margin-top: 28px; The Unlikely Times: 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Metallica's new zombie horde

I know, I haven't posted in a while. Sometimes the unusual just seems normal. But every now & then something comes up that's so odd, I just have to share. My brother tipped me off to this new Metallica video, a twisted horror homage to the Tunguska blast:

Even if you don't like the band, try the video. It's horrific, but so well composed, looking like so much authentic government archive video, plus an animated zombie hoard and a modern-day paranoid twist at the end. Thanks for the tip, Jon. ;-)

By the way, 2008 was the 100th anniversary of the Tunguska blast. If grew up hearing about it like I did, it seems hard to believe. If you're not familiar with it, Google it. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Whose flag is that?

I'm always on the lookout for strange events, and they have a knack for showing up where I least expect them. During the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics, there was an odd comment when the team from Liechtenstein entered the stadium.

Apparently, in the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympics, during the procession of the athletes, Liechtenstein found out that they had the same exact flag as Haiti. So the next year Liechtenstein added a small crown to their flag so they would be distinct once again.

I always wondered about all those flags that have just two or three stripes ... are they really all different? Turns out they weren't, but now they are, again.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Freemasons and the City

I have to admit, I enjoy reading conspiracy theories and New Age mumbo jumbo ... well, maybe "enjoy" isn't the right word. It's actually saddening to see people sling assumptions and accusations around, with so little basis in reality. But it's what passes for mythology in our mixed-up culture. (Hmm ... that's even sadder.) Still, there are occasionally a few concrete things to talk about.

Like the theory that the Freemasons designed the street plan for the city of Washington, D.C., and included a pentagram in the design to demonstrate their occult powers. If this doesn't qualify for a blog about unlikely things, I don't know what does. The theory itself uses the "grasping at straws" method, where the authors take a few facts, like George Washington being a Freemason (true), and pentagrams being associated with Freemasonry (iffy), and come up with a weird scenario that sounds cool but demonstrates nothing.

The best site I've found for debunking this urban legend is a huge archive called "Anti-masonic claims refuted," at the Grand (Masonic) Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. Yes, the Masons have a right to defend themselves. After all, they get smeared all the time, and no wrongdoing has ever been proven. These articles are very well written, with proper supporting facts. A really fascinating collection.

For the Washington, D.C. case, see this article, which goes into detail on the flaws in the "theory," including who created the city plans, and who didn't. It includes links to the actual plan. What I like is the breakdown of all the unspoken assumptions that go into the theory. This is where the fringe stuff usually breaks down; by talking fast and being unaware of just how many pieces are missing.

So, was ANY city EVER designed to include Masonic symbols? For fun, the Grand Lodge site also has an article about the one city that is known to have a Masonic layout ... Sandusky, Ohio.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

King Kong is Burning

Right now there's a major fire burning in the back lot of Universal Studios. The set from "Back to the Future" is reported as being destroyed, as well as the King Kong exhibit that's part of the regular tour, plus the set from Clint Eastwood's recent film, "The Changelings", the New York Street exhibit, a few other sets and a major film & video archive. Up to 50,000 videos and reels in the video vault may have been destroyed, but duplicates of these exist elsewhere, according to the report [1]. Ten firefighters are reported injured [2]. The fire started just before 5 A.M. and the cause is under investigation.

LINK 1: MSNBC 01 June 2008.
LINK 2: CNN 01 June 2008.
LINK 3: 01 June 2008 - good photos.

Like almost everything else, this has actually happened before. In November, 1990, another fire on these same back lots caused $25 million in damage, and destroyed the "Back to the Future" set. That fire was set by a security guard, who was convicted and sent to prison for four years.

Fish farts?

Every now & then, a headline is irresistible. Here's an odd piece about herring releasing bubbles from their tail eed, possibly as a form of communication.

LINK: New Scientist (05 Nov 2003)

I'm not sure this needs a polite scientific term, but it's called "Fast Repetitive Tick." They're not farts as we know them here in the air-breathing world, since "the number of sounds does not change when the fish are fed." Evidence as a form of communication includes, "when more herring are in a tank, the researchers record more FRTs per fish" and more activity after dark, when the fish can't see each other.

It's not the latest news, but it shows that sometimes the unexpected can be right under our noses.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Wilhelm Scream

There was a famous movie scream recorded way back when (earliest known use in "Distant Drums" - 1951) which made its way into stock sound f/x libraries and has become something of a Hollywood gag. It has been reused in almost every Star Wars film, Indiana Jones film, even in Disney cartoons. It supposedly showed up in the new Indiana Jones film, too, when Indy and Mutt were sliding under those tables in the library on the motorcycle -- a startled student shrieked it out. After you hear it once, you'll hear it everywhere.

LINK - a more detailed history of it over at
LINK - a hysterical compilation of Wilhelm screams from many of your favorite movies, over on YouTube.

So, if you're watching a movie or cartoon and some of the laughs or screams or miscellaneous sounds seem hauntingly familiar, don't be surprised if you really have heard them all before.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Lions, Lions Everywhere!

Our four house cats are enough of a handful. I couldn't imagine trying to keep a wild cat as a pet. And certainly not a lion. However, there are a lot of wild pets out there, laws or no laws, and we tend to only hear about them when they get loose. I wondered how many pet lion incidents there could possibly be ...

Lambert the Lion (550 pounds) attacking cars on U.S. Highway 23 in Ohio. (LINK - Herald Times Online (AP) - 27 Nov 2007) "Agency investigates owner of escaped lion" (LINK - (AP) - 25 Nov 2007) Ohio currently has no laws against keeping exotic pets but (not surprisingly): "City may review wild animal issue." (LINK - Norwalk Reflector - 24 Dec 2007) From link #2: "It's difficult to estimate how many lions and tigers are privately owned in Ohio because so few are licensed."

Kitty the Lion has to move, Appalachian family fights to keep their 400-pound lion, but it can't stay in their neighborhood. (LINK - Living in the Wine Country - 18 May 2006)

Boomer the Lion loose around Ottawa. A young lion, only 150 pounds. (LINK - The Raw Story (AP) - 30 Apr 2008)

It's not as easy as you might think to identify which exotic pets might be a hazard, but lions clearly have the potential to be dangerous. "Ever since a woman wearing a leopard skin coat was attacked by a pet lion, there have been tight controls on keeping wild animals at home." New law in Britain tries to sort them out: (LINK - London Daily Telegraph - 10 Jul 2007) (LINK - The Times Online - 5 Oct 2007) The leopard skin incident was from 1976.

For an old classic, how about Christian the Lion, who was bought from a Harrods department store in 1969, grew too big for its owner, and its transition back to Africa was made into a documentary film?
(LINK - London Daily Mail - 4 May 2007 with good photos)

While I love animals, the power of a lion and how volatile they can be as pets is shown on this video of a pet lion in Pakistan having a bad moment and almost ripping a boy's arm off.

I don't have a big statement to make about this. Just collecting some links on an odd topic. Protect the animals, and you will protect people from themselves.

Lost & Found extremes

For some reason, stories of people losing and finding things always catch my eye. What makes the following stories "odd" is that the finders returned the goods. Nice to know there's still some honesty in the world.

Boy scout returns wallet with $800, after losing his own wallet not long before. (LINK from Associated Press - 30 Apr 2008).

A wallet with $2,500 in it, lost at sea? Found and returned by four teenagers in Florida. (LINK from the Post Chronicle - 29 Apr 2008).

How about a wallet with $20,000 in it? Would it ever be seen again? Yes. (LINK from Free Republic - 27 Jul 2004). Original article on ( no longer available.

And my favorite: I know it has been splashed around a bit, but you don't hear of a lost $4 million violin everyday. It was left behind in a New Jersey cab ... and returned! (LINK from Associated Press - 23 Apr 2008)

But the oddest loss in recent news? Pink Floyd was playing a gig at the Coachella Music Festival here in California. They lost a giant inflatable pig balloon that says "Obama" on it. It's bigger than a bus. It wasn't stolen or anything, it just floated away. If you see it, they would like it returned. There's a $10,000 reward! (LINK from Fox 5 Las Vegas - 30 Apr 2008).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Plagues of spiders, and spiders plagued

Sometimes a headline just stands out from the monotony. Like this one: "Spider plague closes Australian hospital" (LINK, Apr 22, 2008). The ABC version is "Redback plague closes hospital" (LINK, Apr 23, 2008) which has a link to the audio version, beginning with "It sounds like the stuff of a B-grade horror movie ...". My kind of story. "Poisonous spiders and patients ..." are apparently a bad combination.

We usually only see a few spiders in a day, but nature has a way of taking advantage of just the right conditions and producing surprising biomass. There are millions of eggs and seeds of bugs, creatures and plants for every acre of land on earth, waiting for just the right conditions.

Spiders in Australia again: "Warning of deadly spider plague" (LINK,, Jan 20, 2006). Early rains produce a regular annual plague earlier than usual, this time funnel-web spiders.

Every few years, here we go. "SPIDER INVASION" (LINK,, Oct 30, 2002) -- "Queensland is in the grip of the worst spider plague ever - with the hot and dry conditions creating the perfect breeding ground." At least 20 people bitten. Though brief, this article offers some tips on destroying spiders and the ominous conclusion, "If you're persistent the spider will eventually get the message and move on." As opposed to the spiders coming back with their own cans of poison and zapping you while you sleep.

Oddly, here's a lesson in the consumer economics, using an example of battling -- you guessed it -- a plague of red-back spiders in Australia: "$100 is cheaper than $20!" by John Stanley (LINK,

I don't know how many spiders it takes to qualify for a "plague". Plenty of people think one spider is too many, but if we killed all the spiders we'd be swarming with an even bigger plague of smaller pests the spiders help to control.

Being twisted, I wondered if anything plagued spiders. Sure enough, in an interesting long article about social spider colonies ("Spider Solidarity Forever"), I found this: "A mysterious spider plague swept through Panama in 1983, killing entire nests of cooperative spiders." (LINK from Science News - May 8, 1999).

The downside to living in huge colonies is the easy spread of disease and the reduction of genetic diversity. So, if we lived in smaller, more scattered colonies, the spiders would be free to plague across the countryside, and never bother us at all?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jon from Garfield: Surreal Warrior

It seems like it was December when I stumbled across a guy claiming that if you remove all the things Garfield says from the Garfield comic strip, it gets much funnier. Well, it looks like it has evolved a bit since then ... now there's a site where a guy completely removes Garfield the Cat from his own strip. What's left is Jon Arbuckle, a depressed lunatic that can't cope in the real world. It ranges from weird to surreal, from loser to mental patient. Poor guy. I have to agree with Dan Walsh (the Garfield removal expert) about how it unmasks the "quiet desperation of modern life."

Link: Garfield Minus Garfield

It's nice to see that Jim Davis, Garfield's creator, seems amused by the whole thing:

Link: Washington Post (April 6, 2008)

But I have to make an important connection here. It also demonstrates the health effects of having a cat around. Pets are good for the soul, or at least our stress levels, as a growing body of articles show.

Link: Pets & Stress on

Or Google it:
Link: Google!

Even the CDC has a page on the Health Benefits of Pets:

Link: CDC

So, if you're feeling like poor Jon in Garfield minus Garfield, maybe you should add a Garfield to your life!

Dog comes home after 77 mile trek

A dog named Moon has returned home after a 77 mile trek across Nevada mountains. It walked for 7 days and smelled like a skunk but was otherwise okay.

Link: Ely Times (April 21, 2008)

This kind of thing has been reported so many times, it's hard not to find it credible, except for it being such an incredible feat. Most humans couldn't find their way home across 10 miles of wilderness. I've always wondered just what these animals might be attuned to, and whether their routes are straight bee-lines or desperately confused. Even Disney has covered the phenomenon ("Homeward Bound" & its sequels), so it's part of our pop culture. But in reality it seems to be a very rare thing, and heartwarming, so it always makes the good side of the news.

Here's an extreme case, a dog that returned after 6 years:

Link: Animal News Center, Inc, via (2003)

Though after such a long time, it probably had another home in the meantime.

Well, I'll take happy animal news any day. If only they could speak ...

Imaginary cars

Every now and then a story comes up of human behavior previously unheard of. Here's a short hint of a story I found thanks to Dave Barry's blog ... about a guy who was arrested after being seen pumping gas into an imaginary car.

Link: Dave Barry (April 21, 2008) with some funny comments by users

Source: (April 21, 2008)

It reminds me of a current commercial about the guy who can't remember what side of the car the gas tank is on (because it gets such GREAT mileage) (they're such liars!), while the song plays, "Just can't seem to get it right today ... think I'm gonna give up."

In case you're wondering what else on Earth this could possibly relate to ... there was an Animaniacs episode in 1994 called, of all things, "Mime Time #9 - Driving an Imaginary Car."

Link: (Not a ton of info, but there it is.)

And for those of you who wonder what the ultimate imaginary car might look like, here it is:

Link: (May 5, 2006) (Read it & you'll see what I mean.)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Fallen Tree Surprise

I was at a sci-fi convention this weekend, and was trying to describe this blog to someone. When I mentioned the story about the trees falling on the 163, she mentioned having been stuck in traffic that day, due to a falling tree that had killed someone. She described it as an old eucalyptus tree whose roots had been undermined by soil erosion. She said it seemed like it happened a long time ago, but after mentally mapping her jobs & things, she said it was early 2005. Bingo.

As I write these things, I keep finding new categories of stories I didn't realize I was interested in. In this case, the category is best known as: "small world, ain't it?"

It's amazing how much we travel, and if you include friends of friends, it's just a matter of time before we run into someone we knew in high school at an airport halfway across the country. Or someone who was involved in a news story I didn't know anybody even knew about!

A spiky iron fish?

The standard fishing gag in most cartoons is reeling in an old boot. The only time I went fishing (one of the Finger Lakes, NY, c.1978), I caught a jaw bone from some poor fish I must have mangled.

Here's a story about a guy who caught something odd in his net off the coast of Hartlespool (U.K.), in April, 2006. He called the coast guard and described it as, "rusty, spherical and with spikes".

A rescue team was scrambled, and the thing was safely detonated by the proper authorities. It was an old explosive mine left over from World War II.

The fisherman's father is quoted as saying, "It comes with the job. He has found all sorts of weird things, including an aeroplane engine. He is just pleased no-one was hurt."

So, that old boot is nothing. There are stranger catches to be had.

Link: The Northern Echo (Apr. 10, 2006)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Big catch off the Isle of Wight

I always enjoy a good piece about animals being caught in unexpected places, or being bigger than expected.

August, 2007: a 14-foot tresher shark caught off the Isle of Wight (U.K.). It took Danny Vokins and several men over two hours to reel it in, and it weighed an estimated 500 pounds. The shark was tagged and released, and was therefore not weighed and not eligible for the record books. Kudos. I'd rather have a living creature than a dead number.

The Hampshire Chronicle adds that "the shark's movements are now being tracked by the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) in the US." The NMFS has a good page of info about the thresher shark here, though I admit I was surprised to see "Nutrition Facts" get top billing!

Link: The Daily Echo (Aug. 6, 2007) with photo and comments

Link: Hampshire Chronicle (Aug. 7, 2007)

Link: Podcast interview (Aug. 13, 2007)

Link: Danny's photography site (Why not?)

How badly do you want that big screen TV?

Not as badly as some people. Here's a story about a guy in Newcastle (U.K.), who stole a big plasma TV from a local school, by running through a pane of glass to get into the room. This happened on Feb. 23, 2007, and was caught on closed-circuit TV. The man paused for a moment, then smashed through the window, dusted himself off and stole the TV, then went back out through the hole he had made. Sounds like a scene from a Terminator movie.

What's odd is that old-style glass would have broken into jagged pieces and probably caused severe injuries; a tougher modern glass might have taken the blow, leaving him banged up; but it was just the type of glass where the stunt might work.

Link: The Northern Echo (Mar. 6, 2007)

Yes, one category of human story I like are bizarre and stupid crime stories.

Watch out for trees, too

During the coverage of our Valentine's Day storm, there was a report of a man who was driving on the 163 (a major 6-lane divided freeway) when his car was hit by a falling tree. It's not a forested area. It's wide open, mostly scrub except down by Balboa Park, and if there's one thing I don't think of when I think of the 163, it's trees. But apparently they're out there ...

I haven't been able to find the story online. The man in the news report was smiling and telling his story, which is good. It could have been worse.

And, given endless time and space, you can count on something uncommon to happen again (even that tantalizing "something worse"), so here you go:

January 11, 2005 - three injured and one killed when a tree falls on cars on the 163, after more than an inch of rain. Link: (Jan 11, 2005)

But the recap of the storm has: "An 18-year-old woman died and five others were injured Tuesday when a 50-foot tree fell fell across state Route 163, California Highway Patrol officials said. The tree was one of two that fell onto the freeway near downtown San Diego at about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday ..." Link: (Jan 12, 2005)

One thing that makes certain events seem unlikely is our short memories. But just as we can increase our search radius to find more and more trees falling on highways and killing people, we can increase our time span and get the same results. The most bizarre things have probably happened before, and can be expected to happen again.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Big surprise from Cuba

I'm not usually impressed by unlikely news with human causes. After all, people will do crazy things just to get noticed, so it's hardly noticeable when someone does something crazy. But the hallmark of good "unlikely news" is that it makes me stop, assume I heard wrong, and double check. Even better if I still don't believe it and have to check again.

Here's one from the department of "things I never thought I'd hear on the news":

Fidel Castro retired.


For the heap of news stories, here's Google News.

I'm not sure just why it hit me from so far in left field. Part of the surprise is that he has lived to be 81, considering the forces that have been opposed to him. While retiring and letting his brother (Raul, age 76) take over is a sound decision, for as long as I've been alive it seemed that only a revolution could replace him. So, I really don't know what to say, other than point out how unlikely it all seems -- although nothing lasts forever, few things have been as permanent, at least in modern politics. 81 years is nothing to a block of sandstone, but for a revolutionary? Weird.

1,001 places ... or none

We're wired to detect coincidences. Most of what happens on a typical day is ordinary, so when anything "odd" pops up, it can get our attention.

Here's a weird moment that just happened: I was going through a few straggler bills sent to my Mom (who died in November) and sending out photocopies of death certificates to get them to buzz off. One of them was a book club, and I sure don't need them sending unwanted book that I'll have to return. So we took a certificate and put it in the envelope, only to see the featured book of the month: "1,001 Places to See Before You Die." Good book. Lousy timing.

Cyclone hits Soccer Match

Keeping with the "freak storm" theme, here's a dangerous blast of wind ripping up a stadium while a soccer game is underway:
Link to the video on YouTube

Those are some huge chunks of signage flapping around, and some near decapitations. The picture says it all. It's not obvious what kinds of wind this is, but it's it the range of a weak tornado or a microburst.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Twister with Personality

I admit it, I do a lot of very weird searches on Google. Here's a story about a waterspout hitting Belize, from the San Pedro Sun, August 29, 2002. I just love the style of reporting. It gives the storm some personality unheard of in the big papers:

"The 'freak storm' first made land at the Blue Water Grill and decided to reorganize the tables and chairs, causing chaos." (I can just picture it like a big finger, thinking: the green chair goes over HERE ... and is that some dude hiding behind the snack bar?)

"... it made its way to the San Pedro Airstrip. There, the monstrous funnel swallowed a six-seater Australian Airbus." (A good source of iron and other alloys.)

"Still hungry for more, the twister continued on its way to the San Pedrito Area where it tore the roofs off of three homes in that neighborhood leaving the affected occupants in shock." ("I know there's munchies & cruchies in here somewhere.") (Okay - WHAT movie is that darn line from? Was it "Labyrinth" or "The Never-Ending Story?")

Nobody was badly hurt. You can find the whole story here:
San Pedro Sun

It's a good example of how being human colors what we see around us. Rather than chaotic air currents following invisible pattenrs of air pressure, we see intent, hunger, and mischief.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Those burning piles of leaves

I've done my share of road trips, and I've seen my share of people burning leaves and trash outside their homes. It never seems like a good idea. I always wondered if anyone got hurt doing that. Well ...

Link: "Woman Fell Into Leaf Fire, Died" (Jan 9, 2008): an 84-year-old woman is found dead in her leaf fire, probably slipped and fell down an embankment into the fire. No foul play suspected.

Video Link: Here's the story on A Google search will show this story on 20 or 30 other news sites. Sometimes, the smallest news becomes big news. It's nice to know small tragedies can still be noticed.

I suspect I will find similar stories, if I search enough. However, an inspired set of search terms came up with the perfect companion piece:

Link: My Mortimer died by leaf fire.: Ahem. Apparently, the Sims (the game) simulates things so well ... here's a post about a guy whose sim died in a leaf fire while working in the garden! Pictures and all. The very first response is from a fellow player who says, "I had a serious garden fire too, but no one died there."

This beautiful convergence has been brought to you by our search-engine-driven bizarro world. ;-)

Freak Storm hits San Diego

When I posted that last item, I mentioned that it was raining a little. In fact, the unexpected edge of a cold winter storm blasted our area. It was windy and windows rattled a bit, but it was a surprise to watch the evening news and see flooding, mudslides, stranded cars, and the obligatory reporter in a winter coat looking uncomfortable for our benefit.

Over an inch of rain in places, which sounds harmless, bad after October's wildfires killed all the scrub that was holding the soil in place ... many sections of road were covered in mud and rocks, other parts were undercut and not safe to drive on. There was snow as low as 1,500' elevation, which is very rare around here - normally if we have a dusting on Palomar Mountain (6,000') it's a sight to see. And over a foot of snow at the highest points.

Link: Stranded drivers found shelter in some local casinos -- (SignOnSanDiego - Feb 15, 2008)

One of the comments to that article said, "Southern California people need to get out more. This is nothing." But all events need to be seen in their proper context. As you widen an area, more and more things become common. Snow within 20 miles of me is rare, that's a fact. Within 100 miles there are a few ski areas, like Idyllwild, so it's less rare. Within 10,000 miles, that's the whole earth, and snow is guaranteed. Context is important.

If you include the rest of the solar system, it's even snowing methane somewhere.

BTW: I know ... I'm going to have to think of a phrase other than "freak storm" ... since I have so many other reports lined up.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tonga hit by freak storm (Feb, 2008)

Okay, I happen to like unexpected weather phenomena. There's not much info here, but Tonga got hit by a major deluge, dropping up to a foot of rain in a single day.

Link: (Feb 11, 2008)

Right now, we're getting rain here in San Diego, which, according to the song "It Never Rains in Southern California" is a bit odd. And yes, I have a link for the SONG, too.


Postcard arrives after 79 years

One of my favorite categories of story are ones involving huge delays in mail service. I'm a stamp collector, and love a cover with lots of redirections and postmarks. Here's a postcard from Yellowstone, mailed from Seattle in June, 1929, which was just received in Boston after 79 years.

Link: North County Times (Feb 14, 2008)

Thanks to Carmen for finding this one.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tornados strike a third time?

I know the old adage says, "lightning never strikes the same place twice." And I know it depends on how large an area you define as "the same place," but nevermind all that. How about tornados? While I was following last week's tornado swarm in the Southeast, this odd story showed up down under ...

Link: New Zealand Herald (Feb. 07, 2008).

Apparently, Union University in Jackson, TN was hit by tornadoes in Feb 2008, Nov 2002 and "a few years before that."

The University itself has a good news archive, and here are the 3 storms:

  • Feb 2008
  • Nov 2002
  • Jan 1999

  • No shootings at all?

    From the department of "unlikely, but in a good way:"

    "For the first time since 1996, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department went a year without any deputy-involved shootings, it was reported Monday."

    I like the role-reversal on this one. It does seem much more likely that, in a city of a few million people, given the usual percent of criminals, that someone would get shot by the authorities. Just not this year. The past few years, 7 to 10 shootings were reported. That's not to say some other department didn't kill anyone, of course, but it's still a jot of good news.

    Link: North County Times (Feb 12, 2008)

    How Not to Find a UFO

    I sat through an episode of UFO Hunters last night. Mostly because it was a local story about UFOs around Catalina Island. Unidentfied Flying Objects and the new rage, Unidentified Submerged Objects (USOs). I'd love to see some proof of alien visitors, really. But the evidence is just so minimal. Some guy said he saw something, so they find some other guy who saw something. Zzz. Most of the episode was a searching for a sunken Piper Cherokee supposedly downed by a USO. They didn't find it. And rather than admit that it can take years to find a small wreck, their conclusion was that the plane "might have been moved by the aliens." I don't know long they were searching. It's essentially a treasure hunt, and such shows are notoriously short on measurable data. It looked like they spent maybe two days looking. Maybe just one. The expected result is: NOT finding anything. And of course they rolled their eyes at the skeptic at the end, and ran the credits in a hurry. Proving nothing. Please don't be fooled by this stuff. It's just entertainment.

    Odd fact: Both the History Channel and the SciFi Channel have shows in production called "UFO Hunters." the History Channel one is a spinoff of a 2005 one-off show called "UFO Hunters" and the SciFi one is a spin off of "Ghost Hunters." A post on said they were both trying to trademark the name & concept ... like you can really own a name. Still, two TV shows with the same name -- unlikely! Representatives of UFO Hunters duking it out in court (probably in expensive suits) -- also unlikely.

    Personal oddity: I once got tricked into driving someone to a UFO Society meeting because I thought she had said "USO" -- she was about 50, and I thought she had a military husband, so the United Service Organization was what I figured. Nope. UFOs. It was a weird gathering; the people all picked apart each other's UFO stories while defending their own, and there was a lecture on ancient astronauts that presented perfectly reasonable "establishment" ideas and laughed at them, based on next to nothing. Anyway ... during this "UFO Hunters" story about USOs, who should advertise but the USO! Really -- they showed an aircraft hanger full of people preparing care packages for our troops! I couldn't believe my eyes. Unlikely ... or just mistakenly targeted advertising?

    Sleeping Man Kills Sleeping Man

    We had a story here in San Diego last week where a man (allegedly) fell asleep at the wheel of his car and ran off the road. The car hit a boulder and flew into a bunch of trees where a homeless man was sleeping, killing the poor fellow. The driver suffered only minor injuries.

    Odd detail: "The car was launched about 65 feet in the air after striking the boulder." In case you wondered if THAT ever happened.

    Odd fact: On the topic of "unlikely (and unfair) but true" it reminds us that drunks and sleeping people are less likely to be hurt in a car accident.

    Link: North County Times (Feb 1, 2008)


    Unlikely things happen all the time. But this doesn't mean all things are possible. Without getting into the pits of probability, there's a huge difference between something that has a 1 in 1,000 chance of happening (getting hit by a car today) and a 1 in a billion chance (getting hit by a car today while waking up on Broadway in your pajamas). Yet those super longshots, like two black holes colliding, will happen, given enough time.

    I want this blog to be entertaining -- but along the way I think it's important to point out bad arguments. There are so many websites full of unsupportable rubbish, and people trying to convince us of nutty things everywhere we turn. Even the History Channel shows things that aren't even slightly historical! What has the world become? What fun is the weirdness if it's just baloney?

    These things we call "weird" are like a fine wine. Okay, maybe fine cheese. A taste that can be developed. We should be able to put on our Mythbuster caps at the end of a story, and say "Plausible" or "Not."