90 Miles From Tyranny : 10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (9/8/18)

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Saturday, September 8, 2018

10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (9/8/18)

Seven days have passed, and it is time, yet again, to look at some of the stranger stories that made headlines this week.

We have a multifarious collection of news items today. There’s pole dancing in China, a ghost ship in Myanmar, and a giant penis on an English hillside. We make an amazing discovery about sharks and explore some trouble aboard the ISS. We also take a look at two peculiar heists—one which just occurred and one that was solved after 13 years.

10 Astronaut Plugs Hole With Finger
Photo credit: International Space Station/Twitter
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station faced potential peril last week when they discovered that a leak somewhere on the station was causing the air pressure to drop. Fortunately, the hole was small enough that one of the astronauts simply plugged it with his finger.The leak was first detected by NASA ground crews while everyone aboard the ISS was sleeping. The next morning, the first order of business was finding the breach. They located the 2-millimeter-wide hole in the orbital section of Soyuz spacecraft MS-09.[1] It was probably caused by a micrometeorite hitting the ISS with enough force to punch through the wall.German astronaut Alexander Gerst stopped the air pressure from dropping by plugging the leak with his finger. Obviously, this was only a temporary measure while a more permanent solution was devised, not that the lasting resolution was significantly more high-tech. In the end, astronauts used epoxy and high-strength tape to seal the hole. So far, it is working, but they are still looking into something more reliable for the foreseeable future.
9  LSD On Trial
The first ever LSD microdosing trials started this week to see what benefits, if any, this method of consumption has.

As its name suggests, microdosing involves taking very small doses of the drug, as little as one-fifteenth of a tab. It is said that this technique eliminates all hallucinogenic effects but helps with focus and depression. It has become a popular aid in the digital world of Silicon Valley. However, the method has never been tested scientifically, so all reports of benefits and side effects are anecdotal. On September 3, though, a placebo-controlled trial started at Imperial College London, sponsored by the Beckley Foundation, an organization founded to advance research into mind-altering substances.[2]

There’s just one problem—taking LSD is still illegal, no matter the dose. Therefore, researchers had to adopt a less conventional approach by inviting people who already microdose to join a “self-blinded study.” In other words, participants will be providing their own drugs which they will be inserting into some gel capsules while leaving others empty to serve as the control. Then they will take doses regularly without knowing if they are consuming LSD or a placebo.

Afterward, the test subjects will participate in online questionnaires and cognitive games to see what effects the drug has. The research team will know which capsules have LSD inside through QR codes and will tally the results after four weeks of testing.

8  The Ghost Ship Of Yangon
Photo credit: Yangon Police/Facebook
A curious sight occurred in the city of Yangon in Myanmar last week when a giant “ghost ship” was found drifting near its shore. The mystery was put to rest on Saturday when the vessel was identified as the Sam Ratulangi PB 1600, an Indonesian freighter headed for Bangladesh.

There were no crew members or goods aboard the ship. Myanmar navy officials believed it had been towed after finding two cables at the head. An investigation eventually found an Indonesian tugboat called Independence about 80 kilometers (50 mi) away.

What started off as an intriguing, even spooky mystery had a mundane explanation. The tugboat had been towing the freighter since August 13. They were headed for a ship-breaking factory in Bangladesh, but bad weather caused a cable to break.[3] They then decided to simply abandon it.

7   Going Up
Photo credit: CNET
We are getting one step closer to a space elevator this month, as Japanese scientists will test a miniature version as proof of concept.

Researchers from Shizuoka University are planning to send up an elevator stand-in box measuring 6 centimeters (2.4 in) long, 3 centimeters (1.2 in) wide, and 3 centimeters high. Unlike a regular space elevator, this one will be launched into space using a rocket. It will also be joined by two miniature satellites which will be connected together using a 10-meter-long (33 ft) steel cable.

The motorized box will travel between the two satellites on the cable, acting as a substitute for an elevator car. Its short journey will be recorded and transmitted back to Earth. The main goal here is to see how a container connected to a cable moves through space.[4] The mission is set to launch on September 11 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima.

There are many obstacles left before a real space elevator becomes a reality. However, the significant reduction in risks and costs is pushing development ever further. The university’s collaborator and adviser, Japanese construction giant Obayashi Corporation, is working on its own space elevator, which should be ready by 2050. Such a device is expected to reduce the costs of transporting cargo from $22,000 per kilogram via shuttle to just $200.

6  Whiskey In The Jar

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