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BIG LIST: Crazy Conspiracies
Friday 24 February 2012, 02:54PM
Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, even if for nothing more than to laugh at the stupidity of them. Here, some of the sillier ones floating around the interweb:  Bucket list: One particularly whacky theory suggests Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) deliberately causes impotence in black men. Colonel Sanders, the face and founder of the fast-food giant, was supposed to have left 10 per cent of his earnings to the Ku Klux Klan in his will, sparking rumours that the Colonel’s “secret blend of herbs and spices” was made a little extra spicy to render African American men sterile. In reality, the ‘drug’ was probably little more than pure deep fried fatty goodness – obesity is directly linked to impotence. KFC is now owned by a black man.  Space Nazis: If you believe the theorists, Nazis had conquered space by 1942 and built a base on the moon and had also made contact with advanced alien races, even before Eisenhower (see left). So palpably false is the theory that it would be condescending to point out the obvious flaws; suffice to say that if Hitler had been capable of space travel, he may have just managed to win the war.  Then there was one: Paul McCartney is dead – killed in a car crash in 1969. The former Beatle, who released a new album this month (see our review on page 21), is little more than a look-a-like/sound-a-like. Apparently. Theorists claim that if you play ‘Revolution 9’ backwards you hear the sound of a car crash and the words “turn me on, dead man”. Although, if Sir Paul’s solo career has been anything to go by, this one may actually be true.  Own goal: Playing in goal for Coventry City would not appear to be the most logical first step to revealing yourself as the son of God and saviour of the universe. But you try telling that to David Icke. The former goalie remains convinced that his divine duty is to warn us of the impending doom our world faces at the hands of 7ft tall, blood-drinking lizard people. Needless to say, evidence for this theory is a little thin on the ground.  A scanner darkly: The barcode system is not a simple way to tick your groceries through the supermarket tills, but rather a tool of Satan. The “number of the beast”, 666 is apparently encoded into each one, and the whole barcode system was designed by the devil to infiltrate the minds of the unsuspecting general public. Ridiculous? Yes, unless you’ve seen some of the prices at some of Phuket’s more upmarket restaurants, which can surely only be the result of some form of devilry.  Dingbats: Following the 1992 launch of the Microsoft ‘Wingdings’ font, students everywhere with too much time on their hands began to play with the typeface, which replaces letters with well-known symbols. Satanic teachings, secret plans for world domination and even future terror plots are among the weird and wacky messages supposedly contained in the font. Which raises another point – kids, don’t do drugs.  Black and white: To call this a conspiracy theory may be a little too kind to those who believe it – that Michael and Latoya Jackson are one and the same person. Of course, both the late King of Pop and his sister are/were big plastic surgery fans. And they do look surprisingly similar – probably because they’re brother and sister.  Kill Bill? The Clinton Body Count is a list of 50 to 60 of Bill Clinton’s associates who have died “under mysterious circumstances”, apparently assassinated by Bill during and before his presidency. What they don’t mention is that most of the people on the list didn’t actually die under suspicious circumstances, and most had dangerous positions (such as police officers and soldiers). Or at least they became dangerous when a murderous Clinton was on the rampage.
Former US President Dwight Eisenhower 'met with aliens', says former consultant
Friday 24 February 2012, 02:51PM
It’s a story that has circulated in and out of the UFO community for years: Did former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower have three meetings with extraterrestrials? Or are all these conspiracy theorists just on another planet?An ex-government consultant apparently says the story is true and that the 34th commander in chief chatted with aliens at a New Mexico air base. No definitive proof has ever surfaced to confirm this president-meets-aliens tale, because frankly, if it had, the story would get a greater run than on the Weird World pages of a leading Phuket newspaper. However, according to Timothy Good, Eisenhower and FBI officials arranged for the intergalactic summit at Holloman Air Force Base. “Aliens have made both formal and informal contact with thousands of people throughout the world from all walks of life,” Good, an author, lecturer and former consultant to Congress and the Pentagon, said on Frank Skinner’s BBC2 program, Opinionated. Good claims that governments of the world have had ongoing contacts with aliens over many years. The story about Eisenhower’s close encounter of the very personal kind – where he reportedly met with Nordic-looking aliens – supposedly unfolded while the president was vacationing in California in February 1954. Whether or not the latest story is true, an interesting related side-story reared its head in 2010 when a retired New Hampshire state representative, Henry McElroy Jr., taped an intriguing video announcement in which he revealed seeing a secret briefing document intended for Eisenhower. This document, according to McElroy, contained information that aliens were in America and that Eisenhower could meet with them. “To the best of my memory, this brief was pervaded with a sense of hope, and it informed President Eisenhower of the continued presence of extraterrestrial beings here in the United States of America,” McElroy said on the video. “The tone of the brief indicated to me that there was no need for concern, since these visitors were in no way causing any harm or had any intentions whatsoever of causing any disruption then or in the future,” he explained. McElroy goes on to say that, although he couldn’t verify times or places where any meetings might have taken place between Eisenhower and “off-world astronauts”, he believed that there were such meetings. In other words, he didn’t know when, where or why the meetings occurred, but he suspects they might have, somewhere, at some time, for some unknown reason, taken place, with an unknown outcome. A compelling argument if ever there was one.
BIG LIST: Hangover helpers
Friday 17 February 2012, 10:59AM
A nasty hangover is nature’s way of saying you had way too much fun last night. And unfortunately, as we’re all no doubt aware, what goes up must come down. Wayyy down. Here are some tips to limit the damage – or inflict more – from some people who probably knew best.  Sicilian sausage: Between the food, the cars, and organised crime, we can be thankful to the Italians for all kinds of wonderful things – but a great hangover cure isn’t one of them. Apparently, Sicilians believe that all you have to do after a wild night of drinking is eat a dried bull’s penis. If you have no reservations about doing that, you’re probably still drunk.  Licking wounds: Word on the street, if the street is the BBC, is that Native Americans would run around in the morning to get all sweaty after a hard night on the turps. The logical next step: lick all that sweat up and spit it out, so you can get rid of all the “poison” you’d just oozed out. It’s hard to know which is worse, the sweat licking orgy or the fact that they actually woke up before midday to do it.  Ultraviolence: A Clockwork Orange writer Anthony Burgess liked to beat his hangovers to the finish line with a homemade cocktail – and the heavy-drinking Englishman did know a thing or two about morning-after blues. He drank a concoction known as Hangman’s Blood: “Into a pint glass, doubles of the following are poured: gin, whisky, rum, port and brandy. A small bottle of stout is added and the whole topped up with Champagne,” for added effect.  Two cowboys, one cup: What did those lonely cowboys of the Wild West concoct to cure their extra- manly hangovers? A fresh, hot cup of tea, of course, which sounds like a perfectly nice, rather feminine  little remedy – until you find out what they added to it. Rabbit poo. That actually becomes less weird when you consider cowboys also used to wipe their bum with corncobs, which we like to assume they also ate. Who wants to come to Brokeback Mountain?  Meatlovers: For English comic novelist and champion drinker Kingsley Amis, the morning after is often a strange “metaphysical moment”. Amis recommended a mixture of Bovril – a salty meat extract oddly beloved to British people – and enough vodka to set you back on the right path, or at least on the path to the nearest bathroom.  Lemon fresh: Apparently some Puerto Ricans swear by rubbing a slice of lemon in the armpit of your drinking arm before you start boozing. While we’re a little dubious about the effectiveness of this one, at least you’ll be left smelling fruity fresh, and have a spare slice for your mixer.  Lessons from the past: We all know how much the ancient Greeks and Romans knew how to party, what with the bath houses, orgies, bath house orgies and epic feasts. Well, after a wild night of debauchery, ancient Greeks were all about a nice breakfast of sheep lungs and two owl eggs. Don’t skimp on the owl eggs. Romans, meanwhile, would chow down on deep-fried canaries, which we can only assume were sold in big, family-size buckets and seasoned with secret herbs and spices.  Hangover hoodoo: While most of these cures require mixing together ridiculous ingredients, this hangover remedy simply requires a complete lack of logic. Haitian voodoo people are said to recommend sticking 13 black pins in the cork of the offending bottle. That’s probably a good 130 needles or so you’ll need after a night out in Patong. Back to basics: American actor and singer Dean Martin knew how to keep it simple. His cure: “Stay drunk”.
China investigates eggs ‘too hard to eat’
Friday 17 February 2012, 10:23AM
BIG LIST: Insane Inventions
Thursday 9 February 2012, 02:27PM
Let’s not kid ourselves: the grass flip-flops (see left) represent the greatest evolution in footwear since Crocs. But they are just one of many inventions making the world a better – or at least more amusing – place to live.  Thriller: A nanny supervises a baby suspended in a wire cage attached to the outside of a high tenement block window. Is there something wrong with this picture? If you didn’t spot it, it’s that you’ve basically turned into Michael Jackson and are dangling your child out of a freakin’ window. Pretty soon you’ll be getting plastic surgery and inviting young boys to sleep in your bed. The cages were distributed in the 1940s to members of the Chelsea Baby Club in London who had no gardens, or apparently any qualms about putting a child in a box dangling over a busy street. Needless to say, they didn’t hang around too long.    Fighting flatulence: The flatulence deodoriser is “a pad to be worn by a user for absorbing gas due to flatulence”. If you can get past the I’m-basically-wearing-a-weird-diaper-for-farts factor, this invention is actually a pretty good idea. Or it would be, we guess, if you’re the guy giving the testimonial who said: “When I feel the urge I usually quickly install it through the back of my pants. Then I do not have to worry. It also does a nice job muffling the noise.”    Cleaning up: Sick of the newborn just moping around the house for free, doing nothing but eating, drinking, sleeping and defecating without doing any work? Well then, get that little lazy bludger out there working for you with the baby mop. It’s a utilitarian’s dream.  People plough: The days of smashing your car into things and not knowing whether or not it was a living person are finally over. Using sensors in the car’s bumper and engine hood, this invention claims to be able to decide “with a high reliability” if that thing you hit was a pedestrian. Of course, maybe it’d be better if it actually prevented the collision in the first place, but as it stands all this really does is keep a tally of how many vehicular homicides you’ve committed.    Dog eared creation: Do you have a dog with long, floppy ears? And if you give it food, is it always getting its long, floppy ears covered in the food you give it? If so, you should get your hands on some ‘animal ear protectors’, essentially plastic tubing that makes sure your dog’s ears stick out horizontally like some sort of novelty Halloween prank. Then again, if this is a legitimate concern for you, you might also ask yourself, ‘What’s wrong with my dog? Why can’t it clean the excess food off its ears?’ And finally ‘Will my dog look any less stupid walking around with these tubes around its ears than it would with crusted-up dog food all over itself?’    Solid liquid: “Ha! Powdered water! What do you add to it?” Yes, this hilarious hypothetical invention has been included in classic joke email forwards since before emails. Except it’s totally a real thing. Powdered water is tiny droplets of water encapsulated in what’s basically a grain of sand. It looks and feels dry, but it’s actually 95 per cent liquid. But before you go shoving handfuls of sand into your mouth, this is used to soak up gases rather than for drinking, making it an ideal combination for the flatulence deoderiser.    Inflatable anchor: Yes, another classic from Grandma’s corny joke emails. But not only do they work, but under certain conditions, inflatable anchors can be more effective than regular ones. The anchor is first buried deep in the soil and then inflated, lodging it so hard into the ground that its pullout resistance will be superior to that of a regular anchor. The anchor is also able to come out as easily as it went in, probably promising to call and making some excuse about needing to leave early.
Match made in hell?
Thursday 9 February 2012, 02:22PM
He killed mother-of-five Helle Christensen – his girlfriend at the time – by cutting her head off, eating parts of her body and then boasting about it on the internet.His new girlfriend previously stabbed a single father to death and drunk his blood – posing in a picture online, before her arrest, with blood dripping from her lips, holding a power saw and a knife. A caption underneath read: “I want to cut the throats of people on the subway.”And so it is that Sweden’s most evil couple – a cannibal and a Satan-worshipping vampire – have applied to join in possibly the most unholy matrimony ever devised behind the bars of their secure psychiatric hospital. Isakin Jonsson, 33, has asked human vampire Michelle Gustafsson, 23, if the fellow killer wanted to be his girlfriend on November 13 last year via internet messaging service MSN. They decided to get engaged on December 9. The couple are fellow inmates at the high-security Karsuddens psychiatric facility near Katrineholm, where they are expected to remain for the rest of their lives.Both opted for indefinite psychiatric treatment to save them from automatic life sentences. But experts believe they are both so sick they will die in captivity. And as the usually liberal Sweden is horrified by their crimes, no politician in the future would risk an imploding career by ordering their release. Yet the diabolical duo live in hope. Gustafsson posted on the internet this week: “We want to live together at some point, have dogs and pursue our hobbies: piercing and tattoos.” She made no mention of their other hobbies: killing people and ritualistically consuming them. Her cannibal fiancee added: “I love Michelle. Have never met anyone like her. I want to live a non-criminal life.” Justice authorities have not said whether their request to be wed will be granted.
BIG LIST: Unusual Abodes
Friday 3 February 2012, 04:24PM
Unlike Frank Buckley, not all of us have a billion euros casually sitting around to turn into a house. Sure, you could use a billion Vietnamese Dong, but it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. So here are some more suggestions on how your home can make a serious statement.   Park(ing) views: The economy is tough, and we all have to cut back. For most people, that means going out less or securing a lucrative second job in the organ-harvesting market. To others, it means building your entire home in a parking space so tight you might circle the block to look for a better one. Thirty-nine-year-old Japanese Fuyuhito Moriya decided to do just that, saving a lot of money and even more virginity by purchasing a 30-square-metre parking space in Tokyo on which to build a three-story home for himself – and his mother.    Timbeeeerr! Believe it or not, this thing that appears to be a gigantic, ancient, haunted house in mid-collapse is in fact an inhabitable home. And it looks like that on purpose. Located in the Siberian town of Arkhangelsk, it’s believed to be the tallest wooden dwelling in the world, towering 13-stories and seemingly defying several laws of physics by not toppling over every time somebody leans on it. Nikolai Sutyagin built the entire house himself by hand mostly from scrap lumber. He said the house was originally intended to only be two stories, but looked “ungainly”, so he just kept building, which probably isn’t a technique recommended by most architectural schools.    Skinny living: Well, clearly this is just a picture of a house in construction. That white structure is just one of the walls of a full house to be built later, right? Nope, turns out that’s an entire house, the thinnest one in the world in fact. The house measures only about a metre wide at the front, expanding to a roomy two metres across at its widest point. Despite being narrower than a lot of human beings, this Brazilian house manages to pack in two living rooms, three bedrooms and a kitchen.    Standing room only: This house is cutely titled ‘Just Room Enough’. At first sight, it looks a picture taken 30 seconds before somebody died in a flood, but the structure is actually built on an island exactly the size of the house. Located on the American side of the St. Lawrence River, ‘Just Room Enough’ was bought by the Sizeland family in the 1950s. They purchased the little parcel of land in the hopes of having somewhere to go to to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and they figured an inaccessible island fortress with literally no earth around it on which strangers could stand would work nicely. Instead, due to the novelty of the house, the island quickly became a tourist magnet.    Room with a view: This is just one example of the typical dwelling used by the Korowai tribe of Papua New Guinea, who had no idea the outside world even existed until 1970. Instead of building treehouses five metres off the ground for their kids, stalling out halfway through and just living with a plank in their trees for the next few decades, the Korowai build their treehouses like real men: To the finish, and up to 60 metres in the air. They do this to avoid predators, floods and ant swarms, and because it just looks so awesome. A long way down if you need the loo though.
US man gives police a very transparent alibi
Friday 3 February 2012, 04:23PM
When you’re about to be pinged for a domestic assault charge, perhaps it’s natural to get a bit creative with your excuse. But there is a fine line between being creative and downright ridiculous, and a US man has leaped right across it. Police in Wisconsin arrested Michael West, 41, on January 15 after responding to a domestic disturbance call. West’s wife told the cops that her husband twice attempted to strangle her and that he struck her in the face when she attempted to call 911. West initially went with the classic favourite; that his wife sustained injuries as a result of “several falls”. But when an officer pressed the issue, West allegedly got his creative juices flowing and opted for less obvious scenario: “A ghost did it.” However, his explanation doesn’t have a ghost of a chance of getting any support from researchers like Ron James, a filmmaker who specialises in the paranormal. “Reports of ghosts attacking people or making them do things are extremely rare and there is no solid evidence to support them,” he said. James said the only way West’s claim might be legit is if the house has had documented paranormal activity, or if West and his wife have been known to have otherworldly entities following them. Or, of course, if West was simply a violent drunk. “If the husband had become possessed by some demonic entity, it certainly could manifest as violent,” James said. “It probably is a case where none of us will ever know for sure, but the cynical side of me says that ‘a ghost made me do it’ is a pretty convenient excuse.” West was arrested and charged with domestic abuse, strangulation, battery, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. We will also throw in an honorary charge at him for being a complete idiot.
Irishman builds ‘billion euro home’ – literally
Friday 3 February 2012, 04:22PM
There are a handful of people in the world who can claim their house is worth 1.4 billion euros (B57 billion). But there is only one who can claim his house is made from that amount of money. That honour goes to Frank Buckley, an unemployed Irish artist who has built a home from the shredded remains of 1.4 billion euros. He says the abode is a monument to the “madness” he says has been wrought on Ireland by the single currency, from a spectacular construction boom to a wrenching bust. He built the apartment in the lobby of a Dublin office building that has lain vacant since its completion four years ago at the peak of an ill-fated construction boom, using bricks of shredded defunct euro notes he borrowed from Ireland’s national mint. “It’s a reflection of the whole madness that gripped us,” Buckley said of what he calls his “billion-euro home”. “People were pouring billions into buildings now worth nothing,” he said. “I wanted to create something from nothing.” After Ireland joined the currency zone in the early 2002, a wave of cheap credit helped fuel a huge property bubble that transformed the country. The bubble’s collapse since 2007 plunged Ireland into the deepest recession in the industrialised world. Buckley says he was given a 100 per cent mortgage at the peak of the boom to buy a 365,000 euro (B15 million) home on the outer reaches of Dublin’s commuter belt, despite the fact he had no steady income. He has since separated from his wife, who lives in the home which has now lost at least one-third of its value. Living in his ‘billion euro home’ since the start of December, Buckley is working on adding a kitchen to the living room and hall. The walls and floor are covered in euro shreddings and the house is so warm Buckley says he can sleep without a blanket. Pictures made from notes and coins decorate the walls, including one of a house, made from Irish 5 pence pieces. “There are houses in Ireland worth less than that,” Buckley quips. Buckley said he wants Europe’s politicians to solve the euro zone debt crisis without destroying its currency. But if the currency ultimately fails, he will happily use the euro zone’s defunct notes as fodder for future projects. “Whatever you say about the euro, it’s a great insulator.”
BIG LIST: Looking Ahead
Friday 27 January 2012, 10:17AM
If you want to know what the future has in store, you could always head to your local market and grab some asparagus. However, “asparamancing” is only one of many wacky ways of divining your fortune:   Say cheese: We’ve all heard that eating cheese before bedtime can give you nightmares. But apparently a humble piece of cheddar can also help you find your dream partner. In Europe during the Middle Ages, young country girls used what was called ‘tyromancy’ to predict who’d be their future husband. They’d write the names of prospective suitors on a piece of cheese, and the name where mould grew first was the ideal love match. Mouldy cheese – where romance blossoms.  Feline forecast: Ailuromancy – also known as ‘felidomancy’ – is literally the cat’s whiskers when it comes to determining the future. Simply observe the way your feline friend moves or jumps and you have an insight into what’s about to occur – especially when it comes to the weather, apparently. Every twitch, yawn, sneeze or stretch foretells some forthcoming event. If it’s hissing and arching its back, for example, it’s probably about to swipe you in the face.  The future? My a**e! Rumpology is not just an excuse to stare at people’s behinds. Sure, that’s probably part of it, but who are we to judge? Where palmistry experts see all through your hand, rumpologists go for the bottom line, meaning you never need to be behind the times again.  Navel gazing: The shape of a belly button reveals all about a person’s personality and life expectancy, according to Berlin psychologist Dr Gerhard Reibman. If you have an “outy” – protruding – omphalomancy tells us you’re optimistic and enthusiastic. If it’s round, you’re shy and retiring. If you’re the guy pictured above, well, then you’re just an idiot.  Bookish behaviour: Choose an important book, let it open on a random page and read the first passage you see. That’s your fortune according to bibliomancy. We tried it with a phone directory and apparently have a life to look forward to as a male escort after journalism.  Don’t wine: Seems like a real waste of a decent drink, but spill wine on to a piece of cloth or paper and the subsequent stains can be read by the right people (usually sober people). The Romans believed oinomancy, as it is known, was best carried out by a priestess of Bacchus, the god of wine. If you can’t find a priestess of the god of wine though, then a local drunk will probably suffice.  Shoedunnit: Many of us might be able to tell where people have been by the state of their shoes. But only a rare few can tell where they’re going from a quick glance at someone’s footwear. ‘Scarpomancy’ relies on predictions based on the wear patterns, tongue deformation and lace fraying of shoes. From the wear on your shoes, I predict you will buy a new pair soon.  Wee will rock you: Urine samples are used by medical professionals to indicate the state of a person’s health. But, according to ‘uromancy’, the bubbles in wee can reveal future events. If the bubbles are big and far apart, expect good things. If they are small and close together, something appalling may be around the corner – something like proteinuria, vesicocolic fistula or urinary tract infection, for example, all of which list urine bubbles as a symptom.  Faecal fortune: Scatomancy involves human excrement being scrutinised to tell the future. In ancient times, ‘scatomancers’ were often influential members of their community. Today, handling people’s poo and prophesising the future will probably land you in a psychiatric facility.
BIG LIST: Crazy Conditions
Friday 20 January 2012, 09:45AM
Some rare medical conditions have unintended benefits, but many others are just downright awful. Exploding Head Syndrome: Yes, really – although it’s not as cool as it sounds. Sufferers won’t be cleaning up brain matter off the ceiling, but instead essentially hear a very loud noise (that isn’t actually there), usually when asleep. Symptoms can include the inability to vocalise any sound, bouts of sleep paralysis and frequent ‘WTF just happened’ moments. It's still not known what causes it.    Walking Corpse Syndrome: Walking corpse syndrome is a neurophyciatric disorder where people are under the false belief that they are dead and rotting. Sufferers basically wander the earth telling people that they’re dead. Just to clarify, they’re not. The illusion can become so real that they can make up elaborate stories of their death.    Alien Hand Syndrome: It’s the plot of a more than a few bad horror movies, but also a very bizarre reality for some: Hands with minds of their own that move and behave seemingly independent of the sufferer’s intentions. The ‘alien’ hands undo buttons, manipulate tools and even grope people without the awareness of those to whom the hands are attached - that's their excuse anyway.    Human Werewolf Syndrome: For people with severe Hypertrichosis, hair grows profusely in all sorts of unusual places, such as freakin’ everywhere. Sometimes referred to as “human werewolf syndrome”, it involves excessive hair growth all over the body which grows back even after laser treatments. Only about 50 living people are currently known to have this condition, including Thai schoolgirl Supatra Sasuphan, named 'the world's hairiest girl'.    Fish Odour Syndrome: We’ve all sat next to that smelly guy on the bus before. But try multiplying that smell by approximately infinity and you are somewhere in the region of someone suffering from trimethylaminuria. Sometimes called ‘fish odour syndrome’, because there’s no need to be sensitive to someone who smells like rotting fish, people with this condition can’t control the very strong smells that are emitted through their sweat, urine and breath because their bodies don’t properly break down a fishy-smelling organic compound found in food.    Vampire Disease: More commonly known in the medical world as the much less awesome sounding cutaneos porphyria, vampire disease is a disorder where the victim’s skin experiences blisters, necrosis, itching and burning when exposed to sunlight. It also causes excess amounts of hair growth on body parts, particularly the forehead. Perhaps even weirder, and not vampire related, the victim’s urine turns different colours when exposed to sunlight. Doctors are also relatively sure that silver bullets and stakes through the heart will most likely kill sufferers, though this hasn’t been independently verified.    Alice in Wonderland Syndrome: When objects appear much small or larger than they should – like dogs the size of mice, or ladybugs as big as a house – you’re either on drugs or experiencing Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (perhaps both), a temporary condition that affects our perception of the world around us. Doctors believe that it may involve the brain’s occipital lobe, which controls visual information. Or it may just be the drugs.    Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome: Okay, so this one sounds awesome. But imagine having 200 plus orgasms every day. Still sounds awesome? Now imagine having 200 plus completely uncontrollable orgasms per day in very public places. There’s no known cure, although there are far less pleasurable conditions to be struck down with.
Couple renew vows – after sex change
Friday 20 January 2012, 09:43AM
BIG LIST: Freaks of Nature
Friday 13 January 2012, 01:42PM
We all know that scientists are really just the world’s biggest pranksters. I mean, they created a giant-headed supersoldier ant just because they could (see left). So, instead of imagining what other kinds of crazy mutants they’ve knocked up on their lunch break, we’ve made a list.   Got milk? Have you ever looked at a cow and thought, ‘Man, I wish that gorgeous beast had a nice ol’ set of human breasts I could drink from’? Scientists in China apparently have, creating genetically modified cattle that produce “human” milk in a bid to make cows’ milk more nutritious. Professor Ning Li, the scientist who led the research and director of the State Key Laboratories for AgroBiotechnology at the China Agricultural University, insisted that the GM milk would be as safe to drink as milk from ordinary dairy cows, but why should we trust someone who thinks it cool to drink milk from a cow?    Rodent’s revenge: If human breastmilk’s not your thing, how about a nice refreshing glass of rodent nectar? It’s all about lactoferrin, apparently, a substance in breast milk that boosts infant immune systems. Human milk contains only four to five grammes of the stuff per litre, but mice milk that includes up to 160 grammes. Scientists must anesthetise the mice and then attach tiny pumps to their itty-bitty mouse teats to harvest negligible quantities of milk (yes, just like in The Simpsons). This process is admittedly hilarious but extremely inefficient and difficult to produce on an industrial scale.    Venomous veggies: Remember when your mum always told you to finish your greens? Well she may as well have told you to finish eating your scorpion poison glands, because that’s what future children may have to look forward to. Scientists have recently taken the gene that programmes poison in scorpion tails and looked for ways to combine it with cabbage. Why would they want to create venomous cabbage? To limit pesticide use while still preventing caterpillars from damaging cabbage crops. These genetically modified cabbages would produce scorpion poison that kills caterpillars when they bite leaves — but the toxin is modified so it isn’t harmful to humans. So who wants to try it first?    Buzz off: Hands up if you hate mosquitoes. Now everyone put your hands down. It should please you then to know that the same British biotech company involved with the GE bollworm has created mosquitoes that are specifically programmed for sudden, early death, kind of like the computers of the insect world. The idea is to release quick-dying males to mate with wild females, passing on lethal genes that kill the young before they can reproduce. The short-lived bugs could help control the spread of dengue fever and other diseases. Despite having some critics, the only real down side of this terminator gene is losing out on the satisfaction of a mosquito killing revenge rampage.    Fluro felines: In 2007, South Korean scientists took the GloFish and stepped it up notch, altering a cat’s DNA to make it glow in the dark, and then took that DNA and cloned other cats from it — creating a set of fluffy, fluorescent felines. Here’s how they did it: The researchers took skin cells from Turkish Angora female cats and used a virus to insert genetic instructions for making red fluorescent protein. Then they put the gene-altered nuclei into the eggs for cloning, and the cloned embryos were implanted back into the donor cats – making the cats the surrogate mothers for their own clones.
Cat: meat hot pot
Friday 13 January 2012, 01:41PM
It was supposed to be a civilised chat over a casual meal of, ahem, cat meat hot pot. But police in southern China have detained a man suspected of murdering a billionaire tycoon over a financial dispute by poisoning the cat meat they shared. Long Liyuan, who made his fortune running a forestry company in wealthy Guangdong province, died last month after sharing a dinner of cat meat hot pot – a local delicacy – with two associates. Last Monday authorities in Yangjiang city, where the incident occurred, said police had detained one of the two associates, Huang Guang, a local forestry official, on suspicion of poisoning the meal after a business deal went sour. “Huang, who was helping Long take a lease on a forest, had himself used funds provided by Long. This led to an economic dispute and gave Huang the idea to kill Long with poison,” a statement on the city’s official microblog said. Long’s brother claimed at the time that the billionaire, a Guangdong provincial people’s congress delegate, had been poisoned, and his family posted a 100,000 yuan (B5 million) reward for information about his death. All three men fell ill after eating the meat on December 23, but Huang and the third diner recovered, the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday. The paper said that Huang had snuck into the restaurant kitchen to poison their food. “He tasted the cat meat, saying it needed to boil longer, then asked the owner of the restaurant to go fetch him three bottled beverages,” said the Guangdong-based daily. “Her [the owner’s] husband then went out to buy cigarettes, which is when Huang is now suspected to have slipped in some gelsemium elegans,” it added, referring to a poisonous plant native to China. Before the dinner, the three men had gone to inspect woodlands that Huang wished to sell to Long, the report said, adding that the official had previously helped the tycoon buy woodlands and got other officials to grant permits and public development funds. Long or his firm appeared to have paid Huang a total of 3.5 million yuan (B17.5 million) for various services and Huang had recently been trying to raise more money to settle debts, it said. Huang, who earlier told the newspaper of his “great sadness” at Long’s death, had sent a text message to the billionaire giving him his bank details, the paper said.
Scientists create new ‘supersoldier’ ants
Friday 13 January 2012, 01:39PM
Nightmarish “supersoldier” ants with huge heads and jaws have been created by scientists, though it’s unlikely they’ll be taking over the world anytime soon. Rather, the monsterous ants may be a genetic throwback to an ancestor that lived millions of years ago. Scientists created the ants by activating ancient genes that trigger their development. They showed that ordinary ants of the species Pheidole morrisi contain all the genetic tools needed to turn them into supersoldiers. By dabbing their larvae with a special hormone, they were able to induce the development of “supersoldiers” instead of normal worker and soldier ants. Supersoldier ants can occur naturally in the wild, but only rarely. In the deserts of America and Mexico, their job is to protect the colony from raids by invading army ants. The supersoldiers use their enormous heads to block the nest entrance and attack any enemy ants that get too close. Scientists in Canada created the monster ants in the laboratory by activating the ancient ancestral genes. Authors Dr Rajendhran Rajakumar, from McGill University, Canada, and colleagues wrote: “We uncovered an ancestral development potential to produce a novel supersoldier sub-caste that has been retained throughout a hyperdiverse ant genus that evolved 35 to 60 million years ago.” The results suggest that holding on to ancestral development toolkits may play an important role in evolving new physical traits, say the researchers. The results also suggest that science can be awesome.