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Saturday, November 13, 2010

15 Historical Facts You Don’t Know

We all love facts – especially historical ones and ones that are new to us. This list looks at 15 facts that are, hopefully, unknown to most of us here. From the Ancient world to the early modern times, these are all entries that have not appeared before on Listverse. Be sure to add your own unusual or little-known facts to the comments.

Facts 1 – 5
Simeon Stylites Stepping Down
1. Saint Simeon Stylites (pictured) was a monk who gained fame in the 5th century for spending 37 years standing on a small platform on top of a tall pillar in Syria. He did it for ascetic reasons and his example was followed in later years by other well known stylite saints. His story is quite amazing and you can read more about it here.
2. In the First Dynasty of ancient Egypt, hoards of staff and family members were walled up with the body of the dead king. The humans and animals buried with the king were expected to help him in the afterlife.
3. In 1927 Otto Rohwedder invented sliced bread. He made the first machine to slice and wrap bread and won a patent for the process. After only six years from invention, more sliced bread was sold than unsliced.
4. In 1911, pigtails were banned in China because they were seen as a link with its feudal past.
5. To save the effort of sailing boats upstream, Mesopotamian traders built collapsable boats which they would sail downstream with a donkey on board. At the other end of their journey they would sell the frame and when they finished trading, they would use the donkey to return home.

Facts 6 – 10
Alexander The Great
6. In ancient Rome the punishment for killing one’s father was to be drowned in a sack along with a viper, a dog, and a rooster. The reason behind this? I have no idea.
7. Alexander the Great (pictured) invented a spying technique still used today: he had his soldiers write letters home, which he then intercepted and read to discover who was against him.
8. In Gubbio, Northern Italy, a race has been run every year since the 12th century – and the outcome is rigged. Villagers carry three statues in the race, Saints Ubaldo (for whom the race was started), Anthony and George. Every year Saint Ubaldo comes first, Saint George second, and Saint Anthony last.
9. When anaesthetic was used for the first time in childbirth in 1847, the mother was so amazed and relieved at how painless the birth was that she named her child Anaesthesia.
10. The last time a cavalry charge was used in war was in the Second World War. A mongolian cavalry division charged against a German infantry division – the result? Not one German was killed and 2,000 of the cavalry were.

Facts 11 – 15
1St Woman
11. The grid layout used in many cities around the world is not a new invention – it first appeared in the city of Mohenjo Daro, in India, 4,500 years ago. The houses to the side of the streets had bare walls facing the street to keep out the sun and dust from carts.
12. The first policewoman was Alice Stebbins Wells (pictured) who joined the LAPD in 1910. Because she was the first (and only) policewoman, she designed her own police uniform. Four years later, Britain had their first woman policeman.
13. In the 1700s in Paris, women wore hats with lightning rods attached when venturing outdoors during bad weather. Bad idea.
14. In circa 3100–3050 BC Egypt was ruled by its very first Pharaoh – King Menes. It was said that he was the first human ruler – inheriting the throne from the god Horus.
15. Gorgias of Epirus (3rd century BC), a Greek sophist, was born in his dead mother’s coffin! Pallbearers heard him crying out as they carried his mother’s coffin to the grave.


Top 15 Amazing Facts About The Human Body

In our ongoing quest for wonderful facts about all manner of things, we have put together this list (with thanks to the Reader’s Digest Book of Facts), a great list of amazing human facts. These are the fifteen most wonderful things about our bodies that, hopefully, are news to most of our readers! So, onwards:

Facts 1 – 5
Compact Spongy Bone
1. The stomach’s digestive acids are strong enough to dissolve zinc. Fortunately for us, the cells in the stomach lining renew so quickly that the acids don’t have time to dissolve it.
2. The lungs contain over 300,000 million capillaries (tiny blood vessels). If they were laid end to end, they would stretch 2400km (1500 miles).
3. A mans testicles manufacture 10 million new sperm cells each day – enough that he could repopulate the entire planet in only 6 months!
4. Human bone is as strong as granite in supporting weight. A block of bone the size of a matchbox can support 9 tonnes – that is four times as much as concrete can support.
5. Each finger and toenail takes six months to grow from base to tip.
Facts 6 – 10
6. The largest organ in the body is the skin. In an adult man it covers about 1.9m2 (20sq ft). The skin constantly flakes away – in a lifetime each person sheds around 18kg (40 lb) of skin.
7. When you sleep, you grow by about 8mm (0.3in). The next day you shrink back to your former height. The reason is that your cartilage discs are squeezed like sponges by the force of gravity when you stand or sit.

8. The average person in the West eats 50 tonnes of food and drinks 50,000 liters (11,000 gallons) of liquid during his life.
9. Each kidney contains 1 million individual filters. They filter an average of around 1.3 liters (2.2 pints) of blood per minute, and expel up to 1.4 liters (2.5 pints) a day of urine.
10. The focusing muscles of the eyes move around 100,000 times a day. To give your leg muscles the same workout, you would need to walk 80km (50 miles) every day.
Facts 11 – 15
11. In 30 minutes, the average body gives off enough heat (combined) to bring a half gallon of water to boil.
12. A single human blood cell takes only 60 seconds to make a complete circuit of the body.
13. A foreskin, the size of a postage stamp, from circumcised babies take only 21 days to grow skin that can cover three (3) basketball courts. Amazing isn’t it. Thanks to science. The laboratory-grown skin is used in treating burn patients.
14. The eyes receive approximately 90 percent of all our information, making us basically visual creatures.
15. The female ovaries contain nearly half-a-million egg cells, yet only 400 or so will ever get the opportunity to create a new life.


15 Quite Bizarre Factlets

We have recently presented two lists of fascinating factlets (a word I am still not entirely convinced is real) but, in light of the popularity of both bizarre lists and fact lists, we have put together this special list of factlets which are from the dark and weird recesses of history and society in general. Be sure to mention your own favorites in the comments.

Factlets 1 – 5
1. Pareidolia (pictured above) is the psychological phenomenon in which people see shapes or hear sounds which they consider to be significant when they are not (and in some cases, don’t exist at all). The most common example of this is the alleged hearing of phrases when playing records backwards. This is also frequently the cause of so-called miracles in which religious figures appear in toast, or clouds, or stains on every day objects.
2. Gleeking is the odd term used to describe the ejection of saliva from beneath the tongue either accidentally (when yawning, for example) or intentionally (the intentional forcing of saliva from the glands requires much practice). According to Wikipedia, gleeking can be induced by pressing the underside of the tongue against the palate, then pushing the tongue forward while simultaneously closing the lower jaw and moving it slightly forward. Despite practice I seem to fail at this – if anyone manages it let us know.
3. The Hawaiian language requires only twelve letters (and the apostrophe symbol which refers to the glottal stop in words like Hawai’i – this is called the ‘okina.)
4. Believe it or not, it is possible to accidentally plagiarize something. Cryptomnesia is a memory bias in which a person believes they have conceived of a new idea when in fact they are simply remembering someone else’s idea. Sometimes this even finds its way into literature: “Friedrich Nietzsche’s book Thus Spoke Zarathustra includes an almost word for word account of an incident also included in a book published about 1835, half a century before Nietzsche wrote. This is neither considered to be purposeful plagiarism nor pure coincidence. Nietzsche’s sister confirmed that he had indeed read the original account when he was 11 years old.”
5. Clinical lycanthropy is the very rare psychological disorder in which a person believes they have been transformed into an animal. This can result in the person experiencing hallucinations and mimicking the actions of the animal they think they have become.

Factlets 6 – 10
6. Did you know that santa has a special friend that travels with him? His name is krampus and he beats people with sticks – especially females. He is pictured above. The story of the krampus has been used for centuries to frighten children into behaving before Christmas.
7. A surprisingly large number of people believe in the Ancient Astronaut theory in which aliens are said to have come to earth in pre-history and given man knowledge (or, in some cases, to have bred with man to give us intelligence). Some proponents of the theory believe that all major religions on earth were started by these visiting space-creatures.
8. Mary Toft was an English woman from Godalming, Surrey, who in 1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she tricked doctors into believing that she had given birth to rabbits. According to contemporary reports, “[Male midwife John Howard] delivered “three legs of a Cat of a Tabby Colour, and one leg of a Rabbet: the guts were as a Cat’s and in them were three pieces of the Back-Bone of an Eel … The cat’s feet supposed were formed in her imagination from a cat she was fond of that slept on the bed at night.” Later Toft seemingly became ill again, and during the next few days delivered more pieces of rabbit.” Her deception was eventually uncovered and both she and the medical profession were ridiculed.
9. Hyperthymesia is a condition (known to exist in only four humans so far) in which a person retains an almost perfect memory of everything they have experienced. A hyperthymestic person can be asked a date, and describe the events that occurred that day, what the weather was like, and many seemingly trivial details that most people would not be able to recall.
10. Intrusive R and Linking R are pronunciations of the letter ‘r’ in English dialects that don’t generally pronounce a final ‘R’ (such as New Zealand English). For example, in these dialects, when saying “don’t go far” – the word “far” has a silent ‘r’ – but the ‘r’ is pronounced in the sentence “he is far away”. This linking ‘r’ smooths out the phrase. Intrusive ‘r’ is when an ‘r’ is added where one doesn’t exist at all – as in the case of “Africa or England” – this would be pronounced “Africar-or-England”.

Factlets 11 – 15
11. Zebroids are hybrid animals involving a zebra and either a donkey or a horse. Zebroids physically resemble their non-zebra parent, but are striped like a zebra. The stripes generally do not cover the whole body, and might be confined to the legs or spread onto parts of the body or neck. Depending on the hybrid, they take different names such as zorse, zonkey, zebrass, zedonk (pictured above), etc.
12. Crikey steveirwini (an air-breathing land snail) is the only species in the genus Crikey. The specific name steveirwini is in memory of wildlife expert Steve Irwin. The genus name is a favorite exclamation of Steve Irwin’s, “crikey!” being an Australian minced oath.
13. Shingō village (Japan) claims to be the last resting-place of Jesus, buried in the “Tomb of Jesus.” According to the local lore, Jesus traveled to Japan at the age of 21, where he studied theology for 12 years, after which he returned to Judea at the age of 34. He did not die on the cross at Golgotha. Instead his brother, Isukiri, took his place on the cross, while Jesus fled across Siberia, Alaska, and finally to Mutsu Province, in northern Japan, where he became a rice farmer, married, and raised a family near what is now Shing ō.
14. The Swedish Empire (which included Finland at the time) planned to change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar beginning in 1700 by omitting leap days for the next 40 years. Although the leap day was omitted in February 1700, the Great Northern War began later that year, diverting the attention of the Swedes from their calendar so they did not omit leap days on the next two occasions, causing 1704 and 1708 to remain leap years. To avoid confusion and further mistakes, the Julian calendar was restored when, in 1712, one extra leap day was added, thus giving that year a 30th of February.
15. For our final entry we have a sentence – but it is a special sentence. Most people are familiar with the famous “buffalo buffalo buffalo….” sentence – but here is another one: “James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher” – this is a completely legitimate English sentence. My challenge to you is to put in the correct punctuation to make it understandable. I also challenge you to not look it up!


The Eiffel Tower

Without doubt one of the world symbols, everybody knows about the Eiffel Tower, a symbol of Paris, the city of lights. The Eiffel Tower was built between 1887 and 1889, has 325mt of altitude, and was for many years the tallest building in the world.
Its construction was the subject of controversy for the date, and was inaugurated for the World Expo of 1889.

Designed by engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower has three levels, based on a base that is 125 meters on each side, the foundations have a depth of 7 meters which are the pillars that are the entrances to the tower.

The first level at 57 meters high, has an area of 4200 mt2, and a maximum capacity of 3000 people, has a 

circular gallery that allows a 360 degree view of Paris, and a restaurant, where you can see also inside the tower.

The second level is at 115 meters high, has an area of 1650 mt2 and a capacity of 1600 people. At this level there is also a restaurant, and for most of the people has the best view of Paris.
The third and last level, located at 275 meters, covers an area of 350 mt2 and a capacity of 400 people. At this level, access by lift are mandatory, as the stairs are closed to the public. 

Undoubtedly one of the world's most striking buildings and a place that it is impossible not to visit when you are strolling through Paris.


Yet Another 10 Commonly Believed Myths

We have previous written three lists on this topic and it is always a very popular one. This time we look at facts that are very commonly held but completely wrong. Feel free to add your own to the comments for others to read. If you want to read over the previous lists, here they are:
Top 10 Fascinating Facts That Are Wrong
10 More Fascinating Facts That Are Wrong
Another 10 Fascinating Facts That Are Wrong

Five Senses
1668 Gc3A9Rard De Lairesse - Allegory Of The Five Senses
The error: We have five body senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste.
These are the traditional five senses, but there are in fact many more – some say up to 21. Obvious additions to the list are balance, pain, and temperature. Furthermore, we have internal senses which traditionally number four: imagination, memory, common sense (not to be confused with commonsense which many people lack!), and the estimative power. Wikipedia has a very interesting article which covers the large number of senses seldom mentioned. You can read that here.

The Rainbow Lie
Supernumerary Rainbow 03 Contrast
The error: A rainbow has seven colors
We are, no doubt, all familiar with the old phrase “Roy G. Biv” used to remember the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. This series of colors was coined by Newton who initially excluded indigo and violet. While a rainbow does appear to have seven colors, it is, in fact, one continuous spectrum of color and it is merely an artifact of human color perception that makes it appear to be a series of bands. There are also things called supernumerary rainbows which have more than 7 bands visible to the human eye (pictured above – note the extra green and purple bands at the bottom of the rainbow).

Cold Comfort
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The error: Drinking alcohol warms you up
This is entirely untrue – yet it is still commonly seen as an antidote to coldness in movies, and people still believe the myth about the St Bernard dogs with casks of liquor around their necks! In fact, when you drink alcohol, your body temperature drops! This is because alcohol allows more blood to reach the surface of the body, and more heat is radiated or conducted away. Any feeling of warmth experienced after drinking alcohol is explained by the fact that this flow of blood to the surface warms the skin and the ends of the sensory nerves in the skin, and these convey to the brain a sensation of warmth. The fact that alcohol actually lowers the temperature of the body was first announced by Sir B. Ward Richardson in 1866 to the British Association. [Source]

Quake with Fear
The error: Small earthquakes can reduce the chance of a big one
There is a common myth (particularly in New Zealand where earthquakes are common) that if you have a lot of small earthquakes, it helps to alleviate the pressures building up that can cause a big one. But this is not true. Seismologists have observed that for every magnitude 6 earthquake there are 10 of magnitude 5, 100 of magnitude 4, 1,000 of magnitude 3, and so forth as the events get smaller and smaller. This sounds like a lot of small earthquakes, but there are never enough small ones to eliminate the occasional large event. It would take 32 magnitude 5′s, 1000 magnitude 4′s, 32,000 magnitude 3′s to equal the energy of one magnitude 6 event. So, even though we always record many more small events than large ones, there are never enough to eliminate the need for the occasional large earthquake. [Source]

Don’t Swim
The error: You must wait 30 minutes after eating before swimming
While there is a theoretical concern based on the fact that the body diverts the circulation of blood to the gut and away from the muscles that this might possibly cause a cramp, no one has ever drowned because they went swimming with a full tummy. Going swimming after eating a big meal might make you uncomfortable, but it won’t cause you to drown. And even if you did get a cramp, in most cases you could easily exit the water before any real damage is done.

Population Explosion
11474588573Population Explosion
The error: The earth is dangerously overpopulated or is getting close to being so
This is a myth which has been around for quite some time – from the Anglican minister Malthus in the 18th century who said: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man” to environmentalists who see humans as evil in comparison to the rest of nature. But, in truth, the world is a big place with plenty of space. So, how much land does it take to hold 6 billion people? To give you an idea, consider the small nation of Japan. It has about 143,000 square miles of area. One square mile has 5280 * 5280 = 27.9 million square feet. Japan has a total of about 4 trillion square feet, enough to give each person of the earth 670 square feet. If we housed people in families of four in simple two-level buildings (8 people per building, one family of four per level), each building could be on a lot of over 5300 square feet. If we used the American average of 8,000 square feet to four people, the entire population of the planet would fit into a space as big as Texas and Nevada combined – leaving the rest of the land for food production and entertainment venues. I should also mention that many countries in the west are now in a period of population implosion as families are getting smaller.

Cellphone Plane Crash
Pd Phone Plane 071206 Ms
The error: Using a cellphone on a plane can cause interference and, consequently, a crash.
The FAA has tested all sorts of electronic devices for 25 years, at 100 times the RF interference levels—and nothing happened. The FAA simply states that no link between operating the devices has been proved. It’s been left up to the airlines to determine their own policy—and that policy is to put away your Blackberry. By using your cellphone during flight, you risk interfering with a flight crew—but the plane won’t crash. Consequently, some airlines are now allowing the use of cellphones during flights. [Source]

Grumpy Old Men
The error: When you get older, you become bad tempered
A recent study found that our personalities don’t change much after age 30. So, if you’re cheerful and gregarious in your 40s, you can expect to be the same in your 80s. Marked personality changes some seniors experience are due not to normal aging but to some related disease like dementia or stroke. This is something worth considering when you are planning to marry in your thirties – your future spouse probably behaves now the same way he or she will for the rest of his or her life. [Source]

Raw Fish
The error: Sushi is raw fish
Sushi does not mean raw fish, and not all sushi includes raw fish. The usual Japanese term for raw fish is sashimi. The term sushi actually refers to the way the rice is prepared with a vinegary dressing. Toppings for the rice may traditionally include raw fish—but also cooked seafood, fish roe, egg, or vegetables such as cucumber, daikon radish, or ume plum. The dish constituting sushi and other fillings wrapped in a seaweed is referred to as makizushi, not sushi.

Are you a Cop?
The error: In the United States, a policeman must answer truthfully when asked if he is a cop
Entrapment law in the United States does not forbid police officers from denying that they are police. It is more concerned with enticing people to commit crimes they would not, in the normal course of events, have considered. This is an error that is frequently seen in movies – or perhaps it is just that films are realistically depicting people who believe the myth – though I doubt it.


Top 10 Most Evil Men

The most unfortunate aspect to researching this list was the realization that that I could do a top 100 most evil men and still have a multitude of people for a second list! The selection of this list is based not upon death tolls, but upon the general actions, and impact, or brutality of the people. From bad to worst, here are the top 10 evil men in history.
10. Attila The Hun
Attila was Khan of the Huns from 434 until his death in 453. He was leader of the Hunnic Empire which stretched from Germany to the Ural River and from the Danube River to the Baltic Sea. In much of Western Europe, he is remembered as the epitome of cruelty and rapacity. An unsuccessful campaign in Persia was followed in 441 by an invasion of the Eastern Roman Empire, the success of which emboldened Attila to invade the West. He passed unhindered through Austria and Germany, across the Rhine into Gaul, plundering and devastating all in his path with a ferocity unparalleled in the records of barbarian invasions and compelling those he overcame to augment his mighty army. Attila drowned in his own blood on his wedding night.
9. Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien Robespierre was a leader of the French revolution and it was his arguments that caused the revolutionary government to murder the king without a trial. In addition, Robespierre was one of the main driving forces behind the reign of terror, a 10 month post-revolutionary period in which mass executions were carried out. The Terror took the lives of between 18,500 to 40,000 people, with 1,900 being killed in the last month. Among people who were condemned by the revolutionary tribunals, about 8 percent were aristocrats, 6 percent clergy, 14 percent middle class, and 70 percent were workers or peasants accused of hoarding, evading the draft, desertion, rebellion, and other purported crimes.
In an act of coincidental justice, Robespierre was guillotined without a trial in 1794.
8. Ruhollah Khomeini
Khomeini 78
Ayatollah Khomeini was the religious leader of Iran from 1979 to 1989. In that time he implemented Sharia Law (Islamic religious law) with the Islamic dress code enforced for both men and women by Islamic Revolutionary Guards and other Islamic groups. Opposition to the religious rule of the clergy or Islam in general was often met with harsh punishments. In a talk at the Fayzieah School in Qom, August 30, 1979, Khomeini said:

“Those who are trying to bring corruption and destruction to our country in the name of democracy will be oppressed. They are worse than Bani-Ghorizeh Jews, and they must be hanged. We will oppress them by God’s order and God’s call to prayer.”
In the 1988 massacre of Iranian prisoners, following the People’s Mujahedin of Iran operation Forough-e Javidan against the Islamic Republic, Khomeini issued an order to judicial officials to judge every Iranian political prisoner and kill those who would not repent anti-regime activities. Many say that thousands were swiftly put to death inside the prisons. The suppressed memoirs of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri reportedly detail the execution of 30,000 political activists.
After eleven days in a hospital for an operation to stop internal bleeding, Khomeini died of cancer on Saturday, June 04, 1989, at the age of 86.
7. Idi Amin Dada
Amin 1809 Narrowweb  300X423,0
Idi Amin was an army officer and president of Uganda. He took power in a military coup in January 1971, deposing Milton Obote. His rule was characterized by human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extra judicial killings and the expulsion of Indians from Uganda. The number of people killed as a result of his regime is unknown; estimates range from 80,000 to 500,000. On August 4, 1972, Amin issued a decree ordering the expulsion of the 60,000 Asians who were not Ugandan citizens (most of them held British passports). This was later amended to include all 80,000 Asians, with the exception of professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and teachers. Amin was eventually overthrown, but until his death, he held that Uganda needed him and he never expressed remorse for the abuses of his regime.
6. Leopold II of Belgium
Leopold II was King of Belgium from 1865-1909. With financial support from the government, Leopold created the Congo Free State, a private project undertaken to extract rubber and ivory in the Congo region of central Africa, which relied on forced labour and resulted in the deaths of approximately 3 million Congolese. The regime of the Congo Free State became one of the more infamous international scandals of the turn of the century. The area of land privately owned by the King was an area 76 times larger than Belgium, which he was free to rule as a personal domain through his private army, the Force Publique. Leopold’s rubber gatherers tortured, maimed and slaughtered until at the turn of the century, the conscience of the Western world forced Brussels to call a halt.

5. Pol Pot
Polpot Vzoom
Pol Pot was the leader of the Khmer Rouge and the Prime Minister of Cambodia from 1976 to 1979, having been de facto leader since mid-1975. During his time in power Pol Pot imposed an extreme version of agrarian communism where all city dwellers were relocated to the countryside to work in collective farms and forced labour projects. The combined effect of slave labour, malnutrition, poor medical care and executions is estimated to have killed around 2 million Cambodians (approximately one third of the population). His regime achieved special notoriety for singling out all intellectuals and other “bourgeois enemies” for murder. The Khmer Rouge committed mass executions in sites known as the Killing Fields. The executed were buried in mass graves. In order to save ammunition, executions were often carried out using hammers, axe handles, spades or sharpened bamboo sticks.
4. Vlad Ţepeş
Vlad III of Romania (also known as Vlad the Impaler) was Prince of Wallachia three times between 1448 and 1476. Vlad is best known for the legends of the exceedingly cruel punishments he imposed during his reign and for serving as the primary inspiration for the vampire main character in Bram Stoker’s popular Dracula novel. In Romania he is viewed by many as a prince with a deep sense of justice. His method of torture was a horse attached to each of the victim’s legs as a sharpened stake was gradually forced into the body. The end of the stake was usually oiled, and care was taken that the stake not be too sharp; else the victim might die too rapidly from shock. Wikipedia has an article that describes, in great details, the methods of Vlad’s cruelty. The list of tortures he is alleged to have employed is extensive: nails in heads, cutting off of limbs, blinding, strangulation, burning, cutting off of noses and ears, mutilation of sexual organs (especially in the case of women), scalping, skinning, exposure to the elements or to animals, and boiling alive. There are claims that on some occasions ten thousand people were impaled in 1460 alone.
3. Ivan IV of Russia
Ivan IV of Russia, also know as Ivan the Terrible, was the Grand Duke of Muscovy from 1533 to 1547 and was the first ruler of Russia to assume the title of Tsar. In 1570, Ivan was under the belief that the elite of the city of Novgorod planned to defect to Poland, and led an army to stop them on January 2. Ivan’s soldiers built walls around the perimeter of the city in order to prevent the people of the city escaping. Between 500 and 1000 people were gathered every day by the troops, then tortured and killed in front of Ivan and his son. In 1581, Ivan beat his pregnant daughter-in-law for wearing immodest clothing, causing a miscarriage. His son, also named Ivan, upon learning of this, engaged in a heated argument with his father, which resulted in Ivan striking his son in the head with his pointed staff, causing his son’s (accidental) death.
2. Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933, becoming “Führer” in 1934 until his suicide in 1945. By the end of the second world war, Hitler’s policies of territorial conquest and racial subjugation had brought death and destruction to tens of millions of people, including the genocide of some six million Jews in what is now known as the Holocaust. On 30 April 1945, after intense street-to-street combat, when Soviet troops were spotted within a block or two of the Reich Chancellory, Hitler committed suicide, shooting himself while simultaneously biting into a cyanide capsule.
1. Josef Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Stalin was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s Central Committee from 1922 until his death in 1953. Under Stalin’s leadership, the Ukraine suffered from a famine (Holodomor) so great it is considered by many to be an act of genocide on the part of Stalin’s government. Estimates of the number of deaths range from 2.5 million to 10 million. The famine was caused by direct political and administrative decisions. In addition to the famine, Stalin ordered purges within the Soviet Union of any person deemed to be an enemy of the state. In total, estimates of the total number murdered under Stalins reign, range from 10 million to 60 million.
Bonus: Emperor Hirohito of Japan
Hirohito was the Emporer of Japan from 1926 to 1989. In 1937, Japanese troops committed the war crime that is now known as the Rape of Nanking (the then Capital of China, now known as Nanjing). The duration of the massacre is not clearly defined, although the violence lasted well into the next six weeks, until early February 1938. During the occupation of Nanjing, the Japanese army committed numerous atrocities, such as rape, looting, arson and the execution of prisoners of war and civilians. A large number of women and children were also killed, as rape and murder became more widespread. The death toll is generally considered to be between 150,000 and 300,000. The Wikipedia article contains images and descriptions of the atrocities committed.


The Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib), India

The Golden Temple, known in India as Harmandir Sahib, is a Sikh temple located in the Indian city of Amritsar, near the Pakistani border (in the state of Punjab).Sikhs consider it their most sacred temple and must journey there to pray and offer their prayers at least once in their life.
Originally built in 1574, the site of the temple was surrounded by a small lake in a thin forest. The temple was completed in 1604. In the mid eighteenth century it was attacked by one of Ahmed Shah Abdali generals, Jahan Khan, and his Afghan military forces, and had to be rebuilt in the 1760s.


10 More Amazing Wonders of the Natural World

After seeing “10 More Amazing Wonders of the Natural World”, which many contained places I had never even heard of, I was inspired to make my own list. This list differs from the previous in that it contains things which may not be stunning to behold, but are unique for their size, location, or natural impact.
The Door To Hell
The Door to Hell, as local residents at the nearby town of Darvaza have dubbed it, is a 70 meter wide crater in Turkmenistan that has been burning continuously for 35 years. In 1971, geologists drilling for gas deposits uncovered a huge underground cavern, which caused the ground over it to collapse, taking down all their equipment and their camp with it. Since the cavern was filled poisonous gas, they dared not go down to retrieve their equipment, and to prevent the gas escaping they ignited it, hoping it would burn itself out in a couple of days. Unfortunately, there was a slight miscalculation as to the amount of gas that was trapped, and the crater continues to burn to this day.
You can see it on Google Earth at 40°15′8″N 58°26′23″E
Mount Roraima
Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana
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Mount Roraima is a pretty remarkable place. It is a tabletop mountain with sheer 400-metre high cliffs on all sides. There is only one ‘easy’ way up, on a natural staircase-like ramp on the Venezuelan side – to get up any other way takes and experienced rock climber. On the top of the mountain it rains almost every day, washing away most of the nutrients for plants to grow and creating a unique landscape on the bare sandstone surface. This also creates some of the highest waterfalls in the world over the sides (Angel falls is located on a similar tabletop mountain some 130 miles away). Though there are only a few marshes on the mountain where vegetation can grow properly, these contain many species unique to the mountain, including a species of carnivorous pitcher plant.
Meteor Crater
Meteor Crater is a meteorite impact crater located approximately 43 miles (69 km) east of Flagstaff, near Winslow in the northern Arizona desert of the United States. Because the US Department of the Interior Division of Names commonly recognizes names of natural features derived from the nearest post office, the feature acquired the name of “Meteor Crater” from the nearby post office named Meteor. The crater was created about 50,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch when the local climate on the Colorado Plateau was much cooler and damper. At the time, the area was an open grassland dotted with woodlands inhabited by woolly mammoths, giant ground sloths, and camels. It was probably not inhabited by humans; the earliest confirmed record of human habitation in the Americas dates from long after this impact. The object that excavated the crater was a nickel-iron meteorite about 50 meters (54 yards) across, which impacted the plain at a speed of several kilometers per second.
The Great Dune of Pyla
Since Europe has no deserts, you’d think the title of “Europe’s largest sand dune” would go to something that wasn’t particularly impressive. But you’d be wrong. The Great Dune of Pyla is 3km long, 500m wide and 100m high, and for reasons I will probably never understand, it seems to have formed in a forest. The dune is very steep on the side facing the forest and is famous for being a paragliding site. At the top it also provides spectacular views out to sea and over the forest (since the dune is far higher than any of the trees surrounding it).
Republic of Yemen
Socotra Island
Socotra has been described as one of the most alien-looking place on Earth, and it’s not hard to see why. It is very isolated with a harsh, dry climate and as a result a third of its plant-life is found nowhere else, including the famous Dragon’s Blood Tree, a very-unnatural looking umbrella-shaped tree which produces red sap. There are also a large number of birds, spiders and other animals native to the island, and coral reefs around it which similarly have a large number of endemic (i.e. only found there) species. Socotra is considered the most biodiverse place in the Arabian sea, and is a World Heritage Site.

This is more of a curiosity and not visually impressive, but 83-42 is believed to be the northernmost permanent point of land on earth. It is tiny, only 35m by 15m and 4m high, but is about 400 miles from the north pole. It beat the previous record holder, ATOW1996, when it was discovered in 1998, and lichens were found growing on it, suggesting it was not just one of the temporary gravel bars that are found in that region, which are regularly pushed around by the rough seas. The picture above features what is currently the northernmost point on land, one of the temporary gravel bars, photographed in 2007, as I could find no photos of 83-42 (For some reason, nobody feels the need to produce a photograph of a tiny rock in the middle of nowhere, which only five people have ever stepped foot on).
New Zealand
Mud Pools
Rotorua is a city on the southern shores of the lake of the same name, in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand. The city is known for its geothermal activity, with a number of geysers, notably the Pohutu Geyser at Whakarewarewa, and boiling mud pools (pictured above) located in the city. This thermal activity owes itself to the Rotorua caldera on which the city lies. Rotorua is also a top adventure destination and is New Zealand’s Maori cultural heartland. Rotorua city is renowned for its unique “rotten eggs” aroma, which is caused by the geothermal activity releasing sulphur compounds into the atmosphere. If you are ever visiting New Zealand – this is a city you must see. It was once home to the famed Pink and White Terraces and you can visit thermal wonderlands with sights that are truly astounding.
Don Juan Pond
Donjuanstill.0660 Web
With a salinity of over 40%, Don Juan Pond is the saltiest body of water in the world. It is named after the two pilots who first investigated the pond in 1961, Lt Don Roe and Lt John Hickey. It is a small lake, only 100m by 300m, and on average 0.1m deep, but it is so salty that even in the Antarctic, where the temperature at the pond regularly drops to as low as -30 degrees Celsius, it never freezes. It is 18 times saltier than sea water, compared to the Dead Sea which is only 8 times saltier than sea water.
Iceberg B-15
Iceberg B-15 was the largest ever recorded iceberg. It had an area of 3,100 km², making it larger than the island of Jamaica, and was created when part of the Ross Ice Shelf broke off in March 2000. In 2003, it broke apart, and one of the larger pieces (called B-15a) drifted north, eventually smashing into a glacier in 2005, breaking off an 8-km² section and forcing many antarctic maps to be rewritten. It drifted along the coast and eventually ran aground, breaking up once again. In 2006, a storm in Alaska (that’s right, Alaska) caused an ocean swell that travelled 13,500km, over 6 days, to Antarctica and broke up the largest remaining part even more. Almost a decade on, parts of the iceberg have still not melted, with the largest remaining part, still called B-15a, having an area of 1,700 km². The picture above shows B-15a (top left) in 2005, after drifting west into the Drygalski Glacier (bottom), breaking the end off into several pieces.
Guaíra Falls
Brazil-Paraguay border
Located on the Parana river the Guaíra Falls were, in terms of total volume, the largest waterfall on earth. 1,750,000 cubic feet of water fell over this waterfall each second on average, compared to just 70,000 cubic feet per second for Niagra Falls. However, the falls were flooded in 1982 when a dam was created to take advantage of this massive flow rate. The Itaipu Dam is now the second most powerful hydroelectric dam in the world, after the Three Gorges Dam. The Itaipu Dam supplies 90% of the power consumed by Paraguay, and 19% of the power consumed by Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.