Friday, 31 October 2014


7 Facts About Sugar That May Surprise You
Discovery News, 31 October 2014.

Sure, a spoonful helps the medicine go down, but what else can it do?

1. Americans eat 76.7 pounds of it each year


According to 2012 statistics compiled by the U.S. Agriculture Department, the keeper of the statistics on America's sweet tooth, the grand total amount of sugar consumed by the average American is 76.7 pounds every year. That breaks down to 22 teaspoons of sugar a day per person.

Much of that comes from unexpected sources, such as in cranberries and Clamato juice, as "Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver pointed out in a recent episode. The total annual figure is down from previous studies that estimated we consume 95 to 100 pounds of sugar each year.

Still, 75 pounds is a lot of sugar.

2. It can make you stupid


A May 2012 study showed that eating a diet high in fructose over a long period of time can impair your brain's ability to learn and then remember information.

The research, published in the Journal of Physiology was done on rats, but our brains are similar enough to the rodents that the findings extend to humans.

There is hope: the same research found that eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (including salmon and flaxseed oil) can counteract the effect.

3. It doesn't make kids hyper


This is a tough one to believe if you've witnessed kids near the end of a cake and ice cream party. Sugar sure seems to have a buzzing effect on kids (and adults). But according a 1994 double-blind research study in the New England Journal of Medicine, a sugary diet does not have an adverse effect on the behaviour or cognitive skills of children.

Sugar does, however, change one thing: parents' expectations. Another study by the National Institutes of Health found that after hearing their children had just eaten a lot of sugar, parents were more likely to say their kid was hyperactive - even when the supposed sugar fix was actually a placebo.

4. Brown sugar is no better for you than white


If it's brown, it's better for you than white, right? Maybe when it comes to rice and, in most cases, bread, but not so much when it comes to sugar.

Brown sugar is actually just refined white sugar with molasses added. While molasses adds a touch more minerals to each spoonful (calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium), those amounts are so scarce they hardly justify the calories.

5. Brown bread can contain more sugar than white bread


Speaking of brown, brown bread may not always be all that it's made out to be.

Brown bread is, in general, more nutritious than white bread. Brown breads made from whole wheat usually contain more fibre than white bread, as well as higher amounts of important nutrients such as vitamins B-6 and E, magnesium, folic acid, copper, zinc and manganese.

That said, an analysis done by the English newspaper, The Telegraph, found that five of 15 surveyed brown loaves contained a form of added sugar that was not present in white bread loaves. Bread manufacturers explained the added sugar was meant to counteract the "bitter" taste of wholemeal flour. They argued that the added sugar amounts was negligible. Nonetheless, the findings are food for thought.

6. It helps budding flowers compete


This one is a little complicated - and surprising. It's known that wildflowers generally don't stand a good chance of lasting in a given field of grasses. That's because most grasses grow so aggressively that they quickly outcompete the less hardy newcomers.

One way to change the equation, found a recent study in the Journal of Vegetation Science, is to add sugar to the soil.

The researchers (who were based in Estonia) added 1 kilogram of sugar per square meter every year for 10 years. The sugar, it turns out, lends microbes in the soil a boost, and since microbes, too are competing with the established plants for carbon, the established plants grow more slowly. Since it's generally easier to compete with microbes than with established grassy plants, the sugar treatment leaves room for pretty flowers to take root.

So sprinkle sugar in a grassy field and more wildflowers will grow.

7. It activates our brains like cocaine


Eating high-sugar foods lights up your brain on an MRI in the same areas that are triggered by cocaine or heroin, according to research by Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Centre at Boston Children's Hospital.

His findings support earlier research on rats that showed how addictive the sweet stuff can be. A 2007 study in the journal PLOS1 that showed that 94 percent of rats that were allowed to choose between sugar water and cocaine, chose sugar.

Even rats who were addicted to cocaine switched their preference to sugar, once it was offered as a choice.

Top image: Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose). Credit: Lauri Andler/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Discovery News. Edited. Top image added.]


9 Incredibly Strange Islands
By Josh Lew,
Mother Nature Network, 30 October 2014.

Some of these islands are filled with animals while others are cloaked in strange human history.

Curious attraction

Strange places tend to capture our imaginations. When something seems out of the ordinary, we're drawn to it almost instinctively. Sometimes unusual places bring a mix of fear and curiosity. Sometimes they cause us to do a double take, and sometimes we just can't help but chuckle. These nine strange islands will cause at least one of these reactions. Whether it's their animal inhabitants, their unusual human history or their spooky legends, these islands attract attention.

Here are nine incredibly strange islands to pique your curiosity.

1. Hashima Island, Japan

Photo: Keromako/Flickr

Now deserted, the Japanese island of Hashima was once one of the most densely populated places on Earth. Sometimes called Gunkanjima, which translates as Battleship Island, Hashima is covered with buildings.

Until 1974, the island was home to a major coal-mining operation. Workers and their families lived in huge apartment blocks that still stand today. After remaining abandoned for more than three decades, Hashima was opened to tourists in 2009. Even if you haven't been to the island, you've probably seen it on film. In the 2012 James Bond movie “Skyfall,” Hashima was the setting for 007's first confrontation with arch villain Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem.

2. La Isla de las Munecas, Mexico

Photo: Esparta Palma/Flickr

La Isla de las Munecas (Island of the Dolls) is an artificial island hidden in a vast network of canals in the borough of Xochimilco, near Mexico City. Xochimilco has more than 100 miles of canals, and the artificial islands, known as chinampas, were originally used for farming.

Isla Munecas was inhabited by a solitary man, Julian Santana. According to Santana, the island was the site of a tragic drowning incident in which three girls died. He hung dolls from the trees to honour the girls' spirits. At first, the man was not known for his dolls but for the delicious vegetables he grew. Local residents would actually sometimes bring old dolls to trade for his produce. The story has a very eerie twist. In 2001, Santana was found dead in the same spot where he reportedly saw the drowned girls.

3. Floating islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Photo: Bruce Tuten/Flickr

South America's Lake Titicaca is home to one of the oldest tribes in the Americas. The Uros, a group that predates the Inca Empire, make islands from nothing but reeds called totoras. The reeds are woven together in dense bails to create large floating platforms. New layers are woven into the base of the islands regularly for reinforcement.

The totora roots are also a staple of the Uros diet. Since the islands were first featured in National Geographic in the 1940s, tourists have been flocking to see them. Today, tourism is a major industry for the Uros. Some even offer home-stay opportunities.

4. North Sentinel Island, India

Photo: NASA

Thanks to satellite images and air travel, very few unknown places remain in the world. North Sentinel Island in Bengal Bay is as close as it gets to being “undiscovered.” Covered by dense forests, this member of the Andaman Islands is inhabited by a group of people who actively avoid contact with the outside world.

Known as the Sentinelese, the island's tribe lives a subsistence lifestyle. Because of heavy foliage, it is impossible to observe them from the air. Throughout the years, there have been various attempts to make contact with the Sentinelese. They have been known to throw rocks and shoot arrows at helicopters and ships that come too close to the island. A few years ago, two Indian fisherman were killed by tribesmen when they drifted into the shores of North Sentinel.

5. Poveglia, Italy

Photo: Chris 73/Wikimedia Commons

Poveglia is an island in the Venice lagoon. Despite its location, next to one of the world's great tourist destinations, it is unpopulated. Many people think it is haunted. Its ghostly reputation comes from its use for centuries as a quarantine station for people who came to Venice by sea, some of whom reportedly suffered from the plague.

In the 20th century, the island was converted into a hospital that treated the elderly and the mentally ill. The facility was abandoned in the 1960s and has not been used since, though there are now plans to redevelop the island, perhaps turning the former hospital into a luxury hotel.

6. Hart Island, New York

Photo: Jacob A. Riis/Museum of the City of New York (public domain)

Not all strange islands are in remote parts of the globe. Hart Island, for example, is actually considered part of the Bronx. Hart was the site of a POW camp during the Civil War. It was subsequently used as a prison. One of the oldest buildings on the island was a woman's insane asylum built in the late 1800s.

Hart was where New York used to bury its dead. The island's “potter's field” stretches for more than 100 acres and is one of the largest public cemeteries in the world. As many as a million people were laid to rest here, many in unmarked mass graves. It is not possible to visit Hart without first contacting the New York Department of Corrections. However, people whose ancestors' graves are on the island can visit with permission from the DOC.

7. Howland Island, USA

Photo: USFWS - Pacific Region/Flickr

Howland Island is an uninhabited atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It belongs to the United States and is overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Despite its small size and lack of fresh water, this far-flung island has an interesting history. The U.S. took control of Howland in the 1850s for the purpose of guano mining. The droppings of seabirds were collected to be used in fertilizers.

A brief attempt at colonization took place in the 1930s, and the island was used as a way station for transpacific flights. Howland is probably best known for these airfields. In 1937, Amelia Earhart was supposed to land here during the Pacific leg of her round-the-world flight. The victim of some sort of navigation or communication error, she never arrived. A special permit, usually given only to scientists, is required to visit Howland Island.

8. Okunoshima, Japan

Photo: zamojojo/Flickr

Okunoshima, commonly referred to as Rabbit Island, is in the Inland Sea of Japan near Hiroshima. In the 1920s and '30s, Okunoshima housed a secret factory where chemical weapons were produced. The remains of the factory and a museum dedicated to chemical warfare are now found on the island.

However, Okunoshima is best known today for its large feral rabbit population. It is illegal to harm the rabbits, and they have no natural predators here. Because of this environment, the rabbits are very friendly to humans and will often approach visitors in large numbers looking for handouts. A hotel and campground are on the island to accommodate tourists, who arrive via ferry from neighbouring islands.

9. Niihau, Hawaii

Photo: Christopher P. Becker/Wikimedia Commons

The smallest of Hawaii's inhabited islands, Niihau is also the least known of the 50th state's land masses. It is often referred to as the Forbidden Island because it is owned by descendants of Elizabeth Sinclair, a plantation owner who bought the island from the king of Hawaii in the 19th century.

A small naval base is on Niihau, and a few people are allowed to visit as part of guided tours, but the island is generally off-limits to outsiders (except those who have been invited by the owners). There are no roads and no power lines (only solar panels) on Niihau, and the few native Hawaiians who live there do not have to pay rent.

Top image: Aerial view of Niihau Island, Hawaii. Credit: Christopher P. Becker/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited. Top image added.]


Top 10 Creepiest Alien Abductions
By Mike Brown,
Toptenz, 31 October 2014.

Alien abduction stories have been around for a long time and range from mildly peculiar to the downright disturbing and disgusting. The Internet has given believers a forum to share their stories and encounters of the unknown. Though some might be a figment of their imagination or an unadulterated lie, stories like this have been documented for years. Belief in these stories is sceptical to many and amusing to some. So without further ado, the 10 Creepiest UFO Abduction Tales.

10. The Betty and Barney Hill Abduction


The abduction of Betty and Barney Hill was the first abduction ever to be reported in the news in 1961. The Hills were driving in rural New Hampshire on the night of September 19, returning home from a vacation in Niagara Falls. During this drive, they witnessed bright lights in the night’s sky; Barney pulled over to get a better look. Using binoculars, the Hills saw an unidentified flying object in the sky moving towards them. Frightened, they jumped back in their car and drove away from the light. As they were driving, they noticed that the lights were chasing their car. And instead of speeding away into the night, Barney decided to pull over again, this time with his binoculars and a gun. This is when he saw some strange ‘beings’ heading towards him and his wife.

After seeing them, Barney finally hightailed it out of there, but this was cut short when the Hills heard a strange sound and became paralyzed by a tingling over their entire body. Thirty-five minutes later the Hills became aware that something strange had just happened but couldn’t remember what. Barney’s shoes were all scratched, and both of their watches were mysteriously broken. Barney did remember driving into a wooded area and meeting six humanoid figures, who used telepathy to tell them not to be afraid; they were taken onto a ship and tested like lab rats. The ‘aliens’ took samples from the Hills, including skin and semen, maybe to use in reproduction; we may never know.

9. Whitley Strieber


During the Christmas holiday in 1985, Whitley Strieber, an author known for The Wolfen in 1978 and The Hunger in 1981 was staying with his family in a cabin in upstate New York. During the night he heard bizarre noises; he decided to go investigate, and this is when Strieber discovered strange beings in his bedroom. After seeing these creatures, he woke up, in what seemed only seconds later, sitting outside in the woods by the cabin.

Baffled by what happened and unable to recollect the events, he hired a hypnotist. After several tries, he was finally able to remember what happened that night. That night he was levitated out of the room to a ship hovering above the woods. He recalled there being various creatures on the ship, one that looked like a robot, and some were skinny with dark eyes. This is when he also remembered the procedures that were performed on him. The creatures put a long needle into his brain and anally probed him. Although many thought him to be hallucinating these events, he swears to this day that these events were, in fact, real.

8. The Trucker’s Wife Abduction


In Michigan in 2012, trucker Scott Murray received an alarming call from his wife. She explained that she thought that she might have been knocked out and possibly raped. Murray rushed home and took his wife to the hospital. The doctors and nurses said that they found no indication that she was raped but did find a burn on her shoulder. This was when Murray wrapped up the incident as just a nightmare that his wife had. That was until, the next day, when he went outside of his home and found weird disk shaped burns in the grass by their garden.

After further investigation, he found a tree twenty feet away with burnt leaves on it. This was when he knew something strange had happened there the night before. After the discovery, Murray took his wife to see a hypnotic regression specialist; this is where she remembered being on a spacecraft and began to recall the tests that were performed on her. This cause Murray’s wife to become paranoid and frightened; Murray later found his wife dead after returning from a trip. Wanting answers, Murray took samples of the grass to the local college, who told him that it was just radiation burns. To this day Scott Murray does not know the truth about his wife’s death.

7. Antonio Vilas-Boas Abduction


In 1957, twenty-three-year old Brazilian farmer Antonio Vilas-Boas was working late in the field. While working in the fields, he noticed a red light in the night sky; this light started to move towards him and grew larger. This was when he noticed that the light was an oval shaped, and the top part of it was spinning. That is when the UFO landed in the field; Boas jumped on his tractor to escape but it stopped working shortly after he turned it on, so he began to run. That was when one of the aliens, dressed in a helmet and coveralls, grabbed him. Three others came to help the alien put Boas into their ship; they were also dressed in coveralls and had creepy blue eyes.

After entering the ship, he was stripped of his clothes and covered in a type of gel. The creatures took blood samples and then a female creature appeared and began to have sexual intercourse with him. After she was finished, she patted his stomach and pointed into the air as if to tell him that she would have his baby in space. When Boas was being released from the ship he tried to take something off the ship as proof of his abduction but was then thrown off. He went on to become a lawyer and still swears that his story is true.

6. Buff Ledge Abduction


In 1969, at Buff Ledge summer camp in Vermont, two teenage employees, known as Michael and Janet in the reports, were sitting on the dock enjoying the sunset one late afternoon, when a bright light filled the sky. They watched the light as it drew closer to them. As they watched, three smaller lights broke off from the big light and began to dart over the lake. One of the little lights fell into the water; a few minutes went by then the light shot up and started flying towards them.

As the light began to get closer Michael yelled at the light and suddenly they were floating. Seconds later, the two were back on the dock and the lights were gone. Neither talked about what had happened. Over the years, Michael became obsessed with finding out what happened to him. He went to a hypnotist who helped him remember. This is where he recalled the ship and having samples being taken from him. He remembered the aliens had large eyes and three fingers on each hand that were webbed. After remembering all that had happen to him, Michael contacted Janet and she described the same story as Michael.

5. The Allagash Abduction


In Maine in 1976, artists Jack and Jim Weiner, along with friends Charlie Foltz and Chuck Rak where doing some night fishing when the men noticed bright objects flying in the sky. One of the lights started to move towards the canoe. Frightened by this sight, the men started to hastily paddle back to the shore. Before the men could reach it, a beam of light engulfed the canoe.

The men woke up later sitting on the shore by the fire, which was almost completely out. When the men got home, they experienced nightmares of being poked and prodded by the aliens. All four men went under hypnosis to remember the events; this is where they remembered being tested and having bodily fluids removed from them. Even though the men got separate sessions, all of their stories were exactly the same. Since the men were artists, they were able to sketch the room, aliens, and tools used on them from their memories.

4. Sergeant Charles L. Moody’s Abduction


In 1975, in the Alamogordo desert in New Mexico, the site of the recent recovery of the lost Atari video game burial, where all the lost E.T. games and consoles were found, Sergeant Moody was watching a meteor shower, when he saw a spherical metal object in the sky, hovering only a few hundred meters away from him. The object began to come towards him, so he began to run to his car. Once in the car, it wouldn’t start; when he looked at the object again he could see that there were human shapes in the window of it watching him. Then he heard a loud high-pitched sound and felt paralyzed as he watched it fly away.

Moody was able to get his car started and went home but was astonished that is was three in the morning, meaning that he had an hour and a half of time unaccounted for. Days after the incident Moody broke out in a rash and experienced back pain. Using self-hypnosis Moody was able to fill in the gaps of time that he lost. He remembered two tall creatures approach him after becoming numb. He recalled trying to fight them but blacked out. That is when he woke in the craft on a table, telepathically being asked by one of the creatures if he would consent to behave and he agreed. The creatures gave him a tour of the craft and told him that they would return in two decades.

3. The Manhattan Abduction


In 1989 in New York, Linda Napolitano was abducted from her apartment. This abduction had multiple eyewitness accounts. On November 30 around three in the morning, Napolitano was abducted; she had no idea what happened after the abduction but through hypnosis she was able to put the pieces together. She soon remembered that three grey aliens levitated her out her window to a ship.

Two bodyguards of United Nations statesman Javier Perez de Cuellar witnessed this abduction. Jent Kimball also witnessed this but chalked it up to a movie being filmed in the area. Napolitano hired UFO researcher Budd Hopkins to investigate but couldn’t get Cuellar to tell the public about what happened that night. This is one of the only UFO abductions to be witnessed by so many people but never fully investigated.

2. Dr. Herbert Hopkins


What if the Men In Black are real and are out there to protect the secrets of the galaxy? Dr. Herbert Hopkins found out the hard way that this just might be the truth. Although Hopkins was not abducted, he did have a run in with a strange person that didn’t want him investigating an abduction. In 1976, Hopkins was hired to consult on a case in Maine as a doctor and hypnotist. While alone at his home one evening he got a call from a man in the New Jersey UFO Research Organization, informing him that he wanted to talk to him about the case. Hopkins agreed and went outside to turn on the light so the man could find his house but before he could even step outside, there was a man walking up his porch stairs. He was dressed in a black suit and hat, once he removed the hat he say the man was completely hairless.

His skin was almost transparent until Hopkins noticed that the man was wearing lipstick. The man entered the house and they discussed the case but something occurred that scared Hopkins as they were talking. The man showed him a coin and made it disappear then told Hopkins, “Neither you, nor anyone else on this planet will ever see that coin again.” This terrified Hopkins, so as the man requested, he got rid of all the tapes of the hypnotic sessions and stopped working on the case. After some research, he discovered there was not a New Jersey UFO Research Organization. Spooky.

1. The Peter Khoury Abductions

In 1973, Peter Khoury moved to Australia and he met his beautiful wife Vivian. In February of 1988, strange things began to occur: the couple started to see weird lights in the sky but it wasn’t until that summer in July that Peter had his first terrifying experience. Peter was lying in his bed when he felt a jolt on his ankle. This caused Peter to become paralyzed but conscious, which is when he realized there were four hooded silhouettes standing next to his bed. They told him telepathically that it would be over fast, and then raised a long needle to his head, and then he blacked out. His next encounter didn’t come until 1992; Peter woke up in his bed to find two naked female creatures sitting on his bed. They looked human in almost every aspect but their eyes were twice the size of humans.

The one with blonde hair grabbed him and pushed his face into her chest. The female was strong and Peter tried to escape her grasp. When he finally caught his breath from the struggle, they were gone. This is when he found two blonde hairs wrapped around his genitals. He removed them and put them in a bag for further research. The hairs were examined by scientists, who determined them to appear human but had five different DNA markers, which is associated with Mongolians. Although nothing has been found since then, the Physical Evidence Group is still looking for answers about the strange female humanoid in Peter’s room that night.

Top image: Artistic depiction of an alien abduction. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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


5 Spooky Spider Myths Busted
By Elizabeth Palermo,
Live Science, 28 October 2014.

Spiders: they creep, they leap, they haunt the nightmares of arachnophobic humans. But a lot of the fear surrounding spiders is based on myths, not facts, according to the experts who study these eight-legged creatures.

Did you know, for example, that the venom of most tarantulas would hardly make adult humans flinch, let alone kill them? And all those stories you've heard about spiders laying eggs inside an open wound are the stuff of urban legend, not reality.

Here are five more spider myths that irk arachnologists and spider-lovers alike. [Creepy, Crawly & Incredible: Photos of Spiders]

Myth No. 1: Didn't see what bit you? It was probably a spider

Researchers like Lizzy Lowe study spiders with little to no fear of being bitten.

"Unquestionably, the most pernicious of all spider myths is the idea that if you didn't see what bit you, it was a spider," said Rod Crawford, curator of arachnids at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle.

Spiders are blamed for all kinds of bites, bumps, rashes and growths that they likely had nothing to do with, according to Crawford. The myth that spiders tend to bite people when they least expect it - like when they're lying in bed - has been making the rounds for well over a hundred years, but it's not clear how it got started, he said.

While it is certainly possible for spiders to bite people in bed, Crawford said this doesn't happen often. Unlike mosquitos or ticks, spiders don't feed on human blood, so they have no reason to venture near a slumbering human on purpose. And even if you were to roll on top of a spider in your sleep, it would be tough for the critter to bite you since its fangsare located underneath its body, Crawford said.

The notion that spider bites are extremely common is also a potentially dangerous myth. Several conditions that are wrongly labelled as spider bites - particularly skin infections and skin cancer - are actually much more serious than spider bites and require immediate medical attention, Crawford said.

Myth No. 2: Spiders are insects

European garden spider (Araneus diadematus). Credit: Michael Gäbler/Wikimedia Commons.

Spiders are not insects, even though both spiders and insects belong to the same phylum (Arthropoda). In fact, spiders and insects are members of different classes: Spiders belong to the class Arachnida, while insects belong to the class Insecta. This means that spiders and other arachnids are as far removed from insects as birds are from fish, Crawford said.

To distinguish a spider from an insect, you can start by counting how many pairs of legs it has, Crawford said. Spiders have four pairs, whereas insects have three. A spider also has two main body parts - the cephalothorax at the front (the legs are attached to this part of the body) and the abdomen in the rear. Insects have three body parts: a head, thorax and abdomen.

Misidentifying spiders as insects can be more than just a harmless mistake.

"It leads indirectly to a lot of environmental pollution because it results in unnecessary pesticide use," Crawford said. Pest control companies often use insecticides to kill off the spiders inside a house, but these chemicals aren't formulated to kill spiders and so they don't typically work, he added. Instead of insecticides, sticky traps can be a more effective way to rid your home of eight-legged creatures. [Gallery: Spooky Spiders]

Myth No. 3: If you see a spider in your house, you should put it back outside

wps25AE.tmpCommon House Spider (Tegenaria domestica), Credit: sanja565658/Wikimedia Commons.

You may think you're being kind by putting a spider you find in the bathroom sink outside on the lawn, but this isn't necessarily the case. Putting a house spider outside is a little like "freeing" a lion that has spent its whole life inside a zoo: the odds that it'll survive a return to its "native habitat" aren't very good.

This is because most of the spiders found in homes - about 95 percent - have adapted to life indoors, according to Crawford. While spiders may wander into your home from outside every once in a while, this isn't the norm. Spiders found indoors likely belong to a small number of species, dubbed house spiders, that have been living with humans since at least the days of the Roman Empire, Crawford said.

In Seattle, for example, there are approximately 137 species of spiders that live outdoors and there are approximately 25 known species of house spiders. Only eight of those species, however, can survive both inside a house and outside in the garden, Crawford said.

So what should you do when you see a spider in your house? Crawford suggests leaving the critter alone, but if that's not your style, he recommends trying to keep spiders out of certain areas of your home where you'd rather not run into them, such as the bedroom. Seal any gaps in floorboards, cracks in walls or other holes or crevices through which the spiders may access these spaces, Crawford said.

Myth No. 4: Spiders are aggressive

The inner workings of the brains of jumping spiders remained elusive until now.

As Crawford said, spiders don't seek out human beings just to bite them for fun. But, spiders also don't always bite humans when they have the opportunity to do so.

"The thing that annoys me most about public perception of spiders is that [people think] they are all aggressive," said Lizzy Lowe, a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney's School of Biological Sciences. "I collect a lot of spiders, and I do this all by hand. Very few will try to attack you or are going to do you any harm if they do accidentally bite you." [What Really Scares People: Top 10 Phobias]

Bites can occur when spiders feel threatened or are surprised, but for the most part, spiders seem pretty oblivious to humans, according to Lowe. Crawford said he has handled tens of thousands of spiders over the course of his 30-year career and has been bitten only twice - both of which caused what he calls "trivial" effects.

And when it comes to being aggressive, some spiders are simply misunderstood. Jumping spiders often terrify people with their ability to leap great distances, Lowe told Live Science in an email. But, these small spiders are not at all aggressive toward humans, and their venom is not a threat to people, she said.

Myth No. 5: There are really deadly spiders in places like Australia and Brazil

Brazilian wandering spiders are highly venomous, but most people bitten by these spiders survive with only mild to moderate symptoms of envenomation.

"While Australians love to trade on the 'most of our wildlife will kill you' vibe, the reality is that there are very few really dangerous spiders in Australia," Dieter Hochuli, an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney, told Live Science in an email.  "I think it’s a myth we perpetuate out of some odd patriotic thing."

Australia's most venomous spiders include the Sydney funnel-web (Atrax robustus) and the redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti). Both are found in forested and urban areas, making contact between these species and humans more likely than some city dwellers might prefer. However, no deaths have been associated with these "deadly" spiders in many decades, according to Hochuli.

No one in Australia has died from being bitten by a Sydney funnel-web spider since 1981, when antivenin treatments became available. Redback antivenin was developed in the 1950s, and no deaths have been reported from these types of spider bites since.

In Brazil, there are three species of wandering spiders - named for their tendency to wander around on the ground looking for food - that are often considered "deadly." Phoneutria fera, P. nigriventer and P. keyserlingi all have bad reputations, but it's extremely rare for these spider bites to cause human deaths, according to Richard Vetter, a retired research associate of entomology at the University of California, Riverside.

A study of Brazilian wandering spider bites conducted in 2000 showed that, of 422 Phoneutria bites, only two resulted in severe envenomation, and both of those cases occurred in children under age 10. One of those cases resulted in the death of a 3-year-old child, but most adults bitten by these arachnids experience mild to moderate symptoms, such as localized pain and vomiting. Some adults experience no symptoms at all, according to the study.

Top spider image credit: Rove Pest Control.

[Source: Live Science. Edited. Some images added.]