Friday, 30 September 2016


10 People Claiming To Have Evidence Of Extra Terrestrial Life
By Debra Kelly,
Listverse, 30 September 2016.

The idea of finding intelligent life elsewhere in our solar system has largely been confined to science fiction stories and movies about Moon-dwelling Nazis. That has not always been the case, though. For decades, astronomers and theologians alike have claimed that they discovered or could rationalize proof of life on our planetary neighbors.

10. Franz von Paula Gruithuisen

Photo credit: F.P. fon Gruithuisen

In 1824, Franz von Paula Gruithuisen, a German astronomer and physician, published a paper with the hefty title, “Discovery of many distinct traces of lunar inhabitants, especially one of their colossal buildings.” In a series of papers spread out over 28 years, he defined what he believed to be a true lunar city near the crater called Schroter.

In numerous drawings, Gruithuisen interpreted what he saw through his telescope as artificially constructed buildings, waterways, and roads. He drew incredibly beautiful, detailed maps of the Moon’s surface, but most of his contemporaries dismissed his “Lunar City” claims as nonsense.

9. Giovanni Schiaparelli

Photo via Wikimedia

Giovanni Schiaparelli was an Italian astronomer who made some of the most complete and accurate observations of Mars in the 19th century. In 1877, Mars reached a point in its orbit that brought it close to Earth.

During Schiaparelli’s observations of the approaching planet, he diagrammed light and dark areas on the surface. He also gave the areas names and wrote a treatise in which he talked about the distinctly Earth-like characteristics of Mars.

Schiaparelli drew maps of canali (“channels”). Even though he used the term interchangeably with fiumi (“rivers”), the connotation of a canal being something that was artificially constructed by sentient hands had already taken hold in popular imagination.

Due to his color blindness, Schiaparelli’s perception of color influenced his ability to see the canals. As a result, he appeared to see things that others couldn’t. Although he never suggested that the canals were artificial, he was careful to say that anything was possible.

8. Guglielmo Marconi And Nikola Tesla

Photo via Wikimedia

Although Guglielmo Marconi and Nikola Tesla are most commonly associated with their pioneering work in various scientific fields, their work with radio signals led them both to believe that they were picking up messages from Martians.

Tesla first developed the idea of using radio waves to contact extraterrestrial life around 1896. In 1899, his Knob Hill Tesla coil receiver picked up strange, regularly repeating signals. He believed they were coming from people living on Mars. He separated the signals into groups that historians now think were either misinterpreted data or interference from Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

Marconi picked up signals that he believed were proof of life on Mars, and other radio pioneers worked on the idea of using the new technology to communicate with the Red Planet.

7. Sir David Brewster


When the scientific world confirmed that Earth was one of a number of planets, the religious world needed to decide if Earth was unique and then determine why God created all these empty planets. Cosmic pluralism became the popular theory. It stated that other worlds must be inhabited by other good, God-fearing Christians because there was no other reason for them to exist.

Sir David Brewster’s proof came in the form of an argument. Since planets were too far away to see the life that was clearly there, we needed to rely on reason. We could see that the planets’ surfaces were at least superficially similar to Earth’s. That meant they were created for the same purpose: to support life.

Brewster likened it to the analogy of an eye. All creatures might have different sizes and shapes of eyes, but they were all for seeing. Therefore, all planets were for living on.

6. John J. O’Neill

Photo credit: Astro Guyz

John J. O’Neill was a science editor for the New York Herald Tribune. In summer 1953, he was particularly interested in the landscape of the Moon. On July 29, he made what he thought was an astounding discovery: a bridge built between two rocky outcroppings along the Mare Crisium crater.

Estimating that the bridge was about 19 kilometers (12 mi) long, O’Neill released his observations to the scientific community. Others confirmed that there was something there.

O’Neill and other astronomers went public with the findings and the idea that the bridge was an artificially constructed piece of lunar technology. Later observations proved that the bridge was an illusion caused by light and shadow, but the idea was later immortalized in a book by Arthur C. Clarke.

5. Mikhail Vasin And Alexander Shcherbakov

Photo credit: Cave Comedy Radio

Even though they were members of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Mikhail Vasin and Alexander Shcherbakov never had much luck getting support for their theory published in Sputnik magazine regarding their proof that men were living on the Moon.

According to the researchers, proof had been right in front of everyone all along. The craters of the Moon were too shallow in proportion to their diameter, making it unlikely that they were caused by impact events on a rock surface.

That only meant, they claimed, that it wasn’t actually a Moon but a space station. They went on to suggest that the Moon was actually a sort of Noah’s Ark, perhaps filled with an ancient civilization that had been wandering the galaxy for millions of years.

That was the only bit of proof they offered, and other members of the scientific community were not impressed.

4. Percival Lowell

Photo credit: Percival Lowell

Giovanni Schiaparelli might have been among the first to document the so-called canals on the surface of Mars, but Percival Lowell popularized the idea that they were proof of a civilization. Lowell released several books and numerous sketches that showed how the canals were clearly made by intelligent life.

He claimed that the canals were the last-ditch attempt of a dying civilization to save itself from extinction. The canals had been designed to tap resources from the ice caps of Mars in a story clearly inspired by some of the biggest news stories of the day: the Panama and Suez Canals. Lowell also claimed that there were similar canals visible on the surface of Venus, which started to raise suspicions.

Later comparisons between Lowell’s maps and the pattern of blood vessels in the human retina suggest that he wasn’t mapping the surface of a planet at all. He was mapping the images projected from his own eyeball.

3. Richard Proctor


In the 1860s and 1870s, British astronomer Richard Proctor conducted an extensive study of the solar system’s planets to see if they were candidates for supporting life. After accounting for everything from climate and atmosphere to the changing seasons, Proctor concluded that he had enough evidence to prove that there was life on other planets - just not necessarily intelligent life.

Using Darwin’s theories as the basis for his own work, Proctor stated that the specialized conditions he saw on each planet meant that specialized life-forms existed there. Since Mars appeared to have things like oceans and water, he considered it to be a miniature reflection of Earth.

As a result, Proctor believed that Mars was the only place that could support life as we know it. On the other hand, Jupiter could only support very small life-forms, if any.

2. Reverend Thomas Dick

Photo credit: H. Cook

Reverend Thomas Dick, a Scottish teacher and theologian, claimed that science and religion could coexist if there were a grand, sweeping plan for all the planets to be in alignment. That meant that God intended for all the rules on Earth to apply everywhere else. Dick also claimed that he could determine the population of the other planets based on the population of Earth.

He structured his mathematics on the idea that England had a population density of 725 people per square kilometer (280 people/mi2). Comparing that ratio to the number of square miles on each planet, each planet’s satellites, and even the rings of Saturn, Dick estimated the number of intelligent beings that lived on each planet.

Jupiter, he said, had a population of seven trillion, and its satellites were inhabited by another 27 billion people.

1. Leonid Ksanfomaliti

Photo credit:

In 2012, Leonid Ksanfomaliti, a professor from Moscow’s Space Research Institute, made an announcement that most people found unlikely. He claimed that when he was analyzing a series of photographs taken in 1982 by the Venera 13, he found proof that there was life on Venus.

He pointed to a supposed giant scorpion that appeared to move through a series of consecutive photos. Ksanfomaliti said that the creature had a visible body and tail that moved and then disappeared out of the probe’s camera range.

A similar creature showed up in photographs taken by another Venus probe. Although that has left some people clamoring over the possibility of life on Venus, NASA says that there is another, perfectly mundane explanation for what is appearing in the rather low-resolution photos.

It’s the probe camera’s lens cap.

Top image credit: Amre/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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


10 Ridiculous Things We’re Trying to Accomplish With Technology
By Gregory Myers,
Toptenz, 30 September 2016.

Today we live in an increasingly digital and technological society. While it’s certainly good to continue to build on our knowledge, create things that continue to improve our world, and make our lives easier in the process, not all technology is necessarily good. Many people jump to the latest technology or companies will spend billions on a new idea, just because it sounds cool, because they can, without wondering for a moment if they actually should.

While mistakenly using technology doesn’t necessarily have drastic consequences, it is often completely unnecessary and at best a huge waste of time and money. As any good computer scientists will tell you, there are some problems that it is simply not a good idea to attempt to solve with computers. And sometimes, when you try to solve problems the wrong way, you actually create even more issues than you sought to fix in the first place.

10. Self Driving Cars And Their Consequences


One of the exciting new technologies being worked on by Google and now many other companies who have decided to get in on the action early, are self driving cars. The self driving car is supposed to be beneficial because it could help disabled people who cannot drive get around, and also because it would - ideally - ensure that distracted driving was a thing of the past. However, despite the pros, the company’s testing them have struggled to get approvals. In California where google does most of their testing, the approvals came with the caveat that there still always had to be a licensed driver at the wheel who was paying attention and could take over if needed.

This brings up the question of how they should function, and the entire thing is a huge legal and moral quagmire. Some legislators are unsure if cars should be allowed to be both self driving and driveable, or if cars should only come one way or the other, to make it easier to properly enforce rules and safety regulations.

They are also concerned about how it would be programmed in terms of risk evaluation. Whether through the fault of the car or another car or however it happened, if a situation should occur where the computer is in control, and danger is apparent, it has to decide how to make decisions. Most humans would instinctively make the decision that would protect themselves, but some lawmakers think the car should be designed to take the course of action that protects the most lives, even if it kills the driver. While this stance may make sense morally, it may make it unlikely to get people to drive them.

9. Trying To Come Up With Algorithms With Which To Predict The Future Of Mankind


Predicting the future is something that humans have been trying to do for about as long as history goes back. From rulers to normal citizens, and from rich to those of little means, people have sought to divine the future of themselves and the world around them in the hopes of somehow influencing it to better their fate. In more enlightened times beliefs in fortune telling and astrology have mostly waned, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some people who are still obsessed with knowing what will happen ahead of time.

There are multiple projects throughout the world with the aim of putting together banks of supercomputers who will comb data at incredibly high speeds and extrapolate the likely future of mankind. However, while there is the odd supercomputer out there, they are usually dedicated to more important tasks. Those trying to predict the future have been trying to come up with predictive models in bizarre ways.

One group has been trying to teach a computer to predict future human behavior by watching videos, namely, videos of American television shows like The Big Bang Theory and America’s remake of the popular UK show The Office. The computer was able to predict the actions coming with 43% accuracy, which is fairly interesting, but it doesn’t really mean it is good at predicting real human behavior. TV shows follow a formulaic pattern that a computer program shouldn’t have too much trouble spotting. However, real life has way more variable and is way more random and unpredictable.

8. Achieve Immortality Through Whatever Means Necessary


People throughout the ages have been obsessed with trying to become immortal. Tales tells of those who went on lifelong quests, wasting the life they could have been enjoying in the attempt to get as many lives as they could possibly ever want. It is likely some of these were morality tales about enjoying what you have, but some people will never stop obsessing over the idea.

As we have mentioned before, some people are studying the Benjamin Button Jellyfish in the hopes of uncovering how it can turn itself back into an embryo to heal, but that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of our attempts to make ourselves immortal. Scientists have been studying everything from cloning people and transferring consciousness, to just cloning and replacing whichever organs fail, to every possible angle of stem cells and now many different nano particles as well.

These studies have so far helped prolonged life but not brought anyone closer to true immortality. The truth is that immortality would have bad consequences for the entire world. In order for the natural ecosystem to work properly, people need to naturally die. The world can’t exactly be overpopulated, but it can reach a point where it cannot sustain enough food and water for everyone. If this were to happen, people would start to die, immortal or not. Just because you can’t die from disease, injury or old age doesn’t mean you could not starve to death.

7. Touchscreens Have Set Us Back In Terms Of Interfacing With Technology


In many futuristic movies going back to the ’80s and perhaps further, using touchscreen technology was one of the main ways to show that your movie was set in a much different time. This is one of those cases where technology basically became a self fulfilling prophecy, even though it made no sense at all. People were inspired by all these movies and geeks started inventing and heavily marketing touchscreen smartphones and then tablets. Before long finding a smartphone with a keyboard was almost impossible, and Windows even tried to implement touchscreens on some of their laptops - a project that failed miserably.

Touchscreens lead to an incredible amount of autocorrect failures and time spent trying to re-type messages. Dozens of typing apps have been designed to help people type properly on a device that is now incredibly terrible for typing, despite that being one of its main purposes. These interfaces are now appearing in many more places, and usually cause more problems than they solve.

While a touchscreen may seem more futuristic, it makes typing slower and less accurate, and really provides no true benefit to the user. While we certainly need better interfacing technology than a computer and mouse, the touchscreen was actually a step back. Perhaps someday, we will find a truly efficient and non-frustrating way to use our electronic devices.

6. Voice Activation And Speech Recognition Is A Gigantic Waste Of Time And Money


In the realm of interfacing with technology, another thing incredibly common in Sci-Fi movies is the ability to interact with your technological devices by simply speaking to it. Not only can your computer perfectly understand what you are saying, but it also understands your unique tones and even can tell your emotions. This may not sound very far advanced, but the truth is that this kind of speech recognition technology is basically wizardry as far as actual science is concerned.

Speech recognition is incredibly complicated and difficult to work with. Getting a computer to even recognize the correct words in the first place can be quite difficult, but even that can be a challenge for one person and their voice. Even if the machine is calibrated to a person’s voice, if they have a slight cold or slur their words it could skew it terribly.

Voice recognition is so hard to program because to accurately understand, it has to be able to account for the incredible amount of different dialects and accents in the world, put it into proper context and even know when the usual person they interface with has a slightly different sounding voice for some reason. Devices like Siri attempt to show what speech recognition can do and mainly come across as a joke. The attempts to integrate this into technology so heavily are another example of people putting stuff from sci-fi movies into real life not because it is a good idea, but because it looked cool on screen.

5. Attempting To Create A True Artificial Consciousness With Full Sentience


Many people are obsessed with the Sci-Fi idea of robots where it seems to be truly conscious of itself and what it is - many popular media will explore the issue in depth as a kind of moral question, postulating how far the rights of artificially conscious beings should go. However, the truth is that there aren’t any scientists, at least not any serious ones, actually trying to create a artificially conscious being. The problem is that right now we don’t even really understand what makes a consciousness in the first place. The best research into brain science doesn’t really come close to understanding why humans are able to be fully aware of their experience, and some experts believe that if we accidentally created a computer that could truly think, we might not even realize it.

Recently experts like Elon Musk and Bill Gates have come out against certain types of AI research and have strongly cautioned against the dangers. Many people think they have jumped the shark and shouldn’t be taken seriously, as we are nowhere near creating artificially conscious beings. However, the truth is that the dangers would be just as bad whether the AI we create is ever actually conscious in any form or not.

As experts will point out, a computer doesn’t need to be conscious to be better than you or more efficient than you at something. If it beats you at chess, it isn’t conscious of its victory, but it still won. If AI were to have a flaw in its programming - which is not unlikely with the extreme complexity of the programming - that caused it to do something very bad for humanity, it would do it extremely efficiently and quickly. Given too much control over too many things in the name of making our lives easier, it could be hard to stop, or do untold damage in mere minutes before we can shut it off. Many experts are already talking about implementing various forms of kill switches and other safety features for AI in the future to avoid possible calamity.

4. Allowing Our Power Grids to Be Controlled By And Connected To A Network


Many people tend to take their power for granted until it goes out. An insane amount of work goes into keeping the lights on 24/7 and many people don’t realize just how easy it is for something to go wrong. Plants can only store energy for a short time so they pretty much always have to be on and they need to ensure that the right amount of energy is being produced to keep from producing too much, and still ensure everyone has their power.

In the event of major disasters, power going down can greatly slow recovery efforts, and put many more people in danger. This is why it is essential that our power grid is well maintained and kept safe from any threats. However, there is an increasing worry that the security of the United States power grid, and perhaps others throughout the developed world, could be vulnerable to hackers, whether foreign or domestic.

Many plants are still analogue, which is lucky, but more modern plants are often connected to networks that can be reached without being on location. Even just the ones that could be shut down or messed with for a short time could cause untold damage and chaos to the country. While it may seem like a good idea to have the internet always connected, in terms of security, the only way to be truly safe is to never allow your system to be connected to any outside network at all.

Now, experts do caution that the things that can be reached digitally even with the ones that are, in some way connected, would not be able to cause as many problems as some people fear. After all, the plants themselves always have many failsafes and people working around the clock to make sure everything is working properly. What hackers could actually have access to is somewhat limited, so the current chaos possible is not incredibly high. If we do continue to make everything more digital though, and we allow it all to be integrated into a network, even an accident or a computer worm could be catastrophic.

3. The Movement By Companies To Automate And Digitally Integrate Every Home Appliance


Chalk this one as well up to Sci-Fi movies causing people to want technologies they don’t need, we have the push in the past decade or so, that seems to be repeated every year at tech shows, to integrate all of your home appliances to work along with your smartphone and tablet and other technology. This is the kind of thing you would see in something like the Jetsons and may seem extremely cool, but for very good reason, it just doesn’t catch on.

Every years companies like Samsung attempt to push these products, and every year consumers decline. The fact of the matter is that while they are sold as convenience devices, they actually make everything way more complicated. Making refrigerators and toasters digital is a solution looking for a problem - all you are doing is adding more things that can go wrong. It would also require most people to get entirely new sets of appliances to make them all properly work with the attached smartphone apps.

Even those who are very well to do and interested in new technology find the idea to be a tough sell. It’s essentially attempting to sell something as convenience that adds more steps to people’s lives and provides them with more things that could break or stop working properly. It may seem cool because it is like the movies, but technology should make people’s lives simpler, not more complicated.

2. Virtual Reality Research Is Breaking New Ground, But Not Asking The Right Questions


In many cases people are convinced that virtual reality is another step forward in human evolution. They figure that being able to mimic reality with technology is incredibly advanced, but while it is certainly a very difficult and cutting edge field, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a good idea at all. While there are some possible real world training applications for virtual reality - such as teaching someone surgery or other such important procedures without needing to deal with a live patient, it also comes with its own ethical quandaries and other issues.

Many psychologists are already worried that when virtual reality really takes off, people will soon find it hard to differentiate between the two worlds. While devices could be designed to stop people from playing for too long at a time, hackers are known to disable such things. Also, while some think keeping things separate might make for a better situation, technology like Pokemon Go is already proving that people are looking to make virtual reality that is augmented with real world movement.

This can of course cause serious dangers like people who have been hurt crossing the road and not looking first properly because they were trying to catch a Pokemon with their phone, but psychologists are even more afraid of the long term new psychoses that could develop around a world where people are more and more unable to tell what is real from what is not. As for training people to do dangerous work, this is also an ethical consideration. Some would argue that despite how real it may seem, it isn’t the same as the real, actual training, which could lead to all kinds of legal and moral issues.

1. Using Cutting Edge Medical Technology To Cosmetically Change People’s Eye Color To Blue


It wasn’t long ago that most people didn’t expect to live past their 50s or maybe their 60s at the very best, and there have been times in history when life expectancy was much, much worse. As we have continued to advance our medical technology we have managed to do all kinds of medical marvels. We have been able to give normal lives to people who have lost senses, limbs, and other important parts of their bodies. We have been able to cure or lessen the effect of many things that would have been a death sentence not long ago.

We’ve reached a point where people are now more worried about the cost and availability of care than they are about the actual quality. However, while technology and quality of care has greatly improved, there are still many people in the world who are without the medical care they need. While there are some doctors out there who see this need and work to make sure everyone needs care, there are others who have decided there are more important things to do, and are working tirelessly in their labs on prototype technology to change people’s eyes to the more desirable color blue.

While this may just sound like many other existing cosmetic surgeries, it was an incredibly expensive and time consuming research process that is likely to benefit only the very rich. They point out that some people are very rarely born with mismatched eyes, and that this could help them fit in, but it is an incredibly small number of people that couldn’t sustain a business and they are clearly looking to go commercial with their invention. Unfortunately, in modern days some in the medical field are way more interested in finding a way to get rich than in truly improving medical care.

Top image: Artificial Intelligence. Credit: GLAS-8/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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


7 of the world's steepest streets
By Matt Hickman,
Mother Nature Network, 27 September 2016.

Do you have reoccurring anxiety dreams that involve abrupt stalling, rolling backwards or brake failure?

Have you ever had a panic attack driving in downtown Seattle?

Well then, the seven roads that we're about to describe - among the steepest in the world - are perhaps the roads best not taken.

For everyone else - we're talking to you, confident motorists and undaunted cyclists - super-steep streets can be quite thrilling. (Take for example the top photo from Baldwin Street, which we will talk about more in the next entry.) Many of them are throwbacks to an era when urban planning was more loosey-goosey and grade limits didn't exist, no matter how formidable the terrain. Some are bona fide tourist destinations, others a bit more out of the way. Most, but not all, are residential and fully open to public traffic. And, most importantly, some boast stomach-sinking maximum grades of over 30 percent.

So, buckle your seat belts - or lace up your best walking shoes - we're in for a vertiginous ride.

1. Baldwin Street: Dunedin, New Zealand

Photo: Tristan Schmurr/Flickr

A major city on New Zealand's South Island, Dunedin is famous for its sizable student population, wealth of Victorian architecture, UNESCO-recognized literary pedigree and for having hills - lots and lots of hills. It's at Signal Hill in North East Valley, one of Dunedin's slope-y inner-suburbs, that you'll find this already-photogenic city's most Instagrammable landmark: a street that seems to shoot right up into the heavens.

Dead-ending in what's likely the world's most terrifying cul-de-sac, 1,150-foot-long Baldwin Street reaches a maximum grade of 35 percent, rising from 98 feet above sea level at its bottom to 330 feet above sea level at the top. While Baldwin Street's length is modest, its dramatically inclined nature has earned it the title of world's steepest residential street by Guinness World Records. However, there's typographical error-based controversy attached with this title as, supposedly, the street's grade in degrees was confused with its percentage grade, initially measured at 38 percent and later downgraded to 35 percent. Whatever the case, Baldwin Street is the real deal - a tourist magnet in which brave visitors limp away with photos of impossibly tilted abodes and incredibly sore calves.

The result of a London-based surveyor laying out Dunedin's neat grid system without taking into consideration the area's ultra-hilly terrain, Baldwin Street is home to two annual competitions: the Baldwin Street Gutbuster and the Cadbury Jaffa Race, a hugely popular event also known as the Running of the Balls in which thousands of red-shelled chocolate candies are hurled from the top of the street in the name of charity.

2. Canton Avenue: Pittsburgh

Photo: Dobie/Flickr

If you've ever visited or lived in Pittsburgh - enchanted land of funiculars and French fry-stuffed sandwiches - you're already probably well aware that it's a unique and, at times - depending on how you feel about bridges and hills - daunting town to get around. Boasting a terrain best described as super-vertiginous, it's to little surprise that Steel City - Steep City is more like it - is home to the most precipitous public street in America.

Located southwest of downtown Pittsburgh in the Beechview neighborhood is Canton Avenue, a public thoroughfare with a gulp-inducing grade of 37 percent. At a little over 200 feet long, the hilly section of Canton Avenue is significantly shorter than that of New Zealand's Baldwin Street, the street recognized by the superlative-bestowing folks at Guinness World Records as the being the steepest in the world. However, cobblestone-paved Canton Avenue is technically steeper than Baldwin Street by a grade of 2 percent. Furthermore, depending on whom you ask, Pittsburgh isn't just the steepest public street in the U.S. but on the planet.

While slowly slogging up the public staircase that flanks Pittsburgh's most arduous avenue is one thing, biking up the street itself is another. Just ask the brave cyclists participating in the annual Dirty Dozen, a hill-conquering 50-mile race around the 'Burgh in which Canton Avenue, recently featured in all of its extreme glory in Audi's Quattro Challenge campaign, serves as the grueling, spirit-breaking centerpiece.

3. Filbert Street: San Francisco

Photo: Goodshoped35110s/Wikimedia Commons

Say what you will about San Francisco in the 21st century (prohibitively expensive, smelly, overrun by tech bros, etc.), the City by the Bay has managed to maintain its striking good looks - good looks that involve some serious hills.

Most serious of them all is the calf-burning stretch of Filbert Street directly below the detour-worthy Filbert Street Steps and, above that, Pioneer Park and the art deco landmark, Coit Tower. With a maximum grade of 31.5 percent between Hyde and Leavenworth streets, this rather daunting stretch of concrete that travels up the side of Telegraph Hill isn't technically the steepest street in San Francisco. (In fact, a stretch of 22nd Street between Vicksburg and Church in Noe Valley is just as steep.) However, Filbert Street is often promoted as the steepest major street in the city. It's also one of the most tourist-y - if you were to stop and ask a local to be directed to the city's steepest street, they'd likely point you in the direction of Filbert Street. Or perhaps they'll mistakenly/dismissively send you two blocks over to the postcard-starring stretch of Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth, which is more famous for its hairpin curves than its stomach-dropping incline. In fact, this exceptionally crooked part of Lombard Street is so overrun with visitors, a toll is being considered to help regulate traffic and placate frustrated area residents.

4. Eldred Street: Los Angeles

Photo: Roy Randall/Flickr

While San Francisco and Seattle - both, like Rome, claim to have been built on seven hills - tend to get most of the attention in the steep street department, another West Coast burg, Los Angeles, is quietly home to decent handful of few breathtakingly pitched roadways that rank among the steepest in the world.

Located in the sleepy and affluent northeast LA neighborhood of Mount Washington, Eldred Street is so steep (33 percent grade) that it dead ends and continues as a wooden staircase, which connects it to the cross street directly above. Established in 1912, long before the city instituted its 15 percent grade limit for new streets, life on Eldred Street - a street that, gulp, climbs 219 feet in elevation - is, well, unique.

As the Los Angeles Times detailed in 2003, weekly garbage pickup is performed by modified garbage trucks. Mail delivery became non-existent after carriers threw in the proverbial towel - residents now must descend to the bottom of the hill to fetch parcels and letters. There have even been a number of tilt-and-roll incidents over the years. As for the poor drivers who inadvertently find themselves at the top of Eldred and are too terrified to turn around and come back down, the Times notes that those who reside along this perilously angled road keep a watchful eye out: "Eldred residents have been known to rescue unsuspecting motorists from the top of their street by volunteering to drive stranded, panic-stricken strangers' cars down for them." As one Eldred Street homeowner explains: "One thing you cannot do is get off the paved road if it's raining or wet. You'll slide sideways down the hill." He adds: "To live here, you learn what you can and can't do."

5. Baxter Street: Los Angeles

Photo: Oleg./Flickr

Sure, Baxter Street, which runs through the ultra-hip east-side neighborhoods of Echo Park and Silvelake, may not be the steepest in LA. Both Eldred Street (33 percent grade) and a super-short stretch of 28th Street (33.3 percent grade) in San Pedro are listed by the city as being a touch steeper.

However, what Baxter Street boasts over its competition is length: This notoriously white-knuckle road laid out in 1884 goes on and on for blocks - with a grade of 32 percent, the steepest section stretches from North Alvarado to Allesandro Streets, parallel to equally as panic-inducing Fargo, Ewing and Duane streets - giving it what the Los Angeles Times calls "a roller coaster quality." Writes the Times of Baxter Street's stomach-dropping charms: "Unsuspecting motorists gasp when they reach the crest and discover the roadway in front of them has dropped out of sight and there is nothing but empty space in front of their car's hood."

Over the years, Baxter Street residents have witnessed head-on collisions, runaway cars and at least one perilously positioned school bus. The street is so infamous that it's earned a few Yelp reviews, including this one-star assessment: "...our little hybrid started sliding backwards and we almost died." Fargo Street, one street over and just as hellish, is home to a long-running annual bicycle climb hosted by the Los Angeles Wheelmen.

6. Waipio Valley Road: Honokaa, Hawaii

Photo: Wasif Malik/Flickr

Twisty, turn-y and altogether terrifying, Waipio Valley Road, on the northeast coast of Hawaii's Big Island, is the one outlier on this list in that it's not a fully accessible public road and there are no homes or business located along it it. In fact, only incredibly brave and experienced operators of four-wheel-drive vehicles are permitted to travel along this perilous - but, mercifully, paved - one-lane stretch through the lush Hawaiian rain forest. Rumor is, even local car rental companies forbid customers from attempting it.

Now for the numbers. As Stephen Von Worley of Data Pointed notes, the road begins at a scenic overlook and a whole bunch of warning signs - or where the "pavement dives into a giant gash." The under-a-mile descent itself is a cold sweat-inducing 900 feet down into the preternaturally beautiful Waipio Valley with an average grade of 25 percent throughout the entire ride. With extended sections of the mountainous road titled at 30 percent, at one point it reaches a maximum grade of 45 percent - yep, 45 percent. While the scenery is certainly stunning, we'd give this drive a hard pass given that even this video makes us anxious.

7. Vale Street: Totterdown, England

Photo: Sam Saunders/Flickr

The United Kingdom, particularly Wales and South West England, is home to a slew of superlatively slanted streets: Jenkin Road in Yorkshire, Jutland Street in Manchester, Keere Street in Lewes and, of course, Steep Hill in Lincolnshire, just to name a few. Most notable, however, is Vale Street in the hip 'n' hilly Bristol suburb of Totterdown. Often referred to the steepest street open to regular traffic in the U.K., Vale Street may be relatively short (only 600 or so feet) but its gradient is one for the record books.

So how steep exactly is Vale Street? That’s unclear, although most put the near-vertical bottom section of the street in the ballpark of 35 percent. Not too shabby at all. Flanked by 19th-century terrace homes and a staircase built into the concrete, Vale Street is closed off to automobile traffic once a year for one of Bristol's most unusual annual events: a community Easter egg roll.

Top image: House at Baldwin Street, Dunedin, New Zealand. Credit: Andy king50/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited. Some links added.]

Thursday, 29 September 2016


Business Etiquette for Mobile Devices - Infographic
By Orla Forrest,
Neon SMS.

We now use mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones abundantly in every facet of life, not least in the workplace. While the need to be mobile and contactable at any hour makes these devices essential, the lines governing their appropriate usage in the office can be blurred, and companies should set out clear guidelines as to what is permissible and what isn’t.

Although some workplaces may be stricter on mobile etiquette than others, the majority of guidelines regarding mobile device usage are common sense. Essentially, they should only be used in an office environment for office functions, and not as an excuse to indulge in personal pleasures.

[Source: Neon SMS.]