A northern royal albatross and its baby on an island off the New Zealand coast. (Reuters Photo).

Off the Rock and under the radar for May 17

Wading through the media mud so you don’t have to

The Beachcomber offers this weekly collection of stories from everywhere but Washington D.C., for readers looking to climb out of the rabbit hole for a moment and reconnect to the world.

We’re back! It’s been a busy few weeks, but here are few odds and ends to make up for the absence. In this week’s installment we learn that a Welsh farmer grew a murderous chili pepper entirely by accident, Florence Nightengale was a numbers gal and the king of the Netherlands might just be the co-pilot on your next KLM flight.

TAKING “WELL PRESERVED” TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL

Ft. McMurray, Alberta: Six years ago, an excavator operator working at the Millenium tar sands mine in Northern Alberta, accidentally discovered what has been described as “the best preserved fossil of its kind” ever found: the front half of a 110-million year old nodosaur. National Geographic has the story and some cool 3-D, interactive video here.

FLORENCE NIGHTENGALE’S INFOGRAPHICS WERE BETTER THAN YOURS

It’s probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the “Lady with the Lamp,” but according to this Atlas Obscura piece, the famous nurse was big on data and statistics. It has even been postulated that while she didn’t invent the infographic, she was the first person to use statistical charts to persuade others of the need for change. Eat your heart out, Nate Silver.

HOW DO YOU RE-PAINT AN AIRPLANE?

Thanks to this video from Business Insider, you no longer have to wonder. You’re welcome.

AND THE MOST RACIALLY AND ETHNICALLY DIVERSE CITY IN AMERICA IS …

Houston, TX: Yes, Houston.

MY CO-PILOT, MY KING

Netherlands: BBC news brings us this interesting piece about Dutch King Willem-Alexander, who has secretly — until now — continued as a co-pilot for Dutch airline KLM since ascending to the throne in 2013. Flying Fokker 70 aircraft for the airline’s “Cityhopper” service a couple of times per month, the king will soon have to learn to fly the Boeing 737, as the Fokkers are being phased out. He notes that while most passengers don’t recognize him to see him in his flight uniform, some do recognize his voice.

BIRDWATCHING … FROM SPACE

Earth: Traditional methods of keeping track of the world’s more remotely-living wildlife might soon become a thing of the past with the use of high-resolution satellite images. The Atlantic offers this in-depth look at how researchers are now counting albatross without having to charter boats, planes, or intrude on the elusive birds’ nesting spots.

ALSO SEEN FROM SPACE? MT. ST. HELENS MELTING HER FACE OFF (ALMOST FOUR DECADES AGO)

Washington: On this, the 37th — wait, what? — anniversary of the erruption, the National Weather Service – Seattle posted visible and infrared satellite images of the event. In this write up at the Seattle Times, a Washington Department of Natural Resources post with a composite of images showing footage from the ground is included.

SURF AT YOUR OWN RISK

Io: Gizmodo provides this enlightening look at the hellish Jovian moon and its massive lava waves.

THREE WORDS: WEAPONS. GRADE. CHILI.

Denbighshire, Wales: A thing we learned reading this story from IFLS: spicey-hot things can actually KILL you if they are hot enough. Thankfully, most of them have names that basically indicate this (Pro-Tip: DON’T EAT THEM). And while this Welsh farmer was only trying to make a pretty tree, he ended up with the planet’s hottest — and there is, in fact, a scale for measuring this — chili pepper.

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