-2013]

Least Competent Criminals

Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) An already-distinctive man (367 pounds) was arrested in Everett, Wash., for a December grocery store shoplifting because he was also wearing an easily-noticed purple sock and over two hours later was still wearing it when police caught up to him and questioned him. (2) A 23-year-old woman was arrested in Crestview, Fla., in November for shoplifting a “toy” from an adult store--before inquiring about a job there. She had professed her innocence until shown the surveillance video, when she said (according to the police report), “Oh my God. Look at what I’m doing.” “I’m gonna cry.” [The Herald (Everett), 12-4-2013] [Daily News of Northwest Florida, 11-15-2013]

Readers’ Choice

PREVIOUSLY: In October, an Ohio judge turned down a petition by Donald Miller, Jr., asking to be ruled “alive.” “You’re still deceased as far as the law is concerned,” Probate Judge Allan Davis told him because state law requires challenges to his declaration of death (obtained by Miller’s wife in 1994) to be filed within three years. Said Judge Davis, “I don’t know where that leaves you.” [The Courier (Findlay, Ohio), 10-8-2013]

A News of the Weird Classic (July 2009)

Escape From L.A.: Hundreds of Los Angeles's down-and-out live not just underneath local freeways but inside their concrete structures, according to a June [2009] Los Angeles Times report. The largest "home" is a gymnasium-sized cavern under the Interstate 10 freeway in the suburb of Baldwin Park. That space is nearly inaccessible, requiring squeezing through a rusty grating, traversing a narrow ledge, and descending a ladder, to reach "a vast, vault-like netherworld, strewn with garbage and syringes," with toys and rattles and a cat carcass visible on an upper platform only marginally harder for rats to reach. Authorities fear the area, but every few years, state officials try to seal the entrance (which the homeless quickly unseal as soon as the officials leave). [Los Angeles Times, 5-29-2009]

Thanks This Week to Kevin Kohler, Jim Colucci, Frank Smith, and Gerald Sacks, and to the News of the Weird Senior Advisors (Jenny T. Beatty, Paul Di Filippo, Ginger Katz, Joe Littrell, Matt Mirapaul, Paul Music, Karl Olson, and Jim Sweeney) and Board of Editorial Advisors (Tom Barker, Paul Blumstein, Harry Farkas, Sam Gaines, Herb Jue, Emory Kimbrough, Scott Langill, Bob McCabe, Steve Miller, Christopher Nalty, Mark Neunder, Sandy Pearlman, Bob Pert, Larry Ellis Reed, Peter Smagorinsky, Rob Snyder, Stephen Taylor, Bruce Townley, and Jerry Whittle).
     Posted By: Chuck - Sun Dec 22, 2013

Edward Teller Sorry, I have to call BS on this one! Pulling requires traction and a light-weight, regardless of the HP, isn't going to out pull a much, much heavier tractor. Pulling in his own weight class I'll believe.

5 Loaves 2 Fish I'd say there's 3 fish in this adventure.

PC Peeing :blank:

D4 Receptors So, "You dirty rat!" hits pretty close to home.

Michael Spann A stigmata in his eye?

Elephant Whisperer Reincarnation Nation?
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 12/22/13 at 11:04 AM
Teller was using a "Tractor Beam". :coolgrin:
Posted by Bmn on 12/22/13 at 02:06 PM
Uh, that Teller article is nonsense on stilts. There are NO nuclear-fusion powered engines of any sort (unless you count the great big one 93 million miles away), and any fission-powered *engine* (as opposed to an RTG) wouldn't fit on a riding mower, at least not without causing radiation burns on the bystanders.
Posted by Eric on 12/22/13 at 02:25 PM
"Ed. OK, I was hoaxed, and I still don't understand why. Don't hoaxes have to have a point?"
Um, the point is here, where you said:
"The junk shop exists. It's famous for having all kinds of odd stuff."
Chubby Nubby's (The And was added when the went online, BTW, language filters and all that.) has a rep for for this kind of publicity.
Posted by captain DaFt on 12/22/13 at 04:22 PM
:-) Can somebody notice that when you are standing your thighs are vertical and when you sit they are not. Who has 5 inch thighs., I can't sit because of the snake in with the fish. LOL...NOT Call me if you need fact checking!
Posted by Swordfish Mining on 12/23/13 at 01:23 PM
As a physical chemist, I agree that the Teller story is BS. No such thing as fusion engines. And any engine on a riding mower powerful enough to compete with a tractor would get you killed.
Posted by Elon on 12/23/13 at 02:17 PM
Teller: to come to Chuck's defense a bit, the "fusion engine" bit could easily have been just a quip inserted by his daughter into an otherwise mostly true story. (Also, of course, he was a hick.)

Eye insert: actually, if it really is platinum, it probably is relatively safe. Titanium would presumably be even safer. Still, what with the risk of it slipping somewhere you don't want it and all, I really, really wouldn't want to do this myself.

Splash: Friggem Young. Figures.

Government downgrade: better that than being forced to "upgrade" to the latest version of Flush, or to M$ Windows 8, a.k.a. The Toy Edition. At least we know two things about floppies and hardcopy: 1. They work, and 2. The NSA can't wire-tap them.
Posted by Richard Bos on 12/24/13 at 09:45 AM
Teller- So Chuck got taken for a ride one time, big deal. He is a very savvy news man, but no one is perfect.

eye- If you are dumb enough to stick something in your eye on purpose then I have no sympathy if you go blind. WHO DOES THAT!

splash back- Really?? We still have cancer and Aids but this gets a study grant!

rats- Do they serve the rats free drinks to keep them gambling? Do they allow smoking so the rats from the cigarette testing can come over and play the slots too?

fish and bugs- And that is why we tell our children about the birds and the bees and not the the bugs and the fish.

contractors- Downgrade to interface with government data bases, yeah, that's rough. Maybe they should pass up the contracts and all that government $$.

Ohio judge- Great, no room for common sense in my state apparently. (face palm)

LA- Bet there are still people living in there to this day.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 12/25/13 at 12:41 AM
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