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Sunday, 18 February 2018

8 FLYING TAXIS THAT ARE SO CRAZY, THEY JUST MIGHT WORK

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Eight flying taxis that are so crazy, they just might work
By Nick Lavars,
New Atlas, 12 February 2018.

Flying taxis still seem very much like something pulled right out of science fiction, but when transport heavyweights like Boeing, Airbus and Uber start pumping millions of dollars into their development, it might be time to take all of this a bit more seriously.

Beyond the cool factor of personal flight, electric flying taxis would have a profound impact when it comes to society, the economy and the environment. By reshaping how people move around cities they have the potential to disrupt conventional transport systems like highways, trains and buses, put a dent in pollution around urban centers and make for much faster commutes, therefore making society more efficient and productive as a whole.

The examples we look at here all have their own unique designs, and are at different points in their development, but they all promise to essentially do the same thing, which is move passengers through the air from point A to point B at a push of the button. Thanks to electric propulsion and autonomous navigation systems, they would have no operating emissions and no pilot and would generate minimal noise.

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Credit: Uber/YouTube

If these kinds of aircraft were to become commonplace, it would be a fundamental shift in how cities function. Although plenty of skepticism still abounds, somebody who needs no convincing of either their potential or impending arrival is Vikas Prakash, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Case Western Reserve University.

"I don't have any doubt," he says. "In a few years, you will be able to call an air taxi from Uber or someone else to travel maybe 100 miles in a vehicle with two other people. I'm very excited about this."

Prakash recently received a US$1.3 million grant from NASA to develop advanced batteries capable of powering such electric air vehicles. We put a few questions to him about how, when and why we might see these things in action.

Why do you think we are on the precipice of a flying taxi revolution?

"Driven by concerns about climate change, governments and companies worldwide are making plans for a post-oil era. While there have been efforts to limit carbon emissions in the aviation industry by using alternative fuels, as with the car industry, electrical propulsion seems to be the way forward for air travel.

"However, electric air-vehicles have more challenges than their land-based counterparts in terms of their onboard space and weight limits, impacting performance. Today's batteries pack much less energy per unit weight and volume when compared to jet fuel. Accordingly, the required battery packs are simply too heavy to maintain efficient flight capabilities. These energy limitations become especially acute in smaller crafts.

"State-of-the-art electric motors partly compensate this disadvantage by being more efficient in converting energy into power, and major industry players, research organizations and entrepreneurs are working on several possible paths to make commercial electric flying a reality."

Can you explain some of the recent technological advances that have made flying taxis viable?

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Credit: Joby Aviation/Facebook

"For air-taxis to serve as on-demand urban transit, they need to be safe, quiet, clean, and efficient. All electric air vehicles, which utilize battery propulsion over jet propulsion, are expected to have zero operational emissions, and be quiet enough to operate in cities without disturbing the neighbors. At flying altitude, noise from advanced electric vehicles is expected to be barely audible.

"Even during take-off and landing, the noise will be comparable to existing background noise. We also believe, successful air taxi design will not use the rotary-wing design of today's helicopters. Instead, it will be the vertical take-off and landing capabilities (VTOL) combined with distributed energy propulsion (DEP) that will make it possible for us to fly an air taxi from building to building.

"While rotary wing helicopters are the closest current-day proxy for the VTOLs, they are far too noisy, energy inefficient, and pollute too much to be economically viable for large-scale operations. Rather, we envision instead many smaller, electric motors distributed along the fuselage, as motor efficiency in this case does not benefit from a size increase, unlike todays large jet engines, positioned under the wings.

"Further, significant efficiency improvements are possible with DEP, since it enables fixed-wing VTOL aircraft to avoid the fundamental limitations of helicopter edgewise rotor flight during cruise, and provides lift with far greater efficiency than rotors. Also, these VTOL designs will also be markedly safer since VTOLs, unlike helicopters, do not need to be dependent on any single part to stay airborne and will ultimately use autonomy technology to significantly reduce operator error."

And which technological hurdles still stand in the way?

"Some of the biggest challenges in establishing a viable air-taxi industry are related to: (1) battery technology, including their energy and power densities, charge rate, and cycle life; (2) Successful development and FAA certification of VTOL and distributed energy propulsion (DEP) technology which is directly related to vehicle efficiency; (3) vehicle performance and reliability in varied weather conditions; (4) vehicle cost and affordability; (5) safety related to vehicle partial-autonomy navigating congested skies; (6) aircraft noise and air pollution, especially over populated areas; (7) landing and takeoff infrastructure including landing pads at key city locations to deploy a VTOL fleet."

What will the range of the first flying taxis be?

"An air taxi could be defined as a flying vehicle with a range of 50-120 miles (80 to 193 km), carrying two to four passengers and cruising at an altitude of 3,000 to 5,000 ft (914 to 1,524 m). In the near term, based on the current battery technology, the most-common commute might be a 50-mile (80-km) round trip with two short vertical takeoffs and a 30-minute energy reserve on a single battery charge."

How soon do you think we might see flying taxis in action?

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Credit: Uber/YouTube

"Urban airspace is open for business today, and with air-traffic control (ATC) systems exactly as they are, a VTOL service could be launched and even scaled to possibly hundreds of vehicles. However, a successful, optimized on-demand urban VTOL operation will necessitate a significantly higher frequency and airspace density of vehicles operating over metropolitan areas simultaneously.

The current air traffic control will have to evolve and new ATC systems will be needed to handle these extra crafts, especially if a city were to add multiple hubs and potentially hundreds of air taxis. It will be the government policy in the end that will dictate when we will see flying taxi fleets."

The contenders

The list of air taxi concepts presented here is by no means exhaustive, with plenty of projects from startups and aviation incumbents that promise to shake up the way folks move through urban centers. But these particular examples have caught our attention over the past couple of years for different reasons, be it through manned test flights, powerful partnerships or huge investments from notable parties.

1. UberAir

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Credit: Uber/YouTube

Uber first revealed plans for its flying taxi service in a 97-page white paper in 2016. It plans to use sets of small electric rotors to power aircraft with two or four seats. These would take off vertically but then convert to some sort of horizontal flight cruise mode with tilting wings or rotors, saving on energy in the process as they travel along fixed routes between "Skyports."

In November last year, Uber formed an agreement with NASA to develop an unmanned traffic management system to deal with all the expected air traffic. It also announced plans to start testing flying taxis in Dubai and Dallas in 2020, and has recently added Los Angeles to the list. It is referring to the service as UberAir for now.

2. Airbus Vahana

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Credit: Vahana.aero

Airbus launched its Vahana project around two years ago, and is making the sort of progress you might expect from some of aviation's more experienced heads. A full-scale version of the electric, autonomous VTOL aircraft completed its first ever test flight earlier in February, lifting into the air for 53 seconds and reaching an altitude of five meters (16 ft). With its first vertical takeoff and landing proving a success, the team is now planning tests where it transitions from vertical to horizontal flight.

3. Workhorse Surefly

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Credit: Workhorse

We first caught wind of the Workhorse Surefly air taxi during the Paris Air Show last June, and last month it received an Experimental Airworthiness Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to kick off test flights last month at CES. Workhorse also has a partnership with global shipping giant UPS, and the engines used in the Surefly are the same ones used in BMW's i3 and C600 super scooter. It hopes to receive full FAA approval in late 2019.

4. Volocopter

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Credit: Volocopter GmbH/Facebook

Of all the flying taxi concepts doing the rounds, the 18-rotor electric Volocopter is the one that seems to garner the most attention. In its current iteration, it can fly for 30 minutes at a time and hit a top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph). Since emerging as a pretty out-there project back in 2013, it has completed manned test flights in Germany, unmanned flights over Dubai and, last month at CES in Las Vegas, a short onstage test flight in front of a live audience. That marked its first flight in the US, and the city of Dubai is trialing it over the next five years as part of a service called the Autonomous Air Taxi.

5. Autonomous Passenger Drone

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Just announced in September, the Autonomous Passenger Drone is built form carbon fiber composites and uses 16 electric rotors to get airborne. It can be flown manually with a joystick if need be and features two seats, one behind the other. Its makers released videos accompanying the announcement that show the craft already completing manned test flights. So, although it certainly wasn't the first flying taxi on the scene, it is certainly seems further along in its development than some competitors.

6. Ehang 184

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Credit: Ehang

Ehang burst onto the scene at CES in 2016 with a prototype of its 184 flying taxi, but has been relatively quiet since then. Like the Workhorse Surefly, it has received an Experimental Airworthiness Certificate from the FAA, but has done little to update us on its progress in the meantime.

It broke its silence this month by revealing footage showing people riding aboard the Ehang 184 for the first time. These test flights purport to show the aircraft being put through its paces in a force seven typhoon, navigating heavy fog, climbing to an altitude of 300 m (1,000 ft) and completing a long-range test flight of 8.8 km (5.5 mi). Like the Volocopter, the Ehang 184 is set to be trialed in Dubai over the coming years.

7. Joby

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Credit: Joby Aviation/Facebook

Joby Aviation's multirotor convertible aircraft might be the most eye-catching of the concepts outlined here, simply because it's the biggest departure from the conventional rotary-wing helicopter. The custom-designed tilt system sees the rotors spin horizontally during takeoff and landing, and then turn 90 degrees for low-energy forward flight just like a fixed-wing aircraft.

We have paid a visit to Joby Aviation's headquarters and left with the firm belief that this thing is absolutely happening. Intel and Toyota are also convinced, who along with other investors just handed the company US$100 million to continue development of the aircraft.

8. Lilium

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Credit: Lilium

Lilium Aviation completed its first unmanned test flights of a two-seater version of its electric VTOL jet in early 2017, and promptly turned its attention to a larger five-seat production version. It says this will have a massive range of over 300 km (186 mi) and a top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph). In September last year, it raised US$90 million in fresh funding to forge ahead with its work, and is targeting 2019 for its first manned flights.

More images at the gallery.

Top image: Workhorse Surefly air taxi. Credit: Workhorse.

[Source: New Atlas.]

10 INCREDIBLY UNIQUE CHILDREN FROM AROUND THE WORLD

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10 Incredibly Unique Children From Around The World
By Tarni Kirkpatrick,
Listverse, 17 February 2018.

Childhood should be a time of play and whimsy when everything is easy and parents take care of the hard stuff. But some children are faced with extraordinary challenges that would probably defeat their older counterparts. Others possess unusual characteristics and abilities that we wouldn’t expect to see in a child.

Each of these 10 unique children has given us an incredible story to tell. Whether working to overcome unusual medical problems or learning to master their amazing abilities, these kids are an inspiration to us all.

10. Bayezid Hossain: Real-Life Benjamin Button

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Photo credit: healthmedicinet.com

Bayezid Hossain was born in Magura in 2012 with progeria, an extremely rare condition. Progeria is known for its characteristic aging of the body at up to eight times the normal rate. As a result, six-year-old Bayezid lives inside the body of a 70-year-old person.

His hollow eyes and sagging skin scare other children, and his aching joints and weakened body will not allow him to physically participate in school activities. Due to his increased brain activity, however, he has above-average intelligence for his age. This constantly impresses his mother and teachers.

It is predicted that Bayezid will not live past his teenage years because progeria patients are known to die of heart attacks around an average age of 13. While it breaks his mother’s heart that she will not have her son for as many years as she had expected, she is constantly amazed by his intelligence and determination to enjoy life like a normal child.[1]

Bonus Fact: Progeria is the condition which inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write his short story, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which has also been made into a movie starring Brad Pitt. In the story, the protagonist is born as an old man and ages backward.

9. Shin Hyomyung: ‘Peter Pan of Korea’

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Photo credit: onlymyhealth.com

On the other side of the spectrum is Shin Hyomyung of South Korea. Hyomyung was born in 1989 and still has the characteristics of a young teenage boy, including chubby cheeks and a high-pitched voice. He has yet to go through puberty due to a rare condition called “Highlander syndrome,” which causes the body to age extremely slowly.

A documentary that aired in South Korea showed his growth to be normal until his teenage years. Then his aging seemed to stop. Now he needs a proof-of-age card to do things that any average 29-year-old would do with ease. Despite his condition, his health is recorded to be almost perfect for his age. Therefore, his condition is not holding him back in any aspect other than his dating profile.

The condition hasn’t stopped Hyomyung from fully experiencing life. He has been photographed at clubs and bars dancing with people and even buying alcohol from the local supermarket. The locals nicknamed him the “Peter Pan of Korea,” and he is surrounded by loving friends and family.[2]

8. Shiloh Pepin: Real-Life Mermaid

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Photo credit: boston.com

Shiloh Pepin was born with “mermaid syndrome,” medically known as sirenomelia. Infants with this condition are born with their legs fused together. For Shiloh, doctors gave their heartbreaking prediction that she would not survive longer than a few days after her birth in 1999.

Unlike most children born with mermaid syndrome, Shiloh’s legs could not be separated due to the way her major arteries were running through her legs. The condition meant that Shiloh had no uterus, bladder, or large intestine and was only graced with one partially working kidney.

Despite the circumstances, Shiloh continued to prove doctors wrong as she overcame her difficulties. In 2009, she celebrated her 10th birthday. Previously, she had undergone two kidney transplants and a number of other operations to prolong her life. She proved to the world that she was born a true fighter.[3]

She attended school, appeared on several talk shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, and was an inspiration to children all over the world. Unfortunately, her fight came to an untimely end at age 10 after a cold quickly turned into pneumonia. Her body was unable to fight it off.

Shiloh Pepin’s story will continue to inspire children with disabilities all over the world. She was the girl who never took no for an answer, and it showed in her relationships at school and in her personality.

7. Tessa Evans

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Photo credit: BBC

Tessa Evans from Maghera was born with congenital arhinia. This is an extremely rare condition in which the infant has no sense of smell and no sinus cavities. Her parents agreed to let her be the first patient to undergo a new procedure to help her.

A 3-D printer built an implant which could be placed under the skin to give Tessa the appearance of a nose. Once she has stopped growing, a tattoo artist will be able to impress natural contours and nostrils into the skin which will give Tessa the appearance of a “normal” adult.

The initial surgery was a success. The implant has given her a small nasal bump which has raised the area between her eyes. Doctors plan to repeat this surgery every two years until they are satisfied that her face is no longer growing and developing.

At birth, Tessa had to be tube-fed due to a tracheostomy tube in her neck to help her breathe. Aside from the first few months when she had to learn to breathe through her mouth, doctors say that there shouldn’t be any long-term internal dangers.[4]

However, her parents are concerned about the loss of natural instincts that come with a sense of smell, including the ability to detect rotting food, poison, and burning. Tessa will have to learn to rely on her other senses, such as touch and hearing, to make up for this loss.

6. Pan Xianhang: Chinese ‘Fish Boy’

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Photo credit: medicaldaily.com

A boy was nicknamed the Chinese “Fish Boy” after he was born with a skin condition which left him covered from head to toe in scales. Unfortunately, it is an incurable condition which limits his quality of life due to constant itchiness and limited mobility.

He gets relief from cold water and several medicinal creams recommended by doctors. The scales were flat when Pan was born. Over time, they developed into thick scales which prevented him from sweating. Therefore, they affect his body’s ability to cool down.

Known as ichthyosis, this rare skin disease is inherited by a child when both parents pass on the same gene that causes the disorder. Over 16,000 children are born with this condition each year.[5]

Unfortunately for Pan, it is currently incurable despite the desperate efforts of doctors who have reviewed his case. His nickname is derived from the Greek translation of ichthy, which is a root word for “fish.” Hopefully for Pan’s sake, a cure will be found which will enable him to live a life without pain and illness.

5. Kristina Pimenova: The World’s Most Beautiful Girl

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Photo credit: The Independent

Kristina Pimenova has been modeling since she was three years old. By age nine, she had been internationally dubbed the “most beautiful girl in the world.” Born in Russia, she began her modeling career as a toddler who was featured in campaigns for elite brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli.

Her Facebook page, managed by her mother, now has over two million likes. However, critics have begun questioning the girl’s fame due to the number of inappropriate and sometimes pedophilic comments left on her photos.

Kristina got into the industry through her mother, Glikeriya Shirokova, a former model who wanted her only daughter to follow in her footsteps and have the life she had. Glikeriya got the idea from taking her baby daughter to shoots where people would tell Glikeriya how beautiful Kristina was and that Glikeriya should get Kristina into modeling.[6]

From this was born the world’s most beautiful girl. While many children are in the modeling industry at young ages, Kristina stands out because she is modeling at the level of an adult at only 12 years old.

4. Richard Sandrak: Little Hercules (AKA The World’s Strongest Boy)


In 1992, Richard Sandrak was born in a small town in Ukraine. Two years later, he migrated with his parents to Pennsylvania in search of a better life. Both his parents trained with weights, and his dad was into martial arts.

At age three, Richard began training with small weights to slowly strengthen his body. This all seems good and normal. However, in 1999, the family moved to California and the media recognized Richard, then seven, as “The World’s Strongest Boy.”

From there, he only got stronger as he continued to build his eight-pack abdomen and his abnormally muscled body. He headlined in many famous bodybuilding shows such as Mr. USA, The Emerald Cup, Mr. Olympia, and the Arnold Classic.

Critics were worried about the way in which Richard had become a young bodybuilder. Were steroids or child abuse involved? Richard never attended a normal school, and his father had been imprisoned for domestic abuse toward his mother. Reportedly, Richard had only 1 percent body fat, which is a particular health risk for a child who is still growing.[7]

However, Richard has always denied that his parents played any forceful part in his training and claims to have simply fallen in love with it when he started. In 2005, he released a video program to inspire other kids to be fit and healthy.

3. Ben Underwood: Echolocation

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Photo credit: benunderwood.com

Bats are blind, but do you know how they manage to get around and catch food without constantly flying into things? How they move with such grace without any vision at all? They are born with the instincts to use a system known as echolocation. They make noise and wait for it to reverberate off the objects around them so they know where such objects are.

This brings us to Ben Underwood, who was just three years old when he was diagnosed with retinal cancer. To prevent the cancer from spreading to the rest of his body, both of his eyes were removed and replaced with prosthetics. This rendered him completely blind.

Ben grew up in California with his family and lived an almost completely normal life. He had taught himself to use echolocation by creating a sharp clicking sound with his tongue. The sound echoed off nearby objects.

Due to his trained ears and his insane ability to accurately determine where things were around him, he successfully lived a blind life with no guide dog and no cane. Even more incredible, he could play basketball, skateboard, and even ride a bike home from school.[8]

Unfortunately, Ben died in 2009 from the same type of cancer that had taken his eyesight. When the cancer came back, it spread to his spinal cord and brain. Ben was just 16 years old when he passed away.

2. Johncris Carl Quirante: 300 Teeth

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Photo credit: newsgra.ph

In Cebu, Johncris Carl Quirante was born with a rare condition known as multiple hyperdontia which gives him more teeth than the average person. As his family was unable to afford a dentist until he was in the fourth grade, his mother didn’t know about his condition.

However, she did notice extra teeth pushing through his gums. So she saved the money for a trip to the dentist. There, they discovered that Johncris had around 300 teeth. That is almost 10 times the number of teeth in an average adult mouth!

Since the discovery, Johncris has been undergoing operations to have the extra teeth removed from his mouth. Otherwise, they could cause severe gum disease and eating discomfort as he gets older. It will take eight operations to remove all his extra teeth. These procedures will be spread over a few years to allow the gums to properly heal between each group of extractions.[9]

So far, he has not had any setbacks associated with his condition. He is excelling at school and on the playground. He remains happy and positive despite his upcoming operations. Fortunately, his condition was caught before it affected his quality of life.

1. Charlotte Garside: The World’s Smallest Child


When Charlotte Garside was born to parents Scott Garside and Emma Newman, Charlotte weighed a mere 500 grams (18 oz) and was only 25 centimeters (10 in) long. At the time, her condition was so unusual that it didn’t have a name and was described as a rare kind of dwarfism.

Due to Charlotte’s size, she wasn’t expected to live past her first birthday. Now almost six years old, she still fights on. Her dedicated parents, who have three other children, were reduced to dressing her in dolls’ clothing after trying the smallest baby clothes and finding they still didn’t fit. Charlotte’s older sisters love to play dress-up with her.

The doctors’ prediction filled her parents with fear. However, with their love and care, Charlotte has thrived and is going to attend school. Unfortunately, she is mentally behind other children her age due to her condition. But it seems as though nothing will get in this girl’s way. She is now 70 centimeters (2’4″) in height and fits into clothes made for newborns.[10]

While her parents will always worry about her future, they aspire to give her the best life possible. She has a stunning personality, and they just hope that everyone else will be able to see past her size and into her big heart.

Top image: Charlotte Garside, the world’s smallest child. Credit: Charlotte Garside: Tiniest Girl In The World/Facebook.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]

Saturday, 17 February 2018

INFOGRAPHIC: ANCIENT ANTIDOTES (AND HOW DO THEY COMPARE WITH MODERN MEDICINE)

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Life in ancient times was pretty rough. Even going to the doctor proved to be fatal for many, since people back then had a very limited understanding of physiology. The following infographic by History Degree takes a look at how common ailments today were treated centuries ago and how do they differ with modern healthcare practices.

http://historydegree.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/ancient-medicine-vs.-modern-medicine.jpg

[Source: History Degree.]

Friday, 16 February 2018

9 OF THE WORLD'S HARDEST-WORKING CATS

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9 of the world's hardest-working cats
By Laura Moss,
Mother Nature Network, 14 February 2018.

Most cat owners readily accept that their felines earn their keep only through snuggling sessions and the occasional dead bird on the stoop.

However, there are some ambitious cats that are truly working for their kibble, putting in a full day’s work in such industries as security, fitness and even meteorology.

Lisa Rogak explores various types of kitty-held careers in her book "Cats on the Job: 50 Fabulous Felines who Purr, Mouse, and Even Sing for Their Supper." Here's a sneak peek at some of the book’s featured felines, and we saw this as an opportunity to share the stories of other hard-working kitties not covered in the book.

1. Security guard cat

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Photo: Bandai UK/Facebook

When toy company Bandai needed a security guard to watch over its toys in an English warehouse, the company bypassed the typical security breeds like Rottweilers and German shepherds and instead hired a Bengal cat named Millie (pictured above).

"Millie has always had a very vigilant personality," her owner told British newspaper Metro. "I'm not surprised she took up a career as a security guard. The toys are lucky to have such an attentive guardian."

2. Exercise cat

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Photo: Lisa Rogak/Macmillan

Research shows that working out with a buddy is one of the best ways to stick to a fitness plan, so when Stephanie Jackson’s cat wanted to be held while she worked out, Jackson obliged.

She picked up her kitty, Bad, and used her as a 10-pound weight. After that, Bad became Jackson’s workout partner, and Jackson started taking photos of their fitness sessions. This led to an adorable kitty-workout calendar and later a bestselling book titled "Catflexing."

3. Weather observer cat

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Photo: Mount Washington Observatory

Cats have long been employed as mousers at New Hampshire's Mount Washington Observatory, which sits at the top of the highest peak in the Northeast. As the only heated building atop the summit, the observatory attracts plenty of rodents, so a steady stream of kitties has been brought in to keep rat and mouse populations in check.

A black cat named Marty makes his home at the observatory, entertaining tourists and assisting the night staff with weather observations through the graveyard shift.

More hard-working cats

Of course, there are many hard-working kitties beyond the ones highlighted above. Here are seven more cats that have held, or continue to hold, down some pretty cool gigs.

4. Astronaut cat

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Photo: Deefaze/Wikimedia Commons

Appropriately nicknamed Astro-Cat, Félicette was the first cat to go into space and the only cat to ever survive the trip. Félicette, a stray, flew up to space in a Véronique AGI 47 sounding rocket on Oct. 18, 1963. After reaching about 100 miles (160 kilometers), Félicette's capsule detached from the rocket and headed back into space. While she was only in space for 15 minutes, it did land her precious face on a commemorative stamp.

5. Station master

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Photo: Sanpei/Wikimedia Commons

Tama, the station master of Kishi Station on the Kishigawa Line in Kinokawa was probably one of the best-known working cats in her day, thanks in no small part for saving the tiny station. The station was slated for closure in the mid-00s, but in 2007, the owners of the lined elected to make Tama, the cat of a local storeowner, the station master in an effort to boost awareness and use of the station.

From '07 until her death in 2015, Tama greeted visitors and was paid in cat food. Tourists flocked to meet the feline, using the station to do it. The city similarly cashed in, creating Tama-themed café and shops. All told, it's estimated that Tama contributed around 1 billion yen (US$8.9 million) to the local economy. When she died, Tama was enshrined as a Shinto goddess, the honorable eternal station master.

6. Librarian

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There's no shortage of library cats in the world. They're good for pest control, they're fairly independent and they don't make much noise. And we imagine cats love libraries because, well, there plenty of shelves and nooks to explore or to use for napping. Not everyone is such big fans of library cats, however. Pictured above is one such example: Browser, the library cat and mascot for White Settlement, Texas. The city council voted to evict Browser in 2016, but an outpouring of support convinced the council to reverse its decision. Browser has an honorary GED (he routinely attends the library's GED classes) and he is the subject of the library's annual fundraiser calendar.

7. Politician


Like library cats, there are more than a few cats that hold political office. Perhaps most iconic of them was Stubbs, the (almost certainly honorary) mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, from 1997 until his death in 2017. Stubbs "ran" Talkeetna from Nagley's General Store, where he greeted constituents and drank catnip laced water from wine glasses. In 2014, someone drafted Stubbs to run for U.S. Senate, but Stubbs didn't win the seat. The Anchorage Daily News dismissed the claims that the town had a cat for mayor as "Made up. Concocted. A fable."

8. Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office

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Photo: Her Majesty's Government/Wikimedia Commons

In perhaps the most official posting on the list, Larry is the mouser for 10 Downing Street, aka the headquarters of the government for the United Kingdom. Larry spends his days "greeting guests to the house, inspecting security defenses and testing antique furniture for napping quality." His plans to eliminate the mice in the building is still "in tactical planning stage," however.

9. Permanent hotel resident

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New York City's Algonquin Hotel has had a cat on the premise since the 1930s. Since then, whenever the hotel is home to a male cat, his name is Hamlet. If the cat is a female, her name is Matilda. After three Matildas all in a row, the hotel is currently hosting a Hamlet. This Hamlet was found among a feral colony on Long Island, according to the hotel. In addition to daily brushings, Hamlet VIII also attends "birthday parties [and] fashion show benefits" that are held at the hotel.

Top image: Millie the security guard cat. Credit: Bandai UK/Facebook.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Some images added.]

10 RIDICULOUS STUNTS PEOPLE ACTUALLY PULLED OFF

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10 Ridiculous Stunts People Actually Pulled Off
By Shannon Quinn,
Toptenz, 15 February 2018.

Daredevils are everywhere, and a quick Google search for the “Darwin Awards” will prove just how often ridiculous stunts can lead to death. However, there are a select few people who were able to pull off their dangerous stunts and actually and live to see another day…but that doesn’t mean they all went according to plan. Here at TopTenz, we want you all to stay alive for as long as possible. So, please. Please don’t try any of these stunts at home.

10. Up, Up, and Away


If you’ve ever seen Disney Pixar’s movie Up, then you may have wondered just how many balloons it would take to fly in real life. A 26-year-old man named Daniel Boria decided to find out for himself. He purchased 120 extra large balloons and helium, tied them to a lawn chair, and flew into the sky above Calgary.

This expensive stunt was actually part of Daniel’s idea to land in a nearby fair and rodeo called The Stampede to advertise his company, All Natural Cleaning. He originally wanted to surprise the crowd by skydiving into the event. Since he planned on doing this without permission from local authorities, every pilot in Calgary refused to go along with his harebrained scheme.

So, Daniel took matters into his own hands, spending over US$20,000 to bring the plan together. Unfortunately, the balloons got so high in the air, commercial airplanes were flying below him. Temperatures dropped well below freezing, and he realized that he had no control over the balloons. He needed to parachute in a location that was nowhere near the rodeo, and landed in a field. Aside from minor injury to his ankle, Daniel landed safely…and was promptly arrested for public mischief and causing danger to life. He may not have succeeded in advertising for his company, but the fact that he is actually alive is sort of a miracle in itself.

9. Rust-Be-Gone


You may have seen the lifehack that Coca-Cola can remove rust from a car, but what should people do when their entire car needs a good polishing? In 2016, a grandfather in Latvia decided to dig a massive hole and fill it with 6,000 bottles of Coca-Cola, just so he could drive an old car into it. The grandfather donned a helmet, but unfortunately, he hit the accelerator a little too hard, and the car crashed into the pit. Thankfully, the old man survived, and lived to make two follow-up videos about the car.

Any rust that may have been removed from the car was negated by the fact that the vehicle was completely crushed. It required heavy machinery and a team of men to get it out of the field where they pulled off the stunt. He spent a whopping 8,000 Euros on this stunt, hoping that it would bring him Internet fame.

8. No Parachute? No Problem


In 2015, a Finnish stunt man named Antti Pendikainen decided to skydive from a hot air balloon without a protective suit, parachute, or even a shirt. While this may sound like a death wish, he was actually jumping with a group of other skydivers who had their protective gear. He was able to latch on to one of the other skydivers during freefall, and parachute to safety.

Of course, Antti filmed the entire experience and included it on his YouTube channel. He included this in a professional portfolio of stunts he has been able to pull off, in hopes of getting stunt acting jobs in the movies. This video received over 22 million views, so let’s hope he didn’t risk his life for nothing.

7. The Edge of the World


If you thought skydiving without a parachute was crazy, then this next one will make your heart drop. An Austrian skydiver named Felix Baumgartner jumped from 24 miles above the Earth to break a world record. The previous record was held by Joe Kittinger Jr., who jumped from 19.5 miles in 1960. After spiraling out of control at speeds over 800 MPH, Felix was able to stabilize and freefall down to safety on the Earth’s surface.

However, Felix Baumgartner obviously didn’t pay for this stunt on his own dime. This was a massively expensive advertising campaign called the Red Bull Stratos Jump, which was co-sponsored by GoPro. Felix did the fall with GoPro cameras stuck to his space suit, so it captures the experience in a way that most people never get to see. During a later interview, Felix explained that this stunt took five years of preparation, and that one false move could have killed him within 15 seconds. Thankfully, everything went according to plan, and Joe Kittinger Jr. was communicating with Felix through mission control, supporting him the entire way.

6. Bubble Boy


In 2017, a YouTuber from the UK who goes by the name of “KillemFTW” decided to cross the English Channel into France in a plastic bubble called a Zorb Ball. This inflatable plastic ball allows people to literally walk on water. While it’s normally meant for using as a pool toy, “Killem” decided to fill it up with an oxygen tank, a few granola bars, bottles of water, a compass, and his bank card to help him cross the Channel.

While there are plenty of people who swim across the English Channel every year, none of them are trapped in a plastic ball of death. He had to struggle and paddle against the strong tide, and he began to feel incredibly seasick. In the end, he made it to dry land, only to realize he actually ended up in The Netherlands instead of France.

5. Don’t Look Down


In 2013, a tightrope walker named Nik Wallenda decided to take a leap of faith by walking across the Grand Canyon in a special filmed for The Discovery Channel. Even though Nik had plenty of experience walking a tightrope (you probably recognize his last name, since he’s the progeny of the legendary Flying Wallendas), the wind and the conditions moved the wire as he was suspended 1,500 feet off the ground.

Without a safety net, one false step would have sent Nik plummeting into the Grand Canyon while his wife, Erendira, and his children watched on the sidelines. Thankfully, it all turned out alright, and he made it to safety.

4. A Dentist’s Worst Nightmare


After that last story, you may be wondering how Nik’s saint of a wife can handle being married to someone who’s willing to walk across the Grand Canyon. Well… It’s a woman who’s willing to hang 300 feet above Niagara Falls.

That’s right, both Erendira and Nik Wallenda come from multi-generation circus families. In 2017, she performed her aerialist tricks suspended from a helicopter that was flying above the falls. Her performance includes an elegant acrobatic routine, plus hanging from her feet and teeth. Her dentist made a special mouthguard for the occasion. During an interview, Erendira said that she mostly relies on her strong jaw muscles to hold her up.

3. Don’t Roll Over


Have you ever fallen asleep in a hammock on a warm summer’s day? What about falling asleep in a hammock that’s suspended 200 meters in the air? Well, that’s exactly was two Romanian men did in 2015. After climbing up the side of a giant chimney with scaffolding on top, they tied hammocks to either side, and decided to spend the night up there.

Obviously, a stunt like this wouldn’t be complete unless they recorded the video and put it on YouTube. According to the disclaimer at the beginning of their video, they chose a warm summer night during a full moon. Clearly, these two men probably don’t have a habit of tossing and turning in the middle of the night.

2. Block Head


This next story isn’t so much of a daring stunt as it is putting life in danger for the sake of views. In 2017, a YouTuber named Jay Swingler, who collaborates on a channel called TGFBro, decided to cement a microwave to his head. The mixture they used was far more solid than they had anticipated, and his friends spent well over an hour trying to chizel Jay’s head out of the microwave.

When Jay’s friends finally called emergency services, the ambulance and fire brigade spent over an hour trying to set him free. During an interview, emergency workers noted that the time they spent setting him free was taking away from their ability to save other people who may have had a life-threatening illness. In a follow-up video, Jay did thank the emergency responders for their help, but has zero shame about what he did, only focusing on how proud he was to have his 15 minutes of fame in the media.

1. One Wild Ride


In Taiwan, stunt drivers play the childhood game of seesaw…only, they do it in their jeeps. Two cars are suspended, balancing on a metal platform in the air that tilts back and forth as the cars move. A Japanese TV show called “Itte Q!” sent a group of celebrities to sit in the back seat of one of the cars together as they scream and hold on for dear life.

A man by the name of Mr. Wan has been performing this car seesaw stunt for the public for over 27 years. Maybe the real question we should be asking is: what possessed Mr. Wan to start doing this in the first place? We’ll probably never know.

Top gif image: Car see-saw stunt. Credit: Zapaak World/YouTube.

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