this is weird
June 4, 2014

Using genetic material from a living relative, a copy of Vincent Van Gogh's ear (let's pretend it's the one he cut off) is currently on display in a German museum.

Artist Diemut Strebe used living cells from Van Gogh's brother's great-great-great-grandson to create the replica, The Associated Press reports. Strebe then used a 3D printer and shaped the cells to resemble the ear. "I use science basically like a type of brush, like Vincent used paint," she said. The ear was grown at a hospital in Boston, and is currently being kept alive in a case that contains a special liquid. Work is underway to use mitochondrial DNA from one of Van Gogh's female relatives to create a future installation.

In addition to looking at the ear and asking, "Why?" visitors to the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe can speak into it through a microphone.

Clemency
2:07 a.m. ET
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On Tuesday, President Obama granted commutations to 22 people serving time in federal prison for drug-related crimes, mostly involving the sale of cocaine.

"Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society," White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said in a statement. "Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."

Tuesday's acts of clemency roughly double the number of sentences Obama has commented while in office, to 43 total. George W. Bush commuted 11 sentences over his two terms, Eggleston notes; he doesn't mention that Bush pardoned 189 people, versus Obama's 64 pardons so far.

Get Well Soon
1:21 a.m. ET
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Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell was rushed to a hospital in the Los Angels area on Tuesday, her official website confirmed early Wednesday:

Mitchell, 71, was reportedly taken to the hospital by an ambulance at about 2:30 p.m. from her Bel Air home. While no cause for her hospitalization has been provided, Mitchell said last December that she has a rare skin disorder called Morgellons disease that keeps her from performing.

Puppies!
12:39 a.m. ET

Hey, if a German octopus can predict World Cup soccer matches, is using puppies to predict the winner of the NCAA men's basketball tournament so crazy? No, if you are Jimmy Fallon, as he had seven adorable pups preemptively crown a victor on Tuesday night's Tonight Show. Yes, if you are a fan of Duke, which got nothing more than a puppy tease. Watch, for the betting tip or for the puppies, below. —Peter Weber

Iran and the bomb
March 31, 2015
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The six-day marathon of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program went into overtime in Lausanne, Switzerland, blowing past a midnight Tuesday deadline and formally being extended to the end of April 1. Iran and Russia sounded optimistic notes late Tuesday, before talks broke for the night early Wednesday, but the U.S. said it will "walk away" if key elements in the political agreement can't be resolved and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared he will return to France until his presence would be "useful."

"One can say with enough confidence that (foreign) ministers have reached a general agreement on all key aspects of a final settlement to this issue," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russia's TASS news service. "It will be put down in writing over the next few hours, maybe during the day." No other negotiator was quite that upbeat. The main sticking points, Reuters says, are how quickly United Nation sanctions would be phased out, whether they could be automatically re-instated, and if Iran would get the unfettered right to research and develop nuclear centrifuges after a 10-year window.

This just in
March 31, 2015
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Arkansas on Tuesday passed a religious freedom bill largely similar to the one in Indiana that has sparked an intense public backlash and boycott threats. The state's Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, has signaled he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

Like Indiana's law, the Arkansas version goes further than a federal iteration and those elsewhere around the country in that it protects against "burdens" on religious freedom even when the state is not a party in the litigation. Amid unrelenting criticism, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) on Tuesday said his state would "fix" its law to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Abortion
March 31, 2015
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Despite the fact that a large number of Americans find abortion to be morally unacceptable, pro-abortion rights activists are determined to destigmatize the procedure.

Carafem, a new clinic in the Washington, D.C. area, has an unconventional approach to providing patients with the abortion pill. The whole clinic has a "spa-like" feel, The Washington Post reports, and patients are provided with warm teas and soft robes.

While Carafem may aim to create a soothing atmosphere, President Christopher Purdy is unapologetic about the clinic's actual purpose. "We don't want to talk in hushed tones," he said. "We use the A-word."

According to the Post, the pro-abortion rights campaign comes as the movement is struggling politically in the face of anti-abortion activists' growing momentum. Activists hope that clinics like Carafem, coupled with "unapologetic" and "bold" attempts to put a human face to abortion, will help normalize the controversial procedure.

Really?
March 31, 2015
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The secret to finding sewage leaks in rivers could be at your local drugstore.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield in England are using tampons' absorbent properties to science's advantage. Their study, published in the Water and Environment Journal, found that tampons absorb "optical brighteners" found in common cleaning products, and the particles make the tampons glow under ultraviolet light. By dipping tampons into rivers, the researchers believe they can detect where sewage is seeping into the water stream from nearby households.

The scientists left tampons attached to rods in 16 surface water outlets in Sheffield. After a three-day period, nine of the tampons glowed under UV light. The researchers were then able to identify where the sewage leaks were.

"Sewage in rivers is very unpleasant, very widespread, and very difficult to track down," David Lerner, a University of Sheffield professor who led the study, told The Guardian. "Our new method may be unconventional, but it’s cheap and it works."

The researchers estimate that five percent of English homes have misconnected pipes that cause sewage leakage. Only 17 percent of England's rivers are in "good health," The Guardian notes. The scientists hope to use the "tampon tests" in larger trial areas to help stop sewage pollution.

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