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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

10 NATURAL DISASTERS THAT CREATED A MORE BEAUTIFUL WORLD


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10 Natural Disasters That Created A More Beautiful World
By Jessica Betts,
Listverse, 29 March 2017.

Yellowstone National Park ranks as the #1 best national park in America. Santorini, Greece, is a bucket list destination, honeymoon location, and dream vacation spot. The African Safari has more to see than we can ever see in one trip. Yet, these locations have more in common than their uncommon beauty. The history of their formation ranges from unexpected to tragic, and every single one can attribute their creation to a well known natural disaster.

10. Yucatan Cenotes and the Chicxulub Asteroid

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The many cenotes (sinkholes) that pepper the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico are unique. Their turquoise waters rest beneath sky lit caves. Lush plants grow along their high walls, opening to azure skies. Yet, the true magic happens in the water beneath the limestone sinkholes.

The cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula are meromix aquifers. This means that 10 meters (33 feet) below the top layer of clean groundwater is another layer of salt water. The two layers do not mix, and through most of the year, they remain crystal clear. The cenotes were a source of fresh water for the Mayans in dry times. They also played an important role in Mayan spirituality. A cenote called Chichen Itza has revealed many artifacts sacrificed to the well. Seeing one of these cenotes leaves little mystery about why the Mayans would worship in such a place.

It is easy to concentrate on the relaxation you could enjoy in such a beautiful location. Yet, the cenotes of Yucatan show us more than a glimpse into the lives of the Mayans who lived near them. They outline the impact crater of Asteroid Chicxulub. This is the asteroid that we give credit for the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period. Along the edges of the impact crater, is the ring of Yucatan cenotes. This ring gives us an idea of how large the asteroid might have been when it hit; 240 kilometers (149 miles) across.

9. Niagara Falls and the Ice Age

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The Niagara Escarpment is well known for the vast amounts of water that flow over it. In New York and Ontario Canada, the Niagara River plummets up to 34 meters (110 feet) to the pools below. More than 170,000 cubic meters (six million cubic feet) of water pour over the crest line of the falls every minute. The powerful falls provide a breathtaking backdrop for vacations and destination weddings alike.

The creation of Niagara Falls took much longer than an asteroid hitting the planet. The Pleistocene, which formed this site and many others, was a long-lasting natural phenomenon. Most people know the Pleistocene by its more common moniker, The Great Ice Age. This is when much of the world’s megafauna, including the mastodons and the wooly mammoth, went extinct.

Along with the extinction, there were massive changes to the world’s landscape. One of the extensive changes was the formation of the Niagara Falls. The water that supplies the falls came from the last northward retreat of the glaciers, which covered Southern Ontario with ice sheets two-three kilometers thick. That is almost two miles of ice.

8. Crater Lake

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In the Southwestern forests of Oregon is the beautiful Crater Lake. Pristine blue waters, lush green pines, and the wistful magic of Pumice Castle and Wizard’s Island. There is something about Crater Lake that draws you in. It begs you to spend a few nights camping in the Crater Lake National Forest. If you are lucky, you might even spot The Old Man of the Lake. The Old Man is an ancient hemlock that has managed to float upright for over a 100 years. Beneath the sun bleached, well-traveled log is a crater that, at its deepest point, is 592 meters (1,943 feet). The combination of beauty and mystery that Crater Lake provides is one that you will not want to miss.

There is no mystery in the creation of the lake itself. The top of the ancient volcano sunk during its eruption. The caldera took 250 years of rainwater to fill. Approximately 7,700 years ago the volcano, named Mt. Mazama, was over 3,600 meters (12,000 feet) tall. The eruption blasted 20 kilometers (12 miles) high, and a cloud of ash and lava fragments, called pyroclasts, carried as far as central Canada. There are ash particles from the explosion as far away as Greenland.

7. Yellowstone National Park

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Almost thirteen hundred kilometers (800 miles) away from Crater Lake is Yellowstone National Park. The park is a unique combination of flora, fauna, and fountains that shoot steaming water into the sky. Yellowstone is well known for the geyser “Old Faithful,” whose regular blasts can reach up to 56 meters (185 feet). Other rare sights include the Yellowstone Sand Verbena and Yellowstone Sulfur Wild Buckwheat. They are endemic to the area, meaning they are only found in the park. It is not uncommon to see bison, moose, wolves, and bears after spending only a few hours inside the beautiful landscape.

However, there is a dangerous history to Yellowstone. Many people know about the potential of the Yellowstone supervolcano erupting in our future. What few know about are the three major explosions that overtook the land before it became a national park.

Dating back 2.1 million years, the park was home to three massive eruptions. The strength of these explosions reached up to 6,000 times the strength of the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption. The resulting calderas, plants, and animals are what now makes up most of the park today.

6. Ngorongoro Crater

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The location of the Ngorongoro Crater is near the more well-known Serengeti plains. It is the world’s sixth largest unbroken caldera. In the crater, you can find elephants, zebra, and black rhino. Cheetahs and lions also roam the crater, along with 500 documented species of birds. The vegetation ranges from bamboo to short grass and native trees. There are even rainforests near the rim. The wildlife and vegetation are not the only things you might see when visiting the crater, though.

The native Maasai people and their livestock live in harmony with the local wildlife. The nearby crater of Olmoti offers stunning waterfalls. Empakai, another crater in the park, holds a deep lake and lush, green walls. There is no end to the sights that the Ngorongoro Conservation Area offers us today.

Three million years ago the Ngorongoro crater was a massive volcano that towered over the land. The volcano’s height ranged between 4,500 to 5,800 meters (14,800 to 19,000 feet) high, nearly as high as the nearby Kilimanjaro stands today.

The caldera has a depth of 610 meters (200 feet) and a base area covering 260 square kilometers (100 square miles). This three-million-year-old volcanic eruption would have been a massive natural disaster, sure to have destroyed everything in its path. Today the result is a location of incredible beauty.

5. Okavango Delta

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When you think of the Kalahari Desert, you might think of orange sands and a blistering sun. Yet, at the base of the Okavango River, we can find an inland delta. The Okavango Delta is a unique World Heritage site that does not empty into the ocean like most deltas do. Instead, it has transformed the Kalahari into a permanent marshland.

Crystal blue waters and a vast ecosystem of plant and animal life thrive there. African Elephants, Zebras, Hippo, and several other large animals populate the delta. The annual flood-tide from Angola brings, even more, life to the otherwise arid desert backdrop. A safari adventure to Okavango Delta is not one we should miss.

We could have missed it, though, if it were not for the earthquake that caused the East African Rift Valley. The Okavango river once did as all rivers do; it flowed down towards the ocean through large lakes. Then the newly named Nubian and Somalian plates began to form. As a result, the rifts and earthquakes interrupted the flow of the river, and it spilled out onto the desert to form the lush landscape.

4. Undara Lava Tubes

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If you are planning to go to Australia, the Great Barrier Reef might come to mind. The cities of Sydney and Brisbane could also be your ultimate destination. Yet, a short 3.5-hour drive from Cairns will take you to a system of lava tubes you will not want to miss. Undara is an Aboriginal word that means “the long way,” an apt name for one of the longest lava tubes on the planet.

The tubes extend for approximately 32 kilometers (20 miles). That is a long hike, but it is worth the time. The tubes contain some of the most biologically diverse caves in the world. The collapsed roofs in the caves allow sunlight to reach the plants and animals living there. This includes four species of bat and the common wallaroo. Thickets of semi-evergreen vine grow in the cave as well. The origin of the vines traces back to the separation of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwanaland. Those are some old vines.

The creation of a lava tube is an inherent natural disaster - a massive volcanic eruption producing 23.3 cubic kilometers (5.6 cubic miles) of lava. The flow moved at a rate of about 1000 cubic meters (35.300 cubic feet) every second and traveled over 160 kilometers (100 miles), consuming everything in its path. The Undara Lava Tubes formed when the lava gushed into a dry riverbed, and the top layer solidified. The lava inside the tube carried on for many kilometers before draining out. What it left behind was the shell of the tubes we see today.

3. Ujung Kulon - Krakatoa

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As far as rare sights go, the Javan Rhinoceros is one of the rarest. With only 60 rhinos left, they are an endangered species that is only found in the Ujung Kulon National Park. There are also 57 rare plants that grow in the Indonesian park. As a World Heritage Site, the park is a breathtaking journey of soft sand beaches and snorkeling. Tropical mountains and several islands may also catch the eye.

The main feature of Ujung Kulon is the now dormant volcano Krakatoa. Krakatoa is well known for its violent explosion in 1883. The explosion killed 36,000 people, and the sound it made during its explosion reached as far as 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) away. This was the loudest sound ever recorded on the planet. The resulting ash cloud blocked the sun for several days in the area. The loss of lives and damage to nearby islands resulted from the natural disaster. The lush green rainforests and pristine natural ecosystem were also a result. The national park that now lays at the volcano’s base is a clear show of the resilience of the planet.

2. Mediterranean Messinian Salinity Crisis

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Turquoise seas, warm winters, and sun shining summers. White sand beaches and whitewashed walls. Cities built on rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean. This imagery is the quintessential vacation. This is the place you dream of when you talk about your hopes to travel the world and see the sites. This is the Mediterranean. The cultures that thrive on the islands here have brought us a unique cuisine and history. Rome, Greece, Sicily, and Carthage all fought for control of it over the years. The 3,900-kilometer (2,400-mile) long sea played an important role in their rises and falls in power. It also allowed trade between the Europe and Asia.

Yet, the cultures and civilizations we have today were once at risk of never existing. The beautiful islands, coastlines, and calderas might never have happened. If it were not for the Zanclean Flood, the Mediterranean could still be the desert basin it was 5.6 million years ago.

Blocked from its ocean sources, four kilometers (2.5 miles) of water vanished from the Mediterranean. For perhaps 800,000 years the Mediterranean remained mostly dry. Then about 5.33 million years ago there was a rapid refill of the sea. The same Gibraltar straits that had blocked the ocean opened again. An estimated 90 percent of the basin filled within a two year period, filling at a rate of up to ten meters per day. The islands we have now, the land of dream vacations, returned, due to a massive flood.

1. Galveston Hurricane, 1900

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Over fifty kilometers (32 miles) of shoreline and activities for every kind of person, the Island of Galveston, Texas, is one that offers a no-fuss vacation. Only 50 minutes from Houston, this island is one that you can get to by car. There is plenty of shopping, attractions, and cruising to keep you occupied. Beaches, dolphin swims, and horseback riding will draw you to the natural side of this island city.

Galveston was not always the sunny, happy town it is today. It is well known for being the location that Hurricane Galveston made land in 1990. A category four storm with winds up to 225 km/h (140 mph) tore over the island. The death toll reached over 6,000 of the 37,000 citizens and over 3,500 buildings and homes vanished.

Some call it the worst Natural Disaster in US history. The one thing that is certain is that this hurricane was a tragedy. Yet, today you can still go to Galveston, you can sit on the beach and stare out at a much calmer sea. You can hear the laughter of local children and see the beautiful city that stands proud today.

These natural disasters have torn the land apart. They have blasted holes into the earth and taken more lives than we can count. Yet, the earth, the animals, and the people who live on it are resilient. Whenever tragedy strikes, we will recover and repair. The destruction will fade, making way for a more beautiful world.

Top image: Ujung Kulon, Indonesia. Credit: trian wida charisma/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.

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

10 COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT FAMOUS ORGANIZATIONS AND SOCIETIES


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10 Common Misconceptions About Famous Organizations and Societies
By Gregory Myers,
Toptenz, 24 March 2017.

History is often written by the winners, or at least by the survivors. And even in present day, news is often presented with a bias. Many organizations will go to great lengths to cover up what they are truly about, in order to continue to obtain funding and work toward goals that most people may actually oppose. It’s very easy for history, even recent history, to be blurred by the lens of misinformation. And our own biases and misconceptions can make us far more susceptible to be convinced by untruth.

10. The Incredibly Manly Spartans Were Far More Used to Male Love

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Many people think of Spartans as examples of the manliest of the manly men that ever walked the planet. They were a pure warrior society known for caring only about glory in battle and being the toughest you could possibly be. They also spent most of their time growing up completely cut off from female contact - remaining in military barrack-like institutions that allowed only for training with males. Spartans also were well known for having pederastic relationships. It was encouraged for young training Spartans to have an older male to form a close relationship with, where the older male was known as the inspirer and the younger as the hearer.

More damningly, weddings were not formed through careful courtship, but essentially decided for the sake of convenience. Part of the wedding ritual also involved a sort of ritual rape, where beforehand the woman shaves her head and dresses in men’s clothing. Some historians have theorized that this ritual was designed to help ease Spartans into having sex with women, when they were normally used to having sexual relations with men.

9. Despite Their Peaceful Reputations, Buddhists Have a History of Violence

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Buddhists are known around the world for being the most peaceful religion imaginable. Most people would never consider that the Buddhists might engage in violence or goad violence on, mainly due to the actions of people like Gandhi, and many monks who performed amazing acts of protest such as burning themselves alive. However, Buddhism is not always an entirely peaceful and kind religion. Many people think that Buddhism believes intentional killing is always wrong, but this is not necessarily the case. Buddhism tends to spend far more time worrying about the intention than the actual action. Monks have even prayed alongside soldiers, defending their actions by stating that they are not directly promoting death, but that it is better to have soldiers with a clear head.

In some parts of the world with Buddhist majorities such as Burma (also known as Myanmar), many monks have been accused of either not condemning, or even goading on violence against Muslim minorities. The fallout from these actions has been very brutal, as hundreds have died in deadly clashes, most of them Muslim. While Buddhism may be a mostly peaceful belief system, most religions are as well - humans just happen to be very good at finding excuses for violence.

8. The Knights Templar Were Mainly a Group Of Very Rich Bankers

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Many people think of the Knights Templar as some secret group of shadowy assassins or very powerful warriors. The Assassin’s Creed game series has led people to believe they were an elite force of some kind, but the truth is a bit more boring. While they did have troops who fought for them, it is quite likely that most of them were far more loyal to their paychecks than they were to any nebulous cause. The Knights Templar were an early group of bankers, who formed a lot of banking regulations and structures that are still used in some forms today.

However, while the Templars were not much more evil or mysterious than most powerful organizations in history, like most people their influence became so large that they became a threat even to their own allies. As bankers nearly everyone was in debt to them, and as the crusades ended and support for their military campaigns ended, those who had debts with them started to look for an easy way out.

When Pope Clement V decided he wanted to merge them with another organization, King Philip IV of France used the opportunity to start arresting large amounts of Templars, and did everything he could to encourage terrible rumors about them - all because he was deeply in debt to them. While they likely had far too much influence, and may not have been a particular force for good in the world, it is quite likely many of the crazier rumors were largely exaggerated by their enemies.

7. PETA Actually Kills Animals and is Against Adopting Them

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Most people know PETA as that zany animal rights organization, but the fact of the matter is that they don’t really care about animal rights at all. They are very much against people eating meat, and they are against people owning pets, but they don’t actually really care all that much for the rights of animals as many activists would think of it. The truth is that PETA is good at getting attention, and also really good at hiding what they are truly about. PETA believes that the animal population is so out of control that, until it is under control, the best thing to do is euthanize stray or even extra animals, even if they are perfectly healthy puppies and kittens.

PETA’s shelter at their headquarters isn’t even certified to be an actual adoption shelter - they don’t have the facilities or licensing to hold animals for more than 24 hours. PETA has killed tens of thousands of animals through quick euthanasia instead of even trying to adopt them out, because of their extreme beliefs. There is nothing wrong with being an animal rights activist, but there are many sane organizations out there that support such causes - PETA is not one of them.

6. The Suffragette Movement Wasn’t Entirely Peaceful

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When many people think of the women’s suffrage movement they usually think of a largely peaceful movement, full of marches and letter writing, in order to ensure that women have the vote. However, while the United States movement was largely peaceful, across the pond it was quite a different story. The British women’s suffrage movement was marked by very militant tactics, that some have tried to label as terrorist. At times they were known to plant bombs, commit acts of arson, smash in shop windows and other acts of violence and destruction - far from the image many have of women’s suffrage protests.

While some of these actions made it to the United States, the British movement still remains the more violent of the two. This is likely due to the fact that the movement in Britain dealt with much more severe force in response to their protests, often ending up on the end of incredibly violent and brutal police beat downs for daring to stand up for their right to have their voice heard. Some people think that it was only violence that won women the vote, but this would also be inaccurate. While the movement was more violent than many might think, it would have never have been successful if it had only acted with destruction in mind.

5. Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders Were Shameless Glory Hounds

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Many people tend to think of Teddy Roosevelt as one of the great American giants - a man of unflinching honor and bravery who proved his mettle in battle time and again. However, the truth is that everything about Teddy Roosevelt was carefully manufactured to create a very specific persona, and behind it all Teddy was a shameless glory hound who wanted to be given accolades and be told how special he was. While he was assistant secretary of the Navy he once said that he thought the country needed a war, all because he wanted all generations to get a chance to prove themselves as warriors. Some historians believe he had this complex because his father had chosen not to fight in the Civil War.

Teddy Roosevelt abdicated other duties and left to form the rough riders with the sole intention of creating an elite group that would gain great glory and honor in battle. Later after people had seen in the news of his glorious exploits, he said “I am entitled to the Medal of Honor and I want it.” His ego was incredibly large and it is clear that he did not fight in order to protect his country or do his duty, but solely for the glory that he would receive from it. Teddy Roosevelt may not have been afraid to throw himself into a deadly battle, but he did it for all the wrong reasons.

4. Australia’s Crime Ridden Roots of Legend May Be Somewhat Oversold

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Many people have heard that somewhat insulting claim that Australia is a country where the people are almost entirely descendants of prisoners or prison guards. And while there is a certain level of truth to it (just look at notorious Australian outlaw Ned Kelly up there), there is also a huge misconception about what prisoner means in this context that has led a lot of people to create a false impression in their heads. England did send a large amount of people over to Australia to essentially form a new colony, without giving them any choice, but they really weren’t the hardened criminals that many people think of.

The truth is a bit sadder and shows how cruel and awful humanity can be. The types of people sent over tended to be completely nonviolent offenders and other dregs of society who were usually very poor. In many cases those sent over on the boats were children, and oftentimes the crimes they had committed were as simple as stealing a loaf of bread in order to eat - one of the least awful crimes possible. In other words, while many people think that England was sending over their violent criminals, they were mostly sending over the poor that they didn’t know what to do with.

3. Russia’s Genocide of Their Own Civilians Easily Rivaled That of the Nazis

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Many people in the western world tend to think of Hitler as the most evil being who ever existed - at least in recent enough history to have full awareness of his actions and beliefs. However, the truth is that because the Russians were our allies during World War II, and because we had such a tricky relationship with them at the best of times, we have often glossed over the true evil of Joseph Stalin - a man who could easily rival Hitler when it came to massacring and torturing innocent civilians, including those within his own borders.

Stalin eliminated the Kulak class, a group of richer farmers, killing millions and deporting many millions more. Some of those who were killed were paraded naked in the street and even forced to dig their own graves. This elimination of the farming class caused a huge famine in Ukraine that led to the deaths of 3-5 million more people. Stalin was systematic in putting anyone who might be part of an opposition group, or any ethnic group he didn’t like, into brutal gulags. While he may have killed less than Hitler, the brutality of his camps easily rivaled that of the Nazi’s - and the Russians were good at hiding their overall body count. They never had the other countries marching in to inspect the numbers either, so it is hard to be certain whether the figures we have don’t downplay the atrocities.

It is also little known that the Russian soldiers who liberated Germany and Berlin raped many of the women that they came across when freeing people from concentration camps. These women had already had to endure such horror, and now they had to endure even more from people who claimed to be their liberators. While some could blame the dehumanization of war that could affect any human being and not just the Russians specifically, the damning part is that the Russian leadership knew of the issue and refused to do anything to discourage it.

2. The Amazons are an Incredibly Misunderstand Group and Less Crazy Than People Think

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The Amazons are incredibly famous and known around the world, but most people are pretty hazy on who are what they actually were. Some people know them only as mythological and don’t believe they were even real - they were. And other people have taken to heart fantastic tales that claim that Amazons cut off one of their breasts in order to be better at firing arrows. This claim is of course not true, and also wouldn’t actually help you fire arrows better - although that hardly needs to be said. The even more common legends claim that they hated men and boys, were a mainly lesbian society and were very anti-man.

The Amazons were a group of ancient Scythian warrior women, indeed a mostly female society, but they had absolutely no quarrel with men and certainly were known as being lovers of men as well. While there may be some truth to them giving male children away to neighboring tribes to be raised, there is no truth to the tales that they castrated their boys. While they were above such insane actions, they could still be quite a zany culture. They were certainly keen on enjoying themselves, and smoked marijuana, got numerous tattoos, and even drank a fermented mare’s milk with powerful mind altering properties during some of their rituals.

1. The Founding Fathers Didn’t Really Believe in Democracy the Way Many Envision it Today

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When talking about the direction that the United States of America should take in terms of political legislation and other decisions, many people will start theorizing about what the founding fathers would have wanted. Their names especially come up when people are talking about freedom from tyranny and the people making their voices heard. However, the truth is that the founding fathers wanted as little involvement from the common person as possible, and cared little for the kind of democracy most people envision today. When the United States had formed a union but had not yet officially won independence, most states did not allow you to vote unless you were actually a landowner - in some cases you were allowed as long as you paid a high enough percentage of taxes.

It was only after the war had been won that most states started doing away with the requirement to own land in order to vote, but that doesn’t mean that everyone suddenly had the right. They caved because the war had largely been started on the idea of “no taxation without representation,” so it would be hypocritical if taxpayers couldn’t vote.

Shortly after the war most states adopted laws allowing those who paid taxes to vote, but it was still some time before the laws became inclusive even to the common man who had little enough to pay in taxes that he didn’t qualify in many states, and much longer still before minorities and women were allowed the right to vote. And, despite many people romanticizing the founding fathers as a group that was against religious discrimination, many states in the early days of our union did not allow Catholics or Jews to vote.

Top image: Painting of the Amazons. Credit: Tischbein/Wikimedia Commons.

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

10 TIMES NATURE SMELLED LIKE SOMETHING TOTALLY UNEXPECTED


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10 Times Nature Smelled Like Something Totally Unexpected
By Catherine Jones,
Listverse, 28 March 2017.

While a human’s olfactory sense is significantly weaker than many animals’, we can still detect billions of different scents. And we expect things in nature to smell a certain way. Fruits smell sweet, flowers smell pleasant, and animals smell earthy. But some plants and animals smell nothing like we would expect, and their scent can be unexpectedly delicious or horribly foul.

10. The Center Of The Galaxy Smells Like Raspberries Or Rum

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Photo credit: ESO

It’s well known the galaxy is made up of stars, dust, gas, black holes, and dark matter. But did you know that the galaxy has a delicious scent?

Thanks to the IRAM telescope in Spain, Max Plank Institute astronomers studying a dust cloud called Sagittarius B2 near the center of our Milky Way galaxy found the presence of the chemical ethyl formate (C3H6O2). This chemical gives raspberries their flavor and is also found in rum.

It wasn’t the only chemical found in this cloud near the center of the galaxy, though, so the scent isn’t pure. And you wouldn’t be able to enter the Milky Way to give it a sniff or a taste, unless you don’t require oxygen and have a spaceship with a few million years’ worth of time to travel from one end to the other.

9. The Eastern Spadefoot Toad Smells Like Peanut Butter

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

This toad has many distinguishing characteristics, from its large size (1.5–3 inches long) to its bright yellow eyes with cat-like pupils. The Eastern Spadefoot Toad is tan or brown in coloring, and while it is named for the spade shape of its hind foot that it uses for digging, its most unusual feature is the fact that it smells distinctly like peanut butter.

Spadefoot toads spend most of their time underground but will materialize during heavy rains, when they hang out in wetland areas. Be careful trying to catch and sniff one of these toads, though: Some people have allergic reactions when touching them. If you mind developing symptoms like sneezing and red eyes, then get close enough to smell - but not to touch - these little guys.

8. The Chocolate Flower Smells Like (You Guessed It) Chocolate

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

Berlandiera lyrata, also known as the chocolate flower, chocolate daisy, and green-eye lyre leaf, is a blooming perennial that grows to 1–2 feet. This daisy-like flower has yellow petals that surround a deep red center. When the petals are plucked, the delicious smell of chocolate is released.

The chocolatey aroma is also present in the leaves and branches of the plant. The chocolate flower grows in dry, rocky soil in Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and central Mexico. The sweet-smelling plant is most pungent on warm days and blooms year-round.

7. The Carrion Flower Smells Like Rotting Flesh

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

Stapelia gigantea, also called the starfish flower or carrion flower, looks like a cactus with a large star-shaped bloom that can reach 10–12 inches in length. The flower is tan and maroon in color, and its texture is described as feeling like suede or animal skin. Sweet-smelling plants attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, but the carrion flower does things a little differently. To attract its target audience, flies, the plant emits the scent that they like most - rotting flesh.

This horribly pungent plant is a member of the milkweed family, and in addition to its flowers, which bloom in autumn, it produces pods that contain fruit and seeds. It grows quickly and easily, and if you can’t stand the rotting meat smell, just cut off the flowers; the plant itself doesn’t have the foul odor.

6. The Western Conifer Seed Bug Smells Like Apple

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

Leptoglossus occidentalis, or the western conifer seed bug, is a brown, black, and orange creature found throughout North America and Canada but is most prevalent in New York and Pennsylvania. Adult bugs reach about 0.75 inches in length and live in conifer trees, which produce cones such as pinecones. These bugs eat and lay their eggs on cone needles and do enough damage to affect the seed crop of many different kinds of fir and pine trees.

This pesky insect loves to find its way inside homes and other buildings during the winter through small gaps in doors and windows. When crushed, these bugs release a blue gunk and, oddly, the smell of apples.

5. The Western Skunk Cabbage Smells Like Skunk

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

The western skunk cabbage or swamp lantern (scientific name Lysichiton americanum) is commonly found in the Pacific Northwest. It grows in swamps and other wet environments in partial sunlight. In March and April, the plant blooms with yellow flowers that smell horrible enough to attract the flies needed to pollinate the plant. The leaves of the plant develop after the flower and, when crushed, also smell distinctly like a skunk.

This large, perennial plant can reach approximately 5 feet in height and is poisonous when ingested by humans and other mammals. There is also an east coast version, the eastern skunk cabbage, which has purple flowers and the same rotting meat or skunky scent.

4. The Voodoo Lily Smells Like Meat

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

Dracunculus vulgaris, also known as voodoo lily, dragon arum, dragonwort, stink lily, or drakondia is native to Greece, Crete, Turkey, and the Balkans. It also currently grows in Spain, Italy, and North Africa, though it isn’t believed to be native to these areas. The plant requires moist soil and has light green leaves with dark purple or black flowers. The variety found in Crete can also have white blooms.

Like the other foul-smelling plants on this list, the voodoo lily attracts flies and some beetles with its rotten meat scent. Flies that land on the plant become trapped, so they pollenate and then are released the following day.

As its nicknames suggest, there is something sinister-looking about the plant. This, combined with its off-putting smell, repels most animals - which is a good thing, as it is highly poisonous.

3. The Italian White Truffle Smells Like Musk

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

Truffles are found in France, Italy, North Africa, and the Middle East. In North America, truffles commonly grow in California and Oregon. Well-known as an expensive delicacy that can sell for anywhere from US$150 (Oregon truffles) to US$450 (French or Italian truffles) per pound, as well as far higher for rarer varieties, they grow underground and are harvested by female pigs or specially trained truffle dogs from September to May.

The white Alba truffle in Italy is especially known for its musky scent and strong flavor. Newly harvested truffles are eaten raw or lightly cooked to flavor other dishes. They are also commonly made into truffle oil or truffle butter.

2. The Binturong Smells Like Buttered Popcorn

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

The binturong is a mammal native to the rain forests of Southeast Asia. Its nickname is the bearcat because it has the face of a cat and the body of a small bear, but it is related to the civet. Adults grow to 2–3 feet long and weigh 30–50 pounds. Females live approximately 15 years and males about 18.

This cute animal is normally black or dark brown with some white or silver coloring in its fur. It likes to hang out in trees eating fruit, and it gives off the pungent and unusual aroma of freshly buttered popcorn. Oil glands under its muscular tail produce the scent, which repels trespassers in its territory. So while it may smell delicious, the binturong is warning you to back off when it releases its movie theater aroma.

1. Hakarl Smells Like Ammonia

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

Hakarl, fermented shark meat, is a disgusting-smelling food that is also a delicacy in Iceland. Made by curing poisonous Greenland shark meat underground for months until it putrefies, this rotten meat smells (and many people say tastes) horrible.

The shark, which grows to about 24 feet, is buried under the sand anywhere from a month and a half to three months, so its poisonous liquids ooze out before it is hung up to dry for several more months. The meat becomes dry and brown when it is ready to eat, though it retains its harsh ammonia smell from the poisonous uric acid found in the shark.

+ The Hoatzin Smells Like Manure

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

With a nickname like “stink bird,” you know the hoatzin, found in the rain forests of Ecuador, must be one smelly feathered friend. Described as stinking like cow manure or hay, this odd-looking and odd-smelling bird exclusively eats leaves. The brown, black, and white bird has a bright blue face and a crest on its head that looks like a Mohawk. They don’t fly that well, but they can swim and climb and these birds hang out together in families of about a dozen members.

The stink bird is the only known bird to have a foregut fermentation system, where bacteria is secreted to break down the leaves it eats, similar to the way cows and sheep digest their food. Another interesting fact about this unique creature is that baby hoatzin have an additional set of claws, which grow out of their wings and disappear after three months.

Top image: Western conifer seed bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis). Credit: Grendelkhan/Wikimedia Commons.

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

Monday, 27 March 2017

10 REASONS ALEXANDER THE GREAT WAS NOT SO GREAT


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10 Reasons Alexander The Great Was Not So Great
By Forest Galloway,
Listverse, 27 March 2017.

Alexander the Great may have gone down in history as one the the greatest ancient kings of all time. After all, we now refer to him as the Great. But while his legacy is that of the greatest man to have ever lived and conquered, is he as great as history remembers?

10. He Inherited Everything

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Photo credit: Gunnar Bach Pedersen

Alexander was the son of King Phillip II. Phillip was responsible for getting Alexander’s kingdom, Macedonia, on the radar when the two main powers were the Greeks and Persians. Phillip was able to gain control of Greece by training his troops to maneuver in strict formations, armed with long pikes and using cavalry as a strike force. This style of fighting was based off the Greek phalanx and would be the basis of Alexander’s army.

Alexander was handed a great set of cards by his father, who created the foundation of the Macedonian kingdom. Considering that it was Phillip who originally brought peace to the Macedonians, created the military force, and gained power over Greece, he was the real mastermind of Macedonian power, and Alexander was lucky enough to ride on the coattails of his father’s work.

9. Conquering Greece Was Easy

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Alexander did not conquer the Greece known for such heroic efforts as the Battles of Thermopylae or Marathon. In fact, he conquered the civil war–stricken, disbanded city states that occupied the land of Greece. The most powerful city states, most notably Athens and Sparta, took the brunt of the Persian invasion and started to war against each other for power in Greece. The great Greek unity that helped to hold off the Persians was broken, and the Greek armies were weak from constant war.

So when Alexander took over his father’s kingdom and demanded Greek loyalty, they had no choice but to do so - not because of Alexander’s military prowess but because of their own weakness.

8. He Was Handed Much Of The Land He Conquered

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Many of the lands that Alexander conquered were more or less given to him without much resistance. We’ve already covered that Alexander’s father was truly the one who took control of the Greeks, but we will now look at a couple of other “conquered nations” that Alexander may not deserve full credit for.

When Alexander went south to conquer the lands of Egypt, he was met with essentially no opposition. The Egyptians felt united with Greece in their struggle against the Persian Empire, so when Alexander came, they basically handed him the throne.

Even when battling with the Persians, Alexander’s great reputation allowed him an advantage. The Persian troops were so frightened that many of them didn’t follow their commands. The weak points created by these disobedient troops made an organized defense impossible for the Persian forces, which would eventually fall to Alexander.

7. He Cheated The Gordian Knot

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Photo credit: Jean Simon Berthelemy

Alexander’s reputation made him out to be the most powerful military leader the world would ever see, which allowed him to take Egypt with little to no opposition and struck fear into the hearts of his enemies. A large part of his reputation was because of his success with the Gordian Knot. It was prophesied that Alexander would conquer all of Asia for loosening it. This brings us to our next entry: Alexander may have cheated the Gordian Knot.

While historical references do not completely agree on his method (though most say he did in fact use his sword in some manner or another), it is a widely held belief that instead of untying the knot that would show his destiny, he became frustrated with it. Alexander pulled out his sword and cut the knot in two. While it was an awesome display of his character and showed his refusal to lose, the ancient prophets probably didn’t envision that particular method of loosening the knot.

6. He Was A Drunk

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Alexander the Great liked to party...a lot. He was known to get so hammered that his doctors were concerned for his health. This is a guy who survived fighting in the front lines of many battles, including getting hit so hard on the head it cracked his helmet in two, and his doctors were worried that alcohol would be his downfall. In fact, eventually it would be.

It would be hard to argue that Alexander’s partying affected his empire or that he was unable to be successful because of his alcoholism. He did create the largest empire the world had seen at that point, after all. However, we can attribute his alcoholism to his early demise. When partying one night, he was given a large glass of wine. Alexander chugged it and shrieked aloud in pain. His health rapidly declined until he died just ten days later.

5. He Was An Egotistical Maniac

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Photo via Wikimedia

Alexander thought that since he was so successful, it must mean that he was the son of Zeus. When he was forced to take his first and last break from conquest after his troops mutinied in 326 BC, he declared that he should receive the honors of a god. Many of his city states obliged and sent him religious delegations.

Alexander was so full of himself he thought he wasn’t just better than the mythical war heroes, such as Achilles, who motivated him but that he was the infallible son of God. On top of this, he thought himself so important that he founded more than just one or two cities named after him. According to the Roman historian Plutarch, Alexander founded no less than 70 cities after himself, calling them all Alexandria.

4. His Legacy Could Be Made Up

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Photo credit: Odysses

The only primary sources on Alexander’s life that remain were created after his death. In fact, most of our information about Alexander was written by historians who lived hundreds of years after him. Many of these authors had intentions other than to retell history factually. Many wanted to draw moral lessons or create parallels to modern leaders, such as Plutarch or Arrian. Others wanted to show off their writing skill and tell an entertaining story, like Curtius Rufus.

Thus, many of the great speeches that Alexander supposedly gave as well as the great stories of his conquest could have been embellished or even completely made up.

3. He Didn’t Govern His Empire

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Photo credit: Alonzo Chappel

Alexander was no doubt a great military leader, and while his prestige may have been embellished, he did nevertheless create the largest empire the world had seen to date. However, his empire wasn’t even necessarily governed by him. When he conquered a new land, he would leave the traditional administrative system in place.

In one famous battle, the Battle of Hydaspes, Alexander not only let the king, Porus, continue to rule his land, but he gave him more land to rule. He then would place cities and troops within the land to ensure loyalty. By appeasing local rulers, he gained their loyalty, and his empire was ran for him. Although Alexander died too early for his empire to have truly been tested, when you take into account that he didn’t create the Macedonian-Greek superpower and only spent his time leading military expeditions, his political ability and experience was zero.

2. He Didn’t Plan For The Future

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Photo credit: Patrick Neil

On top of not really governing his empire while he lived, Alexander simply did not care about its future, either. He didn’t bother to father an heir to his throne or to set up any sort of government, and on his deathbed, he claimed that his kingdom would belong to “the strongest.” His last words were, “I foresee a great funeral contest over me.”

To Alexander, all that mattered was his own power. When he died, his entire kingdom collapsed, and his land was divided into new kingdoms. These kingdoms were at constant war with each other for power. The new rulers had to be ruthless to maintain their self-proclaimed succession to Alexander. The success of the new kingdoms depended on creating a strong military and maintaining order. These kingdoms would slowly lose power due to the constant disunity and would eventually give rise to a new superpower: Rome.

1. He Was Greedy

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Even though he was handed most of his accomplishments, and he was the worst ruler ever, Alexander’s real downfall was his greed. He wasn’t content with his title of king of Macedon, pharaoh of Egypt, king of Persia, and ruler of the Greeks. Instead, he wanted to continue until he was king of the world. He wanted not just to outdo every leader before him but even to best Greek mythology. He wanted to be more famous than Achilles, and as previously discussed, he considered himself a god.

Alexander wouldn’t slow down even to father an heir, and when his troops came up against the monsoon season, he marched them through it for 70 days. The troops eventually mutinied and forced Alexander to turn back. After reaching the safety of the Persian heartland, he began to plan the invasion of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. Before he could launch his next expedition, he fell ill and died.

Perhaps if Alexander would have slowed down a little and created a more stable kingdom, he could have lived a long, prosperous life, perhaps conquering all of Asia or at the least setting the stage for his heir to rule the largest empire the world had ever seen. Instead, he ran his troops and himself into the ground, and his legacy would be done forever.

Top image: Engraving of Alexander The Great at the sack of Thebes (335 BC). Credit: Charles R. Stanton/Wikimedia Commons.

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