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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

THE 7 MOST DANGEROUS PLACES IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM


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The Most Dangerous Places in the Solar System
By Ron Miller,
io9.com, 27 February 2012.

There are some swell places to visit in the Solar System, but there are also a few places that it might be best to avoid. There are some grand vacation places - the rim of Mariner Valley on Mars comes to mind, or the ice fountains of Enceladus - but there are some places that you might be better off just reading about.

The Himalayas of Venus, the view of Jupiter from Io, being able to see the entire solar system in one glance from Pluto - all of these places have some pretty nasty price tags attached. Here are the seven most dangerous places in the entire Solar System.

1. Io
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In spite of boasting a spectacular view of the giant planet Jupiter, constant volcanic eruptions and huge flows of molten sulphur would make trekking around the landscape a little dicey. Even without the possibility of being blown up or fried, you would have to deal with a deadly radiation field that would be pouring 3600 rems into you every day. You get about 0.1 rem per year on earth, so you work out the figures.


2. Venus
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Crushing pressure, sulphuric acid rain, 700-degree temperatures. If you want to see Venus' towering Maxwell Mountains you better look fast - because it would be a race to see whether you would be crushed, incinerated or dissolved first.


3. Just about any comet
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In addition to an unstable, perpetually erupting surface, it possesses an "atmosphere" consisting largely of gravel. Being on a comet that is "calving" - or disintegrating into big chunks like a glacier - would be worse. Even worse yet: a sun-grazing comet that is disintegrating like - well, like a snowball in hell, as it zooms through the outer atmosphere of the star.


4. The surface of Pluto
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A surface containing oxygen frozen hard as steel with lakes of liquid neon. On a clear day, the sun provides about as much heat and light as a full moon does back on earth. With Pluto's surface temperature at -378 to -396 F (-228 to -238 C) you would freeze solid in a nanosecond, so at least it probably wouldn't hurt.


5. Inside the rings of Saturn
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Playing dodge-em with 40 zillion icebergs probably sounds like more fun than it really would be.


6. The hydrogen sea of Jupiter
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You just don't want to be anywhere near there, trust me. Somewhere far beneath Jupiter's clouds and the core of the planet may lie a sea of liquid hydrogen, lit only by the glow of titanic bolts of lightning. Below this the pressure continues to rise until ordinary liquid hydrogen is compressed into liquid metallic hydrogen, of all things.


7. Titan
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Intense cold and a dense, poisonous atmosphere...and if you needed any more reason to keep the windows and doors shut, it's an atmosphere which would be explosive if accidentally mixed with oxygen!


[Source: io9.com. Edited. Top image added.]


TOP 10 CURES THAT DIDN'T WORK


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Top 10 Cures That Didn't Work
By
Science Discovery.

Doctors don't always get it right and, what's more, they've been getting things wrong for thousands and thousands of years now.

Mixed in with all the successes and the cures and the vaccines and smiling patients are an awful lot of treatments that just didn't quite hit the mark.

Here are some highlights, ranging from the silly and ancient to the dangerous and frighteningly recent.

10. Sacrifices


It's not exactly clear how this approach was really supposed to work, but sacrifice was all the rage back in the day across a wide variety of cultures, from Judeo-Christian to African to pagan traditions.

It's pretty straightforward: if you were ill, it must have been because some god or deity was angry at you or because you had sinned. Killing an animal was supposed to appease an angry god, perhaps by offering up some kind of life force or energy. The deity would then appreciate the gift (perhaps better described as a bribe) and grant you good health.

The dead animal might even take on your burden. You know, pretty straightforward.

9. Dung


The ancient Egyptians loved dung (they used crocodile dung as a contraceptive); in 17th-century England, doctors advised chicken dung as a cure for baldness; and in India, cosmetics and potions laced with cow dung have been as cures for everything from cancer to acne.

Who knew poop was so popular?

The why is not really clear, since it harbours bacteria, which can cause disease itself, smells pretty foul and is just all-around disgusting in general...but never mind that.

8. Cigarettes


Yeah, what with the surgeon general's warnings all over the box and the tireless anti-smoking campaigns, it's pretty clear to just about anyone that smoking isn't going to do much for your health.

However, it wasn't so long ago that tobacco was marketed like it was a medicinal product, with doctors extolling the virtues of cigarettes. And that trend goes back a long way.

When Europeans came across the plant, right around the same time they happened upon the Americas, it was already being used by Native Americans for ritualistic and medicinal purposes. Tobacco's active ingredient, nicotine, is a stimulant that can, among other things, induce a mild euphoria and provide both an alert and relaxed feeling; it's also a bit addictive, as you may have heard.

Maybe that's why, by the 16th century, European doctors were extolling the virtues of tobacco for things like, get ready: asthma, shortness of breath, bad breath and even cancer. Huh.

7. Sex


Sex has all kinds of wonderful effects on the body, but one of those effects is not "moving the womb."

Why would the womb need to be moved, you ask?

Well, the ancient Greeks believed that a woman's womb could move around the body, causing a woman to feel generally distressed or nervous. Their cure? Get her pregnant! Then the womb would know where it should be.

If this sounds like an excuse to have sex with and impregnate vulnerable and troubled women, well, it probably was.

What's more, the mentality behind this diagnosis lingered on well into more modern times, with 19th-century treatments for "hysteria" (a condition that made women "nervous" or "irritable") involving "pelvic massage" by a doctor or midwife. Interesting.

6. Bloodletting


Back in the day, bloodletting was kind of your cure-all for everything.

Performed in the Western world by barber-surgeons (cutting hair, cutting flesh...it's all the same, right?), the practice was supposed to rid the body of imbalances and was used to treat just about everything.

It almost never did much good, more often weakening an already ill person than curing them. Still, it persisted well through the 19th century and was practiced widely throughout much of the world and many cultures, from ancient Egypt and Greece, to India, to America.

For the record, bloodletting is occasionally (albeit, rarely) worth something. The practice of controlled phlebotomy is still occasionally used for a couple of rare diseases, such as hemochromatosis, where the body retains too much iron...only nowadays, they take a pint of blood with a syringe, as opposed to a few pounds with a lancet.

5. Mercury


Famed cure for syphilis, indigestion, old age and almost everything else, mercury was once the most popular medicinal metal.

Maybe it was the hypnotic allure of the flowing silver-coloured liquid that made it such a hot commodity; the metal found its way into the bloodstreams of some very important people, including Abraham Lincoln, whose fits of rage may have resulted from the mercury in a then-popular blue pill, and the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, who likely died from the mercury-laden pills that he thought would grant him immortality.

Once you've got mercury in your bloodstream, good luck getting rid of it: the neurotoxic element accumulates over multiple doses. At its worst, mercury poisoning can cause paralysis, insanity, loss of motor control and death...and it never really did much to cure either syphilis or mortality either.

4. Lobotomies


If the brain wasn't working right, why not just take part of it out? That was kind of the logic behind lobotomies, a practice that came of age in the middle of the 20th century.

Doctors were just beginning to understand how the brain worked and had zeroed in on the frontal lobe as the source of all kinds of problems - most notably, schizophrenia. From there, they took things one step (or maybe 20) too far.

While the first attempts at lobotomies date back to the 1890s, the technique didn't become popular until the 1930s and '40s. One of the more famous lobotomists was Walter Freeman, who travelled the country, ice-pick in hand, ready to plunge it through an eye socket and into the brain.

It's gruesome, terrifying stuff, particularly since many of the lobotomized patients were being treated for things like "youthful defiance." What's more, the technique wasn't much of a success among patients who were genuinely suffering from serious mental illnesses: many of the once erratic-acting patients were in fact calmer, but they were also rendered completely non-reactive and devoid of memories, their intellects and a normal range of emotions.

That doesn't sound like a mentally well person.

3. Trepanation


You need it like a hole in the head...no, really, you do, because this cure is, literally, a hole in the head.

Actually, the hole is in your skull, to be precise, cutting right up to the brain matter. Used to combat a range of ailments, from epilepsy to mental illness, trepanation was once popular among ancient Europeans, Egyptians and Africans.

Doctors drilled into the skull to release demons or increase brain volume or maybe just to freak people out. The scariest thing? In addition to being practiced in limited ways in Africa today, trepanation still has a minor following among a group looking to raise their consciousness, find enlightenment or combat depression.

There are plenty out there who will gladly help you drill skull-deep with, no kidding, a power drill. No thanks.

2. Radium Water


In case you needed a reminder that really bad ideas for cures don't have to come from thousands of years ago, let us remind you of radium water.

Maybe the reason this bad idea didn't show up until the 20th century was because we didn't know about radioactivity until then...but once we discovered it, we sure did move fast.

Never mind the cancer, the falling out hair and teeth, the decaying bones, the fatigue or any of the other signs of radiation poisoning - the makers of a whole variety of radioactive cures, including Radithor radium water, insisted that the, um, high-energy water could cure everything from arthritis to high blood pressure to acne.

Geiger counters everywhere clicked out their applause.

1. Exorcism


Well, without a doubt, if demonic possession is your trouble, exorcism really might be the answer.

But think seriously now: could your ailment be caused by something OTHER than a rogue agent of Satan? If you answered "maybe," then you could probably do without the beatings and screaming that occasionally go with an exorcism.

Kid misbehaving? Therapy might be a better answer.

Excessive mood swings or debilitating depression? We've come a long way with modern psychoactive drugs.

But if you lived in the Middle Ages, back before we understood anything about brain chemistry (or moody teenagers), you might have turned to the church for answers and the prescription for exorcism actually might very well have solved your problem - even if it was only by scaring the victim into a long life of careful submission.

[Source: Science Discovery.]


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TOP 10 STRANGE AND UNIQUE FORESTS


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Top 10 Strange and Unique Forests
by Bryan Johnson,
Listverse, 28 February 2012.

Forests cover approximately 9.4% of the Earth’s surface. However, they once covered over 50%. Most people identify forests with trees, but the concept of the forest ecosystem reaches much further and includes many species, such as smaller plants, fungi, bacteria, insects, animals, as well as energy flow and nutrient cycling. Luckily, a large percentage of people on Earth are still able to enjoy the tranquillity of an ancient forest. However, some people have never had the chance to enter one of these majestic plant communities. In fact, almost 80% of Europe’s forests are owned by Russia.

As you step foot into an old growth forest, the rush of fresh air fills your lungs. Your senses perk up and you become aware of the life that surrounds you. In the forest, you never know what is waiting around the corner. In the forest, you will discover and witness new things for the first time. In the forest, you will come to peace with nature. In the forest, you will escape the world of technology and learn what it was like to live off the land. This article will examine ten strange and unique forests.

10. North Sentinel Island Forest

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North Sentinel Island is one of the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. It lies to the west of the southern part of South Andaman Island. North Sentinel Island is unique because it is surrounded by coral reefs and lacks natural harbours. For this reason, the area was never settled by Europeans and deforested. The island is almost completely covered in old growth trees and is 72 km² (27.8 sq mi). Due to the isolation, North Sentinel Island has become home to the last pre-Neolithic tribe known as the Sentinelese.

The Sentinelese tribe consists of 50 to 400 individuals. The group strongly rejects any contact with the outside world. On January 26, 2006, two men were illegally fishing for mud crabs near North Sentinel Island when they were attacked and killed by Sentinelese. The Indian coastguard attempted to recover the bodies using a helicopter, but they were met by a hail of arrows. It was reported that the fisherman’s bodies were buried in shallow graves and not roasted and eaten. However, the idea that the tribe would eat the men is very real.

During the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, North Sentinel Island was greatly damaged. The tsunami sank some of the surrounding coral reefs and raised others. The coastline of the island was completely demolished. The Sentinelese fishing grounds were disturbed, but the tribe has since adapted to the current conditions. The Sentinelese maintain an essentially hunter-gatherer society, obtaining their subsistence from the forest through hunting, fishing, and collecting wild plants.

Their agricultural practices and methods for producing fire are currently unknown. The Sentinelese weaponry consists of javelins and a flat bow, which has an extremely high accuracy against human-sized targets up to nearly 10 meters (32.8 feet). The Sentinelese has even been known to use untipped arrows for warning shots. There food consists primarily of plant stuffs gathered in the forest, coconuts which are frequently found on the beaches, pigs, and presumably other wildlife (which apart from sea turtles is limited to some smaller birds and invertebrates).

Selected Quote: “I believe our biggest issue is the same issue the whole world is facing, and that’s habitat destruction.” Steve Irwin.

9. Crooked Forest

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The Crooked Forest is a grove of oddly shaped pine trees located outside the village of Nowe Czarnowo, in western Poland. The forest contains about 400 pine trees that grow with a 90 degree bend at the base of their trunks. All of the trees are bent northward and surrounded by a larger forest of straight-growing pine trees. The crooked trees were planted around 1930 when the area was inside the German province of Pomerania.

It is thought that the trees were formed with a human tool, but the method and motive for creating the grove is not currently known. It appears that the trees were allowed to grow for seven to ten years before being held down and warped by a device. The exact reason why the Germans would want to make crooked trees is unknown, but many people have speculated that they were going to be harvested for bent-wood furniture, the ribs of boat hulls, or yokes for ox-drawn plows. It is a bizarre case that still can’t explain.

Selected Quote: “A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

8. Red Forest

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The Red Forest or the Worm Wood Forest is located within the 10 kilometre (6.2 mile) area surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat, Ukraine. After the Chernobyl nuclear accident on April 26, 1986, the Worm Wood Forest turned a ginger-brown colour and died. In the clean-up effort, most of the trees were bulldozed and buried in a collection of “waste graveyards.” The trenches were covered with a carpet of sand and planted over with new pine saplings. Today, the Red Forest remains one of the most contaminated areas in the world. It holds a mixture of old growth pine, along with the new saplings planted in 1986. More than 90% of the radioactivity of the Red Forest is concentrated in the soil.

The accident at Chernobyl has offered scientists an unparalleled opportunity to fully understand the passage of radioactive debris through an urban, rural, and natural environment over time. In a remarkable turn of events, the wildlife in the Red Forest has adapted to the changes and not only survived, but flourished. The forest has been labelled a “Radiological Reserve” and is a hotbed for endangered animals. A large collection of species has moved into the forest and biodiversity in the area has greatly expanded since the accident.

Since 1986, the population of wild boar in the Red Forest has exploded. The area is home to a large collection of wild species, including storks, wolves, beavers, lynx, elk, and eagles. Birds have been observed nesting in the old nuclear reactors and many endangered species have been spotted. In 2001, the tracks of a brown bear were photographed in the streets of Pripyat. In 2002, a young eagle owl, one of only 100 thought to be living in all of Ukraine, was seen on an abandoned excavator in the Red Forest, also an endangered white-tailed eagle was radio-tagged within three miles of the plant. In 2005, a herd of 21 rare Przewalski’s horses escaped from captivity, bred in the area, and have expanded to 64.

The Red Forest still holds some unnatural behaviour. The flora and fauna in the area has been dramatically affected by the radioactive contamination. In the years following the disaster, there were many reports of mutant animals, but no cases have been confirmed to influence the genetic evolution of a species, except for the partial albinism in swallows and stunted tail feathers in birds. It should be noted that mutant animals usually die quickly in the wild, so the creatures affected by the explosion are long dead. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone now encompasses more than 1,600 square miles of northern Ukraine and southern Belarus, a ragged swatch of forests, marshes, lakes, and rivers.

Selected Quote: “A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine.” Anne Bronte.

7. Chestnut Hills

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The chestnut blight is a devastating disease that has struck the American chestnut tree and caused the mass extinction of the tree from its historic range in the eastern United States. The disease was accidentally introduced to North America around 1900, either through imported chestnut lumber or through imported chestnut trees. By 1940, almost all of the American chestnut trees were gone. These marvellous trees once grew as tall as 200 feet (61 meters), with a trunk diameter of 14 feet (4.2 meters).

The chestnut tree is known to grow beautiful flowers in late spring or early summer. The blight was caused by the C. parasitica and destroyed about 4 billion American chestnut trees. The fungus kills the tree by entering beneath the bark and killing the cambium all the way round the twig, branch, or trunk. After the blight was first discovered, people attempted to remove the effected trees from the forests, but this proved to be an ineffective solution.

The largest remaining forest of American chestnut trees is named Chestnut Hills and sits near West Salem, Wisconsin. Chestnut Hills holds approximately 2,500 chestnut trees on 60 acres of land. The chestnuts are the descendants from only a dozen trees planted by Martin Hicks in the late 1800s. The trees are located to the west of the natural range of American chestnut, so they initially escaped the onslaught of the chestnut blight. However in 1987, scientists found the fungus in the trees and the blight has been slowly killing the forest. Scientists are working to try and save Chestnut Hills, as there is a strong desire to bring the American chestnut back to the forest.

A large collection of surviving chestnut’s are being bred for a resistance to the blight by The American Chestnut Foundation, which aims to reintroduce a blight-resistant American chestnut to its original forest range in the early 21st century. The disease is local to a range, so it is possible for some isolated trees to exist if no other chestnuts with the blight are within 10 kilometres (6.2 miles). A small stand of surviving American chestnuts was found in F. D. Roosevelt State Park near Warm Springs, Georgia on April 22, 2006.

Selected Quote: “Under the spreading chestnut tree I sold you and you sold me: There lie they, and here lie we, under the spreading chestnut tree.” George Orwell.

6. Sea of Trees

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The Sea of Trees or Aokigahara is a forest located at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan. The forest contains a number of hidden caverns and giant trees. It is very dark and has thick growth, so the only light that can be seen inside the forest is a collection of sunbeams. Aokigahara holds an absence of wildlife and is known for being an eerily quiet place. In modern times, the Sea of Trees has gained a reputation for two things, a breath-taking view of Mount Fuji and suicides. There is currently no reliable statistics for the total number of suicides in the forest. However in 2004, 108 dead bodies were found in Aokigahara.

In recent years, the Japanese government has stopped publicizing the number of suicides in the forest. In 2010, it was reported that 247 people attempted suicide in the Sea of Trees, but only 54 succeeded. The suicide rate has caused officials to place signs in the forest, in Japanese and English, which urge people to reconsider their actions. Every year, a collection of police and volunteers conduct an annual body search of the land. During the event, corpses are always discovered, usually hanging from the trees. The Sea of Trees is reportedly the world’s second most popular suicide location after San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

Japan’s suicide rate is a major problem and has been rising after the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. The country has been experiencing a large wave of social withdrawal. Hikikomori is a Japanese term that refers to the phenomenon of reclusive adolescents or young adults who have chosen to withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme degrees of isolation. It is estimated that around 1% of the entire Japanese population is living as hikikomori. In Japanese mythology, the Sea of Trees has always been linked with morbid myths and legends. It is widely believed that the custom of ubasute, where an elderly relative is left to die in a remote location, was widely practiced in the forest.

Selected Quote: “The prevalence of suicide, without doubt, is a test of height in civilization; it means that the population is winding up its nervous and intellectual system to the utmost point of tension and that sometimes it snaps.” Henry Ellis.

5. Trillemarka – Rollagsfjell Forest

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Trillemarka – Rollagsfjell is a 147 km² (57 sq mi) nature reserve located in Buskerud, Norway. It was created on December 13, 2002 and is located in the mountain areas between Nore in Numedal and Solevann in Sigdal. Trillemarka – Rollagsfjell holds the last ancient wilderness forests of Norway. The land has all the qualities of the original Norwegian forests, including untouched valleys, rivers, lakes, and very old trees. Trillemarka – Rollagsfjell is home to 93 red list and endangered species.

Trillemarka – Rollagsfjell holds a large amount of animals that are dependent on the forest dynamics. The area is one of the few untouched woodlands in Norway. Some of the endangered species that frequent the forest are the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Tree-toed Woodpecker, Siberian Jay, Stock Dove, and Golden Eagle. The forest is also home to endangered lichens, mosses, and fungi. Currently, about 75% of Trillemarka – Rollagsfjell has been protected by the government, and there is a controversy in Norway over how much of the remaining land should be set aside for future generations. It appears that Norway is lagging behind neighbouring countries in forest protection.

Selected Quote: “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” Franklin D. Roosevelt.

4. Dark Entry Forest

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Dudley Town (the Village of the Damned) is a ghost town in Cornwall, Connecticut. It was founded as a small settlement in the mid-1740s and was a thriving community by the 18th century, known as Owlsbury. The town was primarily fuelled by the region’s iron industry. It was a popular place to visit until people started to report strange sightings, unexplained murders, and mass suicides. In some cases, the town residents experienced hallucinations which included demons who commanded them to commit suicide. It was also a regular occurrence for sheep and heard animals to go missing in the town.

Many early settlers of Dudley Town began to think the area was cursed. By the middle of the 20th century, everyone in the town had either died or moved away. Today, Dudley Town looks like it did when Thomas Griffis first settled it some 250 years ago. It is a very thick forest with rocky terrain and it sits in the shadow of three separate mountains: Bald Mountain, Woodbury Mountain, and The Coltsfoot Triplets. Because of the dense and tall woods, the forest has been given the name “Dark Entry Forest.” The land is not officially located in a Connecticut state forest, but sits on private land near the Mohawk State Forest and Mohawk Trail.

The ruins of Dudley Town and the Dark Entry Forest are patrolled by the Dark Entry Forest group, which prosecutes anyone who trespasses on the land. Hundreds of people have been arrested for visiting the site. The area is also known for a large collection of orbs, unexplained lights, and bizarre sounds. Similar to other strange forests, visitors claim that the trees are unusually quiet and without wildlife. Contemporary researchers have suggested that the town may have succumbed to mass hysteria or that the groundwater could have been contaminated with lead which caused the deaths.

Selected Quote: “An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.” Charles Dickens.

3. Ardennes

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The Ardennes is a region of extensive forests, rolling hills and ridges in Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. The land is covered by thick forests and rugged terrain. The region is rich in timber, minerals, and wild game. The Ardennes holds a strategic position in Europe. For this reason, a large number of famous battles have been fought on the land. The Ardennes has changed hands on many different occasions. In the 20th century, the Ardennes was thought unsuitable for large-scale military operations, but in both World War I and World War II, Germany successfully gambled on making a passage through the area to attack France.

The Ardennes was the site of three major battles in the 20th century, the Battle of the Ardennes (1914), the Battle of France (1940), and the Battle of the Bulge (1944). During the Battle of the Ardennes, French and German troops literally stumbled into each other on the battlefield due to the thick fog. In the winter of 1944, the Third Reich launched a major offensive through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium. The event has become known as the Battle of the Bulge.

Before the Battle of the Bulge, the snow-covered Ardennes was so quiet it was termed “the Ghost Front.” The United States placed its greenest units on the wooded hills, along with combat-shattered troops. Hitler valued the Ardennes and arranged for two full Panzer armies and 300,000 troops to conduct a surprise attack designed to shatter the American front. Many of the towns in the region were badly damaged during the battle, including the historic city of La Roche-en-Ardenne. The forest wasn’t completely taken back from Nazi rule until early 1945. Today, the beauty of the Ardennes and its wide variety of outdoor activities, including hunting, cycling, walking, canoeing, and historic landmarks make it a popular tourist destination.

Selected Quote: “Everything in war is very simple. But the simplest thing is difficult.” Karl Von Clausewitz.

2. Hoia-Baciu Forest

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The Hoia-Baciu Forest is located near Cluj-Napoca, Romania and is locally referred to as the Bermuda Triangle of Romania. The forest was named after a shepherd that disappeared in the area with two hundred sheep. Most people who live near the forest are afraid to enter. They believe that those who visit the site will never return. Many of the locals who have gone into the forest complain of physical harm, including rashes, nausea, vomiting, migraines, burns, scratches, anxiety, and other unusual bodily sensations.

The Hoia-Baciu Forest has a reputation for paranormal activity. People have witnessed several strange events on the land. The most common phenomenon includes seeing mysterious orb-like lights, female voices, giggling, apparitions, and cases of people being scratched. In the 1970s, the area was a hotbed for UFO sighting and unexplained lights. Visitors to the forest have reported a strong sense of anxiety and the feeling of being watched. The local vegetation in the forest is bizarre and some trees hold an unexplained charring. On August 18, 1968, a military technician named Emil Barnea captured a famous photograph of a saucer-like object over the Hoia-Baciu Forest.

Many people who live near the Hoia-Baciu Forest have reported a large collection of orb-like lights inside the tree line. When using a thermal, these lights don’t seem to be producing any heat signatures. Some people who enter the forest suddenly remember all of their past experiences in the trees, but then forget the memories after leaving the land. Specialists from around the world are fascinated by the forest. Scientists from Germany, France, the United States, and Hungary have managed to capture bizarre material structures on film, including faces and apparitions. Some of the structures are seen with the naked eye and others only in photos or videos.

Selected Quote: “Authoritarian political ideologies have a vested interest in promoting fear, a sense of the imminence of takeover by aliens and real diseases are useful material.” Susan Sontag.

1. Ancient Wuda Forest

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In February of 2012, scientists in northern China announced that they had finished reconstructing an ancient forest that was found buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash near the Mongolian district of Wuda. The 20 square kilometre (12.4 mile) forest was completely preserved after a large volcano erupted 298 million years ago and dropped a large amount of lava and ash on the site. The discovery was reminiscent of the destruction of the Roman city of Pompeii in A.D. 79. It was determined that the blast came from a large volcano around 100 kilometres away. The destruction left a layer of ash that is now 66-cm (about 40 inches) thick. The blast ripped leaves from branches, knocked down trees, and buried the forest.

Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania, Shenyang Normal University, and Yunnan University have been able to reconstruct 10,000 square feet (3,048 meters) of the subtropical forest. They have identified a large collection of plant species and flora that has been extinct for centuries. It is believed that the forest sat on the edge of a large tropical island off Pangaea’s eastern shore. It was swampy land, with a layer of peat and a few inches of standing water. In all, six different species of trees have been identified in the preserved forest, including the tall Sigillaria, Cordaites, and the smaller spore-bearing Noeggerathiales, which is believed to be related to the fern family. Scientists haven’t found any evidence for animal life, such as ancient amphibians.

Selected Quote: “All this worldly wisdom was once the unamiable heresy of some wise man.” Henry David Thoreau.

+ Yellowwood State Forest

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Yellowwood State Forest is located in Brown County, Indiana. The name of the forest is derived from the yellowwood, a tree seldom found this far north in the U.S. The Yellowwood State Forest preserve was established in the 1930s. In 1939, a 133-acre (54 ha) lake, Yellowwood Lake, was created in the area. One major mystery surrounds the forest. A collection of large sandstone boulders, estimated to weigh about 400 pounds (180 kg), have been found in the tops of three trees. The mystery began in the 1990s, when a turkey hunter, scouting in a remote area of the 23,000-acre forest, discovered a large boulder in a chestnut oak tree. The boulder was eventually dubbed Gobbler’s Rock.

Gobbler’s Rock sits high on a south-facing slope overlooking a ravine near Tulip Tree Road in western Brown County. Officials can’t explain how the boulders got wedged into the branches. Some of the theories include a fraternity prank, tornadoes, high winds, or floods. The strange phenomenon is now the focus of several UFO websites. On Yellowwood State Forest’s Wikipedia page it claims that the rocks were placed there by a U.S. helicopter doing a training exercise from nearby Camp Atterbury during World War II. However, the provided reference for the claim is broken and no further information can be found on the training exercise or why such a task would be undertaken.

Selected Quote: “Geologists have a saying, rocks remember.” Neil Armstrong.

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]


SECRET BIBLE PREDICTING THE COMING OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD UNEARTHED IN TURKEY



The following is a report from the British paper Daily Mail. As per its title, it appears self-explanatory. But my immediate reaction:

1. The part about the “secret Bible” may be new and could be a significant discovery, but only if proven to be not only genuine but also to contain new revelations, rather than reiteration of old news such as references to Prophet Muhammad (saw) in the Gospel of Barnabas. Even if it’s true, any discovery that question the very foundation of Christianity would, needless to say, be immediately criticized or even hidden from public scrutiny. Hence it’s no surprise that the Daily Mail put a damper on the news.

2. The part about “Jesus predicts coming of Prophet Muhammad” is nothing new as many Muslim scholars have already written about it. Notable examples include the late Ahmad Deedat’s books, What the Bible Says About Muhammad and Muhummed – The Natural Successor to Christ, which are one of the earliest accounts about the prediction. Google “Muhammad in the Bible” and you will find loads of articles on this matter.

Here’s the full report (with comments where appropriate)…
Secret £14million Bible in which 'Jesus predicts coming of Prophet Muhammad' unearthed in Turkey
By
Daily Mail, 24 February 2012.

A secret Bible in which Jesus is believed to predict the coming of the Prophet Muhammad to Earth has sparked serious interest from the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI is claimed to want to see the 1,500-year-old book, which many say is the Gospel of Barnabas, that has been hidden by the Turkish state for the last 12 years.
Comment: No surprise the Pope is interested as it concerns the very foundation of Christianity. But is it the original Gospel of Barnabas? There have been reports that the original Gospel has survived to this day and its copies are in the custody of the British Museum and the Library of the Congress, Washington - despite claims of forgery by Christian scholars. The Gospel can be viewed in the website The Gospel of Barnabas, which is dedicated to exposing the truth about the Gospel (read the page How the Gospel of Barnabas Survived; the entire Gospel can also be read or downloaded there). In this survived Gospel, many explicit references were made to Prophet Muhammad (saw). This is nothing new; it has been told and retold countless times, now even more so with the advent of internet.

So, is the discovered secret Bible just another copy of the original Gospel of Barnabas? Or, given the Pope’s interest, is it something else – something new and more earth-shaking? The report further states:
The £14million handwritten gold lettered tome, penned in Jesus' native Aramaic language, is said to contain his early teachings and a prediction of the Prophet's coming.

Secret Bible: The 1,500-year-old tome was is said to contain Jesus' early teachings and a prediction of the Prophet's comingSecret Bible: The 1,500-year-old tome was is said to contain Jesus' early
teachings and his prediction of the Prophet's coming
Ancient: The leather-bound text, written on animal hide, was discovered by Turkish police during an anti-smuggling operation in 2000Ancient: The leather-bound text, written on animal hide, was discovered by
Turkish police during an anti-smuggling operation in 2000
The leather-bound text, written on animal hide, was discovered by Turkish police during an anti-smuggling operation in 2000.

It was closely guarded until 2010, when it was finally handed over to the Ankara Ethnography Museum, and will soon be put back on public display following a minor restoration.

A photocopy of a single page from the handwritten ancient manuscript is thought to be worth £1.5million.

Turkish culture and tourism minister Ertugrul Gunay said the book could be an authentic version of the Gospel, which was suppressed by the Christian Church for its strong parallels with the Islamic view of Jesus.

He also said the Vatican had made an official request to see the scripture - a controversial text which Muslims claim is an addition to the original gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.

In line with Islamic belief, the Gospel treats Jesus as a human being and not a God.

Serious interest: The Vatican, under Pope Benedict XVI, is said to want to see the recently re-discovered Bible
Serious interest: The Vatican, under Pope Benedict XVI, is said to want to see
the recently re-discovered Bible

Historic: The £14million handwritten gold lettered tome is penned in Jesus' native Aramaic languageHistoric: The £14million handwritten gold lettered tome is penned in Jesus' native
Aramaic language

It rejects the ideas of the Holy Trinity and the Crucifixion and reveals that Jesus predicted the coming of the Prophet Muhammad.
Comment: Again the current Bible references to the rejection of Jesus as God and of the Holy Trinity have already been cited by Muslim writers and are generally well known. Read, for example, Ahmad Deedat’s Crucifixion Or Cruci-fiction. The report adds:
In one version of the gospel, he is said to have told a priest: 'How shall the Messiah be called? Muhammad is his blessed name'.

And in another Jesus denied being the Messiah, claiming that he or she would be Ishmaelite, the term used for an Arab.
Comment: Here a direct reference is made in the secret Bible to the name “Muhammad” and that he is an “Ishmaelite” (descendant of Prophet Ismail as). As per my comment above, the name “Muhammad” is also contained in the survived Gospel of Barnabas which can be read in the website The Gospel of Barnabas. In Ahmad Deedat’s books and those of other Muslim writers, the allusions to Prophet Muhammad (saw) came from such words as “Paraclete”, “Land of Kedar”, and “Paran” in the Old Testament, which could only be related to the Prophet and no one else. Read Ahmad Deedat’s books linked above for further explanation.

But then the Daily Mail immediately doused cold water over the news, stating:
Despite the interest in the newly re-discovered book, some believe it is a fake and only dates back to the 16th century.

The oldest copies of the book date back to that time, and are written in Spanish and Italian.

Protestant pastor İhsan Özbek said it was unlikely to be authentic.

This is because St Barnabas lived in the first century and was one of the Apostles of Jesus, in contrast to this version which is said to come from the fifth or sixth century.

He told the Today Zaman newspaper: 'The copy in Ankara might have been written by one of the followers of St Barnabas.

'Since there is around 500 years in between St Barnabas and the writing of the Bible copy, Muslims may be disappointed to see that this copy does not include things they would like to see.

'It might have no relation with the content of the Gospel of Barnabas.'

Theology professor Ömer Faruk Harman said a scientific scan of the bible may be the only way to reveal how old it really is.
Comment: Yes, only a scientific scan and further meticulous study can reveal the truth. More importantly, the results of the study must be open to public scrutiny and not hidden, even if its contents as reported above turn out to be true or it is itself not the Gospel of Barnabas but is something else.

But given the controversial nature of this subject, I remain sceptical… And until the truth is known, I would not want to dip further my hands into it.



Monday, February 27, 2012

LAST SPEAKERS OF DEAD AND DYING LANGUAGES


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Endangered languages have been in the news for past few years with the launch in February 2009 of UNESCO’s electronic edition of its Atlas of the Worlds Languages in Danger. According to UNESCO, more than half of the world's 7,000 languages spoken today are in danger of disappearing before the century ends.

Another study has revealed five hotspots where languages are vanishing most rapidly: eastern Siberia, northern Australia, central South America, Oklahoma, and the U.S. Pacific Northwest (see map of the hotspots below).

Copy of New Picture

In the last 500 years, an estimated half of the world's languages, from Etruscan to Tasmanian, have become extinct. But researchers say the languages of the world are now vanishing faster than ever in recorded history. More than 500 languages may be spoken by fewer than ten people. Some are being spoken only by a single person. Some tongues have disappeared instantly, with small, vulnerable communities wiped out by natural disasters. But in most cases, languages die a slow death, as people simply abandon their native tongues when they become surrounded by people speaking a more common language.

This critical situation has led members of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages in Oregon, USA to travel the world to interview the last speakers of critically endangered languages as part of the National Geographic Society's Enduring Voices Project (NGSEVP). On 17 February 2012, a "Talking Dictionary" Project was announced. This latest project's online repositories will allow just about anyone to hear disappearing tongues being spoken by some of what may be their last speakers.

The fact however remains that hundreds of languages have already died, some of these long ago and with no fanfare, but sometimes the death of a language is recorded and we know exactly who last spoke it. It is these people that the author of one of the articles referenced in this post, would like to honour. This list (of the first 12 languages) is in no particular order and is not an exhaustive list, but he thinks it is representative and shows that language death is not restricted to one part of the world. The people listed came from all walks of life and, some seemed indifferent or unaware of their status, while others became campaigners and tried to pass their knowledge onto others. It is interesting that many of those in the latter category lived long lives, almost defiantly trying to battle the inevitable.

The last three languages listed represent the dying ones and are part of the NGSEVP initiatives. Like the dead languages listed, the list is not exhaustive and is not ranked in the order presented.

1. Soma Devi Dura (circa 1926)

Soma Devi Dura, last known speaker of the Dura language.

Coincidentally, mere days before Marie Smith Jones died (see second story below), British news sources made us aware of the plight of 82-year old Soma Devi Dura, the last know speaker of the Dura language of Nepal. Soma Devi Dura is partially blind, deaf and in failing health but is described as being a rich source of songs and folklore in the Dura tongue. Kedar Nagila, who is studying for a PhD in Nepalese languages has been working with Dura and trying to get her medical help. As of April 2008, Dura was still alive, but news of her since then has dried up.

Dura is one of over 120 languages spoken in Nepal, but due to a “one-nation, one-language” policy instituted by the Shah dynasty, up to 96% of these are threatened with extinction.

2. Marie Smith Jones (1918 – 2008)

Marie Smith Jones, last known speaker of the Eyak language.

When Marie Smith Jones died in 2008, she received obituaries from respected sources all round the world, perhaps indicating that language death is not just an interest of a few linguists. Smith, the last full-blooded Eyak, only really became politically active after the death of her sister in the 1990s made her the last speaker. She had declined to teach her children the language because of social stigma attached to it. However in her later years, she helped work on an Eyak dictionary, became active in environmental concerns and twice spoke at United Nations on peace and indigenous languages.

Eyak was originally spoken near the mouth of the copper river in Alaska. It has now become a symbol in the fight against language death. It is the first known native Alaskan language to become extinct.

3. Ishi (1860 – 1916)

New Picture
Ishi, last known speaker of the Yana language (and last member of the Yahi).

Of all the things we know about Ishi, his name isn’t one of them. Ishi is simply a pseudonym meaning “man” in Yana, the language of the Yahi. It was considered taboo in in Yahi society to say one's own name, so Ishi’s real name died with him. His story – that he went into hiding after his family was killed, before being found by a group of butchers - has continued to intrigue. Documentaries, films and stage plays have all been made about him and many aspects of his life are still contested. Sadly, Ishi did not have the long life that others on this list have enjoyed, dying of tuberculosis in 1916.

Thanks to linguist Edward Sapir, who worked with Ishi, Yana is relatively well documented compared to other extinct American languages.

4. Armand Lunel (1892 –1977)

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Armand Lunel, the last known speaker of Shuadit (Judeo-Provençal) language.

Writer, librettist, philosopher and teacher, Lunel was born in Aix-en-Provence, France, where his family had lived for centuries, but later moved to Monaco. His writings were in French and he wrote about everyday Jewish life in Provence. In 1968, a recording was made of Lunel singing in his language but he died before another recording could be made.

The origins of Judeo Provencal are something of a mystery to linguists; documents in the language go back to the 11th century. Its use declined rapidly after the French Revolution.

5. Shanawdithit (1801-1829)

Shanawdithit, last known speaker of the Beothuk language (and last member of the Beothuk).

Considered one of the most notable people from Newfoundland, Shanawdithit had quite a sad short life. Having lost most of her family either to TB or attacks from the British, who regarded her people as thieves, she spent the last few years of life working as a servant before also dying of TB. Shanawdithit was taught some English by the philanthropist William Epps Cormack, in whose house she spent some time. She proved talented at drawing, and it is through these that we know about the lifestyle of the Beothuk. There is a sad postscript to her life, her skull was taken to the Royal College of Physicians in London, where it remained until it was given to the Royal College of Surgeons in 1938. Unfortunately, her skull was destroyed and lost during the Blitz. The rest of her remains are buried in St John’s, Newfoundland.

There is debate as to whether Beothuk is a language isolate, unlike any other, or whether it is related to Algonquian languages spoken in Quebec and Labrador.

6. Big Bill Neidjie (circa 1920 – 2002)

Big Bill Neidjie, last known speaker of the Gagudju language.

Big Bill Neidjie was always something of a local legend. He was born on the East Alligator River in Northern Territory, Australia. He had a traditional upbringing and was taught to hunt by his father and grandfather. He was known throughout for his physical strength and physique as well as for his commitment to conservation issues and the rights of indigenous Australians. His fame grew when he was featured in National Geographic Magazine in 1988 and he was awarded the Order of Australia in 1989.

Like a number of indigenous Australian languages, in Gagudju it was taboo to discuss traditional secrets, passed from generation to generation, with outsiders. When Bill became aware of his fate, he faced the dilemma of breaking taboo or letting his culture die completely. He chose to break taboo and pass the secrets on to a select number of people.

7. Tuone Udaina (died 1898)

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Tuone Udaina, the last known speaker of the Dalmatian language.

Tuane Udaina was not actually a native speaker of Dalmatian. He picked it up from secretly listening to his parents’ private conversations. Despite this, and the fact that he was deaf and had not spoken the language for 20 years, he was approached by linguist Matteo Bartoli in 1897 to try to record the language. Previous documentation of the language dated from the 13th – 16th century. Sadly, Bartoli’s original work (in Italian) was lost, existing only in a German translation, until 2001 when it was re-translated into Italian. Udaina himself also met an unfortunate end, being blown up by a landmine on 10th June 1898.

Dalmatian, a Romance language with some similarities to Romanian, was spoken in the Dalmatia region of Croatia, with each town having its own different dialect of the language.

8. Fidelia Fielding (1827 – 1908)

Fidelia Fielding, last known speaker of the Mohegan Pequot Language.

Fidelia Fielding or as she called herself Dji’ts Bud dnaca (Flying Bird) is remembered as being something of a loner who kept to herself. However she should not be dismissed and she is an important and respected figure in the history of the Mohegan people. She was one of the last people to live the traditional Mohegan lifestyle and she mentored Mohegan anthropologist Gladys Tantaquidgeon. After her death, four of her diaries were found. These are now housed in the Museum of the American Indian in New York City and have been studied in efforts to revive the language.

On May 24, 1936, an estimated 1,000 people gathered at the Ancient Burial Grounds of the Mohegans, Fort Shantok State Park in Montville, to pay tribute to “Flying Bird”.

9. Alf Palmer (circa 1891 – 1981)

Alf Palmer (left), last known speaker of the Warrunga language.

Little is known about Alf Palmer or Jinbilnggay as he was known in his native language. He was born and died in Townsville, Queensland, Australia and, like many on this list, was keen to play his role in trying to preserve the language. He worked with linguists from Japan and Australia and proved inspirational in alerting linguists to language loss. He is pictured on the left above.

These very linguists returned to Townsville a few years ago and are working with Alf Palmer’s descendants in attempts to revive the language.

10. Tevfik Esenç (1904 – 1992)

Tevfik Esenç, last known speaker of the Ubykh language.

The Ubykh language is a North Caucasian language originally spoken along the shores of the Black Sea until its speakers were forced out by the Russians. They eventually settled in Turkey, and it was there that language died. Tevkik Esenc was an intelligent man who spoke several languages and he worked with linguistics to record the language as he was well aware of his status as the last speaker. Some of these recordings are available on Youtube.

Ubykh was in the Guinness Book of Records for being the language with the most number of consonants.

11. Ned Maddrell (circa 1878 – 1974)

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Ned Maddrell, the last known speaker of traditional Manx.

As with Dolly Pentreath (see next story below), there is some controversy as to Ned Madrell’s status, however he deserves credit for the role he played in linguistic preservation. Ned, a fisherman from Cregneash, travelled far and wide but spent his last decades on The Isle of Man teaching younger revivalists and recording his conversations to preserve the language. He is remembered as being a cheerful man who was proud of his minor celebrity status.

There have been efforts to revive Manx since Ned Madrell’s death and there is now a primary school, Bunscoill Ghaelgagh, where children are taught solely in Manx.

12. Dolly Pentreath (died 1777)

Dolly Pentreath, last known speaker of the traditional Cornish language.

According to her gravestone, which can still be visited today, Dolly Pentreath was the last known speaker of Cornish. Dolly, who only learned English as an adult and whose last words reportedly were “Me ne vidn cewsel Sawznek!” (“I don’t want to speak English!”), had a fierce reputation and was known for smoking her pipe and using profane language. Some thought her to be a witch. There is some controversy as to Dolly’s status as the last known speaker of Cornish, with some arguing that John Davey who died in 1890 should have that honour, others stating that Cornish has never really died out.

Efforts to revive Cornish have been moderately successful and Cornish gained official recognition under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in 2002, and in 2008 a Standard Written Form was agreed upon.

13. Matukar Panau Community, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea picture: speaker of dying language Matukar Panau
John Agid (pictured on the left in an interview with linguist Gregory Anderson (right) is one of only about 600 speakers of the endangered Matukar Panau language in Papua New Guinea. Photograph by Chris Rainier, National Geographic.

The Matukar Panau language is spoken in two villages in the Madang province of Papua New Guinea. Native speakers of Matukar call their language "Panau," which means "give me" and is said to refer to the words of their ancestors when they first came to the island. That their ancestors were more recent migrants than speakers of other Papua New Guinea languages in that area may be supported by the fact that Matukar is unlike the Papuan languages on the isle. It is an Oceanic language of the Austronesian family and shares cognates and similar structure with languages found on surrounding Melanesian islands, such as Samoan.

There are currently about 430 speakers of Matukar. Although this number includes both young children and experienced elders, the effects of the spreading of English and the dominance of Tok Pisin, the national pidgin, puts Matukar at risk for extinction. However, through local language revitalization efforts and projects such as the Matukar Talking Dictionary, there is hope that Matukar will become popularized among younger generations.

Matukar Panau is one of eight endangered languages featured in a "talking dictionary" project announced on 17 February 2012. Until the project team began documenting it three years ago, Matukar Panau had never been recorded or written. (Search the full Matukar Panau talking dictionary.)

14. Chamacoco Community, Paraguay

Shaman picture: speaker of dying language Chamacoco in Paraguay
Tito Perez (above), a shaman from the Chamacoco community in Puerto Diana, Paraguay, is dressed in traditional garb, including a feathered necklace and head gear. Photograph by Chris Rainier, National Geographic.

The Chamacoco language is spoken by the Ishir people of the Gran Chaco region of northern Paraguay. Chamacoco is a Zamucoan language spoken in Paraguay and maybe Brazil by the Chamacoco people. There is relatively little information about the Zamucoan language family. It is spoken by a traditionally hunter-gatherer society that has now turned to agriculture. Its speakers are of all ages, and generally do not speak Spanish or Guarani well.

Now preserved in the talking dictionaries, Chamacoco is still spoken by about 1,200 people but is highly endangered. Their language is threatened by the general shift to Spanish that is happening across most of Latin America. (Search the full Chamacoco talking dictionary.)

15. Bonda Community, India

India picture: speakers of dying language Remo in India
Speakers of India's Remo language in traditional attire. Photograph by Chris Rainier, National Geographic.

Remo, also known as Bondo or Remosam, is an Austro-Asiatic language of the Munda family spoken by an estimated 9,000 people in the Bondo Hills of Orissa province in eastern India. It is an endangered tribal language due to the pressures and influences of Oriya and other languages like Hindi and English.

Also featured among the talking dictionaries, India's Remo language is of particular interest to scholars because its linguistic roots are very old, going back to pre-Hindu India. (Search the full Remo talking dictionary.)

[Edited. Some images added.]