10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (2/24/18)
A lot of important stuff happened this week. Given the sheer amount of newsworthy items, it is understandable that some of them might slip through the cracks.
However, we feel that some of these stories should not be missed. They might not revolutionize industries or topple governments, but they are bizarre and quirky enough to deserve your attention.
10 Runaway Cow Never Going Back
A cow destined for the slaughterhouse executed a daring escape and then isolated herself on a small island on Nyskie Lake, a reservoir in the southwest of Poland. This all started last week when the bovine was being led to a truck headed for the abattoir.
Her owner, identified as Mr. Lukasz, warned his workers to tranquilize the animal, but they failed to follow his instructions. Therefore, once she saw her opening, the cow overpowered the men and broke through a metal fence to freedom. One farmhand ended up with a broken arm and a few bruised ribs.
For the last few days, the cow has lived on her own on the island, rebuffing any attempts by humans to approach her. When firefighters crossed the reservoir on a boat to reach the island, the animal simply swam off to a neighboring peninsula. In the end, her owner gave up any attempts to recapture the bovine and instead began leaving food out for her.
Although some people proposed to simply shoot the cow, this suggestion has been met with strong opposition. One local politician named Pawel Kukiz took on the animal’s cause and used Facebook to gain support for the bovine. Now he hopes to raise enough funds to secure the animal a trip to a cow sanctuary.
9 Chinese Government Takes On Funeral Strippers
China’s Ministry of Culture announced plans to renew crackdown efforts against a problematic phenomenon present mostly in rural areas—funeral strippers.
The belief among many Chinese people is that a high attendance at a funeral is the proper way to honor the dead. Therefore, hiring strippers is an effective, relatively cheap way of ensuring a large turnout. However, the practice is decried by the state media who label it “obscene and uncivilized.”
The government’s first attempt to impede the tradition occurred in 2006 when five strippers were arrested in Jiangsu. In 2015, the custom was banned in Beijing. Now, the culture ministry is focusing on 19 other cities across four provinces. Among the steps implemented to curtail this practice is a new hotline which offers monetary rewards to people who report “funeral misdeeds.”
According to the state-run newspaper Global Times, some Chinese households go so far to boost numbers for a funeral that they spend more than their annual incomes to hire not only strippers but singers, dancers, actors, and comedians.
Not everyone agrees with the culture ministry’s assessment as some regard the practice more as fertility worship. According to university professor Huang Jianxing, erotic dancing is seen in local cultures as a way of honoring the deceased’s wish of being blessed with many children.
8 Farts On A Plane
A plane from Transavia Airlines had to make an emergency landing at Vienna Airport due to an altercation among passengers brought on by one traveler who refused to stop farting.
The flight was on its way to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport from Dubai when the crew was alerted by a passenger that the man sitting next to him was continuously breaking wind and would not cease despite protests from several people in his vicinity.
The flight attendants failed to end the man’s flatulence frenzy, and the situation escalated into a fight between him and another male passenger. The pilot warned them to stop. But in the end, he had to make an emergency landing and alert local authorities of “passengers on the rampage.” Amateur video surfaced of Austrian police boarding the plane and detaining two men and two women.
Subsequently, the two women, who are sisters of Dutch and Moroccan descent, sued Transavia Airlines for racial profiling. They claim to have no connection to the brawling men, just the bad luck of being seated in the same row. They also accuse the flight crew of having a provocative attitude and lumping them all together because they were Moroccan.
Transavia Airlines released a statement supporting the actions of its crew and condemning the sisters of being involved in the fight. As for the flatulent man, he was permitted to continue on to Amsterdam. As far as we know, no one else raised a stink about it.
7 The Darkest Building In The World
People enjoying the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang will also be able to see a truly unique marvel of architecture—the darkest building on the planet.
Designed by British architect Asif Khan, the structure serves as a temporary pavilion for Hyundai with its ultimate fate yet to be determined. It has been coated with a special substance called Vantablack Vbx2, a super-black material which is capable of absorbing 99 percent of the light hitting it.
Ben Jensen, chief technical officer behind its development at Surrey Nanosystems, describes the substance as a nanoscale coral reef where each optical cavity is 1,000th the width of a human hair.
The company initially developed its predecessor, Vantablack S-VIS, for space use, primarily to reduce distortion in telescope lenses. The material immediately stirred interest in the architectural and artistic worlds and, in a controversial move, was licensed exclusively to sculptor Anish Kapoor. Due to high demand, Surrey Nanosystems created the Vbx2 successor which will be available to everyone once it launches next month.
The Pyeongchang pavilion is not only coated in the super-black material but also features thousands of rods with pinprick-sized lights at the end of them. They represent stars and are meant to create the illusion of floating through the void of space.
6 No KFC For UK
People in the United Kingdom had to endure several days without KFC as the fast-food chain closed many of its outlets in the country due to a chicken shortage.
Out of the roughly 900 KFC restaurants in the UK serviced by delivery firm DHL, 575 were closed on Monday. About 450 were still closed the next day, and there is concern that some locations could stay out of service for the rest of the week. The reason for this major disruption is KFC switching its delivery contract to DHL, which encountered “operational issues.”
The GMB trade union warned KFC that this would happen. While their previous contractor, Bidvest Logistics, specialized in food distribution, DHL was cheaper but unprepared. By the time KFC realized they wouldn’t be able to meet demands, it was already too late. To make matters worse, a lot of the chicken that never made it to restaurants was wasted.
The problem seems to be DHL’s new KFC-only depot in Rugby. Built in a rush and understaffed, it is simply ill-equipped to deal with the numerous cargoes that need to pass through it. Several truckloads of chicken were left to spoil because there weren’t enough people to unload and store them.
Many Brits didn’t take the news well and protested on social media. In fact, so many of them called the authorities to complain that the Metropolitan Police Service issued a statement advising that the “chicken crisis” is not a police matter.
5 Fenn Treasure Fatality
Back in 2010, octogenarian author and former art dealer Forrest Fenn claimed to have hidden his treasure, worth over $1 million, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. He also published a 24-line poem containing nine clues about its location. Since then, tens of thousands of people have tried to find the loot and some paid with their lives.
A former Vietnam War pilot, Fenn is an admitted adrenaline junkie and a lover of the great outdoors. Therefore, the route he took through the Rockies to hide his treasure isn’t for everybody. Since 2016, three men were known to have died looking for Fenn’s riches and it looks like a fourth one has just been added to the list.
Fifty-three-year-old Jeff Murphy died after falling hundreds of feet down a rocky slope while hiking in Yellowstone National Park. This actually happened back in June, but the details surrounding his demise weren’t made public until now. Curiously, Murphy concentrated his search efforts in the Wyoming-Montana border area although most treasure hunters believe the clues point to New Mexico.
The latest death has renewed protests against Fenn, with some even calling his treasure a deadly hoax. However, he has dismissed these criticisms, saying that all outdoor adventures carry inherent dangers. In the future, he advises seekers to avoid unnecessary risks and not bother looking in places that an 80-year-old man couldn’t reach.
4 Green Moon In April?
On April 20, we will be treated to a rare event that happens once every 420 years. Due to the alignment of several planets, the Moon will glow with a greenish hue for approximately 90 minutes. Also, everything we just said is complete nonsense.
No, the Moon will definitely not be turning green. This is a hoax that is making the rounds on social media for the third straight year, yet countless people are still getting fooled by it.
The original image popped up in 2016 amid claims that our satellite would turn green on May 29 of that year because Uranus would “park itself near the Moon.” Of course, anyone with a basic understanding of astronomy could tell this wasn’t true. But it didn’t stop tens of thousands of people from believing it and sharing the image on social media.
This year, the image resurfaced, except the date was changed to April 20. This was most likely done as a marijuana joke given the green color and the fact that the date and rate of occurrence both reference “420,” a code term for smoking weed.
Despite its intended humor, many people either missed the joke or saw the image without context. So, once again, the hoax is making the rounds on social platforms.
3 Stiff Fine For Self-Checkout Scam
Many supermarkets offer a self-checkout lane. This is where customers can scan their own items, pay, bag them, and leave without interacting with another person. Of course, while some people use this service responsibly, others see it as an invitation to shoplift.
The practice is common enough that there have been studies to examine the psychology behind it. Research from the UK showed that self-service checkouts can make people excuse theft even if they aren’t inclined to steal under other circumstances.
For starters, people find it much easier to steal from a machine than a person because they are distanced from any kind of identifiable victim. Moreover, general resentment toward the supermarket or the feeling that they deserve it for working extra are also factors that encourage shoppers to abuse the system.
However you look at it, shoplifting is still a crime and one German man learned this the hard way. He tried to pass off veal liver worth 47 euros as fruit—a scam known as “the banana trick” in the business. He was caught and fined $326,000 by Munich’s district court.
The fine was so huge because it was based on his monthly income. The unidentified criminal was a businessman who made over $37,000 a month. He had also been caught doing the same thing three times before and had prior convictions for tax evasion and theft. He did not appeal the verdict.
2 The First Artists Were Neanderthals
Geochronologists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have perfected a new dating method which can be used to ascertain the age of cave paintings. Its main advantage is that it only requires tiny scrapings from cave walls so it won’t ruin priceless rock art.
The technique has already been used to push back the date of the oldest-known cave paintings by over 20,000 years. In fact, the rock art is so old that archaeologists believe it must have been done by Neanderthals.
Using the new method involves scraping and dating tiny samples of mineral-rich crust that has hardened over the rock art. It does come with one flaw—accuracy. Since scientists are actually dating the mineral deposits, they can’t tell the true age of the paintings.
However, they can tell their minimum age because the art obviously can’t be younger than the rocky crust growing on top of it. So far, three paintings have been found in caves throughout Spain which are at least 65,000 years old.
According to current thinking, modern humans only arrived in Europe 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. So this art most likely comes to us courtesy of our Neanderthal cousins. It is another nail in the coffin for the outdated idea that these archaic humans were incredibly primitive and devoid of any culture until they met our ancestors.
1 Amateur Astronomer Gets 1-in-10-Million Shot
A newly published study shows us that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Just ask locksmith and amateur astronomer Victor Buso from Argentina. Back in 2016, he was eager to test out his new CCD camera.
He went to his rooftop observatory, mounted it on his Newtonian telescope, and pointed it at a galaxy named NGC 613 roughly 70 million light-years away. He had no particular reason for picking this location other than it being a spiral galaxy near zenith which would have provided some nice shots. Buso ended up photographing something never before seen by mankind.
It was the birth of a supernova—the initial stage called the shock-breakout phase where the shock wave caused from the star’s collapsing core reaches the outer layer and breaks through the surface.
For 90 minutes, Buso had been taking 20-second exposures of the galaxy. Around the halfway mark, he noticed a pixel at the end of a spiral arm getting brighter with each shot. He reached out to a few fellow astronomers, and word started spreading within the community.
Until that point, we had never observed the shock-breakout phase because it is impossible to predict the start of a supernova. Best we could get was a few hours after it happened. Since Buso’s discovery, other observatories have been monitoring the galaxy. They concluded that the star was originally 20 times as massive as the Sun but lost most of its mass to a companion star by the time it exploded.