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Friday, August 31, 2012

8 RIDICULOUSLY EXPENSIVE OUTDATED GADGETS


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Opulent Obsolescence: 8 Ridiculously Expensive Outdated Gadgets
By Seth Porges,
Popular Mechanics, 30 August 2012.

The very rich: They have different gadgets than you or I. Somewhere someone is spending thousands of dollars on landline telephones, turntables, dumb phones, and other out-dated tech.

1. Turntable

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Basis Audio Inspiration Turntable
Price: $45,000

So you think this turntable's Volvo-like price tag is ridiculous? Well, the Inspiration is actually billed as a more accessible alternative to Basis Audio's $150,000 Work of Art turntable model.

According to the Basis Audio website, the designers behind the pricier model entered into a "musical withdrawal" after realizing that no other product would ever match the "magic of the Work of Art." Seriously. Eventually, they pulled themselves out of despondency and put out this model for the masses.

Highfalutin language used to justify price tag: "A revelatory audio experience. Music lovers comment that listening becomes a musical event more than listening session. No other turntable/tonearm combination convinces the listener in this way."

2. Landline

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Bang & Olufsen BeoCom 2
Price: $900

Today's smartphones can do a million different things. The Bang & Olufsen BeoCom 2 can do exactly two things: make phone calls and let the world know that you're rich. The phone features a weird two-column keypad. If you're used to the traditional phone keypad, you can kiss your muscle memory goodbye. But, hey, it's pretty!

Highfalutin language used to justify price tag: "BeoCom 2 challenges conventional assumptions about telephone design. Crafted from a single piece of aluminium, it sits naturally in the hand, while its gentle curve matches the shape of the human face."

3. Typewriter

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USB Typewriter
Price: $799

You could surely drop hundreds or thousands on an antique typewriter with which to write cranky letters to the editor. But we actually dig this Etsy project, in which Philly-based inventor Jack Zylkin transformed antique typewriters into iPad-ready USB keyboards. The coolest feature: You can actually use the typewriter as a typewriter while also using it to digitally record your keystrokes on your computer or tablet. Cool! He even sells DIY conversion kits, in case you want to upgrade your own dusty typing tool.

Highfalutin language used to justify price tag: "A ground-breaking advancement in the field of obsolescence!"

4. Black-and-White Camera

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Leica M Monochrome
Price: $7950

We have no doubt that this black-and-white camera is beautiful and produces beautiful pictures. It just takes a certain type of someone to plop down 8 g's on a camera that is utterly incapable of capturing colour. Still, this camera is probably fantastic at bringing out the pathos in us all.

Highfalutin language used to justify price tag: "It is the first full-frame, 35 mm format digital camera to be designed exclusively and without any compromises for black-and-white photography. It delivers ‘true' black-and-white images in unrivalled sharpness and dynamic range."

5. CD Player

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Burmester Audiosystem Reference Line CD Player 069
Price: $49,995

Audiophiles are known for dropping extra cash for the sorts of specs that are meaningless to most of us. We just don't tend to think of them doing it for CD players. Nevertheless, Burmester offers this "extraordinary sounding" CD player for more money than some people make in a year. The key to the sound, and the cost: a belt drive that holds the CD totally even, eliminating all vibration. Good to know someone is still worried about CDs skipping.

Highfalutin language used to justify price tag: "The Reference Line CD player 069 combines brand-new technologies with the well-established belt-drive system, invented by Burmester. The result is an extraordinary sounding CD player, which demonstrates the peak of what can be realized on the highest possible level."

6. Corded Computer Mouse

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The World's Most Expensive Computer Mouse
Price: $25,709.89

Sometimes an insane price tag is an end all in itself. Take this glittery gizmo, which Fabstuff gleefully bills as "The World's Most Expensive Computer Mouse." The basis of this cost: The mouse is "cast from 18 carat white gold and with 59 brilliant diamonds made from the finest ingredients." Our sweaty palms have no business near this thing.

Highfalutin language used to justify price tag: "The white gold is rhodinized. The galvanic coating with rhodium, another metal from the platinum family, gives the white gold its characteristic colour. 58 brilliant diamonds with a diameter of 2mm and 1 brilliant diamond with a diameter of 4mm are separately set to form a lily - the Diamond Flower!"

7. Arcade

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Stealth Arcade Table
Price: $3300

Sure, an Xbox 360 costs less than one-tenth as much as this arcade table, but we can't help but feel a sort of fondness for this space-age update to the old-school arcade table, which comes preloaded with 60 classic games. After all, you can't rest your pizza on an Xbox midmatch. And nobody ever said nostalgia is cheap.

Highfalutin language used to justify price tag: "A German-designed sleek and sexy contemporary product to complement the most stylish space station interiors."

8. Dumbphone

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Vertu Signature Precious

If you thought an iPhone was expensive, we would like to introduce you to the bizarre world of luxury cell phones. For tens of thousands of dollars, companies such as Vertu will sell you gold-and-diamond-encrusted hand pieces that inexplicably come loaded with tech of yester-decade.

Case in point: the Vertu Signature Precious [Video]. This model may be awash in a "sea of sapphire," but it has no camera, no GPS, no Android, and no iOS. It would seem the one percent has no use for Angry Birds. Another problem: Even if we had the cash, we'd have a hard time spending it on something we're likely to spill a drink on or leave behind at a bar.

Highfalutin language used to justify price tag: "All the ringtones available on the new Signature are taken from a piece of music composed exclusively for Vertu by the Academy Award winning composer Dario Marianelli. The composition was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and all the flute solos were performed by Andrea Griminelli, one of the world's leading flautists."

[Source: Popular Mechanics. Edited. Some links added.]


5 WAYS COMPUTERS BOOST DRUG DISCOVERY


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5 Ways Computers Boost Drug Discovery
By Emily Carlson (National Institutes of Health),
Live Science, 29 August 2012.

High-Tech Drug Design

The design of airplanes, bridges and even heart stents starts with computer-generated models that not only detail what the products could look like, but how they would work under different conditions. In recent years, scientists have started to use the same approach to help design new drugs.

Here are a few examples of how computation is contributing to many aspects of the drug discovery process, including identifying promising compounds for further testing in the lab and in clinical trials.

Learn more:
5. More Complete Models

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Most drugs work by either blocking or stimulating the activity of specific proteins in the body. Pain relievers, for example, block an enzyme involved in inflammation. To create a drug that will interact with a protein target in the desired way, chemists typically start with a computerized structural model of the protein bound to a natural molecule that "unlocks" a biological action. Then, they try to design small molecules that behave like the natural one. But this approach is only as good (and as accurate) as the starting protein model.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin recently improved algorithms for modelling short sections of a protein’s structure. By capturing additional details of a protein's shape, they can better understand, identify and predict how a potential drug molecule would bind.

4. Forecasting New Uses

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Developing a new drug and bringing it to market can take 15 years and cost more than $1 billion. An alternative is to identify and test FDA-approved drugs for new uses, also called drug repositioning. By computationally sifting through public databases of genomic information, Stanford University researchers have matched 53 human diseases, including cancers, Crohn's disease and cardiovascular conditions, to existing drugs that might work as treatments for them.

The scientists confirmed some already known matches - validating the usefulness of the approach - but they also identified some surprising pairs. For instance, topiramate, an anti-convulsant used to treat epilepsy, emerged as a good match for inflammatory bowel disease. The finding held up when tested on rat and mouse models.

3. Drug Screening Tools

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Chemists interested in exploring molecules with therapeutic potential can access libraries that contain thousands of chemical compounds. But even with the help of robotics, physically screening for the promising few to test in the lab can take up to a month. Databases that include millions of commercially available chemicals now allow for faster, vaster and more readily accessible virtual screening.

Biochemists at Southern Methodist University are using this approach - along with supercomputers - to evaluate about 40,000 compounds per day to find the ones that could block a protein that makes chemotherapy drugs less effective. Having combed through 8 million compounds, resulting in a hit list of a few hundred that could plug up the protein, they're now pursuing about 30 of them in the lab.

2. Predicting Side Effects

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When drugs interact with unintended protein targets, they cause side effects, which can include rashes, depression and other unwanted effects. Adverse side effects are the second most common reason (after lack of effectiveness) that potential medicines fail in clinical trials. Predicting the undesired binding events early on could save money and time.

To test whether computer models could identify which drugs were likely to produce adverse side effects, pharmaceutical chemists at the University of California, San Francisco, teamed up with toxicologists at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. They focused on 656 currently prescribed medicines with known safety or side effect records. The scientists used information about thousands of other chemical compounds to predict the drugs' binding to unintended targets - and potential side effects - about half of the time, which represents a big step forward.

1. Drug Tracking

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Another way to predict side effects as well as drug efficacy is to figure out how drugs are absorbed, distributed, metabolized and excreted once they enter the body.

To study these pharmacokinetic processes, scientists at the University of Michigan created a computational tool for simulating drug transport at the cellular level. The simulations make it possible to observe and manipulate the distribution of large numbers of drug molecules inside cells and identify which ones are most likely to reach their intended targets. The scientists validate the results by using microscopic imaging to track changes in the distribution of molecules traveling inside the body or cells. The simulations can be used to study and screen drugs already on the market and ones still being tested.

[Source: Live Science. Edited.]


THE MYSTERIES AND TRAGEDY OF RUSSIA'S BOTTOMLESS KARST LAKE


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The Mysteries and Tragedy of Russia's Bottomless Karst Lake
By Yohani Kamarudin,
Environmental Graffiti, 29 August 2012.

The water is serene but deathly cold - and danger lurks beneath its surface. Yet, in the aquatic depths the promise of discovering hidden underwater caves and relics of our past awaits. Here, beauty and allure belie risks - but risks that some are prepared to take.

“A sapphire in a ring of green trees.” That’s how this stunning lake has been described. Even on overcast days, the water has a deep, crystal blue colour like the gemstone to which it has been compared.

Green algaeStrange fluorescent looking green plant life growing in the lake. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

But there is much more than splendour to this lake. Beneath its smooth surface lie mysteries as yet unsolved. And some of these are secrets that the lake will not easily give up; at least, not if the recent tragic death of one diving explorer and the hospitalization of another are read as tell-tale signs.

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A creepy looking underwater branch. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

Blue Lake, or Lake Goluboe, to give it its native name, has remained relatively unexplored, possibly because of its remote location in Mother Russia. It is situated up in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, in the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.

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A mossy green carpet. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

At present, Lake Goluboe is thought to be the third largest karst source on Earth, and the second biggest in Europe. The lake is a staggering 258 meters (846 ft) deep - which also makes it one of the world’s deepest karst lakes - as well as approximately 235 meters (771 ft) long and 130 meters (427 ft) wide.

BranchesYou wouldn't want to get snagged on these while diving. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

The water’s striking blue colour has, in legend, been attributed to the lakebed being covered by lazurite - a mineral seen in deep blue ornamental crystals - but in fact it results from the chemical composition of the water itself. Hydrogen sulphide gives the lake its brilliant blue hue, as well as a distinctive smell that isn’t exactly pleasant. In the local Blakar language, the lake’s name translates as “odoriferous.”

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More spooky underwater vegetation. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

If the strange smell wasn't enough to keep casual swimmers out of Lake Goluboe’s waters, there’s also the temperature - a bracingly chilly 9° Celsius (48° Fahrenheit) year-round. Yet, while such coldness might not be ideal for a leisurely dip, it creates an exceptional environment for one purpose: preservation.

BloomA beautiful tree with yellow leaves seen from below the water’s surface. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

Among the discoveries divers exploring the lake hope to make are archaeological artefacts preserved in its frigid waters. According to various sources, there may be all kinds of treasures waiting to be found. For one, the lake is located close to an ancient caravan route, and more recently it is rumoured to have been a disposal site for military hardware and even trucks carrying wine during World War II.

ReflectionRays of light shine through from above. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

Old artefacts and aged wine aside, there is another potential discovery that draws divers to the lake. Tests carried out on Goluboe’s waters have revealed the presence of high quantities of dissolved gypsum. As much as 30 to 50 cubic meters of the soft sulphate mineral is carried from the lake into a river that it feeds each day, according to Igor Galaida, director of research centre, Goluboe Ozero.

DiverDivers hit the water in their special cold water ‘dry’ suits. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

So where does all this gypsum come from? “The presence of a large amount of dissolved substances is a sign that when water passes through earth substance, in this case gypsum plaster, it forms cavities by dissolving it,” explains Galaida. “This means that there should be a long cave beneath the lake’s floor.”

CostumesCostumes add some local flavour to the photograph. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

If indeed there is a cave system beneath Lake Goluboe - and it seems highly likely - it would be an incredibly exciting find for underwater explorers. Especially since the network may turn out to be one of the largest on Earth. This is one of the incentives behind the “Blue Lake Awareness Project,” a research initiative in which Igor Galaida and photographer Viktor Lyagushkin (who took these incredible pictures) participated, alongside many others, including divers Martin Robson and Andrei Rodionov.

Light
The dark depths. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

Martin Robson is an experienced British technical diver. His Russian support diver Andrei Rodionov was also well practiced in his chosen pursuit. Nobody anticipated that their dives as part of the Blue Lake Awareness Project would lead to such unfortunate - and in the case of Rodionov, fatal - outcomes.

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The divers’ line. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

Technical diving, as opposed to regular scuba diving, involves going to greater depths, for longer durations, and in situations of heightened risk. Technical divers require rigorous training, specialized equipment and extensive experience. Often, they also breathe different gases than those used by ordinary recreational divers.

Light sourceThe 'habitat', a warm, dry underwater refuge for divers and an added safety measure for decompression. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

Tragedy struck on January 13, 2012, when Andrei Rodionov made one of the initial dives to investigate Lake Goluboe’s depths. Drowning was given as the cause of his death, the result of Rodionov losing consciousness due to lack of oxygen, which was blamed on a faulty rebreather.

A few days later, Martin Robson was himself rushed to the hospital and placed in intensive care after a record-breaking dive of 209 meters (686 ft) resulted in decompression sickness. He has fortunately since recovered.

Rock
A rock face. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

That two such experienced divers should experience fatal and life-threatening accidents while on technical dives illustrates the very real dangers of this activity. While the other participants of the Blue Lake Awareness Project were understandably shocked and saddened by the death of Rodionov, they decided to continue with the research in memory of their departed team member, and so they would have something to show for the loss.

RockThe only light at this depth is the diver's. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

Apart from studying the lake itself, the project was also aimed at increasing the general knowledge of people within Russia and abroad about the country’s unique and lesser known natural features. “We decided to talk about Blue Lake with the help of photographs and texts, to expand the way people think about the unique underwater objects,” says photographer Viktor Lyagushkin.

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Strange, alien looking plant life. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

While shooting in the lake, Lyagushkin reached depths of 60 meters (197 ft), but he captured most of his images at between 30 and 40 meters (98 and 131 ft). “The main idea was to show the beauty of technical diving,” he says, adding that that the lake’s appearance varied at different depths, from an algae-covered bottom, to cliffs and bending rock formations.

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The lake seen from the surface. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

You may have noticed that some of the people in these photographs are wearing costumes. There’s a reason for that. “[These are] Balkar [a people of the Caucasus region] national costumes, symbolizing the spirit of the lake,” Lyagushkin reveals. “In general, materials for [a] future book.”

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A night dive in shallow water. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

Igor Galaida would like to see Lake Goluboe become the tourist destination it was during the Soviet era, when hundreds of people would come here to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery. “There is no better place on Earth than Lake Goluboe,” he says. “I realized this ten years ago and believe that all the others will be of the same opinion when they see the lake.”

CostumeWorld-champion free diver Natalya Avseenko dives in local costume. Photo: Viktor Lyagushkin.

“The problem is that this unique natural object was not explored at all - we know almost nothing about it," says Lyagushkin. “The aim of the project was to make scientists pay attention to this lake and to make them start researching it. We wanted people to understand that this is not a puddle, but an unknown and wonderful world under the water.”

For now, the lake still holds many mysteries, yet to be revealed. Who knows when we will ever discover what lies in its murky depths? In the meantime, however, we can admire the beauty of this watery environment through photographs like those taken Viktor Lyagushkin; though of course we also keep in mind the danger such lakes can hold for people, not least divers.

[Source: Environmental Graffiti. Edited.]


Thursday, August 30, 2012

TOP 10 UNIQUE AND BIZARRE NEWS STORIES


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Top 10 Unique and Bizarre News Stories
By Bryan Johnson,
Toptenz, 30 August 2012.

It is always fun to read about the latest unusual and bizarre news stories. The world is full of unexplained events that have been published by the media. These events can be funny, scary, or strange, but are always interesting. The best kind of bizarre news stories are the ones that inspire, make people laugh, show weird videos, or cause us to question science. Some of the most popular topics include Sasquatches, aliens, sea monsters, unexplained explosions, weird deaths, animal bravery, strange purchases, ironic stories, and anything funny. This article will examine ten bizarre news stories that have been published as of late.

10. Be Careful On Twitter

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Did you ever wonder what would happen if you decided to play a joke and publish some outlandish material on your Facebook or Twitter page? I wouldn’t recommend it. In January of 2012, a British man named Leigh Van Bryan was planning a trip to the United States and wrote on his Twitter account, “Free this week for a quick gossip before I go and destroy America.” It should be mentioned that “destroy” is a slang term in the UK for “party.” As soon as the sentence was entered on Twitter, the security software took over and Leigh Van Bryan was flagged by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

When Leah attempted to enter the United States with his friend Emily Banting, the two were questioned by the FBI over the tweets. The FBI searched the couple’s bags for weapons and a shovel. Leigh also tweeted a quote from the television show Family Guy about digging up the body of Marilyn Monroe. The two were held under suspicion of planning to “commit crimes”. Their passports were confiscated, they was arrested, held overnight, and kicked out of the U.S. During the event, Leigh Van Bryan was placed in a jail cell with two large Mexican men. At dinner, Leigh was left with no food.

Emily Banting was quoted: “The officials told us we were not allowed in to the country because of Leigh’s tweet. They wanted to know what we were going to do.” Leigh said: “I kept saying to them they had got the wrong meaning from my tweet, but they just told me “you’ve really messed up boy.” In the future, if Leigh or Emily wants to travel to the United States, they must reapply for visas at the U.S. Embassy in London. The moral of the story, don’t post any stupid quotes on Twitter, even if you are joking. Somebody is always watching, and that somebody has no sense of humour whatsoever.


9. Haikou City Strangler

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For all women reading this, I am going to let you know that men’s testicles are sensitive. They don’t like to be punched, kicked, or grabbed. They prefer to just kinda hang out. In fact, men can die if you squeeze their testicles so hard that they are rendered unconscious. In April of 2012, this happened in the Meilan District of Haikou City, China, when a 41-year-old unidentified woman killed a man by squeezing his testicles so hard that he passed out.

On the day in question, the woman attempted to park her scooter in front of the man’s shop. The shop owner didn’t want her to park there and the two started to yell at each other, which quickly escalated into a physical altercation. They slapped at each other, and then the woman latched onto the man’s testicles so hard that he was left unconscious. By the time she was done, he was dead. The case was extremely rare, and might be the first-ever death by testicular asphyxiation. The woman was arrested, but it remains unclear what her punishment will be, especially since “eye for an eye” is kinda impossible in this case.


8. Golden Cloth of Spider Silk

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One of the most unique spiders in the world is the golden silk orb-weaver. There are currently over 150 species of the spider in the world, and the orb-weaver is known for creating beautiful golden webs. In 2004, a group of researchers undertook a project to create a marvellous piece of golden cloth from the spider silk of orb-weaver spiders. In order to achieve the goal, the group collected over 1 million female spiders from the telephone poles of Madagascar. They extracted about 80 feet (24.3 meters) of golden silk filament from each spider and then put them back in the wild. It took over five years to collect enough silk for the cloth, and the final result was an 11-foot by 4-foot (3.3 by 1.2 meter) textile.

Despite its sparking beauty, the cloth is important because scientists have been able to test it. For decades, humans have been trying to replicate the properties of spider silk without success. The material is extremely elastic and strong. In fact, the tensile strength of spider silk is comparable to that of high-grade alloy steel. It also stretches to 40% of its normal length before breaking. Scientists have tried to raise spiders in captivity for their silk, but it is difficult because they tend to kill each other. The golden cloth is a true work of art and has been displayed at various museums. In 2012, it was featured at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, along with several gorgeous pieces that have been created since.


7. Defense Robots

Source: YouTube via Toptenz

The War in Afghanistan has put a spotlight on the use of unmanned systems and robotics on the battlefield. One of the biggest threats to U.S. troops in Afghanistan is roadside bombs. To fight the problem, the U.S. had deployed more than 6,000 robots in the field. Approximately 750 of these devices have been destroyed by bombs, which has saved many lives. These robots are controlled by an operator who watches over the device from a screen. This is effective, but defense programs would like to create more reliable and advanced robotic designs that are used for reconnaissance missions.

One of these designs is a large armoured vehicle named the Lockheed’s Squad Mission Support System, which is meant to carry pieces of gear for overloaded foot soldiers. There is also an Oshkosh’s unmanned vehicle system, which allows one person to control a convoy of heavy cargo trucks. According to officials, it is difficult to create military robotics for the ground support because fighting is so dynamic and unpredictable. The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) is a four-legged walking robot design which will be used to carry supplies for combat foot patrols.

In 2012, it was announced that the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) completed a robotic cheetah that can run at 18 mph. The robot set a land speed record for a machine with legs. The goal of the project is to eventually make a robot that can outrun humans on the battlefield. The incredible speed was achieved after the engineers mastered a galloping motion, which used the biomechanics of real animals. The robot’s top speed can be viewed in the above video.

It has also been reported that Boston Dynamics is building a humanlike robot, code-named Atlas. The machine will be capable of walking and jogging upright, squeezing through narrow spots, and grabbing objects. Like other robots, it will be constructed without a head to make it look less humanlike. It seems most people don’t want robots running around that look like people. It’s freaky. Besides helping military forces, advanced robotic designs can be used for humanitarian purposes, such as rescue efforts and disaster response.

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6. Justin Smeja Bigfoot Story

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One of the most popular stories surrounding Bigfoot of late is the tale of Justin Smeja. As the story goes, in November of 2010, Justin Smeja was bear-hunting with a friend in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Gold Lake, California. As the men rounded a corner in their vehicle, they were confronted with the sight of a dirty female Bigfoot 80 yards away. The creature was in distress and started to move toward the car, waving its arms in the air. Smeja got out of the vehicle and, despite attempts by the passenger to stop him, shot the Bigfoot. It stumbled to the ground, got up and tried to run off, switching between two legs and four legs.

Shocked by what they had witnessed, the men looked for the Bigfoot and came across two more juvenile creatures. Smeja then decided to shoot one of the young Sasquatches to death. This upset his friend, who took the gun away. It was then reported that the men felt a sense of dread. They instantly fled the scene, with Smeja fearing punishment for his actions. Two weeks after the event, Smeja returned to the site with a bloodhound, and supposedly found the remains of the adult Sasquatch. He removed a piece of flesh from the creature and gave it to a collection of Sasquatch researchers, who examined it for DNA evidence.

Justin Smeja described the Bigfoot as looking like a mix between a human, ape, and boxer dog. The creatures had rounded mouths, black hands with padding, and communicated like humans (vocally similar to the deaf). The juvenile was reported to be 40 pounds, and the adult 600 pounds. The adult was approximately 8 feet (2.4 meters) tall, but was much skinnier than the normal portrayal of Sasquatch. Smeja said the creatures had a bad body odour.

After the story started to reach the Internet in 2011, people began to attack Justin Smeja for apparently killing helpless animals. He has since apologized for the act, and said that he was in a state of shock. The account is widely known as the Sierra Kills event. Many people feel the story is another attempt to promote Bigfoot and make money. In 2012, it was reported that Smeja’s story might be featured in a Hollywood production. He is also writing a book about the encounter.


5. Lagarfljót Worm Video

Source: YouTube via Toptenz

The Lagarfljót Worm is an Icelandic cryptid said to live in Lagarfljót Lake, in Egilsstaðir, east Iceland. Sightings of the creature have been reported for centuries, and continue in 2012. The worm has been described as being over 300 feet (91 m) in length, and has been viewed on land and in the water. On land, it is often seen lying coiled up or slithering in the trees. In 1983, a group of contractors putting a telephone cord in the lake noticed a large shifting mass on the eastern shore. When they retrieved the cable, it was shredded in the area that was over the anomaly.

In February of 2012, the Icelandic national broadcaster, RÚV, published a video taken by local resident Hjortur Kjerulf that supposedly shows a Lagarfljót Worm swimming in the snow-covered lake. The footage is said to show a giant snake, approximately 295 feet long (90m), swimming in a twisting motion against the current of the lake. It is an interesting clip, but the video has been criticized and called fake by some viewers. People say that it looks like a frozen net, while others point to the fact that the object appears to be making no progress while moving through the water. Like similar pieces of footage, it is suspicious that the cameraman doesn’t continue the shot until the creature disappears from sight. However, the video remains one of the best pieces of cryptid footage captured in 2012.


4. Penguin Number 337

Source: YouTube via Toptenz

For those of you who have seen the movie Madagascar, you know that penguins can be smart, cunning, and elusive. Penguin Number 337 is a one-year-old Humboldt penguin that was raised in the Tokyo Sea Life Park in Japan. In March of 2012, the bird made a daring escape and broke out of the park. It scaled a high rock wall and squeezed through a barbed wire fence before waddling to freedom. The area around the aquarium is near the Edo River and Tokyo Bay. It is thought that Penguin 337 made a quick dash for the river, which is full of fish. A city-wide penguin hunt was carried out, but Penguin 337 was gone.

Officials from the Sea Life Park said: “We think it escaped because of its young age, maybe due to its curiosity and yearning for adventure.” Penguin 337 is too young to determine whether it is male or female. Once full grown, the bird could reach 2 feet (0.6 meters) in length, and weigh up to 13 pounds.

On May 16, 2012, two months after the escape, video footage of the healthy penguin surfaced on the Internet. The clip was captured in a different part of Tokyo Bay. The penguin was seen frolicking in the water and appeared healthy. Keepers at the Sea Life Park said that the bird is probably eating small fish during the day, and returning to the shore at night. As of May 2012, Penguin 337 remains a free bird.


3. New Robert Kennedy Trial

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On June 6, 1968, U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy was shot to death at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The investigation concluded that a Jordanian citizen named Sirhan Sirhan carried out the murder. For the crime, Sirhan Sirhan was sentenced to life in prison. He confessed to the murder, but would later recant his confession, saying that he did not remember making it. Similar to the death of JFK, after Bobby was killed, conspiracy theories emerged over the details of the death.

During the assassination, a famous recording was made that appears to hold the sound of multiple gun shots. The shots are heard in rapid succession and have caused people to think that there must have been two shooters. The theory came to a head in 2011 when Sirhan Sirhan filed motion in U.S. court for a new trial. He is arguing that there is “formidable evidence” that proves he was the target of “horrendous violations” of his rights. Sirhan has claimed that a seductive girl and the FBI used a “mind control” program or “hypo programming” to put him under hypnosis at the time of the attack.

The defense of Sirhan Sirhan is arguing that he was used as a diversion, while a second shooter murdered RFK. Sirhan is quoted: “I thought that I was at the range more than I was actually shooting at any person, let alone Bobby Kennedy.” Prosecutors have said the case is weak and that the “new theory is nonsense. Sirhan was lying from the outset and he continues to lie.”

The story reached a new level of controversy in April of 2012 when a RFK assassination witness named Nina Rhodes-Hughes came forward and said the FBI “twisted” her original statements about the murder. She is quoted: “What has to come out is that there was another shooter to my right. The truth has to be told. No more cover-ups.” The testimony doesn’t necessarily indicate that Sirhan Sirhan is not guilty of murder, but shows that somebody else might have gotten away with a horrendous crime.


2. Clintonville, Wisconsin Booms

Source: YouTube via Toptenz

In January of 2012, an outbreak of unexplained large booms started to occur with regularity around the globe. Some were reported in British Columbia, Malaysia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Wisconsin, San Diego, Georgia, and North Carolina. The booms gained attention, and reportedly sparked panic on Twitter. On March 19, 2012, the unexplained sound moved into the small city of Clintonville, Wisconsin, located about 180 miles northeast of Madison. Residents in the area began to report mysterious explosions, loud cracking, and unexplained shaking under the earth.

The sound was said to be similar to rattling pipes, clanging metal, thunder, or loud fireworks. The phenomenon lasted for around four days, and didn’t appear to cause any damage. The U.S. Geological Survey initially said that no seismic activity was found but, after a couple days of the noise, it was determined that the cause was a “swarm” of minor earthquakes, amplified by the unique bedrock beneath the state of Wisconsin. These types of quakes usually aren’t noticed, but apparently they were extremely close to the surface.

People from Clintonville were scared by the noise, and the police experienced an outbreak of calls for help. Some reported random banging, followed by complete silence. People in the town gradually began to have parties in hopes of hearing the sound. On the Internet, conspiracy theorists latched on to the story and connected the events with the Michigan crack. The Michigan crack is a weird crack in the ground near Birch Creek, Michigan that began to form in 2010. Clintonville, Wisconsin is a two-hour drive (90 miles) from Birch Creek, Michigan. The theory says that the Earth has started to fracture in this area of the United States.

Story [Related Posts 1, 2.]

1. Saint Petersburg Explosion

Source: YouTube via Toptenz

On February 6, 2012, an electrical power plant in St. Petersburg, Russia experienced a massive explosion. The event caused an enormous light to fill the sky for a couple seconds, and was witnessed by thousands. The explosion was captured on video by a collection of people, and the tapes quickly went viral. The event has spawned a large number of conspiracy theories, and was eerily similar looking to a nuclear reaction. The blast seemed to intensify over time. People who saw the explosion were shocked by the ferocity, and it was reported that several street lights were knocked out.

The blast caused a short blackout and traffic jam, but no injuries were reported. In the Russian media the explosion was simply referred to as a “technical malfunction” at an electrical power plant, with little other details. The event caused concern, because nobody ever wants to see a large blast at a nuclear power plant. After researching the event, it is difficult to determine what plant was involved, but most signs point to the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, located some 70 kilometres (43 mi) to the west of Saint Petersburg.

Similar to many other unexplained events, aliens have been blamed for the Saint Petersburg explosion. Articles have been written that claim the event was an attack on Russia by an alien species that landed on Earth in 2011. These articles support the 2012 Space War conspiracy, which has gained some popularity in the South Korean press. Others say it was a massive nuclear accident that was hidden from the public. Whatever the case, the explosion was strange and the lack of information provided by the Russian government has caused some interest over the Internet.


Bonus Round: Nice Smile

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Every year, news stories emerge that are widely published, and later proven to be a hoax. One such case is the tale of a dentist named Anna Machowiak from Wroclaw, Poland. According the story, 45-year-old Marek Olszewski, who was the ex-boyfriend of Machowiak, set up a dentist appointment at her office. Upon his arrival, Machowiak was quoted: “When I saw him lying there, I just thought, ‘What a bastard.’” She gave him a large dose of anaesthetic, knocked him out, and then pulled out all his teeth. Machowiak wrapped Olszewski’s head in a bandage and told him there were some complications during the procedure. Olszewski later told the Daily Mail: “I knew something was wrong because when I woke up I couldn’t feel any teeth.”

According to the story, Olszewski didn’t realize all of his teeth were gone until he got home and looked in the mirror. Anna Machowiak was then arrested and could face the possibility of three years in jail. After the event, Olszewski’s new girlfriend dumped him because he now had no teeth. The story was so popular that it caused an investigative journalist named Erin Tennant to research the origin. He found out that the police in Wroclaw were not familiar with any such case. Poland’s Chamber of Physicians and Dentists also don’t have an Anna Machowiak on the professional register.

The story was finally traced back to Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper. The writer, Simon Tomlinson, said he doesn’t know where the story originated, despite his name on the publication. Tomlinson told MSNBC, “I’ve drawn a bit of a blank,” which is hack-speak for “I’m a hack, you know I’m a hack, now please go away and let me be a hack in peace.”


Top image: Lagarfljót Worm (left) and Saint Petersburg Explosion (right)

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