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A Little Triboluminescence Puts the Spark Back in Their Relationship

April 28, 1999|ROY RIVENBURG

Electric Diaper Department: You've probably heard that chewing wintergreen mints in the dark causes them to produce tiny sparks. But did you know diapers do the same thing?

Fortunately, you don't have to eat one to see the fireworks. According to the London Telegraph, a British mother recently discovered "luminous green sparks" shooting from a Huggies diaper on her infant son. At first, she thought the child might have fireflies in his britches. After ruling that out, she stayed up all night watching him, afraid he would burst into flames.

Scientists at Kimberly-Clark, which manufactures the disposable diaper, blamed the harmless light show on triboluminescence, which they said occurs when friction against the molecules of the diaper converts mechanical energy into light energy.

Something Fishy in Forecasts: For two weeks now, we've been trying to reach the judges on the Pulitzer Prize committee because we're pretty sure they made a mistake in not honoring our articles on man-eating couches, $5-million bras and a space-alien plot to kidnap Daryl Hannah.

In the meantime, we're busy researching next year's sure-fire Pulitzer winner--an expose on seafood company payoffs to the astrology industry. As evidence, we cite the following forecasts from Sydney Omarr's horoscopes:

* "Delicious dinner soon, featuring swordfish."

* "Sumptuous dinner features seafood, possibly broiled lobster."

* "Cancer native barbecues swordfish."

* "You will be invited to a dinner of broiled lobster."

* "Cancer native boasts, 'This will be the best swordfish you ever tasted. Yum, yum!' "

Bus, Magic Bus: Kids today have it so cushy. When we were growing up--walking to school five miles in the snow, reading by diaper light and checking our horoscope to see if the cafeteria would serve tuna casserole or fish sticks--we didn't have such luxuries as laptop computers and fancy video games.

We just had Pong, a primitive arcade game that was eventually discontinued because it inspired so much violence. Adding to our hardship was the lack of sophisticated technology to identify animal poop.

How times have changed. That's because Microsoft has created a new "Magic School Bus" CD-ROM that teaches kids all kinds of odd animal facts and figures. For example, one part mentions that a lion's roar can be heard for five miles; another features a type of bat that can swim and eat fish; and a third shows how toucans (which are related to woodpeckers) devour fruit by tossing the food into the air and catching it in their throats.

But the real breakthrough is the Sonoran Desert section of the program. There, kids can click onto a rock with a handprint and end up at a quiz show that asks them to guess the source of various animal droppings. Sample query: Which animal's excrement contains fur, bones and an entire skull? Answer: an owl.

The CD-ROM will be unveiled Thursday at the Los Angeles Zoo to a group of youngsters from Allesandro Elementary School.

Useless History Bureau: In 1886, Ulysses S. Grant was pulled over for speeding in a horse-drawn carriage. He was fined $5.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Pet Owner Watches in Horror as Dog Plays with Live Grenade!" (Weekly World News)

Unpaid Informants: Rachel Williams, Susanna Timmons, Carolyn Kimball, Wireless Flash News. Off-Kilter's e-mail address is Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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