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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

10 Strange Things About The Universe

The universe can be a very strange place. While groundbreaking ideas such as quantum theory, relativity and even the Earth going around the Sun might be commonly accepted now, science still continues to show that the universe contains things you might find it difficult to believe, and even more difficult to get your head around.
Negative Energy
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Theoretically, the lowest temperature that can be achieved is absolute zero, exactly −273.15°C, where the motion of all particles stops completely. However, you can never actually cool something to this temperature because, in quantum mechanics, every particle has a minimum energy, called “zero-point energy,” which you cannot get below. Remarkably, this minimum energy doesn’t just apply to particles, but to any vacuum, whose energy is called “vacuum energy.” To show that this energy exists involves a rather simple experiment– take two metal plates in a vacuum, put them close together, and they will be attracted to each other. This is caused by the energy between the plates only being able to resonate at certain frequencies, while outside the plates the vacuum energy can resonate at pretty much any frequency. Because the energy outside the plates is greater than the energy between the plates, the plates are pushed towards each other. As the plates get closer together, the force increases, and at around a 10 nm separation this effect (called the Casimir effect) creates one atmosphere of pressure between them. Because the plates reduce the vacuum energy between them to below the normal zero-point energy, the space is said to have negative energy, which has some unusual properties.
One of the properties of a negative-energy vacuum is that light actually travels faster in it than it does in a normal vacuum, something that may one day allow people to travel faster than the speed of light in a kind of negative-energy vacuum bubble. Negative energy could also be used to hold open a transversible wormhole, which although theoretically possible, would collapse as soon as it was created without a means to keep it open. Negative energy also causes black holes to evaporate. Vacuum energy is often modeled as virtual particles popping into existence and annihilating. This doesn’t violate any energy conservation laws as long as the particles are annihilated shortly afterwards. However, if two particles are produced at the event horizon of a black hole, one can be moving away from the black hole, while the other is falling into it. This means they won’t be able to annihilate, so the particles both end up with negative energy. When the negative energy particle falls into the black hole, it lowers the mass of the black hole instead of adding to it, and over time particles like these will cause the black hole to evaporate completely. Because this theory was first suggested by Stephen Hawking, the particles given off by this effect (the ones that don’t fall into the black hole) are called Hawking radiation. It was the first accepted theory to unite quantum theory with general relativity, making it Hawking’s greatest scientific achievement to date.
Frame Dragging
One prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity is that when a large object moves, it drags the space-time around it, causing nearby objects to be pulled along as well. It can occur when a large object is moving in a straight line or is rotating, and, although the effect is very small, it has been experimentally verified. The Gravity Probe B experiment, launched in 2004, was designed to measure the space-time distortion near Earth. Although sources of interference were larger than expected, the frame-dragging effect has been measured to an uncertainty of 15%, with further analysis hoping to reduce this further.
The expected effects were very close to predictions: due to the rotation of the Earth, the probe was pulled from its orbit by around 2 meters per year, an effect purely caused by the mass of the Earth distorting the space-time surrounding it. The probe itself would not feel this extra acceleration because it is not caused by an acceleration on the probe, but rather on the space-time the probe is traveling through–analogous to a rug being pulled under a table, rather than moving the table itself.
Relativity of Simultaneity
The relativity of simultaneity is the idea that whether two events occur simultaneously or not is relative and depends on the observer. It is a strange consequence of the special theory of relativity, and applies to any events that happen that are separated by some distance. For example, if a firework is let off on Mars and another on Venus, one observer traveling through space one way might say they happen at the same time (compensating for the time light takes to reach them), while another observer traveling another way might say the one on Mars went off first, and yet another might say the one on Venus went off first. It is caused by the way different viewpoints become distorted compared to each other in special relativity. And because they are all relative, no observer can be said to have the correct viewpoint.
This can lead to very unusual scenarios, such as an observer witnessing effect before cause (for example, seeing a bomb go off, then later seeing someone light the fuse). However, once the observer sees the effect, they cannot interact with the cause without traveling faster than the speed of light, which was one of the first reasons faster-than-light travel was believed to be forbidden, because it is akin to time travel, and a universe where you can interact with the cause after the effect makes no sense.
Black Strings
One of the longest outstanding mysteries in physics is how gravity is related to the other fundamental forces, such as electromagnetism. One theory, first proposed in 1919, showed that if an extra dimension is added to the universe, gravity still exists in the first four dimensions (three space dimensions and time), but the way this four dimensional space curves over the extra fifth dimension, naturally produces the other fundamental forces. However, we cannot see or detect this fifth dimension, so it was proposed that the extra dimension was curled up, and hence became invisible to us. This theory was what ultimately led to string theory, and is still included at the heart of most string theory analysis.
Since this extra dimension is so small, only tiny objects, such as particles, can move along it. In these cases, they ultimately just end up where they started, since the extra dimension is curled up on itself. However, one object that becomes much more complex in five dimensions is a black hole. When extended to five dimensions, it becomes a “black string,” and unlike a normal 4D black hole, it is unstable (this ignores the fact that 4D black holes eventually evaporate). This black string will destabilize into a whole string of black holes, connected by further black strings, until the black strings are pinched off entirely and leave the set of black holes. These multiple 4D black holes then combine into one larger black hole. The most interesting thing about this is that, using current models, the final black hole is a “naked” singularity. That is, it has no event horizon surrounding it. This violates the Cosmic Censorship Hypothesis, which says that all singularities must be surrounded by an event horizon, in order to avoid the time-travel effects that are believed to happen near a singularity from changing the history of the entire universe, as they can never escape from behind an event horizon.
As is best shown in the equation E=MC2, energy and matter are fundamentally connected. One effect of this is that energy, as well as mass, creates a gravitational field. A geon, first investigated by John Wheeler, in 1955, is an electromagnetic or gravitational wave whose energy creates a gravitational field, which in turn holds the wave itself together in a confined space. Wheeler speculated that there may be a link between microscopic geons and elementary particles, and that they might even be the same thing. A more extreme example is a “kugelblitz” (German for “ball lightning”), which is where such intense light is concentrated at a particular point that the gravity caused by the light energy becomes strong enough to collapse into a black hole, trapping the light inside. Although nothing is thought to prevent the formation of a kugelblitz, geons are now only believed to be able to form temporarily, as they will inevitably leak energy and collapse. This unfortunately indicates that Wheeler’s initial conjecture was incorrect, but this has not been definitively proven.

Kerr Black Hole
The type of black hole most people are familiar with, which has an event horizon on the outside acting as the “point of no return” and a point singularity of infinite density on the inside, actually has a more specific name: a Schwarzschild black hole. It is named after Karl Schwarzschild, who found the mathematical solution of Einstein’s field equations for a spherical, non-rotating mass in 1915, only a month after Einstein actually published his general theory of relativity. However, it wasn’t until 1963 that mathematician Roy Kerr found the solution for a rotating spherical mass. Hence, a rotating black hole is called a Kerr black hole, and it has some unusual properties.
At the centre of a Kerr black hole, there is no point singularity, but rather a ring singularity—a spinning one-dimensional ring held open by its own momentum. There are also two event horizons, an inner and outer one, and an ellipsoid called the ergosphere, inside which space-time itself rotates with the black hole (because of frame dragging) faster than the speed of light. When entering the black hole, by passing through the outer event horizon, space-like paths become time-like, meaning that it is impossible to avoid the singularity at the centre, just like in a Schwarzschild black hole. However, when you pass through the inner event horizon, your path becomes space-like again. The difference is this: space-time itself is reversed. This means gravity near the ring singularity becomes repulsive, actually pushing you away from the centre. In fact, unless you enter the black hole exactly on the equator, it is impossible to hit the ring singularity itself. Additionally, ring singularities can be linked through space-time, so they can act as wormholes, although exiting the black hole on the other side would be impossible (unless it was a naked singularity, possibly created when the ring singularity spins fast enough). Traveling through a ring singularity might take you to another point in space-time, such as another universe, where you could see light falling in from outside the black hole, but not leave the black hole itself. It might even take you to a “white hole” in a negative universe, the exact meaning of which is unknown.
Quantum Tunneling
Quantum tunneling is an effect where a particle can pass through a barrier it would not normally have the energy to overcome. It can allow a particle to pass through a physical barrier that should be impenetrable, or can allow an electron to escape from the pull of the nucleus without having the kinetic energy to do so. According to quantum mechanics, there is a finite probability that any particle can be found anywhere in the universe, although that probability is astronomically small for any real distance from the particles expected path.
However, when the particle is faced with a small-enough barrier (around 1-3 nm wide), one which conventional calculations would indicate is impenetrable by the particle, the probability that the particle will simply pass through that barrier becomes fairly noticeable. This can be explained by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which limits how much information can be known about a particle. A particle can “borrow” energy from the system it is acting in, use it to pass through the barrier, and then lose it again.
Quantum tunneling is involved in many physical processes, such as radioactive decay and the nuclear fusion that takes place in the Sun. It is also used in certain electrical components, and it has even been shown to occur in enzymes in biological systems. For example, the enzyme glucose oxidase, which catalyses the reaction of glucose into hydrogen peroxide, involves the quantum tunneling of an entire oxygen atom. Quantum tunneling is also a key feature of the scanning tunneling microscope, the first machine to enable the imaging and manipulation of individual atoms. It works by measuring the voltage in a very fine tip, which changes when it gets close to a surface due to the effect of electrons tunneling through the vacuum (known as the “forbidden zone”) between them. This gives the device the sensitivity necessary to make extremely high resolution images. It also enables the device to move atoms by deliberately putting a current through the conducting tip.
Cosmic Strings
Shorty after the Big Bang, the universe was in a highly disordered and chaotic state. This means that small changes and defects didn’t change the overall structure of the universe. However, as the universe expanded, cooled, and went from a disorderly state to an orderly one, it reached a point where very small fluctuations created very large changes.
This is similar to arranging tiles evenly on a floor. When one tile is placed unevenly, this means that the subsequent tiles placed will follow its pattern. Therefore, you have a whole line of tiles out of place. This is similar to the objects called cosmic strings, which are extremely thin and extremely long defects in the shape of space-time. These cosmic strings are predicted by most models of the universe, such as the string theory wherein two kinds of “strings” are unrelated.  If they exist, each string would be as thin as a proton, but incredibly dense. Thus, a cosmic string a mile long can weigh as much as the Earth. However, it would not actually have any gravity and the only effect it will have on matter surrounding it would be the way it changes the form and shape of space-time. Therefore, a cosmic string is, in essence, just a “wrinkle” in the shape of space-time.
Cosmic strings are thought to be incredibly long, up to the order of the sizes of thousands of galaxies. In fact, recent observations and simulations have suggested that a network of cosmic strings stretches across the entire universe. This was once thought to be what caused galaxies to form in supercluster complexes, although this idea has since been abandoned. Supercluster complexes consist of connected “filaments” of galaxies up to a billion light-years in length. Because of the unique effects of cosmic strings on space-time as you bring two strings close together, it has been shown that they could possibly be used for time travel, like with most of the things on this list. Cosmic strings would also create incredible gravitational waves, stronger than any other known source. These waves are what those current and planned gravitational wave detectors are designed to look for.
Antimatter Retrocausality
Antimatter is the opposite of matter. It has the same mass but with an opposing electrical charge. One theory about why antimatter exists was developed by John Wheeler and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman based on the idea that physical systems should be time-reversible. For example, the orbits of our solar system, if played backwards, should still obey all the same rules as when they are played forwards. This led to the idea that antimatter is just ordinary matter going backwards in time, which would explain why antiparticles have an opposite charge, since if an electron is repelled while going forwards in time, then backwards in time this becomes attraction. This also explains why matter and antimatter annihilate. This isn’t a circumstance of two particles crashing into and destroying each other; it is the same particle suddenly stopping and going back in time. In a vacuum, where a pair of virtual particles are produced and then annihilated, this is actually just one particle going in an endless loop, forwards in time, then backwards, then forwards, and so on.
While the accuracy of this theory is still up for debate, treating antimatter as matter going backwards in time mathematically comes up with identical solutions to other, more conventional theories. When it was first theorized, John Wheeler said that perhaps it answered the question of why all electrons in the universe have identical properties, a question so obvious that it is generally ignored. He suggested that it was just one electron, constantly darting all over the universe, from the Big Bang to the end of time and back again, continuing an uncountable number of times. Even though this idea involves backwards time travel, it can’t be used to send any information back in time, since the mathematics of the model simply doesn’t allow it. You cannot move a piece of antimatter to affect the past, since in moving it you only affect the past of the antimatter itself, that is, your future.
Gödel’s incompleteness theorems
It is not strictly science, but rather a very interesting set of mathematical theorems about logic and the philosophy that is definitely relevant to science as a whole. Proven in 1931 by Kurt Gödel, these theories say that with any given set of logical rules, except for the most simple, there will always be statements that are undecidable, meaning that they cannot be proven or disproven due to the inevitable self-referential nature of any logical systems that is even remotely complicated. This is thought to indicate that there is no grand mathematical system capable of proving or disproving all statements. An undecidable statement can be thought of as a mathematical form of a statement like “I always lie.” Because the statement makes reference to the language being used to describe it, it cannot be known whether the statement is true or not. However, an undecidable statement does not need to be explicitly self-referential to be undecidable. The main conclusion of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems is that all logical systems will have statements that cannot be proven or disproven; therefore, all logical systems must be “incomplete.”
The philosophical implications of these theorems are widespread. The set suggests that in physics, a “theory of everything” may be impossible, as no set of rules can explain every possible event or outcome. It also indicates that logically, “proof” is a weaker concept than “true”; such a concept is unsettling for scientists because it means there will always be things that, despite being true, cannot be proven to be true. Since this set of theorems also applies to computers, it also means that our own minds are incomplete and that there are some ideas we can never know, including whether our own minds are consistent (i.e. our reasoning contains no incorrect contradictions). This is because the second of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems states that no consistent system can prove its own consistency, meaning that no sane mind can prove its own sanity. Also, since that same law states that any system able to prove its consistency to itself must be inconsistent, any mind that believes it can prove its own sanity is, therefore, insane.


15 Ways We Handle The Dead

Human beings, it would seem, have a fascination with death. While most of us would tend to agree that it is something best avoided, it also holds a sense of wonder for us. As the short story “The Body” by Stephen King (later made into the film Stand by Me) graphically illustrates, even as children, we are drawn by the allure of the dead. Just consider how many ways we have of saying that someone has died; Wikipedia counts at least 80, and there are doubtless dozens more.
But nowhere is our fascination with death exemplified as much as how we treat our dead. In most Western countries, death is celebrated with a (often solemn) ceremony, and the deceased is interred in a necropolis, a city of the dead (more colloquially known as a graveyard or cemetery). The burial site is often given a marker or memorial so the deceased may be remembered by future visitors to the site. Of course, funeral rites vary from place to place, but in most cases, great care and ceremony are involved.
Here I present (in no particular order) the 15 most common means of putting someone’s mortal remains to rest.
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Aquamation is the most environment-friendly way of disposal of human bodies. The process involves the rapid disintegration of the human body into high quality fertilizers. In comparison with cremation, about 10% of the energy is used, and all of the associated pollution is avoided.
With Aquamation, an individual body is gently placed in a clean, stainless steel vessel. A combination of water flow, temperature (~90C) and alkalinity are used to accelerate the natural course of tissue hydrolysis. Typically the process takes about four hours to complete.
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Burial is the act of interring a person or object in the ground, and is probably the simplest and most common method of disposing of a body.
Burial is generally accepted to be one of the earliest detectable forms of religious practice, and many hominid remains have been discovered interred with grave goods, or with obvious signs of ceremony. Even today, most burials are presided over by a religious figure, and in many cultures they are conducted with great reverence.
In some cultures, exactly how one is buried may make all the difference. Christian burials, for example, often demand that the body be laid flat, with arms and legs extended and aligned east-west, with the head at the western end of the grave. This is to allow them to view the coming of Christ on Judgment day. In Islam, the head is pointed toward and the face turned to Mecca. Warriors in some ancient cultures were interred upright, and an upside down position is typically symbolic of suicides, or as a punishment.
It is interesting to note that humans are not alone in their practice of burying the dead, either. Chimpanzees and elephants have been observed to cover dead family members with leaves and branches. An elephant that trampled a mother and child buried the remains under a pile of leaves.
Burial at Sea
Burial at sea is the term used for the procedure of disposing of human remains in the ocean. Many cultures have regulations to make burial at sea accessible, and it is fast becoming a popular choice. In the United States, ashes must be scattered no less than three nautical miles from the shore, and bodies given over to the sea must be buried in locations of at least 600 feet depth.
Traditionally, the service is conducted by the captain or commanding officer of the ship or aircraft. Possibilities include burial in a weighted casket, burial in an urn, being sewn into sailcloth or scattering the cremated remains. Burial at sea by aircraft is normally done only with cremated remains. It is also possible to have the ashes mixed with concrete to form an artificial reef. This gives the deceased a form of immortality by allowing their remains to contribute to an entire ecosystem.
Most major religions permit burial at sea, and some have very specific rituals concerning it. Islam and Judaism both prefer burials on land, but both have allowances for maritime burials, should the need (or desire) arise.
Entombment is the act of placing human remains in a structurally enclosed space, or burial chamber. This differs from burial in that the body is not consigned directly to the earth, but rather is kept within a specially designed sealed chamber. There are many different forms of tombs, from mausoleums (specifically built for this purpose), to elaborate (and often decorative) family crypts, to a simple cave with a sealed entrance. A mausoleum is typically an above-ground structure, but a tomb may also be an underground chamber.
Tombs may be designed for singular use, or may serve to house the remains of several generations. Individual remains within a tomb are often sealed in coffins or sarcophagi, though in some cases they are placed in interment niches. Tombs may belong to families, religious organizations or even entire cities. Catacombs, such as the famed Parisian catacombs, are a form of tomb (as well as a mass grave), and in some cases, as with the Capuchin Catacombs of Palmero, serve as macabre tourist attractions.
Dismemberment involves cutting, tearing, pulling, wrenching or otherwise removing, the limbs of some creature. It is typically committed after death, for a specific purpose, but on occasion has been the cause of death.
Until the late 19th Century, hanging, drawing and quartering was a common punishment for high treason. This involved the offender being dragged through the streets by a horse while tied to a hurdle, then being hanged by the neck until nearly dead (but certainly still alive), having the vital organs removed from the abdomen and burned in front of them (males were typically castrated at this time, as well, and their genitals also burned), then being decapitated and the body cut into four pieces. The head and pieces were then typically boiled and displayed as a warning to others. In the Netherlands and Belgium, those convicted of regicide had their arms and legs tied to horses and the abdomen sliced open.
In modern times, the most likely reasons for dismemberment are to hide the identity of the deceased, or to make the corpse more accessible for transport or fitting into tight spaces. Thus, it is typically performed postmortem. Because fingerprints, hair samples, facial modeling and toe prints can all be used to indicate identity, there are good reasons why many murderers take the extra time to do this.
Dismemberment has also been practiced in the past on the bodies of Catholic saints, as their earthly remains are considered to be holy relics.
Cremation is the process of reducing dead bodies to basic chemical compounds in the form of gases and bone fragments. This is most often performed in a crematorium, though some cultures, such as India, do practice open-air cremation. Generally, temperatures of no less than 1500oF are required to ensure complete disintegration.
After the process is complete, the dry bone fragments that remain are swept out of the retort (the chamber in which the body is immolated) and passed through a cremulator. This machine grinds the bones into a fine, sand-like powder.
In some cultures or regions, pulverization may be performed by hand. These “ashes” are then provided to the family to be kept, scattered or interred in a traditional grave.
In Japanese and Thai funeral traditions, the bones are not pulverized (unless requested by the deceased). Instead, family members sift through the remains and remove the bones with special chopsticks intended for this purpose. There is a great deal of ceremony involved in this process. The bones of the feet are picked first, with the bones of the head being placed in the urn last. This is done so that the deceased will not be upside down in the urn. The urn is then kept in a place of honor or a small shrine within the home.
Space Burial
In the late years of the 20th Century, it became the vogue to be “buried in space,” that is, to have a small part of the cremated remains placed into a capsule (about the size of a tube of lipstick) and launched into space using a rocket. Since 2004, there have been about 150 space burials.
This option is not commonly chosen, as it can be quite expensive and only one company currently specializes in providing this service. In most cases, the remains are fired into Earth orbit, though some have been launched into other trajectories, including to the moon, Pluto, and deep space. Famous people who have been “buried” in space include James Doohan (“Scotty” of Star Trek fame), Gene Roddenberry (creator of the aforementioned Star Trek), Timothy Leary (American writer, psychologist, and drug campaigner), Clyde Tombaugh (American astronomer and discoverer of Pluto), Dr. Eugene Shoemaker (Astronomer and co-discoverer of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9), and Leroy Gordon “Gordo” Cooper, Jr. (American astronaut and one of the original Mercury Seven pilots).

The Egyptians are perhaps the best-known adherents of this process (although they are far from the only ones), in which a corpse has its skin and organs preserved, by either intentional or incidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity or lack of air. The oldest mummy found to date was a decapitated head that dates back to 6000 BC. The earliest Egyptian mummy dates back to about 3300 BC.
The Egyptian mummification process is well-known to modern science, through opportunities to study mummies from that culture, and by means of references from Egyptian and other classical accounts, as well as paintings in tombs that demonstrate the process. In short, the internal organs are removed and dried out using natron, and are then placed either in canopic jars, or else made into four packages to be reinserted into the body cavity. The brain is scrambled by means of a hook run up through the nasal cavity, then pulled out through the nose and discarded. The heart was considered to be the organ associated with intelligence and life force.
The body cavity would then be washed out with spiced palm wine and filled with dry natron gum resin and vegetable matter. It was then placed in a bath of natron and left for as long as 70 days. This would dehydrate the body and better preserve the skin. The body cavity was then excavated and refilled with permanent stuffing, and, often, the viscera packages. The abdominal incision was closed, the nostrils plugged with wax, and the body anointed with oils and gum resins. The remains would then be wrapped in layers of linen bandages, between which amulets were inserted to guard the deceased from danger and evil.
But it is also possible for a body to undergo natural mummification. The extreme cold of a glacier in the Ötztal Alps resulted in the mummification of a hunter who lived about 5,300 years ago, now known as Ötzi the Iceman. Bog bodies, who were victims of murder or ritual sacrifice, are a common find in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia Denmark.
Also known as anthropophagy, cannibalism has been recorded throughout history and continues to be practiced even today. Specifically, it is the act of humans eating other humans. If humans are specifically killed to be eaten, it is called homicidal cannibalism. If the practice is restricted to those already dead, it is called necro-cannibalism. There are two kinds of cannibalistic social behavior: endocannibalism (the act of consuming humans from the same community) and exocannibalism (eating humans from other communities).
Cannibalism may be practiced for a number of reasons. Among primitive peoples, it was often believed that consuming an individual’s flesh could grant their abilities to the cannibal. Cannibalism might also be performed simply because the cannibal enjoys the taste, as a form of insult to the dead, or to honor them.
Cannibalism has long served as a recurrent theme in myth and legend, dating back to Ancient Greece, with stories of Cronus, an elder god who was said to have devoured his children. Baba Yaga is a famous Russian cannibal, and the Brothers Grimm related the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which two young children, left in the woods to die by their parents, find a cottage made of cake and gingerbread. The building turns out to be the residence of a cannibalistic hag who enjoys the tender flesh of young children and plans to cook and eat the pair, but is slain by the cleverness of the children.
Cryonics is the low-temperature preservation of humans and animals who can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future. Because, in the United States, cryonics can only be legally performed on humans after they have been pronounced legally dead, procedures ideally begin within minutes of cardiac arrest and use cryoprotectants to prevent ice formation during cryopreservation. However, the idea of cryonics also includes the preservation of people after longer post-mortem delays because of the possibility that brain structures encoding memory and personality may still persist or be inferable. Whether sufficient brain information still exists for cryonics to work under some preservation conditions may be intrinsically unprovable by present knowledge. Most proponents of cryonics, therefore, see it as a speculative intervention with prospects for success that vary widely depending on circumstances.
Unfortunately, current methods are clumsy and far from perfect, and must be undertaken with the hope that a future society that can revive and cure the body might also be able to repair the damage done to cells and body structures by the freezing process. Certain chemicals can be utilized to offset the effects, but some of these are highly toxic and, unless purged from the body before revivication, the effort may be rendered pointless.
Dissolution is a tried-and-true favorite of those who really want to make certain that remains are never found: simply dissolve the body in a strong solvent, such as lye or hydrochloric acid. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
While boiling lye will definitely render a victim unrecognizable in a matter of a few hours, it doesn’t do the job completely. Bits of bone, teeth and any unnatural parts (such as pacemakers) are left behind. Even a single tooth can contain enough DNA to identify a victim and lead the police to your door. That is, if the strong smell of lye doesn’t alert them first. Such methods have been used in the United States for almost two decades, to dispose of animal carcasses. Now, it’s being considered as an alternative to burial.
The process is called alkaline hydrolysis and uses lye, 300-degree heat and 60 pounds of pressure per square inch to destroy bodies, using big stainless-steel cylinders that are similar to pressure cookers. A straining device catches things like teeth, bits of bone and the aforementioned inorganic entities. Bones and teeth are crushed to a fine powder and offered to the family in the same manner as ashes. The rest of the body turns into a viscous brown fluid with the consistency of motor oil and a strong smell of ammonia. This is simply washed down the drain.
Exposure is not typically practiced intentionally in the West today. More often, it results from an accident where someone dies in an isolated location and the body goes unnoticed for a period of time. However, there are people who dispose of bodies in this manner on a regular basis.
Tibetan sky burial (known as a jahtor ) is the ritual dissection of the body, which is then laid out for the animals or the elements to dispose of. Tibet is a mountainous land where the soil is too rocky to dig graves and there is a scarcity of fuel for cremation, so sky burial arose as a logical alternative. Here’s how it works:
After being sent on their way with ceremony, the remains of the deceased are toted up to a designated location, where the body is laid out (typically naked).
Then the rogyapas (body-breakers) go to work. Flesh is stripped from bones, limbs are hacked away and the whole is ground up and sometimes mixed with tsampa (a mixture of barley flour, tea, and yak butter or milk) and offered to the vultures (which have learned to keep watch on the traditional burial site). The rogyapas do not go about their task with somber ritual, but rather they laugh, joke and chat as in any other manual labor.
Mass Grave
When expedience is an issue, as is often the case with a plague or a disaster, a mass grave may be used. A mass grave is simply a singular location in which multiple human remains are interred. Mass graves are common as a result of wars, plagues, famine and disasters, when health concerns become an issue and it would be unwise to wait for each body to be identified and given the proper rites. Mass burial is generally frowned upon because it detracts from the identity of the deceased.
Mass burial was once far more common than today, but the practice is hardly lost to modern people. Locations known to harbor mass graves include The Killing Fields of Cambodia, the Soviet Union, Chechnya, Iraq and even the United States. Hart Island is a potter’s field, a place intended for the burial of unknown or indigent people, for the city of New York. It is the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world and currently houses over 850,000 “residents,” dating as far back as the Civil War, and is still used even today.
Taxidermy is the act of mounting, or reproducing, dead animals for display (e.g. as hunting trophies) or for other sources of study. However, some people haven’t let that stop them from taking the next step to immortality and having themselves taxidermied after death. The process is rather simple, but requires a lot of skill. The animal is skinned and the innards disposed of (often without the taxidermist ever seeing any of the internal organs). The skin is tanned and then placed on a polyurethane form. Clay is used to install glass eyes. Forms and eyes are commercially available from a number of suppliers. If not, taxidermists carve or cast their own forms.
The legalities of the taxidermy of human beings escape me (I could find no specific references to them), but I would assume that the process is legal, if one makes all the proper arrangements and can find a taxidermist willing to take the job. However, the difficulties involved in such an enterprise have meant that few people have had the process done. One such individual, however, was philosopher Jeremy Bentham.
Born in Spitalfields, London, in 1748, Bentham was a prolific writer (he left manuscripts amounting to some 5,000,000 words) on the subject of law, equality between the sexes, animal rights, economics and utilitarianism. As specified in his will, Bentham’s body was dissected as part of a public anatomy lecture. Afterward, the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon,” with the skeleton stuffed with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes. Originally kept by his disciple, Thomas Southwood Smith, it was acquired by University College London, in 1850. It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the college, but for the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, it was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where it was listed as “present but not voting.”
As perhaps the ultimate bid for immortality, plastination is a technique used in anatomy to preserve bodies or body parts. The water and fat are replaced by certain plastics, yielding specimens that can be touched, do not smell or decay and even retain most properties of the original sample. The resultant plastinates can be manipulated and positioned as desired.
Plastinates are used as museum displays, as teaching tools and in anatomy studies. The process so perfectly preserves tissue, musculature and even nerve clusters that plastinates serve as invaluable references to the way our bodies (and those of other animals) work.
The process of plastination began in November, 1979, when Gunther von Hagens applied for a German patent, proposing the idea of preserving animal and vegetable tissues permanently by synthetic resin impregnation. Since then, von Hagens has applied for further U.S. patents regarding work on preserving biological tissues with polymers.


Top 10 Worst Man Eaters In History

Most large predatory animals can, and will, see humans as suitable prey, under the right circumstances; however, true “man eaters”, that is, individual animals that prefer human flesh over any other food, are very rare. This list is a selection of some of the worst cases of man eaters recorded in history.
The lions of Njombe
01 28 1---Lions Web
We start this list with the worst case of man-eating lions in History. It was not a single man eater, but an entire pride that preferred human flesh over any other kind of food. It happened in 1932, in Tanzania near the town of Njombe. A large pride of lions went into a particularly brutal killing spree. Legend has it that the lions were being controlled by the witch doctor of a local tribe, named Matamula Mangera, who sent them into rampage as revenge against his own people after being deposed of his post. The tribesmen were so terrified of the man-eating lions that they wouldn’t even dare speaking of them, believing that a simple mention would cause them to appear. They begged to the tribe chief to restore the witch doctor to his post, but he refused. The lions kept attacking and, eventually, took over 1,500 human lives (some say over 2000); the worst lion attack in History, and one of the worst cases of animal attacks ever recorded. Eventually, George Rushby, a famed hunter, decided to put an end to the attacks. He killed 15 lions, and the rest of the pride eventually abandoned the area, finally ending the nightmare. But, of course, the locals were convinced that the lions left only because the tribe’s chief finally agreed to restore Matamula Mangera to his old job.
Two Toed Tom
Aligator Bluecrab1.Ashx
Two Toed Tom is a rather obscure man-eater, and today it is hard to know which parts of his story are real, and which ones are myth. This huge male American alligator was said to roam the swamps in the border of Alabama and Florida during the 20s. He had lost all but two of the toes in his left “hand”, and left very recognizable tracks on the mud, so he was nicknamed “Two Toed Tom” by the local people. He was said to have lost his toes in an iron trap.
He measured four and a half meters long, and people claimed he was no normal gator, but a demon sent from Hell to terrorize them. Tom made himself infamous by devouring scores of cows, mules and, of course, humans, particularly women (snatched as they washed clothes in the water). Due to his frequent attacks, many farmers tried to kill Tom, but bullets were said to have little effect on him and all attempts on his life failed. One farmer even tried to kill him using dynamite; the farmer had been chasing Tom for twenty years, unsuccessfully, so he decided to throw fifteen dynamite-filled buckets into the pond were Tom was supposed to live, and finally get rid of the problem once and for all.
The explosion killed everything in the pond, but not Tom. Moments after the explosion, the farmer and his son heard a horrible scream and splashing sounds coming from a nearby pond. They rushed to the place and saw Tom’s bright eyes for a moment before he disappeared under the surface. The screams were later explained when the half eaten remains of the farmer’s young daughter appeared in the shore. It is impossible to know whether this particular story was true or simply a folk tale, but everything seems to indicate that Two Toed Tom was real, and that he continued to roam the swamps of Florida for many years. People would constantly report seeing a huge male gator basking in lake shores, and hearing his roars every morning. They identified him as Tom by the two toed tracks he left in the sand and the mud. The most amazing part of the story is that, although he was most famous during the 20s, Tom was seemingly still alive during the 80s, when a huge gator lacking two of his toes was reported in the same swamps where he had roamed his entire life. Many hunts for the living legend were organized, but Two Toed Tom was never captured.
Sankebetsu Brownbear01
As I have mentioned in a previous list, the most dangerous wild animal in Japan is usually considered to be the Japanese Giant Hornet, which kills 40 people a year, on average. However, the largest, most powerful land predator in Japan is the Brown Bear, and, perhaps the most brutal bear attack in history took place in the village of Sankebetsu, Hokkaido, in 1915. At the time, Sankebetsu was a pioneer village, with very few people living in a largely wild area. The area was inhabited by brown bears, including a gigantic male known as Kesagake. Kesagake used to visit Sankebetsu to feed on harvested corn; having became a nuisance, he was shot by two villagers and fled to the mountains, injured. The villagers believed that, after being shot, the bear would learn to fear humans and stay away from the crops. They were wrong.
On December 9 of 1915, Kesagake showed up again. He entered the house of the Ota family, where the farmer’s wife was alone with a baby she was caring for. The bear attacked the baby, killing him, then went for the woman. She tried to defend herself by throwing firewood at the beast, but was eventually dragged to the forest by the bear. When people arrived to the, now empty, house, they found the floor and walls covered on blood. Thirty men went to the forest, determined to kill the bear and recover the unfortunate woman’s remains. They found Kesagake and shot him again, but failed to kill him. The animal fled and they found the woman’s partially eaten body buried under the snow, where the bear had stored it for later consumption.
The bear later returned to the Ota family’s farm, and armed guards were sent after him. But this left another village house unprotected, and Kesagake took advantage of this, attacking the Miyoke family’s home and mauling everyone inside. Although some of the people managed to escape, two children were killed and so was a pregnant woman, who, according to surviving witnesses, begged for her unborn baby’s life as the huge bear advanced. Of course, it was all in vain; Kesagake killed her, too. When the guards realized their mistake and returned to the Miyoke house, they found the bodies of the two children, the woman and her unborn fetus all laying in the blood covered floor. In only two days, Kesagake had killed six people. The villagers were terrified and most of the guards abandoned their posts out of fear.
A famed bear hunter was informed of the incidents, and he identified the bear as being Kesagake and informed that the bear had actually killed before the Sankebetsu attacks. At first he refused to participate in the hunt but eventually he joined the group and on December 14, he was the one to finally kill Kesagake. The bear was almost three meters tall and weighed 380 kgs. Human remains were found in his stomach. The horrible incidents didn’t end there; some of the people who had survived the attacks died of their wounds. One of the survivors drowned in a river. The region was soon abandoned by villagers and became a ghost town. Even today, the Sankebetsu incident remains the worst animal attack in the history of Japan, and one of the most brutal of recorded history.
The New Jersey Shark
These shark attacks took place in 1916, in a time where little was known about sharks of any kind, and some scientists even claimed that sharks were not dangerous at all. This is one of the very few cases of real “man eating sharks” known, with most shark attacks being isolated incidents. It all happened along the coast of New Jersey; the first victim was a young man named Charles Vansant who was attacked in very shallow water while swimming with a dog; several people, including his family, witnessed the attack, and a lifeguard rushed to rescue the young man. The shark was extremely tenacious and seemingly followed the lifeguard to the shore, disappearing shortly after. The shark’s teeth had severed Vansant’s femoral arteries and one of his legs had been stripped off its flesh; he bled to death before he could be taken to a hospital. Five days later, another man, Charles Bruder, was attacked by the same shark while swimming away from the shore. At first it was reported by a witness that a red canoe had capsized; in reality, the “red canoe” was a giant stain of Bruder’s blood. The shark had bitten off his legs. He was dragged back to the shore, where the sight of his mangled body seemingly “caused women to faint”, but it was too late; he was dead by the time he got to the beach.
Although sharks had been seen in the area during those few days, scientists who were informed of the attacks claimed that sharks were unlikely to be responsible, and said that the culprit had probably been a killer whale or a sea turtle! The next attacks took place not in the sea, but in a creek near the town of Matawan. Again, people reported seeing a shark in the creek, but they were ignored until, on July 12, an eleven year old boy was attacked while swimming and dragged underwater. Several townspeople rushed to the creek, and a man named Stanley Fisher dove into the water to find the boy’s remains, but he too was attacked by the shark and died of his wounds. The final victim was another young boy barely 30 minutes after the attack on Stanley Fisher. Although he was severely injured, he was the only victim to survive.
On July 14, a young female Great White Shark was captured in the Raritan Bay near the Matawan Creek. It is said that human remains were found in her stomach. But, although this shark was usually thought to be the man eater, not everyone is convinced. Today, scientists believe that, although the female Great White shark may have been responsible for the first two attacks, the Matawan creek attacks were probably the work of a Bull Shark. Unlike the Great White Shark, the Bull Shark can survive in fresh water, and is an extremely aggressive species, considered by some as even more dangerous than the Great White. Even so, this was the beginning of the Great White Shark’s terrible reputation as a man eater. Once confirmed that the Jersey attacks had been the work of a shark, there was media frenzy and a shark panic “unrivaled in American history”. The incidents inspired Peter Benchley’s most famous novel, Jaws, which would later be adapted into a movie by Steven Spielberg. Even today, lots of people who saw the movie are terrified of going into the water, and it all started in 1916.
The Bear of Mysore
Sloth Bear
I have already mentioned Sloth Bears in a previous list; however, although these animals maul many humans in India every year (one per week according to some), they rarely eat their victims. In fact, they rarely eat meat at all, and prefer to feed on termites and fruits, and are particularly fond of honey. However, there was a Sloth Bear that became infamous for being a man-killer.
There are some very strange legends about the origins of the Mysore Killer Bear; some say that the bear was a male and that he had originally abducted a girl as his mate. The girl was rescued by villagers and the bear went into a killing spree as revenge.
Another, more believable version says the bear was a female whose cubs had been killed by humans, and that she became a man-killer to avenge them. However, most experts today believe that the bear was probably injured by humans, and became abnormally aggressive as a result. The bear attacked three dozen people in the Indian state of Mysore. In typical Sloth Bear fashion, it would rip the victim’s face off with its claws and teeth, and those who survived were often left completely disfigured. 12 of the victims died, and three of them were devoured, something extremely unusual. The bear was eventually killed by Kenneth Anderson, a famed big game hunter, although the beast was very evasive and three hunts had to be arranged before the animal was finally brought down. 

The Beast of Gevauden
One of the most infamous man-eaters, as well as the most mysterious of all. This beast (some claim there were actually two of them) terrorized the French province of Gevauden from 1764 to 1767. Although often claimed to have been an unusually large wolf, the truth is the Beast was never really identified. It was said to be larger than a wolf, with a reddish coloration and an unbearable smell, as well as teeth bigger than those of a normal wolf. The creature killed its first victim (a young girl) in June of 1764. This was the first of a series of very unusual attacks, where the beast would target humans, specifically, ignoring cattle and domestic animals. 210 humans were attacked; 113 victims died, and 98 were devoured. The attacks were so frequent and brutal that many believed the creature to be a demonic being sent by God as punishment; others thought it was a loup-garou, a werewolf.
Although the mainstream view is that the “Beast” was probably just a large wolf (or a couple of wolves, since some reports mention two beasts instead of one), the fact remains that the description of the creature doesn’t seem to fit a normal European wolf, which was abundant and well known to people at the time. Some experts believe that the Beast may have been a hyena, possibly escaped from a menagerie. Although often seen as cowardly scavengers, hyenas are actually very powerful predators and they often prey on humans in Africa and some parts of Asia. (A man eating hyena terrorized Malawi quite recently, forcing hundreds of people to leave their villages). Just like the beast of Gevauden, hyenas are noted for their formidable teeth and strong odor, and they are also bigger and more powerful than average wolves.
The beast managed to evade hunters and even the army, exhibiting the man eater’s legendary cunning, but it was eventually killed in 1767 by local hunter Jean Chastel. Legend has it that Chastel used a silver bullet to kill the creature, but this is probably a myth. Upon opening the creature’s stomach, Chastel found the remains of its last human victims, confirming the animal as the dreaded man-eater.
The Ghost and the Darkness
Tsavo Lions
In 1898, the British started the construction of a railway bridge over the Tsavo river in Kenya. Over the next nine months, the unfortunate railway workers became the target of two man-eating lions (now known to have been brothers). These lions were huge, measuring over three meters long, and, as is usual among lions from the Tsavo region, they were maneless. At first, the two lions snatched the men from their tents, dragging them to the bush and devouring them at night. But soon they became so fearless, that they wouldn’t even drag their victims away and would start feeding on their flesh just a few yards from the tents. Their size, ferocity and cunning were so extraordinary that many natives thought that they were not actually lions, but rather demons, or perhaps the reincarnation of ancient local kings trying to repel the British invaders (the belief of dead kings being reborn as lions was once very common in Eastern Africa). The two man-eaters were nicknamed The Ghost and The Darkness, and workers were so afraid of them that they fled by the hundreds out of Tsavo. The railway construction was halted; no one wanted to be the next victim of the “devil lions”.
Eventually, the Chief Engineer in charge of the railway project, John Henry Patterson, decided that the only solution was to kill the man eaters. He was very close to being killed by the lions but, eventually, he managed to shoot the first one in December of 1989, and two weeks later, he managed to shot the second one. By this time, the lions had killed 140 people. Patterson also found the man-eaters’ lair; a cave near the Tsavo river bank, which contained the remains of many human victims, as well as pieces of clothes and ornaments. This cave still exists today and, although many bones have been exhumed, it is said that many still remain inside. Some experts have recently claimed that the lions only ate about 35 of their human victims. But this doesn’t mean they didn’t kill many others; like other man eaters, they were often said to kill even when not hungry. Today, the Tsavo man-eaters (or rather, their stuffed pelts) can be seen in the Field Museum of Chicago, although Kenyan authorities have expressed interest in building a museum completely dedicated to them, in which case the Ghost and the Darkness could return to Tsavo once again.
The Panar Leopard
The leopard is the smallest of the true “big cats”, but that doesn’t make it any less deadly than its bigger relatives. As a matter of fact, the leopard is perhaps our oldest predator; leopard bite marks have been found in the fossil bones of our hominid relatives, suggesting that the spotted cat was already dining on our ancestors over three million years ago. But although any adult leopard may see humans as suitable prey under the right circumstances, only a few of them become actual man-eaters, preferring human flesh over any other food. The deadliest man-eating leopard of all times was the Panar leopard. This male leopard lived in the Kumaon area of India during the early XX century. He was most active in the Panar province, where he killed over 400 people, being the second most prolific man eater in recorded history (after #2 in this list).
It seems that the leopard had been injured by a hunter, and rendered unable to hunt wild animals, so it turned to man-eating to survive. He was finally killed by famous hunter and conservationist, Jim Corbett, in 1910. Although the Panar leopard is the most infamous of all, there were others that were just as feared. The Kahani man-eater, for example, killed over 200 people, and the Rudraprayag man-eater, who stalked and killed pilgrims en route to a Hindu shrine, killed 125 people before he, too, was shot by Jim Corbett. Smaller, more agile and, some say, more cunning than lions or tigers, leopards were considered to be among the deadliest animals in the world by big game hunters. One of them claimed that “if the leopard was the size of a lion, it would be ten times more dangerous”.
The Champawat Tigress
During the late XIX century, a Nepalese region close to the Himalayas was terrorized by the most notorious and prolific man-eater of all times. Men, women and children were ambushed in the jungle by the dozens. The attacks were so frequent and so bloody that people started talking about demons, and even punishment from the gods. The responsible was a Bengal tigress who had been shot by a hunter. She had escaped, but the bullet had broken two of her fangs. In constant pain, and rendered unable to hunt her usual prey, the tigress had became adam khor, a man eater.
Soon, the victim count of the tigress reached 200. Hunters were sent to kill the beast, but she was too cunning and was seldom even seen by them. Eventually, the Nepalese government decided that the problema was big enough to send the National Army after the killer cat. Other than the case of the Gevauden beast (see #5), this was probably the only time in History when the army was deemed necessary to deal with a man eater. But they failed to capture the tigress. She was, however, forced to abandon her territory and she crossed the border to India, to the Champawat region where she continued her depredations. It is said that with every human she killed, she became bolder and more fearless, and eventually, she started attacking in broad daylight and prowling around villages. Men wouldn’t even dare leave their huts to work, for they could hear the roaring of the killer tigress in the forest, waiting for them. But most man eaters share the same fate, and eventually, one man decided to put the reign of the tigress to an end. This man was Jim Corbett, who would (ironically) become one of the first great advocates of tiger conservation.
Corbett would later tell of how he only found the tigress by following the macabre trail of blood and limbs from her latest victim; a teenaged girl. Corbett was a brave man, but even he was horrified at the gruesome sight.
Corbett shot the tigress in 1911. The local people were so relieved and grateful that they actually made Corbett a sadhu, a holy man. By that time, the tigress had killed 436 humans, and these were only the recorded victims, with probably many more who were never reported. She is still the most prolific individual man eater in History. Not only that; she killed more people than even the worst human serial killers (leaving genocide aside). Only one serial killer is said to rival the Champawat tigress; an infamous Hungarian countess named Erzebet Bathory… who was, funnily enough, known as the “Tigress of Csejte”.
All the man-eaters in this list are gone; their killing sprees are just frightening memories by now. All of them… except for one. In the African, conflict-ridden country of Burundi lives the greatest man-eater of our times, a male Nile crocodile measuring six meters long and weighing around one ton. He is the largest Nile crocodile alive, as well as the largest individual predator in the entire African continent, and according to the natives and to Patrice Faye (a French naturalist who has spent years trying to capture the man-eater), he has killed over 300 people by now! Although still alive and active, the crocodile (nicknamed “Gustave” by Faye) has already become a legend. (There’s even a movie loosely based on his story, although it is quite bad).
Natives say he kills for fun, not just for food; that he kills several people in every attack, and then disappears for months, or even years, only to reappear later in another, different location to kill again. No one can predict when or where he will appear next. He is also said to have a monstrous appetite, and rumor has it that he killed and devoured an adult male hippopotamus (an extremely dangerous and powerful animal that most crocodiles avoid). Gustave’s body armor carries countless scars made by knives, spears and even firearms. A dark spot on the top of his head is the only remaining trace of a bullet wound that was supposed to put and end to his reign. But all hunters (and even, once, a group of armed soldiers) have failed to kill him.
Faye himself tried to capture Gustave by building a huge underwater trap, but, although the crocodile did show up, he never approached the cage. He just swam around it, “as if mocking his would-be captors”. Said to be over 60 years old, Gustave is probably too experienced and smart to be fooled, so it seems likely that he will continue with his depredations and perhaps, soon, claim the title of the most prolific man eater for himself. Things have changed a lot since the times of the Champawat tigress; Patrice Faye no longer wants to kill Gustave. He wants to protect him from human retaliation; by capturing Gustave alive and keeping him in a safe enclosure, Faye hopes to save human lives as well as the man eater himself, and perhaps use him as breeding stock to help the conservation of the Nile crocodile as well. The enclosure has already been built in the Ruzizi National Park of Burundi, waiting for the capture of the greatest man eater of our times.


10 Theories on the Sun Space and 2012

In the near future, Earth could be faced with the threat of severe atmospheric activity, including solar explosions, near Earth asteroids, and geological anomalies. The Earth is currently traveling through the geological epoch known as the Holocene period. An epoch is a subdivision of the geologic timescale that is based on the study of rock layering. The Holocene began approximately 12,000 years ago and was preceded by the Pleistocene. The end of an epoch is characterized by extreme climate change and mass extinction. During Earth’s transition into the Holocene, the planet experienced the Quaternary extinction and the Younger Dryas global climate cooling event. Modern research conducted at the Russian Antarctic Vostok Station has suggested that we may soon be reaching the end of the Holocene. This was determined by studying the layers of the Earth’s crust through the process of massive ice core drilling. This revelation is a bit concerning with the current global climate disruption we are experiencing on Earth.
Everyone is familiar with the current 2012 doomsday predictions. In December of 2012, the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, which was used by several Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, will reach the end of its 13th baktun. People have predicted that this indicates that a massive geological event will occur on Earth. This article will be examining some theories surrounding the sun, space and the 2012 severe weather patterns. Put yourself in the place of a high level government official. If you had direct information that a cataclysmic event was approaching Earth, would you suppress it from the public or announce it? The obvious answer is to hide it and secretly prepare for a response.
Holocene Impact Working Group
Tunguska Event Trees
The Holocene Impact Working Group is a collection of scientists from Australia, France, Ireland, Russia and the US, who hypothesize that meteorite impacts on Earth are more common than previously supposed. The group has suggested that the Earth experiences one large global impact every 1,000 years. They claim that the geological formation known as a chevron or a wedge-shaped sediment deposit observed on coastlines, are created by megatsunamis and asteroid impacts. This idea is controversial because other scientists proclaim that there have not been enough large impacts and landslides to explain all the observed chevrons in the world. The Impact Working Group understands that their research contradicts much of what is understood about impacts and tsunamis. However, they have gathered some significant results and located major impact zones on Earth. The most important being the Burckle Crater, which is an undersea crater located to the east of Madagascar and west of Western Australia in the southern Indian ocean. The position of the impact crater was found by the Working Group, based on evidence of prehistoric chevron dune formations in Australia and Madagascar.
The impact zone is very large and estimated to be about 30 km (18 mi) in diameter. The Burckle Crater has yet to be dated by radiometric analysis, but it is strongly believed that the object impacted Earth between the years 2800-3000 BC, which is only 5,000 years ago. Numerous cultures make references to an ancient flood during this time in history and a wide range of events point to a disaster on Earth, including the end of the Early Harappan Ravi Phase, the end of the pre-dynastic “antediluvian” rulers of the Sumerian civilization, the start of the First Dynasty of Kish, and the pre-Xia dynasty rule of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors of China. In 2003, another impact zone was revealed off the New Zealand continental shelf. It has become known as Mahuika Crater. The impact zone is over 20 kilometers (12.5 mi) wide and over 153 meters deep. The findings are extremely interesting considering the fact that, around the year 1400, the natives of New Zealand totally abandoned their southern coastal settlements. The event has historically been attributed to an earthquake induced tsunami, but no specific earthquake could be identified. The Mahuika Crater explains the signs of megatsunamis in this area of the world. The massive crater has been dated to around 1443 A.D., which is only 567 years ago. Earth’s most recent encounter with a meteoroid or comet is known as the Tunguska event. In 1908, a large explosion was recorded near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Russia.
The blast was measured at between 15-30 megatons of TNT. It was equivalent to the Castle Bravo thermonuclear bomb, tested on March 1, 1954, or about 1,000 times as powerful as the atomic bombs dropped during World War II. The explosion demolished an estimated 80 million trees over 2,150 square kilometers (830 sq mi). The Tunguska event is believed to have been caused by the near air burst of a large meteoroid or comet fragment at an altitude of 5–10 kilometers (3.1–6.2 mi) above the Earth’s surface, meaning that the comet never actually impacted Earth. It is generally believed that the object was approximately 20-40 meters (65-131 feet) across, which is clearly much smaller than the Burckle and Mahuika meteorites. The Tunguska event is the largest impact event over land in Earth’s recent history. However, all Impacts of a similar size over remote ocean areas would have gone unnoticed before the advent of global satellite monitoring in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2002, The B612 Foundation was developed. The B612 is a private foundation dedicated to protecting the Earth from asteroid strikes. Their immediate goal and mission statement is to “significantly alter the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015.”
Solar Cycle 24
Suncombo1 Prev
The energy of the Sun supports all life on Earth. The Sun accounts for 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System and drives the Earth’s climate and weather. It is important that people understand the characteristics of the Sun and how it follows a solar cycle. In 1843, a German astronomer named Samuel Heinrich Schwabe discovered a pattern while observing the Sun over a 17 year period. He noticed a periodic variation in the number of sunspots recorded on the Sun. It has since been realized that sunspots indicate intense magnetic activity on the Sun, creating areas of reduced surface temperature. Sunspots produce solar flares in the regions surrounding them. A solar flare is a large explosion in the Sun’s atmosphere that propels radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum. Solar flares are dangerous and can cause mass bursts of solar wind and even geomagnetic storms on Earth.
Every 10.7 years the Sun passes through a solar cycle. The cycle directly changes space weather patterns and impacts climate on Earth. The solar cycle is marked by two extremes, a solar maximum and a solar minimum. The solar minimum is the period of least solar activity, where the sunspot and solar flare ratio diminishes. The opposite end of the spectrum is the solar maximum, where the Sun is peppered with sunspots, solar flares erupt, and clouds of electrified gas are hurled into space. Since 1755, there have been 23 solar cycles. In 2008, the Earth entered Solar Cycle 24. It is predicted that the solar maximum for cycle 24 will peak in 2013. Solar Cycle 24 has been the center of a heated discussion among the Internet community. Various proponents of the 2012 phenomenon use the cycle as evidence that a cataclysmic doomsday event will occur on Earth. In 2008 and 2009, the Sun experienced a deep solar minimum. This has concerned many scientists, including people like Mike Hapgood, who is the head of the European Space Agency’s space weather team. He has predicted that the resulting solar maximum in 2013 will be the biggest we have seen in 100 years.
In 2009, Hapgood was quoted as saying, “We’re in the equivalent of an idyllic summer’s day. The sun is quiet and benign. The quietest it has been for 100 years, but it could turn the other way.” In 2010, high ranking NASA officials released a disturbing report stating that the Earth could be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares during the 2013 solar maximum. The report used the word “super storm” and warned humanity of possible catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services and national security. Dr Richard Fisher, the director of Nasa’s Heliophysics division has put forth some chilling quotes, “We know it is coming, but we don’t know how bad it is going to be.” It will disrupt communication devices such as satellites and car navigations, air travel, the banking system, home computers, everything that is electronic.”
Current Action
As of early October, 2010, sunspots are regularly appearing on the Sun. Many websites are dedicated to tracking and documenting this activity. Earth is currently in the rising phase of Sunspot Cycle 24 and we are experiencing solar flares and coronal mass ejections. In the last five years, a number of international space experiments have been developed in order to study the Sun and its influence on Earth. NASA is currently conducting a space program named Living with a Star. The goal of the study is to look at many different aspects of the connected Sun-Earth system and to determine how they directly affect life and society. Specifically, how the Sun interacts with space weather and geometric storms. Living with a Star will include Space Environment Test beds, which will be used to test target protocols in space. The first active science mission of the program is named Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and it was launched on February 11, 2010. The goal of the mission is to actively view and photograph the Sun for five years, while it travels through the solar maximum.
The best spot in the world to make intergalactic observations is the South Pole. The Pole’s high altitude and extreme cold weather creates a thinning of the atmosphere. In 2007, the US National Science Foundation completed construction on the South Pole Telescope. The primary goal of the telescope is to conduct space survey’s to examine several thousand clusters of galaxies. In December of 2009, the camera on the telescope was upgraded. Claims have been made that the South Pole Telescope is being used for top secret observations of space asteroids and other celestial bodies. The largest solar flare ever detected came from the star system II Pegasi, which is located 135 light-years away from Earth. II Pegasi is in the constellation Pegasus. In December of 2005, a massive flare was detected in the area of Pegasus. It was derived from a star that is slightly smaller than the Sun. The solar flare was 100 million times more energetic then the typical solar flare viewed on the Sun. It has been estimated that the energy released from the event was equivalent to 50 million trillion atomic bombs. Clearly, this type of disaster would trigger a mass human extinction.
Orion Nebula
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There is something quite strange and eerie about the Orion Nebula. The Orion Nebula is a diffuse nebula situated south of Orion’s Belt. The area is clearly visible to the naked eye and appears as the middle “star” in the sword of Orion. The Orion Nebula is one of the most scrutinized and widely viewed objects in space. The nebula is peppered with a group of massive star formations and it is the closest region of star collections to Earth. It has also been observed that supersonic “bullets” of gas are repeatedly piercing the dense hydrogen clouds of the Orion Nebula. Theories have been listed on the Internet that state that the area surrounding the Orion Nebula contains stars that are dangerous to Earth. Many of these statements stem from a group of YouTube videos and articles suggesting a government cover-up. The videos explore a space coordinate that is located near the Orion Nebula in both Google Sky and the Microsoft space viewer. They claim that specific areas of the sky were purposely blacked out by the business giants.
We are all familiar with the fact that the Maya Long Count calendar ends on December 21, 2012. Apparently, the Maya people of Central America had a folk tale which dealt with Orion’s part of the sky, known as Xibalba. The word is roughly translated as “Place of fear.” Many of the traditional hearths or fireplaces of the Maya people contained a smudge of glowing fire that corresponded with the Orion Nebula. This is strange because some of the greatest astronomers in history, including Galileo who made specific telescopic observations of the area surrounding Orion, did not mention the nebula. In fact, there is no mention of the Orion Nebula prior to the 17th century. This has led to speculation that there is a current flare-up of the illuminating stars in the nebula that has greatly increased the brightness of the area. It also proves that the Maya people had pre-telescopic knowledge of the Orion Nebula. The Orion Nebula has been rigorously studied and photographed by international space programs. Stars in the nebula regularly emit large bursts of stellar wind. In many cases, these massive events are on a larger scale than stellar wind produced by the Sun.
Global Climate Disruption
Recent press releases have indicated that the White House would prefer that people start using the term “global climate disruption” instead of the coined “global warming.” The reason being that the phrase “global warming” oversimplifies the problem and makes the situation sound less dangerous than it really is. We are experiencing a change in a wide range of weather patterns and the phenomenon is not just a warming. Anyone who has studied global warming understands this because, from 1998 to 2009, the Earth did not record any increase in global temperatures. This general global cooling was predicted by scientists who study the Earth’s natural weather cycles. In fact, 2007 and 2008 were the coldest years in decades and the use of greenhouse gases has increased.
In December of 2009, supported by mounds of data, 650 of the world’s top climatologists made a presentation at a UN Global Warming conference and voiced their opinion that human-made global warming from the release of greenhouse gases is a media generated myth without scientific basis. Dr. Kunihiko, Chancellor of Japan’s Institute of Science and Technology, has been quoted as saying “CO2 emissions make absolutely no difference one way or the other … every scientist knows this, but it doesn’t pay to say so.” With the coming solar maximum the Earth’s surface temperature is expected to rise over the next couple years. However, scientific literature and text books state that human greenhouse gas emissions are the cause of our current global climate disruption. If this is not true, I can’t imagine why we have all been lied to.
The current opinion surrounding global climate change is evolving and many international polls have reported a significant decrease in the percentage of people who think human-made greenhouse gases are responsible. The data is also location specific, with a larger majority of people in the European Union and Japan showing concern over the Earth’s global climate change, while people in the US and China show the least amount of concern. Like all international polls, media coverage is a strong contributing factor to this data. Theories exist on the web that human-made global warming is a ploy developed by world governments to explain the events that will occur in 2012, as a planetary object approaches Earth and causes its axis to shift. Claims have been made that this will create an increase in world temperatures and cause massive ice glaciers to melt.

Earthquakes and Pipeline Explosions
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Experimental studies are routinely performed on the Sun in the hopes of better understanding its influence on Earth. Recent research has suggested that the Sun has a greater impact on the Earth’s tectonic movements than originally thought. Scientists have proven that sound generated deep inside the Sun can cause the Earth to shake and vibrate in sympathy. Recently, NASA’s fleet of five THEMIS spacecraft discovered that a certain type of space weather will cause spacequakes, or a tremblor in the Earth’s magnetic field. A spacequake is felt more strongly in the Earth’s orbit, but the destruction is not exclusive to space and can reach the surface of the Earth. The total energy in a spacequake can cause a relatively large earthquake. According to THEMIS, magnetic jets crash into the Earth’s geomagnetic field and the impact sets off a rebounding process, in which the incoming plasma actually bounces up and down on the reverberating magnetic field.
It has been proposed that spacequakes, acting together with Sun vortices, can generate substantial electrical currents in the near-Earth environment, possibly disturbing radio communication and GPS. The 2013 solar maximum will only increase this behavior. In 2010, the world has been hit with a series of devastating earthquakes. The largest examples being the quakes that hit in Haiti and Chile in early 2010. However, as we progress in 2010, earthquakes are becoming more frequent. In January and February, we experienced eight notable earthquakes with a magnitude over 6.0. In August of 2010, there were eighteen such events. Government officials and news outlets continue to publish stories indicating that the 2010 earthquake season shares a similar event ratio to other years. On April 4, 2010, an earthquake of 7.2 magnitude struck Baja California. The following day the Earth experienced one of the largest geometric storms of the year, peaking at a K-index rating of 7. Following the Baja California earthquake, the San Andreas Fault experienced over 500 after-shocks of 2.5 or larger.
The year 2010 has also been littered with an outbreak of pipeline disasters. On September 9, 2010, the city of San Bruno, California, experienced a massive pipeline explosion that resulted in severe damage. Immediately following the accident, US news outlets published many stories questioning the safety of pipelines throughout the country. The San Bruno explosion was caused after the pipeline had severed and released a large amount of natural gas. No reports have been released indicating how the pipeline broke. However, in many similar disasters a small earthquake is responsible for the failure. If the Sun’s solar maximum is capable of forming earthquakes on Earth, then pipeline ruptures may become a major concern. Time will tell if the abundance of earthquakes and pipeline explosions will increase as we reach the 2013 solar maximum.
Cataclysmic Pole Shift Hypothesis
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Charles Hapgood was an American academician who developed the cataclysmic pole shift hypothesis. The theory suggests that the Earth’s axis of rotation has shifted numerous times in geological history. Such an event would create calamities on Earth, such as mass floods, earthquakes, and flash freezing. Charles Hapgood was a Harvard graduate and friend of Albert Einstein. In fact, Einstein was extremely intrigued by Hapgood’s research and wrote the foreword for one of his books discussing the topic. Charles Hapgood based many of his ideas on archival maps, which he claims show Antarctica with free flowing rivers. One example is the Piri Reis Map, which shows a vast southern continent similar to Antarctica in shape.
Hapgood argued that the Caribbean section of the map was rotated nearly 90 degrees from the top of South America, giving Earth an “alternate north.” He also uses paleontological data of Woolly Mammoths and other ancient animal species, which have been found in the South Pole, frozen solid with undigested vegetation in their stomachs. This would suggest a single cataclysmic event occurred with such ferocity that it killed these species in their tracks. Charles Hapgood theorized that the earth has gone through three such mass crustal displacements over the last 100,000 years, and, according to his data, the last occurrence was approximately 12,000 years ago. I went searching for more factual based information to support the pole shift hypothesis and came across Vostok Station.
Vostok Lake
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Vostok Station is a Russian Antarctic research center that is located at the southern Pole of Cold. This part of the South Pole holds the lowest measured temperature on Earth. In the 1970s, the former Soviet Union began a project of drilling huge cores into the ice underneath Vostok Station. This activity began to expose subglacial lakes buried in the ice. The largest discovery was Lake Vostok, which is an enormous mass of water that covers an area of 15,690 square kilometers (6,060 sq mi). It is located 4,000 meters (13,000 ft) under the surface of the central Antarctic ice sheet. The lake is one of the most bizarre and influential discoveries in recent history. Small islands have been discovered on Lake Vostok and the water’s temperature is unusually warm with hotspots ranging from 50 to 65 degrees F. This clearly indicates a sub-terranean heat source.
It is quite amazing that underneath the frozen South Pole, an isolated ecosystem has been discovered and samples of unidentifiable bacteria have been removed. Many strange magnetic anomalies have also been recorded near Lake Vostok. This has caused scientists to release statements indicating that the Earth’s core might be thinner near Lake Vostok, but many conspiracy theorists have latched on to the idea that an accumulation of metals, the kind that you would find in an ancient buried city, has caused the magnetic disturbance. The original goal of the ice core drilling was to measure past weather conditions. This was accomplished by Russian scientists and data was gathered stretching back 420,000 years. This data has revealed some concerning facts. Apparently, the Holocene geological epoch which began approximately 12,000 years ago is going to end soon.
The Vostok ice cores have given scientists important data indicating that changes to the Earth’s surface can occur suddenly and violently, which is in direct opposition to the current geological model of gradualism. Scientists predict that the last sudden shift occurred around 13,000 years ago. All of this data supports Charles Hapgood’s ideas surrounding a sudden pole shift hypothesis. A sudden change in the Earth’s alignment relative to the sun would plunge parts of Earth into a perpetual freezing hell. The pole shift hypothesis has gained a substantial Internet following. Claims have been made that the Maya people understood the danger, which may reveal itself as an orbiting planet or asteroid that enters the Earth’s atmosphere on a timed schedule.
Nibiru Collision
The most discussed conspiracy theory surrounding the 2012 phenomenon involves a large planetary object named Nibiru. Claims have been made that this planet is in orbit with the Sun and that it will enter the Earth’s atmosphere causing mass destruction. Nibiru has been used to explain periodic pole shifts and catastrophic events in the Earth’s past. Internet groups have suggested that the Maya people understood the path of Nibiru and predicted when it would approach Earth next. However, the Maya clearly did not have the technical advancements that we do today, so if this is true a massive government cover-up would have to be involved. In 1983, the IRAS mission was launched into space and became the first-ever space-based observatory to perform a survey of the entire sky at infrared wavelengths. It mapped 96% of the sky four times. The observatory made media headlines briefly in 1983 with the discovery of an “unknown object” that was at first described as “possibly as large as the giant planet Jupiter and possibly so close to Earth that it would be part of this solar system.” However, later analysis is said to have revealed this report to be false.
In 1984, world leaders decided that it was time to create a global seed bank and began to store seeds in an abandoned coal mine at Svalbard, located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, which is 1,300 kilometers (810 mi) from the North Pole. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault officially opened on February 26, 2008. Under high security, the facility preserves a wide variety of plant seeds in an underground cavern. It stores approximately 1.5 million distinct seed samples of agricultural crops. The mission of the vault is to provide a safety net against accidental loss of diversity, with an emphasis on a possible global catastrophe. In 1894, Bostonian astronomer Percival Lowell became convinced that the planets Uranus and Neptune had slight discrepancies in their orbits. He concluded that the gravitational pull of the two planets are being influenced by a more distant object.
Astronomers point to the fact that such an object so close to Earth would be easily visible to the naked eye. People have responded by claiming that the object has been hiding behind the Sun for several years, and has recently become visible, revealing itself as a second Sun. Thousands of pictures exist on the Internet claiming to have captured Nibiru, but it is hard to judge the reality of these photographs because adding a second Sun in Photoshop is simple. People have also claimed that the recently discovered dwarf planet Eris is in fact Nibiru. Eris is the largest known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the ninth-largest body known to orbit the Sun directly. Because Eris is 27% larger than Pluto, it was initially described as the “tenth planet” by NASA and in media reports after its discovery. Certain websites have released postings claiming that Eris will reach its closest point to Earth around 2012 and cause major problems for our gravitational pull.
Loss of Electricity
It is no secret that humans’ hold a heavy reliance towards electronic devices. Since the invention of the computer, technical networks have been developed and aspects of many countries infrastructure use electricity. It is also a fact that electricity is sensitive to magnetic energy. As the Earth enters the heavy portions of the 2013 solar maximum, we will be left susceptible to possible geometric storms. In 2007, NASA launched the THEMIS satellites. The goal of the space program was to study energy releases from the Earth’s magnetic surroundings. One of the THEMIS satellites discovered a breach in the Earth’s magnetic field. This breach has caused NASA to release documents stating that during Solar Cycle 24 the atmosphere might experience a higher intensity of geomagnetic storms. Geometric storms are associated with solar flares and are generated by a solar wind shock wave that strikes the Earth’s magnetic field. The solar wind pressure changes the electric currents in the ionosphere, causing a magnetic storm on Earth.
If we experience a significant amount of geomagnetic storms in the atmosphere then huge levels of radiation will be displaced. On Earth, the major concern will be direct damage to world power grids, communication satellites, and all things electrical. As a human population, we need to start considering scenarios where large areas of land will lose power for a long time. One potential hotspot is northern Europe and Britain, who apparently hold “fragile” power grids. The National Academy of Sciences has released various statements on the situation. One indicates that GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications could “all be knocked out by intense solar activity.” Your government is aware of the situation, but it seems that the mainstream media was not given the memo. The US government has said that “contingency plans were in place to cope with the fallout from such a storm.” This includes allowing certain electrical transformers to be turned off for a period of time. The National Risk Register in Britain has similar plans in case of an electrical disaster.
In 1989, an electromagnetic storm disrupted power throughout most of Quebec and caused visual aurora as far south as Texas. The worst recorded solar storm in history occurred in 1859 during solar cycle 10. During the storm, auroras were seen around the world and telegraph systems failed all over Europe and North America. Telegraph pylons began to physically spark and caused major fires and damage. Apparently, 18 hours before the storm’s onset, a massive solar flare was seen exploding towards Earth. It has become known as the Carrington Super Flare. During the 1859 solar maximum, numerous large solar flares were recorded, including the Steward Super Flare. In August of 2010, the Sun experienced four large Coronal mass ejections directed towards Earth. The solar flares possessed enough energy to cause aurora to be observed by the naked eye. The event caused scientists to reaffirm that these types of occurrences can greatly damage infrastructure, such as power grids and telephone lines not adequately protected against induced magnetic current.