A roundup of mysterious, paranormal and strange news stories from the past week.
A Chupacabra made the local crime news in Park City, Kansas, when local police asked for help in solving a business burglary by someone or something described as “The pictured male (or chupacabra) used bolt cutters to cut a fence and gain access to the back of a business” – the perp was captured on a trail cam video before he or it cut four catalytic converters off of vehicles belonging to the business. Junkyard owners should be on the lookout for someone offering catalytic converters in trade for live chickens.
Instead of solving the source of fast radio bursts (FRBs) – those millisecond-long cosmic energy explosions that are equivalent to the sun's annual output – astronomers are baffled by the discovery that some FRBs have a "Faraday rotation measure", which is the strength of the magnetic field and density of particles in the vicinity of the FRB source, that disappears even while the bursts continue. I’m not saying it’s aliens playing cosmic pranks but …
Residents of downtown Salt Lake City reported hearing strange music coming from the sewers and many thought it was extraterrestrials broadcasting their top 100 list of favorite songs of the universe – but the mystery was finally cleared up by the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities which said it was their Sewer RAT (Sewer Line Rapid Assessment Tool) which sends tones through the sewer pipes to check for blockage. Many people actually preferred it over elevator music.
In September 2018, the FBI shut down the Sunspot Solar Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico, and spawned many conspiracy theories which were finally resolved this week when Joshua Cope, who worked as a janitor at the observatory, was found guilty of two counts of child-pornography possession and one count of distribution. Get ready for the aliens who were initially blamed for the shutdown to file defamation lawsuits.
Hotel industry leader Hilton signed a contract with Voyager Space Holdings and Lockheed Martin to design astronaut facilities for the companies' planned Starlab space station that will one day replace the International Space Station. Astronauts want to know if this will mean a long wait to check in and wonder how the mint will stay on their pillow under weightless conditions.
NASA released the first recordings of the sound of meteoroids pounding the surface of Mars – the sounds were captured by the InSight lander – each impact sounds like a "bloop" due to a peculiar atmospheric effect and distance, and the recording has three of them when a meteoroid enters the Martian atmosphere, explodes into pieces, and impacts the surface. As Dick Clark would say, it has a good beat and it’s easy to dance to.
Researchers studying how bears can gorge on sweet honey and then hibernate for months while keeping their insulin levels in control to avoid developing diabetes have traced it to eight proteins that modulate the insulin sensitivity and resistance during hibernation -- the same genes are in humans, so that means the discovery could turn into a diabetes treatment or prevention. Bears would rather know how to wake up after months without bed hair and bad breath.
NASA released a photograph from the James Webb Space Telescope of Neptune showing the clearest view of the planet’s rings since Voyager 2 made its flyby in 1989 – the photo shows several bright, narrow rings, Neptune’s fainter dust bands, seven of the planet's 14 moons, and a mysterious bright spot at the planet's North Pole. Unfortunately, it’s not clear enough to see shades being pulled down by embarrassed Neptunians.
One of the heaviest, oldest, and largest organisms in the world is the Trembling Giant -- a tightly packed swathe of male quaking aspen trees emerging from a single, complex root system covering some 100 acres of Utah – and it is slowly dying by fragmentation … a problem researchers think can be solved by greater management of deer, cattle and humans. If they are out of danger, will they stop quaking?
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, warn that the vomit of “synanthropic” flies (non-biting flies typically seen living beside humans) carries more diseases than the bite of biting flies – the common housefly is one of these non-biting flies. Disgusting it is, but Fly Vomit would be a great band name.
The Space Force has unveiled its official song, a 40-second tune called "Semper Supra" (Latin for "always above") with lyrics like "We're the mighty watchful eye / Guardians beyond the blue” and “Standing guard both night and day / We're the Space Force from on high." Let’s just say Space Force members are lucky they’re in space and don’t have to march to it.
A live ITV feed from Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral picked up a mysterious woman’s voice whispering “the death is irreversible and the fact that she's trapped..." before it was cut off by a male presenter – some people think it was a guest who was on the show a minutes before and forgot to turn off her mic, while others were sure it was a ghostly warning about the late queen’s death. It’s nice that we can move on from the funeral and go back to following the whispers of the live royals.
Marine biologists are mystified by strange deep-sea "blue goo" creatures discovered on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea near St. Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands – it might be a soft coral, a sponge or a tunicate – the gelatinous marine invertebrates known as sea squirts – or it could be a new species. Whatever it is, let’s hope it is smart enough to stay away from cruise ships.
Egyptian archaeologists found blocks of white cheese that are over 2,600 years old, dating back to 664-525 BCE, at the Saqqara necropolis where there are also other containers that might contain ancient cheese. Now they’re looking for crackers and an ancient charcuterie board.
The “alien goldfish” – a creature known as the Typhloesus wellsi which lived 330 million years ago in Montana and had a rugby ball-shaped body up to 3.5 inches in length, a fin on its back end, neither a backbone nor an anus, and lacking a shell – has finally been identified as some sort of unique type of mollusk that is definitely not a goldfish but still might be alien. You can help -- if you get abducted by aliens, check for an aquarium.
Feng Long, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard and Smithsonian, has discovered a new way to search for the existence of exoplanets – by searching for debris that could be located at the Lagrange points between a star and a planet at the five points in space where their gravity and orbital motion essentially cancel each other out … the James Webb Space Telescope is located at a Lagrange point between the Earth and the Sun. Texans think the Lagrange point is the spot in space where you can best hear ZZ Top.
Puma Watch North Wales reports that a man “out drinking” at Chester Market snapped a photo of what looks like a large black puma on the roof of an adjacent hotel in Cheshire – the man described it as “far too big to be a dog, it had short pointy ears and yellow eyes and its face looked exactly like a puma.” It was a Reverse Cheshire Cat because the drunk witness was smiling instead of the feline.
Researchers at Meta, the parent company of Facebook, have developed an artificial intelligence which can decode words and sentences from brain activity with surprising accuracy -- using only a few seconds of brain activity data, the AI guessed what a person has heard and was correct in its top 10 possibilities up to 73 percent of the time … they hope it will one day help people who can’t communicate through speech. If it really works at reading brain activity, this algorithm should be able to figure out that nobody trusts Facebook.
Astronomers studying the remnant of a neutron star merger observed in 2019 think it has the right mass to be a “strange quark star” – extremely dense and exotic hypothetical cosmic objects which bind to up and down quarks to form "strangelets" which in large quantities and under extreme pressures, like colliding with a neutron star, could form a strange quark star. Wasn’t David Bowie a strange quark star … and wouldn’t that make his children strangelets?
OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, the head researcher at the firm behind the machine learning systems GPT-3 and DALL-E, says he thinks advanced super-AIs should be made "deeply obedient" to their human creators or that they should "truly deeply [love] humanity" like AI pets. Do you really want Alexa barking and drooling every time you come home?