Library waives fine on book overdue 61 years – returned by 91-year-old

Rob Webster, miscreant, and Phil Sykes, forgiving librarian

The library at the University of Liverpool waived a $7,600 fine for a 91-year-old man who returned a library book after 61 years…Ron Webster checked out a copy of Structure and Function in Primitive Society in 1953 when he was working as a research assistant at the school’s social sciences department.

It wasn’t until recently that he realized he still had the book in his possession and returned it to the library…

University librarian Phil Sykes said the library staff were “amazed” about the return.

“They called me and said ‘you’ve got to come down. There’s a gentleman trying to return a book he took out in 1953. He’s 91-years-old!’ ” Sykes said. “When I came down they were sat with him having a cup of tea and a chat and I said: ‘I believe I’ve got a disciplinary issue to deal with’. We had about an hour talking about it.”

Sykes said he waived the fee of $7,634.48 “on the condition that Mr Webster agreed, henceforth, to live an exemplary life and return all his books on time.”

Fortunately, Mr. Sykes isn’t saddled with anything as stupid as Zero Tolerance regulations.

Heinz and Ford research turning tomato scraps into car parts

It might seem that tomatoes and cars have nothing in common. But researchers at Ford Motor Company and H.J. Heinz Company see the possibility of an innovative union.

Researchers at Ford and Heinz are investigating the use of tomato fibers in developing sustainable, composite materials for use in vehicle manufacturing. Specifically, dried tomato skins could become the wiring brackets in a Ford vehicle or the storage bin a Ford customer uses to hold coins and other small objects…

Nearly two years ago, Ford began collaborating with Heinz, The Coca-Cola Company, Nike and Procter & Gamble to accelerate development of a 100 percent plant-based plastic to be used to make everything from fabric to packaging and with a lower environmental impact than petroleum-based packaging materials currently in use.

At Heinz, researchers were looking for innovative ways to recycle and repurpose peels, stems and seeds from the more than two million tons of tomatoes the company uses annually to produce its best-selling product: Heinz Ketchup. Leaders at Heinz turned to Ford…

…In recent years, Ford has increased its use of recycled nonmetal and bio-based materials. With cellulose fiber-reinforced console components and rice hull-filled electrical cowl brackets introduced in the last year, Ford’s bio-based portfolio now includes eight materials in production. Other examples are coconut-based composite materials, recycled cotton material for carpeting and seat fabrics, and soy foam seat cushions and head restraints.

Someday we may be able to scrounge our way through a junkyard – and make pizza.

Now, what part of a car can we make from anchovies?

Drinking soda is even worse for you than you thought it could be

There are different types of sugar that we consume in our regular diets.

There is glucose, a not-too-terrible sugar that the body is decent at metabolizing. Then there is fructose, a more-terrible sugar that humans are not good at metabolizing. It’s fructose that research has linked to diabetes, obesity and liver disease.

Sodas, a new study shows, are loaded up on the latter type of sugar that our bodies are terrible at processing.

Soda manufacturers don’t have to disclose how much of their sugar is fructose or glucose, so a team of researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Los Angeles’ Public Health Division and University of Southern California decided to measure it. They went to a store in East Los Angeles and, as many consumers would, purchased some Sprite, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi and seven other popular drinks. And then they had three independent labs measure the fructose and glucose content of each.

Their analysis found that fructose makes up, on average, 59 percent of the total sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages. Beverage makers have previously claimed that their drinks are a pretty even balance between fructose and glucose. But in this study we’re learning, for the first time, that the sugar in soda is mostly sugar our body is terrible at processing.

“Given that Americans drink 45 gallons of soda a year, it’s important for us to have a more accurate understanding of what we’re actually drinking,” says Michael Goran, one of the researchers on the study.

One of his suggestions: adding information to soda labels about the fructose and glucose content of the beverages, to give consumers a better idea of what they’re actually drinking.

There is a distinct possibility that given regulations like this being instituted by the FDA – more Americans will start to peer at the print on food labels. It may take 20 years or so; but, it will happen.

I hope.

In case you wondered what space smells like…?

This is Mike Hopkins – if you didn’t recognize him!

Most people probably assumed space was devoid of any sort of distinct musk — space is just a cold, dark, lifeless place, after all. But not so, says NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who recently returned to Earth after 166 days aboard the International Space Station.

Yesterday, in a tell-all, “ask-me-anything” Reddit interview, Hopkins spilled some of space’s secrets — including the fact that it smells.

“Space has a smell,” Hopkins wrote in one of his many responses. “And I don’t mean inside the space station,” he continued. “When a visiting vehicle docks with the space station, there is ‘space’ between the two vehicles. Once the pressure is equalized and the hatch is opened, you have this metallic ionization-type smell. It’s quite unique and very distinct.”

Among the other nuggets of space truth offered by Hopkins were the facts that: astronauts sweat and occasionally get nervous, the food isn’t that bad (his favorites were beef enchiladas and apricot cobbler), and that the he and his fellow ISS companions drink sweat to keep hydrated.

“The interesting part is that the sweat does go into the condensate system that gets recycled,” Hopkins wrote. “Eventually after the towels dry off and the water is recycled, it becomes drinking water.”

I know our culture inhibits casual reading of anything that even sounds like it’s somehow scientific. Still, I keep hoping.