NewsQuirks 399

DOWNSIZING Scientists at a lab in Albuquerque, N.M., announced they are developing tiny mechanical soldiers, ranging in size from a shoe box to a dime. Expected to be ready for action by 2001, the so-called Small, Smart Machines, also known as "battlefield robots," will crawl, hop and eventually fly over minefields, across deserts and beaches and through towns, gathering information for nearby troops or headquarters thousands of miles away. "These little guys will do things it's impossible for people to do now," said Pat Eicker, director of Intelligent Systems and Robotics at Sandia National Laboratories.THE ENEMY IS US The deadly seaweed Caulerpa taxifolia, first observed in the Mediterranean Sea in 1984, is spreading rapidly from Spain to Croatia, killing marine animals in its path. Alarmed researchers trying to control the weed are shifting from costly manual and mechanical means to introducing slugs they hope will feed on it. The scientists suspect the seaweed is a genetic mutation caused by the use of ultraviolet light in aquariums.HIGH JINKS After his hat flew out the car window near Slidell, La., Jason Jinks, 20, stopped, opened the door, leaned out and backed up at 30 mph in the dark looking for it. According to a 14-year-old boy riding in the back seat, when Jinks saw his hat, he hit the brakes. The sudden deceleration caused him to slide out of the open door and land on his head, killing him.LET YOUR CONSCIENCE BE YOUR GUIDE Explaining he "wanted peace of mind," David Squelch, 29, walked into a British police station and confessed to having robbed Nat West Bank of 1,000 pounds in 1992. He said he immediately spent the loot but over the next four years set aside a portion of his 130-pounds-a-week salary until he had saved enough to repay the bank.WHALE OF A SPERM Scientists discovered a 2-mile long, 60-foot deep floating reef of disposed condoms in the South Pacific. They explained the phenomenon is caused by a process called "like aggregation," where similar objects mass together over a long period of time due to currents, wind or buoyancy.MENSA REJECTS OF THE WEEK Ian Priestland, 29, was making an explosive device as an experiment, using a piece of pipe cut from a bicycle frame. He decided the best way to crimp and cap off the end of the pipe was to hit it with a sledgehammer. When he did, the device blew up in his hand. After being taken to the hospital, he told Fairfax County, Va., police that he had learned his lesson. Peter and Linda Garnett of Grantham, England, were convicted of theft for trying to deposit a bogus check for 9.7 million pounds ($16.6 million) at the bank where Mrs. Garnett worked. Tellers began to suspect something was wrong when Mr. Garnett, 54, then tried to withdraw 50,000 pounds while simultaneously cashing his welfare check for 350 pounds.THINKING ALL THE TIMEA boy born with two brains in China's Liaoning province in 1995 is progressing well, according to his doctors. The only apparent complication, the Xinhua news agency reported, is that he sleeps only about an hour a night because the brains work in rotation.THE AMERICAN WAY Last September, the city of Madrid hired a U.S. company to collect unpaid parking fines, receiving a percentage of any fines paid. Less than a month later, hundreds of angry residents had complained to the city about receiving tickets while legally parked. Madrid Treasurer Pedro Bujidos said an investigation found that 73,000 of the 130,000 tickets issued were falsified and accused Electronic Data Systems of Plano, Texas, of handing out the fake tickets to boost its commission.FAMILY REUNIONSTina and John Dixon of Stocksfield, England, entered a golf tournament and were paired with Mark Innes and Ron Wingfield. On the 10th tee, Mrs. Dixon pulled a shoulder muscle. When Innes suggested that she see his brother, physical therapist Kevin Brown, the 39-year-old woman realized that the two men were her brothers, from whom she had been separated at age four when they were given up for adoption. Knowing only that one had kept his original name, Innes, while the other took the name of his adoptive family, Brown, she had spent years trying to trace them before finally giving up. At the 13th hole, she finally worked up the nerve to break the news to Mark, 36, who said after the three were reunited, "I was shocked rigid." Raoul Garzas of Sao Paulo, Brazil, appeared on television to plead for help in tracking down his long-lost father. When they were reunited, he shot his father dead, explaining afterwards, "I'd always hated him." After losing custody of her three children, Eugenia Morse, 33, sent a singing telegram to distract pupils at the elementary school they attend in Spring Valley, Calif. In the commotion, according to authorities, she grabbed her son and two daughters, then fled. "She's pulled a lot of stunt over the years," said her former husband, Robert Morse.BLIND LUCK In Litchfield, Conn., Bob Ives won a Christmas turkey in an American Legion fund-raiser by guessing the number of peanuts in a big glass jar. His guess of 603 nuts was just one shy of the actual count. Even more amazing, Ives is blind. "I could just feel how many were in there,'' he explained.REASON ENOUGH After a 17-year-old boy was arrested for driving under the influence after leaving his job at a Huntington, W.Va. pizzeria, his boss explained that he let the boy drink beer on the job "so that he will work for free." When police officers finally caught up with escaped prisoner James Sean Stuart, 30, near Athens, Ala., after a chase at speeds up to 155 mph, Stuart explained he was trying to turn himself in and wanted to get far enough ahead of his pursuers so it wouldn't look like he was surrendering just because he was being chased.Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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