Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh May Be the 1st Known ‘Giant’

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Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh May Be the 1st Known ‘Giant’

The possible skull of ancient Egyptian pharaoh Sanakht of the Third Dynasty.

Credit: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland

The supposed remains of Sa-Nakht, a pharaoh of ancient Egypt, may be the oldest known human giant, a new study finds.

Myths abound with stories of giants, from the frost and fire giants of Norse legends to the Titans who warred with the gods in ancient Greek mythology. However, giants are more than just myth; accelerated and excessive growth, a condition known as gigantism, can occur when the body generates too much growth hormone. This usually occurs because of a tumor on the pituitary gland of the brain.

As part of ongoing research into mummies, scientists investigated a skeleton found in 1901 in a tomb near Beit Khallaf in Egypt. Previous research estimated that the bones dated from the Third Dynasty of Egypt, about 2700 B.C. [Photos: The Amazing Mummies of Peru and Egypt]

Prior work suggested that the skeleton of the man — who would have stood at up to 6 feet 1.6 inches (1.987 meters) tall — may have belonged to Sa-Nakht, a pharaoh during the Third Dynasty. Previous research on ancient Egyptian mummies suggested the average height for men around this time was about 5 feet 6 inches (1.7 m), said study co-author Michael Habicht, an Egyptologist at the University of Zurich’s Institute of Evolutionary Medicine.

Ancient Egyptian kings were likely better fed and in better health than commoners of the era, so they could be expected grow taller than average. Still, the over-6-foot-tall remains the scientists analyzed would have towered over Ramesses II, the tallest recorded ancient Egyptian pharaoh, who lived more than 1,000 years after Sa-Nakht and was only about 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall, Habicht said.

In the new study, Habicht and his colleagues reanalyzed the alleged skull and bones of Sa-Nakht. The skeleton’s long bones showed evidence of “exuberant growth,” which are “clear signs of gigantism,” Habicht said.

These findings suggest that this ancient Egyptian probably had gigantism, making him the oldest known case of this disorder in the world, the researchers said. No other ancient Egyptian royals were known to be giants.

“Studying the evolutionary development of diseases is of importance for today’s medicine,” Habicht said.

In the early dynasties of Egypt, short statures were apparently preferred, with “many small people in royal service,” Habicht said. “The reasons for this preference are not always certain.”

Still, because the alleged remains of Sa-Nakht were buried in an elite tomb, there may have been no social stigma attached with gigantism at the time, the researchers said.

The scientists detailed their findings in the August issue of the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Originally published on Live Science.

Horror at the Beach: ‘Sea Fleas’ Dine on Aussie Teen’s Legs

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Horror at the Beach: ‘Sea Fleas’ Dine on Aussie Teen’s Legs

Though small, amphipods such as Lepidepecreum longicornis can pack quite a bite.

Credit: Copyright Hans Hillewaert

Tiny marine creatures — each measuring a fraction of an inch in length — gnawed a teenager’s legs bloody during a seaside dip in Melbourne, Australia, and experts identified a type of scavenging crustacean as the culprit in this exceedingly rare encounter.

On Saturday (Aug. 5), 16-year-old Sam Kanizay emerged from the water at Melbourne’s Brighton Beach to find blood pouring down his shins and ankles from what appeared to be hundreds of needle-like punctures, the teen’s father, Jarrod Kanizay, told the BBC.

“It wasn’t clotting at all. It just kept bleeding and bleeding,” he said.

Kanizay later returned to the beach to capture some of the tiny animals that had bitten his son for identification purposes, the BBC reported. Genefor Walker-Smith, a marine biologist with the Museums Victoria in Melbourne, examined the creatures that Kanizay collected, and identified the mystery chewers as amphipods­ — a type of minuscule shrimp-like crustacean — in the Lysianssidae family. Walker-Smith described them yesterday (Aug. 7) in a Facebook post, saying they “have no venomous properties and will not cause lasting damage.” [In Images: The Menagerie of Seussian Creatures Under the Sea]

The teen had been standing in chilly waist-high water for about 30 minutes, unaware that masses of sea fleas were biting him, he told the BBC. Though he felt a prickling sensation on his legs at the time, he thought that was due to the cold, he said. Once he was out of the water, he brushed away what he thought were grains of sand on his legs, only then discovering that he had been covered in tiny, biting animals, the BBC reported.

Anticoagulants produced by the amphipods could account for the copious bleeding he experienced after the biters were removed, Walker-Smith said on Facebook. Currently, none of the lysianssid amphipods are known to produce an anticoagulant — but then, no one’s yet investigated that adaptation in the group, Les Watling, a professor with the Darling Marine Center at the University of Maine, told Live Science in an email.

“If an anticoagulant is present, it would be because the amphipods were preying on or parasitizing fish,” he said.

While doctors at a local hospital were attending to the boy’s wounds, his father donned a wetsuit and returned to the bay with a pool net, snaring “thousands” of the amphipods, he told Australian news website The Age. Footage that he shot of his “catch,” uploaded to YouTube on Sunday (Aug. 6), shows a dish of water teeming with amphipods as they darted around and devoured several pieces of raw meat.

Lysianssid amphipods — also known as “sea fleas” — vary greatly in size, from as small as a few millimeters to as large as 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length, with the largest found in the deep sea, and the smallest living mostly in the tropics, Watling said.

Amphipods in this group are mostly scavengers, playing an important part in marine food webs by eating dead and decaying plants and animals. However, some amphipods are active predators, and though tiny, they would certainly be capable of piercing human flesh with their mandibles, Watling explained.

“The mouthparts, especially the mandibles, have wide, sharp, blades designed for cutting animal tissue. These shallow-water species may also feed on algae, but they mostly are likely feeding on other animals living in the algae,” he told Live Science.​

In this photo taken Aug. 5 at Sandringham Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, teenager Sam Kanizay's feet are seen covered in what looked like hundreds of bleeding pinpricks.
In this photo taken Aug. 5 at Sandringham Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, teenager Sam Kanizay’s feet are seen covered in what looked like hundreds of bleeding pinpricks.

Credit: Jarrod Kanizay/AP


The marks on the teen’s legs were certainly small enough to have been made by amphipods, and their patterns suggest how the amphipods may have been feeding, Watling said.

“Several [of the marks] look like they are in irregular ‘trails,’ suggesting the amphipod was biting the surface and moving along to get another bite, rather than biting deeply and digging in,” he said.

Sam Kanizay may have disturbed a feeding group of amphipods when he stepped into the water. And the longer he stood still, the more of them followed the blood trail to the feeding frenzy — but amphipods typically don’t launch piranha-like attacks against people, Walker-Smith said on Facebook.

“I do wonder if he had scratches or something that would have attracted the amphipods,” Watling said.

“But they might have just determined him to be ‘fish’ and decided to have dinner,” he added. ​

Original article on Live Science.

Desert Fossils Reveal 540-Million-Year-Old Jellyfish ‘Graveyard’

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Desert Fossils Reveal 540-Million-Year-Old Jellyfish ‘Graveyard’

Walk across a beach’s wet sand, and you’ll leave behind imprints that briefly hold the shape of your feet before blurring and falling apart.But 540 million years ago, seaside sand contained densely packed microbial communities, which created a gooey glue that was excellent for preserving impressions of ocean creatures left high and dry by retreating waves.

And on a long-gone seashore in what is now arid Death Valley, sticky sand retained impressions of the oldest known example of a jellyfish stranding, saving a fossilized snapshot of Cambrian period marine life that researchers excavated and described in a new study. [Cambrian Creatures Gallery: Photos of Primitive Sea Life]

The ancient jellyfish were preserved in a slab of sandstone found in southeastern California. Scientists identified 13 of these oval specimens on the rocky surface, ranging from 1.2 to 8.3 inches (3 to 21 centimeters) in diameter. The fossils were lighter than the rock surrounding them, and they varied not only in size but also their style of preservation. Some included convex, circular ridges; others held concave rings around a convex interior; and several were fossilized as more pronounced, rounded mounds, the scientists wrote in the study.

In one jellyfish specimen, shapes of some of the animal’s body parts were still faintly visible. Additional marks in the rock around the fossilized jellyfish hinted at the movements of ancient currents, which may have pushed and distorted the bodies of the stranded jellyfish prior to fossilization. Other marks might have been made by a stranded jellyfish’s attempts to move back into the water, according to the study authors.

Ancient, soft-bodied animals are exceedingly rare in the fossil record, compared with animals with robust skeletons or shells, the study authors wrote. But a unique combination of environmental conditions can preserve even jellyfish in surprising detail, study lead author and geologist Aaron Sappenfield told Live Science.

Illustrations set the scene for a jellyfish stranding during the Cambrian period. A group of jellyfish were swept toward the shore and were beached by the receding tide.

Credit: Aaron Sappenfield/University of California, Riverside


Jellyfish that wash up on beaches today are frequently eaten by scavenging birds and crustaceans, Sappenfield said. But during the Cambrian period, when marine life was bountiful and diverse, there were no large terrestrial scavengers to pick at the jellies’ carcasses. If they became stranded, chances were good that their remains would stay in one place long enough to fossilize, he said.

However, the jellies’ preservation was equally dependent on the gummy, microbe-rich sand that they stranded themselves on, which was also a characteristic of the Cambrian period, Sappenfield said.

“A jellyfish lands on the beach — that big, wet sack settles in the sand — and you get this nice impression with really high resolution because of that binding agent,” he said.

This jellyfish was likely buried in sand after it became stranded; its body collapsed, and the carcass was preserved in the microbe-rich sediment.

Credit: Aaron Sappenfield/University of California, Riverside


Most of the known fossils of mass jellyfish strandings date to the Cambrian, likely because that period presented these unique conditions — few scavengers, and sticky sand — that enabled fossilization in an organism that was very difficult to preserve, Sappenfield told Live Science.

Early Cambrian fossils such as these are also helping paleontologists investigate a long-standing mystery about a group of bizarre marine organisms known collectively as the Ediacaran biota, which appeared around 575 million years ago and abruptly disappeared from the fossil record around the beginning of the Cambrian period, about 540 million years ago, Sappenfield said.

“Trying to compare types of fossils preserved on either side of the boundary is a very important step, to say if they vanished because preservation conditions didn’t favor them, or because of another reason, such as a mass extinction,” he explained.

This oval impression is all that remains of a jellyfish that washed up on a beach 540 million years ago, part of a mass stranding in what is now Death Valley.

This oval impression is all that remains of a jellyfish that washed up on a beach 540 million years ago, part of a mass stranding in what is now Death Valley.

Credit: Aaron Sappenfield/University of California, Riverside


These “boundary” fossils could offer clues about what factors may have led to dramatic shifts like those that occurred for the Ediacaran biota. And with that information, scientists could better understand how ecosystems today may be affected by changing conditions, such as those driven by human activity, Sappenfield said.

“Minor perturbances to ecology and how global ecosystems behave can manifest in very significant changes in the way the biosphere [places on Earth that harbor life] is structured,” he said.

The findings were published online in the July 2017 issue of the journalGeological Magazine.

Original article on Live Science.

Top 10 Bizarre Festivals Of Violence From Around The World

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Top 10 Bizarre Festivals Of Violence From Around The World


We’ve covered quite a lot of bizarre festivals over the years. However, we’ve never focused specifically on the oddly violent ones. Detailed here are the top 10 unique and puzzling celebrations with pain at their core.

10Entroido Carnival

Photo credit:

Entroido Carnival takes place in Laza, Spain, and lasts for three days. On the first day, men dress up in terrifying wooden masks and march through the street with whips. They represent the Galician taxmen who policed the townspeople in the 16th century. Get in their way or exist near them and you’re gonna get a whipping.

Monday is the most violent day of the festival. It’s centered around a practice called farrapada (“ragging”). Muddy rags are thrown indiscriminately at anything with a pulse.

However, the most feared participants of the day are those who carry sacks. They’ve spent time in the lead-up to the festival scooping up anthills and dumping them inside the sacks. Vinegar is poured over the bagged ants, which makes them particularly bitey. Fellow revelers (who now seriously lament bringing muddy rags to a vinegary ant fight) are chased down as the insects are hurled in their direction.

Things wind down on Tuesday with a satirical poem known as the testament of the donkey. Laza residents who have made errors during the year are individually lambasted and handed sections of donkey in the hope that it will somehow help them avoid repeating those errors.

9Cotswold Olimpick Shin-Kicking

Photo credit: The Telegraph

The annual Cotswold Olimpick Games are home to a variety of events. Many are just as archaic as the spelling of “Olympic.” You’re likely familiar with tug-of-war and Morris dancing. Piano smashing, you can figure out. However, the festival’s most popular and violent event is the shin-kicking championship.

Matches are a one-on-one affair. Competitors place their hands on each other’s shoulders. In that position, they must wrestle for leverage to unleash a flurry of kicks to their opponent’s shins. The bout ends when one competitor can take no more. At this point, “sufficient” is all they need state. It’s how the British gentleman says, “Mommy, make it stop.”

The Cotswold Olimpick Games are believed to have started in 1622. Back then, things could get bloody. It’s believed that iron-capped boots were commonly worn and that competitors would condition their shinbones throughout the year by smashing them with objects such as hammers.

Nowadays, it’s a classy affair. Iron-capped boots aren’t allowed, and competitors’ trouser legs are stuffed with straw for cushioning. Also, they wear shepherds’ smocks, which are essentially the same as lab coats. It makes the whole thing seem like a nerd fight over which series of Star Trekwas the best.

8Agni Keli

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In Mangalore, India, devout Hindus gather to appease the goddess Durga by throwing burning palm leaves at each other. Participants meet at the local river for a communal and spiritually significant cleansing. Then it’s time to play some flaming dodgeball.

Participants divide into two groups. From there, palm-built torches are hurled at the opposing side. The more people are hit, the more Durga is impressed.

Officially, each participant is only allowed five throws, but the fire fight lasts roughly 15 minutes. This means that a lot of torches are being recycled, indicating that Durga’s a chilled-out goddess when it comes to rules. Nevertheless, there are referees present to make sure that people don’t get too badly injured . . . while being pelted with flaming palm leaves.

After the 15 minutes have elapsed, the participants walk toward the Kateel Durgaparameshwari Temple where another quick fire fight takes place before injuries are doused with holy water.

7Rouketopolemos (The Rocket War)

Photo credit: The Atlantic

Easter night in Vrontados, Greece, is not a peaceful time. Two rival churches (Saint Mark and Panagia Erithiani) have been competing with each other for centuries. Every year, both churches attempt to settle the score by launching fireworks in the other’s direction. The loser is the church whose bell gets hit first.

And for the winner—bragging rights, we guess. It’s just fun to find an excuse to shoot fireworks at bells. Also, recording the bell hits isn’t done scientifically, meaning both churches claim victory every year.

Not everyone is a fan of the festivities. The surrounding buildings have to be protected with metal sheets, or they will suffer significant damage. Fires are often started, the worst of which have led to death.

In 2016, the event was canceled due to safety concerns. One local man is quoted as saying, “Many people have complaints about the damages that rocket war causes every year. But those people are not a lot, only 20, I think. I hope . . . this tradition will be continued.”

6The Battle of the Oranges

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The origin of the annual Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea, Italy, is unclear. Thelegend goes that around the 12th century, the city was ruled by a particularly nasty marquis. Mad on power, he attempted to rape a local miller’s daughter. She ended up decapitating him and inspired a revolt in which the palace was burned to the ground.

The festival is a reenactment of this revolt. Only instead of stones and whatever other projectiles were used against the marquis’s men, now the battle is solely fought with oranges.

Crates of the fruit are stacked in the street for anyone who wishes to take part in the festivities. From there, you simply wait for the marquis’s men to come through, guided by surprisingly obedient (yet no doubt terrified) horses. Although they do return fire, the most likely injury you’ll endure will come from friendlies as oranges are lobbed from one side to another.

If you’ve ever had an orange thrown at you, you know that they can leave an impressive bruise. At least 70 people were treated for their injuries last year alone.

5Bolas De Fuego
El Salvador

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In 1658, the volcanic eruption of El Playon destroyed the town of Nixapa in El Salvador. Survivors relocated to what is modern-day Nejapa. The Bolas de Fuego event is held every August 31 in commemoration.

The name translates to “Balls of Fire” and is in no way misleading. In the three months leading up to the event, participants construct over 1,500 apple-sized balls of kerosene-soaked cotton. They’re also wrapped in wire. That way, they don’t lose their shape and can really smack into their targets.

Amazed tourists hide behind their camera phones as the fireballs begin to sail through the night sky. Most participants’ faces are also daubed with intimidating face paint—just in case the fireballs weren’t enough to get your heart rate up.

Although the footage of the two-hour battle looks extreme (and the balls regularly stray into the crowd of spectators), serious injuries are surprisingly low.

4Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri (Festival Of Naked Fighting Men)

Photo credit: CES

Hadaka Matsuri roughly translates to “Naked Festival.” Many have popped up in Japan over the years, but none are more famous than Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri. It takes place every year at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama.

Technically, no one’s really naked. The 9,000 exclusively male participants all wear loincloths—identical to those worn by sumo wrestlers. From a raised window, a priest throws around 100 sacred sticks into the crowd. It’s thought that luck will be bestowed on any man who manages to shove a stick into a rice-filled box called a masu.

It’s not an easy task, considering that the person who catches the stick then has to wrestle the rest of the mob of almost naked men until the stick is safely posted. Really, winning this game is the luckiest thing you’ll ever do. In fact, participants have occasionally been tremendously unlucky—as they were crushed to death on the temple’s floor.

3Festa De Sao Joao Do Porto

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The festival’s official English name is the Festival of St. John of Porto. It takes place every year on June 23 and attracts thousands of people to the Portuguese city’s center. The date is likely an indication of the festival’spagan roots. It’s around the time of the harvest when many people would stock up on leeks and garlic.

Leeks were also a symbol of fertility, owing in part to their somewhat phallic shape. The tradition follows that the leeks would be whacked on the heads of loved ones to aid their sexual performance.

In the 20th century, as they were presumably sick of the annual bruising, locals switched over to using plastic hammers instead of leeks. The hammers create comical whistling sounds on impact and are relatively painless.

Garlic is still a large part of the festivities. You can thrust cloves in front of people’s faces to communicate how much you like them. Don’t try this anywhere but Porto, though. You’re likely to get a much nastier blow to the head if you do.


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Takanakuy roughly means “when the blood is boiling.” It takes place in the Chumbivilcas Province of Peru on Christmas Day. During the ceremonial proceedings, five traditional characters are portrayed, including Negro. The character is that of a slave master during the Peruvian colonial period who dances in circles like a rooster.

These rituals build nicely to the main event of the festivities—the fighting. The tiny province of Chumbivilcas, with a population of around 300, sees its greatest influx of tourists during the event. Over 3,000 people flock to see the face-punching.

Feuds that have developed over the year are settled here, and all are welcome to participate. It’s not uncommon to see women and children take part, but it’s mostly men. Fists are wrapped in cloths, and the contest ends when an opponent is knocked out or the referee intervenes. The referees also carry whips to keep the fighters and the crowd from getting too frenzied.[9]

1The Abare Festival

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Also known as the Fire and Violence Festival, the Abare Festival is held on the first Friday and Saturday of July. The bizarre rituals involved are largely fueled by sake, and it is encouraged to cause chaos as this will please Susanoo-no-Mikoto, the Shinto god of sea and storms.

On Friday, a lantern parade takes place through the village of Ushitsu, Japan, and ends at the pier. There, the lantern carriers are greeted by large fires that are suspended on top of poles. As they burn, their embers glide down like snowflakes. Men and boys dance underneath and play drums, bells, and flutes.Nothing beats the chaotic flute.

On the second night, the focus is on the destruction of two portable shrinesas revelers march to the stationary Yasaka Shrine. The portables are thrown into roads and rivers and endure their fair share of fire, too. Whatever remains is placed in front of Yasaka Shrine and is smashed with flaming torches for hours on end to gain spiritual favor.

Top 10 Fascinating Facts About Laos

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Top 10 Fascinating Facts About Laos


Laos is an interesting place packed with rain forests, king cobras that are 4 meters (14 ft) long, stunning natural beauty, and relics of ancient civilizations. Those things are interesting, but we’re here for the weird stuff. Welcome to Laos, enjoy your stay, and don’t forget to tip your policeman.

10The Children Of CIA-Trained Operatives Still Fight The Government

Imagine what it must be like for the descendants of the Hmong fighters who took part in the Vietnam War. Your grandparents were trained by theCIA to kill communists, so your whole family has been on the run, hiding in the jungle, and conducting guerrilla campaigns. For 45 years.

It would be nice to maybe stop being a combatant in a war that your Gramps got drafted into, but coming out of the jungle has dangers. “Just some month ago, we reported cases where two small groups of women and children came out of hiding, the women and girls were gang-raped by the soldiers, children as young as nine years old were raped until death,” said Chue Chou Tchang, the president of Hmong American Mutual Assistance Association.

It must be a strange thing to know that the US guaranteed asylum to those who helped them during the war, and yet there you are—starving in the jungle, being hunted by the army, and with no way to escape.

After Vietnam, 300,000 ethnic Hmong fled to Thailand and 145,000 eventually were settled in the US. Ironically, after arming people against the communists in the first place, it was US Intelligence that thwarted a coup by the Hmong in Laos in 2007.

According to charges filed in federal court, nine ethnic Hmong and one retired lieutenant colonel from the California National Guard planned to train a militia, equip them with $9.8 million worth of weapons, smuggle them into Laos through Thailand, attack key government installations, and seat themselves as the new ruling regime.

9The World’s Most Bombed Country

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During Vietnam, the US dropped 270 million bombs on Laos. Thirty percent of them didn’t explode. In tonnage, there was more ordnance dropped on Laos than in Europe during the entirety of World War II. Today, hundreds of Laotians are maimed or killed by previously unexploded bombs—one-third of these victims either lose a limb or eyesight. In a developing country dependent on manual labor, the effect is devastating.

When 35 percent of the entire nation is contaminated with unexploded ordnance and everyone depends on working the land, it is little wonder that Laos is so poor. The secret war ended decades ago, but cluster bombs,grenades, and mortars from the past make the Ho Chi Minh trail a deadly place to live.

8One Of The Last Communist States Dependent On Capitalist Aid

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The economy of Laos has grown at a yearly rate of 6–7 percent since 1986 when the communist government loosened central economic control and allowed private enterprise. However, the nation is still largely dependent on foreign aid.

In the mid-1990s, President Nouhak Phoumsavan, an elderly disciple of Ho Chi Minh himself and a staunch Marxist-Leninist, was still committed to moving the nation toward true communism. At the time, critics in the party said:

We were a little dogmatic in the past and made a mistaken analysis . . . Laos is not yet ready for communism or capitalism. First, we must reach the point where we can opt for one or the other. We must be a little realistic. The subsistence economy is the obstacle.

Even though conditions are improving, this position is still hard to dispute. In the 2016 United Nations Human Development Index, Laos remained near the bottom, ranking 138 out of 188 countries. Life expectancy at birth is a little over 66 years, which is up from 50 years as of the mid-1990s.

Of 1,000 children born in 2012, 71 are expected to die before age five. This is a reduction of 56 percent from the 1990 rate of 163 per 1,000 births. However, Laos still experiences more deaths under age five than its neighboring countries.Malnutrition plays a large role in this unacceptably high death rate of young children.

7Deforestation Is A Threat To The Future

Photo credit: Adam Jones

In 2005, 70 percent of Laos was covered in rain forest. Today, 40 percent remains. Still, Laos is the site of some of the world’s last remaining true wilderness.

A small population and relative isolation from the predation of mass capitalism due to the controlled economy have protected much of the more remote parts. However, the decentralization of forest management by the government directly contributes to the acceleration of woodland exploitation.

An estimated 50 percent of the rain forest in Laos is primary forest, meaning that it is of indigenous species of trees and shows very little interference from mankind. As we move into a phase of life on Earth where resource conflict between nations is likely, we can hope that Laos avoids the worst.

6In Laos, The Opium Of The Masses Is Just Opium

In Laos, smoking opium is punishable by 3–10 years in prison. Possession of less than a kilogram can bring a sentence of 2–7 years. Despite this, the law is regularly flouted. Cafes in notorious backpacker destination Vang Vieng—the town where “teenagers ruled the world” according to the New Zealand Herald—until quite recently openly advertised opium tea and joints as well as magic mushroom pizzas.

Of course, if you are caught by the police in downtown Vientiane, you’re going to be wanting a lawyer and a lot of luck. You’ll want the lawyer to fight the trumped-up charges, and you’ll want the luck so you see the lawyer at all before being shot.

In 2009, this was the case for a pregnant British woman, Samantha Orobator, who was accused of smuggling heroin.It was nine months before she saw a lawyer, and she somehow became pregnant four months after being arrested. This eventuality saved her from the firing squad.

Still, life in a Laotian jail for moving drugs isn’t worth it.

5Rat Jerky, Deep-Fried Grasshopper, Or Chicken Feet—Better Than Wendy’s

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The cultural differences between West and East are often best described through the dinner plate. Cultural equivalence dictates that there are no wrong answers when it comes to satisfying taste buds. So if you are proud to partake of pecan pie, that’s fine.

On the other hand, you could be a little more open-minded and eat this jerky-style skin of rodent with a dipping sauce made of its own blood. Don’t be so squeamish. Embrace our differences. It’s the same as lasagna.

4A Lawless Party Town Is An Exercise In Darwinism

Photo credit: The Guardian

We mentioned Vang Vieng earlier as a tourist-oriented, drug-infested town. Although some steps have been made recently to reduce the number of dead tourists, the body count is still impressive. In 2011, 27 backpackers died at a site that is visited by 150,000 travelers every year.

Due to a perfect storm of cheap whiskey, psychedelics, opiates, youthful exuberance, and a disregard for warning signs, travelers have been getting fished out of the river with broken necks and lungs full of water for years.

Every death is a tragedy. But now that people are wearing life jackets while they climb into truck inner tubes and ride the river, the death toll is expected to decrease. Then again, if you’re too stupid to read a sign saying, “Do not jump; you will die,” you don’t deserve to breed.

3Sapphires And Corruption And Dead Lawyers, Oh My

Everyone loves a good shaggy dog story. The one told here is particularly great and true—a tale of sapphire deals and murder.

Back in the 1990s, an Aussie SAS veteran, an American raconteur, and a crooked lawyer formed an unlikely partnership to launder $20 million through the purchase of Laotian sapphires.

After running a savage burn across two countries, the lawyer ended up mysteriously dead in a hotel in Phnom Penh. He had not been robbed of anything except his laptop, which contained all the access codes to millions of dollars in cleaned money. Who ended up with the loot is anyone’s guess.

In the “Golden Triangle” of heroin production, there are some of the finest silver jewelry smiths in the world. A relatively unexploited supply of sapphires also awaits—for anyone who stays alive long enough to get them out of the country.

2The Plain Of Jars

According to some people, the stone vessels in Laos’ famous Plain of Jarswere created to brew potent rice wine to celebrate the victory of a band of mythical giants over their enemies. Others say that the jars held whiskey for a thirsty giant who lived in the mountains above Phonsavan. The jars might also be repositories for the ashes of cremated royalty. No one knows for sure.

We do know that, 2500 years ago, the civilization in the area really liked big jars. So they baked hundreds of them, up to 3 meters (10 ft) tall and 1 meter (3 ft) across, and placed them in the fields.

Covering a huge area, many of the sites coincide with the aforementioned bomb zones and are inaccessible to visitors. Whatever the reason these ancient peoples had, we are left with only trace evidence of their lives and can only guess as to the purpose of the jars.

1Corruption Is De Rigueur

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In September 2014, Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong signed Decree No. 327 into law, banning online criticism of the government and the ruling communist party and ratifying penalties for citizens who violated government controls.

As a result, exposing the corruption that is part of everyday life in Laos is now illegal. So even if your brother is detained illegally by corrupt cops, it’s against the law for you to do anything about it.

This was discovered by 26-year-old Phout Mitane, who lived in Nabouam village and took photographs as police impounded her brother’s truck on documentation charges. She was taken into custody without being arrested after the photographs surfaced on Facebook. While it is common to bribe the police, the advances in technology have made it possible for Laotians to criticize this behavior online and en masse.

In Laos, it is illegal to disseminate content that encourages terrorism and social disorder or that could “divide the solidarity among ethnic groups and between countries.” In layman’s terms, the state knows about the corruption but it doesn’t want you to do anything about it.

Top 10 Most Dangerous Places To Visit Thanks To Humans

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Top 10 Most Dangerous Places To Visit Thanks To Humans


You may have noticed that humans tend to alter their surroundings to make themselves comfortable. We have been doing it since the dawn of agriculture. While most places remain livable, some have been so badly damaged that they are no longer safe for people to live in.

Whether this was due to neglect, weapons testing, or climate change, people have been ruining the Earth for millennia. In the past century, we ramped up our efforts and caused so much damage to the planet that just staying overnight in some of these places could be a death sentence.

10Anthrax Island(s)

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If the entry title didn’t immediately give this one away, you should avoid any place that is known as “Anthrax Island.” There are three such islands spread across the planet. They were used by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union to test biological weapons such as anthrax. But that wasn’t the only deadly bug unleashed in these places.

Gruinard Island off the coast of Scotland was used by the UK during World War II to test anthrax. It was deemed uninhabitable until the late 20th century after decades of anthrax spore contamination.

Vozrozhdeniya Island was an island in the Aral Sea that was split between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The Soviets used it in the early 1950s to test biological weapons. They planned on decontaminating the island, but the USSR fell before they could do so. Some areas have been cleaned up, but you would be ill-advised to dig up any soil.

Finally, the United States government owns and operates the Plum Island Animal Disease Center off the coast of New York. In a plan to sell the land, the government had to commission an environmental impact study to determine the levels of contamination.

9The Korean DMZ

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You might think that a demilitarized zone (DMZ) would be a safe place to go. The word “demilitarized” is a bit misleading since it refers to a stretch of land between the borders of North Korea and South Korea, which could also be called a no-man’s-land.

Within the 250-kilometer (155 mi) stretch of land, which is approximately 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) wide, there exists the largest accumulation of antipersonnel land mines on the planet. Because of the DMZ, the United States refused to sign an international treaty banning the weapons, which kill and maim far more unfortunate civilians than are killed by soldiers on either side.

Entering the DMZ is a risky venture for anyone. While incursions into each other’s territory happen every now and again, few people ever safely enter or exit the border. Both military factions constantly patrol the border on each side, so crossing into it is extremely difficult.

If you did manage to find yourself in the DMZ, the odds of getting captured or arrested are slightly lower than the odds of stepping on something, hearing a metallic click, and losing your leg.

8Gilman, Colorado

Gilman, Colorado, began as a mining town in 1886 during the Colorado Silver Boom. But it is considered a modern ghost town thanks to the permanent evacuation in 1984 ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The town was abandoned due to contamination of the groundwater from poor mining practices that allowed for an abundance of zinc, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and sulfides beginning in the early 20th century.

While Gilman was never a large town, it did host a population of around 300 people, which fluctuated every so often. The town has been declared aSuperfund site, which is a federal program identifying areas so contaminated with hazardous substances that they are no longer habitable and require cleanup.

As it stands, the town looks much like it did when it was abandoned. Vandalism has destroyed every pane of glass, but the houses, bowling alley, and even personal automobiles remain abandoned in the ghost town.

7Bikini Atoll

Photo credit: The Guardian

You may have heard of the Bikini Atoll atomic tests conducted in the 1950s, but you will never have a chance to visit there. The original inhabitants of the island have been exiled from their homeland for 71 years thanks to the US tests.

On March 1, 1954, the US tested the Bravo hydrogen bomb, a 15-megaton nuclear weapon that vaporized three islands and was more than 1,000 times the magnitude of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The islands remain uninhabitable and deadly due to consistent fallout.

Beginning in 1946, the United States tested a total of 67 nuclear devices on and around the Bikini Atoll and the Marshall Islands. Twenty-three of those detonations took place directly on, over, or under Bikini Atoll.

Believe it or not, there are a few people who live on the island as caretakers. They regularly test the soil and work on cleanup methods to reduce the radiative impact.

Attempts have been made to return the original inhabitants and their descendants to the island. But all efforts have been stalled due to the abundance of strontium-90, which is not something humans should be around if they value their skeletons. (It causes bone cancer, leukemia, and a host of nasty diseases.)

6Picher, Oklahoma

Photo credit: Tim Dowd

Picher, Oklahoma, is a great place to visit if you want lead poisoning. The modern ghost town was abandoned by order of the EPA due to the abundance of unrestricted subsurface excavation throughout the town.

An Army Corps of Engineers study found that 86 percent of the buildings (including the school) were undermined and could collapse at any time. Weak buildings weren’t the only problem, though. A study in 1996 by the EPA found that 34 percent of the children in the town suffered from lead poisoning.

At one time, Picher was the economic hub of the entire region due to the abundance of lead and zinc mining. The population was in excess of 20,000 at one time with more than 14,000 miners working.

But the years of unregulated digging and poor waste management left the town uninhabitable, and it was declared a Superfund site. There are large piles of toxic metal strewn about the town, which doesn’t keep the groundwater very clean.

After the government bought the land and evacuated the population, the place became a wasteland of dead earth. It didn’t help that a tornado destroyed much of the town in 2008. The last resident died just a few years later.

5Wittenoom, Australia

It took a few years, but we eventually learned that asbestos is dangerous to humans. It causes mesothelioma—which is not only difficult to say, it’s deadly. So asbestos has been cleaned up and removed wherever it has been found.

In the 1960s, Wittenoom, Australia, was the largest producer of blue asbestos on the continent. But by 2013, the town was closed due to the toxic levels of blue asbestos throughout the area.

As the dangers of asbestos were becoming clear in the late 1970s, the government began phasing out the township. The town was becoming contaminated and dangerous to anyone who needed to breathe, so the phasing out seemed like a good idea.

By 2015, the Australian government had removed the town from its services, essentially delegitimizing it so that it no longer existed. Some people held out until that time. But when the government no longer recognizes the place you live as being a real location, it’s time to move somewhere else.

Three people may not have gotten that message since they are still defying all logic and refusing to leave the town.

4Centralia, Pennsylvania

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The next time you are visiting Pennsylvania, steer clear of a small mining town named Centralia. The place has been on fire for 55 years and could burn for another 250 if estimates are correct.

Yes, you read that correctly, and you would be wise to read the signs posted all over the place that warn weary travelers of their probable deaths byasphyxiation or by being swallowed by the ground . . . which is often ablaze.

Centralia once hosted a modest population of 1,000 people, but it is now a modern-day ghost town thanks to an underground inferno that is consuming tons of coal. The townspeople were able to suppress the fire aboveground, but it raged underground and continues to smolder.

Fissures open on the surface all the time and spew sulfurous gases that are deadly to anyone and anything. There are 12 people still living there as they refuse to leave. But they represent just 1 percent of the original population. Moving to Centralia is a death sentence for most people, and it should never be on a list of places to check out while driving through Pennsylvania.

3Chernobyl Zone Of Alienation, Ukraine

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One of the worst nuclear disasters of all time occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986. Thanks to a late-night safety test, the shutoff of emergency safety systems, and a preventable steam explosion and graphite fire, nuclear fallout precipitated over much of the western USSR and parts of Europe.

Thirty-one people were killed directly by the radiation released from the accident, 28 of whom were firefighters and employees working to put out the fires and stop the radiation leak.

Since the accident, an exclusion zone has been established extending 30 kilometers (19 mi) in all directions. It has been estimated that the land will not be fully safe for human habitation for another 20,000 years.

But despite the danger, some Ukrainians refuse to leave and have remained within the exclusion zone. The workers who continue to build a sarcophagus around the remaining plant are only permitted to work for five hours a day for one month before being forced to take 15 days off.

The site can be visited if the proper precautions are taken. But visiting is dangerous and should only be done to learn more about the disaster (if that’s your thing).

2Aral Sea

Photo credit: NASA

The Aral Sea was once a large lake between the borders of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. But thanks to global climate change, the lake is ostensibly gone. As we mentioned, Vozrozhdeniya Island used to be an island in the Aral Sea but isn’t any longer due to the huge loss of water that has left the entire area an arid wasteland.

The lake is only 10 percent of its original size, and much of the loss has occurred in the past 30 years. The sea began shrinking due to a Soviet plan in the 1960s to reroute several of the rivers feeding it. But most of the water has evaporated thanks to the increase in global temperatures.

The shrinking of the Aral Sea has been called “one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters.” Although the area was once a prosperous fishing location that helped boost the economies of both border nations, it is now a dead zone.

The ruins of fishing vessels litter the desert landscape in an area that is now heavily polluted and a public health concern. Numerous towns vanished from the face of the Earth, and the eastern basin of the Aral Sea is now known as the Aralkum Desert.

1Fukushima Exclusion Zone, Japan

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Thanks to the Tohoku earthquake on March 11, 2011, a tsunami pummeled the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, resulting in three nuclear meltdowns.

Although it may seem like an “act of God” type of disaster, an independent investigative team determined that the causes of the accident were foreseeable and the plant operator had failed to meet basic safety requirements, resulting in the fallout. As of this writing, the Fukushima nuclear disaster is the most significant nuclear incident since we split the atom.

Contaminated groundwater continued to seep through a frozen soil barrier that has been erected to protect the area from the fallout, and the environmental impact has been significant.

Since the accident, there haven’t been any directly related deaths. But estimates suggest that thousands of people may succumb to cancer as a result of the fallout over the next 3–4 decades. Due to all the contamination, the area within a 20-kilometer (12 mi) exclusion zone is currently off-limits unless you are interested in acquiring severe radiation sickness and, you know, dying.