Doomsday Clock Ticks Half-Minute Closer to Midnight in Historic Move

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Doomsday Clock Ticks Half-Minute Closer to Midnight in Historic Move

Are Earth’s Magnetic Poles About to Flip?

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Are Earth’s Magnetic Poles About to Flip?

Photos: Gold, Amber and Bronze Treasures Found in Iron Age Grave

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Photos: Gold, Amber and Bronze Treasures Found in Iron Age Grave

An Epic One-Kilometer Cliff On The Surface Of Rosetta’s Comet

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An Epic One-Kilometer Cliff On The Surface Of Rosetta’s Comet

12/24/14 10:00am

While sifting through images taken by the Rosetta spacecraft of Comet 67P, an amateur British astronomer has uncovered a previously unknown vertical cliff that looks like something right out of Mordor.

The original image was captured by Rosetta’s NavCam at a distance of 20.1 km from the center of the comet on December 10.

But it was Stuart Atkinson who noticed the one kilometer (0.62 mile) cliff. As he writes on his blog:

[As] soon as I saw that image I could see one area was just crying out to be cropped and turned into one of my landscape views – there was our best view yet of the towering cliff face on the inside of the small lobe…Looking at that part of the image I could see that with a little work (which turned out to be a LOT of work, but never mind!) those cliffs could be isolated and their true magnificence brought out. So, that’s what I started to do, and some time later this is what I came up with…

Looking at the foot of the cliff, you can see some relatively smooth terrain dotted by boulders, some of them as large as 20 meters (65 feet) across.

It may look daunting, but owing to the extreme low gravity on the comet, a human could actually survive the jump.

Atkinson’s processed image earned him NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Dayyesterday. In response, he said it wouldn’t have been possible if the ESA didn’t make its photos available to the public. In a follow-up blog post he writes:

I am so, so happy about that, seriously. Not just because personally it is nice to have an image which took a long time to make being seen and shared so widely now, but mainly because it shows why the ESA decision to regularly release navcam images from the ROSETTA mission was the right one to take – it has allowed people like me to use ROSETTA images for Outreach, and to promote the mission to the media and the public. Every reTweet and every FB share and comment proves how much interest in the mission there is out here. People are blown away by that image and the view of the cliffs it shows, so thank you AGAIN to ESA for letting us see the navcam images and allowing us to use and play with them!

Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0/Stuart Atkinson

This Jet From Rosetta’s Comet was so Strong it Disrupted the Solar Wind

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This Jet From Rosetta’s Comet was so Strong it Disrupted the Solar Wind

8/12/15 8:30am

As Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko sneaks closer to the sun, the Rosetta orbiter is capturing dramatic outbursts from the ever-more active comet. This jet was so powerful, it momentarily out-puffed the solar wind, creating a rarely-observed diamagnetic cavity.

The quiescent comet on August 6, 2014 and the far more active comet year later on August 6, 2015. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko will reach perihelion on Thursday, August 13, the closest that it will get to the sun during its 6.5 year orbit. As the comet creeps closer to the sun, it is growing more active. Ice is sublimating directly into gas that explodes in dramatic dust-loaded jets, whilechunks of ice ranging from a meter to a whopping 40 meters in diameter are shucking off the comet and falling into space. Fractures are splintering across the surface, and up to 40% of the previously-smooth plains have remouldedsince Rosetta arrived in orbit last year.

The Anuket region on the neck of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko produced a short-lived, powerful jet on July 29, 2015. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

This beautiful jet appeared, spurted gas and jet into space, and vanished again all in under an hour on July 29, 2015. The jet originated from the rugged Anuket region on the comet’s neck. The Rosetta spacecraft was 186 kilometers above the comet’s center of mass at the time of the outburst.

This isn’t the first jet the team has observed from the comet, but it is the brightest. Normally the jets are significantly dimmer than the rest of the comet, requiring an extreme contrast stretch to make them visible in photographs. This time, the jet was brighter than the comet’s nucleus.

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko seen by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera at 13:06 GMT, 13:24 GMT, and 13:42 GMT on July 29, 2015. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The outburst produced a diamagnetic cavity, a temporary drop in the comet’s magnetic field. The comet is not magnetic, so its magnetic field is entirely the result of the solar wind. With gas escaping from the comet at a velocity of at least 10 m/s, researchers suspect the jet’s outburst was powerful enough to deflect the solar wind. The outburst of gas temporarily shoved the perpetually-smothering solar wind farther from the comet’s nucleus than usual, changing the pressure balance. It was powerful enough to push this cavity all the way out to Rosetta, creating a magnetic field-free region that stretched at least 186 kilometers away from the comet.

This is the first time a diamagnetic cavity has been observed since the Giotto satellite zipped past Comet Halley at 4,000 kilometers distance in 1986.Magnetometer team member Charlotte Götz grins:

“Finding a magnetic field-free region anyway in the Solar System is really hard, but here we’ve had it served to us on a silver platter – this is a really exciting result for us.”

The science team was hoping to find diamagnetic cavities on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, although smaller than the one observed on Comet Halley. The new observations of this brief pocket in the solar wind will provide important data on comet/solar wind interactions.

The July 29 jet coincided with a temporary drop in the comet’s magnetic field strength, producing a diamagnetic cavity. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/RPC/IGEP/IC

In the aftermath of the jet, other instruments on the Rosetta spacecraft picked up changes in the structure and composition of the gas surrounding the comet. Principle investigator for the spacecraft’s pressure sensor ROSINA, Kathrin Altwegg, explained:

“This first ‘quick look’ at our measurements after the outburst is fascinating. We also see hints of heavy organic material after the outburst that might be related to the ejected dust. But while it is tempting to think that we are detecting material that may have been freed from beneath the comet’s surface, it is too early to say for certain that this is the case.”

The gas envelope surrounding the comet, or its coma, had twice the carbon dioxide (CO2), four times the methane (CH4), and seven times the hydrogen sulphide (H2S) after the outburst compared to two days earlier. The nasty-smelling combination has draped the comet in the stench of rotting eggs and farts, offering faint mercies that the highly-anthropomorphized Rosetta spacecraft isn’t actually alive and possessing a keen sense of smell to go with the mass spectrometer. Of all the gases monitored by the instrument, only the water (H2O) content stayed roughly constant.

Changes in the gas content of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko’s coma compared to two days before the outburst. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/ROSINA/UBern/ BIRA/LATMOS/LMM/IRAP/MPS/SwRI/TUB/UMich

The dust also stepped up its game, increasing by a factor of ten after the outburst. The dust counter typically picked up 1 to 3 hits per day in early July, which increased to 30 hits per day 14 hours after the outburst, and briefly peaking at 70 hits within a 4-hour window the following day. The GAIDA dust counter’s principle investigator Alessandra Rotundi points out it wasn’t just the sheer amount of dust that increased, but also its velocity:

“It was not only the abundance of the particles, but also their speeds measured by GIADA that told us something ‘different’ was happening: the average particle speed increased from 8 m/s to about 20 m/s, with peaks at 30 m/s – it was quite a dust party!”

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko will reach perihelion, its closest approach to the sun, on Thursday August 13, 2015. Image credit: ESA

The comet is most active at perihelion because sunlight is flooding into areas that have been shadowed for years, suddenly bumping surface temperatures. The comet’s activity is expected to lag, peaking in the weeks following perihelion on Thursday. While in this highly active phase, the Rosetta spacecraft is pulling up to 300 kilometers away from the surface to hopefully avoid the worst of the shedding boulders, jets, and any other unpredictable activity.


Top image: An outburst from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on July 29, 2015 seen from 186 kilometers altitude above the comet’s center of mass. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA/Mika McKinnon

Watch Rosetta’s Entire Mission to a Comet in Just Four Minutes

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Watch Rosetta’s Entire Mission to a Comet in Just Four Minutes

12/23/16 9:45am

With the historic Rosetta mission now over, the ESA has compiled a four-minute simulation showing the spacecraft’s complete journey as it weaved around Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Things get started on July 31st, 2014 as Rosetta began to wind down its 10-year journey to the comet. The probe came to within 60 miles (100 km) on August 6th, and from there, it gradually approached the oddly-shaped comet. Its initial flybys provided the first close-up images of the comet, while allowing mission planners to choose a landing site for the soon-to-be ill-fated Philae lander.

Key stages in the mission include Rosetta’s maneuvers as it prepared to dispatch Philae to the comet’s surface, close flybys in February and March of 2015, and course corrections performed to protect the probe from the comet’s increased activity in August 2015. In the spring of 2016, Rosetta went on another far excursion, followed by a close flyby when its instruments made several critical observations.

Starting in August 2016, the probe began to fly a series of elliptical orbits that brought it progressively closer to the comet. On September 29th, Rosetta was deliberately maneuvered onto a collision course with the giant rock. The probe struck the surface on September 30th in the Ma’at region on the comet’s head, finally ending the historic mission.

Watching the simulation, it’s important to point out that, while Rosetta’s trajectory is accurate, the comet’s rotation is not. The arrow indicates the direction to the sun as the camera viewpoint changes over the course of the simulation.


George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

Lost Japanese Spacecraft Has Made a Key Measurement on Rosetta’s Comet

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Lost Japanese Spacecraft Has Made a Key Measurement on Rosetta’s Comet

Friday 11:20am

Image: NAOJ/ESA/Go Myazaki

Japan’s Proximate Object Close Flyby with Optical Navigation (PROCYON) has been lost in space ever since its ion thrusters blew out in 2014. Since then, the tiny spacecraft has done its best to be useful, orbiting the Sun by itself. A new study reveals the PROCYON made some impressive observations on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the same comet the Rosetta spacecraftobserved for two years before ending its mission in 2016.

In September 2015, an international team of researchers used PROCYON’s LAICA telescope to observe Comet 67P while Rosetta was still inside the cloud surrounding the nucleus of the comet, called the coma. The micro spacecraft happened to be in the right place at the right time—though the researchers weren’t planning to use PROCYON to observe Comet 67P, at the time, it had a better view of the comet than Rosetta. For this reason, it was able to accurately measure the amount of water discharge on the comet. The researchers’ findings have been published in the February 2017 edition of The Astronomical Journal.

“The water production rate of a comet is one of the fundamental parameters necessary to understand cometary activity when a comet approaches the Sun …because water is the most abundant icy material in the cometary nucleus,” researchers wrote.

By studying the quality and quantity of water on comets, we might better understand the origins of water on Earth. It’s long been hypothesized that a barrage of meteorites crashing into Earth could be responsible for some of the water on our Blue Marble. More generally, studying the activity on the surface of comets can shed light on how these mysterious balls of ice and rock have evolved over the history of the solar system.

The team was able to take its measurements and use them test out water production rates on a coma model, which allowed them to confirm an intriguing relationship: the closer an object is to the Sun, the higher its water production rate.

It’s a big achievement for a wayward spacecraft. According to the research team, these measurements mark the “first scientific achievement by a micro spacecraft for deep space exploration.” Because micro spacecrafts are remarkably cheaper than their larger siblings, the team hopes this feat will be a “model case” to inspire more micro spacecraft missions.

[National Astronomical Observatory of Japan]

Space Writer, Gizmodo

Bear Ears Buttes in Utah

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Bear Ears Buttes in Utah

Known as Bear Ears for the pair of purple buttes at the region’s center, the newly proclaimed 1.9 million-acre National Monument will preserve a photographer’s checklist of high-desert drama: spires, bridges, canyons. Yet the region’s true distinction is not its topography, but its cultural significance; perhaps no place in America is as rich with ancient Native American sites as Bear Ears. In October 2015, a coalition of five Indian nations, including the Hopi, Ute, and Navajo, formally proposed the monument, attempting to preserve the parcel’s 100,000 archeological sites from ongoing looting and grave robbing. Last June, in a letter to President Obama, more than 700 archeologists endorsed the proposal, saying that looting of the area’s many ancient kivas and dwellings was continuing “at an alarming pace” and calling Bear Ears “America’s most significant unprotected cultural landscape.” President Obama designated Bear Ears Butte and Gold Buttes in Nevada as protected National monuments at the end of last month. The incoming Trump administration, along with the Republican-controlled congress, and Utah state officials, could mount a legal challenge against that designation.–By European Pressphoto Agency.
Muddy water fills a small slot canyon in the Bear Ears National Monument near Fry Canyon, Utah, USA on Nov.12. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
A nearly-full ‘supermoon’ rises at dusk above the Valley of the Gods in the Bear Ears National Monument. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
The 1000-year-old Wolfman Petroglyph Panel adorns a rockface within the Bear Ears National Monument near Bluff, Utah, (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
The sun sets on Cedar Mesa (top), while Utah Highway 261 (bottom) stretches into the distance in a car’s side mirror within the Bear Ears National Monument near Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
Two thousand-year-old petroglyphs carved into a rock panel known as ‘Newspaper Rock,’ part of Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument, are within the boundaries of the Bear Ears National Monument near Monticello, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
Two trucks drive near U.S. Route 163 within the Bear Ears National Monument near Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
The Colorado River winds around the northern reaches of the Bear Ears National Monument (center), with Canyonlands National Park in the background, viewed from Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
The 8,700-foot-tall Bear Ears Buttes, namesake to the Bear Ears National Monument, are seen from Utah Highway 261 near Blanding, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
Sandstone formations rise from the Valley of the Gods under a full moon in the Bear Ears National Monument near Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
A long exposure picture shows moonlight illuminating four sharp bends in the Colorado River, viewed from Goosenecks State Park, in the Bear Ears National Monument near Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
A car travels along Utah Highway 261 across a sandstone valley known as the ‘Valley of the Gods’ in the Bear Ears National Monument near Mexican Hat. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
Moonlight illuminates sandstone buttes in the Valley of the Gods in the proposed Bear Ears National Monument near Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
Eight hundred-year-old Ancestral Pueblo ruins, known as ‘House on Fire Ruins’ for the smoldering color of its sandstone, are among the 100,000 archeological sites within the Bear Ears National Monument near Blanding, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
Two thousand-year-old petroglyphs carved into a rock panel known as ‘Newspaper Rock,’ in Bear Ears National Monument. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
The view from Cedar Mesa, which is within the Bear Ears National Monument, extends 18 miles (29 kilometers) south to the sandstone buttes of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (which is not part of the monument) near Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
In a long-exposure image at night, car lights illuminate the Moki Dugway, a series of steep switchbacks that climb 1,200 feet (366 meters) from the Valley of the Gods to the top of Cedar Mesa in the Bear Ears National Monument near Mexican Hat, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
A Navajo woman sells jewelry from the hood of her car to raise money for her daughter, in the framed photograph, to make a class trip within the Bear Ears National Monument near Monticello, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
The moon rises above the Colorado River as it winds around the northern reaches of the Bear Ears National Monument near Moab, Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
A nearly-full ‘supermoon’ rises at dusk above the Valley of the Gods in the Bear Ears National Monument. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

10 Accounts Of Evil Servants That Will Terrify You

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10 Accounts Of Evil Servants That Will Terrify You


The following cases detail grizzly crimes committed long ago at the hands of trusted household servants. The majority of the sentences handed down, though harsh, were precedent in setting the dismal and merciless tone that capital punishment embodied in America and Europe.

10Bridget Durgan

Bridget Durgan

In the late 19th century, popular ideology considered servants as society’s lower class, easily susceptible to a life of crime and murder. Such a critique was bestowed upon Bridget Durgan, an Irish servant described in tabloids throughout the US as “a wild beast and fiend.”

In 1867, Durgan stabbed her employer, Mrs. Coriel, to death. Newspapers speculated that Durgan was in love with and wanted to marry Mr. Coriel, even at times taunting the victim about the scandalous and unspeakable affair the duo were having. The ultimate punishment was handed down to the “hideous criminal,” as the media so indefatigably described her. Durgan was executed that same year by the state of New Jersey.


9Sisterly Love

Christine and Lea Papin

Photo via Murderpedia

In a quiet French village in 1933, sisters Christine and Lea Papin were ideal and trusted housekeepers to their overbearing and tyrannical employer, Madame Danzard. The girls, who shared a bed in their tiny attic room, lived lonely, uneventful lives, which inexplicably morphed into an intimate, incestuous relationship. When their newfound unsisterly feelings were discovered and threatened by the extremely proper Danzard, the sistersresorted to butchery.

After seven years of esteemed service, the girls stabbed Madame Danzard to death as well as her daughter, mutilating their bodies and gouging out their eyes. They immediately confessed to their grisly crime following their arrest, and the trial ultimately became a national headline sensation. In the end, Lea was sentenced to ten years of hard labor. Christine died four years later in a mental asylum.

8Mary Wallis

In July 1870, nine-month-old Albert H. Reed was dead, poisoned at the hands of 16-year-old Mary Wallis. Wallis was a black housemaid who inexplicably became involved in a bitter feud with the infant’s nurse. In a diabolical attempt to cast an indubitable and unforgiving castigation on her nemesis, Wallis mercilessly poisoned the infant, lacing the nine-month-old’s milk with strychnine. Her fatal plot was designed to cast blame of the child’s death onto the nurse whom she despised.

Inevitably, her scheme dreadfully deteriorated, and she was sentenced to death. Her punishment was met with harsh condemnation, given her age and mental state. However, the protests fell on deaf ears when it came to the presiding judge. Wallis’s sentence was upheld, and she was hanged in the Upper Marlboro, Maryland, jail yard in February 1871.


7The ‘Barnes Mystery’

Kate Webster

In 1879, wealthy Englishwoman Julia Martha Thomas was pushed down a flight of stairs by her maid, Kate Webster. In a drunken rage, Kate proceeded to strangle Thomas, killing her. She then dismembered the remains. After scorching the mutilated body of her former employer, Kate cast a majority of the remains down the River Thames while feeding the leftovers to neighborhood children, claiming the remains to be pig lard.

The whereabouts of Thomas’s head remained a mystery until 2010, when her skull was found during an excavation of an English garden. After officially confirming the cranium was that of Julia Martha Thomas, it was determined that she had died of head trauma and asphyxiation. As for Thomas’s murderous maid, Kate was hanged for her crime at Wandsworth Prison on July 29, 1879.

6Bloodstained Screwdriver

In March 1931, a group of attorneys were waiting anxiously for the arrival of Cornelius Kahlen, a wealthy real estate owner who had scheduled the meeting to discuss his property dealings. Much to everyone’s surprise, a man burst through the doors holding a bloodstained screwdriver in his trembling hand. “Cornelius Kahlen won’t be down,” said the man. “I have just killed him.”

The body of the 75-year-old real estate mogul was found in his ritzy New York City apartment, having been stabbed 20 to 30 times. The culprit at the center of it all was Kahlen’s trusted servant, Moramarco, who was accused of having an affair with Kahlen’s elderly wife at the time of the murder. According to Moramarco, he committed the murder after he came to believe that Kahlen was planning on moving to Germany, leaving his wife and Moramarco himself destitute.

5Grace Marks

Grace Marks and James McDermott

Photo credit: Toronto Public Library via Murderpedia

On July 23, 1843, 16-year-old maid Grace Marks and stable hand James McDermott shot and killed their wealthy employer, Thomas Kinnear. Earlier that day, they’d strangled their fellow housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. The sensationalism of the case attracted attention all over Canada, with newspapers reporting of a scandalous affair not only between the murderous servants but the victims as well. In fact, Nancy, also Kinnear’s mistress, was found to have been pregnant during her autopsy.

Following their capture, Grace Marks and James McDermott were convicted of murder and sentenced to death, with Marks’s sentence being commuted to life in prison. Prior to his hanging, McDermott expressed disdain at the unjust reprieve of Marks’s initial sentence, vehemently insisting that she was the instigator of the crime.


4A Rectory in Ireland

As night fell on the village of Balbriggan, Ireland, in May 1928, Father James McKeone anxiously awaited the return of Mary Callan, the rectory’s pretty 19-year-old housekeeper of three years. With Mary’s whereabouts still unknown the following morning and with no reason to believe she had left the vicinity of her own free will, Father McKeone alerted the town’s policeman, and a search party quickly ensued.

Weeks later, Mary’s dismembered body was found in a sewn-up sack that had been tossed in a quarry as if it were garbage. The culprit was 20-year-old Gerard Toal, a handyman and servant who worked beside Mary and lived at the rectory. Upon finding indisputable evidence in the fireplace of Toal’s room, he confessed to strangling Mary after being scolded by her for his blatant inattention to his duties. Toal’s confession afforded him no leniency, and he was subsequently sentenced to death.

3Archibald Hall

Archibald Hall

Photo via BBC News

Determined to refine everything about his character, con man and burglar Archibald Hall changed his name to Roy Fontaine, eradicated his Glaswegian accent, and studied antiquity and social etiquette. In 1977, Fontaine became a butler to Lady Margaret Hudson, only to have the prospects of his newfound life jeopardized soon after by the unexpected presence of David Wright. Wright, an ex-cellmate and former lover of Fontaine’s, was shot in the back of the head after threatening to expose Fontaine’s past.

Throughout the next year, Fontaine would go on a murderous rampage, killing various wealthy, elite employers as well as anyone who stood in his way. Upon his capture in 1978, Fontaine confessed to murdering his former lover, two employers, an accomplice, and another man and then led police to their buried remains. He was sentenced by British and Scottish courts to life imprisonment and died in 2002.

2Alice Riley

Alice Riley

Photo via the Savannah Morning News

On March 1, 1734, William Wise was found lying in his bed with his head submerged in a large pail of water. He had been strangled and drowned, becoming the first official murder in the colony of Savannah. The alibis and whereabouts of Alice Riley and Richard White, Wise’s Irish indentured servants, were unknown. The two had become lovers while under Wise’s “abusive and degenerate” rule, leading to their brash and heinous crime. Their brief romance ended upon their capture.

The pair would be sentenced to death. Alice, who was pregnant at the time of her sentencing, had her execution date postponed. Four weeks after she gave birth to a son, Alice was sent to the gallows, becoming the first woman to be executed in Georgia.

1Dinner At The Wrights’

In 1914, Julian Carlton, a black servant at the Wright household in Wisconsin, served dinner to unsuspecting guests, whom he would soon trap and murder. As the party dined, Carlton doused the dining room door in gasoline and lit a match, creating a chamber of flames. Those who tried to escape were struck down with a hatchet by Carlton.

Interestingly enough, the home of the grisliest scene in Wisconsin history belonged to one of the world’s most renowned architects, Frank Lloyd Wright, who was away on business at the time. The “Crime of the Century” came to an abrupt end with Carlton killing himself by drinking a bottle of acid prior to his arrest.

10 Facts About Ancient Egyptian Animals That Will Blow Your Mind

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10 Facts About Ancient Egyptian Animals That Will Blow Your Mind


Egypt was one of the first great civilizations on earth. They lived at the dawn of history, in a time that was very different from the world we live in today.

One of those differences was their gods. The Egyptian gods had the heads of animals. That might seem like a tiny detail, but it changed the way the lived in more ways than you might imagine. In homage to their gods, the Egyptians treated animals with a reverence that we don’t share—and that led to some truly bizarre moments that history usually leaves out.

10They Gave A Bull A Harem


Photo credit: Wikimedia

Throughout most of Egyptian history, there was always one lucky bull who got treated like a god. They called this bull “Apis,” a divine animal made flesh on Earth. They would choose one with what they believed were holy markings, bring it to the temple, and give it a treatment that human beings could only dream of.

The bull’s life was amazing. He received a harem of cow concubines to choose from and lived on a diet of cakes and honey. The Egyptians would throw parties on the bull’s birthday, and they would let him choose their oracles. They even performed sacrifices for the bull. They would bring oxen and cows in front of him and butcher them in tribute—which must have come across as a bit of a mixed message.

Human women were forbidden to touch the holy bull—except for during a fourth-month period when it would be brought to the city Nicopolis. There, the women would bare their bodies in front of the animal. Just because it was a bull, the Egyptians figured, didn’t mean it couldn’t appreciate a woman’s breasts.

When the bull died, it received a king’s burial. Then a new bull was chosen, and the whole routine started over again.


9Egyptians Kept Tamed Hyenas As Pets


Photo credit: Wikimedia

Before we settled on dogs and cats, humanity experimented with domesticating some strange animals. 5,000 years ago, the Egyptians tried to domesticate the last one you’d expect: They kept hyenas as pets.

Based on the images left behind in the tombs of pharaohs, hyenas were used like hunting dogs in 2800 BC. Great Egyptian rulers would chase after animals with a mixed pack of hunting dogs and hyenas.

They were not, however, particularly sentimental about these pets. While the hyenas enjoyed domestic life, their owners were fattening them up for supper. Once a hyena got big enough, it was killed, stuffed full of food and spices, and fried up for a feast.

Hyenas don’t seem to have caught on as a pet. After a few generations, the Egyptians gave up on keeping savage, cackling animals around the home. For what was probably a very good reason, it was cats and dogs that stuck around.

8The First Pharaoh Of A United Egypt Died By A Hippo


Photo credit: Wikimedia

King Menes was the first Pharaoh to rule over both Upper and Lower Egypt. He lived around 3000 BC, and he was one of the great legendary figures of Egyptian history. He united the nations, ruled over them for 60 years, and then was dragged off and killed by a hippopotamus.

There aren’t really any other details to this story. The whole thing from the Egyptian historian Manetho, who simply wrote, “Menes was the first king. He was snatched and killed by a hippopotamus.” and left it at that as though he couldn’t imagine anyone having any follow-up questions about how, exactly, that went down.

Since this happened 5,000 years ago, it’s perfectly possible that it’s just a myth—but that’s even stranger. Menes was an Egyptian hero. If the story’s made-up, then that means that the Egyptians viewed being dragged off and killed by a hippo as an end fit for the greatest of kings.


7Mongooses Were Considered Sacred


Photo credit: Wikimedia

To the Egyptians, those furry little critters we call mongooses were among the most sacred of all animals. They had seen mongooses kill cobras, and they were impressed. They made bronze statues in honor of mongooses and wore mongoose amulets for protection.

People kept mongooses as pets, too. Some Egyptians have been found buried with the mummified remains of their pet mongoose. They even worked them into their mythology. The god Ra, according to one of their stories, would transform into a mongoose to fight evil.

The craziest story, though, was one they insisted really happened. The Egyptians claim that one legendary mongoose was spotted climbing into a sleeping crocodile’s open mouth. The little furry critter climbed into the reptile’s belly and then ate its way out.

6Killing A Cat Was Punishable By Death


Photo credit: Wikimedia

In Egypt, the penalty for killing a cat was death. This wasn’t just a law against cruelty to animals or sadistic cat-killings—all you had to do was accidentally run over a cat with your chariot and you’d be put to death.

There were no exceptions. One writer, Diodorus Siculus, recorded that the king of Egypt personally intervened to try to save a Roman man who accidentally killed a cat. His people, though, showed no mercy, even if it meant risking war with Rome. They formed a mob, lynched him, and left his dead body in the streets.

Their love of cats would create a catastrophe when, in 525 BC, they were invaded by Persia. The Persians painted the image of an Egyptian cat goddess on their shields and marched behind a line of dogs, sheep, cats and, in their words, “whatever other animals the Egyptians hold dear.”

The Egyptians were so afraid of accidentally hurting the cats that they surrendered to keep the cats safe. It didn’t do the animals much good. After winning the war, the king of Persia reportedly went around Egypt throwing cats in people’s faces.

5When A Cat Died, Families Went Into Mourning


Photo credit: Wikimedia

The death of cat was a tragedy. Losing your pet cat was treated more or less like losing your wife. The whole family would go into mourning, which, in Egypt, meant they had to shave their eyebrows off.

The dead cat’s body would be wrapped in fine linens and taken to be embalmed. There, its little body would be treated with cedar oil and spices to give a sweet smell. Then it would be mummified and buried in a catacomb along with a supply of milk, mice, and rats for the afterlife.

These cat tombs were massive. In one, 80,000 dead cats were found, every one carefully embalmed and cared for before being buried in its tomb.


4They Hunted With Trained Cheetahs


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Big cats, like lions, could be hunted—but the Egyptian definition of “big” was a bit different from ours. By Egyptian standards, a cheetah was considered a “smaller cat”—something harmless enough to keep around the home.

While the average Egyptian home probably wouldn’t have a pet cheetah, some of the pharaohs did. Ramses II, in particular, filled his palace with tamed lions and cheetahs. And he wasn’t the only one to keep cheetahs around. Ancient tomb paintings show Egyptian kings going out hunting with a tamed cheetah at their side.

3They Had A City For Sacred Crocodiles


Photo credit: Hedwig Storch

The Egyptian city Crocodilopolis was the religious center of an entire cult dedicated to a crocodile god named Sobek. Here, they kept a sacred crocodile, which they named Suchus. People from all over would come to make pilgrimages to see it.

The crocodile was covered in gold and jewelry, and he had a group of priests attending to him at all times. People would bring gifts of food for the crocodile, and these priests would pry open its mouth and force the crocodile to eat it. They’d even get it drunk. One priest would have to hold open the crocodile’s mouth while the other poured in wine.

When the crocodile died, it received a hero’s funeral. Its body would be wrapped up in fine linen bandages, and it was mummified, buried in the catacombs below. Then they’d pick a new crocodile to wear jewels and drink wine.

2They Thought Scarabs Were Magically Born In Dung


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You’ve probably seen pictures of Egyptians wearing those little scarab amulets. Those things were real, and they were just as widespread as they are in the movies. Everyone, from the rich to the poor, wore them. The Egyptians believed that scarabs had magic power. Movies, though, usually leave why they thought they were magic.

Scarab beetles like to roll balls of dung on the ground and bury them in burrows. The females then lay their eggs in the dung, and their young come out of it. Egyptians saw most of that process happen, but they missed the egg-laying part. They figured that scarabs didn’t have mothers at all. Scarabs, they believed, just magically emerged out of poop.

They even believed that the Sun was just a big version of those balls being pushed by a gigantic scarab god. Don’t read too deep into that, though. That doesn’t mean they thought the Sun was a big ball of scarab dung. They couldn’t have—they didn’t even realize that they were balls of dung.

It’s much grosser than that. They thought the beetles were rolling balls of their own sperm.

1Two Pharaohs Went To War Over A Pet Hippo


One of Egypt’s greatest wars was over the pharaoh’s pet hippos. Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao II kept a pool full of pet hippopotamuses, where he’d let his massive pets splash and play. This man loved his hippos. He was willing to die for them—in fact, he literally did just that.

At this time, Egypt was divided. The most powerful Egyptian kingdom was called Hyksos, which was ruled by Pharaoh Apopi. Being a lesser king, Seqenenre was required to pay tributes to Apopi. He could handle the humiliation of living under the tyranny of another man—until Apopi told him to get rid of his hippos.

Apopi sent a message to Seqenenre saying that his hippos were so loud he couldn’t sleep. Apopi lived 750 kilometers away, so this was just him being a jerk. Seqenenre, though, would not tolerate insults to his hippos. This, he declared, was grounds for war.

Seqenenre led his military into war against Apopi. He even died in combat,fighting for his right to a hippo pool. The war didn’t end there, though. His son kept it going. Two generations of kings fought for that hippo pool—and, in time, they won. By the end of the war, Egypt had unified once more, all because of one man’s love for his hippos.