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Deep down, everyone loves a rebel. They do what we only wish we had the courage to do. There are movies made and songs composed to immortalize the human rebels among us.

But what about our animal friends?

Sure, they usually stick to relatively predictable patterns of behavior within their species. But not always. Although this isn’t the stuff of movies (except maybe a National Geographic special), here are 10 times that animals threw out the rule book and did something really unexpected.

10 Orangutans Eating Meat

Orangutans are ostensibly vegan, thriving on a diet of mostly plants, fruit, and leaves. They do end up eating quite a lot of bugs as well, of course.

But nobody thought they were capable of hunting and killing until they were observed tracking down slow lorises and dispatching them before eating. The orangutans seem to have chosen the cutest of all creatures to eat.

Orangutans only seem to do this when there is not much other food available. In fact, they have only been noticed hunting in this way nine times in the wild and that was among the same five orangutans.[1]

9 Swans That Had A Breakup

Bewick’s swans are well-known for their predictable anniversaries as they nearly always pair for life. The Slimbridge wildfowl sanctuary in Gloucestershire, UK, has been observing the migration of their Bewick’s swans for 40 years, and they have only seen a “swan divorce” twice.

The male swan, Sarindi, was seen to break off from his partner, Saruni, during the migration from Arctic Russia to Britain. When Saruni arrived with a new partner and showed no signs of even recognizing Sarindi, it became clear that the relationship had not ended well with the swans.

Normally, Bewick’s swans stay together until one or both of them dies. So it was definitely breaking the mold to split up.[2]

8 Lions Climbing Trees

It’s not normal for lions to climb trees. At least, not for most lions. They are very large cats, and they don’t have the same natural climbing ability as leopards, for example. However, the lions that live in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Ishasha, Western Uganda, and in the Lake Manyara Game Reserve in Tanzania have mastered tree climbing.[3]

There are many good reasons why lions would go to the trouble of learning to climb trees, even though it is obviously quite difficult for them given that they didn’t really evolve to do that. It might help them to stay cool, avoid flies, and have a better view of their territory. Or perhaps they just got jealous of leopards. Who knows?

7 Polar Bear Cannibalism

For a formidable creature like the polar bear, it might actually be surprising that cannibalism is rare. After all, polar bears are hunters and scavengers and they don’t seem to have many boundaries about what they will and won’t eat.

Yet, in studies of polar bear populations, only one or two incidents of these animals killing and eating other polar bears are recorded in any given year. The bears that engage in this behavior are nearly always in bad condition and starving, which probably leads them to desperate measures.

It has been speculated that the effects of climate change are causing more frequent episodes of polar bear cannibalism because they are often running out of food a lot faster than normal. This could lead them to take the kill-or-be-killed approach sooner rather than later. Even so, the number of times that polar bears do this per year is only 5–6 in one area.[4]

6 Snakes Fighting Over Nothing

It is very common for snakes to fight, and they often engage in creepy-looking “combat dances.” But this usually involves two snakes of the same species because they are in direct competition for the same resources.

Then we received evidence that snakes might like to spar over nothing. Using her smartphone, Arkansas resident Dawn Kelly recorded a cottonmouth and a copperhead snake fighting each other.

What were they fighting over, given that they were different species with very different requirements for food and mates? Nobody is quite sure, but scientist Phil Senter theorized that they could have been arguing over a hybrid female snake.

Reptile breeders often crossbreed the two species, creating “coppermouths” or “cottonheads.” One of these may have escaped into the wild. The two male snakes might have been confused over which of their species the female was and which of them had the right to pair with her. But one way or another, this behavior has never been seen before.[5]

5 Elephants Eating Their Own Poop

Eating your own poop is known as “autocoprophagy.” (“Coprophagy” refers to eating feces in general, not just your own.)

Autocoprophagy is not a very good idea unless you’re a lemur, rabbit, rat, mouse, dog, pig, or one of many animals that does this more often than we’d probably like to think about. These animals suffer no ill effects from eating their own poop. Until recently, nobody really linked this behavior to elephants, but that seems to be changing.

Elephant researcher Keith Legget isn’t sure whether autocoprophagy is actually rare in elephants. Maybe people just don’t notice or don’t like the behavior and therefore don’t report it in their sightings.

The reason that elephants do this is probably to recycle nutrition that may be left in their dung, given that they only digest about 20 percent of their food. It may also be to repopulate their guts with the right bacteria. It might be that elephants resort to eating their dung when food is less available, which doesn’t happen very often.[6]

4 Leopard Serves Hyenas First

Kim Wolhuter has been studying and filming leopards for many years. He followed a male leopard, Tjololo, for 18 months and noted behavior that seemed unique to this leopard. Tojololo would make two kills, rather than one, to distract the hyenas that would inevitably follow him. That way, he could eat in peace.[7]

This meant that he had to go to the effort of taking down one prey animal, leaving it, and attempting to take down another immediately afterward. He could then have the second kill to himself while the hyenas were busy eating his first kill. That’s one smart leopard.

3 Drone-Snatching Eagles

Even though these bald eagles were trained to do this, it’s still a very new and unusual behavior. The Dutch national police trained a troop of bald eagles to identify potentially dangerous mini drones in the airspace and, instead of steering clear of them, grab the drones in their talons and take them out of the sky.[8]

This is an amazing example of how adaptable and intelligent these massive birds of prey really are. Capturing and relocating the drones is similar to their natural ability to catch prey and take it back to their nest. But what’s remarkable is that they can overcome any fear they might have of man-made technology.

2 A Whale In The River

In January 2006, a young northern bottlenose whale was spotted swimming in the River Thames in London. This was highly unusual. The last time that a whale was seen in the Thames was 1913.

Unfortunately, the whale died due to dehydration and injuries despite great efforts to return it to the sea. Whales are not evolved to be in fresh water for an extended period of time. It seemed as though the whale might have been unwell or had lost direction for some reason, leading it to swim up the river.

The whale’s skeleton was recovered and is occasionally on display in museums in London. The animal became something of a media sensation because of this unlikely occurrence.[9]

1 Racing Pigeon Went International

In 2012, a racing pigeon named Percy decided to change his address. Percy used to live in Cannock, Staffordshire, UK. He was released for a race from Fougeres, France. But instead of flying back home, he flew all the way to Canada.

Well, not quite . . . he had the help of a boat. The pigeon cruised 4,944 kilometers (3,072 mi) to Quebec, Canada, where he was rehomed.[10]

Nobody is sure what motivated Percy to make such a radical move, but it’s certainly one for the record books.

I write a lot, mostly about animals and plants and weird stuff.


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The world was once filled with some absolutely incredible creatures. Thousands of years ago, massive and strange beasts roamed the planet. Most were so huge that they would tower over a man’s head.

We hear a lot about the dinosaurs that lived millions of years ago, but the world was far more diverse than Jurassic Park. There were all kinds of bizarre and amazing animals, each one looking like something torn right out of a fantasy novel.

10 Livyatan
The Whale That Ate Other Whales

Twelve million years ago, a species of sperm whales called Livyatan melvillei lived off the coast of Peru. They were about as big as the modern sperm whale, with some growing up to 18.5 meters (60.7 ft). But there was one big difference: Livyatan melvillei had a huge mouth full of massive, tearing teeth.[1]

These gigantic whales preyed on other whales. Their mouths were something like those of modern killer whales except that they were three times bigger. Some of those sharp, crushing teeth in their jaws were 0.3 meters (1 ft) long and 10 centimeters (4 in) wide, custom-designed to bite into a whale’s flesh and tear it off.

These creatures had no natural predators even though they shared a sea with megalodons, the biggest sharks to have ever lived. Instead, Livyatan melvillei would prey on giant baleen whales. The whales of prehistoric Peru had to deal with being a meal for the two biggest and deadliest carnivores to ever live in the sea.

9 Paraceratherium
The Rhino Five Times Heavier Than An Elephant

Paraceratherium may have been the biggest mammal ever to walk the Earth. It was a gigantic rhinoceros that stretched 7.5 meters (25 ft). Its shoulders towered 5.5 meters (18 ft) above the ground, but its craning neck could bring the whole creature up to an incredible height of 8 meters (26 ft).

More imposing than its height, though, was its weight. The biggest ones would grow to five times the mass of a modern elephant.

Paraceratherium didn’t have horns, but it was so big that it barely needed them. Inside its mouth was a set of teeth so huge that they’ve been compared to an elephant’s tusks. Paraceratherium also had a gigantic tongue that it used to rake trees clean with a single lick.[2]

Until recently, this creature was the undisputed largest mammal to ever walk the Earth—and it may still be. But it now has a competitor. Based on bone fragments, there’s a theory that an ancient Asian elephant called the Palaeoloxodon namadicus may have been even bigger. Nobody’s ever found a full skeleton of one of these elephants, but their thighs alone were nearly as big as a full-grown man.

8 Cygnus Falconeri
The Giant Swan That Lived With Tiny Elephants

The island of Malta was once home to some of the strangest sights in the animal kingdom. Hundreds of thousands of years ago in the Middle Pleistocene era, the island was filled with pygmy elephants that were dwarfed by massive swans.[3]

Those swans, called Cygnus falconeri, were huge. They had wings that stretched 3 meters (10 ft). They were so big that they were incapable of getting themselves up into the air. Instead, they fed and lived on dry land. They were bigger than the surrounding elephants, which averaged about 80 centimeters (31 in) tall—about the size of a greyhound dog.

Most of the artwork depicting these giant swans shows them harassing and preying on the tiny elephants. Although we couldn’t find any proof that the giant swans actually preyed on the elephants, we love the mental image so much that we choose to believe that it really happened.

7 Platybelodon
The Elephant With Scythe-Like Teeth

The Platybelodon might look a little strange, but it was a force to be reckoned with. These ancient elephants came equipped with incredibly long teeth that worked like scythes.

This early elephant had a huge, gaping jaw that kind of looked like a gigantic shovel—which is pretty much what it was used for. They had exceptionally long lower incisors that they could use to shovel up dirt and find things hidden underneath. Their incisors could also function like scythes to cut through thick vegetation.

Any giggling would have stopped the second you got to see one of these creatures in action. The Platybelodon would grab hold of thick tree branches with its trunk and hack them off with its huge teeth like it was chopping the branches with a machete.[4]

6 Heteromorph Ammonites
The Mollusks With Crazy, Twisted Shells

We’re used to seeing round spiral shells today. It’s the shape we’ve seen on mollusks and snails so often that it just seems like the only shape a shell could take. But millions of years ago during the Cretaceous period, those shells weren’t always quite so perfectly formed.

If you can imagine those spiral shells like a coiled rope and then visualize someone tangling that rope up, you’ll have a good idea of what mollusks called heteromorph ammonites looked like about 100 million years ago. These creatures had shells twisted into any shape you could imagine.[5]

Most were a chaotic mess. A genus called Nipponites had twisted shells that looked like tangled balls of string or a pair of headphones that had been in someone’s pocket for too long. Besides looking strange, they were probably also incredibly inconvenient. Scientists aren’t even sure how they managed to get around while dragging those things behind them.

A handful, though, were downright beautiful. Helioceras heteromorph ammonite was an ancient mollusk with a shell shaped like a spiral staircase ascending into the air.

5 Garganornis
The Big Angry Goose That Used Its Wings To Fight

In ancient Italy, there was once a giant goose called the Garganornis ballmanni—and if you’ve ever been chased by a modern goose, you’ll understand why this was a creature worth being afraid of.

The Garganornis was a 23-kilogram (50 lb) beast with massive wings that it used to beat up other animals rather than to fly. Its wings were full of sharp, bony knobs that were specially designed to slap other animals in the face.

Garganornis didn’t necessarily go out looking for fights. It was a flightless herbivore that spent most of its time looking for plants to eat on dry land. While doing so, it might be attacked by some predatory bird that would swoop down and try to eat Garganornis. Probably the only meal found by the attacker was a hard knuckle sandwich from the Garganornis’s massive, bony wings.[6]

4 Hoplitomeryx
The Five-Horned Deer

Living right alongside those big angry geese was an animal that would have fit in perfectly with every mythological creature: the Hoplitomeryx, the five-horned deer.

By all accounts, the Hoplitomeryx would have looked a lot like a modern deer. It would have been a bit bigger and had longer legs. Some even describe these creatures as giraffe-like. But all those subtle differences would have been easy to overlook next to its strange, jutting horns.[7]

In addition to the two horns that sit atop the head of a modern deer, the Hoplitomeryx had a second pair of smaller horns curving out above its eyes. And then it had a great big one protruding from the center of its skull.

Its teeth jutted out, too. Its canines, which flared out like curved swords, were so big that they would hang out of the side of the creature’s mouth even when its lips were sealed.

Together, these features created an effect as much majestic as it was terrifying. The horns looked almost like a crown resting upon Hoplitomeryx‘s head. Combined with the sharp, protruding teeth, these horns created something that looked a whole lot more intimidating than Bambi.

3 Leedsichthys
The Fish Bigger Than A School Bus

The largest fish to ever live was the Leedsichthys, a gigantic creature that once swam in the waters around Europe.

We’re not even sure how big it really was. Nobody’s ever found a full skeleton of Leedsichthys, so we can only take our best guess. However, even some of the most conservative estimates put the creature at about 17 meters (56 ft) long—larger than a school bus. Some wilder estimates suggest that Leedsichthys was even bigger than a blue whale.

The “bigger than a school bus” theory is the more likely one, but even that makes Leedsichthys the biggest fish ever to swim the Earth’s waters. These animals were so big that the gill rakers in their mouths have been mistaken for the jaws of dinosaurs.[8]

Incidentally, dinosaurs were their natural predators. Leedsichthys lived millions of years ago in the Mesozoic era, and it’s believed that a dinosaur would gnaw down on a gigantic fish the size of a small house every now and then.

2 Arsinoitherium
The Double-Horned, Elephant-Size Rhinoceros

The Arsinoitherium would have been an intimidating animal to see face-to-face. It looked like a rhinoceros except that it had two massive horns jutting out of its nose.

These horns were a good 1 meter (3.3 ft) long and 0.3 meters (1 ft) wide. So if one gored you, you’d probably end up split in two. And just for good measure, Arsinoitherium had a second set of tiny horns on top of its eyes.

These creatures were more closely related to elephants than rhinos, and so they towered a good 2 meters (6.6 ft) into the air, well above most human beings. They were herbivores rather than predators. But if anything tried to attack them, they were clearly ready to defend themselves.

If you ever made one angry, the only disadvantage they’d have would be their legs. They had strange, stumpy legs that couldn’t be straightened.[9] So if one ever chased you, you probably wouldn’t have much trouble running away.

1 Thylacoleo
The Mammal With Earth’s Strongest Jaws

Without a doubt, one of the most terrifying animals of the prehistoric world was Thylacoleo, the mammal with the world’s strongest jaws.

These animals were about half the size of African lions, but they had jaws that may even have been stronger than those of the king of the jungle. Every inch of Thylacoleo‘s skull was designed for strength, so it had a fairly tiny brain. But giving up thinking was a small sacrifice to get that incredibly powerful bite.

Inside their mouths, they had huge teeth that were fused together, making them work like big, long, thick cleavers that could hack into flesh. The creature’s claws were just as bad. They had massive, curved claws that could retract like a cat’s to keep them razor-sharp. Thylacoleo could get up on its hind feet and use its unusually thick tail to balance itself like a tripod, freeing up its claws to hack and slash through the bellies of its prey.

Most likely, they were ambush predators, and they would have been brutal ones. They could climb trees. Then they’d lie in wait, leap out, and attack their giant kangaroo neighbors, tearing them limb from limb and feasting on their entrails.[10]


Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion’s StarWipe and Cracked.com. His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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Superpowered mutants aren’t just in comic books. There are real people who have been born with unusual gifts so incredible that they can only be described as superpowers. The difference, though, is that the real superpowered people don’t go around fighting crime. They just go around leading normal lives—and for a pretty good reason.

The superpowers you’ve always dreamed of having don’t always make life incredible. As the real people who have them know all too well, superhuman powers come with some absolutely horrible downsides—and they can make life a living hell.

10 The Little Girl Who Doesn’t Feel Pain

Olivia Farnsworth never feels pain.[1] She was born with a condition called chromosome 6 deletion, which has left her with no sense of pain and no sense of danger whatsoever.

In some ways, it’s an incredible gift. It helped her survive getting hit by a car. The car drove over her chest and dragged her several yards before finally stopping—and yet, while her family freaked out, Olivia just got up, waved at her mother, and said, “What’s going on?” The only reason she survived was that her total lack of fear kept her from tensing up. Because she doesn’t feel pain, she wasn’t even bothered by what, for most of us, would have been a near-death experience.

For the most part, though, Olivia’s condition is pretty much just horrible for everybody all of the time. She never feels tired or hungry, so her mother has to pretty much force-feed her food and sleeping medication just to keep her alive. Plus, our bodies feel pain for a reason: to keep us from getting hurt. With Olivia, that’s never an issue—so she once managed to bite through her own lip without even noticing.

Maybe feeling ouchie every now and then isn’t such a bad deal after all.

9 The Woman With Perfect Memory

Jill Price never forgets anything. She’s been quizzed on everything that’s happened in her life, and she’s able to perfectly recall the date, time, and every tiny detail of everything she’s ever experienced. Her mind’s like an unending video recorder that can replay any moment from her past.

That sounds pretty cool—as long as you don’t have to live through it. Price herself, though, calls it “non-stop,” “uncontrollable,” and “totally exhausting.”

Her memory is so vivid that she has trouble focusing on what’s going on around her. She’s constantly distracted by recollections of the past, making it extremely difficult for her to focus on learning new things. And her memory doesn’t actually work on things that are worth remembering. She also only really remembers things from her own experiences—when she tries to memorize facts at school, her memory is, if anything, weaker than most other people.

8 The Family With Unbreakable Bones


In 1994, a man known only as “John” got in a terrible car crash.[3] By all rights, it should have killed him—but miraculously, John was completely unharmed. He had no spinal fractures and not a single broken bone. When the doctors looked into it, they realized that nobody in his family had ever broken in a bone in their whole lives.

You may recognize John’s life story as pretty much the plot of the movie Unbreakable. He’s a real-life movie hero—a man born with unbreakable bones that are eight times denser than the average person. And, like the movie, he says his greatest weakness is water: John is simply too heavy to swim.

But other people who share his condition have said that it makes life borderline unlivable in their later years. Their dense bones create what they’ve described as “pounding and nauseating headaches,” along with incredible fatigue and leg pains from dragging around their abnormally heavy skeletons.

When John gets a little older, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll realize that his problems are a lot worse than not being able to jump in a swimming pool.

7 The Woman Who Can See 100 Million Colors


Most people have three types of cones in their eyes, which allow them to see a spectrum of seven million colors. The other millions of colors out there in the universe are imperceptible to all but a few animals—and one woman who is only known by the code name “cDa29.”

CDa29 has four fully functioning color cone types, allowing her to see a massive spectrum of 100 million colors.[4] She’s seen a whole rainbow of colors, including millions upon millions that the rest of us are incapable of even imagining.

This would be awesome—if anybody else could see them. As it stands, though, the practical result is that she just sees a bunch of colors that she can’t communicate to other people. For the most part, the complex shades she can see just make it hard for her to understand the colors other people are seeing. As a result, before it was confirmed that she had tetrachromatic vision, cDa29 was mistakenly labeled as color-blind.

There’s actually a theory that says that two to three percent of all women can see the full spectrum of 100 million colors but just don’t realize that there’s anything special about it. Instead, like cDa29, they usually just get written off as color-blind. And their male offspring actually are. In a strange twist of irony, the gene that lets some women see extra colors leaves men color-blind—meaning that cDa29 will never be able to share her unique vision with any of her sons.

6 The Man With Fantastically Stretchy Skin

Garry Turner is a real-life Mr. Fantastic.[5] He was born with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a condition that gives him incredibly loose skin that can be stretched like a rubber band.

Also, he is in constant pain every moment of his life. From the moment he wakes up to the moment he drugs himself to sleep, Garry Turner feels a constant, searing pain below his skin that hurts so badly that he has to wear morphine patches just to get through the day.

His stretchy skin has also effectively left him a hemophiliac. The skin has a very hard time clotting blood, meaning that when he gets cut, blood usually just spills out of him without stopping.

He takes so much pain medication to get by that he often passes out, sometimes staying unconscious for as long as 40 hours before he can snap out of it. The constant bouts of unconsciousness made it impossible for him to finish school, severely affecting his options for the rest of his life.

The only way he’s been able to get by is to take up a job as a circus performer. He works as part of a modern freak show, showing off his condition that tortures him for the entertainment of others.

5 The Woman With Mutant Super Beauty

Elizabeth Taylor is a mutant—technically speaking. Her dazzling, blue-violet eyes and doubly thick set of eyelashes are the results of a mutation of the FOXC2 gene that affects some women, causing them to grow extra eyelashes and to have a particularly stunning iris hue.[6]

The advantages to superhuman beauty are pretty obvious. In Elizabeth Taylor’s case, they helped propel her to superstardom. But it doesn’t always work out as well as it did for her. The FOXC2 mutation can cause hair to grow in some uncomfortable places. Often, those extra eyelashes will rub against the woman’s eyeball, which can be so irritating that it’ll make them tear up. And if left untreated, it can even break down the surface cells on the eye until it starts to hurt her vision—or even makes her go blind.

The mutation is also linked to a high risk of heart problems. Women with the FOXC2 mutation are at a significantly higher risk of heart disease.

Incidentally, that was what ultimately killed Elizabeth Taylor. And if Taylor’s eight marriages prove anything, it’s that set of beautiful eyes can put a woman through a life of heartbreak before it finally makes the heart give out altogether.

4 The Man Who Was Immune To AIDS


Steve Crohn had an inexplicable genetic mutation. For some reason, he was immune to AIDS.[7]

As he was a gay man living through the HIV epidemic, Crohn seemed, from the outside, to be as lucky as any man could be. While the sexually transmitted disease was killing everyone around him, Crohn stayed in perfect health, which sounds amazing—as long as you don’t think about it.

Crohn was forced to go on living while watching everyone he cared about die. Here’s how he described his experience:

What’s hard is living with the continuous grief. You kept losing people every year—six people, seven people. [ . . . ] It’s not easy, when you’re losing friends and you’re that young, and it goes on for such a long period of time.

Crohn ended up going to doctor after doctor, begging them to study him, because he simply couldn’t understand why he was still alive. They ended up finding out that he had a genetic mutation that made him resistant to AIDS—but they couldn’t actually do anything with it. They weren’t able to use Crohn’s condition to save the life of anybody else.

In the end, watching his friends die became too much for Crohn to handle. When he was 66 years old, he resolved to join them. Steve Crohn committed suicide.

3 The Woman With Super Hearing


Justine Mitchell was 39 years old when she got superhuman hearing. She developed a condition called superior canal dehiscence that caused everything she heard to be amplified to incredible degrees. She was like Superman, basically, except that it was bit more socially acceptable for her to walk around in blue tights.

As it turns out, though, having super hearing makes life—in Mitchell’s words—“a misery.” Mitchell’s hearing was so strong that she could hear her own eyeballs moving.[8] She said that moving her eyes to the side “sounded like sandpaper on wood in my head.”

When your eyeballs are deafening, every other sound is absolute torture. Mitchell could hear own heartbeat as loud as a drum. The hiss of a coffee machine was so loud that it made it hard for her to stay upright, and her own voice would make her nauseous.

Eventually, Mitchell managed to get rid of her super hearing through a lifesaving operation. It wasn’t easy—the doctors gave her the choice between having her skull cracked open so they could operate on her brain or plugging her ear canal with extra bits of muscle from around the ear—but Mitchell said it was more than worth it to be able to walk down a hall without passing out.

2 The Man With Super Intelligence

Daniel Tammet has a superhuman brain. He’s capable of reciting pi by memory to 22,514 decimal places, and he can master languages faster than most people can master asking where the washroom is. For example, after only spending one week of studying the language, he conducted a full interview in near-flawless Icelandic.

All of that would be great, if all life required from people was to recite the digits of pi. But for Tammet, who has Asperger’s, and his extremely logical brain, a lot of the illogical things the rest of us do are almost impossible to understand.

“My brain breaks everything down into concretes and tangibles,” Tammet has explained. “I find intangibles hard to understand.”[9]

Things like putting on a DVD, calling a taxi, or doing algebra equations—which use letters to represent unknowns—are very confusing for Tammet. And he gets so easily distracted that he isn’t allowed to drive a car. But the hardest challenge for him is understanding when other people’s actions don’t make perfect, scientific sense. Emotions, in particular, are very confusing for him.

Tammet says that, when he used his abilities to pull off a real-life Rain Man victory at Vegas, he had to put a fake show of happiness. He didn’t really feel much of anything, but he did for everyone watching him. He knew it was what they expected.

1 The Man Who Fears Nothing

Jordy Cernik isn’t afraid of anything. He doesn’t even have to option to be afraid—over the course of two surgeries, undertaken to treat his Cushing’s syndrome, he had the glands that produce adrenaline removed. And now he’s physically incapable of being scared.[10]

There are some definite upsides to living without fear. Cernik can jump out of a plane without feeling even the slightest bit of nervousness. And he does, often. He’s started using his special power to do stunts to raise money for charity.

But jumping out of a plane doesn’t really give Cernik the same thrill it gives the rest of us. In fact, pretty much everything is boring for him. He’s said that when he goes on roller-coaster rides with his family, he’s about as excited as we would be sitting still at the kitchen table.

That doesn’t mean he feels nothing, though. Cernik does feel one thing: constant, unending pain. He still suffers from Cushing’s syndrome, which has left him with brittle, arthritic bones. Now that he doesn’t have adrenaline, though, he no longer has one of the body’s most potent natural painkillers—meaning that every ache he feels is far, far worse.


Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion’s StarWipe and Cracked.com. His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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As a rule, search and rescue attempts for people lost or trapped underground are scaled down after five to seven days. Lack of potable water, rising carbon dioxide levels, and psychological stress mean that it is rare for people to survive beyond that time.

Despite this bleak prognosis, however, there are incredible stories of survival which defy these odds. These rescues from around the world are truly miraculous.

10 Hidden Treasure Mine Shaft
United States

In 1989, a group of Cub Scouts was exploring an abandoned mine shaft near Salt Lake City. Joshua Dennis, who was only 10 years old, became separated from his father, the scout leader, and the other cubs by taking the wrong exit. He spent five days sleeping on a ledge and sucking on 10 tiny pieces of licorice.

There was little hope for his survival when a search team, which had passed nearby several times, finally heard his faint cries. He was suffering from dehydration and mild frostbite.[1]

9 Sichuan Earthquake
China

A massive earthquake, which even rocked skyscrapers in Shanghai, hit Sichuan province in May 2008. Rescue efforts were hampered by the fact that many of the mountainous regions affected were remote and difficult to reach.

Even as China prepared for three days of mourning, miracles occurred. In Beichuan County, which was near the epicenter, Li Mingcui, a 61-year-old woman, was found beneath the rubble of a former bazaar. She had survived for seven days despite suffering from dehydration, liver and renal failure, multiple shoulder blade and rib fractures, and a damaged lung.[2]

8 Wangjialing Coal Mine
China

In 2010, workers in the Wangjialing coal mine were trapped for eight days after they encountered an old shaft that was filled with water while digging a tunnel. The mine quickly flooded with enough water to fill 55 Olympic pools, trapping over 100 workers. Some attached their belts to the shaft’s walls to avoid falling into the water. Many resorted to eating paper, coal, and tree bark as well as drinking the black, murky water.[3]

Thousands of rescuers worked tirelessly to pump water out of the shaft. Initially, divers tried unsuccessfully to reach the men. But as water levels receded, rubber rafts were able to navigate the low, narrow passages. Eventually, 115 men were rescued. Many were suffering from hypothermia, dehydration, skin infections, shock, and low blood pressure.

7 Bam Earthquake
Iran

Trapped beneath pieces of wooden furniture, Shahrbanou Mazandarani, a woman in her late nineties, was found eight days after the ancient city of Bam was demolished by an earthquake in 2004. Experts had given up hope, believing that it was almost impossible for anyone to survive under the rubble for more than three days without food or water.[4]

Discovered by rescue dogs, soldiers had initially believed that the hand sticking out of the ruins belonged to a corpse. They found her wrapped in a blanket after digging for three hours. Completely unharmed, she declared that God had kept her alive and her first request was for a cup of tea.

6 Deep Lark Mine
United States

In 1969, William Jones spent nine days in a space only large enough for him to crouch after an avalanche trapped him 8 kilometers (5 mi) underground in a lead-zinc mine. Frustrating efforts to save the 60-year-old were finally rewarded after rescuers risked their lives to tunnel through 7.6 meters (25 ft) of rock.

Workers had tried to dig a direct route through mud and rock, but a cave-in was feared. An attempt to use diamond-tipped drills was also abandoned. He had to be pulled through a 0.6-meter-wide (2 ft) passageway and climb down a ladder by himself.[5]

His wife and 11 children had an emotional reunion with him at the mine entrance. At the hospital, he was happy to have a bath and a shave and watch his rescue on television.

5 Port-au-Prince Earthquake
Haiti

Wismond Exantus was discovered hours after the United Nations had declared an end to search and rescue efforts during its Haiti earthquake mission in 2010. Trapped under the wreckage of the Napoli Hotel’s shop for 11 days, he survived on cookies, beer, and Coca-Cola from the shelves.

Incredibly, his brother refused to accept that he was dead and heard his distant cries for help after checking the hotel ruins. An international team of rescuers dug through concrete with drills and handsaws.[6]

The smallest rescuer, a Scottish female, had to crawl 4 meters (13 ft) through a tiny opening to give him water. He escaped through a gap that was merely the width of his shoulders.

4 Tangshan Earthquake
China

Over 200,000 people died in the Great Tangshan Earthquake in 1976. It was days before serious rescue efforts began in a city that was reduced to rubble. With no heavy machinery available, all digging had to be done by hand. Efforts were hampered by aftershocks and heavy rain.

After eight days, the city was silent and soldiers were only finding bodies. On the 13th day, signs of life were detected beneath a destroyed hospital. Lu Guilan, a fortysomething-year-old woman, had survived by drinking her own urine as well as rainwater that seeped through the cracks.

It took seven hours to reach the last concrete slab. An army photographer who helped with the digging took a picture of Lu being lifted out. It is one of the most poignant images of the disaster.[7]

3 Beaconsfield Gold Mine
Australia

In 2006, two Tasmanian miners, Brant Webb and Todd Russell, were trapped in their cherry picker cage for 14 days after an earthquake caused an underground rock fall. Five days after the rock fall, a thermal imaging camera found them over 0.8 kilometers (0.5 mi) below the surface. Prior to being detected, they had survived by eating a cereal bar and licking water from rocks.

A 12-meter (40 ft) pipe was installed to send food, including hot omelets. Foo Fighters’ David Grohl sent a fax to boost morale after he heard that the men were listening to his music on an MP3 player.

Digging a tunnel through rock that was five times harder than concrete involved the use of explosives, rock splitters, drills, and chainsaws. Australian television stations showed a live broadcast of the men walking out of the mine as church bells rang out in Beaconsfield.[8]

2 Pingyi County Gypsum Mine
China

On December 25, 2015, seams in the pit of a Shandong gypsum mine collapsed with such force that it registered on earthquake monitors. Some of the survivors were rescued quickly. However, four miners had to remain 200 meters (660 ft) underground for 36 days.

Five days after the collapse, infrared cameras detected the men huddling in a space no more than 0.7 square meters (8 ft2). The men had to survive for two weeks before rescue teams were able to drill down sufficiently to send them food, clothing, and lamps.[9]

Several attempts to drill a wider shaft failed, so an entirely new shaft had to be created. The delicate mission finally ended with the men being individually winched to safety in a small capsule. The owner of the mine committed suicide by jumping into a well two days after the disaster.

1 San Jose Copper Mine
Chile

In 2010, 33 Chilean copper miners were safely brought to the surface after being trapped 0.8 kilometers (0.5 mi) underground for an improbable 69 days. Rescuers who were drilling small exploratory boreholes were shocked when one of the drills bits was returned with a note taped to it, confirming that the men were alive.[10]

They had managed to shelter in a chamber and carefully rationed out limited supplies of tuna, milk, and biscuits. After the men were detected, packages of food and other necessities were delivered through the borehole. It took weeks for an extraction hole to be drilled.

Meanwhile, NASA engineers painstakingly developed and tested a rescue capsule which contained oxygen supplies, communications equipment, and medical monitoring probes. Eventually, the world watched with bated breath as each miner successfully completed the 15-minute ascent in the Fenix 2 capsule.

I am an Australian lady who has been writing, teaching, and editing for over 30 years. I currently live in the Australian countryside, but I previously spent 10 years in Shanghai.


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If you were born a “freak” in the late 18th century to the mid-19th century, there were two most likely paths for you in life. Either you would be cast out of society, left to live a life of solitude, or you were lucky and interesting enough to join the world-famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and earn a lot of money worldwide.

The following sideshow acts all had unusual oddities that caught the world’s attention, yet behind the scenes, they had heartbreaking backstories that the crowds would never have known. Audiences often forgot that there was a real person in front of them, with the same capacity to experience cruelty and heartbreak as you and I. Nobody said being plucked from a world of normality to become a household name would be easy, and their lives prove that point entirely.

10 Schlitze

Born in 1901, Schlitzie never grew more than 122 centimeters (4′) or developed mentally past the age of a three-year-old. He was vulnerable from birth; there is no record of his real parents or his true birth name. A neurodevelopmental disorder known as microcephaly, which gives the appearance of an abnormally small skull, led to the moniker “Pinhead.” Unable to form full sentences, he was made to wear girls’ dresses during his tours with Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey.

After decades of performing, Schlitzie’s handlers passed away in the 1960s, and he was placed in a hospital alone, waiting to die. As a lover of singing, dancing, and performing for the public, this was a deeply unhappy time for Schlitzie. Luckily, another sideshow performer, a sword-swallower, saw him at the hospital and knew Schlitze needed to be back in the public eye. Finally, he was released from the hospital and able to perform until his death in 1971, aged 70 years old.[1]

9 Daisy And Violet Hilton

British entertainers Daisy and Violet Hilton were performing conjoined twins until their deaths in 1969. Their obituary read, “They led a hummingbird’s life. Color and glitter, and always on the move. For a time, they knew glamor and wealth. But both preceded them in death.”[2] However, the reality of their earlier life was a complete contrast to their later glamorous lifestyle.

They first toured Britain aged just three years old, and following the death of their primary caregiver, Mary Hilton, they were handed over to Mary’s daughter Edith Meyers and her husband. The twins were badly beaten if they didn’t do as their new management demanded, and despite being popular with the public, they never saw a penny of their earnings. Finally, the girls were able to gain freedom from their contracts and they sued their former management for $100,000 in damages. They spent the other half of their life touring in burlesque shows, eventually dying by each other’s side only four days apart aged 60 years old.

8 Jack Earle

Unbelievably, Jack Earle, who stood 260 centimeters (8’6″) tall at the time of his death, had weighed only 1.8 kilograms (4 lb) at birth. Doctors feared he would not live and could never have guessed that he would become one of the tallest men in the world. Born Jacob Elrich, he was a small child until his seventh birthday, when he began a growth spurt, and by the age of ten, he was over 183 centimeters (6′) tall due to acromegalic gigantism.

His height was so intimidating that Earle would hide in alleys on his way to school so that if anyone crossed his path, they wouldn’t feel startled. Earle’s psychologist nephew wrote a book about his uncle’s life as a giant, and Earle told him, “Having to dodge rocks that were thrown at me when I was a kid would become all too common.” Eventually, he was discovered by Hollywood and offered many acting roles in short comedy movies, turning a one-year contract into 14. In 1952, Earle died in El Paso, Texas, aged 46 years old.[3]

7 Stephan Bibrowski

Stephan Bibrowski was better-known as his stage name “Lionel the Lion-faced Man.” Born in 1890 in Poland, he was unusually covered in 2.5-centimeter-long (1 in) hair over his entire body. His mother claimed that Bibrowski’s father was mauled by a lion, and this had an effect on her newborn son. This is an example of what is now labeled as maternal impression, where a mother might believe her child is “marked” by something witnessed during pregnancy. She considered her son an abomination and gave him up at just four years old.

Bibrowski spent the majority of his life on tour appearing with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and he became a regular attraction at Coney Island. Only his palms and the soles of his feet were hairless, whereas the rest of his body was covered in hair between 10 and 20 centimeters (4–8 in) long. He finally retired from a career as a public performer in his early thirties, moving back to Germany and passing away in 1932.[4]

6 Frank Lentini

Frank “The Three-Legged Wonder” Lentini was never able to forget the twin he had shared the womb with, as he was born with abnormalities serving as a permanent reminder. He had a third leg, a second pelvic bone and set of male organs, and a tiny foot growing out from his knee. On the day of his birth in 1889, the midwife ran screaming from the delivery room at the sight of his extra limbs, which was far from a comforting welcome into the world.

During his younger years, he suffered from depression, as doctors would refuse to surgically remove the third leg, believing this would cause further complications. His parents tried to console him and took him to an institution for children with deformities. Here, Frank saw children who were in far worse conditions, and he said, “From that time to this, I’ve never complained. I think life is beautiful and I enjoy living it.”[5] For many years, Lentini toured with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus; he came so well-respected that his peers referred to him as “The King.”

5 Chang And Eng Bunker

The origin of the phrase “Siamese twins” comes from conjoined twin brothers Chang and Eng Bunker—although they could have had a very different fate. Born in Siam in 1811, they were joined by a small piece of cartilage in the middle of their chest, and despite their livers being fused, they were independently complete. Had they been born in modern times, a simple operation would have allowed them to live completely normal lives.

During their younger years, a Scottish merchant paid their parents to take them on a world tour, and they were exhibited to the public. In 1870, Chang’s health began to decline, and he turned to drink heavily. Eng remained healthy, but when Chang developed severe bronchitis, he believed this was the end for the both of them. In 1874, Eng awoke to his brother lying dead beside him, and he cried out for an emergency operation to separate them. Three hours later, Eng, too, passed away. They were 62 years old.[6]

4 Annie Jones

When Annie Jones was born in 1865, her appearance horrified her parents, as she had distinct, fine hair all over her chin. By the age of five years old, she had grown a full mustache and sideburns. Annie’s mother agreed that her daughter would appear in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and they both moved to New York. Jones was exhibited as “The Infant Esau,” which means “The Infant Hairy” in Hebrew.

However, there was an emergency when a young Jones was kidnapped by a local phrenologist who wanted to keep her for private exhibits. Annie was later found being exhibited at a church fair in Upstate New York, and she was soon reunited with her mother.[7] Tragically, Annie fell ill and passed away aged just 37 years old.

3 Mirin Dajo

Dutch-born Mirin Dajo is a human phenomenon known as “The Invulnerable Man,” as objects could pierce his body with seemingly no effect. Dajo led a normal life until he began to experience strange paranormal dreams. By the age of 33, he’d declared his body was “invulnerable” and quit his steady job at a design firm. He then began touring around bars, allowing people to pierce his torso with sharp objects in exchange for cash. He was also known for swallowing glass and razor blades.

Dajo was left haunted by his own capabilities, yet he believed he was chosen by God to show there is a higher force and prove that people should be less materialistic.[8] In 1948, he took his firm beliefs too far and swallowed a large steel needle to prove his divinity. The sharp tool had to be surgically removed. Ten days later, he died of an aortic rupture at age 35.

2 Grady Stiles

Grady Stiles Jr. was deformed by ectrodactyly, a birth defect that meant his fingers and toes were fused together, creating a “lobster-like” effect. He later went on to perform under the stage name “Lobster Boy.” Stiles used a wheelchair and gained incredible upper-body strength. Unfortunately for his family and others around him, he became an alcoholic. Teamed with a nasty temper, this made him unpleasant to be around—to say the least.

In 1978, Stiles took things too far; he shot and killed the fiance of his oldest daughter. Stiles confessed to the gruesome murder, yet he only received 15 years’ probation, as no prison was capable of looking after an inmate with ectrodactyly.[9] In 1992, clearly tired of his abusive nature, his wife, Mary Teresa, hired a 17-year-old sideshow performer to kill Stiles. In 1993, he was gunned down in cold blood by the teenage assassin.

1 James Morris

James Morris was known as “The Rubber Man” due to his condition, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). Born in 1859, he often used his ability to stretch his own skin up to 46 centimeters (18 in) from his body without any pain to amuse those around him. He was hired by many circuses and toured with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. After years of performing as The Rubber Man, his skin would have no doubt begun to form welts and scars, something can occurs easily in those with EDS.

Morris eventually took a second job as a barber and turned to drinking and gambling to cope with his dwindling fame.[10] By the turn of the 20th century, Morris had dropped off the radar, and it’s unknown how long he lived, but many EDS patients develop life-threatening complications by the age of 40, so his outlook might not have been good.

Cheish Merryweather is a true crime fan and an oddities fanatic. She can either be found at house parties telling everyone Charles Manson was only 5’2″ or at home reading true crime magazines.
Twitter: @thecheish


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Just in case you weren’t able to stay up-to-date with everything that’s happened recently, you’ve come to the right place. Click here to catch up on some recent and important goings-on in the world. In this list, we focus more on uncanny stories.

This was a big week for the natural world with several animal-related stories making the headlines. We have flying spiders, Alien wasps, costly storks, and margarita-loving bears. In otherworldly news, we look at an amazing baby picture and explore Uranus. On Earth, we set a new eating record and open the Dildo Brewery.

10 What Crashed Into Uranus?

According to a new paper published in the Astrophysical Journal, a massive object smashed into Uranus billions of years ago and caused many of the peculiar characteristics that the ice giant still has today.

Uniquely among the planets in our solar system, Uranus spins on its side at a 98-degree angle relative to its orbital plane. Its axis of rotation is almost at right angles to those of all the other planets. Paper lead author Jacob Kegerreis, a researcher at Durham University, believes this is due to a “cataclysmic” collision about four billion years ago which permanently changed the evolution of the planet.

His team ran simulations to see what kind of collision could explain all of Uranus’s quirks. In addition to its odd rotation, the ice giant doesn’t seem to discharge more heat than it gets from the Sun and it has a warped magnetic field.

Researchers believe Uranus was hit by an impactor one to three times the mass of Earth.[1] It would have been a grazing blow that knocked Uranus on its side. The impact would have jettisoned enough debris into space to form the planet’s rings and moons and left enough material in Uranus to trap some of the heat inside.

9 Dildo Brewery Opens For Business

A new brewery opened in Canada on July 1. On its own, this isn’t particularly notable, but the brewery was named after the town it is located in—Dildo.

Dildo is a small unincorporated community on the island of Newfoundland. As you would expect, its unusual name brought the town a fair amount of notoriety. Prior to its unveiling, people speculated on the lineup of silly beer names offered by the Dildo Brewery, but co-owner Angela Reid said they took the high road and kept it classy, mostly.

Undoubtedly, the biggest attention grabber is the “Stout Dildo.”[2] As its name suggests, it is an Irish stout. It is accompanied by “Blonde Root 80” (a reference to Route 80), an Irish Red brewed with beets called “Red Rocks Ale,” and “I’se Da Bye-PA” (an IPA with a pun name referencing local folk song “I’se The B’y”).

8 Stork Leaves Charity With Large Bill

A Polish environmental charity was stuck with a phone bill of thousands of dollars after losing a GPS tracker placed on a stork. The tracker was subsequently found by a person who removed the SIM card, put it in his own phone, and made over 20 hours worth of phone calls.

Tagging animals is standard practice by environmentalists. It provides invaluable research about the migratory patterns and population numbers of various species. The EcoLogic Group in Poland did this to a white stork last year.

At first, everything went smoothly. The bird flew to North Africa, and the tracker stayed on for over 6,000 kilometers (3,700 mi) before losing contact somewhere in Sudan. Whether the tracker fell off or someone removed it from the bird is impossible to say.

Whoever took possession of the GPS device knew that it contained a SIM card which could be removed and used in cell phones. The person then proceeded to rack up a hefty bill worth $2,700.[3]

7 Penis Study Ends Prematurely

In June, Professor Alicia Walker from Missouri State University garnered attention when she detailed plans for her study of a possible correlation between penis size and self-esteem. More notably, she announced that she would be seeking men to submit pictures of their genitals over the Internet. Now, the researcher has called off her project after an overwhelming public reaction which compromised the reliability of the study.

Walker wanted around 3,600 penis photos.[4] To take part, men had to fill out an online survey, measure their manhood, and send in the picture as proof. A chat with the professor was optional.

The response to Walker’s study was enthusiastic. She said she received hundreds of emails each day from men looking to participate. The sheer number of phone interviews made it harder and harder for Walker to obtain useful data from each one.

She also had to disregard numerous entries by men who either gave joke answers or submitted gag pictures of their penises. SpongeBob SquarePants cartoons were a popular choice. Furthermore, the search didn’t yield a diverse enough sample as most men willing to send in penis pics tended to be on the gifted side. Professor Walker might retry the study at a later date, but for now, it’s on ice.

6 Wasting Away In Margaritaville

It was a hot Friday afternoon, and California resident Mark Hough wanted to take a relaxing dip in his hot tub and enjoy a refreshing margarita. Plans changed when he got an unexpected visit from a bear that made its way into his backyard, perhaps looking for a place to cool off. Left with little recourse, Hough went inside and proceeded to film the bear as it had a “grand old time” at Hough’s expense.[5]

First, the furry intruder splashed around in the Jacuzzi. He played with the thermometer and the chlorinator for a few minutes. When he’d had enough, the bear got out of the hot tub, knocked the margarita on the ground, and lapped up the cocktail.

He capped off the afternoon’s activities with a nap in an oak tree. Waking up refreshed, the bear climbed down the tree and ran down the street. That was the last that Hough saw of his ursine visitor.

5 Xenomorph Wasp Lays Chestburster Larvae

The chestburster scenes from the Alien franchise remain some of the most iconic and shocking images in cinema. Fortunately, nothing like that exists in real life, right? That’s not true anymore, thanks to the discovery of a new species of parasitic wasp whose life cycle resembles that of the movie monster.

At less than 0.5 centimeters (0.2 in) in length, the wasp is unlikely to pose a serious threat to humans. However, if you happen to be a moth caterpillar, then this might be one of the scariest predators on the planet.

The wasp has a really long ovipositor that it uses to inject her eggs into the host. The larvae hatch inside the caterpillar and slowly begin to eat it from the inside out.[6] When they grow large enough, they burst out of their hosts and metamorphose into adult wasps, ready to continue the cycle.

The insect was named Dolichogenidea xenomorph in honor of the fictional species in the movie Alien. Found in Australia, it is one of three newly documented species by researchers at the University of Adelaide. The wasp is part of a group called parasitoids—parasites that kill their hosts during their life cycles.

4 A New World Record

Competitive eater Joey “Jaws” Chestnut set a new world record at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest by scarfing down 74 hot dogs and buns (HDB) in 10 minutes.[7]

Inaugurated in 1916, this event takes place in Brooklyn every Fourth of July and it is one of the most successful shows under the Major League Eating (MLE) umbrella. Joey Chestnut won his first Nathan’s eating contest in 2007. Ever since, he has won them all, except for 2015 when he lost to Matt “Megatoad” Stonie. Chestnut has also broken the world record on the last three occasions he competed by eating 70, 72, and 74 HDB, respectively.

The event was not without controversy. Judges initially only counted 64 HDB for Chestnut but later realized that they had missed a whole plate. Either way, he still would have won the contest as the second-place finisher managed a “feeble” 45 hot dogs. For his victory, Chestnut took home a $10,000 prize and the MLE signature mustard-yellow championship belt.

3 Eating Nuts Leads To Healthy Sperm

A recent study by the Rovira i Virgili University in Spain indicates that adding nuts to your diet could be a good way of improving the health of your semen.

According to the World Health Organization, four of the criteria used to judge the wellness of sperm are count, vitality, movement, and morphology. All four can benefit to various extents from eating nuts.

The experiment saw 119 healthy men between 18 and 35 years old divided into two groups. One maintained their regular diets while the other added 60 grams (2 oz) of nuts per day. The nutty group saw an increase in all four parameters, ranging from 1 percent for morphology to 14 percent for sperm count.[8]

This study comes at a time when sperm count is in decline in the Western world. Researchers ascribe this problem to pollution, smoking, and poor diets. One in seven couples has trouble getting pregnant, with male infertility being the problem in 40–50 percent of these cases.

Other scientists advise caution before everyone starts munching on nuts. The men in the study were all healthy with no history of infertility problems. The research also didn’t take into account other positive changes they could have made to improve their sperm health. It is too early to consider the results to be applicable to the wider population.

2 Spiders Fly Using Electricity

Over 180 years ago, Charles Darwin went on his iconic voyage aboard the HMS Beagle. He encountered many natural wonders that shaped his views on evolution. But one issue remained a mystery to him—where were all the spiders coming from?

He noticed hundreds of spiders flying and landing on the Beagle in the ocean, even on calm days. Then they would suddenly take off again as if propelled by some invisible force. Biologists from the University of Bristol believe they have the answer—electricity.

The phenomenon is called “ballooning.” Spiders climb to a high point, raise their abdomens in the air, unleash a few strands of silk, and take off. This technique can take them up to 1,600 kilometers (1,000 mi) out to sea. The prevalent theory said that the arachnids used their silks like sails and were carried off by the wind. However, scientists now claim that spiders are drawn up by the electrostatic charge in the atmosphere.

The idea was actually first proposed during Darwin’s time but gained no traction. It was recently resurrected by physicist Peter Gorham. Bristol biologists took it further by proving that spiders can detect electric fields using sensory hairs on their feet. Not only that, but they tiptoe and raise their abdomens in the air, behavior only observed before ballooning.[9]

This research doesn’t discount the idea that wind could still play a role because the same sensors could be used to determine wind speed and direction. However, it does show that electrostatic forces are capable on their own of allowing spiders to fly.

1 A Baby Picture That’s Out Of This World

Our current theory of planetary formation just received some of its strongest evidence yet. For the first time ever, astronomers have taken a snapshot of a newborn planet being formed.

For years, the general consensus has been that planets are created from protoplanetary disks, which are disks of debris that orbit new stars. However, we had never directly observed the phenomenon until the evidence from a recent study was published by an international team (led by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy) in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The image was taken using the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch (SPHERE) instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. SPHERE’s key feature is a coronagraph which allows the telescope to block out the dazzling light from a star and see the much dimmer objects surrounding it.

The young exoplanet is orbiting a 10-million-year-old dwarf star called PDS 70, which is roughly 370 light-years from Earth. We named the baby PDS 70b.

A separate study estimates that the newborn is a gas giant several times the mass and diameter of Jupiter with a cloudy atmosphere and temperatures of 1,093 degrees Celsius (2,000 °F).[10] It orbits its star at 20 astronomical units, which is roughly the same distance between our Sun and Uranus.


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