The Sheepdogs That Protect The Little Penguins

On an Australian Island, there was a strong and vibrant colony of little penguins – that was until the foxes came and nearly ate them all up. Luckily for the little penguins they had a farmer on their side who decided to come up with an amazing way to protect them, in fact, it is so magical it was turned into a film.

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Middle Island is a rugged and beautiful island off the coast of Southern Victoria in Australia, it is one of the only homes of the world’s smallest penguins. They were originally called fairy penguins, but that was deemed to be offensive and politically incorrect so they have now been given the title of little penguins. And well, to be honest, it is not an insult, they only do stand between 30 to 40 cms tall.

There used to be hundreds of them in their colony on the Middle Island until the foxes turned up. Peter Abbott from the Penguin Preservation Project said that at one point they could only locate four of the penguins when their colony used to be 800 strong. One time they found over 360 penguins killed in one night, unfortunately, foxes are indeed one of the worst types of predators when it comes to killing: they kill for the thrill of it.

Middle Island is uninhabited by humans but it is only separated from the mainland by a stretch of water that is just 20 to 30 m at most. So when the low tide arrives the sands that build up to give the foxes a passage without really needing to get wet at all. And the fox population start to grow extremely quick due to an easy source of food. Which led to one farmer by the name of Swampy Marsh coming up with a novel idea of sending one of his Maremma dogs onto the island.

Normally Maremma dogs were used to keep their chickens, goats or sheep safe, so it was thought it would be the perfect solution. And it was! Immediately after sending Oddball as the dog was called onto the island, the foxes started to change their patterns and were less inclined to go hunting on the island. Amazingly since the dogs have been on protection duty over the last 10 years, no penguins have been killed by a fox on Middle Island.

The Grueling Gaokao Exam Is The Toughest In The World

China’s college entrance exam known as the Gaokao is thought to be one of the toughest examinations in the whole world. If you want a spot in one of the 2,200 Chinese universities then you need to ace your Gaokao exam. And it goes much deeper than that, sure the exam decides the university ranking you will be allowed to enter, but it is also widely accepted that it will determine the entire course of their lives.

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Students spend many years preparing to take the entrance exam and sacrifice much of their social life. Taking extra classes and as much tuition along the way as they can, there are even many reports of parents quitting their jobs just to help their children study for this exam. However, a high score does not even guarantee the success of entering a great university.

You see a certain number of places are allocated for every university. And the competition for each place is extremely fierce, the gaokao exam allows the universities to single out the excellent from the just plain good. The system is extremely rigorous and strict, meaning it has received much criticism along the way, but for the past 70 years, it has been the only way to test China’s students.

And it even impacts society, with failure to do well on the gaokao exam normally means shame for the family name. This puts immense pressure on the students, many simply crack and drop out of school. There are even increasing reports of student suicide, notably, they jump out of buildings during high-stress periods.

Extremely in the poorer side of the Chinese society, poorer families see the gaokao exam as their chance to a better life – which means students have to get a high mark on it no matter what the costs. Some students are known to just sleep 2 hours a night and study non-stop.

The exam itself is extremely grueling, taking place over two whole days in June it lasts over nine hours. Critics state that it relies heavily on just learning things by heart and not actually trying to get the individuals to think.

The CIA Shoelace Code

If you are meeting your friend or colleague in public but can’t let anyone know about the meeting, how would you do it? The message is extremely important, it is a matter of security and lives depend on it being conveyed – but if you are seen talking, writing things down or making visible gestures then it could all be for nothing. This is the goal the CIA wanted to solve when they created their shoelace code.

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The dilemma came about during the height of the Cold War since they could never know if they were being watched or listened to by other government operatives. These days it sounds like something that would only happen in a spy novel or James Bond movie but during the Cold War, this was an everyday ordeal that operatives had to deal with. Lives would depend on an agents ability to send a message to a passerby without alerting anyone in public. Therefore, the CIA developed a shoelace code.

Because shoelaces are generally inserted into a shoe in three standard ways, any deviation from these ways becomes an opportunity to send a signal. You can do this, therefore, and use them as a way to send coded messages to a passerby, also because having shoelaces on a bit differently will probably not arouse any suspicion in public.

These coded CIA shoelace messages were published in a declassified version of a real CIA field manual from the 1950s. There was not however a standardized language, the patterns were normally to be used as a way to make an identification. But of course, if two operatives had met beforehand, then they could agree on a pattern to mean a different message.

As you can imagine the CIA used many ways to covert secret messages during the Cold War including things like button shapes or type of pen. It could even be as simple as having a pencil in one pocket, covert communication was a way to save lives.

The Alaskan Wood Frog Freezes For Seven Months And Then Hops Away

In one of the strangest ways to live through the winter, the Alaskan wood frogs simply let themselves freeze into a block of ice for seven months. They are not frozen completely solid, but two-thirds of their body turns into ice. And if you bent their legs they would snap like ice.

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So they are effectively frozen solid during the winder, if you pick them up they will not move at all. And research has shown that there are many strange things happening to their body during this process: their heart actually stops & blood no longer flows. If you look at from an organismal level, they are actually dead. The individual cells in the frog’s body are still alive, but they stop communicating with each other.

And the craziest thing that comes out of this frozen state? When Spring arrives they easily thaw out and hop away. Biologists have known about the freezing frogs during winter for decades and believe it has to do with their glucose levels. When this process happens the frog’s glucose levels skyrocket up very high, which lets them tolerate extremely cold temperatures seen in Alaska.

To figure out how the frogs were surviving so long in a frozen state, researchers stuck mini radio transmitters to their backs to be able to monitor a group of Alaskan wood frogs for 2 years. Once the frogs were frozen and settled they placed a little cage over their spot and started to record their temperatures at regular intervals. The amazing thing is over the course of the study none of the frogs died off, meaning these frogs have mastered how to survive the cold.

It is the glucose levels that are key, they allow water to be kept inside cells, frostbite happens when all the water in a cell becomes ice. Which in turn causes cells to dehydrate and die. Having high amounts of glucose, keeping everything super sweet, stop this from happening and keeps the frog’s cells alive.

Underwater Restaurant Gives Waterfront Dining A Whole New Meaning

If you’re always on the hunt for creative dining experiences, the folks at Snøhetta have you covered. Business owners of Snøhetta are innovating the dining experience for those in Norway with a new restaurant named Under.

The dining room of the 100-foot long restaurant is fully submerged underwater! Their 2-ton periscope-like structure is the first of its kind, sitting almost 6 meters under the North Sea. It is not the only underwater restaurant in the world, but it is the only one in Europe and far superior to its forerunners.

Eating at Under might be the most fantastic dinner you’ve ever had. If being submerged underwater isn’t unique enough, Under also doubles as a marine life research lab housing local researchers and marine biologists. You have to see it to believe it…

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27 Insane Burning Man Facts That Will Make You Think Twice About Missing It Next Year

Ever heard of the popular Burning Man festival?

If you have, everything you think you know about Burning Man is probably wrong. If you haven’t, you’ll be equally amazed and intrigued soon enough.

Burning Man is kind of like an awesome experiment. The goal of this experiment is to create a small city, only for one week…before it disappears forever.

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The dry desert of Reno, Nevada is home to Burning Man’s small city once a year. Add in music, thousands of people, and spiritual experiences happening everywhere and you’re sure to have a wild ride. You can’t even imagine what this small hippy utopia looks like.

We dug up some of the most wild images that will leave you wondering why you’re not already packed up and ready to head to the desert.

Horror Movies Use Infrasound Soundtracks To Scare Us

Infrasound is actual silent, at least humans cannot hear it as it is the sound that is below the range of human hearings. However, it is finding increasing use in Horror movies, where directors have realized its potential to provide an even scarier effect. You see infrasound has the uncanny effect of freaking us out: even though we cannot hear it we do feel it.

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Horror movies rely heavily on setting the scene with the aid of music, generally speaking, a horror movie production will have a whole team of composers carefully deciding how they can increase the impact of the scene by using music. Sometimes familiar sounds will be distorted to give us that eerie feeling or to make us believe reality is not as it seems.

But the real winner is a hidden sound that really freaks out the audience, a technique that many filmmakers will use to add to the scene. A low-frequency sound that cannot be heard but unsettled every human being down to their very bones. Infrasound only exists at frequencies lower than 19 Hz, which is a sound we can feel but not hear. And this is a sound that does exist naturally also we find it created by the wind, earthquakes, avalanches or even elephants who use it to communicate. And horror movie composers like to use this sound to their advantage.

Horror and thriller movie director Gaspar Noe has noted that you cannot hear many of sounds that he puts into his films, but it still will make you shake. If the theater has a good sound system then he feels you can be more scared by the sound than what is actually what is happening on the screen. Deep rumblings and otherworldly grinding sounds are perfect for scaring us and raising anxiety.

Scientifically speaking infrasound has been proven to induce anxiety, heart palpitations, and shivering. Definitely, an amazing technique that horror directors are making use of around the world, so the next time you go to see your favorite horror film make sure you are going to the good quality theater – as it seems that is the best experience!

The Original Word To Refer To A Bear Has Actually Been Lost

There has always been a morbid fear and fascination with bears, mostly due to them being a vicious apex predator – people have been afraid of them in history. Especially as in Ancient times bear populations would have been a lot stronger & being attacked by a bear in a forest may have been more common.

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Just think of the black humor joke around bears: How fast do you have to run to survive when being chased by a bear? The answer is Faster than your friend. Survival is what the joke is about, that when interacting with a powerful predator, survival is the number one job. Dealing with these sorts of dire situations has even caused humans to make up superstitions about the whole scenario. Which is why we actually do not know the true word for bears. Bear actually linguistically simply means The Brown One.

If you look up the etymology meaning of “Bear” then you will find it comes from a Germanic term “Beron” which would mean the brown one. Of course, it not really that special for words to have evolved from their descriptive terms, words have to come from somewhere. But the bear is actually quite a special one because it was not actually the animal’s real name. In fact, it turns out that bear is a euphemism for the animal’s original name.

You see in ancient times bear attacks were one of the most feared interactions with wild animals – no one would live to tell the tale after being attacked by a bear. Our ancestors were so worried by bears they did not even want to say the creatures name. It was thought the bears would hear them speaking about them and actually come out to hunt you down. Which is why they started to refer to them as bears meaning the brown one – a euphemism for the real word.

We do know that this practice started in Northern Europe, and it has been confirmed to not be the true animal’s name. However, we actually have no idea what the word was that it replaced – which makes bear the oldest known euphemism.

Australia Is Drifting So Fast Even GPS Cannot Keep Up

At the end of the year, a significant correction to GPS and navigations systems has to be done to ensure Australia is still located correctly, alternatively, the technology stops working smoothly. So that means Australia is never really where you think it is and if you are checking its location with GPS, then it may be off quite a bit.

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The last time Australia’s GPS coordinates were updated was back in 1994, and it is estimated that the continent has moved by over 6 feet by then. This is because all of the Earth’s continents are on tectonic plates, they float above them while kind of gliding slowly across the tectonic plates. The thing is that the plate Australia sits on has been moving pretty fast compared to the rest of the world. It is estimated to be moving over 2.7 inches a year, and this is in a Northward direction.

To give you a number to compare this with, North America doesn’t even move an inch a year. This means that some countries happen to move a lot more than others, as confirmed by the director of Cartography for National Geographic: Damien Saunder. Beforehand, it never really matters, as mapping was done manually and GPS systems were not exactly 100% accurate.

However, with technology advancements, GPS is becoming extremely accurate and these little shiftings are becoming much more apparent. With advanced technology giving out pinpoint locations to a matter of inches & cell phones even being able to do this, the little mistakes are being noticed much quicker.

Australia has moved quite a bit due to its unique geology and this is causing problems for GPS systems that require precision to work correctly. Corrections to its longitude and latitude have been made four times before, though the last time was in 1994, so it is probably in need of another correction! In fact, the last time when it was corrected they had to move Australia by over 650 feet.

The 61 Year Old Potato Farmer That Smashed An Ultramarathon Record

A legendary story in the running world, that if you have anything to do with ultramarathons will be a familiar tale. This is the story of Cliff Young, a 61-year-old potato farmer that decided one day to join an ultramarathon simply because he wanted to run in a race. He had no formal training for running ultramarathons and had never run one before.

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Yet he decided to sign up for what is considered the most grueling ultramarathon in the world, Australia’s 543.7-mile race from Sydney to Melbourne. This race takes over five days to complete and generally only sees world-class athletes attempt to complete it. Usually, these athletes are under 30 years old and have sponsors such as Nike or Adidas.

In 1983, Cliff Young showed up for the start of the race, wearing overalls and working boots. And to everyone’s shock, he wasn’t here to watch, he picked up his race number and joined the other runners. He was told by the other runners and the press that he would never finish the race, to which he replied he would. Young had grown up on a 2,000-acre farm where they could not afford any type of tractor or horses, so whenever a storm rolled in, he would have to round up the 2,000 sheep & other animals just by running. This could sometimes mean he would be running for over 3 days just to round up all the farm animal.

When the race started, the professionals left Young far behind and the crowds found his running style extremely funny. In fact, it became famous: later referred to as the Cliff Shuffle. In fact, many feared for his safety. But Young had one ace in his sleeve, due to the fact he had never had any training he did not know that the professional athletes would run for 18 hours and sleep for 6 hours. Young did not know this and simply kept running through the night, when asked about his tactic, he claimed he would run the whole marathon without sleeping.

And every night he kept running, gaining on the leading pack, finally he overtook them during the night & just kept the lead. He set a new course record and scooped up the $10,000 prize. To which he promptly gave the next five athletes $2,000 keeping none of the prize money, an act which made him a national hero.

The Republic Of Molossia A Micronation Located In The United States

Molossia or also known as the Republic of Molossia, is a small micronation that exists inside the United States. It was founded by Kevin Baugh on July 30, 1962 and can be found situated in Dayton, Nevada. The Republic of Molossia has indeed stood up and claimed to be a nation, though it is not formally recognized as a country by the United Nations or any other major government.

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In 2016, Baugh provided a fully hosted tour of Molossia which was sponsored by a website called Atlas Obscura, and from that point on he has found certain fame inside the micronation community. Kevin Baugh does, in fact, continue to pay property taxes to the local government in Storey County, however, when questioned he does refer to it as foreign aid.

The originals of the micronation come from a small childhood project when the Republic of Vuldstein was created with James Spielman and Baugh, and then later became what we know today as Molossia after Baugh had spent some time traveling through Europe.

It comprises of three properties found on 6.3 acres known as Harmony Province. Baugh also owns land in Northern California which is referred to as the Colony of Farfalla and also the Desert Homestead Province. Molossia has an interesting currency setup, the currency is called Valora and is pegged to the value of cookie dough. Valora coins appear to have been made from gambling chips and there are also printed banknotes. An outbuilding known as the Bank of Molossia is used to store all the micronation’s cookie dough supply.

They are also at war with East Germany and were never able to come to a peace agreement before Easy Germany formally ceased to exist. However, according to President Baugh, East Germany does actually still exist on the island of Ernst Thalmann Island off the border of Cuba. This was an island Cuba dedicated to East Germany, and as it still exists, East Germany still exists and therefore the war must go on.