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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Top 10 Future Law Enforcement Technologies

Military and law enforcement has a tough job to do. Fighting crime and terror, defeating risks the world over, and creating a safe environment for civilians to raise families and enjoy freedoms. Law Enforcement technology has come a long way since the days of the Old west Gunslingers. The technology starting to breakthrough, and that which is on the horizon, is some of the most fascinating that has ever been seen. Law Enforcement technology is taking great leaps forward, in some cases literally (see number 3 on the list).

Smells and Sounds
Stink bombs? Really? Yes, Really. The first generation of riot controlling sound and scent based deterrents are in use now, with an excellent track record and several high profile successful victories. Last year in one of the most dangerous waterways anywhere on the globe, pirates attempting to board a civilian cruise ship were effectively deterred with a sound producing device made to keep birds from doing their business in sensitive areas. These machines which aim highly concentrated sound waves at potential threats render the target unable to use hands as they cover their ears. Called LRAD (Long Range acoustic device – pictured above), the equipment can provide accurate and effective deterrence for riot control and secured building defense. It projects a 95+ decibel sound profile at the target causing immediate inefficiency, and requiring the target to seek a different position or change their once aggressive stance to that of a grandmother in front of a speaker at a rock concert. Future versions boast longer ranges, wider effective fields of sound, and more intense sound projection. Combined with other emerging technologies, like scent based deterrents which can cause vomiting, inability to focus, dulling of sensory capability, and a desire to relocate, this technology can be effective riot control or defense for a high risk area. Scents are now starting in the test phases for effectiveness and potential replacement of high pressure water hoses and rubber and bean bag projectiles for such situations. Scents like Skunk, and feces, and even some concentrations of more commonly-thought-of-as-pleasant chemicals can incapacitate in some cases. In almost all cases, they can break down a target’s will to maintain an aggressive position. Smell has the unique ability to both build up and break down barriers simultaneously depending on how they are used.

Metabolic supplements
Soldiers Running
The future of energy science also includes supplements for human consumption, which can tailor the energy needs of a soldier or law enforcement officer to the support he has available. The ability to forget about having to support fundamental human needs could offer an incredible enhancement to the future law enforcement agent. Being able to control which energy gets used where, allows (theoretically) agents and officers to be faster, stronger smarter, and longer lasting than the opposition. It’s a bit like Viagra for the entire body. Products and procedures which would allow the genetic re-engineering of the metabolism, not only makes overweight people everywhere drool, it makes it possible for a soldier, officer or agent to function at peak capacity without the need to stop and eat, or even worry about eating for days at a time. In reality it’s not as far-fetched as it may seem. Scientists in several well respected labs have already made excellent headway in developing injections that can re-engineer human metabolic processes.

Unmanned drones
Perhaps the future of border protection and drug enforcement agencies, unmanned drones and robots allow law enforcement to obtain surveillance and complete missions without being in harm’s way, and without introducing the potential for human error into the mix. Drones can currently: provide high quality images and video, track targets of extreme interest from beyond detectable ranges, and even complete tactical bombing runs. This is just the start. As the technologies continue to improve, agencies someday see entire offensives completed by unmanned “cost effective” (relative to current technologies) drones with multiple purposes. Currently the drones are typically singular in purpose, used for a very specific jobs and only great at one thing. Future models promise more capabilities, and even more precision for mission completion. Unmanned drones are currently used to provide intelligence from restricted airspace, and to track terrorists and drug traffickers, the drones are quickly being snapped up by law enforcement agencies to assist in ever more dangerous situations.

OICW gun
After a brutal standoff in Los Angeles, Ca, where local law enforcement were forced to borrow firepower from local gun shops to level the odds against a heavily fortified and well equipped duo of bank robbers, agencies began to adopt Military weapons systems as standard equipment. The OICW XM-8 and XM-29 should be no exception when it is released for production. Started sometime in the late 1990’s with a view to the replacing of an aging design in the M-16/M-4 infantry weapon, the OICW has had its fair share of delays, redesigns and future proofing. It’s likely that the jointly worked project (collaboration between Heckler and Koch and the US department of Defense) will debut in late 2012. Aside from having an intimidating look, the OICW Bullpup style weapon combines an infantry rifle with a 25 mm grenade launcher capable of firing the next generation of HEI-T (High-Explosive Incendiary with tracer) ammunition. These are being dubbed the ammunition of the future with the capability of using range defined explosive charges to allow for a complete weapon system to be carried by each soldier or law enforcement office who is given one. The ammunition can be dialed in to do any number of “tricks” including: exploding over a target (like a wall), entering into a building before exploding, and range finding the enemy for strategic maneuvers from over 400 meters away. With qualities like this, it blows video game arsenals out of the water, and provides law enforcement with firepower never before seen.

Dragon skin armor
The material technology has existed for decades, but the build specific technology is truly futuristic. If there is such a thing as futuristic dragons, that is. Dragon skin achieves a level of personnel protection unmatched by current techniques and materials by utilizing a stacked, scaled design to provide layers of fabric based lightweight ballistic armor, combined with high strength ceramic armored composites. Dragon Skin, a brand name produced by Pinnacle Armor allows movement (light weight, flexible, form fitting), and unmatched ballistic protection (nearly three times the protection for the same weight). With top secret development facilities, and a ton of VC and Government funding options, Dragon skin looks poised to bring the future of infantry combat to the here and now. Because of the unique combinations of materials and the top-secret design elements, the makers and testers of this futuristic armor claim that the armor can mitigate both penetration potential, AND blunt force absorption of muzzle energy, allowing Military and law enforcement users protection against high velocity, high mass ammunition’s fired from small arms. This technology truly skews the playing field in favor of law enforcement agencies.

Microwave technologies ADS
Ads Usaf
Has a chicken breast ever gone into a microwave oven without an absolute massacre being the end result? The ADS system (Active Denial System) aims to do the same thing to pesky rioters, high risk threats, and otherwise heavily shielded and protected targets. Now in its advanced testing stages within the military facilities, it’s entirely likely that Law enforcement will be the number one consumer of this technology for its unmatched abilities within the riot and mob control scenario. High frequency targeted microwaves are projected at an offender sparking a reaction in the water carrying (read: all) molecules and fatty tissues, causing the target to heat up from the inside out. Immediately, the target is unable to continue in the same fashion as before, they are in immense pain, and too uncomfortable to continue as a threat. It provides a biological reaction in the body, incapacitating the target and rendering them effectively useless for a longer period of time than other “non-lethal” methods.

Metal storm stacked munitions
Metal storm weapons (MAUL, Firestorm, Redback) may not be true Future Law Enforcement technologies as they already exist. Rather, the “simple” technology behind the complex pieces produced by Metal Storm conceals the future proof capabilities. Stacked munitions allow for rapid deployment of ammunition, accelerated reloading for continued engagement, and the safest, most foolproof operation of a weapon – which is paramount until law enforcement can find a way to take the human factor out of the combat equation. The MAUL is an add-on system which allows law enforcement to add five shotgun shell sized munitions to their current entry weapons. This could facilitate door breaching, riot control, or lethal munitions where before those tools would have been too cumbersome to carry, or require additional personnel. Firestorm is a 40mm stacked munitions grenade launcher, which allows border patrol and other remotely operating law enforcement groups a system of backup and protection against larger groups, or high threat targets. The Firestorm can launch 24,000 grenade rounds a minute, operated from safety via an internet connection, RF, and dc power. Redback is a high volume rail gun, the backbone perhaps of the Metalstorm brand, it truly unleashes a storm of metal upon its targets with multiple barrel builds, and stacked in line munitions, this machine rains down hell on its targets.

Exoskeleton HULC suit/Robocop
Half man, half robot, all cop. Exoskeleton armor has been in existence to brutal effect for thousands of years – Think Cockroaches and Crabs. It’s pretty difficult to mortally wound a cockroach, and even if it happens, the roach can still function with amazing capabilities for up to a few months. The HULC suit is another product in the Military to Law Enforcement distribution model. It’s a power assisted suit of armor which can be combined with other pieces of defensive and offensive technology to make hybrid law enforcement personnel. It can sense the direction that a wearer wants to move in, and help propel them forward towards their target. It can prevent muscle strain and over usage by deploying special enhancements to lighten the load on the human inside of it. It runs on jet fuel for 72 hours, and enhances strength, speed, endurance and, most likely, morale for all involved on the same side as the suit. The coolest part about the HULC suit? It’s not the only suit on the market, the Sarcos suit is another viable contender for the space, with the only operational difference being the power supply and some additional enhancements. The six million dollar man and Robocop might look cool, but this suit defines cool. It’s the coolest new technology, and probably on the top of every gadget lover’s wish list.

In some circles, Nanotechnology is being dubbed the future of just about everything; these “critters” have the potential to rule the future of law enforcement in ways that span from the mundane to the inconceivable. From fabrics so slick they can resist and prevent knife thrusts, to nano tech fingerprint rendering from cases decades old, this technology has so many possibilities that it couldn’t possibly be quantified at the current level of understanding. Nanotechnology can improve everything from bullet proof armored fabrics, to the effect bullets have on the body once coming in contact with a target’s flesh, to reproducing latent evidence from crime scenes by using biological remnants of DNA and other particles. Biologically enhanced weapons can further be strengthened and even controlled using nanotechnology, allowing for drastic changes to the cloak and dagger world of spy games. Nanotechnology gives law enforcement hope of one day operating with a lower rate of failure and risk by being able to control outcomes, and protect against changing threats with legions of tiny “bugs” to carry out the dirty work. Nanotechnology – creating a new respect for the scrubbing bubbles in bathrooms all across the United States.

Metamaterial cloaking camouflage
Cloak and Dagger is an excellent platform for usage, and maybe even a potential brand name for this technology, which at its current stage employs hundreds of thousands of mirrored holographic discs to blend into an environment. The potential for operatives, snipers and entry teams to avoid detection by sight makes it almost an unfair fight. Law enforcement by fear alone? It’s a distinct possibility that simply knowing law enforcement can act counter to a criminal without their knowledge could decrease criminal activity at even the highest threat levels. Currently only in its infancy, metamaterial cloaking is one of the more widely desired, and closely watched, technologies especially in the law enforcement space, as it has the opportunity to have the single biggest impact on human personnel and law enforcement procedure of any other conceived technology. Future designs will likely include a combination of shape changing liquids/materials and highly faceted reflective discs which can also absorb color and light to further disguise the user in a more natural way. It has worked for Harry Potter, and within the decade it may provide an amazing supplement to law enforcement agencies in the fight against terror, and all manner of other criminal activity.


Top 10 Sushi Bites

To my surprise, this website has yet to post (until now) a top ten list about sushi. It has been mentioned numerous times, notably on the lists “Top 10 Luxury Foods” and “Top 10 Bizarre Restaurants,” but has never had a list on its own. So I’ve taken the initiative.
These are the top 10 most delicious bites of sushi. I’ve chosen items that are reasonably available on the market, and that, like Jamie Frater’s “Top 10 Korean Food You Have to Try,” represent a variety that any self-respecting sushi eater should set the goal to try in their lifetime. Naturally, this list is very personal opinion based, but to give some brief credentials on me, I am a sushi chef and have made sushi on a professional level since 2005, and have been eating sushi since long before that, both Stateside and in Japan. My selections are intended for a board spectrum of sushi eaters, ranging from the beginner (even the “sushi virgin” as we like to say), to even the most well-versed “sushi snobs” among us.
By “Sushi Bites” I’ve included items that are both, as a matter of semantics, sushi and sashimi. This covers most all sushi-related techniques and ingredients involving raw fish and cooked fish, with or without sushi rice. I also tried to give both the English and Japanese names for things.
I’ve also done my best to describe the individual tastes of the items, but that is difficult writing territory with certain limitations. (How would you describe the taste of salt, for example, other than saying “salty”?) Besides all that, I hope to provide good information and a lot of new trivia knowledge to each reader, as any list ought to do.

Unagi (Eel)
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We’ll start with an easy one in eel. Unagi (the freshwater variety of eel, as opposed to its marine brother Anago) has long been a mainstay in Japan, and has recently surged in popularity in the United States too. It is described as rubbery but not chewy, earthy and mushroomy, if that makes sense. Probably the most chicken-like sushi meat, it isn’t too big of a leap for first-timers once they get over the fact that it’s an eel.
Almost all sushi restaurants get it farm-raised, pre-packaged and grilled in a teriyaki-like sauce, making a taste that incorporates elements of sugar, soy sauce, sesame seeds and sugar, and for the most part that is widely consistent from restaurant to restaurant. It’s also not uncommon for it to be served warm, which is unique for sushi.
In the US, a common item featuring Unagi is the inside-out style of sushi roll (Uramaki style) known as the Caterpillar. There is no exact definition of a Caterpillar Roll, as each restaurant usually has their own version, but it usually pairs Unagi with avocado (the important thing) and various other ingredients. [Image Source]

Tako (Octopus)
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Also rubbery, the meat cut from an Octopus tentacle can be quite dense and chewy. It has a subtle, cleanly delicious taste that gives it a particular, yet loyal, fan base.
Most all Nigiri-style sushi (that is, slices of fish on top of a hand-formed ball of rice) will contain a small amount of hot wasabi. (This is applied at the chef’s discretion, and Unagi is the typical exception to this practice). The taste of Tako, however, is exceptionally enhanced by the wasabi and so it might be given much more than the other pieces, on average. What is also special about Tako is that instead of being cut by a single, one-directional motion, as is the rule for cutting other fish, it is cut in many short and quick sawing motions, resulting in a corrugated surface. This was originally done as a way of demonstrating to customers that the specimen was parasite-free, but it stuck as a tradition.
Outside of Japan, the whole octopus is thoroughly boiled before it is carved, resulting in a very opaque white flesh and a dark purple skin. In Japan it is served similarly, although it can sometimes also be served raw and grey, and a lot chewier.

Basashi (Horse)
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Attitudes towards the human consumption of horse meat depend on the region. It is vastly most popular in East Asian countries, Japan, China and Korea, where it is a frequent delicacy. Elsewhere in the world it is less common, but present; places like South America, the Middle East and Continental Europe. It is far more scarcely available in the UK, Australia and Canada, and least of all in the United States, where it strongly opposed and viewed by many as taboo.
In Japanese, Horse meat is generally referred to as Sakura-niku (which means “cherry blossom steak”), but when it is cut into thin slices and served sashimi style, it is called Basashi. It is very lean and fairly tender, tasting close to other rare-prepared red meat like beef and mutton (more so beef, but definitely distinct from beef). It actually contains much less fat than beef, and twice the iron. Without a doubt, the best garnish for Basashi is freshly grated ginger and diced onions. This is a must. [Image Source]

Tobiko is the roe (ovaries) harvested from flying fish. It is used as a component in many Japanese dishes, and in the US it is most commonly seen on the outside of California Roll or “Golden” California Rolls. However, it earns a spot on our list for when it is served as the primary ingredient, in a style known as Gunkan-maki or “Battleship Style.”
Plain Tobiko is orange, salty in taste, and crunchy in texture. Occasionally it is served with a raw quail egg cracked directly on top of the battleship piece, with a Shiso leaf (think of a mint leaf, but not exactly). This is a very fancy item with, needless to say, a complex flavor.
Tobiko comes in an assortment of alternative flavors and colors; wasabi (green), squid ink (black), spicy hot (red), and yuzu, a citrus fruit (yellow). Often Tobiko is substituted with the cheaper Masago (roe of capelin), but Masago eggs are slightly smaller in size, messier, and a lot brighter orange. It’s easy to tell the difference when they are side by side, so it just takes experience to know what you are looking at.

Perhaps the single most extensively used wild-caught fish in sushi, on a global scale, is the Bluefin Tuna. It is so overfished, in fact, that it is very threatened as a species, which in turn is considered a major sustainability risk to the world oceans as a system. A Greenpeace activist once told me that there are more frozen Bluefin tunas than live ones. For this reason, a lot of people, including myself, have started to avoid Bluefin more and more. Now having said that, as long as you’re not eating it everyday, I would be the last person to cast aspersions.
The Bluefin (Maguro) yields different cuts for sushi. The greater part of the fish, and therefore the most common and the cheapest, is called Akami. This is a dark red cut that comes from the spine and tail. Moving closer to the head, the Chu-Toro is a fattier flesh with a richer flavor, and from there, moving toward the anterior belly, is the Toro, the most marbled and the most highly valued. The absolute fattiest cut of Toro is referred to as the O-Toro or Oho-Toro. This piece melts in your mouth like butter.

Salmon Skin Roll
Together with tuna, salmon invariably constitutes any chef’s top-selling fish, both in volume and for profit. Because of this fact, chefs inescapably find themselves with a seemingly endless surplus of salmon skin, which is cut off and not included in the nigiri, sashimi and other rolls. With all the extra skin around (granted, the chef must make a conscious effort to scale the fish and save the skin, instead of discarding it indiscriminately), there is always the possibility that a chef will be happy to make a Salmon Skin Roll, even if it’s not on the menu.
The skin, a speckled gradient of white, silver and black, tastes like a combination of the fish itself and the pungent seawater in which it lived. It should be baked or broiled beforehand, which makes its overall prevailing quality one of “toasty.” Hard to describe beyond that. Sometimes the skin is smoked, which is a flavor all by itself, but that also can be a real treat. Either way, it is rolled up into something routinely called a B.C. Roll (British Columbia) or Philadelphia Roll (indicating cream cheese) with other things such as cucumbers or crab, or whatever. But believe me, the salmon skin is what you will taste.

Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp)
Amaebi is the translucent, delicate tails of shrimp that are served raw as either nigiri or sashimi. It should not be confused with Ebi, the type of sushi shrimp that are more familiar to the layman: bigger, plainer tasting, always cooked, frequently over-cooked, and which would be disgusting and probably unsafe were it served raw. Amaebi is commonly serves with either Tobiko or Ikura (salmon eggs) on top.
The Amaebi shrimp, in addition to being very scrumptious, are furthermore intriguing in that, insomuch as the traditional sushi experience is concerned, they present the closest thing to eating a live organism (fringe practices notwithstanding). What will happen is that in one brief sequence the chef will separate the tail from the abdomen, manually remove the shell and the barb from the tail, cleans the venous cavity, and commences with the presentation of the dish, which often includes the immediately detached head. I hesitate to say that it’s a live food, though, because at this point survival for the animal is of course an impossibility, although if the customer is lucky some minor twitching will occur. Let’s just say this: It certainly won’t be the least-alive thing you will ever try in your life.

Shime Saba
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Shime Saba is the sushi name for a Mackerel (Saba) that has been pickled. It is very potently flavored, too intensely for some, very vinegary and salty (naturally, from the curing process), very fishy (in a good way), and very, very oily. Eating more than one piece at a sitting would definitely be over-doing it. Unless you just really love it, I suppose.
It also has a notorious aftertaste which I won’t even attempt to describe. Shime Saba is definitely one of those things that people either love or hate. Most, I have found, eventually admit they love it.
The flesh is a very mundane light-tan color, but the skin is very shiny, silvery, with salamander-like blotchy stripes that can be very blue in tone (not unlike a Na’vi’s skin from the movie Avatar). To my knowledge, a slice of Shime Saba sushi is the only naturally occurring instance of blue meat. For that reason alone you simply must try it if you haven’t. [Image Source]

Yellowtail with Jalapeños
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In sushi parlance, “Yellowtail” (Hamachi) refers to a species of fish whose common English name is Japanese Amberjack. This is not to be confused with Yellowtail Amberjack, whose sushi name is Hiramasa, and that is also sometimes called Mossback or White Salmon. Nor is it to be confused, which it often is, with any species of tuna or mackerel, such as the Skipjack, whose sushi name is Katsuo, or the Yellowfin, which falls under the umbrella term “Maguro,” or Japanese Jack Mackerel, the whose sushi name is Aji, not to be confused with the Ahi, the Hawaiian name for Yellowfin. Hamachi should be common enough to avoid all this disorder, but it’s always good to know what you’re eating, exactly.
Hamachi has a full, savory flavor due to its high fat content. In fact, during the winter months, the flesh can be so saturated with fat that it will not even hold soy sauce and might actually repel it. Its color can be inconsistent, but it shouldn’t be too white (when it is thereby known as Inada), or red (thereby known as Buri), but should be a heavy pink color, not translucent at all, with a sort of brown tint to it. It will turn more tan as it becomes less fresh, so it should differently be nice and pink. A fresh cut of hamachi is much more flavorful, and at least as buttery, as any cut of Maguro.
God knows why, but Hamachi is just awesome with Jalapeños. This is a relatively new trend, but it is spreading like wildfire, especially with two of America’s top celebrity Japanese chefs, Nobu Nobuyuki and Masaharu Morimoto (the Iron Chef), each offering their own signature take on the combination.

Fugu Sashi
Fugu (pufferfish, or blowfish) must surely be one of the most, if not the most, dangerous glamour food that exists, and the most glamorous danger food that exists. Prepared sashimi-style, it is called Fugu Sashi. It is notorious because of the lethal poison contained in the fish’s liver, intestines and skin. When contaminated by the poison, which can be as much 140,000 times as powerful as cocaine, humans will gradually become fully paralyzed until they die from asphyxiation from not being able to breath. This is all while they remain completely conscious. There is no known antidote.
Fugu laws in Japan are very strict, and chefs require special licensing that goes well beyond that of an average sushi chef. There are Fugu restaurants in New York City, but it is very expensive and the chefs must complete the same demanding Japanese licensure.
To be forthright, the chances of a person dying from eating Fugu are rather low (about the same as dying skydiving). The danger is real and present, however, and this feeling of risk (particularly when you are the first person at the table to try a piece) is very exciting and one of the reasons Fugu is so celebrated. The other reason, and I must emphasize this, is because of how amazingly delicious it is.
Described as “sublime” and “addictive,” the flavor is very subtle and clean, like octopus, but not tough in any way, nor rubbery, nor chewy. Like Hamachi or Toro, it has a mild fishy taste, extremely mild, but it’s there. It has a very smooth, very uniform texture (unlike hamachi or toro, which have grain lines running through them and can be flaky). Even when prepared perfectly, trace amounts of poison come through, and it cause the eater’s mouth to go a little numb; not so much that they can’t feel it, but enough that if they had a cut on their tongue, it wouldn’t hurt anymore.
Fugu is fragile and very transparent. Traditionally it is served on a plate that has a picture of a chrysanthemum flower on it (the Emperor’s symbol) and the detail of the flower should be visible through the super-thin sashimi cuts. The Fugu itself is also typically arranged in the pattern of the flower. The flavor is so soft that you can sit and eat a ton of it in one sitting, which is a good thing.
I’ve only tried it once in my life, but it was the best meal I’ve ever had.

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If you are not a fan of sushi or don’t like raw fish products, try Korean kimbap (김밥). Kimbap looks like sushi but it is made with cooked vegetables and meat or fish. The rice is more heavily seasoned so it doesn’t require soy sauce. Kimbap is also wrapped in a different type of seaweed which has a subtly different flavor to sushi. While sushi is popular in Korea, kimbap is the real favorite. You should definitely give kimbap a try if you haven’t had it before – it really is quite delicious. Here is a recipe for making it at home – it is quite easy (as can be attested to by the photo above which was made by Listverse’s founder Jamie Frater. If he can do it, anyone can! [Image Source]


10 More Cases of Deadly Radioactive Exposure

Radioactivity, especially radioactivity used in cancer treatment and diagnostic testing, saves the lives of thousands of people every year. However, radiation is also deadly to humans when not handled properly. Large accidents and disasters, like the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion and the Fukushima Japan nuclear power plant catastrophe, get the headlines and, justifiably, make the public nervous about the use of radioactive fuel to generate electricity in nuclear power plants. However, less commonly reported are small incidents where several people, maybe dozens, are exposed. In some cases, a few of these people die as a result of accidental exposure to high radiation levels. Tragically, many of these incidents (though not all) occur in underdeveloped countries, through the recycling and sale of scrap metal. Others are related to industrial accidents, and even medical treatment errors. But all have the potential to expose unsuspecting individuals to radiation. Listed in chronological order, here are ten more examples of tragedies involving radioactive materials that resulted in death.

Ciudad Juarez Incident
In December 1983-February 1984, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and the United States, occurred one of the first widely reported cases of radiation exposure from the inadvertent destruction of orphaned sources through the scrap metal recycling process.
On December 6, 1983, a used metal teletherapy unit (pictured) containing a source container with about 6,000, one-millimeter pellets, each with radioactive cobalt 60, was deliberately opened in a scrap yard in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The pellets were scattered throughout the scrap yard, and a magnetic loader further dispersed the radioactive pellets, when the scrap metal was converted to steel products on December 10, 1983. Contaminated products included steel rebar and table pedestals, manufactured from the contaminated steel and shipped to the US. The contamination went undetected until January 16, 1984, when a truck carrying the contaminated rebar took a wrong turn at the Los Alamos, New Mexico, scientific laboratory and set off an automatic radiation sensor. Later that same day, five more trucks carrying contaminated steel were stopped at the Mexican border, near El Paso, Texas.
Over the following weeks, about 900 tons of contaminated steel were identified and recovered in the US. Some of the contaminated table parts had already been made into finished tables and had to be retrieved from restaurants.
In February, 1984, Mexican officials determined that ten individuals had been exposed to high levels of radiation. One of these subsequently died from their injuries. An aerial survey of the Ciudad Juarez area in March of that year, located 21 contaminated zones including a pickup truck with children playing on it. In Sinola, Mexico, authorities had to destroy 109 homes that had been built with the contaminated rebar.

Morocco Incident
Another orphaned source event occurred in March, 1984, in Morocco. This time the orphaned source was an iridium-132 source. Many individuals received significant overdoses of radiation that required medical attention, and eight people died.
The source was used to radiograph welds – a non destructive analysis where ionizing radiation is used to look for defects in the metal that cannot be seen any other way. The source became separated from the shielded container used to store it, and the source itself had no markings indicating it was radioactive. Somehow, a worker found the source and took it home, where it stayed for some weeks, exposing the family to radiation.

Goiania Incident
On September 13, 1987, at Goiania, Brazil, a radioactive source was removed from an abandoned hospital in the city. Over time, the radioactive source was handled by multiple people, and led to the exposure to high levels of radiation of at least 245 people. Twenty of those showed sign of radiation exposure and needed hospital treatment. At least four people died.
This time it was a cesium-137 source, which had been left behind when a private radiotherapy institute moved to a new location. Left unsecured for two years, it was eventually located by scrap hunters scavenging for metal. Not knowing what they had, the scavengers took the unit home, tried to open it and in the process, damaged the cesium-137 source. This led to the contamination of hundreds of people as well as the environment, which resulted in a six-month radiation clean up. More than 100,000 people ended up being monitored for radiation as a result.

Soreq Incident
Radioactive sources have many uses, and not just for medical purposes. One such use is sterilization of medical instruments, and even food products. A high energy cobalt-60 radioactive source was being used at just such a plant in Soreq, Israel, in June, 1990, when the source used in the irradiation process became stuck in its rack. Two conflicting warning signs were provided to the operator of the irradiation machine, which may have confused him. He bypassed the safety systems designed to prevent an operator from being exposed, and came up with procedures so that he could enter the irradiation room and free the blockage. As a result, the operator entered the room and was, himself, irradiated. He was exposed to high levels of radiation and died only a month later.
Tragically, this was not the first, nor would it be the last incident involving a source which had become stuck in such a facility.
In February, 1989, in San Salvador, El Salvador, a cobalt-60 source became stuck and again, workers bypassed safety systems and entered the irradiation room. This time, three men went into the room to free the stuck source. In the process, all three received high doses of radiation. The legs and feet of two of the men were so burned by the radiation that they had to be amputated. The third man died six months later.
In October, 1991, in Nesvizh, Belarus, a cobalt-60 source became jammed in the product transport system and the operator entered the facility to clear the blockage, once again, bypassing several safety systems. The source became active for about one minute and the operator was exposed to high levels of radiation as a result. He was taken for special medical treatment in Minsk, Russia, but died 113 days later.

Zaragoza Clinic Incident
At a hospital clinic located in Zaragoza, Spain, between the dates of December 10 and December 20, 1990, at least 27 patients who were receiving radiotherapy for cancer were accidentally exposed to high levels of radiation, which resulted in the deaths of 11 patients, and severe injuries to the others.
On December 7, 1990, maintenance was performed on the electron accelerator used to treat cancer patients at the clinic. The unit was started again the following day, December 10. The Spanish Nuclear Safety Board inspected the unit, and found the power of the electron accelerator was set too high, and it was taken out of service on December 20, 1990. But, by then, many patients had been exposed to higher than expected, and unsafe, levels of radiation.
The affected patients immediately suffered skin burns and effects to internal organs and their bone marrow. The first patient died on February 16, 1991. The last fatality occurred on December 25, 1991.
The 14 year old instrument had a breakdown in the electron beam accelerator control system. The service man who repaired the instrument incorrectly increased output power, so patients that should have received therapy at 7 million electron volts (MeV) were instead treated at 40 MeV.
The hospital manager blamed the technician, and the Spanish Health Minister blamed GE, the manufacturer of the instrument. After a court hearing, the technician and GE were found to be at fault. The device was taken out of service and disposed of, in 1996.

Indiana, PA Incident
In November, 1992, an 82 year old patient was undergoing brachytherapy radiotherapy treatment at the Indiana, Pennsylvania, Regional Cancer Center. While undergoing treatment, a 3.7 curie iridium-192 source dislodged from the equipment and was accidentally left inside the patient. The error went unnoticed because the staff did not conduct routine inventory checks of all radioactive sources. The patient died 93 hours later, at her nursing home, from exposure to radiation from the source. The catheter containing the source was removed from the woman and disposed of as normal medical waste. The waste disposal company discovered the radioactive source during routine checks for radioisotopes. The subsequent Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) investigation found that 94 individuals at the center, the nursing home and the waste disposal company had been exposed to radiation.

Tommiku Incident
In October, 1994, in Tommiku, Estonia, three brothers somehow managed to gain entrance into a facility used to store radioactive waste. They had no authorization to enter this facility. Inside they found a metal container and removed it from the facility. Inside the metal container was a radioactive source. They were able to open the container and expose themselves to the radiation from the source. The radiation exposure killed one of the three brothers, and led to the exposure of many others. At first the man’s death was not linked to radiation exposure. However, upon examining the radiation injuries of another family member, a physician realized they were all related to radioactivity. The physician alerted authorities who were able to contain the damage from being worse than it otherwise would have been.

San Juan de Dios Hospital Incident
In August, 1996, a radioactive cobalt-60 source was replaced in an Alcyon II radiotherapy instrument, at the San Juan de Dios Hospital, in San Juan, Costa Rica. An error was made in calculating the dose rate when the instrument was restarted. Before the error was caught in September, 1996, 115 patients who had been treated using the instrument had been exposed to significantly higher levels of radiation than expected. Later calculations would estimate the over exposure at 50-60% greater levels of radiation than intended.
By July, 1997, nine months after the accident, 42 of those patients had died. All of the patients showed classic signs and symptoms of over exposure to radiation.

Samut Prakarn Incident
The device involved in this incident was a Gammatron-3 teletherapy unit, originally installed in a Bangkok, Thailand, hospital, in 1969. The tele therapy unit has a source holder and shield made from lead, and surrounded by stainless steel. It weighed about 280 pounds. In the center of the holder was the cobalt-60 source. The tele therapy unit had been taken out of service by the hospital many years previously, and had been in storage, along with several other pieces of radioactive machinery, in another location. Eventually, three of these units were moved to a garage and it was there that the one tele therapy unit was stolen for sale as scrap metal.
On January 24, 2000, two men purchased the tele therapy unit as scrap metal, and drove it through Bangkok to their home. On February 1, 2000, these two men, along with a third man, tried to pry apart the unit but were unsuccessful. They then gave up and decided to take the unit to a scrap yard. Along with a fourth man, they drove the unit to the scrap yard, but first stopped at one man’s home. While there, one of the men sitting in the car draped his one leg over the unit.
At the scrap yard, the men asked the scrap yard employee to use a torch to cut open the unit, which he did. A second employee of this scrap yard was positioned behind the employee who used the torch to cut thorough the stainless steel box and lead cylinder. A yellow, foul smelling smoke came from the unit and two pieces fell out onto the ground. The man with the torch picked them up. The man said his hands felt “itchy” while holding the pieces. The female owner of the scrap yard came out and ordered the men to take the unit back to their house, and continue working on it there. They put the, now cut open, tele therapy unit back into their car and drove back home. Though they began to feel sick and nauseous, they did manage to finally separate the stainless steel and lead assemblies, and returned with them to the scrap yard the next day.
In total, the four men who had obtained the tele therapy unit, and six people at the scrap yard, including the man who cut it open with a torch, the man working beside him, the female owner, her husband and two others were exposed to high levels of radiation. By mid February all had developed signs of radiation sickness, and had been admitted to hospitals.
The treating physician noticed the people were suffering from apparent radiation exposure, and contacted Thailand authorities who dispatched two health physicists to investigate. Using a radiation meter and driving through the area near the scrap yard, the eventually noticed higher than normal radiation levels and determined the location of the radioactive source. Unfortunately, the source was buried in amongst tons of other scrap metal. Authorities then spent many days carefully removing pieces of scrap metal until they were finally able to locate the actual source and safely remove it. They also found and seized control of the other tele therapy units sitting unprotected in the garage.
Of the four men who originally handled the unit, one had to have body parts amputated and the other, who had his leg over the unit, had severe radiation burns to the leg. But all survived.
Of the six individuals exposed at the scrap yard, the man who cut open the unit and the man who worked next to him both died. In addition, the husband of the scrap yard owner died of his injuries.

Mayapuri Incident
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In April, 2010, the locality of Mayapuri, India, was affected by a serious radiological accident when a Gammacell 220 research irradiator, owned by Delhi University, was sold at auction to a scrap metal dealer in Mayapuri, on February 26, 2010. The source, unused since 1985, had been removed from the university and sold off as scrap, thus becoming what is known as an “orphan source”. Strict rules and regulations require owners of radioactive sources to always know where the source is located, and never lose control of the source. This did not happen in the Mayapuri event, and orphan sources, as we have seen, are potentially deadly.
The cobalt-60 radioactive source was cut into several pieces by the scrap metal workers, one of whom took a piece and put it in his wallet. Two more pieces were taken to a nearby shop, and the remaining eight pieces were left in the scrap yard.
All of the pieces of the source were eventually recovered in mid-April, and sent to a nuclear power station. As a result of cutting the source into pieces, eight people were hospitalized due to radiation exposure, and one died.

Yanango Incident
I included the Yanango incident even though, as far as I have been able to determine, the exposed man has not yet died. However, the extent of his injuries are so severe there is little doubt that if he is still alive, he will eventually die as a result. If you would like to read the full investigation report by the IAEA go here.
Be warned, the photographs of the man’s injuries are extremely graphic. In February, 1999, a hydroelectric plant was under construction in Yanango, Peru, several hundred miles east of Lima, Peru. On the morning of February 20, 1999, a welder and his assistant began to conduct repairs on a pipe. Soon a radiographer arrived to take radiographs of the welds and the pipe in order to ensure the pipe was safe to conduct hydrostatic testing. But the welding was not yet finished, so the radiographer left – leaving the radiograph camera, locked but unsupervised, at the construction site.
The camera is essentially a metal box with a “source pigtail” which is a pencil-length long braided metal connector that looks nothing at all like something anyone would think contains radioactivity. In fact, the source pigtail contained an iridium-192 radioactive source. The pigtail is inserted into the camera with one end protruding slightly. That end of the source pigtail is then connected to drive cable.
The welders resumed their work. Soon the radiographer went to use the camera, but it failed. Somehow, the pigtail fell out of the camera (there were locks in place that should have prevented this from happening, but still, the pigtail fell out). The radiographer left the construction site and, not knowing the danger, one of the welders picked up the pigtail with his right hand and put it in his back right pocket. The welder continued to work for another three hours, then boarded a bus with multiple other workers and went home. Before he left work he began to notice a pain in his right thigh.
At home the man complained to his wife about the pain and took off his pants. The wife noticed a red spot on his thigh and the man went to a local doctor who told him he had a bug bite. While he was gone the wife breastfed their infant child and two other young children played in the area where the pants, and the pigtail in the pocket, were laying on the floor.
Once back home the man remembered the pigtail he had picked up and realized it was still in his back pocket of his pants. He took the pigtail out of his pocket with his right hand and carried it outside to the outhouse. Later, the plant operator came to the man’s house asking if he had seen the missing source. The man went to the outhouse, picked up the pigtail with his right hand, and carried it back to the house to show the operator. Upon seeing the pigtail in his hand, the operator told the man to toss it into the street. Later the pigtail was safely retrieved and the street and house decontaminated. But it was too late for the welder.
After aggressive treatment in Peru, the man was flown to France for some of the most cutting edge treatment available. Still, by February 2000, one year after the incident, the man had lost his entire right leg and buttock and had significant infection in other areas of his body, including his left leg and right hand. In addition, from sitting on his pants, his wife had a small radioactive burn on her buttock.


10 Origins of Common Internet Terms

This list looks at the origins of ten computer related words. The entries presented here are not necessarily etymological, but, rather, they attempt to trace the words back to their creators or first use in the computing world. I tried to include words that were common enough to be recognizable, so there is a mix of technical and colloquial terms. If there are any you feel I have overlooked, or any about which I am mistaken, please share your thoughts in the comments! So here, for your enjoyment, and in no particular order, are the origins of ten computer words.

I am listing this item first because of its dubious origins. First, an explanation of HTTP cookies. Cookies are used to save a user’s information and relay this information between a website and a browser. This is used to authenticate a user, provide easier access to password controlled sites, or save various preferences of the user. The reason the word cookie is used seems to come from a comparison to fortune cookies – the dessert common from fast-food Chinese inside which there is a slip of paper with a fortune. Early internet programmers must have been overwhelmed by the similarities of a program that saves information within its code and the treats that save fortunes within their cookie walls. Incidentally, those delicious looking cookies above are bacon and chocolate chip cookies with maple glaze [recipe].

I have decided to combine these since they are not really computer terms so much as they are just companies, albeit computer companies. Remember Hotmail? One of the first widely available email programs, Hotmail’s name comes from co-founder Sabeer Bhatia. When trying to decide on a name for his new service, he eventually settled on Hotmail because it contained the letters HTML, which is a foundational language for writing web pages. In fact, the service’s name was originally notated “HoTMaiL,” in case users had missed the nod to the language at first.
Google’s origin is not really that surprising. The name came forward as a boast about how much information the new search engine would be able to index and provide. Google is a misspelling of “googol,” which is a number notated by a 1 followed by 100 zeros. When you consider the earlier name of the engine, “Backrub,” Google seems like a much better choice.
Speaking of Google – if you have a Google+ account, feel free to add Listverse (via Jamie Frater until business accounts are launched) to one of your circles – we always re-circle those who add us. If you don’t have an account and want one, you can go here to get a free invite. There are only 100 left so get in quick.

This may be the most well known word because of its interesting story. While Grace Hopper, a pioneer of computer programming, was working on the Harvard Mark II, she traced the cause of a glitch in the computer to an actual moth trapped in a relay. The moth she found can still be seen on display in the Smithsonian Museum. As some of you may be desperate to point out, this was not actually the first use of the term “bug” to describe a malfunctioning system. Thomas Edison, for example, used the word in his notebooks. However, since Admiral Hopper brought the word into the world of computers as we know it today, this lister gives credit to her.

A bit is a basic building block of computing. When developing the earliest computer languages, binary emerged as the simplest and most effective language to operate computers. A bit is simply a contraction of the words “binary digit.” This explanation has also been given to the word “byte,” which refers to multiple units of information, most commonly eight. However, since “byte”, itself, emerged from and is a derivation of “bit,” this lister thought bit deserved the focus.

As you may or may not know, a wiki on the internet is a group of interconnected sites that is built from user interaction. Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Dramatica and Metapedia are all examples of this “wiki” model. The origin of the name itself is quite simple. In Hawaiian, “wiki wiki” means “quick.” Creator Ward Cunningham decided that a “wiki” online would be a quick, easy way to access and manipulate multiple sites and information.

Famous for being part of a favorite method of attack of hacker groups (or “hackivists,” depending on where you fall on the issue) such as Anonymous, pings are a common method of DDoS attacks. However, they were first used simply to test the reachability of a host or IP, by sending out a message and measuring its round-trip time. As some of our sharper readers might have noticed, this is similar to the function of sonar with the name, “ping,” mimicking the sound of a functioning sonar system, and in fact, that was the inspiration for creator Mike Muuss during the invention of pings. As is common with computer terms, a backronym was provided: “Packet InterNet Groper.” As is also common with internet terms, the backronym was a bit forced.

Wall Of Fire Art By Dan Dos Santos
A firewall is a device that protects networks from unauthorized access or manipulation. IRL (in real life, for you non-nerds out there), firewalls are structures that are built to prevent the spread of, you guessed it, fires or similarly destructive forces. In the computer world, they are not much different. Instead of fires however, firewalls protect against viruses, hackers and worms (worms are similar to viruses, but they do not need to attach themselves to existing data and are therefore much more prone to spreading throughout a network of computers… similar to the way a fire spreads, see?).

A computer virus is very similar to a biological virus. Both insert their own code into normally functioning systems in order to disrupt the system and reproduce themselves. Academically, the word virus was used as a computer term in 1984, by Fred Cohen, in his paper “Experiments with Computer Viruses.” However, before the publication of this paper, the word had been used by science-fiction writer David Gerrold in the 1970s (in which a computer program called VIRUS enters a computer and *spoiler* is eventually defeated by a program called ANTIBODY…no one said he was a good science fiction writer), and also, the word appeared in an X-Men comic published, in 1982.

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Spam is awful. Both in its computer form and in its rubbery, pink form. The two words have more in common than you might think though. The computer spam actually derives its name from a Monty Python sketch set in a café with an entirely Spam-centric menu. In typical Monty Python fashion, the characters (including a chorus of Vikings) break out into a song consisting almost entirely of the word “spam,” thus “spamming” the dialogue. While the sketch was a commentary on the influx of commercially available canned meats (from the US…sorry) during a period of desperate agricultural rebound, the word made its way into the computer world as the annoying and excessive influx of unwanted mail or advertisements. In the 1980s, online advertising companies attempted to acronym the word as “Sales Promotion And Marketing,” but as you are no doubt aware, the more critical definition given to us by Monty Python survived.

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While the etymology of this word might seem relatively straight forward, it gets a little more complicated that simply equating ugly, annoying monsters online to the ugly, annoying monsters of Norse mythology. That is undoubtedly a part of it, but in addition to, and more important than, the nominative form of the word, the verb “to troll” refers to a fishing technique in which bait is slowly dragged behind a boat to hook unwary fish. Obviously, this is similar to the way an internet troll will feed out “bait” for other users to react to, and then reel them in with further inflammatory or offensive remarks. An additional comparison to the trolls of fairy tales can be made when you consider the troll of the story, “TheThree Billy Goats Gruff.” The way internet trolls take over public space for their own enjoyment and use seems very similar to the unfair ownership claimed by the bridge troll of the story.
However, trolling on the internet was not always considered a bad thing. According to Wikipedia, “the most likely derivation of the word troll can be found in the phrase “trolling for newbies”, popularized in the early 1990s, in the Usenet group, alt.folklore.urban (AFU).” On this site, veteran users would toss out an inside joke or exhausted topic. Newcomers would respond earnestly, not having the experience to let them know not to respond, and they would then be revealed to be newbies, or n00bs, if we’re using modern terminology. These noob-hunts, however (the French verb “troller” is a hunting term, as well), while potentially embarrassing to the victims, were often light-hearted and nowhere near the damaging levels that modern trolling can reach.


Top 10 Fairy Tale Reworkings

by Ella McConnell
Most will agree that fairy tales often form an integral part of our childhood. Whether it’s being read Ladybird’s Little Red Riding Hood, or watching Disney’s classic rendition of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, chances are you know a good number of them off by heart. More recently our favorite fairy tales have been experiencing a resurgence in popularity, but not necessarily in the formats you might expect. Films, comic books, video games and more are all drawing inspiration from fairy tales these days (although some of these adaptations work better than others). Here follows what I hope is a handful of the more interesting ones; what some lack in flawless execution, they make up for in heart.

The 10th Kingdom
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A fairy tale-themed fantasy miniseries with more than a few twists. All the expected trappings are present: Snow White, a magic mirror, a (sort of) handsome prince and even a big bad wolf (half wolf, actually). Plucky young Central Park waitress, Virginia, is sucked into a magical kingdom filled with fairy tale entities (it’s our own reality that is the titular 10th one, by the way), soon getting mixed up in saving it from the inevitable machinations of the evil queen. Despite receiving generally poor ratings, it had good reviews and even won itself an Emmy. A little cheesy at times but certainly a good effort.

While the Shrek series has, admittedly, gone on a little too long for comfort, the first couple of films were definitely worth a watch. With a star studded ensemble of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz (as well as the likes of John Cleese and Antonio Banderas in subsequent installments), Shrek took traditional fairy tale mythology, shook it up and made a pretty decent movie out of it. With some stock characters as you’ve never seen them before (such as a secret thong aficionado Pinocchio, and a scheming businesswoman fairy godmother) and frequent questioning of what is truly meant by “happily ever after”, Shrek is certainly worth seeing at least once.

The Princess and the Frog
I had shied away from including Disney films in this list as they are often hardly rewritten at all (except for the sake of toning down their darker aspects, of course). However, Disney’s 2009 animated feature film, The Princess and the Frog, is a notable exception. Tiana is a young waitress living in New Orleans who hopes to one day open her own restaurant. Her world turns upside down when she is transformed into a frog upon kissing the cursed Prince Naveen. A welcome return to Disney’s roots in 2D animation, The Princess and the Frog is a great example of how fairy tale rewordings can still remain family friendly without being too saccharine sweet.

The Path
The Path is an uncanny, hallucinogenic experience, not quite art and not quite video game. Developed by Belgian studio Tale of Tales, it was released in 2009, and explores the story of Little Red Riding Hood in a way unlike any adaptation before it. After selecting one of six girls (all named after shades of red), the player is instructed to stay on the path to grandmother’s house. However, doing as you’re told results in failure; you must leave the path and brave each girl’s own unique wolf if you are to succeed (the latter word used loosely; following their respective wolf encounters, each girl appears to be quite thoroughly broken). While it’s arguably not much of a game, you can analyze The Path until the cows (or wolves?) come home.

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Essentially one big Disney self parody, the conceit of 2007 release Enchanted is that a number of fairy tale characters have fallen straight out of a 2D Disney film and into modern day New York. With a mixture of both famous and relatively unknown talent, the film offered an amusing and multi-layered depiction of what might happen if the stereotypical animated fairy tale collided with the real world. Fun, fresh and still ending with a happily ever after despite Earth, according to archetypal wicked stepmother Narissa, being a place without them, Enchanted was well received by both audiences and critics alike.

The Brothers Grimm
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A 2005 fantasy comedy interpretation of the lives of the Brothers Grimm, Terry Gilliam’s film is certainly an interesting (albeit fictional) depiction of both the men and their tales. A 20 minute preview of The Brothers Grimm was shown at Cannes, in 2005 (alas not the film festival at Stockport, where Nationwide Vehicle Contracts is based), it also appearing at the 62nd Venice International Film Festival a few months later. With Matt Damon and Heath Ledger in the title roles, and a generous handful of other stars in the supporting ones (for example, Monica Bellucci as the evil Mirror Queen and Lena Headey as tough hunts woman Angelika), the film did well at the box office and, while drawing some criticism for its alleged focus on visuals over plot, is definitely worth seeing.

The Bloody Chamber
Arguably Angela Carter’s most well known short fiction collection (and my favorite, hands down). Originally published in 1979, it features multiple retellings of Little Red Riding Hood, as well as Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, and more. 1984 saw the release of The Company of Wolves (directed by Neil Jordan), which dealt with the more[were]wolf-centric tales in the collection, as well as its ongoing Red Riding Hood motif. Wonderfully written and laced with Carter’s trademark sumptuous magical realist imagery, The Bloody Chamber is an excellent exploration of the darker, more adult side of certain well known fairy tales.

Revolting Rhymes
Probably the first ever fairy tale rewordings I was ever exposed to. Written by the amazing Roald Dahl, and published in 1982, the book contains six poems in total that rewrite the tales of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. Funny, well written and with character-rich illustrations by Quentin Blake, Dahl’s work appeals to children of all ages (especially those who like their fairy tales with a bit of bite). Highlights include Red Riding Hood producing a pistol from her knickers to shoot the big bad wolf (subsequently making him into a coat) and such mischievous morals as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ “Gambling is not a sin / Providing that you always win.”

Pan’s Labyrinth
Although not based on a specific fairy tale, Guillermo del Toro’s film has undeniable fairy tale elements weaving throughout it. Indeed, the film even opens with a fairy tale (this telling the story of the loss of Princess Moanna, daughter of the king of the underworld) before the story switches to post-Civil War Spain, where Ofelia and her pregnant mother are going to live with her new stepfather. Retreating into a world of fantasy (which, considering the movie’s beginning and ending, is strongly implied to have some semblance of reality within the film world), Ofelia is guided through a series of trials by an enigmatic faun, in order to find out whether she is, in fact, the long lost Princess Moanna. With a gripping story, and del Toro’s stunning visuals, Pan’s Labyrinth was an instant – and enduring – success.

Created by Bill Willingham, the Fables comic book series is an excellent exploration of both contemporary fantasy and fairy tale. First published in 2002, the comics follow the lives of numerous characters from fairy and folk tales that have been forced out of their mythical homeland and are now living incognito in New York (these fairy tale folk do seem to gravitate towards the Big Apple, don’t they?). Key characters include the Big Bad Wolf (now living largely in human form under the name Bigby Wolf), Snow White, Jack Horner and Boy Blue. With both a television series and a video game said to be in the pipeline, it looks like the only way is up for this already highly popular (and critically acclaimed; it has been nominated for – and won – a number of awards) series.