Wednesday, 31 August 2016


panhandles 1 crop
If you look at today's borders between countries, you'll find that they are usually defined by a river, a mountain range or some other geographical feature. But look closer and you'll find some strange borders - those that jut out from the rest of the country, like this one below in India:

panhandles 2 crop

And another in Afghanistan:

wakhan corridor crop

The jut-out part is known as panhandle or salient, usually a product of colonialism. This video by RealLifeLore explains five of the strangest looking panhandles found in global borders.

Gif images created from the video.

[Source: RealLifeLore via YouTube.]


Work Etiquette Around The World
By Valli Vishnubhotla,
Market Inspector, 25 August 2016.

With trade barriers going down, the world is getting more connected and businesses are becoming global. However, every country is different from the other in various aspects ranging from how to greet people to making decisions and running a business.

Being aware of these differences can take you a long way in establishing a business relationship, or at least saving you from it going bad.

The infographic identifies and compares ten different countries based on factors such as work-life balance, dress code, punctuality, introductions and many more. It also shows how business meetings are conducted in different cultures.

For instance, in South Africa maintaining eye contact during a meeting is very important to show interest, whereas in England, prolonged eye contact makes people uncomfortable so it’s best to not maintain eye contact for a long time.

While small talk and casual chatting is quite common during meetings in U.A.E, getting down to business immediately is a better thing to do in the U.S as Americans think that time is money and it should not be wasted on small talk.

There are many more interesting facts compiled together in this infographic that can help one understand global work practices and business culture.

Work _etiquette _around _the _world
[Post Source: Market Inspector.]


10 Mind-Bending Facts About Crop Circles
By Marcus Lowth,
Listverse, 31 August 2016.

We’ve seen pictures of them, rock bands have used them on their sleeve artwork, blockbuster films have been made about them - and most of us know they’re the work of hoaxers who have a plank of wood, some rope, and too much time on their hands. However, there are some really interesting points about crop circles that fool us into thinking there might be something a little more to them than just pranks.

10. The Roswell Rock And Chiseldon Crop Circle Connection

Photo credit:

While out in the desert near where the Roswell incident took place, Robert Ridge came across a strange rock that caught his attention. It was a different color from all the others, and on its top was a strange symbol or pattern that appeared to have been expertly carved into it. When the rock was further examined, it was also magnetic, solid, very old, and not a rock that would occur naturally where Ridge had found it.

The strangest twist however occurred when Ridge conducted further research into the symbol. He discovered a crop formation from Chiseldon in England that had appeared eight years earlier in 1996 - a formation, incidentally, that was regarded as genuine by investigators at the time. Using modern computer software, the symbol was placed over the crop circle and matched it perfectly.

9. Does It Pass The Bend Test?

Photo credit:

One of the main ways to tell if a crop formation is a hoax or not, at least according to experts, is to examine how the crops have been bent. Obvious hoaxes will usually see the crops snapped down into place relatively clumsily, with the stems broken. However, so-called genuine formations show the crops folded or bent into place, with the stems still intact and the crops still good to harvest.

This bend in the wheat is often just before the first node, and investigation has suggested that this is achieved by subjecting the area to a quick blast of extremely high temperature.

8. Small Animals And Insects Often Found Dead

Beneath and within these crops formations are the remains of small animals and dried-up insects, in particular dead flies often found still on the wheat itself, as if frozen in the position it was in when the circle was formed. There have even been cases where flocks of birds flying overheard will break apart from their formation and purposely fly around the crop circle.

In 2013, over 100 elk were found dead in a field where a crop circle was discovered nearby. Testing suggested that they had not died from disease or a virus, and their death remains a mystery.

7. Links To Complex Mathematical Equations

Photo credit: The Independent

Many crop formations are not just pretty pictures. Some, when studied closely, have been found to contain complex mathematical equations and even coded messages.

In May 2010, a crop circle appeared in Wiltshire, England, was said to contain “Euler’s Identity“ - “the most beautiful and profound mathematical equation in the world.” Two years earlier, only a small distance away at Barbary Castle, another crop circle had appeared. When an American astrophysicist saw it in a newspaper, he promptly claimed the formation represented the first 10 digits of pi.

6. Radiation Anomalies


One of the first things investigators into crop formations test is the presence of radiation and other anomalies in the immediate vicinity. Nuclear physicists Micheal Chorost and Marshall Dudley laid the groundwork for this when investigated and logged research of several crop formations in 1991. They found that levels of radiation in the soil were triple the norm.

The scientists also examined crops and plants positioned outside and away from the crop circles. Their make-up was considerably less damaged, suggesting whatever had made the crop circle emitted a large dose of radiation within its boundaries. They also found what appeared to be evidence of “rapid healing and cooling,” as some of the crops from within the circles seemed to display an increase in seed germination.

5. Native American Tribes Claim Star People Make Crop Circles

Photo credit:

Perhaps one of the reasons we almost automatically associate crop circles with UFOs and aliens is the stories from various Native American tribes who, when they would discover such formations on their land, would attribute them to the star people of the star nation. Most tribes speak of star beings or star people who “came from the sky” and began their civilization.

Many Native American tribes also claim these crop circles are sacred symbols, while also claiming some of the formations are based purely on mathematics.

4. Stonehenge Crop Circle Appears In Full View Of The Public

Photo credit: Lucy Pringle

In summer of 1996 at Stonehenge in England, a crop circle was said to have formed almost in front of bewildered motorists and visitors. Named “The Julia Set,” this particular formation was able to have its arrival pinned down to a specific rather than approximate time, with the analysis showing it took at most only an hour to form.

A small aircraft pilot flying overhead reported that both he and his passenger could attest the field was “as normal” at 5:30 that afternoon, but by 6:15 PM when he was flying back over the field on his return flight, the formation had now appeared. Fifteen minutes later, cars were lining the side of the normally busy road so drivers could glimpse the mysterious pattern.

Researcher Lucy Pringle spoke to several of the people at the roadside. Some claimed to have witnessed the arrangement being formed as a “swirling cloud of mist” spun its way around the field.

3. The Chilboton Observatory Incident

Photo credit:

Two of the most intriguing crop formations appeared in a field opposite the Chilboton Observatory in 2001. One appeared to be a face, but the other was even stranger. It appeared to be a replica of a binary radio signal sent out into the universe by a team of astronomers led by Carl Sagan in 1974 - the Arecibo message.

When studied closely, however, parts of the binary had been altered. Instead of information about humans and our solar system, the startling crop formation appeared to be a reply with information about someone else’s genetic makeup and star system.

Alien enthusiasts hailed this as proof of alien existence, while most treated it much more skeptically. Incidentally, declassified NSA documents concerning the monitoring of replies from the Arecibo message revealed that a total of 29 replies were received. Make of that what you will.

2. The Galaxy

Photo credit: Wikimedia

When outspoken sceptic and self-confessed crop circle hoaxer John Lundberg saw for himself the formation called “The Galaxy” in 2012 in Wiltshire, England, he said he wasn’t looking at the work of hoaxers. The arrangement consisted of 400 perfect circles stretching over a 500-meter (1,500 ft) field. Some people believe Lundberg himself was responsible.

He denied this, saying, “Given that there are 400 circles, some of which span 70 feet, that would mean that one of these circles would need to be created every 30 seconds and that’s not even allowing time for the surveying, purely for flattening. This formation pushes the envelope, and that’s a massive understatement.”

Crop circle expert Karen Douglas echoed Lundberg’s sentiments, stating that the “size and complexity” of this particular formation differentiated it from other crop circles that had been studied.

1. Luminous Phenomena

One phenomenon often linked to crop formations is the appearance of strange orbs or white balls of light. These lights appear a meter or two from the surface of the ground and move rapidly, giving the impression of intelligence. Many researchers have suggested that these strange lights appear the likely cause of crop formations, although none seem to understand how or why this is the case.

This phenomenon has been captured in photographs and on film numerous times. In 2013, the above video appeared on YouTube, claiming to show a crop circle being formed. One of the anomalies spotted were strange orbs or balls of light.

Top image: A typical crop circle (in the form of a Triskelion composed of circles). Credit: FuturePropulsion/Wikimedia Commons.

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


7 exotic pets wreaking havoc in the wild
By Michael d'Estries,
Mother Nature Network, 29 August 2016.

Have you ever thought of releasing an exotic pet into the wild? You're not alone. As state officials across the United States have discovered, some former pets have turned into massive invasive species, displacing and out-competing native flora and fauna.

The following are just seven of the invasive species that were released by humans into the wild with disastrous ramifications - as this battle between an alligator and a Burmese python in Everglades National Park [top image] makes clear.

1. Goldfish


Goldfish, those innocent pets of childhood once relegated to the fish bowl, are now taking over fresh waterways around the world. A member of the carp family, the species can grow to between 16 to 19 inches and weigh more than 2 pounds in the wild.

Due to a high rate of reproduction and a lack of natural predators, goldfish easily disrupt ecosystems by consuming resources, eating eggs of native species and spreading disease. Impact examples include the recent drainage of an artificial stream in Utah to remove thousands of illegally dumped goldfish, a lake under threat from a booming population in Colorado and giant versions of the species running amok in Australia.

The species is so prevalent in the warm, shallow waters of western Lake Erie that it's now a commercial catch with over 113,800 pounds of goldfish netted in 2015.

2. Argentine tegus

Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikimedia Commons

In 2009, as part of campaign to trap invasive species in South Florida, biologists captured 13 Argentine tegus. In 2015, they caught more than 500.

The black and white lizard, native to South America, is commonly found in pet stores throughout the United States. Because they can grow in excess of 5 feet, owners sometimes release them into Florida's copious swamps and waterways.

In the wild, they can survive for 15 to 20 years, gorging themselves on a diet of fruits, eggs and small mammals. In addition, they can also survive temperatures as low as 35 degrees and have the ability to reproduce extremely quickly; a nest can contain around 35 eggs.

"There is no debate about tegus," biologist Frank Mazzotti told the Orlando Sentinel. "All of Florida is at risk."

3. Snakehead

Photo: Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia Commons

Snakehead, native to parts of Asia and Africa, are quickly making themselves at home in North America.

Discovered in Maryland pond in 2002 (pdf), the species has since been spotted in states such as Virginia, California, New York and Maine.

Not only can they grow over 3 feet long and weigh more than 12 pounds, but they also have the unique ability to migrate short distances over land thanks to specialized gills. Some have been known to flop on wet land to neighboring bodies of water. The species' population is difficult to control as it lacks natural predators and its females are capable of releasing more than 75,000 eggs each year.

4. Burmese python


With population estimates as high as 300,000 in southern Florida, the Burmese python has gone from exotic pet to established apex predator is as little as 30 years.

With an average length of 12 to 13 feet, pythons have few predators besides alligators and humans. In regions with established populations, sightings of raccoons, foxes, bobcats and other mammals declined between 88 and 100 percent. Even birds and deer have been found inside pythons killed by park officials.

"Burmese pythons are cracking the code on the Southwest Florida habitat, learning how to survive and breed locally," the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said in a press release.

A hunt earlier this year removed several dozen snakes from the wild, including one measuring more than 16 feet long.

5. Starling

Photo: Charlesjsharp/sharpphotography/Wikimedia Commons

In 1890, a New Yorker named Eugene Schieffelin acted on a plan to introduce in North America every bird mentioned in the works of the playwright William Shakespeare. After importing 60 starlings from Europe, he subsequently released them in Central Park.

Those original 60 have since turned into a population of more than 200 million.

While they may have hypnotic murmuration displays, Starlings have become a major invasive pest. Capable of devouring entire fields of wheat, they're also prone to kicking other birds out of their nests, killing eggs and fledglings in the process.

6. Red-eared slider

Photo: Monika Korzeniec/Wikimedia Commons

Originating from the warmer climates of the southeastern U.S., red-eared sliders have since proliferated around the world due to their popularity as pets. Feral populations now exist in areas such as Israel, Guam, Australia and the Caribbean Islands.

In Japan, a recent study estimated that red-eared sliders now outnumber native turtle species 8-to-1, consuming up to 320 tons of water weeds each week in a single region of the country.

Because of their larger body sizes (growing up to 1 foot in the wild) and higher reproductive rates, red-eared sliders quickly dominate native species, out-competing them for food and basking spots.

"Red-eared sliders are on the list of the 100 most invasive species in the world," Allison Begley of Fish, Wildlife and Parks told Independence Record. "They're omnivores. They eat anything, and they adapt to any habitat."

7. Pacu

Photo: Nisamanee wanmoon/Wikimedia Commons

Notable for its uncanny mouth of human-like teeth, the pacu is a popular pet store fish that has made its way into the lakes, ponds and creeks of at least 27 U.S. states.

While popular as juveniles, this South American native can grow aggressively, prompting owners to free them into local waterways. In the wild, the pacu can grow to more than 3 feet long and weigh up to 44 pounds. Their teeth, while humanoid in appearance, are used for grinding down tree nuts that fall into local waters.

While most pacu do not survive winter conditions in the U.S., there's a fear that a sizable population could take hold in warmer regions, leading to yet-another tip of the scales over native species for resources and habitat.

Top image: An American alligator and a Burmese python locked in a struggle to prevail in Everglades National Park. Credit: Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited.]

Tuesday, 30 August 2016


Can You Solve 5 of the Internet’s Hardest Logic Puzzles?
By Mihir Patkar,
Make Use Of, 30 August 2016.

Everybody loves a good puzzle. There’s a certain satisfaction in figuring out the answer to a difficult riddle. Plus, research shows riddles and puzzles keep your brain sharp in old age.

The internet is a repository of mind-bending puzzles. But many of these require you to have technical skills, like looking up the source code of a page for clues or altering image files. Logic should test your brain, not your computer skills.

We can’t say if these are the “hardest” puzzles online. What we can say for sure is that these five brain-teasing websites are loved by anyone who likes solving stuff.

1. NSA’s Puzzle Periodical: One Difficult New Puzzle, Every Month


The National Security Agency has a bad rep among internet users because of its spying and infringements of privacy. Set that aside for a minute and you’ll know that some of the brightest minds work there. And every month, one of these bright minds submits a puzzle for the world to figure out.

The NSA Puzzle Periodical was started only last year, so there isn’t a large collection waiting for you. But you can still browse through logic puzzles, written precisely and exquisitely. Most importantly, it’s a new puzzle every month!

The answer is posted a few days after the question, so feel free to discuss it with others till then. There are no trick questions or cheap answers, as far as I can make out.

2. Sudoku Escargot: The Hardest Sudoku Ever


You’re probably familiar with the numbers-oriented game of Sudoku. It’s a stress-free way to give your brain a 5-minute workout. You might already be pretty good at it. But do you think you can solve the hardest Sudoku puzzle ever made?

Mathematician Arto Inkala built an algorithm to generate challenging Sudokus, called AI Sudoku. And this is the most difficult one the bot ever created. It’s called the Escargot, and on his blog, Inkala explains why it’s the most difficult Sudoku.

Try solving it on Sudoku Wiki or print it out and take it with you. No matter how you choose to tackle this, make sure you have plenty of time. And Inkala’s blog post linked above also has 19 other super-difficult Sudokus for you to solve.

3. Blue Eyes: XKCD’s “Hardest Logic Puzzle”


I love getting a difficult puzzle that I can slowly work on, over several days or weeks. The joy of a good riddle lies as much in the journey. If you’re patient with puzzles, then read “Blue Eyes: The Hardest Logic Puzzle in the World,” according to XKCD.

For the uninitiated, XKCD is one of the best webcomics for geeks, often talking about logic, math, and lateral thinking. Its creator shared this puzzle (which he heard from someone else) in the simplest language possible. No word play, no double meanings, or anything else.

Read the riddle, digest every information from it, and set about working it out in your head. You’ll find yourself thinking about it whenever you have some time.

4. 101 Friday Puzzles: Richard Wiseman’s 101 Brainteasers


Noted psychologist Richard Wiseman is a bit of an internet celebrity. He is known for amazing illusions that blow your mind on his YouTube channel, he is a noted expert on magic and psychology, and he is a famed logician.

Every Friday, Wiseman shares a puzzle or riddle on his blog, challenging readers to solve it. The Friday puzzles use a combination of linear and lateral thinking, so some answers will require creative thinking.

You’ll find matchstick problems, logical riddles, and some picture-based puzzles too. There are 101 to get through, so save this page for offline reading wherever.

5. Logic Mazes: Robert Abbott’s Famous Puzzles


Logician, programmer, and game inventor Robert Abbott has been designing games since the 1950s. Abbott pioneered the concept of “logic mazes,” and some of his best ones are available online for free.

A logic maze is a maze or a grid with some set rules. For example, the Easy Maze 1 dictates you can never turn left. So without turning left, how do you travel from the start to the finish line?

Abbott also makes interactive puzzles that are hosted on the site, so you can “play” instead them to solve. Trust me, you’re going to need that little interactivity if you want any hope of getting through these.

Can You Solve This?

You can solve any of the logic questions above, or you can try your hand at figuring out this fun puzzle.
You have 16 marbles and a balancing scale. One of the marbles is heavier or lighter than the others, while 15 are the same weight. Using the scales three times or less, identify the odd marble and whether it’s heavier or lighter.

Top image credit: Hans/Pixabay.

[Source: Make Use Of. Edited. Top image added.]


10 Ways We Are Being Watched, Monitored And Spied On
By Marcus Lowth,
Listverse, 30 August 2016.

While the intent might be up for debate, the fact that our governments and businesses appear to be watching our every move isn’t. As technology increases, seemingly more and more rapidly, more data about us is stored and shared - and most of the time, we are unaware it is being collected or how it might be used.

10. Increasing CCTV Surveillance


In 2011, there was one CCTV camera for every 32 UK citizens. By 2016, this number had increased to one for every 11, making the United Kingdom the most spied upon country in the world.

Not that the UK is alone in its surveillance of citizens. Almost all countries have security cameras in place. In 2013, the BBC ran a story about the increasing numbers of CCTV cameras being installed and put into operation across the United States, where they were being hailed as crucial in apprehending the culprits of the Boston bombing. That is why these cameras are put in place, and there are plenty of examples of them being used to good effect. There increasing numbers, however, make some people uneasy, and the line between security and the infringement on privacy is becoming grayer all the time.

9. Smart TVs


If you have a television that is connected to the Internet, not only is it recording what you are watching and when you watch it, but there is even the possibility that someone could be literally watching you.

A lot of smart TVs have microphones and even cameras built into them. Should there be any kind of security breach on the server your set is operating on, others could spy on your actions through your set. Security breaches have been called into question, mainly due to TVs connected to servers without thorough security checks, so your data could easily be stolen, or spyware and other such programs could be sent back to your television.

8. Debit / Credit Cards


It has long been a conspiracy theory that credit and debit cards monitor how and where we spend, and the conspiracy theory is not far wrong. The use of such cards and electronic purchases can be viewed in real time by the United States government and other intelligence agencies, for example.

The main reason this data is said to be available to such agencies is to notice unusual purchases or spending patterns, generally related to potential acts of terrorism. Perhaps what is worrying though - at least in the United States - is that a warrant is not required for the FBI to access this information. Furthermore, a non-disclosure order will be automatically issued by a judge, so whoever is watched will not be made aware of it by their bank.

7. Internet Searches And Web History


Every time you perform a search on Google or most other search engines, that data is logged and stored - and it can be accessed by governments whenever they feel the need. In the United States, the famous PATRIOT Act is open-ended enough to encompass Internet searches and web history.

It isn’t just the United States, though. In November 2015, the UK government announced that as part of its ongoing fight against terrorism, people’s website history would be kept on record for a year by the relevant Internet providers. Key words are often used as “triggers” to warrant the government and other agencies taking a closer look at someone’s Internet history. Although the government announced safeguards would be put in place to prevent intelligence agencies and the police from abusing such information, there was considerable apprehension over the plans.

6. Smartphones


If you have a smartphone - and most of us do - you may not realize just how smart it actually is or the amount of data it stores about your physical movements, your searches, and just about every other action. The more advanced these phones become, the more information is available for companies to use how they see fit. It is even possible on some phones to trace someone’s movements for the last year.

Every time a new app is downloaded on to your phone, chances are it stores information about you - and to access said app, you give it permission to do so. Most phone companies state that the information is kept solely on the device and is not sent to any external storage. As you might imagine, some people are little suspicious as to whether this is completely accurate.

5. Social Media


Depending on your privacy settings, anyone can log on to your social media page and see everything you have said while online. What’s more, it is completely lawful for the government to not only monitor your social media posts but also your private messages, as they are classed as external communications - so a warrant is not needed for them to be investigated.

It isn’t just in the UK. Many countries such as the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia having their own variation on the UK’s approach to such communications.

4. Digital Recognition Technology


Number plate recognition technology is used all over the world, generally to catch uninsured drivers and criminal activity on the roads. However, in 2015, a former assistant chief constable in the UK stated that police forces were potentially abusing the software, and backlash brewed among the British public. Tony Porter even went as far as to say that the amount of cameras set up to trace number plates was “one of the largest data gatherers in the world!”

Many private companies further employ facial recognition technology on their premises. This technology has been used widely by law enforcement around the world for some time with reasons ranging from being able to find a particular person in a crowd to helping to combat voter fraud and terrorism.

3. Supermarket Loyalty Programs


Supermarkets use their customer loyalty cards and schemes to monitor our purchases, see what we are buying, and then bombard us with a plethora of offers and special deals. For online shoppers, they will ensure that when you log on to their sites, the products and offers that reflect your buying are prominently positioned for you to see first.

What might come as a surprise is how that data might be used after the supermarkets are done with it. In 2012, for example, the UK government planned to share the data the supermarkets collected in an effort to monitor shopping habits and use the information, they claimed, to combat obesity. People who were identified as buying too much unhealthy food or even too much alcohol would then be offered advice on lifestyle and healthy living.

2. Voice Recognition Software


Although not widespread right now, voice recognition software will be rolled out over the coming years and be used to identify and store our voices. In 2012, a Russian company working in the United States under the name SpeechPro developed a system that it said can contain millions of voices. It can match a voice on a phone call to its database within seconds.

The technology is already in use in Mexico, and the United States stated that it was in talks with agencies to roll out the software across America. They also stated, however, that they would not be commenting any further on such a roll out, due to data protection laws.

1. Drones


Although they stated the flights were completely lawful, in March 2016, the United States government admitted that it used drones to spy on American citizen for non-military purposes.

The details were only partially released, but it seemed the majority of the missions were said to be involved in search-and-rescue missions or to track wild fires and floods. Although this would seem perfectly understandable and even logical, perhaps because the FBI have admitted to using drones to spy as part of past investigations, the news made many American uneasy. An analyst at the time, Jay Stanley, also stated that due to technology moving as fast as it did, laws may need to be revised.

Top image credit: Global Voices Online/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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