10 Places You Definitely Don’t Want To Go Swimming

People generally enjoy swimming. Whether they’re splashing on the surface or diving below, most enter the water at some point in their lives, and many do so frequently. Nevertheless, there are some locations where it may be a better idea to leave the swimsuit at home.

10Mumbai

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The populous coastal city of Mumbai, India, unsurprisingly features many beaches. Unfortunately, these beaches have been declared unfit for bathing. Large amounts of untreated sewage are discharged from Mumbai into its surrounding seas, leaving its shores extremely polluted. While the city has a sewage network, much waste ends up bypassing it, traveling directly into waterways. Slum residents’ practice of throwing waste directly into storm drains is cited as a primary contributor to this problem.

The pollution is steadily worsening. Pollutant levels, particularly human and animal feces, are rising at nearly every beach in the city, placing beachgoers at risk of infection. Bathers also report itching and skin rashes after swimming. Girgaon Chaupati (also spelled “Girgaum Chowpatty”), Mumbai’s most popular beach, has four times the acceptable limit of fecal bacteria. Other beaches are worse.

Despite the pollution, Mumbai’s beaches still receive much use, particularly for the city’s annual Ganesh Chaturthi celebration. This festival commemorates the birth of the Hindu god Lord Ganesha and culminates with the immersion of Lord Ganesha idols in the sea. Girgaon Chaupati is the site of the largest immersion ceremony.

9New Smyrna Beach

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New Smyrna Beach, in Volusia County, Florida, is a great place to surf . . . and to swim with sharks. The waters off New Smyrna possess large populations of fish, which in turn attract many sharks. Combine that with the beach’s aforementioned popularity with surfers, and you have a beach that is considered the “shark attack capital of the world” by the International Shark Attack File. Scientists estimate that anyone who swims at New Smyrna Beach will pass within 3 meters (10 ft) of a shark. Bull sharks, a notoriously aggressive species, have been caught in the area.

Volusia County in general, fueled primarily by New Smyrna Beach, also has a reputation for shark bites. In 2008, over one-third of all unprovoked shark attacks in the world occurred in the waters off the county coast. On top of that, the state of Florida logged more attacks between 2004–2013 than both Australia and South Africa combined.

8Bubbly Creek

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A name like “Bubbly Creek” might sound harmless and inviting, but the waterway itself is not. “Bubbly Creek” is the local name for the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River. In the early 20th century, the flow of the Chicago River was reversed, sending it toward the Mississippi River and away from Lake Michigan, in order to keep the river’s pollution from entering the city’s source of drinking water. This reversal has made the river all the more difficult to clean up in the years since.

Bubbly Creek is considered the worst part of the river. It gets its name from bubbles rising to the surface from the area’s chief pollutant: decomposing animal carcasses. Meatpacking waste including blood, manure, urine, and various body parts was dumped into the channel by the nearby Union Stockyard for over a century. These bubbles still appear even today, as the creek is so polluted that very little lives there, slowing decomposition. Bloodworms are said to inhabit the creek, feeding on the waste. In 2014, a study found a layer of animal remains on the creek bed that is 1 meter (3 ft) thick. The US Army Corps of Engineers is working on a project to dredge Bubbly Creek as well as improve the water’s oxygen content.

7Samaesan Hole

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The Gulf of Thailand contains a deep point described as a “black silty hole of death.” Named for a nearby fishing village, the Samaesan Hole is the deepest diving site in the Gulf of Thailand, dropping down to 85 meters (280 ft). Divers braving the hole must deal with the strong currents in the region, as well as the fact that it lies in a busy traffic zone for oil tankers. Barracuda also populate the area, and visibility is very poor as one descends. To top it all off, the US Navy previously used Samaesan Hole as an ammunition dump, leaving the site littered with unexploded ordnance.

So who would want to jump into Samaesan Hole? Diving enthusiasts would. The site is for Trimix certified divers only. Trimix is a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen, and helium used for deep diving. Divers are also advised to have multiple lights, dive computers, and formal training in technical diving. Even for well-equipped divers, the dive can be dangerous. In 1998, the first pair of divers to dive the hole experienced severe equipment failures, including dive computers being damaged beyond repair and lights imploding.

6Yenisei River

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Russia’s Yenisei River (also spelled “Yenisey”) divides Western and Eastern Siberia, flowing north before emptying into the Kara Sea. The world’s sixth largest river by discharge, the Yenisei is thousands of kilometers in length and passes through several major cities. It is also a major source of hydroelectric power. Many Siberian villagers depend on the river for fishing.

In addition to being an important waterway, the Yenisei is also severely radioactively contaminated. A bomb-grade plutonium factory near Bolshoi Balchug has been discharging radioactive particles into the river for decades. Radioactive isotopes have been found hundreds of kilometers downstream from the factory. Nevertheless, the management of the factory insists that there is no radiation danger.

Around 64,000 people live downstream near the factory, not to mention the many more that live along the river within range of where radioactivity has been found. Statistically detectable increases in rates of breast cancer, leukemia, and genetic defects have been found in communities downstream from the plutonium plant. Despite the radiation fears, those who live on the river still eat fish from it, hoping that they won’t get sick.

5Horseshoe Lake

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Horseshoe Lake in California has everything one could ever want for an outdoor excursion: boating, swimming, sandy beaches, picnic areas, hiking trails, and over 40 hectares (100 acres) of dead trees. That last, more unique feature is the result of a series of small earthquakes in 1989 and 1990. These quakes opened pathways for carbon dioxide to rise to the surface from magma below, eventually killing the trees.

While there is little danger of a volcanic eruption, a potentially lethal risk lurks in the Horseshoe Lake area, as the gas levels fluctuate unpredictably. A family could have a picnic on the lake one year and be asphyxiated the next. Warning signs are posted around Horseshoe Lake to inform visitors of the danger. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air, making lower areas—such as depressions in the ground, or the shore and surface of the lake—more dangerous. Most of the time, Horseshoe Lake is safe. However, fatalities have occurred due to the gas. A man died on the lake in 1998, and three ski patrol members fell into a snow pit on nearby Mammoth Mountain and asphyxiated in 2006.

4Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole

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Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole (also known as the “Lost Sink”) near St. Petersburg, Florida has been called the Mount Everest of diving. From ground level, it appears to be nothing more than a pond, but narrow shafts at the bottom of the pond lead into a much larger underwater cave system with over 2 kilometers (1 mi) of charted passages, rooms larger than a football field, and shafts no wider than a doorway. The cave’s deepest point is 94 meters (310 ft) below the surface.

The comparison to Mount Everest is due to its remoteness, difficulty, and spectacular beauty. It’s also an incredibly dangerous dive site. Like the Samaesan Hole, the depth of Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole is such that Trimix certification is recommended. The use of only regular air can lead to disorientation below 46 meters (150 ft). Cave diving certification, previous cave diving experience, and diving with a guide familiar with the area are also highly recommended. Guidelines are used for divers to find their way back to the surface.

Even with experience and equipment, veteran divers have died in Eagle’s Nest. Some have simply blacked out; others have become tangled in their own guidelines, eventually running out of air. The site’s remoteness also means that help is not close, and only other cave divers are qualified to attempt a rescue. In 1999, Eagle’s Nest was closed due to the deaths, but it was reopened in 2003. A day pass for diving costs $3.

3Kipu Falls

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If you go swimming at Kipu Falls in Kauai, the best possible outcome is that you are only charged with trespassing. It is also possible that you will never leave the swimming hole alive. Despite being on private land, Kipu Falls has been a very popular swimming spot for decades, appearing in tourist guidebooks since the 1990s. Reachable by a short walk down a dirt path, a 6-meter (20 ft) waterfall empties from a stream above into a picturesque, serene pool below.

Unfortunately, beauty aside, Kipu Falls has been the site of many injuries and deaths, some of which have been difficult to explain. Aside from injuries obviously related to jumping from the top of the falls, people have drowned with no apparent explanation. Several were witnessed swimming normally only to suddenly become distressed and disappear beneath the surface. They were not seen again until their bodies were brought up from the very bottom of the pool. Some have claimed that a mo’o, a reptilian water spirit, is dragging people down and holding them at the bottom. Others speculate that there is a whirlpool at Kipu Falls.

Whatever the cause of the deaths, the Kauai Visitors Bureau has asked tourist guide publishers to no longer mention Kipu Falls. The area is now fenced off to further deter swimmers, who will be prosecuted if caught trying to enter the falls.

2The Strid

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The River Wharfe in Yorkshire, England, contains a section known as “the Strid.” The word “strid” is a local word based on “stride,” which is fitting as the Strid is much narrower than the rest of the River Wharfe, merely a long stride (or short jump) in width. It’s the sort of babbling brook that a hiker might not think twice about jumping over or stepping into.

The Strid’s appearance, however, is extremely deceptive. The Wharfe’s current is much stronger in the Strid due to its narrowness and has cut deeply into the area’s limestone, much deeper than any other part of the river. The current has also undercut the banks of the Strid, meaning that its edges are in fact ledges overhanging a wider and deeper waterway than is apparent. The Strid’s attributes spell disaster for those unlucky enough to fall in. Many people have been pulled under and drowned over the years. No one has ever fallen into the Strid and come out alive.

1Hanakapiai Beach

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The islands of Hawaii are well known for their beaches, but some of those beaches weren’t meant for swimming. Hanakapiai Beach on Kauai’s Na Pali coast is one of them. Yet another beautiful but potentially deadly location, the beach lies at the end of a steep, rocky 3.2-kilometer (2 mi) trail.

Hanakapiai’s remoteness means that there are no lifeguards and no hope of immediate rescue. This only adds to the beach’s primary danger: powerful rip currents capable of pulling even strong, experienced swimmers out to sea. These rip currents are almost always present, as there is no reef to protect the beach’s shores. Also, the geography of the region is such that the nearest safe beach is 10 kilometers (6 mi) away. There is simply nowhere to go.

More people have drowned at Hanakapiai than at any other beach in Kauai. The bodies of 15 drowning victims have never been recovered. A sign stands on the beach with a tally mark for each drowning. There are over 80 marks. Visitors are advised to stay out of the water entirely.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/11/21/10-places-you-definitely-dont-want-to-go-swimming/

Top 10 Spectacular Natural Phenomena

Sometimes the modern world can lead to a feeling of disconnection between us and the natural world. As a remedy to this First-World fatigue here are ten of the most spectacular shows the Earth can provide.

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The Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) provides one of the most beautiful of all animal displays. Individually they are a pretty orange and black, but when they mass for migration they fill the air with color. The migration path of the butterflies covers a large part of North America. The migration is prompted by the fragility of the butterflies to cold and so, as winter approaches, they head south. In these warmer areas the butterflies overwinter in large groups that may cover whole trees. No one individual will survive the whole migratory route due to the butterflies’ ephemeral nature. Their descendants will, however, continue to put on this beautiful migratory display.

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Geysers are a spectacular demonstration of the power of the Earth under our feet. Geysers are hot springs which, by a build up of pressure, erupt periodically and shoot water into the air. Geysers occur worldwide but over half of the world’s geysers occur in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone hosts the world’s tallest geyser, Steamboat, which shoots water up to 90m into the air. Geysers can, like most natural phenomena, be somewhat unpredictable and this has proved deadly when people wishing to see an eruption get too close in a fit of impatience. For a guaranteed geyser eruption Old Faithful in Yellowstone probably offers the best bet for tourists in America. Strokkur on Iceland erupts far more often than Old Faithful and can rival that geyser for height in major eruptions though.

An algal bloom does not sound very spectacular, though red tides of toxic algae can be huge, but in the case of Noctiluca scintillans it is one of the wonders of the sea. When there is a population explosion of these dinoflagellates it can look like the sea is on fire with blue flames. When disturbed they give off a burst of blue light. This can lead to a very spooky experience for night swimmers. They are found worldwide but for those unwilling to get wet, the video above shows some loud people throwing a rock into a Noctiluca scintillans bloom.

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Tornadoes are terrifying events, but add fire and they become spectacularly terrifying. Fire whirls occur when the heat from a fire drive the air above it in such a way as to form a vortex with the cooler air outside. If this vortex acquires a vertical spin then a fire whirl, a vortex sucking flames upwards, will form. Fire whirls can be incredibly dangerous as they may pick up burning debris and so spread the flames. When Tokyo was struck by an earthquake in 1923 an enormous fire whirl was created by the massive numbers of burning wooden buildings. The whirl was a major factor in the burning to death of 38,000 people. Smaller whirls are commonly seen at the front of fires in grasslands.

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In very cold weather, when ice crystals are suspended in the atmosphere, light pillars may form in the sky. The light pillars form around natural light sources, like the setting sun or moon, but can also be created by man-made light. The ice crystals serve to reflect light back at us and, as we cannot see the crystals, trick us into believing there is a pillar of light in the sky. The higher the ice crystals, the taller the light pillar will appear.

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Maelstroms, hugely powerful whirlpools, have a long history in fiction as being terrible dangers to sailors. In real life there have never been any cases of large ships being sunk by maelstroms. The swirling masses of water in maelstroms, usually driven by unusually strong tides, are impressive. The Corryvreckan on the west coast of Scotland can be heard miles away as huge waves up to fifteen feet high crash back into the sea. Huge whirlpools have always attracted adventurous souls and the Corryvreckan was first swum by George Orwell’s one-legged brother-in-law. Maelstroms can be found world wide and chartering boats to them has become a popular tourist activity.

Lava, molten rock, is usually only visible during violent volcanic eruptions. However there are five points on the Earth where lava meets the surface in relatively peaceful pools. These lava lakes are a valuable scientific resource as the offer the chance to collect lava samples which have not been contaminated in the violence of a volcanic eruption. These pools offer direct access to the molten center of the Earth. At night, the lakes glow with the fierce heat they radiate. The video above shows that although the lava pools are relatively peaceful they are still dangerous.

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Sand storms are spectacular to look at but devastating to be in. Dust or sand storms have always bedeviled desert travelers who may become lost in them or even smothered by the sand they deposit. Sand storms occur when a strong wind whips up soil and sand particles into the atmosphere and carry them away. Sand storms can be so large that they are visible from space. Each year forty million tons of dust are carried from the Sahara to the Amazon basin. The carrying away of top soil can destroy agriculture or deposit necessary minerals. A wall of dust billowing out of the desert is one of the great images of the power of nature.

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The Earth is special in that we have a moon which, at times of eclipse, will perfectly cover the disc of the Sun. This happens because the Sun’s diameter is approximately 400 times larger than that of the Moon, but the Sun is also 400 times further away from it. During a total solar eclipse the corona, a plasma layer around the Sun, becomes visible. Eclipses have fascinated mankind since the dawn of time, but have been understood and predicted for thousands of years. Now, with the ability to travel the globe, there are tourists who will travel to wherever the next total eclipse will occur.

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In my opinion there is no greater natural spectacle than the Aurorae. I first saw them while standing on a frozen lake in the north of Finland. We had left our little fire hut on the shore because a very faint green glow could be seen over the treetops. As we watched, a wall of green swept silently across the sky, flecked with pink lines. When you see a picture of the aurorae you do not get the sense of motion or scale. The aurorae occur when particles, ejected on the solar wind, are channeled by the Earth’s electromagnetic field into the atmosphere. As the particles strike the atmosphere they ionize atoms which then release light. Some people report hearing a crackling sound when aurorae are particularly intense, but this has never been confirmed.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2012/02/08/top-10-spectacular-natural-phenomena/

10 Cases of Incredibly Small Spaces

In the developed world, when it comes to our homes, conventional wisdom dictates bigger is better. But why? So we can spend years slaving away to pay off a mortgage for a house that may not appreciate in value? And then go further into debt furnishing and maintaining it, all the while saddling the planet with an environmental impact grossly out of proportion to our needs?

And that’s if we can afford, or even find, the room. For much of the developing world, living space is at such a premium people spend ridiculous sums of money to live in quarters smaller than some prison cells. And they, too, slave away to keep even that. Submitted for your approval are 10 cases of living in small spaces, some ingenious and enlightened, others not.

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Smaller living may be coming into fashion, but it’s definitely not a new idea. Sandwiched between two normal-sized neighbors, the Little House is the smallest home in Toronto, Canada. The land on which the house sits was originally designed as an alley for one of the neighboring homes. City officials never approved the curb cut, so in 1912, contractor Arthur Weeden decided to make use of the land and built a house on it (in which he and his wife lived for 20 years).

With only 312 sq. ft. of space, the Little House is a neighborhood favorite, and stops traffic from time to time. American celebrity Ellen Degeneres was so won over by its charms, she expressed interest in one day owning it. An engaging and detailed history of the home can be found at The Little House Website.

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Located in the heart of Seattle, WA, Videré is a rooming house that’s getting big by going small. The rooms in the complex range from 90 to 168 sq. ft. The smaller units are only slightly larger than a parking spot.

Each apartment consists of a single room and a small attached bathroom. The units are furnished and cable-ready, but without a private kitchen—each of the complex’s six units share a communal kitchen on the first floor. Rent is between $500 and $700 per month, with all utilities and Internet service included. Jim Potter, a partner in Videre says the target clientele is “young people, who don’t do much more than sleep in their apartments. (They) have a living room somewhere else.”

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In 2009, developers converted New York’s 535 W. 110th Street building to a co-op. They gutted the top floor and carved out three decently sized one- and two-bedroom apartments, but ended up with 175 sq.ft. left over. They didn’t know what to do with the unused space, so they decided to make the “best smallest apartment ever”.

The resulting “micro-studio” is 10 x 14 feet, with modern conveniences and a private bathroom. A queen-size bed would take up 20 percent of the entire living space. The flat is not without its quirks, either—to reach the front door, the tenant must exit the elevator one floor below and ascend a separate flight of stairs. The current owner paid $150,000 and uses the apartment as a premium pied-à-terre while in New York (thus saving a fortune in hotel costs).

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With no formal architectural training, Brazilian Heneita Minho designed, and still lives in, what many recognize as the narrowest house in the world. Her three-story home is a svelte 1 meter wide by 10 meters tall. It’s so thin she cannot fully extend her arms when she walks in the front door.

Despite its radical appearance, the building is a fully functioning home with 2 living rooms, a kitchen, 3 bedrooms with washrooms, and a verandah. At first, city officials sought to block construction, but relented when the original plans were revised to a more conservative design. The house has since become a minor tourist attraction.

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Felice Cohen is a professional organizer, and she’d better be. That’s because she’s living in what many say is America’s smallest apartment. Her whole life must fit into a 90 sq. ft. flat, with no kitchen and a loft bed in which the ceiling is less than 2 feet from her face. The bathroom is so small she sits on the toilet sideways, and she had a panic attack the first night she slept in the apartment.

So why does she suffer these indignities? The appeal is a mix of economy and location. The former Bronx resident pays just $700 a month to live in New York’s tony Upper West Side—Central Park and Lincoln Center are just blocks away. Her neighbors pay $3,000 a month for the same location. Cohen attributes her extreme frugality to her father, whom she remembered in ‘What Papa Told Me’.

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Jay Shafer is the creator and resident of what he claims is the smallest house in the world, affectionately named ‘Tumbleweed’. His decision to live in just 96 sq. ft. arose from his concerns about the environmental impact of a single person living in a larger house.

Shafer’s entire home is smaller than a typical bathroom, but is still wired for electricity powered either by an AC plug or via a solar electric system with an inverter. It has a two-burner stove, an under-counter refrigerator, a bar sink, on-demand hot water heater, and a propane room heater.

Tumbleweed is very well insulated, making it a dream to heat and cool. In fact, Shafer spent less than $170 to heat his tiny house during the brutal Iowa winter. He now sells plans for, and builds, tiny homes from 50 to 500 sq. ft., all available for purchase from his website, Tumbleweed Houses.

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Life in Hong Kong can be cramped and hostile, and nobody knows that better than architect Gary Chang. So he transformed his tiny one-room apartment (which once housed his whole family and a renter) into an innovative, eco-friendly space that can transform into 24 different configurations. Spatial flexibility is achieved through the multiple operations of clever partitions.

Mr. Chang hopes his home’s innovations can improve domestic life in Hong Kong, where the population grew by 500,000 in the last 10 years. Reports of child, spousal and elder abuse have doubled recently, and social workers attribute this rise, in part, due to social pressures caused by the city’s ongoing space shortage.

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In Beijing, affordable housing is hard to find, if you weren’t already born in it. Dai Haifei, 24, learned this after landing a job at a Beijing architectural firm after college. Unable to afford rent, he built a tiny egg-shaped mobile house and parked it on the sidewalk outside his office.

The 2 meter tall egg cost 6400 Yuan ($960 US) to build, and was made of bamboo strips, waterproof materials and sacks stuffed with processed wood shavings. Grass seeds covered the exterior walls and roof. It even had a window for natural light and solar panels to generate electricity. Inside were a single bed, a bookcase and a pressurized water tank for hygiene and sanitation.

Living in the egg was easy, since Dai built it to perfectly suit his needs: he worked until midnight each day and returned to the egg only to sleep or relax. A nearby gym provided shower facilities, and he ate at nearby restaurants. Neighbors were impressed with the young man’s ingenuity, diligence, and green construction methods.

Sadly, on December 1, 2010 the Haidian District Urban Management Division decreed that any roadside building without a permit is considered an “unauthorized construction” and must be removed. Two days later, nearby restaurant employees noticed office personnel moving the egg at 8 p.m (while Dai was working). Dai wouldn’t comment except to say that he would sleep at a friend’s house that night.

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Originally built for the urban poor, “capsule apartments” are a new alternative for Chinese singles desperate for affordable urban housing. The first versions (top: that’s TWO units, not one) were barely larger than a closet, had a chain-link ceiling, offered 2 square meters of space, and cost 230 Yuan a month. For that the tenant got a single twin-size bed and a wall shelf. Pictures of the apartments hit the Internet, and embarrassed officials destroyed the flats for violating a hastily drafted regulation for a minimum 10 square meters for personal living space.

Original architect Huang Rixin (retired) has now returned with Capsule Apartment 3.0 (bottom), which meets the new code and costs only 200 Yuan a month, easily within reach of people with monthly incomes of only 1,500 – 2,000 Yuan. The new apartments cost only 3,000 Yuan to build, with costs dropping substantially when mass produced. Mr. Huang has repeatedly stated he has no commercial interest in the capsule apartments, and only wants to provide affordable housing for the next generation.

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The recognized smallest apartment in the Western world is a former porter’s closet in the heart of Rome, offering a mere 55 sq. ft of living space. The flat consists of a ground floor bathroom, shower and sink. A ladder grants access to a sleeping platform just large enough for a single twin-size bed. The tenant must climb over the bed to see out a small window.

The apartment is generously described as a “compact bedsit”, and the leasing agent claims several serious inquiries. The appeal is location: the flat is very near the Piazza di Sant’ Ignazio, a gorgeous city square overlooked by a Renaissance cathedral. Just a block away is the Palazzo Grazioli, the current mansion/private residence of Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister.

And it can all be yours for 50,000 Euros. It helps if you don’t think of how many capsule apartments that could buy.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2011/04/09/10-cases-of-incredibly-small-spaces/

Top 20 Fruits You Probably Don’t Know

I was playing a game the other day, in which you have to come up with fruit that starts with every letter of the alphabet. Apple, banana, cherry…. and that is about where I hit a blank. My epic failure at this game made me do some research and what I discovered was a whole world of delicious looking fruit that I had never even known about! I was completely shocked to find that there are actually hundreds of different types of fruit (no need to include them all as omissions in the comments), most of which I had never even heard of. This list is not to rank the fruit, but rather just to inform you about them. The only fruit on this list I consider ranked is No: 1, as it deserves the spot, in clearly being the coolest fruit on the planet. How many of these exotically delicious fruit have you tried?

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Sugar Apples or Sweetsop, is native to the tropical Americas, but is also widely grown in Pakistan, India and the Philippines. The fruit looks a bit like a pine cone, and are about 10 cm in diameter. Under the hard, lumpy skin is the fragrant, whitish flesh of the fruit, which covers several seeds inside, and has a slight taste of custard.

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Mammee Apple, Mamey Apple or Santo Domingo Apricot is an evergreen tree, native to South America, which was introduced to various other regions of the world including West Africa and South East Asia. They can also be found in Florida and Hawaii. The Mammee apple is actually a berry and gets up to 20 cm in diameter. It has a thick outer rind, with soft orange to yellow pulp on the inside. It usually had one seed in the centre, but larger fruit have been known to carry up to 4. The pulp is sweet and fragrant.

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Cherymoya, or custard apple, is a deciduous plant found in the high lying mountainous areas of South America. The fruit is vaguely round and is found with 3 types of skin – Impressa (indented), Tuberculate (covered in nodules) or intermediate (a combination of the first two). The flesh inside the skin is very fragrant, white, juicy and has a custard like consistency. It is said that the fruit tastes like a combination of banana, passion fruit, papaya and pineapple. Mark Twain said in 1866 “ the most delicious fruit known to men, cherimoya”

Bacuri, ''Platonia Insignis''

Platonia or Bacuri is a large tree (reaching 40m) found in the rain forests of Brazil and Paraguay. The fruit become the size of a orange, and have a thick yellow peel which oozes a yellow latex when pressed. Inside there is a sticky white pulp, wrapped around several black seeds, which tastes pleasant and has a sweet and sour flavor.

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Cocona fruit is another tropical fruit found in the mountainous regions of South America. It grows on a small shrub, and can miraculously grow from seed to fruit in less than 9 months, after which the fruit will take another 2 months to ripen. The fruit is a berry and comes in red, orange or yellow. It has a similar appearance to tomatoes, and is said to taste like a mixture between tomatoes and lemons.

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Breadfruit is a large tree, in the mulberry family, found native to the Philippines and all the islands in Southeast Asia. The fruit is similar to bananas, as they can be eaten raw when ripe, and cooked when unripe. The ripe fruit is soft and sweet, while the unripe fruit is harder and starchy, which is where it got the name breadfruit from, as it tastes similar to freshly baked bread when cooked.

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Duku or lungsat are two very similar fruits found throughout Asia. They come from the same family, look and taste identical, with one difference. The skin of the lungsat contains a latex substance, which is not poisonous, but causes the skin to stick slightly to the fruit, whereas the duku has no latex and the peel is removed with more ease. Inside, the fruit has 5 segments, some of which has bitter seeds inside. It is a very sweet fruit and can be prepared in a number of different ways, including being canned in syrup or being dried like raisins.

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Safou is an evergreen tree found in the humid tropical forests of Africa, as far south as Angola, and as far north as Nigeria. The fruits are also known as African pears and are oblong dark blue to violet fruits up to 14cm in length, with pale green flesh inside. These fatty fruits have been said to have the ability to put an end to starvation in Africa, as 48% of the fruit is made up of essential fatty acids, amino acids, Vitamins and triglycerides. The have estimated that a one hectare plantation would be able to produce 7-8 tons of oil, and all parts of the plant can be used.

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Jabuticaba, or the Brazilian grape tree, is a very strange plant native to the South Eastern parts of Brazil. What makes this plant so strange is that it fruits from its trunk. No, I did not make that up, and no the picture has not been photo shopped. Initially, yellowish white flowers will appear all over the trunk and main branches, these flowers will then turn into fruit, about 3 – 4cm in diameter. Inside the thick purple skin is the soft gelatinous flesh of the fruit, along with 1 – 4 black seeds. The fruit is sweet and can be eaten as is or made into a wine or liqueur. Unfortunately, the fruit does not keep long when off the tree and will start to ferment after about 3 or 4 days.

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Rambutan is an odd fruit that looks like a furry strawberry from the outside, and much like a lychee on the inside. It is native to South East Asia, but has been spread and a smaller “wild” version can be found in Costa Rica, where it is called a Chinese sucker. The fruit is an oval shape and about 3-6 cm in diameter. Inside the slightly hard, but easily peal able skin, you can find a soft fruit that tastes slightly sweet, with a possible sour tinge.

File:Noni Fruit (Morinda Citrifolia)

Noni, otherwise known by many different names around the world, including the great moringa, Indian mulberry, dog dumpling and pace, is related to the coffee bean plant and is native throughout South East Asia and Australasia, but is cultivated throughout the tropics. The tree carries fruit throughout the year and the fruit tend to have a very pungent odour when ripening (also known as the cheese fruit or vomit fruit). Despite the smell, the fruit is high in fibre, vitamin A, protein, Iron and calcium, and is the staple diet on many Pacific Islands. The fruit can either be cooked into a stew or eaten raw with salt.

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The Marula is a deciduous tree native to Southern and Eastern Africa. The distribution of the tree throughout Africa, follow the migratory patterns of the Bantu people, as it was an important source of food, and they planted more trees along their way. The green fruit ripens and turns yellow, the white flesh inside is succulent and has a very distinct flavor. After falling off the tree, the fruit will start to ferment and these draw in animals, like elephants and baboons, for a slightly alcoholic treat. The fruit is also used to make a popular liqueur called Amarula, which can be found at any duty-free liquor store at airports.

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Salmonberrys are native to the west coast of North America, stretching from midway through Alaska, all the way down to California. They are found in moist forests and create dense thickets. The fruit looks similar to raspberries, but are more orange in color. They are sweet when eaten raw, but are often processed into juice, wine, candies and jams.

Salak

Salak fruit, also known as the snake fruit, comes from a species of palm native to Indonesia. These fruit grow at the base of the palm, and gained the name snake fruit from their red brown, scaly skin. The skin is easily removed, and inside are 3 white, sweet segments that each contain a large black inedible seed. When eaten, the fruit have a slightly acidic but sweet flavor, and the consistency of apples.

Aegle Marmelos

Bael, wood apple or stone apple is a species native to India, but found throughout Southeast Asia. Bael is a smooth fruit with a woody peel that is colored yellow, green or grey. The hard, woody, outer peel is so hard that it has to be cracked with a hammer. Inside is an aromatic yellow pulp with several hairy seeds. The flesh can be eaten either dried or fresh. From the fresh fruit, a juice called sharbat can be made, adding water, sugar and lime juice to the pulp. It takes just one large fruit to make 6 liters of sharbat.

Caimito

The Star apple is a fruit native to the low-lying areas of Central America and the West Indies. The underside of the evergreen leaves shine with a golden color from a distance, and the tree carries small white to purple flowers with a sweet fragrance. The fruit is round, purple and has a thick, latex filled skin. If the fruit is cut horizontally, a clear star pattern can be seen in the white purple pulp. The fruit is delicious fresh, with a intense sweet taste.

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Star fruit or carambola is a fruit tree native to the Philippines, but can be found throughout Southeast Asia, East Asia, South America, Florida and Hawaii. This fruit has five ridges running down its length, which when cut sideways, makes the star pattern after which it is named. The fruit is rich in Vitamin C, and Antioxidants. The fruit turns a bright yellow when ripe, has a waxy skin and the entire fruit is edible, juicy and crunchy.

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The horned melon, also known as African cucumber or jelly melon, is an annual vine native to Africa, but can now be found grown in California, Australia, New Zealand and Chile as well. When ripe, the melon has a thick spiky yellow outer skin, with bright green, jelly like flesh. The flesh is often compared to the taste of a banana, with the texture of the seedy part of a cucumber or tomato. The thick skin can be eaten and is a good source of vitamin C and fibre.

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Pitaya, or dragon fruit, is a cactus fruit that can be found throughout Asia, Australasia, North America and South America, even though they are believed to be native to Mexico originally. There are two main types of pitaya, the sour types, typically eaten in the Americas, and sweet types found across Asia. The fruit comes in 3 different color varieties, Labelled as red, yellow and Costa Rican pitayas. The “red” fruits are generally a bright magenta color on the outside, with yellow flesh. The Yellow Pitaya is yellow inside and out, and the Costa Rican pitayas are magenta on the outside and the inside. They smell deliciously fragrant and most have a sweet flavor similar to a kiwi fruit.

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The miracle fruit, or sweet berries, is a very strange berry native to West Africa. What makes the fruit strange and miraculous, is miraculin (a sugar substitute), which is found in large quantities in the fruit, combined with a glycoprotein. The fruit itself does not contain a lot of sugar, and tastes only mildly sweet but when eaten, the glycoprotein binds to the tongues taste buds, which, for about an hour after eating the fruit, distorts any other taste into sweetness. With that effect you could technically eat a lemon, and it would taste like a ball of syrup. Although the definite reason for this occurrence is not fully understood, it would seem as if the miraculin distorts the shape of the sweetness receptors in the tongue so that they pick up on acid instead of sweetness. The sweetness receptors on your tongue then transmit to the brain to taste sweetness when they come in contact with any acidity. In the 70s attempts were made to commercialize and sell the fruit as a diet aid, as it has the potential to turn any meal sweet, without affecting your calorie intake. These attempts were shattered when the FDA declared it a food additive, due to pressure from sugar companies who could foresee big losses in profits. In the last two years the berries have been making a comeback, by being the guest star of many tasting parties in the states. The berries are dried and exported, and the party guests each have one and then taste all kinds of common foods to experience a new taste sensation with every bite.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2011/07/08/top-20-fruits-you-probably-dont-know/

Top 10 Rainforest Aphrodisiacs

For many decades environmentalists have been up in arms about the deforestation measures occurring in the rainforests of the world, particularly the Amazon rainforest. According to biological researchers, the loss of rainforest flora is especially lamentable, since only one percent of rainforest plants have been scientifically studied for their medicinal properties. The following botanical examples, however, are known and used for their libido-enhancing properties. Many are available and regarded as safe, but research and proper healthcare guidance is always recommended before ingesting. The following Amazonian plants have been prescribed by native shaman and folk healers of South America, and may truly contain properties that enhance love.

Yohimbe

Yohimbine is an alkaloid with stimulant and aphrodisiac effects, found naturally in Pausinystalia yohimbe. It is also found naturally in Rauwolfia serpentina (Indian Snakeroot), along with several other active alkaloids. Yohimbine has been used as both an over-the-counter dietary supplement in herbal extract form, and prescription medicine in pure form for the treatment of sexual dysfunction, making it a significant enhancer to millions of love lives around the world! And humans aren’t the only animals to benefit from this wonder-drug. Yohimbine has been shown to be effective in the reversal of sexual satiety and exhaustion in male rats. It has also been shown to increase the volume of ejaculated semen in dogs, with the effect lasting at least five hours after administration, and has been shown to be effective in the treatment of orgasmic dysfunction in men.

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Damiana is a relatively small shrub that produces small, aromatic flowers. It blossoms in early to late summer and is followed by fruits that taste similar to figs. The shrub is said to have a strong spice-like odor somewhat like chamomile, due to an oil present in the plant. The leaves have traditionally been made into a tea, and an incense which was used by native people of Central and South America for its relaxing effects. Spanish missionaries first recorded that the Mexican Indians drank Damiana tea mixed with sugar for use as an aphrodisiac. Damiana has long been claimed to have a stimulating effect on libido, and its use as an aphrodisiac has continued into modern times. More recently, some corroborating scientific evidence in support of its long history of use has also emerged. Several studies utilizing animal testing have shown evidence of increased sexual activity in sexually exhausted or impotent male rats when exposed to damiana, as well as generally increased sexual activity in rats of both sexes.

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Studded with reddish-orange blossoms, huanarpo macho, known scientifically as Jatropha macrantha or Jatropha aphrodisiaca, is a medium-sized shrub-like tree that grows profusely in the Amazonian Maranon River Valley. Associated with the male libido, huanarpo macho is believed to have the power to stimulate sexual function. Popular in Brazil, the plant is also known in Peru as Peruvian Viagra, and it is typically prescribed by folk medicine practitioners for erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. The plant’s medicinal properties appear to lie in the young branch stems. Other medicinal properties contained by huanarpo macho include increased energy, support of renal function and the ability to calm nerves.

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The sex-enhancing powers of passionflower, known scientifically as Passiflora incarnata, lie in its vine, leaves and stem—not just in its name! Passionflower seems to have many healthful benefits; it is known to relieve depression, decrease pain and even kill germs. This woody vine is thought to enhance the libido, even while producing a calming effect. Amazonians refer to the plant as maracuja, but it is also indigenous to many South American regions outside of the Amazon. Moreover, a 2003 study of the plant appears to confirm its sexual enhancement properties—at least in mice; these lucky rodents enjoyed increased sperm counts and improved sexual function after ingesting leaf extract from passionflower. The flowers themselves have traditionally been regarded as seductive, and are noted for their exotic beauty.

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Cashews are a favorite nut around the world, though, botanically speaking, they are actually the fruit of the cajeiro, or cashew tree. Scientifically called Anacardium occidentale, the tree is medicinally useful through its leaves, bark and fruit or nut. The nut grows at the end of a sweet and pulpy peduncle. Cashews need to be boiled or roasted in order to remove the toxic residue. The cashew fruit is a popular Brazilian aphrodisiac that is said to stimulate the libido. While the nut of the fruit is popular in North America, the pulpy substance, which is renowned in South America, is not imported fresh as it is extremely perishable. Frozen cashew fruit concentrate is a happy alternative. The useful parts of the cashew tree have also been used to dry secretions, reduce fever and lower blood pressure.

Guarana

Indigenous to the Amazon rainforest, guarana is scientifically known as Paullinia cupana. This creeping shrub produces red clusters of fruit. The fruit has long been important to Indian folklore because of the appearance of black “eyes” that emerge when the fruit ripens. This effect is actually produced when the ripened fruit splits and the black seeds become visible. Both the seeds and the fruit are used medicinally in native folk medicine. Aside from its ability to stimulate the libido, guarana is said to calm nerves, stimulate energy, reduce pain and even reduce weight. Many Brazilians add guarana to their health tonics to slow aging, cure headaches and reduce fatigue. The cultivation of guarana is, today, benefiting many indigenous Amazonian tribes.

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Growing as tall as twenty-five meters into the Amazonian canopy, the tamamuri tree is scientifically called Brosimum acutifolium. Its healing properties appear to be contained in the bark. A member of the mulberry family, the tamamuri tree is well-known in the Peruvian Amazon; Indian tribes there believe that ingesting the white latex that emerges from the punctured bark of the trunk will enable a man to father a male child. While this has not been confirmed by modern medicine, the bark is widely used by rainforest peoples to relieve pain; kill bacteria, fungi and yeast; sooth arthritis, and possibly even kill cancer cells. And, although the bark has been associated with witchcraft, it is widely used by native practitioners to treat syphilis. As an aphrodisiac, the bark is taken in tonic form to stimulate sexual function.

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The root and bark of Erythroxylum catuaba, usually referred to as catuaba, has been an important aphrodisiac for Brazil’s Tupi Indians for centuries. Regarded as the most popular aphrodisiac of contemporary Brazil, this small tree, with its orange and yellow blossoms, is native to the Amazon as well as other areas of northern Brazil. A decoction made from the tree’s bark is said to be an aphrodisiacal wonder when it comes to treating impotency. It is also said to increase sexual stamina. Throughout the country, catuaba is said to induce reliable results with no ill effects. It is also prescribed by folk practitioners to treat insomnia, memory loss and anxiety.

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Rosewood oil from the rosewood tree, known scientifically as Aniba canelilla, is highly regarded in northern South American countries as an aphrodisiac for women. Native to the Amazon, the rosewood’s oil is believed to reduce ‘frigidity’ in women. The spiced floral scent of the oil is prized, although felling rosewood trees is a particularly controversial act for its damage to the rainforest environment. Rosewood oil is also believed to diminish acne, reduce fevers and cure headaches. The tree’s bark and fruit are also used for other folk remedies.

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Siparuna guianensis, more commonly known as picho huayo, is a common tree of the Amazon rainforest that is also known to grow in the Andes’s cloud forests. The leaves and fruit are the medicinally viable parts of the tree. The evocative lemony fragrance of the leaves and fruit are immensely popular when crushed into love potions. Men use the potion as an all-over body rub, which is believed to make them sexually irresistible. In some parts of the rainforest, the leaves are used in teas and ingested to treat high blood pressure and ease cold symptoms. The rainforest’s Kubeo Indians use the leaves to treat snakebites. The leaves of picho huayo also contain fever-reducing properties. However, it’s the tree’s intoxicating scent that makes it a wildly popular aphrodisiac.

Many of these plants have been understood by native tribes for centuries. Their love-enhancing properties are not contested by the people who have benefited from their properties for years. The rainforest has many gifts to offer the world, but these plants are quite literally gifts of love.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2011/06/06/top-10-rainforest-aphrodisiacs/

10 Amazing Ancient Discoveries Preserved In Amber

Amber is a remarkable substance—the fossilized remains of plant-produced resin, ranging from yellow to brown in color and yielding a beautiful translucent or transparent glowing gold when polished. Because of this, many ancient cultures associated it with the Sun or believed it had supernatural attributes. Nowadays, amber is especially valuable to scientists, because anything caught in it before it dries is often preserved in microscopic detail. Even soft tissue can be preserved, helping us reconstruct life from millions of years ago. Over 1,000 extinct insect species alone have been cataloged thanks to the substance.

10An Ant With A Parasite Still Stuck To Its Head

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Somewhere in what is now the Baltic region, around 44–49 million years ago, an ant was parasitized by a species of mite and then wandered into a pool of resin, preserving both forever. They ended up in the hands of a German amateur amber collector named Jorg Wunderlich, who passed the chunk of amber on to Jason Dunlop, an arachnologist at the Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science in Berlin. Amazingly, the find is one of two known examples of fossilized mites preserved while actually attached to their host.

The mite, identified by Dunlop as belonging to the genus Myrmozercon, sits atop the ant’s head, where it would have been able to feed as needed. The mite probably also laid its eggs on the ant’s head, providing its young with transport to new hosts as the hapless ant moved through the colony. This behavior is similar to some mite species today, including those of the genus Varroa, a prime suspect in honeybee “colony collapse disorder.” While both creatures are remarkably well-preserved, an air bubble trapped between the two makes it hard to see some anatomical details, making it difficult to narrow down an exact species.

9A Spider Caught In the Act Of Attacking A Wasp

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Over 100 million years ago, during the early Cretaceous period, a type of orb-weaver spider prepared to pounce on a male wasp that had become stuck in its web. Suddenly, a drop of resin fell from above, hitting the web just as the spider began its strike. The resin preserved the scene perfectly, leaving it frozen in time until 2012, when it was discovered by scientists in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar. It is the only known case of a spider being preserved in the act of predation. George Poinar Jr., the zoologist who publicized the findings, remarked: “This was the wasp’s worst nightmare, and it never ended.”

The spider has been identified as a female social orb-weaver spider of the extinct genera, Geratonephila burmanica. An adult male spider of the same species was preserved sharing the same web, providing early evidence of spider social behavior. Around 15 unbroken strands of spiderweb were also preserved—an extremely rare event.

8The Earliest Spiderweb

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In fact, only a handful of dinosaur-era spiderwebs have ever been found. In addition to the previous entry, a 110-million-year-old web was discovered in Spain in 2006 and a 2003 find in Lebanon could be as old as 132 million years. But the world’s oldest known spiderweb was spun by an ancient ancestor of today’s orb-weaver spiders and preserved in amber roughly 140 million years ago.

The amber web was rediscovered on a beach in Sussex, England in 2009. Scientists were able to examine the web itself by slicing the amber into thin sections, which could be examined under high-powered microscopes. The results showed that ancient webs had many of the same characteristics as modern ones, including droplets of glue to hold the structure together and ensnare prey.

According to Oxford paleobiologist Martin Brasier, the early Cretaceous period saw a huge growth in the number of flying insects. In response, ancient spiders likely adapted earlier web structures to capture airborne food. Most experts agree that the earliest webs were probably used to line burrows, picking up vibrations from potential prey nearby.

7A Prehistoric Spider’s Blood

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So an ancient spider preserved in amber is rare, but not exactly unique—but when that spider is found suspended along with droplets of its own blood, it’s enough to cause a scientific celebration.

Discovered in the Dominican Republic, the 20-million-year-old spider was accompanied by the first ancient blood drops (technically known as haemolymph) ever found. Naturally, comparisons were immediately made with Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, where dinosaurs were cloned from blood found within amber-preserved mosquitoes.

But while paleontologist David Penney conceded that it might be possible to extract DNA from the specimen, he said the find’s true value came from helping scientists piece together the origins of life in the Caribbean. Because the spider’s closest living relatives exist only in Brazil and Argentina, the discovery provides an important clue as to how the islands formed and were colonized by animal life.

Otherwise, the specimen is a perfect example of just how much scientists can learn from amber. According to Penney: “By analyzing the position of the spider’s body in relation to the droplets of blood in the amber we were able to determine how it died, which direction it was traveling, and even how fast it was moving.” We now know that the spider was climbing a tree when it was struck head-on by resin (rather than wandering into the resin and becoming stuck). The shape and position of the blood even revealed which of the spider’s legs broke first.

6The Oldest Arthropods Known To Science

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In 2012, scientists announced the discovery of a fly and two species of mite preserved in millimeter-sized droplets of amber from northeastern Italy. The specimens are around 230 million years old—100 million years older than any previously recorded.

The mites have been identified as two previously unknown species, Triasacarus fedelei and Ampezzoa triassica, and are distantly related to modern gall mites. David Grimaldi, a curator in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, revealed he was surprised by how much his discovery resembled modern mites: “You would think that by going back to the Triassic you’d find a transitional form of gall mite, but no, even 230 million years ago, all of the distinguishing features of this family were there—a long, segmented body; only two pairs of legs instead of the usual four found in mites; unique feather claws; and mouthparts.”

The fly, unfortunately, couldn’t be identified, since only its antennae were well-preserved. Still, its presence alone has led scientists to hope for further such discoveries down the road.

5A Tick Carrying An Early Version Of Lyme Disease

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Lyme disease is making a comeback in the US, with reports that ticks carrying Lyme disease bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) are increasing their range westward. On the upside, we recently gained a new and unexpected source of information about the bacteria—and it was found preserved in amber.

Because amber preserves soft-body tissue, scientists can collect evidence of microscopic agents, including bacteria found preserved within the bodies of larger organisms. In 2014, Oregon State University researchers working on amber samples from the Dominican Republic discovered ancient ticks infected with bacteria remarkably similar to modern Borrelia.

The ticks were found in amber dating back 15–20 million years and indicate that even our early ancestors probably had to deal with conditions similar to Lyme disease. In a separate report examining bacteria found in amber, researchers concluded that the dinosaurs likely suffered from many of the same tick-borne illnesses as people. Not surprising, considering these bacteria have successfully infected mammals, birds, reptiles, and other animal species for millions of years.

4The Intermediate Pygmy Locust

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One of the most important discoveries to come from the Dominican amber specimens was a new species of pygmy locust, dubbed Electrotettix attenboroughi after Sir David Attenborough, the famed British naturalist and filmmaker.

The pygmy locust is about the size of a rose thorn and lived between 18–20 million years ago, in the Miocene era. Grasshoppers and locusts are rarely found in amber, but the discovery is remarkable because it demonstrates a clear intermediate form in the evolution of its subfamily. The most ancient pygmy locusts had wings, while modern examples do not. Electrotettix attenboroughi has what appear to be vestigial hind wings—remnant structures like the human tailbone or the leg and foot bones found in the ancestors of modern whales. The fossil represents a remarkable witness to the loss of a major appendage in a whole subfamily of organisms.

The discovery was made by University of Illinois paleontologist Sam Heads, lab technician Jared Thomas, and study co-author Yinan Wang.

3Early Insect Camouflage

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In 2012, researchers from the University of Barcelona reported the discovery of a 110-million-year-old fossilized insect encased in Spanish amber. The find is the earliest evidence for insect camouflage ever recorded.

The insect is the larval form of a new genus and species, dubbed Hallucinochrysa diogenesi, and is a very distant relative of modern green lacewings. Like modern lacewing larva, the fossilized insect appears to have surrounded itself with plant filaments attached to protrusions on its body; hiding its presence from would-be predators—a process known as trash collecting (or carrying) in modern insects. Because the larva would have needed to pick and choose the material to be used as camouflage, this provides evidence for complex intelligent behavior in early insects.

Previously, the oldest known evidence for this kind of behavior came from Dominican amber dating back around 49 million years. The new discovery reveals camouflage as a defensive behavior existed during the Cretaceous Period—and since the lacewing lineage goes back as far as the Jurassic Period, possibly much earlier.

2Ancient Feathers

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In 2011, Ryan McKellar, a paleontologist at the University of Alberta in Canada, published the results of an extensive search through over 4,000 pieces of amber collected from Canadian museums. McKellar and his colleagues found 11 pieces of amber containing feathers, as well as a type of feather-like structure dubbed “dino-fuzz.” For example, one sample contained regularly spaced, hollow filaments about 16 micrometers across. McKeller believes these structures could be preserved protofeathers, because they resemble similar structures found in rock fossils. However, he cautioned that without any supporting evidence, it was entirely possible that the “fuzz” didn’t even come from a bird or dinosaur at all.

The oldest known bird is Archaeopteryx, which lived around 150 million years ago, while the oldest known feathered dinosaur is Anchiornis huxleyi, which likely flourished between 151–161 million years ago. Protofeathers, characterized by flexible, unbranched filaments, among other traits, are believed to represent an earlier state in the evolution of feathers. Interestingly, they have been found in creatures living after Archaeopteryx and Anchiornis huxleyi, but not before. Most of the amber McKeller studied came from late Cretaceous coal deposits laid down around 78–79 million years ago.

1100-Million-Year-Old Plant Sex

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In 2014, researchers in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar were studying a sprig containing 18 small, rose-like flowers encased in amber, when they realized one of the flowers had been preserved in the very act of reproduction.

The sprig was so perfectly preserved that photographs taken through a microscope actually revealed the pollen tubes of two pollen grains penetrating into a flower’s stigma (the receptive organ of the reproductive system), making it the oldest evidence of sexual reproduction in plants ever discovered. Additionally, the pollen itself appeared to be sticky, suggesting pollen had evolved to be carried by pollinating insects as far back as the Cretaceous.

The plant itself is an extinct species called Micropetasos burmensis, without any known modern relatives. It is made up of bunches of tiny flowers in various stages of growth, each one about a single millimeter wide. According to zoologist George Poinar, the find was significant since it showed that even when flowering plants were just beginning to appear, reproduction was already similar to modern-day plants.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/10/15/10-amazing-discoveries-preserved-in-amber/

10 Places That Look Nothing Like You Think

Mount Everest isn’t the beautiful, pristine mountain you might think it is. Everest is littered with hordes of hikers, mountains of garbage, and the occasional dead body. That, and its ice is melting.

Iconic places are associated with a shared mental image, but you might be surprised how often such places look nothing like you think. Sometimes, our imagination fails to encompass all a place has to offer; other times, we just get the whole thing wrong.

10Texas Is More Than A Desert

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From Western movies, you might get the impression that Texas is a godforsaken desert wasteland. The imagery of cowboys galloping through the unforgiving, barren heat of a Martian-looking landscape is a staple of the genre. But any proper Texan will also let you know that Texas is massive, and there’s much more in the state than just desert. In fact, Texas can be broken down into four major climactic regions, excluding transitional zones. East Texas is largely forested, like Texas’s eastern neighbors. Central Texas is home to the state’s prairies and grasslands. West Texas is home to desert biomes, which are not as barren as you might imagine. Finally, South Texas borders the Gulf of Mexico and consequently features large swathes of wetlands (in addition to beaches).

The deserts of Texas are not the flat sand dunes you would expect to find in the Sahara. In fact, Texas’s deserts feature some impressive mountains, such as the Guadalupe Mountain range, some of whose peaks reach thousands of feet in the air. The Guadalupe Mountains are surrounded by the Chihuahuan Desert, a part of which is designated as the Big Bend National Park, which is a mixture of desert, mountain, canyon, and river scenery.

9The Galapagos Islands Are Heavily Inhabited

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The Galapagos Islands, located 965 kilometers (600 mi) west of mainland South America, are known for inspiring Charles Darwin in his work on the theory of evolution. For decades, they’ve been the poster child for wildlife and nature—iconic species like giant tortoises and marine iguanas are full of wonder and charisma. You might be surprised to know that the Galapagos can hardly be considered a beautiful tropical paradise; the islands are rugged volcanic formations—huge chunks of black volcanic rock. Some areas of the Galapagos are even desert, with cacti species growing as tall as trees.

The Galapagos Islands are also owned by Ecuador. Ecuadorians decided to colonize the islands after they annexed them from Spain. Yes, “Darwin’s Paradise” is inhabited by a growing number of Ecuadorians. In an attempt to grow the tourism industry, the Ecuadorian government guaranteed that wages for Galapaguenos would be higher than for Ecuadorians working on the mainland. Currently, the human population between the islands stands at around 30,000, the result of a flood of immigration. Puerto Ayora, located on the island of Santa Cruz, is the largest town in the Galapagos. The population growth has not been good for the environment of the Galapagos. Several species have been overfished, and the people themselves lack access to health care, clean water, and education.

8Kansas Isn’t So Flat

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If there’s one state with a reputation for being flat, it’s Kansas. In 2003, three geographers even jokingly measured the flatness of Kansas against the flatness of a pancake—Kansas, it turns out, was flatter. Sure, there are parts of Kansas that are flat. Like, really flat. There’s no getting around it. But the entire state isn’t like that. From its Missouri to Colorado borders, the state slopes from 1,200 meters (4,000 ft) in elevation to 200 meters (700 ft). In addition, the state features massive rock formations like the Monument Rocks and the Chalk Badlands. The Flint Hills are a major region in the state, formed from eroded flint rock.

Kansas isn’t actually even considered one of the top five flattest states by the American Geographical Society. In an article published in the Geographical Review in 2014, Florida took the title of the flattest state. Kansas was in seventh place, behind Florida, Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Delaware. Why might people associate Kansas with flatness so much more than other states? Possibly because highways tend to favor flat areas over hilly areas—anyone simply passing through Kansas wouldn’t ordinarily encounter all the hilly and rocky areas Kansas has to offer.

7British Columbia Is Borderline Tropical

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Canada is America’s friendly but freezing neighbor to the north. However, not all of Canada is covered in a sheet of snow. For a while now, the Canadian province of British Columbia (and especially its Vancouver Island) has been cultivating a tropical image. British Columbia has some of the mildest winters in all of Canada, and its proximity to the ocean makes it ideal for summer activities like sailing.

What plant is associated with the tropics more than any other? Palm trees, which British Columbia has plenty of. Cities like Oak Bay even make a special event of selling palm trees. Now, to be sure, these aren’t palm trees that have been supplanted directly from the Caribbean. They’re a bit hardier, having originated from the rain forests around the Himalayas, as well as Chile and Argentina. The palms have adapted to southern British Columbia with little problem and are spreading north as they grow even hardier. Fossil evidence suggests that these hardy palm trees were once common throughout North America.

All this is not to say that British Columbia is Canada’s California: If you go further inland, there’s plenty of snow to ski on.

6Hawaii Has A Desert

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The Hawaiian Islands are among the world’s premier tropical destinations. So engrained is our idea of Hawaii as a tropical getaway, Hawaii’s number one industry is tourism, and a huge amount of government effort goes into maintaining it. Palm trees, beaches, sun, and powerful volcanoes were responsible for the formation of the islands. Yes, like many volcanic islands (such as the aforementioned Galapagos), Hawaii has a more diverse collection of climactic zones than one might expect.

The Hawaiian Islands are on top of a volcanic hot spot: Numerous eruptions from the Earth created a buildup of lava until islands were formed. Each of the major islands has at least one volcano. Lava rock is not the most hospitable habitat for plants and animals, and on the Big Island (Hawaii), one clump of lava surrounding the volcano Kilauea has come to be known as the Ka’u Desert.

Ka’u Desert is barren and black—a twisted mass of dried lava, where hardly any plants are able to grow. Ka’u is called a desert because it receives relatively little rainfall due to being in the shadow of Kilauea, from which it also receives a high amount of sulfur dioxide gas. This gas causes acid rain, which contributes to the lack of vegetation. The lava rock is also too permeable for many plants to grow in. Despite receiving relatively little rainfall, Ka’u Desert receives too much to actually qualify as a true desert.

5New South Wales Has Ski Resorts

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Australia, as you’d imagine, is pretty hot. In fact, there are vast parts of the continent that are completely inhospitable to human habitation. While snow is not common, there are a handful of places that get cold enough for skiing, an activity that stretches back to 1861 in Australian history, thanks to some Norwegian immigrants. In the winter, snow falls regularly in elevated terrain in New South Wales and Victoria, as well as in Tasmania. Only on very, very rare occasions will snow fall in the other states. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Australia was –23 degrees Celsius (–9 °F) in the Snowy Mountains, which are located in New South Wales.

During the winter, the creatively named Snowy Mountains can receive enough snowfall to support a skiing and snowboarding industry. (It’s worth mentioning that the Snowy Mountains ironically aren’t even covered in snow year-round.) There’s even a set of live cameras pointed at the Snowy Mountains to let people know how much snow is available for skiing and snowboarding. As Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, its seasons are flipped—peak skiing usually begins in June.

4Sochi, Russia Is A Beach Resort

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Sochi was quite possibly the least appropriate place in Russia to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. Sochi is quite close to a contested territory on the border between Russia and Georgia. During the games, Russia expanded its control over a border zone 11 kilometers (7 mi) inside Georgia. Depending on whom you ask, however, this border zone was not extended inside Georgia but Abkhazia, a region in Georgia that Russia has recognized as an independent state. Sochi is also near the Caucasus Mountains, home to Russia’s deadliest terrorists. Additionally, it was clear from the controversy at the start of the Games that the city’s infrastructure was not prepared to handle the demands placed on the city by the arrival of the Olympics.

All that being said, Sochi was actually the worst place to host the Winter Olympics because the city itself is actually . . . a beach resort. Yup. Sochi and the surrounding areas are the warmest region in the entire country. The climate is even classified as subtropical. A month before the games, the Caucasus Mountains were completely free of snow. Years before the games even began, Russia began stockpiling snow from each year’s winter and supplemented this snow with artificial snow that a Finnish expert helped them manufacture.

3The Great Wall Of China Is Mostly In Ruin

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The Great Wall of China is one of the most iconic architectural feats in human history. Built to protect the Chinese Empire from nomadic enemies, the wall stretches for thousands upon thousands of miles through 11 Chinese provinces and into North Korea and Mongolia. In total, the wall and all its branches are estimated to be 21,196 kilometers (13,170 mi) long. When the wall is photographed or seen in movies, the shots are almost exclusively directed at the part of the wall that has been restored near Beijing. These sections attract millions of tourists each year and likely fool people into thinking that the wall is as powerful and sturdy as it ever was.

In reality, the wall is mostly falling apart. Away from Beijing, the wall’s stones crumble under the weight of time. Some sections are covered with vegetation. Parts of the structure are in such disrepair that they’re barely recognizable as belonging to the Great Wall; many of these sections are closed to the public. The Great Wall is also no more recognizable from space than are highways and airports—in low orbit, it’s sort of discernible, but it isn’t at all from the Moon.

2Madagascar Isn’t Largely Rain Forest

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Madagascar equals lemurs and tropical rain forest. Well, sort of. Just like the other islands featured on this list, Madagascar actually has a varied range of ecosystems. Most of the rain forests on Madagascar are found on the east coast of the island. These rain forests are home to numerous endemic species, including lemurs, which are found exclusively on Madagascar. However, the most iconic lemur species, the ring-tailed lemur, is actually found in the dry forests of the southwest, far from the rain forests of the east.

One unique type of dry forest found on Madagascar is appropriately called “spiny forest” (or “spiny desert”). The spiny forest consists of small, cactus-like plants with small leaves that grow thorns and spines for protection. Though similar in appearance, these plants, which belong to the Didiereaceae family, are not related to cacti. Besides the eastern rain forests and southern and western dry forests, Madagascar also features grassland and desert ecosystems that were formed largely as a result of human habitation. Areas that were once heavily forested are now covered in grasses and introduced cacti. These lands were cleared for farming or cattle grazing.

1The Sistine Chapel Is Actually Pretty Small

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The Sistine Chapel houses the most enduring art of the Renaissance. Pope Julius II commissioned the decoration of the Sistine Chapel to Michelangelo, whose legacy lies in the religious paintings found therein, despite having been primarily a sculptor. Before Michelangelo, the inside of the Sistine Chapel was painted in a simple starry nighttime pattern.

Because the Sistine Chapel’s art is so memorialized and grandiose in its significance to Western culture, you’d be forgiven for imagining the Chapel as some vast, colossal monument. But it’s not a monastery, cathedral, or church—it’s a chapel, and so it’s relatively small: around 40 x 13 x 21 meters (132 x 44 x 68 ft). These dimensions were inspired by the purported size of Solomon’s Temple, which was said to have been destroyed in A.D. 70. The Vatican teamed up with Villanova University (located in Pennsylvania) to produce a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel—it’s small enough that you can see the entire interior without moving about. The outside of the chapel is much less remarkable than its interior. It’s an unassuming but well-constructed brown building attached to the Apostolic Palace (which is where the Cardinals gather to select a new Pope).

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/12/03/10-places-that-look-nothing-like-you-think/

Top 10 Amazing Earth Facts

As well known and well traveled as our planet is, there are still new things being discovered every day. In fact, most of our oceans haven’t even been explored yet which is why when new depths are located; they often come with hundreds of new species. Rain forests offer up new animals and plants as often as we can explore them. The Earth is constantly changing, shifting, and exposing new secrets for humans to marvel at. It took many years and many great minds to solve the problem of getting through Earth’s atmosphere into the wide expanse of space beyond. Here are ten amazing facts about our home that you may not be aware of.

10. The Atmosphere

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Many layers of atmosphere coat our planet including the mesosphere, ionosphere, exosphere, and the thermosphere, but it’s the troposphere, closest to the planet itself, that supports our lives and is, in fact, the thinnest at only about 10 miles high.

9. Deserts

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Believe it or not, most of the Earth’s deserts are not composed entirely of sand. Much, about 85% of them, are rocks and gravel. The largest, the Sahara, fills about 1/3 of Africa (and it is growing constantly) which would nearly fill the continental United States.

8. The Big Blue Marble

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The Earth is, in fact, not really round. It is called an oblate spheroid meaning it’s slightly flattened on the top and bottom poles.

7. Salty Oceans

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If you could evaporate all the water out of all the oceans and spread the resulting salt over all the land on Earth, you would have a five hundred-foot layer coating everything.

6. Lakes and Seas

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The largest inland sea (or, sometimes called a lake) is the Caspian Sea which is on the border of Iran and Russia.

5. Mountains

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The Andes Mountain range in South America is 4,525 miles long and ranks, as the world’s longest. Second Longest: The Rockies; Third: Himalayas; Fourth: The Great Dividing Range in Australia; Fifth: Trans-Antarctic Mountains. For every 980 feet you climb up a mountain, the temperature drops 3-1/2 degrees.

4. Deep Water

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The deepest lake in the world is in the former USSR and it is Lake Baikal. It has a length of 400 miles, a width of roughly 30, but its depth is just over a mile: 5,371 feet down. It is deep enough, so is speculated, that all five of the next largest lakes: The Great Lakes could be emptied into it.

3. Shaky Ground

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Earthquakes can be catastrophically destructive and many a year are deadly. However, the Earth releases about 1 million a year, almost all are never even registered.

2. Hot, Hot, Hot

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Most people believe that Death Valley, California, U.S.A. is the hottest place on Earth. Well, occasionally it is, but the hottest recorded temperature was from Azizia in Libya recording a temperature of 136 degrees Fahrenheit (57.8 Celsius) on Sept. 13, 1922. In Death Valley, it got up to 134 Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913.

1. Dust in the Wind

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Experts from the USGS claim that roughly 1,000 tons of space debris rains down on Earth every year.

Source: Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader

Read more: http://listverse.com/2007/11/20/top-10-amazing-earth-facts/

10 More Controversies Of The Future

We’ve talked before about how our human penchant for argument is probably gonna screw up the future as much as it has the present. But the full extent of the screaming debates we’re likely to have in the next 50 years is so unimaginably ginormous it deserves another look. Think gun control or gay marriage are controversial topics? Buddy, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

10The Death Of Privacy

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You’ve heard of Google Glass. It’s a wearable computer that looks (surprise!) an awful lot like a pair of glasses. With the wink of an eye it’s capable of taking pictures or video or doing a trillion other absurdly clever things. And it could be about to make society a whole lot nastier.

The problem comes from facial recognition technology. Studies have shown that this tech can already pick people out from a crowd and pull up almost anything on them—from Facebook pictures to social security numbers to Linkedin profiles and more. It has huge potential for abuse, but more than that, it could conceivably mean the death of privacy.

Imagine a world where everyone who passed you in the street instantly knew everything about you, from the deeply personal to the painfully embarrassing to your address and phone number. Members of the public, work colleagues, potential dates, police officers—all would be privy to stuff you probably wouldn’t want strangers to know. Sound like a nightmare? Well, the moment someone combines facial recognition software with something like Google Glass, it will probably become reality. Google themselves are currently against the idea, but the potential is there and one day . . . who knows? And when that happens, you can prepare yourself for the mother of all ethical debates.

9The Fate Of Climate Refugees

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Even if you think manmade climate change is a load of liberal nonsense, it’s impossible to deny that the planet is getting warmer. Right now, we’re on course for a catastrophic temperature rise which will almost certainly flood entire countries and displace millions of people. So the question is: Where are all these people going to go?

This isn’t just an academic issue. Somewhere like Bangladesh faces the very real possibility of largely vanishing in the next 50 years, displacing somewhere around 30 million people. That’s the population of Texas and Oregon combined, suddenly cast adrift with no home to return to. It’s unlikely the beleaguered Bangladeshi government would be able to support them, so where would they go? India? Nice thought, but India is already building a razor-wire fence specifically to keep displaced Bangladeshis out. China? Get real. So where?

The answer is: We don’t know. And that’s just in one corner of Asia. Research suggests anywhere from 150 million to one billion could become climate refugees globally. With such a stupendous number of people suddenly made homeless, things could start to get very ugly indeed.

8Who Owns Outer Space?

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It seems like a dumb question, the sort of thing a first grader might ask: “Who owns space?” But this apparent slice of idiocy is actually more subtle than you think. And it may just be about to become a major source of heated debate.

Planetary Resources is a company owned by (among others) James Cameron and Larry Page. It was founded for the sole purpose of mining asteroids for precious minerals. Once the technology is perfected, it’s a plan that could net them billions. But no-one knows if it’s legal. Already, a titanic battle is brewing to determine whether Cameron and co might be breaking international law by laying claim to an asteroid.

See, in 1967, most nations signed the Outer Space Treaty, which states that no nation can lay claim to any “celestial bodies.” Sounds like an open and shut case, until you remember that Planetary Resources ain’t a nation but a company. Their lawyers argue that precedent already exists for the sale of moon rocks, so asteroids must be fair game, a claim the law has yet to buy. If Cameron’s legal team wins, the future of space exploration may well be companies blasting out to the edges of the solar system with the sole intention of grabbing as much wealth as possible. If they lose, the whole of space will remain like Antarctica—a scientific zone free from the profit motive. With Planetary Resources looking to start mining by the 2030s, it’s a choice we’re gonna have to make soon.

7Old vs. Young

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Thanks to decades of advanced medical care and modern sanitation, most of us rich Western types are living longer. Much longer. In fact, the Baby Boomer generation can currently expect to sail right past retirement age and into a long, empty future of pottering around Florida golf courses. In Japan there are already nearly three pensioners for every child under 15, with four in 10 Japanese expected to be over 65 by 2050. And the cost of keeping this expanding bubble of pensioners alive is going to be enormous.

In Britain, it’s estimated that spending on the elderly will account for up to one-fifth of GDP by 2060—a number that’s basically unsustainable. Economists in Europe are currently predicting a century of sluggish growth thanks to this demographic shift. Meanwhile in America, the government is faced with the choice of spending now, or losing more when Baby Boomers start succumbing to chronic diseases. It’s a problem with the potential to cause huge social unrest, as politicians start cutting back on public services for the young or inviting in large numbers of immigrants to pay for this swarm of economically inactive retirees. Is our future one of a competition between young and old? Only time will tell.

6Virtual Abuse

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If you fancy a disturbing ethical dilemma, they don’t come much more unsettling than this. Late last year, two Dutch researchers floated a controversial idea of how we might deal with pedophilia in the near future. Given that potential abusers are going to seek out videos of children being exploited anyway, they reasoned it was better to legalize an artificial alternative than let the market for real child abuse grow. To this end they suggested that governments could start making and discreetly marketing virtual child pornography.

If you’re an average person, your instinctual reaction to reading that was probably something akin to disgust. But think about it, if it was proven that a certain type of pedophile was less likely to abuse someone with such an outlet, wouldn’t it make sense to give it to them? Even though it might go against every gut instinct we have, shouldn’t we at least try? Or would the simple creation of these images be an ethical stretch too far? As CGI becomes increasingly lifelike and our scientific understanding of human sexuality grows, the chance that this issue will resurface becomes only greater. It could be that our treatment of stuff like abuse in the future comes down to choosing a lesser of two evils.

5A Deadly Journey

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If you’re above a certain age, you might remember when science fiction was full of glorious promises that we’d have colonies on Mars by now. Disappointing as it is, there’s a very good reason why we don’t—a trip to Mars with current technology has an absurdly high chance of killing you. Scientists estimate that there’s a 10 percent chance of a massive burst of solar radiation wiping out a Mars explorer crew, with the odds rising to 30 percent that a less-deadly blast will just kill some of them. Unsurprisingly, NASA isn’t too hot on odds like that and refuses to expose its astronauts to such risk. But here’s the thing: private companies have no such qualms. And that’s the problem—can we really send people out to near-certain death, even if they want to go?

Now, the obvious answer is “yes.” Exploration has long been characterized by foolhardy daredevils risking life and limb to bring back some nugget of knowledge. But then you realize that a giant screw-up could set space exploration back decades. Remember the Hindenburg disaster? That single image of a zeppelin bursting into flames killed off a form of air travel that was observably safer and more comfortable than any other. The Challenger Shuttle disaster of 1986 set NASA back years. What would the image of a small crew being lost in the interstellar void, many million miles from home do for space exploration? Well guess what? In 2018, we may find out.

4The Global Resources Battle

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It almost doesn’t bear thinking about: a world in which water, food, and energy are in short supply and governments have to play dirty to keep their populations sated. I say “almost” because soon we won’t have a choice. According to experts, this nightmare scenario is only a few short years away.

Now this is gonna be big—really big. The UK’s former chief scientific adviser recently noted that governments are already participating in land grabs to secure mining rights, a taster of what’s to come. When the battle to secure water and food supplies really kicks off, we’ll have one heck of an ethical dilemma. On the one hand, it might be impossible to remain a major global player without becoming increasingly heartless. Ideas like caring for our poor, upholding democracy, and respecting sovereign nations may have to go out the window if we want to stay at the top of the economic game—a process politicians euphemistically call “being more like China.” On the other, if we decide to retain our compassion, we may very well be regulated to backroom status; the doddering former superpower that can’t accept it now has no place on the world’s stage. If you thought the economic crisis polarized public opinion, wait till this hits. It’ll be a battle for the future and the souls of our respective nations—with the livelihoods of all our countrymen at stake.

3The Future Of Sex

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Ever since the first caveman used his first tools to carve something obscenely pornographic, it’s been obvious that human history consists largely of exploiting new technologies for sexual gratification. Photography, cinematography, the internet, vulcanized rubber, and the printing press were all used to in some way facilitate self-abuse moments after being invented, and the future probably won’t be any different. But it may be a heck of a lot more visible.

To put it bluntly: I’m talking about robot hookers, a concept so ludicrous I can’t believe I just typed those words. But make no mistake, there’s a very real chance that 2050 could be a world where prostitution involves manipulating advances in AI and robotics for our, uh, pleasure. We’re close to making computers that can outperform the human brain, and AI will probably be with us by 2030-ish. Throw in some major advances in robotics and it’s easy to imagine some sleazy businessman of the future setting up the first automated brothel. At that point, there’s gonna be a culture clash. When machines can play out our every fantasy will we welcome the development? Or is there going to be a huge puritanical backlash against something so creepy? Our entire understanding of human sexuality may well be turned on its head within our short lifetimes, and the fallout from such a shift will undoubtedly be immense.

2The Future Of Food

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The Meat Crisis refers to the way our global love of a good, juicy steak may yet doom the entire planet. From advanced Western nations to their developing counterparts, meat consumption is on the rise; from an average 20kg per person in 1990, to a predicted 50kg by 2030. Since roughly a third of the usable land on our planet is already put aside for raising livestock, that’s a heck of a lot of meat. Unless we want to exacerbate our entire resources battle, we’re gonna have to start looking for alternatives—and that’s where the controversy comes in.

A lot of us live in cultures which really, really don’t like the state tampering with our food choices. When NYC attempted to restrict the sale of large sodas last year, the backlash threatened to engulf the entire visible universe. The idea of GM foods and fluoride in water still sends people into a lather of anger. So what do you think will happen when governments start pushing artificial meat on us? Prediction: People will respond in the exact same way they do whenever anyone tries to push anything on them—with plenty of outrage.

1Mass Poverty

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Living in rich nations with burgeoning middle classes, most of us reading this have gotten used to a certain level of comfort. But, in Europe and America, all of that stability is finally starting to fade.

In a recent study, the International Red Cross declared that “whilst other continents successfully reduce poverty, Europe adds to it,” before noting that the future for the EU was likely one of mass-exodus and grinding poverty. Across the pond, around half of all Americans now live in or within a couple of paychecks of poverty, and this downward trend shows no sign of reversing. As life slowly gets better for people in the developing world, it’s getting slowly worse for us in the (formerly) rich West—and it seems that’s something we’re gonna have to get used to. It’s now inarguable that most of today’s middle-class children will be worse off than their parents, while those at the bottom will have it worse than ever.

In a few short decades all those dreams of prosperity and social climbing will be exactly that: dreams. And that’s going to create a bleak future for a lot of people. Will we see a mass exodus of the young and talented, like Portugal? Or will there be just be anger, wide and diffuse, at the perceived unfairness of life? Right now we don’t know. But the scaling down of expectations and life chances for our middle class is probably going to go down as one of the bleakest and most controversial periods in Western history.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/11/14/10-more-controversies-of-the-future/

10 Reasons Why Our Universe Is A Virtual Reality

Physical realism is the view that the physical world we see is real and exists by itself, alone. Most people think this is self-evident, but physical realism has been struggling with the facts of physics for some time now. The paradoxes that baffled physics last century still baffle it today, and its great hopes of string theory and supersymmetry aren’t leading anywhere.

In contrast, quantum theory works, but quantum waves that entangle, superpose, then collapse to a point are physically impossible—they must be “imaginary.” So for the first time in history, a theory of what doesn’t exist is successfully predicting what does—but how can the unreal predict the real?

Quantum realism is the opposite view—that the quantum world is real and is creating the physical world as a virtual reality. Quantum mechanics thus predicts physical mechanics because it causes them. Physics saying that quantum states don’t exist is like the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Quantum realism isn’t The Matrix, where the other world making ours was also physical. Nor is it a brain-in-a-vat idea, as this virtuality was in play long before humans came along. Nor is it that a phantom other world modifies ours—our physical world is the phantom. In physical realism, the quantum world is impossible, but in quantum realism the physical world is impossible—unless it is a virtual reality—as these examples demonstrate.

10Our Universe Began

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Physical Realism: Everyone has heard of the Big Bang, but if the physical universe is all there is, how did it begin? A complete universe shouldn’t change overall, as there is nowhere else for it to go to or come from, and nothing else that can alter it. Yet in 1929, the astronomer Edwin Hubble found that all the galaxies were expanding away from us, implying a Big Bang that happened at a point in space-time over 14 billion years ago. The discovery of cosmic background radiation all around us (seen as static on our TV screens) confirmed that not only did our entire universe begin at that point, but its space and time began then as well.

Now, a universe that began either existed before its creation to make itself, which is impossible, or it was made by something else. It is impossible that a complete universe began by itself, from nothing. Yet oddly enough, this is what most physicists today believe. They suggest the first event was a quantum fluctuation of the vacuum (in quantum mechanics, pairs of particles and antiparticles are known to hop in and out of existence). But if matter just popped out of space, what did space pop out of? How can a quantum fluctuation in space create space? How can time itself begin?

Quantum Realism: Every virtual reality boots up with a first event that also begins its space and time. In this view, the Big Bang was when our physical universe booted up, including its space-time operating system. Quantum realism suggests that the big bang was really the big rip.

9Our Universe Has A Maximum Speed

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Physical Realism: Einstein deduced that nothing goes faster than light in a vacuum from how our world behaves, and this has subsequently been considered a universal constant, but it isn’t clear why this is the case. Currently: “the speed of light is a constant because it just is, and because light is not made of anything simpler.”

To answer “Why can’t things go faster and faster?” with “Because they can’t” is hardly satisfactory. Light slows down in water or glass, and when it moves in water we say the medium is water, and when it moves in glass we say the medium is glass, but when it moves in empty space we fall silent. How can a wave vibrate nothing? There is no physical basis for light to move in empty space at all, let alone define the fastest speed possible.

Quantum Realism: If the physical world is a virtual reality, it is the product of information processing. Information is defined as a choice from a finite set, so the processing changing it must also be finite, and indeed our world does refresh at a finite rate. A supercomputer processor refreshes 10 quadrillion times a second, and our universe refreshes a trillion, trillion times faster than that, but the principle is the same. As a screen image has pixels and a refresh rate, so our world has Planck Length and Planck Time.

In this scenario, the speed of light is the fastest speed because the network can’t transmit anything faster than one pixel per cycle—i.e., Planck Length divided by Planck Time, or about 300,000 kilometers per second. The speed of light should really have been called the speed of space.

8Our Time Is Malleable

Physical Realism: In Einstein’s twin paradox, one twin traveling in a rocket at nearly the speed of light returns a year later to find his twin brother an old man of 80. Neither twin knew their time ran differently and neither lost a heartbeat, but one’s life is nearly over and the other’s is just starting. This seems impossible in an objective reality, but time really does slow down for particles in accelerators. In the 1970s, scientists flew atomic clocks on aircraft around the world to prove they ticked slower than synchronized ones on the ground. But how can time, the arbiter of all change, itself be subject to change?

Quantum Realism: A virtual reality would be subject to virtual time, where each processing cycle is one “tick.” Every gamer knows that when the computer is busy the screen lags—game time slows down under load. Likewise, time in our world slows down with speed or near massive bodies, suggesting that it is virtual. So the rocket twin only aged a year because that was all the processing cycles the system busy moving him could spare. What changed was his virtual time.

7Our Space Curves

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Physical Realism: According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, the Sun keeps the Earth in orbit by curving space around it, but how can space itself curve? Space by definition is that in which movement occurs, so for space to curve it has to exist in another space, which is an infinite regression. If matter exists in a space of nothing, for that nothing to move (or curve) is impossible.

Quantum Realism: An “idle” computer isn’t really idle but busy running a null program, and our space could be the same. In the Casimir effect, the vacuum of space exerts a pressure on two flat plates close together. Current physics says that virtual particles pop out of nowhere to cause this, but in quantum realism empty space is full of processing that would have the same effect. And space as a processing network can present a three-dimensional surface capable of curving.

6Randomness Happens

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Physical Realism: In quantum theory, quantum collapse is random, so a radioactive atom can emit a photon whenever it wants to. A random event is one that no prior physical story explains. Quantum theory also holds that a physical event requires a random “collapse of the wave function,” so every physical event has a random element!

To meet this threat to the primacy of physical causation, in 1957 Hugh Everett proposed the many-worlds theory, the untestable idea that every quantum choice spawns a new universe, so every option actually occurs somewhere in a new “multiverse.” For example, if you chose toast for breakfast, nature makes another universe where you had peaches and cream. It was initially seen as ridiculous, which it is, but physicists today prefer this physics fairytale over other options because it dispels the nightmare of randomness.

Yet if quantum choices create new universes, it isn’t hard to see that “universes would be piling up at rates that transcend all concepts of infinitude.” The many-worlds fantasy doesn’t just offend Occam’s razor, it outrages it. Actually, the multiverse is just a reincarnation of the old perfectly predictable clockwork universe, which quantum theory disposed of last century. False theories don’t die, they just become zombie theories.

Quantum Realism: The processor in an online game can generate a value random to it, and our world could be the same. So quantum events are random to us because they involve client-server acts we have no access to. Quantum randomness seems pointless, but it plays the same role in the evolution of matter as genetic randomness does in biological evolution.

5Antimatter Occurs

Physical Realism: Antimatter refers to subatomic particles corresponding to the electrons, protons, and neutrons of regular matter, but with the opposite electric charge and other properties. In our universe, negative electrons orbit positive atomic nuclei. In an anti-matter universe, positive electrons would orbit negative nuclei, but it would look the same to its inhabitants as the laws of physics would be the same. Matter and antimatter annihilate each other on contact.

Paul Dirac’s equations predicted antimatter before it was found, but it was never clear why something that annihilates matter is even possible. The Feynman diagram of an electron meeting an anti-electron shows the latter entering the collision going back in time! As so often in physics today, the equation works but its implications make no sense. Matter doesn’t need an inverse, and time reversal undermines the causal foundations of physics. Antimatter is one of the most baffling findings of modern physics.

Quantum Realism: If matter is the result of processing and processing sets a sequence of values, it follows that those values can be set in reverse—processing implies anti-processing. In this light, antimatter is the inevitable by-product of matter created by processing. If time is the completion of forward processing cycles for matter, for antimatter it is the completion of backward cycles, so it logically runs our time in reverse. Matter has an inverse because the processing that creates it is reversible, and anti-time occurs for the same reason. Only a virtual time can have an inverse.

4The Two Slit Experiment

Physical Realism: Over 200 years ago, Thomas Young did an experiment that still baffles physicists today—he shone light through two parallel slits to get an interference pattern on a screen. Only waves do this, so a light particle (photon) must be actually be a wave. But the light also hits the screen at a point, which would only happen if a photon is a particle.

To find out more, physicists sent one photon at a time through Young’s slits. One photon gave the expected particle dot, but soon the dots built up into an interference pattern whose most likely impact point was behind the slit barrier! The effect is independent of time—so one photon going through the slits each year gives the same pattern. Each photon can’t know where the last one hit, so how does the pattern emerge? Detectors placed in either or both slits, to see where the photon goes, just fire half the time—a photon always goes by one slit or the other, never through both. In nature’s conspiracy of silence, a physical photon is a particle when we look but a wave when we don’t.

Current physics calls this the mystery of wave-particle duality, a “deeply weird” fact explainable only by esoteric equations of non-existent waves. Yet we all know that point particles can’t spread like waves and spreading waves can’t be point particles.

Quantum Realism: Quantum theory explains Young’s experiment with fictional waves that go through both slits, interfere, then collapse to a point at the screen. It works, but waves that don’t exist can’t explain what does. In quantum realism, a photon program can spread instances on the network like a wave, then restart at a point when a node overloads and reboots, like a particle. That what we call physical reality is that set of reboots explains both quantum waves and quantum collapse.

3Dark Energy And Dark Matter

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Physical Realism: Current physics describes the matter we see, but the universe also has five times as much of something called dark matter. It can be detected as a halo around the black hole at the center of our galaxy that binds its stars together more tightly than their gravity allows. It isn’t the matter we see as no light can detect it, it isn’t anti-matter as it has no gamma ray signature, and it isn’t a black hole as there is no gravitational lensing—but without it, the stars of our galaxy would fly apart in chaos.

No known particles explain dark matter—hypothetical particles known as Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) have been proposed, but none have been found, despite talk of super-WIMPs. In addition, 70 percent of the universe is dark energy, and physics can’t explain that either. Dark energy is a sort of negative gravity, a weak effect spread through space that pushes things apart, thereby increasing the universe’s expansion. It hasn’t changed much over time, but something floating in an expanding space should gradually weaken. If it were a property of space then it should increase as space expands. Currently, no one has any idea what it is.

Quantum Realism: If empty space is null processing then it is not nothing, and if it is expanding then new space is being added all the time. New processing points, by definition, receive input but output nothing in their first cycle. So they absorb but don’t emit, exactly like the negative effect we call dark energy. If new space adds at a steady rate, the effect won’t change much over time, so dark energy is caused by the ongoing creation of space. The model also attributes dark matter to light in orbit around a black hole. It is a halo because light too close to the black hole is pulled into it and light too far away from it can escape the orbit. Quantum realism expects that no particles will ever be found to explain dark energy and dark matter.

2Electrons Tunnel

Physical Realism: In our world, an electron can suddenly pop up outside a Gaussian field it can’t penetrate, which is like a coin in a perfectly sealed glass bottle suddenly appearing outside it. In a purely physical world this isn’t possible, but in our world it is.

Quantum Realism: Quantum theory requires an electron to occasionally do the above because a quantum wave can spread regardless of physical barriers, and an electron can randomly collapse to any point in it. Each collapse is an image frame in the movie we call physical reality, except that the next frame isn’t fixed, but randomly based on probabilities. So an electron “tunneling” through an impenetrable field is like a movie that “cuts” from a view of an actor inside a house to outside.

That might sound odd, but teleporting from one state to another is how all quantum matter moves. We see a physical world that exists independent of our observation, but quantum theory’s observer effect implies it almost works like a game view, where if you look left a left view is created and if you look right a right view is shown. In Bohm’s Theory, a ghostly quantum wave guides the electron, but in this theory the electron is that ghostly wave. Quantum realism solves the quantum paradox by making the quantum world real and the physical world its product.

1Quantum Entanglement

Physical Realism: If a cesium atom releases two photons in opposite directions, quantum theory “entangles” them, so that if one is spinning upward, the other will spin downward. But if one is randomly spinning up, how does the other instantly know to spin down, at any distance? To Einstein, the discovery that measuring one photon’s spin instantly defines the spin of another anywhere in the universe was “spooky action at a distance.” The test of this was one of the most careful experiments ever done, as befits the ultimate test of our reality, and quantum theory was right yet again. Observing one entangled photon caused the other to have the opposite spin—even when it was too far away for a signal traveling at the speed of light to connect them. Nature could conserve spin by making one photon up and the other down from at the start, but that is apparently too much trouble. So it lets either spin either way, randomly, then when we measure one to be one way, it instantly makes the other the opposite, even though that is physically impossible.

Quantum Realism: In this view, two photons entangle when their programs merge to jointly run two points. If one program is spin-up and the other spin-down, their merger runs both pixels wherever they are. A physical event at either pixel restarts either program randomly, leaving the remaining opposite spin code to run the other pixel. This code re-allocation ignores distance, as a processor doesn’t have to “go to” a pixel to change it, even for a screen as big as our universe.

The standard model of physics involves 61 fundamental particles with data-fitted mass and charge parameters. If it were a machine, one would have to hand-set two dozen knobs just right for it to light up. It also needs five invisible fields to spawn 14 virtual particles with 16 different “charges” to work. You might expect completeness from all this, but the standard model can’t explain gravity, proton stability, anti-matter, quark charges, neutrino mass or spin, inflation, family generations, or quantum randomness—all critical issues. No particles account for the dark energy and dark matter that comprises most of the universe—and no particles ever will.

Quantum realism reinterprets the equations of quantum theory in terms of one network and one program. Its premise, that the physical world is a processing output, doesn’t make it a fake, as there is still a real world out there—it just isn’t the one we see. Reverse engineering the physical world suggests that matter evolved from light, as a standing quantum wave, so quantum realism predicts that light alone in a vacuum can collide to create matter. In contrast, the standard model says that photons can’t collide, so a definitive test of the virtual reality conjecture is possible. When light alone collides in a vacuum to create matter, the particle model will be replaced by one based on information processing. See this FAQ for common questions, go here for more details, or listen to this Chronicle of Higher Education podcast: Imagining Our World As A Virtual Reality.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/11/26/10-reasons-why-our-universe-is-a-virtual-reality/