'Snot So Bad

Serendipity comes in many forms, sometimes in rather disgusting ways. While sampling the properties of paper made from recycled pulp, Marcia Henni of Mainstown Recycling Co, Boston, came upon a stomach turning, yet potentially revolutionary, discovery.

The various sources of pulp were recorded and treated in various ways and, according to Miss Henni, a batch was accidentally contaminated with tissues from a doctor’s office.

“We only noticed once the batch had been fully processed, luckily as it turns out, so we went ahead and performed the sampling anyway. We were on the verge of interfering, when we decided, instead, to see what would happen, you know,” she says, “Turns out it was one of the best things we could have done.”

The paper then sampled was 24% stronger, 18% smoother and 15% brighter than the other samples. Unconvinced, Miss Henni repeated the experiment with another batch of tissues, only to find the quality was much poorer.

“First we thought it was the tissues themselves, that somehow the fibres were able to matt down more or something, but no, it’s the mucous! The proteins in the mucous link the fibres to create very strong bonds. The bleaching process, in particular, appears to play an important part in transforming the relatively gel-like substance into something flexible yet strong,” she explains.

It could be a boon for the recycling industry if the formula can be perfected. As paper is recycled it loses its desirable properties, such as how it performs in printers, how toner adheres and how ink is absorbed. In what could be a boon for the industry, Marcia says that low-grade, contaminated or previously recycled paper could be made usable once more.

“If we can isolate the compounds, we can then apply them in a more scientific manner. I’m optimistic that, from what I’ve seen so far, we can improve grades of recycled paper by at least two levels. That’s like going from scrap and filler to drawing paper. It’s better for us and and better for the environment.”

Miss Henni has not elaborated on how one might source an industrial quantity of mucous.

“It’s early stages, yet. And, frankly, I don’t want to think about that. I’m an industrial chemist, you know, not a janitor.”

Poltergeists need not apply

A stoush has erupted over whether Poltergeists are included under the study of Cryptozoology. While spokespeople from both sides of the fence agree that ‘noisy-ghosts’ belong under the umbrella of Paranormal, there is debate as to where, under that rather large term, the phenomenon falls.

“It is a phenomenon. There is direct interaction with the physical realm,” says Lead Investigator Herbert Lanigan from the Paranormal Institute of Wyoming (PIW), “As such, it cannot be ruled out that it is not animalistic in nature and therefore cannot be excluded as a cryptid or as an effect of a cryptid. One cannot lump everything unexplained into the ghost realm.”

He goes on to cite various examples where poltergeist activity was linked to psychological states of people, fueling his claim that it is caused by an animal, and therefore that animal can be classified as a cryptid.

“Utter rubbish,” says Head Observer of Utah and Surrounds Spiritual Researchers (USSR), “That would mean that anyone who had an Out Of Body (OOB) Experience, or was telekinetic in any way, should be classified as a cryptid. If that’s the case, then anyone with any psychic ability is open to being labeled as such. Besides, when objects are moved or people are slapped, there is no way to say that it is not a spirit interacting with the physical realm.”

He points to the fact that a poltergeist is, by its definition, a ‘noisy ghost’. If, he says, it is shown not to be a ghost, but the results of a psionic projection or an OOBE or telekenisis, then a new classification would be necessary.

“There’s no reason to hijack an established definition,” he says.

Further rebuttles come from the Colorado Cryptid and Anomalous Animals Association (CCAAA) member, Geraldine Andrews, “The definition of what constitutes a cryptid is very clear cut. It has to be an animal, not what the animal does. I can’t call the teeth marks of a Chupacapra a cryptid, any more than I can call tyre tracks a car. I agree that some cryptids are capable of psycho-kinetic powers, but I can’t agree that the manifestation should be included under the Cryptozoological roof.”

Herbert Lanigan responds to this by saying, “The activity of a poltergeist is caused by a single entity, and that entity is unexplained, can interact with objects and can move about, just as an animal can. Who is to say it is not an invisible animal, or an animal that can project itself?”

The debate is yet to be resolved and is to be reconvened in October.ChesterLogoSmall

Marxy Poppins

Artur Müller, librarian at Bremen’s Wasserbibliothek, has demonstrated that the story of Mary Poppins is actually a study in Communism, with references and symbolism littered throughout the books.

“The most obvious notion is that she (Mary Poppins) arrived on a wind from the East. What was the address? Cherry Tree Lane – cherries are red, a harbinger of the impending wave. What was the surname of the household? Banks!” says Artur, “What better way to say that the unruly and uncontrollable desire of capitalism can only be tempered by the chastisement and wisdom of a pure communist manifesto?”

He goes on to cite the various stories that were told, mostly centered around the working class and the folly of nobility, capitalism and private ownership. Inside her bag was an apron, boots, flannel nightgowns, all symbols of the working class. There was also a bottle of dark, red medicine.

The scene in which she pastes gingerbread stars bought Mrs. Corry on the sky is dripping in symbolism, he says.

“The star is a strong symbol of the socialist regime. Communism would march across the globe, just as the stars were painted on the sky. The flags of the world would all have stars upon them. When Mary Poppins danced with the planets, which we can take to be world leaders, and the sun, which is clearly a reference to Japan, her cheek was burned. This is a very real and open statement by (Travers) of her beliefs.”

Disney may or may not have understood the full intent, says Artur, but he has his concerns.

“The movie is interesting. The song, ‘A Spoon Full of Sugar’, when taken in context, is about a charge of gunpowder, that socialism would be enforced by the bullet if necessary, in order to ‘make the medicine go down’. Whether this is intentional, I am still looking into it,” he says, “Another, more blatant scene, besides the dancing sweeps and dismissal of investment over feeding the pigeons – or the masses – is the horse race. The protagonists make a big show of the insane, never ending carousel of Capitalism, and how when one breaks free from the cycle, one is truly free from the insanity.”

Artur is looking to publish his findings later this year.ChesterLogoSmall

Uber-Lice ain’t Uber-Hip

Lousy at it sounds, a new breed of lice has been discovered living almost exclusively in the beards of Hipsters.

The new breed, tentatively named “Pediculus hipsterus” after the place of its discovery, has larger claws, a thicker shell and is ideally suited to long, shaggy chin hair.

“It may well be that this louse has been around for a while, adapted to the facial hair of humans, and that we have only seen a resurgence in its population since the proliferation of the hipster lifestyle,” says Robert Deakin, Curator of the National Louse, Mite and Tick Association, “We have seen this before with fleas and mites, where a given species was thought to be extinct, only to reappear as society’s habits changed.”

This case is different, he goes on to say, in that the louse under question has never been catalogued before, and shows a particular predilection for long, shaggy beards, a favourite of the hipster movement. Not only this, the louse have shown a strong resilience to conventional treatments, requiring nothing less than physical removal to treat the problem.

“The usual anti-lice shampoos only slow them down. Eggs are attached more strongly. The correlation between the adoption of the hipster lifestyle and the discovery of these lice is too strong to ignore.”

When asked why other periods of high beard usage would not have seen such a creature, Robert replies, “It’s a myth that lice like dirty hair. In fact, the cleaner and more well groomed, the better. In the past, beards would have been hostile, dirty places to live. Hipsters are unique, in that they regularly clean their beards and have access to conditioners designed to soften the normally wiry hair. It is my theory that the shampoos, conditioners and perfumes used to maintain hipster beards is breeding this uber-lice.”ChesterLogoSmall

18 Holes or 40 Winks?

Watching paint dry is more mentally stimulating than watching a match of golf, according to a report released by Neufchatel Research Insititute.

Candidates were given various interactive tasks, such as playing games or reading books, while others were given passive tasks such as watching television or, in some cases, watching paint dry. Each wore a calibrated cap hooked up to an EEG to record the activity of the brain.

While it may come as no surprise that passive tasks produced brain patterns closely resembling sleep, what scientists were not expecting is that watching golf produced similar results.

“In fact the brain was demonstrating cycles akin to phase 2 sleep in the ‘golf’ subjects. They had effectively switched off. The ‘paint’ subjects actually had a higher level of brain function,” says Renee Curvelle, member of the research team.

Delving into the possible causes of the result proved insightful.

“It seems that in a minority of candidates, watching the sport elicited an excited response. For the majority, though, their brain went through stages of annoyance, boredom, then active imagination to relieve that boredom, finally reaching a quiescent acceptance, at which point it shut down. The ‘paint’ watchers, in contrast, did not exhibit the acceptance stage and remained in the imagination stage,” Renee says.

The study hopes to shed light on sleep disorders related to over-stimulation of the brain and develop non-drug alternatives.

“It is possible that, in the future, rather than prescribing sedatives, we might find doctors prescribing a comfy chair and watching mundane sports like golf.”ChesterLogoSmall

The costs of fads – Pokemon Go

With fads such as “Pokemon Go” hitting smart-device screens, social researchers at Wisconsin Society Administration have evaluated the indirect costs. The figures are alarming.

“If we take the first level of indirection – lower productivity – we see that this, in the Wisconsin area alone, comes to an average of just under 30 minutes per working day lost to ‘screen time’. This comes out to the order of over 15 million dollars per day in lost productivity,” says Sarah Erstman, fellow at the WSA, “That it alarming by itself. We deliberately ignored time off for accidents caused by looking inattention, since the causality for this would be too hard to associate with our study, yet you can consider this figure to rise if we included it.”

She goes on to say that there are many knock-on effects, such as a drop in the quality of work, unsafe workplaces resulting in higher rates of liability and time off for employees. She says to expect higher incidents of food poisoning along with neck, hand and eye complaints, rises in personal liability premiums and telecommunication bottlenecks.

“The figure (of 15 million per day) is conservative. If we include level two factors, the cost can be estimated at somewhere between 40 to 50 million. This is a significant loss and the effects will be felt for years to come,” she says, “We are still waiting on the official results from our sister study, based upon traffic flow, but the current consensus is that trains and busses are being delayed, traffic is more congested. I would expect to double that figure for tertiary effects.”ChesterLogoSmall

Man, it’s hot today!

“It wouldn’t be so bit if it were a dry heat. It’s the humidity that does it.”

The only thing more annoying than a rhetorical complaint is an unwarranted response according to Social Ventures researcher, Jackie Marzden. While designing a new ‘annoy-o-meter’ for their social science research, they developed a system to test it, and came up with various scenarios that people find annoying.

“It’s very difficult to quantify how annoying someone or something is. Quite often the results are skewed depending on the environment, context, people and situations. For example, someone clicking their nails abstractedly might not bother someone on any other day but, given that they recently gave up smoking, their response can be overwhelming,” she says, “The scale is logarithmic in nature, which comes as no surprise. The real challenge lies in getting test subjects to feel annoyance.”

Jackie says that social niceties and politeness masks the true level of irritation a person feels. To mitigate these factors, her team lets the participants score their annoyance anonymously. The early results are interesting.

“The overall level of irritation is like a leaky bucket. The more refreshed, relaxed and comfortable a person is, the holes are in the bucket to allow irritation to dissapate. If someone is sleep deprived, undergoing major stresses or in an unfamiliar environment, their irritability increases exponentially, despite what their outward disposition is like.”

More than this, her team showed that annoying factors have a compounding effect and that ‘irritant-combos’ are exponentially more effective at annoying a subject than any single source of irritation.

Jackie explains, “We found that even the most severe irritants, such as being sneezed upon, scored a less than a combination of lesser irritants. For example and unhelpful complaint, such as those about the weather, scored about a 1 on our ire-scale, while an unhelpful response to that complaint drew an ire of 3, which is 100 times more annoying than the original irritation.”ChesterLogoSmall