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Friday, July 11, 2014 - 5
Mashed spuds were the order
of the day in Dunedin on
Stunt scientist Tom Pringle,
aka Dr Bunhead, c laimed a
Guinness World Record, by
using a potato bazooka to fire a
crop of nine potatoes through a
tennis racquet in three minutes.
“ It’s the most amazing feeling.
But, it was also incredibly
ner ve-wracking,” he admitted
after breaking the record with
just a second to spare.
The explosive experiment
at Mitre 10 Mega was part
of the 2014 New Zealand
International Science Festival.
Spectators were pre-warned
to bring “ear-defenders,
safety goggles and extra-
strong underpants” to the
“They ’re exciting experiments
and big, dangerous experiments.
They ’re the sort of experiments
you don’t get to do at home,”
Dr Pringle said.
The attempt was one potato
better than his 2004 world
record of shooting eight spuds
in three minutes.
“Part of the test is firing
the potatoes through a tennis
racquet, to quantify the
velocity,” he said.
“A good musketeer could fire
three shots a minute, which
included loading, firing and
cleaning the gun.”
The potatoes reached
speeds of up to 320kph in
the demonstration, which has
still to be ratified by Guinness
Two justices of the peace, two
stopwatch timers and two video
cameras were required to verify
The Plymouth-born educator
has an international reputation
for his dramatic science shows
and tours the world startling
and fascinating children and
“Science can be dull, or it can
be fascinating. It ’s about the
delivery and talking about stuff
people are interested in,” he said.
“ It ’s all about getting the
‘ wow ’ moment. Because when
you get the ‘wow ’ you get the
‘ why?’. ” — Otago Daily Times
Scientist mashes record
PICTURE: Otago Daily Times
Scientist Tom Pringle, aka Dr Bunhead, on his way to breaking the Guinness World Record for firing potatoes out of a bazooka.
Plagues of rats are chewing and
gnawing their way around rural
Tararua, chomping on wiring in
At times mechanics at Jon
Telford Autos in Dannevirke
have had rats jump out at them
“If we see a mechanic moving
fast away from a vehicle, we
know there’s a live rat,” Craig
For farmer Mark Redward, who
lives east of Dannevirke, rats in
his manifold have been a reality,
with the pesky rodents taking up
residence in two of his vehicles.
Damage done to vehicles by
rats who gnaw on wires, rip out
insulation for nests, or squirrel
away materials, can wreak havoc
as Mr Redward has discovered.
“Rats chewing insulation makes
an awful mess too,” he said.
Despite putting poison down
when six large rats emerged
from around his dog kennels,
Mr Redward said he continued
to see rats and the damage to his
vehicles came as a shock.
“But when I visited a local
garage after the rats had eaten
wiring in my ute, I was taken
into the workshop and shown a
dashboard chewed out as the rats
gnawed their way through the
wiring,” he said.
Mr Redward said it is fairly
easy to spot the tell-tale signs of
a rat problem, especially around
vehicles. “After you’ve backed
away from where you’ve been
parked, look on the ground and if
you see chewed plastic or tinfoil,
then the rats have been there,” he
said. “ Trouble is, I don’t know if
our cars are insured against rats.”
mechanics have seen “a lot of rat
damage,” this winter.
“Basically, if any car is parked
in a carport or parked up for
a while, the rats are chewing
the wiring as well as any hoses
with water in them,” he said. “It
can be an extremely expensive
problem and we’re telling people
if they see any signs of rats such
as chewed wiring, rat poo or
footprints, to put some rat bait
under the bonnet.”
But it is not just seldom-used
vehicles under attack from rats.
They have been known to destroy
much of the wiring of new cars
in less than 24 hours.
The plastic insulating material
being used appears to be
especially tasty, something akin
to caviar to the rodents.
— APNZ-Hawke’s Bay Today
Rats plague Dannevirke
A University of Canterbury criminologist
believes whoever is responsible for the slaughter
of more than 215 sheep in Ngapara is either
young and “thrill killing” or an “adult who’s
Professor Greg Newbold, who has done
extensive research on the criminal use of
firearms in New Zealand, described the crimes
as “sick”, “sad” and “strange”.
On the face of it, it did not look like a
motiveless crime — “ it looks like a vendetta”,
But targeting more than one farm suggested
other wise and it could likely be the work of a
young person, or persons, killing “for the thrill
of it”, he said.
“ Whoever is doing it, they would have to be
bloody young and bloody stupid,” he said.
“Seeing a whole lot of (sheep) die, they must
know they are causing immense anguish to
In a small community such as Ngapara it
would be difficult to execute such a crime
without someone finding out, he said.
Prof Newbold guessed the culprit or culprits
did not hold a firearms licence, instead illegally
possessing the firearm, or firearms.
Targeting properties at weekends suggested
they worked during the week and he also
believed the crimes could be alcohol-fuelled.
In the first attack, on Peter and Janine
Stackhouse’s sheep, more than 200 shots would
have been fired to kill about 195 sheep.
“That’s a hell of a lot of shots fired . . . without
being heard,” Prof Newbold said.
Determining the type of weapon and
ammunition used would be of critical
importance to the investigation, he said.
“ Whether they were using solids or expanding
projectiles,” he said.
Expanding projectiles could be bought from a
sports shop, while full metal jacket solids would
be much more difficult to obtain.
“There wouldn’t be many people who would
buy them other than people who belong to gun
clubs,” he said.
If it was solid ammunition, the culprits
were likely to be using a military-style semi-
automatic (MSSA) firearm.
A specific endorsement from the police is
needed to possess an MSSA firearm.
“It ’s not too hard to start narrowing things
down,” Prof Newbold said.
The culprits had been “smart enough” to get
rid of cases, he said.
“If they are doing that, it ’s probably not an
MSSA — they spew casings out all over the
place — (whereas) bolt action get the cases
every time you work the bolt. ” he said.
“ You wonder whether they are saving the
cases. (They) could be saving the casings in
order to do reloads.
“In which case they wouldn’t have to go to the
shop, but the original (ammunition) would have
to have been bought.”
People who were reloading ammunition would
have the necessary equipment, he said.
“If they are making their own, someone is
going to know about it.”
Prof Newbold poured cold water on concerns
the culprits could be capable of much worse
“I wouldn’t be too worried about that,” Prof
“(The culprits are) stupid, young and probably
“They ’re going to get caught and everything
points to it being an easy crime to solve.”
That a smaller number of sheep were killed
on John and Wendy Dodd’s farm could be an
indication the culprits were running out of
“If they continue, I would say they have made
their own ammunition,” he said.
“They won’t be able to go into a shop and buy
a whole lot and not be noticed.”
If they were “thrill killers” they would soon
“get over it ”, he said.
“It will be interesting to see what happens.”
Police inquiries into the killing of the sheep
were ongoing, as they continued to work
through information received from the public, a
spokeswoman said. — Otago Daily Times
A former employee for a freighting
company which has shut its doors says
he feels betrayed by his employer.
Bullet Freight Systems, which has
seven depots throughout New Zealand,
went into receivership on last Friday and
folded completely on Tuesday, with the
loss of 197 jobs.
Greg Johnston said he was devastated
by the news, Radio New Zealand
“Grown men were crying. Everyone
was very sad because one of the reasons
that you go to work is the companionship
of the people that you work with, and it’s
the people that we see on the front line,
our customers,” Mr Johnston said.
“ You establish a rapport with people.
Now they have no workplace so, yes, a lot
of upset people. ”
Mr Johnston said the company had not
treated fairly staff well before it closed.
“There was discontent with the way
that we were treated,” he said.
Bullet Freight acquired Wellington-
based Strait Freight last year. David
Webb, managing partner of receivers
PPB Advisory, told Radio NZ ’s
Checkpoint programme on Wednesday
that created some major issues.
“ It ’s been widely reported that the
merger of the two businesses, Bullet
Freight and Strait Freight, had created
issues for management, the merging
of the cultures and also the different
operations. It was a bigger operation for
the owners to deal with. ”
Mr Webb said he spoke to more than
50 parties about buying the company.
First Union organiser Rudd Hughes
said most workers’ contracts had no
redundancy provision. The jobs lost were
not high-paying ones, which meant
workers were living payday to payday.
“ It ’s a terrible time for these workers.
They ’ve had very little opportunity to
plan for the future,” he said.
“The company has kept them in the
dark about the financial situation and the
union is going to try and do as much as
we can to help these people.”
The union would contact other freight
companies in an effort to find other jobs
for those laid off, he said. — NZ N
Culprits ‘young, stupid, probably thick’
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