Random weirdness for the week of Aug. 23, 2016


The Mars Curiosity Rover has returned to Svalbard and this time you’re not just allowed to drive it, but thoroughly wreck the vehicle and the pristine landscape– all for free. The rover was tested extensively here before being sent into space because apparently we’re as close to being on another planet as it gets on Earth. Only the high and mighty types at NASA have had access to the remote controlled steering controls since the vehicle landed on the red planet four years ago, but some of their geek squad has recently figured out to make them simple enough for anyone with a desktop browser or smartphone. They also had to simplify the optics, so it might appear you’re playing a Mars Curiosity Game that’s essentially an endless runner, but given how paranoid pilots will be if you’re taking off at the time you never know. Only way to find out is to take a test drive


Black is white: Not only is this polar bear perfectly happy in a room-temperature cage, he also appears to have burned himself to a crisp with a tanning lamp.

Speaking of being on another planet, as scientists here and elsewhere in the Arctic ponder the effect our warming planet is having on polar bears – such as whether it means more of them will wander toward settlements like last week – it turns out they’re pursuing a riddle already answered 6,000 years ago (give or take a few generations). So says the Ark Encounter, a new boat-shaped U.S. “theme park” in hillbilly country that helpfully explains how the bears survived on Noah’s Ark. “Polar bears do not need to live in a cold climate,” a placard next a display of the species declares, “Their special adaptations are well suited for an icy climate, but many warm-weather zoos house polar bears. So even if polar bears were on the Ark, there would not have been a need to keep them cool.” We’re not sure what they are on board, but obviously it wasn’t the kangaroos before they were clever enough afterward to reach Australia on rafts made of vegetation…


Sinking sensation: No matter how hard you wish, you can’t stop the plummet from full light to darkness a mere two months from now. Screenshot from video by Witek Kaskin.

Finally, for those not ready to cope with a sunset after nearly four months without one, we offer this 24-hour time-lapse video filmed at the Polish Polar Station at Hornsund in April where the sun circles endlessly above the horizon – if just barely at times. The first sunset in Longyearbyen after the polar summer is at 12:12 a.m. August 25. The sun will rise again at 1:49 a.m. Daylight will then get shorter at a freakish pace until the last sunset before the polar night at 1:32 p.m. Oct. 25