Offbeat: Batmobiles and walking on water

This week's offbeat news includes batmobiles and test-tube burgers.

July 03, 2011

Walking on water

No, these aren’t pictures from a latest Chinese Kung-Fu film. Students at Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China are so excited at their graduation ceremony that they’re walking on water!

Well almost, the university faculty set up a special photo session by placing a walkway under water on a flooded lakeside park. Torrential rains had recently battered central and southern China and Wuhan City was left partially flooded due to the heavy downpour.


Cooking pot for £380,000

Being a foodie is all the rage these days, but does anyone really love being in the kitchen enough to fork out £380,000 (Rs52.3 million) for what is being dubbed the world’s most expensive cooking pot?

The Zhuo Zhan department store in Changchun, the capital of China’s Jilin Province, has put this delectable product on sale — but it will set you back a fair old whack.

At 3.8million Yuan (£380,000), it’s something a footballer might buy for their wife, or girlfriend (or both). It comes complete with a pair of handles of pure gold on the pot itself and another on the lid, weighing a total of 738 gram, while the details are also embossed with 13 diamonds. And the best part? It gets delivered to you in a Rolls-Royce (not included).

A spokesperson for Fissler China, whose German parent company manufactures the luxury item, said, “Any buyer of this pot will get our top service. He/she will not only be invited to the top Michelin restaurant in Europe with ten of her/his friends, but the company will also deliver the pot to his/her address in a Rolls-Royce.”


Lucky Liz

A British woman who suffers from painful muscle condition and relies on a mobility a car to get around has won hundreds of prizes after entering online competitions and completing crosswords.

Lucky Liz Denial, from Stapleford, Nottingham, UK, has been able to kit out her home with prizes, which include a 37-inch LCD TV, a home cinema system, two X-boxes and hundreds of bottles of fancy toiletries and cleaning products. The 51-year-old former bank worker has even bagged herself a five-star VIP holiday to Kenya. And she has been able to top-up her luxury lifestyle after pocketing £16,500 (Rs2.27 million) on TV show “Deal or No Deal”.

Liz, who was forced to give up her job after developing painful muscle condition fibromyalgia, has won a prize every single day since last October. Liz said, “I rely on winning prizes because I don’t have a job and my mobility car is very expensive to run. Sometimes I have to pinch myself, because I can’t believe how lucky I am. Maybe it is karma because I suffer from a lot of pain because of my condition.”

She further said, “I sell the prizes I won’t use, like the X-boxes, to my friends. When I won the trip to Kenya, I couldn’t believe my luck. The wackiest prize I’ve won is definitely a life-size cardboard cutout of Ricky Gervais. When the postman delivered it, I didn’t know what to do with it.” Some of my prizes are very strange but others have made my life much easier and definitely more enjoyable, she added.

Liz met her best friend, Sandy Cox, from Cossall, after appearing on “Deal or no Deal”. Cox said, “I enter competitions too but I’m nowhere near as lucky as Liz. I only won 10p on “Deal or No Deal” but Liz just keeps hitting the jackpot with everything she applies for. And she really deserves her prizes, she is a lovely woman.”


Perfect prank

Legoland may be full of fun and games for visitors, but apparently employees occasionally goof around too. The boss of a Legoland theme park, California was stunned when staff swapped his car for one made of Lego.

Peter Ronchetti went to drive home in his real Volvo XC60 to find it had been replaced with a life-sized copy made from 201,076 of the toy bricks. The prank was thought up by colleague Tim Petsche, who snuck away Ronchetti’s keys and called in a forklift to move in the three-tonne (2,934 pounds) model car. Ronchetti took the joke in his stride, playing around with the car and pretending to unlock it.

He said, “We have a very fun, creative team here at Legoland California and it really was the perfect prank. I can tell you that I won’t leave my keys lying around ever again.” Beth Chee, spokeswoman for the park in Carlsbad, California, watched and photographed the prank, saying that Ronchetti thought it was “very funny”.


Ooh, aah, ouch

An unfortunate woman paid the price for a bus driver’s lack of attention when she got her head stuck in the vehicle’s closing doors in Maanshan, in eastern China’s Anhui Province.

The unassuming lady was attempting to make her exit from the No137 bus at her stop in the early afternoon when the obviously impatient driver shut the doors just as she poked her head out. As the doors closed around her neck, leaving her body inside the bus and her head outside, her fellow passengers shouted at the driver to open them, which he then did.

Once released, the woman climbed off the bus and quickly walked away, rubbing her neck without complaining. Reports are as yet unconfirmed regarding the possibility that the driver was Franco Lombardo, the notorious chap who was busted in Rome for ditching bus passengers to pick up his girlfriend recently.

The 40-year-old kicked off his passengers from the bus he was driving on route 116, telling them it had a fault. But he had actually just been on the phone with his lady, as one angry passenger later revealed, “The bus was crowded and we all heard him get a phone call from someone he called ‘My Love’ — we heard him say he would be right there — and then he booted us all off.”


It’s a Batmobility scooter!

Great grandfather Brian Vann looks like he would be more at home in Gotham City after turning his mobility scooter into the Batmobile.

Vann spent weeks transforming his electric scooter into the superhero’s car. He can be spotted riding the Batmobile, which has a top speed of eight mph (12.8km/h), around the ‘Batcave’ — the sheltered housing complex where he lives in Evesham, Worcestershire.

“People drive past in their cars and stop when they see me, get out, and ask for a photo,” said the retired construction worker. “I feel like a bit of a celebrity. I know how the Beckhams must feel when I go out in my Batmobile. If it brings a smile to people’s faces, then it’s done the job.”

And 74-year-old Vann will not stop there — he has already started work on another design which will transform his scooter into a Thunderbird spaceship.


The iPope!

Want to get all the latest news, videos and photographs from the Vatican? Well, yes, there is now an app for that.

Benedict XVI, 84, has become the first pope to join the Twitter generation after sending his first message using an iPad. The pontiff was videoed tweeting on the iPad and later uploaded the video footage on YouTube. His appearance on social media was timed to coincide with the launch of a new online portal for all thing related to Vatican.

Pope Benedict’s first tweet read, “Dear friends, I just launched [the website]. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.” The move is the latest attempt by the Vatican to spread its message to the internet audience and follows dabbling in Facebook and YouTube. The portal which will collate information from the Vatican’s various print, online, radio and television media into a single destination will be its most extensive online venture. It will be capable of live-streaming papal events, audio feeds from Vatican Radio, photographs from L’Osservatore Romano and printed texts including papal homilies, statements and speeches.

Thaddeus Jones, project coordinator and an official with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said, “He was clearly in awe at the new technology. It’s a lighter moment but also an important one, it marks a new way of communicating.”


Coming soon: A test-tube burger

After test-tube babies, it’s time for test-tube hamburgers.

The first ‘test-tube’ hamburger is only a year away, scientist’s claim. They believe the product, beef mince grown from stem cells, could pave the way for eating meat without animals being slaughtered. The Dutch scientists predict that over the next few decades the world’s population will increase so quickly that there will not be enough livestock to feed everyone. As a result, they say, laboratory-grown beef, chicken and lamb could become normal.

The scientists are currently developing a burger, which will be grown from 10,000 stem cells extracted from cattle, which are then left in the lab to multiply more than a billion times to produce muscle tissue similar to beef. The product is called ‘in vitro’ meat.

Mark Post, professor of physiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who is behind the project, said, “I don’t see any way you could rely on old-fashioned livestock in the coming decades. In vitro meat will be the only choice left. We are trying to prove to the world we can make a product out of this, and we need a courageous person who is willing to be the first to taste it.”

“If no one comes forward then it might be me,” he told Scientific American magazine that he thought the first burger could be made within 12 months. In 2009 scientists from the same university grew strips of pork using the same method. They admitted it was not particularly appetising, being grey with a similar texture to calamari. Fish fillets have been grown in a New York laboratory using cells taken from goldfish muscle tissue.

Even if the initial results do not taste quite the same as proper meat, scientists are convinced the public will soon get used to it, especially if they do not have a choice. A colleague of Professor Post said, “When we are eating a hamburger we don’t think, ‘I’m eating a dead cow’. And when people are already far from what they eat, it’s not too hard to see them accepting cultured meat.”


Big love

To describe your child as a gorilla is a bit rude to say the least. But for French zoologists Pierre and Elaine Thivillon, who own a zoo in Saint-Martin la-Plaine near Lyon, this is exactly what their ‘little one’ is.

They have fostered a gorilla called Digit, who was rejected by her mother and they now treat her as their own. Digit is very comfortable in their company and despite her enormous size and strength; the couple obviously have not the slightest fear of her.

The unusual addition to their family was born at the zoo in 1998, but her mother did not know how to breastfeed her. The couple stepped in to bottle feed her but her health took a turn for the worse and she underwent two life-saving operations. Digit, who weighs 80 kilos, could live for up to 50 years.


World’s first flying motorbike

Traffic jams could soon become a thing of the past thanks to an amateur inventor who has built the world’s first flying motorcycle in his garage.

Australian Christopher Malloy ploughed his entire life-savings into the project, which took him two and a half years to complete. His futuristic creation — dubbed the Hoverbike — can reach an altitude of 10,000ft and speeds of over 100mph (160.9 km/h).

Fans of the design have already compared Malloy’s work to the ‘speeder bikes’ from the Stars Wars sequel Return of the Jedi or the hovering car from Back to the Future.

The futuristic prototype has the potential to travel up to 92 miles (148 kilometres) for about 45 minutes on one tank of fuel and is expected to come with a hefty price tag of more than £45,000 (Rs6.2 million). So far the bike, which weighs 270kg, has only been tested while tethered to the ground to prevent it flying too high. But plans to test its capabilities without any restrictions are set to go ahead soon.  Malloy explained, “The Hoverbike was built with safety in mind so at least three components have to fail before you might have a serious airborne failure. There are also two explosive parachutes attached to the airframe and of course the rider could choose to wear their own parachute too.”

Malloy is unwilling to reveal exactly how much he has spent on the project, but claims it is costing him roughly £140 (Rs19,389.8) a week.


Published in The Express Tribune, July  2nd, 2011.


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