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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Apr 28, 2018 8:40 am 
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30 Years After The Nuclear Disaster, Chernobyl Wildlife Is Thriving

Humans are animals, and what hurts one species often hurts the rest. Radiation, like the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster, is a perfect example. But human activity takes a toll on wildlife, too. So what happens when radiation forces humans to evacuate an area but leaves the animals behind? The animals keep on living — and they seem to be just fine.

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In April of 1986, an accident at a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine (in what was then the U.S.S.R.), destroyed a reactor and released massive amounts of radioactive material into the surrounding area. The radiation was powerful enough to contaminate parts of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, and a zone 30 kilometers (18 miles) around the plant was closed off to the public. It's been that way ever since. Dubbed the "exclusion zone," more than a thousand square miles of land around Chernobyl are still officially uninhabitable. Except for a few scientists and roughly 100 hardy civilian residents, Chernobyl has seen virtually no human visitors.

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But this tragedy has a bright side: the absence of human interference has led to a dramatic increase in wildlife. As reported by National Geographic in 2016, biologists performing a five-week survey of the area captured images of a bison, 21 boars, nine badgers, 26 gray wolves, 60 tanukis, and 10 red foxes. Scientists studying the populations of wolves and other species have noticed similar trends. Wild horses roam the grasslands, boars root in the dirt, and beavers fell birch trees to make their homes.

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But how healthy the animals are is a point of debate. Danish scientist Anders Pape Møller and biologist Timothy Mousseau from the University of South Carolina have found that things aren't looking so good for Chernobyl's wild residents. One study they performed found that there were fewer butterflies, bumblebees, grasshoppers, dragonflies, and spiderwebs in Chernobyl, even 20 years after the disaster. They have also reported an increase in mutation rates in certain species.

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But one thing is clear: Chernobyl's exclusion zone hasn't been toxic enough to decrease wildlife populations to a dramatic degree, if at all. As biologist Jim Beasley told National Geographic, in the exclusion zone, "humans have been removed from the system and this greatly overshadows any of those potential radiation effects." Between radiation and human civilization, the humans seem to be the greater threat.

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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Apr 28, 2018 8:44 am 
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Henry wrote:

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Seriously? :raisedeyebrow:

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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Apr 28, 2018 8:52 am 
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aspenleaf wrote:
Henry wrote:

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Seriously? :raisedeyebrow:


Google: Chernobyl animal mutations.

I only posted the least offensive of them all.

Some, I'm sure, are photoshopped; but, I'm equally sure, not all.

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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Apr 28, 2018 8:56 pm 
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Actually, now that I think about it, Newsweek had an article that showed a stillborn foal with eight lower legs. Haunting.

ETA: I shouldn't have, but I looked up that article and saw more, truly disturbing photos.

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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Apr 29, 2018 12:32 am 
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so, what is the nearly hairless critter? a bear?

in "normal" environments, survival of the fittest (Darwin) also decrees those creatures most capable will most likely reproduce. if there are myriad mutants, or even substantial quantities, these "mutants" may become integrated into a new norm, leading to the possibility of new branches on the tree of life, so to speak.

very exciting Interesting Facts post, and if i ever hav free time again (bak in school again!) i'll want to follow up on this, as i'm interested in extreme environment organism survival. for example, bacteria in yellowstone hotsprings and antarctica's lake vostok, possible life in europa's oceans, cryptobiotic crusts and camels thriving in deserts, unusual (usually albino) critters in caves, creatures around the ocean's thermal vents, etc. thx henry!


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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Apr 29, 2018 8:41 am 
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Hákarl is the Icelandic Delicacy Gordon Ramsay Can't Stomach

Visiting a new country always means new sights, sounds, flavors, and aromas. When it comes to Iceland, you can make that "stenches." Hákarl is a national dish of Iceland that has brought the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay to their knees. Why? It's essentially rotten Greenland shark.

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Bourdain and Ramsay

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Hákarl

Icelanders don't eat rancid meat just to prove they can. The tradition of Hákarl goes back centuries to when Vikings settled the Arctic island. Greenland shark was plentiful and quickly became a dietary staple. The only problem? Greenland shark meat is toxic.

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Packaged product

Sharks, like all cartilaginous fishes, contain high concentrations of urea. Urea is a byproduct of protein breakdown that shows up in pretty much all animals, including humans, but most other animals excrete it as a waste product like urine. Sharks don't. Instead, they retain the urea to keep the fluids in their bodies at the same salt concentration as the water around them. But because urea is toxic, they balance it out with high levels of a compound called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) — the chemical that breaks down into that telltale fishy smell after a few days in the fridge. All sharks have both compounds, but for some reason, Greenland shark contains them at much higher concentrations.

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So right off the bat, your Greenland shark steak has high levels of a toxic chemical that smells like pee and another chemical that smells like old fish. How do you make the meat safe to eat? Counterintuitively, you leave it out to rot.

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After cutting up the massive shark — they can grow to be more than 15 feet (5 meters) long — producers leave the meat to ferment for 6–12 weeks. Traditionally, this was done in a hole underneath heavy stones, but these days most producers use plastic bins that allow them to keep an eye on the process. That helps the toxic compounds seep out of the meat, making it safer for consumption.

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After the initial "curing" process, producers hang the meat to dry for several months. According to World Atlas, "Many hákarl preparers claim they know the meat is ready just by the smell and once a characteristic dry, brown crust forms." Delightful.

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Finally, it's ready to eat. Many outsiders have dared sample the stuff: Anthony Bourdain called it "unspeakably nasty" and said, "This is probably the single worst thing I have ever put in my mouth." Gordon Ramsay couldn't stomach it and had to spit it into a bucket at his table.

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Anthony didn’t like it…

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… neither did Gordon

Others, however, don't see what the fuss is about. "Yes, it was a struggle to keep the shark down in the presence of fiercely nationalistic Icelanders," writes Jenna Blumenfeld of The Expeditioner, "but when I tried it, the hákarl was actually somewhat sweet and initially there isn't much taste ... it's the aftertaste that lingers pungently."

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Whether you like it or detest it, though, hákarl is much more than a daring novelty. It's an important tie to the past for a centuries-old culture.

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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Apr 29, 2018 8:45 am 
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mtnhsmama wrote:
so, what is the nearly hairless critter? a bear?


Looks like one, mtn.

But it's the head that's weird. I can't ID it. :shocked:

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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Apr 29, 2018 8:47 am 
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aspenleaf wrote:
Actually, now that I think about it, Newsweek had an article that showed a stillborn foal with eight lower legs. Haunting.

ETA: I shouldn't have, but I looked up that article and saw more, truly disturbing photos.


I'm sure there are a lot of surprises out there, AL. :yikes:

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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Apr 30, 2018 8:45 am 
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The Town Of Baarle Sits On One Of The World's Most Complex International Borders

Have you ever wished you could just pick up and move to another country? On the border of Belgium and the Netherlands, in the small town of Baarle, it's as easy as moving your front door. What's not easy is explaining why.

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Let's start by getting to know Baarle, a small border town with Belgium to the south and the Netherlands to the north. Baarle is made up of numerous parcels of land, all either owned by Belgium and called the village of Baarle-Hertog, or owned by the Netherlands and called the village of Baarle-Nassau. Easy enough right? Actually, this is where things start to get complicated.

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Welcome to Baarle!

Rather than clumped together and divided by a simple borderline, these parcels of land are instead mixed up and scattered in a patchwork of no conceivable pattern. They're so mixed up, in fact, that a large chunk of Belgium's parcels are actually inside the boundaries of the Netherlands. And if that wasn't confusing enough, inside of those Belgian parcels are more parcels owned by the Netherlands, essentially creating something like a Russian nesting doll of territories. What you're left with is one of the most complex borders in the world.

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Baarle's bizarre geography dates back to medieval times when a number of different treaties and sales split the land between local aristocratic families, specifically the Duke of Brabant and the House of Nassau. It wasn't until 1831, when Belgium declared its independence from the Netherlands, that the borderlines in the area of Baarle needed to be sorted. Over time, various land commissions struggled to figure things out. They eventually gave each pocket of land an individual nationality, finalizing the last piece in 1995. Today, a visit to Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau is a fascinating experience. White crosses painted on the pavement serve as border lines, which snake their way through the two villages — and in some cases, directly through houses, restaurants, and even the town hall of Belgium, creating properties that lie in both nations. In these special cases it's simply the location of the front door that tells you the building's nationality.

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One building, two front doors, to two countries

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Baarle's residents are equally fascinating. Stories abound of clever residents who have used the border town's jurisdictional loopholes to their advantages. For starters, there's the famous court case involving a bank charged with laundering money via their front door in the Netherlands and their vault in Belgium. There's the owner of a Dutch building who built a second front door on the Belgium side of the border when he couldn't get permission from the Netherlands to redevelop. There's even talk of a time in history when Dutch bars were required to close earlier than Belgian bars, so owners simply moved the tables across the border to stay open later. Well played, Baarle. Well played.

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Thanks for visiting!

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Post Posted: May 1, 2018 8:38 am 
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*** Topic Revisit ***

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Note: A “revisit” means that either new facts or better images
- or both - have been found on a topic I previously posted on.

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The Most Famous Space Image

Imagine if your company had just built a billion-dollar gadget that — oops! — had a huge, unidentified flaw. Imagine that they then put even more money and energy into fixing that flaw. If at that point you asked to completely take over that brand-new, just-repaired gadget for days on end in order to do, well, basically nothing, your coworkers would probably think you had lost your mind. That's exactly the situation astronomer Robert Williams was in in 1995 when he asked to point the Hubble Space Telescope at an empty patch of sky. If he hadn't made such a brazen choice, who knows where our understanding of the universe would be today?

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In the '90s, NASA was a bit of a laughingstock. After spending $1.5 billion ($2.93 billion in today's dollars) to build and launch the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, NASA received the glorious new telescope's first pictures to see ... they were blurry. The telescope's primary mirror had accidentally been ground too flat — by a depth less than the width of a human hair, admittedly, but too flat nonetheless.

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Late-night comics lampooned the disaster, editorial cartoonists compared Hubble to the nearsighted Mr. Magoo, and the Leslie Nielsen comedy "Naked Gun 2 ½" put the telescope in the same category as the Hindenburg and the Titanic.

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Over the next few years, NASA concocted a solution to give Hubble its vision back. They rigged up a new series of mirrors to basically act like a pair of glasses, and in 1993, Hubble became fully operational, clear vision and all.

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Fixing Hubble

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It was just a couple of years later when Robert Williams, the director of the Hubble's science institute, decided he was going to take over this multibillion-dollar telescope and point it at the emptiest patch of sky he could find. For 100 hours.

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Dr. Robert Williams

The first clear images Hubble had taken showed distant galaxies we'd never seen with ground-based telescopes, and Williams wanted to know just how far Hubble could see. The best way to do that was with no bright stars or galaxies in the way. His colleagues thought it was a ridiculous idea, not only because most would kill for that amount of time to observe something actually worth observing, but because calculations suggested that his plan would be a failure anyway. Hubble was powerful, but not powerful enough to detect distant galaxies, they said. But they'd never tried and Williams wanted to know if it was possible.

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Just before Christmas in 1995, Williams and his team pointed Hubble at a region just above the Big Dipper that was no larger than a pinhead held at arm's length. Over the next 10 days, they collected 342 separate exposures adding up to more than 100 hours (most previous Hubble exposures were a few hours, max). These were some of the images that resulted:

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All that exposure time helped Hubble capture thousands of galaxies, even those billions of light years away. That's important because when you look at a distant object in the sky, you're actually looking back in time. Because light takes time to travel such great distances, the light that reaches us from an object billions of light years away is a snapshot of that object billions of years ago. The furthest galaxies shown in the Hubble Deep Field image are 12 billion light years away. The entire universe, by comparison, is 13.8 billion years old. We got to see the baby pictures of some of the earliest galaxies in the universe, and they taught us a lot about how galaxies form.

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The Hubble Deep Field image is amazing to behold, but what's even more amazing is how it changed astronomy. Until that point, scientific discoveries had been treated as intellectual property: people kept their data to themselves until it was ready to be published. But with the Hubble Deep Field, Williams and his team formatted and released the data immediately so that other astronomers could analyze it and use it for their own discoveries. "Nowadays," Williams told Vox, "it is much more common for people to take interesting observations and make the data available to the public even when they might have a right to keep it for a certain period of time to themselves."

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Another Hubble deep field galaxy

Since that iconic image and a similar one taken at a point in the southern sky, Hubble has benefitted from higher- and higher-resolution equipment that has achieved even more revealing images. But it all goes back to the original Hubble Deep Field. Unfortunately, time has taken its toll and Hubble is on its way out: it's set to retire in 2021. When the new James Webb Space Telescope launches in 2020, we'll have a new way of peering deep into the void just as Robert Williams did that historic Christmas in 1995.

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The JWST launches in 2020

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JWST and HST size comparison

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Closer to the Big Bang

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Post Posted: May 2, 2018 8:43 am 
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5 Of The World's Most Bizarre Airports

Most of the time, getting to your destination is the least enjoyable part of a trip — especially if that trip involves flying. Airports are crowded, boring, and stressful, and the flight itself is typically no better. But that's not always the case. Next time you're planning a getaway, consider flying through some of these particularly bizarre airports and you may just find that getting there is half the fun.

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Located in a ski resort in the French Alps, Courchevel has one of the highest (6,853 feet or 2,010 meters), and shortest (1,722 feet or 537 meters) runways in the world — two undesirable characteristics for an airport, as far as safety goes. And if that wasn't enough, a precarious approach through deep mountain valleys coupled with a steeply sloping tarmac makes this airport so tricky to navigate that pilots must acquire a special certification to fly in and out.

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A sandy beach is one of the last places you'd expect to see a plane land, but on Scotland's tiny island of Barra, that's exactly what happens. This runway (or lack thereof) has been in use since the 1930s and handles about 10,000 passengers per year. Working with the territory, flights are scheduled around high tide, which covers the runway once a day.

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The Denver International Airport has more than its fair share of strangeness. For starters, there's "Blucifer," the 35-foot bronco statue with glowing red eyes that towers near the airport entrance ... and the impressive collection of bizarre art linked to a number of apocalyptic and alien conspiracies. It's suspected that the weirdness continues even under the airport, where a supposed vast network of underground tunnels and bunkers exist for the military.

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If you're not a fan of the paranormal, this is one airport you might want to avoid for a nighttime layover. Pilots and airport staff have reported seeing a woman in a white saree standing on the Bangalore International Airport runway, in the cargo areas, and in a parking bay. While air traffic control denies any such incidents, paranormal investigators have used infrared light techniques to detect what they say is negative energy.

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The tiny British territory of Gibraltar, on the south coast of Spain, has a pretty standard airport except for one large detail - its tarmac runs straight through the island's busiest road. Every time a plane lands or takes off, railroad-style crossing gates hold cars until it is safe to pass. Planes typically stop traffic for about ten minutes, but on some days a delay could be up to 2 hours! That's one traffic nightmare you'd probably like to avoid.

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Post Posted: May 3, 2018 8:44 am 
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The Homes In Monsanto, Portugal Are Sandwiched Between Giant Boulders

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When you're starting a new town, it's important to scope out the landscape first. You know, map out where all the fertile farmland is nearby, and make sure the place that you're actually going to build the houses isn't dominated by giant boulders that can't possibly be moved. Or you could do what Monsanto, Portugal did, and just build your town into the boulders themselves.

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Two things stand out as you approach Monsanto from a distance: the bright brick-red roofs and the massive round boulders. This quaint little town makes the most of its surroundings by incorporating the mountain's many granite boulders into its design. The rocks line the narrow passages and alleyways, and sometimes crowd people's front doors. There are even a few houses literally built into hollowed out boulders — what looks like an ordinary stone from a distance reveals a bright doorway up close.

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The landscape isn't the only thing that sets Monsanto apart. Although there have been people living in the area since at least the early Stone Age and through Roman times, much of the city's modern identity can be traced back to the creation of the Knights Templar castle overlooking the town. Built after the knightly order had defeated the dominant Muslim presence in the 12th century, the castle bears a strong resemblance to the rest of the city. You might have to peer pretty closely at those gray stones before you realize you're actually looking at a medieval fortification.

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Today, Monsanto is a popular destination for visitors to Portugal, and not just because of its unique architecture. It was named the "Most Portuguese City in Portugal" in 1938 after a nationwide poll, likely because of the city's deep history and robust culinary tradition. If you do get a chance to make it out to the city, make sure you tear yourself away from the stirring vistas for at least long enough to try the octopus with olive oil or caldo verde (green broth).

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