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The Weird Week in Review

Farmer Bites Cobra

Mohammed Salmodin was working in his rice paddy in his village in Nepal when a snake bit him. He returned home to get a light so he could determine what kind of snake it was, and found a cobra in his crop. Salmodin had once heard advice from a snake charmer that you should bite a cobra to death if he bites you, so that's what he did: he bit the snake repeatedly until it was dead. Salmodin then went about his work until family members convinced him to seek medical help. He was successfully treated for snakebite at a hospital. Officials say Salmodin won't face any charges for killing the snake, because a common cobra is not an endangered species.

Why the Tortoise Wouldn't Eat

Margaret Parker of Carlisle, England, found a five-inch-long tortoise in her garden. The miniature tortoise was cute, so she brought it inside and tried to feed it. Parker's daughter brought some lettuce for it, but it still wouldn't eat. So the women called Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue Centre for advice, and a volunteer was sent out. Pauline Adams picked up the tortoise and figured out the problem.

She said: “At first when I arrived I didn’t have my glasses on and I thought it was a baby tortoise. It was sitting there in the shoe box, on a bed of lettuce and tomato.

“Then I put my specs on, and thought: ‘Oops - what’s this?’

“When I picked it up I saw the CE mark and the words Made in China, and I just cracked up.

“I laughed even more when she told me her daughter had been to the Co-op to buy tomato and lettuce for it. She was very apologetic. Judging by the moss on it, it had been in the garden a long time.

Adams and Knoxwood founder George Scott both said Mrs. Parker did the right thing by calling them.

Surgeon Commandeers Child's Bike to Get to Work

Dr. Catherine Baucom was on her way to work Wednesday morning at the Elliot Mastology Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where a patient was waiting for her to perform surgery. But an accident on I-10 created a huge traffic jam in which hundreds of cars were stopped. That's when Baucom took matters into her own hands, creating a scene right out of a Hollywood movie. She called a colleague who lived near where her car was trapped, and borrowed his seven-year-old daughter's pink princess bicycle. Baucom rode the bike back to the interstate and was confronted by police. After hearing her story, the cops gave Baucom an escort as she drove the little bike to the clinic. That's dedication.

Amateur Art Restoration Goes All Wrong

A fresco of Christ by artist Elias Garcia Martinez was painted over a hundred years ago in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza, Spain. A recent donation from the artist's granddaughter was intended for the painting's restoration. However, cultural officials found that an elderly parishioner had already done her own restoration! The woman, who is in her 80s, did an "alarming and unauthorized" touch-up of the original work that completely covered Martinez's painting, although she claims the priest gave his permission. The woman had eventually realized she was having trouble with the job, and contacted the cultural ministry for guidance -but it may be too late to save any of Martinez's work. If the painting cannot be recovered, a photograph of the original may be mounted over what now adorns the wall. Which you must see to believe.

Shoplifter Betrayed by Hot Peppers

Marcus Banwell learned the hard way that if you steal hot peppers, you should wait until you are away from the store before you eat them. Banwell had apparently ingested at least one Scotch Bonnet pepper from the Singh Store in Bristol, England. The store owner heard a commotion as Banwell doubled over and became sick from the fiery food.

Prosecutor May Li said when officers searched Banwell they found another four chilli peppers in his pocket, a stolen milkshake and fruit juice, and a clarinet stashed in his waistband, which was missing from a music shop.

The heat of a chilli pepper is measured using the Scoville scale.

The Scotch Bonnet, also known as Boabs Bonnet or Caribbean red pepper, is named for its resemblance to a Tam O'Shanter hat. Most Scotch Bonnets have a heat rating of 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville units. This compares to the rating of most jalapeño peppers, which is 2,500 to 8,000.

A small amount of drugs was also found. Banwell was sentenced to 14 weeks incarceration.

That's Not How a Breathalyzer is Done

Ryan Scott Thompson of Christchurch was arrested in Woodend, New Zealand after he crashed his car into an elderly woman's home. It was determined by a breath-alcohol test that the 26-year-old was intoxicated at three times the legal limit for driving. When he was taken to the police station and told to wait while the paperwork on his case was completed, Thompson heard the sound of running water, and immediately had to urinate. He peed onto a supply of breath screening tubes, and continued when ordered to stop. The 301 contaminated tests were discarded. He eventually pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay $1500 reparation to the homeowner and $109 for the damaged tests, in addition to a court fine.

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Billions of Cockroaches Are Bred in China to Create a ‘Healing Potion’
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Insectophobes would probably agree that any place that breeds billions of cockroaches a year is akin to hell on Earth.

That place actually exists—in the Sichuan Province city of Xichang—but China's government says it's all for a good cause. The indoor farm is tasked with breeding 6 billion creepy-crawlies a year to meet the country's demand for a special "healing potion" whose main ingredient is ground-up roaches.

While there are other cockroach breeding facilities in China that serve the same purpose, the one in Xichang is the world's largest, with a building "the size of two sports fields," according to the South China Morning Post.

The facility is reportedly dark, humid, and fully sealed, with cockroaches given the freedom to roam and reproduce as they please. If, for any odd reason, someone should want to visit the facility, they'd have to swap out their day clothes for a sanitized suit to avoid bringing pollutants or pathogens into the environment, according to Guangming Daily,a government newspaper.

The newspaper article contains a strangely poetic description of the cockroach farm:

"There were very few human beings in the facility. Hold your breath and (you) only hear a rustling sound. Whenever flashlights swept, the cockroaches fled. Wherever the beam landed, there was a sound like wind blowing through leaves. It was just like standing in the depths of a bamboo forest in late autumn."

Less poetic, though, is the description of how the "miracle" potion is made. Once the bugs reach maturity, they are fed into machines and ground up into a cockroach paste. The potion claims to work wonders for stomach pain and gastric ailments, and according to its packaging, it has a "slightly sweet" taste and a "slightly fishy smell."

The provincial government claims that the potion has healed more than 40 million patients, and that the Xichang farm is selling its product to more than 4000 hospitals throughout China. While this may seem slightly off-putting, cockroaches have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Some studies seem to support the potential nutritional benefit of cockroaches. The BBC reported on the discovery that cockroaches produce their own antibiotics, prompting scientists to question whether they could be used in drugs to help eliminate bacterial infections such as E. coli and MRSA.

In 2016, scientists in Bangalore, India, discovered that the guts of one particular species of cockroach contain milk protein crystals that appear to be nutritious, TIME reports. They said the milk crystal could potentially be used as a protein supplement for human consumption, as it packs more than three times the energy of dairy milk.

"I could see them in protein drinks," Subramanian Ramaswamy, a biochemist who led the study, told The Washington Post.

However, as research has been limited, it's unlikely that Americans will start to see cockroach smoothies at their local juice bar anytime soon.

[h/t South China Morning Post]

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Massive Tumbleweeds Invaded a California Town, Trapping Residents in Their Homes
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For Americans who don’t live out west, any mention of tumbleweeds tends to conjure up images of a lone bush blowing lazily across the desert. The reality is not so romantic, as Californians would tell you.

The town of Victorville, California—an 85-mile drive from Los Angeles—was overtaken by massive tumbleweeds earlier this week when wind speeds reached nearly 50 mph. The tumbleweeds blew across the Mojave Desert and into town, where they piled up on residents’ doorsteps. Some stacks towered as high as the second story, trapping residents in their homes, according to the Los Angeles Times.

City employees and firefighters were dispatched to tackle the thorny problem, which reportedly affected about 150 households. Pitchforks were used to remove the tumbleweeds, some of which were as large as 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.

"The crazy thing about tumbleweeds is that they are extremely thorny, they connect together like LEGOs," Victorville spokeswoman Sue Jones told the Los Angeles Times. "You can't reach out and grab them and move them. You need special tools. They really hurt."

Due to the town’s proximity to the open desert, residents are used to dealing with the occasional tumbleweed invasion. Similar cases have been reported in Texas, New Mexico, and other states in the West and Southwest. In 1989, the South Dakota town of Mobridge had to use machinery to remove 30 tons of tumbleweeds, which had buried homes, according to Metro UK.

Several plant species are considered a tumbleweed. The plant only becomes a nuisance when it reaches maturity, at which time it dries out, breaks from its root, and gets carried off into the wind, spreading seeds as it goes. They’re not just unsightly, either. They can cause soil dryness, leading to erosion and sometimes even killing crops.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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