Parrot gets a set of wheels
"In an effort to quieten his family parrot, a U.S. student has taught the bird how to drive," says The New Zealand Herald. "Andrew Gray, an electrical and computer engineering graduate at the University of Florida, has built a machine his parrot, Pepper, can operate with its beak. … Gray built the Bird Buggy in an effort to shut up his noisy parrot, who squawked whenever it was left alone." The mobile platform has infrared sensors and bump sensors to prevent Pepper crashing.
When Americans walked
"America was once the land of the long walk," writes Wayne Curtis in The Smart Set, "at least if you didn't have the means to ride a horse … Undertaking a 10- or 15-mile walk was once something Americans might do routinely in an afternoon. No special note was made of it. In 1906, just as cars were coming into vogue, the nation was afflicted by a small outbreak of long-distance walking. … A splenetic editorial in American Gymnasia took a dim view of the attention being lavished on the long-distance walks. 'It is simply another mark of the degree of physical degeneracy (is that too strong a term?) of the present day that long walks are uncommon enough to excite special attention – not 1,200-mile walks but even 50 mile trips. And for most of us, 10 miles is a distance to cover which we must use much effort, and having made it are quite sure to indulge in self-praise.'"
Not home on this range
"Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev attracted ridicule when he used a picture of mountains in Colorado as an example of his country's beauty," says United Press International. "Plevneliev received praise for taking a more emotional approach than that of his predecessor, Georgi Parvanov, in the first televised New Year's speech of his term, but some online commentators made jokes at the leader's expense after a picture of Colorado's Rocky Mountains was shown during a section of the speech about Bulgaria's natural beauty, Novonite.com reported Wednesday."
Laughed into labour
"A woman laughed so much during a show by Beijing's stand-up comedian Guo Degang on Saturday night that she gave birth prematurely," reports The Shanghai Daily. "Ma Lusha, a big fan of Guo, was 38 weeks pregnant and was watching Guo's gags and banter in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province when she suddenly felt her baby was coming out. She was immediately sent to a nearby hospital by her husband and a girl was born a few hours later, Anhui Business News reported. … Ma felt very lucky and wished her idol would find a name for her girl, but Guo declined politely, the paper said."
A new bee? Bazinga
Brazilian researcher Andre Nemesio and his team from the Universidade Federal de Uberlandia have named a new species of orchid bee, Euglossa bazinga, after the catchphrase used by Sheldon Cooper on the television show The Big Bang Theory, says Smithsonianmag.com. Their paper explains that the character's "favourite comic word 'bazinga,' used by him when tricking somebody," was chosen because the bee "has tricked us for some time due to its similarity to E. ignita."
Giraffes' dark side
"As the tallest animals in the world, with gangly legs, twisting black tongues and patchwork markings, giraffes are instantly recognizable," says BBC News. "But we still know relatively little about these supposedly gentle giants. Footage recorded for a new landmark natural history series, Africa … reveals a little-seen brutal aspect to giraffe's lives. Male giraffes were filmed engaging in a bruising fight, literally going head to head, until a single giraffe was left standing. New research just published also shows that female giraffes form previously unrecognized close bonds with a select group of female companions. Not only do they make 'friends' in this way; they avoid other females they get on with less well."
Thought du jour
"Confidence gives a fool the advantage over a wise man."
William Hazlitt, English essayist (1778-1830)