[September 21-September 27, 2020] The funny side of science, a super sporty parrot, and the saga of a half-eaten sandwich—all round-up in this week’s weird news from Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Ig Nobel Prize Celebrates Weird Science

On September 17, Improbable Research held the 30th annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony with winners ranging from a man who created a knife out of poop to studies on drunken earthworms and alligator bellows! For the past three decades, the Ig Nobel Awards have celebrated the humorous side of science, shining a light on funny projects that also make you think. Similar to The Nobel Prize, the Ig Nobel Awards include categories in Peace, Medicine, Economics, and Physics, but also offer more specific scientific categories such as Acoustics, Psychology, and Materials Science. The ceremony is usually held at Harvard University, but this year’s awards were virtual, hosting nominees from around the globe and winners from 29 different countries!

While all of the nominated projects were fascinating, some crowd favorites answer questions like:

  • What happens when you put an alligator in an airtight chamber filled with helium?
  • Can narcissists be identified by their eyebrows?
  • Why do chewing sounds drive people nuts?
  • Is a knife made out of poop an effective tool?

The poop knife took the prize for Material Sciences, led by Metin Eren, an assistant professor and co-director of the Experimental Archaeology Lab at Kent State University in Ohio. After years of fascination with a story of an Inuit man who made a knife out of his feces, Eren decided to replicate the tale to represent the number of narratives that are based on little to no evidence. Eren and his team froze human feces to minus-50 degrees Centigrade before filing it to a sharp edge. When the knife was put to use it, “failed miserably,” according to Eren, who believes the study made an important point that “evidence and fact-checking are vital.” The Ig Nobel Awards are highly lauded within the scientific community. For Eren, who last attended the ceremony as an undergraduate student at Harvard, winning was “a dream come true.”

Leaving A Lasting Impression

Researchers in Saudi Arabia have discovered human footprints left behind 120,000 years ago! Found in the northern region of Tabuk, the seven sets of prints are the earliest evidence of humans in the area and are believed to have been left by two people visiting a lake that has long-since dried up. The footprints are thought to be those of modern humans based on their stature and the lack of stone tools found in the area that would have been used by Neanderthals. Experts are using the footprints to learn more about the paths humans took to leave Africa, with the location indicating that following inland lakes and rivers may have been important to humans for survival. According to Mathew Stewart of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, footprint fossils are unique from other fossils, as they offer a glimpse into a short amount of time, from hours to days.


Get Your Wings in the Game

Fans of the Brazilian National Women’s Team were taken by surprise when a macaw decided to get its wings in the game. The parrot, and local soccer fan, landed on the head of Brazilian defender, Bruna Benites, during Saturday’s scrimmage, forcing a break in the game as it made itself at home. One of Brazil’s coaches lured the bird away with a soccer ball. The parrot wasn’t much of a kicker, opting to hop onto the ball and fly away with a dramatic squawk. Benites didn’t mind the interruption one bit and used it as an opportunity to raise awareness for the fires currently destroying the Amazon rainforest and Pantanal wetlands. In an Instagram post, Benites posted a statement of sorrow about the fires and loss of animal habitats. “Let us be aware! Let’s take care of our greatest asset, which is nature!” She later clarified that Saturday’s macaw was a local pet and regular at the team’s practices.

A Sandwich with All the Nix-ons

Thanks to Steve Jenne of Sullivan, Illinois, we can confirm that on September 22, 1960, Richard Nixon was not a member of the Clean Plate Club. It’s been 60 years since that fateful day when Jenne came upon the then-presidential candidate’s half-eaten barbecue bison sandwich. Nixon was on a campaign trip, preparing to face-off with a young Massachusetts senator, John F. Kennedy, and that is where our story begins. Nixon was served the sandwich before a planned debate against Kennedy, but he only ate half. Jenne, a 14-year-old Boy Scout at the time, ended up guarding the remainder until he realized Nixon wasn’t returning. He seized the opportunity to own a piece of history and took the remaining sandwich home to keep in his freezer. The sandwich has stayed with Jenne over the years, remaining clearly labeled “Save, don’t throw away” in his freezer.

Zombie Tropical Storm Returns

Just in time for spooky season, we’ve got a “zombie tropical storm” on our hands! It has been a record-breaking year for hurricanes, but storm system Paulette is out to have them all beat. Paulette formed in early September as part of a string of active cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean. By the time it made landfall in Bermuda, it had strengthened to a Category 1 Hurricane. It quickly turned into a Category 2 on September 14, while it hovered over the island. It then fizzled, losing its status as a tropical storm and turned into a post-tropical low-pressure system. Just six days later, Paulette was back and at it again, reappearing off the coast of the Azores islands as a tropical storm on Monday, September 21! Although “zombie tropical storms,” as the National Weather Service delicately put it, are rare, they do occur in the perfect conditions. According to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller, “2020 is a good candidate to experience a ‘zombie storm’ due to increased water temperatures and a record number of storms in the Atlantic. To which we say, “Of course, it is.”

zombie tropical storm

99-Year-Old Gets In His Steps at Ripley’s Aquarium

Marvin Gord, a 99-year-old war veteran, is taking strides towards completing his goal of walking a million steps by his 100th birthday to raise a million dollars for Baycrest, a residential living, healthcare, and research facility in North York, Ontario. Gord’s goal is to walk “about 20 miles a week until New Year’s Eve when everybody celebrates my birthday.” Gord has decided to complete his steps at various landmarks and chose Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada as one stop of his walkathon! Having never visited before, Gord took an underwater walk through the Aquarium alongside some of his family members. He uses a pedometer to track his distance and has already taken 500,000 steps for his Marvin’s Miles campaign.

All funds raised will go directly towards the purchase of COVID-19 equipment and measures to help protect and treat patients as part of Baycrest’s Safeguarding Our Seniors Campaign. Donations can be made at marvinsmillion.com.

Marvin Gord at RIpley's Aquarium

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!