January 27, 2014

Fragments of a human skull and other items confiscated by the Transportation Security Administration last year.     Photo: Courtesy of TSA

TSA's Weirdest Finds

Including a human skull and 17 swords

More than 2 million travelers passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints every day last year. From that stream of travelers, TSA officers confiscated some pretty weird stuff.

The TSA published its annual "Year in Review" blog post for 2013, totaling the craziest and scariest things people tried to bring onto airplanes last year. This is what they found:

  • 1 human skull. In April, officers at Fort Lauderdale (FLL) discovered fragments of a human skull at the bottom of clay pots. The passengers claimed they'd bought the pots and had no idea skull fragments were inside.
  • More than 17 swords hidden inside walking canes
  • 19-inch-long solid wood and metal mace
  • More than 28 ninja throwing stars
  • 136 novelty/replica grenades discovered in people's bags
  • 562 stun guns, many concealed in cigarette packs and cell phones
  • 1,468 loaded firearms discovered in carry-on bags—a record high since the administration's formation in 2001. Firearms were intercepted at 205 airports, with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport topping the list with 111 firearms.

You can follow the TSA on Instagram to see more items confsciated at airports across the United States.

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An artist's rendition of the magnetosphere.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Magnetosphere Is Collapsing

Could lead to drastic spikes in radiation

When it comes to matters of planetary well-being, climate change tends to dominate the conversation, but there's an elephant in the room that needs addressing: the magnetosphere. The magnetic field generated by the Earth's molten core that protects us from the hellish power of solar winds is deteriorating.

According to new research, the magnetosphere has deteriorated by some 15 percent over the past 200 years. Further collapse could drastically alter everything from electronics to global communications to animal migration.

"This is serious business," says Richard Holme, professor of earth, ocean, and ecological sciences at Liverpool University. "Imagine for a moment your electrical power supply was knocked out for a few months—very little works without electricity these days."

Scientists also believe that a deteriorating magnetosphere is a sign that Earth's magnetic poles are about to flip. A flip would expose the planet to solar winds, which would destroy our atmosphere faster than any man-made pollutant ever could. Ground-level radiation, along with cancer rates, would also skyrocket.

"Radiation could be three to five times greater than that from the man-made ozone holes," Dr. Colin Forsyth of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory told the Mail Online. "Furthermore, the ozone holes would be larger and longer-lived."

If it's any consolation, space agencies are taking the problem quite seriously. In November, the European Space Agency launched the SWARM mission, dispatching several automated craft on a four-year mission to study the Earth's magnetic fields and gauge the potential threat.

Fingers crossed.

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Movember has raised more than $100 million for men's health.     Photo: Kuzma/Thinkstock

Movember Hurts P&G Profits

Procter & Gamble's second quarter down $700 million

Procter & Gamble’s profits have taken a hit because of your mustache. In addition to a general trend of more facial hair, the men’s health initiative Movember, which encourages mustache growth in November, is said to have affected the megacorporation’s bottom line in recent months.

Second-quarter profits for fiscal year 2014 were down $700 million compared with the same period last year. P&G attributes much of this loss to a decrease in facial-hair grooming due to a market trend and a generation that favors a little stubble.

A portion of this trend can certainly be attributed to Movember and a call for less shaving, during which P&G saw a dip in its Gillette and Braun razors and shaving creams. Movember reportedly sparked 250,000 mustaches in the United States this year and has raised more than $100 million for men’s health programs since its creation in 2003.

However, P&G isn’t too worried about the drop in facial grooming. The increasing popularity in body shaving is expected to offset the loss of facial-hair business.

Whether it's for Movember or just general good looks, don't miss Outside's Guide to Your Best Beard.

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Mikaela Shiffrin at the FIS NorAm giant slalom race in Aspen, Colorado. The 18-year-old is a top medal contender at this year's Olympics.     Photo: Beelde Photography/Shutterstock.

U.S. Ski Team Announces Sochi Squad

Miller, Shiffrin headline group

It’s official. Teenager Mikaela Shiffrin and five-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller will headline the United States' ski team heading to Sochi next month.

The U.S. Ski Team announced its squad for the Winter Olympics on Sunday. In what should come as a surprise to no one, Shiffrin and Miller both made the cut. Reigning Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn, recovering from ACL surgery, won’t be competing.

Overall, the 20-member U.S. roster is composed of nine women and 11 men, including 2006 Olympic gold medalists Ted Ligety and Julia Mancuso.   

The media spotlight will likely shine on 18-year-old Shiffrin, especially with Vonn relegated to the sidelines. Shiffrin won three World Cup slalom races this season and is a favorite to medal at the event in Sochi.  

"I'm not worried about the Olympics, that it's going to overwhelm her," U.S. women's coach Alex Hoedlmoser told the Associated Press. "There's nothing else she wants right now except success. It was no different than when Lindsey was her age. She was the same way."

For a full list of the 2014 Olympic alpine nominations, visit the U.S. Ski Team’s official website

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Researchers in Britain believe that these purple tomatoes will improve the nutritional value of your meals.     Photo: Twitter

Purple Tomatoes: The Next Superfood?

New GM crop has high nutritional value, researchers say

If you thought square watermelons were crazy, wait until purple tomatoes hit shelves.

Why purple? Studies show that anthocyanin—the antioxidant that makes blueberries blue—helps to prevent cancer. Researchers at the John Innes Centre in Britain believe that these purple tomatoes will improve the nutritional value of whatever you eat them with, from spaghetti sauce to pizza.

The purple pigment is the result of the transfer of a gene from a snapdragon plant. The modification triggers development of anthocyanin in the tomato plant, BBC News reports.

Ontario-based New Energy Farms currently produces large quantities of purple tomatoes, but John Innes professor Cathie Martin says it might be a while before we see the GM crop in the States.

"It is frustrating that we've had to go to Canada to do a lot of the growing and the processing, and I hope this will serve as a vanguard product where people can have access to something that is GM but has benefits for them," Martin told the BBC.

Martin hopes that despite widespread GM crop opposition, the purple tomato juice will be approved for sale to consumers in North America sometime in the next two years.

For those of you not on the GM train, try the traditionally bred nightshade, the indigo rose tomato. (It's purple, too.)

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Competitors race in a previous Idiotarod.     Photo: niznoz/Flickr

Iditarod vs. Idiotarod

New York-based spoof receives cease-and-desist from namesake

You've probably heard of the Iditarod, the grueling dogsled race that cuts through Alaska and takes more than a week to complete. But you might not know about Idiotarod, the urban spoof where people in New York City (and 19 other cities) race through frozen streets in shopping carts.

Turns out, Iditarod organizers don't find the Idiotarod funny.

On January 21, Iditarod lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Idiotarod in advance of the race, which took place on Saturday, January 25. The letter claimed that because of the slight name variation, Idiotarod organizers had breached the Iditarod Trail Committee's trademark rights.

In a response posted on its Facebook page, Idiotarod organizers announced that the race would proceed as planned but with a minor name modification. Responding to "frivolous threats of legal action," they stated that Saturday's race—the 10th annual incarnation—would be renamed the "Idiotarodorama" or, sarcastically, the "Desistarod."

For race photos and results, check out the Idiotarod's Facebook page, and for more about the silly event's grueling namesake, read our recent profile of Iditarod vet Lance Mackey.

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