MOTHER OF INVENTION
Robotic models of living organisms are useful to scientists, who can study the effects of stimuli without risk to actual people. Northwestern University researchers announced in March that its laboratory model of the “female reproductive system” has reached a milestone: its first menstrual period. The “ovary,” using mouse tissue, had produced hormones that stimulated the system (uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes, liver) for 28 days, reaching the predictable result. Chief researcher Teresa Woodruff said she imagines eventually growing a model from tissue provided by the patient undergoing treatment.
Chutzpah! Henry Wachtel, 24, continues in legal limbo after being found “not criminally responsible” for the death of his mother in 2014, despite having beaten her in the head and elsewhere up to 100 times–because he was having an epileptic seizure at that moment and has no memory of the attack. A judge must still decide the terms of Wachtel’s psychiatric hospitalization, but Wachtel’s mind is clear enough now that, in March, he demanded, as sole heir, payoff on his mother’s life insurance policy (which, under New York law, is still technically feasible).
In February, federal customs agents seized 22 pounds of illegal animal meat (in a wide array) at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Among the tasty items were raw chicken, pig and cow meat, brains, hearts, heads, tongues and feet–in addition to (wrote a reporter) “other body parts” (if there even are any other edible parts). In a typical day nationwide, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seizes about 4,600 smuggled plant or animal products.
Yet another intimate accessory with weak security drew attention when hackers broke down a $249 Svakom Siime Eye personal vibrator in April, revealing a lazily created default password (“88888888”) and Wi-Fi network name (“Siime Eye”). Since the Eye’s camera and internet access facilitate livestream video of a user’s most personal body parts, anyone within Wi-Fi range can break in (and be entertained) by just driving around a city looking for the Siime Eye network.
Luu Cong Huyen, 58, in Yen Giao, Vietnam, is the most recent to attract reporters’ attention with disturbingly long fingernails. A March OddityCentral.com report, with cringe-inducing photos, failed to disclose their precise length, but Huyen said he has not clipped them since a 2013 report on VietnamNet revealed that each measured up to 19.7 inches. Huyen explained (inadequately) that his nail obsession started merely as a hobby and that he is not yet over it. (The Guinness Book record is not exactly within fingertip reach: 73.5 inches per nail, by Shridhar Chillal of India.)
For more than a decade, an “editor” has been roaming the streets at night in Bristol, England, “correcting” violations of standard grammar, lately being described as “The Apostrophiser” since much of his work involves adjusting (or often obliterating) that punctuation mark. On April 3, the BBC at last portrayed the vigilante in action, in a “ride-along” documentary that featured him using the special marking and climbing tools that facilitate his work. His first mission, in 2003, involved a government sign “Monday’s to Friday’s” (“ridiculous,” he said), and he recalled an even more cloying store sign–”Amys Nail’s”–as “so loud and in your face.”)
RIGHT TO REPAIR
A “locked” cellphone (tied to a particular carrier), though a nuisance to purchasers, is only a several-hundred-dollar nuisance. A more serious crisis arises, as News of the Weird noted in 2015, when farmers buy $500,000 combines that they believe they “own,” but then find that the John Deere company has “locked” the machines’ sophisticated software, preventing even small repairs or upgrades until a Deere service rep shows up to enter the secret password (and, of course, leaves a bill!). Deere’s business model has driven some farmers recently to a black market of fearless Ukrainian hackers (some of the same risky dark-net outlaws believed to pose online dangers), who help put the farmers back on track. Eight state legislatures are presently considering overriding Deere’s contract to create a “right to repair.”
NO LONGER WEIRD?
For the 31st consecutive Easter in the Philippines, Ruben Enaje, 57, was among the throngs of devout Christians who slashed their own torsos bloody, then flogged themselves repeatedly as they marched through the streets to demonstrate homage to God, and dozens of men in San Pedro Cutud, Santa Lucia and other villages replicated the crucifixion of Jesus by having sterilized 4-inch nails driven into their own arms and legs. When News of the Weird first encountered the Philippine phenomenon in 1989, the crucifixions had built a 40-year history and still listed, as an official sponsor, the Philippines Department of Tourism (but no longer). (The Catholic Church, as usual, “banned” the extreme acts, to little effect.)