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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: May 4, 2018 8:53 am 
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Pluto Was Named By An 11-Year-Old Girl

Pluto may not be a planet anymore, but it still has an interesting story. It was discovered less than a century ago, and in 2006 it became the only planet in our solar system to be reclassified as a dwarf planet. A lot of people are still pretty upset about the reclassification, but the planet's origin story is far more innocent: it was named by an 11-year-old girl who somehow resisted the temptation to call it "Planet McPlanetface."

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The English names for our nearest neighboring planets come from the Romans, who named Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, and Mercury after their gods and goddesses. So what about Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto?

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Uranus

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Uranus

When he discovered Uranus, Sir William Herschel tried to name the planet Georgium Sidus (George's Star), or the "Georgian Planet," to honor King George III. The name was unpopular outside of Britain (can't imagine why), so alternative names were proposed and used until the name "Uranus" (Greek god of the sky and husband of Gaia, or Earth) became universal in 1850 — nearly 70 years after its discovery.


Neptune

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Neptune

Neptune also had a rocky path to being named after the Roman god of the sea: claiming the right to name his discovery, French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier tried to dub the planet Le Verrier, after himself. An unpopular pick outside of France, the international community again overruled the proposed name in favor of a mythological name in line with those of the other planets.


Pluto

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Pluto

Fast forward to 1930, when Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, confirmed the existence of Pluto after nearly a year of searching. The first photographs of the celestial object made headlines around the world, and the observatory thus had the right to name the new object. Suggestions began to pour in: Atlas, Prometheus, Odin, Persephone, Zymal, and even a couple who wanted the planet named after their newborn child. Then "Pluto" came from halfway around the world.

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Tombaugh’s original photo plates

An 11-year-old girl from Oxford, England is credited for naming Pluto. Venetia Burney suggested the name to her grandfather after being inspired by the Roman god of the underworld. Her grandfather, Falconer Madan, was the Librarian of the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford. Madan passed the name to Herbert Hall Turner, an astronomy professor, and Turner cabled the suggestion to colleagues at the Lowell Observatory.

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Pluto was one of three finalists voted on by members of the Lowell Observatory, the other two names being Minerva and Cronus. Pluto received every vote, as Minerva was already the name of an asteroid, and Cronus had been suggested by an unpopular astronomer who had been fired from Lowell Observatory in 1898 for "his arrogant attitude towards the staff." It also didn't hurt that the first two letters of Pluto are the initials of Percival Lowell, the observatory's founder. When the name was announced on May 1, 1930, Madan gave his granddaughter Venetia £5 — the equivalent of about £320 or $450 in 2018 — as a reward. Not a bad haul for an 11-year-old! (Although she did name an entire planet.)

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These days, naming a planet isn't so simple. The International Astronomical Union was formed nearly a century ago to encourage international cooperation between astronomers all around the world. The IAU now regulates the naming of asteroids, planets, comets, moons, and even geographical features on extraterrestrial worlds. This involves a long, carefully regulated process of proposals and committees to ensure that names aren't offensive, redundant, or just too silly (though some have slipped through the cracks).

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Post Posted: May 5, 2018 8:43 am 
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Hanami Is Japan's Annual Obsession With Cherry Blossoms

The blooming of Japan's cherry blossoms is not only a delightful welcoming of springtime — it's a national obsession. The country has a deep-rooted relationship with the sakura (aka, cherry blossom), and the island's population goes all-out when they start to flourish. This annual flower freakout is known as hanami.

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Each spring, the sakura bloom to display pastel pink hues throughout the entire country of Japan. Viewing these flowers is the tradition of hanami, and it's a pretty huge deal. The word itself means to just view flowers (hana means "flower" and mi is "to look"). During hanami season, which last for a few weeks in March and April, people hold flower appreciation picnics under the cherry blossoms.

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The annual event of literally enjoying beautiful flowers takes shape in many ways. Leading up to the festival, you can find convenience store items in shades of pink and special cherry blossom-flavored goodies (cherry blossom Pepsi, anyone?). The Japan Weather Association even has an annual sakura forecast that is broadcast live. Not surprisingly, this broadcast prompts international travelers to book their flights and flock to the island for sakura time.

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The beauty of the sakura bloom is undeniable, but the festival represents more than just pretty plants. As early as the eighth century, elite imperial courtiers of Japan made it a point to make the beauty of the blooming sakura a symbol celebrated with picnics and poetry. The whole tradition is itself a symbol of Japanese cultural and philosophical beliefs. The short-lived nature of the cherry blossoms stands for the fleeting nature of life. The spring bloom also coincides with the start of spring, and the financial and academic year in Japan. Sakura means new beginnings, and that's a good enough excuse to enjoy beautiful sights, idyllic weather, and lavish picnics as any.

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Post Posted: May 6, 2018 8:47 am 
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Transnistria, The Country That Doesn't Exist

What makes a nation? Is it the borders, the government, or the national anthem? The passport? The president? What if you had a nation that had all of those things, but still wasn't officially recognized by any other nation on Earth? Welcome to Transnistria.

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If you ever make it out to Transnistria, then the first things you'll probably notice are the Lenin sculptures. In fact, the country is full of reminders of its not-so-distant Soviet past. You'll find pictures of Josef Stalin tacked up in shops, and the Transnistrian flag prominently features a hammer and sickle. But despite the national reverence of Soviet figures, Transnistria is not a communist state.

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Lenin outside Transnistrian parliament

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Stalin in bookshop in Tiraspol, Transnistria

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Instead, you might think of the abundance of Soviet memorials as a reflection of the time during which the pseudo-nation was formed. When the USSR dissolved in 1990, the newly independent country of Moldova announced its plan to unify with its neighbor Romania. But most Moldovans east of the river Dniester were Russian speakers, and they didn't feel the same way. So they declared independence instead.

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Old Transnistrian flag

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New Transnistrian flag

The Transnistrian War against Moldova began in 1992, went on for four months, and ended in a ceasefire. In the end, the larger nation (Moldova) decided to grant the smaller one (Transnistria) a limited degree of autonomy, but it still won't recognize Transnistrian independence. In other words, Transnistria isn't officially a nation, but nobody's going to interfere with their day-to-day sovereignty.

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Almost everything that you'll find in Transnistria hearkens back to an earlier age in some way, shape, or form.

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Besides walking past monuments to Soviet leaders, residents travel on roads named after Marx, Engels, and astronaut Yuri Gagarin. And then there's Sanatorii Dnestr, a Soviet-era spa for Party bigwigs that now accepts reservations from anyone with enough Transnistrian rubles.

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But the history of the country goes back much further. One must-see destination for any visitor is Kvint, a world-renowned cognac distillery that dates back to 1897. You'll find a relic of an even more distant age in Bender, near the Moldovan "border," where fortress known as Tighina was built more than 600 years ago. In a lot of ways, Transnistria is its own history — even if no other nation recognizes it.

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Tighina


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Post Posted: May 7, 2018 8:50 am 
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The Neon Sign Graveyard Of Las Vegas

When you think of Las Vegas, you think of one thing: gambling. Wait, make that two things: gambling and stage shows. Wait, no, three: gambling, stage shows, and giant, fancy hotels. Er, hold on. Let's just say that Las Vegas has a lot going on. And wherever you're headed in Sin City, chances are it will be near the base of a giant neon sign. But if it's just the city's iconic signs you're after, there's only one place to go: the Neon Museum.

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Let's face it. When it come to Las Vegas, even the history is pretty gaudy. In fact, that's a big part of the appeal. So it's only appropriate that right on Las Vegas Boulevard, right in the shadow of the Silver Slipper sign, you'll find the final resting place of more than 260 iconic pieces of signage. Step right in, it's the Neon Boneyard. Make sure you plan ahead, though — this part of the museum can only be accessed as a part of a one-hour guided tour. While you stroll through this colorful, artificial garden, you'll find some of the original, massive fixtures that once advertised Caesar's Palace, Binion's Horseshoe, the Golden Nugget, and Stardust. They aren't just a part of the city's brightly lit history — there also prime examples of masterful design. No wonder the park is a favorite destination for photo shoots and special occasions.

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The thing about the Neon Museum is that it's not just about remembering the signs that have been taken down. It's also about preserving and restoring the historic signs that are still standing. The Urban Gallery is the "living" portion of the museum's collection, and you can see it shine in all its glory 24 hours a day.

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Urban Gallery

Come in from the north on Las Vegas Boulevard and the first sign you'll see is the restored Binion's Horseshoe glowing high above you. Next is the Silver Slipper (wave at the museum as you go by!), the Bow and Arrow, the Normandie, and the Lucky Cuss. The final part of that particular stretch is dominated by one of the most famous signs of all, the Hacienda Horse and Rider — it's 40 feet (12 meters) tall, stands on a pole that's another 24 feet (7 meters), and it was the first sign the museum ever acquired.

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The signs in the Neon Museum's collection are obviously a major part of Las Vegas history. But so is the actual building that houses its lobby. Designed by Paul Revere Williams, the first documented black member of the American Institute of Architects, it's a space-age structure that epitomizes what was known as the Googie style. Think "The Jetsons" — lots of swooping geometric shapes, bright and bold colors, massive glass windows, and shining steel and chrome. Williams earned the nickname "Architect to the Stars" as the man behind the residences of Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lon Chaney, and Barbara Stanwyck. Of course, Williams wasn't designing a museum visitor's center. The sleek, symmetrical building used to be the lobby of the La Concha hotel, and it was only saved from demolition in 2005.

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Obviously, they had to preserve the hotel's signs for permanent display as well.

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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: May 8, 2018 8:42 am 
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Who Was Crazy Horse And How Did He Get His Name?

Crazy Horse (1842-1877) was considered one of the Lakota Sioux’s bravest and most intelligent warriors and raiders.

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Crazy Horse

He may have earned his name because he sometimes rammed his horse into that of an enemy to make his opponent fall to the ground. Widely respected by the young warriors of his tribe, he led them to victory in many battles, including the Battle of Little Bighorn of 1876.

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Following that conflict, the U.S. Army launched a vicious military campaign to punish the Lakota and their Cheyenne allies. Worn down by the attacks, Crazy Horse surrendered to U.S. troops on May 6, 1877.

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Defiant even in defeat, he angrily threw his weapons at the soldier’s feet to show he was through with fighting. Fearful that the influential leader would organize an uprising, reservation police arrested and jailed Crazy Horse on September 5.

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Crazy Horse, et al, enroute to surrender

In a scuffle, the great Crazy Horse was stabbed by a guard, and he died later that night.

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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: May 8, 2018 10:00 am 
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Considering he only lived to be 35, he looks kind of old to me.
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Crazy Horse (1842-1877)
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Post Posted: May 8, 2018 10:45 am 
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DogRunner wrote:
Considering he only lived to be 35, he looks kind of old to me.


Indeed.

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Post Posted: May 9, 2018 8:39 am 
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Check Out The Damage That Space Junk The Size Of A Pencil Eraser Can Do

There's a ton of space junk out there — actually, about 6,300 tons. But better that it's out in space than here on Earth, right? Well, that depends. If you're an astronaut, you'd probably prefer it planet-side. At orbital velocity, a speck the size of a pencil eraser can punch a hole 5 inches deep in a chunk of aluminum, and this picture proves it:

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Don't worry: this piece of aluminum wasn't a crucial part of a spacecraft that was destroyed by an errant piece of trash. This smash-up happened entirely on Earth as a demonstration of the types of dangers that are up in the exosphere. Still, it's enough to make us reconsider our dreams of visiting the ISS. The offending speck that caused this damage was tiny — it only weighed about a half-ounce (14 grams). In other words, it was about the size and mass of a pencil eraser. That crater? It's a full five inches (13 centimeters) deep.

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Pencil eraser

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Space debris

To keep from falling to the ground, items in orbit have to be traveling something like 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 kilometers per hour). That's how such a tiny piece of trash can wreak so much havoc. To simulate that kind of force in the lab, researchers used a light gas gun (LGG) capable of propelling objects at an incredible velocity.

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Typical LGG

The bad news is that a very tiny piece of debris can cause major disasters. The worse news is that outer space is full of debris. This kind of damage isn't entirely hypothetical, either — in 2016, a paint chip left a spiderweb crack in one of the windows of the International Space Station. You know, the sheet of glass that separates the astronauts onboard from the endless void? Also in 2016, the European Space Agency's Sentinel-1A satellite was hit by a millimeter-sized chunk that left a dent 100 times bigger than itself.

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Cracked window on ISS

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Sentinel 1A debris damage

The big pieces of junk can be tracked, and orbiting satellites can be moved to higher or lower orbits to avoid them. But the small pieces, like paint chips and pencil erasers, are a lot harder to track. We've just got to make a best guess for them and plan accordingly — at least, until they send somebody up there to clean up the junk.

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The Story Behind That Wacky Einstein Tongue Photo

When you think of Albert Einstein, what comes to mind? Is it his theory of special relativity, the one that generated the famous equation E=mc2? Is it his Nobel Prize for his discovery of the photoelectric effect? Who are you kidding — if you're like most of us, the first thing that pops in your head when you think of Albert Einstein is that wacky tongue photo you see everywhere. For a serious scientist who made such formidable discoveries about the universe, that's a pretty silly face to make, but it makes sense when you understand the circumstances.

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The image that the Guardian calls "arguably one of the best known press photographs of any 20th century personality" was taken on March 14, 1951 — Einstein's birthday. The scientist was leaving his 72nd birthday party at Princeton University, which had been swarming with photographers, and was understandably tired of smiling all night.

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As he left the event and climbed into the backseat of a car between Dr. Frank Aydelotte, the former head of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, and Aydelotte's wife, Marie Jeanette, another throng of reporters and photographers advanced. Einstein was in no mood. According to legend, he shouted "That's enough!", but they didn't listen. Out of exasperation — and maybe a little spite — Einstein stuck his tongue out at the crowd, then immediately turned away. Arthur Sasse from UPI was lucky enough to capture the split-second shot.

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Arthur Sasse

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Einstein might have been over it that night, but he was still a good sport. He loved the photo Sasse snapped and asked UPI for nine prints he could use as personal greeting cards. Most of them were cropped to include only his face, creating the iconic image we all know today.

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One, however, remained as-is, and he signed it for a reporter. In 2017, that photo sold at auction for a whopping $125,000.

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Who says he didn’t have a sense of humor?

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Post Posted: May 10, 2018 6:57 pm 
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Whooping Cranes

Whooping cranes nearly vanished in the mid-20th century, with a 1941 count finding only 16 living birds.

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Since then, these endangered animals have taken a step back from the brink of extinction. Captive breeding programs have boosted their numbers, and successful reintroduction efforts have raised the number of wild birds to several hundred.

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The massive whooping crane management effort involves numerous U.S. and Canadian governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, volunteers, and other contributors. The process even includes using ultralight aircraft to lead young whooping cranes on their first southward migration, from Wisconsin to Florida.

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These majestic white birds are the tallest in North America. They live in family groups and frequent marshes, shallow lakes, and lagoons. Cranes feed by foraging with their bills and gobbling up plants, shellfish, insects, fish, and frogs.

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The whooping crane's primary natural breeding ground is Wood Buffalo National Park, in Canada's Northwest Territories and Alberta. Here the cranes perform elaborate running, leaping, wing-flapping dances to choose mates that they will keep for life.

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When summer ends, these migratory birds set out for the Gulf Coast of Texas, where they winter in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Managers hope to establish a Wisconsin breeding population that will winter in Florida, where a small introduced population lives year-round on the Kissimmee Prairie.

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Whooping cranes are generally safe from hunting and egg collection. However, their biggest threat—loss of wetlands—persists. Though the areas that the birds frequent are protected, they are isolated and make the entire population vulnerable to any disastrous ecological event or change.

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This is still so cool! 8) I just accidentally came across this while searching for a photo of a Whooper that I posted here about 1,000 years ago. So great to run into this again.

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Post Posted: May 11, 2018 8:32 am 
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What Do Polar Bears Eat And Do Polar Bears Eat Penguins?

Polar bears will eat about anything that moves, as well as a lot of things that don’t.

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They probably would eat penguins if given a chance, but because the two are on opposite ends of the earth, it just won’t happen.

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Polar bears and penguins are literally poles apart. Polar bears live in the Arctic near the North Pole, while penguins live in the Antarctic near the South.

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As a result, polar bears mostly eat seals. Seals, as you may know already, eat penguins.

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But again, given the geographic distance, the seals in question are completely different species, so penguins and polar bears aren’t even connected by a food chain. Specifically, polar bears especially love the ringed seal. One of their tricks is to hang around ice holes waiting for the seals to come up for air, and then render them unconscious by bopping them across the noggin.

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Polar bears also like charging the seals’ nesting grounds and eating their poor blubbery little babies.

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Meanwhile down south, it’s hungry leopard seals that eat penguins.

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Leopard seal hunting penguin

They like to swim below thin spots of ice at penguin rookeries watching the black-and-white blotches through the ice above, ready to burst through and grab a bird.

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Leopard seals can completely consume a penguin in five to ten minutes, or roughly the time it takes to watch an old episode of Tennessee Tuxedo. Sea lions and killer whales also like to eat those cute little waddlers.

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Oh, sometimes nature can be so cruel.

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Leopard seal having a snack


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Post Posted: May 12, 2018 8:26 am 
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The Deadly "Palm of Christ" Is Considered The Most Poisonous Plant On Earth

The stuff of nightmares usually consists of snakes, spiders, dark open water, and uncontrollable fires, to name a few. But one unlikely plant should be included in our collective fears catalog, too: the "Palm of Christ." Don't let the gentle nickname fool you; the poison in this plant makes a rattlesnake look like a kitten by comparison.

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Palm of Christ (Ricinus Communis)

Ricinus communis has a few names, including "Palm of Christ," Ricinus, castor bean, and castor oil plant. Oh, and "most poisonous plant on Earth," according to the 2007 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. Citing its Seussian, "Where The Wild Things Are" appearance, it's an unlikely villain. But dissecting the plant reveals its small brown seeds, where the dangerous poison lives. These seeds, also known as Castor beans, "are unquestionably among the most deadly seeds on earth, and it is their irresistible appearance that makes them so dangerous," Wayne Armstrong, a botany instructor at Palomar Junior College, wrote in a 1982 article in Environment Southwest magazine.

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These seeds contain a protein called ricin, which is 6,000 times more poisonous than cyanide and 12,000 times more poisonous than rattlesnake venom. Ingesting these seeds is a very bad, probably fatal decision. According to Gizmodo.com, swallowing a lethal dose of seeds — probably four to eight — will lead to burning sensations in your mouth and throat and extreme abdominal pain. In 36 hours, you'll experience bloody diarrhea, and you could be dead within three to five days if the poisoning is left untreated.

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Though, it's not certain what the treatment could be seeing as there is no ricin vaccine and the stuff damages literally all of your organs. As the CDC frankly states, "Because no antidote exists for ricin, the most important factor is avoiding ricin exposure in the first place." A dose of purified ricin powder the size of a few grains of table salt could kill an adult person. Seriously. In 1979, there was a poisoning case in London where a Bulgarian diplomat was pricked by the tip of an umbrella containing ricin and died.

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Despite the horribly deadly power of the "Palm of Christ," these plants are shockingly common. You could even grow one in your house — and many people do. The plants are kind of pretty, after all, and they're useful too. About a million tons of castor oil seeds are grown worldwide and used for many products and materials: paint, varnish, lubricant for jet engines, nylon, transparent soap, contraceptives, and as a potential alternative energy source for fuel. Scientists are even studying the compounds in the seeds to see if it may be helpful in cancer and AIDS research. Deadly and life-saving? Who knows. The ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks all used the stuff for medicinal purposes too.

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The reason this nightmare plant can be used the world over in a variety of cases is that it can be detoxified. A heat treatment can eliminate its dangerous properties. Phew, close one.

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Common Ricin by-product


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