Stories of the Strange
A Strange New Year's Extravaganza
By M. Cherise Perez
Dec 31, 2006 - 5:04:00 AM

A Traditional Holiday Celebration

Cultural traditions can be rather strange, and New Year's abounds with stories and habits that we rarely think to question ”“ like watching a giant lighted ball drop from the sky, or igniting flammable devices for fun. Here are a few other unique traditions from around the world...

 

Romania: Locals engage in some homemade weather forecasting techniques by peeling and salting an onion ”“ one peel per month. A diviner then reads the liquid levels to predict the weather for the year.

 

Wales: A Halloween-style romp around the neighborhood with a decorated horse's skull (the "Mari Lwyd") and henchmen Punch, Judy, Sergeant, and Merryman. Bonus: festivities conducted entirely in verse.

 

Scotland: Pyromaniacs will delight in this one ”“ a fire festival consisting of a tar filled barrel mounted and paraded around the streets, with flaming wood chunks occasionally scattered in the doorways.

 

Austria: In addition to the singing and feasting, boller motors are fired up to create some good ol' noise for warding off pesky evil spirits. Edible sweets shaped like pigs are used for good luck, and molten lead in water is used for fortune-telling.


Roses for Llama

During the traditional New Year's Day Rose Parade on Colorado Blvd in Pasadena, CA, flowery floats, marching bands, dancers, and horses gather to celebrate and entertain. For the upcoming 2007 Rose Parade, expect a never-before-seen addition to the procession ”“ the llama, a furry four-legged mammal common in South America.

 

To be exact, 18 llamas total will be participating, by special request from Joan Selby of the Llama Association of Southern California. She first sent the application to include llamas 15 years ago, but the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association did not approve the animals until now.

 

To alleviate the concerns that the horses would perceive llamas as predators and cower in fear, the parade committee designated a special staging area near the front of the parade to sequester the llamas from their equestrian friends.


A Rather Strange Matter

Oddly enough, strangeness can be applied in a scientific manner. As technology advanced, the pieces that comprise the universe shrank. Atoms were once thought to be the tiniest thing ever, until scientists discovered that atoms were made from neutrons, protons, and electrons. Later on, an even smaller sub-atomic component was discovered: the quark.

 

Several types of quarks exist, including the delightfully named "strange" quark and the "charm" quark. Roughly speaking, "strange matter" is the term given to a liquid mixture of three different types of quarks. Scientists have suggested that other types of matter might eventually disintegrate into drops of strange matter, or "strangelets." A strangelet randomly bouncing into an atom's nucleus could trigger the conversion of the entire nucleus to strange matter. So, as if we didn't have enough to worry about, a strangelet careening into the earth could potentially set off a chain reaction ending with the entire planet becoming strange matter.

 

Not to worry yet, though ”“ scientists are still debating whether or not this strange hypothesis is accurate, and even if it were, chances are slim that something like this could happen in our lifetime.

 

Information compiled from news services and wire reports.



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