Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Things You Can Do With a Little Ingenuity and a Lot of Paper

Yep, it's real. It cost around $200, weighs 55 pounds, and took 2 hours to make.

Read more here.

Beach a la Mode

Recently, the coast near Yamba, Australia experienced a bizarre natural phenomenon. With little warning, a band of froth, which stretched for 30 miles out into the ocean suddenly started to wash ashore, leaving bathers to wade through what looked like the world's largest pile of whipped cream.

This rare occurrence is said to take place when impurities such as salt, dead plants, rotten fish, and seaweed excretions (yum!) are churned together by waves, storms and currents until they reach the consistency of a milkshake.

Sounds interesting, but even though it looks like fun, I don't think I'd play in it!

See more incredible pictures here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Look Out Ron Weasley

The latest edition of Nation Geographic is reporting that redheads (known as "gingers" in the UK and Australia) may be extinct in 100 years.

Red hair is extremely rare--less than 2% of the world's population possesses it. And it takes two parents with the redhead gene to produce a ginger child. With more and more people marrying outside their own communities, it's becoming increasingly unlikely that two people with this uncommon gene will come into contact.

The gene itself is a mutation that arose in Northern Europe thousands of years ago, and the Vikings were largely responsible for spreading it throughout Europe. Today, Scotland may be the last hope for the redheads of the world. Almost 40% of the Scots carry the gene.

Read more here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Manhattan's Most Haunted House

Visit the Merchant's House, located in downtown Manhattan, and you'll find yourself walking through a bizarre time capsule. In 1835, a wealthy businessman named Seabury Tredwell purchased the house for his wife and seven children. His eighth child, Gertrude, was born in 1840. As her parents and siblings died or moved away, Gertrude refused to leave her childhood home. She died in an upstairs bedroom in 1933.

It's an unremarkable story--except for one fact. Gertrude wasn't fond of change. Over the years, she never altered anything about the house or its furnishings. When the city purchased the building after Gertrude's death, historians found that the house looked exactly as it had in the mid-nineteenth century. There were no "modern" conveniences of any sort--and an outhouse in the backyard was still in use.

Now, Gertrude's house is a museum, with the Tredwells' belongings (including their undergarments) on display. But for many visitors, Gertrude herself is the main attraction. They insist that she's still there, though perhaps a little harder to see. The staff of the museum is even compiling a book entitled, Some Say They Never Left: Tales of the Strange and Inexplicable at the Merchant’s House Museum.

This week the New Yorker has a short article on a paranormal investigator who's currently examining the old house, and several credible accounts of ghostly visitations are recounted in the story.

In the nineteen-seventies, someone decided to fit the kitchen with a cast-iron stove. One day, the story goes, a museum worker witnessed the stove shaking violently, as if someone were pushing it from behind. In the early nineties, the museum’s curator installed a computer. The machine froze every time she typed “Tredwell”—the last name of the house’s original owner. “Well, not every time, but three out of five,” Pi Gardiner, the museum’ current executive director, explained one night recently. “Our theory was that the spirits were, like, ‘What is all this newfangled technology?’

I could be wrong, but it certainly sounds like Gertrude to me.

Visit the Merchant's House website for a 360-degree tour.

Get Crafty

I just found these handy instructions for making your own silkscreen t-shirts. It actually seems pretty cheap and easy to do! And may I suggest an image to silkscreen . . .

Too lazy to make your own t-shirts? You can purchase shirts with the design shown at the top of the post at Magpie.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wonder What's Down There

From the old but interesting news file . . . the picture above shows a massive sinkhole that appeared in the middle of Guatemala City earlier this year. It swallowed a dozen homes and (very sadly) took three lives. As the graphic shows, it's twice as deep as the Statue of Liberty is high.

I've done a little research and it seems that, to this day, no one knows what caused it.

From National Geographic.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Death Valley's Mysterious Sailing Stones

Ordinarily, I don't like to borrow posts from other sites. But I didn't think I could improve upon the caption written by the photographer who took the picture shown above . . .

Deep in the heart of the California desert lies one of the natural world's most puzzling mysteries: the moving rocks of Death Valley. These are not ordinary moving rocks that tumble down mountainsides in avalanches, are carried along riverbeds by flowing water, or are tossed aside by animals. These rocks, some as heavy as 700 pounds, are inexplicably transported across a virtually flat desert plain, leaving erratic trails in the hard mud behind them, some hundreds of yards long. They move by some mysterious force, and in the nine decades since we have known about them, no one has ever seen them move.

Think about that last sentence for a while. More information and pictures at Wikipedia.

Crazy Love

Swiss scientists believe they have finally succeeded in proving that love makes teenagers crazy. After studying over a hundred seventeen-year-olds, they concluded that those who were in love showed signs of “hypomania.” In other words, they needed less sleep, spent more money, felt more creative, and drove too fast.

Hmm. Doesn’t sound all that bad to me. Or that crazy. Maybe the scientists just don’t remember what it felt like to be seventeen.

Read more here.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Want to See the Blog Without the Frame?

Go to http://kikistrikeny.blogspot.com

Friday, August 17, 2007

Just Cool

The work of artist Sam3 in Spain and Brazil.

More Tales from the Bog

Want to learn more about the Bog People--the mysterious mummies discovered buried in the bogs of Northern Europe? (See 8-8-07 post.) National Geographic has a great article, along with some stunning photographs.

(Above: One of the Bog People makes his first appearance.)

Now I'm On a Roll

Continuing with the Asia and water themes, this picture shows a walrus promoting a car at a recent Chinese auto show. (I think it's real, but what the heck is it wearing?)

And You Thought Your Local Pool Was Crowded

This video shows a wave pool at a Tokyo amusement park. There's nothing like going for a swim with 10,000 of your closest friends.

Wonder how many of them were willing to give up their space when they needed to make a trip to the bathroom?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Think I'd Rather Use a Loofah

Perhaps swimming with the fish isn't such a bad idea after all. A new fad has hit spas and resorts across Asia. Schools of tiny, tropical fish called Garra Rufa (nicknamed Chinchin Yu) are now being added to hot spring pools. As bathers lounge, the little fish nibble on their skin, causing a pleasant tingling sensation.

The process, which is supposedly painless, is said to help remove dead skin cells, revealing the radiant, healthy skin beneath.

Read more here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Beasts of Central Park Lake

Despite its scenic charms, Central Park Lake has never been known for its cleanliness. Scientists say it's contaminated with mercury--and even amateurs can tell that it's no place for a swim. So it came as some surprise when it was recently discovered that the lake is teeming with bizarre wildlife.

Parks Department workers who were tasked with dredging the lake this summer as part of a routine restoration project probably wouldn't have been shocked to pull up a skeleton or two. What they found instead were thousands upon thousands of giant koi (which are closely related to goldfish). Some were more than three feet long and weighed up to 30 pounds. Workers also discovered colonies of freshwater clams, along with a few enormous (and dangerous) snapping turtles that tipped the scales at 50 pounds. However, I'm sad to say that no alligators were reported.

Once the restoration project is complete, Central Park Lake will be a much more exciting environment for visitors and animals alike. Islands, coves, caves, and streams that have been inaccessible for decades will soon be open for exploration. Though with all of those gigantic goldfish swimming around, I'm still not planning to go for a dip.

(Above: A giant koi. Below: Central Park Lake.)

The Double-Nosed Dogs of the Amazon

At this point in the blog's history, we've all seen some pretty strange stuff. But this particular story—if it’s true—ranks as one of the weirdest I've ever come across.

British explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell recently journeyed to the forests of Bolivia in search of a meteor that he believes once struck the Amazon Basin. According to this report by the BBC, the colonel and his fellow explorers brought along a church organ from England, hoping the present might entice the locals to help them hunt for the giant hunk of space rock. (Odd fact #1.)

Though the elusive meteor wasn’t discovered, the expedition still proved fruitful. During a visit to the village of Ojaki, Colonel Blashford-Snell encountered the offspring of an unusual dog that he’d seen on an earlier South American trip. Like its mother, the sixteen-inch-high hunting dog boasted one exceptional trait. It had been born with two snouts. (Odd fact #2.)

The locals claim there are many such animals (known as Double-Nosed Andean tiger hounds) living in the surrounding area. Colonel Blashford-Snell believes they are descendants of a legendary breed of Spanish double-nosed dogs known as Panchon Navarro, which may have been imported to South America by the Conquistadors. (Odd fact #3.)

Apparently, the double-nosed dog of Ojaki goes by the name of Xingu and likes to hang around with a wild pig named Gregory. (Odd fact #4.) He’s become something of a celebrity—even the Bolivian army has paid him a visit. (And taken a little DNA while they were at it.)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Gigantic Fungus Eats Oregon

If most people were asked to name the biggest living thing on the planet, their answer would probably be "the blue whale." They would be very, very wrong. The largest organism on earth lives beneath a forest in Oregon. It's at least 2,000 years old; it's the size of 1,600 football fields; and it's really hungry.

Armillaria ostoyae is a fungus found throughout the US. But somehow Oregon's climate has allowed one particular specimen to grow to mammoth proportions. The 605-ton fungal colony lies hidden beneath the soil. The only signs of its presence are outcroppings of golden-brown mushrooms (shown above) and empty spots in the forest where Armillaria ostoyae has killed all the trees.

Though several volunteers have offered to "exterminate" the fungus, most scientists agree that little can be done to stop it. Unless a forest fire limits its growth, Armillaria ostoyae will keep eating its way through Oregon.

Read more here.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

History's Overlooked Mysteries

Live Science has come up with a great list of History's Top Ten Most Overlooked Mysteries. (Although how could you possibly choose only 10? Give me half an hour, and I'll come up with a list of 50!) Among their choices are the "Bog People" (one of whom posed for the photo above), the Lost Roman Legion, and my favorite, the Tarim Mummies.

For those who don't obsessively watch the Discovery Channel (when they should be writing books), the Tarim Mummies were uncovered in western China around 1910. Archaeologists were thrilled to find more than a hundred well-preserved mummies, some of which were almost 4000 years old. But there was something about the bodies that shocked everyone who laid eyes on them. These ancient Chinese mummies had long noses, red or blonde hair, and were wearing fabric that looked remarkably similar to a Scottish tartan. (See one such mummy below.)

Who these people were--and where they came from--is still a source of much controversy. Read more here.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Same Thing Happens When I Sing

This Japanese martial arts master claims he can immobilize opponents with a single shout. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical until the demonstration at the end of the video. Where do you go to learn this stuff, I wonder?

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Unicorn of the Sea

The other day I came across an interesting (and extremely gruesome--so beware) photo essay on National Geographic's website. The subject was the narwhal, an exotic-looking beast that's always intrigued me. These small (15 foot-long) Arctic-dwelling whales look much like their friendly cousins, the belugas, except for the bizarre, ten-foot-long, spiraled horn that sprouts from their heads.

So in the service of this blog, I decided to do a little research. As it turns out, the narwhal is even more interesting than I ever expected. In fact, they're probably the true origin of the unicorn legend.

The name narwhal comes from the Norse language and means "corpse whale." (The whales are said to resemble the bloated bodies of sailors who die at sea.) Until the narwhal became known to science in the 17th century, Viking hucksters often sold the whale's ivory tusks as unicorn horns. Far more precious than gold, unicorn horns were prized by royalty around the world for their magical properties, including the ability to protect their owners from poisons. Queen Elizabeth I possessed one such horn, which was said to be worth more than the price of a castle. Other royals had narwhal tusks made into jewel-laden scepters or used them to pay off enormous national debts.

As late as 1870, narwhals were still the subjects of tall tales. Some even claimed their tusks could pierce ships' hulls and send large boats to the bottom of the sea. Only recently has the truth become known. The narwhal's tusk is in fact an overgrown, unusually sensitive tooth. (A few narwhals, like the one shown above, even have two.) We don't known exactly how the tusks are used, but it's been suggested that they help the animals connect with the outside world--determining temperature and possibly even predicting the weather.

Sadly, as National Geographic points out, there aren't many narwhals left to study. Hopefully they can be better protected in the future. It would be a terrible shame to lose such a strange and wonderful creature.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Another Shadow City?

"It started with an ever-expanding sinkhole ... and led to an excavation this spring that revealed an underground complex of brick chambers with vaulted ceilings."

Sound familiar? Last month, the New York Times published a fascinating article about an underground "world" that was recently discovered in a wooded area near Ossining, a village 30 miles north of New York City.

Earlier this year, construction crews had just broken ground on a new condominium development when they were suddenly forced to abandon their work. They had unwittingly uncovered a series of twelve large, underground rooms that are believed to date from the mid-19th century. At first many thought that the complex was little more than an old storage facility. But experts now say that the craftsmanship used to build the chambers suggests a far more important purpose. What that purpose may have been is still anyone's guess.

Adding to the excitement are reports that there may be other chambers and tunnels beneath the town that have yet to be discovered.

According to the Times, residents of Ossining (which is also home to the infamous Sing Sing prison) have been visiting the "forgotten" chambers for decades. Many of them are now battling the developers, hoping to permanently halt the construction that would destroy the subterranean complex. Unless they're successful, we may never learn the secrets of Ossining's hidden chambers.

Read the original New York Times article here.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Don't Look Down

In one of the most creative pranks of all time, someone appears to have turned the floor of an ordinary elevator into an optical illusion. Imagine stepping inside and looking down into an empty elevator shaft!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Suspicious Submarine in New York Harbor!

This morning police spotted three (relatively) young men boarding a strange vessel in New York Harbor. Upon closer inspection, the "boat" in question turned out to be a homemade submarine. (See more pictures here and a video here.)

Apparently, the underwater craft was modeled after the "Bushnell Turtle," the first American submarine, which was invented in 1775. No one seems to know why the men built the submarine or what exactly they planned to do with it. All three were arrested--not because they intended to do any harm--but because they were too close the luxury cruise ship, The Queen Mary II. More information to come!

UPDATE AUGUST 4: The New York Times has a wonderful video of Duke Riley, the artist behind the sub, explaining his motives. You also get to see his creation up-close. I have to say, I'm really impressed! I wouldn't mind having a submarine of my own.

(Below: The original Bushnell Turtle.)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Strange Encounters

Artist Matt Hoyle spent the summer of 2006 interviewing and photographing ordinary Americans who claim to have had a brush with the "unknown." There's Dennis, who believes his home is haunted by the spirit of a young boy; Katie, who's certain she once saw a werewolf; Ed, who believes he was abducted by aliens; and more than 50 other people with eerie tales to tell.

Hoyle's photos, along with his subjects' stories, have now been collected in a new book. But more than two dozen examples can be seen online at Matt Hoyle's Encounters. Be prepared to get spooked.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Jessica the Pet Hippo

All I can say is wow.