Separated At Birth, These Triplets Were Part Of A Bizarre Social Experiment
The debate over nature versus nurture is one that has fascinated scientists since the 1500s and 1600s and the topic is still being discussed today. It is a complex puzzle. Just how much of who we are is determined by our genetic make-up and how much is a result of our environment and how we were raised? To uncover insight into nature versus nurture, some researchers have taken extreme measures to gather data.
In the case of a unique set of triplets who were the victim of this research, the data learned from the strange and heart-breaking experiment was not worth the exploitation of the three young boys. This is the story of a serendipitous discovery that would take the triplets on a rollercoaster ride of emotions:
Cat lovers of the world, rejoice! There is a special island in Japan where all your feline dreams can come true. On the island of Tashirojima, there are more cats than people, and it is expected to remain that way for the foreseeable future.
Cats are considered good luck by many in Japanese society, and it also helps that they are excellent for keeping rodent populations down. In the Edo Period, which ran from the 17th to the mid-19th centuries, many people on the island raised silkworms. They brought in cats to keep mice away from these valuable creatures. The felines were allowed to breed unrestricted, so their population exploded over the centuries. At the same time, the number of humans on Tashirojima fell to below 100. Now, cats outnumber humans by a ratio of 6 to 1.
The cats are treated like royalty because caring for them is believed to bring good luck. Residents even claim that the felines’ presence protected the island from being utterly destroyed in the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011. However, they are rarely kept as pets, as this is not considered appropriate. So, the cats are free to roam the island at will. The residents of Tashirojima are very protective of the cats, and dogs are not allowed onto the island.
There are other things to see on the island besides feral felines. Tashirojima is also known as Manga Island, because a prominent manga artist once planned to move there. There are manga-themed vacation rentals available that are, of course, shaped like cats.
There is also a cat shrine located there. It was built when a large rock fell on one of the cats, killing it. Some fisherman on the island, who also appreciated the felines’ usefulness, felt bad for the poor animal and buried it. They then built the shrine to mark its place of burial.
The cats are now a major source of income for residents of Tashirojima, as thousands of cat-loving visitors now flock to the island annually. Altogether, there are about a dozen different “cat islands” in Japan, though Tashirojima is one of the most popular. Japan may truly be a cat-lover’s paradise.
Today, many seem to take it for granted that when we are ill, we can just visit a qualified doctor or take safe medicinal remedy to ease or symptoms or cure us of our diseases. Most of what constitutes modern medical practice is based in science, and has been repeatedly tested to ensure safety. Things were always this simple or safe, however. In the Middle Ages, medical treatment could be incredibly unsafe and, in some instances, downright bizarre. Here, we’ll look at some the weirder medical treatments from medieval times.
Although it is definitely strange, and it sounds disgusting, this practice is not as bad for you as it sounds. Water was not reliably clean during the Middle Ages, and using it to clean a wound could have killed you due to contamination. Urine, on the other hand, is at least typically sterile when in leaves the body, although urine from someone with a UTI could have been problematic. This may not have been a common remedy, but there is some evidence for its use. Henry VIII’s own surgeon recommended it as a wound cleaner. During the Great Plague of 1666 (though not medieval times), doctors recommended you wash in urine to protect yourself from plague.
Quicksilver was used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions in the Middle Ages. It was especially popular in the treatment of illnesses that affected the skin, such as leprosy. It was also used to treat venereal disease. It could be applied to the affected area, such as on skin lesions, and was sometimes taken internally. The problem with this is that quicksilver is another name for mercury, a highly toxic metal. Even those who only applied quicksilver externally would have been poisoned by it, as mercury can be absorbed through the skin. In this case, the cure was definitely worse than the disease.
Dwale (pronounced dwaluh) was a term for any anesthetic potion in the English of the Middle Ages. Crude forms of surgery were performed in this era, but there were no safe and reliable anesthetics. So, surgeons resorted to different concoctions to relieve pain or cause their patients to sleep during procedures. Some of their recipes called for substances such as boar gall, opium, henbane, and hemlock juice. Boar gall may be a disgusting ingredient, but henbane and hemlock juice were poisonous. And large doses of opium could also be deadly. Since surgeons mixed their own anesthetics, and there were no laws governing potency, many patients went to sleep for surgery and never woke up. This may be why surgery in the Middle Ages was reserved for only the most hopeless cases.
This procedure involves drilling a hole into a person’s skull to expose the outer membrane of the patient’s brain. The surgery was thought to treat many problems that were associated with the head or brain, such as mental illness, headaches, and epilepsy. People undergoing trepanning probably would not have been given much of anything for pain, so the process was painful. This procedure also exposed the brain to germs, which could cause fatal brain infections. It didn’t cure any of the conditions it was meant to treat, either.
As imperfect as modern medicine is, we should all be happy to be living in the 21st century, where at least some of our medical treatments work and aren’t all but guaranteed to cause death.
If you are eating right now, you might want to save this article for later. Despite the cute picture and the cartoonish-sounding title, rat kings are not adorable pet rats in fancy dress. On the contrary, what we know of rat kings is the stuff of nightmares.
A rat king is group of rats whose tails have become entwined, and the first known sighting of one was in Germany in 1564. It was once thought that rats would twine their tails together on purpose to stay warm in cold environments and to protect themselves. People believed that these rodents would operate as one animal, moving about to find food and water. Rats have undoubtedly been found in such a state, and you can even view some preserved specimens in a few museums around the world. Some particularly gruesome specimens contain 30 rats or more. The idea that these animals joined together by choice or for survival is where myth enters the picture.
Here’s where things get really gross. Rather than voluntarily tying their tails together, rat kings are formed when the animals end up stuck in cramped quarters for a period of time. They produce a greasy sebum, or body oil, that helps keep their skin hydrated and assists them in moving through tight spaces by greasing up surfaces. This substance can cause the rats to get bound together. In addition, urine and feces in large quantities could cause them to get glued together near the tail area. There was even a recorded case of a squirrel king in 2013, where some squirrels got matted together due to tree sap.
The animals do not benefit from this condition, either. In fact, if a pack of rats became joined in this way, they would likely die very quickly and in severe pain. Most rodents would simply chew their tails off to escape.
So, if rat king formation is not voluntary, and the animals could usually escape from the predicament, why are there so many specimens in museums? Some scholars believe that many are fakes, and that the tails of the animals were stuck together after they were killed. Alternatively, some of them could have been made up of rats too tangled and matted to escape and subsequently died in their entwined state. In any case, the poor animals certainly did not come together in order to form some super-survival rat-beast.
Until the formation of a rat king can be replicated in a lab, we probably won’t know everything about them. Oddly enough, there are researchers who want to study the phenomenon, but funding for such a study has not been forthcoming.
Because you were warned that this would get disgusting, here is a picture of a preserved rat king. Sweet dreams!
Meet the Fantastically Weird Fly with Ants on Its Wings
Mimicry is a pretty common phenomenon in the animal kingdom. It’s quite useful in deterring predators, like for the viceroy butterfly which mimics the coloring of the poisonous monarch to dissuade other animals from eating it. It’s also useful for predators trying to catch prey – the anglerfish has a spine that looks like a small shrimp or worm, which lures in unsuspecting prey. But probably one of the most unusual examples of mimicry is the peacock fly, Goniurellia tridens. This bizarre creature has markings on its outer wings that almost perfectly resemble ants, making the fly look like a three-in-one mega insect.
The first to identify this strange fly was Austrian scientist Friedrich Handel in back in 1910, but it hasn’t been seen much since then. Native to the Middle East, it thrives in the arid conditions of Omar and United Arab Emirates. Even Dr. Brigitte Howarth, an ecologist from Zayed University in the UAE, was taken by surprise after her first sighting of the bug. Since its wing markings are so lifelike, at first she thought maybe there were ants living on the wings in some kind of symbiotic relationship, but a closer look showed the clever facade.
There are two hypotheses explaining the purpose of the fly’s lifelike ant-inspired art, and they both may be true. The first says that when threatened by a predator, the peacock fly waves its wings back and forth to simulate ants walking around. Somehow this confuses the predator and the fly is able to escape.
The second hypothesis is that the spots are used to lure potential mates. Like in a lot of animal courtships, males compete to be the brightest and best to prove their worth as a mate for females. Male peacock flies conduct an elaborate dance, and usually the ones with the most realistic wing pictures have the best chance of getting the girl.
Scientists think the somewhat elaborate courtship has something to do with the fact that the peacock fly can only survive in specific environments, as opposed to the common house fly which can survive and find a mate almost anywhere and therefore doesn’t need any fancy mating rituals.
Copycat Felines Show Us That Dogs Aren’t The Only Ones Who Bark
A bizarre video posted on Youtube shows a cat perched on a windowsill, while a loud barking sound can be heard. It wasn’t the neighbor’s dog; it was actually the cat barking in a skillful impression of a dog. This isn’t the first time a cat owner has documented this strange behavior – since the original, videos have popped up all over the web. Is this a new phenomenon? Who knew that cats could bark?
For veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, it’s easily explained. In fact, cats and dogs have a similar arrangement of the trachea, larynx, and diaphragm, and all that is needed is a strong rush of air through the larynx to produce the barking sound. Of course, the cat needs a motive to make the sound in the first place. Dodman says barking cats probably learned the behavior from a dog living in the same household. But since there are many cats who live with dogs, that still doesn’t quite explain why some cats make this weird sound, while others don’t.
It may have something to do with catching prey. Another, similar cat behavior is known as chattering, or opening and closing the jaws rapidly and emitting a high-pitched yapping sound that could easily be mistaken for the bark of a chihuahua or Yorkie. Usually cats do this while watching small animals like birds and rodents. Apparently, the evolutionary explanation behind this behavior is that the open-close motion simulates the movement of a cat clamping down on the neck of its prey. So why do some cats stick to chattering while others go for the full-on bark? So far, animal behaviorists aren’t sure. In fact, there’s no concrete evidence that chattering and barking are even directly related, although they can sound similar. It’s possible that barking is an attempt to scare away other animals, while chattering is a prelude to catching another animal. Until we can read cats’ minds, we may never know the real truth behind these bizarre, sometimes funny, behaviors.
3D Printing Saves Life: Turtle Gets Its Shell Back
While many people would refer to the applications of 3D printing lying in the fields of manufacturing, product testing, and others, the fact a group of people who fancy calling them the ‘Animal Avengers’ managed to save the life of a tortoise named Freddie.
To state the obvious: the shell of a tortoise is one of the most prominent and important parts of it’s anatomy. Not only does it provide a place to sleep, it’s also useful to duck under and sustain damage which tortoises usually do as they are not predominantly the hunting ones nor can they travel very fast. But, when a bush fire burned this very shell of Freddie, the chances of her survival were starting to fade as there was no possible way to treat the injury.
Then, the animal avengers decided to come to the rescue, a group consisting of a dental surgeon, four veterinarians and a 3D designer. Being aware of the merits of 3D printing, the animal avengers decided to try and replicate Freddie’s shell with a 3D printer by taking details photos of freddy and examining the shape and size of the shell that she had.
After that, it was just a matter of waiting and hoping that it works. Fortunately, not only did it work, but there were no complications or tradeoffs when putting the replacement shell as it was a perfect fit. There was still but one teeny tiny problem: since 3D printers usually print the end product as white, it wouldn’t do justice to freddie.
And this is where the animal avengers needed some help: they called for someone volunteering to paint the shell of Freddie, and they found one. Not only did he manage to paint freddie’s shell, he did it with such accuracy and perfection that it’s hard to distinguish between them and the real shell.
And as expected, freddie the tortoise really liked her new shell, and while we gaze at her new shell, we can’t help but wonder if there are more applications of 3D printing than we’ve thought of?