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Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013

Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

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Nuclear Tractor Pull        

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 mementos 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 mementos were awards Teller had won at tractor pull competitions. “He’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.)

 

The Entrepreneurial Spirit            

  • “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, in November, it’s “pretty safe.”
  • 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.”

 

Cutting-Edge Science       

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).          

 

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 (even though his once-daily episodes have become more sporadic).                                                                   

 

The Kingdom      

Elephant Whisperer: Nirmala Toppo, 14, is apparently the one to call if wild elephants overrun your village, especially in India’s Orissa and Jharkhand 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.

 

Readers’ Choice

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,” 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.”

 

© 2013 CHUCK SHEPHERD