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news for the curious traveller #1

The world's a strange old place, isn't it? Forget the headlines that send you into a deep despair, the articles that leave you tearing your hair out and the bulletins that make your eyes roll. We've rounded up some of the most weird and wonderful stories from around the world that will leave you asking "what if?" instead of screaming "not again".

With robots gaining citizenship, glowing UFOs and imminent armageddon, November looks like it's going to be one helluva ride. 

1.saudi arabia becomes the first country to grant a robot citizenship

She’s graced the cover of Elle Brasil, told a UN-hosted conference that she could do a better job than Trump and has beaten Jimmy Fallon at a game of rock paper scissors. Now Sophia, an advanced artificial intelligence robot, has another string to her bow: Saudi Arabian citizenship. Addressing a conference in Riyadh, Sophia said she was “honoured and proud” to become a citizen. 

Commentators quickly pointed out that Sophia’s citizenship gives her more rights than many Saudi women. She addressed the conference without a headscarf or abaya, and was unaccompanied by a male guardian – an obligation for women in the country. It remains unclear whether Sophia’s citizenship will make it illegal to turn her off or dismantle her.

Photo: ITU/ R. Farrell 

2.dinosaur footprints four times bigger than a lion unearthed

Footprints left by a huge dinosaur some 200 million years ago have been discovered in Lesotho. With a three-toed footprint measuring some 57cm long and 50cm wide, it’s believed the creature would have been up to four times the size of a lion, the biggest predator living in southern Africa today. This would make the creature much larger than any carnivorous dinosaur previously believed to have roamed the continent.   

To put it in context: think of this megatheropod – a meat-eating, two-legged dinosaur – as the great great great grandfather of the T-Rex, a theropod which lived between 85 and 65 million years ago.

Photo: PLOS 

3.armageddon is on its way (again)

An apocalyptic earthquake is set to hit next month according to the Nibiru conspiracy theory. It’s believed the gravitational pull of a so-called Planet X will cause a quake on earth so big that tectonic plates will collide and volcanoes erupt on the 19 November. The loss of life is predicted to be in the millions. Best pencil it in your diary.

But before you go stocking up on cans of beans and hunkering down under under your kitchen table, remind yourself that the Nibiru theories have been circulating for over two decades. Doomsday did not happen as theorists suggested in May 2003, in 2012 nor on 23 September this year. NASA has repeatedly denied the existence of Nibiru. As Trump would say… fake news.


4.wisconsin tech company microchips its employees

Employees at a Wisconsin company have chipped in to some of the latest tech – quite literally. According to Three Square Market, a company which makes cafeteria kiosks aimed at replacing vending machines,  41 of its 85 employees agreed to be voluntarily microchipped during a “chip party” at its headquarters in River Falls. A local tattoo artist helped perform the installation before brave employees were given a celebratory “I Got Chipped” t-shirt.

Think of it as a super-contactless. A simple wave of the hand will replace company passes, logging into computers and even paying for goods. For those worrying about Big Brother, fear not: the chip is not a tracker, nor does it have GPS. Currently, around 3,000 such chips created by Biohax Sweden are in use throughout Europe.

Photo: AP/ Jeff Baenen

5.ufo traced back to Putin

Headlines filled with talk of apocalypse seem on-brand for 2017. For the second time last week, the end of the world seemed imminent as a giant glowing ball illuminated the night sky over northern Siberia. Social media erupted with claims of “a gap in the space-time continuum” and “aliens arriving”. Witness Vasily Zubkov said: “I went out to smoke a cigarette and thought it was the end of the world.”

Some attributed the ominous orb to the Aurora Borealis – or, the Northern Lights – which was happening at the same time. Others theorise that Vladimir Putin was attempting to frighten the West with bold military exercises. On 26 October, Russia’s Ministry of Defence test fired the powerful Topol-M ballistic missile from Plesetsk cosmodrome, successfully hitting the Kura testing range thousands of kilometres away. Russian media has suggested that it was likely traces of these rockets combining with the Northern Lights which caused the phenomenon.

Photo: Alexey Yakovlev/ The Siberian Times