Mysterious News Briefly — December 29, 2020
As a fitting end to 2020, researchers at the University of Alabama have created a list of animals that fart, which has some surprising entries – snakes (the Sonoran coral snake and the western hook-nosed snake), frogs (pyxie frog and the horned frog), millipedes, bats and cockroaches (a lot – over 43 times their body weight in methane annually). Finally, something else to blame besides the dog.
The Solar Orbiter, a joint ESA/NASA mission, just made its first Venus flyby that gave it the gravitational thrust it needs to make it to the Sun. It didn’t get close enough for pictures – in 2020, even satellites practice social distancing.
After six weeks in a COVID coma, a Liverpool man woke up speaking with a Scottish accent. Doctors are baffled, but the patient is probably glad to be channeling Sean Connery on Earth rather than speaking to him directly in the afterlife.
Live mice are learning how to use computer mice in an experiment at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in an experiment to learn how the brain represents intentional control. They will be deemed to have learned enough when the lab is suddenly swamped with boxes of cheese from Amazon.
Japan’s Kyoto University and Sumitomo Forestry are working to develop the world’s first satellites made out of wood as a way to reduce space junk – wooden satellites will burn up without releasing harmful substances or pelting the ground with debris. They’ll also make extraterrestrials laugh like mad but everything in life has tradeoffs.
A German baker who has for 20 years been selling cookies with sawdust as a main ingredient (it’s listed on the package) has suddenly been ordered to stop by a court which ruled sawdust is not a suitable herbal substitute for flour. Luckily, it’s still legal for Germans to make their own Wood Chips Ahoy at home.
China’s space program announced it will launch the core module of its manned space station in the first half of 2021, with the station scheduled for completion in 2022. That gives NASA and Roscosmos plenty of time to decide whether to put up signs saying “Welcome to the Neighborhood” or “Stay Off Our Space Lawn.”
Volkswagen has unveiled an actual working prototype of an autonomous charging robot that will grab battery packs, connect to them, and bring them parked electric cars to autonomously charge them while they are sitting in a parking lot. Is this really revolutionary or an AI plot to conquer humans by making them fat and lazy?
For those who thought 2020 was out of time for creating worse news – the World Health Organization just issued a warning that the coronavirus pandemic is fueling a rise in a strain of antibiotic-resistant super gonorrhea. Concerned people are worried – and also envious that it appears others are still managing to have more pandemic sex than they are.
University of Exeter bee researchers have found that bigger bumblebees take their time locating the best flowers with the richest nectars, while smaller bumblebees just land on the first ones they can find. ‘Big bully bumblebees bring back the best’ wins the award for the best tongue-twisting study name.