Mysterious News Briefly — May 25, 2021
As you sit down for your first maskless picnic since 2019 and give thanks for the food, a special thanks should go to Sudan for the watermelon – researchers at Washington University in St. Louis used DNA to trace the origin of today’s fruit back to that northeast Africa country to the Kordofan melon (C. lanatus), a melon with a non-bitter whitish pulp. For inventing the game of spitting seeds into a cup 10 feet away, thank your crazy uncle.
In 2019, Swedish maritime archaeologists discovered the wrecks of two 17th-century ships at the bottom of a shipping canal near Vaxholm which they suspected might be the sister ships of the warship Vasa, which sank in 1628 on her first trip out of port, but have now concluded they are actually two younger warships, the Apollo and Maria, that were deliberately sunk at Vaxholm in 1677. They were able to date the wood, since no meatballs survived.
Botanists have shown for the first time that the Aristolochia microstoma plant has flowers which emit a putrid odor that mimics the smell of decomposing insects to attract so-called coffin flies which mate over dead insects and then lay their eggs in them – the flower instead temporarily imprisons the flies and then uses them to spread their pollen. A question as summer picnics get started -- if plants can outsmart flies, why can‘t we?
South African officials are fighting rhino poachers by injecting rhino horns with radioactive material which can then be tracked and hopefully lead to the arrest of illegal traders. Why not just convince the makes of little blue pills to include in their ads that they work better than rhino horns?
A cow in Illinois gave birth to triplets – the odds on this happening are 1 in 105,000, and even higher in this case since all three calves survived. The calves aren’t any more valuable, but the farmer could make a fortune selling photographs of the look on the cow’s face.
Fans of gray wolves will like a new report from Wisconsin where the return of wolf populations has resulted in a substantial 24 percent decrease in deer-vehicle collisions simply by scaring the deer away from the roads where the wolves hang out. Authors of road kill cookbooks are one group that’s not applauding.
Burglars robbed Arundel Castle, a 1,000-year-old palace in West Sussex, England, last week and took treasures worth more than $1.4 million, including a gold rosary owned by Mary Stuart, better known as Mary Queen of Scots, who carried it to her execution. Police are hoping it brings similar luck to the thieves.
Czech police are searching for an unknown group of people who created a crop circle shaped like a giant Pac-Man and damaged a rapeseed crop worth $17,000 in the process. Or was it game-loving aliens?
Virgin Galactic chief Sir Richard Branson says the successful piloted flight of VSS Unity to the border between Earth and space before landing again at Spaceport America means the company is ready to offer the trip to tourists in 2022. All he needs to figure out now is how much to charge for in-flight drinks.
The European Space Agency is proposing a precise navigation system on the Moon called Moonlight, which will be similar to the sat-nav technology we use on Earth. Sounds like a great idea until rovers forget to update their maps and drive off the edge of a crater.