Posts Tagged ‘Offbeat News’

“I Am Now Switching Off BBC2 Analogue!”

October 17, 2007

Those were the not-so-historic words spoken at some point earlier today when a nondescript guy, in what appears to be a storage cupboard, flicked an unassuming light switch on the wall and apparently turned off the BBC2 analogue signal for the Cumbrian town of Whitehaven:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7048817.stm

Click on “Watch Audio and Video News” in the top right to see the moment in all its glory. What I love about this is the fact that no one thought of making it into anything approaching a spectacle or show. In proper gritty British style, they’ve clearly had to shove a filing cabinet out of the way simply in order to reach the switch. Classic.

The rest of the report has the beeb desperately trying to conjure up some major historical event out of all this: Whitehaven is the first town in the UK to be (partly) switched to a digital TV signal, and apparently it’s causing some consternation for about 0.2% of the town’s over 60s. To be fair, financial assistance is available for those who can’t afford to get Sky in, but the trouble is that too many people aren’t aware of it, or don’t know how to get it.

In any case, by the time London’s signal is switched over (in 2011 – 2012), they’ll no doubt have learned a lesson or two. I predict an all singing and dancing extravaganza featuring the cast of Strictly Come Dancing and Britney performing a duet with Justin as part of a comeback tour… Or something.

Almost There… Stay On Target!

October 10, 2007

Plaster Wars” was an event which took place earlier this month featuring scale models of several Star Wars craft, like the X-Wing (full-scale) and Y-Wing (1/4 scale):

“A long time ago, in a garage in Santee, California, a group of slightly insane rocketeers decided to make a flying scale model of the X-Wing fighter from what is arguably the best movie ever made, Star Wars.”

Here are the (less than spectacular, but still geekily entertaining) results:

Altogether now: “Watch out, Wedge! Three from above!” “I can’t shake him!” “Too late!”, etc.

Boy uses sound to see

July 18, 2006

Ben Underwood, a blind 14-year-old, has taught himself to use human echolocation to perceive his surroundings:

Full story (People magazine)
(via Boingboing)

It’s essentially the same technique that bats use to navigate around obstacles in dark caves, but Ben uses it in everyday life; to walk around, dance, skateboard and even ride a bike:

Ben has learned to perceive and locate objects by making a steady stream of sounds with his tongue, then listening for the echoes as they bounce off the surfaces around him. About as loud as the snapping of fingers, Ben’s clicks tell him what’s ahead: the echoes they produce can be soft (indicating metals), dense (wood) or sharp (glass). Judging by how loud or faint they are, Ben has learned to gauge distances.

It’s an amazing story, and one that showcases the incredible courage, determination and self-belief of a young man who, in the world’s eyes, suffers from a severe disability. Ben doesn’t see it that way, though:

“I tell people I’m not blind,” he says. “I just can’t see.”

The man who traded a paperclip for a house

July 8, 2006

Kyle Macdonald has finally managed to trade his way from a single red paperclip:

Red Paperclip

to a three-bedroomed house in Kipling, Saskatchewan, Canada in just one year and 14 trades:

Paperclip House

You can read the full story on Kyle’s blog (via Boingboing).

I remember hearing about this back when he was up to a white van, and to be honest I was impressed that he’d got that far. Of course, it might be just as well to gloss over the fact that he somehow managed to get from that van to a KISS snow globe on the way to the house (who knew the “Knights In Satan’s Service” even endorsed snow globes?). Fortunately for Kyle, he met someone who happened to be a dedicated snow globe collector — and also a kind of famous actor. But taking this kind of risk is what the whole project was all about: relative value. Kyle sums it up like this:

“What’s more important to a man dying of thirst in the desert – one million dollars or a glass of water? So all I gotta do now is find somebody who needs a “drink”. (The KISS snowglobe is filled with water – well, a water-ish substance, at least.) What I’m trying to say here is that I strongly believe that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

What I like about this story is that it neatly illustrates how just a catchy idea and the internet — plus a canny head for handling press and publicity — can lead to fame, fortune and a damn good yarn.

Live Insects Challenge Humans in Bizarre Computer Game

July 8, 2006

In Wim van Eck’s project, humans square off against real crickets in a modified version of Pac-Man:

Full story at livescience.
(from Digg)

The best thing about this article is the deadpan implication that we may be able to use this project as some kind of pre-emptive training for fighting real-life alien bug wars in the future:

“If we’re going to fight insectile aliens, we certainly need to start somewhere; Wim van Eck’s project is a fine beginning.”

I guess the next challenge will be figuring out how to make World of Antcraft so that we can hook the potential offworld invaders on endlessly levelling up their virtual buggy avatar. Then, when they run out of credits to pay their monthly subscription to Blizzard, we can kick their worthless insectoid hides off our planet — by that time, of course, their formerly strong multi-limbed bodies will have decayed and grown weak from months of inactivity sitting around playing an MMORPG.

Bring it on!