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10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (9/22/18)

by Radu Alexander
fact checked by Jamie Frater

As another week goes by, you have the opportunity to catch up on some of the biggest stories of the last few days. You can read all about the mind-blowing things that happened here. Otherwise, press on for a list that focuses on strange and unique news items.

It is a particularly debauched list this week. We talk about alcohol, weed, ecstasy, sex dolls, and copious amounts of food. We also have some interesting space stories: We look at the first space tourist, find the home of Mr. Spock, and investigate a mystery in the Sacramento Mountains.

Featured image credit: The Weather Channel

10 The Secret Of The Observatory

The mystery behind the shutting down of a New Mexico observatory has been elucidated, and, as always, it wasn’t aliens.

On September 6, the Sunspot Solar Observatory, located high up in the mountains of the Lincoln National Forest, was shut down, and on-site staff and residents were evacuated with no word as to why. FBI agents were reported on the scene, and local law enforcement claimed to be completely in the dark. Naturally, this led to rampant and fantastical speculation as to a possible motive.

Unsurprisingly, the most popular idea was that the observatory detected alien life, and the government was there to enact a cover-up. Other hypotheses included killer solar storms, a new planet, dimensional portals, and foreign spies. The organization in charge of the observatory, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) only said the shutdown was due to a “security issue.”

Almost two weeks went by before AURA released a statement, announcing that the observatory had begun transitioning back to regular operations. According to them, the evacuation was a precautionary measure, as they were cooperating with an investigation into criminal activity occurring at Sacramento Peak. One suspect posed a threat, and, due to the remoteness of the observatory, it was safer to temporarily move staff and residents.

A few days ago, the FBI revealed that they were investigating a janitor who was downloading and distributing child pornography.[1]

9 Is Alcohol The Solution?

The answer is yes, at least for some people. That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. They were looking into methods to help cure addiction and believe that managed alcohol programs offer a viable middle ground for addicts who can’t or won’t quit cold turkey.

The biggest problem with abstinence is the withdrawal symptoms. In severe cases, they not only increase the likelihood of relapse but can even prove lethal. A managed alcohol program could help stabilize addicts and allow them to consume safe amounts of alcohol in a controlled environment while avoiding both intoxication and withdrawal.[2]

According to the study, such an approach has led to fewer hospital visits and interactions with law enforcement. Additionally, it improves aspects of the addicts’ lives, such as safety, health, and social life. At the same time, the authors stress that this program is not intended to replace the abstinence-based model but simply to provide an alternative solution for those who are unlikely to succeed with such an approach.

8 Buffet Bans Insatiable Athlete

A German athlete was banned from an all-you-can-eat restaurant for consuming too much food. Jaroslav Bobrowski had 100 plates of sushi for less than $20.

An Ironman competitor and former bodybuilder, Bobrowski follows an extreme diet where he fasts for 20 hours at a time and then eats until he is full. Naturally, he recognized a good deal when the Running Sushi restaurant in Landshut, Bavaria, offered an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet for just €15.90. So he went there, sat down, and consumed 100 plates of fish. He tried to leave a tip when he went to pay, but the waiter declined. Afterward, the owner of the establishment told him personally that he couldn’t eat there anymore.

The proprietor was upset not only regarding the amount of food that Bobrowski consumed but also at the lack of drinks. According to him, drinks are the only way he makes money on the all-you-can-eat offer, and the triathlete only had one tea during his sitting.[3] Furthermore, Bobrowski would take five to seven plates at a time, meaning other clients had to wait longer before the staff could restock the sushi carousel.

Nicknamed “Sushi Man” by the German media, Bobrowski returned to the restaurant to apologize. He has already found a replacement buffet nearby called China City.

7 A Unique Pothole Problem

Photo credit: Mike Smee/CBC News

Toronto’s Kensington Market neighborhood has a common issue: a lane full of potholes that the city refuses to fix. However, there is a peculiar reason for this—the owner of the pathway has been dead for 118 years.

City officials have asserted that, according to their records, the lane is actually private property. It is on a strip of land which has belonged to Robert Brittain Denison since 1861.[4] The issue is that he died in 1900 after having outlived most of his 12 children. Whatever records might have existed have been lost, and a spokesperson of the Denison family claimed no knowledge of the pathway.

Residents have argued that the busy lane serves more as a thoroughfare. A local councilman said that he will try to have the land expropriated by the city so that it will begin to maintain the lane.

Since the story broke, some of the deeper holes have been filled with gravel. The city denies doing this, and residents claim to not know the identity of the mysterious Good Samaritan.

6 Sex Doll Rescue

Photo credit: Steyr Fire Department

Austrian firefighters were called in to retrieve a “suspicious” object partially submerged in the water under a bridge. There was concern that it might be the body of a drowned woman. Turns out it was a sex doll.

Locals from the city of Steyr made several calls to authorities last week, warning of a floating object which resembled the body of a woman. Police arrived on the scene, but they couldn’t tell exactly what the thing was, either. Eventually, a rescue vehicle and eight firefighters were dispatched to investigate the situation. They retrieved the “body,” and, to everyone’s relief, it was a deflated blow-up doll.[5] They then posed for a few pictures with the “victim.”

5 Drama In The Storm

Weather Channel’s Mike Seidel bravely fights hurricane wind as 2 guys calmly walk behind him

The Weather Channel has come under fire for allegedly exaggerating their storm reports for dramatic effect. During one broadcast, correspondent Mike Seidel can be seen struggling to catch his footing against a powerful gale, although he is somewhat undermined by two pedestrians who casually stroll by in the background.

It is a common sight during every big storm. Reporters are out in the field, seemingly fighting with the elements in order to bring you the best damn coverage possible. There is no denying that Hurricane Florence was a devastating tempest, but it seems that even during such events, correspondents can’t help hamming it up for the cameras.

In this case, Mike Seidel was reporting for the Weather Channel from Wilmington, North Carolina. In a clip which has been viewed tens of millions of times on social media, Seidel is laboring to stay on his feet during the report. This might have been believable, except that two young men wearing shorts can be seen walking behind him with no strain at all.

The Weather Channel came in defense of its correspondent, blaming the whole thing on grass.[6] Seidel was trying to maintain his footing on wet grass while the two men in the background were walking on concrete. This only raises another question—why was the reporter on grass, anyway?

4 A Place To Live Long And Prosper

Photo credit: Don Davis

Scientists from the University of Florida announced the discovery of a new exoplanet in the place where the home of the Vulcans is located in Star Trek canon.

Keid, aka 40 Eridani A, is a star in the constellation Eridanus, roughly 17 light-years away from us. It was first detected by William Herschel in the late 18th century. Since then, other astronomers found that Keid is actually part of a triple star system with a binary pair dubbed 40 Eridani B and C orbiting around it.

In 1968, sci-fi writer James Blish established 40 Eridani A as the sun of Vulcan in his script anthology Star Trek 2. In that universe, Vulcan is the home of the franchise’s most well-known extraterrestrial species, the Vulcans. Most famous of all is, undoubtedly, the half-human, half-Vulcan Mr. Spock. Keid being Vulcan’s sun was further affirmed by Jeff Maynard’s Star Trek Maps and, finally, established as canon by show creator Gene Rodenberry in 1991.

As it turns out, those trekkers were onto something. Astronomers taking part in the Dharma Planet Survey found a super-Earth roughly nine times the mass of our planet orbiting 40 Eridani A.[7]

The project seeks to study 150 of the brightest, closest stars to our solar system. This marks the program’s first detection of a super-Earth. We don’t know if there are any Vulcans on it yet, but it is situated in the habitable zone.

3 A Different Kind Of Sea Weed

Several counties in Florida have been dealing with large packages of marijuana that have been washing ashore on their beaches.

Since last Tuesday, dozens of drug bundles have drifted onto the sandy shores of Volusia, St. Johns, and Flagler counties. Authorities have recovered over 45 kilograms (100 lb) of weed in Flagler alone over two days.

The situation posed a conundrum to beachgoers who stumbled upon the bundles—do they do the responsible thing and call the cops or treat the weed as manna from Heaven?

Unsurprisingly, several people chose the latter option. One man named Robert Kelley was arrested for taking a “brick” weighing 5 kilograms (11 lb) and putting it in his car.[8] He tried to argue that he was only holding it until law enforcement arrived.

On another occasion, a person called the police because a bundle washed ashore in Jungle Hut Park, and seven or eight people were fighting over it. At the moment, it is unknown how many persons made off with large packages of weed.

So far, authorities are only speculating on the source of the pot, saying that it could have been adrift for a long time and coming from as far as Puerto Rico. Most likely scenarios involve some kind of failed drug shipment—either a ship capsized in bad weather or an airplane drop missed its target or the crew dumped the cargo overboard.

2 Ecstasy Makes Octopuses Like Each Other More Than Chewbacca

Photo credit: Thomas Kleindinst

If there is one thing that scientists love, it’s giving drugs to animals to see what happens. In the most recent case, a neuroscientist and a marine biologist from Massachusetts gave ecstasy to octopuses and discovered that it makes them more social.

Normally, the California two-spot octopus is a lonesome creature. It avoids other octopuses whenever possible except for mating season. Scientists Gul Dolen and Eric Edsinger confirmed this asocial behavior by putting these cephalopods in a tank with three separate chambers. The central room was empty. The one on the left had a Star Wars figurine, either Chewbacca or a stormtrooper. The right chamber had an upside down, transparent flowerpot which contained another octopus. The container had holes in it, allowing the two octopodes to communicate with each other through touch, sight, and chemicals. Its purpose was simply to prevent them from fighting. As expected, the free octopus avoided its brethren and satiated its curiosity by playing with Chewbacca.

Then, the octopuses were bathed in seawater laced with ecstasy. They became more social, spending 15 minutes on average with the octopus under the pot.[9] They were described as being “floaty and relaxed, hugging the flowerpot.” This applied for both pairs of male-female and male-male cephalopods.

There is a purpose behind this experiment. Several studies have looked into the therapeutic use of ecstasy. It helps with social anxiety and could prove beneficial in helping adults with autism or soldiers suffering from PTSD.

1 To The Moon And Back

Elon Musk revealed that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will become the first ever private tourist to fly to the Moon using the SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket (BFR).

In early 2017, SpaceX announced that they will be using the Falcon Heavy Rocket to transport two passengers to the Moon aboard their Crew Dragon capsule. Since then, however, Musk revealed that they decided to use the larger, more powerful BFR, which can carry a bigger group. However, this rocket is still in development, and it is still unknown if SpaceX can actually build it.

The mission is currently planned for 2023, marking the first time humans will go to the Moon since 1972. Maezawa won’t actually land on the satellite, though. The BFR will do a loop around the Moon before returning to Earth.

Yusaku Maezawa is a dedicated art lover who just last year paid over $110 million for a painting of Jean-Michel Basquiat. He has created his own project titled #dearMoon.[10] The billionaire will invite six to eight artists from around the world to join him on his lunar voyage. He hopes the journey will inspire them, and they will create masterpieces once they return to Earth.


Read more offbeat stories you might have missed from September 15, 2018 and September 8, 2018.

fact checked by Jamie Frater