Try, Try Again
Samuel West announced in April that his Museum of Failure will open in Helsingborg, Sweden, in June, to commemorate innovation missteps that might serve as inspiration for future successes. Among the initial exhibits: coffee-infused Coca-Cola; the Bic “For Her” pen (because women’s handwriting needs are surely unique); the Twitter Peek (a 2009 device that does nothing except send and receive tweets – and with a screen only 25 characters wide); and Harley-Davidson’s 1990s line of colognes (in retrospect as appealing, said West, as “oil and gas fumes”). (West’s is only the latest attempt to immortalize failure with a “museum.” Previous attempts, such as those in 2007 and 2014, apparently failed.)
(1) Dennis Smith, 65, was arrested in Senoia, Georgia, and charged with stealing dirt from the elderly widow of the man Smith said had given him permission to take it. Smith, a “dirt broker,” had taken more than 180 dump-truck loads. (2) New for Valentine’s Day from the SayItWithBeef.com company: a bouquet of beef jerky slices, formed to resemble a dozen full-petaled roses ($59). Also available: daisies. Chief selling point: Flowers die quickly, but jerky is forever.
Government in Action
In May, a new restaurant-disclosure regulation mandated by the Affordable Care Act is scheduled to kick in, requiring eateries (except small chains and independents) to post calorie counts for all menu items including “variations” – which a Domino’s Pizza executive said meant, for his company, “34 million” calorie listings. The executive called the regulation, for the pizza industry, “a 20th-century approach to a 21st-century question,” since for many establishments, orders increasingly arrive online or by phone.
Hipsters on the Rise: (1) The Columbia Room bar in Washington, D.C., recently introduced the “In Search of Time Past” cocktail – splashed with a tincture of old, musty books. Management vacuum-sealed pages with grapeseed oil, then “fat-washed” them with a “neutral high-proof” spirit, and added a vintage sherry, mushroom cordial and eucalyptus. (2) The California reggae rock band Slightly Stoopid recently produced a vinyl record that was “smokable,” according to Billboard magazine – using a “super resinous variety of hashish” mastered at the Los Angeles studio Capsule Labs. The first two versions’ sound quality disappointed and were apparently quickly smoked, but a third is in production.
▪ Magnificent Evolvers: (1) Human populations in Chile’s Atacama desert have apparently developed a tolerance for arsenic 100 times as powerful as the World Health Organization’s maximum safe level (according to recent research by University of Chile scientists). (2) While 80 percent of Americans age 45 or older have calcium-cluttered blood veins (atherosclerosis), about 80 percent of Bolivian Tsimane hunter-gatherers in the Amazon have clean veins, according to an April report in The Lancet. (Keys for having “the healthiest hearts in the world”: walk a lot and eat monkey, wild pig and piranha.)
▪ Awesome: (1) University of Basel biologists writing in the journal Science of Nature in March calculated that the global population of spiders consumes at least 400 million tons of prey yearly – about as much, by weight, as the total of meat and fish consumed by all humans. (2) University of Utah researchers trained surveillance cameras on dead animals in a local desert to study scavenger behavior and were apparently astonished to witness the disappearances of two bait cows. Over the course of five days, according to the biologists’ recent journal article, two different badgers, working around the clock for days, had dug adjacent holes and completely buried the cows (for storage and/or to keep the carcasses from competitors).
▪ News You Can Use: A study published in the journal Endocrinology in March suggested that “whole-body” vibration may be just as effective as regular “exercise.” (The Fine Print: Vibration was shown only to aid “global bone formation,” which is not as useful for some people as “weight loss,” which was not studied, and anyway, the study was conducted on mice. Nonetheless, even for a mouse immobile on a vibrating machine, muscles contracted and relaxed multiple times per second. This “Fine Print” will soon be useful when hucksters learn of the study and try to sell gullible humans a “miracle” weight-loss machine.)
New World Order
In March, Harvard Medical School technicians announced a smartphone app to give fertility-conscious men an accurate semen analysis, including sperm concentration, motility and total count – costing probably less than $10. Included is a magnification attachment and a “microfluidic” chip. The insertable app magnifies and photographs the “loaded” chip, instantly reporting the results. (To answer the most frequent question: No, semen never touches your phone. The device still needs Food and Drug Administration approval.)