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News of the Weird 

The forgotten: Scientists at the University of Southern California will soon begin testing an artificial brain prosthesis (a silicon chip that mimics the hippocampus), which, if successful, can help people who cannot store future and recent memories of their experiences. One problem with the project (according to a March story in New Scientist): Subjects might not remember anything about the research or consenting to participate in it.

Fish tale: The small Jewish Skver sect of Hasidim (New Square, N.Y.) was energized in March when a fishcutter in the sect (along with his Christian co-worker) swore they heard a 20-pound carp shout apocalyptic warnings in Hebrew. The co-worker thought the carp was merely Satanic, but Zalmen Rosen, 57, said the fish's soul was cautioning that the end is near, perhaps because of war in Iraq. Although the news spread throughout the community (aided by a feature in The New York Times), the carp itself met an inglorious end when the co-worker butchered it and sold it for gefilte fish.

Flying high: In March, former Northwest Airlines flight attendant Daniel Reed Cunningham was charged with slyly drugging the apple juice of a severely rambunctious 19-month-old baby during a 2002 flight. The mother became suspicious after tasting the juice and so slipped some into a container for later testing (which revealed Xanax).

No longer weird: Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (61) Parent(s) who leave young children home alone for days at a time, certain that they can care for themselves, while they frolic, as a 31-year-old Placentia, Calif., woman did in December, leaving her kids, ages 7 and 4, for three weeks to go see a North Carolina man she had met on the Internet. (62) And men who steal industrial (slow-moving) vehicles and apparently try to outrun pursuing police cars, as a 29-year-old man did in February with a farm tractor (towing an 18-foot-wide chisel plow), piddling along for 20 miles from near Wheaton, Minn., into South Dakota, "chased" by sheriff's deputies until he finally crashed.

Weird science: Israeli Aircraft Industries Ltd. is now testing an "airplane" the size of a credit card (flight time: 20 minutes), containing cameras and transmitters to relay intelligence from battlefields, or from the insides of buildings by going through open windows. And the company TrapTec (Escondido, Calif.) is now in the final testing of "anti-graffiti" sensors that are so responsive that they can identify taggers who use spray paint just by the distinctive hissing sound of the aerosol can (and automatically tell police the taggers' location, via global positioning system technology).

2003 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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