Monday, March 4, 2013 The Batman Meanders!

A rather laid-back Masked Manhunter has turned up in northern England, ambling into a police station with an equally chill perp.  Some reports described this Batman as "portly", which brings back sad memories of trying to find school clothes in the designated fat kid section of Sears.  From the Guardian:
'Batman' delivers suspect to Bradford police

Mark Smith
Monday 4 March 2013 07.51 EST

If Bane or the Joker were planning on moving their criminal empires from Gotham City to Bradford, they might just think again after seeing these CCTV images from West Yorkshire police.

A man dressed as Batman – evoking, perhaps, the spirit of Del Boy and Rodney more than the sleek leather outfit of Christian Bale's latest incarnation – was caught on camera bringing a wanted man into police custody.

The caped crusader marched into Trafalgar House police station, in the south of the city, in the early hours of 25 February and handed over the suspected criminal, before disappearing into the night.

Police say they have no idea of the would-be superhero's identity, though they are playing down the prospect of a real-life costumed vigilante haunting the city's streets. It is understood the body language of the two men suggested they may have been known to each other, and there was no resistance from the suspect, who was later charged with handling stolen goods and fraud-related offences. He is due to appear at Bradford magistrates court on 8 March.

A West Yorkshire police spokesman said: "The person who brought the wanted man into the station was dressed in a full Batman outfit. His identity, however, remains unknown."

The mystery has fuelled speculation on Twitter as to the identity of Bradford's Bruce Wayne, with the Bradford West MP, George Galloway, moving swiftly to quash rumours that he had donned a lycra catsuit once again: "Contrary to rumours sweeping Gotham, I am not the Bradford Batman, However I take my hat off to him and wish him luck in the future."

Bookies are even offering odds of 3/1 on the caped crusader repeating his heroics before the year's end – and 5/1 that he'll be joined by his sidekick, Robin. Famous West Yorkshiremen in the frame include Alan Titchmarsh (8/1), the former footballer Dean Windass (6/1) and the TV magician Dynamo (5/1).

I hope someone took up the bookies on that bet, because within hours the caped crusader's identity was uncovered.  From Sky:
Batman: Bradford's Caped Crusader Unmasked

7:38pm UK, Monday 04 March 2013

The likely identity of Bradford's very own Batman has been revealed.

A mystery was sparked when an anonymous man dressed in a full Batman costume handed in a suspected burglar to officers at Trafalgar House police station in Bradford.

CCTV images were released by the police in the hope of tracking down the undercover superhero.

The pictures showed a caped crusader - fully clad with the comic hero's boots, gloves and logo across his chest - standing alongside a man in a red hooded sweatshirt.

West Yorkshire police have now revealed they think the man dressed as Batman is a friend of the man who was turned in, and later arrested.

The suspect is due to appear in court on March 8 charged with handling stolen goods and fraud-related offences.

A retailer in Bradford has also come forward to say she might have sold the man his Batman outfit a few days before the incident, which happened in the early hours of February 25.

Kathryn Sutcliffe, who runs The Joke Shop in Kirkgate Market, told BBC Radio 5 Live she remembered one customer because he wanted the 1960s Caped Crusader costume rather than the more recent Dark Knight version.

She said she only sold of couple of these older outfits every year.

Mrs Sutcliffe said: "He was quite a large guy and when I saw him on the CCTV I thought, 'he looks like a similar build'.

"I was quite busy at the time. I took it out, tried it against him and he said, 'oh yes, that's fine', and then he disappeared just as quick.

"He was in his 20s, dark brown hair, a bit of stubble and quite a nice-looking lad, really."

She said the man paid with a credit card, so she has a name, but she refused to reveal it.

Batman has been around as a fictional character since 1939, usually fighting crime in Gotham City.

In the original story his alter-ego was a billionaire philanthropist who decided to devote his life to fighting crime after his parents were both murdered.

What a rookie mistake!  Sure, not every town has a Paul Gambi or Leo Zelinsky handy.  But if you're going to get your costume off the rack, use the time-honored tactic of breaking into the shop when it's closed and leaving cash behind to pay for the suit and any damages.  And any would-be hero dumb enough to pay by credit card is better off exposed before he gets himself - or innocent civilians - killed.

That said, it seems that this "Batman" isn't keen on crimefighting as much as sorting out something personal.  I hope the rest of the details come out before the media lose interest in the story. 

Friday, March 1, 2013 Beware the Psionic Rats!

Once again, scientists are hard at work giving vermin super-powers. 

The New Scientist reports that Duke University researchers have put telepathic implants in rats.  Because apparently, someone played too much Gamma World as a kid.
The world's first brain-to-brain connection has given rats the power to communicate by thought alone.

"Many people thought it could never happen," says Miguel Nicolelis at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Although monkeys have been able to control robots with their mind using brain-to-machine interfaces, work by Nicolelis's team has, for the first time, demonstrated a direct interface between two brains – with the rats able to share both motor and sensory information.

The feat was achieved by first training rats to press one of two levers when an LED above that lever was lit. A correct action opened a hatch containing a drink of water. The rats were then split into two groups, designated as "encoders" and "decoders".

An array of microelectrodes – each about one-hundredth the width of a human hair – was then implanted in the encoder rats' primary motor cortex, an area of the brain that processes movement. The team used the implant to record the neuronal activity that occurs just before the rat made a decision in the lever task. They found that pressing the left lever produced a different pattern of activity from pressing the right lever, regardless of which was the correct action.

Next, the team recreated these patterns in decoder rats, using an implant in the same brain area that stimulates neurons rather than recording from them. The decoders received a few training sessions to prime them to pick the correct lever in response to the different patterns of stimulation.

The researchers then wired up the implants of an encoder and a decoder rat. The pair were given the same lever-press task again, but this time only the encoder rats saw the LEDs come on. Brain signals from the encoder rat were recorded just before they pressed the lever and transmitted to the decoder rat. The team found that the decoders, despite having no visual cue, pressed the correct lever between 60 and 72 per cent of the time.


"We are still using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut," says James. "They're not hearing the voice of God." But the rats are certainly sending and receiving more than a binary signal that simply points to one or other lever, he says. "I think it will be possible one day to transfer an abstract thought."

The decoders have to interpret relatively complex brain patterns, says Marshall Shuler at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The animals learn the relevance of these new patterns and their brains adapt to the signals. "But the decoders are probably not having the same quality of experience as the encoders," he says.

Oh, but it gets better: 
Patrick Degenaar at Newcastle University in the UK says that the military might one day be able to deploy genetically modified insects or small mammals that are controlled by the brain signals of a remote human operator. These would be drones that could feed themselves, he says, and could be used for surveillance or even assassination missions. "You'd probably need a flying bug to get near the head [of someone to be targeted]," he says.

So, telepathic assassin cockroaches.  Might as well give them pyrokinesis while you're at it.