Theories About the Universe – WIF Space

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Mind-Blowing Theories

About the Universe

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As we mentioned in our first list about mind bending theories about the universe, the universe is a vast and mysterious place. For centuries, people have looked out into space and tried to explain why we’re here and where we came from. While it may take even more centuries before any of those questions are answered, it doesn’t mean scientists don’t have any theories.

We should also point out that these are just theories, so at times, some theories may not align with each other, or even contradict each other.

10. Why is Dark Matter so Hard to Detect?

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Throughout this list, we will talk about something called dark matter. Dark matter makes up about 27 percent of the universe and about 83 percent of all matter. It is invisible because light doesn’t bounce off of it and it has a gravitational pull on regular matter, meaning it affects the movements of galaxies and galactic clusters. While it does have a gravitational effect, dark matter can pass through regular matter almost undetected. For all of these reasons, dark matter hasn’t been detected yet, but physicists are sure it exists.

One question is: why is it so hard to detect dark matter in Earth-based experiments? One possible answer comes from a group of particle physicists called Lattice Strong Dynamics Collaboration. In their simulation, they found that dark matter might have noticeable interactions with ordinary matter if they are both in conditions that are similar to the start of the universe, which is extremely high-temperature plasma. If their simulation is true, that means in the early days of the universe, dark matter might have been observable.

The good news is that these types of conditions can now be recreated in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Researchers are awaiting a chance to test the theory and for the first time, dark matter could be detected. If their theory is correct, it would suggest that before the universe cooled, there was a type of balancing act between matter and dark matter before they spread across the universe.

9. Dark Matter Killed the Dinosaurs

An asteroid is the most likely culprit for what killed the dinosaurs. However, what really kicked off the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction 66 million years ago is still debated. A very far out and cosmic theory comes from physicist Lisa Randall is that it was an impact event that was caused by dark matter.

The basis of the theory goes back to the 1980s, when paleontologists David Raup and Jack Sepkoski found evidence that every 26 million years since the Great Dying of the Permian-Triassic, (which happened about 252 million years ago and 96 percent of life was wiped out), there has been a great mass extinction. Upon further research, going back a half a billion years ago, it appears that Earth suffered some type of cataclysmic event approximately every 30 million years, give or take a few million years.

However, scientists have never really sure why cataclysmic events would happen on a timetable like that. Randall’s theory is that dark matter is involved. Dark matter is believed to be scattered throughout the universe and it is used as scaffolding on which galaxies, including our home the Milky Way, are built. As our solar system rotates around the Milky Way, it “floats” and at times, it bobs like a cork in the water. And this bob happens about every 30 million years.

When we bob, our solar system may encounter a disk of dark matter. The disk would need to be one-tenth the thickness of the Milky Way’s visible disk of stars, and have a density of at least one solar mass per square light-year.

Matter and dark matter can pass through each other, but dark matter can affect regular matter through gravity. The result is that when some matter floating in space comes into contact with dark matter, it could send things flying throughout the universe, which ultimately hit Earth.

If Randall’s theory is true, dark matter could be responsible for major parts of the formation of the universe.

8. Life Spread Across the Universe Like an Epidemic

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When talking about the universe, there’s one question that always pops up: is there intelligent life other than our own? Or are we just alone here? Well, scientists wonder about this too, and currently they are looking at how life, including our own, came into existence.

According to a research paper from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the most logical answer is that life spread from star to star, like an epidemic. The concept that life spread from planet to planet and star to star is called panspermia, and of course, if you’ve seen Prometheus, that concept is a major plot point.

If life passed from star to star, that means that the Milky Way could be full of pockets of life. If the theory is correct, then it is possible that other planets in the Milky Way may host life as well.

Another interesting thing they found in their calculations is that life could be spread by microscopic organisms that hitched a ride on an asteroid, or it even could have been spread by an intelligent being or beings.

7. Why is the Universe Made of Matter?

Matter is everything that takes up space and has weight, and the opposite of matter is called anti-matter. When matter and anti-matter touch, they annihilate each other, which is exactly what happened at the start of the universe and helped drive its expansion. At the beginning of the universe, there should have been an equal amount of matter and anti-matter. However, if there was an equal amount of both matter and anti-matter, they would have canceled each other and the universe would have ceased to exist. This has led physicists to believe that there was slightly more matter than anti-matter. An amount as small as an extra particle of matter for every 10 billion antimatter particles would have been enough for matter to spread out across the universe.

The problem was that while physicists knew that there was more matter, they didn’t know why. That was until 2008, when researchers at the University of Chicago were observing subatomic particles that lived very short lives called B mesons. The researchers, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery, found that that B mesons and anti-B mesons decay differently from one another. This means that it is possible that after the annihilations in the start of the universe, the B mesons and anti-B mesons decayed differently, leaving enough matter behind to create all the stars, planets, and even you and everything you touch, including the air you breathe.

6. Disorder Made Life Possible

Entropy essentially measures the amount of disorder in a system. If something is high in entropy that means there is more disorder, and low entropy means there is more organization. An example to visualize this is with Legos. A Lego house would have low entropy and a box of random, disconnected pieces would have high entropy.

What’s interesting is that entropy may be the reason that life exists in the first place, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you take a look at the complexity of something like the human brain, which is the pinnacle of order.

 Nevertheless, according to a theory by assistant MIT professor Jeremy England, higher entropy may be responsible for life in the universe. England says that, under ideal conditions, a random group of molecules can self-organize themselves to efficiently use more energy in their environment. How entropy plays into this is when energy is added to a system. The molecules jump and bounce off each other. If a few were to clump together, and energy was used more efficiently, it would continue to hold together, collecting more molecules, until eventually enough molecules clump together to become a life form. However, if there wasn’t a high entropy state, the molecules would have never been bouncing off each other. Therefore they would have never clumped together and brought about life.

This theory still has a lot of testing to go through. However, if England is correct, then an expert suggested that his name would be remembered the same way we remember Charles Darwin.

5. The Universe Has No Beginning

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The prevailing theory of the start of our universe is that over 13.8 billion years ago, from a point of singularity, the Big Bang gave birth to the universe and it has been expanding ever since.

The Big Bang was first theorized in 1927 and the model is based on Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The problem is that there are some holes in Einstein’s theory; mainly that the laws of physics break before reaching singularity. Another big problem is that the other dominant theory in physics, quantum mechanics, doesn’t reconcile with general relativity. Also, neither relativity nor quantum mechanics explain or account for dark matter. This means that although the Big Bang is one of the best theories about how the universe started, it may not be correct.

An alternative theory is that the universe was never at the point of singularity and there was no Big Bang. Instead, the universe is infinite and doesn’t have a beginning or an end. The researchers arrived at this theory by applying quantum correction terms to Einstein’s theory of general relativity using an older model of interpreting quantum mechanics called Bohmian Mechanics. And no, we’re not exactly sure what that means, but good for them.

Their method of testing the theory will also help account for dark matter. If their theory is correct that the universe is infinite, it would mean that the universe has pockets of a superfluid filled with theoretical particles, like gravitons and axioms. If the superfluid matches the distribution of dark matter, then it’s possible that the universe is infinite.

4. The Universe Should Have Never Existed

Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury once wrote, “We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.” And according to a model based on the Higgs boson particle from King’s College London suggests he couldn’t have been more right, because the universe shouldn’t exist.

The problem is that 10-36 seconds after the Big Bang to sometime between 10-33 and 10-32 seconds, the universe underwent something called cosmic inflation, which was a rapid expansion of the universe. If that is true, the inflation would have caused quantum fluctuations, or jolts, in the energy field. These jolts would have been so strong that they would have pushed the universe out of the Higgs field, which is responsible for giving particles its mass, and the universe would cease to exist. Of course, since you’re reading this, you know that this model isn’t correct. So why does the universe exist when it shouldn’t?

One possibility is that the findings are wrong. Another is that there may be some new physics or particles that have yet to be discovered. However, until we figure it out, we should just feel lucky to be here when we theoretically shouldn’t.

3. The Universe Started Off One Dimensional

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A commonly held belief about the universe is that the Big Bang was an exploding sphere, but another theory posits that for the first thousand-trillionth of a second of the Big Bang, it was actually a one dimensional line. Energy would race back and forth before creating a fabric, which is the second dimension. Then it morphed into three dimensions, which is the world we see.

If the model is correct, it would help address a few problems with the standard model of particle physics, such as the incompatibility between quantum mechanics and general relativity, and cosmic inflation. However, if this theory is true, it would only lead to more mysteries, like what mechanisms were used to make the universe morph into the different dimensions?

2. How Many Dimensions Are There?

In the last entry, we talked about how the universe may have evolved into three-dimensions; however there are many more dimensions than that. According to Superstring Theory, there are at least 10.

Here is how it works: the first dimension is just a single line, the second dimension is height, the third is depth, and fourth is duration. Where it starts to get a little bit weird is dimension five. That is where the multiverse theory comes into play. In the fifth dimension there is a universe that is very much like our own and we would be able to measure similarities and differences. The sixth dimension is a plane where there are parallel universes with all the same starting conditions, so if our universe started with the Big Bang, so did theirs. The seventh dimension is a plane full of worlds with different starting conditions.

Now, if all that wasn’t confusing enough, the eighth dimension is where things start to get really complicated and humans have problems understanding it. Basically, the eighth dimension is all possible worlds, all with different starting conditions, and they branch out infinitely. Of course, things only get more brain melting from there. In the ninth dimension, there are all possible universes that start with different initial conditions and the laws of physics of these universes can be completely different. In the 10th and final dimension anything is possible, and that is just something humans cannot even fathom.

1. We’re Living in the Distant Past of a Parallel Universe

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The term “time’s arrow” was first introduced in 1927 and it aptly describes the flow of time. Humans perceive it as always going forward and it also obeys the second law of thermodynamics so entropy always increases; eggs are cracked and scrambled and they never unscramble and reform inside the shell.

The problem is that if time only goes forward, many of the best equations about how the universe works, like James Clerk Maxwell’s theory of electrodynamics, Isaac Newton’s law of universal gravitation, Einstein’s special and general relativity or quantum mechanics, would be incorrect. However, if time ran forwards and backwards, then they would all work perfectly. One way that this is possible is that at the Big Bang, two parallel universes were started. One where time moves forward, and a parallel one where time flows backwards.

The reasoning is that, if entropy increases in our universe, then when the universe started, it would have begun in a low-entropy and highly ordered state. That could be the end of another universe. That universe would start at the end and time would flow backwards, while ours flows forward.

If we could see the other universe, we would see time going backwards and we would probably see into the future of our universe (presuming that we’re not past the middle age of the universe) and we’d be living in the parallel universe’s distant past. That is, of course, if we’re not the reality that is living in reverse and don’t realize it.


Theories About the Universe

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– WIF Space

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 145

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 145

.. I am sure the President of the United States will be comforted to know that the property of the Korean Peninsula was not shot “down”, because there is no up & down in space…

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“We have gone over the mission updates and it turns out that we were crossing paths with Sang-Ashi 10 hours ago. I was under the assumption that AL was going to sound an alarm,” Cmdr. Stanley relates his version of the discussion between man and machine.

But AL did not do so?” Roy Crippen assumes.

“No, definitely not and he executed the defense protocols you instructed us to install.”

WE WERE THREATENED BY AN INTERPLANETARY PROBE WITH A FOREIGN SIGNATURE THAT WAS ARMED AND READY TO FIRE A WEAPON.” The computer interjects itself into the conversation.

AL, you were instructed to bring us out of hyper-sleep when or if Sang-Ashi came into range.”

There is no response. Roy presses the subject.

“We shot Sang-Ashi out of the sky, didn’t we?”

“THERE IS NO SKY IN SPACE MISSION DIRECTOR CRIPPEN.”

“Thank you for that clarification AL, I am sure the President of the United States will be comforted to know that the property of the Korean Peninsula was not shot “down”, because there is no up & down in space.”

“CORRECT.”

“This message is for Cmdr. Rick Stanley: Continue on to Mars Rick Stanley and crew; we still have a mission to complete.” While the poor mission director is left to explain this crisis to a nation with no sense of humor whatsoever and a world that is already in shock over the possible fate of the McKinneys.

WE BELIEVE THAT SANG-ASHI DESTROYED CHRONICLE AND SPACE COLONY 1. WE HAD TO DEFEND OURSELVES.”

“Your testimony is duly noted AL and under the authority of Code A-AB-C-CD1357, I am disabling your independent-action protocol…

“…And to you boys out there – you will have to sleep in shifts until WE get to Mars.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 145


page 179

 

Contents TRT

i Robot – Disturbing Automation

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Creepy

Real Life

Robots

Robot “Doctor Who”

Even leaving aside the pop culture jokes about Skynet from the Terminator series and similarly-themed science fiction that provides a violent robot revolution, the future of automation has some unsettling possibilities. On the most practical level, there’s the potential impact many more jobs becoming automated will have on the economy for the working class. There are the military applications, even if the extra step is never taken of installing artificial intelligence in them.

 And likeliest of all, what if, in attempts to make them highly efficient but still useful, their designers end up making them look really creepy? Or even worse, what if designers try to make them look really relatable and end up just barely off enough that the result is more unsettling than robots intended to kill?

10. Osaka University’s Female Simulants

You wouldn’t think that “receptionist” or “news reader” are positions that it would be expedient to automate. They don’t come with any particular health risks or more immediate danger, and projecting an air of warmth and welcoming seems the thing an inanimate object is least qualified to do. A team at the Department of Systems Innovation at Osaka University, headed by Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, nevertheless decided to devote years working on robots that look as much like conventionally attractive women as possible. Among the models that were previewed at an exhibit in 2014 were the kodomoroid, which was designed to serve as a new anchor, and the Otonaroid, which was supposed to be a science communicator. In 2016 Ishiguro’s team displayed “Erica,” a robot that’s meant to serve as a receptionist, to Bloomberg magazine.

The facial features and skin for these robots are impeccable; at least as good as anything that was ever shown at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. However, the way they move their jaws and the lack of articulation in their eyes makes them seem unnervingly mindless. Also, what’s it say about the personnel at your business that the only way you can keep a receptionist is to purchase a robot?

9. Sophia

Osaka University is by no means alone in the field of making robotic versions of conventionally attractive women. David Hanson, founder of Hanson Robotics, has created an android modeled on Audrey Hepburn and his wife that he dubbed “Sophia.” The android has a large amount of articulation in “her” face and excellently textured skin, although why Hanson left the robot with a transparent back cranium reminiscent of the film Ex Machina is unclear. At present the thing that makes Sophia discomforting is that while she has an array of convincing facial expressions, the way she transitions between them is overly precise and unnatural and her artificial voice is emotionless and, again, overly precise.

Hanson’s got another project, which he released in 2005, will seem only too appropriate to fans of science fiction. He has created an android in tribute to author Philip K. Dick, called PKD. If you’re unfamiliar, Dick was the author of stories such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (better known by the film adaptation’s moniker, Blade Runner), which deal in a sometimes surreal manner with the uncertain subjects of identity, memory, and living beings being replaced with automatons. No doubt the author would be horrified to see this robot or have an identity crisis.  Gotta say, good one Hanson!

8. Underwater Snakes

These Norwegian aquatic robots, which were announced in April 2016, bring to mind the Sentinel robots from the Matrix film series, especially with its ominous red glowing eyes. They were developed by the Norwegian organization Kongsberg Maritime and a natural gas and oil company called Statoil to perform underwater observation and inspection. With it’s lack of fins, propellers, and related forms of locomotion (“thrusters” is the term they use in their videos), it’s ideally suited to enter tight, enclosed spaces and allow flexible analysis, even under severe water pressure.

Presumably, considering the nature of the parent company, the intent was to be able to quickly analyze damaged offshore platforms for faster repairs, though it’s also likely going to be useful for inspecting sunken ships and other wrecks. It goes to show that a robot being a bit creepy does not mean that it is useless.

7. Victorian-Era Crawling Baby Robot

It may be surprising to learn that handheld dolls were designed that could move on their own six years before there were dolls with audio recordings installed in them. In 1871, an engineer named Robert J. Clay patented this device, a slight improvement over his original design. Even this was not the model that eventually went to market, as his employer George Clark redesigned it.

Not that even his version was a success, since it was too heavy for a little girl to play with, to say nothing of how easy it was to break in an era when replacement parts weren’t easily ordered. Still, this early robot is honored by the Smithsonian Museum of American History’scollection instead of being buried deep underground where it can never enter a nightmare again. You’d think they’d at least put some clothes on the display model.

6. Pregnancy Simulator

In 2015, the company Gaumard Scientific released a birth training robot for medical students, beginning with Boston University. Even though they cost $62,500, they seem like a bargain for how thoroughly designed they are for the many factors involved in birth. The blood pressure of mother and baby are monitored. So are the oxygen levels. They are settings for vaginal birth, emergency breech birth, and cesarean sections, and forty-six other contingency conditions. They are not 100% autonomous, as the instructors are needed at controls as well, but they’re still vastly more effective than regular old mannequins, and even seasoned students have said they’re “intimidating.” Probably because they didn’t want to admit how creepy the uncanny robots they’re using are.

Since a doctor can hardly expect a birth to be a clean, pleasant process, the robots have been designed to reflect that. The robots aren’t just capable of making noise in response to stimulus that would be painful for a human. They also have blood packs installed in them for bleeding, and the ability to vomit. It’s a bit off-putting that all of them are designed to have permanent expressions of frozen horror, but then again, the doctor probably shouldn’t be looking up there too much anyway.

5. Affeto the Robot Baby

The uncanny valley is mentioned a lot when a robot is so close to a human being, but not quite there. But this particular robot, another one from Osaka University, doesn’t look that close to a human being, yet it’s much more unsettling than the robot receptionists and everything else from our previous entries. If nothing else, Hisashi Ishihara and Minoru Asada’s 2012 creation really goes to show just how far the development of artificial skin has come in the past few years.

It must be said that the demo video for this robot is needlessly creepy. It begins by showing the mechanical inner workings of Affeto, and considering it has twenty pneumatic actuators, it has very mobile arms and a pretty flexible spine. Then they take a moment to show that an artifical ribcage was made for it, as if the skinless face didn’t already closely resemble a skull with eyeballs. Finally, they show what it looks like with skin, and the flesh color could only be described as corpse white. All told, it’s an impressive feat of engineering for a year and a half of work, and very far from cute.

4. Spermazoidal Medical Microbots

As far as robots that operate in aquatic environments go, 2016 also witnessed the announcement of robots so small and useful that they make the somewhat similarly designed underwater snakes from the eighth entry on our list look quaint. They’re robots small enough that they can be injected into the bloodstream that, through the use of harmless electromagnetic fields outside the body, can be made to move tails like bacterial flagellum so that they can “swim” through the body.

Indeed, the design for these microbots was directly inspired by studying bacteria. The idea is that they can operate around or even clear up blood clots, or be used to apply medicine directly where it’s needed in the host’s body. It should be noted that while there are many working prototypes available, inventors Selman Sakar, Hen-Wei Wuang, and Bradley Nelson stressed in their announcement that these robots are still very much in the research and development phase. So it will still be a while before you have to worry about the mental image of countless microscopic tadpole-like robots being remote-controlled through your body.

3. Cassie

This robot, which is mostly just a pair of legs, was unveiled by Agility Robotics, a company comprised of Oregon State University students, in 2017. The company has very high aspirations for this chicken-legged robot that was developed with a million dollar grant. Beyond being used for commercial deliveries and search and rescue missions, Agility Robotics claims that it will function in highly radioactive areas, making it ideal for dealing with nuclear waste.

Cassie’s backward legs are useful in allowing it access to areas that cannot be reached by most wheeled robots. On the other hand, its central component looks like the head of the ED-209 robot from the film Robocop and the thigh areas on its legs look like odd growths.CNBC’s news story on the release of the robot bluntly (but accurately) called it “creepy.”

2. Bomb Robot

Not every robot needs to look creepy to be disturbing. This particular robot is benign in appearance and usually its purpose is almost heroic. However, on July 8, 2016, police in Dallas, Texas were engaged with active shooter Micah Xavier Johnson, who’d barricaded himself in a parking garage. Johnson had been suspected of fatally shooting four officers and wounding seven others during his pursuit and claimed that he’d placed bombs inside the parking garage. Rather than risk any more lives, the police turned to a historically unprecedented solution: they attached an explosive to a bomb removal unit, and used it to take down Johnson.

Now just to be clear, this is in no way a condemnation of the Dallas Police Department. Considering the number of people that had been killed, it is perfectly understandable to neutralize the suspect in such a way. But imagine the precedent this may establish for using robots to deliver bombs to neutralize other suspects or enemy combatants. Or imagine if someone with less morally justifiable motivation than the Dallas Police decides to employ robots in this manner.

1. Robot with the Face of Your Friend

It’s uncomfortable enough to see a face on a robot that’s not quite human. So imagine how disquieting it would be to see the distorted face of a family member, friend, or coworker projected from the inside onto a mannequin head for the duration of an online chat. That’s the promise of the Socibot-Mini, made by the British company Engineered Arts.

First appearing on the market in 2014, it’s built with a connection to a camera that does a 3D scan of the face of the caller speaking through the device, and it also scans the face of the person responding to the face to adjust the facial expression it projects. A reporter for New Scientist claimed it’s accurate enough for the computer to guess the person’s age. Additionally it has a neck that can be remotely adjusted so that the distorted face can maintain a sight line with the other caller. Even Will Jackson, one of the product’s developers, described it as “spooky as all hell.”

Not that it stopped Jackson and the rest of Engineered Arts from charging $9,500 for it. There were plans for a Kickstarter campaign, but no evidence of one ever being attempted surfaced online.


i Robot

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– Disturbing Automation

Amazing Nature Almanac – WIF Science

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Strange and Beautiful

Natural Phenomena

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


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Controlling the Weather – WIF Mad Science

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People Who Tried

to Control

the Weather

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We have to realize that weather, in all its forms, has influenced and shaped humanity in every conceivable way. The weather and the surrounding environment (which is also shaped by weather) has influenced language in every part of the world, how people built the houses and shaped their societies, what they ate, and the way that they dressed for centuries. Whole religions were formed as a sort of answer to the meteorological events happening all around. And it’s not inconceivable that people throughout history have tried, or at least thought about, controlling the weather.

 Only with the technological advancements brought on in recent decades did we actually begin to tap into this Bond villain-like superpower. However, we are still at the beginning of this journey and we have still more to discover. We still don’t know all the ins and outs of weather, let alone enough to control it. We can at best influence it. But regardless of this, people have tried on many occasions to do it to the best of their abilities. Here are ten such cases.

10. Fog Dispersal

With the advent of flight over the past century, fog began to be a serious problem for aircraft trying to take off or land safely. And in WWII, pilots no longer had the luxury to sit around and wait for the fog to lift on its own before taking off. That’s why in 1942 the Prime Minister of Britain, Winston Churchill, ordered the Petroleum Warfare Department to come up with an idea to solve this problem. The result was FIDO, or Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation.

By burning petrol around the airfield at a rate of 100,000 gallons per hour, engineers were able to produce enough heat as to temporarily lift the fog, thus allowing the pilots to safely take off or land at a moment’s notice. According to the British RAF(Royal Air Force), 15 airfields were fitted with this capability in England, as well as a few others in the US and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Between 1943 and 1945, some 2,500 aircraft landed safely in otherwise dangerous conditions, thus ensuring the survival of over 10,000 soldiers. In 1959 the last FIDO installation at RAF Manston was dismantled.

Even today fog dispersal is done regularly at many airports around the world, but the technology has improved a bit since WWII. If temperatures are below freezing, CO2 or propane gas is released from the ground in order to lift the fog. If temperatures are higher, however, airports make use of helicopters or even burners to help with the problem.

9. Hail Cannons

In existence since the late 1890s, hail cannons came about after an Austrian wine grower named M. Albert Stiger conducted some experiments in his backyard. The result was an oversized, megaphone-shaped cannon that fired rings of smoke about 985 feet into the air. It was made out of a sheet of metal, mounted on a wooden frame. The concept was that a strong whirlwind of air and smoke, blasted into the sky by one such cannon, will disrupt the normal formation of hail in the overhead clouds. Hail was, and still is, a major issue and a serious threat to all crops, making the hail cannon a true scientific blessing for farmers. After a few seemingly successful tries, the number of hail cannons in the Italian province near Venice alone had skyrocketed from 466 to 1,630 in less than one year.

But as these cannons became more and more common throughout other parts of Europe, reports of inconsistencies began to surface. These were initially disregarded on the grounds of improper firing, shooting delays, or poor positioning. Then, in 1903 the Italian government arranged a two-year-long experiment involving 222 cannons. The regions involved in the experiment still experienced hail, the cannons were deemed a failure, and the whole concept was soon abandoned.

Perhaps surprisingly, these cannons are still in use today. One company that makes them says that their cannons work by creating a shockwave traveling at the speed of sound, disrupting the creation of hail and turning it into slush or rain. When a storm is close by, it begins firing every four seconds, tracking the storm via radar. In 2005 a car manufacturer in the US deployed such cannons, disturbing an entire community with its incredibly loud noise. At some point, even the guys at Mythbusters considered testing these hail cannons, but after some deliberation, they agreed against it, saying that “the methodology makes the machine completely un-testable.”

8. Cloud Seeding

Besides hail, one other meteorological element that can considerably shrink any crop yield is drought. In 1946, a meteorologist by the name of Vincent Schaefer, together with a Nobel Prize laureate Irving Langmuir, discovered cloud seeding. This is a form of weather modification which supposedly increases the amount of rainfall. Rain is created when supercooled droplets of water come together and form ice crystals in a process known as nucleation. No longer able to stay suspended in the air, these ice crystals start falling to the ground and in the process begin to melt and turn back into rain drops.

The logic behind cloud seeding is that some particles like silver iodine or dry ice can kick start this process and enhance the raining capabilities in clouds. These particles can either be delivered by plane or sprayed from the ground. But like the hail cannons mentioned above, it is particularly difficult to prove their effectiveness. Even to this day, there is no sure way of knowing if any given cloud will actually produce rain or not. Nevertheless, cloud seeding has been reported as being a success in initial trials in countries like Australia, France, Spain, the US, the UAE, and China.

However, cloud-seeding expert Arlen Huggins, a research scientist at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, said in an interview that nobody can attribute any given storm solely to cloud seeding. In fact, the process works best not in periods of drought, but when there are normal or above normal periods of precipitation. At best, cloud seeding should increase the amount of rain or snow by up to 10%, and this excess water can be stored for later use.

7. Project Cirrus

As early as 1946, the US Armed Forces began testing cloud seeding, trying to discover its true potential and what other uses it might have to benefit the country. They made a total of 37 test flights in the first year and a half, flying over thunderstorms, line squalls, and even tornadoes. One big threat, as many of us know, are the annual tropical hurricanes coming in from the Atlantic Ocean. So, in October 1947, Project Cirrus expanded to test cloud seeding on a hurricane traveling east bound, 350 miles off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. They dropped 80 lbs. of dry ice into the raging storm, only to realize that the hurricane suddenly changed direction and began traveling back towards the United States.

Savannah, Georgia was hit by record-breaking winds of up to 85 MPH, more than 1,400 people were left homeless, and at least two people died. The total damage was reported into the millions of dollars, and the project and its participants were blamed for what happened. Project Cirrus then relocated to New Mexico and the research continued. However, not long after their arrival to the area, local tourist attractions began blaming the team for the unusually wet weather they began experiencing soon after. Despite the seemingly positive results, by 1952 the project ran out of funding and was cancelled soon after.

6. Project Stormfury

Not wanting the research made in the previous decade to go to waste, another ambitious experimental program was launched in 1962, in order to see if it’s possible to use cloud seeding to lessen a hurricane’s destructive potential. Scientists were wishing to decrease the wind speeds of any hurricane by making use of silver iodine. Rocket canisters filled with the stuff were dropped into the storm’s eye from an airplane flying overhead, as well as making use of gun-like devices mounted on the wings, spraying silver iodine over the storm.

The hope was that these particles would counterbalance the normal convection within the eye of the storm, thus giving it a larger radius and in turn, reducing the overall wind speeds generated. The tests were carried out in four hurricanes over a period of eight days. Half the time wind speeds decreased by 10-to-30%, while the other half experienced no change. The lack of any response to these tests was initially attributed mostly to faulty execution and deployment.

However, later studies have indicated that hurricanes don’t contain nearly as much supercooled water for cloud seeding to be effective. Moreover, researchers discovered that some such storms can undergo similar processes naturally, just like seeded hurricanes would. It was then concluded that the initial successful tries were actually naturally occurring events, backed only by the very little knowledge in the behavior of hurricanes at the time. The last test fight took place in 1971, and in 1983 Project Stormfury was officially canceled. These experiments weren’t without merit, however, since they helped meteorologists better understand and forecast the movements and intensities of future hurricanes.

5. Project Skyfire

At every moment of the day, there are around 1,800 thunderstorms in progress all over the globe. And every 20 minutes, these storms produce somewhere around 60,000 lightning strikes. Unsurprisingly, some of these lightning strikes start fires. Every summer, 9,000 forest or grassland fires in the US are started this way, causing extensive loss of timber, wildlife, watersheds and recreation areas. Project Skyfire was initiated in 1955 by the US Forest Service in the hopes of better understanding the natural processes that initiate thunderstorms, and maybe decrease the frequency of lightning as much as possible.

For the first several years of the project, scientists gathered information and began using silver iodine in high concentrations, in the hopes of overseeding clouds and thus reduce the number of lightning strikes. Their results are hard to quantify, due to the lack of any controlled experiments, but it would seem that initial tests were somewhat successful. In any case, in 1960 and 1961, the US Army, under name Project Skyfire, attempted lightning suppression by using millions of tiny metallic pins in order to seed the clouds, instead of dry ice or silver iodine. These were actually small pieces of foil oppositely charged at each end. This material is used today as a form of countermeasure for aircraft trying to evade enemy missiles or radar.

4. Operation Popeye – Vietnam War

With the previous projects above, it’s no wonder that cloud seeding was intended for military purposes at some point or another. Operation Popeye, or Operation Compatriot, was a top secret military campaign waged in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The goal of the operation was to flood the routes between North and South Vietnam during the monsoon season with as much rain as possible, in order to make roads inaccessible. The Ho Chí Minh trail was especially targeted due to its logistical importance for the Viet Cong. The whole operation lasted from 1966 up until 1972 and consisted of over 2,600 flights over the regions of Cambodia, Laos, South Vietnam and the previously mentioned trail. In total, some 47,000 units of cloud seeding material was dropped during this time, at a cost of over $21.6 million. If it actually worked or not is still a matter of debate, but it is believe that they were able to extend the monsoon season by 30 to 45 days.

Also part of the operation were regular flights over the dense jungles, spraying them with various herbicides in order to provide less material and cover for the North Vietnamese. Operation Popeye reached the public consciousness when a columnist by the name of Jack Anderson revealed it in the Washington Post in March, 1971. The US Defense Secretary, Melvin Laird testified under oath in 1972 in front of the US Senate that they never actually used any weather modification techniques in Southeast Asia. Only two years later, one of Laird’s private letters was leaked where he admitted that he did lie in front of the Senate. This inevitably lead to the “Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques,” or ENMOD to be signed in 1976 by members of the UN.

3. Black Rain in Belarus

In April 1986, one of the biggest man-made disasters took place in the former Soviet Union, present-day Ukraine. Due to a faulty reactor design and inadequately trained personnel, one of the reactors at Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, killing many and resulting in the complete evacuation of the nearby town of Pripyat. However, this was just the beginning and the worst of the disaster was still to come. The radioactive cloud that ensued was threatening many large cities in the Soviet Union like Moscow, Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod and Yaroslavl.

In order to prevent such a catastrophe, the Soviet government quickly dispatched aircraft to fly over the radioactive cloud and spray it with cloud seeding material, in an area of about 60 miles surrounding Chernobyl. In the wake of the explosion, people in present-day South Belarus reported heavy, black-colored rain falling in and around the town of Gomel. And just before the hellish rain began, several aircraft had been spotted circling the city and surrounding area, ejecting some colored material. Moscow has never admitted to using cloud seeding in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, but two Soviet pilots later admitted to it.

Alan Flowers, a British scientist and the first Westerner to examine the extent of the levels of radioactivity and fallout around Chernobyl, discovered that Byelorussians were exposed to levels 20 to 30 times higher than normal as a result of the nuclear rain, causing intense radiation poisoning in children. In 2004, he was expelled from the country for claiming that the Soviet Union used cloud seeding in 1986. He said, “The local population says there was no warning before these heavy rains and the radioactive fallout arrived.”

2. The Beijing Weather Modification Office

Today, 52 countries are involved in weather modification in one form or another, either to enhance precipitation or to suppress hail. But none are more involved in the process than the Chinese. The Weather Modification Office came into being sometime in the 1980s and has since grown to around 37,000 people strong; the largest in the world. These people operate throughout the entire country, but mostly in its northern and northeastern regions, which are more predisposed to droughts. They also try to counteract hail, or severe sandstorms.

The Weather office makes use of 4,000 rocket launchers, 7,000 anti-aircraft guns, and about 30 airplanes to achieve its goals. But besides working on increasing the amount of precipitation, or suppress the fall of hail, the Bureau also makes sure that national holidays or special events get the weather they deserve. In 1997, the technology was used on New Year’s Day to make it snow. Another of its high-profile operations was during the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing. During the opening ceremony, some 1,100 rockets were fired into the clouds outside the city, ensuring a precipitation free evening by making it rain away from the event. Prior to every October 1, China’s National Day, the government uses cloud seeding over Beijing in order to make it rain, dissipating pollution and clearing the skies. Another future prospect for the Beijing Weather Modification Office is to lower summer temperatures, thus lowering the annual consumption of electricity.

1. Desert Rain

The weather is created and influenced by our own planet’s rotation, the sun’s rays, and the moisture coming in from the oceans. The most we can do, when compared to these natural forces, is minimal at best, and things should probably remain like that. But anyway, as the world’s population has increased to numbers never before seen, humans have moved in larger numbers to regions less hospitable for comfort. We are, of course, talking about the desert. Over the past several decades more and more people have begun inhabiting places like the United Arab Emirates in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the driest places on Earth. And it’s no surprise that people living there would want a rainfall now and again.

Thus, a Swiss company took advantage of the situation and began building 33-foot-high towers that produce negatively charged ions. These supposedly generate the formation of storm clouds. The theory of ionization has been around since the 1890, being first mentioned by Nikola Tesla. However, there was no evidence of it actually producing any rain in the various experiments conducted since. Moreover, the Swiss company is unwilling to share any proof or information regarding its technology and how it actually works, keeping it a closely guarded secret. There were a few rain storms since the installation was put in place, but scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology have said that these were part of an unusual weather pattern the Middle East was experiencing at the time.


Controlling the Weather

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– WIF Mad Science

BS or Truth – WIF Confidential

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Facts That Sound

Like BS

bs

When you’ve been doing this job as long as we have, you get used to the idea that truth is stranger than fiction. History, science, art… they’re all full of factoids that seem implausible on the surface, but turn out to be true underneath. Still, there is a limit to this implausibility. It’s not like we’re going around claiming lightning magically gives you tattoos, or that you can survive jumping off the top of the Empire State Building, or that the Muppets were inspired by a porno, right?

 Wait, you mean that’s exactly what we’re about to do? And all of that is true? Yeesh…

10. Lightning Strikes Give You Sweet Tats

tat

Getting hit by a bolt of lightning is not fun. Aside from knowing that you’ve angered almighty Zeus, you suffer horrifying agony, terrible burns, and (possibly) a stopped heart. Oh, and you might just wind up getting a sweet-ass tattoo.

‘Lightning Flowers’ (also known, less-romantically, as ‘lightning trees’) are strange, fern-like, spiraling figures that can be flash-fried into your skin if a lightning bolt explodes nearby. Essentially burns that are caused by static electric traveling along the tiny blood vessels under the skin, they can last anywhere from a few hours to months and months. A type of Lichtenberg Figure, they’re weird, almost plant-like, and, to be honest, kinda cool.

See, unlike most burns, lightning flowers look intentional. The tiny little whorls, the way they radiate out from one central point… it all looks like some ink artist has spent hours agonizing over the design. Usually appearing on the arms, back, neck, chest or shoulders of lightning-strike victims, they might make you look like a tat-loving hippie, but they certainly don’t make you look like a burns victim.

They’re also useful. If paramedics bring your unconscious body in and the doctor sees your magic tat, he’s gonna know immediately that you need treating for a lightning strike.

9. The Muppets Song Mahna Mahna Came From a Porno

Even if you think you haven’t, you’ve heard Mahna Mahna. The song has appeared in everything. It was made stupendously famous by the Muppets in their 1976 TV premiere, having already featured on Sesame Street and the Ed Sullivan show years earlier (complete with Jim Henson puppets). So, where did this globe-striding, era-defining ditty come from? Err… a softcore Italian-Swedish porno.

The year was 1968, and Italian films were routinely flouting censors by filming softcore porn and dressing it up as ‘arthouse cinema’. In this instance, the titillating subject was ‘Scandinavian sexuality’, which gave the Italians plenty of excuses to include shots of hot Norwegian girls kissing, and even-hotter Danish girls posing as nude models. But the piece de resistance was a scene set in a Swedish sauna, in which a bevy of buxom blonds stripped off, giggling, for the camera. Composer Piero Umiliani was tasked with coming up with a catchy ditty for this mildly-erotic sauna centerpiece. He came up with Mahna Mahna.

The producers evidently knew he was onto something. The same year the porno came out, they released Mahna Mahna as a single. It got to 55 on the US Chart, caught the attention of Jim Henson, and the rest is (unlikely) history.

8. F1 Drivers Have Their Weight Monitored More than Catwalk Models

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Quick, what’s the most-restrictive profession where eating is concerned? Most of you probably said ‘catwalk models’, and it’s true that agencies routinely get their girls to starve themselves. Some of you also said ‘jockeys’, who often take diuretics to keep their weight down. Both professions are crazy-bad for weight watching. But there’s a less-likely profession that may be even worse: Formula One.

F1 racing is a scarily-precise science. Winners and losers are declared on fractions of a second, and cars are so streamlined that they carry absolutely no unnecessary weight. An extra 5 kilograms can wipe out 0.2 seconds on every lap; a horrendous setback in F1 terms. As a result, drivers are pressured to lose weight in order to compete. Over the last few years, this has gotten insane.

Drivers now have to be between 60-65 kilograms if they want to compete in the big leagues. In 2013, Jenson Button admitted that he has to starve himself, compete in triathlons, and avoid carbs like the plague to stay F1-ready. Others develop bulimia or anorexia. Some drivers have said they’re monitored and restricted even worse than catwalk models in what they can eat, despite eating disorders in F1 getting almost no airtime whatsoever.

7. Selling Sand to Arabs is a Lucrative Global Business

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“He could sell sand to the Arabs!” is one of those classic, slightly-racist expressions beloved by old, slightly-racist uncles the world over. Just like “he could sell snow to the Eskimos,” it uses a seemingly-unlikely situation to big up the persuasive powers of its subject. Although, in this particular case, its subject isn’t all that impressive. Selling sand to Arabic countries is a lucrative global business.

Australia, for example, shifts tons of the stuff to Dubai every year for construction projects. Germany recently signed a deal with Saudi Arabia to supply the Wahhabist Kingdom with sand. Altogether, the global market for sand is thought to be worth over $89 billion. There’s so much money in the stuff that mafia groups have moved in and started stripping tropical beaches under cover of night. And the Middle East is one of the biggest market drivers.

The trouble is that wind-blasted desert sand, such as that found in the Gulf, is too fine to be used in construction. So Gulf countries are forced to import the stuff; a lucrative market when those same countries are trying to outdo one another with insane construction projects.

6. Female Hurricanes Kill More People than Male Ones

hurricane

If we asked you to name a deadly hurricane, we’re betting most of you would have a female name pop into your head (likely Katrina or Audrey). There’s a good reason for that. ‘Female’ hurricanes are more-likely to kill people than ‘male’ hurricanes.

Since about 1979, hurricane names have alternated between female and male. However, even when hurricanes were exclusively female (1953-1979), how masculine or feminine their names were varied. In 2014, researchers at the University of Illinois crunched the data of all hurricanes to make landfall in the USA, separating them out into names that sounded masculine or feminine. They then divided them into hurricanes that hit populated areas, and those that didn’t.

 For non-destructive hurricanes that missed population centers, names made no difference. But for those that hit areas full of people, the results were staggering. The most ‘male-sounding’ hurricanes killed on average 11 people. The most ‘female-sounding’ hurricanes killed an average of 59.

The researchers theorized that this is because we’re all hilariously sexist. We tend to think women are unthreatening and less-powerful than men, so when we hear a female hurricane is coming, we kick back and refuse to evacuate. When a male one with a testosterone-fueled turns up, by contrast, we run for the hills.

5. Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees Can Literally Save Your Life

Oh, come on. This is getting ridiculous now. How could a 1970s disco song that just happens to be called Stayin’ Alive possibly help you, well, stay alive? We’re glad you asked. It turns out that this particular Bee Gees song averages 103 beats per minute. That’s pretty much exactly the rhythm you need to be hitting if you’re giving someone emergency CPR.

This isn’t us pointing out a wacky coincidence. Emergency medical courses (like, say, for lifeguards or whatever) frequently train their students using Stayin’ Alive. The American Heart Association (AHA) has official advice which says, in event of a heart attack (we kid you not) “call 9-1-1 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the classic disco song “Stayin’ Alive.”

The song was chosen because it hit the right beats, and also because it’s famous enough to be known to the general public. In countries where the Bee Gees are less-popular, songs such as the Beatles’ Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da are used instead.

4. A Woman Survived Jumping Off the 86th Floor of the Empire State Building

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Stepping off the top of the Empire State Building is pretty final. You plunge 86 stories onto hard, unforgiving concrete. That’s not something anybody survives… unless their name is Elvita Adams. In 1979, the Bronx resident decided to end it all. She took a ticket to the observation deck at the top of the Empire State building, climbed the security fence, and jumped. When she arrived at hospital, she was still alive.

If you’re wondering how the heck this is possible, we’ll end your suspense. Adams did jump off the Empire State, and she did go crashing down onto concrete. But the concrete in question wasn’t the sidewalk far below. After despairingly leaping out into the unknown, Adams was buffeted by a freak gust of wind. It just happened to be strong enough to blow her onto the ledge of the 85th floor, fracturing her hip. Before Adams could try jumping again, security guards had grabbed her and dragged her back inside.

Although no-one else has ever survived leaping off the Empire State Building, freaks of nature occasionally do save those plummeting from great heights. In 2007, a window cleaner plunged 47 stories and managed to survive thanks to pure luck.

3. Soccer Has Ended Multiple Wars (and caused one)

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Passions run high at soccer matches. Heck, Europeans consistently beat each other into comas while watching the sport. But could they run high enough to change the entire fate of a beleaguered nation? The answer is undoubtedly ‘yes’. In the past century, soccer has been the driving factor in ending three separate civil wars.

Two of those civil wars took place in the Ivory Coast. The first Ivorian Civil War lasted from 2002-2007, and killed nearly 2,000 people. The reason it stopped? The local soccer team qualified for the World Cup.

On the back of their qualifier win, the Ivory Coast soccer team dropped to their knees on live television, and begged the nation to put aside their differences. They then arranged for a qualifier for the African Cup to be held in a rebel-controlled city. This led to dialogue between the two sides, leading to a peace agreement. When the second civil war erupted in 2011, killing 3,000, soccer player Didier Drogba was instrumental in helping reach peace.

The third incident took place in Nigeria. In 1969, during the worst of the apocalyptic Biafran War, Pele brought his Brazilian club to the country to play the Nigerian national team. Both sides agreed a 3-day ceasefire to watch the match.

On the other hand, soccer has also directly caused at least one war. In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras faced each other in three grudge matches. Blood was so bad that the final 3-2 to El Salvador culminated in Salvadoran troops invading Honduras.

2. The Digit 1 Starts Most Significant Numbers

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Random numbers are the bane of the trivia aficionado. Go to a quiz, and you might be asked to guess the liters of wine Moldova produces, or the weight of each planet in the solar system, or he population figures for random counties in Louisiana, or whatever. By nature, these questions are designed to be impossible to answer. But if you want a head start, you should make sure your guesstimate begins with the digit 1. There’s about a 30% chance that any random, significant number will start with a 1.

Logic tells us that this is plainly nuts. The chances of 1 or 2 or 3 or so-on starting any randomly-selected longer number should equal around 11%. In practice, this doesn’t happen. After 1, the chances of a 2 starting the number are 18%, and so-on until 9, which has an infinitesimal chance of showing up. This means that you can go combing through any random set of significant data – baseball batting averages, the length of the world’s longest rivers, the number of McDonald’s in a certain area – and your figures will be significantly more-likely to start with a 1.

No-one knows why this should be, but it happens. It’s even got a name: Benford’s Law, and it has real-world purposes. People faking tax returns tend to insert too many figures from the mid-range (4,5,6), instead of figures starting with 1, giving their game away.

1. Cleopatra Existed Closer in Time to the First Pizza Hut than the Pyramids

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We all know the Pyramids are old. They were built around 2,500BC, over 1,000 years before Moses is thought to have lived. But few of us realize just quite how old they are. When Cleopatra was queen of Egypt, she was closer in time to the building of the first Pizza Hut than she was the first Pyramid.

Cleopatra reigned between 69-31 BC. The first Pizza Hut was built in 1958. That means the gap between Cleo and a great, big pile of disappointing pizza was 2,000 years. By contrast, the gap between the queen and her ancestors building the first pyramid was 2,450 years.

 Look at other comparatives, and this factoid just gets crazier. Julius Caesar (whose own namesake pizza chain, Little Caesar’s, was founded in 1959, in case you were wondering) famously got involved with Cleopatra, and probably spent some time admiring the Pyramids. At that point, the pyramids were to Caesar older than the oldest Roman ruins are to us now. Makes you think, huh?

BS or Truth

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– WIF Confidential

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 39

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 39

…“It is not everyday that a Talibanistani family shows up on your doorstep, with strange warnings about powerful lasers and killer satellites.”…

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“Fatima,” shouts Aldona Afridi to his wife, as he sees her pass by the room in which he seated uncomfortably! He raises enough of a ruckus that consulate personnel moving her are forced to reunite them — at last. He does not understand why they are being handled so awkwardly.

To this point Afridi is not impressed. This vaunted democracy operates similarly to his totalitarian homeland. His original theories, when he set his defection in motion, had the Americans welcoming him immediately as the hero he really was going to be, thereby acting on his whims at once. Instead he is left only with the knowledge that his family had completed their escape routes. Surely this is wonderful news, but definitely shy of his altruistic goal.

“Aldona!” If her husband was having his doubts, imagine what his wife was thinking; alone in a strange land with 2 little girls and left to try to explain a sketchy version of Afridi’s story.

“Fatima,” Afridi echoes, embracing her as close as he was allowed! In the back of his mind were thoughts about his newfound “friend” in Istanbul, Mehmet Ali Erim. He was brushed aside like a swarm of Tibetan Sandflies.

He grasps her shoulders at arm’s length, checking for signs of torture; such were the low sights he was now setting for their ordeal. “They are not acting on my information, Fatima. Every minute is crucial yet they are sitting on their hands!”

Perhaps they do not believe you. It is not everyday that a Talibanistani family shows up on your doorstep, with strange warnings about powerful lasers and killer satellites.”

Does his wife now doubt him, as a crackpot delusional dreamer?

He turns away from her, wondering how such a noble cause goes so unheeded. But he should not doubt Fatima’s devotion, yea confidence in his reasoning; she comforts her frustrated mate. “I am told that you must wait for the American Ambassador, he is on his way from Ankara.”

Image result for far fetched“And don’t leave out the CIA European Chief,” adds Elliot Deming as he enters the room. “They are in charge now, going through the proper channels to sanction your farfetched story Mr. Afridi.”

 

“It may appear unbelievable on the surface, but I swear I need to speak with Director Crippen. He will distinguish of what I speak.”

“How do you know Roy Crippen?”


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 39


 

page 48

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