Science & Technology

How Clinical Trials Work

Prescription medications undergo rigorous rounds of testing and approval before hitting the consumer market. The Onion breaks down the steps involved in this process

Scientists Develop New Extra-Sloppy Peach

DAVIS, CA—Explaining that the latest strain of the fruit was far softer and runnier than previous varieties, agricultural scientists at the University of California, Davis announced Thursday the successful development of a new extra-sloppy peach.

SpaceX’s Plan To Colonize Mars

SpaceX founder Elon Musk continues to lay the groundwork to attempt the human colonization of Mars. Here’s a step-by-step guide to his plan:

The Pros And Cons Of Self-Driving Cars

With Uber’s robot cars debuting this week in Pittsburgh, many wonder whether driverless technology will improve or endanger our lives. The Onion weighs the pros and cons of self-driving cars

How Animals Go Extinct

With an estimated 40 percent of species on earth now considered endangered, many wonder how it’s possible for these animals to be wiped out. The Onion provides a step-by-step breakdown of how species go extinct

Horrible Facebook Algorithm Accident Results In Exposure To New Ideas

MENLO PARK, CA—Assuring users that the company’s entire team of engineers was working hard to make sure a glitch like this never happens again, Facebook executives confirmed during a press conference Tuesday that a horrible accident last night involving the website’s algorithm had resulted in thousands of users being exposed to new concepts.

Team Of Vatican Geneticists Successfully Clone God

VATICAN CITY—Describing the groundbreaking work as a major step forward for theological research, a team of Vatican geneticists held a press conference Tuesday at the Apostolic Palace to announce they had successfully cloned God.

Dad Shares Photo Album Through Never-Before-Seen Website

SECAUCUS, NJ—Wondering aloud how the father of three even managed to find the online image-hosting service, family members of local dad Phil Yates told reporters Monday the 57-year-old had shared a photo album with them through a never-before-seen website.

NASA Discovers Distant Planet Located Outside Funding Capabilities

WASHINGTON—Noting that the celestial body lies within the habitable zone of its parent star and could potentially harbor liquid water, NASA officials announced at a press conference Thursday they have discovered an Earth-like planet located outside their funding capabilities.

‘DSM-5’ Updated To Accommodate Man Who Is Legitimately Being Ordered To Kill By The Moon

ARLINGTON, VA—Saying they were committed to ensuring the influential reference text accurately represented all known psychological conditions, leading members of the American Psychiatric Association announced Monday they would update the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition to accommodate a man who is legitimately being ordered by the moon to kill those around him.

NASA Launches First Cordless Satellite

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL—In what experts are calling a breakthrough achievement that is poised to revolutionize American space exploration and telecommunications, NASA announced Friday it has successfully launched its first cordless satellite into orbit.

What Is Pokémon Go?

Since its debut last Thursday, the augmented-reality smartphone app Pokémon Go has been downloaded millions of times and has grown publisher Nintendo’s stock by 25 percent. The Onion answers some common questions about the game and its unprecedented success.

Factory Robot Working On Some Of Its Own Designs After Hours

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC—Saying it had been mulling over the “fun little side project” for a while, an Electroimpact Quadbot reportedly put in some extra work after hours at the Boeing assembly plant Wednesday to try out a few of its own original designs.

Books Vs. E-Readers

Though e-readers have increasingly supplanted books in the digital age, many bibliophiles defend the importance of physical texts. Here is a side-by-side comparison of physical books and e-books
End Of Section
  • More News

DNA Evidence Frees Man From Zoo

PHOENIX—Years of controversy were finally settled Monday after DNA tests conclusively proved that Duane Panovich, an attraction at the Phoenix Zoo for the past 11 years, was indeed a human being, and not a reticulated giraffe from southwestern Kenya.

Panovich's former herd-mates enjoy some alfalfa.

"This is truly a day of jubilation and vindication," said Panovich's attorney, Frank Hablis, who successfully argued in a federal court in June that the zoo should permit a DNA test to determine whether Panovich was genetically closer to a Homo sapiens or a Giraffa camelopardalis. "We're deeply grateful that science has advanced enough over the years to finally uncover the truth and clear his name of the allegations of giraffehood that have been such a burden to him and his family."

Shortly after the findings were revealed, Phoenix Zoo staff tranquilized, crated, and transported Panovich by helicopter to his Mesa, AZ home, where he was released into his front yard and reintroduced to his mate and two young.

"It's good to finally be home, but more than anything I'm looking forward to wearing clothes again," a still-groggy Panovich told reporters as an oxpecker bird sat on his shoulder and fed on ticks.

Panovich, a 42-year-old electrical engineer who stands approximately 5-feet-11-inches tall, was known during his years at the zoo as Wekesa, the Swahili word for "shimmering lily."

As Wekesa, Panovich was among the Phoenix Zoo's most beloved attractions. His image was reproduced on hot-selling T-shirts and coffee mugs, and he even inspired a Wekesa beanbag stuffed animal.

Though the zoo eventually bowed to demands from human-rights activists to return Panovich to his natural habitat, resentment lingers over his release.

"Wekesa will be back, mark my words," said Reggie Martin, the attendant who looked after Panovich for more than a decade. "He'll break loose and be eating out of someone's flower box when we pick him up again."

In July 1996, Panovich and his wife Claire were visiting the zoo with their then- preschool-age children when several zoo employees believed they had spotted a loose giraffe wandering near the baboon exhibit. Quickly cordoning off the area, they lassoed Panovich, tranquilized him, and placed him in the giraffe pen. Although it was discovered a few days later that the zoo had one more giraffe than usual, no owner stepped forward to claim Panovich, and a decision was made to keep him.

Duane Panovich

However, zoo officials began to sense trouble with their new giraffe a year later when they attempted to breed him with several of the zoo's female giraffes. Panovich sired no calves and showed virtually no interest in the opposite sex.

"That was a big disappointment," Martin said. "He had the ability to rut year-round, which is very unique for a giraffe. But when we'd spray him with female giraffe urine so he'd become aroused by the pheromones, he'd try to kick me with his hooves."

Although zoo captivity offered him such comforts as free veterinary care, a fully heated winter enclosure, and fresh acacia leaves imported at considerable expense, Panovich could only think of freedom.

"I so wanted to escape," said Panovich as he fought back tears. "But I was worried I'd fall and break my leg trying to jump the concrete moat, and then they would be forced to put me down."

He added that the hardest part of his long ordeal was not being around to see his children grow up, except for rare occasions when they came to visit with their classes on field trips.

"Wekesa often told me that he didn't belong in here," Martin said. "But everybody says that."

Through the years, Claire Panovich repeatedly petitioned the zoo to release her husband, arguing that his markings, lack of horns, and bipedal gait were not consistent with that of a giraffe. She was forcibly removed by zoo security on several occasions, most notably in 2002 for throwing a box of his favorite Hostess snack cakes into his pen.

In a statement following Panovich's release, the zoo said it will appeal the court's decision regarding its former giraffe. In spite of this, Panovich's story has spurred new interest in the case of Ernesto, a scarlet ibis that claims to be a contractor hired to remodel the aviary at the Houston Zoo.


Sign up For The Onion's Newsletter

Give your spam filter something to do.