A New Zealand study looking into the “brand personality” of rocks from a sales and marketing perspective was among the winners (in this case, of the Economics Prize) at this year’s recent Ig Nobel prizes, awarded for “achievements that first make people laugh, then make them think". Other winners at the awards, handed out in the US earlier this month, included the German researchers who discovered that if you have an itch on the left side of your body it can be relieved by looking in a mirror and scratching the right side (Medicine); Swede Fredrik Sjoberg for his three volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead (Literature); and Japanese researchers Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs (Perception). Car-maker Volkswagen was also, ironically perhaps, among the winners (Chemistry) for “solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested”. For more of the winners, see http://www.improbable.com/ig/winners/#ig2016.


A real-life Transformer – that turns from a car into a robot - has apparently been built by Turkish engineers. While the vehicle, known as ANTIMON, has no space for a driver or passenger, it can actually drive via remote control and speaks. Letvision, the company behind the vehicle, say they plan to build more of the transforming cars, known as LETRONS. To see the transformation, head to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWx2viSOjAs

The crumbling US mansion which is believed to have inspired the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” sold at auction recently for $US120,000. Known as Wyndclyffe Castle, the property was built in 1853 in Rhinebeck, in New York state, as a country house for Manhattan socialite Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones. Such was the property’s elegance that is apparently sparked a competition among owners of nearby properties to create even bigger mansions. Hence the saying. The 24 room pile was abandoned in the 1950s.

This week’s odd church is the ‘Light of Life’ chapel just outside Seoul in South Korea. Designed by shinslab architecture, the chapel, constructed out of natural materials and glass, serves a community of retired missionaries and features an interior designed as a church in the round. While the chapel is nestled into a larger glass building, it has a latticed dome which allows sunlight inside. For images, head to http://inhabitat.com/the-light-of-life-chapel-in-korea-is-a-luminous-haven-for-retired-missionaries/.