Light Friday: How to Steal $200,000 in Quarters from Parking Meters

Plus:
Graphene Dethroned as the World’s Strongest Material
Chefs Discover How to Prepare Food on Mars
A Psychedelic Movie Made with Soy Sauce 


Rather than repairing parking meters, one mechanic manipulated the devices and walked away with $210,000 in quarters over a span of eight years. Now, the parking meter crook is paying for his pocket-change crime with restitution and a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

The quarters caper dates back to 2003 when 57-year-old James Bagarozzo, a longtime employee for the city of Buffalo, N.Y., and a co-worker began rigging 75 mechanical meters to dispense change into coin canisters, the means to their fast cash. The coin payout was massive. Investigators found $47,000 in cash and change in the parking meter mechanic’s home, including $40,000 stashed in his bedroom ceiling that was uncovered when they arrested him in 2011, according to an FBI report.

The cunning thief cashed in his coins at $500 at a time for bills at a bank, avoiding suspicion for years by telling the employees that he had a friend in the vending machine business. His lies eventually caught up with him when the new parking commissioner noticed a significant difference in revenue between the mechanical meters and the city’s new electronic machines.

The meter heist came to an abrupt end when Bagarozzo and his partner-in-crime (who also collected a substantial sum and is awaiting sentence) were caught on camera. Since the arrests, parking meter revenue has jumped by $500,000. While the heist may be somewhat odd, the tactic is not at all unique. TIME outlines other cases of recent meter robbery.

Graphene Dethroned as the World’s Strongest Material

Graphene has been getting a lot of attention by material scientists lately for its electrical conductivity properties, as well as for its tensile strength. In fact, for years it was believed to be, pound for pound, the strongest material in the world.

But new research may take that title away. A paper from Rice University touts the properties of carbyne. Unlike graphene, which is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms, carbyne is a string of carbon atoms. The paper claims that carbyne is more than twice as strong as graphene — which means, theoretically, you’d need at least two elephants balanced on a pencil to snap it.

Carbyne is not a new substance in material science. But GigaOm reports that this is the first time any research has been done into its properties for tension, bending, and twisting. And while scientists have successfully made carbyne in laboratories, no one has ever been able to combine the strands to make a sheet of material. More so, some believe that doing so would cause the strands to explode.

But don’t rule out carbyne yet. Research into graphene has been moving at a rapid clip since the material was first synthesized in a lab in the early 2000s, most recently overcoming a major hurdle to development of lightning-fast graphene CPU transistors. Expect similar research to follow for carbyne.

Chefs Discover How to Prepare Food on Mars

Any child who has begged their parents for a souvenir from NASA’s Johnson Space Center or from a Natural History Museum knows that one of the best treats is the freeze-dried ice cream astronauts eat in space. But to an astronaut, eating freeze-dried anything day in and day out can be problematic.

To combat this problem, six chefs recently spent 120 days in a simulated Mars mission at the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) to develop new methods of preserving food and fancy new menu items. While freeze-dried food sent to the International Space Station (ISS) is designed to keep for up to 12 months, the ISS receives scheduled cargo drops from earth. A Mars mission will last much longer and require greater storage care, as there can be no such refueling stops.

The HI-SEAS team divided their time between science experiments on the rocky cliffs of the Mauna Loa volcano, where their habitat was located, and experimenting in a NASA kitchen. The proxy-astronauts were encouraged to experiment on the traditional culinary equipment, including an oven, microwave, and crockpot, and mix and match freeze-dried food on hand.

The idea isn’t as novel as it may seem: the team looked at the methods by which 19th-century explorers to barren wastelands prepared their food. In many cases, the explorers packed loads of different preserved ingredients that could be combined in various ways to keep the cuisine interesting.

The variation in cuisine helped the astronauts eat nutritious meals without falling into a rut, and the process of making dinner helped them flex their creative muscles.

“They got great psychological rewards out of exercising their creativity in the kitchen,” said Jean Hunter, principal investigator on the experiment, told New Scientist. “If you’re out there for a couple of years, the walls around you don’t change, you can’t go outside, and it’s the same people. You have to create your own variety and novelty. Creativity is maybe an underappreciated part of that.”

For more space food fun, check out this unrelated video of California chef Traci Des Jardins concocting space-friendly food at the NASA space food lab below. You can also watch this video of beloved space traveler Captain Chris Hadfield talking about the body’s ability to process food in space here.

A Psychedelic Movie Made with Soy Sauce

It started as a normal meal for artist Ruslan Khasanov — a little olive oil, a dab of soy sauce. And then something magical happened. Khasanov became entranced by the way the black beads of sauce formed in the cooking oil. Some colored ink, soap, and even gasoline entered the mixture (dinner was subsequently postponed) to create a short film called Pacific Light, which can be seen below. (H/T: Wired.com.)

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