NEWS OF THE WEIRD 

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Nuclear tractor pull —Redneck geek: Edward Teller, the famous theoretical physicist known as the “father of the hydrogen bomb” for his work on the World War II-era Manhattan Project, died in 2003, but his daughter Rene told The Free Press of Kinston, N.C., in November that she had recently discovered two of her father’s precious mementos at a thrift shop near Kinston during a road trip to visit relatives. “(Father’s) work was so demanding” she said, that he needed “recreational activities” and tried “the things you’d suspect,” like chess. However, the two mementos were awards Teller had won at tractor pull competitions. “He’d show up at major tractor pulls” riding just a Cub Cadet mower, Rene said, and “leave the competition in the dust.” (Teller’s secret, she said, was using “nuclear fusion-based engines,” which sponsors ultimately had to ban.) [Kinston Free Press, 11-12-2013] Cutting-edge science — It may be a cliche of domestic conflict, but physicists recently, earnestly, tackled the dynamics of toilet bowl “splash back.” A stream delivered by a standing male, because it travels five times farther than a seated male’s, produces a splash easily reaching seat and floor — even without factoring in the “well-known” Plateau- Rayleigh instability — the inevitable disintegration of a liquid stream “six or seven inches” after its formation. Short of recommending that men be seated, the researchers (speaking to a November conference) suggest “narrowing the angle” by “standing slightly to one side and aiming downwards at a low angle of impact.” [BBC News, 11-6-2013] —The human-rodent connection: University of British Columbia researchers, intent on judging whether blocking dopamine D4 receptors can reduce the urge to gamble in subjects other than humans, claimed in October to have devised a test that works on the dopamine receptors of rats — especially those with a gambling problem. With a slot machine-like device dispensing sugar pellets, the researchers claimed they offered rats measured risks and even determined that rats are more likely to take risks immediately following a close loss (as are humans). [Science Daily, 10-29-2013]

Medical marvels Seven years ago, Michael Spann, now 29, suddenly doubled over in pain that felt like he “got hit in the head with a sledgehammer,” and began crying blood. Despite consulting doctors, including two visits with extensive lab work at the venerable Cleveland Clinic, the Antioch, Tenn., man told Nashville’s The Tennessean in October that he is resigned to an “idiopathic condition” — a disease without apparent cause. Spann’s main wish now is just to hold a job, in that fellow workers, and customers, tend not to react well to a man bleeding from the eyes (even though his once-daily episodes have become more sporadic). [The Tennessean, 10-17-2013]

Perspective The daunting problems that faced the launch of the HealthCare.gov website in October were merely symptoms of the federal government’s often snail-like pace at integrating digital innovations common to everyday America. A December New York Times report revealed that The Federal Register (the daily journal of the U.S. government) still receives original content from some agencies on virtually obsolete 3.5-inch floppy disks — and (because of unamended legal requirements) its work-order authorizations from some agencies on disks hand-delivered inside the Washington Beltway by courier. Contractors can be frustrated as well since, though they operate with topof-the-line digital efficiency internally, they must sometimes downgrade to interface with their government clients. [New York Times, 12-6-2013]

— Chuck Shepherd

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NAMI Connections Recovery Support Group @ All Souls Episcopal Church

NAMI Connections Recovery Support Group @ All Souls Episcopal Church

Close Encounters: Western Wildlife @ National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

Close Encounters: Western Wildlife @ National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

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