10 Fascinating Facts About Guatemala

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10 Fascinating Facts About Guatemala



There used to be a joke in Guatemala, when the country was ruled by themilitary dictatorship. Instead of greeting his subjects with “Good afternoon” or any other such common pleasantries, the president would say, “I see you have all survived . . . ”

10There Are A Lot Of Volcanoes

Photo credit: Kevin Sebold

There are three active volcanoes in Guatemala, one of which, the awesomely named Volcan de Fuego, erupted for the sixth time in 2017 this past June. There are 37 volcanoes in total, rising out of the crust of the planet thanks to Guatemala’s location on the Ring of Fire—the area where all the inside planet juice seeps out and gets all melty in our business.

Apparently, the three active volcanoes, Pacaya, Fuego, and Santiaguito, are so active that you are almost guaranteed to witness an explosion or lava flow just by visiting the area. Just 35 kilometers (22 mi) from Guatemala City, Volcan de Fuego is closely monitored by authorities in case it decides to kill everyone, which, alone, it is unlikely to do. However, the volcano Pacaya is a mere 30 kilometers (19 mi) from Guatemala City, so a double-team scenario is possible.

A September 2012 eruption of the Volcano of Fire saw an evacuation of 10,000 people ordered. In February 2015, another eruption forced the closure of the capital’s main airport.

9The Poorest Central American Nation With The Highest Crime

Carjacking, daylight sexual assault, armed holdups with automatic weapons conducted by MS-13 and other hardcore gangs, and fake police officers for good measure—all available in sunny Guatemala. Guatemala sees over 5,000 violent deaths a year, primarily from the aforementioned gang crime, but tourists are a natural source of free money for those desperate enough to risk it.

And the risks pay off, as there is a very low arrest and conviction rate, and resisting criminal attempts on your wallet is likely to cost you more than a handful of quetzals. The problems are deeply rooted and multifaceted. The effects of the civil war are still being dealt with, and the literacy rate is just 75 percent. (Only Haiti has a lower rate in the Western Hemisphere.) These surface issues are compounded by Guatemala being such a diverse nation that there are 24 different recognized languages, including Spanish.

8Giant Holes

Photo credit: Moises Castillo/AP

On May 30, 2010, an enormous hole, 18 meters (60 ft) wide and 30 stories deep, opened up in the middle of Guatemala City, swallowing a three-story building and a home. It also caused the death of a man. Because of the location of the capital—between two active volcanoes—the earth beneath is made up primarily of a substance called pumice fill, which was deposited in previous eruptions. This stuff is soft and unconsolidated, so it is theorized that this sinkhole is not actually a sinkhole at all. It is, in fact, man-made.

Due to the local zoning regulations being treated with as much respect as Charlie Sheen treats his own body, leaking water pipes are the likely culprit for digging a massive hole under the city. The repairs cost millions of dollars for each hole ($2.7 million for a similar sinkhole in 2007), so the impoverished government is lackadaisical at best. The 2010 hole became a minor tourist attraction, guarded by police to discourage spelunking.

7A Drunk God Will Sleep With Your Wife

Photo credit: Espiritualidad Maya

While you go to church and say sorry for thinking lewd thoughts, the Mayain Guatemala have a different take on how to entreat with deities to get what you really, really want. Their take is to bribe Maximon with cigars, cash, and liquor and ask for real-world boons.

The faith likely came about by the mixing of indigenous deities withCatholicism, the “San Simon” of the conquistadors being combined with an older native god. According to the old legends, when men left the village to work in the field, Maximon crept into town and slept with their wives. When the men found out, they returned and cut off all his limbs, leaving him behind as a womanizing torso. Gnarly.

Today, Maximon sits uncomfortably alongside and as part of the Catholic faith—at least as interpreted by the Guatemalans. The Church considers prayers to Maximon to be akin to witchcraft. The Maya? They say Maximon is a “friend to the saints.”

6The 36-Year-Long Civil War You Didn’t Hear About

Photo credit: Robert Schediwy

During the Guatemalan Civil War, which lasted from 1960 to 1996, 200,000 people died, and at least 400 villages were simply wiped off the map. The whole affair was one long, drawn-out power struggle between the indigenous rural people and the military junta that was installed in the 1950s. As with many Central and South American nations at the time, the main concern for many was how to keep the communists out. In Guatemala, however, the story deviated a little from the script.

Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, the leader of the junta that was installed after the (democratically elected) communist regime was ousted, took it upon himself to systematically strip the poor of their rights, wealth, and land. The subsequent uprising in 1960 killed Colonel Armas, and a new general was put in his place to continue the fight. By 1963, he was also dead, and another new general was put in place to continue the fight.

In the late 1960s, following the ousting of the military by the civilian regime of Cesar Mendez, the military—already with a reputation for extreme violence—conducted a campaign that butchered thousands of Guatemalans in their ultimately successful bid to remove Mendez and retake power. In short, the army really, really liked being in charge, and the myriad ethnic groups really, really disagreed.

5Guatemala Has Been Inhabited For 20,000 Years

Today, more than half of Guatemalans are descendants of the indigenous Maya peoples.

As found by many imperialist nations, drawing lines on a map and calling it your own rarely works in the long term. Before the arrival of the conquistadors in the 16th century, the region that would become Guatemala was ruled by many different Mayan kingdoms, as evidenced by the upwards of 5,000 archaeological sites spread throughout the country, dating back almost 20,000 years.

By the time of the Spanish conquest, the Maya were in steep decline. Smallpox had swept the continent, and internecine conflicts had weakened the once-mighty civilization. The Spanish, once the Maya were defeated, promptly subjugated the people and treated them little better than slaves. The social stratification—Maya natives at the bottom, Creole Spanish at the top—persisted for centuries. Essentially, the racial divisions imposed on the nation formed the tinder that sparked repeated bloody conflict, repression, exploitation, and misery.

4CIA Interference In Guatemala Accidentally Helped Cuba Go Communist

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Of course, the CIA and the United States had a hand in the overthrow of the communist regime in Guatemala. Propping up the military junta until the 1980s, the US propagated the Cold War with brutal callousness. This would be just another footnote of the tragedy of US involvement in other countries, were it not for the arrival on Christmas Eve, 1953, of a young Argentinian by the name of Che Guevara.

At the time, 70 percent of Guatemala’s usable land was owned by two percent of the population, and the socialist government was in direct conflict with American conglomerate United Fruit. Although not a Marxist at this time, Guevara witnessed mercenaries backed by the United States Air Force bombing civilians in support of a capitalist enterprise. The sight of the conflict between the people and a foreign government was a key moment in shaping the young man into the beginning of the most romanticized revolutionary of the last century. Less than nine months after his arrival, Che had fled to Mexico City to seek out the Cuban revolutionary, Fidel Castro.


The Ixil Maya; the Q’anjob’al and Chuj Maya; the K’iche’ Maya of Joyabaj, Zacualpa, and Chiche; and the Achi Maya. These names are unfamiliar to the English-speaking world, but we should consider them in the same tragic sphere as the Jews of Europe and the Armenians of Turkey. Between 1981 and 1983, an estimated 200,000 Mayans were exterminated for the crime of existing where the powerful willed that they did not.

Regular troops as well as irregular death squads, armed with weapons from the United States and funded by the Guatemalan government, slaughtered innocent people, desecrated sacred places, scorched the earth, and slaughtered livestock. Over 150,000 people fled north to Mexico seeking refuge. In part an effort by the junta to combat the communists by depriving them of the villages in which they hid, the genocide was also a racist expression of generations of ethnic tensions. The perpetrators are still being prosecuted in courts to this day.

2Corruption Is Big Business

Photo credit: Surizar

As one might imagine with a country of crumbling infrastructure and huge levels of regular crime, bribery is a major part of big business, too. It’s still totally illegal in Guatemala to bribe someone, same as anywhere else, but it certainly appears as if many of those at the top of the pile are in up to their elbows, including the recently deposed president.

Former army general and now former President Otto Perez Molina is currently accused of being involved in a multimillion-dollar customs fraud case that the UN has described as being run like “an organized crime syndicate.” The similarities to the mob deepen when you discover that Molina has also been accused (but not convicted) of murdering both a rebel leader in the 1980s and a Catholic bishop in the 1990s. In short, the Molina administration used corrupt money to gain office, and then once in power, it cheated the nation out of millions of dollars while taking kickbacks from foreign parties at the same time.

Nice job if you can get it.

1Drug Gangs Control Almost Everything

Guatemalan authorities intercepted 12,427.2 kilograms (27,397.3 lb) of cocaine last year, but being conveniently placed for distribution of product from Colombia or Ecuador means that Guatemala has significant drug trafficking and related crime problems. The notorious Los Angeles gang MS-13 has wisely discovered that in a world in which the CIA is pulling back its teeth, countries in Central America are fertile grounds. While Guatemala has had success fighting the largest gangs, outfits like MS-13 and the Mexican Sinaloa cartel still exert influence over the 50 or more smaller gangs that ferry cocaine and marijuana through the region.

Drugs are shipped by fast boats from Colombia, which dock at Guatemala’s Puerto Quetzal. Almost all of the cocaine coming out of Colombia arrives in Guatemala, before moving northward or across the Atlantic. The Mexico/Central America corridor handles 87 percent of the cocaine that reaches the US. Next time you’re racking a line, you can be sure that it has the Guatemalan seal of approval.


Top 10 Cases Of Pet Serial Killers

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Top 10 Cases Of Pet Serial Killers




For many people, their pets are like family. When Robert Fisher blew up his home and murdered his family, he took his dog with him.People who kill pets are hated because they kill our best friends. They’re usually never caught, and when they are, their sentences pale in comparison to the pain they cause. In fact, Johannes Brahms, a composer of symphonies who lived from 1833 to 1897, was only recently cleared of being a serial cat killer. For over 100 years after his death, Brahms was wrongly accused of “spearing” cats, reeling them in through his apartment window like a fisherman, and then working their death groans into his music.

Pet serial killers are a real phenomenon, and here are ten more recent cases of tragic pet murders.

10The Elusive Dog Killer Of Hong Kong

Photo credit: Pao Ho Lung

Hong Kong’s dog murders have occurred since the 1980s, and the victim count could be as high as 200 dogs and families. The last colonial governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, said his dog died after eating poisoned food in 1997. The poison is typically chicken or pork laced with easily acquirable pesticides.

While these murders have occurred all over Hong Kong, the wealthy area along Bowen Road has received the most attention.The road, lined with mansions, is not fit for cars, so many local residents jog or walk with their dogs down what should be a safe road.

Some police officers and residents believe the killer gets a kick out of murdering animals and causing emotional harm to the families. Suspected motives are the failure of some dog owners to pick up their pets’ poop and possibly a hatred or fear of dogs.

9Cat Poisonings In South Wales

In the small village of Cilgerran in Wales, residents have suffered nearly 20cat deaths. The felines died from acute kidney failure. Although this is a sign the cats were likely poisoned, a local pet association said they could not be sure if the deaths were intentional or accidental. All of the cat deaths have occurred within a ten-minute walking radius, and residents were asked to search their garages for poisonous substances the cats could have gotten into.

Some residents say there could be an “innocent explanation” for the deaths, but 20 cat deaths in such a tight radius is more likely the work of a serial cat killer.

8Malicious Dog Poisoner In Nevada

In 2017, residents east of Las Vegas in Pahrump, Nevada, concluded that a serial dog killer was on the loose. The killer would drop green pieces of rubbery meat on the ground, which dogs would eat. The meat had apparently been soaked in poison and resulted in the deaths of five pets in one week.

One unfortunate resident suffered the deaths of two beloved dogs to the malicious murderer. “I can’t imagine hurting someone else’s family the way that we’re hurting right now,” said Sabrina Buckley.

Residents suspect the killer may be the same serial pet killer who attacked the same neighborhood in 2015. “Animals can’t fight for themselves,” said Elizabeth Payton, whose dog was murdered in 2015. Speaking to the killer’s obvious cowardice, she said, “Pick on someone your own size.”

7Trigger-Happy Cop In Georgia

In 2016, a former police lieutenant and school resource officer in Georgia named Daniel Peabody was charged with killing several dogs, two of them his own police K-9s.

The first police dog to die was a yellow lab named Dale. After serving on the police force together for about five years from 2007 to 2012, Dale retired from being a police dog. Soon after, Peabody told officers that Dale had died by choking on a chew toy. Four years later, they would charge him with lying to investigators.

Peabody eventually took on the duty of working as a school resource officer. For this duty, he was assigned another dog named Inca. One scorching hot day in June of 2016, Lt. Peabody left Inca in his car for three hours after returning home from work. The poor K-9 died an agonizing death by heatstroke. Just three days later, Peabody resigned from his post as school resource officer.

Investigators were suspicious of the two K-9 deaths under Peabody’s watch. While looking for clues on Peabody’s former property, they found the remains of another dog that Peabody had shot and killed. Investigators said they had reason to believe the animal was Inca’s grandmother. Further evidence led police to believe Peabody shot Dale: “Peabody initially claimed Dale’s death was accidental due to Dale choking on a toy. However, the investigation yielded evidence that Dale was in fact shot and killed.”

Peabody was quickly arrested and charged with cruelty to animals and lying to the police about Dale’s cause of death. It was later revealed that Peabody applied to adopt Dale when the K-9 retired. Apparently, he just wanted to murder his loyal police partner.

6Disemboweled Cats In Croydon

Croydon, a small town in South London, suffered at least five heinous cat deaths in late 2008.

Grant Ramsey said his kitten Molly napped on his chest earlier in the day. When he and Mrs. Ramsey let ten-month-old Molly go outside around 7:30 PM, she did not return. The next time they saw Molly, her stomach was ripped open “from neck to hip.” “You could have put your head in [the hole],” said Mr. Ramsay. Molly’s intestines were found about 2.4 meters (8 ft) away from her body. Eerily, there was no blood trail in between.

Another attack left a cat with “severed tendons and a dislocated hip.” The owner found the cat on the side of the road still alive, trying desperately to drag itself home.

5Keith Jesperson: General Pet Killer

Photo credit: ABC News

In the 1990s, Keith Jesperson became known as the Happy Face Killer for signing letters to journalists with smiley faces. Now serving time for killing at least eight women, he actually killed many more pets than people.Jesperson enjoyed killing animals that passed through his property, such as gophers and cats. Killing strays was not good, but his family wasn’t alarmed.

Then things changed. Jesperson’s daughter, Melissa Moore, went on Dr. Philand revealed that when she was a little girl, Jesperson once tied her pet kittens to the clothesline and beat them to death for fun. As an adult and with her father forever removed from society, she bravely told Dr. Phil, “I realized that he doesn’t feel guilt. My dad is sick, and I don’t have to have a relationship with someone who is sick.”

4The Rabbit Slayer Of Germany

In 2008, residents in the German cities of Witten and Dortmund began hiding their pet rabbits in their garages, cellars, and in the woods. “His head was missing,” said resident Elfriede Dumont of her pet rabbit. “I looked inside and saw Rocco just lying there.” Elfriede was not alone. At least 30 rabbits were slaughtered by a vicious serial rabbit killer.

Children at a playground discovered numerous headless rabbits. As with all the victims, the killer left no rabbit heads or blood to be discovered and apparently drained the blood into a “box or bottle.”

Although police set up a task force to catch the killer, many questions remained unanswered. For example, the rabbits were not in plain sight, and residents could not figure out how the killer knew they even had rabbits. They suspected the killer could have been using satellite images, such as those on Google Earth, to discover potential victims.

“This place is so quiet,” said Elfriede’s granddaughter, Sabrina. “You can leave your car open and everything’s fine. Yet there are people who murder rabbits!”

3Pet Killers In England

Sussex, England, suffered a rash of pet murders in 2004. Police believed more than one person was responsible for the deaths of 19 cats, four rabbits, and one fox. One innocent cat’s head was found buried among flowers, and its (supposed) body was later found along with two dead rabbits in a mail bag.

The mutilations were not consistent. Some animals had both their tails and heads removed. Pet detective June Bailey of Rustington compiled all the reports and said all the murders took place between midnight and 3:00 AM. “We are all living in fear,” she said. “[Leaving pets outside is] like playing Russian roulette.”

2The Dog Killer Of Condesa

Mexico City experienced a serial dog killer at a park in the trendy Condesa district in 2001. Within 20 minutes of walking their dogs in the park, owners said their dogs vomited, had convulsions, and then died. “These dogs were like our children,” said Caroline Owen, whose dog was killed by poison at the park. In response, police blocked off the park and searched for clues while autopsies were performed on the murdered dogs.

For many people on social media, the special attention given to the dog murders contrasted sharply with the perceived lack of attention given to thousands of unsolved human drug war murders. “All life deserves attention,” said one resident. Another dog owner thought the police needed to do more: “Are they waiting until a child dies to do something?”

Yet another person, a man who had been selling his artwork in the park for the past 30 years, offered a motive for the killer, which apparently no one found suspicious: Maybe the killer was tired of dog owners not picking up dog poo.

1Depressed Dog Killer Caught In Delhi

Photo credit: India Today

In 2016, police in Delhi, India, arrested a serial dog killer who was caught on video feeding poison to dogs. Once the dogs ate the poison, dog killer and engineer Nakul Mishra, age 28 at the time, brutally beat the dogs.

When the video first surfaced, police set up a task force to find the killer. They painstakingly combed through thousands of rental applications and searched the area door-to-door. Eventually, they honed in on Mishra and arrested him at his home.

Mishra’s excuse was that he was depressed over a failed relationship, the death of his own dog, and losing his job. Police said Mishra injured three dogs and murdered a puppy. He is expected to receive jail time and psychological counseling.

On a final note, animal serial killers are often either future serial murders of humans or failed ones. There are many examples of serial killers who killed and tortured animals as children. Young Jeffrey Dahmer impaled animal heads on sticks long before attempting to turn humans into zombie slaves. As a child, the Boston Strangler liked to put dogs and cats into boxes and then shoot arrows through them. The Columbine school shooters mutilated animals in their free time and bragged about it.

Micah Morris lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has an English degree and enjoys writing.

For some considerably more uplifting pet stories, check out 10 Pets That Put Killers Behind Bars and 10 Incredible Pets That Returned Home After Years Of Being Lost.

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DNA Analysis Reveals Why ‘Water Bears’ Are the World’s Toughest Animals

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DNA Analysis Reveals Why ‘Water Bears’ Are the World’s Toughest Animals

Diane Nelson, a Tardigrade researcher who works in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, used a scanning microscope to take this 3-D image of a Tardigrade.

Credit: NPS/Diane Nelson

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are less than a fraction of an inch in length, yet they are believed to be Earth’s toughest, hardiest animals. They are virtually indestructible. Tardigrades have the ability to withstand complete dehydration. Once desiccated, they have been frozen in blocks of ice, exposed to radiation, and sent into the vacuum of space, and yet they still usually spring back to life when water becomes available again.

New genetic research, published in the journal PLOS Biology, reveals how tardigrades achieve such resurrections after drying to a crisp. The authors now even believe that alien life forms could possess this remarkable ability.

“If life exists on other planets, and it is water-based, then those organisms that live out of water will evolve to resist extreme events, including the threat of drying out,” said co-author Mark Blaxter of the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Evolutionary Biology.

He added that the ability to undergo anhydrobiosis — the desiccated, dormant state — “has evolved multiple times on Earth, so I am sure it will have evolved on other living planets.”

Blaxter and his colleagues took a clever approach to unravel the scientific secrets behind anhydrobiosis in tardigrades.

The scientists re-sequenced and reassembled the genome of Hypsibius dujardini, a tardigrade that can only undergo desiccation after extensive pre-exposure to drying conditions. They then compared the tiny animal’s DNA with that of Ramazzottius varieornatus, a related species with tolerance to rapid desiccation.

The researchers then looked at a particular set of genes, the so-called HOX genes, which establish the nose-to-tail pattern in embryos. There are usually about ten different HOX genes in animals, but tardigrades are missing five. Nematodes (roundworms) lack these same five genes.

RELATED: Microscopic Tardigrade ‘Water Bears’ Will Be the Last Survivors on Earth

“This could be because they share a common ancestor with tardigrades, and the loss happened in this ancestor,” Blaxter said. “Alternatively, it could be that the loss is associated with both groups becoming miniaturized, and these ‘middle’ HOX genes are the ones that are the easiest to lose.”

He added that the shared genetic loss could also simply be due to independent evolution. Because of these remaining questions, scientists continue to debate whether or not tardigrades are more closely related to nematodes or to arthropods — insects, spiders, and crustaceans.

By asking which genes were turned on during tardigrade anhydrobiosis, the scientists could identify sets of proteins, which appear to replace the water that tardigrade cells lose, thus helping to preserve the microscopic structures until water is available again.

Arakawa explained that all cells contain around 60–80 percent water when they are active, including human cells.

The key proteins that they identified are highly soluble. They dissolve in water that, due to surface tension, clings to and surrounds intracellular molecules within tardigrades. Like a microscopic protective coating, they prevent the cells from denaturing when the animal otherwise desiccates.

Arakawa added that tardigrades also possess additional genes that protect their DNA from damage. Because these small animals lack stress-sensing pathways, their cells do not usually die out when damaged. Instead, the identified proteins try to make repairs, and are often successful in doing so.

Due to these abilities, scientific consensus holds that tardigrades could be Earth’s last survivors. Such resilience is unexpected in a tiny creature that seems to exist in the slow lane.

“Tardigrades are slow walkers, and are not really aggressive animals,” Arakawa explained. “Therefore, they tend to lose competitions for food, or can become prey in a diversified ecosystem. But tardigrades fled to their own niche, where only tardigrades can survive, so paradoxically, tardigrades presumably acquired their extreme survival abilities due to their ecological incompetence.”

RELATED: Tardigrade ‘Water Bear’ Dries to a Crisp and Then Comes Back to Life

Arakawa and his colleagues can envision a day when enzymes, vaccines, human organs, tissues, and cells could be preserved in a state of anhydrobiosis instead of by liquid-nitrogen-based freezing.

“Some people have suggested that tardigrades could somehow travel through space to seed other planets with Earth-derived life,” Baxter said. “That obviously didn’t happen on Earth, as only some tardigrades are able to do anhydrobiosis, and tardigrades are derived from other, more ancient forms.”

While it is doubtful that tardigrades are somehow hurtling through space now, these amazing animals continue to captivate researchers. Blaxter and Arakawa, for example, have been studying them with awe and admiration for years.

Blaxter, one of the few tardigrade genomics experts in the world, reminisced that his scientific career was sewn when, as a child, he was gifted with an animal encyclopedia by his parents.

“I especially pored over the weird and wonderful animals that were so beyond what I had seen with my own eyes,” he recalled.

When, many years later, one of his Ph.D. students suggested that he study tardigrades, a lightbulb went off.

“We haven’t looked back,” Blaxter said.

Originally published on Seeker.


Moving Nose to Tail, Shrew ‘Conga Line’ Shimmies Online

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Moving Nose to Tail, Shrew ‘Conga Line’ Shimmies Online

A caravan of shrews

Credit: Alamy

A creepy, crawly video of tiny critters holding each other’s tails and scurrying across the ground like a furry centipede has captured the internet’s attention.

Called “The NOPE train,” the video has garnered nearly 3 million views since it was posted to Imgur on Monday (July 24). Commenters got creative, calling the furry unit “the human centipede: mice edition,” a “rat king in the making” and a “fluffy snake.” One user wryly posted, “The caboose is a bit wobbly.”

At least two commenters got the animal right: They’re shrews. And not just any shrews — that fuzzy conga is a mother shrew leading her babies in a train, known as a caravan, according to Cynthia Alvarado, a clinical veterinarian at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. [The World’s 6 Smallest Mammals]

Here’s how the caravan works: The mother shrew heads the line, and each preceding baby shrew bites down on the base of the tail belonging to the shrew in front of it. Then, with Mom in the lead, the shrews can travel together in a fairly ordered procession.

The NOPE train…

Shrews typically form these caravans when their nest is disturbed and the mother decides to evacuate her young to safety, according to the Mammal Society, a charity in the United Kingdom that advocates science-led mammal conservation. Caravans may also be used to encourage shrew pups to explore their surroundings, the society noted.

Female shrews usually have three or four litters between May and September, with each litter consisting of about five to seven pups. Each litter can have two or three fathers, the Mammal Society reported.

Another video of a shrew caravan, posted by YouTube user Вот так Вот and called “Мыши идут строем,” which translates to “Mice go in line,” shows the bizarre phenomenon as well.

Given that Вот так Вот and several Imgur posters thought the critters were rodents, it’s important to note that shrews are in an entirely different taxonomic order.

“Mice are in the order Rodentia, and shrews are in the order Eulipotyphla, which includes animals likes moles and hedgehogs,” Alvarado said.

Original article on Live Science.

The Evil Eye: A Closer Look

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The Evil Eye: A Closer Look

The evil eye is a specific type of magical curse. It is believed to cause harm, illness and even death.The evil eye is a specific type of magical curse. It is believed to cause harm, illness and even death.

Credit: Vasilchenko Nikita | Shutterstock

Everyone gets a dirty look now and then, and we usually think little of it (especially if we deserved it). For most of us it is soon shrugged off, but in many places belief in “the evil eye” is taken very seriously, and requires immediate action to avoid harm.

The evil eye is a human look believed to cause harm to someone or something. The supernatural harm may come in the form of a minor misfortune, or more serious disease, injury — even death. Folklorist Alan Dundes, in his edited volume “The Evil Eye: A Casebook” notes that “the victim’s good fortune, good health, or good looks — or unguarded comments about them — invite or provoke an attack by someone with the evil eye … Symptoms of illness caused by the evil eye include loss of appetite, excessive yawning, hiccups, vomiting and fever. If the object attacked is a cow, its milk may dry up; if a plant or fruit tree, it may suddenly wither and die.”

The evil eye is also said to cause a number of other maladies including insomnia, fatigue, depression and diarrhea. In many places, disease is considered a magical as well as a medical issue, and the reason a given person succumbs to a malady may be attributed to a curse instead of random chance or exposure to a virus. It can even affect objects and buildings: The evil eye cast upon a vehicle may break down irreparably, while a house so cursed may soon develop a leaky roof or an insect infestation. Just about anything that goes wrong may be blamed on the power of the evil eye.

The evil eye is well known throughout history. It is mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman texts, as well as in many famous literary works, including the Bible (such as Proverbs 23:6: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats”) the Koran and Shakespeare’s plays. Though belief in the evil eye is widespread, it is not universal. A 1976 cross-cultural survey by folklorist John Roberts found that 36 percent of cultures believed in the evil eye.

The evil eye is essentially a specific type of magical curse, and has its roots in magical thinking and superstition. Let’s say that a person experiences bad luck, ill health, accident, or some unexplained calamity — perhaps a drought or an infectious disease. Before science could explain weather patterns and germ theory, any bad event for which there was not an obvious cause might be blamed on a curse. Curses, including the evil eye, are an answer to the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people.

Eyes are said to have special powers; they are said to be the gateway to a person’s soul. Shifting eyes are said to subtly betray liars, while a steady gaze may be endearing or menacing depending on the circumstances. Eye contact can create an intensely personal connection, whether between lovers or superiors and subordinates. Glaring or intense staring can convey power and authority over another. And of course, actors use their eyes to convey a wide range of emotions, including love, hate, disgust, boredom, scorn, surprise and envy. In fact it is this last emotion — jealousy — that underlies the evil eye’s cultural association with magic.

Belief in the power of the eyes is so powerful that any eye affliction has come to suggest evil and bad luck. People who are cross-eyed, have uncontrollable eye twitches or spasms (a condition called blepharospasm), or who merely have a prominent squint have been shunned and feared as provoking bad luck, especially among those who work in dangerous occupations such as fishing and mining. Similarly, those with unusually close-set eyes or eyes of different colors were often suspected of having the evil eye.

Babies and children are said to be especially susceptible to harm from the evil eye, and in many countries, including Greece, Romania, and India, praising a child publicly is sometimes considered taboo, for the compliment will draw the attention of the evil eye. In order to ward off the evil eye, parents of a thoughtlessly praised child may ask the person who gave the compliment to immediately spit in the child’s face. Because the momentarily exalted youngster has been brought down a peg, any harm by the evil eye is unnecessary; this spittle salve is harmless yet insulting enough to negate the compliment.

Who has the evil eye? Maybe you do. Many believe that bad intention is not necessary, and that some people can cast an evil eye without even knowing it. If one person is believed to have the evil eye, other members of his or her family are often treated with suspicion — and any children are assumed to have the curse as well.

The best way to deal with the evil eye is to avoid it in the first place. The method varies by culture, geographic region, and personal preference. In Latin America the evil eye is known as “mal de ojo,” and belief in it is especially widespread in rural areas. In Puerto Rico, for example, newborns are often given a good luck charm called an azabache to protect them from the evil eye.

Amulets can be worn to deter the evil eye, often using the color blue (symbolizing heaven or godliness) and an eye symbol. Charms, potions and spells can also be prepared; garlic can be used to deter the evil eye, and some believe that just saying the word “garlic” offers protection.

Often those who believe they have been harmed by the evil eye will seek out shamans, witch doctors, psychics or other spiritual healers to remove the curse. There are several ways to cure mal de ojo; one traditional method from Mexico involves the use of a raw egg. The egg, a universal symbol of purity and birth, is said to absorb evil energies as it passes over the forehead and prone body of the victim. The egg is then broken over a bowl of water and the resulting forms closely examined for any unusual shapes. An oval or eye shape seen in the yolk or whites is said to indicate that the evil eye’s power has been successfully removed from the victim. Some claim that the gender of the person who cast the evil eye can be determined from the shapes.

It is tempting to view the evil eye as an ancient, discredited belief that plays no role in our 21st-century world. Instead, as folklorist Dundes notes, we “should keep in mind that the evil eye is not some old-fashioned superstitious belief of interest solely to antiquarians. The evil eye continues to be a powerful factor affecting the behavior of countless millions of people throughout the world.”

Though belief in the evil eye can be a harmless superstition, it can also be dangerous in some circumstances. Any time one person believes that another has harmed them — whether naturally or supernaturally, intentionally or accidentally — there is the potential for deadly retribution. Like other accused witches and sorcerers over the centuries, many people have been attacked, beaten, and killed for casting an evil eye.

Canaanites Live: DNA Reveals Fate of Biblical People

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Canaanites Live: DNA Reveals Fate of Biblical People

A burial jar containing the remains of an ancient inhabitant of the Canaanite city of Sidon. This individual was one of five whose DNA was sequenced to reveal the ancestry of the Canaanites.

Credit: Dr. Claude Doumet-Serhal/The Sidon Excavation

The people of modern-day Lebanon can trace their genetic ancestry back to the Canaanites, new research finds.

The Canaanites were residents of the Levant (modern-day Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine) during the Bronze Age, starting about 4,000 years ago. They’re best known from the Old Testament of the Bible, in which they’re described as the cursed descendants of Canaan, blighted by God because Canaan’s father dishonored his own father, the patriarch Noah. The Canaanites were often in conflict with the Israelite tribes that wrote the Hebrew Bible. In fact, the Book of Deuteronomy features Yahweh (God) ordering the Canaanites to be exterminated.

In part because the Canaanites kept their records on easily degradable papyrus rather than clay, little is known about their side of the story. But now, ancient DNA reveals that the Canaanites were the descendants of Stone Age settlers and the ancestors of the Lebanese. [Biblical Battles: 12 Ancient Wars Lifted from the Bible]

“Canaanite ancestry was widespread in the region,” study researchers Marc Haber and Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom wrote in an email to Live Science, “and several groups who were probably culturally different shared the same ancestral background.”

Haber, Tyler-Smith and their colleagues extracted ancient DNA from the bones of five Canaanites who died in the ancient city of Sidon (an area now in Lebanon). The skeletons dated from between 3,750 and 3,650 years ago. The researchers then compared the genetic sequences of these ancient Canaanites with those of 99 modern Lebanese people, as well as with ancient DNA sequences of more than 300 other people from an ancient DNA database.

A young person’s body buried in the Canaanite city of Sidon more than 3,500 years ago.

Credit: Dr. Claude Doumet-Serhal/The Sidon Excavation

The findings revealed broad overlap between Canaanite genetics and the sequences of modern-day people from Lebanon. Researchers even found some ancient gene variations that suggested the Canaanites probably had similar coloration in skin, eyes and hair as Lebanese people do today. It was surprising, Haber and Tyler-Smith said, to find such continuity in the Canaanite line, given all of the conquests and expansions into the Middle East from outside groups since the Bronze Age.

The Canaanites themselves descended from Stone Age settlers who mixed with newcomers from what is now Iran about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, the researchers said. This mixture could be explained by the expansion of the Akkadian Empire, a Mesopotamian empire that peaked around that time, the researchers wrote.

The excavation of Sidon, an ancient Canaanite city in what is now Lebanon.

Credit: Dr. Claude Doumet-Serhal/The Sidon Excavation

After the Bronze Age, the Canaanites did mix a little bit with their neighbors. Modern-day Lebanese populations are largely Canaanite, the DNA showed, with a bit of Eastern hunter-gatherer and Eurasian Steppe influence that got added to the mix some 3,000 years ago, the researchers said.

Understanding the Canaanite’s genetic history is important, Haber and Tyler-Smith said, because so few written records of the group’s story remain.

“Genetics has the power to fill these gaps,” the two told Live Science. The Near East is a key place for these sorts of studies, the researchers said, because it was such a central location in human history.

The next steps are to study “more samples, different places and different time periods,” Haber and Tyler-Smith said.

The researchers reported their findings online today (July 27) in The American Journal of Human Genetics.

Original article on Live Science.

How Two Bodies Stayed Mummified for 75 Years in a Swiss Glacier

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How Two Bodies Stayed Mummified for 75 Years in a Swiss Glacier

The mountain range bordering the Jungfrau Glacier in Switzerland, as viewed from the Jungfraujoch.

Credit: Terry Chambers/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty

Last week, during a routine inspection tour, a ski-lift technician for the Swiss adventure resort Glacier 3000 found what he thought was a collection of black rocks near the Tsanfleuron glacier in the western Bernese Alps, reported The New York Times. Upon close inspection, though, he discovered that the rocks were, in fact, mummified bodies.

DNA testing has now confirmed that the bodies are those of Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin, spouses that had been lost ever since they left home to feed their cattle the morning of Aug. 15, 1942. So how did the bodies become preserved in the glacier?

Whether the Dumoulins fell into a crevasse remains a mystery, but it may be that a snowstorm covered them, making it impossible to find the couple by sight. But regardless of what happened, the water inside their bodies eventually froze. Still, the ice crystals in their tissues likely didn’t stay put, said Dan Fisher, a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in identifying the remains. [25 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries]

“The tissue starts out with a high water content, but that water would freeze, and in many cases,actually under those frozen conditions, when surrounded with [air] with low water-vapor content, the ice crystals in the tissue can sublimate,” Fisher told Live Science. Sublimation is the process by which solid ice transitions directly into water vapor without ever becoming liquid. In other words, the tissue dried out, Fisher said.

As such, it was both the cold and the dry conditions that inhibited the work of bacteria and fungi, as well as the chemical processes that would normally break down human tissue, leaving the bodies well-preserved.

Additionally, the bodies remained relatively intact likely because the Tsanfleuron glacier may be relatively stable, even though glaciers, rivers of slow-flowing ice, are in constant motion. They advance when more ice and snow are added than lost, and retreat when more ice and snow is lost, according to Martin Callanan, an associate professor of archaeology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who was not involved in identifying the remains.

This retreat makes it possible to glimpse even further back into the past. In 2003, less than 20 miles (32 kilometers) away from Tsanfleuron, at the Schnidejoch glacier, coins, leather, a piece of a wooden bowl and a bow and arrows were among items discovered. Those objects date from Medieval times, all the way back to nearly 4500 B.C., during the Neolithic age.

“There is a definite increase in the number of objects that we’re finding and in the number of different regions that are reporting finds,” said Callanan, mentioning that he couldn’t speak to whether this was true specifically for bodies as well.

Photo published for Swiss police confirm identity of couple found on glacier

Callanan attributed this increase in discoveries, in part, to global warming. Global temperatures in 2014, 2015, and 2016 each broke the record for the hottest year on the planet since recordkeeping began in 1880, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Live Science. This warming is causing glaciers worldwide to shrink, a 2016 study in Nature Geoscience confirms with 99 percent certainty.

The recent discovery and identification of the Dumoulins is a great relief to the couple’s daughter Marceline Udry-Dumoulin. Udry-Dumoulin, one of seven children, was only 4 when her parents went missing. After their disappearance, local rescue teams searched crevasses for more than two months but found nothing.

“I climbed the glacier three times afterwards, always looking for them,” Udry-Dumoulin told the Swiss newspaper Le Matin. “I kept wondering if they had suffered and what had become of them. Now I have the pleasure of having answers to these questions.”

Original article on Live Science.

Facts About Gallium

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Facts About Gallium

Crystals of 99.999 percent gallium, grown in a lab

Credit: foobar/Creative Commons

Gallium is a soft, silvery metal used primarily in electronic circuits, semiconductors and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). It is also useful in high-temperature thermometers, barometers, pharmaceuticals and nuclear medicine tests. The element has no known biological value.

Natural element

In nature, gallium is never found as a free element and cannot be found in a substantial amount in any minerals. Rather, it exists in trace amounts in various compounds, including zinc ores and bauxite. By weight, gallium makes up about 0.0019 percent of Earth’s crust, according to PeriodicTable.com. It is easily obtained by smelting, however, and most commercial gallium is extracted as a byproduct of aluminum and zinc production, according to Chemicool. The largest producers of gallium are Australia, Russia, France, and Germany.

  • Atomic number (number of protons in the nucleus): 31
  • Atomic symbol (on the periodic table of the elements): Ga
  • Atomic weight (average mass of the atom): 69.723
  • Density: 5.91 grams per cubic centimeter
  • Phase at room temperature: solid
  • Melting point: degrees 85.57 degrees Fahrenheit (29.76 degrees Celsius)
  • Boiling point: 3,999 F (2,204 C)
  • Number of isotopes (atoms of the same element with a different number of neutrons): 24 whose half-lives are known
  • Most common isotopes: Two stable Ga-69 (natural abundance 60.1 percent) and Ga-71 (natural abundance 39.9 percent).
Electron configuration and elemental properties of gallium.
Electron configuration and elemental properties of gallium.

Credit: Greg Robson/Creative Commons, Andrei Marincas Shutterstock

On the periodic table of the elements, gallium is grouped in the Boron family (group 13), which includes the semi-metal boron (B) and the metalsaluminium (Al), gallium, indium (In) and thallium (Tl), according toChemistry LibreTexts. All five of these elements have three electrons in their outer energy level.

Gallium is a post-transition metal. These are metallic elements located between the transition metals and the metalloids (non-metals) on the periodic table. Post-transition metals have some of the traits of the transition metals but tend to be softer and conduct more poorly. The post-transition metals include some of the Boron family elements — aluminum, indium and thallium — but also tin (Sn), lead (Pb) and bismuth (Bi).

Gallium has some very unique qualities. For example, although it is a solid at room temperature (about 77 F/ 22 C), it is still so soft that you could cut it with a knife. In addition, it has a low melting point of 85.57 F (29.76 C) — less than 10 degrees above room temperature — so if you were to pick up a lump of gallium, it would literally melt from the warmth of your hand. Then if you set it back down, it would solidify again.

Even with such a low melting point, gallium’s boiling point is quite high at 3,999 F (2,204 C), giving it one of the greatest ratios between melting point and boiling point of any element. At low temperatures, gallium is a brittle solid that breaks quite easily, and similar to glass, it shatters conchoidally (does not follow natural planes of separation).

Gallium is used primarily in electronics. In fact, about 95 percent of all gallium produced is used to make gallium arsenide (GaAs), a compound used in microwave and infrared circuits, semiconductors and blue and violet LEDs, according to Chemistry Explained. Gallium arsenide can produce laser light directly from electricity and is used in solar panels, including those on the Mars Exploration Rover. The compound gallium nitride (GaN) is used as a semiconductor in Blu-ray technology, mobile phones and pressure sensors for touch switches.

Gallium bonds easily with most metals and is commonly used to make low-melting alloys. It is one of four metals (including mercury, rubidiumand caesium) that are liquid at or near room temperature. Of these four metals, gallium is the least reactive and least toxic, making it the most safe and environmentally-friendly choice for high temperature thermometers, barometers, heat transfer systems and cooling and heating devices.

Liquid gallium can be quite difficult to work with, however, as it clings to glass, skin and most other materials (except graphite, quartz and Teflon). It also expands when it freezes so it cannot be stored in glass containers.

Gallium is also used in some pharmaceuticals and radiopharmaceuticals. For example, the radioactive isotope Ga-67 is used as a nuclear medicine test to look for inflammation, infection or cancer in the body.

Gallium nitrate is used in many pharmaceuticals and as a treatment for hypercalcemia, a disease which can lead to the growth of bone tumors. Gallium has also been suggested as a treatment for cancer, infectious disease and inflammatory disease. However, exposure to large amounts of gallium may cause throat or chest irritation, and the fumes can lead to some serious conditions, according to Chemistry LibreTexts.

Before gallium was discovered, it was predicted by Russian chemist and inventor Dimitri Mendeleev, the creator of the periodic table of elements. He named the missing element eka-aluminum because he knew it would go below aluminum on the periodic table in box 31, according toChemicool.

The element was first discovered by the French chemist Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1875, who had been studying the spectra of the chemical elements for 15 years (spectra are the lines produced when chemical elements are heated), according to Chemistry Explained. Since each element produces its own distinctive set of lines, or spectra, this method was a reliable way to identify elements.

Lecoq de Boisbaudran wondered if element 31 might be found in zinc ores.Zinc, which has an atomic number of 30, sits next to gallium on the periodic table. In August 1875, using a spectroscope, Lecoq de Boisbaudran did indeed find some gallium, but only in very small amounts. He reported that the spectrum of the new element was composed of a narrow, readily visible, violet ray, according to Chemistry Explained.

Later that year, Lecoq de Boisbaudran obtained pure gallium through the electrolysis of gallium hydroxide in potassium hydroxide, according to theJefferson Lab. Lecoq de Boisbaudran was then given several tons of zinc ore by miners for his research. From this ore, he was able to produce a few grams of nearly pure gallium, according to Chemistry Explained. Lecoq de Boisbaudran proposed the name gallium for the new element, which comes from the Latin word “Gallia,” meaning France.

  • Liquid gallium cannot be kept in a glass or metal container because it expands 3.1 percent when it freezes.
  • Gallium has the largest liquid range of any metal.
  • The Neutrino Observatory in Italy uses large amounts of gallium trichloride to study solar neutrinos produced in the sun. Neutrinos are particles created in the first second of the universe — even before atoms — and are continually being made through nuclear reactions of the sun and other stars, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • In its purest extracted form, gallium is a vibrant silver color. As a solid, it is blue-gray.
  • Another unusual trait of gallium is that it can be supercooled quite easily. Supercooling is the cooling down of a substance below its freezing point without turning it into a solid.
  • Approximately 95 percent of gallium consumption is in the electronics industry, according to LibreTexts. Gallium arsenide and gallium nitride represent about 98% of gallium consumption in the United States.
  • Gallium has been used in nuclear bombs to stabilize the crystal structure.
  • When painted on glass, gallium turns into a lustrous mirror.
  • Gallium’s boiling point is more than eight times higher than its melting point on the absolute scale — the greatest ratio between melting point and boiling point of any element.

Additional resources

10 Hypothetical Astronomical Objects That Could Actually Exist

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10 Hypothetical Astronomical Objects That Could Actually Exist



Space has undoubtedly been a fascinating part of reality for humanity. Ever since we were able to understand our surroundings, we’ve looked up at the stars in search for answers, inspiration, and constancy. Space has been the muse for hundreds of movies and thousands of books. It has inspired calendars and horoscopes that detail how the arrangement of astronomical objects can predict personality traits and major life events.

Space has also inspired numerous visions of the future. We’ve conjured up scenarios of interplanetary travel, alien communication, and even time travel via wormholes. The items on this list look like they have been taken from an old science fiction book. However, numerous scientists believe these objects could exist somewhere in the vastness of space. Here are the top ten hypothetical astronomical objects that could actually exist.

10Zombie Star

Photo credit: NASA, ESA

As the name suggests, this type of star is one that, in a way, comes back from the dead. We’ve all heard of a supernova being referred to as the “death” of a star. In most cases, supernovae do mark the end of stars’ lives, since, during those grand explosions, the star is completely obliterated. However, scientists at NASA now believe that a faint supernova could leave behind a surviving portion of the dying dwarf star.

Astronomers first thought about the possibility of zombie stars when they observed a faint blue star feeding energy to its larger companion star. This process ignited a relatively small supernova, a Type Iax, which is low in brightness and does not spew out as much stellar mass as its cousin, the Type Ia supernova. So far, this is the only known way a white dwarf can explode. Typically, stars that explode at the end of their lifetimes are large, massive, and have very short life spans. White dwarfs, on the other hand, are cooler and tend to live longer, since they do not typically explode. Instead, they tend to expel their mass and create a planetary nebula. NASA scientists believe they have identified 30 of these Type Iax supernovae that leave behind a surviving white dwarf, but additional evidence is needed to safely say that they exist.

9White Hole

White holes were theorized by scientists who were working with black holes. While they were working through the complex mathematics associated with black holes, they found that by assuming the singularity at the center of a black hole had no mass, or by assuming that there was no mass within the event horizon, a white hole could be created.

The math explains that if white holes are real, they would behave exactly unlike black holes. That is, instead of sucking up all the matter around them, they would eject matter into the universe. However, the math also states that white holes could only exist if there was absolutely no matter inside the event horizon, not even a tiny cookie crumb. In the instance one atom of matter enters the white hole’s event horizon, it would collapse and disappear, so even if these white holes existed in the beginning of our universe, their life spans would have been incredibly short, since our universe is filled with matter.

8Dyson Sphere

The concept of a Dyson sphere was first introduced by Freeman Dyson, a physicist and astronomer who explored the idea through a thought experiment. He imagined a solar system–sized solar power collector. He believed a civilization could enclose its star in a cloud of satellite-type objects (or a “shell” or “ring of matter” in Dyson’s words) in order to beam 100 percent of the star’s radiation to a planet. Dyson created this thought experiment as a way to identify possible alien life in the universe. If we were to find a Dyson sphere, it could indicate the presence of a highly advanced alien civilization.

Here’s a cool fact: If we had the technology to create a Dyson sphere around the Sun, we would generate 384 yottawatts of energy, aka the total power output of the Sun. (Yotta- is the largest decimal unit prefix. It is equal to ten to the 24th power, or one septillion, or one million million million million.)

7Black Dwarf

Black dwarf—the name itself does not invoke sci-fi vibes as “zombie star” does. However, the concept behind a black dwarf is equally as interesting as all the other hypothetical objects on this list. So far, astronomers have found white dwarfs, brown dwarfs, and red dwarfs. However, black dwarfs have never been seen and are purely theoretical. Astronomers believe they could be formed from white dwarfs that have cooled for a sufficiently long time, to the point where their temperature matches the temperature of the Cosmic Microwave Background. The CMB is the radiation left over from the Big Bang that fills up the entire universe. It currently has an average temperature of 2.7 Kelvin.

These black dwarfs are thought to be invisible, since their temperature is so low and they have no internal source of energy. Theoretically, if a 5-Kelvin white dwarf was to turn into a black dwarf, it would take 1015 years.Therefore, the universe is still too young to have created any black dwarfs!

6Quark Star

Photo credit: Science

Quark stars, also called strange stars, are thought to be composed of a soup of quarks—the fundamental constituents of matter. Astronomers believe that these stars can be created after a medium-sized star (about 1.44 times the size of our Sun) has run out of fuel and has entered the collapsing stage of its lifetime. As it collapses, it squeezes protons and electrons together, eventually forming neutrons. However, scientists think that if the star is heavy enough and continues collapsing after this stage, the neutrons that were created could break down into their component quarks under the immense pressure, creating an incredibly dense type of matter.

A paper published in 2012 delves into the hypothetical nature of these strange quark stars. The authors of the paper explain that these stars could be enveloped in a thin nuclear “crust,” consisting of heavy ions immersed in an electron gas. However, they could also exist without the crust. In that case, the quark stars would possess ultra-high electric fields that could reach up to 1019 Volts per centimeter!

5Ocean Planet

Photo credit: Anynobody

As the name suggests, ocean planets, or water worlds, are thought to be composed entirely of vast, uninterrupted oceans. The idea of water worlds became popular when NASA announced the existence of two planets outside of our solar system: Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f. These planets are thought to be water worlds that could harbor a wealth of aquatic life.

A paper published in June 2004 explains how these types of planets could be formed. It is believed that they form relatively far away from their parent star and slowly migrate toward it (over a time period of about a million years). The planet would have to come five to ten times closer to the star, depending on how far away it initially formed. The paper delves into the internal structure of the planets as well as how deep their oceans could be and what their atmospheres could be composed of. Interesting read!

4Chthonian Planets

Photo credit: ESO/L. Calcada

The idea of Chthonian planets became popular thanks to an extrasolar planet nicknamed Osiris. NASA scientists were baffled when they detected carbon and oxygen for the first time in an atmosphere outside of our solar system. However, Osiris’s atmosphere was seen to be rapidly evaporating.

Scientists have designated a new class of worlds called Chthonian planets, which are created when gas giants, like Jupiter, enter a critical distance from their parent star. When they get too close, their outer layers begin to rapidly evaporate. Chthonian planets are thus the remnants of these gas giants, which have been stripped of their outer layers, leaving behind a dense central core.

3Preon Star

A preon star is something that could follow a quark star. As a star is compressed to the point where it becomes a quark star and is still massiveenough to continue its collapse, scientists believe that the quarks themselves could break down into these theoretical preons.

So far, scientists have not found a way to break down quarks, so they remain the main constituents of matter. However, if quarks are made of other individual particles—these so-called preons—stars could technically achieve this even denser state, one of matter created entirely of a soup of hyper-dense preons.

2Ghost Galaxy

Ghost galaxies, also called dark galaxies, are galaxies that have very few stars. They’re so inefficient at making stars that they’re thought to be mostly composed of gas and dust, making them basically invisible. As of now, they remain theoretical for this very fact, but astronomers believe that dark galaxies are likely to exist. An international team of scientists even thinks they have found the first dark galaxy. However, more data analysis needs to be done before it is confirmed.

Astronomers believe they have also found a different type of ghost galaxy, one that is 99 percent dark matter. They named it Dragonfly 44, and it seems to be the Milky Way’s dark doppelganger in mass, but it contains very few stars and is different in its structure. If this galaxy is ever observed or analyzed in enough detail, it could change how astronomers perceive galaxy formation and dark matter.

1Cosmic Strings

Cosmic strings are an insane idea, but the craziest part about them is that they could actually exist. Cosmic strings are slight defects in the fabric of space and time that were created at the beginning of time, left over from the formation of the universe. If one were to interact with one of these defects, one could create a “closed time-like curve,” which would allow for backwardtime travel. Scientists have speculated how they can make time machines out of these cosmic strings. They believe that by putting two of them close enough together, or one string and one black hole, they could create an array of these closed time-like curves.

To better visualize this, picture the cosmic strings as loops of space-time. Imagine picking up one loop and throwing it across space directly toward another loop. Then, imagine jumping on a space ship and flying around them in a perfect figure eight. This would allow you to emerge at any random point in space and time!

Although these objects are purely theoretical, astronomers believe that, if they exist, they would be very small “lines” in the fabric of space, and their effects would be incredibly strange. It is also believed that their existence could explain bizarre effects observed in faraway galaxies.

Top 10 Ways To Escape From North Korea

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Top 10 Ways To Escape From North Korea



North Korea is one of the most isolated nations in the world. The country officially restricts communication between its people and outsiders. Foreign media cannot operate without government permission, and visiting tourists cannot interact freely with North Korean citizens.

In mid-2017, the US banned its people from traveling to North Korea after a tragedy involving US tourist Otto Warmbier. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison for a seemingly minor offense, inexplicably fell into a coma there, and died shortly upon his return to the US.

Life in North Korea is terrible and difficult. Its citizens are being subjected to escalating levels of murder, rape, torture, and hunger on a daily basis. The lack of food is so widespread that there is severe stunting in children.

About 25 percent of the population has no access to proper health care and 20 percent lack proper sanitation and clean water facilities. Human right abuses are so common in North Korea that every ordinary citizen there has experienced it at least once in his or her lifetime.

The government is a dictatorship that prevents its people from traveling out of the country. Anyone who defects from North Korea is considered a traitor and will face severe consequences, including imprisonment and forced labor, if ever brought back to the country.

Even so, North Korean citizens have never given up the hope of leaving the country. In fact, several have tried and succeeded. These are the top 10 ways to escape from North Korea.

Featured image credit: frontpagemag.com

10The Demilitarized Zone

On the Korean peninsula, the demilitarized zone (DMZ) is a region that separates North Korea from South Korea. It runs for about 240 kilometers (150 mi) and is heavily fortified on either side. Both countries keep a large contingent of troops there.

Making an escape through the DMZ is very dangerous for a civilian because there are land mines around the whole region as well as trigger-happy North Korean soldiers who are too willing to riddle a defector’s body with bullets. The irony, however, is that North Korean soldiers who are supposed to guard their section of the border have taken this escape route safely in the past.

South Korea usually grants citizenship to North Korean defectors. This ensures that the defectors do not need to return to North Korea, where they would be executed.

9The Yellow Sea

Photo credit: The Guardian

The Yellow Sea is a maritime boundary between North Korea and South Korea, but it is also an easy, short route between the two nations. Each country claims a portion of the sea as part of its territory.

The only danger with trying to escape via this route is that it is heavily guarded by naval forces from both countries. The North Korean navy will not hesitate to kill or capture any defector.

There is, however, a ray of hope in escaping through the Yellow Sea. In the past, several good swimmers have easily made their way to South Korea from North Korea simply by swimming this relatively short distance. No matter how eager the North Korean navy is, it is difficult to spot a swimmer in the sea.

8The Sea Of Japan

Photo credit: The Guardian

The Sea of Japan, a common maritime boundary between North Korea and Japan, is also bordered by South Korea and Russia. This is a good route for North Korean defectors who are hoping to leave the isolated country.

The main difficulty: A boat is required to successfully cross into Japan or South Korea. Also, the trip to either country via the Sea of Japan is a long one.

However, there is hope for a defector as several people have made it in the past using this route. Rather than deporting North Korean defectors, Japan gives them the opportunity to safely continue their trip to South Korea.

7The North Korea–China Border

Photo credit: voanews.com

Several North Korean defectors have taken advantage of their country’s shared border with China to escape from their isolated and repressive homeland. To travel from North Korea to China safely, a defector must collaborate with a Chinese person or someone who is well acquainted with the route in order to escape detection by the Chinese border patrol.

The bad news is that China is very hostile toward North Korean migrants. China collaborates with North Korea on this issue and frequently deports defectors to their homeland, where they will face execution or imprisonment in forced labor camps.

6The Olympic Team

Although North Korea is isolated, it has an Olympic team like almost every nation of the world. Being a member of the Olympic team is a win-win situation for North Koreans.

Besides enabling athletes to enjoy the facilities of a democratic country, team membership presents a great opportunity to escape the tyrannical regime back home. The North Korean government rewards those who win medals but punishes athletes and coaches who come back with nothing.

This is enough reason for athletes to defect from the regime. Although it could be relatively difficult for an average North Korean to defect, it is quite easy for an Olympic athlete. Although all North Korean athletes are closely monitored during international competitions, an escape would be quite easy because the countries that host the Olympic Games are usually democratic nations.

5The Soccer Team

Photo credit: Marcello Casal Jr/ABr

North Korea had a soccer team that qualified for the World Cup in 2010. However, the team did not win a single game at the group stage. After conceding 12 goals in three matches, North Korea dropped out of the tournament.

Despite the humiliation suffered by the team during the games, the North Korean government added insult to injury in its usual style by shaming the players at a public event in Pyongyang. Then the coach of the soccer team was forced to quit his job and was reassigned to the construction industry.

There is hardly any good news that comes out of North Korea. The only great thing about being a member of the North Korean soccer team is that there would be several opportunities to escape from the regime during international competitions.

4Foreign Labor Mission

Photo credit: The Guardian

North Korea has a state-controlled foreign labor mission that enables the government to earn money by sending its citizens to work in countries like China and Russia. Then the irresponsible North Korean government uses the funds from its exploitation of citizens to finance a missile program.

It is estimated that North Korea deploys its forced labor mission in about 45 countries, including those in the European Union. This forced labor is at the heart of the 2018 World Cup preparations.

The work conditions are so bad that North Korean laborers often die on-site. However, neither spy police nor the army watches the laborers to prevent them from escaping. This provides an opportunity for North Koreans to defect from the repressive regime.

3North Korean Diplomatic Corps

Photo credit: The Telegraph

Like every other country, North Korea has a diplomatic corps as well asembassies in some foreign nations. Although North Korea tries to imitate successful countries, it is practically impossible for the hermit nation to hide its miserable state.

Embassy staff are so poorly paid that they are forced to buy secondhand office equipment.The apparent lack of cash is believed to result from a North Korean directive that all embassies be self-financed whenever possible. In addition, North Korean officials have been arrested in certain countries for using their diplomatic status to commit crimes.

Although life in the North Korean diplomatic corps is harsh, it presents a great opportunity to escape from the homeland. Over the years, there have been numerous high-profile defections. For example, in 2016, a senior North Korean diplomat, his wife, and his children defected to South Korea from the United Kingdom. Years earlier, in 1997, the North Korean ambassador to Egypt defected to the United States.

2Air Koryo

North Korea has a state-owned airline called Air Koryo. Like almost everything offered by the country, except its missiles and nuclear weapons, Air Koryo is known for poor quality. It is the only one-star airline in the world.

The poor rating comes from negative passenger reviews. Travelers on Air Koryo have complained about distant attendants, propaganda newspapers, and inedible food. Moreover, the airline flies limited routes. For example, Air Koryo is banned from flying over European Union airspace.

The list of negative reports about the airline is almost endless—from the use of old Soviet-era aircraft to the showing of North Korean propaganda movies to the unwilling passengers aboard flights. The airline also lacks the familiar perks of the civilized travel industry, such as frequent flyer miles, hotel points, and car rentals.

The only good thing about Air Koryo is that it presents an opportunity for North Korean citizens to defect. Although the airline only flies to and from countries that actively support the regime, there have been no reports of armed guards monitoring flight attendants or pilots.

1Student Exchange Program

Photo credit: globaltimes.cn

A student exchange program allows North Korean students to study abroad and vice versa. On a yearly basis, several students leave China to study in North Korea. Although the country is not a popular destination for Chinese students, some adventurous ones opt to try it.

The good thing about the student exchange program is that hardworking North Korean citizens can study abroad. It’s a win-win situation for the following reasons. Students who return to North Korea may use their new knowledge from advanced countries to alleviate the plight of the poor masses at home who cannot travel or leave. On the other hand, the student exchange program provides an opportunity to escape the clutches of the wicked regime.

Jeffrey Morris is a freelance writer with a passion for history, finance, and politics. You can hire him here.