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Hooters Airlines: A Failure Not Without Precedent

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Sad news for anyone who enjoys air travel or has ever thought a stripper was hitting on him: after three short years flying the friendly skies, Hooters Airlines is discontinuing public service. (Sports teams and "tour groups" can still book flights, however.) Anyway, I played through my pain and decided to do some research on defunct discount carriers. I found the amazing story of the rise and fall of Sir Freddie Laker, which I present to you now.

In 1977, Freddie, who taught himself how to fly a four-engine aircraft three decades earlier, started Laker Skytrain. It was the first low-cost carrier there ever was, and when I say low-cost, I'm not kidding: around $200 New York-to-London roundtrip. You can find pictures of his dream machines here.
Things were going really well for Freddie - he was knighted, Margaret Thatcher applauded his work for the common man, The Police toured the States in one of his planes - until 1982, when he was forced out of business (illegally, it turns out) by the bigger airlines and by some poor business decisions. Either way, he was the inspiration for all low-cost carries, from the successful (Southwest, Ryanair) to the not-so-successful (Hooters Airlines).

What's Sir Freddie doing now? Well, he died in February. But the last line of his obit in The Economist (no link...sorry!) says it all: "Nonetheless, the man on the 9.30 from Stansted to Palma, crushed in a middle seat between crying children and with a home-made sandwich as his sustenance, should raise a plastic cup to freedom and to Freddie." Here, here!

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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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