• Hundreds of dead birds mysteriously fell from the sky in Spain

    More than 200 dead starlings dropped from the sky in Ferrol, Spain and nobody knows why. The strange event occurred on November 26 near the Juan Cardona Hospital. From Coast to Coast:

    A mystified witness to the nightmarish scene[…] indicated that the birds "came out of the trees in the emergency area of the hospital," briefly took to the sky, and then just as quickly fell to the ground.

    An official with the city told a local media outlet that "The birds have been collected and we are now waiting to find out what happened," but cautioned that "we are told it won't be easy."

    A similar thing happened last year near Tarragona, Spain and, according to reports, may have been related to pollution from petrochemical plants in the area.

    top image: serkan mutan/Shutterstock.com

  • Mark Cuban just bought a town in Texas

    Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban just purchased the town of Mustang, Texas. Insert Schitt's Creek joke here. The 77-acre property about an hour south of Dallas has a population of 21 and boasts a trailer park, strip club, and not much else. On Google Maps, Wispers Cabaret is now showing as "Mark Cubaret." From CNN:

    The reason [he bought it], Cuban told the Dallas Morning News: A buddy needed to sell it.

    "I don't know what if anything I will do with it," Cuban told the paper[…]

    The town was reportedly put up for sale in 2017 for $4 million, but [Dallas real estate broker] Turner said it was overpriced, even when they slashed the listing price in half.

    image: Google Maps

  • Years after megachurch robbed of $600k, cash and checks found hidden in church's bathroom wall

    In 2014, robbers apparently stole more than $600,000 from a safe at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Who would have the gall to do such a thing? Well, last month, a plumber was doing work on the megachurch's bathroom and found a void behind the toilet. Tucked inside were thousands of envelopes stuffed with checks and cash.

    As part of their investigation, police have questioned the church's pastor, Joel Osteen, an outspoken believer in the "prosperity gospel."

    From the Daily Boulder:

    The plumber named Justin, told the station he got a call about a loose toilet at the church on Nov. 10.

    "Justin said he started working on the toilet and had to remove the tile and insulation. Once he removed the insulation, he discovered about 3,000 envelopes full of checks. Some had cash in it. Justin said he called the church's maintenance supervisor and had to stay at the church for almost seven hours" the news outlet reported.

    top image (cropped): RobertMWorsham (CC BY-SA 4.0)

  • Gorgeous footage of the rarely seen Giant Phantom Jellyfish

    In November, an underwater robot operated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute captured this footage of a glorious Giant Phantom Jellyfish off the coast of California, more than 3,200 feet down in the ocean. The Phantom Jelly has only been encountered by scientist around 100 times since the first specimen was collected in 1899. From MBARI:

    The bell of this deep-sea denizen is more than one meter (3.3 feet) across and trails four ribbon-like oral (or mouth) arms that can grow more than 10 meters (33 feet) in length. MBARI's [underwater remotely operated vehicles] have logged thousands of dives, yet we have only seen this spectacular species nine times[…]

    Historically, scientists relied on trawl nets to study deep-sea animals. These nets can be effective for studying hardy animals such as fishes, crustaceans, and squids, but jellies turn to gelatinous goo in trawl nets. The cameras on MBARI's ROVs have allowed MBARI researchers to study these animals intact in their natural environment. High-definition—and now 4K—video of the giant phantom jelly captures stunning details about the animal's appearance and behaviors that scientists would not have been able to see with a trawl-caught specimen.

  • Astounding colorful clip of a SpaceX rocket taking off and landing

    Telescopic tracking/imaging outfit MARS Scientific, created this stunning video of the October launch of SpaceX's Inspiration 4, the "first all-civilian mission to orbit."

    The video—best enjoyed as the hypnotizing GIF below—is a "composite of multiple tracking telescopes using new techniques to bring out the faintest colors and finest details," MARS Scientific tweeted.

    They've minted an NFT edition for sale with all proceeds going to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

    (Thanks, Imaginary Foundation!)

  • IKEA staff and customers forced to sleep in the store due to blizzard

    Last night, more than 30 people had an unplanned slumber party at an IKEA in Aalborg Denmark after a massive snowstorm stranded them on the property.

    "We slept in the furniture exhibitions and our showroom on the first floor, where we have beds, mattresses and sofa beds," IKEA manager Peter Elmose said.

    Around two dozen employees and six customers were able to "pick the exact bed they always have wanted to try," he said. According to the Associated Press, "they spent the evening watching television and eating, adding it went 'super well. It's been a good night. All fun.'"

    If they had been trapped for a week, the situation would be a great premise for a JG Ballard short story.

    Anyway, please share your name for this new IKEA ExperienceTM in the comments.

    image: Paolo Bona/Shutterstock.com

  • Ancient mammoth tusk found on the deep ocean floor

    "You start to 'expect the unexpected' when exploring the deep sea, but I'm still stunned that we came upon the ancient tusk of a mammoth," says Steven Haddock, senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

    Haddock and underwater robot pilot Randy Pickett spotted the strange specimen on the vehicle's camera 10,000 feet down at the bottom of the ocean around 185 miles off the coast of California. They grabbed a tiny sample back in 2019 and returned a few months ago to collect the complete tusk. Early testing estimates that the tusk is more than 100,000 years old. From MBARI:

    The researchers have confirmed that the tusk—about one meter (just over three feet) in length—is from a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi). The cold, high-pressure environment of the deep sea uniquely preserved the tusk, giving researchers the opportunity to study it in greater detail. Computed tomography (CT) scans will reveal the full three-dimensional internal structure of the tusk and more information about the animal's history, such as its age. 

    The ocean represents 99 percent of the space where life can exist on this planet and yet we still know very little about it. As interest in exploiting the deep sea by mining for valuable metals has grown—with the potential to place many marine animals in harm's way—this surprising discovery, hidden on the seafloor for eons, serves as a fragile reminder of the many remaining mysteries worthy of our protection.

  • Watch Dave Grohl sing "Copacabana," "Blitzkreig Bop," and "Jump" for Hanukkah (and yes, they're all terrific)

    For the third night of The Hanukkah Sessions 2021, Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters producer Greg Kurstin performed "Copacabana" by the great Barry Pincus, aka Barry Manilow!

    Grohl's humor, joy, and talent in The Hanukkah Sessions is a wonderful gift for the ages. Below, the two take on tracks from The Ramones, Van Halen, and Lisa Loeb.

  • A list of productivity and collaboration lessons from The Beatles

    After watching "Get Back," the fantastic film documenting The Beatles at work under incredible pressure in 1970, organizational consultant Tom Whitwell took note of "10 lessons in productivity and brainstorming" that the band demonstrated in the film. Below are a few, from Whitwell's Fluxx Studio Notes:

    The 'yes… and' rule

    The first rule of improvisation (and brainstorming) is "yes… and". When someone suggests an idea, plays a note, says a line, you accept it completely, then build on it.

    As they slog through Don't Let Me Down, George breaks the spell. Instead of building and accepting he leaps to judgement, saying "I think it's awful." Immediately, John and Paul lay down the rules: "Well, have you got anything?" "you've gotta come up with something better"…

    Use rapid prototyping

    The deadlines on the project are absurd. They have to write, record and perform an album of songs in 12 days. As Paul says "we've got to do it methodically this one… we've got to get some system to get through 20–30 songs."

    He proposes a system of rapid prototyping: "We get all the chords. So we can all vamp them all… we play it shitty ten times, and so it's sort of in there. Then I think we could… play it quite good."…

    Embrace happy accidents

    In All Things Must Pass, George wrote the line "A wind can blow those clouds away" but John misreads his handwriting as a "A mind can blow…" which stuck…

    Pretend to be someone else

    During the January 1969 sessions, The Beatles played 405 different songs, including their own, from Chuck Berry songs to the theme from The Third Man. Pretending to be someone else is liberating and energising. It lets you lower your defences and relax. In their context, it's the exact opposite of trying to write a song.

    Don't repeat the same idea

    Early in the film, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg has an idea. He wants the band to travel to Libya to play at the Sabratha amphitheatre in Tripoli, "torch-lit, in front of 2,000 arabs."

    The idea is considered and rejected on grounds of practicality, taste and because The Beatles don't want to travel.

    Every day, he pitches the same idea again, expecting a different response. He gets the same response, every time.

    10 lessons in productivity and brainstorming from The Beatles (Fluxx Studio Notes/Medium)

  • Alec Baldwin on Rust killing: "The trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger."

    "The trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger."

    That's what Alec Baldwin said in the above clip from an ABC News interview by George Stephanopoulos that will air on Thursday night.

    "I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them — never," Baldwin said.

    From the New York Times:

    The exchange came after Mr. Stephanopoulos noted that it had not been part of the script for the trigger to be pulled in that scene. Mr. Baldwin jumped in: "Well, the trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger."

    He did not elaborate on why the gun might have gone off in the excerpt ABC provided.

    Mr. Baldwin's account adds another layer of mystery onto the fatal shooting, which took place on Oct. 21 on a set of a church near Santa Fe, N.M. Mr. Baldwin was practicing drawing an old-fashioned revolver that he had been told contained no live rounds when it suddenly fired, killing the film's cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, 42, and wounding its director, Joel Souza, 48.

  • Person lost in Ikea for three hours after getting bonked on the head by a flat-packed dresser

    Hanan Tababi, 40, was shopping at Ikea in Ballymun, Dublin when a flat-packed chest of drawers reportedly tipped over and hit her in the head. After the accident, she attempted to exit the store but got lost inside for three hours. Now, she's suing the company for ongoing pain and financial suffering because she claims she lost her Apple technical support job due to the injuries. From the Irish Times:

    She had also suffered mentally as a result of the accident, having been diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder after experiencing intense anxiety and low mood in the months that followed. Ms Tababi stated that she had been having nightmares about things falling on her or her children. She had also experienced financial hardship due to her inability to work and had considered cancelling her wedding as she felt she could not afford it[…]

    The defendant told the court it was unlikely Ms Tabibi's accident had occurred in the way she described based on Ikea policies and the way in which she had said the box had struck her[…]

    Judge Quinn had said that whilst there had been systems in place to prevent accidents such as this one from happening, they clearly had not been in effect at the time. The case will return in two weeks time for an assessment of damages.

    image: Prachana Thong-on/Shutterstock.com

  • Mysterious blast leaves big crater on uninhabited New York island

    On Sunday, a loud explosion was heard all around the uninhabited Fox Island off the south shore of Long Island, new York. The boom resonated as far as sixteen miles away. The mysterious blast left a big crater—four feet wide by two feet deep—on the beach. Authorities are investigating and seeking out the operators of boats that were nearby at the time. From WLNY:

    "Obviously, our department is concerned as to why someone would detonate a device of this size and magnitude on an uninhabited island," Suffolk County Acting Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron said[…]

    Investigators say it could have been anything from a pipe bomb to dynamite, and are not ruling out that it was a possible trial run for a future criminal act. They are imploring the public for tips.

  • Watch Billie Eilish respond to the same interview questions for the fifth year in a row

    Five years ago, Vanity Fair interviewed musician Billie Eilish who was then 15 years old. The following year, they asked Eilish the same questions. And they've done so annually ever since. Above is the latest. It's wonderful to get a glimpse of Eilish's evolution as a thoughtful young person and an inspiring artist.

    "Nothing will ever top that 2019 ego. [scoffs] I was feeling myself," she says. "That is for sure. It's because I had been so miserable for so long that I finally wasn't and I just never shut up about it. But I've been good. I've been good. I mean, I'm starting to have like an adulthood, which is new for me."

  • This incredibly tiny camera is the size of a grain of salt

    This tiny camera is about the size of grain of salt yet captures full-color images at the quality of a conventional lens 500,000 times larger. Developed by researchers at Princeton University and the University of Washington, the lens isn't made from curved glass or plastic like traditional lenses but rather a flat surface, just a half a millimeter wide, and studded with 1.6 million cylindrical posts. Each cylinder has a unique shape that, when combined en masse, focus the light to produce the image. The lenses can be produced with techniques similar to those used to manufacture microchips. From Phys.org:

    Enabled by a joint design of the camera's hardware and computational processing, the system could enable minimally invasive endoscopy with medical robots to diagnose and treat diseases, and improve imaging for other robots with size and weight constraints. Arrays of thousands of such cameras could be used for full-scene sensing, turning surfaces into cameras.

    image: Princeton University

  • If you're not vaccinated against COVID-19, Euthanasia Association won't help you die

    In Germany, euthanasia is legal. However, the Verein Sterbehilfe (Euthanasia Association) won't help you die unless you're vaccinated against COVID-19. Sounds weird but makes sense. From a translation of their official statement:

    Euthanasia and the preparatory examination of the voluntary responsibility of our members willing to die require human closeness. Human closeness, however, is a prerequisite and breeding ground for corona virus transmission. As of today, the 2G rule applies in our association, supplemented by situation-related measures, such as quick tests before encounters in closed rooms. 

    (The Spectator)

    image: Lightspring/Shutterstock

  • This magnificent 1970s custom sex machine van just sold for $40,000

    This incredible 1977 Dodge Tradesman B200 custom shaggin' wagon just sold for $40,000. From Bring A Trailer:

    The interior features swiveling captain's chairs upholstered in beige vinyl with brown quilted fabric inserts and yellow trim as well as embroidered surfing bananas on the headrests and a Street Van badge on the glove box. Matching quilted beige vinyl covers the engine access panel, and button-tufted beige leather is installed on the door panels. Additional features include brown carpet, black metal dashboard and black velvet dash cover, and wood accents. Amenities consist of power windows, air conditioning, a CB radio, and an overhead Boss head unit and DVD player.

    The rear area features button-tufted beige leather covering the side panels, doors, and ceiling as well as amber and blue LED lighting, brown carpet, and a platform bed. Additional amenities include a sunroof, refrigerator, flat-screen TV, mirrored bar, wine bottle storage, power points, and a backlit glass panel with a surfing banana graphic on the floor.

    If the van's a-rockin', don't come a-knockin'.