UPI NewsTrack Quirks in the News

Sept. 20, 2012 at 5:00 PM
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Emoticon celebrates 30th birthday

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The smiley face emoticon has marked the 30th anniversary of its creation by a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

The collection of characters, which is designed to denote happiness or that a typewritten message was not meant seriously, turned 30 Wednesday, the anniversary of the day Carnegie Mellon computer scientist Scott Fahlman first posted it on an online bulletin board, the New York Daily News reported Thursday.

"If someone made a sarcastic remark, a few readers would fail to get the joke, and each of them would post a lengthy diatribe in response," Fahlman said on Carnegie Mellon's website.

"The problem caused some of us to suggest (only half seriously) that maybe it would be a good idea to explicitly mark posts that were not to be taken seriously," he wrote. "In the midst of that discussion it occurred to me that the character sequence :-) would be an elegant solution ... So I suggested that."

N.J. bans driver's license smiles

TRENTON, N.J., Sept. 20 (UPI) -- New Jersey officials said the ban on smiling for driver's licenses is due to facial recognition software designed to prevent fraud.

Mike Horan, spokesman for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, said people posing for driver's license pictures are asked to refrain from smiling or making other facial expressions so as not to confuse the facial recognition software, the Philadelphia Daily News reported Thursday.

The spokesman said the software, which was adopted in January, is designed to prevent anyone who already has a license from getting a second document under a different name.

"That could be someone trying to steal someone else's identity to get insurance benefits, or someone trying to get out of a DUI by getting a license under another name," Horan said. "This helps us weed out fraud."

Jan McKnight, a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said her state also uses the software, but smiling is not a problem.

"You can smile in Pennsylvania," she said.

Student hit by falling mattress

NEW YORK, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- A New York college student said he suffered a sprained neck when he was struck by a mattress that fell about 30 stories to the sidewalk.

Jesse Scott Owen, 18, said he was walking in the city around 12:45 p.m. Tuesday when the mattress fell from a building and hit him on the head, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday.

"This was the most absurd thing that ever happened to me," the King's College freshman said.

He said the impact knocked him unconscious.

"I woke up and people were putting me on the mattress," he said. "I asked where the mattress came from and they said, 'You were knocked out by it.'"

Witnesses said the mattress may have been carried by winds from the rooftop spa of the Setai Wall Street.

A manager at the Setai did not respond to an email requesting a comment, the Daily News said.

Owen was taken to the New York Downtown Hospital with a sprained neck and a possible herniated disc.

'Touchdown Jesus' statue replaced

MONROE, Ohio, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The destroyed Ohio statue commonly known as "Touchdown Jesus" has been replaced with a 52-foot statue of the Christian messiah along Interstate 75.

Lawrence Bishop, co-pastor of the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, said the "King of Kings" sculpture -- which was destroyed by a lightning strike in 2010 -- was replaced Wednesday with a Jesus statue titled "Lux Mundi," Latin for "Light of the World," the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News reported Thursday.

The original statue featured Jesus with his arms raised into the air, earning it the "Touchdown Jesus" nickname, while the replacement depicts Jesus with his arms open wide, as if preparing for a hug.

Bishop said the sculpture serves as "a beacon of hope" for travelers on I-75.

"It's neat to see this day finally come," church administrator Ron Carter said. "Right now, this world needs a positive message."

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