10 Fascinating Scientific Findings About Laughter

Laughter is about as universal of a human experience as you can get, somewhere behind death but definitely above taxes. A quintessential indicator of amusement, joy, and camaraderie, laughter can be found across the globe, and chances are that most of you reading this enjoy a good laugh now and again.

People love to laugh, and some scientists love to study it. Why not? It’s a fascinating subject. It’s frequently touted as the best medicine, yet there exists a wealth of anecdotal accounts of people dying while doing it. Collected here are but a few examples of scientists’ findings on one of life’s more pleasant activities.

SEE ALSO: 10 Things That Will Make You Die Laughing

10 Babies and Chimps

Fact: Babies Laugh Like Chimps

Chimpanzees are considered to be our closest living relatives, so of course humans and chimps have much in common. According to a 2018 study, we can add how we laugh to that list, at least where infants are concerned.

A trio of psychologists and a phonetician from various European universities studied the laughter of 44 babies, aged between three and 18 months. To accomplish this, they simply collected suitable video clips of babies laughing, of which there is no shortage on the Internet. Of particular interest was how much of the laugh was produced during inhalation versus exhalation. A convenient group of 102 psychology students evaluated the clips in this respect.

Results indicated that younger babies laughed both while inhaling and exhaling, as is seen in chimpanzees. Babies at the older end of the study’s age spectrum tended to laugh primarily during exhalation, as human adults mostly do. This shift in the manner of laughter wasn’t tied to any specific developmental milestones but rather appeared to come gradually with additional months of age.

The researchers admitted that these determinations were made by nonexpert listeners but planned to have other phoneticians judge the clips as well. According to Dr. Disa Sauter, leader of the study, there is no agreed-upon reason why humans mainly laugh on exhalation while other primates don’t. It may be due to the superior vocal control of humans. Further avenues of research include whether the inhalation/exhalation ratio of laughter is linked with the cause of said laughter (something that also tends to change as babies grow older) as well as if similar breathing changes are seen in other types of vocalizations.[1]

9 Fake Laughter

Fact: We Can Spot Fake Laughter, No Matter Where We’re From

Sometimes you laugh because someone told a side-splitter that leaves you in tears, and sometimes you laugh just to be polite. Whether to butter up one’s boss or as a segue into civilly excusing oneself from a sandpaper-on-eyeballs terrible conversation, plenty of us have sputtered out a charitable chortle here and there. Unfortunately, these fake laughs may not be fooling anyone.

In 2018, Dr. Greg Bryant of UCLA published research indicating that the ability to recognize genuine laughter is present across cultures. Bryant and his co-authors tested this on 884 people from 21 countries across six continents. The participants listened to recordings of laughs, both spontaneous laughter recorded from English-language conversations and volitional laughs from those asked to do so on command.

Regardless of their society of origin, listeners were able to tell real laughs from fake ones at a rate better than chance. At the low end, Samoans correctly identified the laughs 56 percent of the time, and at the high end, Japanese listeners were right 69 percent of the time. Dr. Bryant also noted that fake and real laughter do have different sonic qualities, with fake laughter essentially sounding a bit more like speech than real laughter.[2]

8 Canned Laughter

Fact: Canned Laughter Works

Speaking of fake laughter, consider the laugh tracks in sitcoms. They may not be as prevalent as they once were, but they’re hardly relegated to the land of syndicated reruns. These days, critics wish these laugh recordings would indeed die. The problem is that canned laughter might just help to make things seem funnier.

In 2019, Current Biology included a study by Dr. Sophie Scott of University College London which examined the effects of recorded laugh tracks on those insidious boogeymen of comedy: dad jokes. Here are four examples which were employed in the study:

What state has the smallest drinks? Mini-soda!
What does a dinosaur use to pay the bills? Tyrannosaurus cheques!
What’s orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot!
What do you call a man with a spade on his head? Dug!

As you can see, these are not good jokes. Seventy-two unfortunate souls were presented a total of 40 such jokes, followed either by no laughter, fake laughter, or genuine laughter. The participant then rated how funny the jokes were on a scale of one to seven. Results showed that the addition of laughter had an effect; the ratings increased by about ten percent with fake laughter and by 15 to 20 percent for real laughter.[3]

7 Immunity

Fact: Laughter And The Immune System

A 2003 study examined the effects of laughter on the activity of natural killer cells (aka NK cells), which play an important role in the immune system. The researchers recruited 33 healthy adult women from rural areas in the Midwest. Those in the experimental group were shown a comedic video, while those in the control group were shown a tourism video.

Women in the experimental group were given a choice of watching a stand-up segment by Bill Cosby, Tim Allen, or Robin Williams. Most chose Cosby. (It was 2003.) How funny they found the videos was assessed by an observer using the Humor Response Scale (HRS), developed for the study. Afterward, both the experimental and control groups’ NK cell activity was assessed.

The experiment showed that simply viewing a comedic video did not result in a statistically significant increase in NK cell activity. However, the HRS scores of women in the comedy group did how a statistically significant positive correlation with NK cell activity. The increase was especially pronounced for those whose HRS scores were 25 or higher. On the other hand, women who saw a comedic video but didn’t find it funny actually had reduced NK cell activity.[4]

6 Dominance

Fact: Dominance And Laughter

Research by Dr. Christopher Oveis of UC San Diego has shown that higher-status individuals tend to laugh differently than those with less power, and people pick up on those cues.

In 2014, he set out to confirm that status can affect how people laugh. Previous research had already indicated that being in a position of power can affect acoustic aspects of speech. This time, videos of four fraternity brothers (two new ones and two who’d been with the frat for at least two years) were shown to various teams of observers who didn’t know what the study was investigating. In the videos, each brother took turns being teased by the other three. Their laughter was rated by how dominant it sounded and also assessed for attributes like loudness and pitch. Dominant laughter was shown to be louder and higher-pitched and also more variable in tone. The new pledges only showed dominant laughter when they got to do the teasing, whereas the long-running fraternity brothers showed dominant laughter at all times.

A second study in 2016 saw 51 students listening to 20 recordings of the fraternity members’ laughs. They were asked to rate the social status of the laugher. As you might expect, dominant-sounding laughers were seen as higher in status. This was even true when the dominant laugh came from one of the new pledges, implying that perhaps one can appear to be in a position of power by laughing in a certain way. At the same point, even if a submissive-sounding laugh was made by an established frat boy, it was perceived as coming from a high-status individual.[5]

5 Psychopathy

Fact: Is Immunity To Laughter A Warning Sign Of Psychopathy?

Quite a bit of research has gone into which childhood behaviors may predict psychopathy in adulthood, and that includes laughter. You’ve probably heard laughter described as contagious, and research has even shown that simply hearing laughter will spur the brain to prepare the facial muscles for laughing. As it turns out, boys at risk of psychopathy in adulthood may be immune to the giggling pandemic.

In 2017, researchers at University College London recruited a sample of 92 boys between 11 and 16 years old, 30 “normal” kids as a control group and 62 who showed possible indicators of eventual psychopathy. All 62 displayed disruptive behaviors but were further divided based on whether or not they also displayed “callous-unemotional traits.” The boys were given MRIs while listening to recordings of genuine laughter, fake laughter, and crying sounds. The participants were also asked to rate how much each sound made them want to feel that emotion.

The MRIs showed that all the boys’ brains responded to the sound of genuine laughter. However, those with both disruptive behaviors and callous-unemotional traits showed less activity in the supplementary motor area and anterior insula, brain regions associated with joining in laughter and feeling others’ emotions. This difference was also present in boys who were disruptive but not callous-unemotional, albeit to a lesser extent. Study leader Dr. Essi Viding noted that it’s hard to say whether the diminished response to laughter is caused by the boys’ behaviors or is a consequence of it but that the findings absolutely warranted further research.[6]

4 Appetite

Fact: Laughter And Appetite

In 2010, Dr. Lee S. Berk, Dr. Jerry Petrofsky, and others conducted a study on how “mirthful laughter” (a form of eustress) affected the levels of hormones that modulate appetite. Any such effects were compared with what happens when a subject is distressed.

Fourteen participants were shown a comedic video of their choice for the eustress half of the experiment and the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan for distress. In this case, everyone viewed both the funny and upsetting videos, spaced a week apart. For each segment, subjects had their blood pressure taken and blood drawn both before and after the videos.

Viewing the distressing video caused no statistically significant change in appetite hormone levels and presumably made no one hungry. Watching a funny video, however, led to a decrease in leptin and an increase in ghrelin, something that is also seen after moderate exercise. Dr. Berk pointed out that the study did not simply conclude that laughter makes you hungry (not that this stopped several news outlets from reporting it as such). However, the findings were valuable for their implications when it comes to treating patients unable to use exercise to increase their appetites.[7]

3 The Best medicine

Fact: Making The Patient Laugh, Literally

A study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2019 indicated that electrically stimulating a certain part of the brain could reliably induce laughter as well as reduce anxiety. While stimulation of other brain areas has been shown to cause laughter, this is reportedly the first time that a reduction in anxiety was also observed. A research team was performing electrical stimulation brain mapping on epilepsy patients. This is a procedure wherein electrodes are placed on the brain in order to stimulate various regions. Doing so can provide insight into the source of seizures.

While working with a 23-year-old woman, the researchers found that stimulation of her cingulum bundle consistently caused uncontrollable laughter, smiling, and feelings of calm and relaxation. Her mood was elevated, and her cognitive abilities were not impaired by the simulation. After observing this, the team tried the same thing on two more patients and got the same results.

Study co-author Dr. Jon T. Willie postulated that this effect was due to the cingulum bundle’s connections with other parts of the brain, including those associated with emotion regulation. This finding carries a myriad of treatment implications. First and foremost, it could be a means of easing the experience of brain surgery during which the patient must remain awake. This technique may one day lead to treatments for depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. For the moment, a medicinal shock to the cingulum bundle requires invasive surgery, but advances in medical technology down the road could provide a less invasive form of administration.[8]

2 The Laughie

Fact: The Laughie . . . is it the new selfie?

Love it or hate it, the selfie is here to stay. Scores of people around the world are snapping them with their smartphones and uploading them to social media, to the enjoyment or chagrin of their peers. To some, selfies are a sign of societal decline; to others, they’re a form of self-affirmation and even therapeutic. But what about the Laughie?

In another study published in 2019, Freda Gonot Schoupinsky, a graduate student at the University of Derby working under the supervision of Dr. Gulcan Garip, was examining the effect of laughter on well-being. Specifically, this research involved the Laughie, a smartphone recording of one’s own joyous laughter to be listened to when desired.

Twenty-one participants between the ages of 25 and 93 created their own minute-long Laughies and played them back three times a day for a week. In 89 percent of these sessions, participants ended up laughing for most of the playback. Nineteen of them reported increased well-being after the week was up. Their scores on the World Health Organization Well-Being Index were 16 percent higher, and those whose scores weren’t very high beforehand benefitted the most. It seems that laughter is contagious even when it’s your own.[9]

1 Risible Rats

Fact: Rats laugh

Laughter is not unique to humans, as already implied by the comparison of babies’ laughter to that of chimpanzees above. Another animal in which laughter has been observed may come as more of a surprise: rats.

According to a study in 2000, rats, when tickled, emitted the same sounds they would when playing. (These sounds are typically outside of the human auditory range.) Some rats really liked being tickled, too, to the point that they’d follow the hand of the scientist who tickled them.

In a 2016 study, researchers at Berlin’s Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience also tickled rats. They tested the rodents’ reaction to vigorous tickling, gentler tickling, and a chase game. The chase game and vigorous tickling caused the rats to make their happy giggling sounds. Through the use of electrodes, it was shown that all three activities promoted increased activity in the somatosensory cortices of the rats’ brains. Electrical stimulation of this region also caused the rats to laugh, though it’s unknown if the rats were actually enjoying said stimulation.

Notably, if the rats were made anxious (in this case by being put on a high pedestal under bright lights), both the happy vocalizations and the somatosensory cortex activity in response to tickling were noticeably lessened. This was taken as confirmation that the rats’ giggling and brain activity during the previous conditions weren’t actually signs of alarm.[10]

10 Fascinating Parts Of The Day From Around The World

Across cultures and throughout history, many specific features of the day have obtained significant importance. We carve out certain hours of our day to provide us with satisfaction, entertainment, or general peace of mind. Sometimes, we base our entire day on certain groups of hours. Even exact times appearing on the clock developed value to many. Some of these aspects of our day originated centuries ago, and some are much more recent. This list takes a look at ten of the most impactful.

SEE ALSO: 10 Bizarre Calendar Fixes That Made Us Add Or Skip Dates

10 Spanish Siesta

The Spanish Siesta found its way into the popular lexicon. Unfortunately, it is sometimes used derogatorily to imply laziness, when in fact, that could not be further from the truth.

The term “siesta” comes from the Latin for “sexta,” meaning “sixth hour.” Romans began their day at dawn, and used the sixth hour of the day for eating and resting. From there, the tradition for midday rest eventually crossed into other cultures, most notably that of the Spanish. Their siestas came about after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Most people worked two jobs, thus splitting their work day into two parts: 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. This gave many the opportunity to have a nice rest if they so desired.

In today’s Spain, close to 60% of working age people have never taken a siesta. Yet, today’s Spaniards average only around 7 hours of sleep a night, a full hour below the recommended 8. It seems it is not just Americans that do not get enough sleep. We cannot all be like George Costanza and take a nap under our desk; we rely on coffee and energy drinks.

Spaniards are one the last European countries to turn in for the night. Midnight is the average bedtime in Spain, over an hour later than neighboring France. Vice President of the Spanish Society for Sleep Juan Jose Ortega believes there is still a place for the siesta in Spanish society. With the knowledge that his people are sleeping over an hour less than their grandparents, Ortega thinks “A brief siesta helps us to alleviate stress, strengthens the immune system and improves performance.”[1]

9 Happy Hour

Everyone wants and deserves to be happy, even if it is only for about an hour a day. “Happy Hour” refers to the time of day, usually for more than an hour, when bars and restaurants offer discounts on certain foods and drinks. Show up after work, relax with colleagues, and enjoy half-off jalapeño poppers and beers. What a great way to end the work day. There is no clear reason how the term “Happy Hour” came to be used as it is today. But, we can piece together the history of the words involved and try to trace a path.

“Happy” comes from the Middle English hap which in turn is derived from the Old Norse happ meaning “good luck. “Hour” is from the Latin hora, which denotes 1/24 of a day, or one canonical hour. By the 19th century, “happy hour” was often used to refer to organized entertainment. It is possible that at some point, establishments appropriated that use of the term for the advertisement of their discounted offerings. Around World War I, the U.S. Navy used the term to let sailors know when they were allowed to participate in recreational activities. Sailors may have brought the term home with them and it further worked its way into popular culture.[2]

8 Brahma Muhurta

In the Hindu religion, the last quarter of the night is the most important part of the day. This is approximately the 90 minutes prior to sunrise. Brahma Muhurta is time for the self, the only time of the day when one is fresh and aware. On this side of the world, many of us do not want to even look at the clock at this time of day, let alone get up and be active.

During Brahma Muhurta, it is believed the body benefits from such things as a boost to the immune system, increased energy levels, and relief of pain and soreness. To make this time the most advantageous, there are five recommended points of focus: meditation, reading, planning, introspect, and memory. Eating and engaging in a mentally stressful activity are not recommended.[3]

7 Afternoon Tea

Despite what we might think, the English have not been tea drinkers for very long. The custom of drinking tea dates back to China circa the third millennium BC. Fast forward to the late 17th century and the reign of King Charles II. His new wife Catherine de Braganza came from Portugal, a tea drinking country. Catherine naturally brought some with her when she became England’s new Queen. Until this time, tea was mostly used medicinally in England, and was quite costly due taxation on importation. The aristocracy began to follow Catherine’s custom, but it would take a while yet before the general population became tea drinkers.

By the mid-1840s, dinner in England had moved to very late in the day. The Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell, experienced hunger pangs around mid-afternoon and asked that a pot of tea and some light food items be brought to her chambers. Soon after, she began inviting friends to accompany her. Due to her friendship with and lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, Anna’s custom was adopted by the rest of the elites. More tea was imported and it became easier to purchase. The rest of England began to enjoy these get-togethers. People began sending announcements to friends and relatives stating the hour and day of the week in which they could all gather for tea and snacks.[4]

6 Japanese Temporal Time

Japanese Temporal Time used animals to indicate each two hour block. This system came to Japan from China. Buddha’s observation of the animals under the Bho tree during his twelve years of meditation led to the order in which the animals are arranged. Each sign of the Zodiac corresponds to approximately two hours of the day.

These are the animals and the division of the day they each occupy:

The Rat: 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
The Ox/Cow: 1:00 to 3:00 a.m.
The Tiger: 3:00 to 5:00 a.m.
The Rabbit: 5:00 to 7:00 a.m.
The Dragon: 7:00 to 9:00 a.m.
The Snake: 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.
The Horse: 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
The Sheep: 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
The Monkey: 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
The Rooster/Chicken: 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
The Dog: 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
The Pig: 9:00 to 11:00 p.m.

For almost 1000 years, water clocks were the norm in Japan. During the Edo Period (1603-1868), Japan began using Western clock-making techniques to manufacture devices to keep better track of their unique time system. Some clocks, like lantern clocks, were driven by a plumb bob. Others like the paper weight and the carriage clock were driven by a spring. Soon after the end of the Edo Period, these types of clocks began disappearing as Japan gradually phased out the use of the temporal time system.[5]

5 Graveyard Shift

Whether we have worked a “graveyard shift” or not, we all know that it means working late into the night, usually into the next morning. A lot of places are open 24 hours and need staff at all times of the day. Some people’s jobs require them to work during according to the time standards of other countries, so they need to be wide awake when the rest of us are sleeping. But from where did the term actually originate?

First off, there is no evidence pointing to the phrase having anything to do with cemeteries. Some believed it came from people having to sit in a graveyard all night to listen for the ringing of bells connected to special coffins. There are conflicting reports as to exactly where and when it was first coined. There is evidence it was first seen the New Albany Evening Tribune in May 1895 which featured a story about the dismal nature of being on the graveyard shift while working in a mine. It may have originated in the Salt Lake Tribune in June 1897 in which it described policeman working the graveyard shift. In any case, if you are working the graveyard shift, it is likely you will be unfortunately working through the next time of day on our list.[6]

4The Witching Hour

Those who have seen the film Paranormal Activity know that most of the bumps in the night in that film happen around 3:00 a.m. Purportedly, this is the start of the witching hour. However, evidence varies on the actual time, and on the era in which the term was conceived. Facts themselves are tough to substantiate with reputable sources, so take this knowledge with a grain of salt. Throw it over the shoulder if need be.

The phrase might stretch either to 1535, or to Pope Pius IV in 1560. In either case, the church soon began to forbid people (specifically women), from any activities between the hours of 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. Not long after, people known to be up at those hours were deemed to be possible witches. The paranoia spread and eventually made its way onto our shores in the form of the Salem Witch Trials.

Even Shakespeare himself is sometimes credited with coining the term in Hamlet referring to the witching hour beginning at midnight. Today, many still believe it does start around 3, but no longer due to anything to do with actual (or suspected) witches. Around 3:00 in the morning is the time when most people enter the deepest phase of sleep. All of the body’s functions slow way down, thus waking up at this time often brings on a state of confusion, and sometimes panic. If I wake up convinced someone is in the corner of my room, I tend not to check the time. Why get freaked out even further?[7]

3 10:10

Do people still buy watches these days? Sadly, so many of us rely on our cellphones to give us the time rather than a cool watch on our wrist. One way watchmakers have always tried to show off their wares is by setting their watches and analog clocks to a specific time. The popular time of late is 10:10. Of the 100 top selling watches on Amazon in 2009, 97 were set to 10:10.

It turns out that aesthetics are the main reason manufacturers set their watches to read 10:10. By setting the hands to the 10 and 2, the logo is ideally framed. The 10:10 position is also symmetrical, pleasing the brain’s desire for things to be in proportion and order. For photographs, Rolex sets their watches to 10:10:31, whereas Timex sets every watch, including digitals, to 10:09:36.

Dating back to the 1920s and 1930s, watches were almost exclusively set at 8:20. Watchmakers began to realize that hands set to 8 and 4 resembled a frown, and that a smile at 10 and 2 would be much more appealing. The feeling buyers get from seeing a “smiling” watch is part of the subconscious clues advertisers use in print ads. “In advertising, we would never expect someone to look at a watch and say, ‘The watch is smiling,’” says Linda Kaplan Thaler, chief executive of the New York advertising agency Kaplan Thaler Group. “(I)t’s just a feeling you get.”[8]

2 11:11

At some point during our lives, we have all seen 11:11 on a digital clock and noticed its uniqueness. What draws us to pay attention to this time on the clock as opposed to other random times?

There is no other time on the clock with quite the allure or symmetry of 11:11. It is pleasing to our eyes to see such uniformity; the sight stays with us longer than other glances at the clock. Maybe it is the result of Baader-Meinhof syndrome. It tells us that there are actually two psychological processes going on. Selective attention occurs when we perceive something new, and when we look for it thereafter, it seems to keep popping up.

Confirmation bias tells us that each time we see it, we further cement its importance. Some of us may even remember who originally told us that it is good luck to make four wishes when 11:11 is on the clock. It seems some people apply so much significance to something like the numbers on a clock, that they believe its possible association with wish-making to be true. [9]

1 Earth Hour

In 2007, Sydney, Australia, inspired by the WWF (World Wildlife Foundation), decided to have a “lights out event.” This is considered the first Earth Hour. As of 2019, more than 185 countries take part in Earth Hour.

Once a year, around the end of March (near the Spring/Autumn equinoxes depending on your hemisphere), people are asked to turn off all non-essential lights. WWF hopes this will motivate think bigger and take action regarding climate change, and a broader commitment to our planet. Perhaps, Earth Hour will eventually become known as the time when the most number of people in the world feel connected to each other at once.[10]

About The Author: Hello everyone on the internet! A little about me: I have two degrees in film: my B.A. from UC Berkeley, and my M.F.A. from Academy of Art University. I worked for a little while in the production office on several films including Bee Season, and Milk. I transitioned to TV and spent a few years in the “bullpen” working on live games for Pac-12 Networks. Lately, I’ve found that writing is what really does it for me. I’ve been writing film reviews for almost five years for the Concord/Clayton Pioneer. Very recently I’ve decided to branch out into comic books and online writing. I have also been a swim coach for twenty years.

10 Crazy News Stories You Probably Missed This Week (9/28/19)

A nice way of relaxing during the weekend is by taking a look at the stranger side of news with a few peculiar or amusing stories. If you missed last week’s list, you can check it out right here.

This week there are quite a few bizarre crime-related tales that involve a wrathful walrus, a camel with sore testicles, and 25,000 pills of ecstasy. Unfortunately, those three are not part of the same story. In other news, a French woman discovers she has a 700-year-old masterpiece in her kitchen and we look at prostitution in the notorious frontier town of Deadwood.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Bizarre And Offbeat Stories Involving Serial Killers

10 What You Can Find In Your Kitchen

An elderly woman from France discovered that the painting she had hanging over her hotplate for years was a genuine 13th century masterpiece worth millions.

Until a few months ago, the woman who is in her 90s and wished to remain anonymous lived in the French town of Compiègne. She decided to sell her house and move. Her family asked an auctioneer to come take a look at her 1960s home to see if there was anything worth selling. The expert, Philomène Wolf, told newspapers that she almost didn’t come because of her busy schedule, in which case everything would have went to the dump.

As soon as she entered the home, one small painting located between the open-space kitchen and the living room attracted the auctioneer’s attention. It was “Christ Mocked” by early Renaissance artist Cimabue. It is worth between €4m-€6m.[1] Even more surprisingly, it was still in good condition despite sitting above the hotplate the woman used to cook her food.

As far as how exactly the elderly lady ended up owning a painting from 1280, that remains a mystery. She always thought it was an average Russian religious icon and claims to not even remember how or when she obtained it. Other art experts have confirmed the work is genuine and it will go at auction next month.

9 The Walrus Offensive

A protective walrus mother attacked and sunk a Russian boat attempting to explore the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

Scientists from the Russian Geographical Society (RGO) were onboard the Altai, a tugboat of the Russian Navy staffed by servicemen from the Northern Fleet. The researchers were recreating famed expeditions from the past and conducting biological surveys along the way. They had recovered artifacts dating all the way back to the first mapping of the archipelago during an Austro-Hungarian expedition in 1874.

The scientists had deployed a rubber landing craft to reach Cape Heller, but this didn’t sit well with a mother walrus who was protecting her calves. The large animal attacked the expedition boat, but the navy men managed to steer it towards shore before it sunk.[2] They landed safely and neither human nor walrus were injured during the incident.

8 A Mild Bout Of Hangover

Just in time for Oktoberfest, a German court has ruled that a hangover is an illness.

The decision was passed down by the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt. Despite how it may first appear, the ruling was not made to give people an excuse to have a few too many and then take a sick day off work. Instead, the court took this stance against an unnamed firm which has been accused of making illegal health claims regarding the anti-hangover products it sells.

The German court took an illness to mean “even small or temporary disruptions to the normal state or normal activity of the body”.[3] A hangover usually comes with headaches, nausea, and tiredness and, therefore, qualifies.

More to the point, food products like the drink powders the company sold cannot say or imply that they can prevent or treat human illnesses so the firm can no longer distribute anti-hangover beverages.

7 Prostitution In Deadwood

The infamous city of Deadwood, South Dakota, is opening a new museum to tell the history of prostitution from its frontier days all the way to the 1980s. Due to open in 2020, the museum will, fittingly, be located inside a former brothel called the Shasta Room.[4]

The city of Deadwood came to prominence during the Gold Rush in the late 19th century. Many legendary figures of the Old West like Seth Bullock, Calamity Jane, and Wyatt Earp called it home or, at least, passed through the city. “Wild Bill” Hickok was killed and buried there. In modern times, interest in Deadwood was renewed thanks to the TV show of the same name.

Prostitution was a part of Deadwood for over a hundred years: since it was founded in 1876 all the way up to 1980 with only a brief time-out during the 1950s. A non-profit called Deadwood History Inc. aims to put a spotlight on it in the new brothel museum because it had a “huge impact” instead of simply “sweeping it under the rug” due to its uncomfortable nature. The exhibits will feature historical furnishings alongside clothes, artifacts, and memorabilia to tell the story of one of the city’s most enduring and successful industries.

6 Camel Gets Sore Injury

A camel had to be prescribed antibiotics after being bitten on the testicles by a woman who was trying to escape from underneath the animal.[5]

The Tiger Truck Stop in Iberville Parish, Louisiana, has a camel named Caspar which it keeps around as a mascot/attraction. Florida couple Gloria and Edmond Lancaster were visiting the truck stop and playing with their unleashed dog. They threw some treats into Caspar’s enclosure and the dog went in after them. Gloria Lancaster then also entered the pen to retrieve her pet by crawling underneath barbed wire. Before she could get up, the 272-kilogram (600 lbs) camel sat on top of her.

Desperate times call for desperate measures so Gloria Lancaster bit Caspar’s testicles to get him to stand up. Subsequently, a veterinarian administered antibiotics to the camel to make sure he avoids infection.

When police arrived, the couple argued that they reacted because the camel attacked their dog. However, deputies concluded that the two provoked the animal by swatting at it and shoving it before it sat on Mrs. Lancaster. They were cited for a leash law violation.

5 Surprise Delivery

A middle-aged couple from Linz, Austria, ordered some dresses online. They were accidentally sent 25,000 ecstasy tablets worth over half a million dollars.

The unnamed 58-year-old woman received two packages which were supposed to contain dresses she bought online from a retailer in the Netherlands. While one of the parcels did, indeed, contain two garments, the other one had 24,800 pink tablets.[6] At first, she thought they were decorative stones, but her husband realized that they were pills.

The couple returned the package to the post office in Linz where employees were equally surprised and called the Austrian police. An investigation revealed that the drugs were supposed to be shipped to Scotland and the matter has been turned over to the UK’s National Crime Agency and Police Scotland who are conducting a joint investigation.

4 Newest Member Of The Sourtoe Cocktail Club

Nick Griffiths from Bolton, England, traveled all the way to Dawson City in Yukon, Canada, to drink a cocktail with his own amputated toe in it.

We have mentioned this bizarre tradition before. At the Downtown Hotel, you can order the bar’s infamous “sourtoe cocktail” which consists of the drink of your choice, usually whiskey, with a human toe floating in it. House rules say that “you can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe”.

This custom dates back almost half a century and over 100,000 people have joined the “Sourtoe Cocktail Club” since then. The original toe is long-gone and the bar relies on donations for new ones. Nick Griffiths is an endurance athlete who, at the start of the year, lost three toes to frostbite in the Yukon Arctic Race. He kept one as a memento, but donated the other two to the Downtown Hotel.

This happened around June, but, due to his convalescence, Griffiths never actually got to accompany his digits to Dawson City until this week. On Monday night, the bar held a special ceremony where Nick finally joined the club by taking a shot which contained his big toe.[7]

3 A New Kind Of Referee Attack

A referee was shot in the head with a cannon blast during a football game at Maine Maritime Academy.

Right off the bat, let’s just say that the official will be alright since the artillery was, obviously, not loaded with an actual cannonball. He was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

During the maritime school’s homecoming football game last Saturday, an alumnus brought his cannon along to fire it. The academy already had its own cannon which it traditionally fired whenever its team scored but, on this occasion, it made an exception since most fans rarely provide their own artillery. Normally, school officials load their shot with a blank shotgun shell. This time, though, the cannon was loaded improperly with a shot that contained black gunpowder and a “wad”.[8]

As soon as the blast shot out, the referee caught in its line of fire immediately fell to the ground grabbing his head. The sheriff’s department is investigating the matter and may file criminal charges with the district attorney.

2 The Cheddar Conundrum

A celebrated French chef is taking the Michelin Guide to court after his restaurant lost a Michelin star over allegations of using cheddar in his cheese soufflé.

Marc Veyrat runs “La Maison des Bois” restaurant in Haute-Savoie in the French Alps. The eatery earned its third Michelin star, the highest grade possible, last year. However, when the latest edition of the Michelin Guide was published at the beginning of this year, Veyrat was dismayed to discover that his restaurant was back at two stars.

The chef says that the downgrade came without warning or explanation. When he inquired with Michelin officials, he was only given vague responses which included an accusation that he had served cheddar.[9]

Veyrat claims to have been “dishonored” by the actions of the Michelin Guide, especially since they were not warranted. The chef has built a reputation for using products from the Savoyard region of France. According to him, he definitely used Reblochon or Beaufort or another French cheese variety in his soufflé. He added saffron, though, which turned it yellow and caused the Michelin inspector to think it was made with cheddar.

The chef has asked for Michelin’s bills and notes to prove that the inspector truly ate at his restaurant. Unsurprisingly, his request was denied. The case will go to court in November.

1 Lunch For A Black Hole

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was only launched a year-and-a-half ago, but already it observed one of the rarest sights in the Universe: a supermassive black hole shredding a star apart.[10]

Officially, this phenomenon is known as a tidal disruption event (TDE). When a star gets too close to a black hole, it cannot escape its powerful gravity. Instead, it gets pulled apart and, while some material gets ejected into space, the rest is “devoured” by the black hole and added to its accretion disk. In this case, the event which is known as ASASSN-19bt occurred in a galaxy 375 million light-years away from us in the constellation Volans. The black hole in question was about the size of six million solar masses while its “snack” was roughly the same as our Sun.

Scientists first managed to confirm the observation of a TDE last year based on an event witnessed a decade-and-a-half ago. However, we caught that episode near the tail end when the black hole was “burping” out the extra material it didn’t consume. This new TDE, however, was discovered just a few days after it started to brighten and was located directly in TESS’s “continuous viewing zone”. Consequently, scientists received observations of the event every 30 minutes for almost 80 days, capturing all the essential stages.

10 Creepy Reasons Climate Change Is Starting To Look Like A Religion

Since the beginning of Earth’s existence, the climate has changed. It has been influenced by the sun, geological factors, ecological factors, and perhaps even preternatural events (comets, asteroids, and the like).

But recently, largely due to the consequences of the industrial revolution, man’s impact on the climate has come into sharp focus. It is now front and center of all major news outlets and is taken into account—in almost all nations—before new legislation is mooted or passed into law. But after decades of discussion, climate change has recently begun to head in a very unexpected direction . . . toward something resembling a religion.

This list looks at the various elements of climate change (and its advocacy), which most resemble the qualities we find in traditional religions. The aim is not to denigrate or laud the views of either side of the climate discussion (of which both are fervent), but to simply take an objective view of the current state of things.

SEE ALSO: 10 Ways Climate Change Has Affected Us Through History

10 Religious Services & Sacraments

Climate Confessions NBC
Most religions hold services of some kind. They are, in the most formal Christian sense (as sacraments), designed to impart God’s grace on His followers, and in their most basic sense, designed to give psychological health to adherents. Confession removes the feelings of guilt associated with wrongdoing, and funerals help us begin the steps of coping with the grief and loss of death.

In recent days, some people have begun to advocate for, or participate in, climate change related services for much the same reason. The Prime Minister and Minister for the Environment of Iceland installed a plaque in the presence of 100 mourners for the loss of a 700 year old glacier named Okjökull. This “climate funeral” was also attended by former Irish President Mary Robinson. The Icelandic geologist who had pronounced Okjökull dead in 2014 also attended with a death certificate.[1]

But funerals are not the only climate change sacrament! NBC News recently launched “Climate Confessions” for people to confess their climate sins. The site states: “Even those who care deeply about the planet’s future can slip up now and then. Tell us: Where do you fall short in preventing climate change? Do you blast the A/C? Throw out half your lunch? Grill a steak every week? Share your anonymous confession with NBC News.” The confessions are anonymous and can be viewed by others. Pictured above are a few examples.[2]

9 Evangelism

Greta Thunberg
In Roman Catholic parlance, an evangelist is one of the four writers of the New Testament Gospels: Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In general use the word refers to someone who preaches at religious services. It is also occasionally used in the technology world to describe someone who strongly advocates for a particular brand or thing.

No faith is complete without its enthusiastic preachers or advocates and climate change is no different. Enter Al Gore, various celebrities, and latterly Greta Thunberg. Thunberg is almost something of a Saint Joan of Arc for the climate change movement in that she is young and passionate—she has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Her speech this week to the United Nations illustrates her zeal:

“People are suffering. People are dying and dying ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. [ . . . ] How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words[.]”[3]

8 Tithing

Carbon Tax
“He commanded also the people that dwelt in Jerusalem, to give to the priests, and the Levites their portion, that they might attend to the law of the Lord. Which when it was noised abroad in the ears of the people, the children of Israel offered in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey: and brought the tithe of all things which the ground bringeth forth.” 2 Paralipomenon 31:4–5

Tithes are like a type of tax—often voluntary—in which members of a religion give a percentage of their income to the religious hierarchy (frequently 10 percent). Governments seldom need arm-twisting to impose new taxes, so it was inevitable that climate change would eventually lead to a whole new class of compulsory tithes. Carbon taxes are being enacted all over the world in the name of climate change. The taxes vary in amount but are not insignificant and are levied in many different ways. For example, in Canada, the carbon tax adds around $0.44 per gallon of gas, increases the cost of coal by 100 percent and increases the price of natural gas by 75 percent.[4]

7 Martyrdom

Mark Baumer Climate Martyr
Martyrdom is death for your faith. The pages of history are doused in the blood of those who have died for their beliefs—real or not. And climate change is no different in this regard. In October 2016, Mark Baumer (a “Climate Activist”) began to walk across the United States barefoot in order to draw attention to climate change and water shortages. He had previous achieved the same feat—albeit fully shod—in 2010.

He kept a prolific diary of his activity and became something of a climate change celebrity as a consequence. Tragically, in January 2017 whilst in the middle of his protest, Baumer was hit by an SUV and killed. Saint Peter died for God . . . Mark Baumer died for climate change. Both are deemed martyrs for their respective causes.[5]

6 Heretics

Climate Change Denial
Heresy is the obstinate refusal to accept an established doctrine of a religious faith . . . or denialism. Scientists,[6] professors,[7] and even news reporters[8] have been summarily dismissed from their jobs for disagreeing with the standard views on climate change. They—like heretics in the middle ages—are branded denialists and cut off from their professional communities. There are even name and shame articles on prominent news sites to “out” climate change deniers.[9]

Whether these contrarians are right or wrong matters not . . . it cannot be denied that these excommunications bear a striking parallel to the case of Galileo Galilei who was put under house arrest in the 17th century for stating that heliocentricity proved that the Bible was wrong.

5 Priesthood / Theologians

Like priests, bishops, and theologians who read the Scriptures and disseminate their meaning to laymen, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change takes all of the climate change studies coming out and renders an interpretation for the rest of us. Just as Bishops meet in their synods, the IPCC meets regularly at various places around the world to formulate their pronouncements. World governments use the data produced by this group to direct their environmental policies and taxes.

The panel was formed from the Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases which was founded in 1985 to study the effects of Greenhouse gas on the environment. Yup . . . politicians have been discussing climate change for over thirty years now.[10] The current head is South Korean Economics Professor Hoesung Lee.

4 Fatwas

In Islamic practice, a fatwa is a decree by a Muslim mufti or lawyer on matters of law. A fatwa can be issued to prohibit certain items from being used or to advocate for particular behaviors. Like a fatwa (which is non-binding), the climate change movement has its own set of rules for objects which are effectively forbidden. Despite being voluntary, refusing to adhere to the bans on these items can lead to public scorn and shame (a method historically used in religion to ensure the maintenance of social mores). And, also like religion, many of these items are now on their way to being banned by law—for example straws and plastic bags, which release greenhouse gasses upon decomposition.[11]

So what happens when you ban certain objects? New objects arise to replace them. Objects that are quite distinctive. That leads us to climate change sacramentals . . .

3 Sacramentals

Eco Friendly Shopping Bags
Sacramentals are manmade objects that are meant to remind the user of the benefits of being pious. In the Catholic religion these appear as rosary beads, scapulas, crucifixes, holy picture cards, and more. For Muslims and Buddhists they are prayer beads. They differ from sacraments in that the sacraments are considered to have come from God rather than man.

For those actively seeking to mitigate the effects of climate change, obvious sacramentals include the likes of re-usable shopping bags, metal or paper straws, re-usable coffee cups, and a variety of other recycled or non-plastic items. Of course these objects do also have uses outside of the environmental movement, but, as the NBC climate confessions show, they are very profoundly important when it comes to climate change.[12]

2 Feast Days

Global Day Of Action

We all love holidays and festivals. Many of our modern ones descend from religion: Christmas, Easter, and Halloween to name but three. In this day and age of anointing days to various causes, it is no surprise to find that climate change has a few of its own feast days. Earth Day (April 22) was first celebrated in 1970 and was obviously not connected to climate change. However it was co-opted by the movement in 2016 when it was chosen as the day to sign the Paris Agreement—a worldwide treaty hoping to ultimately halt global warming.

In 2005, the Global Day of Action was launched. Unlike Earth Day, which is a passive celebration of the Earth, Global Day of Action is a day set aside for active protests. The day was selected to coincide with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—presumably in the hopes of inspiring action at the political level.[13]

1 Eschatology

End Of World

Eschatology is the theological study of the end of times (or of man). Since time immemorial we have foretold (and missed) the end of all civilization. The Jehovah’s Witnesses got their start predicting the exact date of the end of the world. When it failed to occur each time they changed their date, they opted for the now-official position of just stating it will be soon.

But taking over the reigns of the Kingdom Hall religion are a number of climate change advocates who are extremely concerned that the end is nigh. Here are two recent quotes from current sitting US politicians: “The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change [ . . . ],[14] and “The scientists are unanimous on this. We have no more than 12 years to take incredibly bold action on this crisis[.]”[15]

In 2006, Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” warned of a ten year period in which to save the world from climate change or it was all over. Of course eschatology doesn’t just take form in religion or politics. Let’s not forget that not so long ago many people were waiting for the end of the world on December 12, 2012.

Jamie Frater

Jamie is the owner and chief-editor of Listverse. He spends his time working on the site, doing research for new lists, and collecting oddities. He is fascinated with all things historic, creepy, and bizarre.

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Weird News Roundup: Craziest Stories You Probably Missed This Week (9/21/19)

Welcome back to another week of strange stories, curious chronicles, and aberrant anecdotes. If you missed last week’s list, you can catch it here.

There are two poop stories this week, although they are significantly different. One highlights a pigeon with great comedic timing while the other explores a scientific experiment designed to see if it is possible to make a usable knife out of frozen feces.

We also have a few strange crime stories for you: two Amish men run from the law, a Mummy Marauder is on the loose, and thieves make off with a solid gold toilet.

10 The Three Gorges Water Monster

Videos started surfacing earlier this week showing a long, black figure slithering across China’s Yangtze River. It immediately drew comparisons to the infamous Loch Ness Monster, leading to speculation that China might have its own version of “Nessie” prowling its waters. However, this mystery was put to bed rather quickly and, unfortunately, the truth is far less exciting.

Clips of the Three Gorges Water Monster, as it was nicknamed, first circulated on Chinese social media platforms where they garnered tens of millions of views and, eventually, made their way to the West. After one professor opined that, if real, the creature was likely a large water snake, there was talk of the animal mutating to gigantic size due to the pollution in the river.

A few days later, the “serpent” was discovered to be just a piece of floating debris, although its exact nature is still unclear due to conflicting reports. One Chinese news outlet claimed it was a long piece of rubber tubing which detached itself from a shipyard. Meanwhile, state broadcaster CCTV said it was a mesh sunshade that got dislodged from the nearby ferry terminal and got wrapped up in such a way that it formed a snake-like figure.[1]

9 Pigeon Poop Problem Provokes Politician

A Chicago lawmaker was doing an interview discussing the pigeon poop problem at an infamous bus station when one of the birds made a bold statement to highlight the issue—the pigeon pooped on him.

The Irving Park Blue Line station has a reputation among Chicago residents as the “pigeon poop station”. Located underneath the Kennedy Expressway, the entrance has an underpass right above the commuter path where the birds sit and defecate at will.

There is, at least, one official who is trying to do something about it. State Representative Jaime Andrade has been trying to secure funds to deal with the problem since last year. Recently, he was doing another interview with a local TV station on the matter. Just as he was bad-mouthing the pigeons, one of them pooped right on his head.[2] Not one to miss an opportunity, he pointed out that this is exactly what his constituents have to deal with.

Delays in settling the matter seem to be caused by a technicality over who is responsible for the pigeons. Last year, Andrade secured money from the state budget, but those funds went to the Chicago Transit Authority which has purview over the bus station as it is part of the Kennedy Expressway. The underpass, however, is not considered part of the station and falls under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation, while the sidewalk where the birds poop is the responsibility of the City of Chicago.

8 Cattle Semen Lost In Fire

A fire at a genetics lab in Yarram, Victoria, Australia, led to the destruction of 100 cryogenic cylinders of cattle semen.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the storage facility for Yarram Herd Services caught fire. It took firefighters two hours to contain the blaze but, by then, it was too late: everything inside the building had been destroyed.

The biggest loss was 100 receptacles which stored cattle semen. The company offers herd testing, artificial insemination (AI), and other services to many farmers in the region who often choose to store the genetic material from their own animals at the facility.

The value of the destroyed goods is particularly high right now as we just entered AI season. The cylinders themselves were worth between $500 and $1,000 each while their contents were considerably more valuable. Bull semen is worth anywhere between $5 and $95 per straw.[3]

This blaze proved to be a unique challenge for firefighters. Initially, they had to remain in a defensive position. The heat caused the fluid inside the cylinders to expand which, in turn, prompted the lids to fly off as high-speed projectiles. Investigators are still looking into the cause of the fire.

7 The Hunt For The Mummy Marauder

While everyone was focussed on newly discovered photos of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in blackface (which he, weirdly, blamed on “white privilege”), they missed this curious tale of a guy in white face!

On Friday the 13th, a criminal robbed the First Convenience Bank in Harris County, Texas, near Houston. He threatened the teller and left with an undisclosed sum of money, speeding away in a black Mitsubishi Montero SUV. To conceal his identity, the man wrapped himself in white gauze. To further obscure his likeness, he also wore sunglasses, a wig, and a baseball cap. However, it really was the linen wrappings that stood out and subsequently earned the criminal the moniker of the “Mummy Marauder”.

According to the FBI, the culprit was a black male in his early 20s, around 1.8 meters (5’11”) tall and medium build. They released images of the suspect in the hope that someone could help identify him. A $5,000 reward for information leading to his arrest was offered by Crime Stoppers of Houston.[4]

6 Don’t Drink & Jive

Police in Ohio are on the lookout for two Amish men who fled the scene after being stopped by deputies for drinking while driving their horse buggy.

Last Sunday night, an officer from Trumbull County observed an unusual scene as a buggy drove past him. It was fitted with a sound system with giant speakers and there was an open case of ultra-light beer on the roof. Inside were an older Amish man and a teenager who were drinking spiked ice tea while riding in the carriage. A horse & buggy is considered a vehicle which means that the same drinking and driving laws apply so the deputy went to pull the carriage over.

As soon as the vehicle stopped, the men inside made a run for it into the wooded area on the side of the road.[5] At the same time, the horse sped off pulling the empty buggy. The deputy decided to pursue the horse to make sure that the carriage came to a safe stop.

The Amish men got away and, as of this moment, remain unidentified, but they will have to come forward if they want their horse & buggy back.

5 How Viable Is A Poop Knife?

In a new study published in the anthropological journal Sapiens, a scientist experimented to see if it is possible to make a usable knife out of frozen feces.

Back in the 1990s, popular anthropologist Wade Davis from the University of British Columbia told an anecdote of an elderly Inuit man from the 1940s or 50s who refused to leave his igloo out in the wild and relocate to a modern settlement. Even when his family took away all his tools, he made do with what he had. Specifically, he took his own feces and modeled it into a knife, sharpening it using only his hands and saliva. Then, he left it to freeze and ended up with a solid blade which he used to kill a dog.

Experimental archaeologist Metin Eren from Ohio’s Kent State University was one of the people fascinated by Davis’s story. Back then he was still a teenager, but now he had everything he needed to put the tale to the test.

He ate a high-protein diet rich in salmon, beef, and turkey for eight days. He obtained multiple “raw materials” which he shaped into blades both using his hands and with a mold. He even used a metal file to sharpen some of the knives and give them the best chance of success, but it was no use. None of them could cut through hide, instead simply melting and leaving streaks “like a brown crayon”.[6]

4 Neutron Star Too Big To Exist, Almost

Astronomers at the Green Bank Observatory (GBO) in West Virginia have found the most massive neutron star ever detected and it might remain that way for the foreseeable future. It is right at the theoretical limit of how big a neutron star could be without collapsing into a black hole.

Neutron stars are the remnants of massive stars that went supernova and might be the second-most dense objects in the Universe after black holes. To put them into perspective, GBO scientists say that one sugar cube of neutron star matter would weigh 100 million tons on Earth.

Researchers from the NANOGrav Physics Frontier Center were using the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) to observe a rapidly-rotating pulsar called J0740+6620 located 4,600 light-years away from us. They soon realized that it might be, in fact, the most massive neutron star ever detected. It crammed 2.17 solar masses into a sphere just 30 kilometers (18.6 mi) in diameter.[7]

Moreover, scientists believe that neutron stars can’t get much bigger than this. Recent research suggests that 2.17 solar masses might be the limit before a neutron star would crush itself into a black hole.

3 A Lint Ball For The Record Books

A Guinness record six months in the making took place on Thursday as Michigan was briefly the home to the world’s largest ball of lint before it was burned to ashes.

The event was half promotional stunt/half public service announcement courtesy of the Farmington Hills Fire Department and Dryer Vent Wizard, a business that offers dryer vent cleaning and repairing services.

Since April, the company has instructed its employees across 95 franchises to keep the lint they collected on the job in order to save up for the record. The giant fiber ball topped up at 313 kilograms (690 lbs).[8] There was no previous record-holder but, in order to qualify, the ball had to be, at least, 45 kilograms (99lbs) according to Guinness guidelines. After officials certified the record, firefighters set the ball ablaze.

Part of the reason for this move was to show just how flammable lint is and to raise awareness to the importance of regularly cleaning dryer vents. Failure to do so is the leading cause of dryer fires in residential buildings.

2 Storm Area 51, Finally

The date to “storm Area 51” is here. After months of publicity and a successful viral campaign, this weekend will play host to a bizarre event that started out as an online joke to “see them aliens” and turned into a music festival.

This whole thing began back in June when a man named Matty Roberts created a Facebook event to raid the site in search of alien life. Of course, it was all a prank and Roberts has since disavowed it as the U.S. Government warned people against actually trespassing onto the military base.

Even so, over two million people said on Facebook that they will be attending so the even got turned into two music festivals which were supposed to be held in the nearby towns of Rachel and Hiko, Nevada. Roberts has since dropped out completely, but it seems that the concerts will go on without him.

According to Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee, around 1,500 people showed up early Friday morning as music group Wily Savage were getting ready to perform their set.[9] There is concern that the arrival of a giant crowd would generate chaos for the tiny towns that have a population of less than 200 people combined. Lincoln County emergency manager Eric Holt estimated that local authorities could handle a group of 30,000 people, but anything larger than that would cause problems.

It remains to be seen how many people will attend, although it is fair to say that most of the two million Facebook “attendees” only signed up as a joke.

1 Thieves Make Off With Gold Toilet

A solid gold toilet worth $6 million was stolen from the Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England, in a burglary reminiscent of a “heist movie”.

The toilet is an “art” installation called America by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. Made in 2016, the item is part of the permanent collection of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, but was on loan to the stately home of the Duke of Marlborough which is also the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The 18-carat gold toilet is fully functional and, in fact, visitors to the exhibition were encouraged to use it for its intended purpose.

The theft was discovered in the early morning hours of last Saturday. Blenheim Palace had a sophisticated security system which the criminals managed to bypass. Although investigators are not sure yet how the heist went down, they believe the thieves made their getaway in two separate vehicles.

The first arrest in the case came quickly. That same day, a 66-year-old man was held on suspicion of burglary. Subsequently, a 36-year-old man was also brought in under the same circumstances.[10] Both men have been released, but they are still under investigation. Police are keeping tight-lipped on their progress. They say the main priority is to retrieve the artwork, although they are not discounting the possibility that it could be melted down.

Artist Maurizio Cattelan was “mortified” when he first heard the news, but later tried to look on the brighter side. He enjoyed being part of a real-life “heist movie”.

10 Heartwarming Stories Of Pets Who Survived Natural Disasters (Videos)

Animals have an uncanny ability to know when a natural disaster is about to strike. Sometimes, they run away or hide, and their humans have no way of finding them in time to evacuate. More often than not, a pet owner has no choice but to leave their animals behind in order to save themselves.

At the end of every natural disaster– whether it be a flood, earthquake, tsunami, fire, or tornado, local shelters have to gather abandoned pets and attempt to reunite them with their owners. Many pets go unclaimed, and other times, people learn that their pets are not among the survivors. But in these next ten stories, pets are reunited with their owners in the most amazing ways.

10 Cadie the Cat

Judy Pugh was an elderly woman sitting in her home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama when a tornado hit. A wall fell on top of her, which held her body down as the rest of her house was sucked up into the twister. Neighbors called her name and lifted the wall off of her, and the storm continued to move on and ravaged the rest of the town. Pugh had three pet cats, and finding them after the storm was her only concern.[1]

She managed to find two of the cats soon after. but sadly, she could not find her third cat, Cadie. Her family suspected that the 10-year old feline was carried away in the twister. Despite the fact that over a month had passed since the storm, she did not give up hope. Pugh continued to show up to the wreckage of her home and search for the cat every single day. A local TV station found Ms. Pugh standing by the wreckage and interviewed her. In the middle of the recording, Cadie the cat silently emerged out of the remains of Pugh’s house. He found his way home home after all.

Cadie was skinny, dirty, and could not even muster the strength to meow. Pugh walked over to him, gingerly scooping his tiny body into her arms. “I have everything in the world, now,” Pugh said as she began to cry. She cuddled her pet close to her chest. The TV microphone picked up the loud purring emanating from the tired cat.

9 The Farm in Plum Grove

Lester Morrow had no choice but to abandon his farm animals in Plum Grove, Texas during Hurricane Harvey. He was able to bring his dog with him, but they had no time to hitch a trailer behind their truck, and left behind several horses, donkeys, goats, and a potbelly pig named Patty.[2]

When Morrow returned to his farm, he was recording the devastation on his cellphone, starting at the end of his long driveway. There was still a lot of water on the property, and he commented about the trash and debris that floated onto his land, when he saw in the distance that Patty the pig was so happy to hear Morrow’s voice, she was wading through the water to greet him. He immediately began sobbing, and recorded the animals who had survived the storm.

Many of his horses had broken legs, and over a dozen animals had died, but several of them managed to break down a fence and stand on the porch of the house in order to survive. He posted the video on YouTube to share with friends and family, and it went viral. He made a GoFundMe campaign to help his animals, and he raised $14,000.

8 Ban

On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by an 9.0 magnitude earthquake that was followed by a tsunami that hit the northern part of the country. Three weeks after the disaster, the Japanese coast guard was still flying over the ocean to search for bodies that may be floating in the water. A mile away from shore, they spotted a dog walking around on top of the roof of a house that was floating in the water. Somehow, it had survived the tsunami. They lowered a man down from a helicopter to rescue the dog, who was later identified as “Ban”. The dog was wrapped in blankets, given food and water, and the rescue team carried him out on a stretcher.[3]

Ban was reunited with his owner, who wished to remain anonymous in the media, so she wore a medical mask in the video of when they reunited to conceal her face. Ban still recognized her, and jumped up, wagging his tail and snuggling into her chest as she hugged him. “Thank goodness…I’ll never let him go,” she told the press.

7 Izzy

In 2017, wildfires spread across Santa Rosa, California, destroying thousands of homes in its path. The Weaver family was forced to evacuate, and they could not find their dog, Izzy, in time to escape. On October 10th, Jack Weaver and his brother-in-law Patrick Widen returned back to Weaver’s property to see if there was anything left. He began recording on this cellphone, and even from far away, he could see that their home was completely burned to the ground. Even though it was a long shot, they began whistling and calling Izzy’s name, in hope that he somehow escaped the flames.

Their disappointment was almost immediately replaced by joy, because Izzy the shaggy Bernese Mountain dog began walking towards them. Not only did he survive, but the loyal dog was waiting in the ashes of his former home for his master to return. It was totally unexpected, and the brothers began screaming out of joy as their reaction was captured on film.[4]

6 Rica

Charles Trippy gained Internet fame by daily vlogging every single day for several years. He had continued to do this for so long, he even holds a Guinness World Record. When Florida was expected to be hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017, their town was ordered to evacuate. Charles and his family decided to take their chances by staying at home with their dogs and an electric generator. Since vlogging on YouTube is his job, Trippy recorded the experience of living in a town that was almost completely empty before, during, and after the storm.

Just as Charles and his wife Allie were driving home from with supplies from the hardware store to officially hunker down for the night, they spotted a tiny 4-week old kitten standing in the middle of the street. They got out and took her into their car and refused to leave the baby behind. That night, the amount of damage and flooding caused by the storm was worse than they imagined, and they were lucky that their house survived. They knew that if they had not rescued the kitten, there is no doubt that it would have died. They decided to name her Rica, which is short for Hurricane.

5 Junior

A tornado hit Granbury, Texas in 2013. A man named Jerry Shuttlesworth was living in a trailer park. Without a basement or a place to hide, he had no choice but to shut himself in the laundry room with his dog, a pitbull named Junior. The tornado directly hit his trailer, and Shuttlesworth described it like the home was being crushed down, and then sucked up. He flew into the air, and the wind flipped him upside down. He was desperately trying to hold on to Junior, but the tornado ripped the dog out of his arms.

The tornado dropped Shuttlesworth about 20 feet away, but the dog had completely disappeared in the twister. He laid on the ground with broken bones, looking up at the tornado. He described seeing debris circling in slow motion above his head, and it was so surreal, it was unlike anything he had ever seen in his life. After getting rescued and getting Internet access, Shuttlesworth posted a photo of Junior as a missing pet on Facebook.

By no small miracle, the local animal shelter found him. They called the news, and the best friends were reunited on film. He told the reporters that he was going to treat Junior to a meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken. “I think he flew through the air. Y’know, dogs weren’t meant to fly. But he had an angel with him.”

4 Snoopy and Abbey

After Hurricane Harvey, Texas shelters were filled to the brim with pets in cages, waiting for their owners to find them. In August of 2017, reporters rode along with The Humane Society of Dickinson, Texas. They were responding to phone call from people who were displaced from their homes, and pleaded for them to find their missing dog and cat. They arrived to the flooded neighborhood, whistling and calling the names of the pets, and found two dogs.[5]

They were a poodle named Snoopy and English bulldog, Abbey. A kind stranger saw the two dogs swimming through the water together. She rescued them and brought them to her house, which was above the flood line. A man named Ryan Johnson showed up to claim Abbey and Snoopy from the shelter. He knew that they belonged to his father-in-law, who was having nightmares and losing sleep over the fate of his dogs. “He can finally sleep tonight,” Johnson said.

3 Odin

Ronald Handel lived on a ranch in California. He owned two Great Pyrenees mountain dogs who took care of their 8 goats. It was their job to protect the goats from predators in the California mountains. In 2017, when the wildfires were approaching in the distance, Handel scrambled to get his daughter and the dogs into the car so they could evacuate.[6]

One of the dogs, Odin, refused to neglect his doggy duty. He laid down with the goats, and stared at Handel, as if to say, “I’m not leaving.” Handel waited as long as he could for Odin to come around, but they had to leave. He describes a horrific scene of the fire being so close behind him and his daughter as they drove, it sounds like a scene out of an action movie. They could see parked cars a few yards behind them filling with flames, and heard explosions from propane tanks, and the shriek of grinding of melting, twisting metal.

After the flames were put out, Handel and his young daughter did not expect to find anything when they returned to their property, but Odin was still there. He and the goats were slightly burned in a few spots, but he had managed to bring them all to safety, despite the fact that everything else around them was burned to the ground. He was limping, and very tired, so Handel knew that Odin had been on an adventure of his own to save his friends. If only dogs could talk.

2 Mei-Chan

After the 2011 tsunami in Japan, Fuji TV was filming the damage from the disaster, and they spotted a Brittany Spaniel. She walked up to them urging them to follow her. She walked over to an English Setter who was laying on the ground, clearly injured and unable to move. While the men sounded sad and concerned for the dogs, and they sent a message to “please help” to the Nippon SPCA, the witnesses failed to do anything to help the pups themselves.[7]

The video made its way to YouTube, called “Stay together dogs”. It went viral, and people around the world were heartbroken and started sending money to the Nippon SPCA to help their rescue efforts. However, the video started a controversy, and the SPCA began to receive threatening phone calls from people accusing them of not working hard enough to save the dogs. Owners of dog food companies created raising money for their own campaigns to save the “stay together dogs”. People were very invested in the fate of the pups.

The dog’s owner saw the video, and recognized her dog, Mei-chan. The second dog, Lee-chan, also belonged to her. It took eight months for the Nippon SPCA to finally find Mei-chan, and she was reunited with her owner.

1 T2

In 2002, a retired K-9 police officer named Perry Martin adopted a ginger kitten and named it T2. Hurricane Jeanne hit Florida in 2004, and everyone lost their power, and they could not turn on the air conditioning in the summer heat. Martin started leaving his windows open to let some air in. The 2-year old cat climbed through a window and out into the hurricane aftermath. Martin searched for a long time, and notified all of the local shelters, but after enough time passed, Martin accepted that he would never see T2 again.[8]

In 2018, a local animal shelter found a skinny stray cat and brought him in. The scanned him for a microchip, and called up Perry Martin. When they told him that they had the cat that had gone missing 14 years earlier, he did not believe them, but sure enough, he was reunited with his cat, who was now an elderly 16 year old. They have no idea where T2 was for 14 years, or how he managed to survive, but during media interviews, he looks very content curled up in Perry Martin’s lap.

Shannon Quinn (shannquinn.com) is a writer from the Philadelphia area. You can find her on Twitter @ShannQ

Police Arrest Squirrel, Just One Of 10 Crazy Squirrel Facts And Tales

Squirrels make cute cartoons and plush dolls. However, the real rodents glow pink, delay flights and get arrested. They gather mysteries like nuts; squirrel breeders are succumbing to a new virus and there was that purple creature nobody could explain. A dead squirrel was once purchased as art and the Prince of Wales wants to fight them with a sandwich spread.

10 The Home Wrecker

In 2014, a magistrate woke up to noises in her home in Hartlepool.[1] Since the alarm was also screaming, the 64-year-old Margaret Bousfield assumed the worst. Instead of a burglar, she found a squirrel. It was covered in soot, which suggested the critter had entered the house through the chimney. However, the squirrel was desperate to leave. If the living room’s damage was anything to go by, it had been trying to escape for hours. By the time Margaret woke up, the creature had demolished sofas, carpets, curtains, and the window frames. She called a neighbor who opened a window and the squirrel made a speedy exit. The carpets and one sofa had to be replaced. The total damage, all else included, racked up a bill of over £7,000. It was a dark day for the insurance company (who paid).

9 They Glean Safety Levels From Birds

Birds tend to go wild when they see a predator.[2] Other prey species, like squirrels, have learned to hide when bird calls get uptight, even when they themselves do not know where the danger is coming from. This is old news. In 2019, researchers wondered if things went the other way. Do squirrels rely on birds to tell them when it is safe to come out again? To find out, scientists cycled through parks in Ohio until they found the perfect test subjects. A bunch of eastern gray squirrels. Around 54 were chosen to listen to recordings of a red-tailed hawk, a predator that likes squirrel pie. After the hawk cries, the rodents were exposed to either background sounds or songbirds engaged in casual chatter. The latter is very different from “all clear” calls, which were left out of the study. Once the audio part was over, each squirrel’s body language was studied for three minutes. Things indeed went the other way. The squirrels that heard bird chatter after the hawk came out of hiding sooner.

8 New York Squirrels Are Tough

In 2014, a study looked at how urban squirrels adapted to city life.[3] Their rural cousins scurry for safety whenever a person approaches. To them, humans are predators. The study found that city squirrels viewed people differently. In fact, they behaved like New Yorkers. People living in a city with 8 million others are experts on how to avoid contact, even in crowded areas like the sidewalk or subway. The squirrels being studied were Eastern grays and lived in Manhattan’s busy Lower East Side. Just like the city’s people, the squirrels ignored most things on two legs. It would appear that they no longer view humans as true predators. While the rodents have lost most of their fear and even allow people close to them, the study found that they did not like being stared at. That and other small threatening cues made them run away. To live fearlessly alongside humans but knowing when to avoid them is crucial for any species trying to survive in an urban setting. The New York squirrels aced it.

7 The Squirrel Breeder Deaths

Brain inflammation (encephalitis) happen for a variety of reasons.[4] However, when three men died of acute encephalitis, none of the usual suspects were detected. The victims had something in common. They were all from Germany and bred an exotic species of squirrel native to Latin America. Although they lived in different areas, the men would meet to talk and trade the variegated squirrels (Sciurus variegatoides). The hobby turned deadly. Between 2011 and 2013, the breeders all showed symptoms of brain inflammation, slipped into a coma and died. Confused by the lack of the usual causes, doctors did not find out about the squirrels until further tests found a virus that belonged to the borna cluster of pathogens, a group known to exist in mammals, and for its habit of jumping between species. It was only a matter of time before the patients’ hobby surfaced and the squirrels were tested. One tested positive for VSBV-1, the virus found in the men’s brains. Nobody knows where the virus comes from nor how the animal and men were infected.

6 Nutella Birth Control

It sounds like a bad joke.[5] Hey, did you hear that Prince Charles wants to feed squirrels Nutella as a contraceptive? True story. The royal is such a fan of the British Isles’ red squirrel, he had admitted to wanting one as a pet. However, the creature is facing its doom in another squirrel species. Around 140 years ago, the Eastern Gray from North America found its way to the Isles. They proved to be fierce competition for the reds but also arrived with a disease (Parapoxvirus). The pox reduced the native squirrels to a mere 135,000 animals. To give the red population a helping hand, the Prince of Wales hosted a meeting between squirrel experts and officially backed a strange plan in 2017. The Animal and Plant Health Agency suggested the use of traps only gray squirrels could enter. Once inside, the critters will be treated to globs of Nutella. The sandwich spread will contain GonaCon, a contraceptive that dropped fertility in rats by 90 percent.

5 A Support Squirrel Delayed A Flight

Emotional support animals can serve a great purpose.[6] They can bring comfort and companionship to people suffering from emotional or physical issues. When unconventional species make the cut, things get weird. Early in 2018, a “support peacock” and his owner were not allowed to board an airplane. Later the same year, a similar scenario happened but this time the animal was already onboard. The squirrel was with its owner who had booked a flight from Orlando to Cleveland. When the staff found out about the rodent, the woman was asked to leave the plane. She refused. The cops arrived. Things got so hairy that the rest of the passengers had to disembark and stay outside for two hours. The owner argued that she had told Frontier Airlines beforehand about bringing a support animal. However, apparently she never mentioned it was a squirrel and rodents are not allowed on Frontier’s planes. In the end, both the woman and her squirrel lost and were escorted by the police off the aircraft.

4 Police Took A Squirrel Into Custody

In 2018, emergency services in Germany received a call.[7] A man in Karlsruhe said he needed help because a baby squirrel was chasing him with great interest down the street. He was not kidding. The police arrived and found the caller still unable to shake off the rodent’s hot pursuit. The exhausted squirrel suddenly curled up and went to sleep. The panicked man went unnamed for obvious reasons but the officers decided to call the snoozing baby Karl-Friedrich. After they rescued the victim, the squirrel was taken into custody to become a police mascot before being taken to an animal rescue center. The baby squirrel was not psychotic or a little on the weird side. A police spokeswoman explained that when they become separated from their mothers, young squirrels could become fixated on a person as a substitute parent. In fact, when the cops took Karl-Friedrich to the shelter, the center had already received two other baby squirrels on the same day – and they also tried to adopt unwilling human parents.

3 Purple Pete

Squirrel experts know a lot about their favorite rodent.[8] However, nobody could explain Pete. In 2008, this squirrel attended the Meoncross School in Stubbington. Under normal circumstances, he might have gone unnoticed but it is difficult not to see a bright purple animal. Dubbed Pete by staff and pupils, nobody could explain why the normally gray animal looked that way, nor the even distribution of the color. Blotches would have suggested the squirrel encountered paint or dye, but it was like Pete was born purple. As stumped as they were, the experts were sure of one thing. He was not a mutant and there was nothing natural about it. Squirrels nibble on anything, even non-organic stuff. Keeping this in mind, Pete liked to visit an old building near the school where old computer printers were stored. He might have gnawed on a purple cartridge and groomed the ink through his fur. However, it must have been the most thorough grooming in history to even out the color so well.

2 Dead Art

Maurizio Cattelan is an Italian artist with a flair for controversial humor.[9] Among his most famous work is a piece depicting a meteor hitting the Pope. In 2012, Whitechapel Gallery hosted a Cattelan exhibition. The center-stage feature, for some reason, showed a dead squirrel that may or may not have committed suicide. The stuffed creature was slumped over a table with a tiny pistol on the floor, surrounded by a dirty kitchen and signs of drinking – as if he had long since stopped trying to live. The work’s name was Bidibidobidiboo, the spell used by the Fairy Godmother to make Cinderella look great and snag a prince. The title was ironic, suggesting that not even magic could transform this squirrel’s bad life. If you think nobody would buy a dead rodent at a tiny Formica table, think again. The work was purchased 6 years prior to the exhibition and was on loan from its owner, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, an avid Cattelan collector.

1 Flying Squirrels Glow Pink

In 2019, a professor shone an ultraviolet torch at a squirrel in Wisconsin.[10] The flying squirrel glided away and its color was startling. Under the ultraviolet light, the animal’s fur glowed fluorescent pink. As weird as that was, the moment was significant. Fluorescence is well-known in other corners of the animal kingdom. Reptiles, birds, and arachnids all have species that shimmer. In mammals, however, only opossums from the Didelphidae family have this trait. To discover whether the squirrel was a fluke, researchers descended upon the Field Museum in Chicago and the Science Museum of Minnesota. They pointed ultraviolet light at 135 specimens belonging to different species. Only three types of flying squirrels from the Glaucomys genus turned pink. A clue to the unusual fur could be a characteristic they share with opossums. Both are nocturnal. Non-flying squirrels tend to be day creatures. It is plausible that the glow helps the Glaucomys clan to deal with their low-light environment, including camouflage, communication, and navigation.

60 Stunning Images of The Middle East That Will Make You Forget Its Violent Past

The Middle East was once thought of as a beautiful and exotic far-away land. But unfortunately for those of us alive in modern times, the term now conjures up images of war, terrorism, subjugation, and suffering. The vivid images of the Islamic Golden Age are now gone, and the exciting fantasies in “One Thousand And One Nights” are but a fading memory.

But those far-away lands still contain much of their original beauty and, in many cases, are building upon it to create some of the most awe-inspiring modern architecture. This list takes a tour around the Middle East focussing entirely on the beauty to be found there. Let’s take the journey together and forget—even if for but a moment—the horrible news reports confronting us daily.

15 Bahrain

Bahrain is the smallest of the Arabian states and was the first to discover petroleum in the 1930s. It is thought by some to be the site of the Garden of Eden. In 2002 women received the right to vote in Bahrain and today its constitution guarantees religious freedom. Homosexuality was legalized in 1976 (for people over 21). The incredible twin-peaked building is the Bahrain World Trade Center.

14 Egypt

Home to the ancient culture so loved by the west, Egypt is now a modern democracy (founded in the 1950s). As evidenced above, there is more to Egypt’s beauty than pyramids! Modern Egyptians are largely descended from post-islamic settlers (mid 600s AD) while the Ancient Egyptian people “[were] most closely related to Neolithic and Bronze Age samples in the Levant, as well as to Neolithic Anatolian and European populations”.[1]

13 Iran

Iran (Persia in days gone by) means “the land of Aryans” in the Persian (Farsi) language. Iranians have managed (despite frequent invasion from outside) to maintain their identity. Even the Islamization of the country has not managed to eradicate all aspects of its ancient past.

12 Iraq

For many of us, Iraq stands out mostly due to the Gulf Wars. Enormous amounts of damage were sustained by the nation during those wars, but a strong recovery is now underway, though the area is still relatively unstable. Iraq has been a republic since the dissolution of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958.

11 Israel

The very existence of Israel is a great bone of contention for the Islamic population of the Middle East. Despite the might of the surrounding nations, Israel continues to focus on expanding the amount of land it controls. The recent move of the nation’s capital to Jerusalem has not gone down particularly well with many people and there is no telling whether the conflicts in the region will ever be truly resolved.

10 Jordan

Jordan is a constitutional monarchy and the current King is Abdullah II. Home to some incredibly historic sites, Jordan holds the distinction of having discovered the oldest known statues of humans, the Ayn Ghazal statues. Pictured are Petra, the Roman city of Jerash, Jordan Valley Dead Sea, and Wadi Rum, the red desert.

9 Kuwait

Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy governed by an Emir. Until 1961 when it gained independence, Kuwait was a British protectorate. It was the invasion of this small nation in 1990 by Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi military that led to the gulf war.

8 Lebanon

Lebanon is the oldest country name in the world at 4,000 years of age. It has a unique political system called confessionalism in which the parliament is shared by all religions operating in the country. More peculiarly, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of Parliament a Shiite Muslim. Lebanon has a 40% Christian population—the largest of any Middle Eastern country.

7 Oman

Oman has natural beauty, from the dry Wahiba Sands to the verdant city of Salalah, and historic beauty in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, and the Nizwa Fort. Oman is one of the oldest inhabited places on earth having been peopled for over 100,000 years. Mountain Dew is the most popular drink in the nation, so much so that Coca Cola products are virtually nowhere to be found. It is also virtually crime-free. Coincidence? I’ll let you decide. Unlike some Islamic nations, alcohol is allowed but you must be licensed to buy it and can spend no more than 10% of your monthly income on it.

6 Qatar

Qatar, like Kuwait, was a British protectorate. Independence was declared in 1971, and from 1995 women were allowed to vote. Qatari men traditionally wear a long white shirt (called a thoub) over white trousers or shorts and women wear a black cloak. The National Museum of Qatar (top image) opening was attended by David and Victoria Beckham and KAWS and Johnny Depp. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and punishable by death.

5 Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia contains virtually no rivers or lakes but has many wadis which are valleys that fill with water during certain times of the year. Pictured above (third image) is the Kingdom Center which is the third tallest building with a hole in the world. Work is underway to build the Kingdom Tower which will be one kilometer tall (0.62 miles) and the tallest building in the world.

4 Syria

Pictured are the Umayyad Mosque, Citadel in Aleppo, and City of Palmyra before its destruction by ISIS in 2015. There are currently troops from over thirty countries fighting in Syria due to its civil war against ISIS. It is the Syrian war that has led to the migration crisis in Europe.

3 Turkey

Turkey is home to some of the most beautiful places in the world. Troy (of the Trojan wars) is located in Western Turkey and many ancient monuments are to be found there due to its important position in Western history. Its capital (Istanbul) was once Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire from 330–395 AD and then the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) to 1453. Pictured above are Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Safranbolu,and Hagia Sophia.

2 United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates is a collection of emirates: seven provinces governed by constitutional monarchs called Emirs. The seven emirates are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Abu Dhabi is the capital city and the federation as a whole is governed by a President who is also the ruler of Abu Dhabi. Additionally, the ruler of Dubai is also the Prime Minister of the Emirates. Confused? Me too.

Seen here are Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the amazing Yas Waterworld and the Al Ain Oasis (the first UNESCO world heritage site in United Arab Emirates).

1 Yemen

Pictured here are Socotra, the old town of Sana’a (the capital city), Aden, and Ibb. Socotra is an island with a great variety of alien looking plants and wildlife (as you can see from the picture). It evolved into this bizarre landscape due to being isolated from the African continent six or seven million years ago. It is a UNESCO natural heritage site.

Jamie Frater

Jamie is the owner and chief-editor of Listverse. He spends his time working on the site, doing research for new lists, and collecting oddities. He is fascinated with all things historic, creepy, and bizarre.

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Weird Stories You Probably Missed This Week (9/14/19)

With the weekend comes a look at some of the more unusual stories that hit the headlines this week. If you want to catch up on the previous list, you can do it here.

This is a science-heavy week. Boffins have been busy researching lost continents, discovering interstellar visitors and finding the answer to “life, the Universe, and everything”.

In other news, there is also a crime-fighting seal, a cold case solved by Google Earth, and an unexpected invasion by venomous caterpillars.

10 The Answer To The Meaning Of Life

Douglas Adams fans will recognize 42 as being the answer to “life, the Universe, and everything” but, as it turns out, it was also a dilemma that prevented mathematicians from solving a 65-year-old problem. But now, it seems that two number crunchers managed to crack the code with the help of a planetary supercomputer.

Back in 1954, mathematicians asked if all whole numbers from 1 to 100 could be expressed as the sum of three cubes. Over the decades that followed, they kept finding answers for more and more numbers. At the start of this year, only two were left: 33 and 42.

Andrew Booker from the University of Bristol found the solution for 33, but enlisted the help of MIT mathematician Andrew Sutherland for the final number. The pair wrote an algorithm, but needed a supercomputer to run it. This is where Charity Engine came in, a global effort that harnesses unused computing power from half a million PCs around the world. After over a million hours of computing time, they had the solution.[1] Three 17-digit numbers, one of which is negative, can be cubed and added up to 42. Now, if they have nothing better to do, mathematicians can try going up to 1,000.

9 Disappearance Under The Sea

A possible suspect has emerged in the case of the underwater scientific observatory that mysteriously disappeared a few weeks ago. Researchers believe that a fishing trawler accidentally hooked the installation worth over $330,000 and dragged it away. They never came forward to admit the deed because they were fishing in illegal waters.

The research station was placed in the Baltic Sea in 2016. It constantly checks measurements such as salinity, water temperature, and oxygen, methane, and carbon dioxide levels and sends them back to researchers in Kiel, Germany. On August 21, it stopped transmitting. Initially, scientists believed it was simply a problem with the data connection, but when divers went to check it out in person, they realized that the observatory had completely vanished, leaving behind only the frayed cable that connected it to land.

A natural cause for the disappearance such as currents or a storm were ruled out because the device weighed over 800 kilograms (1,760 lbs). Other ideas included Russian subs and scrap metal thieves. These were also dismissed because the station was in shallow waters where a sub wouldn’t enter and the steel had little resale value.[2]

Current thinking says the culprit was a fishing boat that snagged the observatory by accident. There are marks indicating that it was dragged for a while. The question remains, however, why didn’t the trawler leave the device behind?

8 Out Of The Frying Pan

A hospital’s attempt at deterring birds from nesting in the nearby trees accidentally created a breeding haven for North America’s most venomous caterpillar.

At first, the reasoning seemed sound. Birds like pigeons and grackles liked to congregate in the oak trees that line the sidewalks of Houston’s Texas Medical Center (TMC). They carried diseases and created lots of messes which was not something you wanted in an area highly-populated with sick people. Therefore, the staff put nets on the trees to stop the birds from landing on them.

Consequently, this allowed the local caterpillar population to thrive significantly. A three-year study recently published in Biology Letters showed that the netted trees had 7,300 percent more insects than the regular ones.[3]

These caterpillars weren’t exactly harmless, either. The dominant species was Megalopyge opercularis or the puss moth caterpillar, the most toxic caterpillar in North America. It has spines that can break off if anyone touches them, stick to the skin and release venom. After about ten minutes, the victim feels throbbing pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, and red spots.

No word yet on if anyone has been stung by these caterpillars or what TMC staff plan to do to get rid of them.

7 Sleepy Seal Stops Drug Bust

According to Australian police, a giant seal helped them apprehend a group of five men who were trying to bring in over a tonne of drugs into the country.

Two of the men, a Brit and a Frenchman, had the drugs onboard their yacht when it ran aground on Stick Island off the coast of Western Australia. They took the illicit goods ashore in a dinghy and tried to hide from search & rescue teams which were out looking for them, believing the pair might be in trouble. Eventually, they were spotted by planes because one of the drug runners was wearing a hot pink shirt.

When officers arrived on the scene, the men tried to make a run for it in their dinghy, but were thwarted by a large seal that they inadvertently woke up.[4] The animal was not in a good mood and the criminals decided that it was safer with the police.

Three other men were later arrested as they were in another boat, waiting to pick up the drug shipment.

6 Exploring A Lost Continent

A new report published in Gondwana Research recreates the long saga of a lost continent that sits today beneath Europe.

Scientists dubbed it Greater Adria, mainly because the remnants of the continent that are still topside form part of the Adriatic coastline. About 240 million years ago, this piece of land started to break away from the supercontinent of Gondwana. A hundred million years later, it was its own landmass about the size of Greenland.

The beginning of the end for Greater Adria started somewhere between 100 million and 120 million years ago when it started colliding with Europe. At blistering speeds of 3-4 centimeters (1.2-1.5 in) per year, it underwent subduction—a geological process where one tectonic plate moves sideways and downwards beneath another plate and into the Earth’s mantle.

Most of Greater Adria is buried now deep within the Earth. The study shows that some portions of the former continent are up to 1,500 kilometers (930 mi) below the planet surface. A lot of the top layer was scraped off during the collision and became part of Eurasia’s surface. In fact, geologists have found rocks from Greater Adria in over 30 countries.[5] Only a few slivers of the landmass survived the impact unscathed and they went on to attach themselves to Italy’s boot and the Istria region of Croatia.

5 Eye In The Sky Solves Cold Case

Google Earth helped solve a cold case from 22 years ago.

Back in November 1997, 40-year-old William Moldt from Lantana, Florida, went out clubbing and was never seen again. His fate remained a mystery until a few weeks ago when a person used Google Earth to look at their former neighborhood in Wellington. The neighborhood contained a pond and, right near the shoreline, something appeared to be submerged. It looked like a car, but the person wanted to be sure so they asked a former neighbor who still lived in the area to check. They used a drone and confirmed that a white sedan was sitting in the water.

Police pulled the “heavily calcified” vehicle out of the lake and found Moldt’s skeletal remains inside.[6] The car had sat in the pond for over two decades as an entire neighborhood was built around it. Some of the houses were feet away from Moldt’s body. Although his car is clearly visible from above, local residents say they never noticed anything from the shoreline.

4 The Loch Ness Eel?

Researchers have published their environmental DNA (e-DNA) survey of Loch Ness, concluding that the notorious monster, if it ever existed, was most likely a giant eel.

The Loch Ness Monster, colloquially known as Nessie, is the most famous lake monster in the world. Sightings date back almost 1,500 years and have continued into the modern era.

One group of scientists led by Neil Gemmill from New Zealand’s University of Otago conducted a study on the lake using e-DNA—the genetic material that all organisms shed which ends up in their surrounding environment. This would have given them a good idea of all the creatures that inhabit Loch Ness without having to actually observe them.

Researchers took 200 one-liter samples from all over the loch and compared them to other samples from nearby bodies of water known to be “monster-free”. They detected over 500 million DNA sequences belonging to 3,000 species of organisms.[7] These included land and air animals that only occasionally enter the loch such as deer, rabbits, birds, dogs, and, of course, humans.

What they didn’t find was any DNA belonging to large, exotic fish such as sharks or sturgeon that could be mistaken for a monster. There was also nothing to indicate that there were reptiles in the loch. Researchers specifically looked for sequences that would have likely belonged to a plesiosaur since that is what many Nessie true believers think the monster is.

Eel DNA was found in almost every sample so the scientists argue that, if any sightings of Nessie were real, they could possibly have been accounted by a large eel. However, they stress that this, in no way, confirms the existence of a giant eel monster living in Loch Ness.

3 A Mind For Crime

A Japanese store cashier has been accused of stealing the credit card details of 1,300 customers by only using his photographic memory.

Thirty-four-year-old Yusuke Taniguchi has been arrested last Thursday, but has not been charged with any crime as of yet. Allegedly, while working as a part-time cashier at a shopping mall in Tokyo’s Koto ward, he made use of his remarkable memory to remember the credit card information of people who shopped at his store. Later, he used the details to make purchases online. Since March, he spent around 270,000 yen ($2,600) on bags which he later planned to sell at pawn shops.

While going through Taniguchi’s apartment, police found a notebook which contained the credit card information of 1,300 people. This included the 16-digit number, expiration date, security code, and the name of the cardholder.[8] The cashier memorized all of them while he processed the purchase and later wrote them down in his notepad.

Taniguchi claimed he could do this thanks to his photographic memory, although experts dismiss the idea that something like this even exists. Far more likely was an eidetic memory, something that allowed him to retain a lot of visual information in a short amount of time.

2 Help In A Bottle

A family trapped above a waterfall was rescued thanks to a message in a bottle which floated down the river and reached the right people.

Curtis Whitson was exploring the Arroyo Seco Canyon in California’s Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park with his girlfriend and 13-year-old son. An avid hiker, Whitson had done the same route years ago. Back then, there was a rope to help climbers descend the waterfall, but now it was gone. In fact, the currents were so strong that the trio couldn’t rappel down anywhere, including the way they came. After they hit a few dead ends, they realized that they were stuck up there, kilometers away from the nearest camp and without a phone signal.

Whitson wrote a message on a bar order pad and placed it inside a green bottle and then scribbled the word “help” on its side. He threw it over the waterfall in the hopes that someone might spot it in time.

Fortunately, someone did. Two hikers stumbled upon the note, in fact, and alerted the camp host who, in turn, called the authorities. Whitson and his family were rescued the next morning.[9] Now, he is trying to find his two saviors who left the camp without giving their names.

1 Another Interstellar Visitor

A few years back, the astronomical community squealed with glee as it discovered the first ever confirmed interstellar object to visit our little corner of the galaxy. It was called ‘Oumuamua and raised a lot of questions about what it actually was. Scientists switched back and forth between comet and asteroid, with a small minority raising the possibility that it could even be an alien spaceship. Now, it seems like we have detected a second interstellar object in our solar system.

The rock was first noticed by amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov on August 30 at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in Bakhchysarai. It stood out due to its extremely hyperbolic orbit with an eccentricity of 3.2. For reference, most objects with an elliptical orbit around the Sun have an eccentricity between 0 and 1.The stargazer told Harvard University’s Minor Planet Center (MPC) who made the formal announcement. Initially given the designation gb00234, the object is now called C/2019 Q4 (Borisov).

It differs from ‘Oumuamua in several key ways. For starters, there will be no debates over what it actually is. It’s definitely a comet and has a visible coma and tail.[10] With a width of 20 kilometers (12 mi), it is much bigger than ‘Oumuamua and also brighter.

Most importantly, though, we noticed it early. Barring unforeseen circumstances, it should remain observable for at least one year, giving us a unique opportunity to take a close look at an object from outside the solar system.

Top 10 Incredibly Surreal Places on Earth

On a planet where the pyramids, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus are among the unchallenged greatest wonders of the world, it is often difficult to believe that such bizarre things as rainbow trees, polka-dotted lakes, and waterfalls of “blood” could even be possible.

But venture into the most beautiful, surreal corners of the world and you’ll find a variety of scientific marvels that form delightful and horrifying scenes straight out of a psychedelic novel.

10 Polka-Dot Shores

Although most lakes are formed and maintained by an ever-present source of water, some are instead an accumulation of melted snow, excessive rain, and trace amounts of groundwater. Bodies of water with this easy-come, easy-go nature (here known as an “endorheic” lake) are susceptible to extreme evaporation.

In fact, the lake itself will completely dry up during the summer. For one lake in Canada, this results in a colorful mosaic of spots. Officially named “Spotted Lake,” this remote location within the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia looks like just about any other lake in the country during the winter, spring, and fall months.

However, when summer rolls around, most of the lake’s volume is lost to evaporation. What is left behind isn’t any old patch of land, though. Spotted Lake is rich in natural resources: Calcium, sodium and magnesium sulphates, and titanium are the chief contenders there, and they are responsible for the colorful hue left behind.

When the water surrounding these elements and minerals evaporates, what remains are multicolored alkaline rings that, depending on the concentration of each, will leave varying hues of green, yellow, and blue rings on the dried-out ground.[1]

9 Glowing Lakes

From a tourist standpoint, Thailand is known for its beautiful beaches, exquisite cuisine, and backpacking trails that have the popular islands crammed with sightseers. The country is often advertised as a “deserted paradise.”

The vast numbers of tourists who inhabit the place from November to March are most likely unaware of one of the most extraordinary aspects: the blue, bioluminescent water seen only by night. Looking like something out of a fantasy novel, the waters off coastal Thailand are largely inhabited by microscopic plankton which contain many of the same chemical combinations as fireflies.

Using the same luciferin-luciferase chemical reaction as fireflies, the plankton found in these coastal waters glow when irritated. The display was once described as “a magical light show [to rival] the brightness of the stars above.”[2]

8 A Waterfall Of Blood

When we think of waterfalls, most of us are probably more inclined to think of the commonly known Niagara Falls, the most prominent (and probably overlooked) aspect of which is its crystal clear water. Yet for all the commonness of clear falls, there is a location where the water that pours forth is eerily crimson in color.

First located in 1911, this area of the remote Taylor Glacier in Antarctica appears to be spouting blood instead of water. The reason for this is rather complex. As opposed to being fueled by melting snow and groundwater, the water source of the Taylor Glacier is the saltwater lake that lies beneath.[3]

Over time, this salt water has picked up trace amounts of iron from constant contact with the bedrock below. What follows is the same chemical reaction that produces rust. The water takes on the deep red hue of iron oxide. When spilling over, the water seems to be made of blood.

7 Rainbow Trees

Looking more like a regular tree splattered with paint, the appropriately named rainbow eucalyptus is most prominently located in the Philippines and Indonesia. It can even be found stateside in Hawaii, California, and Florida.

Wherever you come across this tree, though, its wild coloration is the result of both its unique bark formation and its location. (The most colorful of these trees are found in Indonesia and the Philippines.)

The bark of the tree is formed by dividing cambium cells, each with a high concentration of chlorophyll (the chemical which gives leaves and grass their rich green color). Over the life span of the cambium cells, they become infused with varying levels of tannins, the chemicals which run the visual gamut from red to brown.

The varying combination of these chemicals, along with the relative humidity and the wetness of the bark, creates the rainbow effect.[4]

6 Stone Roses

Neither a stone nor a rose, a phenomenon found in Mexico and Tunisia (and, less commonly, in Arizona) is known as a “stone rose.” Formed from either gypsum or barite, these roses are produced as a result of evaporation when one or the other of these minerals binds with grains of sand in an arid, salt-rich environment.[5]

With an average size of 10 centimeters (4 in) per petal, these roselike formations range in color that is directly related to how they were formed. The ones made in shallower locations typically produce amber petals, whereas deeper formations in a wider space often produce yellow or clear petals.

The unique shape of these roses is not the only unusual thing about them. Regardless of their color during the day or where they developed, all will glow the same opaque white color when placed under an ultraviolet light.

5 Blood Rain

Travel to certain locations within India—namely, Kerala—and you may be treated to the seemingly morbid phenomenon of blood rain. While the name calls to mind some kind of biblical horror film, this state’s spookiest weather affliction is not the result of oxidation within the water. Rather, it is due to the state’s proximity to nearby deserts.

Although rain evaporates cleanly, it can pick up a multitude of things on the way back down. (Acid rain is a prime example and result of this.) But chemicals are not the only thing that can be mixed in with the precipitation.

Airborne particles that are thin enough and high enough can also blend with the moisture in the clouds. When reddish particles of sand get mixed with those clouds, they will fall and pool into puddles of bloodred liquid, even leaving a red hue behind when the rain itself evaporates.[6]

This scientific explanation of particles being mixed with cloud moisture also held true for the same phenomenon experienced in Russia in July 2018. The city of Norilsk was besieged by red rain one afternoon.

The culprit?

A metal processing plant was performing some routine maintenance. Rust shavings which had been scraped from the floor were caught in an updraft which took them high enough to meld with the clouds. Not long afterward, the red rain was pouring.

4 A Lake of Frozen Bubbles

Looking as though it’s full of frozen jellyfish or cartoonish jewels deep beneath its surface, Lake Abraham is an artificial lake located in Alberta, Canada, that dates back to 1972. It is burgeoning with frozen bubbles.

One unique aspect of this lake is that it has high concentrations of methane gas trapped within its surface. Most lakes contain base amounts of methane as a result of decaying matter which sinks to the bottom and is feasted on by bacteria. In turn, that bacteria produces the methane which escapes through the water and eventually goes airborne.

However, Lake Abraham is unique because its water temperature is high enough that methane can still escape into the water but cold enough that escaping gas will freeze into opaque bubbles. They display a hue ranging from white to deep blue depending on their proximity to the surface.[7]

3 Bubblegum Water

For the strawberry lovers of the world, you’re in luck . . . at least visually. There is a vibrant pink lake off the coast of Western Australia by the name of Hillier. Although it is not the only pink lake in the world, Hillier’s water is distinctive for being the only one with water that does not lose its color when collected.

This color is neither a mere optical illusion nor the result of the bedrock below the water. Rather, it is the result of several factors working together.

Discovered in 1802, Lake Hillier is home to a certain type of halophilic (“salt-loving”) algae known as the Dunaliella which generate their energy via use of all visible frequencies of light except those falling in the red-orange spectrum. In addition to “leaving behind” the red light energy, these algae produce variations of carotene that contribute to the lake’s reddish-pink hue.[8]

2 Mummified Lake

At first glance, Tanzania’s Lake Natron seems like a morbid oasis with its bloodred waters surrounded by many peaceful birds lurking at its shores. However, the cause of those deep red depths is more than a little unsettling.

Also known as “Stone Animal Lake,” this body of water in Africa was once rumored to have such a high alkaline content that it could instantly kill and petrify any animal that dared wander into its depths. Rather than being the result of an optical illusion or the presence of halophilic bacteria, Natron’s deep red color is attributed to the presence of minerals formed by volcanic processes in the immediate area.

These processes gradually increased the pH of the water until it became saturated with natron and sodium carbonate, the latter of which was once used in the practice of mummification. The presence of these various minerals—along with the decaying remnants of animals that couldn’t live in such harsh conditions—heavily increased the alkaline nature of the water.[9]

As such, it became favorable to haloarchaea, red-bodied organisms that tint the water of the lake and the plumage of the flamingos which often live by the water.

1 Forest Of Ice Blades

From the childhood favorite of making snowmen to the artisan craft of ice sculpting, the activity of shaping snow and ice into various pleasing formations has been around for a while and seemingly isn’t going anywhere. However, what happens when the Earth itself decides to get in on the fun?

Travel to various regions within Chile, and you will find miniature forests of icy blades . . . that have exactly no snow or ice in the surrounding area. First discovered in 1835, these religiously named “penitentes” can grow to upward of 5 meters (16 ft) tall.[10]

They are the direct result of sublimation, a chemical process by which a heat source transforms a solid into a gas without first melting it. In a process that only builds on itself, the angular formation of smaller spikes further concentrates the sunlight. This increases the rate of sublimation until entire forests of these spikes will overtake the landscape.

Roxanne is the author of mythological fantasy and paranormal horror novels. She is located at twitter.com/rheathwrites.