2008年7月30日 星期三

Robots have feelings too 機器人也有感情

Scientists have built a robot that appears to react emotionally to the way it's treated.

Heart Robot has a beating heart, a breathing stomach and sensors that respond to movement, noise and touch, reports The Daily Telegraph.

If he is cuddled, he seems to soak up the affection - his limbs become limp, his eyelids lower, his breathing relaxes and his heartbeat slows.

But if Heart Robot is given a violent shake, or is shouted at, he flinches, clenches his hands and his eyes widen, while his breathing and heart rate speed up.

The machine was developed by scientists at the University of the West of England, in Bristol, to explore how humans react to a machine that appears to show feelings.

Holly Cave, who helped organise the Emotibots event at the Science Museum in London, told the Daily Telegraph: "Heart Robot looks like a cross between ET and Gollum and is about the size of a small child. He's half robot, half puppet.

"Different children react to him very differently. They either want to hug and cuddle him, and look after him like a doll or baby, or they just want to scare him."

She added: "How humans and robots might interact in the future is something that raises lots of interesting and moral questions." (Daily Telegraph)

2008年7月29日 星期二

Diners flock to flooded restaurant 民眾蜂擁到淹水的餐廳用餐

The owner of a flooded restaurant in China scrapped plans to close it down - after business picked up.

Diners in Xiangfan are enjoying the novelty of eating their meals in ankle-deep water, reports Xinhua Net.

News of the flooded restaurant spread and the restaurant is now packed with diners while waitresses say they are struggling to keep up with orders.

The owner said he was prepared to temporarily close the restaurant after the heaviest rains for 50 years brought floods to the city.

But he had a change of heart when he heard how the eatery's new wet look was bringing in the customers.

"It's very cool. Not only in temperature, but also for a fun new way of having a meal," said one diner. (Xinhua Net)

2008年7月28日 星期一

Piglet with monkey's face 猴臉小豬

Villagers were shocked after a monkey-like piglet was born in China.

Curious locals flocked to the home of owner Feng Changlin after news of the piglet spread in Fengzhang village, Xiping township.

"It's hideous. No one will be willing to buy it, and it scares the family to even look at it!" Feng told Oriental Today.

He says the piglet looks just like a monkey, with two thin lips, a small nose and two big eyes. Its rear legs are also much longer than its forelegs, causing it to jump instead of walk.

Feng's wife said the monkey-faced piglet was one of five newborns of a sow which the family had raised for nine years.

"My God, it was so scary. I didn't known what it was. I was really frightened," she said.

"But our son likes to play with it, and he stopped us from getting rid of it. He even feeds it milk."

Neighbours have suggested the couple keep the piglet to see how it looks as it matures. (Oriental Today)

2008年7月25日 星期五

Live fish fad 成都新時尚:以活魚當首飾

Marine biologists in a Chinese city have condemned a fad among young girls for wearing live fish as jewellery.

Teenage girls in Chengdu are queuing up to buy plastic pendants containing the fish, reports West China City Daily.

Vendors say the fish can live up to three months in the sealed containers which contain water, fish food and two solid oxygen balls.

After three months, they add that the fish can be released in ponds or tanks by breaking open the pendants.

The fish ornaments, which cost about 20p each, are very popular among girls as necklaces or bag decorations.

But an expert at the Sichuan Provincial Marine Life Research Center says the practice is cruel and should be banned. (West China City Daily -- 華西都市報)

2008年7月24日 星期四

Poodle drove car 貴賓狗開車

A Chinese couple received a police caution for trying to teach their dog to drive.

Traffic police at Liunan spotted a car driving too slowly on a local expressway, reports Nanguo Morning Post (廣西南國早報).

As they pulled in behind the car, officers were amazed to see a poodle with its front legs on the steering wheel.

The dog's rear legs were resting on the woman driver who was controlling the foot pedals.

"We immediately signaled the car to pull over," said one of the patrolling officers.

The woman says she and her boyfriend came up with the idea of teaching their pet dog, Niu Niu, to drive after noticing the expressway was nearly empty and the weather was good.

Police gave them a warning ticket and asked them to take a more responsible attitude when driving on the expressway. (roundup)

2008年7月22日 星期二

Britain's most valuable bum 英國最有價值的屁股

A Lancashire grandfather has his buttocks insured for £1 million.

Graham Butterfield is the official bed bouncer for Silentnight in Barnoldswick, reports the Daily Mirror.

He said: "It may sound silly but my bottom is not like the normal bottom. I have increased sensitivity around the buttock area and can feel the difference in the materials used in beds. I am very proud to be the owner of a £1million backside.

"I want to make it clear that my bottom's super-powers are quite natural. I have no need of a special care regime."

Graham's duties at Silentnight in Barnoldswick, Lancs, involve bouncing on beds and giving feedback on softness, textures and fillings. His reports help decide which beds go on the market.

He said: "It makes it all worthwhile being the butt of people's jokes - they are only jealous of my job."

Steven Simpson, manager at Silentnight, said: "The policy is worth every penny." (Daily Mirror)

World's fastest snail 世界最快的蝸牛

Three hundred eager competitors fought it out in a keenly contested race to be crowned the fastest snail in the world.

The annual World Snail Racing Championships in Congham, Norfolk, involves snails racing from the centre of a circle.

Snails are placed in the middle and pointed in the right direction. A snail trainer then starts the races by shouting: "Ready, steady, SLOW!"

A well-watered course is apparently the secret to a good championship as the snails like damp conditions.

Super snail Heikka, owned by thirteen-year-old Georgia Brow, claimed victory this year after taking the chequered flag in a time of 3mins 2secs.

Together Heikka, who is named after Lewis Hamilton's Formula One teammate Heikki Kovalainen, and Georgia received a first prize of a silver tankard stuffed with lettuce.

However, even Heikka was unable to beat the benchmark set in 1995 by a snail named Archie, who completed the race in a speedy two minutes.

Founder Tom Elwes started the annual snail championships in the 1960s after witnessing a similar event in France. (Roundup)

2008年7月21日 星期一

It's the law: No sagging pants in Chicago suburb 芝加哥郊區立法禁穿垮褲

Be careful if you have saggy pants in the south Chicago suburb of Lynwood. Village leaders have passed an ordinance that would levy $25 fines against anyone showing three inches or more of their underwear in public.

Eugene Williams is the mayor of Lynwood. He says young men walk around town half-dressed, keeping major retailers and economic development away. He calls the new law a hot topic.

The American Civil Liberties Union says the ordinance targets young men of color.

Young adults in the village, like 21-year-old Joe Klomes, say the new law infringes on their personal style. He says leaders should instead spend money on making the area look nicer. (AP)

2008年7月18日 星期五

Home-made submarine 陸男無師自通 在家造出潛艇

A Chinese labourer with only a basic school education has made a submarine at home.

Tao Xiangli made the 1.6 tonnes submarine mostly from metal barrels and improvised parts by hand, reports Zhong'an Online.

"Metal barrels are possibly the best material for me because of their low cost," said Tao, a migrant worker in Beijing.

The 20ft submarine is cramped inside with room for only one person but it features pressure metres, monitoring cameras, a TV set, oxygen supply and headlights.

"Although the equipment is simple, it's enough for a basic submarine, and more importantly, it enables the passenger to see things clearly underwater," said Tao.

It took Tao more than a year of research and experiments, but he says the most difficult challenge he faced was not a lack of knowledge, but of funds.

"The devices for submarines are all expensive, so because I couldn't afford them I found a lot of inexpensive replacements," he said.

Tao said the basic submarine cost him £2,200, the equivalent of a year's pay.

Tao is now in the final phase of debugging the submarine and hopes it will make its maiden voyage within the next week in Beijing. He says it can dive to a maximum depth of 10 meters, and should be quite safe.

Although he has only an elementary school education, Tao owns 17 patents, including a head massager, a washing machine and a shoe polisher. (Zhong'an Online)

2008年7月17日 星期四

Pizza robber is father of victim 披薩店搶匪竟是受害者的父親

A pizza worker was shocked when a workmate overpowered a disguised robber - and it turned out to be her father.

Stephanie Martinez was clearing a till when her co-worker fought back against the intruder, knocking off his wig and sunglasses.

She was so shocked she dropped the money she told the Dallas Morning News.

"I said, 'Don't hit him again! That's my dad!' And he said, 'What's he doing here?' and I said, 'I don't know!'"

Police say the suspect, Benjamin Ramirez, 41, ran out of the pizzaria in Denton, near Dallas, Texas, to a car where Ms Martinez's mother and husband were waiting.

But officers don't think Ms Martinez knew her family was planning the robbery.

"We will not be filing charges against her," Sergeant James Brett said. "Her husband told us she didn't know. He knew they were going to rob someplace, but he thought it was going to be a convenience store."

Witnesses followed the car and helped lead police to it, where Ramirez, Sonia Palacios, 38, and Jose Miguel Martinez, 26, were arrested.

All three have been charged with aggravated robbery. (AP/Metro.co.uk)

2008年7月16日 星期三

Man claims funeral record 男子宣稱締造參加最多葬禮的世界記錄

A Croatian man claims to have set a world record after attending more than 2,000 funerals.

Mijo Tkalcec, 69, from Peteranec, said he has been fascinated by funerals since he was a little boy and will travel hundreds of miles just to attend one.

He said: "I have always been interested in how people send off the deceased.

"Nothing keeps me away from one and I have been to more than 2,000 now in my life. As far as I know that is a world record."

Tkalcec, who last year buried his own wife, said: "People who know me used to find my passion for funerals quite strange but they've gradually got used to it." (Ananova.com)

2008年7月15日 星期二

Family's pet sheep 家庭寵物羊

A Cardiff family have an unusual pet - a 22-stone sheep who loves eating biscuits and curling up on the couch to watch TV.

Former coach driver David Palmer rescued the sheep, which he calls Nick Boing, three years ago, when he was just a newborn, reports the Daily Mail.

The 53-year-old found the sick lamb in long grass on a trip to a nature reserve with his partner Caroline Clements, 54, and their 13-year-old son Nathan.

"There were no other sheep about so we picked him up," he said. "I didn't know anything about sheep so I took him to the nearest farm and left my name, but nobody contacted me and he came with us.

"Caroline had a baby bottle left from when Nathan was little so we fed him some milk and within an hour he was running around."

The family twice tried leaving Nick with farmers, but he refused to go near other sheep and would not settle.

Now he has his own purpose-built bungalow, complete with a carpet and windows, in the family's back garden.

But the 22-stone ram prefers to spend his evenings watching television in the living room, so he head butts the cushions out of the way and settles down on the sofa.

Nick's nightly TV sessions usually end around 11pm, when he is given a swede or an apple and is ushered outside to sleep.

"He's part of the family," said Mr Palmer. "He's more intelligent than your average sheep that's stuck in a field. He's in the house and in the car and meeting people. He's good company and he knows what's what." (Daily Mail)

2008年7月14日 星期一

Man breaks record by sitting in 39,250 seats 男子坐39,250個座位 打破世界紀錄

Jim Purol took a seat at the Rose Bowl, and then another, and then another, until he broke a world record.

The Anaheim man set a Guiness World Record on Wednesday for "Most Seats Sat in 48 Hours" by sitting in 39,250 seats.

He began the task Monday morning, and he's still going, hoping to rest his tush in each of the stadium's 92,542 seats by sometime this week.

The 56-year-old, who already holds several other world records, says he has dreamed of tackling the Rose Bowl seats for 20 years — ever since he sat in all 107,501 chairs at the University of Michigan's football stadium.

The feat has taken a toll on his body and his cleanliness, as soot on the seats rubbed off on his clothes. He says he loves the Rose Bowl but calls the place "filthy." (AP)

2008年7月10日 星期四

I had a bat hiding in my bra 胸罩裡躲了一隻蝙蝠

Superhero fans know about the bat phone and the bat car, but how about the bat bra?

That's the gadget Abbie Hawkins seems to have invented, at least.

The 19-year-old was amazed to discover vibrations through her body were caused not by her phone but by a bat in her underwear.

The hotel receptionist realised the baby creature had hidden itself in the padding of her bra – and pulled it out for all to see.

'It looked very snug in there and I thought how mean I was for disturbing it,' she said.

'I didn't notice anything when I put my bra on. It had been on the washing line the day before.

'When I was driving to work I felt a slight vibration but thought it was my phone.'

Miss Hawkins, from Norwich, plucked up the courage to investigate the unusual disturbance after five hours and pulled out the bat, which flew around the Holiday Inn at Norwich airport before being set free in the grounds.

The Bat Conservation Trust said the mammals have been known to hide in coats, bags and umbrellas. (Metro.co.uk)

2008年7月8日 星期二

Man out-spits father, claims pit-spitting title 男子擊敗父親贏得吐櫻桃核大賽冠軍

Brian "Young Gun" Krause has out-spit his father to claim his seventh championship at the International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship (國際吐櫻桃核錦標賽).

Krause's winning spit was 56 feet, 7 1/2 inches.

That's 6 1/2 inches better than his father, the second-place finisher and defending champion, 54-year-old Rick "Pellet Gun" Krause of Tuba City, Ariz., who spit 56 feet, 1 inch.

Thirty-year-old Brian Krause, of Dimondale, currently holds the Guinness World Record after spitting a pit 93 feet, 6 1/2 inches in 2003.

Amanda Jennings of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the first woman to place in the top three, did not qualify for championship competition but retained her title as women's champion with a spit of 43 feet, 11 inches. (AP)

2008年7月7日 星期一

Portugal's traditional handicraft -- ceramic penis 葡萄牙傳統手工藝 -- 陶器陽具

Husband and wife Francisco and Casilda Figueiredo are among the last exponents of a traditional Portuguese handicraft -- making ornamental ceramic penises.

For more than three decades, the couple have carefully shaped thousands of ceramic male organs, moulding them into upright shapes and painting them in life-like colours for export to Germany, France and North America.

Francisco and Casilda, aged 68 and 65, still toil away in a humble village workshop in the Caldas da Rainha region, about 100 km (60 miles) north of Lisbon, but say the tradition is dying out.

"The days of the ceramics trade here are numbered, I see no possibility of survival," Francisco said as he prepared moulds of the couple's top-of-the-range two-foot phallic-shaped bottles in his workshop. "It will never be like it was in the past."

The bottle sells for 15 euros (11.8 pounds)

The tradition is said to have started in Caldas da Rainha

when King Dom Luis, who ruled from 1861 to 1889, suggested that local potters make something more interesting.

A renowned caricaturist, Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, gave the initial inspiration, prompting Caldas da Rainha to expand on its tradition as a pottery centre.

"Nobody knows exactly what started the tradition, they say it was Dom Luis, but I don't know if it's true or not," said Francisco.

The traditional craft has faced a slow decline as buyers in Portugal and beyond become more liberal and the figures lose their ability to provoke.

The couple produce ceramic mugs with a penis sticking out of the bottom or the side, penis-shaped bottles and ceramic soccer figures with the male organ popping out from under a flag.

Francisco said that during the peak of their business they were producing 1,000 bottles a month.

"There were many people making ceramics, but now locally there is just us," said Casilda. "We exported to Germany, Canada and France. Today we just sell to visitors and local shops." (Reuters)

2008年7月4日 星期五

Watermelon - the natural Viagra 西瓜 – 天然的威而剛

Fresh watermelon has a similar effect to taking Viagra, according to scientists.

But men would have to eat at least six slices to have the same effect as one Viagra tablet - and it's not as 'organ-specific'.

Watermelons contain an ingredient called citrulline that can trigger production of a compound that helps relax the body's blood vessels, similar to what happens when a man takes Viagra.

Found in the flesh and rind of watermelons, citrulline reacts with the body's enzymes when consumed in large quantities and is changed into arginine, an amino acid that benefits the heart and the circulatory and immune systems.

"Arginine boosts nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, the same basic effect that Viagra has, to treat erectile dysfunction and maybe even prevent it," said Bhimu Patil, director of Texas A&M University's Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Centre.

"Watermelon may not be as organ-specific as Viagra, but it's a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side effects."

Todd Wehner, who studies watermelon breeding at North Carolina State University, said anyone taking Viagra shouldn't expect the same result from watermelon.

"It sounds like it would be an effect that would be interesting but not a substitute for any medical treatment," he said.

The nitric oxide can also help with angina, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems, according to the Texas study. (Roundup)

2008年7月3日 星期四

Nowthen becomes a city 美國小城改名為「此時那時」

Residents of Nowthen, Minnesota, are perfectly aware that it's a rather silly name - but they're proud to say that Nowthen is to officially become a city.

The community - north of Minneapolis-St. Paul - changed its name on Monday from Burnsville Township to Nowthen, which was the name the first local post office was given by mistake.

During the 1890s, a community leader created a list of possible names for the post office and wrote, 'Nowthen, one of these ought to do.'

Historians say the post office came to be known as Nowthen.

Voters took the final step in the process by electing a mayor and four-member City Council.

The first council meeting will be July 8, and Nowthen plans a city incorporation celebration in September. (Metro.co.uk)

2008年7月2日 星期三

Man sells 10,000 mosquito corpses 大陸男子網路賣出一萬具蚊屍

A Chinese man who set up an online business selling dead mosquitoes says he's received 10,000 orders in just two days.

Nin Nan, of Shanghai, came up with the idea of selling mosquitoes he killed to attract visitors to his online jewellery shop.

"I locked myself in the room, thinking hard of a promotion plan. With a 'pa' sound and a dead mosquito, I came up with this weird idea," he told Qianlong News.

Nin sells his mosquito corpses for six yuan - about 45p - each. His ad reads: "Truly killed by human hands, can be used for science studies, decoration, and collection."

He says that his shop registered 250,000 hits and he received more than 10,000 orders for dead mosquitoes within two days of posting the ad on various forums.

Nin added that companies were offering to pay for adding advertisement links to his online shop and he's received two job offers, from an Australian red wine company and a Shanghai communications company.

But he said he would not be taking up either as he wanted to concentrate on his own business: "My goal is to make my face and name public," he said. (Qianlong News --千龍新聞網/Ananova.com)

2008年7月1日 星期二

Giraffe helps camels, zebras escape from circus 長頸鹿協助馬戲團其他動物脫逃

Amsterdam police say 15 camels, two zebras and an undetermined number of llamas and potbellied swine briefly escaped from a traveling Dutch circus after a giraffe kicked a hole in their cage.

Police spokesman Arnout Aben says the animals wandered in a group through a nearby neighborhood for several hours after their 5:30 a.m. breakout.

The animals were back at the circus later Monday after being rounded up by police and circus workers with the assistance of dogs. Aben says neighbors fed some of the animals — which he said was a bad idea — but they were tame and nobody was hurt.

Says Aben: "You have to imagine somebody rubbing his eyes first thing in the morning and saying, 'Am I seeing things or is that 15 camels walking past?'" (AP)