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The Weird Week in Review

Art "Restorer" Wants Royalties

Remember Ecce Homo, the Spanish fresco of Christ that was made into a cartoon after an amateur restoration effort? The new look of the art has made its home, the chapel at Santuario de Misericordia, such an attraction that the church has started charging an entrance fee of 4 euros. Now Cecilia Gimenez, the octogenarian who painted over the fresco, wants a cut of that. Her lawyers say she is entitled to royalties, which would go to charity. Meanwhile, the family of the original artist is considering suing Gimenez for destroying the art, and the church has retained lawyers in defense from all sides.

Man Flattened by Falling Mattress

Jesse Scott Owen had only moved to New York City from Florida three weeks ago, but the college freshman got a big city experience Tuesday when a mattress fell off the roof of a building and landed on him. Owen was walking along Broad Street when the falling futon knocked him out cold. Passers-by tended to him until emergency workers arrived. Owen was taken to a hospital with a sprained neck and a possible herniated disc. But he managed to Tweet about the experience. The mattress had fallen from the rooftop spa of the Setai Wall Street, about 30 stories up.

Bob-bob Goes to Disney World

Ethel Maze of Circleville, Ohio, took a group of 18 disabled veterans and volunteers to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. She hadn't planned to take her cat Bob-bob, but there he was, stowed away in her suitcase when she arrived at her Disney Resort hotel.

Mike Groleau, the group's designated "baggage handler," said he thought he saw the bag move — but after a long night of packing, he slapped some tags on the front and back of the green suitcase and loaded it with the rest.

"This was the last bag I grabbed," Groleau said. "... [S]omehow it got zipped up."

Ten hours later, as the group settled into its Disney-area hotel, Maze unzipped the bag, and there was Bob-bob, a little shaken but still purring.

Despite a TSA security check (which did not set off any alarms) and several hours in the cargo hold, Bob-bob appeared to be just fine after his trip.

Ig Nobel Prizes Awarded

The Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded last night in a ceremony at Harvard's Sanders Theater. One of the awards was a wedding gift for the researchers! The Psychology Prize went to Dutch researchers Anita Eerland and Rolf Zwaan, along with their colleague Tulio Guadalupe, for their study "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller." Eerland and Zwaan's wedding is tomorrow. Other prizes were awarded for research into how a ponytail swings, how an MRI can detect brain activity in a dead fish, why we spill coffee, and how to keep colonoscopy patients from exploding.

Restroom Users Watched from Street

The public facilities at the Standard Hotel in New York City offer a breathtaking view. But don't assume that those floor-to-ceiling windows on the 18th floor can't be looked into as well! The Boom Boom Room club has restrooms that are completely visible from the street below. The view from inside is glorious, but in most such restrooms, the glass is reflected as a mirror surface on the outside. But the patrons of this toilet are being photographed by people on the streets! The hotel offers no warning and no explanation for the restroom design. Is it meant to be a free peep show? Is it a design mistake? Or is it a subtle way to encourage guests to use the restroom somewhere else?

British Soldier Gives Birth in Afghanistan

An unnamed British military gunner might not have known she was pregnant when she was deployed to Afghanistan. She gave birth to a boy Tuesday in a field hospital at Camp Bastion, in Helmand province, one of the more dangerous parts of the country. Mother and baby are reportedly doing fine, but a team from John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, England, is prepared to go to the base to care for mother and child. The baby was born only four days after a raid on the base by insurgents disguised as U.S. military.

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London's Sewer-Blocking 'Fatbergs' Are Going to Be Turned Into Biodiesel
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UK officials can't exactly transform the Whitechapel fatberg—a 143-ton trash mass lurking in London's sewer system—into treasure, but they can turn it into fuel. As The Guardian reports, Scottish biodiesel producer Argent Energy plans to convert parts of the noxious blockage into an environmentally friendly energy source.

For the uninitiated, fatbergs (which get their names from a portmanteau of "fat" and "icebergs") are giant, solid blobs of congealed fat, oil, grease, wet wipes, and sanitary products. They form in sewers when people dump cooking byproducts down drains, or in oceans when ships release waste products like palm oil. These sticky substances combine with floating litter to form what could be described as garbage heaps on steroids.

Fatbergs wash up on beaches, muck up city infrastructures, and are sometimes even removed with cranes from sewer pipes as a last resort. Few—if any—fatbergs, however, appear to be as potentially lethal as the one workers recently discovered under London's Whitechapel neighborhood. In a news release, private utility company Thames Water described the toxic mass as "one of the largest ever found, with the extreme rock-solid mass of wet wipes, nappies, fat and oil weighing the same as 11 double-decker buses."

Ick factor aside, the Whitechapel fatberg currently blocks a stretch of Victorian sewer more than twice the length of two fields from London's Wembley Stadium. Engineers with jet hoses are working seven days a week to break up the fatberg before sucking it out with tankers. But even with high-pressure streams, the job is still akin to "trying to break up concrete," says Matt Rimmer, Thames Water's head of waste networks.

The project is slated to end in October. But instead of simply disposing of the Whitechapel fatberg, officials want to make use of it. Argent Energy—which has in the past relied on sources like rancid mayonnaise and old soup stock—plans to process fatberg sludge into more than 2600 gallons of biodiesel, creating "enough environmentally friendly energy to power 350 double-decker Routemaster buses for a day," according to Thames Water.

"Even though they are our worst enemy, and we want them dead completely, bringing fatbergs back to life when we do find them in the form of biodiesel is a far better solution for everyone," said company official Alex Saunders.

In addition to powering buses, the Whitechapel fatberg may also become an unlikely cultural touchstone: The Museum of London is working with Thames Water to acquire a chunk of the fatberg, according to BBC News. The waste exhibit will represent just one of the many challenges facing cities, and remind visitors that they are ultimately responsible for the fatberg phenomenon.

"When it comes to preventing fatbergs, everyone has a role to play," Rimmer says. "Yes, a lot of the fat comes from food outlets, but the wipes and sanitary items are far more likely to be from domestic properties. The sewers are not an abyss for household rubbish."

[h/t The Guardian]

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Restaurant Seeks Donations to Big Mouth Billy Bass Adoption Center
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Kevin Burkett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’ve ever wondered where all those Big Mouth Billy Bass singing fish that flew off shelves in the early 2000s have gone, take a look inside a Flying Fish restaurant. Each location of the southern seafood chain is home to its own Big Mouth Billy Bass Adoption Center, and they’re always accepting new additions to the collection.

According to Atlas Obscura, the gimmick was the idea of Dallas-based restaurateur Shannon Wynne. He opened his flagship Flying Fish in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2002 when the Big Mouth Billy Bass craze was just starting to wind down. As people grew tired of hearing the first 30 seconds of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” for the thousandth time, he offered them a place to bring their wall ornaments once the novelty wore off. The Flying Fish promises to “house, shelter, love, and protect” each Billy Bass they adopt. On top of that, donors get a free basket of catfish in exchange for the contribution and get their name on the wall. The Little Rock location now displays hundreds of the retired fish.

Today there are nine Flying Fish restaurants in Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee, each with its own Adoption Center. There’s still space for new members of the family, so now may be the time to break out any Billy Basses that have been collecting dust in your attic since 2004.

And if you’re interested in stopping into Flying Fish for a bite to eat, don’t let the wall of rubber nostalgia scare you off: The batteries from all the fish have been removed, so you can enjoy your meal in peace.

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