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6

A Slightly Exaggerated Report of Death



What's the fastest way to get out of traveling to another town for a football match? A team death! The Irish Leinster Senior League is dealing with the fallout from the Ballybrack team reporting the death of their player Fernando Nuno LaFuente in a traffic accident, which postponed Ballybrack's game in Arklow last month. Not only did Ballybrack not play, but there was a moment of silence and the other participating teams wore black armbands. Players and fans mourned the loss of LaFuente on social media. Meanwhile, LaFuente, who had simply moved from Dublin to Galway, watched the scheme unfold. He thought it was funny, but made sure to call his mother about the hoax.

The Spaniard, who has moved to Galway and no longer plays for Ballybrack, said the club contacted him last week to let him know he may hear reports he had been involved in an accident.

He added: "I was aware there was going to be some story on me but I thought it was going to be me breaking a leg or something like that.

"I was at home yesterday after my work finished. I was playing some video games. They told me: 'You're a celebrity.'

While it's not clear who came up with the cunning scheme that had totally unforeseeable consequences, Ballybrack's secretary has since resigned. Why did Ballybrack want to avoid the game? LaFuente doubts they were afraid of playing Arklow.  

"I think they had a rough time getting players," he said.

"They don't play football professionally. Most of them have regular jobs and some of them work in the UK. I think that was the issue. It was nothing major."

-via Oddity Central


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6

The Lonesome Stranger

Hard as it may be to believe today, after Hollywood's numerous big budget box-office disaster reboots of the subject, the Lone Ranger once ruled American pop culture, this during the 1940's and 1950's. Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels exemplified the quintessential Lone Ranger and Tonto that we know and respect so well, but it wasn't always so.

In 1940, during the golden years of studio animation, MGM turned out a cartoon parody of the Lone Ranger, this being The Lonesome Stranger. The villains are stereotypical Mexican bandidos (voiced by Mel Blanc), the Lonesome Stranger himself is a not-overly bright Caucasian, and the horse, Sliver (a parody of Silver) is a stereotyped-for-the-day parody of Jack Benny's valet, Rochester.

The animation, all hand-drawn of course, is superb, but the storyline and character development, well, see for yourself.


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6

Project Troy: Focusing Cold War Propaganda and Psychological Warfare Efforts through Science

Having a rough idea of the Cold War and its beginnings, we know that it was basically a battle of ideologies, trying to prove to the other that their system was better. But the means of doing this were both blatant and subtle.

It was a "battle for freedom" with both sides trying to convince other nations that there were threats to freedom, democracy, and even national security.

Knowing that they needed something more substantial to combat the Soviet Union's propaganda, the CIA and other US government officials turned to the scientific community to help with psychological warfare in what is called Project Troy.

Undersecretary of State James Webb asked the noted physicist and veteran adviser Lloyd Berkner’s help in assembling a crack team of scientists to tackle the problem of psychological warfare.
The resulting Project Troy brought together a group of social scientists and physical scientists from MIT and Harvard that either already had or would soon play leading roles in the Cold War.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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8

The Genius of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"



To mark the 50th anniversary of The White Album from the Beatles, YouTuber 12tone breaks down the George Harrison song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." He deconstructs every nut and bolt of the song. If you understand music theory, it's fascinating (although he goes really fast). If you don't know a thing about music, you are at least left with the realization that Harrison not only started out with talent, but his music grew exponentially during the Beatle years.  -via Laughing Squid


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8

Stone Artefacts from Tibetan Plateau Prove Humans' Adaptability and Resiliency

Adaptation is the name of the game in order for creatures to survive in any environment or situation that they encounter. Animals evolve and develop certain features and characteristics that enable them to weather even the harshest conditions imaginable.

Now, Chinese researchers have made a remarkable find on the roof of the world: the oldest signs of human activity in this demanding landscape.
Researchers led by Xiaoling Zhang, an archaeologist at China's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, have found more than 3,600 stone artifacts in a part of the central Tibetan Plateau called Nwya Devu.
The site is rich with black slate—not the ideal raw material for stone tools, but the best available for miles around. Whoever the toolmakers were, they took advantage of what they had, expertly crafting bladed flakes of stone up to eight inches long.

This just goes to show how early humans were able to thrive and use their resourcefulness in order to live given the environmental and other external factors that they experience. It shows ingenuity and the human spirit. Whether it be on the "roof of the world", the Antarctic, or the most remote areas, humans find ways to live.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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7

An Inside Look into the World's Oldest Cathedral through Digital Reconstruction

Some of the greatest feats of engineering began a millennia or two ago with structures such as the Great Pyramids, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the Roman Colosseum among others.

Rome is one of the ancient civilizations that paved the way for us to have the knowledge of building roads, bridges, aqueducts, and all sorts of infrastructure.

One such edifice is the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran:

The basilica, where the Pope presides in his role as Archbishop of Rome, was already ancient when it was rebuilt in the 1650s. Its walls still hold some of the original material used to build the cathedral under Emperor Constantine in 312 CE.
And beneath the modern church lies the original Roman foundation. Excavations since the 1700s have opened up a network of dark, cramped spaces called scavi beneath the four-hectare site of the cathedral.

After years of excavation and research, archaeologists have now been able to map out the various structures within and beneath the cathedral using laser scanning and ground penetrating radar technology.

(Image credit: Lateran Project/Newcastle University)


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8

How Much Starlight Has Been Emitted for over 13 Billion Years?

With all the stars in our universe, many of which are several lightyears away, it is an enormous task to measure how much light they have produced and emitted throughout history. But now, astronomers have been able to quantify it.

From the earliest, faintest stars, to the largest galaxies, an international team has managed to measure the total amount of starlight emitted over the entire 13.7bn-year history of the universe.
The first stars flickered into being a few hundred million years after the big bang. Since then, galaxies have churned out stars at a stupendous rate, and scientists estimate there were now about a trillion trillion.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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9

The 19th Century Occult Detectives: Awful Stories of Ghost Hunters and Paranormal Investigators

We all like a good mystery story and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes may be one of the most famous fictional detectives in history.

But as we are enamored with the brilliance of Mr. Holmes, there were other contemporary fictional detectives who may not inspire the same kind of admiration as the former.

In the wake of Sherlock Holmes’s massive success, the world was so overrun by lady detectives, French detectives, Canadian lumberjack detectives, sexy gypsy detectives, priest detectives, and doctor detectives that there was a shortage of things to detect. Why not ghosts?
And thus was spawned the occult detective who detected ghost pigs, ghost monkeys, ghost ponies, ghost dogs, ghost cats and, for some strange reason, mummies. Lots and lots of mummies.
Besides sporting ostentatiously grown-up names that sound like they were randomly generated by small boys wearing thick glasses (Dr. Silence, Mr. Perseus, Moris Klaw, Simon Iff, Xavier Wycherly) these occult detectives all had one thing in common: they were completely terrible at detecting.

(Image credit: Eugene Thiebault)


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8

The First Printed Illustration of a Sloth

When European explorers first traveled to the Americas, they found strange and wonderful creatures unknown back home. However, these explorers weren't artists, and relied on others to illustrate what they described. André Thevet was a French missionary who spent ten weeks in Brazil and documented his experiences in his 1557 book Les Singularitez de la France Antarctique (Singularities of France Antarctique). Artist Jean Cousin was enlisted to illustrate the work, which included an introduction to the sloth, an animal that was completely new to Thevet's French readers.  

Thevet started work on Les Singularitez almost immediately upon returning to France. The book became a compilation of his own ventures as well as second-hand knowledge, including descriptions of South America obtained from French sailors. His text suggests that he had some first-hand experience with sloths, as the description is much more accurate than the illustration attributed to Cousin. Thevet writes that it has "the size of a very large African monkey" and "three claws, four fingers long ... with which it climbs trees where it stays more than on the ground. Its tail is three fingers long, having very little hair.” Rather than take in some of the nuances, the illustration focuses on Thevet’s description of a "little bear" with a head "almost like that of a baby” and translates that to a long-clawed bear with an actual human face. Nevertheless, Thevet had some imaginative stretches of his own, as he also states that it was "never seen eating" and that the local people had watched "to see if it would feed, but all was in vain."

If you think that's inaccurate, you should see the depiction of the "Succarath," a creature we don't even know the inspiration for. Read about Thevet's travels and the book that resulted at Smithsonian.


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11

Moose Plays Ding Dong Ditch



Kyle Stultz and Allie Johnstone of Anchorage, Alaska, were awakened by the doorbell at 1:30 in the morning on Wednesday. But there was no one at the door. Who would play a prank in the middle of the long Alaskan night? A look at their security video revealed that it was a large, clueless moose that had wandered into the garage, found the space too confining, backed its butt up against their door while trying to turn around, and pressed the doorbell button. The moose managed to make a clean getaway from the scene of the crime. -via Boing Boing


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9

Finnish Photographer Finds Fantastic Fairy Forests



Imagine the life of Ossi Saarinen. He is a dedicated nature photographer, out to prove that Finland's forests are as magical as you've heard (after all, Santa Claus lives there). His gorgeous photographs lead you to believe he has the Snow White touch that attracts woodland creatures to pose for pictures.

Finnish animals appear to be very mysterious, fascinating and charming just like they've stepped out from fairy tales. Ossi does not skip the chances to capture the beauty of Finnish wildlife either. He believes that every encounter between the animals and humans becomes an unforgettably amazing experience (Well, let’s not talk about the encounter with a bear).



See a gallery of Saarinen's photos at Bored Panda.


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8

Medieval Guide Dogs

How long have blind people used dogs as their guides? We don't really know, but there is evidence that it's been going on since antiquity. These dogs are seen in medieval manuscripts, the kind that bored monks illuminated with drawings of everyday life. The drawing above is from a manuscript from the late 12th century. Dr. Krista A. Murchison of Leiden University rounded up quite a few rare depictions of guide dogs from medieval Europe, including some that show dogs carrying bowls, which may have been to collect alms. That's a good dog. -via Strange Company


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9

Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the Greatest Female Sniper of All Time

Lyudmila Pavlichenko took up shooting as a young teenager to prove that she could be just as good at it as a boy she knew who bragged of his skills. She was better. Later on, in 1941, she dropped out of college to join the Red Army and use her ability as a sharpshooter to fight the Nazis. Army officials didn't take her seriously.

Army leaders initially wanted Pavlichenko to be a nurse. After some pleading with a registrar, she was able to join as a sniper because of her training. However, a lack of guns meant that she at first helped dig trenches instead. She wrote in her memoirs, “It was very frustrating to have to observe the course of battle with just a single grenade in one’s hand." Eventually, a colleague wounded by a shell splinter passed his rifle over to Pavlichenko when he was too injured to use it. Weeks later, she shot two Romanian soldiers a quarter-mile away, which served as a “baptism of fire,” she later wrote, and led to her being accepted by her comrades as a full-fledged sniper.

Pavlichenko only served as a Soviet sniper for a year before an injury caused her to be pulled from the front and made into a sniper instructor. However, in that one year, she racked up 309 confirmed kills, making her the most successful woman sniper in history and earning her the title "Lady Death." Pavlichenko the war hero traveled to the US in support of the war effort and encountered sexism that was even worse than in Soviet Union. Read the story of Lyudmila Pavlichenko at Mental Floss.


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9

Stimulation of the Part of the Brain Just Above the Eyes May Relieve Depression

Depression is a silent killer. Nobody wants to have it, especially those who have it. They can't understand why they feel that way and most of the time they just want it to end because it bears so much pain, suffering, and agony. The hard part of it is they have no control over it.

However, a lot of researchers are trying to find ways to address the issue of depression and other mental health issues or any mood disorder that can affect a person's wellbeing and daily life.

There's new evidence that mild pulses of electricity can relieve depression — if they reach the right target in the brain.
A study of 25 people with epilepsy found that those who had symptoms of depression felt better almost immediately when doctors electrically stimulated an area of the brain just above the eyes, a team reported Thursday in the journal Current Biology.
These people were in the hospital awaiting surgery and had wires inserted into their brains to help doctors locate the source of their seizures.
Several of the patients talked about the change they felt when the stimulation of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex began, says Kristin Sellers, an author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

Jon Hamilton tells us more about the study and its findings on NPR.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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8

Clever Hans 2.0: Are AIs Really Capable of Deep Learning?

Clever Hans was this amazing horse that was said to solve mathematical problems and other feats that one would think animals should not have the capacity to do. Not by themselves, at least.

The news spread and an investigation was done. It turned out that the horse picked up and responded to certain cues that his owner or whoever was asking him exhibited.

Recently, a study was conducted on AI and how it learns how to perform certain functions and activities:

The aim of the paper was to look at whether an Artificial Intelligence (more specifically, a “Convolutional Neural Network”) developed to interpret chest x-rays in one hospital, would be able to perform as well when faced with data from an external site.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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9

The Squatty Potty: Evolving Our Bowel Movement?

Who knew that a method that could be considered something that is primordial or archaic may actually benefit us all the more? The way we move our bowels may help improve our digestive system, especially the colon.

For their 27th wedding anniversary, the Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston gave his wife, Robin, a gift that promises “to give you the best poop of your life, guaranteed”.
The Squatty Potty is a wildly popular seven-inch-high plastic stool, designed by a devout Mormon and her son, which curves around the base of your loo. By propping your feet on it while you crap, you raise your knees above your hips.
From this semi-squat position, the centuries-old seated toilet is transformed into something more primordial, like a hole in the ground. The family that makes the Squatty Potty says this posture unfurls your colon and gives your faecal matter a clear run from your gut to the bowl, reducing bloating, constipation and the straining that causes haemorrhoids.

Read more on The Guardian.

(Image credit: Squatty Potty)


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8

The Best Christmas Buffet In Every State

Pigging out at holiday buffets is as American as apple pie (usually on the buffets as well). Delish has compiled a list of the best Christmas buffets, state-by-state, for your consideration and use. I disagree with that listed for Texas, and was surprised to see that Kentucky's (pictured) wasn't in a KFC. Who knew?

in case you decide to Christmas-over in Houston, the best Christmas Eve buffet in the state can be found here.


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9

19th Century Illustrations for the Surgical Removal of Unwanted Parts of the Human Body

WARNING - not for the squeamish or easily offended! And I'm not exaggerating one bit.

Many of the color lithographs seen on this site were created for US surgeon Joseph Pancoast’s (November 23, 1805 – March 6, 1882) 1844 book 'A Treatise on Operative Surgery'. The blurb tells us: “A treatise on operative surgery comprising a description of the various processes of the art, including all the new operations; exhibiting the state of surgical science in is present advanced condition; with eighty plates containing four-hundred and eighty-six separate illustrations.” These images are for the book’s second edition of 1846, for which they were “enlarged”. Other images can be found in the 1848 work Précis iconographique de médecine opératoire et d’anatomie chirurgicale by Claude Bernard (1813-1878). They are captivating and unsettling.

Yes, they are, most definitely, if not outright terrifying. Speaking as one who has endured numerous medical procedures, such as those pertaining to the prostate, I can vouch for their accuracy and for their stark and uncompromising reality. The image I chose to accompany this article was one of the very few 'safe' ones. Look and be amazed (it was 1844, after all), but don't say I didn't warn you.


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8

Like a Fine Tobacco, the Pipe Smoking Revival Has Been a Slow Burn

Fewer and fewer people smoke cigarettes every year, as younger people decline to take up the habit. However, the worrying trend of vaping is growing exponentially. There's another trend to watch among Millennials, a smaller trend that's growing slowly, but it is growing: pipe smoking. The popular image of a pipe smoker is that of an old man, but that may change.

We’re several generations past the time when parents sent their sons to Yale with pipes and tobacco alongside a fresh toothbrush and new shoes. So it doesn’t feel quite right to say pipe smoking is going through “growing pains,” despite large shifts brought on by technology and culture. Maybe we’re talking about “inclusion pains,” as the hobby grows younger, more wired, and more diverse. Pipe smoking remains, as Kaz Walters put it, “like the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Everywhere, but hidden just below the surface.”

Kevin Smokler talked to pipe vendors, pipe artisans, and pipe fans about the trend that is smoldering right under your nose, at Collectors Weekly. The article includes a history of pipe smoking.

(Image credit: Mary Walters of Walters Photography)


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11

Pantone’s Color of the Year 2019 Sparks Controversy



Pantone has announced their color of the year for 2019: PANTONE 16-1546, or to use the common name, Living Coral. Pantone describes the color as lighthearted, optimistic, and playful. People on social media reacted to the news with scorn, accusing Pantone of downplaying the environmental disaster that is destroying coral around the world, and using the color and name to sell stuff. Brian Kahn at Earther says it's time to calm down and celebrate Pantone's intent.

Here was a chance to talk about one of the most beautiful organisms found on Earth that is also among the most profoundly impacted on climate change. Pantone itself notes this, if only obliquely, by pointing out that living coral is becoming “unfortunately more elusive.” And in statement to Earther, the company said “[w]e were inspired by the natural, colorful diversity of our oceans, and while Pantone is not an environmental organization, we are aware of the environmental concerns surrounding the dire state of coral reefs and marine life.”

Read both sides of the argument over Pantone's choice at Earther.


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13

Tarpeian Rock: One of the Ancient Romans' Brutal Punishments

Ancient Rome is known for the various ways they mete out justice to criminals. From the smallest to the largest offences, they have nothing but cruel and often painful, torturous methods of squeezing the life out of criminals and showing people the consequence for their crimes.

One of those punishments is being thrown off a cliff. Now, Tarpeian Rock has a legend about it and why only specific criminals are given this type of punishment, mostly murderers and particularly, traitors.

Read more on the Amusing Planet.

(Image credit: Augustyn Mirys)


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10

Obscure Languages That Google Translate Cannot Translate

If you have ever tried translating a sentence in a different language into English using Google Translate, you know the difficulty of getting a natural translation since Translate gives a rough, literal translation of it.

But more than that, Google Translate doesn't actually have a comprehensive list of languages even if they were widely spoken languages. Most of the languages available on Google Translate are only the popular ones but more obscure languages have yet to be added.

Why do Greek, Czech, Hungarian, and Swedish, with their 8 to 13 million speakers, have Google Translate support and robust Wikipedia presences, while languages the same size or larger, like Bhojpuri (51 million), Fula (24 million), Sylheti (11 million), Quechua (9 million), and Kirundi (9 million) languish in technological obscurity?

(Image credit: Flickr user International Transport Forum)


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9

The Conundrum of a Chaotic Universe and the Metaphysics of the Multiverse

The question as to why there are certain laws of nature that exist in the universe has led people to quite a debate about how it came into existence and whether these laws are simply arbitrary.

Some scientists try to explain it through the multiverse theory saying that our universe is only one of many and it exhibits the laws as such and it is possible that other universes may have their own arbitrary laws. But perhaps, we may have been myopic in our perspective of the universe.

Noson Yanofsky in his article suggests that maybe we have only been looking into the predictable aspects of our universe, neglecting or leaving out the rest of the chaotic parts.

There is another, more interesting, explanation for the structure of the laws of nature. Rather than saying that the universe is very structured, say that the universe is mostly chaotic and for the most part lacks structure. The reason why we see the structure we do is that scientists act like a sieve and focus only on those phenomena that have structure and are predictable. They do not take into account all phenomena; rather, they select those phenomena they can deal with.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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11

A First Look at Avengers 4: Endgame



The first trailer for the conclusion to the Thanos story is here. The Marvel movie is called Endgame, and it lands in theaters in April 2019. Otherwise, they don't want to give away too much, so the trailer focuses mainly on the depression our superheroes feel after the chaos of Infinity War. But we learn that Tony Stark is about to run out of oxygen. Someone will save him, I'm sure, but there's no word on who or how. -via Digg


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11

What Is Tear Gas Exactly?

When things get rough in a crowd or a demonstration, or when altercations occur in high tension situations, the best non-lethal way to defuse the chaos would be to use tear gas. But what exactly does tear gas do that makes it effective?

Before the tearing, the choking and the pouring mucus, tear gas burns. It causes searing pain in the eyes, skin, lungs and mouth—or anywhere it touches. “It can be overwhelming and incapacitating. You can be forced to shut your eyes and cannot open them,” says Sven-Eric Jordt, an anesthesiologist at Duke University. And then comes the coughing and the nausea and the vomiting.
“I think of tear gas as a pain gas,” he says. “Because it directly activates pain-sensing receptors.” Weapons like sarin gas cause muscle paralysis that can lead to suffocation. These are designed to kill, while tear gas’ purpose is to repel crowds through maximum misery.

Read more about the chemical components of tear gas in an article by Angus Chen on Scientific American.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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13

Venus: Earth's "Evil Twin", Lessons from the Greenhouse Ball of Gas

Earth stands between Venus and Mars, and though the three planets could be compared to each other side by side, Earth is the only one with confirmed sign of life, we still have yet to find evidence of life on Mars while Venus is completely uninhabitable.

Much of the appeal of Venus comes from the fact that despite its horrifying modern appearance, it's actually really similar to Earth. "Picture a planet that's just like Earth but it's a little hotter because it's a little closer to the sun — and that would be Venus," David Grinspoon, a planetary scientist and astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Institute, told Space.com.
Along with Mars, these planets form a trio of worlds that began with comparable sizes, materials and temperatures — until suddenly, they were very different. Once upon a time, Venus, like Earth today, was covered in water, perhaps even habitable. Then, gradually, something fell out of whack.

Learn more about it on Meghan Bartels' article at Space.com.

(Image credit: Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA)


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8

Ancient Volcano Erupted on Antarctic Island 4000 Years Ago

Scientists have found out that a volcano had erupted on Deception Island in Antarctica over 4,000 years ago. This could be useful to know what the situation was back then and may give us an idea of what would happen in the future of Antarctica.

The island, an active volcano, got its unusual shape during a long-ago eruption that ejected massive amounts of rock and magma to form a bowl-shaped depression called a caldera. Now, researchers know that the massive eruption happened around 4,050 years ago.

Read more about it on Live Science.

(Image credit: Antonio Alvarez Valero)


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9

Saving Sumatran Rhinos from Extinction

Due to intense illegal poaching activities on various wildlife, these creatures are becoming very close to extinction. It is sad to think that the ones who are benefiting most from the resources of the world are the ones who push it to the extremes.

Rhinos are already endangered species, hunted for their precious horns that contain ivory used in manufacturing electrical appliances and equipment as well as piano and organ keys, billiard balls, and other decorative items. But such luxuries are produced at the cost of these animals' lives.

Much worse is the fact that for certain rhinos like the Sumatran rhino, there are only a few that exist. So the government in partnership with various nonprofits have launched a rescue mission for these rhinos.

Yessenia Funes has more on Gizmodo.

(Image credit: Ridho Hafizh Zainur Ridha/WWF Indonesia)


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12

Seven Million Years of Human Evolution



This video presentation from the American Museum of Natural History traces what we know about human evolution by combining a timeline, a map, animation, photographs, and artistic representations of various hominins. It's a fascinating visual presentation of data. You have to wonder what the world was like when different species of hominins lived in the same geographical era. It's hard enough for us to get along with each other now that we're all one species. -via Laughing Squid


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9

The 25 Best Films of 2018: A Video Countdown

This video has a distinct lack of blockbuster tentpole movies, which only makes it more intriguing. Film critic David Ehrlich not only selected the best movies of 2018, but deftly edited relevant clips into the music, matching both the rhythm and the lyrics. After a three-minute musical intro montage that hooks you in, the actual countdown begins. This visual treat will introduce you to some films you didn't see this year, but will want to check out on home video. Bonus: lots of Queen music. -via Digg


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