Tuesday Reads: A Little Bit of This and That

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Good Morning!!


Just because I feel like it, I’m going to avoid the depressing news today and give you a mixture of stories that interested me.

By now everyone knows about the 15- or 16-year-old boy who on Sunday flew from California to Hawaii in the wheel well of a Boeing 767 jet and survived.

It turns out he ran away from home after some kind of argument, climbed over a fence at San Jose Mineta International Airport, and hid in the wheel well of the first plane he saw. Authorities are trying to figure out how he evaded multiple layers of security and how he survived a trip that could have killed him.

From ABC News:

“He got very lucky that he got to go to Maui but he was not targeting Maui as a destination,” Simon said.

The boy is also lucky to be alive, given that wheel-well stowaways rarely surviving flight conditions. At 38,000 feet, the percentage of oxygen is a fraction of that at sea level, and the temperature ranges from minus-50 to minus-85 degrees….

The plane landed in Hawaii. About an hour later, at 10:20 a.m. Hawaii time, crews were startled by the teen coming out of the wheel well, Maui Airports District Manager Marvin Moniz said.

“He was weak. He hung from the wheel valve and then he fell to the ground and regained some strength,” Moniz said.

 The Daily Mail has more:

He passed out in the air and didn’t regain consciousness until an hour after the plane landed in Hawaii, Simon said. When he came to, he climbed out of the wheel well and was immediately seen by airport personnel who escorted him inside where he was interviewed by the FBI, Simon said.

It was not immediately clear how the boy stayed alive in the unpressurized space, where temperatures at cruising altitude can fall well below zero and the air is too thin for humans to stay conscious. An FAA study of stowaways found that some survive by going into a hibernation-like state.

According to Simon, the boy doesn’t have any memories of the flight. Some experts are questioning whether the story is even true.

News of the incident was met with suspicion and scrutiny. Most wheel-well stowaways don’t survive, falling victim to frigid temperatures and lack of oxygen. The chances of survival of a wheel-well stowaway on a commercial aircraft are about 24 percent, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute.

ABC News aviation consultant John Nance is skeptical that the teen could have survived the 2,300-mile flight in the wheel well without an oxygen source.

“I just don’t believe it,” Nance said.

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, said in order to survive inside a wheel well during a flight, the body has to fall into a hibernation-like state, with the heart only beating a couple times a minute.

“It’s near impossible, almost miraculous, and maybe there’s more to the story,” Besser said.

Besides, how did this kid manage to evade security, including “multiple layers of security, including wide-ranging video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers?” Back to the Daily Mail:

San Jose International Airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes says airport employees monitor security video feeds from throughout the 1,050-acre airport around the clock. However, she said no one noticed images of an unidentified person walking on the airport ramp and approaching Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 in the dark until security agents reviewed the footage after the plane had landed in Hawaii and the boy had been found.

The airport, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is surrounded by fences, although some sections do not have barbed wire and could easily be scaled.

The boy found his way onto the tarmac during the night, ‘under the cover of darkness,’ Barnes said.

Hours later, surveillance video at Kahului Airport showed the boy getting out of the wheel well after landing, according to a statement from Hawaii’s Department of Transportation.

The boy isn’t being charged with a crime, and will be returned to his parents, where he’ll have a quite a story to tell. I guess we’ll learn more in the next few days.


Yesterday’s Boston Marathon came off without a hitch, and an American won the men’s race for the first time in more than 30 years. The New York Daily News reports: American Meb Keflezighi wins Boston Marathon a year after bombing.

With the names of the murdered written on his runner’s bib, American Meb Keflezighi raced to victory Monday in the Boston Marathon, becoming a living symbol of resilience from the dark days of terror.

Keflezighi, 38, a member of the New York Athletic Club, said his triumph was fueled by a city that refused to buckle in the face of hate.

“It was not about me. It was about Boston Strong,” said Keflezighi, who broke down in tears as he became the first American in 31 years to win the race. “When the bomb exploded, every day since I’ve wanted to come back and win it.”

The Eritrea-born Keflezighi, who became an American citizen in 1998, crossed the finish line to chants of “U-S-A!” a mere 11 seconds in front of Kenya’s Wilson Chebet. He won the elite men’s race with a time of 2:08:37, a personal best and the second-fastest for an American man at Boston.

“When the Red Sox won (the World Series) and put the trophy right there,” he said, pointing to the Boylston St. finish line, “I wanted to win it for the people of Boston.”

Keflezighi came to the U.S. with his parents when he was 12 years old. He attended public schools in San Diego, where he first started running. He graduated from UCLA, where he won multiple championships and awards. He won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics, and in 2009 he became the first American man to win the New York City Marathon since 1982.

In the women’s race, 2013 winner Rita Jeptoo won again, setting a course record of 2:18:57–also a personal best. Jeptoo is from Kenya.

I guess this next story is a little bit depressing, but it’s mostly ridiculous. From UPI: Majority of Americans doubt the Big Bang theory.

In a new national poll on America’s scientific acumen, more than half of respondents said they were “not too confident” or “not at all confident” that “the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang.”

The poll was conducted by GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications.

Scientists were apparently dismayed by this news, which arrives only a few weeks after astrophysicists located the first hard evidence of cosmic inflation.

But when compared to results from other science knowledge surveys, 51 percent isn’t too shameful — or surprising.

Other polls on America’s scientific beliefs have arrived at similar findings. The “Science and Engineering Indicators” survey — which the National Science Foundation has conducted every year since the early 1980s — has consistently found only about a third of Americans believe that “the universe began with a huge explosion.”

Okay, maybe the notion of a giant explosion setting the universe in motion is a little surprising. But it’s certainly more believable than the biblical explanation that a godly being created the universe in seven days by making pronouncements like “Let there be light!”

Now an example of what some people are willing to believe: Has the Loch Ness Monster been spotted on Apple Maps?

Members of the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club claim they have studied an image seen on Apple’s global satellite map application that shows the allegedly 100-foot-long creature, CNet .com reports, citing London’s Daily Mail.  They say if you zoom in on Apple images from space you can even see the monster’s giant flippers.

News of the sighting has fans of Nessie — as she’s affectionately called — buzzing because there hasn’t been a Loch Ness sighting in 18 months.  Legend has it she’s been cruising the area of Loch, just south of Dores, Scotland, for some 90 years, but so far, there’s no definitive proof she exists.

Nessie’s fan club devotees say they have ruled out all other possibilities for the grainy image, including a floating log or a giant seal. But one skeptic, deep-sea biologist Andrew David Thaler, debunks the theory on his websiteSouthernFriedScience.com, saying that the image shows the wake of a boat.

I have a few more interesting science stories for you.

From National Geographic: The Tragic Story of How Einstein’s Brain Was Stolen and Wasn’t Even Special.

My headline may be a bit misleading. Albert Einstein, the Nobel prize-winning physicist who gave the world the theory of relativity, E = mc2, and the law of the photoelectric effect, obviously had a special brain. So special that when he died in Princeton Hospital, on April 17, 1955, the pathologist on call, Thomas Harvey, stole it.

Einstein didn’t want his brain or body to be studied; he didn’t want to be worshipped. “He had left behind specific instructions regarding his remains: cremate them, and scatter the ashes secretly in order to discourage idolaters,” writes Brian Burrell in his 2005 book, Postcards from the Brain Museum.

But Harvey took the brain anyway, without permission from Einstein or his family. “When the fact came to light a few days later, Harvey managed to solicit a reluctant and retroactive blessing from Einstein’s son, Hans Albert, with the now-familiar stipulation that any investigation would be conducted solely in the interest of science,” Burrell writes.

This story is so weird that there is no way I can do it justice with excerpts. You need to read the whole thing. Just to whet your appetite, I’ll tell you that Beat writer William Burroughs makes a cameo appearance. The comments are interesting too.

Part of a mastodon tooth

Part of a mastodon tooth

I just love this story; it’s the kind of thing I dreamed would happen to me when I was a kid: 9-year-old Michigan Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth near Home.

“I was walking down at the creek last summer. I felt something that I stepped on so I picked it up and everybody in the neighborhood thought it was pretty cool,” Philip Stoll told CNN on Friday….

“It felt weird,” he said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “I had to see what it was. I pulled it out and brought it to my mom.”

Stoll…took the six-peaked, 8-inch foreign object to his Windsor Township house and washed it in his kitchen sink to get a better look. Mom Heidi Stoll was also brought in for consultation.

“I didn’t even think that it could have been a tooth until I started checking online for some kind of match,” she said. “We saw a picture of a Mastodon tooth and said ‘there it is.'”

The Stoll family eventually reached out to James Harding, a herpetologist – an expert on reptiles and amphibians, at nearby Michigan State, who confirmed their suspicions.

“This is indeed a mastodon tooth,” Professor Harding verified in an email, CNN reports. “Apparently (it is) the upper surface, broken off at the roots.”

Wow, that is one lucky kid! Philip told CNN he has dreamed of becoming a paleontologist when he grows up.


Did you hear about how the Smithsonian acquired a nearly-complete skeleton of a Tyranosaurus Rex and had it delivered from Montana by FedEx? From the Guardian: Rare T rex bones arrive at Smithsonian Museum after cross-country journey.

For the first time since its dinosaur hall opened in 1911, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will have a nearly complete T rex skeleton. FedEx delivered the dinosaur bones in a truck carrying 16 carefully packed crates.

The T rex, discovered in 1988 on federal land in Montana, is about 80-85% complete. It’s one of about half a dozen nearly complete T rex skeletons that have been uncovered. This specimen could become the most prominent with its new home in one of the world’s most-visited museums. About 7 million people visit the natural history museum each year, and it offers free admission.

Like the mastodon tooth that Philip Stoll found, this skeleton was discovered by amateurs.

Kathy Wankel, a Montana rancher who discovered the bones in 1998 during a camping trip, said she was proud to see the specimen in a national museum. Initially, Wankel spotted about 3 inches of bone sticking out of the ground, and she and her husband dug out a small arm bone.

“We were so thrilled we had found a bone; we called that a mega find,” she said at the museum. “But I think now this is a mega find.”

Paleontologists from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont., excavated the fossil, and it’s been housed there for the past 25 years. At the Smithsonian, the skeleton will be mounted upright for the first time.

Those are my offbeat offerings for today. What stories have you been following? Please feel free to post real news in the comments.

37 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: A Little Bit of This and That”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    There is a segment of the population – and a pretty sizable one at that – who refuse to believe in science and would much rather accept the “earth was created in 7 days” theory based on “the bible”.

    One reason is that the randomness of a “big bang theory” pretty much wipes out the “I am special” crowd who claim a “personal” relationship with a god who guides their every step.

    Remember the “blue laws” that prohibited stores to be open on Sunday in deference to “resting” on the 7th day? In Puritan MA you could be put to death, or at least spend some time in stocks, if you broke that rule.

    Science may have made some huge inroads in how we perceive the universe but they are still up against the superstition that everything we think, say, or do is carefully recorded by an unseen being who will tally up our sins at the end of the day and decide which way our compass is pointing on the day of judgment.

    No wonder we are still wallowing in chaos centuries after the first human set foot on dry land.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      The series “Cosmos” (which apparently has the religonuts in an uproar) would be a good starting point for those folks who reject science because they find it too confusing. It explains the science of the big bang and the evolution of life on earth at an elementary level that most anyone could understand. Unlike the “virgin birth” and the “resurrection” and “Jonah” and “Noah” and “Adam & Eve” and the “6,000 year old earth” nothing on Cosmos requires “faith” in order to accept. Occasionally the show, which is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, takes on organized religion and the mythologies that have worked for centuries to counter or silence scientific knowledge and findings. As we all know nothing is more challenging to religion than THE TRUTH!!!!

      • RalphB says:

        “Cosmos” is really quite wonderful and Neil deGrasse Tyson ranks up there with Carl Sagan as a great science communicator. If enough people will only watch it, I have hopes.

  2. janicen says:

    Wow! We saw the T-rex skeleton when we visited the Museum of the Rockies in ’08! I remember thinking how awesome it was and that not many people would get to appreciate it unless they happened to visit Bozeman. I’m so glad that it’s going to be available for more people to enjoy. It will be close enough now that we might just swing by and say hello again.

  3. Sweet Sue says:

    I saw an interview with the founder of Kentucky’s Creation Museum and I’m still laughing.
    He said that Noah must have selected baby dinosaurs so they’d fit in the Ark.

    • bostonboomer says:

      LOL! Oddly, that is NOT mentioned in the bible.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      WAIT!!!! Baby Dinosaurs???? ROTFL. Thanks for sharing that Sue, I needed a good laugh

      • bostonboomer says:

        Plus there were hundreds–maybe thousand–of unique types of dinosaur that would have to be squeezed onto the ark with all the other animals.

    • NW Luna says:

      I want to know how they got the baby T-Rexs away from Mama T-Rex!

    • NW Luna says:

      When a kid, I asked my Sunday School teacher “What about the fossils and the dinosaurs?” Yes, I was already a troublemaker at a young age, lol. I was told in all seriousness that fossils were left over from an earlier Creation. As proof, I was directed to the first chapter of Genesis, which I was told describes two Creations (or suffers from very bad editing).

  4. bostonboomer says:

    One more anti-racist law bites the dust.

    Supreme Court Upholds Michigan’s Affirmative Action Ban

    “This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in a controlling opinion joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. “It is about who may resolve it. There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this court’s precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.”

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor read an impassioned dissent from the bench. She said the initiative put minorities to a burden not faced by other applicants to college.

    “The Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat,” she wrote. “But neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined the dissent.

    Kennedy has completely gone over to the dark side.

  5. dakinikat says:

    According to a TIME analysis of county-by-county food stamp enrollment data, GOP politicians represent more districts that majorly participate in SNAP than Democrats.


    • RalphB says:

      I would bet the same thing is true for the unemployed and the uninsured, but they don’t care.

    • NW Luna says:

      Well, good on them! Makes me shudder to think about climbing through the Khumbu Icefall even once, let alone repeatedly.

      Sherpa guides (they are not “just” porters) don’t get paid anywhere enough for what they do. I also don’t think climbing parties should still be doing old-style, supported expeditions.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    West, Texas, fertilizer plant blast that killed 15 ‘preventable,’ safety board says

    “It resulted from the failure of a company to take the necessary steps to avert a preventable fire and explosion and from the inability of federal, state and local regulatory agencies to identify a serious hazard and correct it,” Moure-Eraso said.

    McLennan County, for example, didn’t have an emergency response plan in place, and “the community clearly was not aware of the potential hazard at West Fertilizer,” the report said.

    A lack of fire codes was repeatedly cited in the report, with investigators noting that Texas didn’t have a fire code and small counties are prohibited from having them. But, the chairman said, local fire departments need fire codes to “hold industrial operators accountable for safe storage and handling of chemicals.”
    The board’s supervisory investigator, Johnnie Banks, said all levels of government also failed to adopt codes to keep populated areas away from hazardous facilities. This is not unique to West, Banks said.
    “We found 1,351 facilities across the country that store ammonium nitrate,” he said, adding that farm communities are just beginning to collect information on the proximity of homes and schools to ammonium nitrate storage facilities.

    • RalphB says:

      The state rep from West went on record saying a state-wide fire code could never pass the legislature. Wonder if this report becomes common knowledge among his voters, he might change his mind about that?

      • NW Luna says:

        Hope so. But it does get very discouraging to repeatedly hear that it’s “too expensive” to change in ways that would increase safety and decrease injury and deaths.

  7. dakinikat says:


    Bible state book for Louisiana? Why it failed
    Bible state book? Republican Rep. Thomas Carmody has dropped his bill to make the Bible Louisiana’s state book. He said the bill was becoming a distraction and some legislators warned him that it could violate the Constitutional separation of church and state.

  8. Oh wow, I remember when they found that T-Rex back in 1988, it was around the time I graduated from high school.

    All that new dinosaur hall exhibit goodness is brought to you by the same brothers who paid for the evolution hall I wrote about when I went to DC a couple of years ago. The Kochs. So who knows…you may find an ark tucked away somewhere in a display…or perhaps you will see a life size Noah wax figure with a shovel in hand, next to a biblical pile of t-rex shit… tastefully composed and historically correct, positioned just behind the big Rex fossil set up when it is completed and put on display as the exhibit’s centerpiece.

  9. dakinikat says:

    SCOTUS is swimming in the pool of white male entitlement again:


    The Day of Jubilee, declared by Chief Justice John Roberts in his decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, and celebrated in another venue with the McCutcheon decision, in which we learned that the only real form of political corruption is a direct quid pro quo, and that influence peddled is not influence at all, goes on and on at the Supreme Court, where today yet another decision was handed down that was not About Race, because nothing is ever About Race.

  10. dakinikat says:


    Not born rich? Out of luck
    Chris Hayes sits down for an extended interview with French economist, Thomas Piketty to talk about his new book, dubbed ‘the most important’ economic writing of our decade.

  11. RalphB says:

    Chris Christie, Father of the Year.

    Past honorees may include Cronus the Titan and Woody Allen.

  12. RalphB says:

    It must be different when a white man says it.

    DKos: Bush administration labeled Bundy Ranch-style outlaws domestic terrorists

    • NW Luna says:

      This description is especially apt:

      … owes the government of his 317 million fellow citizens a million dollars for the privilege of receiving what it is, after all, food stamps for cows.

  13. NW Luna says:

    In my local paper, but sez updated at 4:30 PDT:

    Surveillance cameras at San Jose International Airport successfully recorded the teenager on the tarmac, climbing up the landing gear of a jet. But in the end, the cameras failed because no one noticed the security breach until the plane — and the boy — landed in Hawaii hours later.

    Kid’s very lucky to be alive.

    Editing point — the cameras didn’t fail, the camera observers did.

  14. NW Luna says:

    Bernanke regrets not explaining crisis better

    When asked if he any regrets, Bernanke told a Toronto business crowd on Tuesday that it’s unfortunate the public thinks the bank favored Wall Street instead of Main Street — that is big investors instead of small investors. ….

    Bernanke said during his speech at the Economic Club of Canada that the U.S economy is making tremendous progress.

    Oh, I see. It’s just a perception problem. /s

  15. NW Luna says:

    What a great opportunity, if anyone’s close to Wisconsin:

    Frank Lloyd Wright fans will get their first look at one of his most unusual buildings, an industrial tower with a tree-like design, when a home products company opens its former research and development center to the public this spring.


    The 15-story tower at SC Johnson’s headquarters in southeastern Wisconsin is regarded as one of the country’s most important examples of cantilevered architecture. The first floor looks like a tree trunk, with second and higher floors springing off the core like branches.

  16. RalphB says: