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Sunday, 20 August 2017

10 RARE AND STRANGE OCCURRENCES AROUND THE WORLD


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10 Rare and Strange Occurrences Around the World
By Adrian Chirila,
Toptenz, 20 August 2017.

For the many achievements made by our men and women of science in understanding the world and everything in it, there are still a lot of things we don’t know, or we’re not completely sure about. Other things, while more logical for our level of understanding, are so rare that, when they do happen, they seem out of this world. So, with this in mind, let’s look at 10 such cases of rare or strange anomalies around the world.

10. Poisonous Spiders Invade Indian Village


Back in 2012, during an annual festival in Sadiya in northeastern India, a swarm of spiders descended upon the town out of nowhere, creating a panic and biting people at random. The spiders even ended up killing two in the process - one of those victims being a schoolboy. Scientists from Dibrugarh University and Gauhati University later came on the scene, but were unable to identify the arachnid attackers. The problem is that there are no known species of spider in the area that would do such a thing, let alone on such a scale. The spiders were were reported by witnesses to look similar to tarantulas.

One professor of zoology from Cotton College in the city of Guwahati believes that the spiders may have been the Black Wishbone or Aname atra, a species native to South Australia. Unfortunately, however, the two people that died because of the attack were cremated before an autopsy was performed on either of their bodies. If this was the case and the spiders were native to Australia, it is important to note that their venom isn’t necessarily deadly, but can kill if people develop allergic reactions to it and it is not treated immediately. Whatever the case may be, venomous spiders are not native to the region, and the sudden infestation can be a serious cause for concern. While such swarms are rare, they can nevertheless happen if, for some reason, the spider population suddenly surges, or there are some floods that force them to reach higher ground.

9. The 1962 Tanganyika Laughing Epidemic


This might seem innocent enough, but the epidemic was no laughing matter. Well, it was, but not in the fun way. Anyway, back in 1962, when Tanzania was known as Tanganyika, a girl’s school was hit by a laughing epidemic, and the whole thing that lasted for more than a year. At first, there was nothing out of the ordinary, but then a girl suddenly started laughing out of the blue. Soon enough others joined in and the whole thing began spreading like wildfire. Soon enough, the laughter epidemic spread to their families, as well as the neighboring communities. All in all, more than 1,000 people were affected and 14 schools were closed down throughout this time.

The cause for the strange phenomenon remained unknown. Then, Christian Hempelmann of Texas A&M University looked into the matter and concluded that the laughing epidemic was a severe case of mass sociogenic illness. The phenomenon often times presents itself in ongoing periods of stressful situations in which people feel powerless to act. In this case, Hempelmann theorizes that because the girl that started it all was exposed to an unfamiliar setting and previously unknown expectations of the British-run school, coupled with the uncertainties of the country’s recently acquired independence and high levels of poverty, it lead to her uncontrollable reactions. She was only the catalyst that fueled the mass hysterics that followed.

This sort of sociogenic illness is fairly common around the world and it’s not just limited to laughter. While young girls are more susceptible to it, people of both gender and all ages can get affected. When people are experiencing the same levels of ongoing stress, they tend to mimic each other’s uncontrollable reactions, of which laughter is just one. Sociogenic illness can present itself in different forms, such as respiratory distress, various pains, vomiting, fainting, or even rashes. There are no obvious external factors that cause them and the whole thing is psychological.

8. The Disappearance of an Entire Canadian River in 2016


While on a fieldwork expedition to the Slims River basin in early 2017, in Canada’s remote Yukon Territories to the Northwest, a team of geologists from the University of Washington Tacoma came upon an incredible discovery. When they got there, they discovered that the 1,575-foot wide river had simply disappeared. The once mighty river that flowed through the region had “barely any flow whatsoever. It was essentially a long, skinny lake.” Not knowing what to make of it, they took the helicopter upriver in an effort to find the source of the problem. For the past several centuries, at least, the Slims River was fed by the Kaskawulsh Glacier. But because of the increasing global temperatures, the glacier was shrinking and the water was able to punch a hole through the ice in a different direction. On further investigation it was revealed that the water that once fed the Slims River was now flowing into Kaskawulsh River instead.

Known as ‘river piracy’ or ‘stream capture’, this phenomenon, though not unheard of, is extremely rare, having never been observed in recorded history. This is when water from a river is diverted from its own bed and then starts flowing down a neighboring waterway. This can happen either due to tectonic movements, erosion, landslides, or like in this case, because of glacier retreat. What’s particularly interesting about this case is that, while other cases of river piracy can take hundreds, if not thousands of years to happen, this time it took it just four days. It was, as the geologists put it, “geologically instantaneous and…likely to be permanent.” According to their examinations, the event took place between the May 26-29, 2016.

Now, since the area is remote, the effects on humans were minimal. However, the ecosystem that surrounded the now-extinct Slims River will suffer, and so will the ecosystem on the Kaskawulsh River. Since this new water has a different chemical composition, the ecosystem around the river mouth will most likely change. Many communities around the world depend on rivers fed by glaciers, and if this phenomenon were to happen in those areas, it could spell disaster for the people living there.

7. The 1986 Lake Nyos Catastrophe in Cameroon


On the morning of the August 22, 1986, people living in settlements surrounding Lake Nyos in Cameroon woke up to a grisly sight. During the night, some 1,700 people and over 3,500 livestock got asphyxiated within just minutes. Only a handful of people managed to survive, surrounded everywhere by the bodies of animals and of their loved ones. Not even the insects managed survive. Described as “one of the most gut-wrenching natural events in recorded history,” the 1986 Lake Nyos Catastrophe is still not fully understood, even though it happened more than 30 years ago.

What we do know is that the lake is located on an old volcanic crater. And on the night of the disaster, the lake eliminated somewhere between 300,000 to 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide at speeds of 30 miles per hour and with a thickness of 165 feet, covering an area of about 16 square miles around the lake, asphyxiating almost everyone in the area. Volcanic gasses that seep through the ground end up at the bottom of the lake, being dissolved in the water. The tropical temperatures keep the surface water warm all year round, acting like a lid over the colder water and the gasses below. Unfortunately, however, something happened on the night of August 21, 1986 to upset that balance. Something that we still can’t answer.

Whatever the cause was, it was silent. It could have been a mild earthquake, an underwater landslide, a volcanic eruption, or even a heavy rainfall strong enough to shift the water and ‘break the lid’. What happened next is known as a ‘limnic eruption’ in which the gas-saturated water from below found its way to the surface, creating a chain effect and sending water jets 300 feet into the air, resulting in a tsunami, as well as a dense blanket of carbon dioxide. It’s like shaking a can of soda really hard and then poking a hole in one of its sides - the effects are more or less the same. In order to counter this from ever happening again, engineers have since installed pumps and pipes in the lake, in order to filter the water and thus not allow the gasses to build up at the bottom.

6. Rats Invade Northern India Every 48 Years


If spider attacks weren’t enough, northeastern India is plagued by another, equally scary phenomenon. Every 48 years, almost like clockwork, the region of Mizoram bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar is invaded by millions of rats. When it happens, these rats descend upon the countryside like a Biblical plague of sorts, devouring pretty much everything in their path. If for whatever reason the crops aren’t harvested and stored safely away by the time it happens, they are lost. And since it only takes place twice every 100 years, scientists didn’t really believe it was real, thinking it to be mere rumors or local legends. That’s until they actually observed it firsthand in 2008.

The reason behind this rare yet regular occurrence is a 10,000 square mile bamboo forest located relatively close by. Throughout the rest of the time, this bamboo forest is a godsend for the locals since it provides them with construction materials, food, and even clothing. But every 48 years, the bamboo blossoms and the flowers turn into fruit. Usually, bamboo grows from a single stem, being connected by the roots to each other. When they flower, however, they do so all together, after which the entire forest dies and is replenished by the next generation. But when the entire forest drops their fruits to the ground at the same time, there’s suddenly an abundance of food to be had - an abundance that the local rat population takes advantage of to the fullest.

A single female rat can have up to 200 offspring over a period of six months, and each of them reaches sexual maturity in just 5 or 6 weeks. These new rats will have babies of their own. This means that by the time the fruits are gone, there are millions of starving rats. They then turn to the local human settlements for food, often times bringing with them famine and disease.

5. Tasmania’s Glowing Water


What else could be more romantic than to stroll down the beach with your significant other after sunset and all of a sudden, the water is glowing blue? Well, you can experience this in Tasmania, among other places. And it’s so beautiful, some have even gone as far as calling it the aurora borealis of the sea. What causes it are billions of single-celled algae that flash every time they are disturbed by waves, currents, or any other movement. Also known as the ‘sea sparkle’, this single-celled organism is officially called Noctiluca scintillans. Marine biologists believe that this bioluminescence is a self-defense mechanism with which the sea sparkle either scares away predators, or attracts its predator’s predators. But while it’s not dangerous to humans in any way, the phosphorescent plankton does have a voracious feeding tendency. Scientists oftentimes call it ‘the vacuum’ since it literally sucks up all nutrients from the water, leaving the other marine organisms to starve.

Its presence on Tasmania’s beaches is somewhat new. The first time the sea sparkle was seen here was in 1994, and it has since become an almost permanent resident. The reasons for this are troublesome, however. This bioluminescent plankton is fond of warmer waters and is usually found in the tropic regions of the world, being a common sight in the Maldives, for instance. But its presence in Tasmania can mean two things. For starters, it means that the waters have become richer in nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous, which are a direct result of a fertilizer-rich and intensive agriculture. Secondly, its presence here means that the oceanic waters have warmed enough to make it suitable for the sea sparkle’s survival. In fact, the Noctiluca scintillans is one of the few species on Earth to see an extensive increase in its habitat over the past 20 years.

4. The 1948 Donora Killer Smog


Air inversion is a pretty straightforward natural phenomenon, common pretty much all over the globe under the right circumstances. Basically what we have is a valley or a depression surrounded by mountains or hills. Usually air temperatures are higher closer to the ground, but in some circumstances cooler air gets trapped in a valley and is kept there by warmer air above. This phenomenon can last from a few hours to several days, being usually accompanied by mist. And this exactly what happened in the small industrial town of Donora, Pennsylvania in October 1948. The region was already prone to these kinds of natural phenomena, but what made this case different, however, was the duration. This time, the air inversion lasted for five days.

The biggest problem here was the fact that Donora was a heavily industrialized town and over the course of the following days, the residents became ill due to the high levels of pollutants in the air. By the time the authorities realized what had happened, 22 people had died and another 6,000 became seriously ill. Unbeknownst to them, for several days they had been breathing in large quantities of sulfur dioxide, fluorides and soluble sulphants, 20 times over the admissible limit. Since the air was no longer circulating, all of these increasing airborne chemicals remained in Donora, killing off the residents. Later, a settlement was reached with the victim’s families for $256,000, even though the factory owners kept claiming that the events were ‘an act of God.’ The story did make it all around the country, sparking a national debate and leading to the enactment of the Clean Air Act. This eventually made way for the Environmental Protection Agency to be created.

3. The Guatemalan Sinkhole of 2010


What we see here is nothing more than a piping feature. Though not official, this is the only name this phenomenon has at the moment. It was given by Sam Bonis, a geologist at Dartmouth College, who analyzed this sinkhole that appeared suddenly and without warning right in the middle of the street in Guatemala City, that country’s capital, back in 2010. It almost looks man-made, as if someone took one of those tunnel boring machines and pointed it straight down. And even though that scenario might sound cool, what really happened is even stranger. As it turns out, leaking pipes are mainly to blame here. Bonis suspects that the city’s poor infrastructure led to water seeping into the ground over a long period of time and slowly eroding it.

The proverbial nail in the coffin came when a severe tropical storm hit the region. The ground became saturated with water and finally collapsed. The soil itself also had a role to play here. The city is located in a volcanic region and the soil beneath Guatemala City is made out of pumice - a very light and porous material. Given enough time, this pumice gets compacted and becomes harder, but the city was built before that could happen, and coupled with the leaking pipelines, the 60-foot wide and 300-foot deep chasm was formed. As for the name, we can’t simply call it ‘a sinkhole,’ since sinkholes are 100% natural, whereas in this case, this was partially man-made.

2. The Tunguska Event of 1908

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In 1908, a remote part of Siberia was struck by something that researchers believe to have been either a meteor or a comet. To be fair, the Earth is struck by meteorites on a daily basis, but in this particular case things were different. Unfortunately, people weren’t able to reach the site until years later in 1927, when a Russian expedition finally made it. The reasons for this delay were mainly political since Russia was going through some internal strife, with both WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution taking place shortly after the event. Not even the press covered the incident, appearing only in some local Siberian publications.

In any case, the explosion was huge, with some estimating it to be 185 times more powerful than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima, and with seismic rumbles felt all the way to the UK. Windows were even shattered in a town 35 miles away from the incident. Given the remoteness of the area, only one person, a reindeer herder, was killed when he was flung against a tree. Many reindeer and other wild animals were reported to have been killed with locals finding many charred carcasses.

When the expedition did finally manage to arrive at the scene, the signs of the incident were still there. In a butterfly-shaped area of about 830 square miles, over 80 million trees were completely flattened to the ground. But there were no signs of a crater whatsoever. The scientists then concluded that the comet or meteorite must have broken off in the atmosphere and then explode about six miles above the surface. They did find some traces of a carbon mineral called lonsdaleite at the site, which is consistent with meteor impacts. But since not all the details are there, the research into the Tunguska Event is still ongoing. For instance, back in 2007, a team of Italian scientists suggested that a lake located five miles from the explosion is the actual crater. Part of their reasoning is that the lake didn’t appear on any maps before the incident. The theory is still debated, however.

Whatever the case may be, these kinds of impacts are predicted to happen once every one or two centuries. And even to this date, we are completely powerless to do anything about them. The only thing that stands in the way of a city being completely obliterated by one such comet or meteorite is the huge size of the planet, making it unlikely to happen over a densely populated area.

1. A Blooming Sahara Desert

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A blooming desert is truly an amazing sight to see. A simple thing like a freak storm can kickstart plants and flowers blooming in places that would otherwise seem completely devoid of life. Nevertheless, this phenomenon, though beautiful, is only temporary and soon enough the landscape will inevitably turn desolate once again. But in some situations, this doesn’t happen. The Sahara Desert, for instance, has seen three major periods in which sand dunes turned into lush savannah grasslands over the past 120,000 years. And interestingly enough, this trend seems to be happening again.

Hotter air, it seems, can carry more moisture, which in turn can generate more rain. And, according to satellite images (like the one above, which was taken by NASA), this is actually happening. According to images collected between 1982 and 2002, there is evidence of extensive re-greening in regions like the Sahel, a semi-desert zone to the south of the Sahara, and stretching over a distance of about 2,400 miles from Senegal to Sudan. Similar evidence can also be seen in Chad, as well as in southwestern Egypt. And it’s not just seasonal grass either, but trees such as acacias, growing there for years now - a clear sign that the effects have been somewhat stable for more than 20 years.

Some scientists predict that by 2080, precipitation in the area will increase by up to two millimeters a day. However, this trend, though longer than just a simple desert bloom, could still be temporary. As temperatures continue to rise even further, it is possible that precipitations will start decreasing again as time goes on. Martin Claussen from the Max Planck Institute, and who is looking into the issue said that “half the [computer] models follow a wetter trend, and half a drier trend,” referring to how the climate will turn out for the Sahara Desert in the future.

Top image: Vegetation in the Sahel region of Africa. Credit: Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

[Source: Toptenz. Top image added.]

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

VIDEO: THE RING OF FIRE

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Earth is a unique planet, restless and dynamic, where continents shift and clash, volcanoes erupt, and glaciers grow and recede. There are titanic forces that are constantly at work, leaving behind a trail of geological mysteries. One of Earth's intriguing mysteries is the presence of a huge arc of geological destruction surrounding the Pacific. It is known as the Ring of Fire. Three quarters of Earth's volcanoes are situated here, and 90 percent of all earthquakes also occur along this line. Learn more about this Ring of Fire from the following documentary by Best List.


[Source: Best List/YouTube.]

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Monday, 14 August 2017

10 URBAN LEGENDS ABOUT HEALTH AND SAFETY THAT CAUSED REAL HARM


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10 Urban Legends About Health and Safety That Caused Real Harm
By Gregory Myers,
Toptenz, 13 August 2017.

We laugh at urban myths and legends, often to joke about how stupid or ridiculous people are. It can be amusing to think about what insane things people can be led to believe, but sometimes it really isn’t a joke, and it isn’t funny at all. Many urban legends or conspiracies that are spread around cause people to try to self treat problems for which they should really see a doctor, distrust medicine in general, or take part in dangerous activities or practices that they have been led to believe are safe. It is important to always research what you are being told, especially when it comes to matters of health or safety, and inform others you know when they believe something false that could put them in a dangerous situation or endanger their health.

10. A Conspiracy Theory About AIDS Has Helped It Spread Further

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For many years a conspiracy theory has proliferated among the black community: that the government actually created HIV and AIDS, and distributed it among those in the inner city to kill people of color. President Obama, then a Senator, actually went on television telling of the theories of his pastor Jeremiah Wright, who believed in such nonsense. The belief is so widespread that many black people today, and plenty of non-black people as well, believe this theory.

Of course, we know that AIDS was not a man made creation, but this hasn’t stopped the belief from causing great harm. The best way to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS is to catch it early and give people the right drugs for treatment and control of the condition, and for them to be informed of what they have. However, people are unlikely to go get treatment if they believe that the government caused it on purpose and wants them to suffer and die. This means people distrust the government and don’t go get checked when they suspect they may have it, causing it to spread further and further still. The best way to counter this kind of theory is with education - the government did not create such a deadly disease, and treatment options today are actually very good, especially if it is caught early.

9. The Myth About “Safety Belts Costing More Lives Than They Save”

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Some people will go on about how they heard some cop somewhere claim that seat belts actually cost more lives than they save. Their theory generally goes that the seat belt could trap you in the car when it is on fire or something similar, with no way for you to get out. Experts in law enforcement who tend to deal with a lot of accidents have pointed out, though, that while you could have a rare situation where a seat belt makes it harder for someone to get out, that unconscious people don’t even have a chance to try, and people without seat belts invariably end up unconscious after a major accident. One policeman who dealt with a lot of accidents was once quoted as saying that he “never unbuckled a dead man.”

In other words, while someone may be able to find a strange, occasional case where a seatbelt caused someone to die in an accident, the vast majority of the time, the seat belt will greatly decrease your risk of fatalities. Sadly, many people get thrown from their vehicles and die in accidents because they believed this ludicrous rumor, and wanted to ensure they didn’t get trapped in their car. The issue is that the whole point of a seatbelt is basically to trap you in your car in the event of an accident, so you don’t get thrown clear of the vehicle.

8. People Held Chickenpox Parties Because They Thought It Had Immunization Benefits

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Not that long ago, it was a much more commonly held belief among many people that if a child became infected with chicken pox as a child, it was now impossible for them to get shingles - a version of the disease that can come back as an adult and be much more painful and often life threatening. It would also be impossible for chicken pox to return, as it can only affect you once, ever. To this end, when it was found out that a nearby child had chicken pox, people would have parties where they made sure their kids got into contact with the infected child, so that they could quickly get their kids the pox and get it over with.

Unfortunately, this was founded on complete bunk. Chicken pox actually comes from a similar family of disease as herpes, and as you know, herpes keeps coming back. What this actually means is that giving a kid chicken pox when they are young, instead of immunizing them against shingles later in life, actually increases the chances of it happening to them. The good news is that with modern media, this myth has been busted more and more commonly, and the amount of people setting up these insane parties has dwindled to a much smaller number.

7. Drinking Alcohol To Cure A Hangover Is Only Going To Worsen Your Overall Health

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One of the most common ideas in the culture of drinking booze, is that if you get a hangover, you can speed up your recovery process by adding a bit more booze to your morning the next day. Now, this is so common in popular culture and in real life that there are common drinks designed pretty much just for this “hair of the dog” cure. The most popular, of course, are the many variations of the Bloody Mary, which is basically a mix of some form of tomato juice, vodka, various spices, and a bunch of unnecessary garnishes that will probably be discarded, but make the drinker look temporarily like a healthy person who likes to enjoy their vegetables - after a night of destroying one’s liver, this is probably psychologically comforting.

Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing to the idea that drinking will make your hangover go away quicker. The reason you sometimes feel better by drinking is because drinking alcohol dulls your senses in general, but this isn’t actually making you feel properly better or ending your hangover. At some point your body still has to finish processing out the toxins to get you better, and by using the hair of the dog method, you are actually just adding more toxins for your body to process.

6. Vaccine Deniers Really Are Bringing Back Deadly Diseases And We Should Be Worried

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The MMR vaccine, which staves off measles, mumps, and rubella, and other vaccines, have been the source of controversy for a long time. However, in more modern times, a man named Andrew Wakefield is the biggest source of ill for the world of medicine in terms of vaccines. He published a paper back in the ’90s that was quickly discredited for awful methodologies and he had his medical license taken away. Unfortunately since then he has still given lectures and talks and done his best to stoke fear of vaccines all over the world.

In the United States, Measles has started to crop up seriously in Minnesota - an area Wakefield and his people have been laying their propaganda heavily. To make matters worse, we are seeing outbreaks of diseases we once thought we had beat all over the country, and they are all linked to vaccine deniers. These people spread ridiculous urban myths, some of which have been around since before Wakefield, that vaccines cause all kinds of crippling conditions for young children, including various forms of autism. Of course this has been entirely disproven, but many people still cling to the belief. Unfortunately many people find it easier to accept this idea that their child’s health problems are caused by vaccines, because life is easier when you have an obvious villain to blame for your problems, instead of trying to accept the sad truth that sometimes life just isn’t fair.

5. The Five Second Rule Has Probably Given Countless People Food Poisoning

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Probably the most common health myth is the “five second rule.” Nearly everyone believes it, or some variation of it - some people believe in a one second or even ten second rule. However, while many people will chuckle about it as they say it, as if they sort of know it’s silly, many of us have seen people pick stuff up off the floor and then eat it citing the famous ‘rule’. The truth is that this rule did not come from anywhere official, and is purely an urban myth concocted perhaps by mothers with very clean floors who were trying not to waste food and convince their children it was alright.

However, the truth is that most floors, even those that look relatively clean, have a lot of germs and other bacteria. And the problem with this myth is that it really only takes a moment of exposure for those germs and bacteria to stick to whatever food item you dropped on the floor. It really doesn’t matter how long; if it touched the floor and you don’t know how clean it is, it would be smarter to simply throw the food away.

4. “Cough CPR” Has Possibly Caused The Deaths Of Heart Attack Sufferers


Cough CPR is a legend that has been spread around by pseudo-medical experts, which are a dime a dozen these days. Most of them have some random website that looks sort of official, and will talk about how evil big pharma is, while trying to sell you overpriced products that are basically placebo. This strange idea spread by the misinformed is very dangerous and could potentially be causing people who are suffering from a heart attack to think they can handle things on their own and not take the proper steps. The idea given by the people spreading this idea is that if the heartbeat is out of rhythm, you can cough forcefully to get it back to beating properly. The truth is that if you think you are having a heart attack, experts recommend taking some Advil or equivalent with water, and calling 911.

Now, this doesn’t mean that cough CPR is a completely useless idea; it actually does come from somewhere legitimate. It has just been horrifically misinterpreted by urban myth and medical fraudsters. Experts have said that theoretically a person who is experiencing certain issues where the heart is out of rhythm could keep themselves conscious for a short time by coughing, but it wouldn’t be much help and they would quickly pass out. However, after the emergency and the patient is stabilized for the most part, there are certain situations with cough CPR where, when the patient is guided by a medical expert telling them how and when to cough, it can help stabilize them further.

Remember though, cough CPR is only done guided by medical experts after the initial emergency and only in some situations. If you think you are having a heart attack, get 911 on the line and if you can, get the equivalent of some Advil. If there is anyone nearby, signal to them that you need help so they can assist you however they can. Do not just cough and try to get yourself through the emergency on your own.

3. Doctors Very Rarely Use The Defibrillator, And Never When A Patient Is Flatlining

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This one may not cause a lot of harm, as most actual medical professionals know better than to think that what is on TV is real. However, some lay people are trained to be first aid, CPR, and AED (defibrillator) certified, and could potentially misuse this equipment. After all, first aid training is relatively short and doesn’t have a lot of time to make an impression, but TV is constantly around us and it is difficult to escape the thrall of popular media and culture. And the issue here is that popular media has given us a completely incorrect idea of how defibrillator’s work.

Most people have this romantic notion in their head of a patient flatlining - all other hope is lost. There is only one, last, desperate option to bring the hero back to life. The doctor - or perhaps a random citizen who knows what they are doing - will grab some nearby defibrillator paddles, yell “CLEAR!” and then slam them down on the afflicted person’s chest like there is no tomorrow. After a few slams, a few more “CLEARS!” and often a couple shouts of “Don’t you die on me!” the person will gasp and the heart monitor will start pulsing in a nice steady rhythm again - the dead has been brought back to life.

Of course, anyone who knows how absurd this is, especially those who work in the medical field, are likely rolling their eyes to the back of their skulls every time they see a scene like this in a movie or television program. A defibrillator is actually used to shock a person’s heart rhythm back to where they are supposed to be when it is irregular, but it will do absolutely nothing for someone who is already flatlining and has no pulse - if a person is flatlining and the doctors believe they still have a chance they would continue to perform CPR and possibly use epinephrine; they would not shock them with the paddles.

2. Urban Legends About Organ Harvesting And Vaccinations Have Led To Killings Of Medical Volunteers

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In some parts of the world, medical myths fly around even thicker and faster than they do in places like the United States or the UK. This is mainly because in many countries, they don’t have as much access to information, or as much education, so it is easier for paranoia and fear to take hold. In Pakistan a few years back, over a dozen Western medical volunteers were killed in about a year, and authorities believe it was because people were paranoid that they were actually trying to do harm under the guise of medicine. In Brazil, many people in the poorer slums will not go to the hospitals because they fear their organs will be stolen there, and fear of organ theft abounds in many third world countries.

Foreign medical volunteers will even become capable of speaking the local languages, and will act kind, but are often distrusted anyway. They will have tools the locals are not used to, and methods that they may not have seen before. Constant rumors make things worse and create further resistance and put the lives of those volunteering medical services at great risk. Unfortunately, trust in Western doctors was set back not long ago when it was discovered that the CIA had someone offering to give Hepatitis B vaccinations in Pakistan, in order to find DNA to locate and take out Bin Laden. While the vaccines were not harmful, they were also not proper medical treatment, and people are understandably now more leery of Western doctors coming to help them out.

1. The Rumor That Gum Stays In Your Digestive Tract For Years Has Caused A LOT Of Trash

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To end on a lighter note, one of the most prolific urban legends you will ever hear is that if you swallow your chewing gum, it will stay in your digestive tract for seven years - and in some versions of the legend, even longer. For this reason, people tend to spit out their gum and just stick it anywhere - a wall, under a chair, under a table, the ground, the floor, a corner it will never come out of without industrial solvent, etc. This has led to a horrible mass of filthy, saliva encrusted, germ laden gum being stuck on surfaces all over the world, and providing a constant nightmare to cleaning people.

And it never needed to be this way in the first place. People can swallow their gum safely and without any real worry. While a small child could potentially choke on a larger piece, that is really just an argument for why a small child really shouldn’t be chewing gum in the first place. For anyone else, it doesn’t stay in your digestive tract, but actually just passes right through it when you excrete - this is what your body tends to do with anything it can’t properly digest. Now, if you ate a lot of gum over a short period of time you could get a little constipated, but that is really the worst you are going to go through. If you cannot find anywhere polite and proper to dispose of your gum, it won’t hurt you to swallow it once in a while and keep the world a little bit cleaner.

Top image: Vaccine. Credit: John Keith/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Toptenz. Top image added.]

Sunday, 13 August 2017

TOP 10 SURPRISING HISTORIES OF COMMON FRUITS


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Top 10 Surprising Histories Of Common Fruits
By Damian Black,
Listverse, 13 August 2017.

Fruits are wonders of sweetness and seed that we have grown over millennia to feed ourselves. We tend to think that the various fruits we enjoy have been only slightly altered on the orchards of domestication. The truth is that there are more interesting histories of fruit than you can chew.

10. The Kiwifruit’s Nationality

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Kiwifruit, shortened as kiwi, was named after the bird of the same name due to its fuzzy brown resemblance. The curiously shaped avians are endemic to New Zealand, and you’d expect the fruits to be, too. After all, they produced over a billion dollars for the country in 2015.

However, kiwifruit actually originated in China under a name that translates to “macaque peach” due to its popularity with the local monkeys. Later on, the English named it the Chinese gooseberry for reasons completely unknown.

At the turn of the 20th century, the principal of a New Zealand college had brought back some seeds from China. After a few decades, New Zealand began exporting Chinese gooseberries to the US. But it soon became apparent that nothing associated with Red China was profitable during the Cold War.

First, New Zealand changed the name to “melonettes,” but that also failed since unattractive tariffs were placed on melons and berries. Finally, in a hilarious marketing move, the goose was reasonably replaced with New Zealand’s national bird and the berry broadened into fruit.

9. The Pineapple’s Adoration

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For centuries, everyone involved in the pineapple’s colonial trade absolutely adored it. The earliest records involve Carib Indians, expert navigators who traded and raided across the islands to collect all manner of bounty.

The intense sweetness of the pineapple elevated it as a staple in important feasts and cultural rites. During Columbus’s second voyage to the Caribbean, his crew hauntingly found pineapples beside pots of body parts, evidence of cannibalism at their first inspection of an abandoned Carib village.

When it was brought back to Europe, the pineapple was regarded as nature’s culinary masterpiece, a tropical delight reserved for English royalty and literally held on a pedestal during extravagant feasts because there were no common sweets back then.

The women of colonial America competed with each other in arranging creative displays of food on their tabletops, with the sharp pineapple being king of the decorations and undeniable proof of wealth. Due to its extreme rarity, producers actually rented the fruit for hostesses to proudly exhibit. Then the pineapples were given back to be sold as food.

8. The Tomato’s Toxicity

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By now, it is common knowledge that the tomato has a tainted past. Being a member of the notoriously poisonous nightshade family, the bright red tomato was thought by wary Europeans to be toxic for over two centuries.

But this was no simple assumption on appearance. Affluent Europeans did die of poisoning after eating tomatoes on their pewter plates. The acidity from the fruit released lead, a component metal of pewter alloy at the time, producing a deadly combination of tableware and tomato.

Furthermore, 10-centimeter (4 in) tomato hornworm caterpillars were thought to poison the tomatoes they infested. Though we now know they are harmless, the caterpillars had a menacing red protrusion on their tails.

Established American colonists had no issue with the enjoyable tomato, but newer rural settlers still avoided it due to the lack of cross-country information sharing. Interestingly, the Civil War brought tomatoes into the spotlight in America.

As a fast-growing, easily canned food, tomatoes dominated the canning market to support soldiers on both sides. In 1880, Italian peasants popularized tomatoes in Europe as an edible ingredient in the birth of pizza, finally eliminating all fear of the fruit.

7. The Avocado’s Salvation

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Before agriculture, avocado seeds enjoyed widespread travel in the bodies of various megafauna before being defecated in fertile feces. Birds and other small animals did not provide any benefit in helping plant the large seed and so were all lethally deterred from eating avocados through development of the toxin persin.

After the Ice Age extinction event, three-fourths of all megafauna were wiped out. With the avocado’s distributors all gone, it required a savior from extinction: us.

Central Americans successfully cultivated avocados during and after the time of the megafauna and named the fruit after its similar appearance to testicles, evoking a sexual mysticism. Indeed, the avocado was thought to be such a potent aphrodisiac that virgin daughters were kept indoors when Aztec farmers harvested avocados!

6. The Pumpkin’s Tradition

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Our favorite squash, the pumpkin wasn’t always able to be carved into sturdy, smiling Halloween decorations. However, even Pilgrims praised the pumpkin’s long storage time and sweetly nutritious flesh in this verse circa 1633:

For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon.

Europeans were incremental to the creation of the modern pumpkin. The earliest jack–o’–lanterns were made from lit coals placed in hollow root vegetables such as turnips and potatoes. The lanterns were held during festivals to brighten the night.

As Celtic tradition arrived in America, the pumpkin was grown through artificial selection to become the greatest carrier of fire and light. Decades later, the pumpkin was immortalized as the joyous fruit of the harvest - a massive, creative, and delicious entity of Halloween.

5. The Chili Pepper’s Ubiquity

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Chilies are intensely spicy to prevent animals from eating their seeds, which aren’t suited for survival past digestion. In an evolutionary insult, humans raised and ate chili peppers specifically for their natural flame, producing varieties so intense that they blister skin and blind if exposed to the eye.

Latin Americans are stereotypically known to enjoy an apparent immunity to the blazing effects, a not entirely false notion given the cultural origin of the chili.

In the records of conquistadors, the Aztecs and Maya ate chilies with anything and everything. Chilies were believed to have medicinal properties to cure various sicknesses. The smoke was used as both a highly effective pest deterrent and a highly effective children’s punishment.

Chilies also achieved a legendary commonplace status. If not practicing abstinence from chilies for religious or health reasons, a person who didn’t eat chili peppers would straightaway be presumed a witch!

4. The Strawberry’s Union

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Uniquely, ancestral strawberries originated in both Europe and North America. The French selected wild strawberries for sweetness, but the fruit was still small. Only the Sun King’s plans for royal domination romantically brought the parents of the modern strawberry together from across the continents.

King Louis XIV of France desired the Spanish throne, so he assigned a spy, Frezier, to study Chilean and Peruvian fortifications. But Frezier’s duty was not only to discover the military strength of the colonial Spanish.

Previously, another dispatch had found unexpectedly large Chilean strawberries. A military engineer posing as a merchant, Frezier purchased the strawberries and brought them back to France.

For years, French gardeners couldn’t reproduce the Chilean strawberry since they grew native strawberries through asexual planting. The Chilean variety had both male and female plants. But the males were culled as weeds due to their different appearance because the Europeans didn’t know any better.

None of the European strawberries were large enough to hybridize with the Chilean, but the Virginian variety, brought over during the French colonization of North America, was. While placed in the same garden, the two plants from the New World coincidentally came together in the Old World to create the globally distributed garden strawberry we savor today.

3. The Apple’s Alcohol

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Apples have been eaten since before Jericho’s walls were built. They were revered in Western cultures as a mythical symbol and still are respected as a daily health remedy.

On the great American frontier, Johnny Appleseed planted plenty of apple trees for welcome settlers, but they didn’t munch on them. The notion of eating apples was actually rare since most varieties were bitter and unpleasant. Over time, apples were selected to become larger and tastier, but until then, their main purpose was to create another product.

Apple cider was championed as the most valuable, most available beverage of early America. Compared to the water and whiskey of the colonies, homegrown apple cider could be counted on as a personally confirmed sanitary and healthy drink.

Originally only made as hard cider, which was alcoholic, demand greatly fell during Prohibition. To continue to use their apple stock, producers rightly marketed apples as being directly edible after breeding sweet, nutritious varieties.

2. The Rhubarb’s Warning

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The plight of China during the Opium Wars was tragic. Technologically superior militaries allowed Western nations to bully China and steal its wealth. The worst offense was the introduction of opium, which ruined many lives due to uncontrollable addiction and poverty.

After failing to prevent the blockade of Canton, a major trade province, Chinese officials were desperate to retaliate. It would have taken too long to modernize their military, so they looked to other solutions.

To regain respect in trade agreements for their country, officials researched the English to determine if an embargo of a few vital products would help. The studies of Lin Tse-Hsu, the Chinese commissioner in Canton, had exaggeratedly shown him that without rhubarb, tea, silk, and other goods, the people of foreign nations would be devastated.

In a famously ignored plea, Lin sent a letter to Queen Victoria stating that since opium was clearly understood as an illegal, destructive drug in the United Kingdom, it should not be immorally exploited in China.

He proposed that if China were to embargo its rhubarb, widely used as an effective laxative, entire populations of Westerners would start to die of constipation. Unfortunately, he did not realize that these goods were luxuries rather than requirements.

The misunderstanding was recorded in the letter for history to demonstrate the confusion and hope of the vulnerable East.

1. The Breadfruit’s Mutiny

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Breadfruit was discovered by a scientific crew in Tahiti, an island located in the center of the South Pacific. Eighteenth-century Europeans had gathered to witness the transit of Venus, an extremely rare astronomical event which is similar in nature to a solar eclipse by the Moon.

With them was botanist Joseph Banks, who correctly and impressively identified the breadfruit as a cheap and nutritious fruit, albeit for the mistreated slaves of the sugar plantations. King George III directed Lieutenant William Bligh to gather this potentially valuable fruit.

Bligh’s crew on the HMS Bounty enjoyed the shores of Tahiti and eventually departed with 1,000 breadfruit plants. However, master’s mate Fletcher Christian led a revolt, discarding Bligh and his followers in an open boat.

Since both Bligh and Christian survived, the history on the reasons behind the mutiny is impossible to truly know. Bligh may have been abusive, Christian may have gone insane, or the crew may have simply wanted to return to the Tahitian women and beaches.

It is confirmed, though, that Bligh had been saving water for the fruit instead of his men. Though dutiful, this would definitely have raised issues.

As an excellent navigator, Bligh managed to safely sail thousands of miles to a hospitable Dutch island, returned to the UK as a hero, and went on to finish the job by bringing back 2,126 breadfruits on his second voyage. Unfortunately, his work was all in vain as the slaves absolutely refused to eat them due to their bland taste!

Top image: Kiwifruits and strawberries. Credit: annca/Pixabay.

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