Monday, September 1, 2014


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10 Vacation Destinations for Adventurous Tourists
By Ashley Dufault,
Toptenz, 1 September 2014.

Everyone seeks adventure from time to time. Don’t just book another trip to the Caribbean for your next vacation - take  a unique journey to one of these unforgettable destinations.

10. Blood Falls

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While Antarctica may not be on the top of your vacation bucket list, you might avoid this particular location for more reasons than just the cold. In Victoria Land lies Blood Falls, where a violent shade of what appears to be blood stains the 35-mile long Taylor Glacier. A waterfall gushes out the “blood,” adding to the murderous scene.

Of course, the macabre red shade isn’t really blood. The crimson hue originates from sulphur-devouring bacteria that thrive underneath the glacier’s underground lakes. Iron-oxide excretions from the bacteria dye the ice. Although the eerie colour of the Taylor Glacier presents no danger, Blood Falls is deadly for another reason - the McMurdo Dry Valleys are so relentlessly dry that when lost animals wander into the area and perish, their bodies never decompose. Their mummified corpses litter the land, completing the chilling vision.

9. Door to Hell

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People who tell others to “go to Hell” are usually woefully unclear about how to arrive there. However, Soviet geologists in the Karakum Desert got a big surprise in 1971 when their rig fell through the ground and plunged into a 230-foot wide cavern brimming with natural gas. Deciding the vapour was less toxic for the nearby villagers of Deweze if they burnt the methane off, geologists lit the cavern, expecting the fire to blaze for only a few weeks. Forty years later, the fire is still burning despite the 2010 orders from Turkmenistan’s president to fill the pit. Turkmenistan’s natural gas reserves rank fifth in the world, but poor development of international gas pipes has impeded efforts to make better financial use of the resource. The name “Door to Hell” emerged from locals who say that at night the location is reminiscent of the fires of the Bible.

8. Roswell

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Even if you don’t believe in aliens, it’s still worth visiting the extraterrestrial capital of the world. Home to Area 51, Roswell includes the Robert H. Goddard Planetarium, UFO tours, and the Roswell UFO Museum and Research Centre. Many of Roswell’s gift shops, such as Alien Zone, Gifts From the Angels, and Roswell Landing are dedicated to celebrating the out-of-this-world culture in the area.

Additionally, Roswell hosts the annual month-long Roswell Cosmic Con and Sci-Fi Film Festival in June. Participants can register for the Roswell Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film Camp, a month-long boot camp designed to instruct students on the different elements of short films. In July, the city also features the Roswell UFO Festival, where visitors can spend four days among believers and sceptics alike celebrating the city’s controversial history. There’s always something quirky to do in Roswell, and even the non-believers can have a good time as they tour New Mexico’s beautiful landscape.

7. Hobbiton

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Any real Lord of the Rings fan knows that the hobbit-holes Peter Jackson filmed were built in New Zealand. However, many fans don’t know that they can experience the hobbits’ hospitality and zest for celebration by visiting the old shooting location in Matamata, where Hobbiton has been redesigned with tourists in mind.

Guests can see Bag End, where Bilbo began his journey, and conquer their thirst at the Green Dragon Inn. Even the sheep in the fields lend themselves to the realism of Hobbiton. Visitors can expect to spend up to two hundred dollars for a guided tour of filming locations and an overnight stay. As the weather is mild all year with few extreme temperature changes, visitors can plan on touring Hobbiton at any time.

6. North Island

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Underneath the hills of North Island, New Zealand rest caves full of bright glowworms that have been attracting curious tourists since 1889. Looking up, the Waitomo caves remind visitors of peering up at a starry sky. The species of worm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is exclusive to New Zealand and creates a blue-green light that reflects off the water in the caverns. Despite being officially called the “Waitomo Glowworm Caves,” the “worms” are really fly larvae. The excretory organs of the larvae cause the luminescence, and the hungrier they are the more they glow. They also cast silk-like thread in order to catch bugs and other prey, adding to the mysterious beauty of the caverns. The cave system was first discovered by English surveyor Fred Mace and Maori Chief Tane Tinorau. Many of the cave guides who lead tourists today are descendants of Tinorau.

5. Island of the Dolls

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Located near Mexico City is an island that has become home to one of Mexico’s strangest tourist attractions. Isla de las Munecas (Island of the Dolls) wasn’t designed to attract crowds, but to honour a little girl who drowned. Legend has it that the man who found her body, Don Julian Santana, felt so haunted by her death and the doll floating near her corpse that he hung the doll on a tree to honour her spirit. Wanting to protect the island from more tragedies, Santana continued hanging dolls up all over the island - even tattered and broken ones. In total, Santana collected 1,500 dolls. Some people say that the dolls come alive at night and whisper in the trees, but this doesn’t keep tourists away. Visitors flock to the island in gondolas, where they can observe the island’s creepiness at a distance while eating, drinking, and listening to mariachi music. Santana’s family leads the island’s tourism attraction.

4. Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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Rather than hanging out on sandy Pacific shorelines, some travellers are opting to spend their vacations traversing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a Texas-sized region of garbage and plastic floating off the Western coast of the United States. Much of the trash in this area consists of small plastic slivers not immediately visible to the human eye. In 2011, the Algalita Marine Research Foundation partnered with Pangaea Explorations to offer a 21-day trip to research the effects of the ocean debris. Participants paid US$10,000 each for the opportunity and the foundation continues to offer the adventure. This year, travellers will head out to the North Pacific Gyre in July in hopes of determining how the swirling vortex of trash affects marine life. Despite the area being a conglomeration for garbage, travellers typically have no problem navigating through the waters since everything is spread out across the ocean.

3. Alnwick Poison Garden

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The Alnwick Castle may look familiar to Harry Potter fans, as it appeared in the first two instalments of the series as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Because of this, the Alnwick Poison Garden gets a lot of attention from tourists. Adjacent to the Castle, the Alnwick Poison Garden is a complex of gardens in Northumberland, England. Rather than focusing on the healing powers of nature, this attraction focuses on the deadly abilities of certain plants. Foxglove, nightshade, poppies, belladonna, and laburnam are among the more than 100 poisonous plants that grow here. Even hemlock, which killed Socrates, flourishes freely in this public garden. Guides warn guests, especially curious children, not to touch the plants or even smell them due to their fatal potential. Even the gate reads “these plants can kill” in order to remind visitors and employees alike not to get too comfortable.

2. Paris Sewer Museum

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Surely the wonder and romance of Paris must extend below the surface of the city. But in the sewers? The Paris Sewer Museum provides tourists with the chance to learn more about the importance and history of the city’s sewer system. The city’s first sewer system was built in the 1200s and consisted of troughs that ran down roads. The first underground sewer - far more hygienic - was created in 1370. However, it drained into a tributary of the Seine River. Engineers continued to think of ways to overcome issues of hygiene. Over the next four centuries the sewer system advanced, but was never enough to cover the entire city. In 1850, Baron Haussmann engineered separate channels for drinking water and sewage, making the entire system more sanitary. Tours of Paris’ sewers have been popular since the mid-1800s and visitors can expect to learn all of this and more on their own trips. The Paris Sewer Museum has a gift shop and, unsurprisingly, fully functional restrooms. As a show of enthusiasm, tour guides educate visitors for free.

1. Lake Hillier

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Ever swim in a lake that looks like Pepto Bismol? In the down under you can - if you take a helicopter. Australia’s Middle Island contains the bubble-gum pink Lake Hillier. Adventurer Matthew Flinders first recorded the mysterious body of water in 1802 after climbing Middle Island’s highest peak. Because Lake Hillier is only visible by air, it hasn’t been extensively studied. As a result, scientists aren’t sure what causes the lake to have its pink tinge.

Another body of water in Western Australia, Pink Lake, shares Lake Hillier’s colour. In the right weather conditions, Pink Lake turns a lighter shade due to the high concentration of algae in the water. Australia isn’t the only country in the world with salmon coloured lakes, either. Lake Retba in Senegal features a similar lake whose pink tone comes from the Dunaliella salina bacteria that feed off of the lake’s high salt content. Few creatures can survive life in the salty lake, so the area serves mainly as a tourist attraction and source for salt production. People can swim in the lake since the bacteria is completely harmless to humans.

Top image: The Waitomo Glowworm Caves, via Mach Principle.

[Source: Toptenz. Edited. Top image and some links added.]


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Tasty Tech Eye Candy Of The Week (Aug 31)
By Tracy Staedter,
Discovery News, 31 August 2014.

Who wouldn't want to put a camera on a dog? Dive in a personal sub? Fly a hoverbike? This tech will make you start a new wish list.

1. Personal Submarine

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Here, underwater aviation company DeepFlight shows off its personal submarine, the DeepFlight Dragon, which will be officially unveiled at the 2014 Monaco Yacht Show next week. At US$1.2 million, this all-electric sub will be aimed at the super wealthy. Drivers will be able to explore depths of 400 ft.

2. Tidal Energy

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Because of its turbulent, ocean coastline, Scotland is ideally set up for tidal energy. Singapore-based Atlantis Resources recently announced that its tidal energy project, the MeyGen array off Scotland, will be the world’s largest. When finished, it will generate 398 MW of electricity for 175,000 homes.

3. Smart Skins for Aircraft

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Tens of thousands of micro-sensors the size of dust particles could one day give the outer layer of aircraft skin-like sensing abilities. At BAE Systems' Advanced Technology Centre, senior research scientist Lydia Hyde and her team is working on material embedded with tiny sensors that, when used in the exterior material of an aircraft, could detect wind speed, temperature, physical strain and more to ensure the vehicle's integrity.

4. Robo Brain

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Everyone is storing their information and data in the cloud and why should robots be any different? A new project called Robo Brain, which arose from a collaboration between Cornell, Brown, Stanford and the University of California, aims to create an Internet for robots. The project is similar to one in Europe called RoboEarth, but Robo Brain will go one step farther in that the robots will not only use the robo-Web to identify objects in the world around them, but to also learn and understand what those objects are used for.

5. Bio Chip Mimics Human Body

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This computer chip is a "living semiconductor" designed to mimic specific organs. The chips have miniature networks of channels and chambers that contain biological cells from different parts of the body. Scientists think that once they perfect the cellular contents they'll be able to test hundreds of drug combinations on various tissue, running a range of experiments at once and zeroing in on the right dose faster than current laboratory methods.

6. Biometric Shirt

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For the first time in tennis history, the ball chasers at the US Open in New York this past week wore high-tech, biometric shirts. The Polo Tech shirts, designed by Ralph Lauren, were woven with threadlike sensors capable of capturing the movement and direction of the wearer as well as his heartbeat and respiration. The information can be gathered and sent via a wireless connection to an app on a person's smartphone. Eventually such a shirt could be worn by tennis champs to track their performance.

7. Atlanta Falcons' New Stadium

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The Atlanta Falcons NFL team is getting a new stadium. Designed by 360 Architecture, the 1.8-million-square-feet facility will feature a "rose-petal" roof that opens and closes like a flower. The organic shape and nature-inspired designed will make conventional retractable roofs look dated.

8. Project Wing

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This week, Google unveiled its secret Project Wing delivery drone concept. The 5-foot autonomous aircraft is a blended wing "tail-sitter" able to take off vertically and then fly horizontally. When it arrives at its destination, it hovers over the site and lowers its package to the ground using a cable and winch system. Google tested the the drones in Australia, where flight restrictions are more relaxed than in the United States.

9. Hoverbike Drone

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Speaking of drones, U.K.-based Malloy Aeronautics is wrapping up a Kickstarter meant to fund a quadcopter hoverbike for humans. The crowd-funding campaign focuses on a 1/3-scale version of the Drone 3 and features a robot rider that is about the size and weight, proportionally, of a human rider. For US$1,000, you can get the whole package and control the drone via remote. Like the scaled-down version, the full-size one will have four overlapping fans, which give it better stability, manoeuvrability and payload capacity than competing two-fan designs. Malloy says human riders will be able to fly the larger version to an altitude of 9,000 feet and at 115 mph.

10. GoPro Fetch

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GoPro camera fans now have a way to get their dogs in on the action. The Fetch harness available for US$59.99 fits dogs from 15 lbs to 120 lbs and accommodates the GoPro Hero camera. Dog owners can secure the camera to the dog's back or to its chest and then let the good times roll.

[Source: Discovery News. Edited. Links added.]


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10 Seafood Facts That Will Surprise You
By Gregory Myers,
Listverse, 31 August 2014.

Whether it’s a delicious plate of pasta with shrimp, a steaming lobster, or a salmon fillet cooked to flaky perfection, seafood is incredibly popular around the world. In some countries, seafood isn’t just the main meat that most people get to eat but one of the main food staples in general. Some parts of the world aren’t great for agriculture, and thus seafood is essential to the survival of millions of people. But despite its popularity, there are still many misconceptions about seafood.

10. Lobsters And Crabs Do Feel Pain

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For a long time, pro-animal activists have decried the practice of boiling lobsters alive when cooking them. They attest that this is an inhumane practice akin to torture. Those who enjoy lobster have always explained away the practice of live boiling by claiming lobsters - and other similar crustaceans - cannot actually feel pain.

According to recent research though, it looks like the animal rights activists might have had a point after all. Crustaceans may indeed feel pain. The common belief has been that since crustaceans have nociceptors (receptors that alert you to harmful stimuli but do not cause pain), they do not actually feel anything.

Robert Elwood and a group of researchers at Queens University Belfast spent some time testing this theory out. They did so by inflicting horrible punishment like dabbing acetic acid on prawns and shocking crabs. Each time, they observed the animals paying close attention to the affected area. They even responded positively to anaesthetics. This marks a complicated pain response that might give one hesitation about dropping a living thing in boiling water ever again.

9. Parasitic Nematodes

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If you buy a nice thick fillet at the grocery store, there’s always the chance you will find a rather nasty surprise. Popular fish - like trout and salmon - are common targets for parasitic roundworms like Anisakis simplex. These cuddly little darlings curl up into a nasty little circle and nest themselves firmly in the flesh of your future meal. These parasites are common enough that many major fisheries will check carefully with lights and candles for parasites, though they still get through occasionally.

Aside from the nasty shock of biting into a worm carcass, you shouldn’t have any serious issues if your fish is properly cooked. However, if the fish is raw or undercooked, then this parasite could ruin your whole day or worse. If a live one ends up in your gullet and decides to make friends with your stomach, you could end up with anisakiasis. Symptoms of this lovely disease include vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal cramps.

8. The Great Shrimp Vein Debate

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Photo credit: Paleo-rrific

Shrimp is one of the most popular seafood dishes in the world. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of confusion about whether or not a shrimp should be deveined before cooking it. The “vein” is actually the shrimp’s intestine, so there’s a decent chance that when you caught the shrimp he still had the remains of his last meal. Shrimp are bottom feeders, and remains in the intestines are said to make the shrimp taste gritty.

However, this usually only applies to larger shrimp - with small shrimp, the vein will likely not even be noticeable. However, some people claim that there is a taste difference even with smaller shrimp. Some like it better with, some like it better without. There are also those who prefer their shrimp served alive or freshly killed. In short, you aren’t really risking your health with shrimp that hasn’t been deveined. It’s a matter of personal preference.

7. The Salmon Of Knowledge

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Irish legend tells of a salmon that possessed great wisdom and ability. The one whom the Salmon chose to eat it would receive divinatory powers. A druid named Finneigas was waiting patiently for the fish to swim by so he could catch it and eat it until he was all-powerful.

After a very long wait, he finally caught sight of the elusive salmon and snatched him out of the water. Since he wasn’t going to just eat it raw, Finneigas ordered a young lad named Demne to cook the magical fish. He then waited patiently to finally reach his ultimate triumph.

Unfortunately for poor Finneigas, Demne accidentally burned himself while touching the still-cooking fish. Without even thinking about it, the young man put his thumb in his mouth to wet and cool the sizzling digit. The next thing he knew, the powers of the salmon were his.

Finneigas was, as you might expect, greatly disappointed. There was nothing he could do though - clearly, the Salmon of Knowledge had not chosen him. Demne was henceforth known as Fionn and, blessed with the powers of the salmon, he went on to become a great Irish chieftain.

6. Shark Finning

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Photo credit: Audrey

While sharks may not be everyone’s favourite ocean creature, most people would probably still find the practice of shark finning more than a little absurd. In order to complete an expensive delicacy called shark fin soup, shark finners capture sharks, cut off their fin, and toss the shark back into the ocean to die. Like we said: absurd.

Recently, the United Arab Emirates and many other authorities have banned the practice. Their new rules state that if someone fishes a shark, they have to bring the entire body back to the port. See, apart from slow murder by painful mutilation, finning is also an incredibly wasteful practice with tons of live sharks being tossed back into the ocean as the swimming dead.

In China, shark fin soup is an expensive delicacy that can run as much as US$100 a bowl. It was once a food only royalty could obtain and was thus a mark of high status. In modern times, it has become more of a ritual to mark special occasions or business meetings. Worse yet, the main purpose of the shark fin isn’t even to add taste - it simply gives texture to the soup. That’s all we get out of a practice that kills tens of millions of sharks per year while leaving many other species critically endangered.

5. Raw Fish Is Usually Frozen

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If you’ve eaten sushi or sashimi in the United States, it was likely frozen long before it ever reached your plate, despite the whole point being to eat it raw. It turns out United States food inspection authorities are pretty concerned about people eating raw food. Any raw fish sold in the United States has to first go through a deep freeze to kill off bacteria before selling the fish to customers.

Tuna is the one exception to the freezing rule, though many of those who sell it freeze it anyway. Many United States sushi bar patrons are deeply concerned with having their fish fresh, but they also want fish that isn’t in season. This means that many sushi bar operators are often freezing tuna - sometimes for up to two years. Interestingly, some connoisseurs will admit that they themselves cannot tell the difference between frozen and fresh tuna.

Of course, you can’t always be certain the raw fish you’re eating was properly frozen, as the FDA can’t inspect every piece of sashimi. There simply aren’t enough health inspectors out there for that. Plus, due to the ambiguous wording of the regulations, freezing can be done either by the restaurant or by whoever sells the fish to them. Sometimes, one side will simply assume that the other side has already started the freezing process, when in fact nobody has and probably never will.

4. Mahi Mahi Is Not Dolphin

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Many people get very confused about mahi mahi and think that it’s somehow related to the dolphin family. This confusion is understandable - for a long time, mahi mahi was actually known as the dolphinfish.

While it might seem odd that we were calling this fish a dolphin when it looks nothing like one, it turns out there’s a totally reasonable explanation. Mahi mahi have a habit of swimming alongside boats, so people began associating them with dolphins. Unfortunately for commercial fishers, this was about the worst thing that could happen.

Most people don’t want to eat dolphins due to their cuteness, intelligence, and incredibly high levels of mercury. If people confuse some product at the store with dolphin, it’s about the worst bit of PR one can get. In order to deal with this problem, they renamed the dolphinfish to mahi mahi. “Mahi” means “strong” in Hawaiian.

3. Scandinavian Fish Spread

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Photo credit: Toyah

For those who live in the United States, peanut butter is one of the most ubiquitous food items around. However, in parts of the world like Scandinavia, peanut butter is viewed as more of a strange curiosity that those crazy Americans slather all over their food for some reason.

Scandinavians do agree that spreads are a great way to eat your favourite foods, but they prefer theirs come from fish. Apart from turning roe or herring into a delicious salty spread, fish are also sold pickled in jars there. Pickled herring is one of the more popular dishes, coming in a wide variety of flavours.

Swedish researchers have begun actively studying fish spreads for any and all health benefits, especially due to the Omega-3 fatty acids present in the fish. If you live in the United States and want to sample this Scandinavian taste sensation for yourself, you can find it at your local Ikea.

2. Eating Shellfish Only During ‘R’ Months Isn’t Necessary

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You may have heard how you’re only supposed to eat shellfish during months containing the letter “r.” The reasons given for doing so are both numerous and dubious. Some people still follow this advice today while others question whether or not there’s actually any need to do so.

The “r” rule seems to have originated with the Native Americans who passed the advice on to pilgrims and other international settlers. Back then, not eating shellfish during those months made perfect sense. All months without an “r” in their names fall around summertime, when algae can bloom and fill shellfish with nasty toxins that you certainly don’t want coursing throughout your body. Also, shellfish breed a lot during the summer, and some people believe they don’t taste nearly as good while actively fertile.

In the modern world, however, you’re unlikely to deal with any of these problems. The shellfish that you buy at the store are usually cultivated commercially as part of a very streamlined process. In addition, shellfish are usually imported from somewhere else during the hot summer months. So unless you like to hit the beach and catch your own shellfish, you don’t have much to worry about regardless of the month.

1. Eels And The Discovery Of Anaphylaxis

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As mentioned earlier, we freeze raw sushi and sashimi so they can be safely served. However, there is one tasty delight that needs to be cooked no matter what: eel.

Eating uncooked eel can do more than just ruin your day - even a small amount is likely to kill you. Eel blood is really, really poisonous. While freezing is usually fine for dealing with bacteria or rendering anisakis inert, it does nothing to remove the toxicity of eel blood. The only way to kill the toxic protein is to thoroughly cook the fish.

However, while eel poison is something you certainly don’t want to ingest, their poisonous blood has been used for some important scientific research. In the early 1900s, Dr. Charles Richet found himself intrigued by Louis Pasteur’s experiments in building up tolerance to disease through exposure to weaker versions of it. He wondered if someone could build up resistance to poison in a similar manner.

In order to test his theory, he injected small amounts of eel blood into dogs. Instead of slowly tolerating the poison more and more over time, the dogs actually developed anaphylaxis. This is a severe (and sometimes fatal) allergic reaction that usually develops after multiple exposures to an allergen. Dr. Richet’s discovery, while bad for those poor dogs, opened up new avenues of research. For his efforts, he received a Nobel Prize in Medicine.

[Source: Listverse. Edited.]

Sunday, August 31, 2014


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11 of the Oldest Snack Foods We're Still Eating
By Kate Erbland,
Mental Floss, 29 August 2014.

The shelves of your local grocery store may be crowded with new-fangled taste sensations like coffee-flavoured potato chips and candy bars stuffed with hip ingredients like bacon (always, always bacon), but plenty of snack foods we still consume in mass quantities have got some major staying power. Turns out, your great-grandparents might have chowed down on your favourite treat long before you were even born, and that very same grab-and-go snack will likely be around long after you’re gone. That’s something to chew on.

1. Pretzels

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Pretzels are widely considered to be the world’s oldest snack food (although they’ve got a little bit of a friendly competition going with another entry on this list). Pretzel historians - yes, pretzel historians - hold that the modern pretzel’s predecessor was first made in the 6th century by an Italian monk, a crafty baker who actually used it as a treat to reward his youngest church attendees. That might be why the word “pretzel” is from the Latin word “pretzola,” which loosely translates to “little reward.”

2. Popcorn

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Popcorn and pretzels may happily pair at a party, but the two crunchy snacks have long been caught in a terrible debate over which treat is actually the world’s oldest snack. History holds that Native Americans used to indulge in the snack, with archaeologists reporting finding popcorn ears that they can date all the way back to being snacked on some 5,600 years ago. Clearly, no one was using a microwave at the time, but it’s believed that Native American would throw their ears right on a fire, in order to pop out kernels in impressive fashion.

3. Triscuits

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Nabisco initially touted their Triscuit crackers as being “baked by electricity!,” a snazzy way to make a relatively timeless-tasting snack sound extremely modern. The shredded wheat cracker was first invented back in 1903 in Niagara Falls, where it really was cooked up using electricity. For its first two decades in existence, Triscuits were much bigger than their current counterparts: they were 2 ¼ inches by 4 inches. By 1924, they had been shrunk down to their familiar 2-inch by 2-inch size.

4. Oreo Cookies

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Nabisco - formerly known as the National Biscuit Company - also pioneered “milk’s favourite cookie” pretty early on. The first Oreo was made in 1912 in Nabisco’s factory located in the Chelsea section of New York City. Weirdly, the Oreo came after the Hydrox cookie, and Nabisco created it solely to compete with Sunshine’s own sandwich cookie, which was first made in 1908.

5. Cracker Jack

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Popcorn’s age may be in question, but one of its most famous related products will suffer no such indignities. The roots of Cracker Jack can be traced all the way back to 1871 Chicago, when German immigrant Frederick William Rueckheim started cooking up and selling his own popcorn. Legend holds that Rueckheim and his brother Louis introduced the sweet and crunchy treat we know as Cracker Jack to the audience at Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893, though no actual evidence has ever been produced to back that claim up. Still, by 1896, Cracker Jack was being produced for sale, eventually becoming a favourite of popcorn lovers and baseball fans everywhere.

6. Lay’s Potato Chips

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Lay’s - which has gone through a staggering number of name changes during the course of its long existence, including the incredibly clunky “Lay’s Lay Lingo Company” and “H.W. Lay Lingo & Company” - introduced their classic chip in 1932. The invention of the continuous potato processor in 1942 allowed the chips to be made in massive quantities, soon pushing the chip empire into the stratosphere.

7. Fritos

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Although Fritos haven’t yet reached their hundredth birthday, they’re still a pioneer of non-potato chip technology and innovation. Corn chip obsessive Elmer Doolin purchased the chip recipe from a fellow San Antonio, Texas resident in the early 1930s - Doolin was particularly keen to find a chip that wouldn’t go stale too quickly - and started mass producing his chips in 1932. Doolin knew his snacks: he also invented Cheetos!

8. Twinkies

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“The Golden Sponge Cake With Creamy Filling” was invented in 1932 when industrious baker James Alexander Dewar conceived of an idea to use cream-filling machines that previously only stuffed shortcakes with in-season strawberry cream to fill cakes with banana cream the rest of the year. Yes, the first Twinkie held banana cream, though banana rationing during World War II forced the switch to vanilla cream, a switch that proved popular enough to stay on as the official Twinkie flavour.

9. Jell-O

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Jell-O’s key ingredient, gelatin, has long been used to hold together desserts and other sweet treats, and “jelly moulds” were a hot dessert during the Victorian era. But because gelatin was hard to make, it didn’t catch on with a big audience until Peter Cooper patented powdered gelatin in 1845. In 1897, Pearle Bixby Wait trademarked his own powdered gelatin dessert, called Jell-O. New flavours soon followed, and the rest is (jiggly) history.

10. Marshmallows

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Marshmallows have been around since ancient Egypt, and were often used to soothe sore throats (complete with sweeteners like honey mixed in to help with the work). By the 19th century, French confectioners mixed things up by whipping the marshmallow medicine, turning it into a real treat. By 1948, the extrusion process made it possible for marshmallows to be made in an automated environment, thanks to machines that gave them the cylindrical shape they’re now most recognizable for.

11. Necco Wafers

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One of America’s very first candies, the New England Confectionary Company (“Necco” - get it?) first manufactured the wafers in 1847, envisioning the thin treats as their signature item. The slim snack owes its history to Oliver Chase, who invented a cutting machine that allowed the slices to be made so thin.

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise noted.

Top image: Selection of sweet and hearty pretzels (Germany). Credit: Sundar1/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Mental Floss. Edited. Top image added.]


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10 Misconceptions About ‘Barbarians’
By Jo Rodriguez,
Listverse, 31 August 2014.

History is written by the victors - and the victors are often large, arrogant empires not particularly inclined to look favourably on other cultures. It therefore became commonplace for entire peoples to be thought of as “barbaric.”

We’ve mentioned before how the term itself came from the ancient Greeks, who dismissed foreign languages as sounding like “bar bar bar.” A relentlessly xenophobic society, the Greeks believed that people were either Greek or barbarian. Later, the term came to designate any tribe or nation that did not conform to certain codes and customs. From Rome to China, humanity has long tried to vilify and degrade people who were in some way different.

10. The Vikings Were Cleanliness Fanatics

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For a long time, the popular view of the Vikings was as a vile, ruthless group who murdered their way across Europe, reeking of filth and cruelty.

Well, as it turns out, the “filthy” Vikings were actually more concerned about hygiene than most Europeans of their age. For one thing, they bathed regularly - a rarity at the time. They made elaborately decorated combs and other grooming items, and many Vikings bleached their hair blond to conform to certain cultural ideals of beauty. They even designated Saturday, or “Iaugardagur” as a “day for washing.”

Norse settlements in Iceland actually had a law which called for the most severe punishments for offenders who intentionally made someone dirty as a means of disgracing them.

9. Rome Actually Flourished Under The Goths

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History books tell us of “The Glory of Rome” and how it was brought to an end by either the Visigoths sacking Rome in A.D. 410, the Vandals sacking Rome in A.D. 455, or Odoacer deposing the Western Emperor in A.D. 476.

In truth, Rome pretty much survived. Roman culture, traditions, practices, laws, and even political structure (the Senate) were left at least partially intact. Under the rule of the Ostrogoths, particularly Theodoric the Great, the city flourished. The Ostrogoths were formerly pagan, but converted to Arianism (a heretical Christian sect). Still, people were actually open and tolerant of these differences and Arian Goths lived peacefully with other Christians and Jews. Roman arts and literature were fully embraced.

But nothing good lasts forever. Thanks to their pagan roots, the Ostrogoths believed that Theodoric’s dynasty, the Amals, were of a sacred bloodline descended from the gods themselves. When Theodoric’s grandson, Athalaric, died young, the Gothic Kingdom fragmented.

The Eastern Roman Empire, which espoused traditional Christian beliefs, hated the idea of the heretical Ostrogoths ruling over Rome. The Emperor Justinian also had his eyes set on reclaiming the Western Roman Empire. In A.D. 535, Justinian sent his best general, Belisarius, to retake Italy. The campaign lasted decades and served only to depopulate much of the peninsula. Eventually, a new wave of invaders, the Lombards, easily took control. So it was that the ambitions of the Eastern Roman Empire served as the death knell of its Western counterpart.

8. The Greeks Considered Even Their Relatives Barbarians

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We’ve discussed how the Greeks coined the term “barbarian” in reference to foreigners. Oddly enough, they also referred to their own neighbours and kinsmen in the same manner, either as an insult or simply because they found their dialect too confusing.

For instance, when Stratonicus, a harp player from Athens, was asked who the greatest barbarians were, the famous musician nonchalantly replied: “the Eleans.”

Were the Eleans from faraway lands like Persia or Africa? Nope, they lived in Elis, in the Peloponnese, where the first Olympic Games were held. Even the prominent orator and statesman Demosthenes denounced Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander the Great’s father, as a barbarian, since “he not only isn’t a Greek and is quite unrelated to Greeks: he isn’t even a barbarian from a respectable place, but a miserable Macedonian!”

7. The Greeks Actually Borrowed A Lot From Barbarians

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The Mycenaean Civilization flourished in Greece during the Bronze Age. Their system of writing is known today as “Linear B.” It followed an even older writing system known as “Linear A,” which was developed by the Minoans, an ancient civilization which prospered on the island of Crete. The Mycenaeans, known as “first true Greeks,” actually borrowed heavily from the Minoans in culture, art, and language.

Centuries later, the Greeks ended up borrowing the Phoenician alphabet. Historians differ as to whether the Greeks started borrowing from the seafaring Phoenicians during the ninth century B.C., or as early as the 12th century.

As for numbers, Greek mathematicians such as Archimedes and Euclid have gained eternal fame. But it seems that the Greek system of numbering was borrowed as well. Recent evidence shows a striking similarity between Greek alphabetic numerals and Egyptian demotic numerals. Dr. Stephen Chrisomalis has suggested that trade between the civilizations led the Greeks to realize that the Egyptian system was superior, leading them to partially adopt it around 600 B.C.

Yes, for all the disdain the Greeks had for “barbarians,” it seems they and their ancestors were more than happy to adopt their ideas.

6. The Origins Of Chinese Ethnocentricity

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Many people are quick to assume that Chinese ethnocentrism, or rather xenophobia, may have come from recent history. It would be easy to note how Communism divided East and West, or how the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th century sparked anti-Western sentiments. However, it’s worth noting that these perceptions have been ingrained in Chinese culture for thousands of years.

Such beliefs can be traced all the way back to the Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 B.C.), which made a clear distinction between the traditional Chinese subjects of the Zhou and those outside its borders. In many ancient texts, non-Chinese are described as part animal, akin to “birds and beasts.”

Confucius also reportedly said that “the barbarians with a ruler are not as good as the Chinese without one.” Mencius criticized a scholar for adopting the ways of a foreign teacher, telling him: “I’ve heard of using what is Chinese to change what is barbarian, but I’ve never heard of using what is barbarian to change what is Chinese.”

A slightly contrasting neo-Confucian view argued that the Zhou should peacefully assimilate these foreign cultures and raise them to an equal status. In this view, “no matter where under Heaven or on Earth, if a man possesses ritual and righteousness, he is a part of the Middle Kingdom.”

5. Japanese Views On Foreigners

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Japan is a nation which has a near-homogeneous society - 98.5 percent of its residents are ethnic Japanese.

When the Portuguese sailed up to Tanegashima Island in Southern Japan in 1543, the locals were astonished at the oddity before them. A later account described how the newcomers “eat with their fingers instead of chopsticks. They show their feelings without self-control. They cannot understand the meaning of written characters. They are a harmless sort of people.”

This culture clash led to Westerners being labelled “Nanban,” literally “Southern Barbarians” (for they arrived from the south). When the Dutch arrived, they were still considered Nanban, but prefixed with “Komo” or “red hair” - apparently the Dutch traders were all redheads.

Trade between the West and Japan continued harmoniously until Japanese isolationism closed off the island nation. It was only later, when the Meiji Restoration aimed to Westernize the country, that the term “Nanban” virtually disappeared and the Japanese began to move away from thinking of foreigners as uncivilized.

There is still a common term associated with Westerners that has sparked debate in modern Japan. That word is “gaijin,” taken to mean “outsider or non-Japanese.” Some consider it neutral, but for others it has become a derogatory term - you could have lived in Japan your entire life and know all of its traditions and customs, yet still be considered an outsider.

4. The Celts Were An Advanced Civilization

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We’ve talked about the Celts before. However, it bears mentioning that the Celtic civilization, which was long derided and maligned by the Greeks and Romans, was perhaps more advanced and sophisticated than its counterparts.

The Celtic peoples once stretched from the British Isles to the borders of Russia. Recent discoveries have revealed that Celtic ingenuity inspired the Romans - and by extension the modern world. Got a car? Well, the word itself was derived from the Celtic “karros,” for the Celts were widely famed as expert chariot-makers.

The mysterious Celtic druids were apparently not only involved in mysticism, but in mathematics and geometry. Mathematical principles were adopted by the Celts, who were frequent trading partners of the Greeks, well before Rome dominated the land. Later, Roman soldiers encountered some of the “uncivilized barbarians” speaking fluent Greek.

Combining their knowledge of mathematics with astronomy, the Celts created “a map of the ancient world constructed along precise celestial lines: a huge network of meridians and solar axes that served as the blueprint for the Celtic colonization of Europe.” To communicate, they devised “vocal telegraph” stations, where teams would yodel in order to relay messages across vast distances. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Celts had walled settlements where 10,000 inhabitants could live in peace, trading precious items from the farthest corners of Europe.

3. Attila Wasn’t So Bad

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The “Scourge of God” inspired fear and terror throughout the continent. His fits of rage were legendary, his decimation of Roman armies contributed to the Empire’s demise. But was he really as bad as we thought?

Some historians have disputed Attila’s bloodthirsty acts. Was he truly a madman, or was he simply giving Roman ambassadors an awe-inspiring sight? Although long said to have killed his brother to become sole ruler of the Huns, Attila was known to have given his brother’s widow a governorship. He also doted on his son and was apparently loved by his subjects - both Huns and Romans. He had Roman scribes and subordinates who served him out of loyalty rather than fear, preferring his governance to the crippling taxes and restrictions within the more “civilized” empires.

Attila was also a man of his word. True, he demanded a huge tribute from Rome to dissuade him from attacking - but he kept to this agreement and there was peace for a time. For all the talk of the riches he plundered, he reportedly lived a life of simplicity. When entertaining Roman ambassadors during a lavish banquet, Attila himself was seated on a wooden stool, his cup was wood, and his clothes and horse were unadorned. In contrast, the Roman ambassadors wore fine clothes and elaborate jewellery.

He was also perhaps a romantic at heart. When Honoria, sister of the Western Roman Emperor, disliked an arranged marriage, she sought the aid of the Hunnic leader. She sent a ring to Attila, who took it as a sign of Honoria’s proposal. He also demanded half of the Empire as a dowry (the Scourge of God couldn’t simply ask for cattle).

His sudden death due to a massive nosebleed on his wedding night was attributed to a lifelong struggle with the condition - he just happened to have a particularly terrible one while drunk. Either that or he was murdered. Regardless, his death resonated deeply with the Huns. They cut off their hair, gashed their faces, and wailed loudly. Attila was, by all accounts, a controversial figure whose life is still shrouded in mystery. Were all stories of him true, or were they just exaggerated by historians throughout the ages?

2. We Still Use Words Named After Them

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Historically, certain “barbarian” tribes have become associated with particular types of behaviour - descriptions that have evolved into derogatory terms still used today.

Most famously, the Vandals who sacked Rome in A.D. 455 gave rise to our modern term for a destroyer of property. When the Avars migrated into southeastern Europe in A.D. 567, they demanded tributes from the Byzantine Empire. This popularized the term “avaritia” - which eventually became “avarice.” Since the Slavic people were frequently sold as slaves, they gave rise to the modern word for slavery.

Another controversial example comes from the world of medicine. For decades, the term used for people with Down syndrome was “Mongoloid.” The term was coined by Langdon Down, who believed his patients resembled Asiatic barbarians. Since that came to be considered embarrassing for everyone involved, the condition was eventually renamed after Dr. Down himself.

1. The Mongols Have Rainfall To Thank For Their Conquests

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Make no mistake about it, while the Mongols may have changed history, there are still a number of misconceptions about their conquests. For one, it has long been believed that a severe drought led to their expansion out of the traditional Mongolian homelands. Genghis Khan and his nomadic followers allegedly fled the deteriorating conditions, pushing in all directions just to find a place that was more habitable.

However, recent studies have shown that it was no drought that led to the Mongol conquests - it was consistent heavy rainfall. For around 15 years during the early 13th century, central Mongolia suddenly had a period of abnormal moisture and warmth. This relatively temperate weather meant abundant harvests. The Mongols reaped their crops, and eventually the riches of the world, for the rain gave them limitless fuel for their horses, livestock, and warriors.

Another misconception is that the Mongol armies were the exception to the rule and managed to successfully invade Russia during winter, a feat Napoleon and Hitler would fail at centuries later. But this is a faulty comparison.

Napoleon’s invasion in 1812 took place during what climatologists call the “Little Ice Age,” when the northern hemisphere went from cosy to downright frigid. Hitler’s invasion in 1941 coincided with one of modern history’s most brutal winters.

In contrast, the Mongols invaded during the “Medieval Warm Period,” when weather conditions were temperate. So pretty much from the onset, the Mongols had it quite a bit easier than later would-be conquerors.

[Source: Listverse. Edited.]