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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Weird news - Apple Maps sending people to a desert in Australia

Earlier this year, the confrontation between Google and Apple only got worse when Apple removed Google Maps as the default maps application and replaced it with Apple Maps (this shows how bad the relationship has got; at one point the Google head was also on the board of Apple before they started competing with each head on after the release of Android). Soon enough, it became clear that the release of Apple Maps was a rushed affair, primarily because the database for the maps was not yet complete. So forget the quality of details in Google Maps, but the Apple Maps application even had some parts of cities being missed, and in one case, even a bridge was not there on the application. So there was a lot of ridicule for the Apple application, and eventually even though Apple rectified some of the problems, they had to do a public apology and fired the head of the Maps application development unit.
In the recent past, the spread of GPS based navigation has been impressive, with a number of drivers using these apps to navigate their way around unknown parts. They are mostly accurate, but every once in a while there is a situation where it shows that people are starting to depend on GPS almost entirely, and end up in strange situations. There have been cases where people have been sent down one-way streets, once a large load was sent down a street where it was difficult to get out of, but even these were seen as somewhat funny situation (although the people directly involved would not see them as funny).
But this particular situation in Australia is pretty bad. Most of Australia is barren land, a sort of desert with very few people and large sections without telecom coverage. So when the Apple Maps started sending people through a dirt road and into a desert like area where there was no telecom coverage, no water, and sand that would cause vehicles to get bogged down, it started worrying the police. They had to keep coming in to rescue people and worry about whether people might die in the heat and without water, and so the police have blamed the app for causing people to get off the highway and threatening their lives (link to article):

The Murray-Sunset National Park is in Victoria's far northwest, a relatively untouched semi-arid region accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicle. Clemence said at least six vehicles had become stuck on the desert park's sandy tracks after being directed by the iOS mapping system to turn off a long and infrequently sign-posted stretch of highway between South Australia state and Victoria. "These people have still been rescuable. But we've just had a 46C day (115 degrees F). If they were out there in that temperature and out of phone range, they would have been in serious trouble," he said.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Weird news - Fight between 2 Chinese on board Swiss flight forces it to turn back

When people book a ticket on a flight, their need can be very critical. They could be going to meet a sick relative on the deathbed, could be going for an important business meeting, or the flight could be part of a vacation. In such cases, the delay or cancellation of such a flight can be very tricky, and cold cause huge effort for the people involved. Such delays and cancellations also have impacts on airlines; it means impact on their customers, it means heavy new logistics including maybe having to arrange for food and lodging for the flying customers, means having to pay charges at the airport (could be the one from where the flight was delayed, or a different airport in case their flight was diverted), and extra fuel that any change in their flight plan can cause. And for these extra costs, they cannot get more from the passengers, and in fact, they face some loss of goodwill for any such thing.
On a flight, any nuisance is treated very severely (the captain of the flight has responsibility and authority over whoever is on the flight) and in many cases, disturbances creators can face trial and jail terms depending on what they had done. Given the problems that can happen, it seems strange that a flight had to get diverted because of some quarreling passengers. The quarrel must have been very intense and the crew would not have been able to get the passengers pacified; as a result, the Swiss International flight bound to Beijing had to return to Zurich. The passengers were then taken off and arrested by the police at Zurich after disembarking (link to article):

A mid-air brawl between two Chinese passengers onboard a Swiss International airplane disrupted the Beijing-bound flight and forced it to return to Zurich, where the duo were arrested. According to media reports, a 57-year-old Chinese man travelling on the flight last Sunday felt disturbed while eating his meal when the passenger in front of him , another Chinese citizen, aged 27 reclined his seat. The elderly person who was reportedly drunk, hit the younger passenger when he did not respond to his protests. A fight then broke out between the two, which caused one of the passengers to bleed, state-run China Daily reported.

Weird news - Mom phones police about son's disappearance, charged later with crime

It is always scary for a parent when they lose sight of their child or the child goes missing, especially when the child is of such a young age that he or she cannot take of themselves. A 3 year old child certainly cannot take care of themselves, and it is incumbent upon parents and guardians to take care of them, and if this does not happen and the child seems to be mis-treated, then the government steps and can take over the maintenance of the child. However, even this does not happen in some cases, after all the Government is not all knowing, with a dependence that the parents of the child will take care of their responsibility. The Government more depends on law and the fear of the law to ensure that parents take care of their responsibility, and when they find cases where a parent is responsible for a child suffering, or in tragic cases, where the parent is responsible for the death of the child.
In a recent case, the parent of a child (where the parents are separated) filed a complaint that the child was lost in a park and appeared distraught. The mother came to the police looking very distressed and got the police in action to look for the child and more people including volunteers got into the action. However, this is where things get stupid and tragic. When they were looking near the child's home, they saw a garbage truck leaving the home and followed the truck to the garbage handling facility where they found the child's body. As a result, the mother of the child was held, although there is no admission from her of guilt as yet (link to article):

A Cleveland woman has been arrested in the death of her 3-year-old son after police found what they believe is the body of the young boy at a waste-treatment plant, according to authorities. Cleveland police said Monday they're holding Camilia Terry, 20, at Cuyahoga County Jail to await charges in the death of her son, Emilliano Terry. "We come here with heavy hearts, I'm sure you understand. Today, at approximately 4 o'clock, a body of a small child matching the description of Emilliano Terry was discovered at a waste treatment plant in Oakwood Village," Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said, according to ABC News affiliate WEWS-TV.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Weird science history - Scientists who died as a result of their research

When you see some of the marvels of the modern world, you must be wondering about where these came from. But have you thought about all the people who did all the work that caused these marvels, these inventions, etc. Consider the more hazardous stuff that people have had to endure when you consider the nature of the more dangerous stuff that we now use under a lot of safeguards - such as radioactive stuff, poisons, acids, the invention of flying or of submarines. Now, we have a lot of warnings and safety when these are in use, but earlier people did not even know about the dangers, or discovered the dangers when it was too late. It was the path-breaking efforts of these people who actually showed us this stuff. 
This article has a list of scientists who did a lot of work in areas that are now classified as dangerous but which are also very critical for us now (for example, radioactive substances are used not only in the power generation industry, but also in medicine for diagnosis, and for destructive purposes in the form of nuclear bombs). 

1. Carl Scheele (1742-1786) - Died due to heavy metal toxicity caused due to his experiments
2. Elizabeth Fleischman Ascheim (1859-1905) - Heavy exposure to X-rays as part of experimentation, died due to radioactive poisoning
3. Alexander Bogdanov (1873-1928) - Lots of experiments in terms of blood transfusions, but his last one was infected and died as a result
4. Marie Curie (1867-1934) - One of the most famous scientists of her time, and a heavy exposure to radiation caused leukemia
5. Haroutune (Harry) K. Daghlian Jr. (1921-1945) - Died as a result of the action he took during an experiment to prevent a danger, died due to massive amounts of radiation
6. Malcolm Casadaban (1949-2009) - Died due to a bacterium that he got exposed to in his lab
7. Richard Din (1987-2012) - Died due to exposure to a bacterium that he was working on
Out of these deaths, the last 2 happened in modern times when people knew about the dangers due to what they were working on, and yet any accident or slip can cause such accidents.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Weird news - Shark drops from the sky onto a golf course

Imagine that you are on a golf course, enjoying a quiet game of golf on a beautiful green course, concentrating on making the next shot that could give you a good score. And then suddenly you see an obstacle that you would never have predicted, a shark falls from the sky nearby. Now, a shark can be a very scary animal for most people (except for those who work with the shark as part of their work) and even though this is a 2 foot long shark, it is still a shark. The only solace for you is that the shark is not in water and is only 2 foot long.
However, since the shark was still alive, a concerted effort was made to save its life, first by placing it into a bucket that contained salt water (prepared for trying to keep the shark alive) and then a worker at the golf course took the shark to the ocean that was about 4 miles away. And there it seemed that all the effort made to save the shark was in vain, since the shark did not make any movement initially when the shark was placed in the water, but within a few seconds, the shark recovered and swam away, making all the efforts worth while.
So how can a shark drop out of the sky ? Well, there are birds who are capable of picking up the shark from the ocean and taking it for a meal, and small wounds on the shark seemed to suggest the same, although no one actually saw the bird carrying the shark. Refer this article (link to article):

"I thought he was dead," Stizer told the Dispatch. "When I dropped him into the water, he just lied there for a few seconds, but then he did a twist and shot off into the water." The shark, which reportedly had two bleeding wounds near its dorsal fin, is thought to have been dropped over the golf course by a predatory bird, though no one is known to have actually seen the shark fall. Julianne Steers, chief aquarist at the Ocean Institute near the golf course, told the Dispatch that there are ospreys and peregrine falcons in the area that could have snatched the shark from shallow waters before losing hold of it.

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