10 More Ridiculous Attempts To Legislate Personal Responsibility

Those tasked with drafting our laws and ordinances sometimes tend to get a bit ahead of themselves. In their zeal to protect us from ourselves, they sometimes tend to propose or enact legislation that would insult the intelligence of the average toddler. Why bother with public health campaigns to educate the citizenry about the dangers of smoking and overeating when we can just ramp up taxes until cigarettes are prohibitively expensive and ban all sodas over a certain size?

Well, because people will always make lousy decisions. And criminalizing lousy decisions doesn’t really serve any purpose other than creating more criminals, which may seem like a common-sense conclusion, unless you’re a lawmaker of a certain stripe. Here’s our latest roundup of actual legislation, crafted of, by, and for those with absolutely no common sense.

 

10. Calorie Limits On School Lunches

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Fighting obesity, especially in children, is at the root of many a boneheaded piece of legislation. The only item on this list to affect the entire US comes courtesy of the US Department of Agriculture, which decided in 2012 that children were just eating far too much across the board and completely rewrote its nutritional guidelines for school meals.

On the surface, the changes seem pretty reasonable: more vegetables, phasing out things like chocolate milk, and an effort to reduce trans fats. But dig a little deeper, and remember that these are growing children we’re talking about here: no portions of juice larger than four ounces; two ounces of protein is sufficient for an entree; other portions must be no more than 200 calories; and for elementary students, the entire meal cannot exceed 650 calories. We’re no dietitians, but typing that sentence made us hungry.

In addition, school cafeterias are directed to throw away extra food. If you can point out one way this regulation does one iota to cut down on childhood obesity, you’re more observant than we are. Besides, last time we looked, it was giant sodas and lunch-period runs to McDonald’s that were supposedly causing all the problems, not school lunches.

 

9. Random Drug Tests For High Schoolers

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High schools have become much more restrictive in recent times; understandable, considering that they seem to have become much more dangerous (though the data doesn’t necessarily agree). One New Jersey school district decided that drug use was a pretty serious problem in its schools. Serious enough that all students should be subjected to random drug and alcohol testing, which you may recognize as a technique that isn’t even employed in prisons.

Aside from the fact that random drug testing isn’t proven to deter drug use, there’s the issue of intrusiveness—and not just from the student’s point of view. The measure assumes irresponsibility and neglect on the part of the parents—all of the parents—of the school district and would also set a precedent for any other school district that sees fit to preemptively treat its students like criminals.

 

8. Legislating The Correct Use Of Bowling Shoes

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The Albany City Council spent much of 2012 and 2013 embroiled in scandal; one of their councilmen, Vito Lopez, was forced to resign amid sexual harassment and corruption charges, with his replacement not faring much better. During all of this, they did manage to get one monumentally important piece of legislation off the ground: a law prohibiting people from wearing bowling shoes outdoors.

Bowling shoes, you see, are designed to slide. Since there are now laws banning smoking indoors, bowling alley patrons must go outside to smoke; if it rains, their bowling shoes may become wet, making them extra slippery, increasing the risk that—okay, no. It is glaringly apparent to us, you, and everybody involved that this is nothing that a simple sign by the door wouldn’t fix immediately.

One state senator claims that lawsuits from incidents involving rain-slicked bowling shoes are driving up insurance costs for bowling alleys; we claim that this is highly suspect. Have you seen those yellow “WET FLOOR” signs they have in every restaurant? Did you know that there are no laws requiring them? That’s because warning patrons of the potential danger is enough to head off lawsuits. You probably see what we’re getting at here.

 

7. Visiting Elderly Parents Is Mandatory In China

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Since 1979, most Chinese citizens have only been allowed to have one child under the law. This, combined with decades of economic reforms and a growing elderly population, has led to a curious phenomenon in China: lots of senior citizens whose busy (only) children don’t have time for them. The solution, of course, must be more legislation.

A national law introduced in 2013 makes it illegal for children of those 60 and older, who also live alone, to neglect the “spiritual needs” of their elders. The law mandates frequent visits (without specifying how frequent) and allows seniors to apply for mediation—or even to sue—if they feel their needs aren’t being met. There are also no standards (yet) for punishment if one is breaking the law.

The realities of the Chinese economy will clash with this law in a hurry. For example, many (as many as 400 million) Chinese are migrant workers, finding employment in the big cities and leaving their aging parents in the poor, rural areas they came from. Such workers find frequent, distant travel highly inconvenient or impossible. A recent Internet poll among the Chinese populace was split; about half supported the measure, but a quarter of them doubted its practicality. An additional 17 percent opposed the law “because caring for the elderly was a question of ethics and not something that should be governed by legislation,” which we’re surprised was an option on the poll.

 

6. Banning Bottle-Feeding Of Babies

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Venezuelan politician Odalis Monzon wants to “increase the love [between mother and child] because this has been lost as a result of these transnational companies selling formula.” Sounds like a pretty radical statement about the reach of transnational corporations. Her proposed solution? Ban bottle-feeding completely.

Fortunately, exceptions would be provided when the mother is not present or is unable to produce the required amount of breast milk, and the law is vague on the punishment for using formula. But there are far too many variables for any such legislation to account for (what if the child simply stops breast-feeding?). And then there’s the notion that any government telling women when and how to use their breasts is objectively ridiculous.

“Every baby has the right to breast-feeding,” says Monzon, who is not a medical expert, and did not comment on the idea that every parent has the right to government non-interference with their normal, harmless methods of child-rearing.

 

5. Banning Saggy Pants

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In July of 2013, the city of Wildwood, New Jersey, enacted a dress code. Responding to general “complaints” from unnamed “visitors,” the city council unanimously passed a bill criminalizing the sagging of pants, punishable by up to $200 in fines and 40 hours of community service.

“There’s a line that gets crossed between being a fashion statement and being obnoxious,” City Commissioner Pete Byron says. “Families can feel threatened.” It’s unclear what threat is implied by semi-exposed boxer shorts, though the popular line is that the trend originated in prisons (which is unclear).

Similar laws are on the books or being proposed in other cities, including Ocean City, Maryland, where Councilman Brent Ashley is pushing an anti-sagging ordinance. He claims, “If you dress like a thug and think like a thug, chances are you’re going to act like a thug.”

 

4. Making Recycling, Composting Mandatory

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We can all get behind recycling and composting in general practice, even though it’s open for debate just how much long-term good they do the environment. It can be safely argued that neither practice holds the key to long-term environmental sustainability—no one thing does. It could also be argued that mandating either practice by law would be ludicrous, but that hasn’t stopped several US cities from doing so.

Many cities from Philadelphia to Seattle have mandatory recycling laws, but none of those mandated recycling of organics (composting), although some have taken a serious look at it. The case for mandatory composting (organics being bio-degradable, of course) is even more suspect, as “keeping waste out of the landfills” seems to be a main focus of these types of ordinances.

In 2009, San Francisco became the first city in the world to mandate recycling and composting under the law. Residents were given a year to adjust and then began receiving fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 for infractions.

 

3. Banning Scantily Clad Mannequins

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While most of the “offenses” on this list are fairly innocuous, nobody is disputing the seriousness of rape as a crime. And while any legislation that would reduce instances of sexual assault would be most welcome, one resolution in the Indian city of Mumbai is severely misguided.

The law would—stay with us here—ban shopkeepers from dressing their display mannequins provocatively. No lingerie, no swimsuits. If you’re not seeing the connection between scantily clad mannequins and rape, then you may just be a reasonable person who understands that this legislation shows a dangerous lack of understanding of the crime it’s intended to prevent.

Most people understand that rape is a crime of violence, one that has little to do with sex, but at its core it’s about asserting dominance and power. Even if it could be successfully argued (it cannot) that sexual images provoke men to rape, as one sensible trade association president pointed out, “We are living in the 21st century where these kinds of things, all porn, the movies, the pictures, all these things are available on websites, available on mobiles. [A] mannequin hardly makes any difference to the people.” The Mumbai City Council nevertheless passed the resolution—in a landslide—in May 2013.

 

2. Banning Glass Pints After 9:00 PM

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In the Scottish Highlands, glass alcohol containers of any kind are outlawed after 9:00 PM in nightclubs. Kit Fraser, owner of the club Hootenanny, says, “It is as if we cannot trust the adult of the species with glass. We give plastic to children, and it should stop there.” But it will not—soon, this rule could extend even beyond nightclubs to anywhere in the Highlands.

It’s easy to see why club owners and restaurateurs believe this could “send the wrong message.” The implication that an entire region of a country cannot be trusted with alcohol and glass notwithstanding, Scottish lawmakers seem to have also forgotten—or discounted—the fact that the region’s whiskey is exalted throughout the world and that asking people to drink it out of plastic could be seen as an insult.

As of this writing, the measure is still up for vote; if approved, it will be enacted by the end of 2013. The Highland Licensing Board will be allowing the public to weigh in on this one though, so it could be in trouble.

 

1. Appointing Child-Raising Police

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And finally, another Scottish bill, which is currently sitting in Parliament, makes the previous entry look level-headed. The redundantly named Children and Young People Bill would serve a similarly redundant purpose—it would appoint secondary parents to children who already have perfectly good ones.

The “named person” (as opposed to a nameless person, we suppose) would bear the responsibility to “promote, support or safeguard the well-being of the child or young person,” which you may recognize as duties that are traditionally performed by parents. The “named person” would have to be a doctor, teacher, or social worker, which seems to mitigate the jaw-droppingly invasive nature of such a proposal at first glance.

But Christopher Booker of the Daily Telegraph pointed out the faultiness of this notion eloquently: “However admirable, in theory, the thought of appointing a ‘guardian’ to watch over every child might seem, experience suggests that, in practice, this may exacerbate those weaknesses in our existing ‘child protection’ system, which make a mockery of the noble aims it was set up to promote.”

The bill may become the first law in the world to extend parental rights, for absolutely no reason, to those who are not parents, and it seems to be the specific piece of legislation for which the term “nanny state” was invented.

10 Badass Gangs From History

Everyone’s heard of gangs like the Triads, Yakuza, the Mexican cartels, or the Bloods and the Crips. Even fictional gangs like The Warriors and Crazy 88 have received attention. Some people call such groups of young, violent men a symbol of social decay as the modern world of video games, violent movies, and music eats away at our values—but we’ve had gangs like this for a long time. Gangs like . . .

 

10. Les Apaches

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Les Apaches were a French street gang that operated in turn-of-the-century Paris before the advent of World War I. They were called Apaches because they were so ferocious during attacks that a policeman, upon hearing of their crimes, exclaimed that they were as vicious as Apache warriors.

They were stylishly dressed, looking like old-timey French hipsters with fancy, striped shirts and berets, creating their own distinct style that would catch on and end up becoming popular in Bohemian circles. But they weren’t just fashion victims—they could actually fight. They practiced their own down-and-dirty martial art called “savate.” This was a fighting style that relied upon kicks and open-handed punches. A group of Apaches would mug Parisian gentlemen with a combination of savate and great numbers creating such a fear in Paris that the upper classes also picked up on it to protect themselves from constant Apache attacks. But it’s not like the Apaches needed martial arts to protect themselves: they had a very specialized weapon that would make James Bond jealous. The Apache pistol also functioned as a knife and folded into a pair of brass knuckles. As you can see, the Apaches didn’t just believe in overkill. They believed in over-overkill.

 

9. The Forty Elephants Gang

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What distinguishes the Forty Elephants gang from the other gangs on our list is that it was entirely female. Before feminism existed, these gals took advantage of the patronizing sexism of the age that meant women were afforded extreme levels of privacy while shopping. It only took a few of these ladies working together to practically strip a store clean of clothing, jewelry, and other loot during a shoplifting spree. The gang operated from some point after the late 1700s right up until the 1950s, mostly targeting areas around London. The most impressive thing about this gang is that men had a completely subservient role within their hierarchy. Their leader was a woman called Maggie Hill who was as deadly as she was pretty—she wore diamond-studded rings like brass knuckles in case things got messy and she had to start swinging her fists.

 

8. The Know-Nothings (aka The Bloody Tubs)

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The Know-Nothings were a group of toughs from Civil War-era Baltimore who fought for something more terrifying than drugs or territory: politics. Working on behalf of nativists (politicians opposed to immigrants), they intimidated people into voting for the candidates they endorsed.

The Know-Nothings got their name from the politicians they supported, who always exclaimed “I know nothing!” when quizzed about the gang. They would block voting booths, stab voters with awls, beat people up, and dunk them into vats full of blood (which earned them their other name “The Bloody Tubs”). They even rounded up voters and kept them in dank basements until they voted the way the Know-Nothings told them to. One of the voters unfortunate enough to receive this treatment was Edgar Allen Poe, who turned ill a few days later and died. They also fought with volunteer firefighters for control of fire hydrants during fires, causing bloody riots while houses burned to the ground. All in all, a nasty bunch.

 

7. Kabukimono

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The Kabukimono (“crazy ones”) are what became of lordless samurai who formed into drunken gangs of what can only be described as feudal Japanese glam rockers. They were mostly heavily armed, disenchanted teenagers who wore women’s clothes and makeup and had their own slang and long hair—sometimes styled ridiculously. Just imagine roving gangs of them, trained to kill, armed with the sharpest swords ever invented—if you have pee in your pants, you’re getting the picture.

Although they looked ridiculous, they were actually deadly—drunkenly dueling in the streets with their swords, committing petty crimes, and generally not caring about anything, having now become wandering gangs of hooligans. Their motto was “I have lived too long!” which paints a pretty clear picture of how much fear the Kabukimono had of the rule of law: zero . Also, there’s a theory floating around that they may have eventually became the yakuza, although modern yakuza don’t really like to equate themselves with the sort of guys who might go to a My Chemical Romance concert (we’re too afraid of the yakuza to press the issue).

 

6. The Vorovsky Mir

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The Vorovsky Mir (“thieves in law”) were formed in the gulags of Soviet Russia as collections of thieves, bandits, and murderers who banded together for mutual protection. They had little love for the short-sighted and brutal regime that created them, and in a kind of wacky echo of the Communist ideal, they created their own criminal code that they each vowed to uphold. If members broke this code, they were put on trial by the gang.

The Vorovsky Mir identified each other with elaborate tattoos, a tradition that still exists today in Russian organized crime (as in the film Eastern Promises). Because it was hard to get certain luxury items before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Vorovsky Mir thrived on smuggling, bringing in clothes and food to Russia. They were so successful that they’ve survived to the present day—in a fashion—eventually evolving into the Russian mafia.

 

5. Mohocks

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Like Les Apaches, this London-based gang from the 18th century also modeled themselves after a Native American tribe and are the sort of gang you only expect to find in movies and nightmares. After a delegation of Native Americans arrived in London to visit the Queen, they created such a stir that a youth gang was formed in their honor who called themselves “mohocks.” They assaulted people at night, slashing and disfiguring their faces, cutting their noses off with knives, beating people up, and even stuffing women into barrels and rolling them down hills.

This was all the more shocking to 18th-century London when rumors that the Mohocks were upper-class youth started going around. This caused moral panic among the lower classes (which mistrusted the gentrified rich folks of London) and plain old fear among the higher classes. And it’s not surprising people were scared. The Mohocks had a habit of getting drunk and creating huge riots. They would attack pedestrians willy-nilly, disfiguring their faces for no real reason, Clockwork Orange-style, gouging out people’s eyes and stabbing them with swords.

 

4. The Five Points Gang

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The Five Points gang was a pre-Prohibition Italian-American New York gang, operating from the mid-19th to the early 20th century from the Five Points district of Manhattan. Al Capone was a member at one point before he went on to bigger and more horrible things. In fact, he received the facial scar which gave him the nickname “Scarface” during a bar fight while serving in the Five Points gang.

And although it was the Mafia who would later go on to popularize the image of the Italian gangster in an expensive designer suit, it was the Five Points gang that was the first to require that all members dressed sharply. They rose to prominence as the worst gang in New York, and possibly the whole of America, with even the Mafia poaching members from them.

 

3. Thuggee

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The Thuggee of 1800s India were a gang of killers, robbers, and assassins who were as deadly and shadowy as ninjas. They left such an impact with their activities that the word “thug” literally derives from them, and they operated with such brutality that they put the Mafia to shame with a Guinness World Record for highest gang death toll (yes there is a record for that, apparently). Every member gave the appearance of being a law-abiding citizen, even telling their wives that they were traveling tradespeople in order to explain their various murderous commutes.

Admittance into the gang was hereditary. So, if your father was a Thuggee, you had to join the family business: murder. The Thuggee chose their victims almost at random, following certain signs that they believed were left by Kali, the goddess of death. They would then befriend the victim and travel with them until the time was right. One of them would say the code words “Bring the tobacco” and the Thuggee would strangle their victim to death and rob them.

 

2. Live Oak Boys

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The Live Oak Boys were a New Orleans group of nasties from the mid-19th century that managed to terrify a city that was already terrified enough. Around this time, cops would only travel in large groups—and even then only during the day and armed to the teeth. And it’s little wonder why. The Live Oak Boys carried the oak clubs they were named after, which they used to spread pandemonium by attacking local bars and saloons and smashing them to pieces. If the proprietor was smart, he would disappear when he saw them coming; if he wasn’t smart he would likely soon be dead.

The Live Oak Boys would usually do this because a rival proprietor had paid them to put a competitor out of business. Of course, sometimes they did it just because they were bored. The leader of the gang was a man named Red Bill Wilson, whose beard was so manly that it was able hold a hidden knife in case of emergencies. We like to imagine that if he and the Forty Elephants leader met up, they’d instantly start dating.

 

1. Scuttlers

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“Scuttlers” is a collective term for the gangs of youths who terrorized Manchester, England, in the 19th century. Each subset came from a different area of the city, which sub-groups of Scuttlers would name themselves after. Scuttlers usually fought among themselves for territory with bottles, knives, sticks, and iron bars. But not over money or drugs or anything else—just to control streets that were probably identical to the ones they already controlled.

They even looked like your average street gang with their own distinctive dress code: scarves and peaked caps on bald heads, shaved around a fringe that came down over one’s left eye. And in case you’re thinking that they don’t sound too bad—like average, yet rough teenagers—maybe you’ll change your mind. They were so hooligan-ish that the term “hooligan” was essentially coined for them, and the Scuttlers absolutely went to war when they got worked up. They went to war in force, with up to 600 of them all fighting for control of a street, avenue, or corner while business owners and householders barricaded themselves inside in fear.

10 Surprisingly Dangerous Animals

Some wild animals aren’t considered dangerous creatures, but sometimes even stereotyped as friendly. Other animal aggressors are so familiar that we may never consider how dangerous these common creatures can become. (They’re called “wild” animals for a reason, right?)

 

10. Leave It To Beaver

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Beavers are widely recognized for their nearly human skill at felling trees and manipulating waterways. These giant rodents possess sharp, always-growing front teeth. Their massive incisors act like living saws on trees, but we seldom imagine beavers as a threat to humans. However, beavers are territorial and defensive, and they will not hesitate to use their teeth.

As once-depleted beaver populations recover across Europe, the animals are faced with limited habitat and widespread human settlement. The overlap in territory is causing an increasing number of confrontations with humans. In addition to a string of injuries, a fisherman in Belarus bled to death when a beaver chomped down on his leg, severing an artery. The man had previously attempted to grab the animal to pose beside it for a photo, as if it were just another fishing catch—bad move.

 

9. A Whale Of A Tale

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We usually reserve a level of respect for marine mammals due to their awesome power and size, but we don’t consider them mean-spirited. The short-finned pilot whale, actually a large dolphin, stands out as a fearsome exception to the rule. Resembling a small sperm whale, it has a personality worthy of the Herman Melville novel.

This sea animal is notorious among marine biologists as a dolphin that has a problem with us. Short-finned pilot whales may display scary behaviors such as jaw snapping when encountering humans. The pilots aren’t bluffing, either. In one disturbing case, a pilot whale broke away from the pod and seized a swimmer by the thigh before dragging her 10 meters (33 ft) below the waves. The swimmer was eventually released—fortunate to survive the near drowning.

 

8. Deer

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We tend to think of deer as harmless herbivores; however, diet has absolutely nothing to do with personality. Plant-eating ungulates possess powerful hooves and massive antlers that can inflict grievous wounds on those who cross a territorial deer. Encounters with wild deer have resulted in humans being charged in the most random and unexpected circumstances, such as one women who was waiting for a bus.

While wild deer attacks have led to serious injuries and even death, human interactions with supposedly “tame” deer have led to equally devastating attacks. In one high-profile case, a Canadian man who owned 11 white-tailed deer was trampled and gored to death by the dominant buck. Deer have social orders of dominance and high mating aggression—just like wolves—and will protect their young in a manner worthy of a mother bear.

 

7. Red Fox

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Wolves get all the blame and trigger unparalleled levels of fear, but a smaller canine may actually pose more of a threat to humans. The red fox is widely considered cunning, but disturbingly, young humans may be treated as potential prey. Foxes may even invade human dwellings to stalk their victims. In a freakish case, two nine-month-olds were attacked while sleeping in their crib and suffered arm injuries. As if that weren’t enough, an infant had his finger bitten off by an aggressive fox in a similar incident. Fortunately, doctors were able to restore the digit.

 

6. Raccoon

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We may be inclined to view raccoons as adorable troublemakers, but these small carnivores launch attacks more like a miniature bear. Raccoons are somewhat doglike animals native to the Americas and have adapted with exceptional success to urban environments. With powerful teeth and razor-sharp claws, habituated raccoons can inflict terrible injuries on both humans and pets. In one of the worst recorded cases, an American woman was badly mauled when a pack of raccoons viciously attacked her. She sustained numerous bites that required staples and anti-rabies injections. In a more recent case, a Canadian city-dweller was charged by a raccoon, which raked her legs with its claws before it was scared off.

 

5. Red-Backed Jumping Spider

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The red-backed jumping spider, an arachnid native to Western North America sports a compact, rounded body with a red abdomen. This species can move at seemingly impossible speeds and, if disturbed, will not hesitate to inflict an exceptionally nasty bite, causing massive swelling and intense pain that may last for several days. Red-backed jumping spiders exhibit excellent memory for an arachnid and possess outstanding stalking abilities.

 

4. Catfish Sting

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Many freshwater catfish such as stonecats or madtoms possess razor-sharp spines that inject potent toxins into its prey. The “stingers” are modified dorsal fins. A wide range of nasty aftereffects include swelling, irritation, and even nausea or weakness for several days. In a limited number of terrifying cases, tissue necrosis and gangrene developed, requiring amputation of digits.

 

3. Parrot Bites

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Parrots are extraordinarily intelligent tropical birds that are also stereotyped as companions of eyepatch-wearing pirates, but in reality, parrot ownership might place you in the market for an eyepatch. Large parrots—such as Amazons, African grays, or macaws—possess extremely powerful bills, capable of removing digits. They are sometimes prone to hostile behavior, which can be directed to the owner. Parrot owners have reported injuries including lost eyes and even amputated fingers. There are also reports of traumatic lip wounds, partial ear lobe loss, and serious facial damage. Fortunately, sound bird-handling practices will usually prevent injury.

 

2. Wild Geese

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Wild geese, especially Canada geese, have become increasingly accustomed to urban ponds and golf courses and are often more numerous in these human environments than their original habitats. However, geese that abandon their wild habitats maintain their territorial nature, leading to potential conflicts with humans. Canada geese attacks have led to broken bones, head injuries, and flesh wounds.

 

1. Hyenas

Being attacked by a hyena might be the worst way to have your day (or life) ruined. Africa’s most abundant large carnivore, striped hyenas possess truly astounding biting power. Contrary to their portrayal as slinking scavengers, hyenas are top predators and aggressive territory defenders that won’t hesitate to attack live victims. Targets sometimes include humans—to horrendous results. One case involved a university student who was killed and eaten, with only his skull and some teeth remaining.

10 Weird Facts About Cats

As with dogs, the domestication of cats was based on mutual benefit. In the earliest days of agriculture, man was forced to deal with an unforeseen consequence: rodents devouring his crop and spoiling his grain. Following voraciously in their footsteps were predators like snakes and owls—and cats. The cats with the friendliest dispositions were eventually welcomed into human settlements, highly valued for their ability to destroy vermin. The house cat was domesticated from the African wildcat approximately 10,000 years ago in the Middle East and has rarely strayed from our side since, worshiped in some cultures as gods and reviled in others as manifestations of the devil himself.

 

10. Mousers

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Cats were first domesticated for their appetite for mice and rats. Today, the average pet owner is content to have kitty do little more than nap, but the cat still possesses a fierce hunting instinct. Those who allow their cats to roam outside will often attest to receiving “gifts” on the welcome mat, the corpses of birds and rodents their pet has hunted down. Even today, cats are employed to kill off rats and mice at such places as Disneyland and the State Hermitage Museum in Moscow, Russia.

Although history has likely graced us with even more voracious hunters, The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes Towser, the Glenturret cat, as the world mousing champion. A female long-haired tortoiseshell, Towser (who lived nearly to her 24th birthday), was stationed in a distillery in Crieff, Scotland, the home of Famous Grouse whisky. During her reign, she killed some 28,899 mice (per Guinness record). Towser’s successor at Glenturret was a cat named Amber, who, despite a nearly 20-year career of her own, was not known to have caught a single mouse.

 

9. Mating

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Anyone who has ever owned a female cat that wasn’t fixed can probably attest to the absolute misery of her heat cycles. She will yowl and constantly attempt to escape the house to meet up with suitors. Male cats who can sense her eagerness will gather around, waiting for their opportunity. The actual mating process is a lurid exchange, as far removed from romance as imaginable. The female looses dreadful screams during the encounter, and for good reason: a male cat’s penis is less an instrument of pleasure than a object of medieval torture. It sports backward-facing barbs like fish hooks made of keratin that rake the inside of the female’s vaginal canal. This agonizing part of the courtship is thought to bring on ovulation.

 

8. Roadkill

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It is probably inevitable that at some point in your life, you will run over an animal while driving. For most, it is a sickening feeling, and we will pull over to do anything we can to help, especially if the animal is obviously a pet. Unfortunately, there are a shocking number of people who will continue on their way even after hitting people, let alone a pet. In the UK, it is illegal not to report a car accident involving a dog, or even a farm animal, but strangely enough, there is no legal obligation to stop if one strikes a cat.

 

7. Milk

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Although your average cat will lap up a saucer of milk like it’s sweet ambrosia, the fact is, they are lactose-intolerant. Like some humans, as they grow, cats stop making the enzyme lactase, which breaks down their mother’s milk. What your friend leaves behind in the litter box after this treat will likely convince you to never give her this treat again. Strangely enough, your cat (and his mortal nemesis, the rat), has kidneys efficient enough to allow it to drink seawater to rehydrate, unlike most species.

 

6. Heroes

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Dogs are well known for tales of lifesaving heroism, but most people think cats seem generally too self-involved for valor. In practice, this is hardly the case. In 2012, a cat that had only been rescued from the Humane Society hours before managed to save its new owner’s life when she had a diabetic seizure. The cat leaped onto her chest as she lost consciousness, nudging and biting at her face until she awoke. The cat then darted into the woman’s son’s room and pestered him until he woke up to call for help.

An even more unbelievable story emerged from Argentina in 2008, when a one-year-old boy was found by police in the city of Misiones, being kept alive by a band of feral cats. The boy, who’d been separated from his homeless father, would likely have died without the intervention of the cats. They snuggled up to him at night to keep him warm and brought him scraps of food. When police approached, the baby’s guardians hissed and spat ferociously at them.

 

5. Savannah Cat

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The tradition of mating domestic cats with their wild ancestors goes back over a hundred years, when the first Bengal cats (domestic felines crossed with Asian leopard cats) were produced. However, despite their exotic appearance, Bengals are for the most part many generations removed from the jungles of their forebears, and possess a devoted, genial nature.

The serval is a small, leopard-spotted African cat between 20 and 40 pounds, perhaps best known for its extremely long legs. Unlike many wild cats, servals can make good pets. In 1986, the first domestic cat was crossed with a serval, producing the Savannah cat. Since becoming available to the public in the ’90s, the Savannah has enjoyed a growing popularity.

Owners claim that Savannah cats have a temperament akin to dogs; they tend to follow their masters and can even be taught to walk on a leash and play fetch. They have incredible leaping ability and many seem to love water. Depending on your locality, it may be illegal to keep one of these cats. Australia in particular, which already has a terrible problem with feral cats decimating native fauna, has banned the importation of Savannah cats. And even if regulations allow you to have one of these beautiful exotic pets, you’d better have deep pockets if you want one—depending on the amount of serval in the bloodline, they can sell for well over $10,000 each.

 

4. The Godfather

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The Godfather is recognized as one of the greatest films in history, ranked at No. 2 behind Citizen Kane by the American Film Institute. The winner of three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay, every aspect of the movie has been exhaustively studied, especially the marble-mouthed patriarch, Vito Corleone. When we are introduced to the ruthless mob boss, he is decked out in a tuxedo, celebrating his daughter’s wedding, absently stroking his cat. It is a powerful moment, the dichotomy of the Don’s ruthless power and his tenderness toward his pet. It was, however, entirely accidental. The cat did not feature in the screenplay at all—it was a stray that had wandered onto the set. Marlon Brando picked it up to play with it, and the rest is cinematic history.

 

3. The Black Death

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Gregory IX was Pope from 1227 until his death in 1241, his reign characterized by provoking crusades and brutal inquisitions against those deemed heretical. He also seemed to be convinced that the people were worshiping black cats as manifestations of the devil. His influence led to large-scale massacres of cats throughout Europe, a campaign which would go on to have horrible, unforeseen consequences 100 years later. In the late 1340s, when rats infected with the Black Plague swept out of Asia, they found Europe to be a veritable utopia, unprotected by the cats that would have thinned their ranks (and likely saved millions of lives). Thankfully, recent popes have been more tolerant of cats. Pope Benedict was known to have a particular affinity for felines, who would follow him around the Vatican grounds.

 

2. Declawing

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Like the cropping of ears and the docking of tails in dogs, declawing cats is a hot-button issue in the pet community.  While many owners who have come home to find a shredded couch might believe that declawing is a reasonable solution to their problem, the surgery required to remove the claws is quite brutal.  Because the nail grows out of the bone, the veterinarian is required to cut off the end of the cat’s toe, something akin to snipping your fingers off at the first knuckle.   Declawing is a relatively common process in the US, with only a few localized areas outlawing it (such as the city of San Francisco), but it is seen as animal cruelty and is illegal in several countries throughout the world, including most of Europe, Israel, Brazil, and Japan.

 

1. Nine Lives

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The phrase “cats have nine lives” has become such a common part of the vernacular that few pause to consider its implications. The cat, with its speed and uncanny agility, would seem to defy death at every turn. The animal’s greatest accomplishment would seem to be its ability to regularly survive falls from any height. Human beings, for want of comparison, are terrible at falling. Although there are cases of people surviving insane tumbles (in 1972, stewardess Vesna Vulovic lived after falling over 9,000 meters—30,000 feet—from a damaged plane), a human is generally in big trouble after about three stories.

A falling cat has several mechanisms for survival. Perhaps most importantly, its sense of balance acts as a sort of internal gyroscope called “aerial righting reflex.” After dropping a few feet, it is all but guaranteed to land on all fours. The cat’s loose, muscular legs act as springs upon landing, distributing the sudden impact. Being relatively lightweight, the cat has a much lower terminal velocity (the maximum speed at which it can fall) than a human: cats reach about 60 mph; humans easily double that.

This is more than mere conjecture; there are dozens of reports of cats falling from enormous heights and walking away with little more than bruises. In 2011, an elderly cat named “Gloucester” fell 20 stories from an Upper West Side, Manhattan apartment with minor injuries. The following year, a cat in Boston (named “Sugar”) tumbled 19 floors. In 2009, another Manhattan cat fell an astonishing 26 floors, this time with photo evidence taken by nearby window washers. This fortunate feline’s name? “Lucky.”

10 Real-Life Hidden Treasures You Could Still Find

Everyone wants to find a hidden treasure. Just imagine walking around in the woods and stumbling across a treasure chest of money. Pirates hid them all the time, sunken ships hold endless amounts of wealth under the sea, and some people are giving away their life savings just for the fun of it. Treasures are hidden all around us, and all we have to do is search for them.

 

10. Forrest Fenn Hidden Treasure

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Forrest Fenn wants you to have all of his money when he dies.

When Fenn was only nine years old, he found an arrowhead near his home in Texas—an arrowhead that would shape the rest of his life. Fenn fell in love with ancient artifacts. After becoming a pilot in the air force in the 1960s, Fenn regularly flew his plane to Pompeii to look for artifacts, of which he found plenty.

When the 1980s hit, Fenn was diagnosed with kidney cancer and told he would only have a few years to live. With his mortality looking him right in the face, Fenn decided to hide his most beloved artifacts and give everyone the clues to find his treasure, which he estimates to hold $1–3 million worth of gold, jewelry, and other valuable artifacts.

 

9. Treasure At Little Bighorn

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For many Americans in the late 1800s, traveling west and striking it rich by finding gold didn’t seem like an absurd idea. Some didn’t even make it all the way to the Pacific. A few men struck it rich when they found gold in Montana. When fewer and fewer men found gold in Middle America, more and more of them continued west. But they probably should have kept looking.

According to some experts, Captain Grant Marsh was in charge of the Far West, a steamboat making its way up the Bighorn River to resupply General George Custer in his fight against the Indians. When Captain Marsh heard of General Custer’s defeat and found out he would have to take injured men away from the battlefield, the only thing he could do to keep the ship from sinking under the weight of so many injured men was to bury the $375,000 worth of gold bars on the shores of the Bighorn River. Some say that Marsh had collected the gold bars from worried gold miners who didn’t want to be attacked by the Sioux.

 

8. Treasure In The Mojave Dessert

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It may sound crazy that an oceangoing ship sunk 160 kilometers (100 mi) inland of the Pacific Ocean—in the Mojave Dessert no less—but if it is true, there are millions of dollars’ worth of pearls in the Salton Sea.

Experts believe a large tide from the Gulf of California collided with runoff from the Colorado River. Enough water runoff developed that the ship (presumed to be Spanish) was carried into the Salton Sea. The ship would have been forgotten forever if it weren’t for the abundance of pearls on board.

Surprisingly, there is a twist to the story. In 1870, the Los Angeles Star produced a story about a man named Charley Clusker who went out in search of the ship and actually found the treasure. But since the date the story ran, no other mention of Clusker or the ship he “found” has been dug up, leading many people to believe the ship and its pearls are still out there.

 

7. Mosby’s Treasure In Virginia

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Confederate Commander Colonel John Singleton Mosby was one sneaky fighter during the Civil War. He and his men were known as Mosby’s Raiders for their lightning-quick raids of Union camps and their ability to elude the Union Army by blending in with the local townspeople. He was essentially like Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot, but without all of the drama.

After one of his many raids, which took place about 75 kilometers (46 mi) south of the Confederate line at Culpeper, Virginia, Mosby took Union General Edwin Stoughton prisoner, as well as a burlap sack containing $350,000 worth of gold, silver, and family heirlooms. The problem was, Mosby had also captured 42 other men during the raid and had to take them back through Union territory and across the Confederate line.

Following a route that parallels today’s US 211, Mosby’s Raiders traveled south until they ran into a large contingency of Union soldiers. Unwilling to part with his treasure, Mosby instructed his men to bury the treasure between two large pine trees in case of a battle. Mosby marked the trees with his knife, and the Raiders headed back along their route and across the Confederate line without any trouble from the Union.

Unfortunately for Mosby, when he sent back seven of his most trusted men, they were all caught and hanged. Mosby never returned to look for the treasure.

 

6. $63 Million Hidden In Bedford County, Virginia

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Thomas Beale must have been a strange man. Legend has it that in 1816, Beale and a few men he was traveling with came into a large sum of gold and silver while mining somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. With such a large fortune, estimated to be around $63 million in today’s money, all of the men wanted to make sure their next of kin would get the money should they perish. So Beale wrote three ciphers. One described the exact location of the treasure, the second described the contents of the treasure, and the third was a list of the men’s names and their next of kin. Beale then entrusted Robert Morriss, a Lynchburg, Virginia innkeeper, with the safekeeping of a box containing the ciphers.

Morriss was supposed to wait 10 years before opening it. At this point, if Beale did not return for the box, a key to the cipher was supposed to be mailed to Morriss. But it never arrived. For years, Morriss and a friend tried to decode the three ciphers, but they could only manage the second cipher (the one describing the contents of the treasure).

 

5. Treasure Of Jean LaFitte

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Jean LaFitte, along with his brother Pierre, were French pirates who made their living attacking merchant ships in the Gulf of Mexico and then selling the goods at one of their many ports or through a warehouse they owned. Apparently, the two brothers were so good at smuggling and pirating that they amassed enough wealth that they had to resort to burying some it.

After LaFitte died sometime between 1823 and 1830, legend of his treasures began circulating around Louisiana. Claims have been made that there are large caches of treasure buried somewhere in Lake Borgne, right off the coast of New Orleans, and another about five kilometers (three miles) east of the Old Spanish Trail near the Sabine River in a gum tree grove.

 

4. Butch Cassidy’s $20,000 Treasure

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Butch Cassidy is arguably one of the most notable outlaws of the Wild West. He was such an outlaw that he even formed an outlaw group, called the Wild Bunch, to travel with him, robbing whomever they felt like. Before the law was hot on his tail, Cassidy and the Wild Bunch actually buried $20,000 somewhere in Irish Canyon, located in the northwestern part of Colorado in Moffat County.

 

3. John Dillinger’s Buried Treasure

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Being an outlaw means you have money, and everyone knows John Dillinger had a lot of money. Only months before he died, he buried $200,000 in Wisconsin.

Dillinger was hiding out with a few of his outlaw buddies in April 1934. FBI agents found out they were hiding in the Little Bohemia Lodge in Mercer, Wisconsin, and they surrounded Dillinger, along with “Baby Face” Nelson and the other men. The FBI shot the first three men walking out the door, all three of whom happened to be civilians. Amid all the confusion, the gangsters were able to escape out a back entrance. It is said that Dillinger ran a few hundred meters (yards) north of the roadhouse where he buried $200,000 in small bills inside a suitcase.

Just two months later, Dillinger was shot to death in Chicago, never getting the chance to go back to find the money.

 

2. $200 Million Off The Coast Of Key West

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In 1622, the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha was heading back to Spain when it was caught in a hurricane off the coast of Key West. Many ships perished in the hurricane, all of which were carrying an enormous cargo of gold, silver, and gems that has been valued to fetch around $700 million today.

But most of the loot has already been found. In 1985, treasure hunter Mel Fisher found $500 million of the buried treasure less than 160 kilometers (100 mi) off the coast of Key West.

Experts believe there is still plenty of treasure to find. The original captain’s manifest states there are still about 17 tons of silver bars, 128,000 coins of different values, 27 kilos of emeralds, and 35 boxes of gold.

 

1. The Treasure Of San Miguel

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In 1712, Spain assembled one of the richest treasure fleets to ever be assembled at that time. By 1715, Spain had amassed a fleet of 11 ships, all filled to the brim with silver, gold, pearls, and jewels, which are estimated to be worth about $2 billion by today’s standards.

The plan for the ships was to leave from Cuba for the mainland just before hurricane season hit, hoping the hurricane season would be a deterrent to pirates and privateers. It turned out that leaving so close to hurricane season was a mistake. Just six days after leaving the shores of Cuba, all of the ships had sunk, thousands of sailors had died, and every bit of gold, silver, and jewelry was doomed to lay at the bottom of the sea.

Since then, seven of the ships have been recovered, but experts believe only a small amount of the valuables on the ships has been found.

The one ship that has yet to be found is the San Miguel—the ship that experts believe contains most of the treasure.

But where is it? Well, most of the ships that have been found have been located off the eastern shores of Florida, although some of the ships may have made it farther out to sea before sinking.

10 New Technologies That Will Make You A Cyborg

If you look at the history of human culture, most of our technology was created with the purpose of making something easier. But recently we’ve been moving in a new direction: instead of creating technology that we can use, we’re making technology that makes it easier for us to use ourselves. There’s something terrifyingly romantic about the idea of a cyborg—the merging of man and machine—and these new technologies serve as subtle reminders that we are nudging our civilization inexorably closer to the brink of a cyborg age.

 

10. Vibrotactile Gloves

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One of the attractions of becoming a cyborg is the possibility of extra senses. Humans have five senses (depending on how you divide them up), and most of them are linked to a specific organ. For example, you see with your eyes. But what if you had the ability to “see” with your hands when conditions weren’t the best for vision? Well, ask Anthony Carton and Lucy Dunne of the University of Minnesota, who are developing technology that will help firefighters navigate through smoke without needing to actually see.

It’s called the vibrotactile glove, and it uses a pair of gloves outfitted with an ultrasonic rangefinder. Inside the glove is a series of vibrating motors that, when activated by the rangefinder, will map the position of surrounding obstacles on the back of the wearer’s hand. A firefighter will be able to hold his hand in front of him and “feel” the position of everything in the room.

 

9. Display-Enhanced Forearm

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The area between a person’s wrist and elbow serves a very important function. Specifically, it keeps your wrist connected to your elbow. But to Simon Oberding and his team at Singapore University, that area is nothing more than wasted space. What Oberding plans to do with the forearms of the future is turn them into digital displays. He’s developed a prototype that straps onto the forearm and has four separate screens, each of which shows a different set of data. For example, one screen can display GPS directions while another scans YouTube for interesting videos.

At its core, Oberding’s prototype is just an extended wristwatch. To reach true cyborg level, you have to dig a little deeper and implant the watch directly under your skin. A Toronto software company—called AutoDesk—has been experimenting with implanted user interfaces. They don’t have a specific goal for the technology yet, but they’ve managed to successfully implant a touch sensor in the forearm of a cadaver and charge the embedded electronics with a Bluetooth receiver. They are still working on making the tech commercially viable.

 

8. Muscle-Propelled Force Feedback

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Haptic technology—or force feedback—is not new. If you’ve played a video game with a vibrating controller, you’ve experienced haptic technology—the rumble pack vibrates simultaneous with action in the game, providing a sensation along with the visual image. In some cases, force feedback is used to make you do something specific by creating a force that you naturally try to counter. Think of it like someone pushing you sideways—your body resists and pushes back towards them in an effort to maintain your balance.

Most devices that use haptic technology create the force with a vibrating motor, but there are limits to how small that can get, which means there are limits to what it can be used for. A team of German researchers threw out the motors entirely; instead, they use electrical stimulation on the muscles to force a response. In testing, they had volunteers play an airplane game on a smart phone while strong gusts of wind (in the game) periodically knocked the plane off course. As the “winds” hit, the player’s right arm would jerk up, tilting the game to the left and forcing them to compensate by using their other arm to tilt the phone back to the right position.

Video games aside, muscle-propelled force feedback will eventually be used when you’re trying to learn something new. So if you’re golfing, electrical impulses could gently nudge your body into the correct posture for the perfect swing.

 

7. Brainwave Sensors

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We’ve already discussed the huge strides in reading brainwaves, like one experiment in which researchers flew a helicopter with brain signals picked up by an EEG sensor.

But using a different type of brainwave reader—known as functional near-infrared spectroscopy, or fNIRS—a group of researchers at Tufts University has developed a device that will not only pick up brainwaves, but actually organizes that data to tap into personal preferences. In this case, the fNIRS data was linked to a brain-computer interface that was able to accurately display movie recommendations. Stranger yet, the more a person used the system, the more accurate the predictions became, as if it was actually learning about that person over time.

These sensors are difficult to use in everyday settings because little things like head movements can disrupt the signal, but the same team is developing a program that can effectively filter out this noise. This could lead to a seamless brain-to-machine connection that will be able to make the perfect decision for you every time. It could tell you what movie you want to watch, what you want to eat, or even what kind of car you want to buy.

 

6. Fully Articulated Prosthetics

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Perhaps the oldest form of cyborg technology is the prosthetic limb. We know that the ancient Egyptians used prosthetics, but we’ve come a long way from carving blocks of wood into the shape of a toe. In fact, we’ve made more progress in that area in the past decade or so than the rest of history combined. Take the BeBionic myoelectric prosthetic hand, which can move every finger joint individually via a connection to the skin and muscles in the amputee’s upper arm. A tiny twitch will orient the hand into a different position based on the electrical current running through the skin—giving the prosthetic full articulation that’s almost, but not quite, as realistic as using a real hand.

It takes a little practice, but eventually you can perform a huge number of tasks that wouldn’t be possible with a less advanced prosthetic, such as tying your shoelaces or using a computer mouse.

 

5. Nano-Fractal Implants

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In 2005, neuroscientist Armand R. Tanguay Jr. wowed the world with his bionic eye that attached to the retina and received images from a digital camera mounted on a pair of sunglasses. But the future of bionic eyes looks even stranger—physicist Richard Taylor is developing an “implant” made of self-assembling fractal-shaped nanomaterial that can mimic eye neurons.

The biggest problem with cameras is that they don’t provide information in the same structure that the eye is used to. Retinal neurons are branched, like a fractal pattern, and a camera sends signals in a straight line. When a camera is plugged into a blind person’s retina, most of the information is lost in the gap between machine and living tissue. That’s why nearly every retinal implant to this point results in a hazy, grainy, black-and-white image—far from the resolution achieved by the human eye.

Taylor’s “nanoflowers” would form a more appropriate connection when implanted in the retina. Since they more closely resemble naturally occurring neurons, they would be able to mesh almost seamlessly with the still-working parts of a blind person’s eye, letting the brain receive the full transmission from a camera.

The next step is building a camera that can see with the 127-megapixel resolution of the human eye. At that point, a blind person would have perfect vision.

 

4. Merging Vehicles And Humans

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This project, dubbed Homunculus, seems a little silly on the surface. However, it’s also one of the first experiments of its kind to attempt to merge a human with a vehicle, and the implications could potentially change the way we communicate with our cars. As the researchers put it, “We propose the situation that humans and vehicles can be unified as one unit.”

The current approach with Homunculus is geared toward pedestrian safety. For example, an onboard camera tracks the driver’s head movements, while a pair of eyes attached to the front of the car copies those movements. This allows a pedestrian to see if the driver is looking at them. Strips of infrared sensors on the sides of the car connect to two vibrating motors on the driver’s arms, signaling when something (a small child, for instance) is close to the car.

 

3. Taste Changing

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If you’ve seen the The Matrix, you might remember when one of the characters comments about how the machines couldn’t figure out what chicken tasted like—and that’s why everything tastes like chicken. It’s a throwaway joke, but if you think about it, how would you break down the elements of something as abstract as “flavor,” and reproduce them at will?

That’s the question Hiromi Nakamura and Homei Miyashita have been tackling for the past two years, and they have successfully managed to change the flavor of food at the flick of a switch with electric currents. Their goal is to use artificial taste sensation to enhance the realism of virtual reality simulators. In other words, if you’re using a virtual reality headset and you go through the motions of eating a piece of cake, a tiny device attached to your tongue will produce the right type of current to make you literally taste the cake.

Their second goal is to develop something like an electric straw, which you can program to deliver the taste you want—no matter what you’re drinking. It’s not unrealistic to see that technology evolve into a tongue implant that lets you choose what you want to taste.

 

2. Telescopic Vision

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“Superpower” is a term that shouldn’t be thrown around lightly, but that might be the only way to describe a contact lens that’s being tested at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Using a liquid crystal shutter embedded in the contact lens, a person wearing it would be able to instantly switch between normal vision and 2.8x magnification, giving them telescopic vision on demand.

And surprisingly, it works. The contact lens was already tested on a life-size model of an eye, and the technology was put into a modified pair of 3-D glasses to test on a real human. The only hurdle the team is facing right now is putting the liquid crystal shutter onto a softer plastic, like the kind used in most contact lenses today. In true cyborg fashion, the lens has been dubbed the “Terminator Lens.”

 

1. Parasitic Humanoid

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The Parasitic Humanoid, developed by a team at Osaka University in Japan, turns the previously mentioned force feedback into the ultimate tool for skill transmission. Basically, the device is worn on the head, and sensors spread out to the different parts of the wearer’s body. As the person goes through the motions of an activity, the computer learns what the proper movements should be. Eventually, it’s able to “teach” those motions to someone else using force feedback.

In this video, two of the Parasitic Humanoids are being used simultaneously. One is attached to an expert, and it’s connected to a second parasite on another person. The second person can feel—as well as see—what the expert is doing and seeing, allowing them to copy a complex skill without any formal training. As the system improves, the researchers plan to use a single parasite that’s already been programmed with the desired skill. In the relatively near future, you might be able to buy a Parasitic Humanoid, download any skill, and learn it almost immediately.

10 Largest Things Of Their Kind In The World

Humankind has always been impressed by really, really large things. Whether natural (like the Grand Canyon, which hosts around five million visitors per year) or man-made (like, say, the world’s largest fire hydrant in Beaumont, Texas, which draws considerably fewer), we seem to be inexorably drawn to things that make us feel tiny.

It seems that in our never-ending quest to list interesting things, though, some of the largest have been strangely overlooked.

 

10. Airplane

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What you see in the image above is the AN-225 “Mriya,” a Ukrainian airliner, giving a piggyback ride to a Russian space shuttle. Yes, the world’s largest aircraft is capable not only of delivering hundreds of tons of cargo and complete, arena-sized concert stages, it’s the aircraft you will need if you’re transporting other aircraft—a Boeing 737 can fit inside its cargo hold.

Built in 1988, it was easily (by 50 percent) the largest plane in the world at the time—and remains so today (yes, there is only one of these). Inactive for about seven years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the massive aircraft was restored and put back into service in 2001, and it gets plenty of use, since it can transport cargo that literally no other plane on Earth can.

Construction began on a companion to “Mriya” (translated as “dream” or “inspiration”), but stalled, probably because it would require another $300 million to complete. It’s landing gear has an astounding 32 wheels, and it holds the world record for heaviest airlifted payload, almost 560 tons—far short of its maximum rated takeoff weight of 640 tons. Its wingspan is the length of a football field, and it’s almost that long from nose to tail as well.

 

9. Outdoor Swimming Pool

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Most hotel swimming pools are nothing special—they’re known for being small, crowded, and shallow. In an attempt to keep those adjectives out of their pool, designers of the outdoor swimming pool at San Alfonso Del Mar Resort in Chile seem to have overcompensated a bit.

In photos, it looks like some kind of weird, clear lagoon running the length of the resort’s main beach. Upon further inspection, yes, it is actually a swimming pool, and the sheer numbers associated with it boggle the mind. Covering 20 acres, the pool is over 900 meters (3,000 ft) long (the second-longest, in Morocco, is a measly 137 meters). Its deep end is 35 meters (115 ft)—also a world record—and it holds 66 million gallons of water. Also, it could engulf 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools, took five years and nearly $1 billion to build, and costs about $2 million yearly to maintain.

The pool uses an advanced suction and filtration system and virtually no chemicals, making it surprisingly environmentally friendly. Says biochemist Fernando Fischmann, whose company designed the pool: “As long as we have access to unlimited seawater, we can make it work, and it causes no damage to the ocean.”

 

8. Cave

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In 2009, a local farmer brought a group of British explorers to the entrance of a cave he had found years earlier in Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. They were excited at the prospect of finding a new cave system, but what they found was an underground river running along the floor of the single largest cave passage that has yet been found.

Take another look at the above image; in case you missed it, there’s a caver standing on the rock near the middle of the frame. Note that you cannot see the cavern’s ceiling above him. The cave is in a very remote region—previous cave-seeking expeditions to the area likely came very close to finding it, but the terrain is exceedingly difficult. At least five kilometers (three miles) long, the cavern boasts natural skylights (where weaker limestone has washed away) and spectacular ceilings nearly 300 meters (1,000 ft) high.

 

7. Vacuum Chamber

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Vacuum chambers are used to recreate the conditions of space: to see, for instance, how matter clumps together in the absence of gravity or to test components of space suits. There are some very large ones out there, but only one so large that it’s capable of performing environmental testing on a completely assembled spacecraft: the Plum Brook chamber in Sandusky, Ohio.

The chamber has been used for testing of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, a craft that NASA hopes will one day take astronauts back to the moon and maybe to Mars or distant asteroids. The Plum Brook chamber is 37 meters (122 ft) tall—easily sufficient to fit the spacecraft, at 23 meters (75 ft)—and an incredible 863,000 cubic feet. If you’d like to get a really good idea of the chamber’s immense size, though, just watch The Avengers again. The opening scene, in which Loki steals the Cosmic Cube, was filmed in it.

 

6. Waterfall

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Inga Falls, along the Congo in Kinshasa, Zaire, is certainly not the tallest waterfall in the world. Heck, it’s not even close—its longest drop is a measly 21 meters (70 ft). (There are three waterfalls in the world with drops over 3,000 feet, to put that in perspective.) At four kilometers (2.5 mi) wide, it may not be the widest of falls, either—but it moves more water than any other waterfall on the planet. A lot more, as it turns out.

Most are familiar with the image of Niagara Falls, or perhaps Victoria Falls, as a standard for huge, terrifying falls that move (literal) tons of water. Victoria moves a lot: over 38,000 cubic feet per second. Niagara moves over twice that much: around 85,000. Inga Falls has an average discharge rate well over 10 times that of Niagara—over 900,000 cubic feet of water per second. Its closest competitor, Livingstone Falls (along the same river), discharges 25,000 cubic feet per second less than Inga; the next closest doesn’t even compare. Niagara and Victoria Falls come in 11th and 15th on that list, respectively.

 

5. Salt Flats

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The Salar de Uyuni (“Uyuni Salt Flat”) lies atop an extremely high plateau in southwestern Bolivia—at almost 3,600 meters (12,000 ft), the elevation is twice as high as mile-high Denver, Colorado. The salt is as thick as the air is thin (several meters thick, in most places), and the sheer surface area is astonishing—over 10,000 square kilometers (4,000 square miles).

The area, of course, produces a lot of salt. Also? Plenty of lithium. Enormous untapped reserves lie beneath the surface of the flats, comprising an estimated one-half to two-thirds of the world’s reserves. While it looks exceedingly desolate, the area is also home to one of the world’s largest pink flamingo habitats and about 80 other bird species.

The area has another amazing feature: for much of the year, a thin layer of water covers the surface. This produces the effect seen in the above photo. The world’s largest salt flat appears, during these seasonal times, to be the world’s largest mirror.

 

4. Zoo

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When it comes to naming the world’s largest zoo, there’s more than one way to skin a . . . to calculate such a thing: by area, by the number of species on display, or a matrix involving both. The latter actually makes the most sense—at 12,000 acres, Red McCombs Wildlife in Texas could be considered the largest zoo by acreage, but only hosts about 20 species.

So while it has neither the largest acreage nor the highest number of individual species on display, travel website Touropia proclaimed Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, to be the largest in the world using the combined matrix. The 130-acre complex hosts 17,000 animals of over 960 different species and welcomes over 1.5 million visitors annually. The zoo is also home to the world’s largest indoor desert and has the biggest cat complex and largest geodesic dome in North America.

 

3. Power Station

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For almost 20 years, the Chinese government forged ahead with the Three Gorges Dam project, despite concerns both at home and abroad about its potential ramifications. The threats to the surrounding environment and historical areas, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of locals displaced by the project, were all downplayed by officials throughout the dam’s construction. Only after its completion, at an estimated cost of $23 billion, did China admit that perhaps there were some valid environmental concerns.

And indeed: over one million residents of the Yangtze Valley were displaced by the project, and environmentalists are concerned that its lake has now become a dumping ground for industrial waste. Other environmental and logistic problems (like downstream ports being unable to accommodate ships after a 2011 drought) have also presented themselves in the wake of the dam’s completion.

But the numbers, in terms of power production and sheer scale, are mind-boggling. Standing at 2.4 kilometers (1.5 mi) in length and 180 meters (600 ft) in height, the dam enables oceangoing vessels to sail directly into mainland China for months out of the year and generates as much electricity as 18 nuclear power plants. Its capacity (22,500 megawatts) dwarfs that of it closest competitor, Itaipu Dam in South America (14,000 megawatts).

 

2. Video Screen

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Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil is a big building. Nearing completion at the time of this writing, it seats nearly 50,000 and will be the 11th-largest stadium in Brazil, when it plays host to several FIFA World Cup football matches in 2014. It’s a sharp, modern structure, but its facade is what landed it on this list—the entire front of the building is one giant video screen.

The screen will be capable of displaying images, video, and scoreboard information that will be visible to anyone even glancing in the stadium’s general direction. At 20 meters (65 ft) high and an astonishing 170 meters (560 ft) long, the screen is comprised of 34,000 LEDs and is easily the biggest video screen in the world.

To put that in perspective: Americans’ jaws dropped when the gigantic video monitors of Cowboys Stadium were unveiled to the world in 2009. But the Cowboys’ monitors fail to place in the top five largest video monitors in the world, and they’re not even one-third of the length of the gargantuan Arena Corinthians facade.

 

1. Freestanding Structure

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Finally, we go back to China, where the New Century Global Center opened for business in July 2013. In terms of its footprint, it is the largest man-made freestanding structure on the planet—almost 1.8 million square meters (19 million square feet) of space.

Taking three years to complete, the structure holds a 14-screen IMAX theater, an ice skating rink large enough to host sanctioned international competitions, a complete replica Mediterranean village, and (of course) a water park. The water park alone can accommodate 6,000 visitors at once, all of whom could easily be put up in the 2,000 available hotel rooms. But even these details don’t do justice to the immense scope of this facility—inside this building, you could fit 20 Sydney Opera Houses. Or over 300 football fields. Or Monaco.