Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • Opossum protein neutralizes nearly all poisons, could have benefits for humans

    The American opossum is invulnerable to nearly all forms of poison. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)Opossums may someday provide an antidote to nearly all forms of poison, including everything from snakebites to ricin.

    The Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins has found that the American opossum produces a protein known as Lethal Toxin-Neutralizing Factor (LTNF). And as the Boing Boing blog points out, the LTNF protein is exactly what it sounds like, seeking out otherwise lethal poisons that have entered an opossum's body and neutralizing them.

    Amazingly, tests on the opossum LTNF found that the protein even left the marsupial creatures immune to poisons from snakes on other continents that the American opossum had not been previously exposed to.

    The BittelMeThis blog goes into further detail, explaining that scientists then injected mice with the LTNF protein and subjected the rodents to venom from otherwise deadly creatures, including Thailand cobras, Australian taipans, Brazilian rattlesnakes, scorpions and honeybees.

    When the venom did not kill the mice, the mice were then

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  • Cat climbs onto TV reporter’s shoulder during live broadcast (VIDEO)

    A curious cat climbs on reporter Nicole DiDonato's shoulder (FOX-17)On Thursday, Fox 17 reporter Nicole DiDonato was delivering her live report on ways to beat the summer heat when a stray cat suddenly climbed up onto her shoulder.

    We've all heard of newshounds. But what would you call this breaking news kitty? A repurrter?

    Amazingly, DiDonato remains mostly composed as the cat climbs up the back of her leg, then comes to rest on her shoulder. When the camera cuts back to the news studio in Grand Rapids, Mich., the Fox 17 anchors note that they heard meowing off-screen while DiDonato was preparing to go live with her report.

    After the report, DiDonato took to her Twitter account, noting that she's a cat owner ("I actually already have two strays I took home from the last two cities I worked in!"), which may have encouraged the stray to jump into the show:

    "Learned my lesson: Never making eye contact with a cat before a live tease ever again," she wrote.

    Mediaite described the cat as "rude," but how could anyone be mad at such an adorable little guy

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  • Baby pandas on a slide (VIDEO)

    A baby panda slides at Changdu Panda Base. (YouTube)China's Chengdu Panda Base has released what may be the most adorable video you will see all day: four baby pandas racing down a slide.

    Chengdu is marking its 25th anniversary with Panda Awareness Week (PAW), which includes several events around the world to spotlight efforts to increase the numbers of healthy panda bears in the wild.

    The  video is incredibly entertaining, as the baby pandas race back up the slide for repeated turns. Near the end of the video, one of them literally rolls head over paws at the bottom of the slide:

    "Our ultimate goal is to help pandas return to their natural habitat and to grow the number of giant pandas living in the wild," said Dr. Zhang Zhihe, director of the Chengdu Panda Base, in a press release. "We hope that Panda Awareness Week helps us effectively widen the support for panda conservation and find new advocates for this very special cause."

    The organization opened in 1987 when 6 giant pandas were rescued from the wild. Chengdu is now the largest captive breeding panda preserve in the world and hopes to house more than 150 pandas over the next 10 years.

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  • Cops mistaken for male strippers at bachelorette party

    A police officer humors a bachelorette party attendee who mistook him for a stripper. (ABC News)

    Police officers in Darwin, Australia, were accosted in a highly unusual incident during which attendees at a local bachelorette party mistook the cops for male strippers.

    Australia's ABC News reports that the peace officers were called in to respond to a disturbance at the Humpty Doo Tavern, but a few partying women thought their mission that night was to protect and swerve.

    After the Northern Territory police had finished inspecting the tavern, they moved on next door to the Humpty Doo Hotel, where they were met by the women celebrating a "hen's night," an Australian term for a bachelorette party.

    "They were most excited about the police presence," said Northern Watch Commander Louise Jorgenson. "There were various shouts about how the strippers had arrived."

    "They nearly had their shirts torn off, but they managed to escape with their dignity intact," Jorgenson added.

    In fact, once the officers cleared up the confusion they played along, posing for a few pictures with the women.

    "We

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  • Restaurant unveils 100 percent ground bacon burger

    The 'Merica, a 100% ground bacon burger (Facebook)

    California burger chain Slater's 50/50 may be bringing home the bacon, now that its menu features a burger made of 100 percent ground bacon. Not to gild the lily, but the Fourth of July-inspired The 'Merica burger comes topped with a slice of thick-cut bacon, bacon island dressing, and bacon flavored cheddar cheese. Its only nonbacon topping is an impressive sunny-side-up egg.

    Foodbeast notes that Slater's 50/50 has already made a name for itself by offering its flagship burger made of half ground beef and half ground bacon. Sadly, the three Slater's stores will only be offering the all-bacon burger through the end of July.

    The month-long feature comes on the heels of previous burgers-of-the-month, including a Pulled Pork Burger and a Chili Cheese Frito Burger.

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  • Disruptive JetBlue Airways pilot ruled not guilty by reason of insanity

    Clayton Osbon is escorted by FBI agents from a mental hospital in April. (Michael Schumacher/AP/Amarillo Globe-New)

    The JetBlue pilot who in March left the cockpit during a flight and began screaming at passengers has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

    U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson of Texas made the ruling in favor of Clayton Osbon, 49, the Associated Press reported. In her decision, Robinson said that at the time, Osbon suffered "from a severe mental disease or defect that impaired his ability to appreciate the nature, quality, or wrongfulness of his behavior."

    After a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, Osbon was found mentally competent to stand trial. At the time, Judge Robinson said Osbon was "not now suffering from a mental disease or defect."

    However, he will now be sent to a federal mental health facility in Fort Worth, Texas, for further evaluation.

    Osbon's attorney, Dean Roper, declined to comment on the ruling. Another hearing is scheduled for Osbon on August 6, during which a judge will decide whether the former pilot should be released or sent to a mental health

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  • Mountain climber saved at last second from near-fatal fall (VIDEO)

    The ice slips beneath a mountain climber in Colorado. (YouTube)A group of mountain climbers attempting to ascend Kennedy's Gully in the Ouray Ice Park in Colorado rescued a fellow climber from near-certain death when a sheath of ice suddenly slipped out from under him.

    As the climber makes his way up the gully, the other climbers who are off camera and filming him from above realize that the ice is quickly melting beneath him.

    "We've got a rope if you want it," a woman says. "We're setting up a rappel, can you hang on?"

    "Yeah, that would be great," he says.

    There's a clear sense of urgency from the climbers above as they work to lower a rope to the climber before the ice breaks:

    It's a tense few moments as the climber works to get the rope clipped to his belt.

    "Ok, you're golden," the woman tells him.

    "Thank you very much," he says.

    However, things quickly take a turn at two minutes into the video, when the climber ignores pleas to sit tight while the other climbers examine alternate routes for him. As he attempts to press onward, the sheath of ice suddenly slips out from under him.

    The site Planet Mountain says that it would have been a 50-meter (160-foot) drop to the bottom of the gully that almost certainly would have killed the climber.

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  • The original voice of Chuck E. Cheese has been silenced (YouTube)For nearly 20 years, voice actor Duncan Brannan was the voice of the pizza-peddling, talking mouse known as Chuck E. Cheese.

    However, Brannan says he was unceremoniously dumped by the pizza chain, only discovering he had been replaced when he saw a commercial for "Chuck's Hot New Single" featuring a different voice actor. The company is also reportedly relaunching the character as part of the new song.

    The Dallas Observer reports that in Brannan's words, he transformed Chuck E. Cheese "from a joke-telling, sometimes off-color New Jersey rat to a lovable, mainstream mouse who could sing."

    However, it looks like Chuck E. Cheese is in for yet another public makeover and Brennan has been replaced as the official voice of the character. For starters, Jaret Reddick, lead singer of the band Bowling for Soup, will voice the mascot.

    The Chuck E. Cheese Facebook page features a redesigned version of the character holding a guitar and standing in the shadows. The page contains the tagline, "You've never seen Chuck E. rock like this. And on Monday, the Facebook page was updated with a message from the company reading, "Hope everyone had an awesome weekend! Chuck E. was busy working on his new style and a special surprise to go with it! It's sure to be a chart-topping 'hit.'"

    Brannan says his work with parent company Showbiz Pizza has "slowed to a trickle" in recent months and the split was made official when he saw the TV spot featuring a different voice.

    "That is when he finally confirmed with me that I have been replaced--completely--on all fronts," Brannon wrote of the experience.

    Nonetheless, Brannan says his real work with the pizza chain was not done to collect paychecks but rather to spread the word of Jesus Christ. Writing on his Facebook page and the Showbiz Pizza site (PDF), Brannan said:

    "What it was about, what my sincere hope is that you--you Fans, you parents, and all you kids who have loved Chuck E. Cheese over the years--have seen, heard, or experienced Jesus Christ in and through my life in some way. For He is all that matters, now and for all eternity. I hope that you have seen Christ in me. I hope that He touched your life through mine in some special way and, if that happened, then I was doing my one true real job, which is sharing Him with all of you."

    For its part, parent company Showbiz Pizza released a statement denying that Brannan has been fired. Instead, they said they were simply replacing him for one new advertising campaign.

    "Brannan was not fired from Chuck E. Cheese's, rather we simply chose to utilize new voice talent for the original music we have written as part of a TV advertising campaign in partnership with The Richards Group," the statement reads. "On several occasions prior to the release of Chuck E.'s new single last week, we communicated to Brannan that his primary responsibilities with our in-store entertainment group would not change."

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  • NOAA issues statement denying existence of mermaids

    A woman dressed as a mermaid swims at Manila's Ocean Park in the Philippines. (Pat Roque/AP)The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued an official statement denying the existence of mermaids.

    "No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found," the statement reads. "Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples? That's a question best left to historians, philosophers, and anthropologists."

    Discovery News writes that the denial reportedly came after the airing of a recent Animal Planet TV show "Mermaids: The Body Found." The special, which aired as part of the network's annual "Monster Week," apparently fooled a number of viewers with its use of computer imagery to depict the mythical creatures. The faux-documentary seems to have created a big enough splash with its audience that NOAA felt it needed to address questions about the alleged authenticity of mermaids.

    A press release for the special says it "paints a wildly convincing picture of the existence of mermaids, what they may look like, and why they've

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  • Anchorage mayor takes oath of office in Honolulu

    Anchorage, Alaksa, Mayor Dan Sullivan takes the oath of office in Hawaii. (Oskar Garcia/AP)Dan Sullivan was 4,664 miles from home. But thanks to video conferencing technology, the re-elected mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, was able to take his oath of office from Honolulu, Hawaii.

    It was 80 degrees in Honolulu, the Associated Press reported, compared with the seasonal highs of the mid-50s in Anchorage. Sullivan wore a Hawaiian shirt for his oath, signed off by saying "Aloha," then he and his wife were adorned with leis.

    "I'm very pleased that we're able to have this technology," 61-year-old Sullivan, a Republican, said. "It' really an honor for me today to be able to share this experience with my Hawaiian family and friends."

    Sullivan was in Honolulu for a scheduled family vacation and reunion. He isn't scheduled to be back in Alaska until July 16, and said taking the oath remotely was just easier than flying back to the city where he was elected to serve a second term.

    "It really doesn't matter where you do the swearing in, what room you're in or where you're located," Sullivan told reporters back in Alaska. "What really matters is the words that you swear and affirm to, to uphold the constitutions of the country, the state and, of course, the charter."

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