Get the Lead Out

The Flint, Michigan, drinking water crisis has likely done permanent damage to thousands of children, but for at least one child, it served as an inspiration. Twelve-year-old Gitanjila Rao of Colorado used her scientific knowledge to invent a fast, accurate, portable, and inexpensive device to detect lead in water. She has followed the Flint water crisis for two years, even though she lives about 1,000 miles away from Flint. She said she wanted to make sure people could protect themselves and their children from lead in the water. The device, which detects lead in seconds using carbon molecules and a mobile app, won her a Young Sceintist Challenge award.

Frisky Interspecies Bird Sex

In a Romeo and Juliet tale of forbidden love (or something like that), two birds from different species decided they liked what they saw in each other. Their tryst took place in — where else? — the Amazon rainforest hundreds of thousands of years ago, according to a team of Canadian scientists. In a report published in December, the scientists state they discovered that a rare bird — green with a golden crown — is actually the hybrid of two other species: both green, but with purple and white crowns respectively. How does white and purple combine to make gold? Science! (It has something to do with the way light reflects off of the feathers).

Unwelcome in Jersey

Not from Leonia, New Jersey? Then you probably shouldn’t drive there. The town is considering a law to prohibit out-of-town drivers within their borders. The law would take effect during 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and again from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Anyone without special yellow resident tags hanging from their rearview mirrors could face a fine of $200. The reason for the law is that commuters often cut through the town on their way to the George Washington Bridge that connects New Jersey to New York City to the point where residents can’t even get out of their driveways. How did these commuters find Leonia? Navigation apps such as Waze and Google lead them right through town, according to town officials.

Where There’s Smoke, There’s… A Bagel?

Hundreds of travelers at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis were forced to evacuate the building shortly after 6 p.m. on Dec. 26 after smoke detectors went off. The culprit? A burnt bagel. Travelers only had to wait less than 10 minutes outside in the 11-degree cold night air, but they had to go through security checkpoints for a second time. Jacob Long, a Boston-based news anchor who was at the airport, tweeted that there was a sense of confusion at the scene. “We’re all outside in the freezing cold walking under the jet bridges,” Long tweeted. “No idea where we are going or why. Hundreds of passengers.”

The Flames of Artistic Passion

Steven Spazuk is an artist whose work is fiery … literally. Spazuk employs the art of fumage, a technique popularized by surrealist painters in the 1930s that use fire to paint. Spazuk sculpts plumes of soot to render shapes and light by using brushes and feathers. In an interview with Slate, Spazuk said he first started using the fiery artistic technique after a dream. “I was in a gallery [in my dream] and was looking at that black and white landscape and I knew it was done with fire and completely understood the technique,” he said. “That was in April of 2001, and I have been working with fire ever since.”

Holy Birthday Pizza, Jesus!

His holiness, Pope Francis, sure knows how to celebrate his birthday — with a giant pizza party at the Vatican. In celebration of his 81st birthday, Pope Francis had a 13-foot long pizza with tomatoes and mozzarella adorned with a single white candle, which a group of children from the Vatican pediatric clinic Dispensario Santa Marta helped him blow out. This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has had a nontraditional birthday. Last year, he invited eight homeless people for breakfast and three years ago, thousands of people gathered to dance a tango mass for Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square.

France’s New Favorite Book

One of the most depraved works of fiction ever written, the manuscript for 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, is now one of France’s national treasures. For those of you who don’t know who the Marquis de Sade is — the word sadism comes from his name. He literally wrote the book. The French aristocrat wrote his magnum opus of filth literature (that would make John Waters queasy) in small handwriting on a 39-foot scrolled pieced together from scraps of parchment smuggled into his prison cell. The Marquis de Sade hid the manuscript and thought it lost. He said he wept “tears of blood” when it was found. Over the centuries, it was passed from one erotica loving aristocrat to another; stolen and smuggled overseas; held under lock and key by authorities; sold fraudulently. Now, the French Ministry of Culture is planning to buy the work for $12 million.

English Snow Business

The Guardian reports that the United Kingdom has launched its annual freak-out over the white stuff falling from the sky, with major freeways shut down over the massive, 2.8-inch snowpocalypse. Flights across the U.K. were shut down as Stansted airport in the Midlands closed down due to the snow emergency, and police said people abandoned their vehicles in the Lake District due to ice in this horrifying snowmageddon.

Here in the U.S., meanwhile: Erie, Pennsylvania, is still chugging along under a paltry 4.5 feet of powder. Keep calm and carry on indeed.

Well, That’s Nuts

When your grandparents serve fruitcake you pretend to enjoy it, so as not to arouse their suspicion that you think fruitcake is dry, terrible, and well worth its reputation as a running joke of the holiday season.

When a fruitcake is left, wrapped, in a Seattle ferry terminal, it becomes suspicious for an entirely different reason.

Stuff New Zealand reports that service was halted while a bomb squad investigated the item, saying the Washington State Patrol found it suspicious as it was the only gift under the tree.

Well, of course it was. It probably scared the rest of the gifts away.

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