News » Curious Times

Curious Times May 5, 2004



The strange bedtime stories of a six-year-old boy have his parents convinced that he is the reincarnation of a 21-year-old Navy fighter pilot who died during World War II. James Leininger has been plagued by weird obsessions with planes and nightmares about flaming airplane crashes since the age of two. At age three, James began doing preflight checks on his toy planes, and pointing out obscure details about WWII-era planes. At bedtime, James would tell his parents extraordinary details about his death during the war, claiming that he flew with a man named Jack Larson, that his plane took off from the aircraft carrier Natoma, and that he was shot down over Iwo Jima. After documenting these stories, James' father began during some historical research and found that all of the details of his son's tale were true, and that a James M. Huston Jr. was killed in exactly the manner the six-year-old described. They contacted Huston's sister, who now also believes the young boy's story. "The child was so convincing in coming up with all the things that there is no way on the world he could know," she said. (ABC News)


Whale researchers off the coast of Washington and Oregon have found that noise pollution from the engines of whale-watching boats has caused the local orcas to begin screaming at each other and repeating their calls in order to communicate. The study, published in the science journal Nature, found a five-fold increase in the number of boats following whales since 1990 has caused an abrupt and widespread change in the length of the animals' primary calls when they are being trailed by boats. The researchers say these changes are the equivalent of whales shouting at each other and repeating words in order to be heard. The noise pollution is caused by an average of 22 boats now following each whale pod during daylight hours, as well as ocean cargo ships and the occasional testing of powerful sonar equipment by the U.S. Navy. As whale populations continue to decline due to toxic pollution and salmon shortages, the scientist studying the whales also fear that increased noise pollution may hamper the whales' ability to hunt effectively. "I wouldn't say this is causing their decline, by any means. But this doesn't help," said Richard Osborne, one of the authors of the study. (The Oregonian)


Tragedy ruined the drunken fun at the World Belly Flop Championships in Wisconsin last week when a 52-year-old contestant plunged into the Rock River and died after being swept away by the undercurrent. The Belly Flop Championship had been sponsored by Diamond Jim's Bar, and saw three overweight drunks plunge into the waters of the river before Dorl Gates took his fateful plunge. His best friend could not explain why he entered the contest, saying, "He doesn't know how to swim." (Beloit Daily News)


A Russian inventor believes he has invented a device that can measure the intelligence or stupidity of a subject. Lev Galenkevich, inventor of the "StupidMeter," says that the wires and spirals of his machine are sensitive to lepton fields in people, and that by placing the contraption near a person's head he can instantly judge the person's intellectual capacity. When the StupidMeter is put near a person's head, the energy from his brain will create a moving impulse that causes the wires of the device to rotate. The more rotations it makes, the more intelligent the person. "I picked up the device description in ancient oriental manuscripts," claims Galenkevich. He says the average person can make his invention spin 2.5 times, but the students in his University class are only able to make it spin once. (Pravda)


The official state media of North Korea claims that dozens of people died a "heroic death" last week trying to save portraits of their idolized leader Kim Jong-il during last week's train explosion in Ryongchon. The blast killed at least 161 people and injured 1,300, including many who tried to evacuate the portraits of their beloved leader rather than saving their family members. "They were buried under the collapsing building to die a heroic death when they were trying to come out with portraits of President Kim Il-sung and leader Kim Jong-il," claims the report. Historians say that the cult worship of North Korea's "eternal president" surpasses that of Stalin and Mao. (Reuters)