News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
• The Precocious Tots of Finland: A University of Kansas professor and two co-authors, in research in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Finance, found that children age 10 and under substantially outperformed their parents in earnings from stock trading in the few days before and after rumors swirled on possible corporate mergers. A likely explanation, they said, is that the parents or guardians were buying and selling for their children’s accounts using illegal insider information that they were cautious about using in their personal accounts, which would more easily arouse suspicion. While the parents’ accounts had nice returns, the kids’ accounts (including those held by the very recently born) were almost 50 percent more profitable. (The study, reported by NPR in April, covered 15 years of trades in Finland, chosen because that country collects age data that the U.S. and other countries do not.)
The Entrepreneurial Spirit!
• Delicate Marketing Required: (1) A fluoride-free chocolate toothpaste “proven” to strengthen teeth and regenerate enamel is now on sale in limited markets in the U.S. Theodent (active ingredient: “rennou”) is also available in mint flavor, said its New Orleans-based inventor, Dr. Tetsuo Nakamoto. (2) One of the 12 Canadian foods chosen to accompany the country’s International Space Station astronaut in December is the limited-issue dry cereal especially noted for its fiber, organic buckwheat and various nontraditional ingredients. “Holy Crap” cereal is available throughout Canada and in 19 other countries.
• “Even to Icelanders accustomed to harsh weather and isolation,” reported The New York Times in March, the city of Grimsstadir “is a particularly desolate spot.” Nonetheless, Chinese billionaire land developer Huang Nubo has announced he intends to build a luxury hotel and golf course in the area for his countrymen seeking “clean air and solitude.” Since snowfalls often run from September until May, locals are skeptical of Huang’s motives, but he continues to press for a long-term lease covering about 100 square miles for a project estimated to eventually cost about $100 million.
Frontiers of Science
• Since gastrointestinal noroviruses are so infectious and can be fatal in countries with marginal hygiene, scientists at the U.K. government’s Health and Safety Lab in Derbyshire needed to study the “reach and dispersion” of human “vomitus,” especially its aerosolizing. Working with nauseous patients would be impractical, and thus, researcher Catherine Makison created “Vomiting Larry,” a puke-hurling robot with a range of almost 10 feet. (According to a University of Cambridge researcher, one can be infected by fewer than 20 norovirus particles, each droplet of puke can contain 2 million particles, and the virus remains active on hard surfaces for 12 hours.)
• Research published in February by Britain’s Royal Society science association found that male guppies in mating mode prefer to congregate with plainer, less colorful males, probably for an obvious reason: to look better by comparison. Said Italian researcher Clelia Gasparini, “You want to impress (a female potential mate).” Would you “look more attractive in comparison with (the dowdy, awkward comic star) Mr. Bean or George Clooney?”
• Hottentot golden moles reside underground, which is not so oppressive because they’re blind and navigate by smell and touch. Nonetheless, some scientists spend years studying them, and in a recent issue of Mammalian Biology, South African researchers disclosed that females choose mates largely by penis size. While some human females also favor this particular “pre-copulatory mechanism,” the scientists hypothesized that the moles’ reliance on touch leaves them with no alternative.
• Premium Health Care for Lovable Animals: While some Americans cannot get medically necessary health care, a few lucky animals every year receive exactly what they need from wildlife conservation centers. Most recently, in March, a sandhill crane received deluxe surgery by a facility in Abbotsford, British Columbia, after having his leg shattered on a golf course. Doctors tried several surgeries, then amputated the leg, and have fitted the crane with a prosthesis that allows balance-preserving mobility. (In February, Suma Aqualife Park near Kobe, Japan, fitted a 190-pound loggerhead turtle with rubber fins kept in place by a vest—to replace fins damaged in what doctors guessed was a shark attack.)
• The Dark Side: Even though human hearts open warmly to helpless animals, kindness is not universal. As Clemson University animal conservation student Nathan Weaver found with a quick experiment late last year, some drivers will deliberately swerve into a turtle trying to cross a busy road—seven drivers, he found, in the space of one hour (though most drivers easily avoided the realistic rubber model). (In the 1979 movie “The Great Santini,” an overbearing fighter-pilot-husband who squishes turtles while driving late at night tells his wife, “It’s my only sport when I’m traveling, my only hobby.”)
Leading Economic Indicators
• Wealthy Russians have recently found a way around the country’s horrid traffic jams: fake ambulances, outfitted with plush interiors for relaxation while specially trained drivers use unauthorized lights and sirens to maneuver through cluttered streets. London’s Daily Telegraph reported in March that “ambulance” companies charge the equivalent of about $200 an hour for these taxis.
• While Americans Just Sigh: After a trial on fraud charges, the Iranian judiciary sentenced four bankers and their collaborators to death in February and several others to public floggings for obtaining loans by forgery in order to purchase government properties. The total amount involved reportedly was the equivalent of about $2.6 billion—tiny compared to losses suffered since 2008 by investors and customers of large American banks’ illegality, money-laundering and corner-cutting, for which no one has yet been jailed even for a single day.
Least Competent Criminals
• So Far, So Good ... Oops!: (1) Husband Jared Rick and wife Ashley walked out of the Wal-Mart in Salem, Ill., in February with about $2,400 in shoplifted merchandise, apparently home free, but in the parking lot got into a loud domestic argument that drew the attention of security officers, who saw the merchandise and matched the Ricks with surveillance video. (2) Corey Moore, a Washington, D.C., “street legend,” according to The Washington Post, for beating one arrest after another on murder and firearms charges, was finally convicted in February and faced at least 15 years in prison. The case was broken by a foot policeman in the suburb of Takoma Park, Md., who saw Moore toss an open bottle of beer into some shrubbery. After a sidewalk chase, a search yielded cocaine, which enabled a search of Moore’s apartment that supplied crucial evidence the police had been lacking for years.
Strange Old World
• Romanian lawyer Madalin Ciculescu, 34, said in April that the next stop for his lawsuit is the European Court of Human Rights after two Romanian courts turned down his claims against Orthodox bishops who failed to exorcize the demons that were causing his flatulence. He sued the archdiocese because at least two exorcisms (one in his office, one at home) proved useless, thus harming his business as well as rendering his home life unpleasant. An archdiocese spokesman said the exorcisms were done properly, by the book.
• Took It Too Far: (1) The school board in Windham, Mass., voted in March to ban popular, ubiquitous dodgeball from the district’s curriculum because the game treats players as “human targets.” Dodgeball (even though played these days with a foam ball) also suffers from “eliminating” players as the game progresses, which an education professional warned renders them less active than the good players. (2) The Castle View School in Britain’s Essex County issued a specific ban in March against serving popular “triangle-shaped” pancakes after one was thrown at a pupil. (Not affected, reported London’s The Independent, were “rectangle-shaped” pancakes, even though those, of course, have four firm corners instead of three.)blog comments powered by Disqus
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v12n17 (Week of Thursday, April 25) > News of the Weird
This Week's Issue • Artvoice Daily • Artvoice TV • Events Calendar • Classifieds