Fire's no match for fake wood

Scientists have created artificial wood that is water resistant and fire resistant and faster to make than natural wood. The lightweight fake wood is made of polymer resin and a pinch of chitosan, a sugar polymer derived from the shells of shrimp and crabs. It's freeze dried then heated to temperatures as high as 200C. The resulting stuff is as crush resistant as wood but not bothered by the wet or heat. Samples soaked in water and in a strong acid bath for 30 days scarcely weakened, whereas samples of balsa wood lost strength and 40 per cent of their crush resistance. The new material was also difficult to ignite and stopped burning when it was removed from the flame. (Via Scientific American)

Doggone overkill

Package must be big enough for picture of dog: "How's this for packaging?" writes Pam Sims. "The flea control pill measures just 2cm across, then there's the foil, then the cardboard box! Overkill."

Falling followers of fashion

The conspicuous display of wealth on social media, which started in Russia, has recently been sweeping China. It shows young women photographing themselves as if they've fallen out of high-end cars, the luxury contexts of their designer handbags spilling on to the ground. The trend is being called the Falling Stars Challenge or Flaunt Your Wealth Challenge and has inspired, true to internet form, many imitators and parodies.

Smart shopkeeper smokes out dumb robbers

A gang of robbers walk into a shop. The owner asks them to come back later when he has more money, and when they do ... It feels like the makings of a joke, but for a Belgian e-cigarette shop owner this was a frightening reality. Six people entered the shop in daylight with the intent to rob him. The shop owner said that over the course of 14 long minutes, he tried to befriend the thieves. "There was some pushing and shoving," he said. "I didn't give them a thing, but said if they came back later I would have 2000 or 3000 euros." The group bought his bluff, and left. When the men returned, the police were at the back of the shop ready to catch them. (Via BBC)


Kids these days are snowflakes

"Have any other readers noticed the lack of stickiness on sticking plaster these days?" asks a reader. "When I was a child and you got a scratch and put a plaster on it, a week later when you took the plaster off - it would take a layer of skin with it. Plasters these days, you wash your hands once and the plaster is in the bottom of the basin."