World's biggest and most expensive cruise ship ever

It took six years and cost over 800million pounds to build.

And now the Oasis of the Seas will finally be launched into the ocean with the maiden voyage set for December.

The ship was handed over to the Royal Caribbean cruiseline in the Finnish port of Turku by shipbuilder STX on Wednesday this week.

It measures a staggering 16 decks high, or 65 metres (213 feet) above the waterline, and measures 1,180ft long and 154 ft wide and has the capacity to accomadate 6,360 passengers and 2,160 crew members.

Guest who spend time aboard the record breaking vessel can expect a whole new world of entertainment including an aquatic amphitheater - called the Aqua Theatre - which serves as a pool by day and a dazzling ocean front theater by night and a rock climbing area.

Included in the ship's vast expanse are seven themed 'neighbourhoods': Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone.

Each of which includes extraordinary elements such as the first park at sea, a zip line that races diagonally nine-decks above an open-air atrium, an original handcrafted carousel and 28 multilevel urban-style loft suites boasting floor-to-ceiling windows.

Richard Fain, the chief executive of Royal Caribbean, told reporters the new ship had attracted strong pre-bookings despite the global financial crisis and said the aim was to lure new customers who have not cruised before.

There are however still spots left for the ship's maiden voyage in December.

'Part of the thought process of the ship is to overcome the old myths people have about cruising. It's very hard to look at a vessel like this and think that cruising is secondary when you can choose rock-climbing, surfing or zip-lining,' Fain explained.

The Oasis of the Seas, which will be sailing mainly in the sunny Caribbean, catering to younger, more active passengers with children offering a wider selection of activities, including 21 swimming pools, an aqua park, a carousel and a science lab.

Hundreds of builders and cleaners were still putting the final touches on the ship on Wednesday, installing carpets and cleaning the surfaces of the ship, docked at the Turku shipyard some 100 miles northwest of Helsinki.

Although the shipyard employees are still busy working on Oasis of the Seas and its sister ship Allure of the Seas, which is to be ready in autumn 2010, Fain and Landtman admitted the global downturn had drained cruising companies' willingness to order new vessels.

On Wednesday evening, some 1,000 VIP guests will be dining and partying on board the Oasis of the Seas, but details about the guest list have not been disclosed.

The vessel is scheduled to leave Finland on Friday when it will set sail for its home port of Fort Lauderdale in the United States, where it will arrive in about two weeks.

Oasis of the Seas will make its four-night maiden voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Labadee in Haiti on December 1 and there are still some places aboard the ship's first voyage to be filled.

'Mermaid' girl born with her legs fused together dies aged 10

An American girl who was born with a rare condition often called 'mermaid syndrome' that meant her legs were fused together, has died aged 10.

Doctors said Shiloh Pepin was only likely to survive for hours, possibly days after her birth, but she exceeded all expectations.

The girl died at Maine Medical Centre on Friday afternoon, hospital spokesman John Lamb said. She had been hospitalised there in critical condition for nearly a week.

Shiloh had gained a wide following on the internet and U.S. television and her story was featured recently on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Being born with 'mermaid syndrome,' also known as sirenomelia, meant that the girl from Kennebunkport in Maine had only one partially working kidney, no lower colon or genital organs and legs fused from the waist down.

Some children who have survived sirenomelia have had surgery to separate their legs, but Shiloh did not because blood vessels crossing from side to side in her circulatory system would have been severed.

She had received two kidney transplants, the last one in 2007.

Earlier this month, her mother, Leslie Pepin, said her daughter came down with a cold that quickly turned to pneumonia.

Shiloh was rushed to Maine Medical Center on October 10 and was placed on antibiotics and a ventilator.

For a while, Leslie Pepin said, things were looking up. 'She's a tough little thing,' she said of her daughter earlier this week.

Shiloh was a fifth-grader at Kennebunkport Consolidated School.

Maureen King, chairwoman of the board of the regional school district, said: 'She was such a shining personality in that building.'

Counselors will be available next week to talk to students.

Through the television shows, news articles, Facebook and other Web sites, Shiloh inspired many.

'I live in Iowa. I have cerebral palsy. I love your video,' 12-year-old Lydia Dawley wrote to Shiloh on Facebook.

'You have a great personality I wish you lived close so we could be friends and hang out. You opened my eyes because you are so brave.'

The five-year-old with a six pack: Child bodybuilder in record books after TV stunt

A muscle-bound boy has been entered into the Guinness Book of Records after performing an incredible physical stunt.

Romanian Giuliano Stroe, five, has been training since the age of two in Italy - where he lives with his family - and now the hard work has finally paid off.

He was entered into the record books earlier this year after performing some impressive 'hand-walking' skills to a panel of judges and an astonished audience on an Italian TV show .

The exceptional pre-schooler performed the fastest ever 10m hand walk with a weight ball between his legs to the delight of the studio audience.

And he has now become an internet hit after hundreds of thousands of people watched a clip of him performing the stunt on YouTube.

Father Iulian Stroe, 33, said: 'He has been going to the gym with me ever since he was born. I always took him with me when I went training.'

He added there is no danger of the youngster harming himself, saying: 'I have been training hard all my life myself.

'He is never allowed to practice on his own, he is only a child and if he gets tired we go and play.'

Giuliano, the oldest of four children, says his stardom has not gone to his head and he still enjoys normal kids stuff like painting, watching cartoons and playing in the park when he is not weightlifting.

But it seems he has picked up a taste for fame during his incredible exploits, revealing he enjoys it when he is applauded after performing.

It sparks memories of Richard Sandrak, who, after his father trained him to become a bodybuilder, aged just three in 1995, was declared The Strongest Boy In The World.

Nicknamed Little Hercules, Ukrainian-born Richard could bench press 210 pounds at the age of six after undergoing a strict regime.

After moving to the U.S., he became a movie star, starring in Tiny Tarzan, after his fitness schedule attracted media attention.

Interviewed this year, Richard, now 16, said that he had lost interest in working out.

World's largest web-spinning spider found in South Africa

A new giant spider - which has huge five-inch females and tiny males - has been discovered by scientists.

The female of the new species of golden orb weaver spider has a body one and a half inches long with a leg span of five inches and weaves a web more than three feet wide.

The tiny male, however, has a leg span of just one inch. The variation of the Nephila species, named as Nephila Komaci, was discovered by US and Slovenian researchers in Africa and Madagascar.

In the paper published in the journal PLoS ONE, the team from the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, described how until recently, said they believed the giant Nephila was extinct.

But Jonathan Coddington from the Smithsonian said a South African colleague found a male and two females in Africa's Tembe Elephant Park allowing researchers to confirm it did exist.

Tests were then carried out that confirmed it was the largest orb weaver ever known and was a newly identified species.

Coddington said: 'We fear the species may be endangered, as its only definite habitat is a sand forest in Tembe Elephant Park in Kwa-Zulu-Natal.

'Our data suggests that the species is not abundant, its range is restricted and all known localities lie within two endangered biodiversity hotspots: Maputaland and Madagascar.'

Nephila spiders are renowned for being the largest web-spinning spiders. Although males are five times smaller than their mates, they are actually normal-sized - it is the females who are giants.

N.Komaci was named after Kuntner's best friend, Andrej Komac, who died in an accident at the time of the discovery.

Kuntner said: 'My friend, himself a scientist, encouraged me to tackle this PhD, but did not live to see the discoveries made.

'He was a big inspiration, and a great friend, thus it was logical to name this new species to his memory.'

Who needs legs? Meet Joby, the 3ft 5in world champion arm wrestler who can bring down opponents twice his size

Instead of bemoaning what he lacks, Joby Matthew is using what he's got.

Despite being several feet shorter than others at his gym, Mr Matthew is able to defeat opponents twice his size with ease... at arm-wrestling.

Mr Matthew - who is 3'5'' - has severely under-developed legs, a condition caused by Proximal Fimoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD).

But he has so much upper body strength that he is a world champion arm wrestler who can crush challengers with no disabilities.

Stunningly, the father-of-one has so far made it onto five world podiums during his career.

In these amazing pictures the pint-sized powerhouse, from Kerala, India, can be seen easily jumping up steps using only his hands.

And in further astonishing displays of muscular prowess Mr Matthew, who has just become a dad for the first time, amazes onlookers as he lifts huge weights and does push ups on just one hand.

His thirst for life means he also drives a specially-converted car that lets him drive using only his arms.

In a heart-warming twist to his amazing story, the nine stone sports trainer at a petroleum company says his incredible journey against all odds began with a supportive family.

Facing a troubling trek just to get to school every day, his relatives showed him how to overcome the physical challenges he would face.

'I was definitely given a lot of encouragement at home,' he said.

'My home was located on top of a hill, and for a physically-challenged person it wasn't the most conducive place for mobility.

'There were obstructions everywhere. I had to walk a quarter of a mile before I got to a real road and my mother used to carry me to school. That is how I made it to school in first year.'

At school, Mr Matthew became all the more determined to overcome his disability as he was forced to sit on the sidelines while other students played exciting sports.

'I had many painful experiences there like when I was left out of games and sports,' he said.

'But I don't want to blame anyone. They presumed that since I was handicapped I wouldn't be able to compete.

'I saw kids coming to school riding their bicycles and I felt bad knowing I would never be able to do that. But even then, I tried not to concentrate on things I could not do, but on things I could do.

'So I began playing sports like volley ball, badminton and soon I was playing with able-bodied kids.'

Mr Matthew's quest to be the best eventually led him to challenge the bigger children at playground arm-wrestling where boys would battle it out to be the strongest.

'I realised I would never play football so I began searching for games that I could do well. Arm-wrestling was my answer.

'I began to arm wrestle with my schoolmates and found I could beat them. Back in school it was a mark of machismo, so I had to win.'

It was the start of a journey that would eventually see him scoop a gold medal, one silver, and three bronze on the world stage.

In the Japan World Championships 2005 he impressively bagged three bronze medals - one for general category against non-disabled competitors and two in disabled categories on different hands.

Then - reaching the top of his game at the 2008 World Championships in Spain - he coolly pocketed gold for the general category and silver for the disabled event.

During the competitions opponents are assigned to classes according to weight.

Despite his differences, Mr Matthew has never regarded himself as less able than others.

'y legs were extremely small at birth,' he said. 'According to science my legs are 60 per cent underdeveloped.

'But I think all of us are physically challenged in some way, so I never consider myself handicapped. According to the world I am, but it will never stop me from trying anything.'

To keep himself fighting-fit, Mr Matthew hits the gym for an hour every day before swimming in a local river until he reaches his astounding limit.

After working out he returns home to 25-year-old wife Megha, a dance expert, and his two-month-old baby boy.

With his insatiable appetite to reach new physical heights he has also begun a gruelling personal training program in mountain climbing.

After earning crucial experience in the lower Himalayas' and New Zealand his new dream is to climb Mount Everest.

'It could take me eight years until I'm ready,' he said. 'But with everything I've achieved I know I can do it.'

A bra that converts into a gas mask and how panda poo helps recycling

Can't get milk from a cow? Try calling her Bessie or Buttercup.

A pair of British researchers who found that dairy cows with names yield more milk than unnamed cows are among this year's winners of the Ig Nobel awards, the annual tribute to scientific research that on the surface seems daft but is often surprisingly practical.

Other winners honoured yesterday at Harvard University's Sanders Theater included scientists who found that empty beer bottles are much better weapons in a bar brawl than full bottles; researchers who used bacteria in panda poo to reduce kitchen waste; and in homage to the worldwide financial meltdown, the executives of four Icelandic banks who contributed to the island nation's economic collapse.

And not forgetting in the public health category a bra that can be converted into a pair of gas masks. One for the wearer, one for a friend.

The 19th annual event with the theme 'Risk', sponsored by the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, featured real Nobel laureates handing out the prizes.

Those scientists, writers and champions of peace hoping for a real Nobel prize will have to wait until next week when six Nobel committees announce their picks.

However not all the Ig Nobel winners were so thrilled to have their science - serious business to them - singled out in such a way.

'Not the pinnacle of my academic achievements,' said Stephan Bolliger, who along with four colleagues in Switzerland conducted a study that confirmed an empty beer bottle makes a better weapon than a full beer bottle in a brawl.

Still, Bolliger conceded, winning an Ig Nobel was certainly "one of the most interesting or memorable moments of my professional life."

No heads were slammed with bottles in the study.

Instead, Bolliger, head of the Department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and his team dropped steel balls on half-litre bottles.

'The empty beer bottles were much sturdier than the full ones,' Bolliger said in an e-mail. 'However, although the empty bottles would therefore be better clubs, both full and empty bottles suffice in breaking the human skull.'

Bolliger, like most winners, emphasizes that the research has legitimate value. Lawyers and judges in court cases have asked how much damage a blow to the head with a bottle can cause, and the study could help decide future cases, he said.

Dr. Elena Bodnar won for her bra that converts into a pair of gas masks - one for the wearer, the other for a friend.

It sounds silly, but Bodnar, a Ukraine native who now lives in Chicago, started her medical career studying the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster.

If people had had cheap, readily available gas masks in the first hours after the disaster, she said, they may have avoided breathing in Iodine-131, which causes radiation sickness.

The bra-turned-gas masks could have also been useful during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and for women caught outside during the dust storms that recently enveloped Sydney, she said.

'You have to be prepared all the time, at any place, at any moment, and practically every woman wears a bra,' she said, noting that a bra cup, no matter what size, is the perfect shape to fit over the human mouth and nose.

Her patented devices also look pretty, no different from a conventional bra, she added.

Peter Rowlinson and colleague Catherine Douglas of the University of Newcastle in England won Ig Nobels for showing that Bessie and Buttercup give more milk than cows without names.

Rowlinson explained that naming cows was just one aspect of their research that showed that when humans are nice to animals, the animals return the affection.

For their study, they petted, groomed and named one group of heifers and acted neutrally toward another group.

'Then we followed their performance once they calved the first time and entered the dairy herd, and essentially we found that their behavior in terms of entry into the parlor was improved, they were less likely to kick when they were first introduced to the milking machine and there was an improvement in milk yield,' of one to two litres.

Not much for one cow, but it adds up in large herds, Mr Rowlinson said.

He attended the awards but Ms Douglas was unable to travel because she recently gave birth. Instead she sent a photo of herself with her new daughter dressed in a cow suit.

Liza Shapiro co-wrote a study that explained why pregnant women are able to maintain their balance despite carrying an increasingly large load out front.

Women, it appears, have slight differences in their lumbar vertebrae that helps compensate for their changing center of gravity.

'The fact the spine is more curved in females makes it kind of easier for us to increase that curve even more in pregnancy, and not put extra stress on the bones and back muscles,' said Prof Shapiro, who teaches anthropology at the University of Texas.

Meanwhile the medicine prize went to Donald L. Unger from California who diligently cracked the knuckles of his left hand - but not his right - every day for sixty years, to see if it caused arthritis. The 83-year-old said: 'After 60 years, I looked at my knuckles and there's not the slightest sign of arthritis. I looked up to the heavens and said: 'Mother, you were wrong, you were wrong, you were wrong.'