Alibi V.27 No.17 • April 26-May 2, 2018 

Odds & Ends

Odds and Ends

Dateline: England

An unknown vandal has been spray painting images of penises over potholes in Harlow, Essex, in England, in what some believe is an attempt to force authorities to fix the roads. According to Metro, one stretch of roadway displayed several examples of the artist's work, each captioned with the words “fix me.” A spokesperson for the Essex county council responded publicly to the drawings, noting that while they welcomed residents bringing their attention to road hazards, reporting the problem on the county's website is a “far more effective and much safer way of sorting out potholes than drawing a part of the male anatomy around them.” It was reported that the amount of money spent by the county to repair individual potholes has dropped by nearly £15 million in 3 years. The practice of spray painting penises on roads to bring attention to potholes has gained popularity in the UK, where another vigilante, dubbed “Wanksy” by the local media, left numerous penises drawn on UK roadways with washable paint in 2016. The identity of the vandal behind the Essex drawings is still unknown.

Dateline: China

Officials at a hospital in Hong Kong publicly apologized for losing a human brain. South China Morning Post reports that a brain removed from a dead patient during an autopsy was reported missing by morgue officers earlier this month. Dr. Abdul Karim Bin Kitchell, deputising executive director of North District Hospital, said the Hospital Authority, coroner, police and family members of the patient were informed. The patient was reportedly admitted to the hospital for mental disorders on February 22 and died of unknown causes on February 25. To help determine the patient's cause of death, doctors reported the case to the coroner. The patient's brain was removed during the autopsy and immersed in formalin and then stored away. According to Dr. Wan Suk-king, chief of services (clinical pathology), the organ would need to soak in the solution for some time to allow the chemical to set. Authorities claim the sample room where the brain was stored does not employ video surveillance and was unlocked while it was inside. A spokesperson for advocacy group Hong Kong Patients’ Voices told reporters that this incident was only the latest in a string of “very serious mistakes.” Hospital officials said they would help police in any investigations and apologized to the patient's family.

Dateline: Borneo

Scientists have discovered a new species of “exploding” ant. Researchers exploring the jungles of Borneo found a tree-dwelling ant that will detonate itself, showering victims in a toxic yellow substance as a defense mechanism. The ant itself will die in the act, but the colony will hopefully be protected. The scientists named the small red insect Colobopsis explodens. According to The Guardian, team member and entomologist Alice Laciny, from the Natural History Museum in Vienna, described the bright yellow goo as having “a distinct and not unpleasant smell that’s strangely reminiscent of curry.” Only some of the ants in the species—sterile female workers—seem to have the ability to explode, according to the researchers. They are said to be “prone to self-sacrifice.” The mechanism of defensive suicide, autothysis, is common in superorganisms like ants and bees. Exploding ants are more rare, however, and Colobopsis explodens is the first new species discovered since 1935. The research team's findings were reported in the journal ZooKeys.

Dateline: Florida

A woman was ordered by a judge to share custody of her dog with a former neighbor. Fox 13 in Tampa Bay, Fla., reports that a 4-year-old black Labrador retriever mix named Elario became the center of a legal battle between Tina Walker and her neighbor David Somerville after he sued her for sole ownership of the dog. According to the suit, Somerville claimed he was the dog's main caretaker and accused Walker of keeping the animal away from him. Walker defended herself by saying that dogs are legally considered property, and she was the one who actually adopted Elario. The judge presiding over the case ruled that both parties would share custody and swap weekends.

Dateline: California

Scientists have successfully implanted mini human brains into mice. According to [Scientific American, scientists at the Salk Institute published a report last week detailing the first successful implant of human cerebral organoids into the brains of another species. The miniature cerebrums—grown in a lab and reportedly the size of a lentil—were transplanted into the rodents, where the hosts' brains would supply the cerebrums with blood and nutrients, keeping them alive and developing for months. The new technique is expected to allow researchers to better understand human brain development and to see if it's possible to use the organoids to repair brains that have been damaged or failed to develop properly. According to the report, the mice who received the implants performed tasks in the same manner as those who did not.

Compiled by Joshua Lee. Email your weird news to josh@alibi.com.