90 Miles From Tyranny : 10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (5/18/19)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (5/18/19)

Another week has passed, which means that it is time, once again, to look at some of the bizarre stories that made the headlines recently. If you want to read up on last week’s list, click here.This week, we have two stories on mysterious texts and ciphers. One is carved into a rock in France, while the other one is considered a Holy Grail of cryptography. Another mystery would be who keeps drawing penises on the sports fields of Melbourne.There is also a secret chamber in Rome, a brewery in the United States, and a Danish politician with a unique strategy to reach his constituents.

10The Discovery Of The Sphinx Room

Photo credit: Ufficio Stampa Parco Archeologico del Colosseo
The Domus Aurea, a palatial complex built by Emperor Nero in Rome, needs a lot of preservation work. Several times throughout the last few decades, it had to be closed off to tourists due to safety concerns. This does come with a positive side, though. During the latest batch of restoration work, archaeologists chanced upon a secret chamber hidden beneath the palace.Scholars have named it the Sphinx Room because it prominently features a fresco of the mythical creature. Other artworks depict a centaur, birds and aquatic creatures, warriors, and the god Pan.They are in good condition given their age, but there could still be more to discover. The chamber, which is 4.5 meters (15 ft) high, is still filled with dirt for the most part. Excavation is slow and careful, and archaeologists expect to finish by the end of the year.[1] They hope that there are still other interesting artworks and artifacts waiting to be found.

9The Smell Of Knowledge

The University of Canberra’s library had to be evacuated after people noticed an unpleasant smell thought to be a gas leak. It was later determined that the pungent aroma came from a durian fruit.The durian is a popular food in Southeast Asia, but it also has plenty of critics due to its strong odor. There are many places where the fruit is banned specifically for this reason. The smell reminds people of unwashed socks, rotten food, or, in some cases, turpentine. Library staff suspected that a gas leak might have occurred, so they evacuated the 550 people inside the building and called the authorities.Firefighters searched the library top to bottom and, eventually, found the culprit. Someone had left a durian near an air vent.[2] While normal operations have resumed at the Australian university, the stench was still there long after the fruit was disposed of. The library had to post another update, assuring students that the building is safe despite the smell.

8Know Your Audience

Denmark’s general election will take place on June 5. One politician has gotten creative with his outreach to his voters by taking an ad out on Pornhub.Successful politicians of today know that online exposure is essential in order to get their face and their message across to the people. Plenty of candidates are either Internet-savvy themselves or employ someone who is, but none of them went as far as Joachim B. Olsen. He realized that adult websites have untapped potential, so he advertised with one of the largest in the world. Visitors to Pornhub were able to see an ad with Olsen and his party logo, asking for their vote.Joachim Olsen is a former Olympic shot-putter who has served as a member of the Folketing (Danish Parliament) since 2011 as part of the Liberal Alliance. He posted on Facebook, confirming that it is, indeed, him on Pornhub and that he approved of the ad. He went on to clarify in an interview that, while elections are a serious matter, “there must also be some humor.”[3] We will have to wait a few weeks to see if his strategy pays off.

7The Mystery Of The Melbourne Penises

Photo credit: Google Earth
The city of Melbourne has a mystery on its hands. Somebody has been drawing giant penises in the grass of several sports parks.It is believed that the symbols started appearing sometime late last year. Some of the parks have already been replanted, and the grass has begun growing, although the phallic outlines are still visible. Only now have the designs started making the rounds, as they were noticed on Google Earth.So far, three parks have penis designs on display, and they all feature multiple attempts of different sizes. The most ambitious project can be found in TW Blake Park in Preston. It measures over 100 meters (328 ft) in length.[4]Council members were not impressed with the artistic efforts, as repairing them will be costly and time-consuming. They also did not want to share too many details regarding the designs to avoid encouraging acts of copycat vandalism. So far, nobody has claimed credit for the Melbourne penises.

6The Cipher Rock Of Brittany

Photo credit: AFP
We go from an Australian mystery to one in France. A tiny village in Brittany is offering a €2,000 reward to anyone who can decipher an incomprehensible message carved into a boulder hundreds of years ago.On the shores of Plougastel-Daoulas, there is a large rock visible only at low tide. It has an inscription on it which has only been noticed a few years ago, even though it includes the years 1786 and 1787, which suggests that it is from the late 18th century.[5]The message is written in the Latin alphabet. At a glance, the letters appear to form words, but upon closer inspection, they only spell gibberish. One line says “DRE AR GRIO SE EVELOH AR VIRIONES BAOAVEL.” There are also a few etchings of objects like sailboats. During the time period indicated, artillery batteries were stationed on the coast, which is the only clue locals have regarding the carving’s possible origin.The mayor of Plougastel-Daoulas wants the message translated and hopes that the cash prize will entice more professional code-breakers to take a crack at their stone cipher.

5The Power Of Free Beer

A brewery in Charlotte, North Carolina, recovered its stolen van in just 42 minutes after offering free beer in exchange for information.On Monday night, three unidentified criminals made off with...

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