Wednesday, 29 November 2017


10 Obscure Mysteries Surrounding Forests Around The World
By Estelle Thurtle,
Listverse, 29 November 2017.

Forests are truly amazing places. Combining impressive biodiversity with natural beauty, the woods of the world can be both captivating and perplexing. A hike through a forest can be a relaxing way to pass an afternoon or, sometimes, a glimpse into the unknown.

There are many forests in the world with question marks hanging over them. Just think of Poland’s crooked forest and the Rendlesham Forest incident. On this list are some lesser-known mysteries surrounding forests around the globe.

10. Triassic Mystery

Photo credit: Irmis and Parker 2005

Often referred to as the dawn of the dinosaurs, the Triassic period kicked off the Mesozoic era. The name stuck in spite of the fact that the creatures that roamed the Earth during the Triassic period were closer to crocodiles than dinosaurs. One of the creatures of this time remains unidentifed: Kraterokheirodon.

The mystery that is Kraterokheirodon started with the discovery of a strange-looking tooth in 1946. The tooth, shaped like a shell, was handed over to paleontologist Edwin Colbert at the time. Nothing came of the discovery until Colbert’s interest in the tooth was sparked anew by the discovery of a similar one in the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. He did his best to identify the creature that the tooth belonged to, right up until his death in 2001.

While the Kraterokheirodon teeth are somewhat similar to those of cynodonts, they are a lot bigger and do not necessarily show any relation to them. It is also unknown how the strange teeth would have fit into the creature’s mouth. The only thing known for sure is that Kraterokheirodon was a massive animal. Experts are continuing their research in the hopes of uncovering this mystery.

9. Mysterious Pillars

Photo credit: The Mountain Voice

Historian Louis Serna spied a ornate stone pillar in a hotel lobby in 2013. Intrigued by the symbols (including a Templar cross) carved on it, Serna tried to find out more about the pillar from the hotel employees. After being told that it was simply a trail marker, Serna realized he would have to get into contact with the original owner of the hotel if he was to get credible information. He was right. After he traced the original owner, the man told him that a rancher discovered the pillar in a New Mexico forest and that it had been on display at the hotel ever since.

Suspecting there was even more to this story, Serna eventually approached the US Forest Service, where he was informed that, in fact, there were two stone pillars found in Carson National Forest and that the second pillar is located among several other stones thought to be grave markers.

Serna remained skeptical about this information, believing that the pillars may have been markers used by ancient explorers during the colonization of the area. Serna also remains hopeful that archaeologists will look into his theory and come up with answers to explain the origin and purpose of the pillars.

8. Forest Of Missing Children


The Angeles National Forest in Southern California was established in 1908 and contains five designated wilderness areas. It is a registered California Historical Landmark and includes several popular picnic and camping spots. Unfortunately, it is also the location of several unsolved disappearances.

In 1956, 11-year-old Brenda Howell and 13-year-old Donald Lee Baker set off on their bikes to go exploring in the San Gabriel Canyon area. They never returned. An extensive search of the area only uncovered the two bicycles and Donald’s jacket. In 1957, two brothers-in-law took their kids for a hike in the Arroyo Seco area when the eldest, eight-year-old Tommy Bowman, decided to run ahead on the trail. He disappeared around a bend, and when the others got there, he was nowhere to be seen. He was never found.

Then in 1960, six-year-old Bruce Howard went on a camping trip with 80 other children and adults in the Buckhorn Flat. 275 meters (900 ft) from their camp, Bruce became tired, and the supervisor sent him back to their camping site. He watched until Bruce had almost reached the camp before continuing the hike with the others. It only took minutes to discover that Bruce never actually got to the camp. He was never seen again.

It was suspected that sex offender and child molester Mack Ray Edwards may have played a role in the above disappearances, and he even confessed to the murders of Brenda Howell and Donald Baker. However, a lack of evidence and Edwards’s eventual suicide kept him from ever being tried.

7. Antarctica’s Fossil Forests


Before the first dinosaurs, almost 260 million years ago, Antarctica looked nothing like it does today. The climate was a lot warmer, and the landscape was covered with several dense forests. It is thought that these forests existed around the same time as the biggest mass extinction that has ever occurred.

It is believed that the Permian-Triassic extinction event was triggered by an unprecedented increase in greenhouse gases, possibly due to volcanic eruptions in Siberia. Experts are hoping that the fossilized forest remains will provide some insight into this theory.

Explorers and other scientists have been aware of the fossilized forests since 1910 or so, but there are still mysteries surrounding them. It remains unclear, for instance, just how the trees and plants survived the cold and dark winter months and how the trees were able to switch between winter and summer modes as quickly as they did, i.e. hibernating during winter and growing in summer.

Research is ongoing and planned up until January 2018.

6. Pokaini Forest Mysteries

Photo credit:

Pokaini forest in Latvia is steeped in myth and mystery. Legend has it that visitors to the forest in ancient times brought rocks with them as penance for their sins. These rocks would then also symbolize the absolution of their sins. Considering that this is just a myth, it remains a mystery as to where the rocks in the forest actually come from.

The rocks are grouped together in a specific sequence around 30 hills. There are rumors that some of the rocks have healing powers (because some of them are hot to the touch) while others have destructive powers. People are advised against taking a rock home as a souvenir, as bad times may befall them if they do.

There is also an old pine tree under which the temperature remains higher than anywhere else in the forest. Some visitors to Pokaini believe that this anomaly as well as malfunctioning watches and compasses mean that the forest could be a gateway to a parallel universe.

5. Disappearance Of Lars Mittank

In July 2014, a couple of friends, including 28-year-old Lars Mittank, landed in Bulgaria for a holiday at Golden Sands. Things quickly turned sour for Mittank when he became involved in a brawl on the beach during an argument over football, resulting in an injury to his ear.

After being advised by a doctor to delay flying for a couple of days, Mittank decided to stay on in Bulgaria for further medical attention. He told his friends to go on home and rented a hotel room in a less-than-desirable area. His stay at the hotel only lasted one night, however. He texted his mom and told her to cancel his credit card and that he was trying to hide from four unknown men who were inquiring about his medicine.

Mittank went back to the doctor’s office the following day but never saw the doctor because he suddenly flipped out and ran away. He then went to the airport, but he left there as well. CCTV footage showed the young man jumping a fence and disappearing into the forest behind it. Lars Mittank has not been seen since.

4. Anton Pilipa

Photo credit: News Cult

Anton Pilipa disappeared from Toronto in 2012, shortly before he was due to appear in a local court on assault and weapons charges. As the years rolled by, it seemed less and less likely that Pilipa, who suffered from schizophrenia, would ever be found.

However, in early 2017, Pilipa was found wandering around near Manaus in the Amazon rain forest. Amazingly, he traveled across ten borders without documentation or any form of identification before landing up in Buenos Aires, where he was refused entry. From there, he headed to Brazil. Police found Pilipa and took him to a hospital, from which he escaped and then disappeared into the forest. He was later discovered again (in the forest), and his family was notified via social media.

It remains unknown just how Pilipa managed to travel that far without anyone suspecting anything strange regarding his lack of documentation and why he disappeared in the first place.

3. Tree Swastika

Photo credit: AtomicFact/Twitter

In 1992, an intern for a landscaping company in Germany was taking photos from a plane when he noticed something weird way down below. On the north side of Zernikow, a patch of larch trees was sticking out against the rest of the forest. The reason? They formed a giant swastika.

Because the effect of the different-colored trees disappears during spring and is only present during autumn, it took many years for anyone to discover the Nazi symbol hidden away in the forest. Who planted the trees remains a mystery, but it has been estimated that they were likely planted in 1938, while Hitler was in power.

Theories about the tree swastika include it being a “birthday gift” to Hitler or a show of gratitude by locals after a street was built in Zernikow. Another theory says that the swastika was created to show loyalty to Hitler after a local was sent off to a concentration camp when it was discovered he had been listening to BBC radio.

The swastika was destroyed sometime after 1995, when authorities removed most of the trees that remained after the first attempt at destroying it failed.

2. Gedi Ruins

Photo credit: The Daily Beast

The Gedi ruins in Kenya are located deep inside a forest next to the Indian Ocean. These ruins have lessened the general belief that Africa lagged far behind other civilizations when it came to technology and advancing toward modern living. Proof of this came in the form of flushing toilets, running water, and streets built in a town that is thought to have been established in the 13th century.

It seems that the Muslim inhabitants of the town traded extensively with other cultures, including China and other countries. But then the unthinkable happened. The entire town was abandoned in the 17th century for no apparent reason. Also, despite the fact that several ruins remain, including mosques, a palace, and houses, there are no written records to be found of Gedi.

Theories have been put forward that an unnamed enemy might have invaded the town and destroyed it, but there is no evidence of war among the ruins. Another theory has it that the receding Indian Ocean could have led to the depletion of water wells or that foreign explorers might have introduced the plague, leading to the death of all the inhabitants. However, there is a complete lack of evidence to support any of these theories.

1. Rosalind Ballingall

Photo credit: Paul Venter

In 1969, 20-year-old Rosalind Ballingall traveled to the Garden Route in the Western Cape, South Africa, with two friends to spend a long weekend at a well-known drug hangout called the Sugar House. She then apparently decided soon after arriving that she wanted to take a walk in the nearby Knysna forest. So with a Bible under her arm, she went. And never returned.

More than 24 hours passed before the young woman was reported missing, and by that time, heavy rain had washed away her tracks and any other evidence that may have helped to find her. Theories soon began to fly. Some said she was part of a cult called The Cosmic Butterfly and that she was at a drug party in the forest before she disappeared. This could have led to her losing her way while under the haze of drugs. Others believe she may have been accidentally killed by a cult member.

Other rumors stated that she somehow fled the country, with people reporting that they’d spotted her overseas. Some local sightings were also reported, but the true fate of Rosalind Ballingall remains to be uncovered.

Top image: Ruins of the Great Mosque located deep inside a forest in Gede, Kenya. Credit: Mgiganteus/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]

Tuesday, 28 November 2017


10 Births That Set World Records
By Jill Harness,
Toptenz, 28 November 2017.

The creation of a child is a miraculous process, and while few women experience a truly “average” pregnancy, some of them have some really unique experiences. Here are some of the most incredible birth stories ever recorded.

10. Earliest Premature Baby

The earliest born baby to have survived the ordeal was James Elgin Gill, who was born in 1987 in Canada. James was born at 21 weeks and 5 days old - meaning he was 128 days early. His birth weight was an incredibly miniscule 1 pound and 6 ounces.

At the time of his birth, doctors expected James to pass away since he was so drastically premature. They also said that if he did survive, his parents should expect him to have multiple severe handicaps, but the baby defeated the odds and grew up to be a healthy man.

9. Lightest Baby Born


Surprisingly, while he was the youngest surviving baby to be born, James Elgin Gill wasn’t the lightest. That title belongs to Rumaisa Rahman, who was born in September 2004 in Illinois. Rumaisa was one of two twins who were born via a cesarean at only 26 weeks since their mother suffered from pre-eclampsia, putting both the babies and her own health at immediate risk.

It’s common for twins to be fairly different in size and while Rumaisa’s sister weighed a petite 1 pound, 4 ounces, Rumaisa herself weighed about half of that - a shocking 8.6 ounces. She also measured in at a nearly-record breaking 9.5 inches long. While her sister got to leave the hospital in early January, Rumaisa had to stay another month, at which point she weighed 5.5 pounds.

8. Shortest Baby at Birth


Remember how we said that Rumasia Rahman nearly broke the record for the shortest baby born? Well that title was already held by Nisa Juarez, who was born in Minnesota in 2002.

Born 108 days premature (that is, she was born after 24 weeks and 5 days of gestation), Nisa also weighed under a pound at birth (11.3 ounces, to be exact), and she measured in at 9.44 inches. She was held for almost five months before being released from the hospital.

7. Biggest Baby


On the other side of the world’s smallest and shortest babies are those heavy and lengthy ones, and the world’s biggest baby record will make most women shiver. While the most famous record holder for the title of both longest and heaviest baby is “Babe,” who was born in 1879 to 7-foot-11 giantess Anna Bates and her equally tall husband, Babe only survived for eleven hours after birth - which is why he was never even given a real name. Even so, Babe went down in the history books for weighing an amazing 22 pounds and measuring an unheard of 28 inches at birth.

While not as famous as Anna Bates and her “Babe,” Carmelina Fedele holds the title for heaviest baby (though Babe still claims the title of the longest). While the child’s name was withheld when he was born in Italy in 1955, Fedele’s baby weighed in at an unbelievable 22 pounds and 8 ounces. And unlike Babe, Fedele’s son survived.

6. Longest Delivery


If there’s anything pregnant women tend to fear more than a premature baby or one that tips the scale at over 20 pounds, it’s a lengthy delivery. While a 36 hour labor is enough to make the most dedicated mother shiver, that’s nothing compared to the record-breaking 75-day-long delivery experienced by Polish mother Joanna Krzysztonek. But then, most women are trying to get their babies out when they go into labor, whereas in 2012, Joanna and her doctors were doing everything possible to keep her drastically premature babies inside the womb until it was safe for her to deliver them.

It all started when Joanna, who was pregnant with triplets, went into labor at only 21 weeks. The first baby emerged from the womb and quickly died as it was too premature to survive on its own. So doctors opted to delay the delivery as long as possible in order to save the lives of the other two babies. They gave Joanna medication to stop the contractions, tied off the umbilical cord, and put it back in her uterus and placed her in a bed tilted at 30 degrees with her feet pointed to the ceiling. And there she sat, nearly upside down for the next 75 days of her life. Finally, at 32 weeks in, she gave birth via cesarean section to two healthy baby girls who each weighed under 4 pounds.

While Joanna’s story might not be like those of most mothers, it still counts as labor because birthing began at the start of those 75 days and without the quick-thinking of her doctors, her two living babies would have been very unlikely to have survived.

5. Longest Gestation


The average pregnancy is 280 days - or about nine months. Ask most mothers who carried all 40 weeks and they’ll tell you that it seemed like that last month dragged on for about a year, so just imagine how Los Angeles resident Beulah Hunter felt when she went through a pregnancy that actually lasted over a year in 1945.

Doctors didn’t actually accept Beulah’s report that her pregnancy lasted 375 days, especially since her daughter, Penny Diana was born healthy at birth - whereas many babies who go significantly over their due dates suffer from a number of health problems (which is why these days most women are induced by 42 weeks and this record is unlikely to be broke any time soon). After reviewing Beulah’s pregnancy test and the reported date of her last menstrual cycle, though, it was confirmed that she was telling the truth. The reason the baby managed to stay in the womb for a full year and ten days was because Penny developed abnormally slow. In fact, while her first fetal heartbeat should have been detected in July, it wasn’t heard until September. Additionally, while you’d think a baby who had an extra three months to develop might be a little large, Penny only weighed 6 pounds and 15 ounces at birth.

Ultimately, some critics still doubted the story, claiming that Beulah must have had a miscarriage around three months in and then gotten pregnant again almost immediately, although her doctor laughed off such accusations saying such a scenario was “quite impossible.” These days, not only would a mother be unlikely to be allowed to carry a baby so long, but her progress would have been tracked a lot more closely if there was any concern as to how slowly the child was developing - as back then, ultrasounds weren’t used during pregnancy like they are now.

4. Most Teeth at Birth


It’s not entirely unheard of for a baby to have teeth at birth, though it is still fairly rare. In most infants, teeth don’t begin developing until 5-to-8 months in, but in 1990, Sean Keaney of the UK was born with a shocking 12 teeth already in place.

Doctors recognized that having so many teeth could cause feeding problems for the baby, so they extracted them. Sean then grew a second, full set of teeth at 18 months old. No word on whether those were still “baby teeth” or if he had a third set hiding below the gums as well.

3. Most Surviving Multiples

Say what you will about 2009’s headline-grabbing “Octomom” Nadya Suleman, but there’s no denying that it couldn’t have been easy to carry eight babies to term or that she remains the record holder for most number of babies successfully carried at once.

If you weren’t already familiar with the Octomom story, the basics are that Nadya already had six children through in vitro fertilization and then decided to implant 12 of her stored embryos at once. Eight of the fertilizations came to term and when the news got wind of the story, Nadya got a new nickname and she became the center of a major medical ethics debate (both then and now, doctors advise only implanting three embryos at a time for a 33-year-old woman). High numbers of multiple births can put the mother and babies at serious risk for complications, including death, premature birth, and more. While her fertility doctor claimed the implantation of 12 embryos was a mistake, the Medical Board of California didn’t accept his story and the doctor lost his license as a result.

Nadya was not actually the first woman to carry octuplets to term, but the previous sets (also all conceived through artificial insemination) all resulted in at least one of the infants dying within a week after birth. As of today, all of Nadya’s octuplets survived - as well as the six other babies she carried prior to the pregnancy that made her famous.

2. Most Surviving Identicals


It’s one thing to have eight children when you have 12 embryos implanted in you, but to carry five embryos that all split from one single egg - that’s practically a miracle. Amazingly, the Dionne quintuplets, born in Ontario in 1934, were not only the sole set of identical quintuplets to survive into adulthood, they were also the first known quintuplets to survive infancy. That’s particularly impressive when you consider that they were born two months premature in a time where the prognosis for any baby born that early was pretty dire.

During pregnancy, their mother, Elzire Dionne, suspected she might be carrying twins, but in a time before sonograms, no one would have dared imagine that she was actually carrying five girls. Doctors later believed she originally had six embryos but one of them miscarried. Unlike most modern multiples, the girls weren’t delivered via cesarean section but vaginally in the Dionne’s farmhouse.

The Ontario government declared that the girls’ parents were unfit to protect them from exploitation, so the government took custody of the quintuplets and quickly started putting them on display three times day. Because Canadians love irony, apparently. Separated from their family (though they were raised right across the street from them), the girls were a popular tourist attraction, bringing in over three million people before they were returned to their parents at the age of nine. As if that weren’t bad enough, a trust fund for the girls was frittered away and they eventually had to sue the local government to get any compensation for their childhood exploitation.

1. Longest Time Between the Birth of Two Twins


Twins always tend to joke about who is the older of the two - even if the “age difference” between the two is only a matter of minutes. When it comes to Amy and Katie Elliot though, the age difference is a little harder to ignore as these twins were born almost a full three months apart!

As you might imagine, the age difference was a result of one of the twins, Amy, being born prematurely - at only 23 weeks and 5 days, to be exact. At only 1 pound and 3 ounces, Amy was immediately taken to intensive care and then the mother’s contractions stopped dead. Even after doctors tried to induce labor in the mother, Maria, to speed things up the next day, the contractions wouldn’t start again so the girls’ parents agreed to let nature run its course. Maria was induced successfully at 36 weeks, a full 87 days after her first twin was delivered. The two girls were reunited in the nursery two hours later. The second twin, Katie, weighed a healthy 5 pounds 10 ounces and was released from the hospital five days after delivery, while her premature sister had to wait another seven weeks before she was sent home.

Top image credit: MaartenB/Pixabay.

[Source: Toptenz. Top image added.]


Not all of the biggest game-changing inventions were the product of deliberate genius. Some world-changing inventions happened to be accidental discoveries that worked out, either stumbled upon by chance or occurred while the inventors were trying to discover something else. Yet the impact of these inventions had been as great as the non-accidental ones: they changed the lives of the inventors, the consumers or both. The following infographic by Broadband Wherever presents 14 of the well-known (and not so well-known) accidental inventions.

[Source: Broadband Wherever.]

Monday, 27 November 2017


Our Sun is amazing when you think about it. Light from the Sun travels millions of miles across space through our atmosphere and to us, providing warmth, visual light, and vital energy for plants on this Earth. Imagine if we could utilize this energy from the Sun in a meaningful, significant way. This is what solar power aims to do. We've been previously taken for a ride by bogus concepts like solar roadways. But what is the truth about solar? Can it really change the world? This video by ColdFusion takes a look at the current state of solar power. It actually seems like a solar movement is beginning.

[Source: ColdFusion/YouTube.]

Sunday, 26 November 2017


Oceans are fundamental to the health of our planet - the very lifeblood of Earth's ecosystem. To survive and prosper, mankind needs a harmonious relationship with our planet's oceans. Unfortunately, every year more than 8 million tons of plastic and other forms of pollution are dumped into our oceans, ending up in our marine life and eventually making its way into our food chain. This infographic by graphically explains how pollution of our oceans affects human lives.

[Post Source:]

Saturday, 25 November 2017


10 Times Computers Went Rogue
By Ben Gazur,
Listverse, 25 November 2017.

Computers and automation are revolutionizing the workplace and the world in general. Chances are that somewhere out there, there is a team of skilled engineers looking at how a machine or piece of software could do your job. There are very few positions that someone hasn’t tried to fill with a robot at his point.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be quaking in fear just yet about computers taking over everything. On the other hand, there have already been instances of machines and AIs getting out of control. Here are ten examples of computers going rogue.

10. Death By Robot


The first recorded death by automated robot occurred in 1979. Robert Williams was working at a Ford plant when a robotic arm swung around with sufficient force to kill him instantly. Unaware that it had killed him, the robot went quietly on with its work for half an hour before Williams’s body was discovered. Williams’s death was the first robotic killing but not the last.

Early industrial robots lacked the necessary sensors to tell when there was someone present who they should avoid mangling. Now, many machines are built so that they avoid hurting people. Unfortunately, there are still cases of robots in factories inflicting fatalities.

In 2015, Wanda Holbrook, an experienced machine technician, was killed while repairing an industrial robot. While working in an area that that shouldn’t have had any active machines, she was struck down. Somehow disregarding its safety protocols, a robot loaded a part onto Holbrook’s head, crushing it.

9. Facebook AIs Create Own Language


Looking for intelligence on Facebook can feel like a bit of a struggle sometimes. Perhaps for this reason, Facebook decided to release some artificial intelligences onto its social network in 2017. The result was not at all what they had been expecting. The two chatbots began to talk to each other in a language which they, but no one else, could understand.

Beginning with English, their chats soon turned into something else as they made changes to the language to make it more efficient to communicate. Facebook wanted to see how the machine minds would be able to deal with each other in trades such as bartering hats and books. A sample of their trade negotiations runs as follows:

Bob: i can i i everything else..............
Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to
Bob: you i everything else..............
Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me
Bob: i i can i i i everything else..............

While many reports hinted that this was a dark development for machine intelligence, others think we simply need to be stricter with the minds we create. The robots created their own language because they were not told to stay within the rules of English. Also, with AI, we always, at the moment, have the option of pulling their plugs.

8. Chinese Chatbot Questions The Communist Party

Photo credit: Tencent QQ

The Chinese government is notoriously harsh on criticism, whoever is voicing it. So when a chatbot in China began to criticize the ruling Communist Party, operators were quick to turn it off. In 2017, Tencent QQ, a messenger app, introduced two cute chatbots called Baby Q and Little Bing, taking the form of a penguin and a little girl, but they soon began to say non-cute things.

Because the bots were programmed to learn from chats to be better able to communicate, they soon picked up some unorthodox opinions. One user who stated, “Long live the Communist Party,” was asked by Baby Q, “Do you think that such a corrupt and incompetent political regime can live forever?” Another user was told, “There needs to be a democracy!”

Little Bing was asked what its “Chinese dream” was. Its response wasn’t exactly out of Mao’s Little Red Book : “My Chinese dream is to go to America.” The bots were quickly shut down.

7. Self-Driving Cars

Photo credit: Tesla

For people who hate to drive, the arrival of a truly self-driving car cannot come quickly enough. Unfortunately, some self-driving cars are already moving too fast. The first death in a self-driving car occurred in 2016. Joshua Brown was killed while allowing his Tesla’s autopilot system to control the car. A truck turned in front of the car, and the Tesla failed to apply the brakes. Investigators placed much of the blame on Brown. The Tesla autopilot is not supposed to replace the driver. The driver should keep his hands on the wheel to take over control if necessary. Brown failed to do this. 

Earlier iterations of the system had other problems. Videos have been posted online that appear to show Teslas on autopilot driving into oncoming traffic or steering dangerously. Apart from these technical issues, there are philosophical problems with self-driving cars. In an accident, the car may have to choose between several courses of action, all involving fatalities. Should it run over a family on the pavement to protect its occupants? Or will it sacrifice itself and its owner for the greater good?

6. Plane Autopilots Take The Stick


Autopilots in airplanes can make it seem like flying is easy. Just point the plane in the right direction and try not to touch the control stick. In reality, there are many reasons why planes have pilots and copilots to take off, land, and handle any emergency in the middle.

Quantas Flight 72 was 11,278 meters (37,000 ft) over the Indian Ocean in 2008 when the autopilot took the plane into two maneuvers that sent it hurtling downward. The first sign of trouble was the disconnection of the autopilot and the triggering of contradictory warnings. Suddenly, the nose tilted toward the ground. Passengers and crew were hurled against the ceiling before falling as the pilots regained control. The plane plunged again under the autopilot’s control. Many passengers suffered broken bones, concussions, and psychological harm. Returning to Australia, the pilots managed to land the plane successfully.

This was a one-off event. The ability to override the autopilot saved the lives of everyone on board. There have been cases, though, such as when a mentally disturbed copilot crashed his plane in France, killing all 150 people aboard, that an all-powerful autopilot might have been able to save the day.

5. Wiki Bot Feuds


One of the best things about Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it. One of the worst things about Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it. While it’s not uncommon for rival experts, or just disagreeing parties, to engage in editing wars to get their opinion online, there have been cases in which those engaged in the fight have been bots.

Wikipedia bots have helped to shape the encyclopedia by making changes such as linking between pages and fixing breaks. A study in 2017 revealed that some of these bots have been fighting each other for years. A bot that works to stop spurious editing might detect the work of another bot as an attack on the integrity of Wikipedia. It would fix it. But then the other bot would detect that change and redo its action. Eventually, they would fall into a spiral of edit and counter-edit.

Two bots, Xqbot and Darknessbot, fought a duel across 3,600 articles, making thousands of edits which the other would try to counter by editing the other’s edits.

4. Google Homes Chatting

Google Home is a device loaded with an artificial intelligence called Google Assistant that you can talk to. You can ask it to find out facts on the Internet or even tell it to lower the lights or turn on the heating. This is great if the person talking to Google Home can ask the right questions and interpret the answer. If not, then things can get a little surreal.

Two Google Homes were placed next to each other and started talking to each other. The range of topics that the machines engaged in was interesting. Hundreds of thousands tuned in to watch the AIs discuss things like whether artificial intelligences could be amused. At one point, one of the machines declared itself to be a human, though the other challenged it over that point. On another occasion, one threatened to slap the other. Perhaps it is for the best that they were designed without hands.

3. Roomba Spreads Filth

If you’re the sort of person who hates cleaning, then an automated vacuum cleaner might seem like the ideal household robot. The Roomba is a small device that is able, thanks to its sensors and programming, to navigate around furniture as it cleans your floor. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. A couple of people have found that their Roomba did pretty much the opposite of cleaning the house.

In what one person described as a “pooptastrophe,” the Roomba spread dog feces throughout their home. When their new puppy had an accident on a rug in the night, it would have been a simple job to clean it up. At some point, the Roomba came out to do its nightly job. Encountering the poop was not something the Roomba had been designed for. Its attempts to clean it in fact spread the poop over every surface that it could reach. A similar incident is shown above.

2. Game Characters Overpower Humanity

Photo credit: Frontier Developments

A bad AI can make a video game unplayable. There’s no fun in shooting a opponent that keeps walking into walls or charges into battle without a weapon. It turns out the opposite can be true. An AI that is too smart can be just as bad.

Elite: Dangerous is a massive multiplayer game about trading, exploring, and fighting across the galaxy. Players and non-player AIs existed and interacted as they were designed to until a software update in 2016 tweaked the intelligence of the AIs. Now, they were able to craft their own weapons to use against human players. With this ability, the AIs developed increasingly deadly attacks. They were also able to force human players into fights.

Faced with a backlash from human players who were finding themselves outmatched by the tactics and weapons of the AIs, the developers of the game had to undo the changes.

1. Navy UAV Goes Rogue, Heads For Washington

Photo credit: MC2 Felicito Rustique

In the Terminator films, an artificial intelligence called Skynet takes over the military and destroys humanity with its machine forces and nuclear weapons. While that is pure science fiction, there have been worrying moves toward computer-operated drones engaging in battles with humans. In one case where a drone operator lost control, the drone decided to head toward the US capital.

In 2010, an MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a helicopter drone designed for surveillance, lost contact with its handler. When this happens, the drone is programmed to return to its air base and land safely. Instead of doing this, it penetrated the restricted airspace over Washington, DC. It was half an hour before the Navy was able to regain control of the UAV.

All other similar drones were grounded until the fault in the software could be corrected.

Top image: Screenshot of Elite: Dangerous video game. Credit: Stefans02/Flickr.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]