Monthly Archive: April 2014

The Strange Funeral Rites Of The Tana Toraja

The Toraja people of Indonesia practice bizarre funeral rituals. The dead spend several months in temporary coffins until the family can afford a funeral. During this time, wooden dolls (pictured) of the deceased are carved and are left looking out over the land. When enough money is saved up, lavish parties are held and the coffins are stored in cliff caves or hung by ropes from the face of the cliffs. Every few years, they visit the mummified corpses of their family members. The bodies are cleaned and changed into new clothes, and damaged coffins are replaced.

The Myth Of The Ravens Of The Tower Of London

No trip to London is complete without stopping by the Tower of London to see, among other things, the iconic ravens. It’s long been said that should the ravens ever leave the Tower, the monarchy would fall, but now it’s been found that that saying hasn’t been around as long as people have thought. It’s likely a Victorian-era invention, started to keep pet ravens from being kicked out of the Tower.

The Computer That’s Infected With Schizophrenia

In an attempt to link schizophrenia with the excessive production of dopamine, researchers built a computerized neural network that would mimic the reaction of a brain overloaded with the substance. The network, called DISCERN, became quickly unstable, communicating with delusional stories and disjointed, nonsensical statements. It even answered one question by claiming credit for a terrorist bombing.

The Best Margin Illustrations Came From Bored Monk Scribes

We’ve all seen beautifully illustrated medieval manuscripts, but next time you see one, take a closer look. Monks who were bored, aching, and sore from long hours copying manuscripts word for word often doodled in the margins of the books they were working on. This marginalia provides an epic, humorous look into the lives of those who were caught in the most dreary of 9-to-5 medieval office jobs.

How The Real Sherwood Forest Helped Win World War II

In August 1942, Britain was under siege from German U-boats preventing much-needed supplies from coming into the island. Oil, incredibly important for the mechanized war, was running out. Britain was two months from organizing a peace treaty with Germany. But salvation was at hand from the discovery of a field of high-quality oil in the middle of Sherwood Forest. Hidden from bombers, this reserve would go on to potentially save the war while staying one of the war’s best-kept secrets.

The Mad Scottish Doctor Of A Castle In Jamaica

In the 1760s, a Scottish doctor named Lewis Hutchinson immigrated to Jamaica. There, he settled in an estate called Edinburgh Castle, quickly claiming the title of Jamaica’s first known serial killer. Utilizing slave labor, he slaughtered an unknown number of travelers, shooting them and then desecrating their bodies. Many of his victims were dumped down a gaping 98-meter (322 ft) sinkhole, never to be seen again.

When 150 Tornadoes Hit The US In One Day

In 1974, the word “outbreak” took on a whole new (though no less deadly) connotation when there was a massive outbreak of tornadoes in the Midwestern United States. In a matter of 15 hours, 148 separate tornadoes left a path of destruction over 13 states. At the end, hundreds of people were dead, thousands injured, and the damage was estimated at around half a billion dollars.

We Aren’t Born With A Finite Number Of Brain Cells

It’s long been thought that humans are born with all the brain cells that we’ll ever have. Some researchers have been fighting that theory for decades and were met with extreme resistance—one even was forced to give up a research career in disgrace. But it turns out that he was right. A process called neurogenesis has been proven to occur in the brains of first rats, then other large mammals, then in humans.

When German Civilians Toured Nazi Camps After The War

In April 1945, the Allied Forces began to liberate concentration camps. Determined to show the world just how heinous the Nazis were, General Dwight Eisenhower opened the camps up for tours, which were given to journalists, soldiers, politicians, and local Germans. After seeing the horrors of the Ohrdruf concentration camp, the mayor of nearby Gotha, Germany committed suicide.