Top 25 Weirdest Stories of 2011: Photos
Taxi Driver Mummified Like Pharaohs
Dec. 9, 2011 -
During his years as a taxi driver, 61-year-old Alan Billis likely never lived like royalty. But that doesn't mean he can't follow the pharaohs in death. Before he succumbed to lung cancer, Billis agreed to be mummified as part of an effort by researchers to better understand the burial rituals of the ancient Egyptians. Although it may seem like a bizarre send-off in the modern era, Billis' family supported his decision.
Taxi Driver Mummified Like Pharaohs
Suicide by Roller Coaster This ride probably doesn't belong in any amusement park claiming to be "the happiest place on Earth." With its head-splitting twists and gut-wrenching turns, this roller coaster might seem like what could be the most intense ride ever devised. But the point isn't to amuse -- or not for long anyway. The Euthanasia Coaster is intended to be used to help riders commit suicide. Lasting three minutes and reaching speeds of nearly 225 miles per hour, the ride consists of a 1,600-foot drop following by a series of loops that exert 10 Gs of force in riders. The ride kills by using these forces to deprive the brain of oxygen. Although the concept is purely hypothetical and no amusements parks have expressed any interest in building it, we're guessing it's unlikely that riders are lining up to climb aboard this coaster.
BLOG: Suicide by Roller Coaster
Police Caution as 'Planking' Goes Global Every year, new fads arise out of the ether of the Internet. Some are witty, others can be charming and the rest are just plain weird. Planking falls into that last category. Where this trend originated all depends on who you ask, but the concept is universally the same. Participants attempt to lie as flat as possible (hence the term "plank") in unusual locations. Anyone who has tried planking will tell you that it's just harmless fun (and makes for a much more interesting photo than a forced smile). Critics allege that it could be potentially dangerous if taken too far -- and at the very least it's completely asinine. We think they're both right.
BLOG: Police Caution as 'Planking' Goes Global
Seoul National University Hospital for Animal
Genetically Modified Beagle Glows Dogs come in a seemingly endless array of breed varieties. But if you were looking for a dog that looked like it was exposed to heavy doses of radiation, you were out of luck -- until now. Scientists tinkering with the genetic makeup of beagles have successfully bred dogs that can glow fluorescent green when exposed to ultraviolet light. The animal can also control whether it glows on command. This isn't the first time a glowing animal has been genetically engineered. A dog capable of glowing fluorescent red and a cat that glows green, aptly (though annoyingly) named Mr. Green Genes, are also products of the same kind of research. Scientists hope to use these kinds of studies to examining the progression of genetic diseases. Playing God never looked so adorable.
NEWS: Genetically Modified Beagle Glows
Dog Food Ad Only Fido Can Hear If you thought advertising has gone to the dogs, this is the year you're right. A dog food advertisement running on television is designed specifically with a canine audience in mind. The ad works by playing a high-frequency sounds that only dogs can hear, as well as squeaks similar to the sounds produced by a toy. The ad, by dog-food producer Beneful, was only running in Austria. Last year, a dog food company in Germany used a similar tactic by equipping their print ads with scents of their product.
BLOG: Dog Food Ad Only Fido Can Hear
Anonymous Hackers Vs. Mexican Drug Cartel In a story that seems straight from a movie, hackers from the now infamous group Anonymous vowed to take on Mexican drug traffickers. Although Anonymous has targeted everyone from credit card companies to government agencies, this is the first time that the group trained its crosshairs on organized crime. A message from Anonymous was posted in October after one its members was kidnapped, allegedly by the Zetas cartel. The hackers threatened to expose the identities of anyone working for the narcotics syndicate. Mexican drug cartels, however, were having none of it. (Drug smuggling types aren't exactly a passive bunch.) Although the group let the kidnap victim go, they left her with a message to deliver: Expose any member of the cartel, and for every name mentioned, 10 people will be murdered. Given the threat of violence and the fact that the demand had been met, Anonymous eventually backed down.
BLOG: Anonymous Hackers Vs. Mexican Drug Cartel
The $400,000 Poop-Scooping Robot Dog owners: How much would you pay to never have to clean up after your dog's mess when on a stroll through the neighborhood? If your answer was "around half a million dollars," then boy have we got good news for you. An poop-scooping robot developed by University of Pennsylvania's GRASP Lab ensures that you'll never soil your hands cleaning up after your pooch. Sure, there are other, more affordable products that more or less do the same job. But some dog owners want only the best for their pet.
BLOG: The $400,000 Poop-Scooping Robot
Bee-Wearing Competition in China Pick any event -- anything at all really -- where it's possible for one person to do something better, faster, longer or stronger than anyone else, and you can bet that at some point or another, there will be a competition for it. Exhibit A: A bee-wearing competition held this year in China. Beekeepers who participate are judged based on the weight of the bees they are carrying on them. This year's winner, Wang Dalin, won the hour-long contest with a total of 26 kilograms (57 pounds) of bees on covering his body. Safety is a concern of course, which is why goggles, shorts and nose plugs are required. How many stings each competitor had to endure on areas not protected, however, is not known.
BIG PIC: Bee-Wearing Competition in China
Dog Shoots Owner in Behind Shooting accidents can be an unfortunate part of an ill-fated hunting trip. But a dog as the one pulling the trigger is just a result of terrible luck. Earlier this month, a 46-year-old hunter in Brigham City, Utah, was shot by a 12-gauge shotgun after his dog jumped on it. Twenty-seven pellets were removed from the unlucky victim. The injuries weren't serious and the hunter was released from the hospital that day, but we're guessing he may find a different dog for his next hunt.
BLOG: Dog Shoots Owner in Behind
Ride Inside a Nuclear Power Plant If the Euthanasia Coaster is a little too scary given that the ride ends in certain death, why not hop on board a roller coaster where the journey is (slightly) less dangerous? Wunderland Kalkar in Germany was built on the site of what was once a nuclear power plant. The plant was built between 1972 and 1991, but was never active because of political roadblocks. Because the nuclear reactor was never fired up, park officials insist that the site is radiation free and safe for tourists. The park boasts more than 40 rides and attractions, including an adrenaline-pumping swing ride in the middle of a cooling tower.
BLOG: Ride Inside a Nuclear Power Plant
Swedish Man Builds Nuclear Reactor in His Kitchen Most neighbors have their quirks, be it a house full of cats, a peculiar smell coming from the door or curiosity that borders on invasion of privacy. But you really wouldn't want this amateur nuclear physicist living next door. Earlier this year, a Swedish man who has remained unnamed built a nuclear reactor in his home. And how did authorities find out about this DIY nuclear reactor? Why, he told them, of course, after calling to ask Sweden's nuclear authority whether what he had built was legal. Maybe he thought it'd be easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
BLOG: Swedish Man Builds Nuclear Reactor in His Kitchen
Poland's Mysterious Crooked Forest This forest may look like the kind of setting you'd find in a fantasy movie. In fact, these 400 pine trees, all of which are bent at a 90-degree angle, are tucked in a tiny corner of western Poland. Planted in the 1930s, the trees grew normally for about 10 years until someone decided to artificially alter their growth patterns by holding them down. Whoever the responsible party and why they chose to force the trees to grow crooked remains a mystery.
BIG PIC: Poland's Mysterious Crooked Forest
Did Zombies Roam Medieval Ireland? Were zombies considered a threat in 8th-century Ireland? Archaeological evidence found at a grave site near Loch Key suggests it may be so. Two bodies were found buried with large stones in their mouths. Archaeologists believe that inhabitants of medieval Ireland used the stones as a means to ensure the dead didn't rise from the grave. The bodies were found at a site in which 137 skeletons were unearthed, none of which received the same treatment, indicating that for whatever reason those two individuals were considered particularly dangerous.
NEWS: Did Zombies Roam Medieval Ireland?
Climate Change Led To War Despite the consensus among scientists, climate change can still generate heated debate -- even anger -- in some circles. And it isn't the first time. Periods of naturally caused warming and cooling (as opposed to today's man-made global warming) have been common in our species' history. These climate changes, however, have been blamed by historians for causing instability. Climate fluctuations played a role in the wars and famine in preindustrial Europe, and even led to shorter people in the 16th century, according to a study published in October in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. How is that possible, you ask? Climate change can affect agricultural output, which in turn can have destabilizing effects on local economies. These conditions can spark human crises, including rebellion, revolution and war.
Climate Change Led To War
Russian Dead Alien Video Surfaces UFO sightings might be a dime a dozen these days. But a real (fake) dead alien? Documented in Siberia by what might be euphemistically described as two amateur astrobiologists, the dead alien was the subject of a YouTube video and caused an uproar among the UFO-watching online community. The pair that shot the video, identified as teenagers Timur Hilall and Kirill Vlasov, eventually fessed up to the hoax, admitting that the "alien" was actually made of a combination of stale bread and chicken skin.
BLOG: Russian Dead Alien Video Surfaces
Three-eyed Fish Raises Nuke Fears If you're a Simpsons fan, this fish looks awfully familiar. The three-eyed wolf fish was found in a reservoir in Argentina alongside other mutants. Named "Chorro de Agua Caliente," or "Hot Water Jet," the reservoir gets its water from a nearby nuclear power plant. The fisherman who caught it had no intention of eating the fish. Instead, they sent it in for tests and hope to have it preserved.
BLOG: Bart's Blinky? Three-eyed Fish Raises Nuke Fears
PEOPLE GREW SHORTER GROWING CROPS As humans started to master agriculture and learn how to grow crops, people began to shrink. Now this may seem counterintuitive, but there's a good reason for it. As humans became increasingly dependent on agricultural products as part of their diets, particularly cereals that are high in calories and carbohydrates but low in nutrients, they lost the kind of dietary diversity that comes with living as a hunter-gatherer. Who would have thought a little civilization could ever be a bad thing?
BLOG: People Grew Shorter Growing Crops
Sperm Bank Rejects Redheads According to sperm banks in Spain and Greece, redheaded men simply aren't fit to be fathers. Or at least that's the message they're sending by rejecting donations from men with red hair. Sperm banks, however, claim that local populations of women interested in a sperm donor are looking for someone who physically matches the area's demographics, specifically men with brown eyes and brown hair. Don't feel sorry for redheads, however. They're preferred by women seeking donors in other countries like Ireland.
NEWS: Sperm Bank Rejects Redheads
World's Most Expensive Coffee's Key Ingredient? Dung If you sampled a cup of the world's most expensive coffee, there's a good chance that you'd think it tastes like s***. And if it does, then you know you got the good stuff. Selling at around $400 a pound and as much as $100 for a single cup in some specialty shops, the luwak coffee is derived from beans left behind in the excrement, called "golden droppings," of civet "cats" in Sumatra. It may be expensive, but if luwak coffee doesn't work for you as a morning pick-me-up, nothing will.
BLOG: World's Most Expensive Coffee's Key Ingredient? Dung
God's Wife Edited Out of the Bible -- Almost The Bible may be the infallible word of God, but that doesn't mean it hasn't gone through a few rounds of edits. According to Francesca Stavrakopoulou, a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, God's wife, named Asherah, may have been cut from the Old Testament. Yahweh, God in the Old Testament, was worshiped alongside his wife at his temple in Jerusalem until its destruction. Her removal from sacred texts led to the creation of a strict monotheism that Christians, Jews and Muslims follow today.
BLOG: God's Wife Edited Out of the Bible -- Almost
Breast Milk Ice Cream Debuts in London Ice cream. A wholesome treat for for people of all ages. Nothing weird about that. Unless of course, the ice cream is made from breast milk. In this year, a restaurant in London offered its patrons ice cream made from human breast milk. The product, called Baby Gaga in honor of the pop artist, sold for £15 ($22.50) a serving and proved to be a hit among the clientele. The product was only available for a limited time, however, and whatever remained of the original batch was confiscated by health authorities following two complaints.
NEWS: Breast Milk Ice Cream Debuts in London
Top Doomsday Predictions Gone Bust In case you weren't paying attention this year, the world came to an end on May 21, 2011. Or at least it was supposed to, according to Harold Camping, pastor and founder of Family Radio. Camping, who had already seen one doomsday come and go in the 1990s with nary a plague nor anti-Christ to show for it, wasn't certain this time that his interpretation of the Bible had led him to the right day. In the process of preaching his message, hundreds of followers came to accept Camping's vision, with some going so far as to quit their jobs and give away all of their possessions in the belief that the end was drawing near. To the surprise of few, Camping was wrong, resulting in a very public embarrassment. Camping revised his doomsday prediction to October and was again disappointed. Despite the public nature of Camping's media shaming, this certainly won't be the last time a doomsday prophet will be proven fantastically wrong. In fact, for any doomsayer looking for the next fix, we hear there's another one around in the corner in 2012 -- for real this time.
PHOTOS: Top Doomsday Predictions Gone Bust
Composite by Ian O'Neill
Space Beer Reaches the Final Frontier To be one of the elite few to leave the planet and travel into space, astronauts have to put in thousands of flight hours, years of training and planning, and endure a seemingly endless array of tests before blastoff. After all that, when they finally reach the dream of breaking the bonds of gravity and leaving the planet, we're guessing they all have one thing on their minds: beer. Unfortunately, because of the nature of a zero-gravity environment, most carbonated beverages don't hold up that well. In fact, drinking beer in space induces what's innocuously called a "wet burp," which is actually a kind of explosive vomiting that results from CO2 in the stomach in a zero-G setting. An Australian beer company, however, may have found a way around this by crafting a strong stout with reduced carbonation levels. Called "Vostok" in honor of the first manned mission into space, the beer is part of a greater vision of the future where scientific progress and inebriation go hand-in-hand. Truly a great year for aficionados of getting drunk in space.
BLOG: Space Beer Reaches the Final Frontier
Was Mona Lisa a Dude? Could Mona Lisa, the most famous portrait on Earth, really be a painting of a man in drag? As strange as it may sound for a painting that has been analyzed from seemingly every angle, from her cryptic smile to the possibility of a code secretly embedded in the masterpiece, that's the theory put forward by Silvano Vinceti, chairman of the Italian national committee for cultural heritage. Although Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of a wealthy merchant living in 16th-century Florence, Vinceti claims that the figure appearing in the painting is actually a representation of Leonardo da Vinci's apprentice of 25 years and possible lover, Gian Giacomo Caprotti, also known as Salai. The claim is controversial and was refuted in a statement by the Louvre Museum, current proprietor of the portrait, stating that cracks in the painting as a result of aging have led to radical interpretations of the painting that have little to do with its original design.
BLOG: Was Mona Lisa a Dude?
Cyclops Shark Appears to be Legit When it comes to the best in weird this year, it just doesn't get much stranger than a cyclops shark. Discovered by a fisherman off the coast of Mexico in the Gulf of California, the odd-looking animal originally was thought to be a hoax. It turned out, however, that the animal was in fact real, a fetus living inside a pregnant dusky shark alongside nine normally-proportioned siblings. Instances of cyclopia have been documented in other animals, including cats, dogs and even humans. However, animals born with this mutation typically don't survive beyond a few days.
BLOG: Cyclops Shark Appears to be Legit