News, Culture & Society

QI’s most bizarre and bonkers stories of the year

So you think you know what happened in the news this year? Think again.

The team behind the hugely successful podcast No Such Thing As A Fish, who are also brilliant QI researchers, have compiled bizarre and bonkers news stories from around the world which you might just have missed . . .

Some British property developers announced they’re no longer bothering with front door bells on new-build homes, partly because millennial visitors tend just to text when they’ve pitched up outside.

Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda linked group, has been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Somalia. They have outlawed plastic bags

In all Somali territories run by the jihadist fundamentalist group Al-Shabaab, plastic bags have been banned because they ‘pose a serious threat to the well-being of humans and animals alike’. 

Also outlawed is the logging of indigenous trees, Western music, cinemas, smartphones and humanitarian agencies.

This year the world said goodbye to the Liverpool comedian Sir Ken Dodd, who famously told jokes at a speed of 7.14 titters per minute and over his life built up a library of more than 10,000 books on the subject of comedy.

One of his favourites was Sigmund Freud’s Wit And Its Relation To The Unconscious: ‘Freud said: “Laughter is the outward expression of the psyche”,’ Ken recounted. ‘But he never played the Glasgow Empire on a Saturday after both Celtic and Rangers lost.’

On the day of physicist Stephen Hawking’s memorial service in June, a European Space Agency satellite dish beamed a song featuring Hawking’s voice towards the nearest black hole. 

‘It’s fascinating,’ said Professor Günther Hasinger, director of science, ‘and at the same time moving to imagine that Stephen’s voice . . . will reach the black hole in about 3,500 years.’

Chepstow celebrated becoming ‘plastic-free’ by unveiling a massive banner made of plastic. Some argued that the banner was justified because ‘plastic-free’ referred to single-use plastic, not all plastic — though it’s hard to see how a huge banner reading ‘PLASTIC FREE CHEPSTOW’ could have a second use.

Gary Barlow was criticised for using plastic confetti during an eco-friendly concert at the Eden Project in Cornwall.

Released in January, Michael Wolff’s Fire And Fury became one of the fastest-selling non-fiction books of modern times. More than a million people placed orders in the first week.

Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House paints Trump as a leader who does not understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides 

Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House paints Trump as a leader who does not understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides 

But Randall Hansen, author of a book about the Allied bombing of Germany during World War II — also titled Fire And Fury — similarly saw his work become a bestseller.

The Belgian army plans to let recruits sleep at home during training — so they don’t get homesick. One horrified former paratrooper said: ‘You don’t go to a war zone with men who miss their mummies.’

After the Salisbury Novichok attack, with little regard for the feelings of the injured and bereaved, several Russian brands cashed in on the name of the chemical weapon: Novichok beer, coffee and even sunflower oil were available. The response among consumers in the former USSR has been condemnatory.

At THE Commonwealth Games in Australia, one surprising winner was Norfolk Island. Despite having a population of only 1,700, less than 35 square kilometres of land and just one bowls club, it took bronze in the men’s lawn bowls.

The team, which included a 62‑year-old taxi-driver and a 55‑year-old farmer, beat Canada, which has a population of 36 million.

In Antartica, researchers discovered a ‘supercolony’ of 1.5 million previously unknown penguins, after noticing streaks of penguin poo in Nasa satellite imagery.

A GPS tracking company which maps the location of people using Fitbits worldwide exposed the U.S. military in Iraq and Syria, because U.S. soldiers are almost the only people using them there. So when the map lights up red, it’s a military base.

Ironically, in 2013, the Pentagon gave out 2,500 Fitbits to its soldiers to help fight obesity, hence unwittingly compromising its own bases.

NASA is planning an eight-tonne spaceship called HAMMER which will be able to push an asteroid out of Earth’s path.

During the summer heatwave, archaeologists discovered multiple sites without digging a single hole as the record-breaking hot weather revealed previously unknown historic settlements.

Sites included a Roman villa in Glamorgan, multiple Stone Age forts, a ‘drowned village’ submerged in 1898, a 19th-century Italianate garden in Lancashire and, in Ireland, a perfectly circular, 200m-wide henge dating from 3000 BC.

Koko the gorilla and her devoted keeper, scientist Francine ‘Penny’ Patterson. It was claimed she could understand 2,000 English words, and communicate over 1,000 by using ‘Gorilla Sign Language’ (GSL)

Koko the gorilla and her devoted keeper, scientist Francine ‘Penny’ Patterson. It was claimed she could understand 2,000 English words, and communicate over 1,000 by using ‘Gorilla Sign Language’ (GSL)

Koko as a baby walking with Dr Patterson. The pair struck up a deep bond as Dr Patterson taught Koko how to communicate using sign language

Koko as a baby walking with Dr Patterson. The pair struck up a deep bond as Dr Patterson taught Koko how to communicate using sign language

Koko the gorilla , artist, photographer and communicator, died peacefully in her sleep aged 46. 

It was claimed she could understand 2,000 English words, and communicate over 1,000 by using ‘Gorilla Sign Language’ (GSL). 

She could request a dentist when she had a toothache, discuss the artworks she had painted and teach sign language to another gorilla called Michael. 

She could request a dentist when she had a toothache, discuss the artworks she had painted and teach sign language to another gorilla called Michael

She could request a dentist when she had a toothache, discuss the artworks she had painted and teach sign language to another gorilla called Michael

She also owned a pet cat she named ‘All Ball’ and with whom she had a love–hate relationship.

Once, when Koko ripped a steel sink from a wall, she tried to pass the blame by signing to her carers, ‘Cat did it’.

The biggest companies in the world filed patents for the inventions of tomorrow: Amazon patented a wrist bracelet that can track a worker’s hand and buzzes if they reach for the wrong shelf.

Uber patented a system to measure if prospective passengers are likely to be drunk.

It considers a customer’s walking speed, location, the time of day and any errors they make while typing their address, and is able to conclude that someone walking slowly near a pub, late at night and typing badly is probably drunk. Apple has designed a crumb-proof keyboard that puffs out a jet of air when a key is pressed.

Nike has come up with shoes with built-in treadmills for people who struggle to put shoes on — as you put your foot in, a little internal treadmill rolls your toes to the end.

Donald Trump announced that he was thinking of posthumously pardoning Muhammad Ali. In response, the boxer’s lawyer, Ron Tweel, released a statement saying that while the family appreciated the sentiment, a pardon wouldn’t be necessary, as there was no offence on record for which Ali needed to be pardoned.

Nigel stuck to his concrete mate (pictured), and it was next to 'her' that the ranger found him

Nigel stuck to his concrete mate (pictured), and it was next to ‘her’ that the ranger found him

On International Women’s Day, Oxford University was criticised for asking a female cleaner to scrub some ‘Happy International Women’s Day’ graffiti off a staircase.

Nigel the gannet, a New Zealand seabird which became famous for spending the last four years of his life courting a concrete model of a female gannet, died this year. 

Nigel’s ‘girlfriend’ was one of 80 fake birds designed to lure actual gannets to Mana, the island on which he lived. Nigel arrived alone in 2015 and was the only bird to be fooled by the concrete ones, building his ‘mate’ a nest, grooming her feathers and chattering away to her. Scientists named him Nigel because he had no mates.

At the U.S. pre-trial of infamous Mexican drug lord El Chapo, the judge announced plans to call between 800 and 1,000 potential jurors. Because there are fears for the jury’s safety, he has ordered that their identities should be kept a secret. 

According to El Chapo’s lawyers, though, their client has solemnly promised not to have any of the jurors murdered.

A fertility clinic in Spain is using facial recognition technology to match people with egg donors who look like them, ensuring mothers will get a child who resembles the rest of the family.

And in China, facial recognition is making its way into every aspect of life: schools are using it to check whether pupils are paying attention; hotels use it to allow guests to check in; and, unsurprisingly, the police are using it a lot.

At one concert, the technology was used to arrest a man who was wanted for the theft of £12,000-worth of potatoes.

After a German team spent two weeks setting up 596,000 miniature dominoes in an attempt to break the world record, the huge chain was set off too early. The cause was a fly landing on one of the pieces.

American Don Gorske began eating Big Macs on a daily basis in 1972 and has only gone without on a couple of occasions

American Don Gorske began eating Big Macs on a daily basis in 1972 and has only gone without on a couple of occasions

American Don Gorske began eating Big Macs on a daily basis in 1972 and has only gone without on a couple of occasions. One was in 1988, out of respect for his mother’s request that he avoid burgers on the day she died. He keeps all the evidence of his meals — receipts, wrappers and containers — although he did lose 7,000 styrofoam cartons in a tornado in 1990. 

Before he ate his 30,000th in May, he told his admirers that he’d eaten only one Burger King Whopper in his life, after his friend bet him $5 (£3.94) he wouldn’t, then immediately took his winnings to McDonald’s to buy Big Macs.

On the first day at Apple’s new office made of glass in California, seven employees injured themselves by walking into walls.

Workers started putting Post-it notes on the walls so they could see where they were, but bosses kept removing them, concerned that they detracted from the look of the building, which is the fifth most expensive in the world and possesses the largest piece of curved glass in existence.

As one newspaper report punningly concluded, it left the workers in ‘a world of pane’.

Inventor Trevor Baylis died at 80: famous for creating the wind‑up radio, he was less well-known for inventing electric shoes, which he used to walk 100 miles across the Namib Desert. He is also credited with inventing more than 200 devices for the disabled, including the one-handed tin opener and some foot-operated scissors.

Geneva tried to teach its citizens to improve their queueing skills by encouraging them to follow the British example. It hired actors to dress up as typical Brits and stand politely at bus and tram stops.

A fan was spotted picking up a beer carrier with a smile on his face as he holds a rubbish bag full of litter after the loss

A fan was spotted picking up a beer carrier with a smile on his face as he holds a rubbish bag full of litter after the loss

The ‘quintessential’ Brits included a man in a top hat and bow tie, another dressed as a Coldstream Guard with bearskin hat, and a woman dressed as the Queen. Anyone who followed their example and queued properly was rewarded with After Eights.

At the football World Cup in Russia, Japanese fans cleaned up the stadium after each of their team’s matches. Even when the side was eliminated, they still collected every bit of litter. 

Delegates at the NUT conference were told that nursery school kids are so used to using iPads that when they pick up a library book they show a ‘disturbing’ tendency to ‘swipe left’

Delegates at the NUT conference were told that nursery school kids are so used to using iPads that when they pick up a library book they show a ‘disturbing’ tendency to ‘swipe left’

The Japanese team shared their fans’ good manners: after the losing match, they cleaned their changing room to perfection — and left a ‘thank-you’ note.

In Florida, in January, frozen iguanas fell out of the trees; in Massachusetts, frozen sharks washed up on beaches; and in North Carolina, alligators had to make holes in the ice and stick their snouts up out of them like snorkels in order to breathe.

Delegates at the NUT conference were told that nursery school kids are so used to using iPads that when they pick up a library book they show a ‘disturbing’ tendency to ‘swipe left’.

Equally alarming is that clocks are being removed from English school halls because, as most children only see the time displayed digitally these days, they can’t read analogue clocks.

And many children are unable to hold pencils when they first go to school, thought to be the result of excessive use of touchscreens, which leads to finger muscles not developing enough.

A pony trekking company in Dartmoor announced it was closing because people are becoming too overweight. Over the past seven years it’s had to turn away 30 per cent more customers on the grounds that their weight would damage the horses.

Bakery chain Greggs opened five branches for Valentine’s Day dinners, offering couples the prospect of celebrating their love with a sausage roll. In one London branch, Joe Callingham proposed to his girlfriend, Pineapple Featonby. She said yes.

Construction on the world’s first retirement home for celebrity whales began in Iceland, where two performing belugas will live out the rest of their days in a netted-off section. Awkwardly, the sanctuary is near a restaurant that serves whale steak in Béarnaise sauce.

Inventor Brian Harper was so annoyed at finding dog poo bags left near his home in the Malvern Hills he spent three years creating a device that could both deal with the problem and light the road.

Now, dog walkers can drop their dog poo into a machine at the street light’s base and turn a handle to move it into a biodigester. Over a few days, biogas is produced which is burned when the lamp switches on. Ten bags of dog poo can light the lamp for two hours. 

Taken from The Book Of The Year 2018: Your Definitive Guide To The World’s Weirdest News from the hit podcast No Such Thing As A Fish (Random House, £12.99). 

©Quite Interesting Ltd 2018. To order a copy for £10.39 (until January 31, 2019; p&p free on orders over £15), visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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