10 Strange Non-Sexual Ways People Have Orgasms

Look, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but the way some people have sex is different from the way you have sex. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but . . . well, actually I’m going to go into a lot more detail, and it might get a little awkward and uncomfortable, but you’ll make it through. Or maybe you won’t—some of these people have orgasms in really, really strange ways.

10 Brushing Your Teeth

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Epilepsy probably isn’t the most fun disorder to suffer from, but the symptoms are probably a little bit more manageable when they come with mind-blowing orgasms. A few years back, one woman reported that she would occasionally experience orgasms while brushing her teeth that were so powerful they left her in a “state of temporary impaired consciousness.”

I’m not going to make any jokes though, because this actually sucked for the poor woman. Years earlier she had undergone a botched surgery that had left her incapable of achieving orgasm at all—at least until the toothbrushing thing manifested. After that, doctors probed her enough to learn that she wasn’t capable of achieving orgasm any way that wasn’t toothbrushing. She eventually switched to mouthwash.

9Haircuts

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I really hope there’s a barber reading this. Hello, barber! Sorry for making it so hard to concentrate while you’re at work tomorrow.

It’s called “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response,” and yes, it’s a real thing. ASMR is a phenomenon in which you experience an orgasm-like experience that happens entirely in your head, and it can be triggered by all kinds of weird things: Some people get them from haircuts, others from watching YouTube videos of people acting out various fantasies like pretending to check for lice or applying makeup.

And then people watch them and have orgasms in their brain. This is a thing that happens. Maybe even right now, in the cubicle behind you. No, don’t look. This isn’t the kind of thing you want to know for sure.

8 Yawning

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While under the influence of a certain medication, some patients suffer from a strange side effect where they achieve a mind-blowing (probably) orgasm every time they yawn. Of course, yawns are also contagious. And sometimes, people suffering similar symptoms start support groups for each other. There’s a huge potential for a ridiculous viral prank video, is what I’m saying.

7 Foot Stimulation

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No, this has nothing to do with Quentin Tarantino–style foot fetishes: At least one woman in the Netherlands can get off just by walking around barefoot. The change happened after she suffered nerve damage that left her spine unable to differentiate between her vagina and her foot, which is kind of like forgetting the difference between the shelf where you keep your running shoes and where you keep your vagina but hey—cut it some slack. It’s just a spine.

Oddy enough, this isn’t that odd: Doctors say that this kind of problem isn’t that uncommon, and the reason we don’t hear about it more is because the sufferers are too embarrassed.

6 Exercise

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If you’ve ever wondered why there are such a disproportionate number of women at the gym, then maybe you can stop now: Scientists recently discovered that roughly 40 percent of women have experienced orgasms induced purely by exercise—no direct stimulation or even fantasies involved. (I don’t know anything about gyms, because I’m a comedy writer and don’t take care of my body.)

The weirdest part is that no one involved in these studies could figure out why it was happening. The female body isn’t supposed to work like that, but apparently it does. Which just proves that we don’t understand the female body all that well. Thanks a lot, science.

5 Thinking Really Hard About It

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Not only is it possible to get yourself off just by concentrating, there’s an entire culture built around it. Barbara Carellas not only “thinks herself off,” but she teaches others to and encourages it as a safer alternative to sex.

Yes, it’s even a group activity: Remember that scene in Coneheads where Chris Farley and the Coneheads’ daughter have Conehead sex with their Conehead sex machine? It’s like that, only without the machine or Chris Farley—just a lot of concentration.

4 A Brain Chip

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Scientists have just come out and admitted what we’ve all suspected for years: They’re working on a brain chip that will give you a climax. Not just by stimulating the proper nerve endings, but by recording experiences and replaying them in your head or by downloading the experiences of others.

This may be the absolute creepiest thing I have ever heard in my life, but hey, if scientists had moral compasses, we’d never make any progress.

3Giving Birth

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Giving birth is either the least sexual or the most sexual activity on Earth, depending on how good you are at connecting cause and effect. Either way, no getting around the reality here: As many as 0.3 percent of births at some point involve the woman having an orgasm while she expels the person whose life is, at that moment, beginning.

That means that 0.3 percent of you reading this gave your mother an orgasm once. Are you one of them? Go ask her! And then let us know in the comments. Please. I promise to write an article about you.

2 Yoga

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Well, that’s not surprising. Yoga is only popular for one reason—yoga pants, which make everyone look great (or are only worn by great-looking people; I honestly can’t tell). But it turns out that when people indulge in the “downward-facing dog” or “leftward seagull” or whatever, they may also secretly be indulging in the famed “I’m right now climaxing.” Some yogis are actually encouraging it as a stress-relieving practice.

1 Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder

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PGAD is one of those diseases that sounds like an ironic punishment plucked right from Dante’s Inferno. “So you like sex, eh?” says the Devil. “Then how do you feel about climaxing constantly, every day, forever?” The worst part is it must be nearly impossible to get sympathy from people, and you probably have to keep hearing the “Well, isn’t it kinda awesome sometimes?” question more than you’d ever want to.

Naturally, it sucks, and everyone who suffers from it is bummed out forever. Luckily, there have been recent breakthroughs and maybe the sufferers of this disease will one day be able to reliable enjoy orgasms the way we’re all meant to: Shamefully. With strangers. In truck-stop bathrooms.

JF Sargent is an editor at Listverse. Follow him on Twitter or read his free sci-fi novel.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/08/12/10-weird-and-non-sexual-ways-people-have-orgasms/

10 Striking Images That Foreshadow Tragedy

[WARNING: This list contains images that may disturb some readers.]

A simple snapshot can live on for decades, gathering dust and fading as the world around us changes. Whether it be an image that forces you to question your faith in humanity or a photograph that defines an era, it seems that the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” can, in some cases, be true. These pictures, however, may just leave you speechless.

10A Normal Day In Omagh

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On August 15, 1998, a car bombing took place in Omagh, Northern Ireland. It was carried out by the Real IRA and resulted in the deaths of 29 people, while further injuring over 200. The bombing took place during “the Troubles,” an ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted for over 30 years. The Omagh car bombing had the highest death toll of any incident during “the Troubles.”

The camera containing this picture was found buried beneath the rubble, boasting this snapshot of a quiet street moments before the impact of the bomb. One of the more poignant pictures published in the aftermath of the Omagh bombing, this image is now infamous. The serenity, the smiles, the unknown threat—it all makes for a truly harrowing image. One that inadvertently foreshadows a massacre, unbeknownst to the people in this snapshot frozen in time.

9The Final Moments Of Regina Kay Walters

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Regina Kay Walters was a 14-year-old girl from Pasadena, Texas, who was murdered by a notorious serial killer, Robert Ben Rhoades. One of three victims—although Rhoades claims to have killed more—Walters was the unfortunate exception in the way Rhoades toyed with her. Rhodes cut her hair, dressed her up, and took pictures of her in distress—the most saddening of which is the picture you see above.

Robert Ben Rhoades was captured in September 1992, but not before taking two more lives. He was sentenced to life without parole and remains imprisoned in Texas to this day.

The picture of this young girl in her final moments—dressed, altered, and stranded with a monster like Rhoades—is a difficult thing to look at. The forceful nature of the lens being pointed at Walters and the look of desperation on her face make this picture a hideous display in human torture—a cat playing with a mouse. An image that will forever mark the breaking of one man’s psyche.

8Reynaldo Dagsa Assassination

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Reynaldo Dagsa was a Filipino politician who was murdered by an armed assailant on New Year’s Day 2011. His murder gained worldwide notoriety due to the photograph he had taken of his family just seconds prior to the shooting, which captures the gunman aiming at Dagsa while his lookout stands guard.

As you can see in the picture above, Dagsa was snapping a shot of his wife, daughter, and another elderly female relative, when the shooter and his lookout appeared and were caught in the flash. The photograph was used as evidence by Dagsa’s wife, which lead to the almost-immediate arrest of both men, though it was believed that there was more to his death than what was originally perceived.

Although fascinating, this picture is a testament to the absolute absurdity of life: A man, only 35 years of age, at the very beginning of a new year, takes a picture of his loving family and simultaneously captures his own death in the lens? I guess it doesn’t matter who shot first.

7The Beas River Tragedy

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On June 8, 2014, 24 engineering students from Hyderabad, India, lost their lives on a college trip when a sudden surge of water was released upstream from the Larji Hydroelectric Power Project on the Beas River.

The students of VNRVJIET were on an educational tour in Himachal Pradesh, traveling from Shimla to Manali, when the bus stopped so that the students could take pictures on the banks of the Beas River. Without warning, the floodgates opened and a torrent of water took the group of 24 by surprise, sweeping them away in an instant—an incident caused by gross negligence on the part of the Larji Hydroelectric Power Project.

While this picture should have been just another fond memory from a tedious college trip on the phone of one young student, it has instead become a harrowing look at the final peaceful moments of a group of friends who have now lost their lives.

6‘DOOMED’

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The above picture—and the gaudy headline—used ever so eloquently by the New York Post (a paper generally not fit for cleaning one’s shoes), shows the final moments of Ki-Suk Han—a 58-year-old father and husband who was pushed in front of an oncoming train by Naeem Davis, a homeless man whom Han had argued with.

According to witnesses, Han may have initiated the exchange, drunkenly accosting Davis after leaving home intoxicated due to an argument with his wife. Although Naeem Davis blames his aggressive actions on multiple reasons—the voices in his head, drugs, and even a lost pair of boots (they were very nice boots)—he maintains that Han would not leave him alone, and that he acted accordingly upon being harassed. After originally pleading “not guilty,” Davis was later charged with second-degree murder after implicating himself in the investigation.

Regardless of the reasoning behind the death of Ki-Suk Han, this picture will forever remain a distressing look at the abrupt nature of death.

5The Public Suicide Of Budd Dwyer

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Robert Budd Dwyer was a politician serving as a Republican member of the Pennsylvania State Senate for over 10 years. He later served as the Treasurer of Pennsylvania until the day of his death—January 22, 1987.

After being convicted of having accepted a bribe, Dwyer called a press conference where he was to announce his resignation. Upon being found guilty, Dwyer faced up to 55 years imprisonment and a hefty fine of $300,000—an unjust punishment in the eyes of Budd Dwyer, since, many years later, ex-attorney William T. Smith admitted to lying under oath when accusing Dwyer of bribery.

The press conference was broadcast live to television audiences across the state of Pennsylvania. After part of his original speech had been read out, Dwyer stopped reading from his prepared text and began to hand out envelopes to his staffers. From the final envelope, Dwyer then produced a gun and said, “Please leave the room if this will offend you.” As friends and fellow cabinet members from the audience pleaded, he spoke and stuttered under the weight of their words, quickly pulling the trigger before he could be stopped—dying in office.

If, for some odd reason, you wish to see the video of Budd Dwyer’s suicide on live TV, you can find it on Youtube.

4The Death Of Travis Alexander

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You may have already seen this picture of 30-year-old Travis Alexander showering before being brutally murdered by his ex-girlfriend, Jodi Arias. It was widely distributed via news channels after the murder occurred. That cannot, however, take away from the impact the image has on the mind.

In 2008, friends found Travis Alexander dead in his home in Mesa, Arizona. He was found on the floor of his shower with 27 stab wounds, a slashed throat, and a gunshot wound to the head. Arias initially denied killing Alexander, stating that she believed he was murdered during a burglary, but she later changed her statement, saying that she killed Alexander in self-defense.

Jodi Arias is now in jail awaiting her sentencing trial, which will take place on September 8, 2014. You can view some of Arias’s original artwork here, if you’re into that sort of thing. Yet the chilling pictures of Travis Alexander in his final moments are not to be taken lightly and remain just as potent today as they ever were.

3James Bulger CCTV Image

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In February 1993, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both 10 years old, murdered two-year-old James Bulger after kidnapping him from the Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, Liverpool. The details of this case were to send a shock wave of panic across England, forcing parents to question what their children were capable of and what they were exposed to. The infamous CCTV image of young James Bulger being led away by his killers would grace the news channels for months to come, and it would forever remain a haunting look at an infant in his last hours.

Venables and Thompson lured James Bulger away from his mother and walked with him, hand-in-hand, to a railway embankment 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) away from the shopping center. Along the way, the boys were stopped multiple times, being asked if they were lost, needed help, and also being urged to take their “younger brother”—who would not stop crying—home.

James was found two days after his death, tied to a railway line in Walton. His extremely horrific injuries were covered in the media and sparked outrage at the leniency of the court’s decision regarding the incident. Venables and Thompson remained in young offenders’ institutions for eight years, getting psychiatric help until the age of 18. They were released with new identities and subsequently given care and security by the government. Because the government is always looking out for the right people. Right?

2Mark Chapman Meets John Lennon

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On the day that John Lennon died, the Earth stood still and mourned. In cities all over the world, distraught fans and music acolytes alike joined together and organized mass funerals in the name of one man. That was the kind of love that John Lennon aimed to inspire in people—a kind of musical kinship. Just one month prior to his death, John had released Double Fantasy—his long-awaited comeback album and his first solo effort in five years. This would be his final album.

On December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon at the entrance of The Dakota (the building where Lennon lived) in New York City. The delusional Mark Chapman decided to target Lennon because of his fame—though he just edged out Johnny Carson and George C. Scott. “If he was less famous than three or four other people on the list, he would not have been shot,” Chapman told police.

It was merely hours after this picture was taken that John Lennon was killed. The quiet, unassuming fan waiting for his autograph in the image above is none other than Mark David Chapman. Along with being Lennon’s killer, he was, unfortunately, also the last person to be photographed with Lennon alive.

Life is a journey; death will always be rife among those wanting to travel further and change things for the better, but like John Lennon once said, “I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round.”

1Two Brothers On Vacation

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In 1975, Michael and Sean McQuilken were just two smiling San Diego natives on a family vacation in California. Along with their sister, Mary, they posed for photographs with their hair raised, laughing at the strange situation, as others in the vicinity did the same. Moments after this picture was taken from atop Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park, the boys were struck by lightning, seriously injuring but—contrary to popular belief—not killing them.

This image has been recycled countless times over the years, mostly as a public service announcement to bring attention to lightning safety. The picture of the happy, carefree faces of the two brothers morbidly hints at the life-threatening danger that is imminent—a danger that, astonishingly, causes 24,000 deaths per year worldwide.

For that reason, this picture is still just as shocking now as it ever was.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/07/20/10-striking-images-that-foreshadow-tragedy/

10 Modern Explorers Who Pushed The Limits

There are no blank spots left on the map, no uncharted mountain ranges or unknown expanses of the oceans and seas. We’ve sent humans to all four corners of the globe and launched satellites above the sky to photograph the most remote and inaccessible areas of the planet. The explorers of old aren’t quite extinct, but they’re an endangered species whose native land is fast disappearing. And out of their death comes the rise of the modern explorer—pioneers and navigators who look inward to explore the sheer breathtaking limits of human potential. These men and women have inspired and amazed millions by showing us what humanity is truly capable of.

On May 23, 2012, Gary Connery jumped out of a helicopter 2,400 feet (731.5 meters) above the ground. A minute later, clocking speeds of 80mph (128 kph), he landed. Without a parachute.

Wingsuit jumping is the sport of skydiving with specially designed suits that allow the wearer to glide, sometimes for miles, before releasing their parachute and drifting through the final descent. Gary Connery simply decided that the parachute wasn’t necessary anymore, and opted instead for a makeshift landing strip of stacked cardboard boxes.

At the age of 42, Connery has completed more than 1,350 jumps, and you’ve probably seen him dozens of times without realizing it. He has worked on over 100 films and TV shows as a stunt coordinator and performer, and stood in as a stunt double on films like Indiana Jones, Batman Begins, and the latest Sherlock Holmes adaptation. In other words, he’s the guy they turn to when Batman needs to act more like a superhero.

Geoff Mackley has made a career out of being in places where no human would ever want to be. He’s a photographer who has provided footage from more than 70 fatal natural disasters, including tsunamis, category 5 hurricanes, and blazing forest fires—when everybody else is fleeing for their lives, Geoff Mackley is elbowing through the crowds in the opposite direction, camera in hand.

In 2010, Geoff Mackley and his crew climbed into the crater of the Marum Volcano in Vanuatu—while it was erupting. They traveled down more than 500 yards (457 meters) below the rim of the crater inside heat-resistant suits to capture their footage while the lava bubbled and sprayed almost close enough to touch. And according to Mackley, they would have gone farther, but they “ran out of rope.”

Freediving is sort of like scuba diving, but without all those pesky oxygen tanks. Freedivers hold their breaths the entire time they’re underwater, usually while competing for distance or depth records. Sometimes that means holding your breath for 15 minutes or more, while swimming and experiencing extreme pressure changes on your body. Perhaps the most influential freediver is Guillaume Nery, who broke his own world record in 2006 for freediving to a depth of 109 meters below the surface (though the current record is 124 meters, set by Herbert Nitsch).

In 2010, Guillaume Nery dove Dean’s Blue Hole, which at 203 meters is the world’s deepest known underwater vertical cave. Because of its depth, it rapidly changes from aquamarine to near pitch black. The video above shows Nery gracefully floating down to the sandy seabed, then literally climbing hand-over-hand up the rock wall to get back to the surface.

At 27 years old, Alex Honnold is one of the most prolific free solo climbers in the world. “Free soloing” is the act of rock climbing without the use of a harness or a rope, and Alex Honnold takes it to an extent that would make any mother cringe.

On September 6, 2008, Honnold free soloed the Northwest Face of Half Dome, a peak in Yosemite National Park. The kicker: The distance from the bottom to the top of the cliff measures about 2,000 feet (600 meters) of vertical rock. And he did it without a single rope.

Then, in 2012, he did it again, but this time he went for two other peaks in Yosemite at the same time, completing all three—a total climb of about 6,500 feet (2000 meters)—in just under 19 hours.

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Spelunking, otherwise known as caving, is the sport of exploring underground caves. Like with any sport, there are hobbyists all the way through extremists, and Robbie Shone falls somewhere close to the extreme end of the scale. He’s traveled across the globe from Borneo to Papua New Guinea in an effort to find the most remote and bizarre caves, and he does it all while lugging along pounds of camera equipment, hoping to capture “the perfect shot.”

Between floods, falls, and cave-ins—not to mention losing your way in the subterranean maze—caving can be incredibly dangerous, but Robbie Shone takes plenty of precautions, despite climbing into some unusual vantage points to get a picture. And then there are unforeseen dangers, one of which Shone describes from a three month trip to Papua New Guinea: “During that trip I even had a leech stuck to my eyeball for a couple of days. We tried coaxing it off with some raw meat and salt.”

If you’re going to put years of preparation and training into breaking a world record, why not just break three at the same time? That’s apparently what Felix Baumgartner set out to do on October 14, 2012, when he broke the records for highest parachute jump, highest manned balloon flight, and maximum speed outside a vehicle—blasting through the sound barrier at Mach 1.25 (that’s 843 mph).

To be perfectly clear, Baumgartner’s record-setting jump took place from the stratosphere at 24 miles (39 km) above sea level—not space, which is officially set at 62 miles (100 km) up. However, the altitude (three times higher than commercial airliners fly) still required him to wear a fully enclosed pressurized suit to protect him from the thin atmosphere and freezing temperatures.

Dan Osman was one of the pioneers of the sport of free soloing, but he took it to an entirely different level. Not only did he make a habit of climbing hundreds of feet without the safety of a rope, he did it as fast as possible. The rock climbing documentary Masters of Stone IV shows Dan Osman speed climbing Bear’s Reach, a cliff face in the Lake Tahoe region of California.

In only four minutes and twenty-five seconds, Dan Osman scaled 400 feet (122 km) of vertical rock, at times leaping upward with nothing below him but air. Unfortunately, his thrill-seeking nature led to his death in 1998, when a rope snapped during a free fall in Yosemite National Park. He remains an inspiration to thousands of people and climbing enthusiasts today.

The Amazon River runs for approximately 4,000 miles, starting as a stream in the Andes mountains before running through some of the most dangerous and unexplored territory left on the planet. Eventually it builds into the widest river in the world, a roaring deluge 150 miles (240 km) across by the time it spits out into the Atlantic Ocean. In 2008, Ed Stafford began walking down the Amazon River and didn’t stop until two years later on August 9, 2010 when he reached the Atlantic, becoming the first person to walk the entire length of the river.

For supplies he carried rice and beans, picked up a few necessities as he passed through villages, and fished for piranha. Throughout the trek, the ex-stockbroker was faced with anacondas, crocodiles, tropical illnesses, and was even captured by a tribe of natives at one point—all while bringing global awareness to the deforestation of the Amazon forest.

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Lynne Cox swims like most people drive. She began to get attention in the 70′s for setting the speed record for swimming the English Channel—she held it twice in two consecutive years. In 1987 she became the first person to swim across the Bering Strait from Alaska to the Soviet Union, spending over two hours in the frigid water that averages 40 F (4 C)—on a good day. It was so cold, and over such a length of time, that she had to be enclosed in a heated chamber to bring her body temperature up to safe levels.

But then in 2003, Lynne Cox did something that made all of her previous accomplishments pale in comparison—wearing nothing but a swimsuit and goggles, she swam 1.22 miles (1.96 km) through the waters of the Antarctic, spending 25 minutes in water cold enough to kill a person after only 5 minutes.

Perhaps the most inspiring person on this list, Erik Weihenmayer is a mountaneer, skydiver, ice climber, distance biker, and skier—despite the fact that he lost his eyesight at the age of 13. In 1995 he climbed 20,320 ft. to the top of Mt. McKinley, and two years later he reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. In 2001, Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind person to climb Mt. Everest.

Rather than bask alone in his achievements, Weihenmayer works with blind teens in Tibet, leading them on small mountain climbing expeditions in a project called Climbing Blind. Now, he’s got his sights set on kayaking, training himself to guide the kayak based on the sound of the rapids and the feel of the flowing water beneath him in preparation for paddling the Grand Canyon.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/02/26/10-modern-explorers-who-pushed-the-limits/

Another 10 Common English Errors

This is a list of 10 more common English errors. This list follows our previous popular list of Top 10 Common English Errors. Hopefully a few of these will help to fix one or two mistakes that we all make from time to time.

Whom

This particular error has become so common that it is beginning to look like the word “whom” may vanish entirely from the English language. The reason for this is that so many people have no idea what the difference is. The difference is a simple one: who “does” the action, and whom has the action “done” to them. We use this difference in other words – “I” and “me” for example. “who” is the equivalent of “I”, and “whom” is the equivalent of “me”. The technical term for this difference is noun case – “who” is the nominative case, and “whom” is the accusative. Here is an example of correct usage:

Who is going to kill Bob? (I am going to kill Bob)
Bob is going to be killed by whom? (Bob is going to be killed by me)

English does not use cases as much as it used to. Many other language do use cases frequently, such as German, Latin, Greek, etc. [Image Source – click for a larger view]

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On the previous list of errors I included Irony as a bonus – it deserves its own place and a fully description so here it is. There are four types of irony (none of which resemble remotely anything in Alanis Morissette’s song:

I. Verbal irony

This is when the speaker says one thing but means another (often contrary) thing. The most well known type of verbal irony is sarcasm. For example: “He is as funny as cancer”.

II. Tragic irony

Tragic irony occurs only in fiction. It is when the words or actions of a character contradict the real situation with the full knowledge of the spectators. For example: In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo mistakenly believes that Juliet has killed herself, so he poisons himself. Juliet awakens to find Romeo dead so she kills herself with his knife.

III. Dramatic Irony

In drama, this type of irony is when the spectator is given a piece of information that one or more of the characters are unaware of. For example: in Pygmalion, we know that Eliza is a prostitute, but the Higgins family don’t.

IV. Situational Irony

Situational irony is when there is a difference between the expected result and the actual result. Take for example this account of the attempted assassination of Ronald Regan: “As aides rushed to push Reagan into his car, the bullet ricocheted off the [bullet-proof] car, then hit the President in the chest, grazed a rib and lodged in his lung, just inches from his heart.” The bullet proof car – intended to protect the president, nearly caused his death by deflecting the bullet.

You may want to check out our list of 10 images of irony.

Affect-Effect

These two words are commonly confused – probably due in part to the fact that both words have more than one meaning. I will explain clearly the main difference and just briefly mention the other (rare) meanings:

Affect (a-FECT): this is usually a verb (doing word) and the form most commonly confused with “effect”. It means “to influence” or “to cause a change”. For example: John’s protest affected great change in the farming industry (John’s protest caused change to happen).

Effect (e-FECT): this is usually a noun (thing) and it refers to the “end result” or the impact something has on someone or something. For example, “the cocaine had a numbing effect”, or “her smile had a strange effect on me”.

For those who are curious, affect (AFF-ect) means “emotion” but this meaning is used almost exclusively by psychiatrists. And just to further confuse the whole thing, “effect” can also mean “to create” – which is probably the reason that many people confuse it with affect (a-FECT). For example: “I am trying to effect a new council in the city”.

But wait, there’s more: something can “take effect“, but it cannot “take affect“.

Confused? No wonder. Here is a simple way to remember the basic rule:

If it’s something you’re going to do, use “affect.” If it’s something you’ve already done, use “effect.”

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Lay: To put something or someone down: “lay your head on the pillow”. Lay needs a direct object to act upon – in the example here the object is “your head”.

Lie: To rest in a horizontal position or to be located somewhere: “If you are tired, lie down”, “New Zealand lies in the Pacific Ocean”. Lie does not need a direct object to act upon – therefore it would be wrong to say “if you are tired, lie yourself down”.

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This is seen quite often these days and some people claim that it is acceptable English, but it is not. Do not do it. Here is an example of the offending phrase:

“I wish she would have kissed me”

To correct this grievous error, you need to say: “I wish she had kissed me”.

The reason this is wrong is that “wished” suggests something contrary to reality, and adding “would have” which is also a statement of contrariness, is excessive and unnecessary.

Of course, “would have” is perfectly acceptable in the following sentence: “I would have given a donation if I agreed with the party’s politics.”

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The most common problem here is the use of “myself”. Take this sentence: “If you have any questions, ask Jane or myself”. This is wrong. To see how obviously wrong it is, just take Jane out: “If you have any questions, ask myself”. It seems that many people think that “myself” is like an intensified version of “me”. So how do we use “myself” correctly?

“Myself” is only used when “I” has already been used. For example: “I washed myself” or “I put half of the cake away for myself.” This is the only time it is ever used. The same rules apply for “herself” and “himself”.

The difference between “I” and “me” is the same as that shown in item 10 above. “I” is the “doer” and “me” is the “done to”. For example:

I paid the tax department.
The tax department paid me.

Things get a bit more confusing when you add a second person, but the rule is exactly the same:

Jim and I paid our taxes.
The tax department gave refunds to Jim and me.

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The difference between less and fewer is that one is used in reference to “number” – things you can count, and the other in reference to “amount” – things measured in bulk. For example, you can’t count sand, so if we want to empty a hole filled with sand, we say “we need less sand in that hole” – but if we want to empty a hole filled with eggs, we say “we need fewer eggs in that hole”. There are other words that follow the same rule:

“A great quantity of sand” – “A great number of eggs”
“We should remove a little sand” – “We should remove a few eggs”
“There is too much sand” – “There are too many eggs”

If you eat too many ice-creams, people might think you have eaten too much dessert.

We commonly see this error crop up with regards to people: “We need less people on this team” – this should actually be “we need fewer people on this team”.

Measurements of time and money ignore this rule, therefore we say: “I have less than 5 dollars” and “It takes less than 2 hours to get to Paris”.

This is wrong. It is a very common error and an appalling one at that! The correct form is “different from”. In British common use, many people say “different to” but that is still technically bad form and most UK style guides reject it. Let us look at each option:

Wrong: “Pink is different than blue” (common use in the US)
Wrong: “Pink is different to blue” (common use in the UK)
Questionable: “John is different than he was before his accident. (this can be phrased better – but because “different” is followed by a full clause, some accept it.)
Right: “Pink is different from blue”.

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First of all, “anyways” is not an English word – in fact, I am not aware of it being a word in any language at all. You should never say “anyways”. The word most often crops up in sentences such as this: “John was an idiot anyways!” The correct word to use is “anyway”.

Secondly, anyway is different from any way – both are acceptable but have different uses:

“I didn’t like him anyway”, and: “is there any way to stop the marriage?”

Normal Spelling Errors

I am sure no one will disagree with this entry being number 1 on the list – it is extremely common nowadays to see these words interchanged – sometimes with hilarious consequences but usually not. Let us look at each word separately:

They’re: The apostrophe is used here to replace a missing letter – the letter ‘a’. “They’re” means “they are” – it only mean “they are”, and can never mean anything else. So if you want to say that someone is happy, you say “they’re happy”. Remember, the apostrophe stands for a missing letter.

Their: This means “belongs to them” – it only means “belong to them” and nothing else. The confusion that has arisen over this word is no doubt related to the fact the an apostrophe is often used to denote possession – such as “John’s dog” – but when we are talking about “them” possessing something, we don’t use the apostrophe.

There: Everything else falls in to this category. “There is a happy man”, “Over there!”, “There aren’t many people at the party”.

Here is a little tip for remembering:

Their – “Their” has “heir” in it – an heir ultimately possesses items left to them in a will.
There – “There” has “here” in it – this can remind you that it refers to a place.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2008/09/11/another-10-common-english-errors/

10 Unabashed Quacks in Medical History

The history of medicine is a noble one, with an ultimate goal of extending human life and easing human suffering. Unfortunately, medicine also has its share of charlatans, con-men, and incompetents whose greatest evil is to cast doubt on the benefits of any medicine in the minds of laymen. Merriam-Webster defines a “quack” as “a pretender to medical skill”. Presented here are some self-proclaimed, as well as licensed, “pretenders” who may have had the best of intentions, but certainly achieved the worst of results.

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The purported inventor of the “Anodyne Necklace”, Chamberlen claimed that the necklace would help “children’s teethe as well as woman’s labour”. It is no shock that children during the eighteenth century often died as infants, and as many times during infancy the baby is teething, it may have seemed natural that the teething itself was the source of illness and death. The Anodyne Necklace was invented to simply place around a baby’s neck to prevent infant death during teething. Chamberlen deserves the last place on this list for preying and capitalizing on the grief and terror of parents who were more often than not during this period resigned to the fact that their children would be more likely to die in infancy than to make it to adulthood. Unbelievably, such necklaces are still being sold today, despite an utter lack of evidence of their efficacy. See for yourself.

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Invented the Dynamizer, which he claimed could diagnose any ailment simply by feeding into it a slip of paper upon which had been blotted a drop of the patient’s blood. If a drop of blood was unavailable or the patient didn’t want to give it, a handwriting sample would suffice! One made the Dynamizer work by connecting it with an electrode to the forehead of an assistant, who was stripped bare to the waist. Then the assistant was turned to face West under dim light and his abdomen struck repeatedly with a mallet. The vibrations coming off the assistant’s abdomen would indicate to the doctor the nature of the disease. The medical community, ever the distrustful skeptics, sent an Abrams practitioner a drop of rooster blood to be analyzed with the Dynamizer. The “patient” was diagnosed with malaria, syphilis, diabetes, and cancer.

Bernard Jensen

Famous American chiropractor and iridologist who asserts that all of the body’s underlying dysfunctions and toxins can be identified through the iris (colored part) of the eye, despite the fact that the iris does not undergo major changes during a person’s life. Nevertheless, Jensen insisted that darker areas of the iris, or areas that changed from lighter to darker, would be read as indications that there were problems or diseases in the corresponding part of the body. Different areas of the iris would represent different limbs and organs, and the left and right eye would be read differently. For instance, if the bottom of your right eye’s iris had a dark fleck, your right kidney would be in grave danger. You can view one of Jensen’s iridology charts here.

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Invented the Spectro-Chrome, which he claimed could cure ailments by changing the color of the light to which the patient was exposed. His theory was that different colors corresponded to different elements (blue = oxygen, red = hydrogen, etc.), and the lack of those elements in the body was what caused disease. Hence, if the body was exposed to that color for a prolonged period, the deficiency would be remedied, and the disease cured. Any disease except broken bones could be cured in this manner; furthermore, the patient did not necessarily have to be exposed directly to the colored lights: he or she could also drink liquids out of an appropriately colored bottle in order to achieve the same effects.

Daniel David Palmer

Father of modern chiropractic, Palmer’s scientific method, leading to his theory that misalignment of the spine is the most common cause of all illness in the human body, boiled down to two incidents: 1) he whacked a deaf janitor with a book during some witty banter, and a few days later the man claimed he could hear better, and 2) he manipulated an undisclosed patient’s spine and “cured” her vague “heart trouble”. On these two incidents alone, Palmer postulated that there was a fluid called “Innate Intelligence” flowing through the body that could heal any ailment and that could be made to flow more easily by unblocking pathways through the manipulation of the spine. As chiropractic is a very common practice today, this will most likely be the most controversial of the entries on this list.

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President of “Radium Company” of New York and a self-proclaimed doctor who never received his medical degree, he prescribed to his patients “Radithor”, essentially a solution of radium in regular water, which he asserted would help invigorate tired patients. His most notable patient was Eben Byers, a wealthy industrialist, who drank 1400 bottles of Radithor before having his jaw fall off and subsequently dying from radiation poisoning. Upon Byers’ death, it was discovered that the radium had eaten massive holes in his brain and skull. Bailey also marketed a radioactive belt-clip (for portable “energy”) and a radioactive paperweight (presumably to perk up lethargic businessmen).

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Immortalized in T. Coraghessan Boyle’s book “The Road to Wellville”, which was later made into a move starring Anthony Hopkins as Kellogg, and the brother of cereal magnate Will Kellogg, J.H. Kellogg, one of the few licensed medical doctors on this list, is well-known as an eccentric and monomaniacal leader of the “health movement”. His sanitarium in Battle Creek drew large numbers of “patients” who apparently volunteered for such masochistic treatments as: complete abstinence from any sexual activity, since it was the source of most illness; yogurt enemas to cleanse the body; marching while eating meals to help digestion; carbolic acid applications to the clitoris to prevent female masturbation; and immersion in freezing water laced with radium. Apparently, he, not Will, was the original Frosted Flake.

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The “goat gland” doctor, Brinkley performed hundreds of surgeries on men who feared that their most virile days were behind them by opening up their scrotal sacs and nestling goat’s testicles alongside the men’s. There was no arterial conjoining, no grafting, no fusion – the goat gland and human testicle merely occupied the same sac, but Brinkley claimed that the extra flow of testosterone would revitalize a male patient’s sex life. Legend has it that his hypothesis turned into implementation while working for a meatpacking company, Brinkley was astounded by the sexual voracity of the goats, thus prompting him to half-jokingly suggest to his undersexed patient that he should try goat glands; to this suggestion his desperate patient responded, “So doc, put ‘em in. Transplant ‘em!” Brinkley went on to perform over 16,000 goat gland transplants. He also arguably established the first radio advice talk show in order to advertise himself and his services to as many potential patients as possible. The book “Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster”, by Pope Brock, is an excellent starting point to learn more about this irrepressible lunatic.

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A prominent neurologist and psychiatrist, he popularized the lobotomy by making it easy and convenient: “perfecting” the transorbital lobotomy, where a sharp implement (the first was an icepick from his own kitchen) was inserted through the inside corner of the eye, tapped with a small hammer until it broke through the skull bone and entered the frontal lobe of the patient’s brain, then wiggled around like a stir-stick to cut neural connections. These “surgeries” were performed outside of the operating room, without anesthetic, and after the patient was incapacitated by electroshock therapy. Freeman eventually developed his own instrument for performing the lobotomies called the “leucotome”. He decided to refine his instrument further when one broke off inside a patient’s orbital socket. Even after his medical license was revoked for killing a patient with his technique, he would travel the country in his “Lobotomobile” to service the needy and the isolated. He performed 3,439 lobotomies during his career, though the psychological and physical damage caused by his practice of psychiatry is unquantifiable. For an amazing and heartbreaking first-person account of an 11-year-old victim’s lobotomy by Freeman, “My Lobotomy” by Howard Dully is a must-read.

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No list about quacks would be complete without mentioning this undisputed king of cruel and inhuman “research experiments”. The “Angel of Death” at Auschwitz, Mengele’s crimes against humanity during World War II at the concentration camp are well-documented and well-known. Some of the more notable and horrendous “experiments” he carried out were: injecting dyes into children’s eyes to see if eye color could be changed; attempting to measure how much force would be needed to break a human being’s skull (while living, of course); putting Jewish prisoners in a gigantic oven and testing how long it would take for human flesh to sustain first-, second-, and third-degree burns; sewing twins together to see if he could create conjoined twins; and rubbed ground glass into injuries to see what the effect would be. The damage Mengele did to an entire race of people, to the human spirit, and to our perception of the depravity the human mind can invent is still unsurpassed.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2009/11/10/10-unabashed-quacks-in-medical-history/

10 Lesser-Known Germanic Tribes

The Germanic tribes during the Roman Empire have been, more or less, categorized into the much more well-known groups (Goths, Vandals, etc.) who did manage to burn and sack Rome. The truth is that these “barbarians” were much more diverse and varied; their existence was more fluid than what the textbooks usually tell us. This list offers a glimpse of a few of the lesser-known Germanic tribes, listed as a footnote to the greater and more glorified barbarians that helped push Europe to the middle Ages.

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This tribe has only been mentioned in passing by Tacitus, in his work De Germania. The tribe’s name came from the Proto-Germanic word harjaz, which means “warrior.” True enough, the warriors of this tribe have earned their name, not only from their superior strength, but also from tactics. These warriors had been known to paint themselves and their shields black, and attack during the night, when their enemies least expect it.

Modern scholars have connected this tribe to the Viking’s Odin-related practices and beliefs: “Einherjar” (warriors who died during battle and thus will fight in Ragnarök), the Wild Hunt and the berserkers, through etymology.

The Harii have no known descendants. The tribe had probably merged with larger neighboring tribes.

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The Batavi got their name from the Germanic word batawjo, meaning “good island,” the place where they had settled. This place is now the modern-day Betuwe, in the Netherlands, at the Rhine river delta.

The Batavi used to be a part of a much larger tribe, the Chatti, but they separated after a dispute. Since then, they have been a Roman ally, supplying the empire only with men during war. A Roman military unit had been named after them.

Later on, the tribe revolted against Rome after one of their high-ranking commanders had been executed for false charges. They had been crushed by the Romans.

By mid-4th century, their land was overrun by Salii refugees (a tribe that would soon be a part of the Franks). They were either integrated into the Salii tribe, or were forced to go south, to Toxicandria, in modern-day Brabant and Flanders.

In the 16th century, the Dutch nationalists used the tribe’s identity as a suitable origin myth during their struggle for independence from Spain. However, the Batavi is only one of the many ancestral tribes of the Dutch people.

The Dutch colonial capital in Java, Batavia (now renamed Jakarta), was named after the tribe.

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I have already mentioned this group in the previous entry as the main tribe where the Batavi belonged. They were located on upper Weser River, in modern Hesse, Germany.

According to Tacitus, the men of this tribe differed from other tribes in warfare and culture. He described them as disciplined warriors who carried trenching tools and provisions during war. They were also known for their warrior vows: the young men, upon entering manhood, would let their hair and beards grow until they had killed their first enemy; braver men would wear an iron ring, a sign of disgrace, until they have vanquished their enemy.

The Chatti joined the Cherusci against Varus’s three legions in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. In retaliation, the Romans, under Germanicus, razed their capital city, Mattium. The Chatti had been absorbed by the Franks during the Migration Period.

In 723 AD, the sacred Donar oak of the Chatti had been cut down by St. Boniface.

Hessians were the supposed descendants of the Chatti.

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Located at the low-lying region along the coast of the Netherlands, west of the Elbe estuary, the Chauci were related to Anglos, Saxons and Frisians. Tacitus described them as peaceful people; in contradiction to this statement, Pliny said they were “wretched natives.” This was one of the few times when Tacitus was wrong.

The coastal Chauci had been known for sea-raiding. They were probably the forerunner of the medieval Viking and Anglo-Saxon sea raids. In 47 AD, the Chauci, led by Gannascus, carried out a sea raid along the coasts of Belgium and Northern France. They were defeated by the Roman fleet. However, this did not deter them from continuing their sea-raids. They terrorized both sides of the English Channel, prompting the Romans to fortify their northern coasts.

They were later replaced by the Saxons in their sea activities, and gradually, they merged together.

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Originally from the Danish isles and South Sweden, the Heruli had split into two when they migrated south to the Balkans and the present-day Ukraine. The western branch practiced raiding alongside the Saxons and other tribes, into which they gradually merged with. The eastern Heruli joined forces with the Goths in raiding the Black Sea and Aegean. With their combined forces, they were able to attack Byzantium and sack Athens.

The Heruli were successively subjugated by the Ostrogoths and Huns, before being able to establish a realm of their own. The Lombards destroyed their kingdom later on. The remaining Heruli joined the Lombards in establishing a kingdom in Italy.

Procopius noted that they were practicing pederasty. They were also said to let themselves be stabbed rather than die of disease and old age: a practice that will be seen later in Vikings. They served in the Byzantine armies, especially during Belisarius’s campaign to regain the Western Roman Empire.

The Anglo-Saxon word “eorlas” (nobles) and Old Saxon “erilaz” (man), which were found in runic inscriptions as an honorific title, have been linguistically connected to the Heruli.

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It is still a subject of speculation about the origin of the Thuringii. They may have been the remnants of the Alemannic confederation, descendants of an earlier tribe, a confederation of smaller tribes or just another lesser tribe. They inhabited the Harz Mountains in central Germany. A faction of the tribe was able to cross the Rhine and settle in modern Kempen, Belgium.

The Thuringii had been conquered by the Huns in 430 AD. After the collapse of the Hunnic kingdom, they established a kingdom in what is now Thuringia. Their kingdom was successively annexed by the Franks and Saxons to their rule.

The Thuringii were known to be excellent horsemen due to their proximity, relationship and inter-marriages with the steppe peoples, particularly with the Huns. Archeological evidence suggests that they have either kept Hunnic women as slaves or have married them. Female skulls found in Thuringii graves were discovered to have been artificially elongated, a peculiar practice among the Huns.

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One of the early Germanic allies of the Romans was the Cherusci, “swordsmen.” They were situated in the northern Rhine valley in the present day Hanover. They have been subjugated during the time of Augustus Caesar.

The Cherusci’s most famous son is Arminius (Hermann), a hostage prince, bred and trained as a Roman, and then rose to the ranks of the Romans. He unified several Germanic tribes, and won the battle against Quinctilius Varus’s three ill-fated legions in the Teutoburg Forest. However, the unified tribes were defeated by the subsequent Roman retaliation. Because of this event, the Romans abandoned their plans to extend their boundary beyond the river Rhine.

Long after that, the Cherusci once again became Roman allies, and then absorbed by the Franks, Saxons and Lombards.

Arminius has been used as a material for propaganda in German nationalism during the 19th century. A huge monument was built on a hill in the Teutoburg Forest, as a symbol for freedom, independence and unity.

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Named after their location, the Marcomanni or “march (boundary) men” lived in the northern boundary of the Roman Empire, the present day Germany, Czech Republic and Austria. Their king, Marboduus, established their kingdom in Bohemia to escape the Roman rule. Their territory lay in a “market zone” where Germanic tribes can freely trade with the Romans.

Forced by the movements of the Goths from the north, they – along with the Suebi, Quadi and Sarmatians – tried to breach the imperial borders. This led to two wars against Rome during the reign of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. The Romans were victorious, as usual, but its army was weakened. These Marcomannic Wars finally established the Danube River as the northern border of the empire.

Along with the Suebi and Quadi, the Marcomanni crossed the frozen Rhine in 406 AD. Those who remained were subdued by the Huns. They were purported to be the ancestors of the modern Bavarians.

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One of the terms used by the Romans to simplify all the German tribes into one name is Alamanni, or Alemanni. The term means “all men.” The Alemanni was a confederation of various tribes on the upper Rhine Valley. Later on they became a tribe on its own, identities of the smaller tribes within it gone and forgotten.

They were first encountered when Emperor Caracalla subdued them, adding “Alamannicus” to his name. Over the course of years, they tried to cross the Rhine, but were successful only once. Once settled in the other side of the Rhine, particularly in Alsace and northern Switzerland, they started ravaging the lands. They were often described by the Christian writers as savage and brutal compared to the Franks. After the fall of Rome, the Franks annexed their kingdom to their own.

The Alamanni gave the Romance language a name to Germany (Allemande, Alemania, etc.) However, within Germany, Alemannia is only a specific area, particular to those who speak Alemannic German: Bavarian Swabia, Baden-Württemberg, Alsace, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

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Before the Alamanni became the stereotypical name for any Germanic tribesman, there was the Suebi; the meaning of which is “one’s own (people).” They were originally from the Baltic coast before migrating southwards via the Elbe River and settling at middle Elbe. Tribes who shared the same culture with the Suebi were encompassed by that name. These tribes include the Marcomanni, Lombards, Harii, and Semnones, the spiritual center and core tribe.

The Suebi were identified by their peculiar hairstyle, the Suebian knot. It was a mark of a freeborn. As the Suebic influence spread, other tribes imitated the hairstyle. Soon, the Romans began depicting the Germanic tribes with that particular knot.

The Suebi, underwent several migrations. One group led by Ariovistus reached the bank of the Rhine, where they were repelled by Julius Caesar. Another group occupied the middle of Danube, where they associated with the sub-tribes Marcomanni and Quadi. In 406 AD, the Suebi made their final exodus by crossing the Rhine, into Gaul, and into Galicia. There, along with Vandals and Alans, they established a kingdom, which lasted for about 200 years.

The Suebi who did not cross the Rhine established their own kingdom, which would later become the Duchy of Swabia. The remnants of the original Suebi/Semnones in the Elbe became known as Nordschwaben, dwelling in Schwabengau in Saxony-Anhalt. Both Suebi branches would fall under the Frankish kingdoms.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2011/10/30/10-lesser-known-germanic-tribes/

10 Mysterious Brain-Related Phenomena We’re Just Starting To Understand

The mind is a mysterious thing. We’ve all had our minds made up and changed. Sometimes, we get caught in a vicious cycle of circular logic, and our eyes even occasionally play tricks on us. The brain is a hard thing to study, and it’s only with relatively recent scientific advancements that we’ve been able to examine common but extremely bizarre mental phenomena. We’re all familiar with deja vu, but there are plenty of other mysterious brain-related phenomena we experience every day.

10How Does Brainwashing Work?

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Brainwashing is the practice of completely changing the way a person thinks or what they believe using hostile techniques. We often hear of it being used on prisoners of war, kidnapping victims, and others that are in a position of subservience. That, in fact, is thought to be the crucial part of extreme forms of brainwashing.

The first part of brainwashing involves destroying everything that the victim believes about themselves. It’s necessary to have a clean slate upon which new thoughts, ideas, and values can be imprinted. It’s an odd combination of mental and physical abuse, along with the promise of salvation from the tormentors, that creates the ideal conditions for this manipulation. Once the broken person believes that they’re absolutely wrong in every way, they find themselves relying on the person who destroyed them to rebuild them in the right way.

There are also other types of brainwashing that are less obvious, and they happen every day. It can be argued that advertisements are designed to be manipulative and change your way of thinking. Any organization or agency that’s recruiting to their cause is swaying the public with propaganda, and even friends trying to manipulate you into doing something are participating in a mild form of brainwashing.

Little is known about how brainwashing actually works and how successful various techniques are because replicating them in a formal research setting is considered highly unethical, for obvious reasons. Most of what we know about brainwashing and its methods comes from interviewing prisoners of war, but there is still plenty up for debate, like how effective and permanent these techniques are. Studies on soldiers haven’t been able to conclusively answer these questions, but they do seem to depend greatly on a person’s concept of self and strength of character.

9Why Can’t Some People Recognize Faces?

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Prosopagnosia, also called face-blindness, is a condition that leaves its sufferers unable to recognize or identify faces, even those of close friends and relatives. It can also manifest as difficulty identifying facial expressions, judging the age of a person, or making eye contact. Those who have face-blindness also have difficulties processing and recalling other types of visual memories, like identifying landmarks and recognizing inanimate objects associated with a person (such as a car or a house), and may even have difficulty in identifying animals.

For a long time, prosopagnosia was vastly misunderstood and usually thought to be a result of a traumatic head injury, but we now know that about 2 percent of the population is born with the condition. It is believed that congenital prosopagnosia is caused by a developmental defect in the part of the brain that’s responsible for filing away faces for future reference, the fusiform gyrus. Even with this improved understanding, prosopagnosia can still be difficult to diagnose because the afflicted often find other ways to compensate for their inability to recognize faces.

8How Do We Tune Out Stimuli?

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The cocktail party effect is our innate ability to separate important information from background noise, such as carrying on a conversation with a single person in the middle of a loud, crowded room. This phenomenon has been difficult to study because monitoring the exact pathways of neurological response to any particular stimuli is tricky, but science is starting to make some progress.

In a quest to learn more about the phenomenon, researchers from the University of California–San Francisco placed a net of electronic sensors directly on the brains of patients who were slated to receive brain surgery for severe epilepsy. The patients were then asked to listen to a noisy conversation while computers recorded their brain activity. Researchers were not only able to determine what was being heard but show that the brain was only detecting the relevant speech patterns. Instead of filtering out other information like background conversations or music, the brain’s auditory complex simply ignored it. These findings could be helpful for treating problems associated with autism and information processing disorders, but they also suggest that our brains have long mastered what modern voice technology still can’t do: concentrate on a single input source.

7Why Do We Dream About Things We Did That Day?

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This phenomenon, called the Tetris effect, is what happens when you spend so much time engaging in an activity—specifically, a repetitive activity like playing Tetris—that you find yourself dreaming about it at night. It turns out that there’s a very good reason for it, and it’s not a sign that you’re just overdoing one particular activity.

Researchers from the Harvard Medical School hypothesized that when you’re dreaming about things that you did during the day, your brain is taking advantage of the downtime associated with sleep to reinforce behaviors that were learned while you were awake. Participants in their study were told to play Tetris for several hours each day. By the second night of the experiment, most participants were reporting dreaming of the familiar falling blocks.

Researchers concluded that during the first day, the brain didn’t immediately recognize that there was a need to learn anything new, but with repeated, prolonged play, a switch was flipped that triggered heightened information processing during sleep. One group, consisting of both novices and seasoned players, showed considerable improvement from one day to the next. Another test group, comprised of people suffering from short-term memory loss, showed no improvement, suggesting that our Tetris dreams aren’t a sign of an addiction but our brains continuing to learn while the rest of us shuts down for the night.

6Why Do We See Erroneous Patterns?

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Apophenia is the technical term for seeing a pattern where none actually exists. It’s what our brains are doing when we see Elvis’s face burned into a piece of toast or a water stain that looks like the Virgin Mary, and it’s why we’re able to lie in the backyard on a warm, sunny day and pick out shapes in the clouds.

The first hints about just what our brains are doing came from researching something completely different: spirit communication. Latvian psychologist Konstantins Raudive was recording what he called “spirit talk” and what the rest of the world called “static.” While other scientists were less than convinced by Raudive’s claims that he had trained himself to hear spirit communications in these recordings, they realized that what he had illustrated was our brains’ tendency to arrange and process information in a way that makes sense to us.

Our survival as a species has, in large part, relied on our ability to piece together information to create a bigger picture. That ability is so ingrained that our brains sometimes err too heavily toward pattern recognition, resulting in seeing faces in a wood grain table.

5Is Multitasking Efficient?

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The ability to multitask has been much lauded in the workplace, but recent research suggests that it’s often not nearly as efficient as we think. Brain scans performed during the act of multitasking have shown that, rather than performing more than one task at the same time, people are actually just switching between different tasks. That’s created the term “task switching” in place of multitasking, although many of us are still wrapped up in the idea that doing more than one thing at a time is helping us get things done faster. In fact, thinking that we’re successfully multitasking can add up to a productivity loss of up to 40 percent during the day. You may think you’re more productive and happy, but at the end of the day, multitasking can leave people more tired and frustrated over how little they have actually accomplished.

The one time we can actually multitask is one of the times we’re least likely to realize that we’re doing it: when only one task is intellectual in nature, while another is physical. That’s why we can process the information from an audio book while we’re walking the dog. The downside of this kind of multitasking is that it severely limits our awareness of our surroundings.

4Why Doesn’t Brainstorming Work?

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On the surface, brainstorming might seem like a great way to invent new ideas and come up with inventive solutions to problems, but it actually has the reverse effect of making us less creative and more likely to just hop on board with someone else’s ideas than contribute our own. There are a couple of different reasons why brainstorming just doesn’t work, but it’s mostly because people are very, very lazy.

Researchers from Texas A&M call it “social loafing,” and it’s when people sit in on a brainstorming session and either just listen to other people’s ideas or contribute some ideas of their own that are only vaguely different from those that have already been put forth. Others are hesitant to present their own ideas out of fear that they will be ridiculed by the group, especially after hearing a few well-received suggestions. It’s easier to just explain why you agree with everyone else than risk sharing your own ideas. Combined with the fact that most brainstorming sessions last much longer than our spurts of creativity, it all adds up to meetings that are supposed to be a flood of new ideas but actually just annoy people.

3Is There Such A Thing As Natural Talent?

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When it comes to innate talent, we often hold conflicting ideas. On one hand, we’re told that we can be anything we want to be if we work hard enough. On the other, some people seem to be destined for their chosen field, or even a “born talent.” The truth, as usual, is somewhere in between.

According to Dianna Richardson, graduate of the Juilliard School and youth instructor at Baldwin-Wallace College, there is such a thing as raw, innate, untrained talent. It manifests in young students who show the natural ability to keep rhythm and differentiate pitch, but it is absolutely encouraged by formal training. All the raw talent in the world can go unrefined without developing a person’s skills and the drive to work toward their goals.

Dedication and motivation play a huge part in talent. It’s been shown that the average time needed to become an expert at any one thing is about 10 years. Talent can be more accurately thought of not as an inclination toward a particular skill but as a group of personality traits that make a person more likely to excel in a particular field. Our personalities and outlook are always changing, and that’s one reason why some people don’t “discover” their hidden talents until they’re older. It may be only then that external factors—outside encouragement, the time to practice, finding a coach or mentor—allow for goals to be set and paths to be discovered.

2Why Do Amputees Feel Phantom Limbs?

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Most amputees report feeling mild sensations or outright pain where their limbs used to be. These phantom pains are now known to be something that even non-amputees can experience on a somewhat regular basis. Have you ever had your phone in your pocket and swear you’ve felt it ring, only to look and find that no one has called you? It’s the same principle at work.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University have determined that different parts of the brain are mapped as connections to certain parts of the body, such as an arm or a leg. When the limb is removed, the connections that exist in the brain remain active until the brain slowly re-maps itself to adjust to the missing appendage. People who feel phantom phone vibrations have neural patterns similar to those that are feeling pain from a phantom limb. Those of us who have phones that ring constantly have trained our bodies to be familiar with the sensation, and in turn, our brains treat our phones like an appendage. This also explains why we still think we feel our phones ring even when we leave them at home or in the car, and it’s a vaguely troubling statement about how attached to our technology we’ve become.

1Just What Do We See When We Close Our Eyes?

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This phenomenon is something that we’re all extremely familiar with but tend not to think about. If you rub your closed eyes, you’ll “see” a virtual rainbow of colors, shapes, squiggles, and lines. Those are called phosphenes, and the eye and the brain work together to create these weird little visual blips.

Phosphenes occur when there is no external visual stimulus. That can happen when you close your eyes or when you’re focused on scenery that’s vast and monotonous with little to no input as to depth or changes, such as a dark highway at night. People who spend long periods of time in sensory deprivation or meditation often report seeing visions, which can be chalked up to the appearance of phosphenes.

The presence of physical stimulus to the eye, like pushing on the eyeball, will create temporary phosphenes, and more traumatic events like head injuries can create permanent squiggles. In these cases, phosphenes are present because the visual centers of the brain are active without the presence of external visual stimuli. For example, when conscious patients undergoing brain surgery had different areas of their brains electrically stimulated, they reported seeing phosophenes. In studies of blind people, it’s been found that the appearance of phosphenes happens in different areas along the sight pathway between the eye and the brain, depending on what part of the visual system has been damaged. Humans aren’t the only ones who can see these dancing bits of light and color—the phenomenon has been observed in animals as well.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/05/07/10-mysterious-brain-related-phenomena-were-just-starting-to-understand/

10 Questions We Can’t Answer About The Human Body

In recent years, science has improved by leaps and bounds. Our scientific understanding of the human body is certainly much better than it used to be, and people are living longer than ever. However, we don’t know everything about our bodies yet, despite the fact that we live in them every day. There are still mysteries to solve and new things to discover.

10Why Do We Have Fingerprints?

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Despite the known usefulness of our unique fingerprints and the myriad ways they can help identify a person, science isn’t actually sure why we even have them in the first place. Some scientists have designed elaborate computer models to determine how fingerprints form, but despite understanding how they grow, we aren’t really any closer to understanding the evolutionary reason why we have individualized ID badges on our fingertips.

Researchers may be getting closer to a breakthrough, though. They’ve come across a very strange genetic disorder called adermatoglyphia, which affects only a few families in the entire world and whose carriers have no fingerprints. Aside from the unusual side effect of sweating slightly less, these individuals appear to be no more or less healthy than everyone else. Researchers are hopeful that, by studying these families and their genes, they may finally be able to solve the evolutionary mystery of fingerprints.

9What Do Probiotics Do?

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If you’ve ever watched a commercial for yogurt, you’ve probably heard the word “probiotic” thrown around. Many of these yogurts advertise that they contain live probiotic cultures, meant to improve your overall health. While it sounds like the yogurt companies have found something new, the truth is that probiotics are a type of good bacteria that has been living in your gut all along. And strangely, the yogurt companies don’t actually say what specifically these live cultures will do for your health.

The reason no one is advertising a specific benefit is that no one really knows what any of these cultures accomplish. In fact, many of the probiotics in use today as supplements or in food products were used because of their shelf life and not necessarily because they were the best for our bodies. They certainly don’t do any harm, but scientists are just beginning to work on unraveling what specific health benefits each good bacterium has. They suspect that if they can determine the purpose of all of the various good bacteria that end up in humans, they may be able to answer all kinds of other questions and treat many diseases. Solving this riddle will likely be a long journey, though, as there are hundreds of different probiotic bacteria to study.

8Why Do We Have Different Blood Types?

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You are probably already familiar with the common blood types, and if you have ever given blood, you probably know what yours is. It’s a pretty important thing to get right, as the wrong blood type can easily mess up someone’s entire day in an operation. Since blood types first evolved 20 million years ago, we’ve certainly had plenty of time to figure it out. However, despite how well we know how blood types work, we really don’t know what their actual purpose is.

Blood types are categorized by the different antigens found in blood cells of people of each type. These antigens are signals to antibodies that destroy foreign cells in the body. These antibodies won’t cause any trouble for antigens of the correct type, but they attack intruders, causing rejection of the wrong type of blood in a transfusion or an incorrectly typed organ transplant.

Despite science understanding this much about blood types, there is still a lot we don’t know. For starters, there are actually many more blood groups other than A, B, and O. Most importantly, we don’t know the purpose of these antigens in the first place. Our best guess is that it has something to do with disease, as some interesting links have been found. Scientists have found, for instance, that those with blood type B might be more likely to be bothered by E. coli, while those who aren’t part of the Duffy blood group are close to immune to one form of malaria. While it’s hard to be sure of the reason, perhaps blood groups evolved as a way to fight infectious diseases.

7Does The Brain Remain Active Following Decapitation?

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In many popular urban legends, a person is decapitated, but for a few horrifying minutes, they remain conscious. In some stories, the person blinks or makes some other movement to show their awareness. To some, it sounds like a fanciful story meant to scare small children, but the truth is that we really aren’t sure how long the brain can stay active in such a situation.

It’s a difficult phenomenon to research, because scientists can’t exactly go around decapitating people. The only real opportunity to gather data was in Revolution-era France, when the guillotine was the primary method of execution. While several experiments were conducted, there is only one documented attempt to communicate immediately following decapitation, performed by a researcher named Dr. Gabriel Beaurieux. After calling the decapitated man’s name multiple times, his eyes opened and appeared briefly to focus before closing one final time. The doctor came to the conclusion that some lower functions remain active for nearly 30 seconds following decapitation, but he was unable to ascertain if anything approaching consciousness continued.

6Do Humans Have Pheromones?

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Sniffing out pheromones, especially for reproductive purposes, has long been observed in the animal kingdom. This has led scientific researchers to study what possible role pheromones play in human interactions, with results that have often been more confusing than anything else. While plenty of studies have shown that humans are affected by smell, the business of pheromones is slightly trickier.

Scientists were certain for a long time that we don’t even have a vomeronasal organ, which is the olfactory organ that animals use to detect pheromones. We do have a very small one, but it’s unclear whether it actually does anything. Science has shown that humans have their own unique smells that are likely genetically influenced, just like fingerprints. For example, very young babies can identify their mothers by smell, and regular exposure to each other’s scent can synchronize a group of women’s menstrual cycles. Clearly, there is still much to learn about human olfactory response.

5What Happens When Someone Is Struck By Lightning?

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If you’ve ever been outside during a thunderstorm, especially near anything metal, you’ve probably thought about the risk of getting struck by lightning. It’s a pretty scary prospect—you might end up with permanent brain damage, horribly burned, or even dead. However, despite what sounds like a horrific injury, most victims survive. Some even walk away entirely unscathed—and science has no idea why.

In an attempt to better understand this, researchers went to South Africa, where lightning storms are more common and dangerous. They have discovered that lightning has its own way of traveling through our bodies and believe this has to do with the incredible amount of power that is passing through us in a short amount of time. There are many questions left to answer, but hopefully, we will gain better understanding soon and more lives will be saved.

4How Could A Woman Not Know She Is Pregnant?

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It always seems dubious when a woman claims she was caught by surprise when a human came out of her body after spending the previous nine months totally unaware of the situation, but it actually has happened. It’s a pretty rare phenomenon, though, which makes it difficult to study.

One reason a woman may not be aware that she’s pregnant is that she’s already very overweight, which means she may not gain much more, and a growing baby can go unnoticed. It might seem like a missing period would be a dead giveaway, but many women—particularly those who are overweight—don’t have regular periods, and not having one for months on end may not be out of the ordinary for them. It’s also not unusual for women to experience light, regular bleeding throughout pregnancy that could be mistaken for a period.

Sometimes, though, a woman may just be in denial, while others are perfectly healthy and just experience no symptoms. One patient of Dr. Sabrina Sukhan’s fell into the latter category. She was of a healthy weight and even worked in the medical field, so she knew all the signs, but she gave no appearance of being pregnant. Doctors are still stumped as to how this can happen.

3How Do Mitochondria Work?

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Mitochondria are an essential part of our bodies. The microscopic organelles’ sole purpose is to take all of the stuff that we consume and turn it into energy for us to use. For a long time, we knew almost nothing about mitochondria, but science has been making huge leaps in understanding these important organisms.

Just recently, scientists learned how mitochondria transfer energy. They also learned that they really, really like calcium, which can sometimes cause problems. If mitochondria take in too much calcium, it can kill cells, and this has been linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes. The researchers believe that these diseases affect the signaling process by which the body tells the mitochondria how much calcium to take in or out. A team at Harvard has recently managed to catalog every single protein in mitochondria, including all of those involved with calcium intake. While we don’t entirely understand them yet, mitochondria are a mystery we may soon have fully solved.

2Why Do We Have Three Ear Bones?

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Hearing is something we take for granted most of the time, which is pretty understandable. Unless we subject them to undue strain, our ears tend to work pretty well and don’t usually require much maintenance. Not all people are happy to just accept our ears for what they are, though. A Stanford researcher named Sunil Puria has pointed out that reptiles and birds only have two ear bones, whereas mammals have three, and no one really understands why.

According to Puria, we actually hear in multiple ways. The first is the obvious one that involves sound going through our ears, but we also hear things when vibrations from the movement of our vocal chords are conducted through the bones in our skulls. When you speak, you are actually hearing your voice in a different way than everyone else does. This explains why we hate to hear our own voices played back to us.

Puria’s best theory as to why we have a third ear bone involves a strange disease called semicircular canal dehiscence. This disease can lead to a decrease in tissue in the ear canal, which has caused people to hear distracting sounds they normally don’t perceive, like their own heartbeat. Puria suggests that perhaps the third ear bone is meant to minimize these effects, but he believes much more study is necessary.

1What Kind of Bacteria Are Lurking On Our Tongues?

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The human mouth doesn’t seem like all that mysterious of a place. We know what teeth are and how they work, we understand gums, and we have a good handle on taste buds. It would seem, then, that the tongue doesn’t have much to hide, but it actually contains a trove of secrets. The doctors of the world would love to get their hands on all of the bacteria out there so they can understand them as fully as possible and save more lives, but most of the bacteria found on the human tongue won’t grow in a Petri dish. This has made understanding and classifying them quite a headache.

This lack of understanding has proven to be a major stumbling block to treating gum diseases like periodontitis. Doctors have no easy way to treat this disease because so many different bacteria are involved, and they understand so little about them. Researchers have recently managed to sequence one bacterium found in the mouth using multiple DNA sections, and they hope that it will give them better insight into how to deal with diseases of the mouth, but there are still so many more bacteria to study. For now, many of the microorganisms in our mouth remain a mystery.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/03/25/10-questions-we-cant-answer-about-the-human-body/

10 More Things We Can’t Comprehend

A short while ago on Listverse, a list by a different author titled ‘Top 10 Things You Can’t Know‘ was published. While interesting in its own right, it focused more on ‘confidential information’ than ‘things which literally cannot be known,’ prompting a number of comments from readers expecting the latter. This inspired me to compile my own list of knowledge which is not just held by a privileged few, but is in fact ostensibly unknowable to all of us as human beings. Some of the following items are based in science and are literally impossible to know; others describe philosophical debates that are unlikely to ever be definitively resolved. At any rate, I hope the following list serves as food for thought and a basis for debate.

Universe

Why is the universe the way it is?

As they learned more about celestial mechanics through research, astronomers in the 20th century became increasingly fascinated with the fine-tuning of the universe. All physical constants colluded to create the perfect conditions for life on Earth, so much so that the perfect calibration seemed beyond coincidence. If the laws of chemical bonding or gravity had been even slightly different to their actual values, the Earth would spiral into the sun or worse, would never have formed at all.

This is another issue divided sharply down team lines, with no evidence possible that would reconcile all thinkers. Religious thinkers and proponents of intelligent design have pointed to the exquisite balance of physical constants as proof of a divine engineer, who consciously guides the development of terrestrial life. Skeptics, meanwhile, have dismissed any wonderment with what is known as the Anthropic Principle. This principle is viewed by some as so obvious as to hardly bear stating, while others view it as disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. To summarize, the Anthropic Principle states that it is only to be expected that the universe is tuned for human life – if it weren’t, we would not be around to debate it. It could be that out of a million possible universes, only one could support human life. However, states the principle, it is a given that we would be milling around that one universe, pondering the odds of our existence but with no frame of reference.

Unfortunately, neither the claims of intelligent design nor the tenets of the Anthropic Principle lend themselves to empirical verification. As such, this is another debate that will continue unresolved through the ages.

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Complete Information on a Quantum Particle.

In the regular, macroscopic world, we know intuitively how an object will react when it is acted upon. If I throw a ball straight up in the air, I expect it to slow down and then fall back to the ground in a predictable manner once gravity has acted on it. Likewise, if I throw that same ball to a partner across the yard, I inherently expect to be able to gauge its location and speed simultaneously. Indeed, for my friend preparing to catch the ball, both of these parameters need to be carefully monitored at all times, lest they end up with a concussion!

Once one enters the realm of subatomic particles, however, the Newtonian physics on which we intuitively base our lives breaks down. Many will have heard the term ‘uncertainty principle’ in relation to quantum mechanics. This principle posits that certain pairs of parameters describing a particle cannot be precisely known at the same time, not even in theory. The primary example usually given to illustrate this is the position and momentum (velocity times mass) of a particle. The explanation is steeped in mathematics but in summary, the more precisely one of these properties is measured, the more uncertain the other becomes.

While the following analogy is a loose one, this makes for an interesting hypothetical game of quantum catch-ball. As a thrown ball comes towards me, I concentrate on the speed of the ball coming towards me and as a result, lose track of where the ball is. As I try to regain focus I concentrate on its location, but now have no idea when it will reach me. As with much to do with quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle is counter intuitive, but is nevertheless based on a solid base of theory and experimentation.

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What does ‘blue’ look like?

If the above question sounds nonsensical, it is because it is one which defies any kind of meaningful answer. In physics, color is defined based on the wavelengths of light reflected off an object, but this explanation fails to describe the subjective sensation of sight. One does not need even the most rudimentary physics education to recognize and differentiate between colors as they are encountered. Light from the sky enters the eye, and is then processed by the brain in milliseconds to produce an experience of ‘blue’ – one that may be unique to each of us.

Scientists label these sensory-based subjective experiences, such as sight or hearing, as qualia (singular, quale). Almost by definition, it is impossible to know if one person’s qualia are the same, similar to, or completely different from those of the person standing next to him. Who is to say that my ‘blue’ might not be your ‘green’, or vice versa? Or that our sensations of ‘sweetness’ might not differ entirely?

At first blush, one may counter by noting that we can all mostly agree on what color is which, what is a pleasant sound, and what is bitter or spicy. Indeed, that is so – but all that this requires to be true is that each of us is consistent in our own experience. From the time we are born we are educated that ‘this’ is green, ‘that’ is birdsong, and so on. How each of us perceives our qualia in our private, internal worlds is inscrutable and unknowable to anyone but ourselves.

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What is my partner thinking?!

Odds are, a majority of readers who have been in a romantic relationship of any duration have had this thought multiple times. As all of us can attest to from personal experience, men and women possess differences in their psychological makeup that can baffle the opposite gender on occasion. A part of this difference is due to hormonal and physiological differences (testosterone/estrogen levels, etc.), while a large part debatably arises from social conditioning during childhood (‘Only girls cry!’ or ‘Sport is for boys!’). While it is important to note that differences between individuals are often larger than differences between the sexes, as a general rule our personalities and psychology are shaped – directly or indirectly – by our chromosomal make-up. As a result, the reason he is reluctant to discuss his day, and she insists ‘nothing’ is wrong when she is obviously upset, the other half will never truly know.

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Do we have free will?

This is a debate in which every punter has their own horse, but for which no decisive conclusion will ever be reached. To explain why I feel I can make such a bold assertion, I iterate my reasoning as follows:

If we are machines – if the human mind is solely a by-product of brain chemistry – then it is invalid to suggest free will could be a possibility. As complex a system as human psychology may be, the brain is nevertheless subject to the laws of physics, with each neural action determined by past experience and current stimuli. The arguments commonly used to escape this disheartening conclusion invoke one of two wildcards: the soul, or Multiverse theory.

Existence of the soul is understandably a near universal belief amongst the religious. The soul is said to be an immutable and eternal part of our beings that is connected to God and the afterlife, and that bypasses the laws of physics. Certainly, if this is true, free will is possible in theory. But therein lies the rub: because the soul is defined as unrestrained by physical law, it is impossible for us, in our physical world, to ever prove or disprove its existence. All belief boils down to a matter of faith in either direction.

The same can most probably be said for Multiverse theory. This theory posits that every quantum interaction spawns a new universe, so that literally every single potential eventuality has or will occur in one universe, somewhere. Confined as we are to a single reality, it is hard to imagine how this theory could ever be proven. That said, even if it did turn out to be true – if one makes every possible choice simultaneously at every junction, would that be considered free will? Or would it be determination of a different bent?

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What is it like to be a bat?

The above question is taken from a well-known essay by American philosopher Thomas Nagel, and is similar in many ways to the topic of qualia. The difference here is that while you and I can agree on a label for a color regardless of our subjective perception, and can agree that both our experiences arise from the same familiar construct of ‘sight,’ some life-forms have senses so alien to us that we literally cannot fathom what they would be like to possess.

On the fringe of potential human understanding is the ability of bats or dolphins to navigate via echolocation. Similar in concept to radar, these animals are able to gauge the distance to various objects by ‘bouncing’ sound waves off them and interpreting the returning signals. Some blind people, such as Daniel Kish of World Access for the Blind, have managed to develop a similar technique using cane-tapping or oral clicking. However, these people are certainly in the vast minority. To the average person, imagining what it is to be a bat is as futile activity as attempting to flap their arms and fly.

Even more foreign to the human senses is the ability of some aquatic organisms to navigate and detect prey through their disturbance of electrical fields. This ability is known as electrolocation, and even the Daniel Kishs of the world will have to join the rest of humanity in failing to grasp what such a trait would feel like to possess. This list is hardly exhaustive – even some senses that are extensions of ours, such as a dog’s wide hearing range or a snake’s ability to detect infrared radiation, are conceptually difficult to contemplate.

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What is the perfect system of government?

For as long as human civilization has existed, government has been necessary for the maintenance of civil order and organized distribution of resources. Every civilization has developed its own codes of law and society. However, history stands testament to the fact that the ideal system of government has never been realized.

Philosophical rumination on the ideal society has a long history. Among the most famous examples of this are works such as Plato’s The Republic and Thomas Moore’s Utopia, the latter of which has been co-opted into modern English as the very definition of a perfect state. While visionary for their time, however, neither society portrayed by these authors would be viewed as ideal in this day and age. For example, both employed slavery or indentured servitude in the workings of commerce, which would not be compatible with modern liberal sensitivities. Plato’s republic was also based on population sizes which would be considered rural today (generally accepted to be under ten thousand). This goes to show both that great thinkers have failed to solve the question to hand, and also that shifting cultural mores over time may render any given system obsolete over time.

In the last century, fascism and communism have been widely reviled in liberal nations for their oppressive implementation and economic repression. Certainly, there is much wrong with these systems. That stated, while it has become largely taboo in the West to speak out against democracy in any capacity, it must be said that it is not by any means a perfect system. Allowing open voting to all citizens is certainly the most egalitarian approach possible; however, by permitting citizens to cast a vote on issues on which they may be entirely ignorant, the decision making process cannot be optimal. Further, this leads to a corruption of the election process. Often a charming candidate can win office on charisma alone, with a majority of voters incapable of or unwilling to consider the actual issues under debate.

Of course, the fact that democracy is partially lacking is entirely the point of this entry. As stated by Winston Churchill in a 1947 House of Commons address: ‘Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’

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What does ET look like?

If there is sentient life out there in the stars – and based on the sheer size of the cosmos, it is at least a real possibility – what does it look like? I would contend that it is impossible for us to truly envision what an alien race would look and act like, as it is entirely out of our scope of experience. All life on Earth is practically identical when compared to the vast range of life allowed by the laws of biology and chemistry. Most vertebrates, for example, share the majority of functional organs and morphology (head, torso, eyes, legs, heart, lungs and so on). Even plant life and animal life is surprisingly similar – many readers will have heard the factoid that humans share 50% or more of their DNA with carrots and bananas.

Looking to entertainment media for film and TV makers’ visions of aliens, a strong bias towards anthropomorphisation of aliens is evident. While budget is doubtless a factor in earlier science fiction shows (such as the original Star Trek series), the trend continues to the modern day even where directors have much larger budgets and CGI at their disposal (a prominent recent example would be James Cameron’s Avatar). Even where aliens are presented as exotic and frightening (Predator, Alien), the creatures in question share many features in common with terrestrial insects or other predatory species.

While some portrayals of alien life are certainly more imaginative than others, at the end of the day even our most creative storywriters have only their experiences to draw on in describing new worlds. If and when first contact with ET is finally made, it is uncertain that we will even be able to recognize a totally alien life form, let alone communicate with it. Whatever one’s thoughts on the topic, it is a safe wager that ET will turn out to be much more exotic than anybody could have imagined.

Hell

What is evil?

At first glance this question might seem out of place. After all, as humans we all have an intuitive gut feeling for good and evil. However, once you begin to analyze more deeply, the threads of logic begin to unfurl.

The most conservative definition of ‘evil’ would be ‘to willingly and habitually inflict pain and harm on others, for no necessary reward other than their suffering.’ This definition would fit the common perception of the Christian devil, so would appear to be appropriate. However, by this narrow definition some of history’s greatest villains would not be classed as evil. Adolf Hitler, for example, encouraged and organized the persecution of Jews with no regard to their human dignity. However, their torture was not its own goal; his goals were forward-looking and based on a misguided notion of racial purity and patriotism. Certainly he would not have considered himself to be evil.

Would we be happy then with relieving Hitler of his ‘evil’ status? I am sure most readers would emphatically say no. In that case, how do we widen the definition of evil to encompass people such as him? ‘To pursue one’s goals with no regard to the welfare or dignity of others’? Not quite – Hitler doubtless had due concern for the happiness of those German citizens he chose to recognize. So then, ‘to willingly hurt innocent parties in the pursuit of a goal?’ Once the definition has been widened this far, many upstanding military commanders who were heroes of their nations become suspect.

Without going further down the rabbit hole here, I hope the above serves to show that evil can likely never be satisfactorily defined. We know that people like Hitler are evil – we just do – but attempting to explain that conviction leads to confusion.

Purgatory

Is there an afterlife?

The ultimate item I assume many would be expecting from a list such as this is the question, ‘Does God exist?’ I have chosen to avoid that question, for the reason that ‘God’ is too abstract a concept to present in blanket terms. For example, even the most ardent atheist would profess a belief in the Big Bang. If I decided to label the events which created the Big Bang as ‘God,’ my non-believing friend would now be a theist by trick of definition.

Instead, I pose the question of whether there is a spiritual life after death; this includes the Heaven professed by monotheistic religions such as Christianity or Islam, as well as reincarnation and other such beliefs held by Eastern religions.

The question of an afterlife has vexed philosophers and laymen alike since the dawn of time, and we are no closer to an answer today than were our ancestors. On the one hand, it is human nature to question the meaning of life and ponder its continued existence once we shuffle off our mortal coils. A life that ends with mortal death is seen by many to be bleak and meaningless, and belief in an afterlife is the only thing that sustains them. However, desire aside, unless the deceased begin returning to us from beyond the grave to openly and unambiguously document their experiences, it will be impossible to definitively prove the existence of an afterlife.

Believers in the paranormal and Near Death Experiences (NDEs) may protest, and certainly many intelligent people belong to this category. However, mainstream science is yet to recognize the former phenomenon, and the latter is mostly believed by the scientific community to be symptomatic of a distressed brain shutting down near death. With opinion divided down two irreconcilable paths and no consensus in sight, it is safe to say that mankind as a whole is no closer to answering the question: ‘what happens to me when I die?’

Read more: http://listverse.com/2012/08/20/10-more-things-we-cant-comprehend/

10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Smell

If it came to the crunch, and we were faced with losing one of our “five senses,” is there a single person who wouldn’t part with his sense of smell? Sure, it’s nice and all—but it just doesn’t compare to the usefulness of sight, the necessity of feeling, and the awesomeness of sound.

Or so at least we’ve been told. It turns out that the lamest sense is actually a lot more powerful than you might imagine. There’s an unbelievable array of subtle, subconscious things that we just wouldn’t be able to pick up without a functioning nose.




Hands

You’re probably familiar with the idea that old people stink. Whether it’s from first-hand experience, or just general pop-culture osmosis, somewhere along the line most of us begin to accept the concept of an “old person smell” as a fact of life. And in a weird way, we’re not wrong.



In a study which rather sadistically placed pads under people’s armpits and then gave them to others to sniff, scientists found that the sniffers could reliably distinguish the odors of people over seventy-five from the odors of other people.



Interestingly, the odor isn’t necessarily bad. Scientists believe that the negative stigma around the “old person smell” concept has more to do with a fear of old age than an actual negative response to someone’s body-stink.



Coffee Smell

Since it’s the world’s most popular psychoactive drug, it’s fairly safe to assume that most of us enjoy a cup of joe every now and again. But according to one study, you may not actually have to drink it to get the necessary effects.



By studying the effects of coffee aroma on rats, scientists found that coffee’s smell makes the brain release proteins that will protect nerve cells from stress. Which is exactly what coffee does to you when you drink it.



Stock Market Fear

Though it sounds like a movie tagline, the ability to smell fear is something humans really did develop for defensive purposes. Not only can we learn to identify what fear smells like in other people, but we will naturally become afraid ourselves after smelling it.



The evolutionary idea behind this ability is that humans, like all social animals, are strongest when acting as a group. If one person is so stunned by panic that he can’t communicate his emotions, the stink of his terror (as well as his body language) will spread fear to the others in his or her group. This keeps everyone’s actions—or at least their emotions—coordinated.



These days we don’t have so many encounters with predators. But we do have horror movies in theaters, and the principle still works in essentially the same way.




Dance Club

Men might hope that they’re being subtle in their advances, but scientific studies have revealed that there’s simply no hiding their arousal from a woman. She can smell how turned on a man is—and not just in a subconscious way. In studies, sniffing pads soaked with the sweat of horny men was found to activate parts of a woman’s brain normally associated with perceiving emotions in others.



But what about men? Do their noses play any role in their eternal efforts to get some? Certainly—but not in the same way. While women have a definite advantage when it comes to perceiving the intentions of their potential sexual partners, men have a slightly different ability:




Kiss

While a man’s ability to pick up on a woman’s sexual excitement might be entirely subconscious, his ability to tell when a woman is ready to get pregnant isn’t. In a blind study, scientists discovered that heterosexual men sniffing the T-shirts of various women would consistently label those of ovulating or fertile women as more “pleasant” or “sexy” than the T-shirts of other women who weren’t ready to conceive. Apparently, men can identify this scent up to a week after the clothes were worn.






Perfume

When you examine the findings from various studies about individuals’ sexual preference towards different body odors, an interesting pattern occurs: sexuality is actually detectable by odor.



If a straight man is given the T-shirts of a combination of gay and straight men and women, he will consistently find the odor of the straight women more pleasant than the odor of any other group. The same is true for gay men: they will be more attracted to the scent of other gay men, and so on for every other group.



Though the findings are hardly conclusive, this does provide strong scientific support for the idea that homosexuality is based in neurobiology, rather than being an individual’s choice.




Dog Smelling Crotch

We have the ability of a bloodhound, and we didn’t even know it. 



It turns out that every human is born with the ability of “egocentric localization.” That’s the ability to tell where a smell is coming from without even moving one’s head—in exactly the same way that people can pinpoint the origin of a sound. It’s a skill that all of us possess, but which most of us never bother to hone.




Exam

So far all these nasal tricks have been neat and perhaps unexpected, but not especially useful. So here’s one that’ll actually improve your day: you can use your nose to get better grades.



You probably know that smells can trigger a flood of old memories—but what you may not know is that without a sense of smell, you may have not been able to recall that memory at all. It turns out that olfactory (smell) perception is far more closely linked to memory than you realize: it stimulates both the ability to recall things and the ability to commit those things to memory. 

So next time you study while rubbing yourself down with lavender oil, be sure to take some lavender oil to the test. 




Woman smelling T-shirt

Most of us have heard that facial symmetry is one of the most important factors in a person’s level of attraction. But studies show that symmetry isn’t just something we see—it’s something we also smell.



In a study that (once again) involved smelling other people’s dirty T-shirts, scientists found that women will rate the smell of symmetrical men as more attractive than that of non-symmetrical men—even when they’ve never smelled, seen, or even met the men in question before.



Basically, sexy people smell sexy—and so do their clothes.




Happy Baby

Humans consistently make their choice of sexual partner based on whether or not the other person’s Major Histocompatibility Complex is different from their own. The Major Histocompatibility Complex, or MHC, are the molecules in the body that fight foreign invaders, like germs and viruses. 



Choosing a mate with a different MHC than your own will improve your offspring’s MHC, meaning that they’ll have a stronger immune system and will be more resistant to disease. Women are most likely to be attracted to men who have a different MHC—and interestingly, it seems that the sense of smell is pretty much the only way to determine the compatibility.



The best piece of advice for young people looking to find a serious partner? Follow your nose.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/01/27/10-things-you-didnt-know-you-could-smell/