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Quick Takes

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Issue: "The wonder of life," Jan. 25, 2014

Martha speaks

How does your dog feel? Inventors in Scandinavia would like to tell you. The Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery, a team of Swedish and Finnish inventors, say it’s almost ready to bring a dog-to-human translator to market. Called “No More Woof,” the device interprets the electroencephalography of dogs and matches it with one of a few premade English audio recordings. The group drew funding from the crowdfunding website Indiegogo. According to the inventors, dogs wearing the No More Woof headsets will be able to communicate to their owners basic thoughts such as weariness, excitement, or curiosity.

Blowing smoke

In December, smog in Shanghai, China, grew so bad that residents couldn’t see the tops of the city’s skyscrapers. And while some might view the ubiquitous haze surrounding Chinese cities as a public health disaster, Chinese officials are hailing the smog as a literal smokescreen. “Smog may affect people’s health and daily lives … but on the battlefield, it can serve as a defensive advantage in military operations,” said an article in the state-run newspaper People’s Daily. Indeed, air pollution—if bad enough—could interfere with guidance systems for infrared or laser-guided missiles.

Coffee clash

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Coming soon to Starbucks: fizzy coffee. Jumping on the soda stream bandwagon, coffee giant Starbucks seems poised to add carbonation as an add-on for coffee beverages. Earlier in 2013, the company filed for a trademark on the name “Fizzio” behind which to sell original carbonated beverages and adding carbonation to their present line of coffees and teas. Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz called recent test runs in Austin, Atlanta, Japan, and Singapore of the company’s carbonation experiment encouraging.

Beer money

All Fernando Caignet Aguilera wanted was a case of beer. All he had to offer was a live alligator. Sadly for Aguilera, the cashier at the Santa Ana Market in Miami, Fla., wasn’t an animal lover. Officers cited Aguilera after he tried to barter a 4-foot reptile for a 12-pack on Dec. 10. According to Fish and Wildlife officials, Aguilera picked up the gator in a nearby park and took it directly to the convenience store. The clerk refused the offer and called authorities, who cited Aguilera with illegal possession of the alligator. 

Better to give

About 30 families in Mesa, Ariz., may never know her name, but they’ll never forget her. On Dec. 15, an anonymous woman walked into the Mesa Walmart with an unusual request: She had $5,000 and wanted to pay off as many delinquent layaway orders as she could. The gift was enough to clear 30 orders. And when Walmart employees began phoning customers who hadn’t been able to pay for Christmas gifts to tell them the news, the tears flowed. “They just started crying with joy and I’m glad I was a part of it,” store manager Rita Barreras said. According to Barreras, the anonymous older benefactor said she wanted to make sure families could have Christmas gifts.

Having a ball

To a chocolate Labrador named Wilson golf balls apparently look and taste like food. The dog belongs to Tim Norris of Forest Row, U.K. On Nov. 15 with Wilson off the leash, Norris’ dog walker noticed Wilson might have been scarfing down a golf ball. Worried, Norris immediately took his animal to a veterinarian. An X-ray revealed the dog had actually swallowed seven practice balls from a local course. “Chocolate Labradors are incredibly greedy dogs and Wilson is no different,” Norris told the East Grinstead Courier. “They will eat anything they think is food. I have since bought a muzzle for him, because at 18 months he still has a lot to learn.”

Flip side

Brooklyn resident Kevin Cooke may have discovered a way to prevent muggers from stealing his cellphone: Make sure it’s nearly obsolete. A gun-wielding thief mugged Cook and a friend as the pair walked through Central Park in Manhattan on Dec. 28. The 25-year-old said the mugger asked for his cell, so Cooke handed over his vintage flip phone. “Once he saw my phone, he looked at it like, ‘What is this?’ and gave it back to me,” Cooke told the New York Post. “I guess he didn’t think he could get anything for it.”

Sinking stones

How do you remove more than 50,000 pounds of herring out of an Icelandic fjord? Don’t ask Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Researchers for Star-Oddi, an Icelandic aquatic research company, have been tasked with the job of removing a swarm of herring from a local fjord. After trying to blast the sounds of killer whales, and using explosions to get the herring out of the fjord, the researchers tried blaring Stones’ songs such as “Brown Sugar” and “Satisfaction” to scare the fish away. But it didn’t work. Two years ago, more than 25 tons of herring lodged themselves in the same fjord and died there, causing an ecological disaster.

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