Odds & Ends
A specialist says that a recently discovered layer of human hair and skin coating the tracks of the Washington D.C. Metro is a serious fire hazard. Brian Sherlock, a safety specialist for Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), told Metro officials that a layer of human hair, dead skin cells, fiber, dust and debris coating the tracks of the city's rails could cause sparks to catch fire, especially on the city's electrified third rails, which run cables carrying 750 Volts of electricity. When speaking to a local NBC news station, Sherlock described the material covering the tracks as being similar to a thick layer of felt. The Metro reportedly caught fire up to four times a week in 2016. Transit officials say efforts to clean the tracks have increased since 2016. Washington D.C. Metro provided 97 million rides last year. A healthy person can shed anywhere from 60 to 100 hairs a day and 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells an hour.
A man refuses to tell doctors how a large eel entered his anus. According to reports, an allegedly inebriated man was admitted to a hospital in eastern China last week with what x-rays found was a swamp eel that had worked its way up into his abdomen from his anus. The doctors were eventually able to remove the eel, and the man—who has chosen to remain anonymous—is currently recovering. The surgeons reportedly believe the eel was deliberately inserted, but were unable to confirm if this was the case. Earlier this year, a man from South China had the same species of eel removed from his anus after he had used it allegedly to cure constipation. Soon after, man in southwestern China had an eel removed after some friends inserted it in his anus as a joke.
Consumers in the United Kingdom are in an uproar after the disclosure that most of their water companies are still using an ancient, unscientific practice to find leaks and pipes. Of the 12 water companies in the UK, 10 have reportedly admitted that they are still using the practice of water dowsing to assist in their business. Science blogger Sally Le Page exposed the oddly superstitious behavior after her parents witnessed an engineer from local water firm Severn Trent using two bent rods to locate a pipe in Stratford-upon-Avon. Le Page tweeted at the company, asking why it still uses the outdated technique. Severn Trent responded, publicly stating that “some of the older methods are just as effective as the new ones.” They added that they also use satellites and drones. Le Page then asked the other 11 companies if they employed the use of water dowsing. In all, 10 of the 12 companies said some of their technicians use the technique. Only Wessex Water and Northern Ireland Water did not. Water dowsing involves the use of forked rods, pendulums, paired sticks or other devices which, when manipulated in a certain way, will supposedly lead the dowser to underground water sources. Although dowsing can appear to work, scientists say this is because water can be found under the earth's surface on most of the planet. Following the revelation that many of the UK’s water firms practice dowsing, a spokesperson for Ofwat—the Water Services Regulation Authority—strongly urged water companies to consider the cost-effectiveness of using the ancient practice.
Police say a bear armed with two firearms is loose in the Siberian wilderness. According to The Siberian Times, a man on a hunting trip decided to leave his belongings in his cabin while he went to collect water from a nearby river. When he returned, he saw a bear near the cabin and hid in the woods for a few hours until he deemed it safe to return. When he did, he found the bear had taken his bag and two firearms—a Vepr carbine and IZH shotgun. The hunter claims he searched for several days, but was unable to find the two weapons. Police in the region have released photos from the crime scene which show large scratch marks found on some logs near the cabin and a bitten plastic bucket.
A baker has released a bread made from crushed crickets just in time for the holidays. Last week, Finnish bakery and food service company Fazer launched the world’s first insect-based bread available in stores. To make the bread, bakers create flour by grinding dried crickets and mix it with wheat flour and seeds. According to the company, the cricket bread contains more protein than normal wheat bread and gives consumers a way to familiarize themselves with insect-based food sources. Each loaf contains about 70 crickets and costs 3.99 euros ($4.72). The bread will initially be sold on a limited basis in Helsinki region supermarkets, but the company plans to offer it in all 47 of its locations by next year.