Chuck Shepherd

Liberally using the phrase "master artisans," the Hästens workshop in Köping, Sweden, recently unveiled its made-to-order $149,900 mattress. Bloomberg News reported in December on Hästens' use of superior construction materials such as pure steel springs, "slow-growing" pine, multiple layers of flax, horsehair lining (braided by hand, then unwound to ensure extra spring) and cotton covered by flame-retardant wool batting. With a 25-year guarantee, an eight-hour-a-day sleep habit works out to $2 an hour. The Bloomberg reviewer, after a trial run, gave the "Vividus" a glowing thumbs-up.

Bottoms up to research

Humans are good at recognizing faces, but exceptionally poor at recognition when the same face's features are scrambled or upside down. In December, a research team from the Netherlands and Japan published findings that chimpanzees are the same way — when it comes to recognizing other chimps' butts. That suggests, the scientists concluded, that sophisticated recognition of rear ends is as important for chimps (as "socio-sexual signaling," such as prevention of inbreeding) as faces are to humans.

That's a lot of stuff

Humanity has accumulated an estimated 30 trillion tons of "stuff," according to research by University of Leicester geologists — enough to fit over 100 pounds' worth over every square meter of the planet's surface. The scientists, writing in the Anthropocene Review, are even more alarmed that very little of it is recycled and that buried layers of technofossils that define our era will clutter and weigh down the planet, hampering future generations.

Not quite cold enough

Classes were canceled in early December in the village of Batagai in the Yakutia region of Siberia when the temperature reached minus-53 Celsius (minus-63 Fahrenheit) — but only for kids 15 and under; older children still had to get to school. Yakutia is regarded as the coldest inhabited region on Earth.

Least competent criminals

• Leonard Rinaldi, 53, was arrested in Torrington, Conn., in November following his theft of a rare-coin collection belonging to his father. The coins were valued at about $8,000, but apparently to make his theft less easily discoverable, he ran them through a Coinstar coin-cashing machine — netting himself a cool $60.

• James Walsh was arrested in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Dec. 12 at a Wal-Mart after carting out an unpaid-for big-screen TV. Walsh said he had swiped a TV on Dec. 11 with no problem — but failed to notice that on the 12th, the store had a "shop with a cop" event at which St. Lucie County deputies were buying toys for kids.

Darn squirrels

In October, Chicago alderman Howard Brookins Jr. publicly denounced "aggressive" squirrels that were gnawing through trash cans and costing the city an extra $300,000. A month later, Brookins was badly injured in a bicycle collision (broken nose, missing teeth) when a squirrel jumped into one of his wheels, sending Brookins over the handlebars.

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