Friday, October 7, 2022

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News of the Weird

Spidey Sense Gets Real


Among the breakthroughs demonstrated by the computer chip company Intel’s RealSense system is a cocktail dress from Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht that not only senses the wearer’s “mood,” but also acts to repel (or encourage) strangers who might approach the wearer. Sensors (including small LED monitors) measure respiration and 11 other profiles, and if the wearer is “stressed,” artistic spider-leg epaulets extend menacingly from the shoulder to suggest that “intruders” keep their distance (in which case the dress resembles something from the movie “Aliens”) — or, if the wearer feels relaxed, the legs wave invitingly. The experimental “spider dress” was showcased at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.


Government in action

Because Congress and presidents often change their minds, NASA recently continued to build on a $349 million rocket testing tower in Mississippi for a “moon” project that had been canceled back in 2010. The now-idle tower sits down the road from a second rocket testing tower being built for its “replacement” mission — an “asteroid” project. Critics, according to a December Washington Post examination, blame senators who believe it smarter to keep contractors at work (even though useless) because, Congress and the president might change their minds yet again. Said a high-profile critic, “We have to decide … whether we want a jobs program or a space program.” NASA’s inspector general in 2013 identified six similar “mothballed” projects that taxpayers continue to maintain. …

About 240 of the 351 police departments in Massachusetts claim their SWAT and other specialty operations are not “government” services, but rather not-for-profit corporate activities and are thus entitled to avoid certain government obligations. Even though their officers have the power to carry weapons, arrest people and break down doors during raids, these “law enforcement councils” refuse to comply with government open-records laws for civilian monitoring of SWAT activities. The latest refusal, by the 58 police agencies of the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, was filed in state Superior Court in December.

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa (Oct)


Mother of all surgeries

After 15 months of faulty diagnoses, Pam Pope, 65, finally got the (bad) news: a rare, slow-moving cancer of the appendix, “pseudomyxoma peritonei.” The malignancy was so advanced that her only hope was the removal of all organs that she could possibly do without. In a six-surgeon, 13-hour operation in May 2014 at Hampshire Clinic in Basingstoke, England, Pope parted with her appendix, large bowel, gall bladder, spleen, womb, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix and most of her small bowel. She has endured massive chemotherapy, is on a nightly drip for hydration, and still remains frail, according to a December report in London’s Daily Mail.


What researchers do

The natural enemy of the “hawkmoth” (for 65 million years) is the bat, but thanks to a recent study by biologists at Boise State University and the University of Florida, we know the reason why so many hawkmoths are able to avoid their predator: They signal each other by rubbing their genitals on their abdomens, which somehow mimics bats’ own high-frequency sounds, thus jamming the bats’ aural ability to detect the hawkmoths’ locations. Professors Jesse Barber and Akito Kawahara, working in Malaysia, tethered a hawkmoth to a wire and then tracked a bat, using slow-motion cameras and high-definition microphones, painstakingly examining the results for a 2014 journal article.


Not nearly ready for prime time

A masked man approached a clerk at Sam’s Mart in New Haven, Connecticut, on Nov. 29 and passed a note demanding money while pointing his finger at the clerk (perhaps an inept attempt to feign having a gun in his pocket). According to police, the clerk grabbed the finger and threatened to break it, sending the man fleeing into the night.

People different from us

In a joint operation in December, police in Beijing and three provinces broke up two prostitution rings that specialized in supplying young lactating mothers to Chinese men who pay to be breastfed. Police said that women who provide sex with the “meal” earn higher fees. The women had either stopped breastfeeding their babies or cut back to favor their clients. Critics, according to the South China Morning Post, said this “lactophilia” showed “the moral degradation of China’s rich.”

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