7th-grader sends doll into 'near space'
ANTIOCH, Calif., Feb. 3 (UPI) -- A seventh-grader in California said she sent her Hello Kitty doll into near space in a fake rocket attached to a weather balloon for her school project.
Lauren Rojas, a 13-year old from Antioch, said she wanted to test the effects of altitude on the balloon's air pressure and temperature. To record the journey, she attached cameras to the rocket and then fastened it to the balloon.
Hello Kitty went along for the ride in the rocket just for fun, the New York Daily News reported.
"I liked her ever since I was 6 years old," Lauren told the New York Daily News. "I thought it would be really fun to add a toy inside the rocket."
At its highest point, the rocket reached 93,625 feet above the ground, and the balloon was 53 times larger than its original size before bursting open.
Hello Kitty's rocket fell back down to earth with the help of a parachute, New York Daily News said. It landed in a tree 47.5 miles from the launch site.
Lauren said she has uploaded the video recordings to YouTube, where it has attracted more than 70,000 views.
Scottish man calls police on McDonald's
EDINBURGH, Scotland, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- A Scottish man called police after he said workers at a McDonald's fast-food restaurant were ignoring him, police said.
The man called 999 -- the Scottish equivalent of 911 -- telling the dispatcher he'd had a disagreement with the staff. After they allegedly refused to address the man's concerns in the restaurant he got in his car and went into the drive-through, The Scotsman reported Sunday.
"They're just ignoring us, so we've decided to stop in the drive-through now, there are 20 cars behind us," the man said.
The dispatcher scolded the man for wasting what could be valuable resources.
"This is not a police matter sir, in fact, you don't dial 999 unless it's a life or death emergency," the operator said.
Scottish police released the call, along with other "ridiculous" examples of people calling emergency dispatchers for non-emergency incidents, to help reduce the time wasted by emergency dispatchers.
Men dressed as women allegedly attack man
NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- New Orleans police said they are searching for two men who dressed in women's lingerie, and beat and robbed a man at a motel.
The New Orleans Police Department said the alleged victim met with what he thought were two women Friday in a motel room, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Saturday.
He tried to leave the room when he realized the two women were in fact men. A third person came out of the motel bathroom and all three suspects allegedly beat the man, and ran away with his cash, credit cards and cell phone, police said.
Police identified one suspect as Herbert James Bickham, who is known for wearing women's clothing and wigs, and frequenting the hotel where the incident took place.
Course on alien life lures earth people
EDINBURGH, Scotland, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- A Scottish university has discovered a remote-learning course on alien life is popular, attracting thousands of terrestrials from as far away as China.
Charles Cockell, who teaches "astrobiology and the search for extra-terrestrial life" at Edinburgh University, told The Scotsman he was astonished by the geographical diversity of students attracted to the course.
Those eager to learn about life on other planets -- from the comfort of their earthly homes -- include high school students, retirees in their 80s and all kinds of people in between.
"The most gratifying thing is there have been study groups forming in India, China, Pakistan, Canada, the (United States) and all over the place," Cockell said. "There's even an astrobiology group in Kosovo."
Cockell said the course includes lectures on how life began on Earth, whether it could evolve on other planets in the solar system and, at the end, a discussion on the possible consequences of discovering life on other planets.
Edinburgh is the first British university to offer free at-home courses through Coursera, based at Stanford University in California.