Scientists Are Already Planning the Next Mission to Pluto

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Scientists Are Already Planning the Next Mission to Pluto

Wednesday 12:48pm

Image: NASA

The Pluto-shaped void in our hearts has yet to be filled by Planet 9, copious amounts of Ben & Jerry’s, or anything. Ever since the summer of 2015, when NASA’s New Horizons performed a six-month-long reconnaissance flyby study of Pluto and its moons, fans of the dwarf planet have wondered if or when we’d ever go back. According to New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, he and some other planetary scientists are already drawing up the blueprint for a return trip—and this time, it’d be much more than just a flyby.

“The news is not that we have a specific mission design,” Stern told Gizmodo. “The news is that the community is forming around the concept of going back to Pluto with an orbiter mission that would stay and study the planet for years, and do it in ways that we could not have in a simple flyby like New Horizons. It would have much more advanced instrumentation and the ability to map every square inch of the planet, and unravel all the complexity that we found.”


New Horizons, which left Earth on January 19th, 2006, was able to provide us with an unprecedented look at some of the mysterious worlds of the Kuiper Belt, including Pluto, its large moon Charon, and four baby moons—Nix, Hydra, Styx and Kerberos—which are very appropriately named for the Greek underworld gods. We discovered that Pluto is an astonishingly dynamic place, with mountains, chasms, a billowy atmosphere, and maybe even a massive subsurface ocean. Best of all, we learned that the icy world has a soft side, with some unforgettable New Horizons images of the dwarf planet’s heart.

Still, many lingering mysteries remain. Pluto might have wind-blown dunes on it, features thought to be impossible before the flyby. Its mountains, which are made of frozen water, could reveal many secrets about geologic activity on the dwarf planet today. With so much left to learn, the only way to get answers is to go back. And unlike the New Horizons flyby, which didn’t spend enough time loitering to even map both of Pluto’s hemispheres at high resolution, much less monitor changes on the surface, an orbiter that remains in the Pluto system for several years would be able to do both.

“Going back to Pluto is becoming, in the scientific community, a real growing concern instead of just scattered conversation,” Stern said. And so, a few days ago, he and 34 scientists gathered in Houston, Texas to start mapping out what an orbiter mission would look like. Some of this new team is comprised of New Horizons members and seasoned pros in the field, in addition to scientists at the start of their careers.

“You won’t see it presented in the next few months, but I’m sure that by next year you’ll see it in many places,” Stern said. He added that this October, he and his team plan to have a workshop on their new mission concept at the49th meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences.

“We were so surprised by the level of complexity that we found,” Stern said. “If you would have asked me before we got there if I thought there was ever any real chance of going back, I would have said ‘not really.’ And yet, here we are two years later and thinking about all the mysteries we can’t solve except by going back.”

While the plans are still in their infancy, Stern and his team are hopeful that they can get their concept together in time for the next Planetary Science Decadal Survey, a massive report prepared for NASA and Congress by the planetary science community, which helps to set the space agency’s priorities for solar system exploration. The next Decadal Survey will start being compiled around 2020, Stern said.

Gathering enough support within the scientific community is critical to convince the space agency such a trip would be worth it. The good news for Stern and his team is that the public already has their back. As soon as hetweeted the news about the potential orbiter, Stern’s mentions erupted with well-wishers.


“Hundreds of people were getting involved and cheering it on,” he said. “It’s like the slightest hope of going back to Pluto…the public interest is amazing.”

 By October, Stern expects that the team involved with the orbiter concept will have grown substantially, maybe with 100 scientists involved. He thinks another trip to Pluto has the potential to gin up public interest in the same way that Enceladus and Europa have. “Just like Ocean Worlds, it’ll catch fire,” he said.

When the Hell Will We Find Planet Nine?

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When the Hell Will We Find Planet Nine?


Artist’s concept of Planet 9. (Image: Caltech/R. Hurt)

The hunt for Planet 9—a hypothetical, Neptune-sized object beyond Pluto—has stirred the scientific community since last year year, when a pair of Caltech astronomers argued in favor of the idea. Those intrepid scientists—Mike Brown, best known as the guy who killed Pluto, and Konstantin Batygin—are currently spearheading a search for this elusive giant. Recently, a network of citizen scientists have followed suit. The problem, of course, is we still haven’t found it. So what’s it going to take?

Back in 2016, Brown and Batygin seemed pretty confident that we’d find the mysterious object sometime in the next few years. From the start, their assertion of a new planet was met with some skepticism, since astronomers (and a few quacks) had been peddling the idea of a “Planet X” for years. At a certain point, it kind of became the “fetch” of the solar system. Still, theresearchers’ demonstration that a massive planet could be responsible for the unusual orbits of six known Kuiper Belt Objects motivated the scientific community to take Planet 9 claims more seriously.

“If you say, ‘We have evidence for Planet X,’ almost any astronomer will say, ‘This again? These guys are clearly crazy.’ I would, too,” Brown told Science Magazine in January 2016 shortly after the paper detailing their hypothesis went public. “Why is this different? This is different because this time we’re right.”

Over the past year, Brown and Batgyin have expanded their search team, and are currently gearing up for observations in the fall. According to Brown, the “wrong side of the sky” is up right now, meaning the part of the sky where Planet 9 might be is only visible in the daytime, which is rather inconvenient when you’re trying to make a breakthrough in planetary science.

“What we spent most of the last year doing has been trying to do a combination of computer modeling and looking at the real objects in the solar system and really pinpoint where it is,” Brown told Gizmodo. “We have a modestly precise region where we know to look. It’s about 800 square degrees of sky, which is a pretty large swath of sky, but it’s better than having to look at the whole thing.”

Image: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

Another boon for the planet hunters is that their support network is huge. In a new project called Backyard World, a network of citizen scientists can look through troves of “flipbook” movies made from images captured by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission with the hopes of finding Planet 9, which astronomers say will look a little blue.

“I am very optimistic that we’re going to track this guy down soon because so many people are looking,” Brown said. “And we’ve done a pretty good job of nailing down where to look.”

Still, not everyone is confident that Planet 9 will be found any time soon—or at all. A new study from a team of scientists at Queen’s University in Belfast asserts that the discovery of a minor planet called 2013 SY99—which is, at its closest, 50 AU—might dash our hopes of ever discovering the world. After running computer models of the solar system, the researchers concluded that if Planet 9 did exist, it likely would have altered SY99’s orbit so much we would not be able to view it.

“Computer models do show that a Planet Nine would be an unfriendly neighbor to tiny worlds like SY99: its gravitational influence would starkly change its orbit – throwing it from the solar system entirely, or poking it into an orbit so highly inclined and distant that we wouldn’t be able to see it,” Michele Bannister, an author on the study, wrote in The Conversation. “SY99 would have to be one of an utterly vast throng of small worlds, continuously being sucked in and cast out by the planet.”

Bannister told Gizmodo that while her team’s findings don’t entirely disprove the idea of Planet 9, it calls the hypothetical world’s legitimacy into question.

“The planet 9 idea is a fun idea, it’s exciting, but it’s taking a bit of the oxygen at the moment,” she told Gizmodo. “We have this interesting problem…and the very shiny solution at the moment is called planet 9.”

Brown, on the other hand, read Bannister’s paper and said he and Batgyin had predicted that astronomers would discover objects just like SY99. He said that finding these objects actually reinforces the idea that Planet 9 is out there.

“The reason that we initially thought Planet 9 existed—there are a lot more reasons now—but the initial reasons were that the most distant Kuiper Belt objects were on these very eccentric orbits that are all pointing off in the same direction,” he told Gizmodo. “One of the things we said when we first announced this a year ago was that, ‘We predict that as you continue to find more and more distant Kuiper Belt objects, they too will be pushed off in this one direction. So we’ve been waiting for all these discoveries to come in—this one is exactly where it’s predicted.”

It’s so rare we get planetary drama as delicious as this one with Planet 9. But seriously, if this big guy is out there, it’s only a matter of time until someone finds him. Brown hopes it’ll be one of the citizen scientists.

“I love those,” he said. “Honestly, if I could control the future, I would have one of those citizen science projects find Planet 9. It’d be fun to find it myself…but it’d be cool if we could come up with new ways of finding these things like using the power of citizen scientists and data analysis. I would love that story.”

Ten Horrifying Deep Sea Creatures, Ranked

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Ten Horrifying Deep Sea Creatures, Ranked

4/17/17 2:14pm

Gif source: YouTube

The depths of the ocean are festooned with the most nightmarish creatures imaginable. You might think you’re safe, because these critters live thousands of feet down in a cold dark abyss, but the vampire squid, which looks like a nightmare umbrella, and the frilled shark—a literal living fossil—will live on in the recesses of your mind long after you’ve clicked away. Enjoy these deep sea horrors and try to have a relaxing day afterward.

10) Goblin shark

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Scientific name: Mitsukurina owstoni

Habitat: The goblin shark has been seen off the coast of Mississippi, Australia, and more, and can live as deep as 1300 meters (4265 feet ).

Lifestyle: Look at this creature’s ugly mug and tell me it’s not out for blood. The goblin shark is clearly a predator, but other than that, we’re pretty much in the dark on its lifestyle. “They’re a species we don’t know much about at all,” Christopher Bird, a PhD Student in deep sea Shark ecology at the University of Southampton, told Gizmodo. “They’ve been found around the globe in rare cases. But the reason they protrude their jaw out in the characteristic fashion is because they’re hunting fast-moving fish and crustaceans in the middle of the water column.”

Spooky fact(s): These bizarre beasts are known for their long, boopable snouts and ferocious nightmare teeth. Their skin is translucent, so that pink you see is actually a direct look at their insides.

9) Dumbo octopus

Scientific name: Grimpoteuthis (this is the genus name, there are 17 known species of Dumbo octopi).

Habitat: These silly guys, with their flappy little ears, can live at depths of9,800 to 13,000 feet. According to Aquarium of the Pacific, Dumbo octopi have been found in many regions around the world, including the waters near Australia, California, Oregon, and more.

Lifestyle: Dumbo octopi are foraging predators—according to Oceana, they skim the ocean floor and eat pelagic invertebrates like krill and jellyfish.

Spooky fact(s): Sure, they may look cute, but just imagine being swarmed by a bunch of these things. “Dumbo octopuses envelop their prey within their webbed arms to make a balloon around them, and then consume them,” Dr. Nicholas Higgs, Deputy Director of the Plymouth University Marine Institute, told Gizmodo.

It’d be like getting smothered to death by a horde of kindergarteners. While the dumbo octopus is only eight inches tall, anything that eats primarily jellyfish is not to be trusted.

8) Giant isopod

Photo: Tach_RedGold&Green/Flickr

Scientific name: Bathynomus giganteus

Habitat: Giant isopods have been found off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in México, at depths of 359–1050 meters (1177-3444 feet). Hopefully we won’t find them anywhere else.

Lifestyle: These little monsters, which can grow to be anywhere from 1.7 inches to 14 inches tall, are straight up scavengers. According to a 2003 paperpublished in Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, giant isopods have no shame in feasting on squid and fish remains.

Spooky fact(s): Maybe what’s most unsettling about the giant isopod is that it can fast for up to five years.“Females that are brooding their young don’t eat, probably to avoid exposure to predation,” Higgs said. “These animals are scavengers and so they are exposed to other scavengers when feeding on dead carcasses. In order to protect their young and themselves while acting for their young they simply hide out in the mud.”

Honestly, I’m sure it has an important function in its ecosystem, but this overgrown cockroach-alien makes every cell in my body want to scream.

7) Angler fish

Scientific name: Lophiiformes (this is the order name, as there are over 200 species of anglerfish, according to NOAA).

Habitat: Per National Geographic, these grumpy fish live mainly in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Europe and Northwest Africa, anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 meters (3280 to 9840 feet) below the surface.

Lifestyle: Predator, obviously.

Spooky fact(s): Anglerfish are spooky little bastards. They use their weird biological headlamp—which is attached to their face—in order to draw prey in.

“The headlamp appendage is a specialized tissue that, in deep-sea anglerfishes, contains bioluminescent bacteria that the fish uses as a lure to attract potential prey towards its mouth,” Higgs told Gizmodo.

6) Viperfish

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Scientific name: Chauliodus sloani

Habitat: Viperfish are found in tropical and temperate waters around the world and can live as deep as 2,800 meters (9,000 feet). Thankfully, you’ll never encounter one of these at the beach.

Lifestyle: Also obviously a predator. Look at that gnarly underbite!

Spooky fact(s): Viperfish are extremely elusive, but when these beasts reveal themselves, it’s always a bad time. The creatures have long fangs, which act like a trap. Unsuspecting fish wander into that mouth trap, and it’s game over.

“Larger specimens are believed to be exclusively piscivorous and may swallow fishes reaching 63% of their own body length,” a team of marine biologists wrote in a 2009 study about anglerfish teeth.

5) Ghost shark

Image: Wikimedia Commons/NOAAS Okeanos Explorer

Scientific name: Chimaeras (family name)

Habitat: Sightings are rare, but chimaeras have been spotted off the coast of California and Hawaii. They can live at depths of 500 to 3,000 meters (1,640 to 9,842 feet).

Lifestyle: Ghost sharks are predators that mainly subsist on worms, crabs, and mollusks. “You have different species at different depths,” Bird explained. “They’re absolutely bizarre creatures…they’ve got a rabbit-like jaw that helps them crush the shells on the sea floor.”

Spooky fact(s): I feel guilty including this one on the list, since it looks so miserable with its existence, but let’s be real—if you saw this swimming toward you in the ocean, would you greet it with open arms like Flipper? Like the frilled shark, chimaeras are living fossils, which means these dead-eyed creatures have changed very little over millions of years.

“They’ve really found there niche down there, which is eating stuff that nothing else can,” Bird explained. “They’re doing stuff that no other fish is doing, that no other shark is doing.”

4) Gulper eel

Image: Wikipedia

Scientific name: Eurypharynx pelecanoides

Habitat: The gulper eel can live at depths of 1,000 to 2,100 meters, and has been found in temperate and tropical regions throughout all oceans.

Lifestyle: This beast is a predator. It eats mainly crustaceans and fish.

Spooky fact(s): It’s pretty obvious why the Gulper eel is also known as the “pelican eel”: its large jaw is very similar to that of the more pleasant looking bird’s. As Higgs explained, the gulper eel’s tremendous gape probably helps it swallow big meals—or do even stranger things.

“In gulper eels like Saccopharynx their strong jaws and large gape allow them to swallow extremely large prey,” Higgs said. “Others like the pelican eels (Eurypharynx) don’t have strong enough jaws to eat especially large prey. In this case it is thought that the the large gape unfolds like a huge parachute when within reach of the prey, engulfing the prey to prevent escape.”

Damn, what a way to go.

3) Vampire squid

Scientific name: Vampyroteuthis infernalis

Habitat: These little sea vampires lurk in both temperate and tropical zones, and can live at depths of 600 to 1200 meters (960 to 3940 feet).

Lifestyle: Vampire squid are detritivores. They eat lots of dead plankton, which feels very on-brand. “Vampire squid actually feed on tiny particles of dead animal detritus floating in the ocean (known as marine snow), by streaming two thin filaments in the water that are covered in mucus to capture the food,” Higgs explained.

Spooky fact(s): That unusual mucus Dr. Higgs just mentioned? It can also be used as part of an elaborate defense mechanism.

“When threatened, the squid will wrap its arms over its head exposing long spines, but this thought thought to be a ‘bluff’ since the spines are actually soft and fleshy,” he said. “They also use bioluminescence to confuse potential predators, with huge glowing eyes, or by releasing glowing mucus into the water.”

2) Black swallower

Screen Shot via YouTube

Scientific name: Chiasmodon niger

Habitat: This horrifying potbelly has been found in tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and can live as deep as 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) below the surface.

Lifestyle: The black swallower is a predator, even though it’s kind of bad at being one.

Spooky fact(s): Because these monsters live so deep, food is scarce, so they often resort to eating creatures much larger than them. Sometimes, these fucking geniuses eat things so big their stomach ruptures and they die in the least dignified way ever.

“This fish is able to swallow something bigger than itself because it has this elastic stomach that is able to open up and accommodate whatever it can get through its mouth,” Roberta Muehlheim, assistant curator of vertebrate zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History told The Morning Journal.

In case you were wondering, here’s what death by your last meal looks like.


1) Frilled shark

Photo: Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images

Scientific name: Chlamydoselachus anguineus

Habitat: Sightings of the frilled shark are extremely rare, but they’ve been found off the coast of Australia. Of course they have.


Spooky fact(s): The frilled shark, which is referred to as a “living fossil” since it’s changed so little over thousands of years, is basically a vacuum with teeth—300 of them, to be exact. According to Bird, these teeth act like velcro. “It’s got all those hook[ed teeth] in there…if you’re trying to catch a squid that’s gonna be slippery and moving fast, you need these velcro-like teeth to come down and stop everything,” he explained. “As it grabs a fish or squid, [the prey] can’t escape.”

This nefarious garbage disposal has 25 rows of backward-facing teeth to eviscerate its prey, which really sounds like overkill—I feel like a few bites with these ridiculously sharp fangs would be sufficient, but hey, what do I know. If you’ve got it, flaunt it, I guess.

9 Hideous Creatures That Deserve Your Unconditional Love

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9 Hideous Creatures That Deserve Your Unconditional Love

Today 1:50pm

Photo Courtesy Kenneth Catania

We can’t all be puppies—or even capybaras, for that matter. There’s a whole world of critters whose inner beauty goes unnoticed. Perfectly snuggly critters like naked mole rats have been mocked and called things like “the stuff of nightmares” or “the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.”

The truth is, so many of nature’s ugly animals have incredible qualities that deserve to be recognized. Below are just a few of the most hideous beautiful weirdos who deserve our love and respect.

9) Naked mole rat

Scientific name: Heterocephalus glaber

Habitat: For millions of years, these little cherubs have lived in large underground colonies, mainly located in central-east Africa. They can live with up to 300 individuals at a time.

Lifestyle: Naked mole rats eat roots and tubers, in addition to poop, according to the San Diego Zoo. I’m sorry.

Adorable fact: Naked mole rats are some of the most impressive creatures on the planet. In addition to the fact that they don’t age and are apparentlyimpervious to cancer, they can survive up to 18 minutes without oxygen, according to a recent study. By understanding how naked mole rats can survive so long without oxygen, we may be able to develop technology to keep victims of heart attacks or strokes alive longer.

On top of all of this, they’re actually quite lovable.

“What I’ve experienced over and over again is people will say, ‘Oh, they’re ugly, they’re gross,’ [but] every single person that I’ve taken to actually see the mole rats in person has come away saying they’re cute and they’re lovable,” Thomas Park, professor of biological sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told Gizmodo. “The most misunderstood thing is that they’re ugly. I can understand why people think so, because they’re so unusual looking, but if you get to know them, they’re actually very gentle, they’re friendly creatures.”

8) Tufted deer

Photo: Nikolai Usik via Wikimedia

Scientific name: Elaphodus cephalophus

Habitat: This small, vampire-looking species of deer is endemic to China and Myanmar (Burma).

Lifestyle: Tufted deer are herbivores. Their diet consists of fruit, grass, bamboo and herbs—not human flesh.

Adorable fact: Despite their bloodthirsty appearance, tufted deer are actually quite shy. “This species is very secretive, most active at dawn and dusk, and is a true creature of habit, often traveling the same trails,” Imogene Cancellare, a conservation biologist and PhD student in the department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, told Gizmodo. “When startled, the tufted deer emits a loud alarm bark.” Just like a dog, but you know, with fangs!

7) Star-nosed mole

Photo Courtesy Kenneth Catania

Scientific name: Condylura cristata

Habitat: Star nosed moles live in the Northeastern United States and Canada, most often near swamps, floodplains, or other bodies of water.

Lifestyle: Kenneth Catania, a biologist at Vanderbilt University, told Gizmodo they mostly eat small invertebrates, insect larva, and earthworms. “The nose is the whole shebang for its sensory system,” Catania said. “It’s a sensitive touch organ…it functions almost like an eye.” The nose, in case you’re wondering, is that crazy bouquet of tentacles on the mole’s face.

Adorable fact: Though their strange faces might seem like an impairment, star-nosed moles are extremely quick. “They are the fastest foragers,” Catania said. “They are in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest foraging mammal.” According to information provided by Catania to the records book, the average amount of time it takes for a star-nosed mole to identify food as edible and consume it is 230 milliseconds. The fastest is 120 milliseconds.

6) Pink fairy armadillo

Scientific name: Chlamyphorus truncates

Habitat: This sweet, shy little guy is native to central Argentina, where it lives in dry grasslands and plains.

Lifestyle: Not much is known about the pink fairy armadillo’s lifestyle, as it hasn’t been studied much. “We do know that its diet and habits are likely similar to other nocturnal armadillo species,” Cancellare said. “As a generalist insectivore, this 3-4.5 inch long armadillo likely uses its large, mole-like claws to dig in sand in search of insects, grubs, and worms.”

Adorable fact(s): We didn’t have a cute fact for this one unfortunately, only a terribly sad one. According to Cancellare, the pink fairy armadillo that looks like a “Furby covered with sashimi” is very popular in the illegal pet trade. “It dies quickly in captivity and does not make a good pet, like all wildlife,” she said. While the IUCN doesn’t technically consider the pink fairy armadillo endangered—it’s “data deficient,” due to how little its studied—the organization does note how at-risk it is due to the black market.

I guess the fact that it’s the smallest armadillo in the world is sort of cute.

5) Axolotl

Scientific name: Ambystoma mexicanum

Habitat: Axolotl are unusual in that they exist in one place in the wilda lakecalled Xochimilco, just South of Mexico City.

Lifestyle: According to Stéphane Roy, a biologist at the Université de Montréal, the axolotl will eat basically anything that moves in front of it, but it mostly feasts on small crustaceans and fish. “They’re salamanders so they’re amphibians,” Roy told Gizmodo. “But the axolotl stays aquatic all its life. It doesn’t metamorphose to become terrestrial.”

Adorable fact: Overall, axolotls are pretty chill, arguably too laid back—they have no real way to defend themselves in the wild. “It’s basically a defenseless animal,” Roy said. “Its best defense mechanism is to stand still in the mud and not move in the hopes that it won’t be seen by predators.”

More of pathetic fact than a cute one, but it’s charming nonetheless.

4) Aye-aye

Photo: Frank Vassen/Flickr

Scientific name: Daubentonia madagascariensis

Habitat: Aye-ayes live on the island of Madagascar, located off the Eastern coast of Mozambique.

Lifestyle: According to the Duke Lemur Center, the aye-aye is quite the picky eater. “The aye-aye’s diet is very specialized, consisting mainly of the interior of Ramy nuts, nectar from the Traveller’s Palm tree, some fungi and insect grubs,” the Duke Lemur Center says on its website. “The animals are also known to raid coconut plantations, and have been seen eating lychees and mangoes, which are also plantation crops.” Recent scientific research suggests that aye-ayes, like humans, prefer their fruity beverages with alcohol.

Adorable fact: “Aye-ayes are thought to be the only primate to use echolocation to find food,” Cancellare said. “To do this, the aye-aye uses those large ears and something called a toilet claw. Also called the grooming finger, the aye-aye’s third digit is much more slender that the other four fingers and is used as a hunting tool. The aye-aye uses this finger to tap on trees to listen for insect larvae. Once it hears something, the aye aye then uses its other claws to dig into the bark, then dig out invertebrates using its long toilet claw.”

While toilet claws don’t sound very cute, the aye aye is overall pretty adorable.

3) Blobfish



Scientific name: Psychrolutes marcidus

Habitat: This miserable cutie lives off the coast of Australia and Tasmania, at depths of 330 to 9,200 feet.

Lifestyle: The blobfish is unsurprisingly oafish. According to Creature Features: Twenty-Five Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, the blobfish’s diet mainly consists of mollusks, crabs, and sea urchins—probably sadness, too. According to Mental Floss, it doesn’t really hunt, rather, it just sits at the bottom of the ocean and opens its mouth when something tasty swims by.

Adorable fact: The “mascot” for blobfish was found in 2003 by a team of researchers studying the waters around New Zealand. This specimen was affectionately named “Mr. Blobby” by the crew. Sadly, the very dead Mr. Blobby now resides in Australian Museum’s Ichthyology Collection, in Sydney.

“The fixation process tightened Mr. Blobby’s skin and collapsed his—or her—snout,” Mark McGrouther, the museum’s fish manager, told Smithsonian. “He—or she—now looks like an 85-year-old Mr. Blobby.” To be fair, at the bottom of the ocean (and alive), our frowny friend probably wouldn’t look so curmudgeonly.

Pour one out for Mr. Blobby, gone but never forgotten.

2) Black rain frog


Scientific name: Breviceps fuscus

Habitat: According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the grumpy frog only lives in the mountains of South Africa.

Lifestyle: These are burrowing frogs that spend most of their lives underground. We don’t know much about their eating habits, though.

Adorable fact: There’s actually a legitimate reason why the black rain frog looks like an angry lump. “Many people know rain frog species from the adorable viral videos circulating on the internet,” Nicole F. Angeli, a conservation biologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, told Gizmodo. “Inflating is a defensive posture effective when a predator tries to pull an individual from a burrow. These puffy little frogs are the product of millions of years of survival in a harsh world!”

1) Potoo bird


Scientific name: Nyctibius griseus

Habitat: These bizarre birdies live in the forests of Central and South America, even though I wish they lived by me in Brooklyn.

Lifestyle: The Potoo is a nocturnal bird, as evidenced by its enormous eyes.“The large eyes of this bird help it find flying insects at night,” Cancellare explained.

Adorable fact: Sometimes, the Potoo likes to pretend it’s a tree. “During the day this species is entirely immobile, perching upright like a statue, closing its eyes, and blending in with the branches it hides in,” Cancellare said. Please imagine this goofy ass bird trying to blend in with anything and try not to laugh. Or cry.

The Science of the 10 Plagues

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The Science of the 10 Plagues

Credit: Credit: ESA/Getty


To unleash the first plague upon the Egyptians, Moses struck the river Nile with his staff, turning its waters to blood. At the same time, his brother Aaron performed an identical transformation in the canals, tributaries, ponds and pools throughout Egypt.

After the water turned to blood, “thefish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water,” according to the Bible, Exodus chapter 7, verse 21,English Standard version.

The sudden appearance of red-hued waters in the Nile could have been caused by a red algae bloom, which appears when certain conditions enable a type of microscopic algae to reproduce in such great numbers that the waters they live in appear to be stained a bloody red.

This phenomenon is known as “red tide” when it happens in oceans, but red algae are also well-represented in freshwater ecosystems. And these algae blooms can certainly be harmful to wildlife, as the algae contain a toxin that can accumulate in shellfish and poison the animals that feed on them. Fumes from densely-concentrated algae blooms can also disperse toxins in the air, causing breathing problems in people that live nearby.


Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty


What do you do next, after turning a nation’s water supply into blood? If you’re following Moses’ playbook, you inundate them with frogs.

For the second plague, Moses allegedly conjured vast quantities of frogs that swarmed into people’s homes — even finding their way into the Egyptians’ beds, ovens and cookware.

As it happens, the phenomenon of “raining frogs” has been reported multiple times throughout history and in a range of locations around the world. A report published July 12, 1873 in Scientific American described “a shower of frogs which darkened the air and covered the ground for a long distance,” following a recent rainstorm. The account was one of dozens of similar anecdotes collected in “The Book of the Damned” (1919), though its somewhat skeptical author suggested that the frogs may have simply dropped from trees.

And in May 2010 in Greece, thousands of frogs emerged from a lake in the northern part of the country, likely in search of food, and disrupted traffic for days, CBS News reported


Credit: Shutterstock


The third plague, lice, could mean either lice, fleas or gnats based on the Hebrew word (Keenim). If a toxic algal bloom led to the first plague, and a pile of dead frogs followed, it’s not surprising that a swarm of insects of some sort would have followed. That’s because frogs typically eat insects; without them, the fly population could have exploded, Stephan Pflugmacher, a climatologist Leibniz Institute for Water Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin, said in a television special about the plagues that aired on the National Geographic Channel in 2010. Interestingly, both body lice and fleas can theoretically transmit the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. If so, then an infestation with lice could have set the stage for the later plagues, such as boils, a 2008 review of plague science found. Scientists have also argued that the sickness that killed the beasts of the field for Egyptians in later plagues might have been Bluetongue or African horse sickness, both of which can be spread by insects from this plague, according to a 2008 Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.

Wild beasts

Credit: Shutterstock

Wild beasts

Once again, the Hebrew word for the fourth plague, arov, is ambiguous. It roughly translates to a “mixture,” and over the years, rabbis had interpreted that word to mean either wild animals, hornets or mosquitoes, or even wolf-like beasts that prowl in the night, according to biblical commentary found in the Exodus Rabbah 11:3; Tanchuma, Va’eira 14. Most commonly, people interpret the text to mean wild animals such as venomous snakes or scorpions, or even lions or bears. However, according to a 1996 study published in the journal Caduceus, which attempts to explain the plagues as epidemiological problems caused by an initial climate disturbance, J.S. Marr and C.D. Malloy argue that the fourth plague represents a swarm of flies such as the stable fly (Stomoxys calcitrans). Bites from these flies could have led to the boils that occurred later on in the story, according to that study.

Diseased livestock


Diseased livestock

The fifth plague called down on Egypt was a mysterious and highly contagious disease that swiftly killed off the Egyptians’ livestock. This biblical scourge is reminiscent of a real plague known as rinderpest, an infectious and lethal viral disease that decimated populations of cattle and other ruminants across Africa and Europe from the 18th through the late 19th centuries.

Rinderpest was caused by a virus in the same family as canine distemper and measles; infected animals developed a high fever, diarrhea and ulcers in their mouths and noses, according to a manual diagnosing rinderpest, produced by the Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations.

The disease is thought to have originated in Asia, and traveled to Egypt 5,000 years ago along prehistoric trading routes, the New York Times reported in 2010. Its mortality rate was exceptionally high, often exceeding 80 percent. It killed an estimated 200 million cattle in the 18th century, according to a study published in the journal Medical History in 1997, and when rinderpest emerged in Africa in the 19th century, it killed 5.2 million cattle, causing one-third of the population of Ethiopia to die of starvation, a study published in the journal Science reported in 2008.

Rinderpest was last diagnosed in Kenya in 2001, and was declared completely eradicated in 2010, according to the New York Times.


Credit: Shutterstock


Shortly after the Egyptians’ livestock died off, they were distracted by the sixth plague — an extremely uncomfortable plague of boils that covered their bodies. Boils are painful bumps usually surrounded by red, swollen skin, and are typically caused byStaphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria commonly found on the skin’s surface, according to the Mayo Clinic.

An outbreak of the highly infectious disease smallpox, which caused distinctive raised blisters, could result in a large number of people simultaneously coming down with rashes and welts. Smallpox is thought to have affected communities in Egypt at least 3,000 years ago, based on evidence of smallpox scars found on several mummies dating back to that period — including the mummy of Pharaoh Ramses V, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fiery hail

Credit: Michael Folmer/Alamy

Fiery hail

The seventh plague brought a heavy hail accompanied by thunder and streaming fire. The chaotic weather struck down people, livestock and trees, although the area of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, was spared, according to the book “Tanakh, A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures” (The Jewish Publication Society, 1985).

A nearby volcanic eruption about 3,500 years ago on Santorini, an island north of Crete in the Aegean Sea, may explain this plague, as well as others. It’s possible that the volcanic ash mixed with thunderstorms above Egypt, leading to a dramatic hailstorm, Nadine von Blohm, from the Institute for Atmospheric Physics in Germany, told the Telegraph.

Credit: Keystone/Getty


When the Pharaoh once again refuses to let the Jewish people go, hungry locusts descend as the eighth plague. Moses warns the Pharaoh: “They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land.” Such a pestilence would devour all the remaining plants that the hail did not destroy, Moses said, according to the “Tanakh.”

The volcanic eruption on Santorini may have created favorable conditions for the locusts, said Siro Trevisanato, a Canadian molecular biologist and author of “The Plagues of Egypt: Archaeology, History and Science Look at the Bible” (Gorgias Press, 2005).

“The ash fallout caused weather anomalies, which translates into higher precipitations, higher humidity,” Trevisanato told the Telegraph. “And that’s exactly what fosters the presence of the locusts.”

Credit: Shutterstock


The plague of darkness may have been a solar eclipse or a cloud of volcanic ash, scholars say.

According to the Old Testament, a darkness so thick that “people could not see one another” descended on Egypt for three days. However, the “Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings,” according to the book “Tanakh, A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures” (The Jewish Publication Society, 1985).

Perhaps the darkness coincided with an eclipse on March 5, 1223 B.C. — you can see the path here on NASA’s website — according to a study written by Iurii Mosenkis, an archaeoastronomy researcher who lives in the Ukraine. However, the fact that Israelites had light in their homes might mean “lights out” for the eclipse hypothesis, as it doesn’t make scientific sense why some people, but not others could overcome the darkness.

Another idea is that a volcanic eruption about 3,500 years ago on Santorini, an island north of Crete in the Aegean Sea, spewed ash that caused the darkness, according a to National Geographic special, as reported by the Telegraph. However, the eruption happened about 500 miles (800 kilometers) from Egypt and before the exodus event, according to the Christian Courier.

Killing of the firstborn

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Killing of the firstborn

In the 10th, and last plague, Moses tells the Pharaoh that all the firstborns in the land of Egypt would perish.

Perhaps, the algal bloom that turned the rivers blood red released mycotoxins, poisonous substances that can cause disease and death in humans, according to a 2003 review in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews. Grain contaminated with these mycotoxins could have been deadly, and could explain the death of the firstborn children, said epidemiologist John Marr, who was the chief epidemiologist at the New York City Department of Health, as reported by Slate.

The firstborn might have been the first to pick the grain, and thus would have fallen victim to it first as well, according to the Telegraph.

Tomb Full of Mummies Unearthed at Luxor

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Tomb Full of Mummies Unearthed at Luxor

Tomb Full of Mummies Unearthed at Luxor

The tomb complex contains the remains of numerous coffins, skeletons and assorted artifacts.

Credit: Photo courtesy Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities

Several mummies and more than 1,000 figurines have been discovered at an ancient cemetery located at Luxor in Egypt, archaeologists reported.

A team of archaeologists with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities uncovered the funerary complex during the ministry’s ongoing excavations at the site. The funerary complex contains multiple tombs that were originally built for a man named Userhat, who was a judge in Luxor sometime during what modern-day archaeologists call Egypt’s New Kingdom (1550–1070 B.C.) period, the ministry said in a statement.

During the New Kingdom period, Egypt was unified, and it often controlled a large amount of territory in the Middle East and modern-day Sudan. After the New Kingdom ended, the complex was re-opened and more mummies and burials were put into the structure, the ministry said.

Researchers discovered a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers containing the remains of mummies and assorted human remains, as shown in photos released by the ministry. In some cases, the colors on the mummy coffins are well preserved, despite the passage of millennia.

The tomb complex is part of a larger ancient cemetery at Luxor that today is often called Dra' Abu el-Naga.

The tomb complex is part of a larger ancient cemetery at Luxor that today is often called Dra’ Abu el-Naga.

Credit: Photo by Roland Unger, CC 1.0 Generic

Additionally, a “collection of ushabti figurines carved in faience, terracotta and wood was also unearthed,” in the tomb complex, the ministry said in the statement. Ushabti figurines were frequently buried with the dead in ancient Egypt, and Egyptologists generally believe that ushabtis were buried with the dead so that the figurines could work for the deceased in the afterlife.

“We found a large number of ushabti, more than 1,000 of them,” Egypt Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany told the Agence France-Presse.

Archaeologists also discovered the remains of clay pots in the cemetery.

The ministry’s team is led by Mostafa Waziri, the head of the ministry’s Luxor department. Excavations are underway that the ministry said will lead to the entire complex being uncovered. The complex is part of a larger ancient cemetery that today is often called Dra’ Abu el-Naga.

Original article on Live Science.

Top 10 Species We Have Threatened Or Destroyed For Personal Reasons

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Top 10 Species We Have Threatened Or Destroyed For Personal Reasons


With drugs fully capable of curing erectile dysfunction hitting the shelves in 1998, it would seem that people would move away from ingesting rare plants and animals for sexual purposes. Unfortunately, this is not the case, largely due to local culture and the cost of said pills. Men have sought a cure for sexual dysfunction for thousands of years in the form of various animals and their parts. Because of this, we have threatened and even forced some organisms into extinction just so we can get it on.


10Houbara Bustard


Photo credit: Wikimedia

This rare bird was nearly hunted to extinction along the Arabian Peninsula due to its meat’s supposed aphrodisiac qualities. The species is now listed as threatened and is still hunted by those looking to satisfy their urges through the ingestion of this bird’s flesh.

Hunting the bustard is banned in Pakistan, but that doesn’t stop Arab royals from going on their annual hunts for the chicken-sized birds. Pakistan quietly issues between 25–35 special permits to wealthy sheiks so they can hunt the birds in their winter habitat. The hunts are very controversial due to most who take part exceeding their 1,000-bird limit, further threatening the species.



Photo credit: Wikimedia

When we think of birth control in the 21st century, we usually picture condoms, pills, and other devices. Long before any of these things were invented, people used a plant called silphium.

Silphium was harvested by our ancient ancestors due to its contraceptive effects when ingested. Silphium was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for more than 700 years before it was finally over-cultivated into extinction by the first century BC. They used the farmland so much, the soil became exhausted and unable to sustain further plant growth. Silphium went extinct due to the overactive sexual activities of our ancestors not wanting to have . . . well, us.


8Yarsagumba—Caterpillar Fungus ‘Himalayan Viagra’


Photo credit: Wikimedia

Yarsagumba is a Nepalese fungus used for centuries as an aphrodisiac. It is sold for $25–$150 per gram, and costs have risen as supplies are drying up. Due to over-cultivation, the fungus has become threatened and may soon face extinction. Unlike others on this list, it is not used solely by men for erectile dysfunction and is instead used as a libido booster by men and women.

The fungus is so desired throughout Southeast Asia, its sales worldwide are $5–$11 billion per year. The demand is killing the fungus due to farmers picking it before it reaches sexual maturity—the point when it spreads its spores. This is keeping new spores from reaching the soil and making its extinction a near-certainty.

7Black Rhinoceros


Photo credit: Wikimedia

Chinese medicine has been prescribing rhino horn for more than 1,800 years, but recent interest in Vietnam has all but ensured the black rhino’s extinction. Thought to cure cancer, liver problems, and much more, the rhino horn has become more valuable than gold in Vietnam, fetching as much as $100,000 per kilogram. Doctors prescribe it for the wealthy elite of Vietnam, and an increased appetite has diminished the species significantly.

The belief that the horn is used as an aphrodisiac is a Western myth, but the myth has become so widespread over the years, people in Vietnam have increased demand to meet this need. A rhino horn is nothing more thankeratin and has no recognized medicinal properties, but that hasn’t stopped people from ingesting it to boost their virility. The black rhinoceros is currently listed as critically endangered.



Photo credit: Wikimedia

Oysters have long been thought of as an aphrodisiac by numerous cultures around the world, which is why the oysters in the wild have become threatened with extinction. Wild oysters have become functionally extinct in many places throughout the world’s oceans due to overfishing, disease, and dredging.

The loss of wild oyster beds around the world is a serious problem for several reasons. Oysters are very efficient nitrogen filters and remove the dangerous aquatic pollutant by as much as 50 gallons each day. Whether you eat them for their believed virility-boosting effects or simply because you like them, you should know that they may one day become a thing of the past.



5Citropsis ‘Sex Tree’


Photo credit: Trade Winds Fruit

Some men in Uganda have become increasingly aware and fearful for the fate of the citropsis tree, locally known as “omuboro” and also the “sex tree.” The roots of the citropsis have been used to combat erectile dysfunction, and its potential extinction is a serious concern. Men interested in ingesting the roots tend to uproot the tree and make no attempts to replant it, which has led to the overall decline of the plant.

Scientific research on the effectiveness of citropsis has come to an interesting finding. When tested on male rats, their mounting frequencyincreased significantly, as did their testosterone levels. The plant contains a chemical that affects the vascular system, which is why it seems to be effective for men.



Photo credit: Wikimedia

Occasionally, an animal is chosen as a target for male enhancement simply because it is seen as being incredibly virile on its own. Tigers have long been a target of Eastern medicine due to their simple badassery. Anyone who happens to come upon one would assume that it could pretty easily kill the largest and strongest person on the planet (and they would be 100-percent correct in that assumption).

Tigers have been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Just about every part of the tiger is used medicinally, from the eyes, whiskers, and brains to their blood, flesh, and yes, their phallus. To help a man’s impotence and waning libido, the hu gu (Mandarin for bones) are ground up and used. Because people have been slaughtering these animals for so long, they’re endangered, and several subspecies have already gone extinct such as the Bali, Caspian, and the Javan tigers.

3Sperm Whales


Photo credit: Wikimedia

No, these giant mammals are not targeted for that substance in their names, but rather something produced in their guts. Sperm whales produce a substance called ambrein in their digestive tracts. It has long been used by numerous cultures to treat sexual function in men and women. What’s so different about this particular aphrodisiac and the others on this list is that there is scientific evidence that it works—even when the male who takes it has no female partner.

Scientists conducted a study with male rats to determine promiscuity without the presence of females. Yes, we subjected a bunch of male rats to the stuff to see if they would get it on. They did. The study concluded that “The present results . . . support the folk use of this drug as an aphrodisiac.” Sadly, like many species of whale, the sperm whale is considered vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.



Photo credit: Wikimedia

If you have never seen a pangolin before in your local zoo, all you need to know is that it is an adorable cross between a small anteater and an armadillo. What you have is an armored anteater, which, for some reason, people have determined over the centuries helps with the male libido. Because of this, pangolins are one of the most illegally trafficked animals in the world.

Pangolins are indigenous to Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia, but the market for them has thousands of the little guys frozen and on ships bound for China. The pangolin’s meat has long been thought of as an aphrodisiac, so it is cooked and eaten in several ways while the scales have been used to treat everything from lymph node issues to increasing breast milk production in women. The species is currently listed as threatened and will likely become extinct in the wild before the end of the century if the rate of consumption remains.

1The Scrotum Water Frog


Imagine walking along and seeing something that could only be described as a scrotum water frog. Okay, now pick it up and eat it. Sounds pretty nasty, doesn’t it? Somebody once did it, and now the animal is close to extinction.

Okay, to be fair, the little guy is formally called the Titicaca water wrog and it is indigenous to Lake Titicaca in South America. It is often called the scrotum water frog because of its excessive skin, which look like a . . . well, you get the idea. The species is nearing extinction and has been listed as critical thanks, in large part, to humans harvesting them as an aphrodisiac.

People enjoy taking a frog, dropping it into a blender alongside some honey, the roots of a local plant, and other local products to make a smoothie. It is believed that the smoothie produced from this concoction will get anyone in the mood for some fun and play, but there is of course no scientific evidence to support this. Regardless, the frog that closely resembles a human beanbag may one day be lost forever due to man’s endless need to sate his desire.

10 Mysterious Discoveries That Could Completely Rewrite History

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10 Mysterious Discoveries That Could Completely Rewrite History


Most of history comes from what gets written down. But what we know of our past is only a sliver of everything that happened. A great deal of where we came from was never etched into a stone and, today, has been lost.

We don’t know what’s missing from the patchwork of history. But every now and then, archaeologists find things that don’t quite fit with what’s been written down. We find relics from a society left in a place that should have been a world away from its owners.

Nobody knows for sure how these things got there, but they suggest some incredible events that might never have been recorded. Some of the greatest adventures may have happened to people who never made it home to tell the tale—and they might completely change the history of our world.

Featured image credit:


10A Roman Sword In Canada


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On Oak Island, Nova Scotia, a TV crew accidentally stumbled upon the last thing they ever expected to find: an ancient Roman sword that seems to have been there since AD 200.

The sword alone is shocking—it suggests that a Roman might have made it to North America 800 years before the Vikings. But it’s not even the only thing they found. Other people have stumbled upon other strange things that shouldn’t be in Canada: a crossbow bolt wedged into a tree, a Roman-style burial mound, Carthaginian coins, and even a stone with what appears to be Roman writing on it—all made about 1,800 years ago.

It’s theorized that a group of Roman and Carthaginian explorers might have traveled out West about 1,800 years ago. They may never have made it home and may have buried their dead on the island—explaining why there are Roman graves in Canada and no record of their trip in Rome.

None of this has been proven yet—and the fact that the sword was found by a TV crew instead of archaeologists makes it easy to be a little suspicious. Still, it’s a lot of evidence. If expert testing backs it up, it could change the history of the first Europeans to visit the Americas.

NOTE: According to this source (thanks Fuzzybunny), the sword is a fake.

9Chinese Oracle Bone Writing In The United States


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According to John Ruskamp, another group made it to the Americas thousands of years before the Vikings: the Chinese.

Ruskamp found strange symbols etched into old stones in 82 places around the southern United States. Every etching follows the same style, and none of them match anything made by the local cultures. Ruskamp, however, is convinced that they’re not just random squiggles. He believes that they are messages written in Chinese oracle bone script.

Oracle bone is one of the oldest forms of Chinese writing, which nearly faded out of use entirely around 1046 BC. If Ruskamp’s theory is right, this would mean that these Chinese settlers reached North America about 3,000 years ago.

The etchings match up to oracle bone eerily well. One in Arizona appears to read: “Set apart (for) 10 years together; declaring (to) return, (the) journey completed, (to the) house of the Sun; (the) journey completed together.” It seems to be a message left behind by explorers in a new world.


8Ancient Ape Bones In Ireland


Photo credit: Poleary91

At the Hill of Tara in Ireland, a body has been carefully laid to rest. Its bones were given a full royal treatment, but they don’t look like the bones of a normal king. Instead, the bones look an awful lot like those of an ape.

It’s not even the only set of ape bones found in Ireland. Another ape skull has been found in County Armagh that appears to have been there for about 2,300 years. Nobody knows how these apes got there. Someone in the ancient world, for some reason, was taking apes up to Ireland and burying them there.

The apes might have been traded along early routes, but there’s a fringe theory that takes it in a very different direction. An ancient Irish legend claims that a group of strangers with magical powers came to Ireland on a massive ship and ruled the people from the Hill of Tara. Some think that legend was based on a real event and that the people they thought were magic were really a group of Egyptians with advanced technology.

That’s a big leap to make just because of some ape bones—but there’s more evidence than just that. DNA testing on ancient Irish bodies suggests that they have an ancestor from the Middle East. And, not too far from the Hill of Tara, the 3,800-year-old remains of a boy have been found, wearing what appears to be an Egyptian necklace.

7Native American Legends Of White Giants


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In 1857, a Native American of the Comanche tribe stood in front of a crowd and told them a story. “Innumerable moons ago, a race of white men, [305 centimeters (10′) high], and far more rich and powerful than any white people now living here, inhabited a large range of country,” he said. “They drove the Indians from their homes, putting them to the sword, and occupying the valleys in which their fathers had dwelt.”

It seemed like a parable of what was happening now. But all that changed when what appeared to be a Greek medallion and two coins was found in Oklahoma. After that, genealogist Donald Yates started piecing together the evidence and realized that this wasn’t an isolated story.

The Choctaws also had a story about “a race of giants” with white skin who lived in what is now the state of Tennessee—and other tribes had some stories that were oddly similar. The Greek writer Strabo wrote about a “Western Continent,” suggesting that he might have had some knowledge of the Americas.

Yates believes that these native stories might not be entirely made up. Greek explorers may have actually made it to the Americas and fought with the people there, leaving behind a legacy that grew bigger every time the story was told.

6Mayan Murals Showing White-Skinned Warriors


Photo credit: Ancient Origins

Inside the Temple of the Warriors in Chichen Itza, there are murals depicting a scene that doesn’t seem to fit the Maya’s surroundings. The murals show brutal battles fought between a very diverse group of people for pre-Columbian Mexico. Some have pale white skin, some are pitch-black, and others are brown.

On its own, that could just be an artistic choice. But other evidence supports the theory that different races of people might have fought around modern Mexico. For one, when Hernan Cortes reached Mexico, he claimed that the people there hailed him as a returning “white lord”—suggesting that another white person had been there before.

And the Maya left behind a story called the “Dance of the Giants.” In it, a white giant pairs up with the Maya and helps them fight off a black giant who’s harassing them. According to one controversial theory, all this really happened. The black-skinned giants, it’s believed, were Aztecs moving in from the North. And the white-skinned giants might be Vikings.

As early as 1789, there was speculation about Viking explorers reaching modern Mexico. One in particular, Ari Marson, was sent off course by a storm while trying to make it to Greenland. According to the theory, Marson may have ended up in Mayan territory a little after the Aztecs and he might have left his mark on their history.


5A Temple To An Egyptian Goddess In India


On the western coast of India, there are the ruins of a temple to the goddess Pattini. It’s not a particularly strange thing to find in India—except that there’s a secret chamber underneath that’s rumored to hold an underground shrine to the Egyptian goddess Isis.

The ruins are now owned by a Hindu temple, so nobody’s been able to actually check what’s underneath them. But according to writer Chris Morgan, the idea that it was a secret shrine to an Egyptian goddess fits. He believes that an Egyptian traveler may have come to India and started a cult dedicated to his own goddess.

Morgan believes that the idea of the goddess Pattini came from this cult. He points out some major similarities in the two legends, both of which are about women defined by the brutal murder and dismemberment of their husbands. He thinks that Pattini might be an Indian evolution of the concept of Isis spread through that shrine—a little in the way that Egyptian culture influenced Hinduism.

4The Giant Village Of Peru


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When the Spanish first came to Peru, conquistador Pedro Cieza de Leon recorded everything he could in a book called The Chronicles of Peru. It’s full of incredibly detailed and accurate descriptions of the cultures of the natives, the conquests by the Spanish, the details of the environment—and strangely, a village built by giants.

Cieza de Leon recorded a native legend about giants who arrived “in boats made of reeds, as big as large ships.” He said, “From the knee downward, their height was as great as the entire height of an ordinary man.” According to the legend, the giants built wells that were beyond the native technology as well as massive villages to accommodate their size. Later, a great fire came down and consumed the giants.

Oddly, though, Cieza de Leon claimed to have seen the village and the well built by the giants. He said that they were big enough to fit the story. He even claimed to have seen a giant’s skull and a femur and attested that other Spaniards saw teeth that must have weighed 0.2 kilograms (0.5 lb).

We don’t have these artifacts anymore, so we can’t confirm it. But it’s hard to understand why Cieza de Leon would make up lies to support a native legend.

It’s not clear what he saw. Was he deceived? Did he make it up? Or did the Spanish conquistadors really find something in Peru that suggested they weren’t the first foreign visitors to arrive?

3The Marcahuasi Ruins


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In the Andes Mountains, there are strange rocks known as the Marcahuasi Ruins. They appear to be rocks carved by human beings, sculpted to beshaped like human heads. One, in particular, looks almost exactly like a crude copy of the Egyptian Sphinx.

It’s possible that these rocks took their shape by pure, random erosion. But there are some people who don’t think it’s possible. The theory that the rocks were deliberately sculpted by an unknown people is out there—although it’s mostly supported by some pretty off-the-wall theories, including stories about aliens and mystical healing powers.

One of the more popular theories comes from an archaeologist who claims that the site was built by a biblical civilization called the Masma, who traveled to Peru and carved crude imitations of the wonders they’d seen in Egypt. His theory, though, comes from having seen it in a dream, which is a slightly less-than-scientific approach to history.

Still, even if they weren’t built by aliens or by biblical tribes, it’s not out of the question that someone carved these rocks—making them an incredible work of art still without a name for its creator.

2The Three Handbags Of Heaven


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There’s a strange design that keeps popping up all around the world. It shows something that looks like a little handbag, usually drawn in groups of three and usually up in the sky. And nobody really knows what they mean.

The oldest one in Turkey shows three handbags floating over all of creation. It’s far from the only one, though. The same handbags have been seen in art from all around the world, including India, Egypt, and even Central America. It seems to be something that’s been passed on from an ancient Middle Eastern culture—which might make it a way to trace where groups of people came from.

That’s why it’s interesting that the Maori of New Zealand used the three handbags, too. They have a myth about a hero named Tane who went up to Heaven to get three baskets of knowledge—an image that seems strangely similar to the one carved in a rock in Turkey.

It could just be a coincidence. But this might be a strong sign that the Maori have ancestors who once lived in the Middle East, long before they moved to New Zealand.

1The Redheaded Giants Of Lovelock Cave


Photo credit: Ken Lund

In 1911, miners working in Nevada’s Lovelock Cave were digging through piles of guano when they stumbled upon a massive wealth of ancient Indian relics. The miners started searching through the relics and found something even more incredible—the mummified remains of a 198-centimeter (6’6″) man with red hair.

The cave soon turned into an archaeological dig site, and some incredibly strange things were found. Inside, there were 38-centimeter (15 in) sandals, which appeared to have been used by a very large person, and a giant handprint that was twice the size of that of a normal man.

Some believed that this backed up the Paiute legend about redheaded, “freckle-faced” cannibals called the Si-Te-Cahs coming onto their land. The giants, they said, came by boats and preyed on them until the Paiute managed to chase the giants into a cave and set it on fire.

The original redheaded mummy has been destroyed, making the story impossible to prove, and some alternative explanations have been created. Several people, though, insist that they saw it firsthand. If they’re telling the truth, it might just mean that the Si-Te-Cahs were a real group of violent European explorers—people who tormented the Native Americans and met their end in Nevada.

Top 10 Less-Than-Heroic Moments In World War II

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Top 10 Less-Than-Heroic Moments In World War II



Not every moment in the Second World War was a glorious act of heroism. When the whole world went to war, it meant that a few people signed up who were not exactly brilliant tacticians. When young men go to war, not everything they do is a bright idea, and that led to some stories that are downright ridiculous.


10The Allies Invaded an Empty Island

kiska island 1943

In 1943, American and Canadian forces led a joint attack on Kiska Island, determined to seize the Japanese forces stationed there. It was a vicious assault. For more than a month, they devastated it with bombing raids, dropping 424 tons of explosives from the sky and another 330 tons from the sea. Then, when the dust settled, the men moved in.

An American force of nearly 35,000 soldiers landed on the beach of the island and started their attack, while a Canadian squad took it from the other side. The two armies crawled through thick fog, firing into the darkness and struggling to avoid what they were pretty sure was sniper fire.

It was a brutal campaign. Troops were blasted by bullets that seemed to come out of nowhere, and mines exploded under their feet. The men fought for days, with hundreds giving up their lives—before they realized no one else was there.

The Japanese had left three weeks ago. The American and Canadian forces had been shooting each other. By the time they had figured it out, they had managed to cause 313 causalities.

9A Farmer Chased a Chinese-American Pilot with a Pitchfork

Hazel Ying Lee

Hazel Ying-Lee was the first Chinese-American woman to fly for the US Military. She was born in the United States and thought of it as her home—and so, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, she signed up to fight.

Some people, though, were not particularly good at telling Chinese people and Japanese people apart. That caused a major problem for Hazel when she had to make an emergency landing in a field in Kansas. When the farmer who lived there looked out his window saw an Asian woman get out of an American plane, he freaked out. Clearly, he decided, the Japanese had started their invasion of the United States–by sending a single woman to a farm in Kansas.

The man grabbed a pitchfork, ran outside, and chased Hazel around her plane, yelling to his neighbors that the Japanese had landed. He chased her around the plane several times, with Hazel having to hide under her wing to keep from getting speared before she managed to convince him she was American.


8A Pilot Attacked a Japanese Battleship with a Coke Bottle


The Yamato was one of the biggest battleships in the Japanese Navy. It was a massive, incredibly heavy boat, and one that seemed almost unsinkable. Thomas Lupo, though, was determined—and he was going to throw everything he had at it.

Lupo and his squad flew at the Yamato and opened fire, determined to sink it at any cost. For his part, Lupo was so determined to take the boat out that he expended every single bullet he had. He shot at it until his guns started clicking and he realized he was out.

Not one to give up just because he did not have any weapons, Lupo grabbed an empty Coca-Cola bottle and threw it at the Japanese battleship. When that did not work, he took all the loose change he had and everything else he could find and threw it.

His change was not able to sink the Yamato—the ship survived and went on to fight another day. Some Japanese officer, though, probably seriously reflected on life when a coke bottle nearly knocked him on the head.

7Japan Bombed a Fence in Saskatchewan


In 1945, Japan launched a series of explosive balloons at North America. Their plan was to start forest fires and make the people panic—but it did not work particularly well. Out of the 9000 balloons they sent out, only 300 of them actually made it across the ocean.

One of the ones made it through landed in Saskatchewan, Canada’s great, flat province. There, the bomb landed in a farmer’s field and exploded on its target. There was only one casualty: the farmer’s fence.

It might not seem like much, but Canada was determined to make sure the people did not panic. Every newspaper in the country was directly ordered not to report on the loss of their beloved fence, lest the people believe that the war effort was unwinnable. They even hushed up a 15-year-old boy who witnessed it, who, for years, carried the image of destruction with him as his darkest secret.

6A British Pilot Made an Emergency Landing and Captured an Island

Island Surrender

Sgt. Sidney Cohen was running low on gas when he made an emergency landing on Lampedusa Island. This was an island controlled by the Italians, but he was in a desperate situation. He could not risk crashing into the water, and it was his only hope for survival. He landed his plane, and the Italians came rushing out—but they were not carrying guns. They were waving white flags.

The leader of the group there told Cohen he wanted to surrender. They figured he was the first of a big invasion, and they were not about to risk it. Cohen tried to play it cool. “I told him I would have to see the ‘No. 1’ man,” he later recounted.

While he was on the island getting their declaration of surrender, the Allies actually did bomb it, which probably made his case stronger. Cohen rolled with that, too, and managed to come back from a forced landing having captured an entire island.


5A US Submarine Shot Itself with a Torpedo

Tang and liberated crew

The USS Tang was one of the most successful Navy submarines. In its one short year of combat, it had sunk an incredible 31 enemy ships. The men aboard were fearless—and so, when they saw a convoy of Japanese ships that drastically outnumbered them, they attacked anyway. Outnumbered or not, nobody could skin the USS Tang—except for the Tang itself.

They managed to take out most of the convoy without even taking a hit. But when they fired their last torpedo, it made an unexpected curve. The torpedo turned and came right back where it had come from—and blew a hole in their ship.

The crew had to surface and wait for rescue—which, ironically, came from a Japanese Destroyer. The men sunk themselves and were saved by one of the ships they were trying to sink.

4British Fighter Pilots Bombed a Danish School

catholicboarding school

In 1945, British bombers raided Nazi Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen. Or, at least, that was the plan—but things did not quite turn out that way.

The planes were to attack in three waves, launching hellfire upon the Nazis and helping the Danish resistance breathe safely once more. When the first wave swept in, though, one of the planes accidentally smashed into a lamp post.

The impact sent him spiraling out of control. His wings tore into the side of a house, where his bombs got ripped off and fell on the civilians below. Then the plane went down and crashed into a Catholic school.

The next wave saw the wreck he had made and figured that must be the target, so they unloaded pretty well every bomb they had on Catholic school children. By the time the third wave had made it, the elementary school was a smoking crater in the ground. Any doubts those men had about where to drop their bombs were gone—and all but one dropped their payloads on the school kids.

3A German Sub Sank Itself by Flushing the Toilet

uboat toilet

The Germans were pioneers in submarine sewage technology. It might not be something you have spent your time thinking about, but expelling waste on a submarine was a difficult affair. Normally, they had to do it near the surface, but the Germans had advanced “deepwater high-pressure toilets” that let them expel waste at the bottom of the sea.

It was a surprisingly complicated process. When the German submarine U-1206 tried it out early on, their engineer turned the wrong valve and managed to sink the whole ship. Instead of releasing their waste into the sea, he opened it up and poured a mix of sewage and seawater into the sub.

Human waste started pouring into the submarine, soon spreading over the ship’s batteries and letting out chlorine gas. The men had to surface to keep from poisoning themselves, and when they did, they immediately got blasted by British ships.

They grabbed rubber dinghies and abandoned ship, paddling their way to the nearest shore and leaving behind a submarine full of their own waste.

2The US Army Was Attacked by the US Air Force

US army tanks

The US Army’s II Corps was in Sicily when they got attacked—by American planes. A whole squad of US planes came up behind them and opened fire on their tanks, trying to blow them out of the ground.

The men let off yellow smoke flares, a signal the army had set up to let another soldier know that you were friendly. Even with the yellow smoke flares burning, though, the planes kept attacking, firing at the armored division with everything they had. The men were not sure what was going on. Were these disguised German pilots, launching a sneak attack in American planes?

With no other choice, they fired back and shot one of the planes out of the sky. The pilot managed to parachute out, and the troops moved in to see who was attacking them. The man they captured, though, was American.

The tank commander yelled at the pilot, “Why you silly son of a b****, didn’t you see our yellow recognition signals?” The pilot looked at him, baffled, and said, “Oh . . . is that what it was?”

1England Turned a Live Bomb into a Tourist Display

After the war had ended, Lincolnshire County kept a gigantic bomb on display by the road. People would come to see it, figuring it was a sculpted monument meant to commemorate the soldiers who had given their lives in the war. Tourists would climb on top of it and get their picture taken with it, and cars drove by it every day.

It stayed there until 1958 when the city council decided to move it so they could widen the road. When they tried to pick it up, they found out it weighed 22,000 pounds (10,000 kg). They soon realized that this was not just a prop—it was a live “Grand Slam” bomb, the biggest explosive the army had.

For at least 14 years, the bomb had just sat there, waiting to explode and destroy the entire city. Strangest of all, nobody knew who put it there. There was no record of anyone setting it up—but somehow, a gigantic bomb that could have leveled a town ended up sitting by the side of the road.

MARK OLIVERMark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion’s StarWipe and His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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Celebrate Hubble’s Birthday by Tearfully Reviewing Its Best Photos

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Celebrate Hubble’s Birthday by Tearfully Reviewing Its Best Photos

Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

For so many nerds, the Hubble space telescope feels more like a friend than a hunk of metal in the cold vacuum of space—a friend whose job you’re super jealous of. The ‘scope, which launched on the space shuttle Discovery in 1990, has sent back some of the most incredible images from the final frontier—over 1.3 million observations of planets, galaxies and more, all while hurling about our planet at 17,000 miles per hour from its vantage point in low Earth orbit.

Today just so happens to be Hubble’s 27th birthday. This salty ol’ girl, which has outlived NASA’s most optimistic predictions by more than a decade, is finally old enough to vote, gamble, and even rent a car, though she just missed the cutoff for remembering the ‘80s. In lieu of cake, we’ve compiled the telescope’s most timeless pictures, which is really more of a present for us.

Spiral Galaxy Pair NGC 4302 and NGC 4298

Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

This stunning close up of a galactic pair was released on April 20th, 2017 (nice), just in time for Hubble’s birthday. These galaxies—called NGC 4302 and NGC 4298—are located roughly 55 million lightyears away, and both are smaller than our own Milky Way. According to Hubble’s site, although the two appear quite different due to the angles at which we see them, the galaxies are actually very similar in composition.

Plume Erupting From Europa

Image: NASA, ESA, W. Sparks (STScI), and the USGS Astrogeology Science Center

It’s hard to believe this image, which looks exactly like an R.E.M. album, is actually real. A composite shot of Europa, overlain on Hubble data taken on March 17th, 2014, the image marks some of the best evidence yet for eruptingplumes of liquid water on Jupiter’s icy moon. This is one of the reasons scientists are currently interested in exploring Europa—and even drilling into it—in order to find biosignatures. Thanks, Hubble!

Veil Nebula Supernova Remnant

Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Is there anything more breathtaking than this Lisa Frank-looking nebula? Methinks not. The picture, which was taken in April 2015, shows the beautiful garbage left over from the explosion of a star thought to be 20 times more massive than our Sun. According to Hubble, the Veil Nebula is about 110 lightyears across, though its gorgeousness is infinite.

Pillars of Creation

Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

If this picture doesn’t blow your mind, you might be a cyborg, which technically isn’t a bad thing. This revisiting of the 1995 Hubble classic was taken in September 2014, offering a stunning new look at the Eagle Nebula, located 6,500 lightyears from Earth. Within these “fingers” of hydrogen and dust, stars are being born, hence the name “pillars of creation.”

Spiral Galaxy M83

Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); Acknowledgement: W. Blair (STScI/Johns Hopkins University) and R. O’Connell (University of Virginia)

This M83 is not a French electronic rock group, but it is pretty darn lovely. Located 15 million lightyears away in the constellation Hydra, this galaxy is full of star clusters, which pop in this composite of several exposures taken between August 2009 and September 2012. Its signature pink glow comes from its younger stars (1 to 10 million years-old), which absorb ultraviolet light and give off a hydrogen aura.

You can check out the rest of the telescope’s stunning images here. Happy birthday, Hubble, and here’s to many more!