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Friday, 16 June 2017

INFOGRAPHIC: AN ANIMATED GUIDE ON HOW THE INTERNET WORKS


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We all know by now how important the internet is to your everyday life. But do you really know how the internet actually works? This handy animated infographic by Internet Frontier helps you understand what is going on behind the scenes when you click a link online or perform a Google search.

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Top image credit: geralt/Pixabay.

[Source: Internet Frontier.]

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

VIDEO: CYBERATTACKS, THE PLAGUE OF THE 21ST CENTURY?


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Some of the world's biggest nuclear powers are under threat from a notorious hacker group. The so-called 'Shadow Brokers' claim they are going to auction off top secret data from Iran, North Korea and Russia, as well banking codes and systems. This video by RT has the details.


[Source: RT/YouTube.]

Monday, 5 June 2017

INFOGRAPHIC: GLOBAL WANNACRY RANSOMWARE ATTACK


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The WannaCry ransomware attack that began on 12 May 2017 was unprecedented in scale. It was reported to have infected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries. This infographic by EaseUS tells you everything you need to know about the attack and what to do if your computer is infected.

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Infographic Sources:

Top image: WannaCry. Credit: medithIT/Flickr.

[Source: EaseUS.]

Sunday, 4 June 2017

VIDEO: 10 BIZARRE WAYS PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS CHANGE THE ENVIRONMENT


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Pharmaceutical drugs are being prescribed more than ever to both humans and animals. In the United States, over 70 percent of adults use some form of prescription drug. It was only in the late ’90s that researchers realized these drugs could have a profound impact on the environment thanks to improper disposal or chemicals entering the water through our bodily waste. These drugs are incredibly helpful to humans, but they can have a devastating effect on the world’s ecosystem. This video by Toptenz explains how.


Top image credit: qimono/Pixabay.

[Source: Toptenz.]

Saturday, 3 June 2017

INFOGRAPHIC: 21 ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO POWER YOUR CAR


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Imagine if there was no gas tomorrow. How could you make your engine go? As we move toward a greener future, it is instructive to learn more about the alternative ways we can power our cars. This following infographic by Title Pro illustrates some of the strange and amazing alternative-fuel options that have been worked on over the past several decades.

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[Source: Title Pro.]

VIDEO: HISTORY’S DEADLIEST COLORS


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When radium was first discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898, its glowing luminous green color inspired people to add it into toothpaste, medicine, water, food, beauty products and jewelry. It wasn’t until much later that we realized that radium’s harmful effects as a radioactive element outweighed its visual benefits. Unfortunately, radium isn’t the only pigment that historically seemed harmless or useful but turned out to be deadly. This video by TED-Ed details history’s deadliest colors.


Top image screen captured from the video.

[Source: TED-Ed/YouTube.]

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

INFOGRAPHIC: HOW TO FOLD CLOTHES TO SAVE SPACE


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Cramming clothes into over-stuffed drawers can be a daily ritual, but with the right know-how you can fold and organize your clothes to sit neatly and save on limited space in your home. This infographic by Home Advisor illustrates the right techniques to fold clothes to save space.

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Video: How to Fold Clothes to Save Space



[Source: Home Advisor.]

Friday, 26 May 2017

10 NOTORIOUS COMPUTER HACKERS


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10 Notorious Computer Hackers
By Robert Grimminck,
Toptenz, 26 May 2017.

To some people, hackers are modern-day Robin Hoods or Guy Fawkeses. They’re fighting a moral battle against people and systems that they feel are oppressors. On the other hand, there are people who simply view hackers as vandals and criminals.

One group that you may notice missing from the list is Anonymous, and that is because their membership is too loose and fluid to be included. One of the few tenets of Anonymous is that it can be anyone. According to a former member, “It’s an amorphous group of people that can include anyone who wants to use the brand to put forth their cause.” So while they are notorious hackers, it is more of a movement than a cohesive group, so it was omitted.

10. Marcel Lehel Lazar


One of the biggest issues for American voters in the 2016 election was the fact that Hillary Clinton used a private email server, instead of a government one, when she was Secretary of State. One of the people who supposedly helped expose that server was Romanian cab driver Marcel Lehel Lazar, who went under the username Guccifer.

Unlike a lot of the other people on this list, Lazar was not trained in computers. Instead, he apparently read the Wikipedia page of the person he wanted to hack and tried to figure out their passwords. By using this system, between 2012 and 2014, Lazar managed to hack the email accounts of over 100 people. Many of them were American celebrities, politicians, and business people. One of his most infamous hacks was breaking into former president George W. Bush’s family’s email and then posting some of Bush’s self-portrait paintings in 2013.

In May 2014, Lazar was extradited to the United States and he pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and unauthorized access to a protected computer. He was sentenced to 52 months in prison in September 2016.

9. Chad Davis

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In Spring 1999, the FBI was investigating a group of hackers called globalHell, who had vandalized the White House’s web page. Their investigation led them to the apartment of 19-year-old Chad Davis, who lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The FBI suspected Davis of being one of the founders of globalHell, who went under the username Mindphasr. They searched his apartment and took his laptop; however, they didn’t find much. The only thing they could do was fine him US$165 for being underage and having a beer in his fridge.

Most people would have considered themselves lucky to avoid the clutches of the FBI, but Davis was not one of those people. Just a few weeks later, on June 28, Davis hacked the US Army’s homepage and posted the message “Global Hell is alive. Global Hell will not die.” Davis was arrested shortly afterwards.

It’s believed that when Davis was arrested, globalHell had hacked into 17 corporate and personal websites. He was sentenced to six months in prison and fined US$8,054. He was also forbidden from using a computer after his release.

8. Herbert Zinn

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In 1987, Herbert Zinn was a 17-year-old high school dropout. Instead of going to school, Zinn spent a lot of time using his computer in his Chicago home. During this time, Zinn managed to hack into AT&T, NATO, and the Department of Defense. When Zinn hacked AT&T he supposedly stole an artificial intelligence program that hadn’t been released, which was worth US$1 million.

While Zinn may have been a good hacker, he was by no means a criminal mastermind. He was caught after he bragged about the hacks on message boards under the name Shadow Hawk, and on one of his postings he left his phone number. Smooth.

Zinn was sentenced to nine months in prison and fined US$10,000.

7. Gary McKinnon

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Gary McKinnon was born in Glasgow in 1966 and got his first computer when he was 14. When McKinnon was 17, he dropped out of school to be a hairdresser. However, he hadn’t lost his love for computers and in the 1990s, he got his qualifications in computers.

Between February 2001 and March 2002, McKinnon hacked into 97 United States military and NASA computers. Sometimes, he’d leave messages on their websites saying, “Your security is crap.” McKinnon was arrested in his apartment in England in March 2002. The police didn’t have a hard time tracking him down because McKinnon didn’t cover his tracks properly. In an interview with the BBC, McKinnon said, “I almost wanted to be caught, because it was ruining me. I had this classic thing of wanting to be caught so there would be an end to it.”

The American government said that in the wake of the September 11 attacks, McKinnon altered or deleted files, which shut down their systems. McKinnon denied this and said he was just looking at files and didn’t do any real damage. For over 10 years, the American government tried to get McKinnon extradited, but it was ultimately blocked. In 2012, the Crown Prosecution Service chose not to pursue charges against McKinnon.

As for why he did it, McKinnon said that he wanted to find out if the U.S. Government knew about UFOs, aliens, and free energy and were keeping it a secret. He thought it was his moral obligation to expose the truth. McKinnon claims he did see some evidence of UFOs, like recorded accounts of people seeing them and he said he possibly saw a picture of a UFO, but nothing definitive.

6. Lizard Squad


On Christmas Eve 2014, both the X-Box Live and PlayStation Network (PSN) crashed, and each was still down on Christmas day when many people woke up to a new system under the tree. In total, up to 160 million people were affected.

The crash was the result of a hack by a group called Lizard Squad, which crashed the networks with a distributed denial of service (DDoS) hack. A DDoS attack is when a system is flooded with traffic from a botnet, which is like a horde of zombie computers being controlled by a user or a group of users, overloading the network and causing it to crash.

In order to get the attacks to stop, internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom (no, that’s not his real name) offered Lizard Squad members 3,000 vouchers to his encrypted cloud storage service called Mega. They agreed and the systems went back online shortly afterward.

When asked why they did it, a member of the Lizard Squad, who only identified himself as Ryan, said that Microsoft and Sony make billions of dollars, but thought they kept too much for themselves and didn’t put enough money into security, so they did it to raise awareness. They said they felt bad that gamers couldn’t get online, but didn’t feel bad that Microsoft and Sony lost money due to their systems being down.

Four members of the group have been identified and charged, but none of them faced jail time, even though some of them were convicted on 50,700 counts of instances of aggravated computer break-ins.

5. LulzSec

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The first big target of LulzSec (which mean Lulz, or laugh, security), was Fox.com. After hacking them, they managed to steal the personal data of 75,000 X-Factor contestants. They said they did it because a talking head on Fox News called the rapper/actor Common “vile.”

After Fox.com, LulzSec hacked into PBS and planted a fake news story saying that Tupac Shakur and Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace were still alive in New Zealand. This was followed by a hack into Sony’s PlayStation Network, which brought it down for a few days, and they stole the data of 24.6 million people.

The group’s downfall was that they got cocky and took down an FBI affiliated site for a few hours. This caught the FBI’s attention (naturally) and just four days later, on June 7, the group’s leader, Sabu, logged onto an Anonymous chat forum without using a Tor system, which anonymizes data connections.

A short time later, the FBI knocked on the door of Hector Xavier Monsegur, a freelance programmer who lived in Manhattan. The FBI gave him a choice: he could go to jail or he could give up the rest of his group. He said he had just gotten parental custody of his two nieces, so he chose to help the FBI.

The four other members lived in England and they were all arrested by September. None of the hackers knew each other in real life. The four hackers were sentenced to two to two-and-a-half-years in prison, while Monsegur spent seven months in prison.

4. ASTRA

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Most of the hackers on this list were destructive and/or greedy. However, where we start to get into James Bond-type villains is ASTRA, an unidentified Greek hacker who was 58 when he was arrested in 2008, after being wanted for five years.

ASTRA, who was a mathematician and an experienced hacker, broke into the computer network of French defense contractor Dassault Group. For over five years, he stole weapon technology and aircraft data. He then sold the information to 250 different people in Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, and some countries in the Middle East that weren’t identified. Dassault said that the hacks led to US$360 million in damages, and that ASTRA sold the secrets for US$1,000 a batch. He was convicted and given a six year prison sentence.

3. The Guardians of Peace


The most devastating cyber-attack on an American corporation was the Sony Pictures hack, which happened on November 24, 2012. They leaked the staff’s personal data, private emails, and unreleased movies. The hack was performed by a group call Guardians of the Peace (GOP) and they demanded that Sony pull their upcoming movie The Interview, which is about a TV show host and his producer trying to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. If Sony didn’t pull the movie, there would be a terrorist attack. Theater owners around America decided not to screen the movie and the day after the hack, Sony canceled the theatrical run of The Interview.

The FBI concluded that the North Koreans were responsible for the attack, but North Korea has always denied it. Many hackers and cyber security experts actually believe North Korea because they don’t think the nation was capable of committing a hack of that nature.

Adding to the confusion, on December 20, 2014, the GOP supposedly posted a message on Pastebin mocking the FBI. It read:
By GOP
The result of investigation by FBI is so excellent that you might have seen what we were doing with your own eyes.
We congratulate you success.
FBI is the BEST in the world.
You will find the gift for FBI at the following address.
Then there was a link to a YouTube video called “you are an idiot!” The video starts off with some Japanese words, before smiley faces appear on the screen. This is followed by the techno music and the rest of the video saying “you’re an idiot” over and over again.

So, if the GOP isn’t North Korea, then who are they?

2. Albert Gonzalez

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In 2003, Albert Gonzalez was arrested for being the administrator of an underground computer network called Shadowcrew.com. The network was 4,000 members-strong and people swapped illegal information on it, like credit card numbers. Instead of taking responsibility for what he did and do his time, Gonzalez became a paid informant for the Secret Service. He set up a sting operation where he convinced hackers from Shadowcrew.com to come to a chat room that was monitored by the Secret Service. This led to 28 arrests.

After the sting, Gonzalez moved to Miami and while making US$75,000 as an informant, he started up his own criminal ring called “Operation Get Rich or Die Tryin’.” During the operation, Gonzalez and his ring of hackers stole 140 million credit card numbers from OfficeMax, TJX, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, Forever 21, DSW, and Dave & Buster’s.

The Secret Service, who had no idea that Gonzalez was running his own criminal network while also a paid informant, were doing a separate investigation and ended up arresting a man named Maksym Yastremskiy for selling stolen credit cards in Turkey. On his computer, they found a chat log with a mysterious American hacker who went under the username 201679996. This eventually led back to Gonzalez and he was arrested.

Gonzalez said in court that it was never about the money, but the Secret Service found chat records of him bragging that he planned to score US$15 million and then retire and live on a yacht. Instead, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in March 2010.

1. Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev


On October 11, 2006, at 2:24 a.m., a user by the name of “fliime” posted a message on the online forum Techsupportguy.com asking for someone to take a look at some mysterious code that he found on his sister’s computer. It turns out that it was vicious malware that logged keystrokes, but ran so seamlessly that users didn’t see a slowdown on their system. It was so effective that it stole more passwords in a few hours than most malware does in weeks. It was also unique because it developed ways to hide itself from things like antivirus programs. Eventually, enough computers were infected that it created a botnet.

Since the virus ran virtually undetected, security experts have no idea how many computers were infected. Things only got worse in June 2007 when Apple launched the iPhone. That’s when people started getting emails offering free iPhone wallpapers but, of course, it was actually a new variation of the ZeuS virus. This version was even worse than the original because it allowed hackers to log into commercial banks and transfer large sums of money without raising alarm.

In 2010, four years after the malware was first detected, US$100 million had been stolen using ZeuS. It’s estimated that hundreds of millions have been stolen in total and it has caused billions of dollars in damage. As of 2015, it was still being used to infect computers.

What made the author of ZeuS unique is that he didn’t do the hacking. Instead, he used a middleman to sell the malware to a third party, like criminal syndicates, and they would do the hacking. However, the hacker apparently offered 24/7 tech support.

At the time, the alias of the author of ZeuS kept changing. Some of his names included A-Z, Monstr, Slavik, Pollingsoon, Umbro, and Lucky1235. His real identity was only made public in June 2014, when the FBI announced they were looking for Russian-born Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, who is 34-years-old at the time of this posting. He wasn’t identified because of a mistake he made in his coding, though. Instead, a person who knew him gave him up. There is currently a US$3 million reward from the FBI for information that leads to his arrest and conviction.

Top image credit: HypnoArt/Pixabay.

[Source: Toptenz. Top image added.]

TOP 10 PINK WONDERS OF THE NATURAL WORLD


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Top 10 Pink Wonders Of The Natural World
By Laura O'Neil,
Listverse, 25 May 2017.

Pink: the color of bubblegum, valentine’s cards, and Barbie. It is a color that has been associated with social movements and brands, most notably the pink triangle and pink breast cancer campaigns. It has even been shown to calm the nerves and is used in institutional buildings like prisons and hospitals to create a soothing environment.

Pink is not even a “real” color, and some have called it a scientific enigma. It is not a wavelength or particle and does not appear in the visible spectrum (it doesn’t exist in rainbows, for example). We can observe pink not because it actually exists, but rather because our brains perceive that it exists. Trippy.

While that mind-bending reality sets in, consider these instances of pink appearing in nature. Pink is not a color often associated with nature, so these occurrences are all the more spectacular because of the rarity of their color in the natural world.

10. Pink Sand Beach, Bahamas

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Looking like a scene out of a technicolor fairytale, Pink Sand Beach stretches along three miles of Harbour Island in the Bahamas. Just out to sea, an extensive reef system keeps the water calm and protects the beach and its visitors - but it is also the source of the sand’s bubblegum hue.

The reef coral is home to a microscopic single-celled organism called Foraminifera, whose shells are bright pink or red. These coral insects are critical to the ocean environment, feeding on coral reefs, sea floors, under rocks, and in caves. But, like all living things, Foraminifera die, and when they do their colorful bodies are crushed in ocean waves and washed ashore. Mixed with the sand and other bits of coral, the Foraminifera give Pink Sand Beach its eponymous color.

9. Female Orchid Praying Mantis

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Like many insect species, the male and female orchid praying mantises of Southeast Asia have evolved to look very different from each other. The male is small and brown while the female mimics the visual appearance of the orchid flowers around which they live. This camouflage allows the females to attract insects as prey and allows the males to avoid detection while they look for a mate.

The result of this species’ evolution is a truly extraordinary female specimen. Female orchid mantises have perfected the art of masquerade. Their limbs are shaped like petals and sport spectacular pink and yellow hues. With bodies that look like fully formed orchids, they are easily mistaken for the real thing and can actually be better at attracting insects than the flowers they mimic. This is despite the fact that orchid mantis females do not mimic any particular species of orchid, but rather a generic combination of orchid-like features.

8. San Francisco Salt Ponds

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If you have ever traveled to San Francisco by airplane, you may have noticed a brightly colored patchwork of ponds on the coast below. These are the Cargill Salt Ponds, which have now mostly been sold back to government and non-profit landowners for restoration.

For 150 years, salt was one of the city’s primary industries. The salt mines, which covered more than 15 thousand acres, now comprise a massive tidal wetland restoration project. This means the brilliantly colored ponds will not be there forever.

So why did the salt mines create such a colorful landscape? It’s all thanks to a microorganism, a type of algae called Dunaliella. High salt content in water causes the algae to grow into a deep red or coral pink color. In low salt content, the algae grow green.

The remarkable color array of the salt ponds is even noticeable from space; astronauts have used them as a visual marker while orbiting the planet.

7. Amazon River Dolphin

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You won’t find this dolphin out at sea; it is one of the few remaining freshwater dolphins on Earth. It is found in rivers and lakes throughout South America including the Amazon River. These dolphins are big animals, weighing up to a hefty 350 pounds (160 kg) and stretching up to nine feet (2.7 m) long, but they don’t have the typical dorsal fin associated with dolphins.

Unfortunately, because the dolphin eats the fish that river fishermen want to harvest for a living, the animals are often deliberately killed. They are also the source of many myths. Local legend says the dolphins are quiet, solitary, and blind, but scientists have shown that they are in fact sociable - even quite aggressive - and have full vision.

The dolphins range from gray to the pink hue that they are known for, and scientists have observed that the pink color emerges as the animals age, with male dolphins having the rosiest coloration.

One working theory is that the pink of their skin is scar tissue from the frequent fights the grown dolphins engage in. Others have guessed that the pink coloration is an evolved response to blend in with the red sand in the riverbeds of South America, in order to hide from larger predators.

6. Lake Hillier, Australia

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From the sky, Australia’s Lake Hillier looks like someone emptied several vats of Pepto Bismal onto the landscape. It’s strikingly pink. The source of its color is the same algae found in the salt ponds of San Francisco: the salt-loving Dunaliella microbe. It has pigment compounds that make it particularly good at absorbing sunlight, which helps create the reddish-pink color.

Scientists have found a mix of other algae and bacteria that have helped intensify the pink color of Lake Hillier. These discoveries also point to the reason for the lake’s coloring - the additional microorganisms are evidence that the lake was home to a leather tanning station in the early 1900s.

So, this particular example is half natural, half man-made; the lake’s color is particularly vibrant because of human activity.

5. Elephant Hawk Moth

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From caterpillar to fully-fledged moth, this species is a fascinating one. Its name is derived from the appearance of the caterpillar: a slimmer head and thorax than the rest of its body makes the caterpillar look like an elephant truck.

However, like many moth caterpillars, it has evolved to disguise itself with markings that impersonate a snake, eyes and all, in order to fool potential predators into staying away. It even has a trick to mimic the blinking of an eye; the caterpillars have a growth called an anal horn that can palpitate rapidly to look like a blinking eye.

If the caterpillar can survive and make it to the cocoon stage, it will emerge as one of the prettiest moth species on Earth, and certainly one of the most distinct moths in its native United Kingdom. Unlike many moth species, which are typically gray or brown, the Elephant Hawk Moth is pink and olive-coloured. They are often mistaken for a pink butterfly, but they are nocturnal and have stout, fuzzy bodies, like most moths.

4. Pink Terraces of Lake Rotomahana

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This is one pink natural wonder you can’t currently see - it is submerged from view. The terraces were thought to be completely lost in an 1886 earthquake off the shores of New Zealand. The terraces, which were both pink and white, were a natural wonder treasured by New Zealanders. Some even called them the eighth wonder of the world. They were utterly unique: the two largest formations of fine quartz on earth. One terrace outcrop was white, while the other, due to some undetermined chemical impurity, was pink.

Fast-forward 150 years to an expedition to map and study the floor of Lake Rotomahana. Scientists using sonar to map the lake floor discovered an outcropping they suspected could be the lost pink terrace. They sent an underwater camera team to be sure, and they confirmed that there were still small areas of both the white and pink terraces in existence.

At less than ten percent of their former size, the terraces were indeed greatly diminished by the 1886 earthquake, but New Zealanders can take heart that these natural wonders are not completely lost to the world.

3. Pink Katydid

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Katydids, which are similar to crickets, are often green, but new research shows that in North American katydids, pink is the genetically dominant hue - the one that determines the coloring of offspring. For decades, scientists believed that pink - as well as yellow and orange - coloring in katydids was the result of a genetic mutation controlled by recessive genes, the absence of the usual pigment of green, almost like albinism in humans.

In the last decade, researchers at New Orleans’ Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium have found new insights that show the opposite to be true. They have shown that green is, in fact, a recessive trait while pink is a dominant trait. This means that if a green and pink katydid mate, the offspring will be pink - not green, as earlier theories stated.

The rarity of the pink katydids is attributed to the lack of camouflage offered by the bright coloration, compared to the green coloration. If you’re keen to see one in the wild, head to the New Orleans area, where there is a Cajun saying: “If a pink katydid lands on your shoulder on Valentine’s Day, you will find true love that year!”

2. Lake Retba, Senegal

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The picture-perfect white beaches of Lake Retba in Senegal are not as perfect or inviting as they seem. Lake Retba is so salty that it rivals the infamously salty Dead Sea, and its white beaches are mostly pure salt. Its nickname, Lac Rose, is a hint to its dry season coloring: a stunning shade of pink. (Its waters are continually changing color throughout the year due to salinity.)

The source of the pink hue is the same as other pink bodies of water in the world: the algae Dunaliella. Mix up a cocktail of algae, minerals, and hot sun, and the lake can even appear blood red at certain times of the year.

The lake is a hub for salt collectors, who spend full days mining salt from the lake bed and have to slather themselves in shea butter to protect their skin from the high salinity.

1. Okinawa Cherry Blossoms

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Cherry blossoms are a crowd-pleaser in several areas across the world, including Vancouver and Washington, D.C., but there is no better place to see the pinkest blossoms than Okinawa, Japan. It is the first area in Japan where cherry trees bloom, around mid-February, while the rest of the country sees blossoms closer to April and into May.

In Japan, the cherry blossoms are revered. During the cherry blossom season, picnickers flock to orchards across the country to engage in hanami, which translates as “looking at flowers.” So why are cherry blossoms so revered in Japan? Their short-lived bloom echoes the Japanese cultural heritage of valuing the fleeting nature of beauty. Cherry blossom season also represents new beginnings, coinciding with the new school year and new financial calendar in Japan: April 1. Plus, they are just breathtakingly beautiful.

Top image: Charles Bloomfield's oil on canvas painting of the Pink Terraces of Lake Rotomahana. Credit: Sids1/Flickr.

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

Thursday, 25 May 2017

10 REAL-LIFE FAIRY TALE CASTLES


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10 real-life fairy tale castles
By Josh Lew,
Mother Nature Network, 23 May 2017.

Castles are often romanticized in fairy tales. They are homes for royal protagonists and settings for drama and romance. In reality, many castles were built more for fortification and functionality than for beauty.

That changed, however, as advancements in weapons and warfare made thick castle walls obsolete. So, during the Renaissance, builders focused on beauty instead of protection. The results were castles that would be right at home - in fact, they'd be the home - in the pages of a fantasy.

The following 10 castles all pass that fairy tale test. Some fit the part because of their architecture, others because of their history. You can visit them all to soak in the magic.

1. Belem Tower, Lisbon

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Photo: Robert Pittman/Flickr

The Torre de Belem, Belem Tower, sits on the bank of the Tagus River in Lisbon. The bastion and 100-foot-tall tower are made from local limestone, and the structure's interior is characterized by ribbed vaulting, which defines the "Manueline" architectural style that was popular in Portugal in the 16th century.

The tower is considered a gateway to Lisbon and a symbol of the legendary explorers, like Vasco de Gama, who made Portugal one of the world’s most powerful empires in the 16th century. Together with the nearby Jeronimos (Hieronymites) Monastery, which also commemorates Portugal's prolific sailors, the tower is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors must cross a small bridge to reach the tower, which often appears to be floating on the river.

2. Bobolice Castle, Poland

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Photo: Wilson44691/Wikimedia Commons

Built in the 1300s, Bobolice Castle now stands in its namesake village. It was originally part of a network of fortifications that protected Poland's border in the 14th century. The cylindrical towers give the structure a fairy-tale appearance, but the real story of Bobolice is more interesting.

The castle changed hands numerous times, and a treasure was reportedly found in the cellars and tunnels under the castle in the 19th century. The history of Bobolice has inspired legends and stories about hidden gold, star-crossed lovers and the ghosts of past inhabitants (who allegedly still haunt the halls and towers). The castle opened to the public after renovations in 2011, and the property now has a hotel, restaurant and various sites for private events.

3. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

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Photo: Jiuguang Wang/Flickr

Built in the latter half of the 19th century, this castle is one of the best remaining examples of the Romanesque Revival style. Neuschwanstein has a real connection to the world of fairy tales: It was reportedly the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Despite the "Sleeping Beauty" connection, the real history of Neuschwanstein Castle is not very fairy tale-like. The castle was commissioned by the intensely private Bavarian king Ludwig II - a place where he hoped to hide from public life. Ironically, the castle was not fully completed until after his death and Ludwig spent only a handful of nights on the property. His estate opened it to the public not long after he died. Today, more than 1 million tourists make the trek to the Hohenschwangau Valley each year to visit the castle.

4. Burg Eltz, Germany

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Photo: linesinthesand/Flickr

Burg Eltz, or Eltz Castle in English, is located in Germany not far from the city of Trier. Originally constructed sometime in the 12th century, portions may date to a time several hundred years earlier. The castle has been added to and renovated over the centuries, but one thing remains the same: The descendants of the Eltz family, the same one that originally built the castle, still own and live on the property.

Portions of the castle are open the the public. The Moselle River Valley, where the structure is located, is known for its scenery, and the castle, which features 100-foot towers, is visually stunning. The interior, which can be viewed as part of a tour, contains artifacts from the last 800 years.

5. St. Michael's Mount, England

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Photo: Andrew Bone/Wikimedia Commons

St. Michael's Mount is an island in Cornwall, England, connected to the mainland by a granite causeway that is passable during mid and low tide. Because of this, some visitors travel by boat to get there. The earliest buildings on the island date to the 1100s, and the current residents, from the Saint Aubyn family, have lived there since the 17th century. Today, St. Michael's and its castle, which is overseen by the National Trust, are open to the public.

Perhaps because of its unusual appearance, the castle and island are the setting for numerous legends. Seafarers have told stories about mermaids luring them to the island and spoken of seeing apparitions of St. Michael (the patron saint of fishermen). Some myths even suggest that the giant in the Cornish fairy tale Jack the Giant Killer made his home on the island before he was slain.

6. Alcázar of Segovia, Spain

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Photo: Fernando García/Wikimedia Commons

Alcázars are fortifications and palaces built during Moorish rule on the Iberian Peninsula. The Alcázar of Segovia is one of the most visually stunning of these structures. The castle was featured in the 1960s musical "Camelot" and is said to have also inspired the design of Disney's Cinderella castle.

This Alcázar, which sits on a rock above a river valley, is shaped like the bow of a ship. Its circular towers make it seem like a fitting royal residence. Rulers, including Queen Isabella I, had traditionally lived there, but the royal court eventually moved to Madrid, and the Alcázar was converted into a prison. Two centuries later, in 1762, it became a military academy. Today, the castle is open to the public.

7. Château de Chenonceau, France

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Photo: Ra-smit/Wikimedia Commons

The Chateau de Chenonceau is not the kind of towering structure usually associated with fairy tale palaces, but it's quite stunning to behold. The castle sits over the River Cher, a tributary of the Loire River. Arches allow the water to pass underneath the structure. The architecture is a mixture of late Gothic and early Renaissance design, and the elaborate gardens outside the castle draw more visitors than any other gardens in France save for those at Versailles.

The interior of Chenonceau matches the exterior and gardens in terms of how elaborate it is. The colorful decorations, period furnishings and detailed paintings have all been carefully preserved. Tours are available every day.

8. Doune Castle, Scotland

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Photo: John Salmon/Wikimedia Commons

You've seen Doune Castle before, even if you've never set foot in Perthshire, Scotland, where the structure has stood since the start of the 15th century. The castle replaced an even older building that dated back several hundred years earlier. The exterior of Doune is somewhat weathered, but the interior halls have been well preserved.

Where have you seen Doune before? The castle was used extensively during the filming of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Different parts of the property were used for different fictional castles in the famous comedy film. More recently, the castle was used as Winterfell in HBO's "Game of Thrones" and as a set for the time travel series "Outlander." Despite not having an ornate, Disney-worthy appearance, Doune Castle has certainly played a major role when it comes to medieval fantasy.

9. Matsumoto Castle, Japan

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Photo: ytani0323/Pixabay

Matsumoto Castle, built in the 16th century, is in Nagano Prefecture. It's unique in that it was built on a plain instead of in the surrounding mountains. A series of moats, gates and a towering keep were used to provide protection. This design now serves to create an attractive landscape that makes this one of the most popular castles in Japan.

Matsumoto stands out because its wooden interior remains largely intact. (Many other castles have been rebuilt or reinforced with ferro-cement.) Visitors can climb to the sixth floor of the keep for views of the surroundings. The outer gardens feature cherry blossom trees that flower in the springtime, and the grounds also play host to torchlight "Takigi Noh" plays and traditional Taiko drum festivals.

10. Swallow's Nest, Ukraine

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Photo: enelene/Pixabay

The Swallow's Nest was designed specifically to catch visitors' attention with its fairy tale appearance. The small, neo-Gothic decorative castle sits on a 130-foot Black Sea cliff in a resort town near Yalta on the Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. The building is only 60 feet by 33 feet. It was built in the early 20th century to replace a wooden building that had previously sat on the edge of the cliff.

The castle is a tourist attraction, and is open daily. The small rooms feature rotating exhibits. The Nest is right outside of Gaspra, a resort town that was once popular with the likes of Leo Tolstoy (who lived there in 1901).

Top image: Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany. Credit: tpsdave/Pixabay.

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