What would Che Guevara think of the tributes to him in the town where he was assassinated?


it hurts good


Che Guevara, the revolutionary guerrilla fighter, was shot and killed by an US-trained Bolivian soldier in 1961. He was shot as he sat unarmed and held in prisoner in a school in the jungle community known as La Higuera, Bolivia, where he had been trying to start a revolution. After that, he was transported to the nearby town of Vallegrande where his body was displayed at the local hospital. His bones were then buried in a field behind the airport in Vallegrande. How has Che’s legacy affected La Higuera and Vallegrande, Bolivia? Well, they are now full of people trying to make money off of Che Guevara. And who can blame them? Without Che, these places were nowhere to be found on a map. On my travels there last year, I came across many statues, museums, monuments, and dedications to Che that ranged from nice to tacky to ridiculous. I will try to rank these different memorials of Che using a ‘Che Happiness’ ranking…

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Jesus on toast


Slippery banana study wins Ig Nobel

Research that investigated why bananas are slippery when you step on them has won one of this year’s Ig Nobel prizes.

The spoof awards that have become almost as famous as the real Nobels were handed out at their annual ceremony at Harvard University, US.

Kiyoshi Mabuchi’s Japanese team measured the friction of banana skin in the lab, and showed why apple and orange peel are not quite so hazardous.

The Kitasato University group received the physics Ig for their insights.

It is another classic of its type. The awards, which are run by the science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research, can seem quite ridiculous at first.

But when you delve deeper, you often see a serious intention beyond just the tongue in cheek.

The Japanese scientists are interested in how friction and lubrication affect the movement of our limbs.

The polysaccharide follicular gels that give banana skins their slippery properties are also found in the membranes where our bones meet.

“This concept will help to design a joint prosthesis,” Kiyoshi Mabuchi told BBC News.

In their paper, the Kitasato group describes its experimental set-up

Another winner this year was the study that examined the brains of people who see the face of Jesus and other figures in slices of toast. The work won the neuroscience Ig.

Kang Lee, from the University of Toronto, Canada, and colleagues showed their subjects pictures of “noise” – like the random speckles you used to get on old, out-of-tune TVs – to see what patterns the volunteers would identify.

The face of expectation: Jesus on toast

This tendency to see order in randomness – like a face in the charred areas of a piece of bread – is a well-established phenomenon called pareidolia.

Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Lee and his team saw how the same parts of the brain light up when we see non-existent faces as when we see real ones.

“Interestingly, when you superimpose all the noise images where these people say they see faces, and subtract all the noise images in which they told us they couldn’t see faces – when we do this type of image processing, a face does actually show up,” Prof Lee said.

The Toronto scientist explained that this type of pattern recognition was hard-wired, and even chimps experienced it.

“The face you are going to see is determined by your personal expectations or beliefs,” he added.

“So, for example, Buddhists might not see Jesus on toast, but they might see a Buddha on toast.”

This is the 24th year of the Ig Nobels, and they just get bigger and bigger.

Marc Abrahams, the editor of Annals of Improbable Research, said scientists were clearly now doing studies with an eye to winning an Ig.

“We’re getting about 9,000 nominations a year. About 10% to 20% are self-nominations, but these entries hardly ever win,” he told BBC News.

“That’s generally because they are just trying to be funny. Whereas, those who win perhaps don’t start out that way, and only realise later on that what they are up to really is kind of funny.”

The full list of winners this year:

PHYSICS: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, of Kitasato University, Japan, and colleagues, for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that’s on the floor.

NEUROSCIENCE: Kang Lee, of the University of Toronto, Canada, and colleagues for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

PSYCHOLOGY: Peter Jonason, of the University of Western Sydney, Australia, and colleagues for amassing evidence that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.

PUBLIC HEALTH: Jaroslav Flegr, of Charles University, Czech Republic, and colleagues for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat.

BIOLOGY: Vlastimil Hart, of the Czech University of Life Sciences, and colleagues for carefully documenting that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines.

ART: Marina de Tommaso, of the University of Bari, Italy, and colleagues for measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam.

ECONOMICS: The Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics, for proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.

MEDICINE: Ian Humphreys, of Michigan State University, US, and colleagues, for treating “uncontrollable” nosebleeds, using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork.

ARCTIC SCIENCE: Eigil Reimers, of the University of Oslo, Norway, and colleagues, for testing how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears.

NUTRITION: Raquel Rubio, of IRTA, Spain, and colleagues, for their study titled “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.”

Source: BBCNews


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Essex woman finds eggs of world’s most venomous spider in her shopping

Abby Woodgate was told to burn anything that had come into contact with Brazilian wandering spider eggs found on bananas

Brazilian wandering spider venom causes loss of muscle control and breathing problems, paralysis and asphyxiation. Photograph: Apex Photo Agency/Rex

The Brazilian wandering spider – perhaps the world’s most aggressive and venomous spider – is a rare visitor to these shores, but has recently been turning up in shipments of bananas, most recently in Colchester.

Such is their fearsome reputation that a woman who found its eggs in bananas she bought from Tesco on Monday had to incinerate her vacuum cleaner after using it to clean them up.

Abby Woodgate, 30, was told by pest control experts that she would have to burn anything that had come into contact with the spider eggs, as the arachnids are highly venomous. At deadly concentrations, their venom causes loss of muscle control and breathing problems, resulting in paralysis and eventual asphyxiation.

The Brazilian wandering spider has a tendency to hide in banana bunches or plantations and is occasionally found as a stowaway within shipments of bananas, hence its other name – banana spider.

Although its venom is highly toxic, it is being studied for use in erectile dysfunction treatments. The spider’s bite can cause an erection that sometimes lasts for up to four hours.

Woodgate first thought the bananas had mould on them after noticing a white lump when they were delivered to her home. When she poked it with a toothpick, a cocoon opened, revealing dozens of tropical eggs.

She immediately threw the fruit in the bin, but a few eggs dropped on her kitchen floor, which she vacuumed. She called Tesco’s Highwoods store, which had delivered the shopping to her home and it said it would collect them. She then received a call to say pest control experts would call round instead.

“The pest controllers asked where the eggs were and I told them the bin and they said: ‘Right, we’ll take that’,” Woodgate said. “Then they asked had anything else come into contact with the eggs, and I told them about my vacuum cleaner, so they said: ‘We’ll have to take that too’. All they could tell me is they thought they were tropical spider eggs.”

Tesco has offered to replace her bin and the cleaner.

Source: TheGuardian Read more


Hello Kitty is not a cat

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– she’s a British school kid

You would be forgiven for having thought for your entire life that Hello Kitty was a cat.

After all, she does kind of look like one – and she is called Kitty.

But her creators Sanrio are adamant. She is a British school kid called Kitty White and she lives just outside London (although no-one is saying exactly where).

In fact, she has a whole life story and a family that includes a twin sister called Mimmy.

Earlier this month Hello Kitty was pictured in space for the first time, celebrating her anniversary

Although Sanrio has a whole website dedicated to Kitty’s biography, her appearance has suggested that she is animal rather than human – an assumption that also fooled Christine R Yano.

She is an anthropologist from the University of Hawaii and is curating an exhibition about the cartoon character.

“That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat,” she told the LA Times.

“She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat.

“She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature.

“She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.”

Yano claims a lot of people don’t know Kitty’s really a person and that many of her fans who are aware “don’t care”.

And the reason Kitty is British?

“Hello Kitty emerged in the 1970s, when the Japanese and Japanese women were into Britain,” said Yano.

“They loved the idea of Britain. It represented the quintessential idealized childhood, almost like a white picket fence.

“So the biography was created exactly for the tastes of that time.”

So now you know – Hello Kitty lives in the suburbs of London, is approximately five apples tall and was born on 1 November. And she’s certainly not a cat.

Source: BBCNews

Bog Snorkelling


New bog snorkelling record set at championships in Wales

Capture from BBC video

Capture from BBC video

The 29th international bog snorkelling championships took place in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, on Sunday. One hundred and fifty-five participants from around the world competed in time-trials for the green frog trophy by swimming up and down a 133m bog. This year, swimmer Kirsty Johnson set a new record for the sport with a time of 1min 22sec

Source: TheGuardian see the video


I didn’t even know there was such a thing…

Mukade – the terrible Japanese centipede


The Japans

Before coming to Japan I had read about ‘mukade’: giant poisonous centipedes. They can grow to be up to 20cm long. They are hunters who eat cockroaches and other small animals. Here’s a close-up of a particularly handsome fellow that I found on the internet:

mukade close-up

And for size reference, a picture I found on the internet of some brave/crazy person with a mukade on their hand:

as you can see, they can be hughe

Half horrified, half fascinated, I wondered if I would encounter any mukade during my stay in Japan. I seem to be in luck: 4 days into my stay here, I have spotted my first mukade.

We were in the supermarket with Yasuko-san, someone from the relocation office that helps us with all ‘settling in business’. As we are checking out a drying frame for clothing, I see something out of the corner of my…

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Giant Amazon fish ‘locally extinct’ due to overfishing

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Arapaima can weigh more than 28st (180kg) and are highly prized by fishermen

A 10ft (3m) long fish which used to dominate the Amazon river has been fished to extinction in a number of areas, scientists have revealed.

Arapaima populations were found to be extinct in eight of the 41 communities studied, and extremely low on average.

Fishermen were trained to count the fish as part of a large-scale survey.

Researchers concluded that the effects of fishing on tropical fish was worse than previously thought.

Study results are reported in Aquatic Conservation: Freshwater and Marine Ecosystems.

Arapaima can weigh more than 28st 8lb (181kg) and are among the largest freshwater fish in the world.

The number of fishermen catching arapaima remained stable regardless of the population size

They are air-breathing and come to the surface every five to 15 minutes, making them easy to catch.

Their size means they are highly sought after and are landed by fishermen using harpoons and gillnets.

A century ago the giant fish dominated fisheries in the Amazon but the researchers say overfishing has dramatically reduced their numbers.

Previously, bio economic theory predicted that fishing does not cause extinctions because fishermen inevitably move away from depleted resources.

Source: BBCNews Read more


Historic Lancasters tandem flight due in Lincolnshire

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It is 50 years since two Lancasters flew together

A delayed first flight by the last two airworthy Lancaster bombers is due to take place later.

One has flown from Canada to join the aircraft operated by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in Lincolnshire.

A flypast over Lincoln on Friday was cancelled due to bad weather.

After a day of maintenance checks, the Lancasters are expected to begin practice flights on Wednesday afternoon at RAF Coningsby.

Gp Capt Johnny Stringer, station commander, said he had “everything crossed” that both planes would fly later.

But he said the best place to witness the duo was at one of the 60 air shows, rather than in Lincolnshire where road restrictions have been put in place.

“Vera [the Canadian Lancaster] went flying for her first couple of sorties out of Coningsby on Tuesday… it was just one of those glorious Lincolnshire evenings, it looked absolutely stunning,” he said.


The Lancaster bomber

Source: BBCNews Read more

Colorado’s ‘Green Rush’


Legal marijuana:

Glass jars at a marijuana shop in Colorado show off the diversity of varieties available

Earlier this year, Colorado made history by becoming the first US state to sell marijuana legally. Since then, the number of businesses offering a wide range of pot experiences has exploded, and some foresee a “Green Rush”.

Marjorie is accompanying her husband on a business trip to Denver. She has a day free.

“If you’re in France, you go on a wine tour, if you’re in Colorado these days, you go on a pot tour,” says Marjorie, 66.

Some cannabis tour companies cater for buses of bachelor parties. But Marjorie went for “Green Tripz” – a VIP tour in a “pot-friendly” limousine.

“This is a smoking vehicle, just don’t blow it at me, that’s rule number one,” says Mike, Marjorie’s driver and guide.

“I can’t start smoking straight away because I’ll be too loaded,” says Marjorie.

Brett Schneider is one of many young entrepreneurs hoping to benefit from the legal pot industry

At the beginning of the year, Colorado became the first state to legalise cannabis, after voters approved the change in 2012.

The result is not only the birth of new marijuana tour companies, but also a startling burgeoning of the cannabis industry as a whole.

Business graduates and young entrepreneurs such as Brett Schneider of the MaryJane Group have flooded into the state looking to get in on the action.

“I think the sky is the limit for the industry,” he says.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that the real way to go about it is to be safe and responsible. If you hold those as your two brand attributes that you really stand true to, you can change the perception of cannabis.”

First stop on Marjorie’s tour is a dispensary that grows marijuana, one of the more than 250 cannabis retail outlets established in the city of Denver in just six months.

She is fascinated to hear about the different types of cannabis on offer and the different effects they could have on her state of mind.

Critics say the industry needs to be regulated

Among her purchases at the first stop are the products that have become an unexpectedly huge hit in Colorado – cannabis “edibles”. Edibles include the classic cannabis brownie but much more besides – marijuana candies, drinks and chocolate bars.

“I got a pre-rolled joint and a little tin of chocolates,” Marjorie proudly announces. She takes a quick puff in the limo on the way to our next stop, which Mike describes as a “big surprise”.

This extraordinary proliferation of cannabis outlets – and the new varieties of them – has angered opponents of marijuana legalisation.

“We are seeing in front of our eyes the creation of the next tobacco industry,” says Kevin Sabet, one of the national founders of a group called Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

“This idea of control and regulation is a mirage. The industry is controlling what is happening,” he says.

Soiurce: BBCNews Read more

The most important battle you’ve probably never heard of


Exactly 800 years ago on Sunday, in a field next to what is now the airport of Lille, a battle was fought which determined the history of England.

Today few people in the UK have heard of Bouvines. It has none of the ring of an Agincourt or a Crecy. Probably that is because England lost it. But the battle of 27 July, 1214, was just as significant as England’s later victories over the French. Maybe more so.

“Bouvines is the most important battle in English history that no-one has ever heard of,” says John France, professor emeritus in medieval history at Swansea University.

“Without Bouvines there is no Magna Carta, and all the British and American law that stems from that. It’s a muddy field, the armies are small, but everything depends on the struggle. It’s one of the climactic moments of European history.”

Source: BBCNews Read more

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