Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tea Poisoning: A Time-Honored Tradition

January is National Hot Tea Month. In honor of this, here are some examples of the time-honored tradition of tea poisoning. A 40 year old Missouri woman was arrested this week for allegedly trying to poison her husband by adding Visine to his tea. She is being held on $100,000 bail. In July 2008, a Saudi court sentenced two Asian housemaids to four months in prison and 250 lashes each for contaminating the tea of their employer with urine and menstrual blood. In 2006, former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, died after radioactive polonium-210 was added to his tea at a London hotel In 1997, a 50 year old UK man denied that his dropping rat poison pellets into his wife's tea was an attempt to harm her. On the contrary, he said, they were experimenting with the blood-thinning properties of the toxic pellets in an effort to relieve his wife's leg pains. "It has great medicinal properties," he told a jury. "Like nearly everything, it is the dose that counts." During World War II, British agents planned to assassinate Hitler by poisoning his tea. Although the poison of choice was known to make tea appear suspiciously cloudy, agents were optimistic that the dictator would not detect it since he always took his tea with milk. "Since the milk is poured first into the cup," a report noted, "it is unlikely that its opalescence would be noticed as it came from the teapot." In the end, the plot was abandoned. In 1867, a seventeen year old Boston girl, Alice Christiana Abbott, was tried for poisoning her step-father's tea. Described by the New York Times, rather ironically, as having "a demeanor that would have been appropriate at a tea party," the young girl denied the charge and stated that her mother's husband had had "improper connection" with her from the time she was 13 years old. When she threatened her step-father with exposure, she says, he committed suicide by poisoning himself. The jury promptly committed Miss Abbott to the Taunton Lunatic Asylum.

Image by Vivek Chugh, provided courtesy of stock.xchng.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors

Could Bubble Wrap end world hunger? It can help, according to 12 year old Kellan Horner of Lenexa Kansas, a semi-finalist in this year's Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors. He is hoping that his Bubble-Wrap-encased hydroponic green house, which enables plants to grow without soil, will not only help the hungry but also earn him the contest's grand prize of $10,000. Not to burst his bubble or anything, but competition is stiff. There's the Bubble Wrap Emergency Shelter designed by 10 year old Andrew Teesdale of Sherwood Oregon. This lightweight tent is meant to provide temporary shelter for disaster victims. (FEMA take notice.) Then there's the amazing Pop-Up Solar Cooker Book, invented by 11 year old Jared Mann of Christiansburg Virginia. The portable, solar-powered appliance can be used as a grill or an oven, depending on which page the "book" is turned to.
In all, 2200 students in grades 5 through 8 submitted original inventions. Of these, 15 - including Kellan, Andrew and Jared - were selected as semi-finalists. Three finalists will be announced some time in early January and will be flown to New York City, with a family member, for a three-day trip, where the grand prize winner will be announced on - when else - Bubble Wrap(R) Appreciation Day (January 26, 2009 for those who don't know). The grand prize winner of the competition will receive a $10,000 U.S. savings bond, while the second and third place winners will receive $5,000 and $3,000 U.S. savings bonds, respectively. The teacher/mentor of each finalist will receive a $500 gift card. awarded by the Sealed Air Corporation, the mother company of Bubble Wrap.
Check out all of the semi-finalists and their inventions here.
Good luck everyone!