About rabbit polony, an iceberg and a lost painting


About rabbit polony, an iceberg and a lost painting

ALI VAN WYK shares a collection of useful, sultry, silly and bizarre stories from the hi-tech laboratories, concert halls, galleries, libraries and back alleys of the internet.

South Pole iceberg sails away

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) announced on X that an iceberg about the size of Pretoria (380 km²) unexpectedly broke off the Brunt ice shelf near the Halley research station on May 20 after a sudden crack gradually developed into a 14 km chasm. 

The iceberg formed at 90º to the existing Halloween Crack but  it had to settle for a less flamboyant name: A-38. The BAS asked for suggestions for a more colourful nickname but contributors undermined the effort with a variety of frivolous suggestions, such as Joey Ridings' “Vanilla Iceberg".  

This is the third largest iceberg-calving from the Brunt ice shelf in the last three years. The first one (155 km²) was as big as Johannesburg and the second (1,270 km²) as big as Rome. A glaciologist from Swansea University, Prof Adrian Luckman, told IFLScience he is worried that three such icebergs have broken off in a relatively short period from the coldest part of Antarctica's floating ice plains. But he says in this case it is not due to climate change.

A questionable naming attempt by an X contributor.
A questionable naming attempt by an X contributor.

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Cape butterfly in dire straits

Barber’s Cape Flats Ranger butterfly, of which there are fewer than 50 left, is critically endangered between Baden Powell Drive and Strandfontein Road. The colony is within sight of a multistorey apartment development but falls outside the boundaries of the building site. The City of Cape Town plans further development in the area and there is no management plan to conserve the butterfly.www.groundup.org.za

Barber’s Cape Flats Ranger butterfly (Trida barbera bunta) survives in 1 km² of Strandveld dunes on the Cape Flats.
Barber’s Cape Flats Ranger butterfly (Trida barbera bunta) survives in 1 km² of Strandveld dunes on the Cape Flats.

‘Roof Ninja’ removed

A 34-year-old woman from Michigan in the US, known on the street as the “Roof Ninja", was apprehended by police on the roof of a supermarket and escorted downstairs. She lived inside the store's signboard. The triangular board has a kind of storage loft of about 1.5 m x 2.4 m on the inside, with a small door. The woman's name has not been released but a video of the police action has been released.

In the little room she had installed a floor, a computer and printer, a pantry, house plants and a Keurig coffee machine. She has a job and owns a car. The police and store manager have not yet been able to figure out how she gained access to the roof with her belongings, because there is no ladder or stairs.

Despite a CCTV system and security, the woman lived in the signboard for more than a year without being detected. She was discovered when a construction worker followed an electrical extension cord to the sign. When asked by the police how she found the place, she said: “This is actually an old well-known safe space." She emerged in black clothing with ski goggles on her head.

New rabbit sausage in Harare

Raymeg Consultants, a company in Harare, has launched Zimbabwe's first rabbit polony as part of its effort to enhance the rabbit value chain.

According to the company, the product broadens the organisation's range of rabbit meat products, which now include burgers, pies, biltong,  nuggets, pizza, and rabbit and chips. — Zimbabwe Independent

Rabbit meat from Raymeg for sale in Harare.
Rabbit meat from Raymeg for sale in Harare.

Lost Caravaggio exhibited for first time

A painting by the master of the Baroque era, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, which had been lost since the 19th century, is on public display for the first time this week in the Prado Museum in Madrid. The work, “Ecce Homo" (“Behold the Man”), was found three years ago and is described as one of the greatest discoveries in art history.

The painting was to be sold at auction for a fraction of the value when the Spanish government intervened after several experts reckoned it could be a Caravaggio rather than the work of an unknown contemporary, José de Ribera. The work was in the possession of the family of a 19th century politician, Evaristo Pérez de Castro, all the time.

Caravaggio painted the portrait of Jesus with a crown of thorns between 1605 and 1609, shortly before his death in his late 30s. He is known for the “chiaroscuro" technique of using light and shade to create the illusion that his subjects are alive.

Caravaggio's Ecce Homo, which was sought for more than a century.
Caravaggio's Ecce Homo, which was sought for more than a century.

Chiefs can help with democracy

A researcher from the University of Richmond in the US, Prof Vladimir Chlouba, says most of Africa's traditional leaders may be more valuable to democracy than previously suspected. In The Conversation, he says that although trust in democracy is slowly declining in Africa, Afrobarometer, an organisation that conducts polls in 30 countries on the continent, found that two-thirds of Africans prefer democracy to any other form of government. However, he says support for democracy has fallen below 50% in countries such as South Africa, Angola, Lesotho, Mali and Mozambique.

His research shows that in 19 of the 22 countries polled, people trust their leaders more than elected politicians. He also says that in the significant number of cases where a form of democracy is at work in traditional systems, people are more likely to accept national democracy, especially where they are in regular contact with their traditional leader. This finding may be surprising, because previously it was largely assumed that chiefs do not tend to support democracy.

Say goodbye to old-fashioned light bulb

From last Friday, South Africans are no longer supposed to be able to buy old-fashioned light bulbs (with a filament) or compact fluorescent bulbs (also known as energy savers) for domestic use, only LED lamps (with light-emitting diodes). A notice by the Minister for Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, does not specify the type of lamp permitted but a level of energy efficiency: a bulb must not emit fewer than 90 lumens per watt (lm/W). Filaments emit 4-12 lm/W and fluorescent lamps 47-70 lm/W. The notice provides for a phasing-out period, so the bulbs will probably still be available for the rest of the year.

Scarlett will be back!

One of the best X jokes was from Alex Blechman:

  • Sci-Fi author: In my book I invented the Torment Nexus as a cautionary tale.
  • Tech company: At long last, we have created the Torment Nexus from classic sci-fi novel Don’t Create the Torment Nexus.

The Torment Nexus came to mind when Scarlett Johansson said she was suing artificial intelligence company OpenAI for creating an AI voice that sounded suspiciously like Samantha, the AI voiced by Johansson in the 2013 Spike Jonze movie Her. The suspicion is that OpenAI took a bunch of Johansson's speeches and interviews from the internet and fed them to the AI ​​robot.

Copyright lawyers are watching the case with interest but Sonny Bunch of The Bulwark reckons Johansson is tackling a tough case: “The reason why people are so deeply disturbed by this is because it confirms everyone's fears about AI and about the arrogant masters-of-the-universe types, like Sam Altman, OpenAI's top guy, who fuel it."

Scarlett Johansson is suing OpenAI.
Scarlett Johansson is suing OpenAI.

‘Stick Shift FTW’

This is an unusual headline for a media release from a police station — FTW stands for “for the win". The statement was issued by  Boulder police station in Coloradom US, after a 26-year-old was rearrested barely a day after her release from prison. According to the police, Amber Davis noticed a bakkie with the keys still in the ignition while she was walking down the street, jumped in and started the engine. When she wanted to pull away, she realised the bakkie had manual gears, while she could only drive automatics.

Davis immediately exited the vehicle and it crashed into a fire hydrant. She was arrested at the scene and charged with second-degree aggravated auto theft, careless driving, driving without a valid licence and complicity in a collision with an unmanned vehicle or other property.



Etiquette for first visit to potential in-laws

A “famous television evangelist", the Rev Funke Felix-Adejumo, has a bunch of recommendations for young visiting prospective parents-in-law for the first time. As reported in the Nigerian newspaper The Punch, they include:

  • Do not try to pull apart the meat in your food if it is tough.
  • Even if you're an extrovert, pretend you're not and avoid walking around the house.
  • When you enter the house, sit down as soon as possible. Remember, they may be watching you through the keyhole, because you are actually there for your entrance exam.
  • Don't wear high heels that can make you tremble.
  • If you have to look around, just turn your eyes, not your head.
Hon. Funke Adejumo, Nigerian relationship expert.
Hon. Funke Adejumo, Nigerian relationship expert.

In the same column, a sociologist and relationship specialist, Peter Sokuma, gives the following advice:

  • Avoid visiting with body odour. If there's a bad smell emanating from your mouth, it doesn't matter how hard you try to make an impression, because it's going to put people off. Body odours of any kind are enough motivation to make a future parent-in-law refuse to give up a son or daughter to any man or woman.

♦ VWB ♦

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