January 2, 2014

These Polar Bears were dressed for a beach in Hawaii but instead found themselves in the frigid waters of the Mississippi for a good cause.     Photo: eagle102.net/Wikimedia

Boston Kicks Off 2014 with Polar Bath

Hundreds take an icy swim in Dorchester Bay

At 9:30 a.m. on New Year's Day, a bull horn blaired and an army of New England residents plunged into South Boston's icy Dorchester Bay.

Six hundred people in various swimwear—including Speedos, string bikinis, and Viking costumes—participated in the Polar Plunge, which is sponsored by the L Street Brownies Swimming Club. The National Weather Service reports that the tempertature during this frigid baptism was 24 degrees.

“The air is so much warmer after you’ve been in there. It’s just great! It’s awesome!” one swimmer told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens.

The event is a New Year's tradition and has been held every year since 1904. Also, there is no charge to participate. Money raised from T-shirt sales and hot chocolate was donated to the South Boston Sports Hall of Fame Scholarship Fund and to the youth hockey association.

Images and video from Boston's Polar Plunge:

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#sharktweets     Photo: Alan Menzies/Thinkstock

Trending: 338 Sharks Now On Twitter

Sharks will now tweet automatically as they near the beach

More than 300 sharks have been outfitted with acoustic transmitters that will tweet when they are within a half-mile of a beach. Government researchers in Western Australia developed the idea in hopes of removing the country from atop the fatal shark attack list—a spot Australia has held since 2011.

The new Twitter alert system promises to be faster than any of the previous methods. Once a shark has crossed the half-mile threshold, a tweet will appear on @SLSWA (Surf Life Saving Western Australia) with the approximate location, size, and breed of the shark, reports NPR News.

"It can, in fact, provide a false sense of security—that is, if there is no tweet, then there is no danger — and that simply is not a reasonable interpretation," Kim Holland, a University of Hawaii marine biologist, told NPR. Holland also explains the other point of view that if there is in fact a shark, the animal isn’t necessarily dangerous either.

Although the newest shark-tweeting technology has yet to be proven effective, it certainly provides surfers and beachgoers with more information. It will also allow scientists to track the sharks and their behavoir.

Hopefully the sharks aren’t too sensitive about retweets.

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    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Couple Finds Giant Snake in Couch

Boa constrictor was hiding in the cushions for two months

Usually, when you pick up a piece of furniture off the curb, you're worried about mold or bedbugs, maybe even loose screws. Never snakes

Grand Rapids resident Holly Wright and her boyfriend brought home a couch they found on the street, hoping to make it a permanent fixture of their abode. And for two months all was peaceful. "We smelled it and everything—it looked OK," Wright told WZZM. "We peeled off the cushions, cleaned it up, never saw anything."

Then one day a boa constrictor emerged from beneath the cushions.

Fortunately, it was clear the snake was starved and represented no threat. "It was very lethargic," said Wright. "It didn't really react or hiss."

Wright said that they initially intended to nurse the snake back to health and care for it indefinitely, but it died soon after it revealed itself. "It was quite cold in the room, there was no food for the snake and I think it came out of the couch because it was dying," Wright explained. The snake's true origins are still unknown.

And that's why you should always check your furniture for snakes.

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Wearing a helmet doesn't simply remove all the risk.     Photo: moodboard/Thinkstock

Update: Helmets Aren't Protecting You From TBIs

Footage of Schumacher crash shows Formula One racer was off-piste when he crashed.

In the wake of Michael Schumacher’s December skiing accident, 2013 closed with yet another look at the dangers of traumatic brain injuries and just how little we are doing to protect ourselves on the slopes. Despite improving technology, helmets cannot keep up with skiers going bigger, faster, and higher, which Marc Peruzzi discusses in “After the Crash” in the December issue of Outside

Helmets are in fact quite good at preventing lacerations and fractures but are doing very little in terms of protection from concussions and TBIs. As contributing Outside writer Kelley McMillan explains in her recent New York Times article, the root of the issue lies in the increase of risk-taking behavior. Terrain parks are getting bigger and steeper, backcountry access is getting easier, and new equipment is allowing everybody to go much faster and higher than ever before.

"It's such a perfect storm for the demographics [skiing and snowboarding are] being marketed to," McMillan says. "People really need to take more responsibility of their skiing."

“There’s this energy drink culture now, a high-level, high-risk culture, that’s being marketed and impacting the way people ski,” Robb Gaffney, a sports psychiatrist, told The Times.

Helmets are undoubtedly providing some level of safety and are even saving lives, yet putting one on doesn’t simply eliminate all the risk. There is an unfortunate history that "when you make something safer, people will take more risks," McMillan says.

UPDATE; January 8, 2014:

New helmet-cam footage reveals Schumacher was “off-piste” when he crashed in the French Alps late last year. In an announcement on Wednesday morning, investigators referenced a two-minute clip of Schumacher’s personal camera, which revealed the Formula One racer was skiing off the groomed trail when he crashed.

The 45 year-old Schumacher remains in a medically induced coma at a hospital in Grenoble.  According to reports from the AP, the December 29 crash split Schumacher’s helmet in two upon impact. Investigators are still studying the footage, but Schumacher reportedly fell face down and struck his head on a rock. Doctors are claiming that the ski helmet did in fact save the driver’s life.

There is no timetable for the investigation and experts are being asked to analyze the helmet-cam footage to better understand the crash.

Outside Executive Editor Sam Moulton spoke about TBIs on Fox and Friends the morning of January 2, 2014.

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British thieves made off with 60,000 bees last month.     Photo: Alan Taylor/Flickr

Crooks Steal 60,000 Bees

Make off with whole hive

Sticky-fingered thieves have struck again. British police are looking for crooks who stole a hive full of hibernating bees last month.

The hive, which was taken from a community garden in Norwich, contained up to 60,000 bees, the Huffington Post reports.

According to Norfolk police, it would have taken at least two people to move the structure.

This isn’t the first time Britain has had to deal with bee rustlers. When the country’s honeybee population declined suddenly several years ago due to poor weather and pestilence, the black market trade in stolen hives exploded. Beekeepers, already stung by the shortage, were warned to protect their hives.

“The beekeeping world used to be like a Harry Potter underworld of beekeepers who all knew one another. To steal someone’s honeybees is like stealing their dog,” one woman told The Guardian.  

A single hive can sell for about $300.  

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    Photo: Getty Images

Fox-tainted Donkey Meat

Recalled from Wal-mart stores in China

Remember when horsemeat was found in IKEA's meatballs last February? Or when a fatal fungus threatened to destroy bananas globally? Well, just two days into 2014, Wal-mart stores in China have recalled “Five Spice” donkey meat after tests revealed it contains fox DNA

This is disconcerting news because donkey meat (without fox meat in it) is actually popular in China, relatively speaking. In 2011, China slaughtered 2.4 million donkeys, according to country's livestock industry yearbook. 

Wal-Mart, which operates more than 400 facilities in China, refunded those who may have purchased the tainted meat when the Shandong Food and Drug Administration earlier said the product contained the DNA of other animals. The company is now investigating the Chinese supplier and hopes to create more stringent food safety regulation overseas.

We wonder: What does the fox say about all this?

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