Going through a dry run 


The Kanda Tsushin Kogyo firm of Tokyo, Japan, announced in April that its child's anti-bed-wetting machine had finished clinical tests and was awaiting approval by the Health and Welfare Ministry. The device measures the depth of a child's sleep and fullness of the bladder and sounds an alarm when it's time to get up and go. However, the device only works on children, is bulky to wear to bed, doesn't always wake the child, and cost about $1.7 million in government grants to develop, leading some pediatricians to demand that nature be allowed to take its course.

Swine tuning

According to an April Associated Press report, the University of Illinois found women to fill all 15 lab positions in which the only job is to sniff pig manure. They work three hours a week at $15 an hour attempting to recognize certain chemical markers in the manure so that researchers can ascertain which foods are responsible for making pig manure so foul-smelling. The university sought only females because estrogen improves sensitivity to smells.

Small worm after all

After biologists announced in December that, for the first time, they had mapped out all of the DNA of a multicell animal (a microscopic roundworm, with 19,099 genes), colleagues told the New York Times that the revelation had a profound effect on their ability to do the same someday for humans. Said the president of the National Academy of Sciences, "In the last 10 years, we have come to realize humans are more like worms than we ever imagined."

Womb for error

Two researchers from the University of Vienna told a British Psychological Society conference in February that vaginal pheromones appear to block men's ability to distinguish beautiful women from plain ones. After men were given synthetic copulins, they judged plain women more attractive as to face and voice, and the less attractive the women initially, the greater the jump in their ratings. Birth-control pills, however, appear to block the production of copulins.

Bridge to the future

In March, a urban-warfare exercise involving British Royal Marines and the U.S. Marines in Oakland, Calif., marked the first use of a small cannon that shoots a high-speed blast of quick-drying foam that hardens so fast, and with the strength of cement, that it enables troops to cross from building to building.

Blessing in disguise

In April, prominent Canadian geneticist Robert Hegele told a conference in Edmonton, Alberta, that when he revealed to some Newfoundlanders in remote villages that they possessed a genetic flaw that increased their chances of heart disease, they were actually happy. Their initial reaction, said Hegele, was, "This is great! They figured, 'This means we're doomed, so we ... don't need to quit smoking or [stop eating fatty foods].'"

Reprieve it or not

Joshua Williams, 38, was released by jailers in Olathe, Kan., in February after he sent them a fake fax announcing that a warrant against him had been dismissed. Among the fax's misspellings that failed to alert jailers to the forgery: "Govenor." And Detroit inmate Waukeen Spraggins escaped in February when, impersonating a police official, he called jailers and ordered them to transport him to his girlfriend's house. Said Police Chief Benny Napoleon, "His request was so bizarre that people thought it had to be true."

Legal whiz

Two 15-year-old boys, on a break from volunteer duty in a Winston-Salem, N.C., courthouse in March as part of a sentence for vandalizing a telephone booth, were captured on surveillance videotape urinating in a coffee pot used by lawyers, according to an Associated Press report. The coffee pot was subsequently left plugged in for the night, creating a particularly pungent cooked-urine smell in the room the next morning. Said one lawyer who often uses the coffee room, "[The boys] are going to have to get [someone] from out of state to defend them on this one."


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