Swinging both ways

The U.S. Patent Office last month awarded patent number 6,368,227 to Steven Olson, age 7, of St. Paul, Minn., whose father had filed to help him protect a method of swinging on a swing. Young Olson's discovery: While seated, if you pull on one side's chain or rope and then on the other, while gradually introducing a forward-backward thrust, you can swing in an oval-shaped arc, as long as the side-to-side motion is greater than the forward-backward motion. According to the Patent Office, licenses to use the patented method for swinging are now available from the inventor.

Gym rats

Researchers from Duke University's medical school and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center announced last month that they have identified an enzyme that can be stimulated to mimic the effects of exercise on muscles (albeit in mice, not humans). Team leader R. Sanders Williams said it is quite possible that, eventually, humans could build muscles by taking the enzyme (calmodulin-dependent protein kinase) in a pill.

Heart of darkness

Following an internal audit, Greenlane Hospital, which is New Zealand's premier heart facility, revealed that during the last 50 years, it had taken for research (and without permission of the families) the hearts from at least 1,350 babies who had died on the premises. The hospital offered to return all those hearts it still had on hand. ... Widower Jeffrey Post has filed a lawsuit against Lynn University in Boca Raton, claiming that its mortuary science program used bodies from a local funeral home for embalming practice without getting permission from the families of the deceased. ... And Lake Elsinore, Calif., funeral-home owner Michael Francis Brown, 42, was arrested and charged with illegally selling cadaver parts to several major university research institutes.

All quizzing, no whizzing

The annual South Korean justice ministry test (required of those vying for appointment as judges) was administered in Seoul recently in a three-hour session during which -- to prevent cheating -- restroom breaks were not permitted. As in previous years, for those who absolutely had to answer nature's call, the ministry provided plastic bags for men and skirt-like covers with plastic pots for women, for use in the back of the exam room.

Head games

Among those whose public displays recently either garnered "Guinness Book of World Records" recognition or are being considered: Monte Pierce, who propelled a coin more than 10 feet by using his elastic-like earlobe as a rubber band; B.D. Tyagi, who was certified to have the longest ear hair in the world (4 inches); and Wang Chuntai, 49, who pulled a sedan 47 feet with cables attached only to his eyelids.

Barking up the wrong tree

In Ottawa, Ontario, Christopher Laurin, 15, was suspended from school for two days in March and ordered to drug counseling when a police dog perked up while sniffing Laurin's locker, even though no traces of drugs of any kind were found in any of the boy's belongings. The police claimed that its dogs can detect lingering smells on clothing, but Laurin's parents were incredulous that their son could be disciplined for possessing something that didn't exist -- and merely on the "say-so" of a dog.

Some guys are heels

Derrick A. Cobb, 25, of Upper Marlboro, Md., was charged with tricking teen-age girls into removing their shoes and socks so he could run off with them; David William Christensen, 40, of Denver, was charged with harassing three women by leaving them Keds shoes with sexually explicit messages on them; Donald J. Ruther, 33, of Medina, Ohio, was charged with stealing girls' shoes because, he said, sniffing them relaxed him.

Sheesh, they're kebabbed

News of the Weird previously has reported on an annual Hindu festival in Singapore in which worshipers of Lord Murugan reaffirm their faith by sticking skewers through their skin, with the amount of pain endured taken as the gauge of devotion. Similar celebrations continue in other countries (though India has banned them as too barbaric). This past January, Murugan worshipers in Malaysia celebrated at the annual Thaipusam festival by hooking and shish kebobbing their skin to the accompaniment of hypnotic, deafening music that helped create pain-softening trances.

Big-league chew

In an online auction, two fans bid $525 and $600 to acquire a piece of bubble gum once briefly chewed by Arizona Diamond-backs baseball star Luis Gonzalez.