90 Miles From Tyranny : 10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (12/29/18)

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (12/29/18)

The end is nigh. As the year comes to a close, it is time to take one last look at some of the quirkier stories that made the headlines. You can click here to catch up on some of the most significant and shocking developments of 2018.

Most of the festive stories will be found in the uplifting list, although we do talk about Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Robber. There is another Christmas-y crime tale as we explore an Arctic bank robbery. There are also a lizard which breathes underwater, a space hippo, bright blue lights above New York City, and a new prime number.

10Rudolph Makes The Naughty List

Someone is trying to besmirch the good name of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. While the real one was out helping Santa Claus deliver gifts to all the good boys and girls, someone wearing a Rudolph mask robbed a business in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Police have security footage of a woman who burgled a company disguisedas the iconic reindeer. Alas, she was not wearing the full costume, just an oversized Rudolph head. It didn’t seem to be the most sensible choice of concealment, though, because at one point, she takes off the mask and looks into an overhead security camera.[1]

Now that police know what the burglar looks like, they made a public appeal on Facebook with a festive twist: “Oh how the camera caught her/As she committed burglary/Rudolph the Red Nosed Criminal/We need your help with her I.D.”

9A Fortuitous Film

Scientists have filmed a lizard breathing underwater for the first time.

The serendipitous phenomenon was caught on camera by chance while filmmakers were in Costa Rica shooting an animal program for the Smithsonian Channel. They filmed a small female lizard called a river anole sitting underwater for almost ten minutes.

At first, they didn’t realize they’d captured something truly special. They simply thought the lizard was holding its breath, as anoles can stay submerged for up to 15 minutes at a time. However, when they got the opportunity to inspect the footage more carefully, they noticed a tiny bubble of air contracting and expanding on the lizard’s head.[2]

This ability was previously unheard-of in lizards. They shouldn’t be confused with salamanders, which might look similar but are actually amphibians. Now, the footage will be reviewed by biologists and other nature experts, and the results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal. At the moment, researchers believe the lizard’s ability is akin to deep-sea divers who recycle their oxygen supply.

8The Coldest Case Of The Year

For the first time ever, a man committed a bank robbery in one of the northernmost settlements in the world.

Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago located roughly halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, mainly known for having more polar bears than people. The largest city and the administrative center in the region is Longyearbyen, a settlement with about 2,100 residents. It is one of those remote regions where everybody knows everybody, and there’s only one small airport that flies people off the archipelago. In other words, it is not an ideal choice for a criminal looking to make a quick getaway.

Last week, a man robbed a bank in Longyearbyen but was apprehended minutes later in the town center.[3] He was detained and later sent to the town of Tromso in mainland Norway. Police haven’t given any details regarding the crime or the perpetrator, other than saying that he was a foreigner and was armed with a gun.

7Prime For Discovery

There is a new largest-known prime number, and it is almost 25 million digits long.

Just as a quick refresher for those who aren’t mathematically inclined, a prime number is a natural number which can only be divided by two whole numbers: itself and 1. A Mersenne prime number (named after a 16th-century French monk) is a number which is one less than a power of two (2n – 1).

In the mathematics world, there are people who become quite obsessed with the ongoing search for ever larger prime numbers. There is even a volunteer project called the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), in which people download special software and let it run on their computers to seek new numbers.

GIMPS started in 1996 and has since uncovered 17 Marsenne primes, and 15 of them were the largest-known prime numbers at the time of their discovery. The latest find came courtesy of Patrick Laroche from Ocala, Florida. He made the discovery on December 7, and it took mathematicians a few weeks to verify. The number is 24,862,048 digits long and has beaten the previous record-holder by a whopping 1.5 million digits.[4]

6That Doesn’t Go In There

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission revealed the latest data from its National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). It is a database which monitors roughly 100 American hospitals with emergency departments for injuries related to specific products. It includes statistics for people who required medical assistance to remove objects that got stuck inside them. In other words, it is time to find out what things people have been shoving into places they shouldn’t have this year.

The list is quite extensive, so we will take a look at some highlights.[5] People put a lot of weird stuff in their....

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