Vikings used crystals to see past clouds

Japanese scientists unveil the world's fastest computer, a car dealer in Alabama branded "Taliban Toyota" wins damages in court and more news you can lose.

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Researchers believe they have uncovered the identity of a mysterious substance known as "sunstones" that enabled Vikings to navigate even on a cloudy day.

Without compasses, Viking explorers were still able to cross the Atlantic Ocean even 1,000 years ago.

A team from the University of Rennes in France believe the "sunstones" were calcite crystals which can detect the sun even when it is hidden by showing rings of polarised light.

An experiment showed that calcite crystals, which are found in Iceland, can detect the sun to within one per cent of accuracy.

China's chubby soldiers

China has said it will take a more relaxed view about recruiting conscripts who are overweight.

An amendment to the country's National Service Law will allow the armed forces to train soldiers who are up to 25 per cent heavier than the standard weight.

In addition to fat soldiers, the army will also accept recruits who have tattoos on their face and neck, as long as they are less than 2cm across. According to the official China Daily newspaper, the changes are "aimed at recruiting more well-educated young people into the army".

Lies in Alabama

The owner of a car dealership in Alabama who smeared a rival as "Taliban Toyota" has been ordered to pay US$7.5 million (Dh27.5m) in damages.

A court heard that salesmen from Bob Tyler Toyota slandered Iranian-born Shawn Esfahani to turn his customers away.

In one case, a Bob Tyler salesman told a couple that Esfahani was an Islamic militant from Iraq and was "funnelling money back to his family and other terrorists".

"The feeling I received in the courtroom for the truth to come out was worth a lot more than any money anybody can give me," Esfahani said after the judgement.

It's great for homework

Japan has revealed the world's fastest computer, which is capable of making 10 quadrillion calculations a second.

The "K Computer" has been built by Fujitsu and was designed to be the first supercomputer to achieve the 10 petaflop barrier, at a cost of $1.2 billion.

The computer features 864 server racks and 88,000 CPUs, all interconnected. A quadrillion is generally represented as one thousand million million, while a petaflop is a measurement of a computer's processing speed expressed as a thousand trillion floating points, or encoded numbers, per second.

Queen-sized underwear

A pair of giant bloomers worn by Queen Victoria has been sold at auction for three times the expected price. An anonymous buyer in London paid £9,375 (Dh54,760) for the silk underwear. The bloomers, embroidered with the initials VR for "Victoria Regina", have a 35-inch waist. A pair with a 50-inch waist sold for only £4,500 in 2008.