Through all the breaking stories of 2011, the political coups and natural disasters, the movies and the mayhem, we bring you some of the more bizarre incidents that added to the colour of 2011. From alien life form to new records in polydactyly, and extraordinary discoveries about the mysterious universe we live in, this year has only re-affirmed that old adage that fact is indeed stranger than fiction!
On April 20th earlier this year, reports surfaced of an encounter with an extraterrestrial being in the Irkutsk region of Siberia. While several such incidents have been reported in the past, this encounter stands out because the creature was found dead, and video footage of the corpse was shared online. The body was found by two Russian men, partially buried in the snow. About two feet in height, and bearing human shape, the creature had arms and legs, with a long, dome shaped skull.
Approximately a month before the corpse was found, there were reports of a UFO crash at the same site. While some theorists suggest that the creature was killed in the crash, and the body was then left behind, others believe it to be a hoax, as no further information regarding where the body is now, or whether an autopsy has been conducted, has been reported.
2. Boy with 34 Digits
Akshat Saxena, a one-year-old boy from Uttar Pradesh was born with 34 digits. This condition in which a person has more than five fingers per hand or five toes per foot, is known as Polydactyly, and is a genetic anomaly that can be hereditary. Akshat has broken the Guinness World Records previously held by a six-year-old boy in China with 31 digits. With seven fingers on each hand and ten toes on each foot, Akshat had to undergo a series of surgeries to remove the excess digits. He was born without thumbs, so the doctors worked to construct opposable digits from the severed fingers. The boy’s mother, Amrita Saxena says, “'I was so happy to see my baby as it was our first child. But later, when I saw his fingers, I was shocked and surprised.”
3. Kissing can Cause Cavities
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with all those candies, new studies now reveal that kissing can be the cause of cavities! It turns out that the bacterium that causes tooth decay can be transferred via saliva during kissing.
So despite your careful flossing, if the object of your affection has poor oral hygiene, you could be the casualty of his bad habits. In a New York Times report, a woman in her 40’s who had never had cavities, suddenly developed two cavities and signs of gum disease. A little investigation revealed that she was dating a man who hadn’t been to the dentist in over 18 years. Every time they kissed, he was passing along his bacteria to her. So if getting your man to brush before a smooch isn’t going to happen, make sure you step up your dental hygiene routine, or delicately offer him a wad sugar-free gum before that lip-lock!
4. Are We Martian?
Are we Martian? US scientists are testing a theory that life on Earth began on Mars. Planetary scientists tell us that climates on Earth and Mars were very similar in the distant past, with a likelihood that Mars was probably a more hospitable planet as it was further from the sun and therefore cooler. Also, much of Mars was covered by oceans. With the knowledge that large chunks of rock from Mars have fallen to the earth as meteorites, scientists are probing genetic material from Martian soil to search for DNA and similar evidence that could link us to the Red Planet. While it is possible for meteorites from Earth to reach Mars, orbital dynamics make it a hundred times more likely for Martian rocks to reach us, thereby suggesting that life on Earth originated from Mars.
5. PETA launches porn site
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal), known for its outspoken animal rights campaigns have taken their cause to the next level by launching their own porn website. They have registered a .xxx domain, and the site will feature some of their raciest ad campaigns, along with hidden-camera footage of animal cruelty. PETA rep Lindsay Rajit explained, “"We live in a 24 hour news cycle world, and we learn the racy things we do are sometimes the most effective way that we can reach particular individuals. With tactics like this, PETA is able to initiate discussion, questioning of the status quo, and action. We must make our message impossible to forget, and launching a website with a .xxx domain name helps achieve that goal.”
6. Sperm donor fathers 150 children
Cynthia Daily, a mother from Washington, used a sperm donor to conceive her baby seven years ago. In the hope that her son could one day meet some of his half-siblings, she searched an online donor registry for other children fathered by the same donor (sperm donors are tagged with unique identifying numbers). As she tracked the numbers in the group over the years, her surprise grew; today at least 150 children have been fathered by the same donor. Daily who often vacations with other families in her son’s group said, "It’s wild when we see them all together — they all look alike.”
Now there is growing concern among parents and health experts over increased risk for rare genetic disorders, and accidental incest between donor siblings. Parents are finding makeshift ways of combating these issues in the absence of government regulations. One mother has instructed her child to memorize her father’s donor number so that she can compare notes with possible future mates. They now view it as an essential part of the children’s sex education. Debora L. Spar, author of "The Baby Business: How Money, Science and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception” talks about legal limits on the number of children conceived using the same donor’s sperm, and more information on the health of donors. “We have more rules that go into place when you buy a used car than when you buy sperm. It's very clear that the dealer can't sell you a lemon, and there's information about the history of the car. There are no such rules in the fertility industry right now.”
7. Woman Gives Birth to Grandchild
Kristine Casey, a 61 year-old woman, broke several records as she gave birth to her own grandson, after being surrogate mother to her daughter’s baby.
Casey’s daughter, Sara Connell, and husband Bill had been trying for years to have a baby. They are the biological parents of the child Casey carried, which grew from an embryo from the couple’s egg and sperm.
The mother and daughter held hands as she delivered baby Finnean Lee Connell by cesarean section in February this year. Susan Gerber who delivered the baby at Northwestern Memorial Hospital said that the surgery itself was uncomplicated, but the emotional context of was so profound, it would need a heart of stone to not be moved. Connell was overwhelmed by the event, and was quoted saying, “When the baby let out a cry, I lost it. It's such a miracle.”
8. Diamond Planet
Astronomers have spotted a planet that seems to be made of diamond. This new planet was found orbiting a tiny star J1719-1438 known as a Pulsar. Pulsars are dead neutron stars around 20 kilometers in diameter and spin hundreds of times a second, emitting beams of radiation. The Science journal reports that the planet, which orbits its star every two hours and 10 minutes, has slightly more mass than Jupiter but is 20 times as dense. Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne was quoted, “The evolutionary history and amazing density of the planet all suggest it is comprised of carbon -- i.e. a massive diamond orbiting a neutron star every two hours in an orbit so tight it would fit inside our own Sun.”
The planet never got large enough to produce elements heavier than carbon. So once the hydrogen and helium are stripped away, it would reveal a solid carbon core – made of diamond.
9. Beggar bags Record Deal
Ted Williams’ is a moving story of second chances. Homeless for 10 years, and dealing with an alcohol and drug addiction since the 1990’s he had given up on his career, and become estranged from his family. Living by a roadside in Columbus, Ohio, he was a beggar during the day, holding up a cardboard sign, and sleeping in a makeshift tent behind an abandoned petrol station at night.
Williams, 53, was discovered by a reporter who put a video of him and his baritone voice up on Youtube. Reports say the video attracted more than 8 million hits, and has given Williams another shot at life. He has been made offers for voiceovers and announcing work by basketball team the Cleveland Cavaliers. Overwhelmed, he told a local newspaper, "I feel like Susan Boyle. Or Justin Bieber. It's almost choking me."
10. Train Travels in Wrong Direction
A train full of commuters travelling from Tirupati to Varnasi went 980 km in the wrong direction before passengers realized what was happening. It was only when the trained pulled into Warangal, a central Indian city on an entirely different route, that they realized something was wrong. The error in route was caused due to incorrect entry of destination code, sending the train five hours away from its destination. “Though the journey was agonising, we thank our stars that the train did not run into another train,”' an angry passenger said.
Some of the staff, who were apparently sleeping on that leg of the journey, said that they did not catch the mistake since it was a special service to Varnasi, and they were unfamiliar with the route. At Warangal station, the superintendent took corrective measures, bringing the train back to where it should have been for its onward journey to Varanasi.