90 Miles From Tyranny : 10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week

Sunday, February 3, 2019

10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week

Another week is in the history books, which means we have another week’s worth of bizarre and unique stories to go through. Be sure to also check out the mind-blowing list to get fully up-to-date regarding the important happenings of the last few days.

We cover a few enigmas this week. There is something really strange happening in a tiny Canadian town, while Spanish authorities are trying to determine the mystery owner of a plane sitting in the Madrid airport. A third conundrum is put to rest as archaeologists rediscover the burial ground of an English explorer lost 150 years ago.

In science news, researchers planned one of the most ambitious experiments in history, developed a laser that whispers in your ear, and saw if Spock is wiser than Yoda.

10Fortunate Folk Find Flinders, Finally

Photo credit: James O. Jenkins/HS2

Archaeologists excavating for England’s new High Speed 2 (HS2) railway uncovered the final resting place of Captain Matthew Flinders, an explorer whose burial location was lost to history roughly 150 years ago.

At the start of the 19th century, Flinders led the first European circumnavigation of Australia. In total, he made three trips to the continent and recorded his adventures in a popular book called A Voyage to Terra Australis. He died in 1814 and was buried at St James’s Church in the center of London. Over the following decades, the cemetery saw extensive alterations and was finally turned into St James’s Gardens in 1878. Later, parts of the gardens were built over for the Euston railway station.

By then, people had long forgotten where Flinders was buried, although there was always a myth that the captain was interred below platform 15. That didn’t turn out to be the case, though, as his remains were found while digging for a new high-speed railway. Fortunately, Flinders was buried with a lead breastplate which had not corroded and still had his named engraved on it.[10]

The remains will, most likely, be reburied at a new location yet to be determined. This spot was just one of 60 archaeological sites along the route of the future HS2 which will be explored before construction can begin.

9The Ghost Plane Of Madrid

Officials from the Madrid-Barajas Airport in Spain are trying to find out who parked and abandoned a jetliner on their tarmac.

The Madrid airport might be among the largest in Europe, but even for a place of this size, it is unusual to leave an airplane untouched for years. And the aircraft is a McDonnell Douglas MD-87, a jetliner that seats over 100 passengers, so it isn’t exactly tiny.[2] And yet it has been parked in the same place so long that airport authorities don’t know who owns it anymore.

Airport director Elena Mayoral placed a notice in the official Spanish bulletin regarding the abandoned plane. In accordance with Spanish law, officials must publish these notices for three straight months and then wait a year for the owner to come forward before being able to auction off the plane. So it looks like the aircraft will stay right where it is for the foreseeable future.

8Vanilla Inebriation

A woman from Connecticut was arrested for driving under the influence of vanilla extract.

If there is one thing to learn from history, it’s that humans have always enjoyed getting wasted. No matter how unusual or unpleasant a substance might be, if it gets you blotto, then there will be someone somewhere willing to try it.

Our latest example is Stefanie Warner-Grise, a 50-year-old woman from New Canaan, Connecticut. Officers investigated a report that she had stopped her car in an intersection and was sitting in the driver’s seat with her eyes closed. A quick chat revealed that she was clearly inebriated, and after a failed sobriety test, she was taken into custody.

As it turned out, Warner-Grise had gotten drunk off vanilla extract.[3] Officers found several bottles in her car and could smell the scent of vanilla on her breath. Vanilla extract is surprisingly potent. Per US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, the solution must be 35-percent alcohol by volume, at least. The alcohol typically evaporates during cooking, but if you drink it straight up, it is slightly less intoxicating than whiskey.

7The Whisper Laser

Researchers from MIT have created lasers that can whisper sounds directly into a person’s ear.

The system works based on a phenomenon called the photoacoustic effect, which causes sound waves to form when a material absorbs light. In this case, the material is the water vapor naturally found in air. A 1.9-micrometer thulium laser is pointed at someone’s ear, excites the moisture surrounding it, and is able to quietly transmit a message to that person.

The MIT team experimented with different wavelengths and found the ones which are best absorbed by water. They also developed two techniques of transmitting the signal. One is through traditional modulation, while the other one sweeps the beam back and forth by bouncing it off a mirror. The former method provides higher audio fidelity, while the latter creates a louder message.[4]

The scientists behind the technology claim the laser is perfectly safe and believe it will have numerous commercial applications in the future. At the moment, the “whisper” beams work at a distance of 2.5 meters (8 ft), so the next goal will be to move up to longer distances.

6Yoda vs. Spock

Star Wars vs. Star Trek is a decades-old rivalry. Fans of the two iconic sci-fi franchises are always butting heads, but Canadian researchers from the University of Waterloo have stepped in to settle one debate: Who is...

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