Rocket to the moon in just four hours?; the French-language Scrabble champion who can’t speak French; and, a ballooning record…

July 29th, 2015 by

Forget taking days to get there. A British inventor has developed a rocket drive which could get you to the moon in just four hours. While mocked when it was invented 15 years ago, the Electromagnetic Propulsion (EM) Drive - developed by Brit Roger Shawyer - is reportedly gaining the support of some scientists including those at NASA. The drive is apparently capable of producing thrust which is several thousand times greater than a standard photon rocket, cutting a trip to Mars to just 70 days and one to Pluto just 18 months.

Nigel Richards was recently crowned the French language scrabble champion. Funnily enough, the 48-year-old New Zealander reportedly doesn’t speak French. Not a word. Earlier this month Richards reportedly beat a rival from the French-speaking nation of Gabon to take out the honours in Belgium. A close friend told the New Zealand Herald that Richards - a previous English Scrabble champion - had only started studying the French dictionary about eight weeks before the contest and simply learnt all the words by rote.

A new world record for the most hot air balloons in the air at once was set in France earlier this month when 433 of them took to the sky in what made a spectacular sight for spectators. The previous record of 408 had been set at the same festival in north-eastern France in 2013. You can watch a video of the event here.

Pampering pets at JFK; mysterious sign puts McDonalds on the map; and, receive a new home for your great dessert recipe…

July 24th, 2015 by

Help your animals travel in style. New York’s John F Kennedy Airport will open a new terminal called The Ark next year which is aimed at pampering the 70,000 animals which pass through it. It reportedly features everything from large flat-screen TVs to climate controlled stalls, bone-shaped ’splashing’ pools for dogs (along with facilities where they can receive massages and ‘pawdicures’, a ‘jungle’ for cats, a walking track for horses and even apparently a private space for penguins who want to get intimate. It replaces an existing facility known as VetPort and, on a more serious note, will, of course, include a veterinary hospital and quarantine station.

We think it may be wishful thinking. A mysterious sign has appeared in Australia’s Simpson Desert complete with a McDonald’s logo and the words ‘coming soon’. Sitting atop a 15 metre high sand dune it can be seen for kilometres and comes complete with a glass box at the base inside which is a full McDonald’s bag and upon which are the words ‘Break glass in emergency’. How long it remains is yet to be seen - McDonald’s reportedly have no knowledge of why it’s there and South Australian authorities have already said they are looking to have it removed. Reports suggest it appeared around 1st April (which may explain everything!)

We’ve seen a number of people in US recently look to sell their homes in interesting ways in recent times - including essay competitions. Now a woman in northern California is offering her 109-year-old Craftsman home to the person who can provide her with the best dessert recipe. Real estate agent Erin Allard has invited people to submit their recipe (and $100 entry fee) with the winner of the 1906 four bedroom property in Jackson to be selected by a panel of food experts. Naturally she’s hoping that the number of entries will at least make up the home’s $390,000 value. The contest runs until 7th September. For more details, see

Robots prepare to duke it out; fancy a cricket shake?; and, a weird ’sports’ round-up…

July 8th, 2015 by

It sounds like a scene out of that Hugh Jackman film, Real Steel, but we’ve had word that giant robots from the US and Japan are going to battle it out next year in a winner takes all - well, pride at least - contest. The duel was apparently initially proposed by US-based company MegaBots via a video posted to YouTube and earlier this week Japanese robotmaker Suidobashi Heavy Industry agreed - via another video on YouTube - that the duel will go ahead. The robots will fight in “hand-to-hand” combat as well as launching paintballs and other missiles at each other. MegaBots will apparently be using its massive 5.2 ton ‘Mark II’ robot, manned by two people, and
Suidobahi its smaller ‘Kuratas’ robot (which weighs only four tons). Can’t wait!

There’s been much talk about using bugs in food in recent years and much of it has been dismissed. But now US burger chain, Wayback Burgers, has launched an ‘Oreo Mud Pie Cricket’ milkshake which comes complete with Peruvian chocolate-flavoured cricket protein powder. Yes, cricket as in the chirping bug. Fun fact - Wayback says a 3.5 ounce serving of crickets (about 100 grams) contains as much as 50 grams of protein (double that of the same sized serving of beef).

How far do you reckon you can spit a cherry pit? American teenager Megan Ankrapp reportedly found out last Saturday when she managed to spit the pit almost 15 metres at the 42nd annual International Cherry Pit-Spitting Championships. Meanwhile in other weird sporting news, a Finnish couple - Ville Parviainen and Janette Oksman - have apparently won the 19th World Wife Carrying Championships while in the US there’s reportedly been an upset in the annual Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Contest on New York’s Coney Island with Matthew “Megatoad” Stonie munching through 62 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes, ending the eight year run of former champ Joey Chestnut.

World’s tallest Lego tower; egg tossing; and, hover bikes a reality?…

July 1st, 2015 by

A new record has been set for the world’s tallest Lego structure with the construction of a 35.05 metre high tower in Milan, Italy. Using more than 500,000 bricks, the colourful tower took a team of volunteers five days to construct using a cherry picker. The world record, which defeated the previous record by just under a foot, was verified by Guinness World Records. Seven Euros were donated to the Urban Oasis project for every centimetre of the structure.

Reckon you can toss an egg? The 10th annual World Egg Throwing Championships were held in an English village last weekend. Claiming a history dating back to 1322 (when monks had to throw eggs to parishioners over a swollen river), the winners of the modern competition are those who can throw and catch an egg over the greatest distance without breakage. This year’s winners at the event in the Lincolnshire village of Swaton were reportedly Richard Gutsell and Michael Speakman. Aside from the main egg throwing event, the contest also features an egg relay, egg target throwing, Russian egg roulette and firing an egg from a trebuchet.

It’s been the dream of millions, ever since they saw ewoks speeding through the forest in Return of the Jedi. And now hover bikes may soon be a mass-produced reality. UK company Malloy Aeronautics and US company SURVICE Engineering Co have joined in the development of hover bike technology for the US Department of Defense. The prototype “bi-copter” combines the “simplicity of a motorbike and the freedom of helicopter” and can be flown manned or unmanned. Exciting times! For more, see

Hero cat wins a dog of an award; $US500,000 for an encyclopaedia; and the world’s longest pizza…

June 24th, 2015 by

We seem to have a bit of a cat theme running for the past few weeks but we couldn’t let this week pass without mentioning the fact that a Los Angeles animal shelter has announced Tara the cat has won its ‘Hero Dog’ award. The first cat to take out the annual award, Tara was given the gong for her valiant efforts in attacking and chasing away a neighbour’s dog when it sunk its teeth into her owner’s leg. The footage, captured on CCTV camera, went viral when it was subsequently posted online.

Remember when a set of encyclopaedias was a must-have on your bookshelves? It might be time to revisit the idea with a US artist Michael Mandiberg writing a software program that would convert all of Wikipedia’s 11.5 million entries into a printed form. But before you rush out to grab a copy of all 7,600 volumes, consider the cost - $US500,000. Don’t expect a lot of sales.

At more than 1.5 kilometre’s long, there should be no fights over the last piece. Italy has reportedly set a new Guinness World Record for the world’s longest pizza after creating a 1,595.45 metre long pie. Made by more than 60 chefs, it used more than two tonnes of tomatoes and more than 1.5 tonnes of mozzarella. Meanwhile, in the US there’s reportedly been an attempt to create the world’s longest line of doughnuts with the creation of a line at a festival in Michigan measuring almost 3.5 kilometres long. Verification awaits.

While we’re talking records, here’s another recent one: 66 people reportedly crowded onto a single large surfboard at Huntington Beach in the US to seize the record for most people riding a surfboard. The group was able to balance on the board for 13 seconds - three more than the required 10 - to seize the record from Australia where where the previous record of 47 was set in 2009. The record breaking feat took place on International Surfing Day.

‘Bossy’ takes charge; toe wrestling; and, celebrating a Martian new year…

June 17th, 2015 by

Hot on the heels of news of CatConLA, comes news that a company in the Romanian capital of Bucharest has hired a cat as its director of communications. Nine-month-old blue Scottish Folds cat, ‘Bossy’, reportedly beat off 700 other applicants for the position at internet start-up which carries a £110 a month salary. Certainly has gained them some international attention.

• No good at thumb wrestling? Maybe toe wrestling is for you. The world championships have just ended in the Derbyshire village of Fenny Bentley in the UK with events for both males and females. The ’sport’, which insists on cut nails and washed feet, is said to date back to 1976 and was first held in a pub in Staffordshire (apparently so the English could win at something) but it’s since attracted interest around the world. Alan “Nasty” Nash reportedly won the men’s title for the 12th time while the women’s title went to Tracy Tippy Toe.

Citizens of Mars, Pennsylvania, in the US, are preparing to mark the Red Planet’s new year with three days of celebration. The Martian New Year, which occurs on Thursday, 18th June, takes place about once every two Earth years and so to mark the event NASA is joining with a range of organisations in sponsoring a series of exhibitions and events in the town, which lies north of Pittsburgh. These include a “blast off dinner”, costume contest and mobile science lab. The next Mars new year will occur on 5th May, 2017.

A convention for cats; the “moss men” on parade; and, re-enacting military…err, fantasy…

June 10th, 2015 by

CatConLA, the world’s first convention for cats, was held in Los Angeles last weekend. Described as being “like Comic Con…but for cat people”, the two day convention provided a showcase of products for cats as well as a host of cat-themed furniture, art, toys and clothing and the chance to hear from such cat world luminaries as Eli Omidi, creator of Cats of Instagram, Ben Huh, founder of the meme website Cheezburger, and Mike Bridavsky, “best friend” of Lil Bub, described on her website as the “most amazing cat on the planet” and a noted champion of the ‘undercat’. Can’t wait to hear what Grumpy Cat has to say about it!

The “moss men” went on parade in the Spanish town of Bejar earlier this month in what is a tradition that has its origins back in the 12th century. The parade - known in Spanish as the procession of the “Hombres de Musgo” - apparently started owing to a legend which tells of how a group of Christians reconquered the town, which had been occupied by Moorish forces, by disguising themselves with moss and sneaking past the guards one night. The modern-day procession reportedly ends at a church where a flag representing the Moors who governed the town is surrendered.

Military re-enactments have been with us for a long time - the Romans were known for carrying out their elaborate re-enactments of their great victories in the Colosseum. But now comes a new twist - that of re-enacting battles from the realm of fantasy. Hundreds of elaborately-dressed enthusiasts gathered near the town of Doksy in the Czech Republic recently to re-enact the Battle of the Five Armies from JRR Tolkien’s book The Hobbit (and recently featured in the third part of the Hobbit trilogy of films). Dressed as men, elves, orcs, and dwarves, the armies battled it out in a forest about 80 kilometres outside Prague. You can see a gallery of images here.

Learner-driver’s harsh lesson; lift-toilets?; and, ‘high vis’ camels…

June 3rd, 2015 by

• A learner-driver took a wrong turn in Germany - and had her car crushed by a tank. The incident reportedly took place in the town of Augustdorf and the 18-year-old driver apparently didn’t see the convoy of tanks when she turned onto Panzerringstrasse (which translates as ‘tank ring road’) with the tank driver unable to stop before rolling over the front of her car. Thankfully the driver of the car was uninjured.

Scared of being trapped in a lift? Spare a thought for people living in Japan where the frequent number of earthquakes makes it a very real possibility (most recently when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck last weekend). Given people can be stuck in such situations for hours, authorities there are reportedly considering installing toilets and drinking fountains in lifts (or at least collapsible cardboard structures for use as toilets and a stock of water for those emergency situations). Could make for some interesting lift conversation.

Camels in Israel are being given a “high vis” makeover to reduce the number of desert road accidents. The more than 6,000 camels that roam southern Israel have proved an all-too-real problem for drivers, prompting calls for action. While Bedouins have reportedly started placing GPS trackers on the camels so they can be alerted when they are about to cross highways, a regional council - in a move which has been welcomed by the Bedouins - has come up with the idea of fitting them out with glowing bands around their neck and legs to allow them to be more easily seen at night.

Smiling requirement for Oxford’s buskers; wafer-thin TVs; and, a new world planking record…

May 27th, 2015 by

• Buskers in Oxford, England, have been warned - keep a smile on your face or run the risk of a £1,000 fine. The city council is reportedly bringing in a ‘Public Space Protection Order’ which instructs buskers to “smile, enjoy yourself and entertain others”. But while the rules have been in place for some time, the new order would fall under anti-social behaviour legislation meaning those breaking the code could face £100 on-the-spot fines or as much as £1,000 if the matter goes to court. The buskers are rebelling - at a demonstration held earlier this week what was described as an “army of performers” put on a display of non-compliant busking.

TVs used to be heavy, clunky devices that hogged a large amount of space. Then came flat screens with the ability to be simply hung on a wall. But even they look rather cumbersome compared to the new TVs developed by South Korean firm LG. It’s reportedly come up with a TV that’s less than one millimetre thick and weighs just 1.9 kilograms. Known as the “Wallpaper TV”, it apparently comes with a magnetic mat that allows the TV to be stuck on a wall, and, when you’re finished watching, simply peeled off.

Danish fitness instructor Tim Hoel has set a new world record for ‘planking’, managing to hold the ‘push-up’ style position for four hours and 28 minutes. The 51-year-old reportedly previously held the record before he lost it to a Chinese police officer last October. His new record beats that one by two minutes and his own previous record by a full 80 minutes. Meanwhile, a Chinese bee-keeper has reportedly set a new world record by covering himself with an estimated 1.1 million bees, weighing in at 109.5 kilograms.

New “nations” declared in the Balkans; “Slow TV”; and, write an essay to snag a home…

May 20th, 2015 by

A new self-declared micro-state has appeared on the borders of Slovenia and Croatia. The Kingdom of Enclava is just 93 square metres in size and was proclaimed by “Polish tourist K Wrona”, apparently after it was found the space wasn’t recognised as part of either nation. Thousands have reportedly applied for honorary citizenship in the new nation (which at the time of writing, numbers 134 citizens) which has five official languages including English, Polish, Croatian, Slovenian and Chinese. The declaration follows the recent declaration of another micro-state known as Liberland, a seven square kilometre patch of “no man’s land” between Serbia and Croatia.

It’s been called “slow television”, although the word boring may also come to mind. Icelandic public TV network RUV has reportedly run a live, 24 hour, feed of a sheep giving birth in a bid to give what it calls “insight into the traditional farming life”. It follows a series of broadcasts by Norwegian public TV broadcaster NRK which has previously broadcast an eight hour knitting marathon, a 12 hour program showing burning wood, a 100 hour chess marathon and numerous lengthy broadcasts of train and boat trips in Norway including 130 hours of a cruise ship sailing up the country’s coast. The BBC are also reportedly preparing to embrace the idea and British Airways announced last year it would run a seven hour program of a train journey in Norway as part of its entertainment offerings.

Another American family are preparing to hand over their home to a new owner for just $US150 - and an essay. Michael and Stephanie Wachs are reportedly asking would-be buyers to submit a 200 word persuasive essay about why they’d be a suitable buyer for the two bedroom, two bathroom home along with their $US150 “offer fee”. The essay winner must pay closing costs and the actual price of the home written on the contract would be $1. Market value of the home is reportedly more than $US394,000 - to cover that sum, the Wachs are looking for 3,000 entries by mid June. They decided to sell their home in such a fashion after reading about an inn in Maine which was sold in a similar way. Visit to enter your bid for the Houston property. Meanwhile in Florida, a cupcake shop is also reportedly looking to sell via a similar method - in this case $US100 and an essay.