Odds & Ends

Odds & Ends

Joshua Lee
6 min read
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Dateline: Massachusetts

A man allegedly complained that his image was being used in a tech magazine article that accused hipsters of looking alike—only to find out that he wasn’t the man in the photo. Last month MIT Technology Review published an article titled “The hipster effect: Why anti-conformists always end up looking the same.” The piece examines the work of mathematician Jonathan Touboul from Brandeis University in Massachusetts, who has developed a society model based on the tension between conformists, who imitate the majority of those around them, and anti-conformists—“hipsters”—who presumably do the opposite. According to Touboul’s theoretical mathematical model, hipster groups will act in ways that are out of phase with society’s trends, but will ironically find themselves in phase with other hipsters—meaning attempts to fight conformity produce their own kind of conformity. Accompanying the article was a stock photo of a man wearing a beanie and plaid shirt. Soon after the piece was published, the MIT journal’s editor-in-chief, Gideon Lichfield, tweeted that the publication had received “a furious email from a man who said he was the guy in the photo that ran with the story.” The man was allegedly accusing the magazine of slandering him and using his image without permission. After further research the journal’s team found that the image had been taken from stock image provider Getty Images. They contacted the company and discovered that the model in the photo was not the man who had complained. “All of which just proves the story we ran,” Lichfield tweeted. “Hipsters look so much alike that they can’t even tell themselves apart from each other.”

Dateline: Florida

An insurance company hid a $10,000 prize in the fine print of its insurance policy to encourage people to “read the fine print.” The Tampa Bay Times reports St. Petersburg-based insurance company Squaremouth wanted to see just how many people were actually willing to read their entire insurance policy—a nearly 4,000-word document. Last month the company began inserting a section into the contract which reads: “In an effort to highlight the importance of reviewing policy documents, we launched Pays to Read, a contest that rewards the individual who reads their policy information from start to finish. If you are reading this within the contest period … and are the first to contact us, you may be awarded the Pays to Read contest Grand Prize of ten thousand dollars.” The company planned to run the contest for a year. If no one claimed the prize, it would be donated to a charity. Squaremouth spokesperson Jenna Hummer said the company estimates that only one percent of its customers read their entire policy. But only hours after the contest began, high school teacher Donelan Andrews contacted the email address. She reportedly purchased a $400 travel insurance policy and had immediately read the contract. “It’s always been a passion of mine to be consumer aware,” Andrews told reporters. “And particularly not to be taken advantage of. I even read that HIPAA document they give you at the doctor’s office.” Hummer said the contest took several years to execute.

Dateline: Oregon

A man who was trapped in a snow-laden car for five days said he survived by eating packets of taco sauce. Now Taco Bell is offering him a years worth of free food. According to
KATU-2 in Portland, Jeremy Taylor and his dog Ally were exploring the Oregon wilderness when his SUV became stuck in snow. They attempted to hike to get help, but he said the snow was too deep. The man did not have a cell phone or emergency supplies, reports The Associated Press. All he had were three packets of Taco Bell “fire” sauce and a full tank of gas. He was able to turn the heater on during the coldest hours of the night and survived by staying close to his dog for warmth. The two drank melted snow and Taylor ate hot sauce. “There is onions or jalapeños or something in there. There’s something that you can chew on for a quick second. And whether or not it has any nutritional value … at least in your mind, it’s something.” After five days of being stranded, rescuers found the two and freed them. Taylor initially declined requests for interviews from the press. His aunt told reporters that he was “incredibly sorry and slightly embarrassed that so many people were out looking for him.” Eventually he told his story in an interview with “Good Morning America.” After hearing about his story, Taco Bell offered Taylor free food at its restaurants for a year.

Dateline: Israel

Last month an Israeli spacecraft carrying a 30-million-page archive of human knowledge was launched in a mission to land on the moon.
NBC News reports the Lunar Library is considered a “civilization backup,” carrying more than 200 gigabytes of data including the entire English-language version of Wikipedia, tens of thousands of fiction and nonfiction books and a guide to 5,000 languages. A time capsule carrying a collection of songs, children’s drawings and writings about Israeli culture and history was also included. All of the information is etched onto 25 stacked nickel disks. Each disk is 40 microns (about 1/600th of an inch) thick. The top disk carries tiny instructions explaining human linguistics and how to build a machine that can read the information. A microscope is required to read the instructions. To make certain the disks could survive the rigors of time, an especially durable material, called Nanofiche, was created by the Arch Foundation. The material can withstand sustained heat 10 times greater than what it will experience on the moon without suffering data damage, according to its creators. The disks are expected to remain intact for more than 10 million years.

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

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