Science of slurp
Ever wonder why cats lap quietly and dogs slurp loudly? Maybe not, but an MIT biophysicist did, and his discovery landed in the latest issue of the journal Science. Cats, Dr. Roman Stocker found, have tongues that curl backwards, not forwards. As the tongue darts down toward the bowl, it touches the surface of the liquid rather than penetrating it, the fluid sticks to the tongue, and the cat drawing the tongue up very rapidly creates a liquid column. Dogs scoop their liquid by creating a ladle with their tongues. After capturing his own cat Cutta Cutta on slow-motion photography, Stocker concluded: "I would say cats know more about fluid mechanics than dogs."
He needs his space?
How much house is too much? Three stories? Four? How about 27? That's the number of floors in the new abode of India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani. Construction on the Indian business tycoon's new residence began in 2007 and eventually cost between $500 million and $700 million to build. Though 27 stories, the tower is actually 568 feet tall, making it as tall as a normal 60-floor office tower. The residence tower, named Antilia, begins with a six-floor parking garage with enough space for 160 vehicles. Nine elevators and three helipads will deliver Ambani, his family, and guests to the more than 60,000 square feet of living space.
When the president of the United States comes visiting, you can never be too cautious. How cautious were officials in Mumbai? They cut down all coconuts from the coconut trees surrounding the city's Ghandi museum ahead of President Obama's early November visit. Every year people are injured or killed from being hit by falling coconuts. "We told the authorities to remove the dry coconuts from trees near the building," a government spokesman told the BBC. "Why take a chance?"
A horse is a horse. But is it a weapon? Administrators at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School in Hamilton, Mass., say it is. In late October, senior Dan DePaolis dressed as a knight and rode his family's horse to school for the school's spirit week. DePaolis' father, Ron, said the horse was calm and that his son only walked the horse around school grounds for three minutes before an associate principal came out and suspended DePaolis on the spot. "They told my son it's the equivalent of bringing in a loaded firearm to school," the father told the Boston Globe. The 17-year-old student was suspended for one day and prescribed two hours of community service for his horsing around.
Days after Muhammad Ali and George Foreman's famous Rumble in the Jungle bout in 1974, Walter Byerly started running. Today, more than 13,000 days later, the 80-year-old Byerly is still running, having run at least a mile every single day for the past 36 years. Although Byerly's pace has slowed to just 16 minutes per mile, it just gives the octogenarian more time to pray for his friends (what he does to pass the time). Amazingly, the Dallas man's streak is only good enough for 11th place in the United States for consecutive daily mile runs. According to the U.S. Streak Running Association, Mark Covert, a coach from Lancaster, Calif., holds the active national record having logged at least a mile a day since July 1968. But Byerly is no slouch. At 80, he's the oldest person on the organization's streak list.
Rescue at sea
His name won't be reported in the press, but a 19-year-old Australian woman will never forget him. Elyse Frankcom was swimming with dolphins off the coast of western Australia on Oct. 30 when a shark, believed to be a Great White, attacked the young woman, biting her on her legs. That's when an anonymous man jumped into action, grabbing the large shark by its tail. The bold move caused the surprised shark to let go of Frankcom, who then began to drown. The man then dove, brought her to the surface, and got her on board their boat. After six hours of surgery, Frankcom emerged in good spirits. The unidentified man refused to speak with journalists.
The right stuff
What does it take to build your own spaceship? Not much, it turns out. British space enthusiasts Steve Daniels, John Oates, and Lester Haines created a paper airplane, used a helium balloon to launch it 17 miles into the atmosphere, and managed to capture images of the planet with a small camera on board. The balloon and the plane, which had a three-foot wingspan, took 90 minutes to make the climb, and the trio used a GPS system to track the plane's progress. When the balloon burst, the plane glided back to the earth. "We decided to launch a paper plane because nobody has done that before," Daniels told the Daily Mail. "It seems really silly but it was brilliant fun."
Finally after 60 years, the Boston Public Library has its John Stuart Mill autobiography back. An anonymous man returned two books to the library by mail after having checked them out in 1950. The package, containing a book by Henry David Thoreau and another by the 19th-century British political theorist, also contained a letter by the forgetful library user: "While going through the books in my library, I came across these two books that don't belong to me, they belong to you. I must have taken them out when I was a college student in Boston and put them among my other books, and never realized that I failed to return them." With a policy of a 10-cents-per-day fine for late books, the return could have cost the man $4,000. However, an official with the library said they'll drop the fine-they're just happy to have their books back.
Sometimes a president's words can be prophetic-or, in the case of a note written by President Obama to a financially downtrodden woman, self-prophetic. On Jan. 8, an aide to the president brought in a letter written to him by Jennifer Cline of Monroe, Mich. In the letter, the 28-year-old explained to the president, "I lost my job, my health benefits and my self-worth in a matter of five days." Obama replied to the letter by hand, writing, among other things, that "things will keep getting better." Months later, they did. The woman recently sold the handwritten note to an autograph dealer for $7,000-money she spent to help her and her husband buy a new house.