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Weird National Briefs (04/19/2017)

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Puzzling project

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - University of Michigan mechanical engineering students have made one of the most popular puzzle games much larger. And tougher to solve.

Seven former and current students unveiled a 1,500-pound Rubik’s Cube during a ceremony Thursday inside the G.G. Brown engineering building on the Ann Arbor campus. The massive, mostly aluminum structure is meant to be played by students and others on campus.

Four students came up with the idea three years ago and handed down the project to other students.

“It’s the largest solvable mechanical stationary Rubik’s Cube,” said Ryan Kuhn, a 22-year-old senior who helped assemble the giant puzzle this week. “It was kind of an urban myth of North Campus, this giant Rubik’s Cube that’s been going on for a while.”

The oversized version of the brain-teasing 3-D puzzle, which has flummoxed players since its heyday in the 1980s, is much harder to decipher than its diminutive counterpart, said Kuhn, who called it an “interactive mechanical art piece.”

The puzzle is solved when the player is able to manipulate the cube until all nine squares on each of its six sides display an individual color.

“It’s very reasonable that it could take at least an hour” to solve, said Martin Harris, who helped conceive the project in 2014 while hanging out in the College of Engineering honors office.

TME – It’s probably really hard to rearrange all the stickers on this one.

He’s lovin’ it

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio - A craving for a McDonald’s cheeseburger apparently prompted an 8-year-old Ohio boy to take his 4-year-old sister for a ride in his dad’s van, which he learned to drive on the internet.

East Palestine police Officer Jacob Koehler tells WJW-TV in Cleveland the father went to bed Sunday and the mother fell asleep on the couch with the kids.

Koehler says witnesses saw the boy driving and called police in the city, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southeast of Cleveland. He says the boy drove about a mile to the restaurant, through intersections and over railroad tracks, without mishap.

Witnesses say the boy appeared to obey traffic laws.

Koehler says the boy told him he learned to drive by watching YouTube videos.

No charges have been filed.

TME – It could have been worse – it could have been Arby’s.

What’s the buzz?

VIENNA - A town south of Vienna is abuzz over the reported theft of dozens of beehives, containing about 1 million bees, from a local park.

Police said Wednesday they got involved after residents in the town of Ebreichsdorf noticed that the covers of wooden boxes containing 40 hives had been removed.

The thefts were formally reported Tuesday. Police say they could have occurred anytime since the end of March.

Beekeeper Horst Preisl put his loss at around 15,000 euros in lost honey and stolen bees, including queens.

But Preisl tells state broadcaster ORF the damage is incalculable “in terms of years of work lost.”

TME – We’re talking hive crimes and misdemeanors.

His two cents

LYNN, Mass. - A Massachusetts man has a ready answer when asked for his two cents’ worth: He presents a check he got from the government.

Bruce Rideout, of Lynn, tells The Daily Item he got the 2-cent check from the U.S. Treasury Department a couple of days ago and has been carrying it around and showing his friends ever since.

He’s not sure why he got the check and doesn’t plan on asking.

The 79-year-old Air Force veteran and Lynn Water and Sewer Commission retiree had already received his income tax refund and his monthly pension.

He’s not going to cash the check. He has already visited a store to have a custom frame made. The cost? More than $82.

TME – Seems like a cents-ible guy.

Bad date

PHOENIX - Police say a Phoenix man has been arrested for allegedly stealing a woman’s purse during a first date.

They say 38-year-old David Harlow met the woman on an online dating site and two talked for several weeks before meeting in person at a Phoenix resort.

During the date, the unidentified woman went to the restroom and asked Harlow to watch her belongings. When she got back, Harlow and her purse were reportedly gone.

Police say Harlow allegedly took the victim’s credit card to a casino and tried to withdraw money from several banks.

They say Harlow has been booked into jail on suspicion of felony theft, theft of a credit card and taking the identity of another person.

It was unclear Tuesday if Harlow has a lawyer yet.

TME – From Tinder to swindler…

Uninvited guest

WORCESTER, Mass. - A worker at a Massachusetts hotel got a slithery surprise while cleaning a room - a 5-foot ball python left in a drawer.

The Telegram & Gazette reports that staff at the Marriott Residence Inn in Worcester found the snake last week and called animal control. Animal control took the snake to a pet supply store.

General manager Rod Dzivasen says the snake appeared to be in good health.

Officials don’t think the snake was in the room for long. Police say the person renting the room and believed to be the snake’s owner had checked out the prior day. It’s unlikely anyone will be charged.

The snakes are native to Africa.

TME – No word on whether any of the drawers involved were soiled.

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