The Odd Side – August 16, 2016

At the Russian Mosquito Festival, the More Bites the Better

BEREZNIKI, Russia (AP) – At this weekend’s Russian Mosquito Festival in the town of Berezniki, 9-year-old Irina Ilyukhina won with 43 bites to show for going berry-picking in the forest with her mother. She was awarded a ceramic cup in recognition of the welts all over her legs.

Unusually hot and dry weather in the Ural Mountains town, however, has greatly depleted the number of mosquitoes this year. Festival organizers had to cancel the traditional mosquito hunt, where participants try to collect as many of the insects as possible in jars.

The heat also had Yana Solyarskaya sweltering in her mosquito costume at the festival, now in its fourth year.

Russia has detected only a few Zika cases, all in people who are believed to have been infected in areas overseas where the virus has spread.

Doctor to Return Library Book Overdue From the 1970s

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – A Florida doctor is returning a long-overdue book that he checked out from a West Virginia library and donating $500.

Station WCHS reports that as a child in the mid-1970s, Dr. Michael Kelly checked out So You Want To Be a Doctor from the Kanawha County Library.

Kelly, a graduate of Charleston High School, is now a successful plastic surgeon in Miami and owns Miami Plastic Surgery.

Kelly told the news station that he recently found the book in a bookshelf at his home and is “extremely embarrassed” that it has been checked out for so long.

Library officials say Kelly will return the book at 1 p.m. Friday, along with a check to show gratitude for his success. Kelly says he hopes his story will inspire the children of Charleston to follow their dreams.

Dirt? Mold? Grimy Gunk on Jefferson Memorial Baffles Experts

WASHINGTON (AP) – What’s darkening the formerly white rotunda of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial?

Is it dirt? Is it mold?

No, it’s biofilm!

The National Park Service said in a news release Wednesday that biofilm, a colony of microscopic organisms, has become increasingly pronounced at the memorial.

Officials say biofilm is not unique to the Jefferson Memorial; it was successfully treated at the D.C. War Memorial in 2011.

Gay Vietzke, superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks, said the increase presence of biofilm is a new challenge throughout the mall.

“We are continuing to study biofilm and research treatment methods, and look forward to restoring the dome to its original luster while ensuring its long-term preservation,” Vietzke said in a statement.

Officials are testing several techniques to treat the biofilm, with an eye toward doing the least damage to the soft marble of the Jefferson Memorial and making it safe for the environment and visitors.

The film is actually a “multicultural” community of organisms living in the relatively harsh environment of the sun-blasted stone, Federica Villa, a microbiologist who has been studying the memorial, told The Washington Post.

The organisms — algae, bacteria and fungi — produce the black pigment to protect themselves from solar radiation, she explained. And Park Service experts note that it is not dirt or mold as some might suspect.

Officials aren’t sure whether any of the efforts can prevent the organisms from coming back. They also don’t know whether the biofilm is damaging, or perhaps even protecting, the stone.

“To be honest, we have a lot of work to do,” Villa said.

The Park Service said that the marble blocks that make up the memorial were smooth when first hoisted into position but years of rain have slowly eroded the marble, pitting surfaces and creating a “perfect environment for a biofilm.”

The statement added the biofilm first became noticeable at the memorial in 2006 and now is increasingly pronounced.

No timeline has been set for treatment of the dome, Park Service officials said.