Drive-through prayers; Mayor Frida (the dog); and, rescuing lost teddies…

November 26th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

A US church is offering a drive-through prayer option to its congregants. The Catholic Holy Spirit Church in Fremont, California, is offering people the chance to drive-through between 5pm and 6pm on weeknights for those who are looking for prayer on the go. Priest Mathew Vellankal, told NBC: “We are living in a time when people don’t have a lot of time on the go, so we wanted to provide something like drive-through food, drive-through coffee - why not drive-through God?” People are invited to park at the church where a volunteer church member will approach and spend a couple of moments in prayer for them. Fr Vellankal told the San Jose Mercury News the idea was inspired by Pope Francis who said “we should go where the people are”. “We live in a fast-paced society and if people don’t have an hour to pray, they might have a few minutes. So we want to offer a little comfort and solace to people who are extremely busy.”

• Still in the same region of the US and Frida may be a dog (a chihuahua, in fact) but last week - on 18th November - she was also the Mayor of San Francisco. Frida won the day-long role after her owner Dean Clark paid $5000 for the privilege as part of a campaign being run in support of the US city’s animal shelter. Frida’s official Facebook page contains a host of pictures from Her Honor’s big day. Last year, authorities transformed the city into Gotham City for a day in honor of Batkid (aka cancer survivor, then five-year-old Miles Scott).

We’ve all had occasions where we’ve cried for our lost teddybears (or at least we’ve cried when we’ve discovered our kids have lost their teddies and are making it clear to us that life will not go on as usual without them!). Now comes a service to reunite us with those loved ones who got left behind somewhere along the way. British train company First Great Western has launched a Teddy Rescue website where they’ve posted mugshots of bears which have been left behind on the rail network (which appropriately includes London’s Paddington Station - after whom, of course, Paddington Bear was named). Among those bears currently on the site are bears and soft toys lost in Plymouth, Bristol, Bath and Reading. Those who have lost bears are invited to email in with details. We love it!

The world’s biggest sandcastle?; a sizeable gingerbread village; and, superheroes return to the 16th century…

November 19th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

It’s a spectacular sandcastle to be sure. But is it the world’s tallest? American professional sandcastle artist (yep, there is such a job) Rusty Croft built a towering city-like ‘castle’ on the sands of Niteroi, Brazil, not far from Rio de Janeiro, earlier this month, using 20 truckloads of sand and taking a week to do so. It reportedly stands at 39 feet (11.89 metres), well above the previous record of 37 feet, 10 inches (11.53 metres), but last reports have the Guinness World Records team on their way to officially confirm the record (and as of now, according to the Guinness World Records website, the tallest was still built by Ed Jarrett in Farmington, Connecticut, in May 2011).

While we’re talking record breaking achievements, what’s billed as the world’s largest gingerbread village has opened in New York. Located at the New York Hall of Science, the exhibit ‘Gingerbread Lane’ took around 1,500 hours of labour to build. Last year’s village - which featured 157 buildings - won the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest - this year’s, which reportedly features 1,000 houses, 95 trees, six cable cars, five train cars, a subway station, skating rink and more, blows that record away. Verification pending!

A French photographer has remade some old masters with a twist. Sasha Goldberger has captured a series of superheroes and film icons - everyone from Iron Man to Batman to Yoda - posing for photographs showing them as they might have appeared in Flemish paintings of the 16th century. Complete with an historical take on their costume - which in many cases includes a ruff - the photographic series Super Flemish was apparently created using a team of costume designers, makeup artists, hairdressers and more than 60 actors. You can see some of the series here.

A new republic declared in Brisbane?; paying rather a lot for a watch; and, an all-in-one meal…

November 12th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

The bayside Brisbane suburb of Wynnum yesterday apparently declared independence. “Wynnum is already regarded by most of Brisbane as being another country, so it’s really not that big a leap to actually become one,” a spokesperson was quoted as saying in the statement. “Although it is Brisbane’s seaside - being the closest beach to the Brisbane CBD - it is right on the edge of the Brisbane City Council area and doesn’t get the attention it deserves.” Citizenship of the Republic of Wynnum, which has a population of around 24,000, is open to anyone and in statement released yesterday, those behind the move said passports could be applied for at official officers. With the slogan of “Conveniently close to Australia”, the new state includes the suburbs of both Wynnum and Wynnum West and those behind the new state say the neighbouring suburbs of Lytton and Port Brisbane are welcome to apply to join the new state as are the islands St Helena Island, Green Island, and Lamb Island in Moreton Bay. Representatives of the republic have invited all delegates at the G20 to visit the “new country” and apply for a passport. For more on the new ’state’ check out www.republicofwynnum.org.

A gold pocket watch has confirmed its reputation as one most valuable items on earth after selling for $24 million at a Sotherby’s auction in Geneva this week. Handmade by Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe, the Henry Graves Supercomplication is described as “the most famous watch in the world and the most complicated watch ever made by human hands without computer-assisted technology”. It was completed in 1932 for New York banker Henry Graves, Jr. It comes with 24 features - or “complications” - including a perpetual calendar and a map of the stars above Graves’ home.

Looking to combine your main and dessert in one item? UK food chain Hungry Horse has released a “double donut burger”, made up of “two beef burgers topped with melted cheese, four smoked streaky bacon rashers & BBQ sauce served in two grilled, glazed ring donuts”. Reportedly containing almost 2000 calories, the new burger has been reportedly attacked by at least one academic as a “heart attack on a plate”.

The ‘reality’ of time travel, teleportation and invisibility; calling Elizabeth Gallagher; and, a new world puddle-jumping champion…

November 5th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

In the wake of news the hoverboard is in development comes word that time travel, teleportation and invisibility cloaks won’t just be the stuff of science fiction in the future but, say academics, could become fact in the next 100 years. Experts from Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow have told the Telegraph in London that time travel - already possible, although the record is just 0.02 seconds (set by Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev) - could be happening over far greater periods of time by the year 2,100 while teleportation (zipping instantaneously from one location to another) could be a regular occurrence by 2080 and invisibility cloaks (toward which considerable headway has already been made) could be able to be worn in the next 10 or 20 years. What an age we live in.

It’s a free trip around the world but there’s one big catch - your name has to be Elizabeth Gallagher and you have to be a Canadian. Canadian Jordan Axani is looking for a companion to accompany him on a globe-trotting trip which he had booked with his then girlfriend, Elizabeth Gallagher, back in March. Problem is, they’ve since broken up so Axani is now looking for someone to fill Gallagher’s shoes. But they have to be pretty much an exact fit to use the tickets booked in Gallagher’s name. Axani has taken his problem to Reddit - and the answers have since started flooding in. Stay tuned…

A nine-year-old girl has beaten off a field of some 400 people to be crowned the world puddle-jumping champion. Charlie Sleight reportedly took out the honour which is judged on a range of criteria including height of jump, size and distance of splash, the amount of mud which sticks to the competitor and, importantly, enthusiasm. The Telegraph also reports that event was organised as part of PlayDay - a free initiative held at Wickstead Park in the UK town of Kettering which is named for Charles Wickstead, inventor of the modern-day slide and swing.

England’s plot to seize Nessie; NZ all abuzz over choc milk; and, windowless passenger planes…

October 29th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

It was the plot to capture Nessie. A newly found letter shows how in 1934 - a year after the first sighting of the monster which purportedly lurks in Loch Ness - an official at the Natural History Museum in London urged any bounty hunters who came across the monster to shoot it on sight and deliver the carcass to the museum. The official - responding to a question as to what the museum’s policy on the beast was - also states that should the whole carcass not be available, “a flipper, a jaw or a tooth would be very welcome”. Details of the letter are reportedly contained in a new book, Britain’s X-traordinary Files. Written by David Clarke, it also contains details of fears in Scotland that, if captured, the creature would be taken to England showing how, in another letter written in 1934, the Royal Scottish Museum expressed its view to the Secretary of State for Scotland, Sir Godfrey Collins, that it should have rights to the monster “if and when its corpse should become available”. It said taking it to England, “would surely outrage Scottish nationalism which at the moment is thriving greatly under the Monster’s beneficent influence”.

Supermarkets are hiring security guards to protect stocks of chocolate milk in New Zealand. Demand for the Lewis Road Creamery’s Fresh Chocolate Milk is reportedly such that people are queueing for hours to snare themselves a bottle of the nectar. There are also reports counterfeits have been appearing to cash on the craze for the milk while online auctions are apparently demanding as much as $1000 for a 750 ml bottle. Seriously.

It may not be advisable for those who don’t like heights. The UK-based Centre for Process Innovation has unveiled concept art for a windowless passenger plane which instead projects images taken by cameras attached to the outside of the fuselage onto the internal walls, making the passengers feel as though they’re floating on air. Of course, while people are excited by the possibilities the tech will offer - it could be used, for example, to make passengers feel like they’re flying to the Death Star - there’s no doubt if adopted ads will soon appear. Still, as long as they’re panoramic…

Of hoverboards, erasing memories, and a record for records…

October 23rd, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

It’s been the dream of people for years - ever since our eyes first caught a glimpse of it in Back to the Future II - but the hoverboard Michael J Fox scoots about town on when playing Marty McFly is now, it seems, a reality. Californian-based company Hendo has created what it has billed as the “world’s first real hoverboard” and is running a campaign on crowd-funding website Kickstarter to develop the technology (it had already raised more than $US250,000 it was seeking when we looked this week - a pledge of $10,000 will get you your own board). The board apparently hovers about an inch off the ground thanks to four “hover engines” which create a magnetic field capable of lifting it above surfaces which are non-ferromagnetic conductors (such as copper). This means, of course, there’s a lot of surfaces it won’t work over so don’t expect to be racing down the footpath but that said the makers are working on their own “hoverpark”, designed specifically to accommodate the board. A project to make Doc Emmett proud.

While we’re talking tech, scientists in the US have apparently used light to erase specific memories from the minds of mice in what some say could be a big step towards the creation of the ‘Neuralyzers’ used to erase memories in the Men in Black movies. Researchers at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience and the Department of Psychology announced their findings earlier this month in the journal Neuron. Researcher Brian Wiltgen said their findings have supported a long-held theory that retrieving memories about specific places and events involves coordinated activity between the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus, a small structure deep in the brain. “The cortex can’t do it alone, it needs input from the hippocampus. This has been a fundamental assumption in our field for a long time and Kazu’s (his colleague Kazumasa Tanaka’s) data provides the first direct evidence that it is true.” So, if Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones pull up in a car…

US man Ashrita Furman holds the most official world records (currently 203) - and has set a new world record in doing so. Records currently held by the 60-year-old - who has set as many as 569 official Guinness World Records since 1979 - include throwing the most shaving cream pies in one minute (71), opening the most drink cans in one minute (66), setting the fastest time over 10 kilometres in a sack race (1 hour, 22 minutes, two seconds), and performing the most skips in a minute with a skipping rope while wearing clogs (127). Makes us tired just reading the list!

Flying kites to be legal in India; selling the house - and cat; and, big pumpkins…

October 15th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

• Flying kites and balloons, driving with dirty teeth, and failing to give the 10 rupees you found to the long dead British Queen Victoria will no longer be illegal in India as the world’s most populous democracy looks to clean its statute books of outdated and obsolete laws, some of which date back to the period of the British Raj. Among other laws reportedly due to be axed by the Indian parliament next month are one banning people suffering from “pigeon chest”, “knock knees”, or “hammer toes” from driving and an 1838 law which says an area of the former Imperial capital of Calcutta (now Kolkata) can only be sold to the long defunct East India Company.

Looking to close on the sale of your house? Try adding your pet to the deal. That, at least, was the case in Melbourne recently when, after a Glen Iris home was passed in for a reported $2.06 million at auction, one of the bidders offered to pay $2.2 million - $140,000 more - for the home but only if the vendor’s cat Tiffany, which the buyer’s child had apparently fallen in love during an inspection of the property, was included in the deal. The vendors, who also own numerous other animals, said parting with the cat would be “difficult”.

To giant vegetables and a pumpkin in the UK has earned the title of the country’s heaviest, reportedly weighing in at massive 854 kilograms (1,884 pounds). The pumpkin was well above the previous record of 689 kilograms (1,520 pounds) but it’s still some way behind the world’s biggest pumpkin, a title which in late September was reportedly won by a Swiss grower with a pumpkin weighing a massive 1,054 kilograms (2,323 pounds). Meanwhile in North America, a pumpkin grown in the Napa Valley in the US reportedly recently broke the record there, weighing in at 933 kilograms or 2,058 pounds.

Of waking up; Einstein the dog; and, other strange animal goings-on…

October 8th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Move over ice bucket challenge. UNICEF UK ambassador Jemima Khan has launched a new campaign to “wake people up” to the crisis facing Syrian children. #wakeupcall involves celebrities posting a selfie of themselves waking up and then donating money to UNICEF’s appeal (www.wakeupcall.org.uk) for its work with children in Syria. As with the ice bucket challenge, those who take part also nominate others to do so. As well as Ms Khan, celebrities including Stephen Fry, Nigella Lawson and Daisy Lowe have all posted images.

• Einstein is running for mayor of the city of Oakland in California. Einstein is a dog. Einstein, reportedly backed by a group of Occupy Oakland veterans, officially announced his candidacy last week in what is being called commentary about how difficult it is to hold one person accountable. But alas for Einstein, his bid for the mayoral hot seat doesn’t look like it will come to pass when voting takes place next month. According to news outlet CBS, dogs can’t hold public office in Oakland.

And so to more strange, animal-related goings-on. First up, there were the two boxing kangaroos who traded blows on a suburban street on the NSW Central Coast. Then there’s the news that, let’s be honest, we probably already knew - our cats just love being left alone. New research from UK charity Cat Protection found that more than half of cat owners said they would cuddle their cat to help it overcome stress when, in fact, “space and peace is often what they need”.

Dylan’s lyrics get new life in scientists’ bet; a cooler bike; and, ‘Potatostock’ 2014…

October 2nd, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

• A group of five Swedish scientists have reportedly admitted they’ve been sneaking lyrics from Bob Dylan songs into articles as part of a long-running bet to see who could get in the most references before retirement. Professor Eddie Weitzberg, Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, told Swedish publication The Local the articles involved weren’t scientific papers but “rather articles we have written about research by others, book introductions, editorials and things like that”. The winner will be taken to a special lunch.

Ever wished your motorised bike came with an integrated cooler? Then your wish is granted thanks to the creation of the Kreweser, a “chopper-style” motorised bike which features a cooler capable of holding up to 96 cans. The battery-powered bike - which can reach speeds of up to 18mph - can be detached from the cooler when you reach your destination and the bike comes with upgrades including a Bluetooth stereo system. The company are trying to raise $US90,000 on crowd funding site Kickstarter to pay for engineering and manufacturing costs so they can take it to market.

In a new take on the Woodstock music festival of 1969, the US city of Columbus recently celebrated the first ever ‘PotatoStock’, a public party that came with “peace, love and potato salad”. The party reportedly came about after Zack Brown jokingly put up a request on the Kickstarter website for $10 so he could buy the ingredients to make a potato salad. But when his campaign raised $US55,000, he decided instead to throw the party in an effort to support local charities that fight hunger and homelessness.

Time to honor the dim sim?; the Ig Nobels; a latte…or a beer?; and, green alien eggs…

September 24th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Does the dim sim deserve a special place of honour among Australia’s home-grown tasty treats? That was the question facing Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle recently after a group of uni students cooked up the idea of honouring the meaty treat with a bronze statue in the bayside city - after all, it was in Melbourne that Chinese chef William Wing Young invented the dim sim around 1945. However, in a response to student Dan Lewry, co-founder of Dim Sim Salute, the mayor has reportedly hosed down the idea of a statue, saying that people would “revolt” were the dim sim to be honoured above the spring roll, samosa or Chiko Roll. Despite the cold water being poured on the idea, Mr Lewry has vowed to press ahead with his bid for a statue.

Time for our annual look at the Ig Nobel Awards - given to honour some of the oddest research projects around the world - and among this year’s winners are Japanese researchers who measured the friction involved when someone steps on a banana skin, a group from China and Canada who tried to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast, and multinational researchers who investigated whether it is mentally hazardous for a human to own a cat. Announced last week, other awards were given for a project looking at whether people who habitually stay up late are more self-admiring, manipulative and psychopathic than early risers; another looking at the pain people suffer when looking at an ugly painting, and, one of our favourites, a test of how reindeer react to seeing humans disguised as polar bears. For full details, head to www.improbable.com/ig/.

Beer and coffee sound like a good combination? Starbucks in the US are reportedly testing a “dark barrel latte” which doesn’t contain any alcohol but has the flavour of a stout like Guinness. The drink, which is topped with whipped cream and a dark caramel sauce, has apparently been developed in response to the rising popularity of craft beers.

A series of odd green balls recently washed up on Sydney’s Dee Why beach, prompting speculation they were “alien eggs”. Turns out that they’re not quite so exciting but rather are a spongey type of seaweed which forms balls as part of its defence against predators. Associate Professor Alistair Poore, from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of NSW, told The Manly Daily the balls were probably living green algae.