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15 Quirky World Championships

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Every four years, athletes from around the world compete in more than 50 sports at the Winter and Summer Olympics. But not every sport is fit for the Olympic stage. Here are a few non-traditional international matchups.

1. THE WORLD BEARD AND MOUSTACHE CHAMPIONSHIP

Long hair, don't care! Competitors come from all over the world to show off the beards, mustaches, and whiskers they’ve been cultivating for years at the World Beard and Moustache Championship. The international contest is divided into 17 categories, including everything from Hungarian Moustache to Garibaldi beard. While the time and place of the 2016 world championship has yet to be announced, this year’s U.S. championship took place on September 3 at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

2. WORLD COW-MILKING CHAMPIONSHIP

Hand milking world championship via Facebook

It's udder chaos at the World Cow-milking Championship in Malonno, Brescia, Italy. The contest, set for October 16 this year, challenges teams of two (one human and one cow) to produce as much milk as possible in the shortest amount of time—without the help of machines. This year's participants will take on undefeated champ Gianmario Ghirardi who got 8.7 liters of milk from his cow Mirka in just two minutes in 2014.

3. WORLD SUDOKU CHAMPIONSHIP

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Every year, the World Puzzle Federation welcomes more than 200 brainteaser fans from over 25 countries to the World Sudoku Championship, held in a different nation each time. This year's competition—a part of the World Puzzle Championship, which includes games like Kakuro, Mastermind, Battleships, Complex Mazes, Word Search, and others—will take place in Senec, Slovakia, from October 16 to 23. There's no prize money, instead all contenders compete for two days for the honor of being Top 3 in individual, teams, contestants over 50, contestants under 18, or newcomers.

Word to the wise: The registration deadline has expired, but you can still enter by October 10 if you're a member of your local World Puzzle Federation chapter and you're willing to fork over an extra 15 percent in participation fees. You can train with a few sample puzzles here [PDF].

4. MOBILE PHONE THROWING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

husin.sani via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Ever been so annoyed with your phone that you want to chuck it? The Finns have harnessed that frustration and made mobile phone-throwing into what the organizers of this competition call a “light and modern Finnish sport.” If you have some experience flinging a phone as far as you can, you can try out for the annual Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships in Savonlinna, Finland. But leave your smartphone at home. Contestants are only allowed to pick from the assortment of mobile devices provided by the organizers. The next championship—which features four categories, Junior, Freestyle, Original, and Teams Originals—will be on March 11, 2017.

5. AIR GUITAR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

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You don’t have to be a musician, but you do have to look like one to stand a chance in the Air Guitar World Championships held in Oulu, Finland. During the 21st annual championships that were recently held from August 24 to 26, the winners of the National Air Guitar Championships in 10 countries competed on a bigger stage, in front of 8000 fans. This year, New Yorker Matt "Airistotle" Burns came out on top. “It’s a crazy thing to have your dreams come true,” he told The New York Post.

6. WORLD BOGSNORKELLING CHAMPIONSHIPS

The World Bogsnorkelling Championships take place every August at the Waen Rhydd peat bog in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. Bogsnorkelling, or bog snorkeling, is a race in which participants run, swim, and fight their way through a trench that's located in a peat bog. While competitors don flippers and snorkels, they aren’t allowed to use normal swimming strokes. Read an account of the experience here.

7. WIFE CARRYING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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The Wife Carrying World Championship take place every summer in Sonkajärvi Finland. Each team consists of a man carrying a "wife." While the “wife” does not have to be his wife, or even a married woman, she must be at least 17 years old and weigh a minimum of 108 pounds. (Otherwise, her partner is required to also carry weights.)

Participants in this race, measuring less than a mile, tackle obstacles—and are mandated by the rules to have fun. Winners are declared in the under 40 and 40-and-over categories, plus there are prizes for the best costumes, most entertaining couple, and strongest carrier. Then there’s the relay race, in which three men hand off one wife to each other.

8. WORLD CHAMPION SQUIRREL COOK OFF

Charlesjsharp via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Have a recipe for squirrel meat that you’re particularly proud of? You might want to enter next year's annual World Champion Squirrel Cook Off in Bentonville, Arkansas. In the contest, two- or three-person teams have 2.5 hours to cook a main dish in which at least 80 percent of the meat is squirrel as well as a side dish. There are cash prizes for the best dishes, and proceeds help support several charities.

9. WORLD POOH STICKS CHAMPIONSHIPS

The annual World Pooh Sticks Championships—sponsored by the Rotary Club Oxford Spires—took place in June this year in Witney, Oxfordshire, UK. Not sure what's involved? Oh, bother.

Poohsticks, or Pooh Sticks, is a game from the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A.A. Milne in which everyone drops a stick into a body of running water upstream from a bridge. Then, the participants race to the bridge to see whose stick emerges on the far side of the bridge first. The game is rather low on the competitive scale, but that only makes it easier for children of different ages to participate.

10. WORLD STONE SKIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS

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It takes a good arm and lots of practice to take the prize at the World Stone Skimming Championships at Easdale Island, Argyll, Scotland. Winners are decided on the length of the throw before the stone sinks. To be counted, each contender's stone must skip at least three times. The contest—which always takes place on the last Sunday in September—is limited to the first 350 people who register, because the contest must be completely finished before the last ferry leaves the island.

11. SWAMP SOCCER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Participants get down and dirty at the Swamp Soccer World Championships, where football is played in a swamp or bog. (It's similar to the American sport of mud wrestling.) While the sport originated in Finland, there are now swamp soccer leagues in several countries. The championship tournament takes place in Vuorisuo, Finland, every June.

12. WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP GURNING

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Every year on the third weekend in September, the Egremont Crab Fair in Cumbria, England, hosts the World Championship Gurning, a competition where participants compete in “gurning” or "making faces.” You don’t need to pre-register, just show up and make your best face. Check out the 2015 competitors here.

13. WORLD CONKER CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Conkers is a British game in which two people tie horse chestnuts to a string and swing them at each other until one of the chestnuts breaks, leaving the other as the winner. The simple children’s game is elevated to serious status at the World Conker Championships in Southwick, Northamptonshire, UK. It’s always on the second Sunday in October (October 9 this year) and cost contenders about $13 to enter or about $5 to watch, which goes to charity.

14. WORLD TAXIDERMY & FISH CARVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Bob n' Renee via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Fish carving isn't what you think it is. At least not at the World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships. At the competition, which takes place in May every two years, participants show off their skills in taxidermy and fish carving, an art competition in which people carve images of fish from wood. In categories for both amateurs and professionals, taxidermists battle for $30,000 in cash awards, while carvers vie for over $3000.

The next World Show is set for May 16 to 20, 2017, in Peoria, Illinois.

15. HIDE AND SEEK (OR NASCONDINO) WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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Ready or not, here they come. On September 3 and 4, more than 60 teams of five battled it out in the 7th Annual Hide and Seek World Championships in Italian ghost town Consonno. But the competition doesn't exactly follow the rules you remember from childhood.

All of the 64 teams are split into four groups. During each round, all of the teams send a member to hide while a neutral searching team counts to 60 seconds. Then, each hidden member has 10 minutes to make it to a mattress placed in the middle of the field without being spotted by a finder. The first contender to make it to the mattress gets 16 points, the second person gets 15 points, and so on. If a participant doesn't make it there before the 10 minutes up, the team isn't awarded any points.

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Space
Help NASA Name the Farthest Object We've Ever Tried to Reach in Space
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More than two years after NASA's New Horizons probe whisked by Pluto, the robotic spacecraft continues to zip toward the furthest edges of the solar system in pursuit of history's farthest planetary encounter. It's heading toward the Kuiper Belt, a ring-shaped region beyond Neptune's orbit that contains dwarf planets like Pluto and perhaps several hundred thousand other icy bodies. The target is a tiny world that New Horizons is scheduled to pass on New Year's Day 2019. As of now, it's simply called MU69—but NASA and the New Horizons team want you to help them come up with a more memorable moniker, the Associated Press reports.

You can cast your vote for MU69's new title in an online naming contest, which opened up to the public in November and closes on December 1, 2017, at 3 p.m. Eastern time. There's no limit to the number of votes you submit, although contest organizers request that you do so no more than once per day.

Names to chose from include Año Nuevo ("New Year" in Spanish), Pluck & Persistence, and Peanut, Almond, or Cashew, the last three of which could describe MU69's potential shape. So far, Mjölnir, a.k.a. Thor's Hammer, is in the lead, according to the latest vote tally.

Participants can also suggest new names via this form. All languages are fair game, so long as they're written using the Latin alphabet, but researchers do say they're "particularly interested in nicknames that are appropriate for the first exploration of a cold, distant, ancient world at the outer frontier of the solar system." (Religious, political, and commercial names aren't allowed.)

NASA also recommends submitting two or more names that go together, since preliminary observations have indicated that MU69 might be a binary, or two astronomical bodies harnessed together by their mutual gravitational forces. If they're a "contact binary"—meaning they're touching—only one name will be needed, but a separated pair will call for two.

Once New Horizons flies by MU69, the mission team will propose a formal name for the body to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). That said, NASA still has final say over MU69's forever title—so even if a certain submission receives the most votes, it still needs to be vetted by officials. In short, you probably can't name it Planet McPlanetface.

Still, researchers say they're excited to involve the public in the naming process and hope to land on a name "that captures the excitement of the flyby and awe and inspiration of exploring this new and record-distant body in space," said Alan Stern, principal investigator for the New Horizons team, in a statement.

[h/t Associated Press]

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between a Contest and a Sweepstakes?
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You see them promoted in stores, on social media, and in the pages of magazines. Win a trip to Orlando! No purchase necessary! Void where prohibited by law! Not responsible for lost or stolen entries! You must be 18 or older!

So many disclaimers, so little chance of winning. Or is there? That depends on whether you plan on submitting an entry to a contest or a sweepstakes. While some people might use the two terms interchangeably, there’s actually a huge difference between the two—and if you’re in charge of the promotion, not understanding that can carry serious consequences.

Simply put: a contest is a competition in which entries are judged on merit; a sweepstakes winner is determined by random chance. In a contest, you might be evaluated based on an essay, a cheesecake recipe, or some kind of design. A panel of judges makes a subjective determination based on the judging criteria outlined in the fine print.

In a sweepstakes, luck takes the place of talent. All entries are given equal consideration and tossed into a random drawing. Publishers Clearing House doesn’t require you to write a poem on why you deserve the jackpot; they just pluck a winner from a pile.

Here’s where it gets slightly tricky. According to scattered state laws and federal law, charging money for a sweepstakes entry would classify it as a lottery—and that’s usually illegal, unless it’s being sponsored by a state's government. (That’s where the “no purchase necessary” phrase comes in handy.) Contests, on the other hand, can charge an entry fee since there’s a degree of skill involved.

You might think that major giveaway sponsors would know the difference, but that’s not always the case. In 2006, the CVS pharmacy chain was ordered to pay $152,000 in civil penalties in New York after they promoted a “sweepstakes” in which entries were automatically submitted for customers buying Nicorette gum; the chain didn’t make the offer available to people who didn’t buy the product.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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