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News of the Weird



Lead Story

Princeton University finally granted Milton Babbitt a doctoral degree in mathematics in January--46 years after it rejected his dissertation on the mathematics of the 12-tone musical system of modern composers. The university recently concluded that Babbitt's work was so advanced at the time that no one at Princeton understood it. In the ensuing years, Babbitt had won a Pulitzer Prize and developed the first electronic synthesizer.

Medical Science From Hell

Researchers in Connecticut, writing in the February issue of Hospital and Community Psychiatry, reported that psychiatric patients who constantly watched MTV suffered psychological deterioration, including increased hallucinations, belligerence, and hostility toward staff (especially female staff). When MTV was banned, patients' frequency of aggressiveness was reduced.

A physician at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine reported in April that a 21-year-old college student suffers from phantosmia, a condition that causes her to emit an odor so foul that she cannot eat or engage in ordinary school activities because she cannot concentrate.

According to a panel of physicians at a medical convention in Chicago in February, human error by hospital doctors and staff in this country accounts for 200,000 patient deaths a year (though half of those would die anyway of the ailments that sent them to the hospital). One doctor estimated that 3.7 percent of patients suffer a disabling injury, or worse, during a hospital stay, and more than one million suffer some kind of accidental injury. Errors in prescription medicines head the list.

The sheriff's office in Niagara County, New York, reported in March that a 38-year-old man from Wheatfield, New York, had been taken to DeGraff Memorial Hospital after he had performed a do-it-yourself castration with clamps, a scalpel, and a local anesthetic. He said he was attempting to reduce his sex drive.

Researchers at Merck Sharp & Dohme pharmaceutical house, seeking a powerful blood anticoagulant, are studying a "provocative and interesting" new substance: vampire-bat saliva. Preliminary research on rabbits showed the saliva to be several times more effective than the next best substance.


Last year, after Galaxy Cheese Company's factory in New Castle, Pennsylvania, burned to the ground, the owner relocated to Orlando, Florida, taking along 23 employees but leaving the rest behind. Recently another cheese company, Northwood, moved to New Castle and hired many of the laid-off Galaxy workers. Galaxy then notified those former employees that it would take legal action against them because they had promised Galaxy not to work for any other cheese company in New Castle for two years after "leaving" Galaxy.

Joe Chagra filed in April for readmission to the Texas bar. Chagra had resigned from the bar in 1983 to avoid being disciplined after he had been found guilty of conspiracy in the death of the federal judge who was scheduled to hear a drug charge against his brother.

A keynote speaker at an international lung-cancer conference in November in Melbourne, Australia, reported that as many as a quarter of the 1,200 delegates smoked during breaks in the program.

In April the daily Nashville Tennessean disclosed that managers of Domino's Pizza outlets in the area had a policy of refusing to deliver pizzas to certain predominantly black neighborhoods. Two weeks later the weekly Nashville Scene newspaper reported that the Tennessean itself has a policy of discouraging home-delivery subscriptions to the same areas.

In May Peru billed the United States for $20,000 to cover the cost of cleaning up the remains of a U.S. Air Force plane that crashed there and for medical bills for the injured crew. The unarmed drug-surveillance plane was shot down by Peruvian air force fighter jets. One American crewman was killed and four others were wounded in the incident.

Creme de la Weird

Judith Ward, 43, was released on bail in London in May, 18 years after she was jailed for a deadly bus bombing on behalf of the Irish Republican Army. She had confessed to the bombing, but British prosecutors now believe she merely had a vivid imagination and fantasized her involvement with the IRA. Upon her release she said she could not understand why she had confessed: "I was out of my head."

Least Competent Person

The Ring magazine reported that moments before his New York City Golden Gloves fight in January boxer Daniel Caruso tried to psyche himself up using the method employed by former champion Marvin Hagler. Pounding his gloves into his face, Caruso broke his own nose, and the fight had to be canceled.

The Diminishing Value of Life

Willie R. Love was charged in May with stabbing his apartment-house neighbor Karen Jaster, 39, to death in Madison, Wisconsin. The two had been feuding over each other's loud music, and Jaster had kept her stereo on full blast for 36 straight hours to annoy Love.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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