[October 5-October 11, 2020] A curling robot, beefy bears, and some questionable bread—all round-up in this week’s weird news from Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Curly the Robot Throws Stones Against Pros

This week, a robot named Curly went wheel-to-toe with professional South Korean curling teams, winning three out of four matches. While it may seem like a sample game of swatting discs across the ice, curling is actually extremely difficult, requiring so much strategy that it has been called “chess on ice.”

In a game where one false move can instantly change the game’s outcome, players act as machines to precisely move the 40-pound-stone down the course. Korea University researchers, Seong-Whan Lee and Dong-Ok Won, and Klaus-Robert Müeller at the Berlin Institute of Technology, set out to see if a robot could use artificial intelligence to make these same strategic decisions. According to Brook Hays of United Press International,” AI machines often perform well in simulations, but struggle to cope in the real world, a problem known as the ‘sim-to-real gap.’

Curly ­uses two robots that communicate to aim and push the stone down the ice, while it wheels around and rotates the stone using a conveyor belt. Cameras on its head show the robot both the field and the “hogline,” where players release the stone, which the robot uses while competing to assess risk and uncontrollable environmental conditions. Curly learned how to adapt to unexpected challenges as it played, adjusting its throw each time. The creators credit Curly’s success to its “adaptive deep reinforcement learning framework.”

Brawny Bear Reigns Fattest of Them All

After months of chowing down on salmon, this bulky Alaskan brown bear has been deemed the fattest of them all in Katmai National Park and Preserve’s Fat Bear Week competition! Bear 747 went all-in for this year’s “survival of the fattest” competition, narrowly edging out another husky guy, named Chunk. According to park representatives, the beefy bruin’s weight in July could have been sufficient for hibernation, but he continued to stock up for winter, eating dozens of salmon a day.

Fat Bear Week is an annual celebration of the park’s chubby cubbies where 12 of the 2,200 bears that roam the area are selected for the public to weigh in on which one is the fattest—nay, healthiest—with this year’s voting taking place online. Being a bear, 747 was completely unaware of this body-positive celebration. “When asked what he intends to do now that he has won, the only response was a look back before going back to fishing in the jacuzzi near the Brook Falls, one of his favorite spots,” said a park representative. Stay humble and hungry, 747.

A Crumby Ruling for Sandwich Giant

In a ruling that will have you thinking twice before chowing down a $5 footlong, Ireland’s Supreme Court determined that Subway bread is not really bread at all.  This case was brought to court by Bookfinders Ltd., a franchisee in County Galway, who argued that Subway bread should be exempt from the country’s value-added tax. According to Ireland’s Value-Added Tax Act of 1972 (VAT), tax-exempt bread cannot contain sugar, fat, and bread improver exceeding 2% of the flour’s total weight. The VAT defines “bread as a staple food,” separating it from sweeter baked goods, such as pastries and cakes. Legally speaking, the popular sandwich company’s dough does not meet the country’s regulations, with sugar accounting for a whopping 10% of the flour’s weight! Five judges participated in the ruling, which states that “the resulting product falls outside the definition of ‘bread’ for the purposes of the Act.” Subway maintains that their “bread is, of course, bread,” and will be reviewing the ruling.

subway restaurant

Anonymous Library Borrower Dodges 48 Years of Late Fees

Somebody mysteriously returned two books that were checked out of a library 48-years-ago in England this week with a note apologizing for the delay signed with the name “Andy.” While Andy was facing up to a $10,000 fine, it appears his decision to finally turn the books, which included a “Thomas the Tank Engine” classic, may have had something to do with the cancellation of late fees the country has put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

library shelves

Australian Woman Has A Larvae on Her Mind

A 25-year-old Australian woman suffering from ongoing headaches finally has some relief after doctors discovered tapeworm larvae living in her brain!

After seven years of dealing with headaches, two to three times a month, the unidentified woman’s latest headache was no match for the migraine medicines she was prescribed previously. During this bout, the severity of visual symptoms led doctors to do an MRI, where they found what was believed to be a tumor causing the pain. Upon removing the lesion, they discovered that the mass was not a tumor but rather a cyst full of tapeworm larvae! Post-removal, the woman’s symptoms have ceased, and she has not needed any additional treatment. This parasitic condition, known as neurocysticercosis, occurs after the accidental ingestion of undercooked food or water contaminated with Taenia solium (or pork tapeworm) eggs.

The woman’s case is believed to be the first case of the disease acquired in Australia. Past instances have only occurred in residents who have traveled abroad to endemic areas, such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Doctors could not find a clear link to the source of the woman’s ailment, as she had never left the continent, and there was no evidence of contact with anyone from an endemic region. However, it is suggested that she had ingested the eggs released from another unknowing carrier. With world travel becoming easier and more frequent, there is concern that more cases could occur in countries with low endemicity, resulting in sporadic cases such as this.

By Meghan Yani, contributor for Ripleys.com 


Now that you’ve read the strangest stories of the week, how about the strangest stories of the year? Ripley’s all-new annual is an all-true collection of incredible facts, unexpected stories, and stunning photography!