Oddly Unlikely Animals – WIF Oddities

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Living Things That

Shouldn’t Exist

(But Do)

Restricted or enabled only by the bounds of natural selection, nature has proven that a vacuum is hard to maintain. While some types of creatures might seem fit for science fiction or simply defy our imagination, the natural world holds a place for creatures that defy common sense or human expectation in existing. Discover poisonous birds, freshwater sharks, plant-eating spiders, and other animals that just don’t seem right, but are out there waiting to expand your concept of life.

10. Pitohuis, the Poison Birds of New Guinea

A bird is the last thing to come to mind when we think of poisonous animals, but the different species of Pitohui from New Guinea are toxic feathered beauties from the rain forest, to be approached with great care. A poisonous bird: What will they think of next? Native to the rain forest environments of New Guinea, the Hooded Pitohui is correctly termed as a poisonous species, rather than a venomous species as a highly dangerous batrachotoxin is present throughout the bird’s feathers, skin and flesh. The bird’s toxicity became apparent in 1989 when a California Academy of Sciences based researcher named Jack Dumbacher who had set out to study birds of paradise in Papua New Guinea noticed burning pain in his hands when scratched by the peculiar Pitohuis caught in nets originally intended to catch birds of paradise for closer inspection.

The toxins that make up the chemical arsenal of these birds are in fact the same lethal compounds found in poison dart frogs notorious for being capable of killing predators and humans alike. Exactly why the birds possess this toxicity remains a matter of scientific interest, with associated speculation that the bright colors of these birds warns potential predators of their chemical laden bodies. The process by which pitohui toxins concentrate also formed a subject of scientific curiosity that was solved by Dumbacher when he went back to the rainforest and in collaboration with locals was able to determine that the source of the toxins consisted of poison-bearing beetlesthat the birds consumed in quantity.

9. Ocean Lizards

Lizards represent the hot desert in the minds of most people to a great degree, or at least a sunny, perhaps dusty garden path or tree trunk in a warm tropical jungle. Yet, a member of this vast and diverse group of small dinosaur lookalikes has done the unimaginable and become marine, basking on wave splashed rocks and foraging under the surf. Native to the Galapagos Islands and surrounding waters, the large and colorful Marine Iguana is a lizard that has mastered the sea, hauling out on rocks like a sea lion in between dives below the waves, where they forage on marine algae and seaweeds chewed off the surface of submerged rocks.

 The plant-based diet is easily harvested with the help of the iguana’s razor like teeth. Efficiency is key to Marine Iguana survival, as meals must be gathered quickly to prevent chilling and loss of heat energy. Measuring over 3 feet in length and weighing up to 22 pounds, the Marine Iguana is the only ocean-going lizard on the planet. Large groups of breeding females jockey for space in the breeding season, while males fight fiercely for a chance to mate with the female of their choice. The dinosaur-like creatures are normally blackish or grey-ish in color, but the males stand out with its greenish and reddish hues that come into color during the breeding season, signalling dominance and urging females to select them as mates.

8. Freshwater Sharks

Freshwater might seem like a place to swim safely without fear of sharks, but a population of Bull Sharks, a species known to have caused human deaths lives in Lake Nicaragua, while several species of river shark patrol fast moving waters in parts of Asia and Oceania, including Australia. Bull Sharks are a primarily ocean going species, but a population oddly yet naturally established in Lake Nicaragua ensures that swimming in a lake is not a guarantee of safety from shark attacks. While normal marine bull sharks are known to travel temporarily up rivers, the true river sharks belonging to the genus Glyphis are rare, at risk species characteristic of rivers and in some species, estuarine waters.

The Ganges Shark is the most closely associated with river habitats, while the Northern River shark and Spear-toothed Shark inhabit rivers and estuaries but more frequently swim in marine coastal zones. While the degree to which they travel in saltwater varies, what these sharks have in common is complete mastery of freshwater environments, with the Ganges shark being especially comfortable far upstream from any source of saltwater. The Bull Sharks that inhabit Lake Nicaragua are not a separate species, but as a population have admirably adapted to the purely freshwater environment of the lake. In order to survive, they draw upon their ability to excrete urine at a higher rate than normal to allow proper osmosis in their lifelong freshwater environment.

7. Meat-Eating Parrots

The Kea of New Zealand is an endangered parrot that acts like a hawk or vulture, eating the young of shearwater chicks and scavenging mammal carcasses. Superficially cute and cartoonish with huge “gooey” eyes, the Kea is the only alpine species of parrot in the world, able to handle cold winds, snow and low temperatures for prolonged periods of time. Their physical adaptations include the ability to soar like a raptor, effectively insulating, thick feathers and exceptionally sharp, hooked beaks that make them adept opportunistic harvesters of meat. Attacks on live mammals are also known to have occurred, especially presenting a concern in the context of livestock management.

Because of the tendency for Kea to sometimes prey on vulnerable sheep, wounding them and removing fat and tissue with their sharp bills, a bounty was placed on the birds, which are now protected but still classed as vulnerable. When not feeding on meat from carrion or live prey or searching for plant material, Kea may use their scythe-like bills to extract juicy grubs from the soil, drawing upon their high quantities of nourish fat and proteins. Brown and green in color at rest, the Keas may seem disappointingly dull to first time observers searching for these parrots, but offer a surprise when viewed in flight from beneath with their bright red wing linings and graceful maneuvers as they search for their next meal.

6. Bipedal Antelopes

Humans might have a near monopoly on mammalian bipedalism and antelopes seem to be the very definition of a quadruped. Yet, the slender Gerenuk, with a name that originates from the Somali word for “Giraffe-necked” defies ungulate normality as an antelope species that feeds in bipedal mode.  The silhouette of the species is unique among all mammals, crossing a stretched version of the typical ungulate body with an almost primate like-vertical stance. While Gerenuk feeds, the front legs awkwardly extend forward into the air. Standing on its spindly hindlegs to reach heights of almost 8 feet,this near threatened ungulate presents a bizarre sight in the grasslands of East Africa, browsing on leaves, berries, buds and flowers that other species cannot reach, especially Acacia leaves.  

The ability to stand upright adds to the Gerenuk’s already long legs and almost ridiculous looking, lengthened, skinny neck in allowing them to reach edible plant material well beyond the reach of most other antelope species, from which they also derive most of their water. With the remarkable occurrence of bipedalism in a hoofed mammal species attracting scientific curiosity, investigation into Gerenuk physiology has revealed interesting adaptations that facilitate and indicate significant evolutionary commitment to bipedal capabilities in this species.  Specifically, Gerenuks have smaller lumbar spinal protrusions, known as processes, allowing increased inward curvature of the spine required to stand upright for prolonged periods of time.

5. Lake Seals

A freshwater seal species does exist and it defies the very definition of marine mammal by it’s entirely lake bound occurrence. Known locally as the Nerpa and possibly half a million years old as a species, the Baikal Seal is the only true entirely freshwater seal species on the planet, restricted to the deep and mysterious Lake Baikal, which is in fact the deepest lake on Earth. Relying on the strange looking Baikal Oilfish or Golomyankas for the majority of their diet as well as sculpins and amphipods, these aquatic carnivores are a species of uncertain origin, still presenting a mystery to biologists who have yet to precisely pin down the circumstances leading up to their establishment in the lake as an endemic species.

Lake Baikal is not only extraordinarily deep, it is also extremely cold, with ice that remains into the spring breeding season. Well adapted to their environment, female Baikal Seals have developed the ability to create ice dens,in which they take shelter and subsequently give birth, usually to one pup. A small seal, the Baikal Seal may reach just past 4.5 feet in length and weigh no more than 154 pounds in most cases. The gray colored, docile lake seals maintain breathing holes in the ice and haul out along rocky shorelines in warmer weather.

4. Plant-Eating Spiders

The concept of a plant-eating spider is something that is unlikely to have entered the minds of most people. The reality that a herbivorous spider exists is likely to surprise even many who are trained biologists or biologists in training. Residing in Southern Mexico and Central America, the recently discovered jumping spider species Bagheera kiplingi is a huge eyed, rather cute looking arachnid that lives a lifestyle running completely counter to what we generally would expect of spiders. The very epitome of a carnivorous invertebrate, spiders are notorious for trapping their prey in webs, ambushing animals from tunnels, injecting doses of venom that are sometimes strong enough to kill a human and running down small prey on foot.

In contrast, the primary component of the diet of the brown and white jumping spider Bagheera kiplingi consists of Beltian bodies, tiny, fibre-rich parcels of plant material that provide certain Acacia plants with the resources to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship with ants that feed on the Beltian bodies but defend the tree from plant eaters. The enterprising Bagheera kipling,however, feeds on the Beltian bodies “intended” for the ants, while avoiding attack by the ants through what might be termed mock predation, swiftly lunging for the Beltian bodies and then beats a hasty retreat from the advancing ants. The spiders are mostly herbivorous, but at times may feed on ant larvae.

3. Nocturnal Gulls

The owls might be the first and only category of birds recalled when nocturnal avian species are brought up. Yet, a little known and unlikely marine bird from the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and Malpeno Island, Colombia has fully mastered the night sky through an incredibly strange detour in evolutionary history.  Foraging above the moonlit waves, the Swallow-tailed Gull sees in the relative darkness well enough to navigate and capture their fish and squid prey by moonlight, resting and tending to the young by day.

With ghostly pale spots on its plumage, a dark head and fleshy red tissue circling the eye, the Swallow-tailed Gull is the only truly nocturnal seabird on the planet. The strange looking gulls are equipped with extra large, darkened eyes containing a layer of reflective tissue that bounces light back through the retina to the bird’s photoreceptor cells, aiding it in seeing well while hunting at night. Biochemical adaptations include reduced melatonin levels, a sleep inducing hormone found in higher quantities in all other gulls. Heading out at night in large flocks, the night gulls swoop down to seize squid, small fish and any other invertebrates in reach in their prominently hooked bill before returning to their nesting colonies.

2. Fishing Cats

It is a well established fact in the minds of most that cats detest water, yet there is a species of feline from Asia so committed to an aquatic lifestyle that dramatic physical adaptations have defined its evolutionary history. Instead of shying away from water, the appropriately named Fishing Cat from South Asia and Southeast Asia inhabits wetlands, mangrove swamps and the edges of rivers and streams where they hunt for fish, catching aquatic prey with their sharp claws or seizing prey in their teeth during opportunistic dives into watery feeding areas.

Not afraid of water, the cats have a variety of physical adaptations that give them mastery of the water as some of the most skilled swimmers among predatory mammals. Fish eating cats have short tails, powerful muscles and the ability to walk in mud without sinking and excellent paddling and diving ability, allowing them to plunge deep into the water to capture fish, which forms the major portion of their diet. A thick, short fur base layer of fur insulates the cats from wet and cold when in the water, while longer hairs provide camouflage. An underwater surprise attack approach to hunting waterfowl, where the cats grab swimming birds by the feet from below has also been reported and ranks among the eeriest ways that a mammal can hunt birds.

1. Vegetarian Vultures

Vultures are the quintessential carrion scavenger and often carry a distasteful association with death in human minds. Yet, a quirky vulture widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa stands out in total rebellion against vulture ways. Through yet another unlikely and incredibly specific jog in the evolutionary history of modern fauna, the appropriately monikered Palm-nut Vulture has adapted to a diet centered primarily upon plant material, focusing its foraging on the fruits of the Kosi Palm, Date Palm and Acacia. To feed, the Palm-nut Vulture opens the kernels before extracting the nutritious, fatty meal inside each palm kernel utilizes its massive bill to crack fearsome beak to break open its palm kernel “prey” and strip fruit flesh.

At just two feet long, with a wingspan under five feet wide, the black and white bird with bright fleshy facial patches is actually the smallest Old World vulture species in the world. The plant eating raptor’s small size and agility, coupled with talon bearing, powerful feet facilitate its impressive foraging gymnastics, where it hangs upside down like monkey from palm branches, accessing its food. The entirely vegetarian source of protein forms the bulk of the natural food supply for this bizarre bird of prey, up to 92 percent of the juvenile diet and 58-65 percent of the diet of adults. Fish, insects and occasionally, bats supplement the palm nut, fruit and seed diet of this bird.


Oddly Unlikely Animals

– WIF Oddities

WIF New Year’s Resolution Sampler

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Top 10 Simple

New Year’s Resolutions

 I hate to be a New  Years Eve party-pooper, but I thought you should know that approximately  half of you will make New Years resolutions this year, but only 8% of you will  successfully achieve them.

 In the interest of turning these dismal results around, I’ve come up with  some alternative resolutions for you before it’s too late, because I think the  secret to achieving New Years resolutions is to keep them as simple as  possible.

For example, you’ll see several alternatives to the ever-popular resolution  to lose weight (the number one resolution in 2012).  Achieving any one of  at least 4 of the resolutions I’ve listed below could in fact result in weight  loss. Or not. In fact, since the resolutions below are more specific than ‘lose  weight,’ they might actually improve your chances of dropping a few pounds – but  without that heavy load of guilt on your shoulders if you don’t.

Simple, yes. But- unlike the empty calories in those light snack bars I may  have just spared you from consuming- the 10 simple resolutions I’ve selected are  also bursting with life-altering potential. Consider them the ‘super foods’ of  resolutions… super resolutions, in fact.

Here, ranked in order from most challenging to s-o-o-o-o-o simple, is a top 10 list of simple new years resolutions:

10. Show Up

Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon  has said “there is an expression among even the most advanced runners that  getting your shoes on is the hardest part of any workout.” As a runner who  belongs to more running Meetups in my city  then the number of runs I’ve actually gone on in the entire year, I can attest  to this.

Furthermore, I think this saying probably applies to any activity requiring  shoes. Strapping shoes on is so difficult that I have ranked it as the most  difficult of my 10 simple resolutions. I dare you to prove me wrong!

Guidelines

To achieve this resolution (i.e. Show Up) you are not merely required to  leave your couch and arrive somewhere else- but you also have to be present. The length of the journey and what you do when you get there  is up to you, but consider this: ‘showing up’ might involve some sort of active  engagement on y0ur part (i.e. learning something, meeting new people,  performing, participating in a lively debate).

Keep it Simple

Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the  door – Kris Kringle, (Santa Claus is Coming to Town)

Eighty percent of success is showing up. – Woody Allen

9. Listen to the Voices

This year, make a commitment to listen for those voices in your head and  challenge them.

We observe, we tell a story, and then we feel. …Since we and only we are  telling the story, we can take back control of our own emotions by telling a  different story.

These are the claims made in Chapter 6 of Crucial Conversations: Tools for  Talking When Stakes are High (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler). The  chapter proposes that if you “question your feelings and stories,” “look for  other possible explanations,” and “get back to the facts” you can break the  loop. It points out 3 common story themes: 1. the villain, 2. the victim, 3.  helplessness.

Keep It Simple

Try to identify the stories you are listening to in that lightning fast  moment between something you see or hear and your response.

Keep it Up

Try to replace your stories based on the willingness to consider that others  involved are reasonable, rational and decent people.

8. Expense Yourself

Most people who are working one job know exactly how much money they bring  home every month – but how many people know exactly how much money  they really spend? In an ideal world, everyone would balance their personal  books – but in reality, many of us have already crossed into another universe  where the money we use has very little to do with the money we actually  generate…

Just doing this once might blow your mind. You may find yourself taking  leftovers to work for lunch, growing your own vegetables, or cancelling your  cable.

Guidelines

Get all business-like and compare household revenue to expenses.

Keep it Simple

The simplest way to review your spending habits is to look at your bank  account and credit card statements and categorize your purchases. For more  accuracy, you could track your spending (including small cash purchases) for one  month.

Keep It Up

Even better: set a budget based on your actual income and track and manage  your spending from now on, using the envelope  method or free software such as mint.com.

7. Distant Gratification

Take a break from this world of short cuts, fast food, and even shorter  attention spans and plan for some distant gratification. As Tony Robbins  once said, “most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and  underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.”

Keep It Simple

The simplest examples of this resolution in action: plant a tree or bury a  time capsule in your yard.

Or, consider long-term  goals – – think about how much can be achieved in a year – or 5 years – if a  little bit of progress is made every day. For example you could write a novel  (10 pages a week) or walk 100 miles (45 minutes a week). You might decide to  save for a visit to Chile, learn to play chess, or sponsor  a child in another country- all by making small investments of money or time  stretched out over a long period.

Keep It Up 

Instead of stressing out about a concrete deadline or specific result, focus  on moving forward. Remember Hofstadter’s Law, “It always takes longer than  you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law” (psychcentral.com).  In most cases, it’s best not to check progress until a considerable amount of  time has passed, and don’t beat yourself up – just keep going!

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that  matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

6. Eat Vegetables

The USDA site choosemyplate.gov  describes over 20 ways that vegetables are good for you, including reducing the  risks of birth defects, cancer, kidney stones, heart disease, obesity, type 2  diabetes, bone loss, high blood pressure, constipation, and infection.

Guidelines

Make half your plate fruits  and vegetables, suggests choosemyplate.gov.

Keep it Simple

Even if you just eat one more vegetable than you did in 2012, you’re going to  be successful.

Or, you might try to gradually add more vegetables to your regular weekly  meals – stir spinach into your favorite pasta sauce and stuff those chicken  breasts with asparagus and cheese.

Don’t like vegetables? Invest in a few books and sneak them into smoothies  and meals (Skinny  Smoothies, The Sneaky  Chef).

Keep It Up 

When you are buying groceries make sure fruits and vegetable purchases  reflect your new eating habits (for example, review your shopping cart before  you get in line at the cashier). Or, purchase a share in a CSA  and receive a box of produce from a local farm each week. That way, you will  consistently receive vegetables (and the reminder to eat them) and you will  probably be exposed to some new produce that you might not otherwise pick up at  the store.

Local fresh fruits and vegetables are best, however frozen vegetables are a  nutritious and convenient alternative. Make sure you have some in your freezer  so that you always have some vegetables on hand.

If you are really serious about a veggie heavy diet, restrict meat to dinner  or weekend meals only.

5. Hello, Neighbor

According to an article at psychologytoday.com by Linda Wasmer Andrews, a “study from Umea University in Sweden showed that people who said they trusted  their neighbors were twice as likely as those who didn’t to rate their health as  good.” Plus, “research from Duke University found that people aged 55 to 80 who  were high in interpersonal trust lived longer, on average, over the next 14  years than those who were lower in that quality” (Trust  Your Neighbor, Boost Your Health).

Even the most casual, surface interactions with other members of your  community can lower stress and give you a sense of belonging. If your neighbors  know you, they are much more likely to notice if your house is being robbed or  if you need medical help. You also benefit from sharing local information with  each other (local schools, local events).

Keep it Simple

“Who are the people in your neighborhood? The people that you meet  each day.” Jeff Moss, Sesame Street songwriter.

Say hello to people you pass on the street (‘Good Morning,’) and work your  way up to chatting with neighbors, clerks and people waiting in line or waiting  to cross the street).

Keep It Up

Keep it up, and simple greetings will transform into short conversations and  a local network of neighbors.

Attend local community events: block parties, school plays, craft fairs,  theatre productions, live music.

Drop Christmas cards (or cookies!) off at your neighbor’s houses, shovel  someone’s walk or water their plants when they go on vacation, hire a neighbor  kid to mow your lawn.

4. Read the Ingredients

Food manufacturers rely on the general population’s disinterest in the  details when it comes to ingredients. They will use big labels or  official-looking check marks on packaging to advertise products as “low-fat,”  “natural” (an unregulated term), “whole grain,” and “100 calories.”  However, the ingredients  of these products often include artificial colors, flavors, thickeners,  genetically modified foods, and hydrogenated oils to keep costs or calories  down. Critics of these ingredients, including respected health experts, warn  that they can lead to everything from obesity, hyperactivity in children, heart  disease, and cancer (Sofia Layarda, MPH RD, Which  Food Additives to Avoid, healthcastle.org).

Guidelines

In her book Go  UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss, Gloria Tsang warns  that “highly processed foods are ‘the weakest link’ in any eating plan” and  provides 3 warning signs to look for in a 5 second scan: packaging that features  colorful cartoon characters are usually high in sugar, foods  advertised as fat-free use “thickeners and other artificial ingredients to  simulate the texture of the real thing,” and “look for an ingredient list that’s  not too long and includes ingredients you can actually pronounce.”

Keep it Simple

Read the ingredients on everything you purchase.

Keep it Up

If you commit to reading the ingredients on every purchase it will become a  habit and may eventually inform your choices.

For example, I was surprised to discover liquid sugar listed as the  4th ingredient in a popular whole grain meal for children and MSG in  the canned soups I’ve been eating for my entire life.

If you’re not sure what an ingredient is, Google it when you get home.

Eliminating, or even just reducing, one or two ingredients from your diet can  make a big difference.

3. Make Eye Contact

eye contact

Katrina Onstad writes that “the most potent tool of body language is eye  contact, at least in most Western cultures. Human mothers and infants require  eye contact to bond” and “evolutionary scientists propose that eye  contact came to be the cornerstone of communication because of the ‘cooperative eye hypothesis,’ which suggests that collaboration and cooperation  are optimized when our eyes are locked” (Why are We so Scared of Eye Contact? theglobeandmailcom).

Eye contact improves listening and helps the other person feel really  acknowledged. It is also an increasingly brave social act in an environment  where everyone else on the bus or on the street averts their eyes.

Keep it Simple

Look at people’s eyes and wait for them to do the same.

Keep it Up

Caution: if you make eye contact you might feel empathy, invoke a response  from the other person, or otherwise interact with others.

PS: eye contact should be casual and not make people feel uncomfortable.  Don’t be creepy!

2. Drink Water

According to mayoclinic.com, “every system in your body depends on water” and “even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired”.  In the  video above, Lynn Goldstein, a registered dietician, explains that water is an essential  ingredient for health and that it’s important to drink water BEFORE you are  thirsty – because thirst is often the first symptom of dehydration.

Exercise, climate, and other activities such as breastfeeding will increase  the amount of water needed, so there isn’t one amount that applies to all  people.

Basic Guidelines

The most well known recommendation to drink eight 8oz glasses of water a day  is a good place to start.

64oz = ½ US gallon = 2 liters (approximately).

Keep It Simple

You can achieve this resolution by drinking more water than you did in  2012.

Keep It Up 

Consider incorporating one or more of these simple steps into your daily  routine:

1. Each day, drink a 16 oz glass of water first thing in the morning and  before each meal (maybe with a bonus 8 oz before bed just to top up).

2. Carry a water container around with you and use it to measure your  progress towards your target. You can use one 64oz water bottles or plan to fill  up a 1 litre bottle twice during the day, or whatever plan works best for  you.

3. Swap out the other beverages in your daily routine for water or at least  match them up. For example, alternate your coffee or cocktails with glasses of  water.

“Thirst isn’t always a reliable gauge of the body’s need for water,” so  Mayoclinic.com offers these simple indicators: “clear or light-colored urine  means you’re well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals  dehydration”.  You can used these guidelines to figure out how much water  you personally need to drink to remain hydrated and to stay on track. Like the  famous potty slogan says, “If it’s brown flush it down, if it’s yellow – go  drink some water.”

1. Hug More

Hugs improve everything from communication and self-esteem to the immune  system, according to Marcus Julian Felicetti’s article 10  Reasons Why We Need at Least 10 Hugs a Day at mindbodygreen.com.

Keep It Simple

If you are uncomfortable at first, just announce your resolution to your  friends – that’s what I did last year, and they hugged me! If  you’re still shy about it you can also practice on stuffed  animals or trees – whatever’s in arm’s reach.  Add a hug into every  greeting and good-bye with bonus spontaneous hugs whenever you feel like it.  Extra hugs for your kids and don’t forget your pets!

Keep it Up

In the same article, Felicetti shares a quote by Virginia Satir, who is  sometimes referred to as the mother of family therapy: “We need four hugs a  day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs  a day for growth”.

This article is a compilation of advice I have gathered over the years – not all my original thoughts – violating  one of my last year’s resolutions about using other people’s material


New Year’s

Resolution Sampler

Expensive Toys for Wealthy Boys (or Girls)

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Ridiculously Expensive Toys

for the Rich

(Not me)

When money isn’t an issue, one can indulge in some very cool and very expensive toys. These include gadgets, vehicles, and toys that are similar to things people with average wealth own, just taken to the extreme. There are also some toys that rich people own that most of us have only seen in movies about the future. Then there are other toys for the rich that are just downright bizarre, but no less expensive. But these toys are all very real and for sale, if you can afford their hefty prices. We’d say that with Christmas coming up you could just ask Santa but let’s be real here, no one has been this good this year.

Expensive Toys for

Wealthy Boys

A MONOPOLY on Board Games

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Interesting Facts

About the Board Game

Monopoly

Monopoly was first produced in 1935 by Parker Brothers, and has been ruining friendships and tearing families apart ever since. Despite how frustrating the game is, it’s considered the world’s most popular and, as of 2009, over 250 million copies have been sold.

 While the game is meant to be played by people of all ages, it is meant to show the dangers of a small group of people accumulating all the wealth. If you’re playing the game, and someone builds hotels all over the board, and you have a house on Baltic Avenue? You have to borrow money before ultimately going bankrupt and losing. It’s annoying in the game, but it would be tragic in real life.

10. Are You Playing the Game Correctly?

Have you ever taken the time to read the rules of Monopoly? Probably not, because an overwhelming amount of people don’t follow the official rules while playing.

One rule that many people didn’t know existed is that if you land on a property and choose not to buy it, the property goes up for auction. The opening bid can start at any price and the highest bidder pays the bank. This speeds up the game and when playing with these rules, it lasts about an hour to 90 minutes. (Another hint if you really want to speed up the game, but isn’t in the official rule book, is to deal out all the properties at the beginning of the game.)

One reason that so many of us play Monopoly the same way, which is different from the official rules, is because Monopoly is so popular, and many people are taught how to play as children. So for generations, no one read the rules, and older generations just taught younger generations to play the way that they were taught. Think about it – do you even remember learning how to play Monopoly? If you can, did you read the instructions, or were you taught to play by someone who already knew?

As for why no one plays the game according to the official rules, it could be because the game is often played by children, and the auctions may have led to fights, so parents omitted the rule and it simply got phased out as the rules of the game were handed down generation-to-generation.

Another common house rule, which isn’t an official rule, is that when fines and taxes are collected, they go into the center of the board and whoever lands on Free Parking wins the jackpot. However, in the official rules, nothing happens when you land on the Free Parking space.

Finally, some people play that you can’t get money while you are in prison, but there is no official rule against that.

Since the house rules and official rules are so different, Hasbro did a study and ended up releasing official House Rules of the game.

9. Three Most Landed on Spots include Illinois Avenue, GO, and B&O Railroad

One thing that might be helpful to winning the game is getting the square that is landed on the most. According to computer scientist Truman Collins, who built a simulation of the game, the square most likely to be landed on is In Jail. This is for several reasons. The first is that if you land on the Go to Jail square, technically you go straight to jail (duh). Secondly, people roll to get out of prison. All of this in addition to landing on the prison square, and you’re just visiting.

The second most landed on square is Illinois Avenue. This is followed by Go, New York Avenue, and rounding out the top five is B&O Railroad. As for the least likely squares to get visits? Those would be the three Chance squares, the Community Chest Square, and Mediterranean Avenue.

When it comes to the most expensive property, Boardwalk, it’s the 18th most likely square to be landed on.

8. The Characters

In Monopoly, there are several different characters and all of them have their own name. The first one is Mr. Monopoly. He is the iconic character who has a three piece suit, a top hat, and white hair. Also, a lot of people seem to remember him having a monocle, but he has never worn one.

It’s unclear who the inspiration for Mr. Monopoly is. Some people think it is famed American banker and financier J.P. Morgan. It certainly would make sense because they look and dress similar, and both are businessmen.

Others believe that it is based on a salesman at Parker Brothers who had business cards with over-the-top caricatures of himself printed on them. Often times he would be wearing a top hat, or riding a train. Finally, it could be based on Little Esky, which is a former mascot of Esquire magazine.

The character wasn’t given a name until 1946, and even then, it wasn’t announced via Monopoly. Instead, he appeared as the mascot on a different game called Rich Uncle. In the game, the Daily Bugle identifies him as Rich Uncle Pennybags, and he is the man who runs the town.

However, in 1999, Hasbro conducted a study and found that many people didn’t know that Rich Uncle Pennybags was his name, so they changed it to Mr. Monopoly.

Of course, there are other characters in the game. On the Community Chest and Chance cards, there is Mr. Monopoly’s wife, Maude, and his three nephews – Randy, Sandy, and Andy. Finally, there is Officer Mallory, who sends people to jail, and Jake, the Jailbird.

7. People Have Killed Each Other Over the Game

If you’ve even been near a group of people playing Monopoly, you know that players can easily get frustrated. All it takes is one flip of the board to end a friendship.

While most adults don’t resort to violence when it comes to their frustrations over Monopoly, some games have spiraled violently out of control. One such game happened in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 25, 2011. 60-year-old Laura Chavez and 48-year-old Clyde “Butch” Smith were playing the game with their 10-year-old grandson. At some point, Chavez caught Smith cheating. A fight ensued and the grandson was sent into a bedroom, and that’s when the grandparents got violent.

Smith hit Chavez with a wine bottle, and then she went at him with a knife. He was stabbed and slashed around the chest, neck, and face. Luckily, he survived.

Another tragic fight that stemmed from the game happened on July 19, 1991, in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Two best friends, 25-year-old Marc Cienkowski and 31-year-old Michael J. Klucznik, were playing Monopoly when a fight broke out. It got physical and several punches were thrown. Cienkowski grabbed his compound bow and an arrow, and told Kluvznik to leave. Kluvznik left, and when he was seated in his car, his best friend fired an arrow into his chest. Kluvznik ended up dying and Cienkowski was sentenced to nine-to-25 years in prison. We like to think the judge told him to go directly to jail, to not pass GO, and to not collect $200 at his sentencing.

6. You Can Win a Game with 2-players in 21 seconds

Games of Monopoly are notoriously long, and can drag on for hours, or even days. On the other end of the scale, Daniel J. Myers, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame, and his son have figured out the quickest way to end a game of Monopoly. It’s just four turns and nine rolls, and the game lasts 21 seconds.

How it would have to work is that player one rolls double sixes and lands on Community Chest, where they receive $200 because of the “Bank error in your favor” card. Next, player two has to land on the Income Tax square. The next turn involves player one getting double twos and landing on Park Place, where they purchase it, and then double ones to land on Boardwalk, which they need to purchase as well. Since they got doubles, then they roll again and pass GO, collecting $200. Once they are past GO, they need to purchase three houses for Park Place and two for Boardwalk. Player two would then land on a Chance square and pick up the “go directly to Boardwalk” card. When they do, they won’t have enough money, and the game is over.

Of course, the chances of this game happening in real life aren’t exactly good. According to a Columbia professor, it would happen once every 253,899,891,671,040 games. So he’s saying there’s a chance.

 5. Best Way to Win

As we’ve already mentioned previously, and will probably continue to mention throughout the article, playing Monopoly can be downright frustrating. However, if you really want to ratchet up the frustration level among your opponents, and win in the process, you should follow this strategy to win, which comes from a Reddit user named Elfie.

Basically, the diabolical plan revolves around the houses. There are 32 in the box, and once the houses are sold out, then no one else can buy one. So the plan is simply to buy up as many houses as you can.

Early in the game, buy a set of properties and build all houses on it (not a hotel). It can also be any set of properties. Later in the game, get a second monopoly and build up houses on each of those properties. If you get two monopolies containing three properties, then that only leaves 8 other houses out there among the rest of the players.

Limiting the number of houses is important because houses are needed to build hotels. By monopolizing the houses, it makes it harder for people to progress, and then you simply outlast them.

Evil, right?

4. The Real Creator was a Woman Who Didn’t Get Credit For Her Invention

The person credited with inventing Monopoly is Charles Darrow, an unemployed heater salesman from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While Darrow created the Monopoly we know today, he ripped off the idea. The real inventor was a stenographer named Elizabeth Magie, who lived in Washington D.C.

Magie worked at night trying to teach people about the evils of monopolies. She was concerned with the accumulation of wealth and power by a small group of families during the Gilded age. She thought that this type of control by a small group of people could lead to monopolies, which could have devastating effects on everyday Americans. The problem was that her message was hard to spread because many people simply weren’t interested in listening.

Looking to spread her message faster, Magie developed The Landlord’s Game in 1903, and got a patent on it in 1904. The game was never mass produced, and instead, the game spread through word-of-mouth. Usually someone would learn the game, and then they would make their own copy of the board and the pieces. In turn, they would teach it to someone else.

One of those people who learned to play the game was Charles Darrow. He pitched the game to Parker Brothers and they eventually bought the rights to it, and gave Darrow a royalty. However, Parker Brothers knew that Magie actually owned the patent on the game. So they contacted Magie and bought the rights to The Landlord’s Game and another game that she developed for $500. But in a massive jerk move, Parker Brothers never intended to mass produce The Landlord’s Game. Instead, they released a few hundred copies of it, but mass produced Monopoly, which became a massive hit. Beyond the $500, Magie didn’t get any other payment or credit for the game. She died in 1948 and her contributions to the game weren’t publicized until the 1970s. Darrow died a millionaire in 1978.

3. The Unusual Story of Marvin Gardens

 There are localized versions of Monopoly, but the original game, and one that most people in North America are familiar with, has all of the properties named after streets or areas in Atlantic City, New Jersey. With one exception, that is: Marvin Gardens, which is supposed to be Marven Gardens.

While it’s a small mistake, it actually shows the interesting history behind Monopoly. When asked why he chose Atlantic City, instead of Philadelphia, where he was born and lived, Charles Darrow said it was because it was his favorite vacation spot.

However, what we know from the last entry is that Darrow didn’t invent the game, he just signed a deal with Parker Brothers to sell it. Before Monopoly’s publication, when people made their boards for The Landlord’s Game, they would localize the street names. Darrow was taught to play The Landlord’s Game by a couple from Atlantic City and when Darrow was given a copy of the board by the couple, it contained the wrong spelling of Marven Gardens. In turn, Parker Brothers copied Darrow’s incorrect board. Making Darrow not only a thief, but a lazy one at that.

In 1995, Parker Brothers apologized to the people of Marven Gardens for the misspelling. However, they have never credited Magie’s contributions to the game. Just wanted to really emphasize that part again.

2. Monopoly was Rejected by Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers

After Magie developed the game, she didn’t get it mass produced because she didn’t want to. She took it to Parker Brothers, twice. Once in 1910, and again in 1924, and both times it was turned down. The reason they gave was that it was too political.

Jump ahead to 1934, and Darrow pitched his version of the game to both Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers. Both of them sent back rejection letters. Part of the creation myth is that Parker Brothers rejected it for 52 fundamental reasons. However, there is no real evidence of that and it definitely does not say it in the rejection letter. The game was rejected unanimously by the executives of Parker Brothers because they thought it took too long to play and was too complex to be popular.

Instead, Darrow used his own money to make 7,500 copies, which sold well in stores in Philadelphia, and Parker Brothers changed their mind and struck a deal with Darrow. From there, the game grew to be the biggest board game in history.

1. Escape Maps Were Smuggled to British POWs during WWII

When it comes to making maps for war, paper is a terrible material for many reasons. For example, it can’t get wet, it rips, it crumples, and so on. A better material for maps is silk, and it has been used for hundreds of years.

During World War II, a printing company that had mastered printing on silk was John Waddington Ltd. The company was used by the British secret service unit MI9, which was the secret service unit for escape and evasion, to print silk maps. Waddington was also the printer of Monopoly for the United Kingdom. An MI9 agent named Christopher Clayton Hutton came up with the idea to put maps and other materials into board games that would be sent to POW camps. Games were often brought into POW camps by humanitarian and charity groups, and the games wouldn’t have drawn too much attention from the enemy.

Inside the Monopoly boxes were hidden compartments that contained compasses, tools, maps, and under the money were real bank notes. There were six different maps created for areas around German POW camps, and other maps for Italy.

They marked the special Monopoly boxes by putting a red dot on the Free Parking space. Also, to figure out where the maps should go, periods were added to the end of specific properties. For example, if it was going to Germany, there was a period after Mayfair, and if it was going to Italy, there would be a period after Marylebone Station (since the game was the UK version, the properties were named after streets in London, not Atlantic City).

Some historians believe that thousands of POWs used the Monopoly games to escape. Since the war, all of the Monopoly escape kits were destroyed.


A MONOPOLY

on Board Games


 

Ancient Tools and Toys – Real Old

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Oldest Known Objects

Made by Man

(and his Ancestors)

Whenever something incredibly ancient and incredibly cool turns up, there’s always someone on hand to shout that it’s evidence of aliens. Awesome as it would be to know ET was hanging out here in 10,000 B.C. (or whenever), the truth is both much simpler and much more interesting. See, you don’t need aliens to explain away intricate ancient objects. We humans have been capable of creating incredible stuff since before there were even humans.

 The following objects are all man made in the sense that ‘a proto-human intelligence was responsible for their creation’. But not all of them came from the mind of homo sapiens. Instead, some come courtesy of our distant ancestors, the thinking apes who preceded us and helped us on our journey. Think the prehistoric world is dull? Think again.

10. Ice Age “Batons” (Approx. 28,000 years old)

Yes, we know what you’re thinking. Something along the lines of: “Gee, these ice age batons sure look like a certain part of the male anatomy.” So before we go any further, let us just categorically state that, yes, these batons do indeed look like a bunch of comedy-sized wangs. And there’s a good reason for that. Wanna guess what it is? That’s right, far from being immature, you’ve hit on what these probably were. You’re looking at an image of a stone age sex toy.

Known euphemistically as ‘batons’, these proto-Ann Summers toys have been found in a number of Ice Age sites, no doubt leading to many awkward conversations among archeologists. The oldest of all is from Germany, specifically a place known as Hohle Fels Cave. Now, pay attention, because you’re gonna be hearing that name again and again in this article. Hohle Fels contains one of our best-preserved collections of Ice Age artifacts anywhere in the world. In 2003, it also turned out to contain the oldest baton yet found. The one you see above dates from around 28,000-30,000 B.C.

Just think about that, for a second. This ancient – ahem – toy is older than Stonehenge, Machu Picchu and yo momma combined. Not that it was all dirty. According to those who found it, the tool was also used for “knapping flints” (whatever the heck that is).

9. Animal Figurines (30,000-40,000 years old)

Sometimes, the world just likes to drop something incredible in our laps, presumably just for the fun of watching us collectively freak out. The ancient figurines found at Hohle Fels (that place again) are one of those somethings. Among the oldest sculptures ever found, they depict miniture birds, horses’ heads, and half-animal humans in jaw-dropping detail. Did we mention the detail? When they were made public, in late 2003, archeology expert Dr Anthony Sinclair declared: “They are as good as anything you will see thousands of years later – from 3-4,000 BC.” Suck it, Ancient Greece.

But even these works of genius have nothing on the oldest figurine we’ve yet found. Discovered in the same cave of wonders as the figurines was the Venus of Hohle Fels. A tiny carving of a woman, the Venus may also be the earliest extant work of erotica. The carving has improbably large breasts, a big backside, and exaggerated genitals. She’s also a lot fatter than we’re guessing any Ice Age human ever was, unless there’s a prehistoric McDonalds waiting to be found in Hohle Fels somewhere. This suggests she may have been a fantasy, an example of Ice Age man’s longing for a well-stacked, fleshy woman. Nice to see some things never change.

8. Neanderthal Cave Art (40,800 years ago)

Yeah, Neanderthals aren’t human. Well, get used to it. We’re gonna be leaving homo sapiens for good in a little while to go gallivanting around the world of Homo erectus and all his extinct pals. But first, let’s just pause and take a breather, and admire the view of one of the oldest expressions of abstract art ever found. Discovered in a Spanish cave in 2012, this image dates back a staggering 40,800 years in time.

Imagine the incredible amount of time that exists between you and Julius Caesar or Jesus Christ. Now times that unimaginable distance by ten. Now double it, and then give up and throw the whole concept of picturing this away, because you’re never gonna be able to really grasp just how stupidly long ago this was. Back then, ‘popping out for a bite’ meant stepping outside and being swallowed by a sabretooth tiger. It was a world so unimaginably different from ours as to be… well, unimaginable. Yet the not-quite-humans who inhabited this space still felt moved to do something uniquely human. They created art, using the only things they had: their hands and some plant pigment. And we think that’s just swell.

7. Ancient Flutes (42,000 years old)

The Aurignacian culture is the coolest thing you’ve probably never heard of. A bunch of early humans who started doing their thing in the Upper Paleolithic era, the Aurignacians mark the point where art and music and specialized tools began to emerge. So, yeah, pretty much everything you take for granted today started here. At one point, scientists thought this period of intense change started no earlier than 40,000 years ago. Then someone stumbled across a 42,000 year old bone flute in yetanother German cave and the dates had to be revised upwards.

 If the thought of an ancient flute doesn’t send a chill down your spine, you may want to quickly double check and make sure you’re not in traction. These finds mean the earliest European humans were creating music from almost the moment they arrived on the continent. Just imagine. It’s dark. You’ve just come back from a long day’s woolly mammoth punching, or whatever the heck Stone Age man used to do. The only light in your cave is from the flickering of the fire. You sit around, staring into its shifting flames. And then, slowly, someone pulls out a flute and starts to play…

See what we mean? Magical. This is the dawn of human emotion we’re witnessing here, and we’ve still got well over a million years of history left to go.

6. Aterian Beads (110,000 years old)

Grotte des Pigeons is a cave in Eastern Morocco that for ages wanted nothing more than for people to forget it had such a stupid name. Then, sometime in the mid-20thCentury, some archeology guys came along and decided, hey, this looks like a pretty good spot to dig. So they dug and they dug and they dug until suddenly everyone was too busy exclaiming over all the crazy awesomeness in Grotte des Pigeons to concentrate on its stupid name. There were ashes and tools and carved rocks and all sorts of treasures. But the biggest treasure of all may have been the beads.

 Made of shells with perforated holes, some still with traces of red ochre on them, the beads were likely the earliest examples of jewelry we have. The researchers dated them to an impossibly-distant 110,000 years ago, a time when the wheel was a far-off dream, and the concept of agriculture was like witchcraft. Yet our ancestors were still making jewelry. Even in a world of unrelenting danger, bear attacks and lifespans of under 30 years, we still just wanted to look good. We can’t tell if that’s shameful or the coolest thing ever.

5. Bone Awls (200,000-400,000 years old)

OK, from here on in, the dates get vague and the periods of time involved become utterly incomprehensible. If you’re cool with that then stick with us, because this is also where we’re gonna find the coolest stuff. For this entry, that means bone awls. A feature of the Middle Stone Age (MSA), bone awls were little sharpened bits of bone, probably used for piercing holes in hide and making clothes. As such, they show our ancestors moving on from just wrapping themselves in the skin of a dead zebra to actually creating their own garments.

Like most of the stuff in the MSA, bone awls were likely invented in Africa and then taken to Europe along with the first early humans. Good job, too, as Europe back then was likely freezing. Honestly, we complain if we get stuck without heating for half a day during a mild winter. Imagine having to huddle round a fire in a cave for warmth AND design your own clothes using only sharpened bits of bone and the flesh of whatever you’d killed. There are residents of Jersey Shore who live more-fulfilling lives than that (kidding. No they don’t).

4. Projectile Points (200,000-400,000 years old)

This is where the MSA really hit its stride. Before early humans perfected projectile points, killing an animal meant charging at it with a kamikaze yell, waving an axe above your head and hoping it didn’t eat you (it frequently did). With the advent of sharpenedprojectile points, the equation changed dramatically. Now you didn’t have to get within eating-distance to kill your dinner. Humanity’s time at the top of the food chain had survived.

Stop and think about this for a second, about all the stuff we take for granted. Before projectile points were invented, the only time you got to eat a fast moving animal like a bird was when it dropped dead of kidney failure right in front of you. Suddenly having spears and arrows allowed humans to expand their diets. It allowed them to create small stockpiles of food and defend themselves from a distance. Some have even suggested formulating complicated hunting plans using these tools helped us develop modern human intelligence.

Of course, our ancestors did plenty of hunting before the invention of spears and arrows. But, still. Their coming was a gamechanger that reorganized our entire species.

3. Hand Axe (1.76m years old)

Long before the Aurignacian came along with their music and painting and liberal hippy art stuff, the hottest culture in human history was the Acheulian. Occurring sometime around 1.76 million years ago, this stone age revolution saw our ancestors discard the simplistic tools they’d been using up until then, and start crafting complex weapons unlike anything ever seen before. Stones with specially-sharpened ends that were wielded by hand, these ‘hand axes’ saw early humans able to easily kill other animals for the first time in history.

For a long time, scientists thought the Acheulian revolution started around 1.4 million years ago, the period a number of hand axes found in Ethiopia dated from. Then 2011 came along and turned all that on its head. That was the year that archeologists digging on the muddy banks of Lake Turkana in Kenya uncovered hand axes dating from 1.76 million years ago. That’s a difference of 360,000 years; equivalent to the distance in time between you reading this on your tablet and our ancestors’ creation of stone projectile points.

Those who created and used these hand axes, by the way, definitely weren’t human. They were probably Homo Erectus, the guys who decided walking on two legs was the way to go.

2. Oldowan Tools (Around 2.5m years ago)

Unlike the hand axes of the Acheulian revolution, no non-experts today would be able to recognize Oldowan Tools as even being tools. They were pebbles and rocks that had been crudely chipped to give one serrated edge, likely for cutting, chopping and scraping. We’re talking the absolute most basic of basic implements, here. This was the dawn of the Paleolithic era, the point in time when hominids realized you could get more done with implements than you could with your teeth. It sounds simple to us now, but back then no-one had ever even thought of it. How could they? They were little more than apes at this point.

Despite the mind-blowing chasms of time between us and the first Oldowan tools, they’ve been found all over the world. At least, all over the world as it would have been back then, which basically means ‘Africa’. At this point, Europe and Asia were as alien to these tool makers as planet Weezigg-Cloop is to you (we’re gonna discover it in about 4,000 years. It’s gonna be awesome).

Interestingly, some scholars think those using these tools may have been vegetarian, hence their being content with not developing better tools for like 700,000 years. Who needs an animal-killing hand axe when you don’t eat animals?

1. Contents of the Lake Turkana Toolbox (3.3m years old)

And then we have the Lake Turkana Toolbox.

To be clear, the Lake Turkana Toolbox shouldn’t exist. Digging it up and dating it to 3.3m years ago is like opening Tutankhamun’s Tomb to find a Boeing 747 inside. In fact, scratch that. The distance of time is so vast that it would be like opening Tutankhamun’s Tomb to find a Sci-fi device that won’t be invented for another 796,000 years. One that does stuff we in backward old 2017 can’t even imagine. 3.3m years ago is meant to be a time when no species existed that was capable of making tools. And yet, in 2015, scientists discovered that this was exactly what the apes hanging around Lake Turkanahad been doing.

 To be sure, they don’t look like tools. They look like sharp rocks. But, like the Oldowan Tools above, the point is that someone – or something – made them sharp. Whatever that pre-human creature was, it was starting Earth’s sentient species down a path that would eventually lead to hand axes, then projectile points, then beads, then art, then music, then sculpture… and so-on right the way up to the tablets and spacecraft and 3D printers of today. When you look at it like that, you gotta admit these dull old rocks are secretly kinda cool.

Ancient Tools and Toys

– Real Old

Believe Them or Not Theorum – WIF Conspiracies

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Interesting Theories

That Are Difficult

to Believe

Throughout history, there have been people who have tried to explain the complexity of the universe, and even something as basic as our everyday reality. While these theories may provide some answers to the mysteries of life, they can also be confusing and boggle the mind. These are 10 of those theories, which are incredibly hard to understand.

 10. The Black Swan Theory

Developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a professor of finance, the Black Swan Theory isn’t as hard to grasp as it is to realize its implications. According to the theory, a black swan is an event that is supposedly impossible to predict, but has massive ramifications and then is rationalized with hindsight afterward.

A major black swan event was the 9/11 attacks. If it had been foreseeable that terrorists would force their way into the cockpits of passenger planes, take them over with box cutters, and then crash the planes into American landmarks, then more precautions probably would have been taken to ensure that none of those steps could have happened.

Then after the attacks, experts and pundits weighed in and tried to use hindsight to explain why the attacks happened. Eventually, it seems as if 9/11 was inevitable because poor airline security allowed it to happen. In response to these rationalizations, airline security increased to ensure it never happens again.

Here’s the problem with that type of logic and rationalization: the next major, world-changing terrorist attack won’t be people flying planes into buildings, because we have safeguarded ourselves against that and it won’t be as shocking. It will be some other black swan event that very few people will see coming.

Another example of a black swan event for many people was the election of Donald Trump. Most people did not predict him to be the Republican nominee, let alone win the Presidency. The polls didn’t indicate that he was anywhere near the lead, and even his own party was distancing themselves from him. However, when Trump did win the election, many of the big news organizations and the Democrats attempted to use hindsight to rationalize how he won.

Essentially, the Black Swan Theory is about being aware of what you are not aware of. No problem, right? Nassim’s advice is just to always assume a catastrophe could happen at any time.

9. The Potato Paradox

Let’s say you have 100 pounds of potatoes. These are special potatoes that are 99 percent water weight. Now, you decide to leave the potatoes out to dry, because they taste better when they are 98 percent water. When you go to get your potatoes, how much do they weigh? Logically, one would think that it would weigh a shade lower than 99 pounds, because 1 percent of water weight would be 1.0101 pounds.

Well, the answer is actually 50 pounds. That’s right, by just losing 1 percent of water weight, the potatoes would weight half as much.

It comes down to ratios. When the potatoes are 99 percent water, that means that there is 1 percent solid mass. That makes the ratio of liquid to solids 99:1. However, when it dehydrates, it changes the ratio of water to solids from 98 percent water and 2 percent solids, which is a ratio of 98:2, or 49:1. That means the weight dropped in half to 50 pounds.

In case you don’t believe us, this is the equation:

(99%)(100) – (98%)(100 – x) = x

(0.99)(100) – (0.98)(100 – x) = x

99 – (98 – 0.98x) = x

99 – 98 + 0.98x = x

1 + 0.98x = x

1 + 0.98x – 0.98x = x – 0.98x

1 = 0.02x

1 / 0.02 = 0.02x / 0.02

50 = x

100 – x = 100 – 50 = 50

8. Simulacra and Simulations

Jean Baudrillard was a French philosopher, and one of his most famous treatise is “Simulacra and Simulations,” which was published in 1981. The very confusing theory essentially contends that our reality is fake, and we are so far removed from real life that everything is hyperreal. Baudrillard Even goes as far as to suggest that our life is just a simulation and we aren’t even aware of it.

To illustrate his point, Baudrillard uses a very short story by Jorge Luis Borges called “On Exactitude in Science.” In the story (that is only a paragraph long), there is a kingdom, where they have made a detailed map of the kingdom that is a scale of 1:1. The map is then spread out over top of the kingdom, and after a while people think the map is really the kingdom. He says that our reality is pretty much just a man-made map that is covering real life.

According to Baudrillard, we got to this artificial reality in four steps. On the websiteCritical Theory, they use a pumpkin to show how the steps work, so we’re going to keep with that theme.

  1. It is the reflection of a basic reality: This is an imitation that is as close as possible to resembling real life. It’s a picture of a pumpkin with no special lighting or filters, just a plain old picture of a pumpkin.
  1. It masks and perverts a basic reality: The picture has been altered to make the pumpkin look better. Lights are added and it has a nice filter, but it’s still a picture of pumpkin.
  1. It masks the absence of a basic reality: A picture of a pumpkin pie made from canned pumpkin sitting beside a fresh pumpkin. This gives the impression that the pie is made from fresh pumpkins, even though it’s canned.
  1. It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum. This would be a picture of pumpkins with a pumpkin spice latte, which contains absolutely no pumpkin at all. The pumpkin taste is made from spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.

What Baudrillard proposes is that modern reality has as much realness as a pumpkin spice latte has real pumpkin. Our reality, which is constructed by the media and the government, is as real and as authentic as Walt Disney World or professional wrestling.

7. The Dichotomy Paradox

Zeno of Elea was a Greek Philosopher who lived from 490 to 430 B.C. He is mostly known for his riddles and paradoxes, and one of the most famous of them is the Dichotomy Paradox, which means “The Paradox of Cutting in Two.”

In the paradox, Zeno is studying and decides to take a break. For his break, he wants to walk to a nearby orchard. To get to the orchard, he has to walk halfway there, and this takes a finite amount of time. The second half of his journey can also be split into two, and it takes a finite amount of time to walk that distance. Then, the third quarter of the journey can also be split into two.

This is where the paradox arises because distance can infinitely be divided by two, and that would mean that Zeno would never reach the orchard. Because, according to Zeno, if you were to add up all the finite time over an infinite distance, you would get an infinite amount of time and distance, which means that motion doesn’t really exist.

At this point, you may be thinking that Zeno is clearly an idiot (or really,really high) because if you walk from one spot to another, you get there. Nevertheless, the paradox wasn’t solved until over 2,000 years later by mathematician Georg Cantor. He proved that it’s possible to add up an infinite amount of finite numbers.

6. Vasiliev Equations

Unless you’re mathematically gifted and/or highly educated in math, physics is one of the most difficult topics to understand. And one of the most complicated theories in physics, which even physicists have a hard time understanding, is the concept of Vasiliev Equations, which was developed by Mikhail Vasiliev and Efin Fradkin of the Lebedev Institute in Moscow in the late 1980s. If their theory is correct, then it could explain where space and time come from.

George Musser, an editor at Scientific America, decided to take a crack at explaining the theory that many physicists don’t understand. He said that the theory is based on the spin of particles. Basically, all particles of the same type have the same amount of spin. For example, a photon has a rotation of spin-1, which means that it needs to rotate 360 degrees to look the same again. If the particle has a spin-2, like a gravitation, then it would need to rotate 180 degrees. There is also spin-1/2, which means it would need to rotate 720 degrees to look the same. The lowest it can go is spin-0, which is the Higgs field, and it looks the same no matter how it’s rotated.

How high the spin could go is where Vasiliev Equations comes in. They contend that there is an infinite number of spins; however, physicists thought that particles with infinite spin was impossible. For one thing, it appeared to go against the leading fully unified theory of nature, which is string theory. In string theory, if there were an infinite number of spins, then the Laws of Nature would seize up.

However, physicists have recently learned that in curved spacetime, infinite spin rates could be possible. If our universe exists in curved spacetime, then Vasiliev’s Theory would support an important aspect of string theory called the holographic principle; meaning that Vasiliev’s Theory can be reconciled with string theory. But again, that is only if we live in curved spacetime.

 5. Maxwell’s Equations

James Clerk Maxwell was only 34-years-old when he published one of the most important papers in physical science, “A dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field.” When it was released in 1865, physicists couldn’t understand the math, and mathematicians couldn’t understand the physical aspects of it. Because it was so hard to understand, it was essentially ignored for two decades.

One person it did inspire was Albert Einstein, who used it as a starting point for his Special Theory of Relativity. In fact, Maxwell was formulating ideas that eventually could have led him to what Einstein discovered, but Maxwell died at the age of 48 in 1879. Einstein wouldn’t make the discovery until 1905.

We won’t go into a lot of detail surrounding the equations, but there are four, which are pictured above. They essentially explain the world of electromagnetics. The four equations describe how electric charges and currents create electric and magnetic fields. It also explains how an electric field can generate a magnetic field, and vice versa.

However, that is just the very basic explanation of what Maxwell’s equations are about. Beyond that, it is too hard to explain and many electrical engineers and physicists don’t fully grasp it. So, yeah, shockingly… neither do we.

4. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem

Kurt Gödel was born in Germany, and later immigrated to the United States. He is considered one of the most important mathematicians of the 20th century and he’s also thought to be the greatest logician since Aristotle, who died 2,200 years prior to Gödel being born.

Gödel has a few theories that are hard to wrap your head around, but his most famous and important work, which is incredibly hard to understand, is his Incompleteness Theorem. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the theorem states:

…that within any axiomatic mathematical system there are propositions that cannot be proved or disproved on the basis of the axioms within that system; thus, such a system cannot be simultaneously complete and consistent.

Did you follow all of that, or did your nose start to bleed while thinking about it, too?

In order to understand the theory a little bit better, it’s best to go back and explain what the mathematical world was like before Gödel published his theory in 1931. Before Gödel, mathematicians thought that all math theories could be solved with proofs that showed them to be correct or incorrect. An example used by the website Number Sleuth is Goldbach’s Conjecture, which is that all even numbers starting with two can be expressed by two prime numbers. For example, 2+2=4, 11+13=24, and 601+797 = 1,398, and so on. Before Gödel, people thought that this could be proved to be correct or incorrect.

What the Incompleteness Theorem did was show that something like Goldbach’s Conjecture is actually impossible to prove, because there is an infinite amount of numbers and if just one even number couldn’t be expressed as two prime numbers, then it would be incorrect. So that means Goldbach’s Conjecture is either true, but isn’t provable, or it is false and the falsehood cannot be proved.

Essentially, what the Incompleteness Theorem proved is that there was a difference between mathematical truth and mathematical proof. Mathematical proof of Goldbach’s Conjecture is that all even numbers up to 4 × 1018 can be expressed by a prime number. However, the mathematical truth of Goldbach’s Conjecture will never be proved to be correct or incorrect. Of course, this doesn’t only apply to Goldbach’s Conjecture, but to all theories in math.

3. The Theory of General Relativity

One of the most famous theories of all time is also one of the hardest to understand: Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

Before we get to General Relativity, there are two things we should go over. The first is that in 1905, Einstein published the Special Theory of Relativity, which basically said that time and space are linked. In fact, they are the same thing – something called spacetime. You’ve probably heard Doc Brown talk about that. So since they are the same thing, that means space can’t be warped without warping time, and vice versa. However, the theory had limitations. Notably, it only dealt with constant speeds and it failed to explain acceleration, and acceleration is something that everything in the universe does.

Secondly, before General Relativity, thanks to Newton, the belief was that objects fell to earth because of gravitational pull. However, objects in the universe don’t move because they are pulled; instead they are moved when they are pushed. Think of a rocket – it goes into space because booster engines push it into space. So the idea that gravity pulled instead of pushed was unusual in the world of physics.

This is where the Theory of General Relativity comes in. What Einstein showed is that when mass comes into contact with spacetime, it can warp spacetime. This warping is actually what is causing gravity; space is pushing us down on Earth. This happens because mass will always follow the simplest path in spacetime, but if spacetime is curved, mass will follow that curve toward the object with the most mass. This also means that the further you are away from the Earth’s surface, the slower time goes because time is less warped.

The Theory of General Relativity was a paradigm shift for many people in the world of physics and set the foundation for a branch of physics that is still being used today. However, it is not only the leading theory in physics, it is at odds with the other top theory, which is…

2. Quantum Mechanics

Famed mathematician Richard Feynman once said that “if you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.” So this one is going to be fun!

Quantum mechanics (QM) is the attempt to explain subatomic particles at the nanoscopic level. The mechanics of subatomic particles are different than the mechanics of larger objects. For example, the same rules of size and speed don’t apply. Also, with larger objects, they exist at a specific time and in a specific space. For instance, you exist at this moment wherever you are reading this sentence, whereas the objects in quantum mechanics exist in a haze of probability.

According to Live Science, there are three revolutionary principles of quantum mechanics. The first is quantized properties. According to classical mechanics, properties like position, speed, and color should exist on a smooth, continuous spectrum. However, scientists learned that some properties can sometimes only occur in specific, set amounts. It’s similar to a dial that clicks from number to number. This “clicking” of the dial is what scientists called quantized. Secondly, light, once only thought to be waves, can actually act as both a wave and a particle simultaneously. The third principle is that matter can also act like a wave, but is usually a particle.

Currently, QM is being used to study string theory and loop quantum gravity. Researchers are hoping that QM will be the key to unlocking many of the mysteries in the universe.

1. We Live on the Event Horizon of a Four Dimensional Black Hole

The Big Bang Theory itself isn’t exactly that hard to understand, because the name is pretty self-explanatory. Essentially, everything in the universe exploded from singularity, which was a tiny speck of infinite density. While the Big Bang Theory does explain a lot about the birth of the universe, there are several problems with the theory. For example, it doesn’t explain what caused the Big Bang in the first place.

Since the Big Bang was proposed in 1927, researchers have been trying to figure out a model that would account for these problems. One of the most mind bending theories comes from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretic Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. Their theory is that our universe may be a three-dimensional “wrapping” around a four-dimensional black hole’s event horizon.

Totally makes sense, right? Perhaps we should back up a minute.

According to the Big Bang Theory, our universe exploded out of singularity. Well, singularity is also found at the center of black holes and in our three-dimensional universe, black holes have a two-dimensional event horizon. However, if a black hole had four dimensions, something humans can’t conceptualize but is theoretically possible, then the event horizon would be three dimensional.

Their theory is that our universe exists on the event horizon in a giant, four-dimensional black hole and our Big Bang was actually a three-dimensional “mirage” of a collapsing star in a universe that is profoundly different than our own. After the collapse, our universe expanded and essentially wrapped around the event horizon.

If their theory is correct, and so far math has yet to disprove it, it could also mean that every time a black hole is born in our universe, then it could spawn another two-dimensional universe.


Believe Them or Not Theorum

– WIF Conspiracies

Women of Dubious Repute – WIF Digest

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Terrible Female

Role Models

With the march of progress still going strong (despite some people feeling that certain recent events represent major setbacks), all these future female leaders and other achievers will do well to have some good role models to aspire to. This list is not about that.

 Here, we’re looking at women that got into the limelight by being scourges to society, or at least being drains on it. Women who advanced bad causes that left dead bodies in their wake, treated their underlings terribly, stole vast sums of money, and in short were everything misogynists would say are the natural result of placing women in positions of authority. Despite that, they managed to either acquire large public followings or power and influence in other ways. Sometimes there’s no accounting for the public’s taste.

10. Rita Crundwell

This entrepreneur seemed for years to have it made. She was breeding horses that were so highly valued that she made three quarters of a million dollars from a single sale. She was famous and connected enough that in 2008, NFL legend Terry Bradshaw gave her a personally autographed t-shirt. Certainly being the comptroller of the Illinois city of Dixon seemed pretty small potatoes compared to that. It suddenly made much more sense when, in 2015, she was convicted of embezzling $54 million from municipal funds. This was unusual not so much because it was a woman embezzling, but because of the sheer scope of it, as women usually embezzle smaller amounts that men do.

Despite being sent to prison, Crundwell’s horse breeding company continued to be one of the ten most successful in the country. Her royalties in prison amounted to roughly $14,000 a year in assets the government was unable to seize. Indeed, she was even able to continue to sell her merchandise from the old days for as much as $205 a pop. Sometimes even felony conviction can’t even temporarily stop the right business person.

9. Jenny McCarthy

It’s since been overshadowed by her actions in 2007, but this Playboy model and television host was once popular enough that she hosted her own sketch comedy show. It was because of this that she brought a lot of clout with her when, in 2007, she went on television and told an audience of millions that Andrew Wakefield had found that there were ingredients in vaccines that gave her son autism. All of Wakefield’s findings had long been discredited, but still McCarthy persisted with her beliefs enough to write multiple books on the subject and make the Anti-Vaccine Movement a household phrase.

It’s difficult to determine how many of the deaths caused by the anti-vaccination movement can be attributed to her in a moral sense, if not a legal one. The New Yorker, for one, attributed deaths to her campaign. However true that may be, there’s no denying that she did much to spread very harmful ideas to millions of people.

8. Claudia Ochoa Felix

In this woman’s case it remains murky how much, if any, criminal activity she was directly involved in. This situation is due not only to some of her life choices, but how she’s chosen to present herself online. She was reportedly the significant other for a Mexican drug lord named José Gamboa and following his arrest in 2013, it was claimed that she took over his gang (it wouldn’t be the first time a woman did this under the circumstances: Sandra Beltran did so as well until she was convicted in 2007). Although she has denied involvement in criminal activity, she made Twitter and Instagram accounts for herself, which included numerous photos of Felix or someone who looks suspiciously like her with men who were armed with AK-47s. There were also numerous photos that are very likely of her with such weapons partially painted gold or pink. By far the most dubious one was a photo of her child covered in bank notes, one which she took down.

In Claudia Felix’s defense, she held a press conference to state that she had no affiliation with any drug dealers, and that many of the photos on her profile (which she claimed was highjacked) were not of her. She did not identify who the imitator was or speculate why she was being imitated, but she claimed she was being harassed over her social media posts. Whatever the case, setting up accounts which projected the glamour of the criminal lifestyle to over one hundred thousand followers gained her the nickname the “Kim Kardashian of Crime.” Goes to show that despite regret or innocent intentions, actions like these can have consequences far beyond what was intended.

7. Jodi Arias

While Claudia Felix was not convicted of any crimes, Jodi Arias was after something of a circus of a trial. In 2008, her boyfriend Travis Alexander was shot and beheaded, his body being discovered and reported to the police five days later. Eventually evidence would come out that Arias flirted with some of the attendants at his memorial service. Later, charges were pressed against her. Her initial testimony was that masked intruders killed him, but she then changed it to say it had been in self-defense.

During the three year trial, highlights included Arias portraying Alexander as a sex pervert. Through a friend she maintained a Twitter account, which she used to attack the prosecution and the deceased to tens of thousands of followers. And yet despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, she had enoughmale admirers that she reportedly received marriage proposals on a daily basis. Hey, no one said that only other females would fall under the sway of these bad influences.

6. Lisa Frank

If you associate the idea of something being feminine with rainbows, unicorns, fields of flowers, etc., then few people did more to shape that perspective in modern times than Lisa Frank. From her humble beginnings in New York during the 1970s she built a merchandise empire called Lisa Frank Inc. that in the late ’90s was generating $60 million in revenue per year from its headquarters in Tucson, Arizona.

 However, despite the superficial pleasantness of the company, it was a notoriously badly operated business where treatment of employees was awful. In Tucson it was known as the “Rainbow Gulag.” The management was abusive, often withheld severance payments, and stiffed contractors. Sometimes as many as one third of the employees turned over in the course of a one year period. Much of this was the fault of Frank’s husband James Green, but she was the one who turned over control of the company to him and let him continue his horrible behavior almost unabated. No matter how much an artist wants to focus on comfortable fantasy worlds, they can cause a lot of harm if they neglect the real world.

5. Park Geun-Hye

This 65-year-old former president was not the first South Korean president to resign in disgrace, but the events surrounding her departure were unusually dramatic. Elected in 2013, in 2016 thirteen charges of corruption were levelled against her. So severe were they that it was put forward that the electronics giant Samsung alone was going to give her a $37 million bribe.

Despite a unanimous ruling of guilt by South Korea’s Constitutional Court, the president refused to relinquish power. What followed was one of the most determined nonviolent protests in modern history. With the president’s approval rating at about five percent, hundreds of thousands of average citizens marched and assembled in the city of Seoul for a demonstration that began in November 2016 and lasted until the disgraced president finally gave in and stepped down on March 10, 2017. On March 30, 2017, the previously legally immune ex-president was belatedly arrested to stand trial again. Rarely do democratically elected officials so stubbornly resist the clearly expressed will of the people.

4. Jasmin Rivera: Female Robin Hood

On December 28, 2011, this 30-year-old homeless Boston resident robbed a Citizens Bank near the Boston Opera House, then took a cab to return to a homeless shelter. When she cavalierly told her cab driver what she’d done, he initially didn’t believe her until she saw the police outside the bank. She ended up paying him about double his fare to be dropped off early, whereupon the very honest driver went to tell the police. When the police found her, Rivera had not attempted to stash the money or spent it on a relative extravagance. She was handing the money out to whichever children happened by at Ramsey Park.

Despite doing something that might seem at first like one of the most generous things someone can do with stolen money, after Rivera’s arrest it was quickly determined that she was not mentally well. No doubt that was exacerbated by the fact she’d been homeless for twelve years. Her theft did so little good for anyone that even the cab driver she’d generously tipped ended up losing the fare because it was seized into evidence.

3. Carry Nation

Undoubtedly the most famous of the campaigners for alcohol prohibition, if only for her extreme methods which combined motives that seem unbearably priggish with rebelliousness. In 1900, at age 54 and after ten years as a peaceful member of the temperance movement, this retired teacher felt compelled to literally attack the Carey Hotel bar with a hatchet and, adjusting for inflation, she caused tens of thousands of dollars in damages. After she was released from prison, she continued to wreak havoc on places where alcohol was sold.

Although it’s not an age we associate with that sort of radicalism that would endorse this, Carry Nation soon developed a following. In a move that seems far ahead of its time, she sold souvenir hatchets to her fans. Although she eventually went back to more peaceful activism for more socially beneficial causes such as the Suffrage Movement, it was her work with a hatchet that definitely reached and inspired the most people. Considering the effects of the Prohibition era during the 1920s had on public health, corruption, and mob violence, it also did untold harm far beyond those wrecked saloons.

2. Anti-Suffragists

While activists who fought for the right for women to vote, such as Susan B. Anthony, are practically hallowed in American history for their work, on the other side of that particular coin were a surprising number of women that were opposed to it. They included Josephine Dodge and Kate Wiggin, which understandably are not household names. The anti-suffragists overwhelmingly were women with wealth and connections through marriage or birth who, naturally, didn’t want much social upheaval under the circumstances.

Despite being dedicated to the principle that women should be denied basic rights of representation, it was not necessarily a malicious movement. Many of the women involved were community organizers who worked at hospitals and shelters. Others worked in organizations devoted to providing women free medical education. One prominent talking point was that women should stay out of politics not because they weren’t capable of it, but because politics would be a corrupting influence. While of course the movement ultimately was unsuccessful, its influence was felt long after, as National Public Radio tells us that many women were disinclined to exercise their right to vote for decades.

1. Leni Riefenstahl

It’s unfortunate that Leni Riefenstahl is probably the only female film director from the first half of the 20th Century that anyone with a passing interest in the subject could name. Her 1935 propaganda film on the Nazi Party Congress, Triumph of the Will, was a massively persuasive film at the time (though Roger Ebert, for one, called in “paralyzingly dull.”) Beyond that, her work influenced countless high-profile films such as Star Wars. Amazingly, from the 1970s on, some feminists, such as author Susan Sontag, were paying tribute to her.

For her part, Riefenstahl was very unwilling to apologize or even admit complicity when she was acquitted after the end of World War Two. She denied that her documentary influenced anyone since Germany was allegedly pro-Nazi anyway, and denied being a member of the Nazi party. When propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels’s private journal was used to debunk that second claim in an interview, she threw a fit. Some people just can’t get away from the truth of their influence.


Do Not Emulate

– Women of Dubious Repute