Short stuff

Is it a cricket?

If it chirps like a cricket, hops like a cricket, but has claws like a lobster, what is it?

That's the question scientists were faced with after discovering a new insect near Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, a remote strip of land on the Utah-Arizona border.

The yet-to-be-named critter, which scientists say is a new genus of cricket, has pincers (claws).

The pincers are functional, but it is not known why they have them or what purpose they serve.

Old-time slugger

John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil was the first black manager in Major League Baseball when he coached the Chicago Cubs in 1962.

Last month, he became the oldest professional baseball player. The 94-year-old signed a one-day contract with a minor league team in Kansas City, Kan., and then stepped up to the plate – twice.

In his two at-bats, he drew two walks.

He surpassed – by more than 10 years – 83-year-old Jim Eriotes, who had struck out in a minor league game in South Dakota earlier in the month.

'Bogged' down with a book

In New England, bogs are associated with cranberries – it's the wet, spongy ground in which the deep-red fruit grows.

In Ireland, something else recently was found in a bog: an ancient book of psalms. Irish archaeologists say the 20-page book is possibly more than 1,000 years old.

After digging out the manuscript, the National Museum of Ireland has placed it in a refrigerated storage facility. It will be analyzed, which could take years, before being put on display.

Meat ice cream

Zookeepers in Zurich, Switzerland, are feeding animals a diet of meat and frozen berries to help them stay cool in the sweltering summer heat.

The "alternative ice cream" offered to animals instead of their usual fare has been a big hit with large cats, apes, and wolves. Temperatures throughout much of Europe have been unusually high this summer.

A 'monster' in Australia

Australian scientists have identified two new species of ancient marine reptile – similar in appearance, they say, to the mythical Loch Ness Monster of northern Scotland – that swam in an Australian outback sea 115 million years ago.

The reptiles, named Umoonasaurus and Opallionectes, belonged to the Plesiosaurs group that included a killer whale-type predator of the Jurassic period, scientists say.

Operation Soccer Ball

The US soccer team may have bowed out of the World Cup in the first round of play, but US troops stationed in Iraq are "kicking" the sport into high gear. They're giving soccer balls to local kids.

Little Feet, Big Goals (LFBG), a program sponsored in part by the US Soccer Foundation, collects soccer balls, most of which are donated. Then they're sent to US troops in Iraq, who pass them out to kids.

"To date, we have delivered more than 10,000 soccer balls," says LFBG cofounder Trevor Slavick in an e-mail. "Soccer balls are enormously popular in Iraq. Anyone can win instant friendships by just showing up in town with a ball."

For more information, visit the website www.littlefeet.com.

How do you define a planet?

Get ready to throw out some of your old science books. They might be out of date.

At the end of August, astronomers from around the world will gather in Prague, Czech Republic, where it's expected they'll come up with a more definitive way to classify a planet. Officially, there are nine planets in our solar system. But under a new classification system, there could be as many as 10 or more planets – or as few as eight if Pluto, the tiniest and most distant from the sun, is not defined as a planet.

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