About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

Crushing Diamonds with Giant Lasers

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Livermore Lab has the world’s most powerful laser, the National Ignition Facility. Smith and colleagues used its 176 beams to squeeze a tiny diamond target. The team got up to 50 million atmospheres of pressure, that’s about 10 times the density of the Earth’s core.

The diamond at the center of the capsule was at the density of lead before it was vaporized by the laser energy. The results, published in Nature, prove that diamond can withstand this kind of crushing.

Because, I suppose, one can. It also bodes well for the gas giant Neptune in our own solar system which is believed to have a core partially composed of diamond under extremely high pressures.

Via NPR.

Starvation Can Affect Future Generation Through Parental RNA

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Evidence from human famines and animal studies suggests that starvation can affect the health of descendants of famished individuals.

A new study, involving roundworms, shows that starvation induces specific changes in so-called small RNAs and that these changes are inherited through at least three consecutive generations, apparently without any DNA involvement.

Yet again, modern science hands Jean-Baptiste Lamarck a (partial) posthumous victory. File under: “Science is Weird”.

Image via Columbia University Medical Center.
From the journal Cell via Science Daily for extensive quotations from the original Columbia University Medical Center article.

The Amoeba That Eats Human Eyeballs

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Taiwanese student Lian Kao, 23, reportedly did not remove her limited-wear, disposable contact lenses for six months straight and even wore them while swimming.

As a result, amoeba got under her lenses and tunnelled through her corneas, causing permanent damage that led to blindness in both eyes. The single-cell bug, called Acanthamoeba, can survive in tap water, swimming pools and hot tubs.

Other bacteria are actually more common, it should be noted, and complete loss of sight is fairly extreme, and scarring that impairs vision partially is not uncommon in situations like this.

Via CBC News for the full article.

Carnivorous Kangaroos

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[F]ootage of a kangaroo eating a bird on the beach.

Captured by Sam from Rustic Pathways Travel in March 2013, this footage challenges current beliefs that kangaroos are strict herbivores.

Shit, Australia, are there any animals in your country that won’t murder me? I mean, I get the spiders and the snakes, but really…kangaroos, too? Today it’s just birds, but tomorrow…people. Just saying.

Still planning on going there in a year or two, though. Now I just have carnivorous kangaroos to look out for, too.

Via Sam Murray on YouTube

The Thai Buddhist Funerary Practice of the Lang Pa Cha

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The photos were taken on 13 March 2009 at a cemetery in a southwestern province of Thailand (Prachaub Khiri Khan Province).

For Buddhists in Thailand, the burial of the deceased is not as widely-practiced as cremation. Buddhists are normally buried rather than cremated when they have no relatives, or when their relatives cannot afford to pay for the cremation.

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Cemeteries in rural provinces in Thailand often run out of space as a result of too many bodies being buried in limited amount of land.

So the Buddhists in Thailand practice a religious tradition called “Lang Pa Cha” (which means “the cleaning and tidying of the cemetery”), where volunteers will dig up bodies that were unclaimed by any relatives and cremate them to honour their spirits in accordance with the Buddhist religious rites. Such a ritual is considered to be a good deed and a merit-making process.

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At every “Lang Pa Cha” religious ritual, a large number of unclaimed bodies is always found. (In the case of the photos taken here, 64 unclaimed bodies were found).

To cremate a whole body takes a long time, so only the bones of the unclaimed bodies are cremated. Thus the reason for the dissection of the flesh from the bodies as you have seen in the photos.

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The volunteers in this ritual are mostly medical staff or emergency response crews who are the first unit to arrive at accident scenes to save lives (easily identifiable by their blue-and-white uniforms and ID cards).

They are used to seeing dead bodies, and that is why they look nonchalant in the photos.

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This was originally circulated as a “cannibal rite”, something Snopes ably disproved, but the reality of what it actually was was too interesting not to do a post on it.

Quoted text via the Royal Thai Embassy in inquiry with Snopes.

Wood Painted to Look Like Trash

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These are pieces of wood expertly painted by super-talented Kentucky artist Tom Pfannerstill. From crushed Starbucks coffee cups to crumpled Goldfish cracker packages, he is able to create perfect replicas of all sorts of garbage he finds on the streets.

Tom calls the series “From the Street”; he starts off by choosing a real piece of trash and traces the outline of the object onto a flat piece of wood. Once his wooden canvas is ready, he fills it in with acrylic paints, in painstaking detail.

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Artist Tom Pfannerstill via Oddity Central for more examples of the incredible art, and more info on how the artist accomplishes his work.

Firefly Communication in the Language of Light

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Light production in fireflies is due to a type of chemical reaction called bioluminescence. This process occurs in specialized light-emitting organs, usually on a firefly’s lower abdomen.

The enzyme luciferase acts on the luciferin, in the presence of magnesium ions, ATP, and oxygen to produce light.

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Light in adult beetles was originally thought to be used for similar warning purposes, but now its primary purpose is thought to be used in mate selection. Fireflies are a classic example of an organism that uses bioluminescence for sexual selection.

They have a variety of ways to communicate with mates in courtships: steady glows, flashing, and the use of chemical signals unrelated to photic systems.

Tropical fireflies, in particular, in Southeast Asia, routinely synchronise their flashes among large groups. This phenomenon is explained as phase synchronization. Current hypotheses about the causes of this behavior involve diet, social interaction, and altitude.

Video via Science Friday..
Quoted text via Wikipedia.