Memory upgrade

Scientists at the University of Southern California will soon begin testing an artificial brain prosthesis (a silicon chip that mimics the hippocampus), which, if successful, can help people who cannot store future and recent memories of their experiences. One problem with the project, according to a March story in New Scientist: Subjects might not remember anything about the research or consenting to participate in it. Another problem: Nearly everyone is glad not to be able to recall some negative experiences.


In February, a British ad agency began paying college students about $20 for each three-hour stint in which they walk around in public with a company's logo semipermanently tattooed on their foreheads.

Another British agency signed up Sony Ericsson in December to pay for draping its advertising messages over large dogs (i.e. St. Bernards, Great Danes) whose owners accepted free dog-walking service in public parks in exchange for allowing the "moving billboards."

Fish tales

The small Jewish Skver sect of Hasidim in New Square, N.Y., was energized in March when a fish cutter in the sect (along with his Christian co-worker) swore they heard a 20-pound carp shout apocalyptic warnings in Hebrew. The co-worker thought the carp was merely satanic, but Zalmen Rosen, 57, said the fish's soul was cautioning that the end is near, perhaps because of war in Iraq. Although the news spread throughout the community aided by a feature in The New York Times. The carp itself met an inglorious end when the co-worker butchered it and sold it for gefilte fish.

Show and yell

Macy Panel Products of Newcastle, England, was fined by an industrial tribunal in March after machine operator Keith Sanderson accidentally chopped off the tip of his thumb. Then, showing bosses how the accident happened, he accidentally chopped off his entire index finger.

The unfriendly skies

Former Northwest Airlines flight attendant Daniel Reed Cunningham was charged in March with slyly drugging the apple juice of a severely rambunctious 19-month-old baby during a 2002 flight. The mother became suspicious after tasting the juice and so slipped some into a container for later testing, which revealed Xanax.

Inspector gadgets

Israeli Aircraft Industries Ltd. is now testing an "airplane" the size of a credit card (flight time: 20 minutes), containing cameras and transmitters to relay intelligence from battlefields or from the insides of buildings by going through open windows.

A company named TrapTec, based in Escondido, Calif., is now in the final testing of "anti-graffiti" sensors that are so responsive that they can identify taggers who use spray paint just by the distinctive hissing sound of the aerosol can and automatically tell police the taggers' location, via global-positioning-system technology.

Life extension

In a three-hour operation in February at the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College Hospital in Calcutta, India, doctors performed what they claimed was the world's first penis transplant. Dr. Ashok Ray, lead surgeon, had been in the process of removing a troublesome second penis on a 1-year-old boy when someone elsewhere in the hospital informed him that a baby boy had just been born without one.

Five-finger discounts

In Melbourne, Australia, in March, John Stark, 60, and his wife and son pleaded guilty to running a scheme in which the Starks "ordered" large quantities of upscale goods, which two shoplifter-associates would then go "acquire" for them so that the Starks could resell them in the family's Shopaholic discount stores.

A burglary ring in New York City was even more specific: According to March indictments, they stole only items specifically requested by individual patrons who had heard by word of mouth that they could drop off a wish list and then buy the items at a deep discount when the goods "came in."

Something smells fishy

Reuters news service reported in February that Antarctica's oldest building has become largely unvisitable because it is being blocked in by droppings from the area's 100,000 Adelie penguins.

Condition: Fred

News of the Weird from time to time reports on the vile, anti-homosexuality crusades of the indefatigable Rev. Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kan., and his extended family. The latest: The clan plans to be in Pittsburgh on April 13 to picket several organizations that had been associated with the late Fred Rogers, whom the Phelpses believe led kids in "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" to feel that being gay was acceptable. Said one of Phelps' daughters (a Westboro attorney): "This country has forgotten God and effectively flipped Him off, and Fred Rogers is in part responsible." At a November demonstration at the University of Maryland, the Phelpses carried the sign, "Thank God for Sept. 11," an event which they view as proof of God's wrath.