Biting Olympic medals
"Why do medalists from every sport, and from every country bite their medals on the podium?" writes Clementine Jacoby of The San Jose (Calif.) Mercury-News. "According to Summer Sanders, who won four medals in the '92 games, 'It's not your idea. It's the journalists, the people taking the pictures that say 'Bite your medal! Give your medal a bite!' … So we do.' The origin of the oddity lies in the notion of testing the purity of the medal. In their pure forms, gold and silver are both soft enough to mark with your teeth. But according to Ms. Sanders, it's the reporters who keep this tradition alive, because it makes for a good picture."
"Usain Bolt won the Men's 100-metre final in 9.63 seconds," says Pacific Standard magazine. "He is faster than an elephant (but slightly slower than a housecat)."
Greener, deadlier ammo
"The idea of a bullet designed to both kill the enemy and be kind to the environment might sound like a macabre joke," says BBC News. "In combat, soldiers don't usually worry about the green credentials of the enemy. But armies in Scandinavia are so concerned about the pollution caused by lead bullets they're replacing their entire stock with non-toxic versions. … 'If you're getting killed by a lead bullet or lead-free it doesn't really matter, but most ammunition is used for training anyway,' explains Urban Oholm, senior vice-president of Swedish arms manufacturer Nammo. His firm has pioneered the development of 'green' ammunition. …There have also been concerns that the gases given off during firing are bad for the health of soldiers, especially women of child-bearing age. Five per cent of Sweden's soldiers are female." In 1999, Nammo delivered the first lead-free bullets. The firm "claims each green round is designed to 'minimize the impact on users' health' and on the environment. The company also trumpets that the new design shows 'improved lethality.'"
Ski masks at the beach
"It was enough to make a trio of heavily tattooed young men stop their playful splashing and to prompt a small boy to run to his mother in alarm: a woman rising out of the choppy waves of the sea [in Qingdao, China], her head wrapped in a neon-orange ski mask," writes Dan Levin of The New York Times. "For legions of middle-class Chinese women – and for those who aspire to their ranks – solar protection is practically a fetish, complete with its own gear. This booming industry caters to a culture that prizes a pallid complexion as a traditional sign of feminine beauty unscathed by the indignities of manual labour. With the pursuit of that age-old aesthetic ideal at odds with the fast-growing interest in beachgoing and other outdoor activities, Chinese women have come up with a variety of ways to reconcile the two."
Pants on fire
An Englishman had to be led to safety from his apartment in Dorset after a fire started when he tried to dry his underpants and socks in the microwave, The Guardian reports. "The flames were quickly put out by firefighters. A Dorset fire and rescue spokeswoman said: 'The fire involved two pairs of underpants and two pairs of socks. … The fire safety message here is to never put clothing of any kind into the microwave or an oven to attempt to dry them.'"
Sheep may safely text
Sheep could soon cry wolf via text message, as a Swiss scientist is developing a system to automatically warn shepherds when remote herds come under attack, says The Daily Telegraph. "A special collar will detect when a sheep's heart rate rises. If it remains elevated for a long time, a sign of distress, a text message warning could be triggered and sent by a mobile chip embedded in the collar. It is hoped the Swiss sheep protection system will help cut the number of animals taken by wolves in the Alps, as Europe's top predator makes a comeback after being driven to the brink of extinction. Small herds whose owners cannot afford a sheepdog are particularly vulnerable."
A mermaid at last
"An Oregon woman who has been seen swimming in public pools while dressed as a mermaid said she is living out a childhood fantasy," says United Press International. "Pauline Long, 56, said she wanted to be a mermaid as a child and she decided to spend this summer swimming in Portland pools while wearing her homemade fins, which were inspired by a woman she met a few years ago, KGW, Portland, reported Monday. Ms. Long, who said she is part of a 23-strong group known as the Northwest Mermaids, said she knows she isn't a real mermaid, but her six-year-old self would be proud."
Thought du jour
"Enlightened people can still remember their phone numbers."
(1942- ), U.S. author