Prehistoric Man and His Petrifying Pets – WIF World

Leave a comment

Terrifying Animals

That Lived Alongside

Prehistoric Man

hunting-the-cave-bear

Hunting the Cave Bear by Zdenek Burian

Our species, Homo sapiens, have only been around for about as long as a blink of an eye in terms of Earth’s history. It’s believed that the Earth formed over 4.6 billion years ago, and the first humans evolved about 200,000 years ago in Africa.

 In order to survive so that modern humans could flourish, our prehistoric ancestors had to fight off and hunt animals that were much bigger and far stronger than them. These are 10 horrifying animals that they may have encountered as humans migrated all over the world.

10. The Columbian Mammoth

Columbian mammoths were one of the biggest mammals to ever walk on Earth, and they were cousin to the more famous woolly mammoths. Columbian mammoths were found all the way from modern-day Canada to Mexico, while woolly mammoths, who were smaller, were found in northern Asia, Russia, and Canada. Another major difference is that Columbian mammoths had much less hair, so they looked closer to modern day elephants, but bigger with much longer tusks.

Columbian mammoths were 12 to 14 feet tall and weighed anywhere between 5.5 and 11 tons. The Columbian mammoth also had the biggest tusks out of the elephant family. They were, on average, 12 feet long, spiraled, and very strong. They would have been used to fight off predators, including humans.

9. The Ground Sloth

We know that this list is about terrifying animals, and sloths are anything but terrifying. However, their ancient ancestors, ground sloths, were a bit more intimidating than their modern day counterpart because they were some of the biggest mammals to ever live.

There were several different subspecies of ground sloths and the ones that lived in North America were the size of rhinos and humans most likely dined on them. However, the biggest ground sloths, the Megatherium, which lived in South America up until about 10,000 years ago, were as big as an elephant. From head to tail, they were 20 feet long and weighed up to four tons. Also, because they had sharp teeth and long claws, there is some speculation that they may have been carnivores.

Ultimately, the last species of ground sloths lived until about 4,200 years ago on theCaribbean islands. When humans arrived on the islands, it was the final death blow to the ground sloths.

8. Gigantopithecus

The biggest known primate to ever walk the earth was the Gigantopithecus, which is a relative of orangutans. They were 10 feet tall, and they weighed around 1,100 pounds.

One thing you may notice is that the Gigantopithecus looks a lot like the mythical Sasquatch. However, before anyone begins to speculate, the Gigantopithecus died out 100,000 years ago. So unless a group of 10-foot, half ton apes actively hid themselves from humans for one thousand centuries, it doesn’t seem likely that people have seen Gigantopithecus and thought it was Bigfoot.

The reason they died out after living on Earth for six to nine million years is because they needed a lot of food, like fruits, to sustain their giant bodies, which wasn’t a problem when their home in Southeast Asia was tropical forests. But then, because of weather changes their forests started to disappear and they became dry savannas, meaning there was less food and the giant primate just died out.

Of course, Gigantopithecus may be familiar to those people who saw the very excellent live adaptation of The Jungle Book, because King Louie is a Gigantopithecus.

7. The Cave Hyena

Cave Hyenas, also known as spotted coyotes, were about double the size of their relatives, the laughing coyote. They weighed up to 285 pounds, they were about three feet tall, and were nearly five feet long. According to calculations based on fossils, one cave hyena was strong enough to take down a 5-year-old mastodon that weighed a ton.

However, they lived in packs, sometimes consisting of 30 coyotes. These made them much more effective hunters, and they could take down a nine-year-old mastodon that weighed nine tons. Needless to say, a small family of humans would not want to come across a pack of hungry hyenas.

Their population started to dwindle about 20,000 years ago, before going extinct somewhere between 11,000 and 13,000 years ago. One reason may have been humans, because we competed with hyenas for cave space during the last ice age.

6. Smilodon

Saber-toothed cats are often given the very misleading title of saber-tooth tigers. It’s misleading because while they are part of the Felidae family, they weren’t closelyrelated to tigers.

Saber-toothed cats first appeared 42 million years ago. There were many species of them and most of them had died before humans first appeared. However, it’s believed that humans living in the Americas could have come across two different species of saber-toothed cats, Smilodon fatalis and Smilodon populator. They ranged in size and they could be as big as an African lion, which is the biggest wild lion living today. They also could weigh as much as the biggest subspecies of tiger, the Siberian tiger.

With their size came great strength. The smilodons could take down much bigger animals than themselves, like mammoths. Often, they would wait for prey to get close and then launch a surprise attack.

Out of the feline family, the smilodon didn’t have the strongest bite. According to calculations, it only had about one-third of the bite strength of modern lions. However, it had a really flexible jaw and could open its mouth 120 degrees, compared to a lion, which maxes out at 60 degrees.

The smilodon also had fairly weak teeth, but researchers think to compensate for that, they developed the strongest forearms of all cats. It’s believed that they used this strength to hold down their prey and then stabbed their fangs through the prey’s neck. Another theory is that the Smilodon repeatedly stabbed the prey with their fangs after it was held down. No matter how they killed their prey, a human did not want to find itself under the forearms of a smilodon.

5. The Dire Wolf

Fans of Game of Thrones may recognize Dire Wolves, but unlike many other animals on the show, Dire Wolves were real.

They first appeared about a quarter of a million years ago. They were similar tomodern-day gray wolves but sturdier. The gray wolf, which is the largest living wolf, is about 4 feet to 6.6 feet long and weighs 40 to 170 pounds, while Dire Wolves were about 5 feet long and weighed up to 200 pounds.

Dire Wolves, which were found all over North and South America, had a bite force that was 29 percent stronger than gray wolves. Their diet consisted of mostly horses.

They became extinct like so a lot other carnivores, at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.

4. The American Lion

Like a lot of other animals on this list, the American Lion is horribly named because it’s not a lion at all. Its scientific name is Panthera atrox, and as it suggests, the American Lion is more closely related to panthers than lions. One part about their name that is correct is that they lived in modern-day America starting about 330,000 years ago.

One notable aspect that our ancient ancestors would have noticed right away if they encountered an American Lion is that it was huge. In fact, it is the biggest known wild cat in history. On average, they weighed 772 pounds, which is 25 percent larger thanan African Lion. The American Lion was also incredibly strong. They were powerful enough to bring down a bison, meaning a small group of humans would have been in trouble had they encountered one of these lions.

They died around 11,000 years ago around the end of the last ice age.

3. The Megalania

Megalania was a monitor lizard, which is the same lizard family as the Komodo dragon, and it lived in Australia until about 50,000 years ago; around the same time that humans migrated there.

The size of Megalania is a highly debated topic. Originally, it was thought to be 23 feet long, while other estimates put its size more in the range of 11 feet long.

Regardless, they were bigger than Komodo dragons, but like the Komodo dragon, the Megalania also had poisonous glands. It would simply bite its prey and if it didn’t die of blood loss, then it would be slowly poisoned to death and the Meaglania would feast on its carcass.

Today, Komodo dragons are considered a very dangerous animal. They are fast, strong, and poisonous. They are also on average 6.5 feet long. The Megalania could have been four times that size; not exactly something a human, either prehistoric or modern, would want to bump into.

2. The Short-Faced Bear

Bears first appeared about 40 million years ago, and several subspecies have evolved over the years. One that our prehistoric ancestors would have encountered is the short-faced bear.

Short-faced bears (Arctodus pristinus) were five feet tall at shoulder height, but when they stood up, they were 12 feet tall and with its arms raised it was 14 feet tall. It also had the ability to run on two legs. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, the short-faced bear also had long limbs, and could run faster than a grizzly, possibly reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour. That means even Usain Bolt, who was clocked in at 28 miles per hour, would be dinner for this beast.

The Giant Short-Faced Bear was one of the biggest carnivores in North America. They first appeared about 800,000 years ago and they became extinct about 11,600 years ago.

1. The Quinkana

According to fossils, the Quinkana first evolved about 1.6 million years ago and they lived in modern day Australia. They were huge members of the crocodile family and they could grow to be 23 feet long. Just for some perspective, the longest crocodile in captivity was Lolong and he was 20 feet long.

A major difference between the Quinkana and many other crocodiles is that they were land dwellers. Since they lived on land, there was two major physical traits that the Quinkana developed. The first was that it had long, powerful legs. It would hunt its prey by chasing after them for long distances. The second difference is that crocodiles use their teeth to latch on and drag their prey into the water and drown it. The Quinkanas’ teeth, on the other hand, were much sharper and they were used for cutting.

They died out about 50,000 years ago, about 10,000 years after humans first arrived in Australia.


Prehistoric Man and His Petrifying Pets

wif-global

– WIF World

Amazing Nature Almanac – WIF Science

Leave a comment

Strange and Beautiful

Natural Phenomena

wif-almanac-001

Nature is amazing. There is no doubt about that. People have marveled at nature’s beauty since they came into existence. Not knowing what was happening, these people of old came up with some truly magnificent stories, trying to give a sense to the world around them. Today we are blessed with more knowledge about the world, but nevertheless this doesn’t diminish the magic taking place before our very eyes. If anything, it only makes nature more interesting.

 And while we no longer believe the “sky to be falling” every time it’s raining, or that Thor is smiting his hammer with every lightning strike, there are some natural phenomena out there we common folk still don’t understand. Here are 10 such natural occurrences, explained by our most prized of storytellers: scientists.

10. Snow Rollers

snow roller

No, these weren’t made by gnomes during the night, but rather by a series of meteorological events, in a particular order. Snow rollers aren’t a common sight, but when they do happen, and you stumble upon some of them, be sure that a fairly unlikely series of events took place the night before. First and foremost there needs to be two separate layers of snow already present: a first, icy or crusty layer of snow underneath, and a wetter one above. This way, the wet layer has something on which to roll over. Then you need some wind, strong enough to scoop out balls of snow and push them forward, similar to a tumbleweed, but not so strong as to blow it apart.

They will also form in relatively sloped areas, but this is not absolutely necessary. Just imagine yourself making a snowman, and the process is more or less the same. The biggest differences are that one is made by a person, the other by the elements. Also, snow rollers are more often cylindrical in shape, rather than a sphere, and they can vary in size from that of an average snowball, to that of a car. Nevertheless, the many meteorological conditions which need to take place in that exact order, at the exact time, make these snow rollers a very rare phenomenon to behold, and they usually make headlines in the newspapers the following day.

9. Mammatus Clouds

mammatus

Looking very ominous, mammatus clouds are sometimes the harbingers of an imminent and powerful thunderstorm. But more often than not, they form just after the storm has passed. Also known as mammatocumulus, they translate to “mammary cloud” due to their appearance as pouches, usually hanging beneath a larger, anvil cloud. As updraft pushes precipitation enriched air to the top of one such anvil cloud, the air begins to spread out, and the heavier precipitation, usually water particles and ice fall back to the bottom, forming these mammatus clouds. As the air falls back down to the ground, it heats up, evaporating the precipitation within it. The more precipitation there is the further down they will sink.

These clouds usually span over an area of several hundred miles in all directions and last for about 10-15 minutes at a time. While they usually form underneath an anvil cloud, they also appear on occasion under altocumulus, altostratus, stratocumulus, cirrus clouds, as well as volcanic ash clouds. Whatever the case, they look amazing and ominous at the same time, especially when sunlight is reflected off of them.

8. Ice Flowers

ice-flower

This natural phenomenon in particular is as beautiful as it is rare, and only takes places in late autumn or early winter, before the ground freezes over. As the air goes below freezing point, the sap within some plant stems, plants like theFrostweed (Verbesina virginica), begins to freeze and expand, pushing through the plant itself and forming an amazing thin sheet of ice, similar to a flower petal. Certain conditions need to take place for this beautiful phenomenon to appear. As the ground is still unfrozen, water keeps on going up the stem and through the microscopic cracks, the sap escapes and transforms into ice, adding to the ever longer sheet.

In some instances, this phenomenon can happen to wood as well. Wood which hasn’t yet dried completely and is kept in freezing conditions can sometimes present these Ice Flowers. More often than not however, the wood cracks from the pressure within, generating these wonderful patterns which curl and fold into gorgeous frozen petioles, giving this phenomenon both its name and appearance.

7. Columnar Basalt

columnar-basalt

This type of rock formation occurs, as it name suggests, in basalt, which is a lava flow rock. These formations can be found all over eastern Washington state, Devils Tower in Wyoming, Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, or the Los Organos on the northern part of La Gomera Island in the Canaries, and many other places around the world. Based on their name, you can clearly see what kind of stories people used to give these, back in the day. Nevertheless, there are columnar basalt formations found even on Mars. The way these form, is similar to how the ground cracks during a severe drought. As the water evaporates, or goes into the water bed below, the ground above contracts and cracks. The same thing applies here, as the lava flow progressively cools over a period of maybe longer than 100 years. The cracks form perpendicular to the original flow direction.

The difference in thickness of these columns depends on the speed at which they cool. While there are cases of a lava beds contracting as a whole, it is more likely for them to crack. The faster they cool, the thinner the columns will be. And while hexagons are most common, polygons with three to twelve or more sides can be observed. Their length, which can be greater than 50 feet, is based on how thick the original lava flow was.

6. Fallstreak Hole

fallstreak-hole

This particular cloud formation looks as if someone took an enormous cookie cutter and made a hole in what, otherwise, looks like an enormous flat cloud covering the sky. In fact, some people call them Holepunch clouds. Another particular aspect here is that a streak of cloud usually hangs underneath that hole. What’s happening up there is quite interesting, to say the least. For starters, we need to know that air at higher altitudes is much cooler that the temperature at the ground level. In fact, temperatures can go well below freezing point.

But despite this, water vapor and tiny water droplets “refuse” to freeze and remain in a “supercool” state. Water usually begins to freeze due to the impurities inside it: salt, dust particles, all sorts of other minerals, and so on. Cold, distilled water can also begin to freeze instantaneously if a piece of ice is added to it, in a process known as “ice nucleation.” Since water vapor is quite pure, water stays in liquid form even under freezing temperatures. Here, a piece of ice falls from higher altitudes and comes in contact with the water inside this cloud. This in turn sets out a chain reaction, freezing the droplets around, and making them fall to the ground – thus, the cloud streak below the hole. If a plane happens to pass through a cloud at a shallow angle, it can also cause it to freeze and form a cigar-shaped Fallstreak hole.

5. Brinicles

Brinicles are a fairly rare sight to see, not because they rarely happen, but because they take place underwater. In fact, they were only discovered in the 1960s. When seawater freezes, it releases its salt, creating super-salty brine. This percolates through cracks in the ice, into the water below. This brine then sinks because it’s much denser than the surrounding water. That is also the reason you can float in salty water, far better than in a fresh water lake. Nevertheless, this brine is also much colder, and the seawater around freezes on contact. Over time, this creates somewhat of an inverted cone, or funnel if you will, which goes ever deeper towards the bottom. This stalactite is what’s known as a brinicle.

Since brinicles appear in shallower waters, closer to the coast, in a course of some 12 hours it’s able to reach the bottom, trapping everything in ice. Creatures usually living on the ocean floor, like starfish and sea urchins, move far too slow and they get trapped in this newly formed ice, which then spreads along the bottom. Not surprisingly, brinicles are more commonly known as “The Ice Fingers of Death.”

4. Volcanic Lightning

Also known as a dirty thunderstorm, volcanic lightning is a weather phenomenon related to the production of lightning in a volcanic plume. What causes them was somewhat hard to figure out, and is still not yet fully understood. While during a thunderstorm, lightning is caused by colliding ice crystals, which generate enough electricity to cause a lightning bolt, ash clouds are far more difficult and a lot moredangerous to study. At first glance, it would seem counter intuitive to attribute ice as the main culprit behind a “dirty thunderstorm”. Some new scientific studies and better equipment, however, have begun to show us what’s really happening during one such volcanic inferno.

Once an eruption begins, large quantities of positively charged particles are blown into the air, which in contact with the negatively charged air particles around make for an electric discharge. These lightning bolts occur in and around the plume, which is ejected by the volcano itself. At first this theory was mostly based on speculation, but thanks to the very high frequency (VHF) radio emissions technology, scientists were able to get a better look inside one such dense volcanic plume and figure out what’s actually happening. But this is not all when it comes to lightning and volcanoes together.

Another study has tracked the location of lightning strikes some 60 miles from the eruption, and at near-stratospheric heights of about 12 miles above the ground. This seems to be caused somewhat in the same way as in a usual thunderstorm. As the ash cloud is blown by the wind, it thins out, and ice begins to form at its extremities, resulting in further lightning strikes. These studies, while not that surprising, can help a great deal in aviation as they can inform on the way to properly respond to a volcano eruption and the usual flight paths of commercial airliners passing above.

3. Sailing Stones

sailing-stones

Death Valley in California is notorious for its scorching heat during the day and extreme cold during the night. Among the many mysteries and legends linked to this place, none is more fascinating than the “sailing stones” phenomenon taking place within the Racetrack Playa, an exceptionally flat and level scenic dry lake. Some weighing around 700 pounds, the stones which dot the lake bed seem to be moving across the desert floor when nobody’s watching, leaving long trails behind them. This has puzzled scientists for decades now, but now geologists Richard and Jim Norris, believe they have found the answer. Though the phenomenon itself was under scrutiny since the 1940s, only recently did the two geologists actually capture these sailing stones on film. They set up a weather station in the area and fitted stones with GPS trackers. Two years into the project, the stones began to move.

What actually happened was that it rained the day before, and during the night a thin layer of ice had formed over a few inches of liquid water. As day came, the ice began to break apart and, pushed by the breeze, these ice sheets simply dragged the stones with them, scraping a trail on the bottom. By the end of the day, when all the ice had melted, some of the stones moved more than 200 feet. However, the conditions for this phenomenon to take place are hard to come by, and Norris compared the chances of actually stumbling upon it with winning the lottery. This also explains why this seemingly simple occurrence has intrigued people for so long.

2. Penitentes

penitentes

Penitentes are narrow ice formations, commonly found at high altitudes of over 13,000 feet, with low humidity, especially in the Andes Mountains of South America. What’s curious about them is that they usually point towards the sun, ranging from a few inches to six or even 16 feet in height. Their name comes from their resemblance to people kneeling, as when doing penance. More precisely, they resemble the brothers of the Procession of Penance in Spain, who wear hats with very tall, narrow, and white sharp tips (just like the KKK).

Anyway, the existence of these Penitentes was known about as early as the 1800s and were originally believed to have been formed by the wind. But in fact these jagged snow structures are the result of dimples in the original snow sheet. These in turn result in ever larger ablations, through a process known as “sublimation” – where ice and snow melts and vaporizes without turning into liquid water first. This happens more easily at high altitudes due to the reduced pressure of the atmosphere, together with the lower temperatures of the air and the more powerful rays of the sun above. The Penitentes are what remains behind, thanks to their angle towards the sun.

1. Light Pillars

light-pillar

This stunningly beautiful light show usually makes an appearance in cold, arctic regions and can be described as optical phenomenon in which columns of light seem to emanate below or above a light source, in a vertical orientation. This light source can be of natural origins, like the sun or moon, in which case these light columns are called Sun or Lunar Pillars, respectively. Or, they can occur due to the presence of artificial lights as well. These light pillars form when the two astral bodies are close to the horizon and tend to take on the color of the body emanating that light in the first place.

The effect itself is created by the reflection of that light onto the many ice particles suspended in the air or clouds. Because of this, light pillars fall in the category of halos – optical phenomenon produced by light interacting with ice crystals. The reason for why they appear vertical and not as a circle, is because the ice crystals which reflect them consist mostly of flat, hexagonal plates, which tend to orient themselves more or less horizontally as they fall through the air. Together they act as a giant mirror, reflecting the light either up or down. Thanks to the slight turbulences in the air, these ice crystals somewhat change their horizontal orientation, elongating the light column even further. The larger the crystals, the more pronounced this effect becomes. In some rare cases, column-shaped crystalscan cause light pillars as well.


Amazing Nature Almanac

Image result for almanac

 

WIF Science

Turtle Shells, Knuckles, Aliens and Appendix – WIF Science

Leave a comment

Questions Science Took

Forever to Answer

Questions WO Answers-001

The scientific method is all about getting to the bottom of questions large and small. It will be an invaluable tool for as long as there are questions to be answered. That’ll be until such time as science gives us a quantum computer that can compute the Universe. And then, said computer will still be an end result of the scientific method.

That said, it can sometimes work very… very… slowly. From the mundane to the fantastic to the extraterrestrial, here are 10 questions scientists banged their heads against for a very long time until the answers came.

10. What Causes Volcanic Lightning

volcanic lightning

A long-observed quality of violent volcanic eruptions are the crackling electrical displays associated with their ash plumes. While awesome to look at (from a safe distance), the phenomenon has long puzzled scientists in that it is obviously a separate one from regular, earth-bound lightning, and had no apparent cause.

 The answer, according to University of Munich researchers, lies within the ash itself. Specifically, tiny particles of rising ash that are electrified by magma. Particularly in the violent lower regions of the ash plume, where the turbulence generates complex charge distributions, this eventually leads to an electrostatic discharge. One which often propagates upwards, instead of downwards like regular lightning, due to the rising ash.

The answer to this question isn’t just useful for satisfying curiosity. The study also unexpectedly showed a correlation between the frequency of the lightning and the total volume of ash that the eruption will generate. Observing the phenomenon could therefore lead to accurate predictions about the sizes of each ash cloud. That, in turn, could result in better evacuation planning and air quality alerts.

9. Why Turtles Have Shells

turtle

The question of what caused turtles to evolve their shells would seem to have a simple answer. Turtles are notoriously slow, making them easy pickings for predators. A hard protective shell is an obvious evolutionary advantage. But examination of the turtle’s evolutionary process shows this to be false. Turtles are slow because of their wide, flat ribs, a feature distinct from almost all other animals, and which is necessary to support their shells. That is, turtles are slow because they have shells. So why have them at all?

Well, for protection, yes. But not from predators; from the harsh South African desert environment in which turtles evolved. Specifically, the turtle’s shell began as a means of digging underground, creating caves to escape the heat and aridity.

 Though long suspected, final confirmation of this theory did not arrive until an 8-year old South African boy stumbled upon a well-preserved, only partially shelled “proto-turtle” fossil while working the family farm. Fortunately, the family took the specimen to a local museum and enabled researchers to put this burning, slowly ambulating question to rest.

8. Why Jet Lag is Directional

jet lag

Frequent fliers know that when traveling from West to East, the effects of jet lag are much more pronounced than when traveling from East to West. This was long suspected to be all in the head of the traveler, or perhaps due to public consensus that this is just how jet lag works. But it was recently found that the effect is real, and there is a reason for it. It has to do with your Circadian rhythm, and its role in how long it takes your brain to “sync up” after a time zone shift.

Simply put, the body’s natural clock is generally set to be slightly longer than 24 hours, and it varies for each individual.  This being the case, the body is naturally geared toward adjusting to longer days rather than shorter. Certain cells in the brain control this rhythm, but these cells are themselves controlled by variations in sunlight.

When days are lengthened and sunlight is prolonged, there is still a “signal” (sunlight) feeding information to these cells. But they become confused in the absence of sunlight, or when days are shortened. This throws off the body’s internal clock. Since traveling from West to East has the effect of shortening the day, our internal rhythm is thrown more severely out of whack in this scenario – our natural inclination toward longer days being a contributing factor.

7. Why Knuckles Pop

knuckles

You may have heard that the popping sound when cracking your knuckles is the result of bubbles in the joint fluid, which collapse when the joint is moved a certain way. You may have even taken this as fact for a very long while. But it turns out that this whole time, that was pure speculation. In an experiment that we honestly can’t believe it took somebody so long to perform, University of Alberta Canada researcher Greg Kawchuk got somebody who is really, really adept at cracking his knuckles, stuck his hand in an MRI machine, and got to the bottom of the whole thing.

Rather, the subject came to him. Jerome Fryer is a “champion knuckle cracker” who also happens to be a chiropractor. He came to Kawchuk with his theory: the sound results from the sudden formation of a cavity inside the joint fluid. Not its collapse, but the actual formation of the cavity: “It’s a little bit like forming a vacuum… as the joint surfaces suddenly separate, there is no more fluid available to fill the increasing joint volume, so a cavity is created, and that event is what’s associated with the sound.”

You may have also heard that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis, which is almost certainly untrue. However, this new study could disprove that notion once and for all. It could also lead to better early treatment and diagnosing of joint problems.

6. The Function of the Appendix

appendix

For centuries, the appendix has been thought a vestigial organ. An evolutionary leftover, with no purpose other than occasionally to serve as a ticking time bomb which will kill us if not removed immediately. While it’s true that we can function perfectly normally without one, research has uncovered the hidden purpose of the appendix. It’s a sort of reserve barracks for the additional platoons of good bacteria needed to fight particularly nasty infections.

The discovery was made by examining the appendices of koala bears, which have comparatively long and large ones. They’re needed to aid in the processing of their diets, which consist of practically nothing but Eucalyptus leaves. It’s speculated that if koala’s diets were to change, over thousands of years, their appendices would shrink as ours have.

Duke University Medical Center professor Bill Parker, who participated in the research, stressed that this by no means implies that we should now try to hang on to our appendix at any cost. “It’s very important for people to understand that if their appendix gets inflamed, just because it has a function it does not mean they should try to keep it in,” he says.

5. Whether Memories Can Be Inherited

memory

Epigenetics is the study of how genes can be altered by environment, writing changes into our DNA which can then be passed on. For example, it has been shown that things like dietary habits or exposure to environmental toxins can result in having offspring which inherit certain food or chemical sensitivities. What was not known until recently was whether experiences can have the same effect. For instance, if a traumatic childhood on the part of a parent can result in changes to a child’s DNA.

A Tel Aviv University research team recently not only confirmed that this is the case, but revealed the exact mechanism that serves as an on/off switch for inherited environmental influences. It was previously known that small RNA molecules are somehow key in facilitating inherited DNA modifications. In measuring epigenetic responses in worms, researchers were able to isolate an enzyme that essentially tells the small RNA molecules to keep replicating. This determines over how many generations the epigenetic response persists.

It was further discovered that by manipulating this “switch” that epigenetic responses – like passing down a fear response learned by a prior generation – could be prolonged or terminated at the researchers’ will. The implication, of course, is that a similar switch in humans could be manipulated to proactively help those predisposed not only to physical conditions, but emotional and mental conditions as well.

4. Why Subatomic Particles Bind

subatomic

In particle physics, the quark is the tiniest, most elementary of all particles. If quarks are composed of anything smaller, we don’t know about it yet. They in turn make up protons and neutrons, which are bound together by… force. Up until recently, nobody was sure exactly what that force was. But we now have a pretty good idea. It’s yet another kind of particle.

 Scientifically known as meson f0(1710) but referred to as the gluon (yes, really), the particle acts as the glue which binds all other particles together. They are similar to photons (particles of light) in that they have no mass of their own. Yet, similar to how photons are responsible for electromagnetic force, gluons are responsible for strong nuclear force. The key difference: photons aren’t subject to their own force, while gluons are. Meaning that they’re able to bind together.

Existing for too short a period of time to be examined directly, gluons were discovered and can be examined by their detected rate of decay. More specifically, groups of bound gluons – called “glueballs”- are basically what’s holding the entire Universe together.

3. The Nature of Gravity

gravity

Albert Einstein’s Theories of Special and General Relativity have held up better than perhaps any other incredibly significant scientific theories. Their applications have led to the development of semiconductors, to name just one thing. Without those, you wouldn’t be reading this. But even the soundest theories, backed by reams of research and decades of practical applications, can have their holes. For relativity, that hole was gravity.

 Einstein’s theories assumed that, like light, sound, and practically everything else, gravity is expressed as a wave or frequency. This was, in fact, the last major prediction of relativity to be fulfilled. This has generally been held to be true for decades, but wasn’t confirmed until recently, and in rather spectacular fashion.

Using extremely sensitive instruments, scientists recorded the distant sound of two black holes colliding. The faint, rising tone represented the energy of the collision – 50 times the power output of all stars in the Universe combined – conveyed by gravitational waves to the measuring device. This tone may soon become a hallowed recording in the annals of science, as it all but completes Einstein’s vision. Using this new discovery, astronomers will be able to construct instruments that can “hear” deeper into space than ever before. That black hole collision that was measured? It was two billion light years away.

2. Why There Are Men

men

Humans have evolved to become very efficient organisms. However, our method of reproduction does not seem to suit us in that regard, strictly speaking. While we may find it enjoyable, sexual reproduction pales in comparison to asexual reproduction, exhibited by many animal species, in terms of efficiency. If humans have followed their most advantageous evolutionary course, there should be only one human sex (female) which would reproduce all on its own. So, why are there men?

Researchers may have found the answer in a study involving flour beetles. The study had two parts. In one, 90 males and 10 females were put together and observed. In the other, just one male and one female were paired up. After 50 generations (!), it was found that sexual selection seemed to play a significant role in producing healthy offspring.

This is likely because having a choice of mate can act as a means to filter out harmful genetic mutations. That’s according to lead researcher Matt Gage of the University of East Anglia. This suggests that not only would asexual reproduction not have been more efficient for us, but that if we did not reproduce sexually we probably would have gone extinct.

 1. Whether There Have Ever Been Aliens

alien

Answering the question of whether we’re alone in the Universe is one of the holy grails of science. Almost as compelling is the question of whether extraterrestrial life hasever existed. We have no frame of reference as to how long a civilization might potentially last. Or, where on the cosmic timeline one might have existed. And we haven’t found any physical evidence. However, extremely strong circumstantial evidence has recently become available which all but answers the question definitively.

And, the answer is yes. In 1961, astronomer Frank Drake identified seven factors (expressed in the form of an equation) which identify the odds of contact with an alien civilization. They include the number of stars born each year, percentage of planets upon which life evolves, and so on, with the final factor being the average lifetime of a civilization. Most of these factors being unknown variables, there was no way to effectively use the equation to arrive at any kind of solution.

 However, in the intervening years, knowledge of the number of planets has increased exponentially. That’s allowed figures to be plugged into Drake’s equation and shed some light on the issue. In a recent paper, astronomers Adam Frank and Woodruff Sullivan ran the numbers to arrive at a startling conclusion: “unless the probability for evolving a civilization on a habitable-zone planet is less than one in ten billion trillion, then we are not the first.” Frank also stated, in a New York Times op-ed, “In previous discussions of the Drake equation, a probability for civilizations to form of one in 10 billion per planet was considered highly pessimistic. According to our finding, even if you grant that level of pessimism, a trillion civilizations still would have appeared over the course of cosmic history.”

Volcanic Lightning, Knuckles,

Aliens and Appendixes

Questions WO Answers-001

– WIF Science

Mass Extinction Handbook – WIF Science

Leave a comment

Facts about the Earth’s

Greatest Mass Extinction

Their causes are somewhat varied, but we’ll be focusing on the greatest mass extinction that has ever taken place here on Earth. It happened some 252 million years ago, during the Permian period, and paved the way for the Triassic one. Also known as The Great Dying, the planet witnessed a huge cataclysmic event, so devastating that 75% of all land creatures and over 95% of all marine life went extinct. What caused it, what exactly happened and what can we learn from it, we’ll be discussing in this article down below.

10. The Permian Period

permian-extinct

In order to properly understand what happened back then, we first need to look at the Permian period itself. It lasted for about 47 million years, from 299, up until 252 million years ago and was part of the larger, Paleozoic Era. By the beginning of this period, all current continents were pushed together and formed a single large super continent, known as Pangaea. Life in the interior of this huge continent was harsh, as it had a much cooler, drier climate than around its coast. Fern-like plants and forests, which dominated the previous Carboniferous period, began to give way to the first seed-bearing plants, the gymnosperms, which in turn evolved to present-day conifers, cycads and gingkoes.

Two types of land animals began to evolve during this time, the Synapsids and Sauropsids. The first, which seemed to be the dominant of the two, or at least at the beginning, were the ancestors of all present-day mammals. In the later part of the Permian period, these evolved into the Therapsids, with some of them exhibiting evidence of whiskers and a possible indication of fur.Sauropsids on the other hand, went on to become the reptiles, birds and dinosaurs that would follow the Permian. Insects began to diversify, with cicadas and beetles making their appearance at this time.

Marine life is a bit harder to identify as there is little exposed fossil evidence available. Nevertheless, the shallower coastal waters around Pangaea indicate that reefs were large and diverse ecosystems with numerous sponge and coral species. Bony fish began to make their presence felt, while sharks and rays continued to multiply as they’ve done for millennia. Life in all its prehistoric shapes and sizes seemed to be stable, with evolution following its normal path. But then something happened; something that would shake the entire course of evolution from its very core.

9. A Massive, Earth-shaking Eruption

volcano-extinct

Many have speculated that the trigger for all these species to simply die off was a meteorite slamming into the Earth, similar to the one that may have wiped off the dinosaurs millions of years later. According to the evidence however, this seems to not have been the case. Since fossil records don’t indicate a sudden and all round extinction (like the one you would see with an asteroid impact), paleontologists have come to the conclusion that something else was the cause. And that cause can still be seen today in modern-day Siberia.

Hidden beneath the Arctic tundra, lies one of the world’s largest expanse of lava flows, forming a bleak landscape known as the Siberian Traps. What happened back then can only be described as a huge supervolcanic eruption, the likes of which have not been seen on Earth for over 500 million years. During the Permian period, Siberia was located at the northern part of Pangaea and when the volcano erupted, it engulfed an area roughly the size of the US (almost 1.7 million sq. miles) in a one mile deep sea of molten rock. Today only about 500,000 sq. miles of it are still visible. The type of lava found here indicates that there wasn’t a big explosion (but given its size, it was huge compared to ordinary volcanoes), but rather a prolonged flow of basaltic lava which spread for millions of sq. miles, in a process which maybe lasted for 500,000 years or more.

And now, even if these immense lava flows may have killed anything in their path over a large area of land, it still doesn’t account for the greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history. What came after it however, managed to do the job.

8. First Came Acid Rain

acid-extinct

Besides the tremendous amounts of ash and dust that came from an eruption such as this, there was also a huge quantity of sulfur dioxide; a gas that has a huge negative impact on the environment. This gas rose high up into the atmosphere where it condensed into tiny droplets. If mixed with water however, you get sulfuric acid. It is estimated that the air in the northern hemisphere of this ancient Earth had a pH level so low, it was comparable to undiluted lemon juice in its acidity. Research shows that within the first year after the eruption, the volcano was able to produce about 1.46 billion tons of sulfur dioxide, enough to completely devastate the northern half of the world. Around 4,000 billion tons of sulfur dioxide may have escaped Siberia in total.

Back in 1783, Iceland witnessed one such similar volcano and subsequent lava flows (but incomparable in size), around Mount Laki. After the eruption people reported their eyes burning, impossibility of breathing, livestock suffocating and suffering lesions and burning of their skin, with plant life getting the worst of it. The same thing happened 252 million years ago, but at a much, much larger scale. The whole food chain began to collapse as acid rain was burning plants and animals alike. These toxic gases also created some chemical reactions that destroyed the overall protective ozone layer to levels lower than those observed in the Antarctic ozone hole in the 1990’s.

7. Then Came a Volcanic Winter

winter-extinct

After a while these acid rains began to stop, but not all sulfur dioxide managed to be washed off from the air. Some of it remained high in the atmosphere, way above rain-forming clouds, and as minute sulfuric acid droplets. These reflected sunlight away from the planet, cooling its surface. Together with the insane amounts of ash and dust which quickly encircled the globe by high stratospheric winds, the planet began to witness an abrupt drop in all-round temperatures. The same thing happened in Iceland in 1783. Here the cooling was catastrophic as it killed more people than the acid rain and volcano combined. For a period of two or three years, much of Northern Europe reported crop failures, death and unrest as a result. The infamous French Revolution started because of it.

In a virtual simulation made on the last eruption at Yellowstone, some 640,000 years ago, ash and dust completely covered the northern hemisphere in just one month’s time and dropped temperatures in 18 months by 10 degrees Celsius. This blanket brought on a quick rise in Arctic ice, reflecting even more of the sun back into space. Rain stopped falling altogether with the oceans and land retaining more CO2. This made food supplies last for only weeks in some areas. It took the planet about 20 years to come back to its pre-eruption temperature. But our eruption from 252 million years ago was 1,600 times larger than this one and lasted for over half a million years. The winter itself certainly didn’t last as long, but it most certainly sent global temperatures plummeting for decades if not centuries. With the food chain in disarray, 10% of the world’s species had perished by this point.

6. Quickly Followed by a Massive Global Warming

warming-extinct

All the while the dust settled, our supervolcano continued on pumping lava over the landscape, as well as tons upon tons of CO2 into the air. Fossil records from the time following the eruption indicate a sudden rise of carbon in the atmosphere. Scientists calculate that CO2 levels during the eruption were 20 times higher than they are today, and more than enough to seriously affect the planet. It was a sort of global warming on steroids. In 10,000 years the volcano released 24,000 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere and temperatures spiked by more than 5 degrees Celsius. However much 24,000 gigatons sound, if divided by the time it took to be released, it comes down to only 2.4 gigatons per year. We currently emit slightly over 4 times that (about 10 gigatons), with even more being foreseen to be pumped in the future.

While this 5 degree increase doesn’t seem that much to us, it has some seriously devastating effects on the climate. In equatorial regions it simply stopped raining and lush forests quickly became scorched deserts. If these regions were least affected by the previous volcanic winter, the massive global warming that followed severely changed that. This is the moment in time when the last of the Permian herbivores like the Dicynodon, as well as 35% of all land life, perish. And if things looked like they couldn’t get any worse, they did. This “rapid” global warming unleashed a deadly chain reaction, but this time in the oceans.

5. Leading to the Oceans Turning to Acid from Above

carbonic-extinct

All the while extinction ruled over the land above the surface, nature was brewing an even more atrocious fate for the oceans. Life here remained mostly unscathed by the previous apocalyptic events, but things were about to take a turn for the worse; much, much worse. All throughout this time, the oceans were absorbing about half of the CO2 from the air (similar to what it’s doing today). Scientists have deduced that, over the course of the previously mentioned 10,000 years during the eruption, the pH levels in the oceans dropped by 0.6 to 0.7 units. In comparison, modern ocean pH levels have fallen by 0.1 pH units since the Industrial Revolution, a 30 percent increase in acidity. Depending on the future trend of carbon dioxide emissions, this value could fall by another 0.3 to 0.4 units by the end of this century, which will bring us extremely close to what happened 252 million years ago.

And what happened was disastrous for all marine life. As CO2 combines with water, it turns into carbonic acid. In seawater, this acid can have some really negative effects on the formation of carbonate minerals; the ones that mussels, corals, sea urchins and plankton use to make their shells. As acidity grew, these marine species died off and with them the whole marine food chain system collapsed. Scorpion-like predators called Eurypterids, to various types of Trilobites as well as all shell-forming beings died off because of this event. Some other less resistant marine species were also extinguished. Matthew Clarkson, a geochemist at the University of Otago in New Zealand said that it took life another 5 million years to diversify once more.

4. And Oxygen-depleted from Below

pyrite-extinct

As marine life was being killed by the growing water acidity, an equally devastating killer was rising from the depths. With temperatures surging worldwide, so did the water. This in turn led to the oxygen-depleted watersfrom the ocean floor to expand and rise to the surface. Not being allowed to sink to larger depths due to suffocation, fish and invertebrates were stuck between a “rock and a hard place”, dying en masse as a result. Evidence of thiswas found in Greenland, by paleontologist Paul Wignall from the University of Leeds, where the ancient seabed, now raised, show signs of a large amount of fool’s gold (pyrite). This element can only be created if there is no oxygen around.

Evidence of this rising, oxygen-depleted, water can be seen today. As the oceans warm up, less oxygen is carried in the water, thus leaving the ocean sequestered in layers. Already naturally low in oxygen, these deep regions keep growing, spreading horizontally and vertically. Vast portions of the eastern Pacific, almost all of the Bay of Bengal, parts near Central America, and an area of the Atlantic off West Africa as broad as the United States are such “dead zones”. Since 1965, these low-oxygen areas have expanded by more than 1.7 million square miles. Further studies have indicated that during the Permian extinction, this low oxygen in the water has halted recovery in the oceans by at least one million years.

3. With Water Turning Pink and Poisonous as a Result

purple-extinct

Besides no oxygen, fool’s gold also needs hydrogen sulfide (H2S) to be produced. And according to the large amounts of it found all over the world, and dating from that period, it is evident that the oceans were full of the stuff. In order to get that much H2S into the water however, something drastic must have happened. As temperatures rose, ocean currents stopped and water became low in oxygen. Once this occurred, organisms which hate oxygen began to thrive. The purple sulfur bacteria is one such organism. Often found in stagnant water, these bacteria have a waste product (H2S) which is poisonous to all air-breathing life. With the rise of oxygen-depleted waters, so did the environment for this organism grew, resulting in poisoning of the entire Permian ocean.

There was so much H2S in the water, that, if seen from space, the ocean would have looked pink in areas where it now looks green, due to the large number of bacteria present. But besides its aesthetics, some scientists believe that there was so much toxic gas produced, it could no longer be contained in seawater solution. As a result, large oily bubbles of hydrogen sulfide came out of the pink-stained sea and entered the atmosphere with some truly devastating results. Besides poisoning the few remaining plants and animals at the surface, H2S also significantly added to the shrinking of the ozone layer, left behind by the sulfur dioxide from the eruption.

2. And Then Came the Final Blow

methane-extinct

At this point in time, almost all marine life was gone. It was the closest our planet ever came to achieving an aquatic extinction such as this. Land life on the other hand was only halfway there. What caused the other 25% to die was another subsequent heat wave. This time however, it didn’t come from the volcano itself, but rather from the depths of the ocean. And CO2 wasn’t to blame this time either, but rather methane.

Methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and there is currently an estimated of 30 trillion tons of methane hydrate locked on the ocean floor. If for any reason, water temperatures rise, this methane is released, as it is ultrasensitive to heat, and flows to the surface in the form of bubbles. This in turn will heat up the planet even further, leading to even more methane escaping, in a sort of a positive feedback cycle. This is exactly what happened 252 million years ago, killing off the remainder of land animals and plants, “fortunate” enough to escape the previous cataclysms. Earth’s temperature rose by another 5 degrees Celsius as a result.

Even if it took the Siberian Traps more than 10,000 years to reach this point, we today have begun to experience this phenomenon. As of 2014, researchers have found more than 500 bubbling methane vents being activated off the US east coast alone. There are an estimated 30,000 other such hidden methane vents worldwide. While this methane doesn’t reach the surface yet, it is however dissolved into the ocean at depths of hundreds of meters and being oxidized to CO2, which leads to further acidification of the water.

1. The Aftermath

cyondont-extinct

Huge catastrophes such as this one can reset the evolutionary clock, meaning that the whole course of evolution will change. As the dominant species disappear, less significant ones take their place. As Gorgonopsians died off due to the scorching heat and hunger, the smaller Cynodonts took their place. Since these creatures burrowed underground, it offered them protection from both their dying predators as well as the harsh climate outside. After the mass extinction was over, and over the course of millions upon millions of years, these Cynodonts went on to become one of the dominant species of the new world. Without them we, as well as all other mammals, wouldn’t be here today.

Thoroughly understanding what happened during the end of the Permian, can help us tremendously in dealing with our current Anthropogenic Extinction. As we have observed up to this point, we are presently experiencing many of the effects felt millions of years ago, but which take place at a much faster pace than they did back then. For the first time in Earth’s history, the dominant species on the planet is upsetting the delicate balance of its ecosystem. Our massive production of CO2 has a catastrophic impact on Earth’s systems and we are able to shorten the time from tens of thousands of years, to mere centuries… some of which have already passed.

Many will say that this is just a way for the planet to “reboot” itself in terms of life. It happened before so it can happen again, right? Well, not necessarily. While it is true that we are the result of this Permian extinction, as well as the others that followed, this doesn’t automatically mean that life will happen again if Earth goes through another massive die-off. Venus is one such example. Even if it never had life, at one point in its evolution, these two planets were quite similar. But since Venus is closer to the Sun, it was a bit warmer. Because of this, our sister planet went through a process known as a runaway global warming, which made it into the hellish place it is today. Its closer proximity to the Sun was just the catalyst needed to ignite this global warming which, after 4 billion years, is still going on. Are we really that proud as to put all life we currently know exists into such a dangerous and risky predicament?


Mass Extinction Handbook

Explore with me

Explore with me

– WIF Science

Bad Food Trends – WIF Science

Leave a comment

 

Food Trends

That Have Negative

Consequences on the World

What’s popular in the grocery stores, fast food restaurants and other dining establishments changes throughout the years. In more recent days we have seen fast food establishments at least make an effort to look healthy, especially with children’s food products, and people are more concerned with health than ever before. However, not all of the trends regarding food are necessarily good. While people are more concerned with their health, consumer ignorance and misinformation is widespread, and many popular food trends have hidden consequences that the average person is completely unaware of.

10. Reliance on Cows is a Huge Contributor to Global Warming

cow

Aside from those in the world population who find cows sacred, and the world’s vegetarians, we all love our cow meat. Tucking into a delicious burger or steak is a part of life many of us would be loathe to give up, and for many you would have to pry the steak out of their cold, dead hands. However, it is this love of beef that is helping raise worldwide greenhouse gas levels by alarming amounts. Cows both fart, and burp a lot, and they also leave a lot of cow pies lying around as well. All the methane that is belched into the environment or broken down in their waste is easily the majority worldwide contributor to methane being released in large quantities.

Of course, while methane is incredibly bad for the environment, it is only one greenhouse gas. Cows alone are far from the only, or biggest, major contributor, but they are enough to be causing a serious impact. Scientists are now trying to solve the problem, or at least find ways to mitigate it. Some have suggested changing the cows’ diets to something that has more alfalfa and supplements instead of the usual diets, so they will be less gassy. And they have also emphasized that proper breakdown or reuse of dung can prevent extra methane leaking into the atmosphere. Either way, scientists believe that with the reliance on beef for food by many developing countries, that the issue is going to be here to stay for a long time to come.

9. Fat Free Foods Have Increased Our Reliance on Sugar to be Satisfied

sugar

Perhaps one of the worst food fads that still affects us today is the “fat free” fad. This fad is do pervasive that even though it began in the 1970s due to a hearing started by Senator George Mcgovern, you will meet many weight watching people today who, despite religiously watching their calorie count, still balk at “fat content” in foods. The fact is that if you understand calorie count, you’ll know that calories plus exercise — and to some extent genetics — will decide your weight loss rate. And studies have not shown any health benefit to a low fat diet, but this still persists in the national consciousness and it’s still doing damage.

Today stores are full of “fat free” or “low-fat” products, and many products today that would have had more fat in the past have none or very little. However, what they have instead, and started having in the late ’70s when the trend began, was a whole lot more sugar. And coincidentally, it wasn’t long after this that incidences of diabetes and obesity really took off. Now, it’s hard to say for certain if this was the main or only cause of the rise of diabetes, but there is no question that a brief time ago we started consuming way more sugar than we once did, and it is most definitely bad for us. It shows that in our rush to make fat the villain, we forgot that all food groups are an essential part of a good diet, and that moderation is the most important thing of all.

8. “GMO-Free” Foods Are Helping Produce Ignorant American Consumers

gmo

Recently there has been a strong movement for “GMO-free” foods. On the one hand this sounds reasonable if you don’t understand what a GMO is, but when you do, it sounds utterly inane. GMOs are genetically modified organisms. The problem is that by the actual definition of genetic modification, we have been practicing this on plants and animals for thousands of years — at least. However, even if you feel that there should be more transparency as to today’s biotech practices, the fact is that current labeling and “GMO-free” foods are only helping to increase consumer ignorance and take advantage of people who think they are “avoiding something”.

The truth is that many of the companies who look like they are bowing to the will of the consumer are making changes just to please people, because it’s easier to do that than to argue and cause a viral issue on social media. Companies like Kraft will gladly switch to natural dyes while still selling you a box of processed macaroni and cheese product. And Subway may remove a perfectly harmless ingredient like azodicarbonamide because people get up in arms about it, but they continue to sell many processed foods and use the slogan “eat fresh”. What is really bad for people’s health is the increasing reliance on heavily sugared products and heavily processed foods. Companies jumping on the “GMO-free” bandwagon allows them to make meaningless, cheap changes that make it look like they are doing something while actually continuing business as usual.

7. Soy Food Could Be Decreasing Testosterone Levels

soy

In recent years soy milk, which was once considered more of a niche drink you’d see in a health food store, has become a full blown fad. Women and men alike are drinking it not only as a substitute for milk — as a growing number of people in America have decided it is trendy to claim lactose intolerance without being tested for it — but also just because they enjoy the taste. Milk substitutes like soy tend to come in exciting flavors already full of sugar and other artificial flavor boosters, making it look way more enticing than plain old milk. Unfortunately, soy milk has also been linked with the ability to increase estrogen levels.

While for most people, it would be unlikely to cause anything truly noticeable, there is the case of one man who was dealing with a really strange medical issue. His body seemed to be increasingly feminizing and he could not figure out why. He had swollen mammary glands, hair loss, decreased facial hair growth, etc. After going to four doctors and starting to become frustrated he would never find the answer, his fourth doctor decided to ask him to give him all the details of his diet. It was then that he discovered the man was drinking three quarts of soy milk per day. Now, this is a lot more than most people would consume in a day, so most people would be unlikely to ever show such drastic effects, but it shows that soy can have serious effects on the body’s hormone levels.

6. The Low Carb Diet Fad Has Caused Widespread Nutritional Deficiency

low carb

Back in the 1990s the Atkins Diet really started to become a full blown fad, and before long, people were telling you that eating carbohydrates was bad. It’s easy to see in hindsight that this particular fad was not good — anything that tells you to almost entirely cut a large type of food group out of your diet is likely an unbalanced way to eat. However, at the time it was easy to get on board with the hype, if nothing else to see if it would provide any benefit. And while many people may have lost some weight with it, it is also important to note that lost weight does not necessarily equal good health.

The low carb fad very likely helped contribute to the rise of obesity along with the decrease in fat intake and rise of sugar intake. While there was some reason to be bothered by some carbohydrates — certain processed carbohydrates like refined sugar — the fad did not discriminate, and many people now had diets lacking in proper complex carbohydrates such as grains, fruits and vegetables. The fact is that good carbohydrates are an important part of a balanced diet and will help keep your body in good working order — just like all diets you should eat them in moderation, but not to the point of almost not eating them.

5. The Recent Quinoa Fad Has Been Causing Extreme Hunger in Bolivia

quinoa

If you haven’t heard of it, Quinoa is one of those products that you will hear people tout as a “secret superfood”. It is an Andean plant often confused as a grain, although it is actually closer related to foods like spinach. It looks like an incredibly tiny grain-like object, although it is spherical (where rice is oval). While it was touted by NASA and has been in health food stores for years, it exploded in popularity only recently. Vegans and hipsters everywhere have flocked to this product as the next big thing, and it has created an entirely new export product in thecountry of Bolivia where it is grown.

However, this is not without issues. Our increased trade with Bolivia is having unintended consequences. While the farmers are actually making more money now because of the export market, the price of Quinoa itself is going up so much globally, that many Bolivians who once relied on it as a food staple can no longer afford it as anything but a treat. To make matters worse, now that they are trading with us they are discovering products like Coca-Cola and processed white bread, and the younger generation is becoming attached to it while the older generation watches on in horror. The processed products we import there and our unnecessary overuse of their food staple is helping contribute to obesity and malnutrition in Bolivia.

4. Deceptive Marketing for Cage Free and Free Range Hides the Problem From View

cage free

Another point where consumers are often mislead is when cartons of eggs are labeled “cage free” or “free range”. The truth is that the United States government has no legal standard for those terms on egg cartons and as such companies can pretty much just say it as a marketing gimmick if they wish to. Many companies that claim “cage free” may actually let their chickensout of cages, but never let them see the light of day. Others may consider “free range” to be giving them a small amount of sunlight and fresh air from their cage everyday. There is simply no real standard to go by, so you really don’t know what you are getting.

However, it gets a little weird in terms of poultry. The rules for chickens raised for poultry instead of egg laying is fairly well laid out by the USDA, and has fairly comprehensive guidelines, but these rules don’t count at all when it comes to eggs. What this means is that when a company slaps a label on non-poultry products stating things like “free range” it is essentially meaningless since there isn’t even a loose industry guideline on what that means for that product. The company is likely being deceptive with you, and trying to use your ignorance of the issue to temporarily override your common sense.

3. The Multivitamin Fad Could Be Causing Serious Health Damage

vitamins

Multivitamins are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, there is no doubt about it. Where once you saw them mostly in health food stores and infomercials, you will now find dozens of different bottles of multivitamins in every grocery store. They are colorful and often have some kind of sugary flavor and cute shape in order to be more enticing. Plenty of people have come under the impression that everyone would be better off if they had their daily vitamin, and many now take them religiously. Now, for some people this is a good thing, but for many people it could actually be quite harmful. The matter lies in how healthy the person taking the vitamin is to begin with, and it all ties into how vitamins work.

Multivitamins have a lot of nutrients in them — enough to easily replace anything missing in a deficient diet. And if you think you are struggling to keep a diet that has all the nutrients you need, then a multivitamin might be a really good idea for you. However, the issue is that the people most likely to take multivitamins like clockwork also happen to be the people who already have well balanced and conscientious diets and thus have no need for one. In fact, it could actually be harming them because taking large concentrations of a nutrient you already have enough or more than enough of, especially on a long term, steady basis, can damage the body. Many nutrients found in large quantities in vitamins can be toxic — and even carcinogenic — if allowed to build up in the body too much.

2. Disposable Water Bottles are Devastating to the Environment

plastic bottles

Back when bottled water first hit the scene many people were skeptical and scoffed at the very notion. Well, as strange as it seemed, bottled water has skyrocketed in popularity and now buying disposable bottles of water has become a normal way of life for many people. For some people in the United States, they buy bottled water because they consider it safer and some people just really like the convenience, but it is causing a great deal of harm. The amount offossil fuels used to make the plastic for our bottled water would be enough to fuel a million cars for a whole year, not to mention that it takes roughly triple the amount of water to produce the average bottle of water that the bottle actually contains.

While these may sound bad, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Water bottles are also one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution in the world, and due to the poorly organized recycling system in America, a large quantity of plastic water bottles simply end up in the landfill or ocean and are never reused. This is also a problem because the plastics used for water bottles tend to break down poorly, and leach toxins when they do.

As for whether they are safer to drink, this is not the case either, so there is really no advantage to bottled water. Studies have shown that the toxins present in the plastics can affect the water, and for those who think it has less bacteria than tap, this is not necessarily true either. Some bottled water has been tested and found to be similarly unsafe. This may be due to the fact that some major bottled water companies have been caught using simple tap water for their operations and then reselling it to people. Experts recommend getting a good filter and using it to clean your own tap water.

1. Going “Gluten-Free” If You Don’t Have Celiac Can Be Really Bad For You

gluten free

These days, a lot of people are trying as hard as they can to “go gluten free” as part of the latest, most popular fad diet. While this might sound reasonable at first, the fact of the matter is that there is a reason that food companies are now catering to a large amount of gluten free customers, even though only 1% of Americans have celiac disease. The reason is because, since it’s the “in thing” to do, 21% of people are now trying to cut gluten from their diet. This means that 20% of those people are improperly giving themselves serious dietary deficiencies, and also allowing food companies to all too happily take advantage of their ignorance.

For example, food companies will happily label products like french fries “gluten free” even though people who understand what gluten is would know they are naturally gluten free anyway, and it’s the same with many other treats that are given the same label, such as Rice Krispies treats. The truth is that all the people cutting out gluten may be right to cut out processed and/or refined foods containing gluten, but the wheat and whole grain products that contain gluten are an extremely important part of a normal, balanced diet. Those with celiac have to follow special dietary guidelines from a doctor in order to avoid gluten and still get the required nutrients, so medical professionals strongly recommend getting tested and then getting proper dietary advice before cutting entire food groups from your diet.

Bad Food Trends

Explore with me

Explore with me

– WIF Science

Castaway Tales – WIF Travel at Your Own Risk

Leave a comment
Travel the world for 10 cents on the dollar

Travel the world for 10 cents on the dollar

Incredible Tales of

Real Life Castaways

When someone is taking a voyage across a body of water, there’s always a chance that something could go horribly wrong. For some people, it can go so badly that they find themselves out at sea and no one knows where to find them. These are 10 remarkable stories about people who found themselves in such dangerous predicaments.

 10. Temaei Tontaake and Uein Buranibwe

10

In October of 2011, two men living in the South Pacific, Temaei Tontaake and Uein Buranibwe, were heading from their island, Marakei, to a nearby island called Abaiang. The trip was only 80 miles and wasn’t supposed to take long, but their GPS ran out of batteries and they got lost. Luckily, they had their fishing gear and were able to catch some sharks; they then used the shark meat as bait and caught some tuna. Their big problem was water. It didn’t rain much and at times they were forced to drink seawater.

They were at sea for 33 days before they ended up on a coral atoll called Namdrik. On the atoll they met some locals and Tontaake learned that the locals were the offspring of his long lost uncle who everyone thought had died while out at sea 50 years ago. It turns out that his uncle ended up as a castaway on the very same atoll. When he couldn’t get off, he ended up settling down, had a family and died years later on the atoll.

Tontaake and Buranibwe were able to get off the atoll from a passing cargo ship a few days after arriving and then they were flown home.

9. Manjiro Nakahama

9

In 1841, 14-year-old Manjiro Nakahama and his shipmates set out on a fishing trip from their Japanese village, which is now known as Tosashimizu. After a terrible storm they were left shipwrecked on an island far from the coast of Japan. They were found by Captain William Whitfield, an American from Fairhaven, Massachusetts. He took them aboard and dropped off most of the castaways in Hawaii. But during their time on the ship, Nakahama and Whitfield had become close friends and Nakahama returned to Fairhaven with Whitfield, making him the first Japanese person to live in the United States.

Nakahama learned to speak English and when it came time to develop relations with Japan, Nakahama was used as an interpreter. Today Tosashimizu and Fairhaven are sister cities and there is a Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship Society that hosts an annual festival in their honor.

8. Philip Ashton

8

In 1722, Philip Ashton, a fisherman from New England was kidnapped by a crew of piratesled by the notorious British pirate Edward Low. Ashton had been their captive for nine months when they landed on Roatán, which is in the Honduras’ Bay Islands, in 1723. They were looking for fresh water. When the pirates went on land, Ashton saw this chance to escape and without any supplies, including shoes, he hid in the thick brush and the pirateseventually left without him.

The problem was that the island was deserted and Ashton didn’t have a plan beyond getting off the pirate ship. He searched for food and was lucky to find fruit. A big problem was giant bugs, and he spent most of his time trying to avoid them. In total, Ashton spent 16 months alone on that island before he was found by a group of Baymen from the mainland. He was taken to their camp, where they fed and clothed him. The camp was attacked by pirates, which happened to be Low and his crew. Luckily, Ashton was able to escape. In March of 1725 a merchant vessel landed on the island, looking for water. The ship was heading to New England and Ashton was finally able to return home.

7. Narcisse Pelletier

7

Narcisse Pelletier was 13 when he set off with a crew from Marseilles, France in August of 1857. Their trip had a stop in Bombay before heading to Hong Kong to pick up laborers, and then they were on their way to Australia. Along the trip, they encountered a number of problems, like running out of food, being shipwrecked, and angry natives. While what exactly happened is disputed, the end result was that sometime between late September and early October, 1858, Pelletier was left alone on the Cape York Peninsula in Australia.

Pelletier was found on the beach by a group of Aboriginal people. After his journey, he was incredibly weak, he had been injured by natives and his feet were cut up after some contact with coral. Amazingly, after a short time with the Aboriginals he was adopted by one of the men and was given the name Amglo.

On April 11, 1875, English sailors were exploring the area and saw a group of Aboriginals with a white man. They tried to communicate with Pelletier, who had been with his aboriginal family for 18 years, but Pelletier didn’t understand them because he didn’t speak English. Despite not being able to communicate he said he felt compelled to go with the men. He said that he wasn’t rescued or kidnapped, but he thought if he ran away from the men, they might shoot him. Once he was back at the ship, two men spoke French to him, but Pelletier’s French was rough and it took him a while before he could speak it again.

In December of 1875, at the age of 32, Pelletier returned to Paris and was reunited with his family. He was of immense interest for not only his story, but also because he had marks and holes in his body from Aboriginal traditions, such as the holes in his ear lobes from where wooden plugs had once been. After returning to Paris, he worked in a lighthouse and died at the age of 50 in 1894.

6. Yamamoto Otokichi

6

Up until the 19th century, Japan was a very secretive, private country. People who snuck into the country could be executed. On the other hand, people weren’t allowed to leave the country, but sometimes did accidentally. One such person was 14-year-old Yamamoto Otokichi.

In 1832, Otokichi and 13 shipmates were delivering rice and porcelain to Edo (which is now Tokyo). On the way, there was a storm and they were blown off course. They ended up floating in the North Pacific without a mast or a rudder. Over the course of 14 months, all but three of the men on the ship died and the remaining three, including Otokichi, were dying from scurvy. They were saved when they landed on a shore and met Native Americans from the Makah tribe. They had ended up in what is known today as Washington state.

After meeting the Makah, the men were fed, but were ultimately enslaved. Then the news started spreading that men of unknown origin had been captured. A British doctor at Fort Vancouver (which is now Vancouver, Washington) named John McLoughlin heard about the men and thought they were Chinese. He bargained with the Makah and was able to bring all three of them to Fort Vancouver. Once at the fort, the three men were taught English and that is when McLoughlin learned that they were from Japan.

Knowing they were from Japan, McLoughlin thought that the British government would be interested in the men because it might lead to trade. So they were sent on a seven month boat trip to England, only to find out the British weren’t interested. They were then shipped off to the Portuguese-owned port of Macau on the Chinese mainland, where they stayed for two years.

In 1837, while in Macau, the three men met an American tradesman who wanted to trade with Japan. He also had found four other Japanese castaways in the Philippines. So in July, Otokichi and his two fellow castaways joined the tradesman and the other four Japanese castaways and set off for Japan. They approached the port at Edo and since Japan was so against foreigners, cannonballs were fired at the ship. After a few more attempts, they sent two castaways to shore, but ultimately they were forced to turn back.

Eventually Otokichi settled in Shanghai, adopted the name John Matthew Ottoson and became a respected translator. He tried to return to Japan by sneaking back for a bit in 1849, but returned Shanghai. In 1854, Otokichi travelled with a British crew to sign the Anglo-Japanese Friendship Treaty and was allowed back in Japan, 22 years after he went fishing. Otokichi learned that everyone thought the people on the ship were dead and visited the memorial stone dedicated to them. Instead of staying in Japan, he returned to Shanghai and was apparently paid a handsome sum by the British for his role in opening up relations between Britain and Japan. He died at the age of 49 in 1867.

5. Maurice and Maralyn Bailey

5

In June of 1972, Maurice and Maralyn Bailey set off from Southampton, England on their 31 foot yacht, Auralyn, and headed to New Zealand. On March 4, 1973, the couple had just passed through the Panama Canal when they were hit by a giant whale that left a hole in their boat. Knowing the yacht was sinking, they inflated a rubber dinghy and filled it with some supplies, like glue and patches for the dinghy, tins of food, a small oil burner, a map, a compass, water containers, knives, plastic mugs, and their passports.

Once on the dinghy, their hope was that either they would be rescued soon or they would just drift to the Galapagos Islands. While they waited to be rescued, they made cards from the pages a notebook and played games. When the food ran out, they fished both with their bare hands and using string and safety pins for hooks. They drank rain water, and luckily for them, it rained often. As the weeks and then months went on, they eventually began to wither away. They had sores from the sun and the saltwater and were sunburned so badly that they could hardly move. Their raft also wasn’t doing well; it needed to be constantly pumped with air.

On June 30, 1973, a Korean fishing boat saw a weird blob in the distance and decided to investigate. They realized it was a life raft and when they got to the Baileys, they were still alive but barely conscious. They brought them onboard and tried to feed them, but their stomachs had shrunk so much that they could only take in liquid. The crew also massaged their muscles to help them rebuild their strength.

After spending 117 days on the ocean in a rubber dinghy, the couple wrote a book about their experience and the year after their rescue, they set out to sail again on the Auralyn IIto study whales in the seas off Patagonia in South America.

4. Ada Blackjack

4

Ada Blackjack was an Iñupiat Inuit and lived most of her early life in Nome, Alaska. In 1921, at the age of 23, she was hired on to be a seamstress and a cook on an expedition to Wrangel Island, which is north of Siberia in the Arctic Ocean. Her husband left her to care for her young son, who was stricken with tuberculosis. She saw the expedition as a good way to make money and possibly find a husband. They hired her on because she was the only one who showed up; everyone else thought it was too dangerous.

On September 16, 1921, four men and Blackjack set off on the expedition and two weeks later they were dropped off on the island, but it quickly became obvious that they were ill prepared. For example, none of them had ever fired a gun. Blackjack had been raised in town and never learned traditional Inuit skills, like hunting, fishing, or how to build an igloo. Shortly after their arrival, the weather got worse.

By January of 1923, they were running low on food, and they had expected to be picked up six months earlier in June or July. They knew that they had to do something, so on January 28, three of the men decided to walk across the frozen Chukchi Sea to Siberia, a distance of 700 miles, to get help. They left Ada with Lorne Knight, who was incredibly sick with scurvy. Ada cared for him the best she could, but he died in April of 1923.

Finally, by August of 1923, a rescue mission was sent to Wrangel Island and on August 20, they found Ada, who was the lone survivor. The three men who tried to cross the Chukchi Sea were never seen again.

3. Ernest Shackleton and the Crew of the Endurance

endurance

In 1914, famed Irish explorer of the Antarctic, Ernest Shackleton, planned on crossing the Antarctic via the South Pole. His plan was to start below South America and make his way to the Ross Ice Shelf, which is below Australia. However, in order to make the trek, he had to have supplies on the second leg of the trip. He hired a group of 10 men who would start off from the Ross Ice Shelf and place supplies every 60 miles.

The crew of the Endurance started their mission in January 1915, but they quickly ran into problems, a major one was that their boat was lost when it was blown out to sea. Yet, the men continued their trek and left supply depots every 60 miles. Unfortunately, they lost three men along the way. But the other seven men were amazingly able to survive in the harsh conditions for two years.

In January of 1917, a group of men approached their camp and amongst the group was Ernest Shackleton. That’s when they learned that all their work was for nothing. Shackleton’s ship had to be abandoned early in the trek because it became frozen. In April of 1916, he and the 17 men in his crew set off in small boats and made it to Elephant Island. After that, Shackleton and five men crossed the Atlantic to South Georgia, covering 1,000 miles in 16 days. They found a whaling station and were able to get the other men rescued. Everyone in Shackleton’s crew survived.

2. Poon Lim

poon lim

On November 10, 1942, the SS Benlomond was travelling from Cape Town, South Africa and heading to Paramaribo, Suriname in South America before heading to New York. On November 23, about 750 miles away from the coast of Brazil, the ship was hit by two torpedoes from a Nazi U-boat and the sank in under three minutes. In all, 56 men died, but 24-year-old Poon Lim was able to get a life jacket. The U-boat spotted the lone survivor, but left him to die in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean. For two hours, Lim floated in the ocean until he found an eight square foot raft that had a canvas roof. On board, he found some water, cans of crackers and pemmican (which is similar to beef jerky), sugar, chocolate, a flashlight, wire, and two flares.

Lim continued to float around, thinking that any day he would be rescued. In order to survive, he made a receptacle to catch water. He also tied a wire to the flashlight and used pieces of the cans as hooks, even using some of his own food as bait. He would also use the bait to catch a seagull. He matted seaweed on the floor of the raft and left rotting fish near it. This made it look like a seagull nest, and when a seagull landed on it, he broke its neck, drank its blood, and used the salt water to make jerky out of the rest of the body. Also, to keep up his strength he would swim every day, even though he wasn’t a good swimmer and thought he might drown.

Along his voyage he came close to being rescued three times. He spotted at least three vessels: a passing freighter, an American plane, and a Nazi submarine, but they either would not or could not help him. Then, miraculously, on April, 1943, a Brazilian fisherman about 10 miles away from the Brazilian coast saw him waving his shirt, so he picked him up. They didn’t speak the same language, but Lin ate anything he was given and danced with joy.

Lim amazingly survived 133 days at sea. During his time he lost 20 pounds, but was otherwise relatively healthy. He was given the British Empire Medal by King George VI and was granted permission to immigrate to the United States. He died in 1991 at the age of 72.

His survival skills were so impressive that the Royal Navy implemented some of his tactics into their manuals. At the time, Lim held the record for surviving the longest at sea, though he said, “I hope no one will ever have to break that record.”

1. Jose Salvador Alvarenga

1

On November 17, 2012, 37-year-old Jose Salvador Alvarenga set off to go fishing with a shipmate in his teens named Ezequiel Cordoba. Shortly after setting out, there was a bad storm and they were blown out to sea. They floated for 16 weeks when Cordoba died. According to Alvargenga, Cordoba apparently couldn’t survive on their diet: raw fish, turtle meat, and turtle blood. Alvarenga claims he kept Cordoba’s dead body on board for five days before throwing it overboard.

Alvarenga continued to drift until January 30, 2014 when he came ashore on the Marshall Islands. He was shaggy haired, dehydrated, and confused when he found himself on dry land. Since being back, there have been some who have doubted his stories, but experts in water currents said it is possible. Also, Cordoba’s family does not believe that he died the way Alvarenga says he did. Alvarenga has also denied allegations that he ate Cordoba.

According to Alvarenga’s lawyer, he passed a polygraph test about the events. If his tale is true, it means that Alvarenga has spent the longest amount of time as a castaway at sea.

Castaway Tales

– WIF Travel

 This article is adapted by Gwendolyn Hoff for Writing is Fun-damental

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, follow him on Pinterest or visit his website

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #162

Leave a comment

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #162

…Danke shoen, Johann, zere eez two years vorth of vood down…

woodpile

In the aftermath of the nearby tornado, “There is a lot of good kindling wood.” John comments upon seeing Ziggy using his cross buck to cut branches to a length compatible with the chamber of the wood burning stove.

drafthorse

Blue Boy by Jan Perkins

“Ya,” agrees Ziggy, scraping the humidity from his brow. He points to his wood lot. “I hope zat za storm von’t keep Alpha and Villy from today. I could use their team to drag za deadfall closer by.”

John can sympathize with Ziggy, having graduated from wood heat to fuel oil recently. “I’ll send Joseph over with Blue Boy,” one ton of aging draft horse, still very strong and always willing to serve.

Danke shoen, Johann, zere eez two years vorth of vood down.

Doc Ziggy and Frieda are not getting any younger, a fact not lost on their grateful neighbor, the beneficiary of their kind gestures. Neither does he overestimate his own mortality and what effect his death would have on the welfare of Olla and especially Maggie Lou.

  John Ferrell is seriously considering a very radical thought about the financial security of his neo-illegitimate daughter. It pertains to his will and possible alterations to it, the one something and only thing that will take other survivors of his death by surprise.

Ferrell's Grocery-001

    Over the years, close to 25 to be exact, John Ferrell has done business in the greater Tallahassee area. It is his groceries that are the marquee of his presence here; three stores that have served two generations with the necessities of life. Amidst the workings, of what is no small miniature empire, comes occasional and rare opportunity to acquire property from customers who have little trouble confiding in a community friend like John Ferrell, yet have no other perceived place to turn.

Empire

There are times when profits from meat, vegetables, canned goods and the newest of consumer fare need to be siphoned off. Real estate is the safest of auxiliary investments, least likely to be scrutinized by the uninformed. 31 such parcels are part of a larger plan of a more aggressive businessman, at a time when he considered rivaling all comers for the title of “King Tallahassee”.

But times have indeed changed. An 1896 lapse in judgment, encouraged by the tempting of the flesh, has placed a solid brick wall in this path of assertive city dominance. His afternoon of fantasy and passion has now officially laid claim to that once youthful goal.


 

Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #162


page 151

Explore

Explore

You are here

Contents 2-3-16