Talking statues; roadworks gone wrong; and, burning down the White House…

August 27th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Would you like to talk to a statue of Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln or Dick Whittington’s cat? A new project, Talking Statues, launched across London and Manchester earlier this month sees up to 35 statues across the two cities talk to passers by keen to have a chat. Simply scan a tag near the statue with your smart phone and you’ll receive a call back from the statue in question. The project is the initiative of a group called Sing London which asked some leading writers, media personalities and actors, including Patrick Stewart, to take part in the project.

‘Bus’ isn’t the hardest word to spell but workers in Bristol in the UK were clearly having a bad day when they wrote the word ‘BUP STOP’ in large yellow letters at an inner city bus stop. A spokesman for the local council reportedly said that while the sign did become something of a “temporary tourist attraction”, the contractor has since corrected the sign at no additional cost. Meanwhile, still talking about roads let’s head across the Atlantic to the US where a series of wobbly lines painted on Interstate 66 in Virginia apparently created traffic havoc as cars tried to follow them. The lines were apparently a temporary stick-on fix which had peeled off the road and moved. The lines were quickly replaced and an investigation into why the lines had moved launched.

Officials at the UK embassy in Washington, DC, had to issue an apology earlier this week after tweeting a picture of a cake marking the 200th anniversary of the burning of the White House by British troops. The photo, posted on the embassy’s official Twitter account, came with the caption, “Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House. Only sparklers this time!” It reportedly provoked a sharp reaction among some readers with one saying the tweet was in extremely poor taste and others questioning why it was posted. The subsequent apology said the tweet was issued “to mark an event in history & celebrate our strong friendship today”. British troops set fire to the White House on 24th August, 1814, during what is known as the War of 1812.

A robot hitch-hiker; ‘air punch’ and ‘bingewatch’ added to dictionary - WDYT?; and, getting cold for a cause…

August 20th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

A robot has hitch-hiked its way across Canada in a 6,000 kilometre experiment exploring human-robot interaction and artificial intelligence technologies. HitchBOT is the creation of a group of Toronto researchers and features a torso made from a beer cooler bucket with foam swimming pool noodles for limbs, Wellington boots for feet and rubber gloves for hands. It has a computerised brain, solar panels for power and uses GPS technology to send its creators details of its location. The robot left Halifax in Nova Scotia on 27th July and reached Victoria on the west coast on 16th August. For more on the robot’s journey, see www.hitchbot.me.

Air punch (thrusting a clenched fist into the air in triumph), binge-watch (watching multiple episodes of a TV series in succession) and amazeballs (impressive) are among the host of words added to the Oxford Dictionaries’ online dictionary in its latest quarterly update. Other words added include humblebrag (what appears a modest statement but actually has the purpose of drawing attention to something the speaker is proud of), coach (to spend time relaxing or stay/sleep somewhere temporarily), and
acronyms like SMH (”shaking my head”), YOLO (”you only live once”) and WDYT (”what do you think?”). For more words, see http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2014/08/oxford-dictionaries-update-august-2014/

It’s the latest bizarre celebrity trend - tip a bucket of icy water over oneself and then post the results to social media, all in a bid to raise money for charity. The Ice Bucket Challenge was launched in the US to raise money for research into neurodegenerative disease ALS but has since expanded to other countries (including Australia) and other charities. Those who have taken part include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg, actor Chris Pratt and Oprah take the challenge before nominating others to do so within 24 hours or make a donation to charity instead. Chills.

Of finger wrestling; FootGolf; and, beached Lego…

August 13th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Strong fingers anyone? The 55th German Finger Wrestling Championships were reportedly recently held in the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Different from thumb-wrestling (and there is a world championship for that), competitors in these championships sit across a table from each other, each with a finger hooked through one end of a short leather strap. The winner is the person who successfully pulls the other over the table. The sports, which has apparently be around since the 17th century, has events in a range of different weight categories and the German event is one of several held annually.

Speaking of competitions, the first international open for the emerging sport of ‘FootGolf’ has just wrapped up at Prestwich near Manchester in the UK. The tournament reportedly attracted players from across Europe. A combination of soccer and golf (football and golf, hence ‘FootGolf’), there are more than 40 courses dedicated to the sport in the UK alone with others in Europe and more than 200 in the US. Most of the rules follow those of golf with players kicking a soccer ball into a hole in as few kicks as possible around a nine or 18 hole course. Governance is in the hands of the Federation for International FootGolf (FIFG) which oversaw the hosting of a World Cup in Budapest in 2012 with Béla Lengyel crowned world champion.

For the past 17 years, nautical-themed Lego has been washing up on the beaches of Cornwall. The BBC reported recently that a container which fell off a ship during a storm in 1997 had some 4.8 million plastic Lego pieces inside. They’ve since been found on beaches across the north and south coasts of Cornwall. The container holding the Lego was one of 62 washed off the container ship about 20 miles off the end of Land’s End (the UK’s southernmost point). No-one knows what was in the other containers.

Toaster selfies; a spybase on the moon; and, touring London’s loos…

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

Like to look at yourself as you eat? US-based company - the Vermont Novelty Toaster Corporation - has produced a Selfie Toaster that allows users to imprint a picture of themselves on their toast. Simply supply them with a picture of yourself their “toast engineers” will create a toaster than puts your imprint on each piece of bread you toast. Of course, you can also also order toasters which come up with your logo or note or an image of a famous person - even Jesus. Selfie Toasters are priced at $US75. For more, see www.burntimpressions.com.

News that the US once planned to build a spy base on the moon probably won’t come as a surprise in this age of seemingly ubiquitous NSA monitoring. A declassified US Government report reportedly released on Sunday - the 45th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon - contains details of Project Horizon, which talks about plans to put an earth surveillance system on the moon and a weapons system from which attacks could be launched targeting locations on earth or into space.

You’ll never be caught short in London again. Frustrated at not being able to find places to go to the toilet for free, American Rachel Erickson has started a London Loo Tour which takes in some of the city’s smallest establishments under the slogan of “Not the ‘bog standard’ London experience”. The tour starts at the aptly named Waterloo Station and apparently includes historical facts about toilets in the city, including some information on the delightfully named toilet innovator Thomas Crapper.

Worm charming champions; the Yeti (still) not found; and, the world’s longest name…

July 3rd, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

A UK family was last month crowned World Worm Charming champions. Held for the 35th time, the event in Cheshire saw hundreds of people compete to find as many worms as they could within a metre square plot in half an hour. Techniques varied from vibrating a garden fork (a process known as ‘twanging’, to playing a musical instrument with the winning family, the Bowdens, finding as many as 394 worms in their plot. For more on worm charming, see www.wormcharming.com.

A scientific examination of hair samples said to come from a Yeti (also known as the Abominable Snowman) has found most come from less mysterious beasts. In the first published peer-reviewed scientific paper of its kind, the hairs were reportedly shown to have been matched with bears, cows, horses, sheep, deer, dogs, a porcupine and even a human. Two of the samples were found to belong to a long extinct polar bear, another to a goat-like animal known as a serow and another to a Malaysian tapir. The geneticist who conducted the study, Oxford-based Brian Sykes, said enthusiasts shouldn’t give up yet. “(T)he yeti may still be out there,” he told The Guardian. The study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

A Swedish man has put in a bid for the world’s longest name by changing his legal name to one comprised of 63 words. Formerly known as Alexander Ek, the 25-year-old man from near Stockholm reportedly changed his name several times before settling on the moniker that starts off with “Kim-Jong”, includes words like Gilgamesh and Charlies (as well as a couple we can’t mention) and ends with Ek.

Hungry? Just press print; a swimming pool for dogs; and, excavators under London…

June 11th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Fancy some fruit? Just print it out. A UK-based company, Dovetailed, says it has created a 3D printer which can make edible fruit. The mechanism, using a technique called “spherification”, combines liquid droplets with different flavors and presses them into a desired shape, allowing the creation of a range of different shaped and flavoured “fruit”. The 3D fruit printer was unveiled at an event in Cambridge in late May which brought together foodies, hackers and designers. Dr Vaiva Kalnikait, creative director and founder of Dovetailed, says the printers will open up new possibilities in the kitchen. “We have re-invented the concept of fresh fruit on demand.”

A swimming pool just for dogs has opened at a Spanish resort near Barcelona. Said to be the world’s first dogs only pool, the Resort Canino Con Jane facility comes complete with slides and fountains - all designed for dogs. Federico Cano, the pool’s creator, reportedly said he came up with the idea so dogs could cool off in the Spanish heat. While fur did create some initial filtering problems, these have all now been resolved.

Up to 1,000 small excavators, worth as much as $US10 million, lay entombed beneath London’s streets after being abandoned there by developers. Used to create new basements in large properties, in the past the excavators have apparently been retrieved using a large crane but given the cost of this process, property sources have reportedly told the New Statesman that many developers have instead simply abandoned them underground. They’re now being discovered as workmen return to some of the former building sites to install sub-basements below the existing sub-floor rooms.

Of tractor orchestras; Godzilla; and hotel guest complaints…

May 18th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Love the rumble a big engine makes? Then you’ll love the newest orchestra to come out of Spain - its instruments are tractor engines! The 12 tractors performed for half an hour at a festival of contemporary music in the city of Valencia under the watchful eye of their Swedish conductor. The orchestra, which comes complete with a soloist, didn’t win universal acclaim with some audience members reportedly describing it as the “worst thing” they’d ever heard.

For those who haven’t seen the latest Godzilla movie, we’re issuing a spoiler alert (look away now!). Those who have (and probably most of those who haven’t) will know that much of San Francisco is laid waste in the film - a fact a hacker played upon when he reportedly changed a roadworks sign in the city’s famous Van Ness Avenue so that it warned of ‘Godzilla Attack’ and asked people to turn back. Meanwhile, in other strange Godzilla-related news, the US Airforce reckons it could take out the monster if it had to. See some interviews conducted by the Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine. Meanwhile the UK’s Telegraph newspaper has published a list of six things the movie got wrong. You can read it here.

We love lists at StrangeSights and travel website Skyscanner have duly obliged by providing a list of 10 of the oddest requests from hotel guests and another of 10 of the strangest hotel complaints. The first list - compiled from interviews with 400 hotel staff - includes demands for a bath of honey (they obviously didn’t have asses’ milk), a bowl of crocodile soup and the toilet in the room to be filled with mineral water while the complaints include the sheets being too white, the sky being too blue, the waiter being too handsome and the fact there was no steak on a vegetarian menu. Check out the graphic on our Pinterest site

April Fool’s Day Special - Two-for-one flights, edible pizza packaging, Scotland’s independence oddities and, Google’s photo-bombing extension…

April 4th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

We’ll kick off our round-up of April Fool’s Day jokes with mention of travel company Student Flights which proposed saving money (and yet travelling in style) by sharing a top-to-tail business class seat-come-bed seat with someone. “Get up close and personal with your business class buddy for a budget friendly chance to experience the bells and whistles at the pointy end of the plane,” says their website in a promo advertised on Facebook. There’s a link to register your interest at which time you’re informed you’ve been the subject of a hoax.

In the UK, pizza company Domino’s unveiled plans for a new edible pizza box. Known appropriately as Edibox and made out of pizza crust, it was described as “a world first in ’snackaging’ innovation”.

Scotland’s independence was also the subject of some wit in the UK. The Daily Telegraph unveiled plans to put First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond’s face in profile on Scottish £1 coins next year while The Guardian reported drivers would be required to drive on the right side of the road in Scotland should independence occur.

• Among the many pranks pulled by Google was to launch Google+ Auto Awesome a ‘photo-bombing’ feature which aims to bring a little celebrity to your photos. Simply upload your selfies and they’ll add in the celebrity. David Hasselhoff was the initial celebrity offered with the hope that he’ll make your photo more “hoffsome”.

Ukrainian town to join UK?; sticky tape selfies; and, the world’s toughest golf hole…

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

Ukraine might seem to have its share of problems at the moment but that hasn’t stopped residents of one city reportedly starting a “tongue-in-cheek” referendum to join Britain. The town of Donetsk in the eastern part of the country was founded by a Welshman, John Hughes, in 1869 when he opened coal mines and a steel plant there and was originally known as Yuzovka (after the name the founder was given by locals, John Yuz). There are reports that about 7000 people have supported the proposal which was aired via Twitter recently.

Fancy using sticky tape to hold your face in a weird position and then taking a selfie to post online? Thousands apparently like the idea with a new Sellotape Selfies page on Facebook attracting scores of examples and (at last count) 169,000 followers. The page was reportedly started by British student Lizzie Durley who says she was inspired by Jim Carrey who taped up his face in the movie Yes Man.

If you’ve ever played golf then chances are you’ve come across a hole that’s got the best of you. But they’ve got nothing on this one. The “Extreme 19th” hole at the Legend Golf Course in South Africa, this par 3 hole is located 400 metres down a cliff from the tee and is the world’s longest par 3 at 391 yards. The hole can only be reached by helicopter (and yes, it has been parred).

A plan to shoot space junk; head-butting walnuts; and, sarcastic Vikings..

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

Astronomers at a new Australian National University-based centre have reportedly come up with a plan to ensure a collision like that depicted in the film Gravity doesn’t occur in space - shooting space junk out of the sky using earth-bound lasers. According to the experts, shooting the space junk - some of the estimated 300,000 plus pieces orbiting the earth - would slow the debris and cause it to fall toward earth where it would burn up as it enters the atmosphere. But the use of lasers to shoot the junk out of the sky may be some way off - scientists at the new Co-operative Research Centre for Space Environment Management will initially concentrate on developing technology to track and predict the orbits of space junk.

A Pakistan man has set a new world record for cracking the most walnuts with his head. Martial arts expert Mohammad Rashid reportedly cracked 155 nuts in a minute at the Punjab Youth Festival in Lahore, shattering the previous record of just 44.

Sick of sarcasm? Blame the Vikings. It was they who first brought sarcasm to the shores of the UK, according to the Danish ambassador to Britain, Claus Grube. He’s reportedly told London’s Telegraph that “sarcasm, irony and understatement are part of the ‘common heritage’” shared by the two countries and says both countries use sarcasm and irony in a way that is quite distinct. “For example if you use that in France and Germany it will often be taken literally, and the humour lost,” says Mr Grube.