Willy Wonka would have liked this, but I can’t imagine a whole lot of human cooks worth their — ahem — salt, will have much interest: a company is selling a book of spices made from edible paper. Want some chili flavoring in a dish? Just rip out the perforated page and put in the pan.

In today’s links: forcing people to smoke fails, why it’s sometimes better to eat bland food, and more.

  • A county government in China has reversed a rule urging employees to smoke in order to raise more money from taxes. Workers who failed to live up to the desired level of smoke inhalation or puffed a brand other than the locally produced variety were sometimes fined or fired. Good thing the county wasn’t known for its poppy fields.
  • Enough on the flu bug; let’s talk about the dung beetle: adorned with shimmering weaponry, the insects battle for the affections of ladies. One scientist has devoted his career to studying the marvelous array of types and behaviors of dung beetles. As the researcher says, “what HASN’T he learned about evolution from these beetles?” (Bonus points to Terry Gross for double-checking the dung beetle wikipedia entry with the guy.)
  • The treadmill scooter, trash store, sleep-in desk and dashboard toaster are just some of the quirky “inventions” by Steven M. Johnson. A lot of them make a whole lot more sense than edible paper-spices. (Bonus: Here’s another quirky inventor, who also takes car-devotion to a whole new level, obsessively calculating the average driving speed and fuel efficiency of a 1971 Ford Mustang with more than 600,000 miles on it.)
  • In four million B.C., a shark and a whale had an encounter. It might have been a brutal fight, it might have been post-mortem, for the whale anyway. But paleontologists have evidence of some interaction in the finding of a fossilized shark tooth stuck in a whale mandible bone.