Global IQ Ranking – WIF Lists

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The Smartest Countries

in the World

Imagine the world is a high school. You’ve got the big, jock countries like Australia, South Africa, and the USA. You’ve got the self-consciously old-fashioned intellectuals like Britain and France, and then you’ve got the cool kids everyone wants to hang out with (yeah, Italy, we’re looking at you). But what about the brainboxes? Who in our analogy are the nerds spending their spare time in the science labs while the other countries are learning to smooch and bum smokes?

Well, thanks to some slightly dubious science, we possibly have the answer! Between 2002 and 2006, a joint British-Finnish study carried out IQ tests in countries all over the world, then ranked each nation by their average national score. While IQ tests may not be perfect – they miss intelligence defects even clever people suffer from, like dysrationalia, which is a fancy way of saying “choosing the simplest answer to avoid having to think too hard” – and this particular study was controversial for its methodology, it still makes for a fun comparison. Want to discover which countries are getting beaten up for their lunch money every morning? Read on.

10. Austria (average IQ: 100)

We’re gonna go out on a limb here and suggest not many of us associate intelligence with wearing lederhosen. But maybe that’s why we’ve all been underestimating Austria for so long. They’re willing to dress like a person with their fashion sense surgically removed because they don’t care what we think. They’re too busy using those gigantic sausage-and-beer-fueled brains of theirs to pay attention to mere mortals like us.

Part of Austria’s geniusness (that’s a word, right?) may be due to its comparative wealth. The CIA World Factbook ranks it the 33rd richest nation by GDP per capita, which doesn’t sound all that impressive until you realize the much-larger UK ranks at 40th. Since income and education tend to go hand in hand, it stands to reason that Austria might have more brains to spare, especially given its tiny population. Only 8.474 million people call this spectacular alpine nation home, fewer than Czech Republic, fewer than Cuba, fewer even than London.

Historically, the Austrians have put those big brains of theirs to good use. Their Hapsburg dynasty once ruled most of Europe.

9. Switzerland (average IQ: 101)

A short hop across a near-impenetrable barrier of frozen mountains from Austria, Switzerland is the place to be if you want cuckoo clocks, triangular chocolate, guns, or Nazi gold. It’s also home to some of the smartest people on the planet. Yep, the Swiss apparently value intellectualism almost as much as they value morally-dubious neutrality, and they have the historical figures to back up this claim. It was in the capital of Bern that the German-born Albert Einstein dreamed up his general theory of relativity.

So what is it about living in this bracing mountain environment that turns the Swiss into such geniuses? Well, they’re rich for starters. Seriously, if you were to grab Switzerland by the ankles, turn it upside down, and shake it vigorously, enough spare change would fall out to finance at least three globe-straddling empires. The multilingualism of the Swiss may help, too. At the Federal level, Switzerland gives German, French, and Italian equal weight, which may be significant as some studies link speaking multiple languages with increased intelligence.

On the other hand, maybe they’re just spending so much time avoiding fighting wars that they’ve got time to read all those brainy books gathering dust on other nation’s shelves?

8. Mongolia (average IQ: 101)

A great, big expanse of vast steppe in Asia, Mongolia has desert, mountains, yurts, and almost nothing else. We mean that in all seriousness. Despite being big enough to squash Texas and California flat and still have room for Montana, it is home to barely 3 million people, most of whom could spend their whole lives swinging a string of dead cats and never get even remotely close to hitting anything. One apparent upside of all this space? Intelligence. Lots of intelligence.

When you think about it, Mongolia scoring so highly is kinda unexpected. While breathtaking, their country ain’t rich. The CIA World Factbook ranks them at 122nd for GDP per capita, only slightly above Albania. But it seems what little money they have, they spend wisely. The country ranks surprisingly high on education, beating out even some European systems. On a perhaps more controversial note, some “race realists” have suggested Mongolians may just naturally have better visual-spacial awareness, giving their overall IQ scores an additional boost.

Whatever the truth, it seems that one thing is clear. If you’ve ever had a hankering for sparkling intellectual discussion in the emptiest landscape you’ll ever see, go to Mongolia.

7. Iceland (average IQ: 101)

annnd we’re back in Europe, this time in the far, frozen lands of the north, where “banking” is synonymous with “crime” and summer is just God’s cruel joke breaking up the punishment of winter. Yep, it’s the teeny tiny island nation of Iceland, a place that was once just a glorified fishing port, became a casino banking mecca, and now is famous as one of the richest, safest countries on Earth. Evidently, all that safety has combined with all that enforced time spent indoors escaping the weather to create a nation that seriously likes to study.

What’s amazing about this is that you wouldn’t have put money on Iceland hitting so high up these rankings a few decades ago. Prior to the 1980s, the very-literally-named land of ice was a kind of mid-ranking boring outpost of fishermen. The economy exploded in the ’80s, blew up even larger in the ’90s, and somehow managed to claw out of the devastating financial crash by turning the entire country into one of the world’s tourist hotspots. See, that’s those clever Icelandic brains for you, thinking their way out of a pickle that doesn’t involve reckless borrowing or blowing the national budget on lottery tickets.

6. Italy (average IQ: 102)

Oh come on, this isn’t fair! Italy already has class, great looks, a cool persona, and more sun than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. And now you’re telling us they’ve also got a world-beating IQ? We don’t wanna moan and say that life isn’t fair, but clearly life isn’t fair.

The cause of high Italian IQs is as mysterious to us as it is to you. Going on a long Google search mainly turned up blogs with names like “race realist” and “not politically correct” so we decided it’d probably be more fun – not to mention informative – for all of us if we just cracked some light-hearted jokes about pasta and pizza, while secretly wishing we were Italian. Or we could, y’know, point back at Italy’s long, illustrious past as the seat of the Roman Empire, a multi-nation state that made staggering scientific and engineering advances at a rate usually reserved for countries in the grip of the industrial revolution, while also producing art and literature that would still stand up some 2,000 years later, but where would be the fun in that?

5. Taiwan (average IQ: 104)

So, this is a little controversial. We’ve included Taiwan on this list of countries, while excluding Hong Kong, despite the international community recognizing both as part of China. Well, it’s true that Taipei doesn’t have a seat at the UN and isn’t included on any other official list of countries. But it’s also completely self-governing, calls itself separate from China, and functions like a totally independent state, so we’re including it here. And that’s just as well, because Taiwan’s average IQ is enough to leave other countries eating its dust.

Founded after Chairman Mao’s victorious forces chased his enemies off the Chinese mainland at the conclusion of the Chinese civil war, Taiwan today is a prosperous, forward-thinking nation that also just happens to look darn fine in a picture. You better believe Taipei uses that prosperity to invest in its young. A 2015 study by the OECD comparing data from 76 studies placed Taiwan’s education at 4th best in the entire world (in case you’re wondering, the USA came in at a mildly-embarrassing 28th). Gee, it’s almost like an intelligent population might somehow be linked to investing heavily in your education system.

4. China (average IQ: 105)

If any Taiwanese readers were hoping to beat out their old nemesis in these rankings, we’ve got some bad news. The original study this article was based on had mainland China just edging out its breakaway state, with an average IQ of 105 compared to Taiwan’s 104. Ouch. Well, them are the breaks, Taipei. At least you guys can comfort yourself at night with your functioning democratic system.

Actually what’s driving China’s high score is unfortunately hard to say. Beijing is notoriously uncooperative about divulging actual, useful data relating to a lot of fields, and the OECD education rankings just miss China entirely. Still, China certainly has its fair share of very smart people. The Middle Kingdom is competing with and outperforming the US in key technological sectors, and much of the most interesting cutting edge tech is now coming with a ‘made in China’ stamp.

On the other hand, China is also notorious for grade inflation and handing out junk degrees from its universities, so we’re not really sure what this tells us. Except, perhaps, for reinforcing our introductory point about the IQ study this article is based on being more a guideline than the last word on the subject.

3. Japan (average IQ: 105)

Still in Asia, the next country on our list is one famous for technology, cuteness, and generally doing so many things in such a weird way that it fueled basically 90% of early internet memes. Yep, Japan is another world leader in the being really, ridiculously smart stakes, romping home with an average IQ score of 105. That’s over 100 times the intelligence of the average person you’ll find dynamite fishing, kids!

We’re all familiar with the Japanese stereotypes: absurdly hard-working, absurdly dedicated to their jobs, and absurdly stressed out by their high pressure schooling. But, hey, it seems to be working. In that 2015 study we told you about earlier, the OECD ranked Japan joint 4th with Taiwan for education, where math and science were concerned. Countries 3rd, 2nd, and 1st were… well. You’ll be finding that out as you keep on reading.

Given their great education system and general braininess, it’s perhaps no surprise that Japan spent decades at the forefront of technological change. For a long, long time, everything exciting and important was coming out of Tokyo.

2. South Korea (average IQ: 106)

Did you know South Korea comes 3rd in global education rankings? Well: surprise! And get used to these references, by the way, because from here on out, all countries are ones that are going at the education rankings like gangbusters. The democratic brother of despotic North Korea, South Korea is a hi-tech paradise, with world-beating internet, widespread use of smartphones, and all other things that point to an entire industry of clever people doing clever things to collectively make the world a cleverer place. And all this in a country that manages to cram more than 51 million people into a place smaller than Iceland (pop: 334,252).

Of course, a lot of South Korea’s intelligence wins likely come from it being a wealthy country with a sterling education system. Not that it was always this way. Back in the dark ages of the mid-20th century, Pyongyang was actually richer than its southern neighbor by a significant margin. North Korea was blessed with the monetary backing of the Soviets, and had a huge amount of mineral wealth. South Korea, by contrast, had to transform itself through sheer brute willpower alone. Even ignoring the IQ scores, we guess it paid off.

1. Singapore (average IQ:108)

When Singapore declared independence from Malaysia in 1965, it was one of the poorest states in the world. Literacy was at third world levels. Not a desirable start for a country that wanted to be a world leader in education, attainment, and wealth. Yet, somehow, Singapore managed to pull it off. From being a tiny island with no natural resources, its exceptionally long-serving leader Lee Kuan Yew managed to turn his home into a global powerhouse. In doing so, he raised the education level of Singaporeans so high that they cruised to an easy first place in these very rankings.

According to the OECD, Singapore has the single greatest education system in the world. The only other territory that hits the same level on the IQ rankings is Hong Kong, but since that ain’t a country, it doesn’t get a spot on this list! The city state – one of only three left in existence – is also home to fantastic infrastructure and cleanliness that is so strictly enforced you can get publicly caned just for chewing gum. Whether that’s worth it just to live surrounded by a country of brainboxes is another matter entirely.


Global IQ Ranking –

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Christmas All-Time All-Stars – WIF Pop Culture

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At-Home Experiments – WIF Mad Science

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– Mad Scientist –

Experiments

You Can Do at Home

Image result for mad science

For any of you who grew up watching the Back to the Future series, Dexter’s Lab, or anything that showcased zany inventions, then you probably love the idea of mad science. Experiments and projects that look really cool, and provide a lot of fun and awe factor, but may not necessarily be something with a lot of practical value. Below are several cool projects that will make you feel like Doc Brown himself.

While these types of projects can be a lot of fun, and a great way to learn new things, some of them can still pose some small dangers. Always exercise caution, especially when working with electricity or tools of any kind.

10. Make Your Own Miniature Tesla Coil

Tesla himself has basically become an internet celebrity, partly because of a Tesla revival movement, but also because the internet tends to appreciate a good showman. The inventor of the Tesla coil knew what he had created, and used it constantly to wow crowds to help increase his funding.

You can make your own smaller version to wow your friends and wow yourself. Using a capacitor, a small lightbulb, some wire and a few other parts, you will be showing everyone what a science genius you are in no time. You can check out the video above for a full tutorial.

9. Make A Sweet Potato Gun For Cheap

Potato guns are a somewhat controversial project — for those who aren’t aware, a potato gun doesn’t shoot whole potatoes, just little chunks from them. They are hardly truly dangerous for the most part, but some people have abused this childhood “weapon,” and gotten it banned in certain localities. However, the truth is that both when building them or trying to use them, the dangers generally come when trying to build an incredibly large pneumatic potato gun.

This is unnecessarily dangerous, especially for what should just be a fun project. In the video above, there is a tutorial from youtube for how to build a small potato gun using an empty spray bottle and a few other fairly common items.

8. Hack A Nerf Gun To Make It Way More Awesome

Most of us remember Nerf guns from our childhoods. They were incredibly cool, decked out in bright colors that excited the children of the time period, and often had all kinds of cool features. Some could shoot in multiple directions, some had secret hidden attachments and so on — they were the epitome of cool. However, the one thing we all wished was that they shot a bit farther and a bit harder.

It’s not like they would have hurt if they hit harder. They were soft foam and rubber, designed to be absurdly safe. However, the manufacturers made sure that the guns would be incredibly lawsuit and fun safe, and kept the pressure on them quite low. Some have found with some tinkering though, that the pressure can actually be increased. In the video a modder takes a nerf gun apart, and shows how to remove the installed inhibitor device that keeps it from shooting as far as it truly has the potential to. With just a little work, you can unleash the true power of the Nerf.

7. Build Your Own Drone For Whatever Fun Purposes You Wish

When most people think of drones, they think of gigantic remote controlled airplanes with bombs that shoot enemies in the Middle East. However, drones are becoming increasingly common, both commercially and as a hobby, and most of them are quite small. The average hobby drone involves a small body with some parts salvaged from old fans, enough electronic equipment to control it remotely, and usually a mounted camera as well.

In the video above, you can see a full tutorial that many hobbyists have found useful. While it takes a little bit of work, the parts are fairly easy to acquire, and the build is within reach for someone without much experience. Alternatively, if you are feeling really cheap, perhaps you could try strapping a GoPro to an RC helicopter.

6. Construct Your Own Theremin At Home

The Theremin is pretty much the musical instrument for mad scientists, and a must have if you want to have both the coolest and nerdiest way to make music possible. For those who aren’t familiar with them, a theremin is an instrument where you essentially move your hands through a magnetic field to make very otherworldly sounding notes. There are not many people who can play a Theremin well, but those who do provide some amazingly haunting sounding melodies.

And now, you can too, without paying huge amounts to buy a large sized Theremin you may never fully take advantage of. With the help of the YouTube tutorial above, you will be well on your way to making your own theremin. An amplifier, and a power supply are going to be some of the biggest ticket supplies you will need, and even those can be acquired for fairly cheap if you aren’t trying to be picky about sound quality.

5. Make Your Remote Controlled Robot Out Of Cheap Materials

Pretty much everyone wants their own robot. Especially those who want to impress their friends, or their enemies, with their knowledge of insane science. While a truly autonomous robot isn’t that practical and requires extremely complex programming, a remote controlled minion can still be very impressive and requires much less effort.

In the video above, you can see a tutorial on how to build a remote controlled robot that can even walk on uneven paths, and looks quite cool doing so. This robot was built with incredibly cheap and easy to use parts, such as styrofoam, glue, small pieces of crafting wood, and a small motor and battery. Most of it is incredibly easy to acquire and safe to work with. Using the same basic principles, you could easily modify the look a bit to make it feel more like your own personal robot minion.

4. Make Your Own Plasma At Home And Impress Your Friends

If you have ever seen a plasma globe, you have probably wanted to own one at least as a passing thought, and many of you probably have splurged on one at one point or another. Plasma globes are extremely cool, especially the way you can move your fingers across the globe to make it dance around inside. For those of you love science projects, making your own plasma globe is actually quite easy — although it won’t be quite as big or impressive as the commercial ones.

In the video above, you can see the full tutorial, but the parts you need will be minimal. A spark coil, a spring, an incandescent lightbulb and a capacitor. You will also need electrical tape, and you will want to read up first on safety precautions for working on electricity if you aren’t already familiar, to ensure that you stay properly grounded, just in case.

3. Make Your Own Solar Powered Radio Using Recycled Materials

For those of you who have ever went camping for a while, you may have brought along a solar powered radio. They can also be incredibly useful if the power goes out, and they often have lights built into them so you can see in an emergency as well. However, if you like to tinker, you can also take your own old radio, then salvage a solar panel from something else and put together your own solar powered radio.

In the video above, you can see an example of how the project can be completed. However, keep in mind that you really don’t need to buy your own solar panel from a manufacturer, as than can be expensive. There are many different, easy to acquire objects, that you could salvage solar panels from. And, if you are feeling really adventurous, you could always make your own solar panels.

2. You Can Build A Segway At Home For A Fraction Of The Price

Many people are familiar with the Segway, a device that was incredibly popular about a decade ago, and was more recently feature in the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop. For those of the latest generation, a Segway is sort of like those recent hoverboards — the ones that don’t hover — except it has a giant handle on it to make standing long term easier. The segway goes for an asking price of several thousand dollars, and while the recent “hoverboards” are fairly cheap, they have been known to be fire hazards, and generally made as toys for smaller people, and aren’t high quality.

Using the video tutorial below, which also has a link to the original instructable, you can build your own full Segway, with all the power of a real one, for a fraction of the price — just a few hundred dollars. You can learn and get practice in several new skills, and the project is designed to be approachable even if you don’t have prior experience in any of them. If you want a hoverboard, you can just leave off the handle, and feel safer knowing yours is probably less likely to catch on fire abruptly.

1. You Can Do All Kinds Of Fun Experiments With Non-Newtonian Fluids

Making a non-newtonian fluid is really easy to do at home, perfectly safe, and incredibly fun to play with. Non-newtonian fluids are fluids that act differently under stress, and not just due to changes in temperature. One example of this is ketchup, which acts like a solid in the bottle when upside down, until you apply force to change its viscosity. For those who want to experiment with the properties, the best way is to use a mixture of two parts cornstarch to one part water.

Experimenting with it will show very strange results. When hit, it will act like a solid in that particular spot, even while the rest will ripple. If you pick it up and apply force you can form it into a ball, but if you release the force it will turn back into a liquid and drip through your fingers. With a large enough pool of it, you can basically walk across it and when it is put on top of speakers, it moves around like a strange alien being dancing to the music.


At-Home Experiments

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Bungle in the Jungle – WIF Nature

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Strange Things

Found

in the Jungle

Jungle View, Simon Scales – Concept Art – Matte Painting

The jungles are, and always have been mysterious. People can and have gone in them, never to be seen again. And even if they make up just 7 percent of the Earth’s land surface, with that number going down year after year, they are home to half of all living creatures on the planet. And what’s more, we don’t even know many of them. Nevertheless, the jungle can hide a great deal of mysterious things. Here are 10 of them.

 10. A Long Lost Mayan City Found by Looking at the Stars
It’s a fairly well-known fact that the Maya were good astronomers. The Mayan calendar may ring some bells, though it is often confused with the Aztec Calendar. And it never does get as much credit as it should. Nevertheless, a 15-year-old boy by the name of William Gadoury, from Quebec, Canada, has put the Mayan stargazing ability to the test. He theorized that the ancient pre-Colombian civilization used to build their cities in accordance with the overhead constellations.By making use of images from the Canadian Space Agency, Google Earth, as well as other known Maya settlements, he was able to pinpoint and discover marks which indicate a possible hidden city deep in the Yucatan jungles of Mexico.

Though nobody actually went there to analyze the site first hand, mostly because of the dense vegetation, the images provided by the satellite point to a possible pyramid complex hidden beneath the overgrown canopy. The satellite discovered linear elements that resemble a street network, as well as a rectangular shape that may actually be a pyramid. These images could, of course, show nothing more than natural features interpreted as man-made, but this is highly unlikely. Straight lines and rectangular shapes are rarely found in nature on their own, and are almost always a sign of human activity. If proven to be true and there actually is an undiscovered Maya settlement there, then this technique could prove useful in finding other lost cities just by looking at the stars.

9. The Largest Flower in the World

Growing some 3.3 feet across and weighing in at around 24 pounds, the Rafflesia Arnoldii is the largest flower in the world. There are 17 known species and they all live deep in the rainforests of Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, Thailand, and the Philippines. But this isn’t your ordinary flower to give your girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. Not because she doesn’t have a big enough vase to put it in or anything, but because this flower is notorious for its smell of rotten flesh when in full bloom. Also known as the “corpse flower”, it makes use of this particular “perfume” in order to draw in its main pollinator: the carrion fly. It sports five immense, red colored, leathery petals and a deep well in the middle. The flies go inside hoping to find some rotting flesh, but instead are covered with the flower’s pollen.

The corpse flower is also a parasite. It doesn’t have any leaves, stem, or roots and instead makes use of some threadlike growths that go inside its host: theTetrastigma Vine. Prior to its bulb sprouting, there are no visible signs of the flower’s existence. It can take up to ten months for the flower to go from bulb to full bloom. And when it does, it stays like that for only a few days; a week at best.Nobody really knows when that happens and it is extremely hard to make one do so in captivity. Singapore’s Botanic Garden hasn’t yet been successful in growing its own. So, if you really want to see one live, your best bet is to go deep within the Southeast Asian jungles to find one.

8. The Boiling River of Amazonian Legend

When he was only a boy, Andrés Ruzo, a geophysicist, was told a legend by his grandfather. This legend was about the conquistadors and how they went in search of El Dorado, the city of gold, deep in the Amazonian jungles. And from the fortunate few that were able to return came all sorts of stories. These stories were about man-eating snakes, jungle people with poison darts, trees bigger than they’d ever seen, and a boiling river capable of instantly killing anyone who would fall in its waters. This story remained with Ruzo into his adulthood. And for his PhD, he decided to make Peru’s first detailed geothermal map. Now, boiling streams do exist. They are located near volcanoes or other geothermal hotspots. But the thing is that the Amazonian basin is nowhere near such places, and the existence of a boiling river would be next to impossible. But as fate would have it, his aunt, of all people, was familiar with the boiling river. Not only had she been there before, but she was friends with the river shaman’s wife.

She then took him there, some 440 miles away from any volcanoes, and deep within the Peruvian jungle. The river itself is about 82 feet wide and 20 feet deep in some places, and for a distance of about 4 miles its waters are close to boiling point. This site is known as Mayantuyacu, and is considered sacred by the natives. What’s even more interesting is the fact that they use its waters for everything from cooking, brewing tea, or washing. But since this place is nowhere near a volcano, there isn’t a simple answer as to where the heat comes from. The best explanation so far, which probably is the case, is that this water comes from far away, as far as the glaciers high up in the Andes Mountains. Then it goes through an immense network of fissures within the mountains themselves, then deep underground where it’s heated, only to come back out in this place, making this stretch of the river boil.

7. Sigiriya – The Eighth Wonder of the World

Located on the teardrop-shaped island of Sri Lanka, there is an abandoned fortress/palace that some say is the Eighth Wonder of the World. Sigiriya’s origin dates back to the 5th century AD during the reign of King Kashyapa, 477-495, and was built on a 600 foot tall, vertical granite slab towering over the surrounding jungle. King Kashyapa came to power after successfully overthrowing his father and usurping his brother’s rule on the throne of Sri Lanka. He later killed his father by walling him up while still alive. Fearing for his life, his brother, Moggallana, fled to Southern India, where he would raise an army, determined to take back the throne from King Kashyapa. Knowing this, Kashyapa then moved the capital from Anuradhapura, to the strategically located Sigiriya. The site was chosen due to its defensive capabilities. The granite slab itself was a “plug” that once covered the mouth of a volcano. But over time, the volcano subsided and eroded, leaving only the huge stone in place.

Now only a ruin , Sigiriya was once a crowning technological achievement and quite possibly the most important urban planning site of the first millennium in the world. The complex was comprised of the royal palace located at the very top, a mid-level terrace that includes an exquisite gate shaped in the form of a huge lion, and the lower part, which was made up of other smaller palaces, elaborate gardens, and the city itself. The western wall of the granite stone was a covered in huge murals, 460 feet long and 130 feet high; probably the biggest in the world. The frescoes depicted over 500 partially undressed ladies, maybe the king’s mistresses, or probably priestesses during various religious ceremonies. The spiral stairs that went up to the palace were built next to the Mirror Wall. This was once covered in plaster and polished to the point where the king could see his reflection when going up to the palace.

Things, however, didn’t last. The king’s brother did eventually return with an army and defeated Kashyapa in battle. Taking back the throne of Sri Lanka, he moved the capital back to Anuradhapura and transformed Sigiriya into a Buddhist monastery that lasted up until the 14th century. The site was then abandoned for 500 years, only to be rediscovered by accident when some British troops went past it in 1831. The first small scale archeological work began in the 1890s, and only in 1983 did the Sri Lankan government get involved. Since then Sigiriya has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

6. Cuvette Centrale – Congo’s Hidden Carbon “Bomb”

For the past three years, scientists have been meticulously mapping the Congo Basin and what its soil has buried just below the surface. As it turns out, there is one of the largest carbon sinks in the world, covering an area larger than England, some 56,000 square miles in total. This swampland, even though it makes up just 4 percent of the whole Congo Basin, holds as much carbon below ground as the amount stored above ground (in the form of trees and vegetation) for the rest of the basin put together. That’s roughly 30 billion tons of carbon, or about 20 years’ worth of fossil fuel emissions in the US. When the investigations started, scientists had no idea of what they’d come across, and this peatland turned out to be 16 times larger than previously anticipated. Peat is decomposing organic matter turned partially into soil. It is most commonly found in cooler regions like Siberia, Northern Europe, or Canada, but they’re also found in tropic regions like this one.

When plant matter dies it falls into these marshlands and gets partially decomposed. But because of the water above, this decomposition stops midway. Left alone, peatlands make great carbon sinks, sucking up carbon from the air via plants and then storing it underground when these plants die. This particular marshland started forming roughly 11,000 years ago with the end of the last ice age, when Africa became more humid in its tropical regions as a result. However, if for whatever reason the water is drained or it evaporates, then the peat starts decomposing again, releasing all the carbon into the air with devastating effects. Now, because it was only recently discovered and is basically unprotected, this peatland is vulnerable to deforestation and drainage in order to make room for agriculture, particularly for palm oil. The same thing happened in Indonesia, where over 36,000 square miles of peatland were exposed in recent decades, in order to make room for palm tree plantations.

5. The Stone Spheres of Costa Rica

Ever since the late 1930s, people have been discovering strange stone spheres scattered all across southern Costa Rica. In order to make room for banana plantations, farmers began clearing the jungle only to come across these round balls ranging in size from only a few inches to over 6.6 feet in diameter, and weighing in as much as 15 tons. Not knowing what to make of them, the farmers either pushed them aside with bulldozers or blew them up with dynamite. Word got around that there was gold inside, so people began destroying them, but, surprise surprise, there was no gold.

Nevertheless, they did get proper archaeological investigation soon after their discovery. Some of the stone spheres, which were left in their original place, were found alongside pottery shards dating from around 300 to 1550 AD. But most of them are believed to have been made around the year 1000 AD, more than 500 years before the Spanish Conquest. There isn’t much information about their creators, however, with the culture disappearing soon after the European arrivals. Nevertheless, archaeological evidence points to the fact that these people lived in scattered settlements no larger than 2,000 people at a time. They also made use of agriculture and lived in circular houses. Go figure!

To create these spherical stones, this ancient civilization probably used a combination of techniques such as controlled fracture, pecking, and sand grinding. Contrary to what you might hear about them from various sources, they are nowhere near to being perfect spheres. But given the technology at the time, they are impressive nonetheless. Their purpose, on the other hand, is a complete mystery. Since they were removed from their original positions, we can only imagine their intended purpose. While some of the stones were still on site during the 1940s and ’50s, archaeologists documented them as being arranged in straight or curved lines. One such arrangement was said to be in direct alignment with the magnetic north. Others were said to be on top of low mounds, leading scientists to speculate that some of them, at least, were kept indoors. But because many of these stones have been relocated, it makes it impossible to verify. Today, most ofthe stone spheres adorn public places and even private gardens. Many of them have since found their way to other countries as well, particularly in the US.

4. Zombie Fungus

The Cordyceps are a genus of fungi with a worldwide distribution. But most of the almost 400 species are found in the humid and tropical regions of Asia, in countries like China, Nepal, Japan, Bhutan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. What they do, is that they infect an insect, usually an ant (but it depends of the species of Cordycep), and then they take control over the poor animal. Since 85% of all insects in the world live in rainforests, the fungus’ preference for ants kinda makes sense. For instance, it’s estimated that over 8 million ants cover a single hectare of tropical forest.

When these ants come in contact with the spores of these fungi, they immediately get infected. And as if out of a sci-fi movie, the fungi then takes control over the actions of the ant, making it climb the foliage as high as it can. There, the ant will fix itself to a leaf or a twig, and it will eventually die. Next, the fungus will sprout from the ant’s head, forming a long stem over the following three weeks. Then, the next generation of spores will burst from its tip and will fall to the ground, ready to be picked up by other ants, and the cycle repeats itself.

The higher the ant goes, the wider the distribution these spores have, and the more ants can pick them up. Now, if other ants come by an infected one, they immediately take it as far away from the colony as possible and dump it there, in order to prevent infection. What’s really interesting about these “zombie fungi” is that each species specializes on just one type of insect; not just ants. This indicates that there’s a close co-evolution between the parasite and the host. And what these fungi ends up doing on a grander scale is that they keep any one species from getting the upper hand. If one group of insects becomes too numerous, they have a higher chance of getting infected, thus constantly promoting diversity in the jungle.

3. The Lost Stone Head of Guatemala

Back in 1987, a doctor of philosophy by the name of Oscar Rafael Padilla Lara received a photograph of a giant stone head located somewhere in the jungles of Guatemala. The photograph was reportedly taken during the 1950s by a man who owned the land where the head was located. Dr. Padilla then tracked down the landowner and went looking for the head. Unfortunately, however, when they got there the head was gone. Well, it was still there, actually; it just no longer looks like a human head. From 1960 to 1996, Guatemala was ravaged by civil war and it seems that the mysterious stone head was used as target practice by the rebels. The site is located some 6 miles away from the small village of La Democracia in southern Guatemala. Dr. Padilla measured what remained of the monolith to a height of about 20 feet. But since the war was still taking place at the time, he never returned to the site.

Now, there have been other stone heads discovered in the country, as well as southern Mexico, which were created by the Olmec civilization during the first and second millennium BC. What makes this stone head so special, however, is the fact that it doesn’t look anything like the others. While the Olmec monuments resemble a more “Negroid” appearance – something that sparked all sorts of wild theories – this one had a more “Caucasian” look to it, which again ignited alien conspiracies. Some, nevertheless, speculate that this head was maybe an anomaly in the Olmec period, or maybe it was made by another culture altogether, before or after the Olmecs themselves. Others believe that, similar to the Easter Island Statues, there may be a body underneath yet to be discovered. But there is some controversy about the whole story. Due to the odd nature of the discovery and the unlikely and seemingly unfortunate series of events surrounding it, some believe the head to be a hoax. The answer, however, is still hidden within the Guatemalan jungles.

2. Real Life Tarzan

It’s a known and accepted fact that those who venture into the jungle have a big chance of never coming back out again. There are plenty of things that can go wrong and they sometimes do. But it’s not that common for people to lose themselves in the jungle willingly. But on extremely rare occasions, this happens as well. This was the case of a man and his then-infant son, who’ve been living in the Vietnamese jungles for over 40 years. During the Vietnam War, Ho Van Thanh, now over 80 years old, took his youngest son, Ho Van Lang, deep within the jungle in order to escape an US air raid that killed his wife and two older sons. Unbeknownst to him, however, his wife gave birth to another son just before the air raid, and this baby also managed to somehow survive, and was then taken by his uncle, Thanh’s brother.

Forty years later, the two were discovered some 25 miles away from the nearest village, living in a tree house constructed close to a stream. The two also crafted their own makeshift tools like axes, knives and even arrows, and were even tending a sugarcane plantation. They also had a small fire going in the suspended hut and made their own underpants from dried tree bark. When discovered, the father was barely able to walk due to his old age, and even forgot most of the language. His son, though thin, was in peak physical condition, but like his father, didn’t know the language. Neither of them was suffering from any diseases. When taken back to the village, the father was taken to the hospital in order to receive proper medical treatment. However, doctors had to tie him to the bed because he kept trying to escape back into the jungle.

1. The White City of the Monkey God

Ever since the time of Hernan Cortez and his conquest of the Aztecs, there have been legends of a mighty city somewhere deep in the unexplored jungles to the south. This city was said to be so wealthy and so powerful that nobles were eating their food from plates of gold. And in charge of this city was an all-powerful monkey god. The Bishop of Honduras sent a letter to the King of Spain in 1544, telling him that after an arduous travel through the dense jungles, guided there by some locals, he saw the city from the top of the mountain in one of the valleys below. After that, the legend only continued to grow. That was until 1939, when an explorer by the name of Theodore Morde claimed to have found it in the Mosquita Valley area in Honduras. However, he was later found dead in his parent’s house, having supposedly hanged himself, never revealing the actual location.

However, a recent archaeological expedition in the area has actually discovered the site by making use of state of the art technology. The ancient city is located in a crater-like valley, surrounded by mountains and covered by almost impenetrable vegetation. The exact location is, however, kept a secret in the hopes of keeping looters away. The archaeologists have since managed to map an extensive area of the site, discovering plazas, earth pyramids, and countless valuable artifacts and stone statues. Though they don’t believe in an actual “White City of the Monkey God,” they do believe that they’ve stumbled upon something even greater: apreviously unknown civilization that inhabited the area long ago.


Bungle in the Jungle

– WIF Nature

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 172

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 172

…“I am relieved about Gus!.” Francine is all too aware that Gus is the one suffering most by the loss of his parents…

Suffering by Paula Heffel

“I am not going to waste our time together squabbling over that necktie.” Their 17 month marriage remains solid, as most do, in spite of the ongoing McKinney heartbreak, career shifts, and the blinding glare of the national spotlight. Like those ships in the night, passing near not seeing, “We can’t waste this time.”

Space Academy

“Speaking of not seeing someone, how did Deke & Gus do on their Academy exams?” Co-surrogate father Roy would give anything short giving up on the election to be there to help the boys with the critical Space Academy simulator tests; the single biggest factor in becoming an astronaut candidate. Braden King is a ground expert, but has little to offer the two rapidly maturing space-aspiring young men.

The adults’ combined mission is to help them attain those desired goals.

“Gus barely got by the book test, then A-ced the simulator.” she tells Roy. “Deke lost his gyro-control, hit an asteroid and he will never live it down. It turns out that the professor rigged his test by inserting THE QUARKIAN QUANDARY, I believe he called it.”

NASA Top Gun

NASA“They only pull that on the Top Guns. I bet Deke had already been promoted.”

“I am relieved about Gus!.” Francine is all too aware that Gus is the one suffering most by the loss of his parents.

“The way I see it Francine, Gus knows that his flying skills are the only way he graduates from the Academy; it’s hard to keep up with his genius brother.”

“Whatever the reason,” she concludes as their Ford Hydrogen vehicle pulls up to the Hilton Hotel & Casino, “I think that Celeste would be pleased as punch and Sammy Mac is screaming at the top of his lungs … somewhere out there.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 172


page 207

Contents TRT

The Meaning of Life – Seriously?

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Theories About

the

Meaning of Life

Why are we here? What is the purpose of our lives? It’s a question that has probably popped into everyone’s head at least once. These are five of the most interesting theories.

 5. Hedonism

Hedonists believe that pleasure and happiness are intrinsically valuable, and pain and sadness are dis-valuable. Their argument for the meaning of life is: shouldn’t we live our lives to be as happy and as pleasurable as possible?

As it stands right now, we’re only on Earth for a short period of time, but we could die at any minute. While a lot of people have faith that there is an afterlife, there is no guarantee of one. Therefore, shouldn’t we try to have as many pleasurable experiences as we can while we’re alive? Why not eat the best food, enjoy the finest drinks, and pursue any type of carnality that we want? At the very least, shouldn’t we spend our lives avoiding pain and displeasure?

4. Stoicism

Stoicism is  a school of philosophy that dates back to Ancient Greece, and it was taught by Zeno of Citium. Stoicism is about finding inner peace, because that is something that is unshakable. Other things in your life will change. Like, your bank account will fluctuate and your career path may change directions, because those are outside forces that we can’t control. But we can control what goes on in ourselves.

Stoicism is also about overcoming destructive emotions and behaviors to achieve inner calm. This doesn’t mean extinguishing the feelings, but transforming them using reason and clear judgment.

Some stoics have advanced Zeno’s theories and believe that being actively involved in life is a major component of the meaning of life. Being active in life includes working and meeting life’s demands. For example, if you slept all the time, you wouldn’t be living.

Essentially, stoicism is about self-control and being actively involved in life. Through this, you’ll find inner peace and you’ll be free from suffering.

3. Existentialism

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard was the first existential philosopher and his argument was that life was nothing but a series of choices that we make on our own. No one else makes these choices, and these choices bring meaning to our lives.

Basically, we have to define the meaning in our own life by using free will, our choices, and personal responsibility. Also, we should make these choices free of law, ethical rules, and tradition. However, that isn’t to say there are no consequences, because there obviously are.

Existentialism is about choosing what you want to do with your life and how you’ll find meaning; just be prepared to deal with the repercussions.

2. Physics

Jeremy England, an assistant professor at MIT, says that life “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.” His theory is that objects, like rocks, plants, and animals, absorb and dissipate energy. Rocks absorb very little energy and release a little bit back. Living things, on the other hand, are really good at absorbing energy and dissipating only a little bit of it.

When atoms are hit by energy, like from the sun or from a chemical fuel, and they are surrounded by a heat bath, such as an ocean or atmosphere (like the conditions on Earth), the atoms will reorganize themselves to better dissipate the energy. In certain conditions, the reorganization inevitably leads to life.

On Earth, those atoms organized into a single cell and about 3.5 billion years ago, it started to evolve and eventually branched apart to become every single species on Earth.

So that’s it. The reason we’re here is because life was bound to happen sometime. That’s… kind of disappointing.

1. Projects of Worth

Susan Wolf is a professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and she has an interesting perspective on the meaning of life.

In her essay “The Meanings of Lives,” Wolfe argues that the question “does our existence have meaning?” only has two possible answers – either there is a God or gods, who created us for some reason, or there is no God, or gods, and our existence is random and has no meaning. That being said, she does not think that individual lives do not have meaning.

One of her early arguments in the essay is that she doesn’t think that happiness is an important aspect to the meaning of life. She points to people like Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, and Mahatma Gandhi, who didn’t exactly lead happy lives, but to suggest their lives were meaningless would be outrageous. Meanwhile, someone who sits at home all day drinking beer and watching TV may be happy, but their lives lack meaning. But man, would they be so happy.

Wolf’s theory of having a meaningful life is to actively be engaged in a project or projects of positive value and the projects have to be successful.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, to be actively engaged should be pretty clear, but what are positive projects? That term is purposely vague because value means something different to everyone. For example, if you hate sports you may not see the value in someone training to be an elite athlete. Likewise, if you don’t read books, you may not see the value of someone trying to write a novel. Also, positive value does not mean it has to be moral nor does it necessarily have to better life for your fellow human.

Another main part of her theory is that you have to at least be a little successful in your project. An example she gives is a scientist who spends his entire life working on a single project. Then a week before he is about to publish it, another scientist publishes the same results that they discovered independently. His life would sadly be meaningless.

Wolf says that by being involved in projects of worth, instead of just pursuing things that make us happy, shows that we see value in something else besides ourselves, which in turns creates meaningful lives.


The Meaning of Life

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(click on for video)

– Seriously?

April Fools’ Day – WIF WABAC Almanac

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April Fools’ Day

Color Me

(sometimes called April Fool’s Day or All Fools’ Day) is celebrated every year on the first day of April as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. The jokes and their victims are known as “April fools”. Hoax stories may be reported by the press and other media on this day and explained on subsequent days. Popular since the 19th century, the day is not a national holiday in any country, but it is well known in India, Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil and the United States.Related image

The earliest recorded association between 1 April and foolishness can be found in Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales (1392). Some writers suggest that the restoration of 1 January as New Year’s Day in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the holiday, but this theory does not explain earlier references.

Origins

The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s neighbor is recognized everywhere. Some precursors of April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, the Holi festival of India, and the Medieval Feast of Fools.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392), the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote,Syn March was gon. Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. 2 May, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean “32 March”, i.e. 1 April. In Chaucer’s tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

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In 1508, French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally “April fish”), a possible reference to the holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on 1 April. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as “Fooles holy day“, the first British reference. On 1 April 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”.

In the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on 25 March in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year’s was a week-long holiday ending on 1 April. Some writers suggest that April Fools’ originated because those who celebrated on 1 January made fun of those who celebrated on other dates. The use of 1 January as New Year’s Day was common in France by the mid-16th century, and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

Reception

The practice of April Fool pranks and hoaxes is controversial. The mixed opinions of critics are epitomised in the reception to the 1957 BBC “Spaghetti-tree hoax“, in reference to which, newspapers were split over whether it was “a great joke or a terrible hoax on the public”.

The positive view is that April Fools’ can be good for one’s health because it encourages “jokes, hoaxes…pranks, [and] belly laughs”, and brings all the benefits of laughter including stress relief and reducing strain on the heart. There are many “best of” April Fools’ Day lists that are compiled in order to showcase the best examples of how the holiday is celebrated. Various April Fools’ campaigns have been praised for their innovation, creativity, writing, and general effort – especially those from the major corporations such as Google and Apple.

Image result for harmless pranks clipart

The negative view describes April Fools’ hoaxes as “creepy and manipulative”, “rude” and “a little bit nasty”, as well as based on schadenfreude and deceit. When genuine news is published on April Fools’ Day, it is occasionally misinterpreted as a joke—for example, when Google, known to play elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes, announced the launch of Gmail with 1-gigabyte inboxes in 2004, an era when competing webmail services offered 4 MB or less, many dismissed it as a joke outright. On the other hand, sometimes stories intended as jokes are taken seriously. Either way, there can be adverse effects, such as confusion, misinformation, waste of resources (especially when the hoax concerns people in danger), and even legal or commercial consequences.


 

April Fools’ Day

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

WIF WABAC Almanac