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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

10 UNSOLVED MYSTERIES SURROUNDING HISTORICAL TRAGEDIES


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10 Unsolved Mysteries Surrounding Historical Tragedies
By Estelle Thurtle,
Listverse, 30 November 2016.

Who was Jack the Ripper? What really happened to flight MH370? Are chemtrails just a theory or something much more sinister? Unexplained mysteries have fascinated the world for hundreds of years and will continue to do so in years to come. Below are some mysteries related to tragic events in history, which may or may not ever be solved.

10. The Sinking Of The Lusitania

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Photo credit: US Library of Congress via France 24

The Lusitania sank on May 7, 1915, 18 minutes after being struck by a torpedo fired from a German U-boat. Nearly 1,200 people died. The US press called Germany barbarians for attacking a passenger ship in a country that was neutral in World War I at that point. In Germany, citizens were being told that Britain allowed the ship to be sunk because of illegal cargo.

In the midst of all the conspiracy and confusion, another tale emerged that remains a mystery to this day. Only 15 seconds after the impact of the torpedo, a second explosion rocked the Lusitania. The cause of this explosion has yet to be determined. Some believe that cold water reacted with the ship’s boilers, causing them to explode, while others are convinced that illegal ammunition had been set off onboard. Considering that the ship could have stayed afloat after the torpedo hit, the second explosion (which presumably caused it to sink) remains a hot historical topic.

9. Haiti Earthquake

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Evan Muncie survived 27 days trapped in a huge mound of rubble after a massive earthquake struck Haiti in 2010. After being rescued, doctors were amazed that he was still alive, seeing how emaciated he was after having no food or water for a month. But the story that Muncie told amazed them even more. Muncie insisted that he only survived because a figure in a white coat brought him water on a couple of occasions.

While the greater majority of people have dismissed his claims as hallucinations, it remains a mystery how he could have survived if someone had not in fact brought him water. There was certainly no evidence of another person being able to squeeze into the same space where Muncie was found. Muncie had no major injuries other than wounds on his feet, and he made a full recovery.

8. MH17 Oxygen Mask

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While many conspiracy theories surrounding the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 tragedy have been debunked, one incident remains an unsolved mystery: Why was an Australian passenger wearing an oxygen mask, and why was he the only one?

The plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, instantly killing three crew members in the cockpit. The Boeing 777 broke apart in the air after the missile strike and subsequent loss of electrical power. The impact ultimately led to the death of everyone aboard the plane. The deployment of the oxygen masks was prevented by the loss of power, though they most likely fell from their storage places as the plane broke apart.

Even after thorough investigations by experts, it remains unclear why only one passenger had a mask strapped around his neck. It could also not be determined whether the passenger had used the mask himself or whether someone on the ground had placed it on him.

7. Disappearance Of Intrepid

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In October 1996, the passengers of a yacht called Intrepid made a distress call to the Coast Guard in Florida. The ship was sinking, and the 16 people onboard told the Coast Guard that they were going to make use of a lifeboat until help arrived. The Coast Guard immediately set off to aid the passengers but ended up searching 15,500 square kilometers (6,000 mi2) of ocean in stormy conditions, without luck.

Four planes joined the search for the missing yacht throughout the night and into the next morning. In spite of the joint effort by the aircraft and the Coast Guard, Intrepid and her passengers have never been found.

6. The Falling Man Of 9/11

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Photo credit: The Associated Press via Esquire

One of the most haunting photos of 9/11 shows a man falling upside down along the side of the crumbling North Tower. It reflects the tragedy of one of the darkest days in US history and was widely circulated in newspapers after the attacks. Many readers felt that the picture should not have been published and lashed out at the publications, causing the picture and the man to be nearly forgotten after a while.

It is believed that the man, who chose to escape the fire and collapsing towers by jumping from his window, may have been an employee at the Windows on the World restaurant, which was situated at the top of the North Tower. His identity, however, remains a mystery.

5. Pearl Harbor’s Mysterious P-40

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Photo credit: Tony Hisgett

A year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, radar operators picked up a reading that indicated a plane heading toward them from the direction of Japan. Two pilots were sent to intercept the plane, and they were shocked to find bullet holes all over the aircraft and a slumped pilot covered in blood. The plane also had no landing gear. The plane was identified as a P-40 Warhawk, and it had markings hadn’t been used since before the attack. After the plane crashed to the ground, the pilot mysteriously disappeared, never to be found again.

A diary found at the crash site indicated that the plane may have been from Mindanao, but the identity of the pilot and his ultimate fate have yet to be discovered.

4. The Murder Of Cathy Wayne

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Cathy Wayne was an Australian singer who was killed by a single .22-caliber bullet while onstage in a military base in Vietnam in 1969. She died in the arms of her boyfriend, who played drums for the band she sang with, Sweethearts on Parade. She was only 19 years old.

A US Marine by the name of James Wayne Killen was found guilty of killing the singer while trying to shoot someone else. After a retrial, he was found innocent and released. Another musician named Don Morrisson believed he knew who shot her, but a lack of evidence prevented him from revealing the person’s name. To this day, Wayne’s killer remains unnamed and unknown.

3. Yellow Cuban Balloons

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In 1967 during the Cold War, a crate was discovered floating off the coast of Florida, near Hallendale. It contained seven inflated yellow balloons and was addressed to the institute of mineral resources in Cuba, from Leningrad.

Investigations revealed that the crate had been floating in the ocean for at least eight weeks, and there was only air in the balloons. There was no indication of toxic substances inside or surrounding the balloons. A similar but empty crate was found 217 kilometers (135 mi) away, off Marathon. Both boxes were marked as weighing 50 kilograms (110 lb), but the balloon-filled crate weighed only 14 kilograms (30 lb).

The Coast Guard wasn’t convinced that it was all a hoax. The purpose of these balloons, why they were inflated, or how they ended up floating in the ocean remains a mystery.

2. Charfield Railway Disaster

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Photo credit: The BBC via the Charfield Community Site

When a night mail train and a freight train collided in Charfield, Gloucestershire, on October 13, 1928, many of the victims of the resulting explosion were burned beyond recognition and were buried in a mass grave to spare their families further trauma. Among the victims were a young boy and girl who were never claimed.

Police officers took notes from survivors about the children, including statements that the girl looked younger than the boy, who was assumed to be about ten years of age. It was also assumed that the boy and girl were siblings. To this day, no one has come forward to say the children were part of their family, and they remain unidentified.

1. The Betrayal Of Anne Frank

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Anne Frank was murdered at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after being captured during the Holocaust. Her diary continues to fascinate the world, years after it was discovered. Frank’s father was the only member of her family to survive the war.

The person who tipped off the Nazis, leading to her arrest, has never been identified in spite of many suspects being named. The Nazi officer who received the phone call about Frank’s whereabouts, Julius Dettman, committed suicide after Germany surrendered, and any knowledge he may have shared regarding the phone call went to the grave with him.

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

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

INFOGRAPHIC: TOP ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES OF THE FUTURE


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It will come as a surprise to no one that liquid fossil fuel is a finite resource. Sooner or later, all the Earth’s oil deposits will dry up, and we’ll be completely dependent upon alternative sources of energy. While many have embraced traditional solar power, wind power, and hydro power, others are looking ahead to even cleaner and more efficient alternatives. The following infographic by Futurism highlights the ones that hold a great deal of potential.

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[Source: Futurism.]

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

10 UNDERAPPRECIATED COUNTRIES THAT PLAYED MAJOR ROLES IN WORLD WAR II


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10 Underappreciated Countries That Played Major Roles In WWII
By Mark Oliver,
Listverse, 28 November 2016.

For a war that affected nearly every country in the world, only a few nations seem to get mentioned when we talk about World War II. Germany, England, Russia, Japan, and the United States are sure to come up, but many more countries get left out. The other nations of the world were involved, though - and we forget that some of those places did a lot more than you might realize.

10. Australia Fired The First Allied Shot

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Photo credit: Craig Abraham via The Age

On September 4, 1939, the morning after Great Britain declared war on Germany, a boat passed by a fort at Point Nepean. The fort’s personnel called for it identify itself, and when it refused, they became panicked that it might be a German ship, bringing the war to Australia. The fort launched a warning shot across the bow of the ship, sending what some consider to be the first Allied shot of World War II.

The shot itself isn’t that remarkable. The ship turned out to be Australian after all, so it wasn’t even against an enemy ship. The gun battery, however, is. By sheer coincidence, the very same battery also fired the first Allied shot of World War I.

The Australians would fire many more. By the end of the war, 27,000 Australian soldiers had given their lives.

9. Canada Built The Third-Largest Navy On Earth

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At the beginning of World War II, Canada was not a major military force. Despite its large size, it had a population of only 11 million and was armed with a navy of only 15 ships and an air force of 235 pilots.

When Germany invaded Poland, though, the Canadians started getting ready. In ten days, Canada invested US$20,000,000 into building up its armory - and they started building. They trained nearly 50,000 pilots and built 800,000 trucks, 471 naval ships, and 16,000 aircraft. And they sent 730,000 men off to fight.

They were the biggest contributors to the British air training plan and gained a worldwide reputation for their air force. Most amazingly of all, by the end of the war, Canada had the third-largest navy on the planet.

8. India Had the World’s Largest Volunteer Army

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When India called on its people to fight, they signed up. An incredible 2.5 million Indian men volunteered to fight in World War II, forming the largest volunteer army in the world. Not every one of them ended up on the front lines. Some worked in factories or defended the country against air raids.

Those who did, though, made a massive difference. One group called The Fourteenth Army, a mixed force of British, Indian, and African soldiers, recaptured Burma. It was a turning point in the war, and by the end, 30 Indian soldiers had earned the Victoria Cross, the highest British medal of honor.

7. Malays Fought England’s Last Stand In Asia

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Photo credit: Soham Banjeree

In 1942, the Japanese advanced on Singapore, a major strategic point for the British army. England’s military base there was their access point to Asia, and without it, they would be at a major disadvantage. England’s last stand, though, wasn’t fought by British soldiers; it was fought by Malays. A man named Adnan Saidi and his unit held the ground at Opium Hill, determined to hold against the Japanese to the last man.

At one point, a troop with turbans on their heads dressed in British-Indian uniforms came toward them. At first, they seemed to be a relief army from India, but Saidi noticed something was off. These men marched in lines of four, while the British usually marched in lines of three. They were Japanese soldiers in disguise. Saidi’s men opened fire, and the assault was stopped.

After that, the Japanese got frustrated and launched an all-out attack. Still, Saidi and his men stayed and fought, shooting until the last bullet was fired - and fighting with bayonets after that.

All but one man died. The Japanese overran the place, and Britain lost its key base in Asia. But the Malays, at least, gave them a fight.

6. Switzerland Wasn’t Entirely Neutral

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Photo via History of War

The Swiss didn’t just sit there and let World War II happen. Officially, they were neutral, but they still played a role. They didn’t want the war coming across their borders, and they defended their airspace.

At one point, this meant shooting down 11 German planes that entered Swiss airspace en route to France. The Germans were furious. They demanded an apology and threatened to retaliate. The Swiss, though, threw the blame right back at them and demanded that they stop flying over their land.

When the Allies started fighting back, Switzerland wasn’t always left alone. Some of the bombings meant for Germany landed on them, including a US bombing that killed 100 people. The Americans insisted that it was an accident, although the Swiss weren’t so sure.

By the end, the Americans had blasted Switzerland with enough of an onslaught that they had to pay more than US$14 million in damages.

5. Kenya Fought Against Both Italy And Japan

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Photo credit: Charlesdrakew

Nearly 100,000 Kenyans signed up to fight in the King’s African Rifles. They were, by far, the biggest part of Britain’s African army, making up one-third of its soldiers, and they played a big role in the war in Africa. The Kenyans defended their land against an Italian invasion and helped the King’s African Rifles fight - and stop - the Italian invasion across East Africa. After that, they went on to Madagascar and Burma.

The Kenyans struggled with racism throughout the war. African soldiers were paid less than white ones and could never be promoted to a commanding rank. Still, they found some ways to take advantage of the stereotypes against them. One soldier told a writer that, to terrify Japanese soldiers, the Kenyans would pretend they were cannibals getting ready for a taste of Japanese.

4. Poland Broke Enigma First

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Photo credit: TedColes

Alan Turing gets all the credit, but he was actually the second person to crack Germany’s enigma code. The first was Marian Rejewski, a Polish cryptographer.

As early as 1932, Poland had started work to crack German’s complex enigma code. Working with documents stolen by French spies, a Polish team struggled to duplicate the enigma machine - and it worked. Rejewski managed to solve the cypher and made the first duplicates of the enigma machine.

Unfortunately, the Germans realized that their code had been cracked and increased the complexity tenfold. The Poles were stuck, and in 1939, realizing that an invasion was imminent, they sent all their work to England for the British to carry it on and braced for the worst.

That work made it to Alan Turing, who built on it to crack the more complex code, but he never would have done it without the work of Marian Rejewski.

3. Finland Held Off An Invasion Of One Million Russians

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In 1939, Finland entered World War II. The Soviet Union had been trying to barter a trade, wanting control of several Finnish islands, but when Finland refused, they moved their troops in.

The Soviet army was massive. There were one million troops marching on Finland, leaving them outnumbered three to one. Finland called for help from Britain and France, but none came, so they had to fight the Soviets themselves.

Finland lost - but they dealt a major blow to the USSR in the process, killing 320,000 Soviet soldiers. Finland only suffered 70,000 casualties. The Finnish had to give up some of their land, but they shot a major hole in the Soviet army.

2. Almost Every Soldier From One Armenian Town Earned A Medal

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Photo via Noah’s Ark

In Armenia, a small mountain village called Chardakhlu played an incredible role in World War II. Of the 1,250 villagers who were enlisted to fight in the Soviet army, 853 were awarded medals, 12 went on to be generals, and seven became heroes of the Soviet Union.

Two men from the little town made it to the highest echelons of the Soviet army. Hamazasp Babadzhanian became the chief marshal of the armored troops of the Soviet, while Ivan Bagramyan became the marshal of the Soviet Union.

By the end of the war, the little town had some of the most decorated fighters in the country. Nearly every man came home with medals on his chest - or didn’t come home at all.

1. Russia Killed Eight Out Of Ten German Soldiers

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Admittedly, Russia isn’t exactly an overlooked country in World War II. It’s well-known that Russia played a major role in the war, but most people don’t realize how massive that role was.

We’ve heard a lot of boasts about the United States turning the tides of the war, but the credit really should go to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was responsible for 80 percent of all German casualties. And the USSR came into the war late. If we start counting from 1941, the Soviets are responsible for 95 percent of all German casualties.

A lot of this happened during the Battle of Stalingrad, where Russian soldiers wiped out 20,000 German men each day. Russia’s army was more than big; it had its fair share of talent, too. Nine out of ten of World War II’s deadliest snipers were from the USSR.

The Soviet Union didn’t just play a role in the battle against the Germans - they completely devastated them.

Top image: The Royal Malay Regiment led by Lt. Adnan (pictured left) in the Battle of Pasir Panjang (better known as the ‘Battle of Opium Hill’) in Singapore (1942). Credit: Singnet.

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

10 UNBELIEVABLE TRUE FACTS THAT SOUND LIKE B.S.


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10 Unbelievable True Facts That Sound Like BS
By Robert Grimminck,
Toptenz, 28 November 2016.

In a world where fake news and false factoids are rampant, it is hard to distinguish what is true and what isn’t, especially when it sounds so unbelievable. We have gone through some crazy news stories and unbelievable tales from history and culled even more of the most interesting, unbelievable facts that sound like BS, but are completely true.

10. There’s a Novel That Doesn’t Contain the Letter E

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In 1936, author Ernest Vincent Wright set out to write a book that did not contain the letter “E,” which is the most common letter in the English language. He got really excited about the project because other people said it would be impossible to do without ignoring the rules of grammar. Yet, Wright was able to bang out a 50,000 word novel, called Gadsby. To ensure he didn’t use the “E” key on his typewriter, he disabled it. He said that the hardest problem was avoiding words that ended with “-ed.”

The plot of Gadsby revolves around the fictional city of Branton Hills, which was in a decline. The book’s main character, John Gadsby, leads a group of young people to help rejuvenate it.

The novel wasn’t successful when it was first released, but the book has developed a following in later years and a first edition is now highly collectable.

9. A Woman Paid US$10,000 for Invisible Art

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Oh James Franco, sometimes you seem all right. But other times it’s hard not to figure out where you live, travel there, and then hit you up the backside of your head. Case in point is his the Museum of Non-Visible Art, which, you may have gathered, is full of art that doesn’t physically exist. Instead, the artist imagines a piece of art and explains it to the audience. If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, people can also buy the works of art. The purchaser gets a card with the piece’s name, and then the owner takes it and puts it on their wall. And then they have to explain the art to their audience. Basically, it’s the most pretentious-sounding endeavor you can probably imagine (and then you can sell that imaginary endeavor, if you’re James Franco).

Strangely, Franco is not the most pretentious person in this story. That would be the woman who bought a piece of invisible art for US$10,000. Fresh Air was purchased by Aimee Davison, who says her title is a new media producer. We have to say, good choice of giving away your money to a rich movie star like James Franco; we don’t think there are any starving children who could have used that money to, you know, eat.

8. Saudi Arabia Imports Camels from Australia

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The first thing about this factoid that you may be surprised to learn is that Australia has camels. They were imported onto the continent in the 19th century from Arabia, India, and Afghanistan because they were well suited to Australia’s outback. However, when the combustion engine came along, the camels weren’t needed. So they were released into the outback, and today it is a huge problem. There is one roaming pack that has 750,000 camels.

Another thing you may be surprised to learn is that Australia also exports camels to Saudi Arabia, a place you’d think would be plentiful with camels. It would be like Canada importing beavers.

While there are plenty of camel farms in Saudi Arabia, their camels are bred for domestic uses and racing. The camels from Australia are mostly used for meat, which is a delicacy in many countries in the Middle East.

7. Cleopatra was Greek, Not Egyptian

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One of the most famous Egyptian rulers of all time is Cleopatra VII. When she was 18, in 51 BC, she became co-regent of Egypt with her 10-year-old brother and she more or less ruled for the next three decades.

While Cleopatra is a famous Pharaoh, she and the other Macedonian rulers of Egypt were Alexandria-based, which was the center of Greek culture. Cleopatra, like other rulers of the Macedonian dynasty, spoke Greek and observed Greek customs.

What made Cleopatra so beloved among the Egyptians was that unlike other leaders, she learned to speak Egyptian and commissioned art of herself in traditional Egyptian style. As a result, Cleopatra was one of the most beloved of the Pharaohs, even though she was Greek.

6. The Internet Weighs as Much as a Strawberry


You may be wondering how the internet can have a weight, since it is data. Well, it turns out that when you download something to a device, let’s say a song to your iPod, it increases the weight of the device. The reason the device gets heavier is because when data is added to a device, it results in something called trapped electrons and they have higher energy than untrapped ones, and the higher energy increases the weight. However, since the increase is so slight it is impossible to notice.

Using that information, the YouTube channel VSauce figured out how much all the data on the internet weighs. That includes all the cat pictures and pornography, and it is about 50 grams, or roughly the weight of a strawberry.

5. It’s Possible for Twins to Have Two Different Fathers

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While it’s very rare, it is possible for a set of twins to be fathered by two men. The condition is called heteropaternal superfecundation, and it happens when a woman ovulates twice in one month and has sex with two different men while ovulating. There are only a few recorded cases of it in history (a lot of that could stem from the fact that DNA tests have only been around since 1984), but what is really amazing is that it has happened not once, but twice at the place where people go to get paternity matters dealt with - Maury!

The first case of two different men fathering a set of twins happened in 2008. A woman named Regina was on the show to see if her ex-boyfriend was the father of her twins, and he was only the father to one of them.

The second time was in 2011 when 19-year-old Alejandrina went on the show claiming that her boyfriend Jose was the father of her twins. She also emphatically denied sleeping with anyone else but Jose. Well, the lie detector determined that was a lie, and the DNA test proved that Jose was only the father to one of the twins.

Both times it happened on the show, Maury and the audience were shocked. Mostly by the whole “twins by different parents” thing, but probably at least in part by the fact that Maury is still on the air.

4. The Voice Actors who were Mickey and Minnie Mouse Were Married in Real Life

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Wayne Allwine got his start at Disney in the mailroom in 1966. Over the next several years, he was able to work his way up to the sound department, and became the third man to voice Mickey Mouse, a position he held for 30 years.

In 1985, Disney was starting a new show called Totally Minnie and Russi Taylor was hired on to be the voice of Minnie Mouse. After a recording session, they met in the hallway and hit it off immediately.

The couple was married for 18 years, until Allwine’s death in 2009 at the age of 62. Taylor is still the voice of Minnie Mouse and she also provides the voices of Martin Prince, √úter, and Sheri and Teri on The Simpsons.

3. Guy Gets Heart Transplant from a Suicide Victim, Marries his Widow, Commits Suicide the Same Way

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In 1995, when Sonny Graham was 57, he needed a new heart or he’d die from congestive heart failure. The good news for Graham was that a donor heart had come available, because 33-year-old Terry Cottle had shot himself.

After getting the heart, Graham was grateful, so he sent thank you letters to Terry’s family. This led to Graham corresponding with Terry’s widow, Cheryl Cottle. In January 1997, when Cheryl was 28, she and Graham met. Graham said it felt like he’d known Cheryl his whole life.

In 2001, Graham bought a house for Cottle and her children to live in and three years later, Cheryl and Graham were married. 12 years after getting Terry’s heart, in April 2006, Graham committed suicide. Just like Terry, it was from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

2. The Night Before his Execution an Inmate Escaped, but was Killed the Following Night in a Bar Fight

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On November 21, 1973, 20-year-old Troy Leon Gregg was hitchhiking. He was picked up in Gwinnett County, Georgia, by Fred Edward Simmons and Bob Durwood Moore and at some point, Gregg decided to rob the two men. In the process of the robbery, Gregg shot both men to death. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death in 1974.

After appealing the sentence, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence and Gregg was scheduled to be executed on July 29, 1980. However, the day before Gregg was to die, he and three other death row inmates escaped by sawing through the bars of their cells, and then wore fake guard uniforms.

However, Gregg’s freedom was short lived. He was beaten to death on the night he should have been executed at a biker bar by James C. “Butch” Horne Jr. The other three escapees were arrested three days later, though it’s unclear whether they, too, met some Final Destination-like fate.

1. Hitler was Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

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One of humanity’s greatest villains was Adolf Hitler. It’s impossible to figure out how many deaths he and the Nazis were responsible for, but it is in the tens of millions.

Three months after starting World War II with the invasion of Poland in 1939, (and 16 months after being named Time’s Man of the Year), Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Swedish politician Erik Gottfrid Christian Brandt. Another nominee that year was Mahatma Gandhi.

What the Nobel committee didn’t get was that Brandt’s letter nominating Hitler was ironic. Brandt was anti-fascism and he wanted to provoke Hitler and the Nazis. When Brandt realized that the committee didn’t know it was a joke, he immediately withdrew his nomination. We hope in part because he realized that if you have to explain a joke, it’s just not funny anymore.

In the end, no one won the 1939 Nobel Peace Prize because of the outbreak of World War II. But we’re hoping it would have been Gandhi over Hitler.

Top image credit: Ted Rheingold/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.

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

10 LUDICROUSLY ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES WE CAN EXPECT BY THE YEAR 2100


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10 Ludicrously Advanced Technologies We Can Expect by the Year 2100
By George Dvorsky,
Gizmodo, 11 November 2016.

Predicting the future is hard. It’s nearly impossible to know what technological marvels await in the next few years, let alone the next eight decades. Undaunted, we’ve put together a list of 10 super-advanced technologies that should be around by the year 2100.

Some of these technologies are rather “out there,” but I’m reasonably confident in making these predictions. As radical as some of the items described here appear, most - if not all - should be around by the turn of the 22nd century. The reason has to do with an innovation that doesn’t appear on this list: Artificial superintelligence. As computer scientist I. J. Good aptly pointed out in the 1960s, “the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.”

Once greater-than-human intelligence emerges in a machine - a development that could happen as early as the 2050s - all bets are off in terms of what’s technically possible. Intelligent machines will replace humans as designers and engineers, constructing the technologies of our dreams, including some we hadn’t even thought of. Here are just 10 of those technologies that could change virtually everything.

1. Brain-Linked Virtual Reality

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Image: IMDb

Wearable VR-enabling devices like Oculus Rift are all fine and well, but no matter how sophisticated these sorts of gadgets become, a “true” sense of existing in an alternate reality will remain out of reach. What’s required is something a bit more...invasive - and by the time we reach the 2100s we’ll have found a way to create a virtual reality experience that’s indistinguishable from the real thing. Incredibly, these experiences will be fed directly to our brain, bypassing our normal sensory inputs to make it all the more believable.

To get that intangible feeling of what it’s like to exist in our surroundings, we’ll need to go to the source of that experience: the human brain. Indeed, the brain (among other things) is a sensory processing device. All of the things we sense on a regular basis, whether it be the smell of your tacos or the glaring glow of your computer screen, are routed to your brain. As Morpheus put it so eloquently in The Matrix: “What is real?...If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

Futurist Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near, explained how this could come about in a Q&A about his book.
I see this starting with nanobots in our bodies and brains. The nanobots will keep us healthy, provide full-immersion virtual reality from within the nervous system, provide direct brain-to-brain communication over the Internet, and otherwise greatly expand human intelligence. But keep in mind that nonbiological intelligence is doubling in capability each year, whereas our biological intelligence is essentially fixed in capacity. As we get to the 2030s, the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will predominate.
Kurzweil’s time lines are probably a bit optimistic, but his concepts are sound; we’re finding new ways of breaching the blood-brain-barrier and creating microscopic machines that can travel around the body. And just as importantly, we’re creating a detailed map of the brain, including areas responsible for processing incoming sensory information.

Once implanted in the brain, Kurzweil’s nanobots would locate the brain’s various sensory inputs and shut them down (e.g. disrupting the electrical signals collected by the retina, ear, etc.), making the person completely unaware of their actual surroundings (it would be the perfect sensory deprivation chamber. In place of these signals, the nanobots, fed by wireless transmission, would replace those missing signals, feeding the brain’s cortical regions with artificial senses - and an entirely new subjective experience. To the person, it would feel like they’ve been transported to another world.

2. Utility Fog

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Image: NanoTechNow

Devised by nanotech pioneer J. Storrs Hall, utility fogs are a swarm of nanobots, or “foglets,” that can take on the shape of virtually any object, and change its shape on the fly. Storrs came up with the idea when trying to imagine a futuristic seat belt. But instead of static straps and inflatable airbags, Hall imagined an intelligent cloud of interconnected snowflake-like foglets capable of morphing along with the movements of anything around it, including the passengers of cars.

Utility fogs defy the imagination in terms of the technological sophistication required. Each foglet would measure just 10 microns across (roughly the same size as a human cell), be equipped with a tiny, rudimentary onboard computer to control its actions (which would be controlled externally by an artificially intelligent system), and a dozen telescopic arms that extrude outwards in the shape of a dodecahedron. When two foglets link up, they would form a circuit, allowing for the distribution of power and communications throughout the network. The foglets wouldn’t be capable of floating, but would instead form a lattice structure, called an octet truss, when holding hands in all 12 directions.

A utility fog would work like programmable matter, capable of moving around, enveloping, and and even transporting an object or person. More radically, utility fogs could be used to create a virtual world around a person - and even host a person who has uploaded themselves into this nano-infused cloud (similar to the foglet beings in Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan).

3. Space-Based Solar Power

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Conceptual image of a space-based solar power farm. Image: JAXA via Japan Times.

As our civilization struggles to mitigate the effects of climate change and transition into a more sustainable energy economy, it’s tempting to think we’ll never be able to meet our seemingly insatiable energy needs. Space-based solar power - an idea that’s been around since the 1960s - could solve this problem once and for all.

Nearly 60 years ago, Peter Glaser envisioned solar powered satellites capable of transferring captured solar energy down to receiving dishes on the Earth’s surface via microwaves. A number of different schemes have been proposed since then, with Japan leading the way in terms of having an actual plan to get it done. Called the SBSP System, the Japanese orbital farm would run in a stationary orbit about 22,400 miles above the equator, where it would transmit energy to Earth using laser beams. Each satellite would target a 1.8-mile wide receiving station that could generate an entire gigawatt of electricity, which is enough to power a half million homes. For safety, the receiving station should be positioned far from human habitation, such as a desert or island.

4. Mind Uploading

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Mind uploading as portrayed in the 2015 film, Self/Less.

By the turn of the 22nd century, many humans will have opted for a purely digital existence, one free of all biological constraints. Called mind uploading, or whole brain emulation, this will involve the meticulous copying of an existing biological brain. The scans would capture every cognitive detail down to the molecular level, and include memories, associations, and even a person’s personality quirks.

Futurists aren’t entirely sure how mind uploading will happen, but a critical step will be to make sure the important parts of a brain are copied, particularly those tied to a person’s sense of identity (namely the parahippocampus and retrosplenial cortex). This could involve “destructive” copying, where an existing brain is sliced or otherwise taken apart in order to record a person’s brain state and memories. Alternately, a sufficiently powerful brain scanner could be used to take a snapshot of a person’s brain, and then “pasted” into a computer capable of translating that information into a functioning mind. In order for an uploaded person to function “normally,” they would have to be equipped with a virtual body and environment.

An important scientific and philosophical question to ask is whether or not this represents a true “transfer” of consciousness, and not just the mere copying of a person’s brain. What’s more, it’s not entirely clear if conscious self-awareness can be replicated in digital substrate. Frighteningly, each upload could be a kind of zombie that behaves and functions like the pre-existing person, but would in reality be nothing more than a script-driven bot.

5. Weather Control

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Image: Vattenfall

It’s unlikely that our species will be able to completely control the weather by the end of the current century, but we should be able to put a serious dent into it. We’re already seeding clouds with particles to stimulate precipitation, and California has been doing this for nearly 50 years. During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Chinese authorities fired 1,100 rockets into the clouds to trigger downpours before the storms reached the capital city. There are even efforts to fire laser pulses into thunderclouds in hopes of drawing out lightning in a controlled manner.

Looking ahead to the future, weather engineers could build massive wall-like structures to prevent devastating tornadoes from forming, or construct massive -and very strong - arrays of offshore turbines to suck the energy out of hurricanes. On that last prospect, a study in 2014 showed that a wind farm consisting of tens of thousands of individual turbines could reduce peak winds by up to 92 mph (148 km/h) and decrease storm surges by up to 79 percent. That would in effect reduce a hurricane’s power by an entire magnitude.

More radically, we could eventually build a weather machine to create a programmable atmosphere. A particularly intriguing plan calls for a thin global cloud of small transparent balloons lifted up into the stratosphere, where it would shade or reflect the amount of incoming sunlight. A mirror would be placed inside each balloon, along with a GSP to monitor its location, an actuator to control its orientation, and a small computer. Lifted by hydrogen, the “programmable green house gas” would come to a rest about 20 miles above the Earth’s surface. When the millions of mirrors face away from the Earth, they would reflect the sunlight back into space. This system, guided by AI, could influence weather patterns around the world, and turn marginally habitable areas into temperate regions.

6. Molecular Assemblers

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The Star Trek replicator is basically a molecular assembler. Image: Startrek.

Think 3D printers are amazing? Just wait until the arrival of molecular assemblers, a hypothetical fabricator described by nanotechnology pioneer K. Eric Drexler in his seminal book, Engines of Creation. Drexler described a molecular assembler as a device capable of manipulating individual atoms to build a desired product. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Star Trek in which a member of the crew uses a replicator to churn out a steaming hot cup of Earl Grey tea, then you’ve basically seen a molecular assembler, which some futurists refer to as fabricators, or fabs for short.

Drexler basically argued that biological assemblers already exist, producing complex and wonderful structures like bacteria, trees, and even you and me. Using the same logic, he figures we’ll eventually be able to tap into the mechanical properties of the uber-small, and use similar principles to produce objects of any shape, form, or consistency.

Fabs could introduce the world to an era of “radical abundance,” allowing us to produce items and materials that would otherwise be impossible to build, constructing them from the ground up (or more accurately, from the molecules on up). But these devices could even be used to produce items we’re familiar with, like food. To make a steak, for example, the fabricator would take base materials, such as carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen, and then arrange them into amino acids and proteins, which would then be assembled to form a steak.

7. Geoengineering

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Disturbingly, the effects of climate change are likely irreversible. No matter what we do from now until the year 2100, the levels of greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere will continue to warm the planet.

To prevent the many environmental calamities wrought by climate change - from rising sea levels and megadroughts through to superstorms and mass extinctions - we’ll begrudgingly have to start geoengineering the planet.

Some notable geohacking proposals include cirrus cloud seeding to reduce reflectivity, stratospheric particle injection for solar radiation management, sulfur-aerosol injection to induce global dimming, and simple solutions like tropical reforestation to restore the carbon balance. Other ideas include a giant space reflector (though that might be beyond our technological capacities by 2100), ocean fertilization to spawn carbon-sucking algal blooms, and ocean alkalinity enhancement to make the ocean less acidic. Clearly, there are no shortage of ideas, and we won’t be restricted to just one.

The problem with geoengineering, of course, is that we could royally wreck our planet should something go wrong, and we may become dependent upon it. But desperate times will require desperate measures, and we’ll have little choice but to rely on complex climate models and supercomputers to ensure safety and efficacy.

8. Mind-to-Mind Communication

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Ongoing advances in communications technologies and neuroscience will transform humanity into a telepathic species.

The advent of direct mind-to-mind communication will bring us even closer together as individuals, and conceivably give rise to a “hive mind” - a vast network of interconnected minds working together over the future instantiation of the internet. In such a future, we may start to see the dissolution of the individual, and the rise of a collective mass consciousness.

Remarkably, this future may be closer than we think. Back in 2014, an international team of researchers were the first to demonstrate a direct and completely non-invasive brain-to-brain communication system. During their experiment, two participants were able to exchange mentally-conjured words despite being separated by hundreds of miles. A year later, a separate team of researchers transmitted brain signals over the internet to control the hand motions of another person, allowing them to collaborate on a computer game. These systems, though extremely rudimentary, point to a future in which we can simply use our thoughts to converse with one another, and “telekinetically” control smart devices in our environment.

9. Fusion Power

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Hot, hot, heat: Hydrogen plasma warmed to 80 million degrees. Image: IPP.

Earlier this year, physicists in Germany used a 2-megawatt microwave pulse to warm low density hydrogen plasma to 80 million degrees. The experiment didn’t produce any energy, and it only lasted for a quarter of a second, but it was an important step forward in the effort to harness an extremely promising form of energy production known as nuclear fusion.

Unlike nuclear fission, where the nucleus of an atom is divided into smaller parts, nuclear fusion creates a single heavy nucleus from two lighter nuclei. The resulting change in mass generates a tremendous amount of energy that scientists believe can be harnessed into a viable source of clean energy. Eventually, fusion power could replace fossil fuels and conventional nuclear reactors.

But to get there, scientists will have to figure out how to reliably and safely manage conditions typically found on the sun. The problem is that fusion plasmas do not like to be contained; these free-flowing streams of protons and electrons are tough to wrangle. Our sun holds on to its plasma with its intense gravity, but here on Earth, we’d have to rely on magnets or lasers to perform the same trick. Should a tiny fraction of the plasma escape, it would scar the wall of the machine, causing the fusion reactor to shut down.

10. Artificial Lifeforms

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JCVI-syn3.0, a synthetic bacterium derived from just 773 genes. Image: J. Craig Venter Institute.

Not content to stop at genetic engineering, scientists of the future will be able to design and create new organisms from scratch - from microscopic synthetic bacteria through to redesigned humans reminiscent of the Replicants in Blade Runner. This burgeoning discipline, known as artificial life (or Alife), is the effort to recreate biological phenomenon with the help of computers and other synthetic media.

The quest to create synthetic forms of life is already underway. Earlier this year, researchers from Synthetic Genomics and the J. Craig Venter Institute successfully created an artificial bacterial genome that, with its scant 473 genes, is smaller than anything found in nature. Further breakthroughs in this domain will help biologists explore the core functions of life, and to categorize essential genes within cells. Researchers could use “building block” cells like these to construct organisms with capacities not found in nature, including bacteria that can consume plastic and toxic waste, and microorganisms that can function like medicines inside the body.

In a related breakthrough, a new initiative co-founded by Harvard Medical School’s George Church is seeking to create a synthetic human genome from scratch. The researchers say they’re content to stop once they figure out how to power cells with synthetic human DNA, but the same technology could conceivably be used to create artificial organisms and even designer humans.

Any one of the technologies listed here has the potential to reshape our civilization. What’s less clear is how these marvels will work in tandem with one another; the convergent effects of technology are often hard to predict. For example, the convergence of brain-linked VR, mind uploading, and AI could result in a hybrid computer-based civilization consisting of real-world humans, emulated brains, and artificial intellects. Future geoengineering schemes could integrate weather control systems and engineered nanoparticles. And so on.

The more predictions we make about our future technologies, the more difficult it becomes to know what the future might actually look like.

Top image: Rick and Morty, via YouTube.

[Source: Gizmodo. Edited.]