Joachim Rønneberg, saboteur who wrecked Nazi nuke program, dies at 99

The Nazis never got close to building the bomb, but they understood the science and knew what was coming. A top-secret raid led by Norwegian resistance fighter Joachim Rønneberg destroyed a heavy water-producing plant in Rjukan, Telemark in 1943—a key victory that put Nazi nuke research to bed. Ronneberg died this week at 99.

The following year, Ronneberg chose a team of five other commandos in an Allied operation codenamed Gunnerside.

"We were a gang of friends doing a job together," he told the BBC during the 70th anniversary of the mission.

The men parachuted on to a plateau, skied across country, descended into a ravine and crossed an icy river before using the railway line to get into the plant and set their explosives.

"We very often thought that this was a one way trip," he said.

After the explosion, the men escaped into neighbouring Sweden by skiing 320km (200 miles) across Telemark - despite being chased by some 3,000 German soldiers.

With a wry smile, Ronneberg described it as "the best skiing weekend I ever had".

Rønneberg told a BBC interviewer that he only realised the importance of the mission after the bomb on Hiroshima. When reading elaborate counterfactual histories concerning different outcomes to World War II, remember that in all of them Germany gets nukes for Christmas in 1945. Read the rest

Watch: 85-year-old man fights off burglars carrying hammers and a sawed-off shotgun

When three masked burglars tear through a betting office in Ireland, threatening people with hammers and a sawed off shotgun, an 85-year-old great grandfather comes to the rescue. Watch how he fearlessly tackles one of them, and then chases them out with a chair. When it was all over he refused to be interviewed, preferring to spend his morning playing pitch and putt.

Via BBC Read the rest

"Spiderman" who saved French child gets his dream job with Parisian fire brigade

In a world that all too often heaps accolades on those who claw and manipulate their way to the top with cruelty and hate, it feels so good to chase a story about someone being praised for being a decent human being.

Earlier this week, our Rusty Blazenhoff shared the story of Mamoudou Gassama: a 22-year old Malian living in Paris, France, who climbed four floors, on the outside of an apartment building, to save a young child from falling. Gassama was in France as an undocumented immigrant – a fact that quickly changed after saving the child’s life. He was called to meet with the French President who immediately fast-tracked his application for citizenship. Amidst all the hubbub of his good deed, Gassama mentioned two things: That he loves children and that he wants to be a firefighter. The first, because of his selfless deed, is pretty obvious. The second is being taken care of by the people of the city he lives in.

From The Guardian:

After Gassama’s immigration papers were fast-tracked on Tuesday morning, he visited a fire station to sign up for a 10-month internship with the fire and rescue services, which is expected to pay around €600 (£525) a month. He will receive French citizenship within around three months.

Is France perfect? No. Are they seizing on the opportunity for some great optics in light of their less-than-stellar treatment of migrants who come to their nation looking for a better life? Maybe. In any case, I don’t care. Read the rest

David Byrne teamed up with Choir! Choir! Choir! to cover Bowie's 'Heroes'

At the Under the Radar Festival in New York City earlier this month, a crowd of soon-to-be singers rehearsed "back ups" for David Bowie's "Heroes." After an hour, they were performing the song with David Byrne as a Choir! Choir! Choir! tribute to Bowie.

According to Consequence of Sound, Byrne gave his thoughts on working with the choir group, in a press release:

"There is a transcendent feeling in being subsumed and surrendering to a group. This applies to sports, military drills, dancing… and group singing. One becomes a part of something larger than oneself, and something in our makeup rewards us when that happens. We cling to our individuality, but we experience true ecstasy when we give it up. So, the reward experience is part of the show.”

Byrne is beginning an ambitious tour in March for his new album, American Utopia. The album is his first solo LP in 14 years. Read the rest

Watch: Cyclist finds nearly dead puppy, works frantically to bring it back to life

This puppy looked so far gone, I don't think most people would have thought they could bring it back to life. But the determined, resourceful cyclist who found the pup did everything right, including cutting off the bottom of a water bottle and then using it as a tube to breath air into the puppy's mouth. The incredible rescue in this video is hard to watch, but seems to have a happy ending – I only wish we could find out how the puppy is doing now. Read the rest

For the song's 40th anniversary, Depeche Mode covers David Bowie's 'Heroes'

The story goes that David Bowie wrote "Heroes," with Brian Eno, after spotting a couple kissing at the Berlin Wall. The couple was Bowie's producer and engineer Tony Visconti and his girlfriend Antonia Maass:

Visconti went for a walk by the adjacent Berlin Wall with backing singer Antonia Maass, and this couple then unwittingly aided the songwriting process by indulging in what they thought was a spot of covert smooching. "David could see us, and we quickly got written into the lyrics as the lovers who kissed by the wall," Visconti admits. "He wrote the entire lyrics looking out through the windows of Hansa Studios, and when I returned after a couple of hours and asked him how it was going, he said 'Oh, I've finished.' His assistant, Coco Schwab, then took me aside and said 'I think you and Antonia are in the song.' I was married at the time, so this story was never allowed to be made public, but I don't mind now.

Bowie's performance at the wall in 1987 is said to have had a role in its destruction.

Now, for the 40th anniversary of the song's release on September 23, 1977, "Heroes" is being performed by Depeche Mode both in concert and in the studio.

(Consequence of Sound)

Previously: Hear Motorhead's edgy cover of David Bowie's 'Heroes' Read the rest

Watch: Heroic man on motorcycle saves the life of a man about to jump

A man in Russia is hitchhiking from Vladimir (near Moscow) to the Kursk region to attend his mother's funeral when he is overcome with grief. He decides to jump off an overpass on the Minsk highway, and as he stands over the passing cars below him, a man on a motorcycle spots him. The driver has to turn around and drive against traffic to get back under the suicidal man. He shouts over the traffic in Russian, from the highway to the overpass, and talks the man into stepping away from the ledge. He then rides up to the overpass to talk to the man face to face. But that isn't the end of it. Although on YouTube the description of what happened, even after what you see in the video, is written in Russian, I put it through Google's translator. It's a bit rough but clear enough:

"Suicide attempt on the viaduct of the Minsk highway"

"I saw him from the corner of my eye, but it was clear that a person was already ready to take a step. Forgive me, I knew that I was breaking the rules, and I did it as carefully as possible, since I understood that there was no time for another solution."

"He could jump just under the car. So I decided to stop the flow of cars. After the end of this video, he tried to escape from us, we ran after him. He lied that he was going to the Smolensk region. Read the rest

Dozens of people arrested for wearing "hero" T-shirts in Turkey

Gökhan Güçlü is on trial in Turkey for participating in the failed coup against the Erdoğan regime last year. In July, Güçlü made authorities angry when he wore a T-shirt with the word "hero." Now, Turkey has made it a crime to wear similar T-shirts.

At "least 35 people have been arrested for wearing "hero" t-shirts in the last month," reports the Turkey Purge website.

Via Albawaba:

The latest was detained on Monday while drinking juice at cafe in Adana province, according to the website which was set up by exiled journalists to monitor post-coup rights abuses.

“There will be no more coming to courts wearing whatever they want,” Erdoğan said, according to the daily newspaper Hürriyet. “They will be introduced to the world like that.”

Erdoğan had previously called for defendants to be dressed in Guantanamo-style orange jumpsuits.

According to Turkey Purge, those arrested range from factory and hotel workers to university students. Many of those detained claimed that they had not been aware of the word’s meaning.

Some of them were reportedly arrested following tip-offs from members of the public.

Image: Author Пресс-служба Президента Российской Федерации / Wikipedia Read the rest

Help the homeless hero who reported a NJ bomb

Lee Parker and Ivan White found and reported a bomb allegedly planted by Ahmad Khan Rahami in Elizabeth, New Jersey. You can thank them by supporting the local homeless program. Read the rest

George Barris, creator of the original Batmobile and many other iconic TV cars, has died

Comic Book Resources broke the sad news today that the great car customizer George Barris, who created the Batmobile for the 1966 "Batman" TV series, has passed away.

Barris died early this morning at his home. He was 89 years old. Read the rest

Arrestee eats through patrol car seat

An Idaho resident collared on felony charges managed to chew through the seat of a police car while en route to the county jail. Combative during her arrest, Staci Anne Spence allegedly caused $2,127 worth of damage to the vehicle.

Here's Keith Kinnaird of the Bonner County Daily Bee:

While being taken into custody, she allegedly pulled away from the two deputies who were holding her arms and kicked a third deputy before being subdued. She was put in leg restraints and placed on her stomach in the back of a deputy’s sport utility vehicle.

Upon arriving at the Bonner County Jail, deputies discovered that Spence had chewed through the seat’s upholstery and into the foam cushioning, the affidavit said. Replacing the Chevrolet Tahoe’s seat was estimated at more than $2,000.

An allegedly combative Spence was arrested by Sandpoint Police in July for battery at the Panida Theater. A police report said Spence produced a beer after she was put in the back of the patrol vehicle and consumed it en route to the jail.

Read the rest

An encounter with Russell Kirsch, inventor of the world's first internally programmable computer

Joel Runyon:

"That’s the problem with a lot of people”, he continued, “they don’t try to do stuff that’s never been done before, so they never do anything, but if they try to do it, they find out there’s lots of things they can do that have never been done before."

I nodded my head in agreement and laughed to myself – thinking that would be something that I would say and the coincidence that out of all the people in the coffee shop I ended up talking to, it was this guy. What a way to open a conversation.The old man turned back at his coffee, took a sip, and then looked back at me.

“In fact, I’ve done lots of things that haven’t been done before”, he said half-smiling.

Not sure if he was simply toying with me or not, my curiousity got the better of me.

"Oh really? Like what types of things?, All the while, half-thinking he was going to make up something fairly non-impressive."

"I invented the first computer."

Read the rest

Happy Feynmaneve!

Tomorrow would have been the 94th birthday of one of the most influential physicists in American history.

Tonight: We play the bongos.

Video Link

Via Paul Halpern

Read the rest

Meet Slovak Batman

Zoltan Kohari, known as the Slovak Batman, poses in his home in the town of Dunajska Streda, 34 miles (55 km) south of Bratislava. Kohari, who is 26 years old, lives alone in an abandoned building without water, heat or electricity. For local residents he became known as "the hero in a Batman's costume." While he has not fought crime yet, he does believe in justice and wants to help the police. In the mean time, Kohari, who is poor, does what he can to help the residents to make their daily life easier. In return, some of these residents give him food. (REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa, photo dated March 8, 2012) Read the rest

Mr. Wizard premiered 59 years ago, today

Not having seen him in action since the Nickelodeon days back in the 80s, I'd almost forgotten how well Don "Mr. Wizard" Herbert did the job of communicating science. A radio actor and documentary producer, Herbert created the first science-experiment centric TV show, "Watch Mr. Wizard", which premiered on Chicago's WNBQ-TV in 1951. Within months, the show had moved to its natural and cosmically-correct time slot—Saturday mornings.

Bonus: The clip above features the first intelligent girl I have ever seen in a 1950s television show. I can only assume she was carted off to the gulag as soon as filming wrapped.

And, yes, I realize that 59 is a weird anniversary to celebrate. But, you know what, it's Mr. Wizard. We'll celebrate this year, and next year, too. Try and stop me. Read the rest