A roundup of mysterious, paranormal and strange news stories from the past week.
Here is some good news for those fearing a robot apocalypse – a new store robot being tested by Poland's largest convenience chain, Zabka Polska, failed repeatedly when attempting to complete a critical task of all convenience store employees -- inserting a hot dog into a bun and serving it to a customer. It was so bad, they may convert the robot to just advising customers to eat something healthy instead.
In a recent 32-week clinical trial, psilocybin "magic” mushrooms were given to people with alcohol dependence – a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational or health consequences – and their rate of heavy drinking dropped by about 83% compared with pretreatment levels. It looks like the 12 steps of AA may one day be replaced by one step into a cow pasture.
Researchers analyzing the facial structure of the skulls of 13 Neanderthals, 233 prehistoric Homo sapiens and 83 modern humans have concluded that most interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals took place in the region between North Africa and Iraq around 50,000 years ago – one sign was that the descendants of Neanderthal interbreeding had larger faces. Get ready for plastic surgeons to start offering “Neanderthal reductions.”
A purple haze mysteriously appeared across the entire horizon and in the sky above the town of Pozo Almonte in Chile, causing concern among local residents even after officials blamed it on a pump failure at a nearby minerals plant that released iodine vapor into the atmosphere. For all the people rushing to try and kiss the sky, they blamed Jimi Hendrix.
Little is known about the ancient Greek city of Scythopolis located in the modern town of Beit She’an in modern Israel other than it was destroyed by the ruling Hasmonean dynasty between 111 BCE and 107 BCE, but now archeologists used the remains of chicken bones to determine that the destruction took place in the spring of 107 BCE when the chickens were slaughtered. In the future, archeologists may determine the date (and probable cause) of our destruction by looking at all of the receipts for fried chicken takeout.
The inspiration for China’s mermaid legends, the dugong, has been declared extinct in that country as no verified sightings of this manatee relative have been reported since 2000 – despite weighing an average of 1,000 pounds, the dugong is the world’s only vegetarian marine mammal. Lonely sailors must have thought the seaweed dangling from their mouths looked sexy.
NASA's Ingenuity, the little helicopter that could, made its 30th flight over the surface of Mars this week after a two-month layoff during which it charged its batteries – the short flight lasted just last 33 seconds and covered only 6.5 feet (2 meters) of horizontal distance because its purpose was to check its condition and blow the dust off of its solar panel. Martians didn’t even bother to get out their cell phones for that.
A visitor to Tynemouth Priory, the ruins of a Benedictine priory in Northern England where early kings of Northumbria were buried, claims a photo she took with a camera, not a cell phone, of what looks like a woman dressed in old-fashioned clothing is actually a ghost because her daughter’s cell phone photos of the same location at the same time showed nothing. Many people believe the ghost story but few believe anyone still carries a real camera.
NASA astronomers collected the sounds of gas in the galaxy cluster Perseus, extracted the sound waves from the center, resynthesized them to a range audile to humans, amplified them and released for the first time the sound of a black hole – an ominous roar that would fit well in the soundtrack of a horror movie. For an easier-to-understand description – it sounds like Perseus has gas.
Native Aboriginals called them mihirung, vertebrate palaeontologists call them Dromornis stirtoni , the largest bird to ever live on Earth, but we all call these thunderbirds extinct and now we know why – new research shows they lost their spot as apex predators and eventually went extinct because they were slow breeders that couldn’t adapt to climate change like emus and ostriches. This is not good news in today’s climate change era for those having difficulty getting dates.
Communications Officer Lt. Nyota Uhura will once again boldly go where no woman has gone before when the ashes and a DNA sample of Nichell Nichols, who played her in Star Trek series and movies, are launched into deep space by Celestis, a company providing "memorial spaceflight services," along with the ashes of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, his wife Majel Barrett “Nurse Christine Chapel” Roddenberry, and “Star Trek" engineer James "Scotty" Doohan. If there are any problems on this flight, you can’t blame that stellar crew.
One of the University of Michigan Library’s most prized possessions, a manuscript believed to have been written by Galileo Galilei describing his discovery in 1610 of moons orbiting Jupiter, has been identified as a 20th-century forgery after a researcher found that the watermark was wrong. Whatever you do, don’t tell the pope.
The record-breaking drought in Texas turned out to be a good thing for paleontologists -- a set of dinosaur tracks dating back 113 million years were discovered in an area of the Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas, that was once covered with water from the Paluxy River. When it comes to dinosaurs and climate change from burning fossil fuels, what goes around, comes around.
A mysterious geyser that erupted in the middle of a forest on the Japanese island of Hokkaido has been shooting up columns of water up to 40 meters (131 feet) high for weeks and disrupting an annual summer festival at the Oshamambe Shinto shrine, causing religious leaders to call it a sign and geologists to blame it on a hot spring beneath the shrine. For once, no one is complaining about the temperature of the baptismal waters.
Cognitive neuroscientist at Boston University in Massachusetts demonstrated that zapping the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — a region near the front of the brain – in the brains of adults aged over 65 with weak non-invasive electrical currents repeatedly over several days led to memory improvements that lasted for up to a month. If Dr. Frankenstein had done this to his creation, it might have remembered from whom all of his body parts came from.
Researchers at the University of Zurich used one of the few fossils of a megalodon that contained more than a few teeth and created a 3D computer model of an entire 52-feet-long body which revealed that if a megalodon were alive and swimming in the ocean today, it could eat an entire killer whale, which would keep it satiated for up to two months. We’d know when that happened because the megalodon’s belch would cause a tsunami.
A team at Columbia Engineering says they have developed a robot that, for the first time, can learn a model of its whole body from scratch without any human aid by watching itself on five streaming video camera feeds for just three hours – it was then able to plan movements, accomplish objectives, avoid obstacles and automatically detect and correct damage to its body. Can it imagine making a hot dog for a customer? (See above)
Virginia’s University of Richmond Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory is training female rats how to drive cars in order to learn more about how humans handle stress – female rats have been ignored by science because earlier researchers thought their four-day estrous cycles would affect the results. One thing they learned is that rats call it “maze rage.”
If you believe that if you wait long enough, some problems will solve themselves, you’ll love the news from Florida that scientists attaching tracking devices to invasive Burmese pythons have discovered that baby pythons are being eaten by adult Florida cottonmouths before they can grow up to become 18-foot-long behemoths. This will work great until Florida cottonmouths learn the concept of extortion.
Marina Smith, a 87-year-old UK woman who passed away recently, was able to hold a "holographic conversational video experience" with mourners at her own funeral using artificial intelligence which allowed ‘her’ to answer questions from relatives and friends after they had watched her cremation. Even AI gets tired of everyone asking, “So, was it hot in there?”