Mental Floss

The Weird Week in Review

Miss Cellania
Jamie Urquhart/River Dee Trust
Jamie Urquhart/River Dee Trust / Jamie Urquhart/River Dee Trust

Ice Pancakes

It gets very cold in Scotland in December. Cold enough for ice pancakes! These strange discs of ice were seen on the River Dee at Lummels Pool in Aberdeenshire.

River Dee Team biologist Jamie Urquhart said it was thought foam floating about on the water started to freeze and bump together, forming the discs. The phenomenon can be found in rivers and in the open sea. Mr Urquhart, who found and photographed the "pancakes", said: "What we think happened is this - foam floating about on the water started to freeze, probably at night. "Bits of frozen foam got pushed around in the eddy, and in the ensuing collisions became roughly circular."

There is more to the story of how the discs got their peculiar shape over several days. We could find out for sure, but who wants to stay up all night when it’s cold enough for running water to freeze? See more pictures at BBC News.

Storm-toppled Tree Gets Decorated for Christmas

When a storm blew through Indian Island, Washington, it broke a twelve-foot section off the top of a Douglas fir. The wind blew the fir onto a nonactive power line, where it hung upside-down. The tip of the tree barely reached the ground. It was in the perfect shape of a Christmas tree, only inverted. On Monday, someone placed a wrapped box underneath the tree -addressed to the local food bank. Over the rest of the week, local people have hung ornaments, garland, and ribbons on the tree. Someone added a sign reading, “Santa, I Want it All!” Passers-by stop to take pictures, and the tree is becoming a big draw. Local officials said the tree was not immediately removed because it was low priority, but it’s not the safest place to hang Christmas decorations.

Scarlet Letter for Snow Shoveling Scofflaws

The town of Somerville, Massachusetts, is getting serious about residents shoveling the snow from the sidewalks in front of their homes. A new city law will double the fine for not clearing sidewalks by 10AM (if the snow stops by sunrise) or 10PM (if the snow stops before sunset). City workers will also place “large, strikingly colored door markers” on homes where citations occur. This will serve as a warning to neighbors -and a public shaming. One alderman called it “The Scarlett Letter approach.” The city council said they would hire teenagers to shovel snow for elderly residents who are unable to do so. If you’re away on vacation, well, you can file an appeal.

Airline Passenger Deployed Emergency Slide to Exit Plane Quicker

Monday night, a China Airlines flight landed as scheduled at the Sanya Phoenix International Airport in Hainan province. Although there was no emergency, a passenger on the plane opened the emergency door and deployed the inflatable slide used to evacuate the plane in an emergency.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, the man admitted he didn't pay attention to the safety instructions at the beginning of the flight and didn't realize the emergency door and emergency slide were for emergencies only. Police later asked him why he opened the door. His response: "To get off the plane quicker."

The unnecessary deployment reportedly caused $16,200 in damage.

Driving on Four Flat Tires Was a Clue He was DUI

Police in Omaha, Nebraska, were suspicious when they saw a car cruising down a city street on four flat tires early Tuesday morning. The airbag was deployed as well. And the driver was straddling the center line of the road. Officers were led on a low-speed chase, and when the car finally stopped, they used a taser to take the driver into custody. Richard Curzon was arrested and taken to a hospital, where it was determined that his blood-alcohol content was .253, three times the legal limit for driving. He was also suspected of leaving the scene of an accident. Curzon’s face was cut and bruised, possibly from the airbag. This is his 6th DUI charge.

Texas Plumber’s Truck Spotted in Syrian War Photo

An Islamic extremist group called Ansar al-Deen Front posts photographs of their exploits in Syria on Twitter, but Monday, one in particular caught the eye of Americans. It showed a truck with anti-aircraft artillery mounted on the back. The door of the truck had the logo of the Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City, Texas! Proprietor Mark Oberholtzer immediately began receiving phone calls. Oberholtzer says the truck was traded in three years ago. It was apparently sold to an auto exchange, and no one is sure how it ended up in Syria with the logo intact. Oberholtzer says he has received thousands of calls, some of which were threatening. The Oberholtzer family emphasizes that they have no ties to any terrorists.