Weekendish: The best of the week's reads

Illustration of Royal Coat of Arms Image copyright Cognitive Media

A collection of some of the best reads from the BBC News website this week, with an injection of your comments.

In less than a fortnight, the voters of Scotland will decide whether to become an independent country. Within Allan Little's lifetime, the movement to leave the United Kingdom has gone from being a "fringe preoccupation" to occupying the centre ground of Scottish politics. In an account drawing on his own experience, Little describes how the break-up of the British Empire, deindustrialisation and increasingly divergent voting patterns north and south of the border brought the Scottish nation to the crossroads. "Whichever way the vote goes, there can be no going back to business as usual," Little says. "The United Kingdom will have changed."

How did Scotland change so much?

Mum, mum and dad

Alana Saarinen loves playing golf and the piano, listening to music and hanging out with friends. In those respects, she's like many teenagers around the world. Except she's not, because Alana Saarinen is one of only 30 to 50 people in the world who have some mitochondria, and therefore a bit of DNA, from a third person. She was conceived through a pioneering infertility treatment in the US which was later banned. The UK is now looking to legalise a new, similar technique which would use a donor's mitochondria to try to eliminate debilitating genetic diseases. "I think this treatment is good. Not convinced it makes a biological parent,"tweets tentacle sixteen. Colin Mitchell ‏tweets: "The girl with three biological parents. Mitochondrial replacement - posing ethical & legal questions."

The girl with three biological parents

My family and other animals

Image copyright Mottershead

Imagine sharing your youth with a chimp - and other animals. This is what happened to June Williams. Her father George Mottershead was passionate about animals, and in 1930 came up with what seemed at the time to be a crazy idea - setting up a "zoo without bars". Mottershead moved his family into a run-down estate and began populating it with exotic animals. A pair of goats and a gibbon were joined by two bears. A lion cub arrived them and was later swapped for a polar bear. A capybara was donated by the Duke of Westminster, who basically couldn't keep tabs on it. The locals were dead set against the idea of a zoo on their doorstep but Mottershead prevailed and his vision gave way to Chester Zoo. As for June and her sister, they became used to having the animals for company - particularly Mary the chimp. "We more or less shared our youth," June recalls in an interview this week. "We did things together. I used to try and teach her how to tie a knot, but I never succeeded. And we'd draw things in the sand together. She had a beautiful temperament. Chimps are just like humans… you get a close bond with some." Of June's upbringing, Laura Imregi ‏tweets: "This should totally have been me."

A flying elephant

"I think I will have seen everything when I see an elephant fly" goes the song from Disney's Dumbo. Indeed, you can see an elephant fly if you watch this video that accompanies Vibeke Venema's feature on the rescue of an orphaned calf near the border between Chad and Cameroon. The nine-month-old was the only survivor of a massacre by poachers and was rescued by Gary Roberts and American nurse and missionary who also happens to have access to a Cessna aircraft. The only way to get the elephant to safety was to squeeze it into the Cessna. "He was quite interested in playing with my controls, he would put his trunk forward and feel my hand and touch the controls and of course feel my face," says Roberts. "It was a bit of a distraction but at the same time a unique experience." Roberts filmed it all on his mobile phone. Vicki Reeve ‏tweets: "A real-life flying elephant! Max had a horrific start to life, but was lucky to be found by such a kind person." Sarah adds: "Sadly this is probably the happiest this wee darling ever was." Save the Elephants tweets: "The story behind an amazing video of an pachyderm in a plane."

Honest scrappers

It wasn't only George Orwell whose reputation came under scrutiny this week. Sarah-Jane Hughes asked Magazine readers to reconsider their attitudes to scrap yards. These empires of rusting metal have long been portrayed in film, fiction and TV as a haunt of the wide boy, the tasty geezer, and many other variants of ne'er-do-well (although not always - Charles Dickens created a sympathetic scrap dealer, Nicodemus Boffin, in his last complete novel, Our Mutual Friend). Sarah herself hails from a family of scrap dealers who - she assures readers - have "never put anyone in the crusher". The problem, though, lies in the lay-out - as one scriptwriter tells her, "They're private kingdoms hidden from view and lend themselves very well to crime drama." Expect plenty more recycling, then. daghosesupplies tweets: "Loved scrap yards as a youngster, hours spent looking for the odd car part." la_crip: "‏Why are scrap dealers portrayed as criminals? I knew one honest (ish) one in Bristol. Think he may have even paid tax."

Here are some things we've enjoyed this week from elsewhere around the web:

Nine Different Households, Surrounded by a Week's Worth Garbage - Smithsonian

The complete guide to having a productive weekend - Quartz

The Origin of the "Freshman 15" myth - The Atlantic

As the seas rise, a slow-motion disaster gnaws at America's shores - Reuters investigation

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