The skinny

Published May 8, 2007

Wallet tracker

Canadian coin sets off an espionage scare

A flowered coin led to a sensational warning from a U.S. Defense Department agency that mysterious coins with radio frequency transmitters were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances in Canada. Worried contractors had reported finding planted coins in 2005 and 2006, describing them as "filled with something man-made that looked like nano-technology, " according to censored U.S. government reports and e-mails obtained by the Associated Press under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Clearly the contractors weren't numismatists. The Royal Canadian Mint produced the harmless "poppy quarter" in 2004 to commemorate Canada's war dead. The supposed nanotechnology actually was a protective coating that glows peculiarly under ultraviolet light. Intelligence and technology experts were flabbergasted over the warning when it was first publicized earlier this year, and the Defense Security Service eventually disavowed its warning about spy coins.

Love in space

He floats proposal she can't refuse

Alexander Loucopoulos wasn't afraid he would drop the ring when he proposed to his girlfriend, but he did have another fear: that it would float away. When the 32-year-old New Yorker proposed Saturday to Graciela Asturias, a 27-year-old space enthusiast, they were on a 90-minute zero-gravity flight aboard a Boeing 727. "I asked if she'd marry me, and then the ring just floated in front of her as we floated in zero gravity, " he said. She said yes. "I would like our 10-year anniversary to be in orbit, " Loucopoulos said.

Bad math, no record

Doh! Mistakes ruin shot at a record

Errors in simple arithmetic got in the way of an attempt to get into the record books. George Hood spent 85 hours riding a stationary bike in January, riding the equivalent of about 1, 080 miles, and thought he had bested the existing record of 82 hours. However, Guinness World Records officials invalidated Hood's entry because of recordkeeping errors. Some of the 40 volunteers taking turns logging Hood's efforts made addition and subtraction errors and had trouble reading a 24-hour clock, officials said. "I'm more frustrated, not disappointed, " said Hood, 49, who plans to try again this summer, hoping to hit 101 hours over four days.

Stuck in an elevator

Vandals smash their escape route

Two young Norwegian vandals overlooked a small but crucial detail when they started smashing up a train station elevator: They were inside it. The two 20-somethings were at a train station north of Oslo last month when they started kicking the elevator doors. But they kicked so hard that the doors jammed, and the police and fire department had to be called. It's likely to be an open and shut case, with the two owing more than $16, 700 in repairs.

Compiled from Times wires.