The Odd Side – March 8, 2016

Michigan Family Welcomes Second Leap-Year Daughter

(Reuters) – A southeast Michigan couple is twice lucky after the birth of their daughter on Feb. 29, the second time the mother has given birth to a baby girl on that day in a leap year.

Chad and Melissa Croff, from Columbus Michigan, welcomed Evelyn Joy into the world at 3:06 a.m., the Henry Ford Health System said in a statement. The little girl shares a birthday with older sister Eliana Adaya, who was born Feb. 29, 2012, the last time there was a leap year, the hospital system said.

“It’s a little surreal,” Melissa Croff told Reuters in an interview.

Currently, the couple celebrates Eliana’s birthday on the closest Saturday relatives can agree on, Croff said. In the future, the girls will pick a celebration day during non-leap years.

The serendipitous timing doesn’t happen often. Guinness World Records lists five siblings born on the same day in the United States, Feb. 20, from 1952 to 1966, according to the hospital system.

Robot Roaches to the Rescue

(Reuters) – Nasty. Disgusting. Ugly. These are just some of the words normally associated with cockroaches. But for scientists in the world of bio-inspired robotics — roaches are perfect. Scientists are studying cockroaches, one of the most hated creatures on the planet, to help develop an agile and virtually indestructible robot that can crawl through walls in search of survivors in disaster zones.

“You might think the best shape changers are kind of like an octopus or a worm or a slug, but yet we know that cockroaches can go through these tiny little cracks,” says Robert Full, Professor of Integrative Biology at University of California at Berkeley.

Researchers at UC Berkeley put roaches through a series of experiments that involved the insects running though tiny tunnels a quarter of their size and fitting through openings just millimeters wide. “In order to understand how they can go in these little spaces we actually did CT scans to look inside and we found no hard part. Exoskeletons in general are composed of stiff but not too stiff plates and tubes, connected by compliant membranes, and those can all be compressed but still function effectively,” says Full.

The researchers found that roaches can run nearly full speed even when squeezing through an area that compresses their body down to half of its size. Additionally, the insects’ malleable structure can withstand forces 900 times their body weight without injury. It’s this list of impressive credentials that has led to CRAM — short for Compressible Robot with Articulated Microstructures. A fancy name for what basically amounts to a robotic roach.

“It’s palm sized, it’s bigger so it can contain more payload, sensors and things in the future, and it can be compressed and it can still run in that confined space,” says Full about the robot.

“Ick” factor aside, it’s a roach’s uncanny ability to crawl through walls in a house that lays the foundation for robots like this to crawl through spaces in disaster zones to search for survivors.

Police Chief Reviewing If a Ticket Was Issued in Retaliation

WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) – A West Virginia police chief is trying to determine if an officer issued a jaywalking ticket to a city parking enforcement officer in retaliation for a parking violation warning.

The Intelligencer reports that Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger is reviewing last Friday’s incident in which an officer issued a total of five jaywalking violations, including one to a city parking enforcement officer.

Deputy Police Chief Martin Kimball says the incident occurred just a few days after some officers received letters from the city’s finance department, warning them that failure to pay for accumulated parking violations may result in warrants being issued for their arrest.

Chief Schwertfeger determined that a closer look was necessary given the timing of the warnings and the jaywalking tickets. He says he’s not opening an internal investigation, but is doing a personal review.

Woman Brings Live Tank Shell Into Austrian Police Station

VIENNA (AP) – One Austrian police station has dodged an explosive situation.

The police station in Eisenstadt, east of Vienna, was evacuated Tuesday after a woman walked in with a live tank shell in her hand.

A police statement Wednesday says the shell was exploded without incident after experts transported it to a nearby sandpit. But they have issued a warning to all not to touch or pick up anything that could be ordnance left over from World War II.

The statement says the woman who brought in the shell told police her son had found it over six months ago — and they had been storing it in their garage ever since.

Meteor Suspected as Mystery Flash Lights Up Scottish Sky

LONDON (AP) – Scientists say a meteor was the cause of a bright flash of light reported by people across Scotland and northern England.

Police Scotland said the force began receiving calls about 6:55 p.m. Monday, with people reporting a loud bang, a sudden blue, green or white light or a fireball in the sky.

Several drivers caught the sudden flash and streak of light on their dashboard cameras. Driving instructor Bill Addison said it looked like “a bright, electric blue spark.”

“I thought it was a plane coming down at first, but it was moving too fast,” he said.

The U.K. weather forecasting service the Met Office said Tuesday the incident wasn’t weather-related and the U.K. defense ministry wouldn’t comment on whether the flash was linked to military activity in the area.

Steve Owens, manager of the Glasgow Science Centre planetarium, said the likely culprit was a chunk of space rock — “about the size of a tennis ball or maybe even a watermelon” — that was burning up in the atmosphere.