Brain-Infecting ‘Rat Lungworm’ Spreads in Florida

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Brain-Infecting ‘Rat Lungworm’ Spreads in Florida

The rat lungworm is a parasite that lives in rats and snails. Here, adult rat lungworms (the noodle-like organisms in the center of the photo) emerge from the pulmonary artery of a rat.

Credit: Heather Stockdale Walden

A parasitic worm that can infect people’s brains has been found throughout Florida, according to a new study.

The researchers found the parasite, called rat lungworm, living in rats and snails in five Florida counties in both the central and northern parts of the state. Rat lungworm was previously found in southern Florida, and the new study is one of the first to show the extent of the parasite’s spread across the state.

The researchers warned that the parasite, which is typically found in the tropics and only recently appeared in the continental United States, will likely continue to expand its range in this country. They said that the parasite’s apparent ability to thrive in areas outside its historical range is “alarming,” and as average temperatures rise with climate change, the parasite will likely spread into more temperate areas. [5 Deadly Diseases Emerging from Global Warming]

The parasite carries out its life cycle in rats, snails and slugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People can become infected if they eat raw or undercooked snails or slugs, or if they eat contaminated produce.

In people, rat lungworm, or Angiostrongylus cantonensis, can infect the brain and cause meningitis, according to the CDC. Infected people may experience headaches, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting, and abnormal sensations in their arms and legs. Most people fully recover without treatment, but in rare cases, the infection can cause neurological problems or death, the CDC said.

Although human cases of rat lungworm have yet to be reported in Florida, the researchers called for increased awareness of this parasite to help prevent infection and properly identify infected patients.

“The parasite is here in Florida and is something that needs to be taken seriously,” Heather Stockdale Walden, an assistant professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathology at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, who led the study, said in a statement.Human cases of rat lungworm have occurred in Hawaii for more than 50 years, but it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the parasite appeared in the continental United States, showing up in rats in New Orleans. (The rats likely arrived on ships from areas already inhabited by the parasite.) Since then, rat lungworm has shown up in Louisiana and Texas. Previous studies have found the parasite in snails in Florida, but these studies were small.

In the new study, the researchers analyzed more than 1,500 samples from rats and snails in 18 counties throughout Florida. The investigators found that samples from five counties — Alachua, Leon, St. Johns, Orange and Hillsborough — tested positive for the parasite. But the parasite is likely even more widespread than what was found in the study, the researchers said. [10 Bizarre Diseases You Can Get Outdoors]

That’s because, for certain species, the researchers had only a limited number of samples. The scientists may have had more positive results if they tested more samples from these species, the researchers said. “The reality is that it is probably in more counties than we found it in, and it is also probably more prevalent in the southeastern U.S. than we think,” Walden said.

The parasite didn’t seem to be picky about the types of snails it infects, either, said study co-author John Slapcinsky, the collections manager of invertebrate zoology at the Florida Museum of Natural History. The researchers found the parasite in both native and non-native snail species.

To prevent infection with rat lungworm, the researchers recommended washing produce, teaching children not to eat raw snails and washing hands after handling snails. The CDC advises against eating raw or undercooked snails and slugs.

The study was published May 18 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Original article on Live Science.

10 Cool Technologies You Can Thank the iPhone For

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10 Cool Technologies You Can Thank the iPhone For

iPhone Turns 10
Credit: Twin Design/Shutterstock

iPhone Turns 10

Ten years ago, the original iPhone hit stores in the U.S. for the first time and revolutionized how companies designed and built cellphones.

When then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage at the Macworld Conference & Expo in January 2007, he announced that the company would be releasing a wide-screen iPod with touch controls, a next-generation mobile phone and a breakthrough internet device.

It turned out he wasn’t launching three devices, but one. Now, a decade later, here are some of the technologies that the original iPhone and its successors have made must-haves for all modern smartphones.

Multi-touch screens

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Multi-touch screens

The iPhone’s most obvious contribution was to ditch the physical keyboard.

Prior to 2007, phones fell into two main camps: feature phones with a numeric keypad or “smartphones” like the Blackberry with a full QWERTY keyboard. The latter sometimes came with a touchscreen but they required a stylus to operate and weren’t really suitable for typing.

The iPhone instead featured a 3.5-inch (9 centimeters) LCD screen with multi-touch technology. Not only did this get rid of the stylus in favor of what Jobs said was the ultimate pointing device — our finger — it enabled “smart” functions like pinch-to-zoom and physics-based interaction that presented on-screen elements as real objects with weight, size and intuitive responses.

More importantly, it allowed the screen to cover the entire face of the phone, which was the basis of many of the devices’ other innovations.

Google Maps

Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Google Maps

It may seem strange to list Google Maps as an innovation made popular by the iPhone, but Steve Jobs was central in bringing Google’s mapping smarts to mobile devices when he asked Google to build an app for the iPhone.

It was the first smartphone to feature the app, and even though the original iPhone didn’t feature GPS, this was rectified in later versions, allowing Google to add the turn-by-turn satellite navigation capability that is now standard in smartphones.

The App Store

Credit: Shutterstock

The App Store

With only a screen to interact with, the iPhone suddenly made developing good software an imperative.

Initially, this came down to Apple’s army of engineers, but in 2008, to coincide with the launch of the iPhone 3G, the company unveiled the App Store. While third-party app stores did exist prior to this, the introduction of Apple’s offering was what really spurred the app economy that exists today.

Mobile gaming is now a $100 billion industry and most companies now have their own app. There are even multinational giants like Uber, Snap and Tinder whose entire existence can be traced back to the revolution started by the iPhone.

Fingerprint scanners

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Fingerprint scanners

As with many of the things Apple has popularized in smartphones, the company wasn’t the first to integrate a fingerprint scanner in its devices.

But with the introduction of Touch ID in the iPhone 5S, it overcame issues with cost, size, reliability and security that had held back the technology. The innovative tech also introduced compelling uses for the devices, such as using it to unlock the phone or to make payments.

It wasn’t long before competitors started to follow suit with their high-end devices.

Gorilla Glass

Credit: Corning; Tom’s Guide

Gorilla Glass

Making the screen such a prominent and integral aspect of the smartphone did have one obvious downside that most users experienced at some point: the smashed screen.

Apple foresaw this flaw and did their best to mitigate it by tapping the expertise of Corning. This leading American glass and ceramics company had been experimenting with toughened glasses aimed at consumer electronics since 2005, but when Apple asked them to provide a thin, toughened glass for their iPhone screens, Gorilla Glass was born. The crack- and scratch-resistant glass is now the gold standard for mobile devices.

Mobile Internet

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Mobile Internet

While mobile Internet had been around for some time before the iPhone was released, the experience was pretty limited.

Most phones at the time featured WAP browsers that presented a stripped-down version of the Web, but the iPhone’s MobileSafari tried to bring the full experience of the Internet to what was, at the time, a comparatively large phone screen.

The original iPhone was actually uncharacteristically behind the curve because it didn’t support 3G technology, but this was rectified the following year, and it didn’t stop the device from being a trendsetter. The introduction of web-enabled third-party apps in later iPhone editions also gave rise to the current environment of always-connected social, news and shopping networks.

Virtual assistants

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Virtual assistants

With the advent of Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana, artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistants have become commonplace.

But when Apple acquired the company that made Siri, SRI International, in 2010 and then made the technology proprietary the next year, the concept was revolutionary. Initially, the service had limitations, such as how it struggled with certain accents and had little flexibility on what kinds of commands it could understand, but it wasn’t long before other mobile firms were trying to play catch up.

This is one case, however, where Apple seems to have let a leading position slide. Other companies like Google and Amazon, who have focused more heavily on AI technology, seem to have taken Apple’s idea and run with it, producing virtual assistants that are much more advanced than Siri.

All-in-one device

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All-in-one device

The iPhone put a mobile computer in everyone’s pocket and then let them decide what they wanted to do with it.

Prior to the iPhone’s release, the cellphone market was highly segmented. In particular, smartphones were largely seen as business-oriented devices designed to allow users to access enterprise email and calendar applications on the go. Feature phones, on the other hand, had cameras and music players and were aimed at everyday users.

Apple instead released a single model that could switch seamlessly between roles. The phone came with a camera and Apple’s iTunes music player, but also included calendar and email applications that enabled users to carry out most of the productivity tasks that traditional smartphones were designed for.


Credit: Shutterstock


In its bid to make the iPhone experience as seamless as possible, Apple included an accelerometer that enabled the phone to know when it was turned sideways so that it could automatically rotate the screen.

Since then, the sensor has become a must-have for smartphones and has spurred a host of innovative new uses for the technology. There are now hundreds of apps built specifically to take advantage of this feature, from digital spirit levels to mobile racing games that use the phone as a steering wheel.

No more headphone jack

Credit: Stephen Lam/Getty

No more headphone jack

Probably Apple’s most controversial and criticized innovation was its decision to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7.

Apple claimed the move was all about getting rid of a century-old technology that was holding back the inexorable march toward ever-slimmer devices in favor of the wireless future. Others pointed out it could have been a cynical move to force customers to buy expensive Bluetooth headphones from Apple or its subsidiary Beats, or opt to pay for an inexplicably expensive adapter.

Either way, the move hasn’t stopped other smartphone makers from jumping on the Apple bandwagon, and HTC, Motorola and LeEco are all following suit despite considerable user backlash.

10 Amazing Things Scientists Just Did with CRISPR

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10 Amazing Things Scientists Just Did with CRISPR

CRISPR technology
Credit: vchal/Shutterstock

CRISPR technology

It’s like someone has pressed fast-forward on the gene-editing field: A simple tool that scientists can wield to snip and edit DNA is speeding the pace of advancements that could lead to treating and preventing diseases.

Findings are now coming quickly, as researchers can publish the results of their work that’s made use of the tool, called CRISPR-Cas9.

The tool, often called CRISPR for short, was first shown to be able to snip DNA in 2011. It consists of a protein and a cousin of DNA, called RNA. Scientists can use it to cut DNA strands at very precise locations, enabling them to remove mutated parts of genes from a strand of genetic material.

In the past year alone, dozens of scientific papers from researchers around the world have detailed the results of studies — some promising, some critical — that used CRISPR to snip out and replace unwanted DNA to develop treatments for cancer, HIV, blindness, chronic pain, muscular dystrophy and Huntington’s disease, to name a few.

“The pace of basic research discoveries has exploded, thanks to CRISPR,” said biochemist and CRISPR expert Sam Sternberg, the group leader of technology development at at Berkeley, California-based Caribou Biosciences Inc., which is developing CRISPR-based solutions for medicine, agriculture, and biological research.

Although it will be a few more years before any CRISPR-based treatments could be tested in people, “hardly a day goes by without numerous new publications outlining new findings about human health and human genetics that took advantage” of this new tool, Sternberg told Live Science.

Of course, humans are not the only species with a genome. CRISPR has applications in animals and plants, too, from disabling parasites, like those that cause malaria and Lyme disease, to improving the crop yields of potatoes, citrus and tomatoes.

“[CRISPR] is incredibly powerful. It has already brought a revolution to the day-to-day life in most laboratories,” said molecular biologist Jason Sheltzer, principal investigator at the Sheltzer Lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. Sheltzer and his team are using CRISPR to understand the biology of chromosomes and how errors associated with them may contribute to cancer.

“I am very hopeful that over the next decade gene editing will transition from being a primarily research tool to something that enables new treatments in the clinic,” said Neville Sanjana, of the New York Genome Center and an assistant professor of biology, neuroscience and physiology at New York University.

Here, we take a look at the recent advances in the fights against 10 diseases that demonstrate CRISPR’s capabilities, and hint at things to come.


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A cure for cancer has alluded humankind since the Greek physician Hippocrates, who lived between 460 and 370 B.C., coined the word for this disease: karkinos. But because cancer, like many diseases, results from a mutation in a person’s genome, researchers say it’s possible that a CRISPR-based treatment could one day slow the speed at which a tumor spreads, or perhaps reverse the disease completely.

Some early work in this area is happening already in China, where regulations governing the use of gene editing in humans are more relaxed than they are in the United States.

In October 2016, a lung cancer patient in China became the first of 10 people in the world to receive an injection of cells that had been modified using CRISPR, the journal Nature reported. The researchers, led by oncologist Dr. Lu You at Sichuan University in Chengdu, modified the immune cells taken from the patient’s own blood and disabled a gene that produces a protein that cancer cells normally hijack in order to divide and multiply. The hope is that without the protein, the cancer cells won’t multiply and the immune system will win out.

Research teams in the United States are also eyeing ways to use CRISPR to fight cancer. Dr. Carl June, director of translational research at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and his colleagues received approval in June 2016 from the National Institutes of Health to conduct a clinical trial on 18 cancer patients in late stages of melanoma (a skin cancer), sarcoma (a cancer of soft tissue) and multiple myeloma (a cancer of the bone marrow), according to a statement from the university. For this clinical trial, researchers will use CRISPR to alter three genes in patients’ own immune system cells, in hopes of getting those cells to destroy the cancer cells in their bodies.


Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki |


Eradicating HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has been an uphill battle. Not only does the virus infect the very immune cells in the body that attack viruses, but it’s also a notorious mutator. After HIV hijacks a cell in the body and begins to replicate, it generates many genetic variations of itself, which helps it evade drug therapies. This drug resistance is a huge problem in treating people who are infected with HIV, according to the World Health Organization.

CRISPR has HIV lined up in its sight, though. In May 2017, researchers at Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh used CRISPR to snip the virus from the cell it was infecting, shutting down the virus’s ability to replicate. This use of the technique, which was tested in three different animal models, was the first time researchers had demonstrated a way to eliminate HIV from infected cells, according to the researchers, led by Chen Liang, a virologist at McGill University in Montreal. They reported the results of their study in the journal Molecular Therapy.

Huntington's disease

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Huntington’s disease

About 30,000 people in the United States have an inherited condition called Huntington’s disease, a fatal genetic disorder that causes nerves in the brain to deteriorate over time, according to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. Symptoms include personality changes, mood swings, unsteady gait and slurred speech.

The condition results from a faulty gene that becomes larger than normal and produces a larger-than-normal form of a protein called huntingtin, which then breaks into smaller, toxic fragments that accumulate in neurons, disrupting their function, according to the National Institutes of Health.

But in June 2017, scientists reported in The Journal of Clinical Investigation that they had reversed the disease in lab mice that had been engineered to have a human mutant huntingtin gene in place of a mouse huntingtin gene. Su Yang, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the department of human genetics at Emory University in Atlanta, and Renbao Chang, at the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, used CRISPR to snip out part of the mutant huntingtin gene that produces the toxic bits.

After they did that, the number of toxic fragments decreased in the mice’s brains, and the neurons began to heal. The affected mice regained some of their motor control, balance and grip strength. Although their performance on certain tasks was not as good as that of healthy mice, the results showed the potential of CRISPR to help fight this condition.

In a statement, the scientists stressed that more rigorous studies need to be conducted before such a therapy could be used in humans.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Credit: ChiccoDodiFC/

Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a debilitating condition that develops because of a mutation in a single gene, called the dystrophin gene, which is one of the longest genes in the body. A team of researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center led by molecular biology professor Eric Olson is working with CRISPR to find ways to fight Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Because of the mutation in the dystrophin gene, the body doesn’t make a functional form of the protein dystrophin, which is essential for muscle fiber health. Over time, the lack of this protein causes progressive muscle degeneration and weakness.

In April 2017, Olson and his team reported in the journal Science Advances that they had used a variation of the CRISPR tool, called CRISPR-Cpf1, to correct the mutation that causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy. They fixed the gene in human cells growing in lab dishes and in mice carrying the defective gene.

CRISPR-Cpf1 is another instrument in the gene-editing toolbox. It differs from the more commonly used CRISPR-Cas9 in that it’s smaller, thus making it easier to deliver to muscle cells, according to a statement from UT Southwestern Medical Center. It also recognizes a different sequence of DNA than Cas9, which came in handy for editing the very long dystrophin gene.

Preventing blindness

Credit: Hannah Boettcher / Stock.XCHNG

Preventing blindness

One of the most common causes of childhood blindness is a condition called Leber congenital amaurosis, which affects about 2 to 3 per 100,000 newborns, according to the National Institutes of Health. The condition is inherited and is caused by mutations in at least 14 genes that are responsible for normal vision.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company Editas is working on a CRISPR-based therapy to reverse a type of the disease called Leber congenital amaurosis type 10. The company is aiming to file the necessary papers with the Food and Drug Administration by the end of 2017 to start the first human trials on treatments for this condition, the biotech news website Xconomy reported.

Editas was co-founded by Feng Zhang, a bioengineering professor at MIT who demonstrated that CRISPR-Cas9 could be used on human cells. Jennifer Doudna, of the Unversity of California, Berkeley, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, then of the University of Vienna, also demonstrated that CRISPR-Cas9 could snip DNA, and they filed a patent on the technology in 2012. The Broad Institute, which is part of MIT, submitted its patent in April 2014 and fast-tracked it, ultimately getting the patent. The Broad Institute’s patent was upheld in February, 2017, after the University of California, Berkeley filed a lawsuit claiming Doudna had been first, Nature reported.

Chronic pain

Credit: Stasique/

Chronic pain

Chronic pain is not an inherited genetic disease, but scientists are investigating ways to use CRISPR to curb back and joint pain by altering genes to reduce inflammation. Under normal conditions, inflammation is the body’s way of telling the immune system to repair tissue. But chronic inflammation can do the opposite and damage tissue, eventually causing debilitating pain.

In March 2017, a team of researchers led by bioengineering assistant professor Robby Bowles of the University of Utah reported that they had used CRISPR to prevent certain cells from producing molecules that are designed to break down tissue and lead to the inflammation that causes pain, according to a statement from the university.

The technique could be used to delay the degeneration of tissue after back surgery, for example. This could speed healing and reduce the need for additional surgeries to correct tissue damage.

Lyme disease

Credit: CDC.

Lyme disease

Kevin Esvelt, an evolutionary biologist at MIT, wants to wipe out Lyme disease, which is caused by a tick-borne bacterium that can spread from deer-tick bites to people. If left untreated, the infection can cause joint inflammation, nerve pain, heart palpitations, facial palsy and other problems, according to the CDC.

Although the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are transmitted to people by the deer tick, the ticks themselves don’t have the bacteria when they hatch from eggs. Rather, young ticks pick up the bacteria when they feed, often on the white-footed mouse. Esvelt wants to reduce the disease by using CRISPR-Cas9 to genetically modify white-footed mice in a way that would make them and their offspring become immune to the bacteria and unable to pass it along to ticks, Wired reported.

In June 2016, Esvelt presented his solution to the residents of the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts, which have a major Lyme disease problem, the Cape Cod Times reported. Such mice will not be released on the island, however, until further testing is done, and that could take years.


Credit: James Gathany. Provided by CDC | Paul I. Howell, MPH; Prof. Frank Hadley Collins


Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people per year. In 2015, the most recent year for which the World Health Organization has statistics, there were roughly 212 million malaria cases and about 429,000 malaria deaths.

To attack the problem at the source, research teams at Imperial College London are aiming to reduce the populations of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. According to a statement from the college, a group of scientists led by professors Austin Burt and Andrea Crisanti will investigate two main courses of action: genetically modifying the male mosquitoes so that they produce more male offspring, and genetically modifying the female insects in a way that lowers their fertility.

In December 2015, the team reported in the journal Nature that they had identified three genes to reduce female mosquito fertility. They also announced that they had found that CRISPR could work to target at least one of them.


Credit: Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher


Just as CRISPR can be used to modify the genomes of humans and animals, it can be used to modify the genomes of plants. Scientists are investigating ways to harness the tool’s gene-editing ability to reduce disease in some crops and make others more robust.

Sophien Kamoun, a professor at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, England, for example, is looking at ways to remove the genes that make potatoes and wheat vulnerable to disease, PhysOrg reported. Zachary Lippman, a geneticist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, is using CRISPR to develop tomato plants with branches that are optimized to handle the weight of ripe tomatoes and not break, Nature reported. And in California, several labs are trying to harness CRISPR to tackle a plant disease called citrus greening, which is caused by bacteria that spread by insects that fly among plants in a citrus grove, Nature News reported.

Editing a viable human embryo

Credit: Dreamstime

Editing a viable human embryo

The speed with which CRISPR-based studies can go from hypothesis to result is astounding. Experiments that used to take months now take weeks, Sheltzer told Live Science. That speed has raised some concerns from policymakers and stakeholders, especially when it comes to using such a technology on humans.

In February 2017, scientists at The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued an assessment of human gene editing, saying that it was acceptable but only under certain conditions. The group also said that altering the cells in embryos, eggs and sperm was ethically permissible provided that it was done to correct a disease or a disability, not to enhance a person’s physical appearance or abilities, Science News reported.

Although no scientists in the United States have used CRISPR to modify a viable human embryo yet, a team led by Jianqiao Liu of Guangzhou Medical University in China reported such an advance March 1, 2017, in the journal Molecular Genetics and Genomics. The scientists used CRISPR-Cas9 to introduce and then edit out disease-causing mutations from human embryos. The study was done to show that the genetic editing could be done at the embryonic stage. The embryos were not implanted in a human.

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+.

10 Amazing Discoveries Involving Asteroids

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10 Amazing Discoveries Involving Asteroids


At first glance, all asteroids look the same and don’t get much attention unless one destroys modern life in a movie. In reality, these ancient space mountains still surprise astronomers with their origins, bizarre behavior, and effects on the planets. In recent years, science has identified unique traits, devastating weather, and amazing individual rocks not even the experts could have predicted.

10Towers Within Craters

Photo credit: Live Science

In 2016, researchers were looking to study cosmic impacts on other worlds. To do this, they chose the Chicxulub crater in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Said to be the footprint of the asteroid that bumped dinosaurs off the face of the Earth, the crater had one trait that made it useful to study impacts on other planets.

So-called “peak rings” are tall hills circling the center inside of major craters. They exist across the solar system but in only one place on Earth: the epic crash that left an impression 180 kilometers (110 mi) wide across the Yucatan Peninsula. The 65-million-year-old scar was a rare opportunity to study the origin of these structures and revealed how asteroids are capable of violent and dramatic landscaping.

The force of the collision almost pierced Earth’s crust and caused the soil to behave like a thick fluid. Within minutes, deeply buried granite shot up like a water drop following an object dropped in liquid. The rising center reached the height of about 15 kilometers (9 mi) before collapsing downward and outward into a ring of peaks.

9Martian Tornadoes

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Asteroid impacts can whip up extreme weather and not just on Earth. In this case, they spawned frightening tornadoes on ancient Mars. Scientists first became aware of this when they studied NASA images and found strange streaks.

The streaks scoured the surface near large craters and were only visible in thermal infrared during Martian nights. A simulated environment was created in a laboratory to find out what caused these unusual surface lines.

Turns out, an asteroid would hit the red planet once in a while. After the asteroid vaporized itself and tons of material from the surface, air was forced from the crater at supersonic speed. Traveling at more than 800 kilometers per hour (500 mph), these plumes surfed just above the surface.

Wherever the flow encountered any raised geography, it created funnels with the strength of an F8 tornado. These scattered storms were responsible for the unusual streaks, leaving trails as they stripped the ground bare. This type of wind phenomenon on Mars is unique to asteroid arrivals and won’t occur again until the next one hits.

8The Olivine Trojans

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Mars has several companion asteroids that share its orbit. Called Trojans, they come in so-called families that drift around other planets as well, notably a group of 6,000 near Jupiter.

Mars Trojans are unique. So far, nine have been discovered and are the only ones in a stable planetary orbit. They also group together in a way that’s repeated nowhere else in the solar system. Eight keep the same distance from Mars and form the “Eureka family,” named for the asteroid at the nucleus of the cluster.

In 2016, scientists wanted to determine if a common link existed between them and used a spectograph to study three, one being Eureka. By studying the colors that sunlight reflects across the asteroids’ surfaces, their chemical composition could be determined.

The color spectrum turned out to be identical, which is rare enough among asteroids. But even more uniquely, they consisted mostly of olivine. This mineral is evidence that the group is likely ancient remains of the inner mantle of a mini-planet destroyed eons ago.

7The Clovis Killer

Photo credit: Heinrich Harder

When researchers found an abnormal amount of platinum at sites belonging to the Clovis culture, they realized that a long-standing mystery was possibly solved. Around 12,800 years ago, the Clovis Paleoindians suddenly vanished along with over 35 species of Ice Age animals, including the mammoth and saber-toothed tiger.

Scholars aren’t exactly sure why this happened. The unnaturally high deposit of platinum suggested that an impact could be behind it. The scarce metal showed up at 11 archaeological sites linked with the Clovis culture in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Earlier, in 2013, another team found platinum-enriched ice in Greenland dating back to the “Young-Dryas” period. During this era, temperatures mysteriously plummeted and lasted for 1,400 years. It also began around the same time that the Clovis culture disappeared.

While rare on Earth, platinum is abundant in comets and asteroids. All research points to an extinction event that hit North America. Most likely, fragments from a comet or asteroid caused disaster, such as the climate suddenly cooling, on a continental or even global scale.

6The Eternal Fallout

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Earth gets bombarded with around 100 tons of extraterrestrial objects on a daily basis. Luckily, most are microscopic and burn up in the planet’s atmosphere. Those that reach the surface are mostly rocky meteorites called chondrites. Depending on which ancient collision event they were born from, they are classed H, L, or LL. At the moment, the vast majority are types H and L.

To find out what kind of space “rains” occurred on Earth in the distant past, researchers traveled to Russia. Near St. Petersburg exists an area with a rich buildup of such materials dating back to antiquity. Hundreds of samples were taken and chemically tested to determine their type.

Surprisingly, they found a barrage of L-chondrites starting around 466 million years ago. This particular shower is currently still going strong. It began with what must have been an impressive impact involving an asteroid somewhere in the solar system. The resulting fallout on Earth was so thick that it dominated the geological record for a million years, to the point of covering up all other impacts.

5The Lomonosov Tsunamis

Photo credit: National Geographic

A theory suggesting Mars once had water recently received dramatic backup—signs that tsunamis raged across the red surface. Where there are tidal waves, there are oceans, and one probably existed on the northern plains of Mars.

Some three billion years ago, an asteroid hit the area and scooped out the Lomonosov crater, measuring 70 kilometers (43 mi) in diameter. After studying the formations of the landscape, it was determined that a pair of giant tsunamis was forced from the crater at 60 meters per second (197 ft/sec).

The first was 300 meters (985 ft) high and reached land within a few hours. The size, speed, and power of the waves would have been monumental. Tsunamis leave their mark on shorelines, and researchers found these typical deposits at what would have been a Martian beach.

Nearby was another distinctive ground pattern called a thumbprint terrain, which occurs when one set of tsunamis bounce back from the shore and smash into a second set. There’s no other way to explain the evidence other than assuming Mars had a northern ocean that got hit by an asteroid, which then sparked devastating tsunamis.

4The Million-Year Volcanic Eruption

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One rock stimulated the Earth to erupt for as long as a million years. Measuring 15 kilometers (9 mi), it hit Canada 1.85 billion years ago in theSudbury basin. The resulting damage left the second-biggest crater found thus far with a diameter of roughly 150–260 kilometers (93–161 mi).

Since most craters eventually end up being destroyed by geological processes, it’s difficult to study the link between space impactors andvolcanism. However, the Sudbury event left behind a remarkably preserved site that is perfect for this kind of research.

During 2013–2014, scientists climbed into the crater and extracted over a hundred samples from the 1.5-kilometer-thick (0.93 mi) rock layers within. The samples consisted of melted surface material as well as volcanic fragments shaped like crab claws. The peculiar formations resulted when gas inside the superheated rock caused them to explode violently.

The rocks were different enough to show that continual, volatile eruptions produced them. The process lasted an incredibly long time, from hundreds of thousands of years to a million years at most.

3Protoplanet Building Blocks

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The second-largest asteroid in the solar system, Vesta, is special. Apart from being an asteroid, it’s also the last remaining protoplanet from the solar system’s beginnings. Vesta is approximately 525 kilometers (326 mi) wide, but its inner structure doesn’t match that of other asteroids.

Instead, like Earth and Mars, it has a core of iron and nickel and a rocky surface. At one point, a violent impact carved a crater near the southern pole and ejected the Vestoids. One such Vestoid, called 1999 AT10, is unlike any known asteroid. It did not come from the outer crust of its parent but from deep within.

This makes it a priceless find. To even begin to understand how the planets formed around 4.5 billion years ago, the exact thickness of Vesta’s crust needs to be calculated. In turn, this will allow scientists to identify which materials existed at the birth of the solar system and blended to form theprotoplanet.

Since 1999 AT10 came from inside of Vesta, this suggests that the maximum crust breadth is equal to the depth of the crater, which is about 25 kilometers (16 mi) deep.

2The Wrong-Way Asteroid

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In 2015, astronomers found a bizarre boulder among Jupiter’s Trojans. Nicknamed “BZ,” it shares Jupiter’s orbit but moves in the opposite direction of every planet, the Sun, and 99.99 percent of solar asteroids. This is calledretrograde motion. But while rare, it’s not unique.

Even so, BZ does something spectacular. Since reversed paths spell an almost inevitable collision, other retrograde asteroids avoid planets. But not BZ. With every orbital lap, it comes dangerously close to Jupiter. No other planet in the solar system owns an asteroid that behaves in this manner.

Remarkably, the plucky asteroid has remained safe for thousands of laps and researchers estimate that it will continue to play its lethal game for at least another million years. Jupiter may represent the greatest threat to BZ. But for now, the gas giant’s gravity also keeps BZ safe.

Every time the pair orbits the Sun, the asteroid passes inside and then outside of Jupiter. Each turn’s gravitational tug cancels out the other, and this keeps the asteroid out of harm’s way.

1Six-Tailed Asteroid

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Comets are famous for their fiery tails, but one asteroid outshines them all. In 2013, the Hubble telescope revealed an unknown phenomenon in the solar system’s asteroid belt—a space rock with tails.

For asteroids to develop comet-like dust trails is unheard of, and incredibly, this one flaunted six glowing tails. Dubbed P/2013 P5, its existence shocked scientists. They were also amazed by the way the beams shifted. When found, the tails were radiating from one side of the asteroid. But within 13 days, they ended up on the complete opposite side.

It would appear that the tails didn’t sprout all at once but in bursts. For this reason, it’s likely that a collision didn’t bring on this change. Rather, it probably occurred because P/2013 P5 started to tumble out of control after experiencing radiation pressure.

This destabilized the asteroid so much that its gravity could no longer hold onto material from the nucleus and surface. The 425-meter-wide (1,400 ft) rock is believed to be a 200-million-year-old fragment of a long-destroyed larger object. So far, P/2013 P5 has lost up to 1,000 tons of dust.

10 Mysterious And Creepy Events On Mount Everest

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10 Mysterious And Creepy Events On Mount Everest


Everest. Just say the name, and your mind is likely to conjure all sorts of images and tales from this beast of a mountain’s relatively short, yet utterly fascinating and often controversial, history. From the glorious first ascent of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to the tragic end met by so many of those who’ve sought to scale the planet’s highest peak, the narrative of “Chomolungma” is one packed with mystery and intrigue.

Not only has this 8,848-meter (29,029 ft) giant attracted some of the nuttiest, most impassioned, and daring adventurers the world has ever known (and perhaps even the odd ghost and Yeti) but it has also borne witness to some of the strangest, most inexplicable, and haunting events in mountaineering history. Below, we take you through ten of the most baffling and unexplained mysteries to have graced the planet’s loftiest peak since the first European expeditions there thrust the mountain into the international spotlight in the early 20th century.

10The Man Who Tried To Climb Everest In High Heels

Photo credit: Quadrant

Everest has attracted many fanatics, eccentrics, and colorful characters over the years, but none have been quite so out there as Englishman Maurice Wilson. In 1933, Wilson hatched a plan to fly into the northern slopes of Everest, crash-land his plane, and then solo climb to the summit. He trained in Britain, hiking and learning to fly a Gypsy Moth plane before spending the winter in Darjeeling, where he prepared for his climb by fasting and praying, which he believed would be enough to see him to the peak.

Abandoning the plane idea when realizing his folly, Wilson set off on foot across the Rongbuk Glacier on May 22, 1934, but he was eventually blocked by an ice wall and, perhaps, his lack of any climbing equipment or experience whatsoever. His last diary entry was made on May 30, and his body found the following year, dressed—it is claimed—in women’s lingerie. Though this story was never corroborated, in 1960, a Chinese team found a woman’s high-heeled shoe near where Wilson perished, and it was later discovered that he had in fact been a cross-dresser, having worked in a women’s clothes store in New Zealand before becoming possessed by the Everest mania that would ultimately lead to his demise.

9The Yeti

Many of the earliest recorded sightings of the Yeti derive from the Everest region, with the folklore of local Nepali and Tibetan tribes telling of a bipedal, hirsute, nocturnal creature living in their midst. In more recent times, various “sightings,” footprints and even DNA evidence have gone a long way toward substantiating the claims of the region’s storytellers. Notable examples include the enormous footprints found at 6,000 meters (20,000 ft) by Eric Shipton’s 1951 Everest expedition and the “Yeti scalp” contained in Khumjung’s monastery on Everest’s south side.

Arguably even more convincing are the findings of Joshua Gates and hisDestination Truth team in 2009. The hair samples taken by Gates from a series of footprints measuring 33 centmeters (13 in) long and 25 centimeters (10 in) across were tested by a forensic analyst, who concluded that the sample contained an altogether and hitherto unknown DNA sequence.

8First Ascent 1: Mallory And Irvine?

When Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to successfully summit Everest in 1953, many viewed the triumph with a degree of skepticism. In 1924, two Englishmen, Everest addict George Mallory (highlighted above) and his companion Sandy Irvine, were spotted through a telescope a mere 200 to 300 meters (650–1,000 ft) shy of the summit. Sadly, they never returned, leading to almost a century of speculation as to whether they actually were the first reach the top of the world or not.

In 1999, when Conrad Anker’s expedition to find Mallory’s body ended in success, the Englishman’s frozen remains bore no further clues. Most disappointingly, they found no sign of his camera, which they had hoped might put an end to the debate once and for all. For those who believe Mallory and Irvine were the first to summit Everest, however, the greatest evidence to support their claim lies in something else that wasn’t in Mallory’s possession when he was discovered by Anker’s team. Mallory had told his wife Ruth and also his climbing party that upon reaching the summit, he would place there a picture of his wife, which he had kept in his inside pocket throughout the expedition. When his body was discovered, the picture was missing.

7First Ascent 2: The Russians?

In 1952, still before Hillary and Tenzing’s famous ascent, a Russian expedition supposedly attempted to climb Everest by the north route in Tibet. News reports at the time even suggested that this optimistic bunch planned on mounting statues of Lenin and Stalin on the summit. The expedition made a final camp at around 8,000 meters (26,200 ft) in preparation for a summit bid, but they subsequently disappeared without a trace.

To cloud matters further, the Russians have always maintained that the 1952 expedition didn’t take place at all, despite a report by Yevgeniy Gippenreiter in the Alpine Journal later that year, stating that the team of 35 had set out to attempt the Northeast Ridge route. Also, on April 21, 1952, the Sydney Morning Herald speculated about the team’s prospects on the mountain. Despite numerous attempts, no trace of the team members’ or leaders’ names has been found.

6The Ghosts Of Everest

Record-holding Sherpa Pemba Dorje has become renowned in the climbing world for two reasons. First is his claimed record-speed ascent of Everest (eight hours, ten minutes) on May 21, 2004. Second are the events of three days later, May 24. While approaching the summit from the South Col, Dorje came across a group of deceased climbers whose bodies were frozen in the snow. Suddenly, he claims, he was surrounded by something of thesupernatural variety. In his own words:

When I paused at a mound of rocks I saw some spirits in the form of black shadows coming towards me, stretching their hands and begging for something to eat. I think those were the spirits of the many mountaineers killed during and after their ascent of Mount Everest. The bodies of many of those who died are still on the mountain and one climber who died from an accidental fall is still hanging from a rope.

Many Sherpas believe the ghosts of Everest will not be appeased or leave the mountain until the bodies of the deceased are given a proper burial. With so many corpses stuck in the “Death Zone” above 8,000 meters (26,200 ft) and more joining them each year, it’s unlikely that the mountain will be a ghost-free zone anytime soon.

5The Third Person

In September 1975, British mountaineers Dougal Haston and Doug Scott were forced to spend a night in the Death Zone after reaching Everest’s summit late in the day. They dug a snow hole and huddled in for the night, unsure if they would survive until morning. They soon ran out of oxygen. With no food and their butane heater nearing depletion, their situation was truly dire. Then, the inexplicable happened.

Both climbers reported feeling another presence in the snow cave with them, one which not only shared its vital body heat but also offered advice and suggestions to help the climbers stay warm and alive. Other Everest climbers, such as Peter Hillary, Lincoln Hall, and Reinhold Messner, to name a few, have reported a similar presence having come to their aid on the mountain in their time of need.

4Frank Smythe: Apparitions, Aliens, Or The Supernatural?

In 1933, while on his first attempt at Everest’s summit, English climber Frank Smythe was alone at 8,565 meters (28,100 ft) on Everest’s North Ridge when he witnessed:

. . . two curious objects floating in the sky . . . They strongly resembled kite balloons in shape, but one possessed what appeared to be squat, under-developed wings, and the other a protuberance suggestive of a beak. They hovered motionless but seemed slowly to pulsate, a pulsation incidentally much slower than my own hearts-beats . . .

Before this, Smythe claimed to have been visited by some unidentifiable force during his ascent and felt a strong presence beside him as he moved up the slopes. He even took a slice of Kendal mint cake from his pocket to share with this companion, having believed the invisible and immaterial entity to be entirely real. Spooky.

3Who Was Really First: Hillary Or Tenzing?

Photo credit: PA

Supposing Mallory, Irvine, or even the Russians didn’t reach the top of the world before perishing, the question as to who did get to the summit firststill isn’t entirely resolved. After their ascent, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay struck a gentlemanly pact to never reveal who really took the last step first, hoping to defuse the anti-imperialist sentiment then on the rise in Nepal and India by avoiding any suggestion that a Westerner had beaten one of their own to the summit of the world.

A poster that appeared in Kathmandu shortly after Hillary and Tenzing’s ascent, however, left little doubt as to who the Nepalis thought was first, depicting Hillary struggling up a rope some yards behind his climbing companion. Later, two of Tenzing’s sons would also reveal that their father had told them in private that it was he, not Hillary, who had summited first, despite both climbers having stuck to their agreement and maintaining publicly that they had reached the summit at exactly the same time.

Hillary himself appeared to put the matter to rest 17 years after Tenzing’s death in a 2003 interview with Scotland on Sunday when he said:

We set off at 6.30am, first light, me in the lead, Tenzing behind on a tight rope. We never discussed who would be first up. It really did not matter to me, as the entire expedition was very much a team affair, but I suspect Tenzing was quite deferential to what he saw as the Sahib. So I got to the top first, with him just 10ft or so behind.

Hillary’s claim was further corroborated by a memo later found in the archives of the Royal Geographical Society, in which he gave his account of the climb shortly after his and Tenzing’s descent: “I stepped on top of Everest . . . I quickly brought up Tensing [sic] beside me.”

Tenzing was never given the chance to refute Hillary’s claim, but many still believe it was the Nepali, not the New Zealander, who was the first man to set foot on the top of the world.

2Ueli Steck

Photo credit: The Independent

In April 2017, “The Swiss Machine” Ueli Steck died while preparing to climb the summits of Everest (by its infamous West Ridge) and Lhotse in one go—a feat never before accomplished. Steck was very much the Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi, Babe Ruth, or Usain Bolt of the mountaineering world, so his ambitious project was not viewed as excessively daring or risky by those who knew his ability and capacity for the remarkable. Steck had setspeed records on the north face of the Eiger and the Annapurna’s south face and twice received the Piolet d’Or—mountaineering’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize—for a first ascent on Tengkampoche and his solo speed ascent on Annapurna.

He wasn’t just fast; Steck was also one of the most accomplished mountaineers of his, or any, generation and was famed for his technical ability, grace, and comfort on even the most absurdly difficult of routes. How then, did such an accomplished climber come to meet his end in the way he did? Steck fell on the Western Cwm, a route he had climbed before and which forms part of the standard “tourist” route to the top of Everest. While generally a challenging and fairly technical undertaking, to a climber of Steck’s ability, the ascent should have been no more than a formality and, indeed, the mere “training exercise” for his forthcoming Everest-Lhotse ascent that his climbing partner Tenji Sherpa later revealed it to be.

The incredulity with which Steck’s demise was met in the international climbing community bears testimony to both the skill of the man and the enduring enigma of the world’s highest mountain. Did he slip? Did the ice or snow give way? Did he succumb to altitude-related illness? Just how mountaineering’s most acclaimed star fell and plunged over 300 meters (1,000 ft) to his death that day will never be known for sure. As on many of the climbs he undertook in his career, owing to his partners’ inability to keep up with him, Steck was climbing alone at the time of his accident, with the nearest eyewitnesses to the fall over 1.6 kilometers (1 mi) away.

1The 2017 ‘Deaths’ That Never Were

On May 22, 2017, reports reached Everest Base Camp of four corpses found in a tent at Camp Four (7,950 meters [26,082 ft] ). The ill-fated climbers were presumed to have died from altitude sickness and were discovered by a team sent up the mountain to retrieve the body of a Slovakian climber who had perished on his ascent three days earlier. When it later transpired that none of the climbing agencies on the mountain were missing any climbers—or at least had none that were unaccounted for—confusion arose as to who the four climbers might have been.

As news sources worldwide reported the tragedy, the Nepalese tourism ministry spoke out and revealed that they thought the bodies to be those of climbers from one of the previous year’s expeditions, only for matters to be further complicated when it was discovered that none of these had reported any unaccounted-for climbers, either. The case remains open and just another of the manifold mysteries to have befallen Earth’s highest and most mysterious mountain.

Kieran James Cunningham is an author and freelance writer who lives in Sondrio, Italy.
His book Dave Nocture is available on