Sunday, February 28, 2010

The 10: Craziest Parking Tickets of All Time


Think that you’ve been hard done to by the parking authorities? Well, wait until you have read these extraordinary tales…




#1 - Trucking ridiculous

It was a normal day for truck driver Michael Collins, who was on his way to collect a skip in London’s Belsize Park. But then, without warning, his truck lurched as the road beneath him collapsed. Unbeknown to Michael, a burst water main had caused the road to give way, creating a deep hole where the front wheels of his 17-tonne truck became stuck.

While he was waiting for his lorry to be rescued, a passing parking attendant appeared. To the astonishment of nearby residents and despite Michael’s protests, she stood on tiptoe and whacked a parking ticket on the trucks windscreen, uttering the immortal words, “You can appeal”. (See picture above).


#2 - Bad news comes in trees

If a tree fell on your car and you escaped death by mere inches, you might think that you would get some sympathy from your local council. Sadly, no such compassion was forthcoming when one family suffered just such a fate under the parking Taliban of Wychavon District Council

Nicky Clegg from Stoulton, near Pershore, was driving along the Bromwich Road with her 82-year-old mother and her 11-year-old son when without warning a tree crashed on her car. Miraculously they escaped death but the car ended up with a crushed bonnet, smashed windscreen and broken wing mirrors.

Police dragged the wrecked car to the side of the road and told Nicky that it was fine to leave it there and she could pick it up the following day. But when Nicky came back the next day, she was astonished to find a parking ticket on the window.


#3 - Feeling run down?

Think that being badly injured is an excuse to park illegally? Think again. When Nadhim Zahawi of South London was thrown from his scooter and left lying in the road with a broken leg, a heartless warden from Lambeth Council slapped a £100 ticket on his bike.


#4 - Horse play

You leave your horse in the street and what do you expect to find when you get back? A small pile of manure perhaps, but not a parking ticket. Amazingly, however, this is exactly what happened to Robert McFarland, a retired blacksmith from Yorkshire when he left his trusty steed, Charlie Boy, for a few brief moments. On the ticket, the over-zealous warden had written the vehicle description as “brown horse”.


#5 - Daylight robbery

It started off just like any other day for Fred Holt when he went to his local bank. But the ordinary day turned extraordinary when two masked men burst into the bank brandishing an axe and a machete. In the terrifying raid, the robbers held a young cashier hostage with an axe to her throat. Customers were forced to lie on the floor as staff were made to hand over cash.

If being a victim of this horrifying event wasn’t bad enough, 77 year old Mr Holt had parked his car nearby, and by the time he had given a statement to police officers, his car had been there for 20 minutes longer than allowed.

Mr. Holt was not worried because the police officers who interviewed him said that traffic wardens had been told about the raid and asked not to issue tickets. But when Mr Holt got back to his car he was astounded to find a £30 parking ticket pinned to his windscreen – the reason: overstaying his allowed time in the street.


#6 - Bloody ridiculous

“Do Something Amazing Today” runs the slogan of the National Blood Service. In Sutton, a traffic warden did just that, though not along the lines of “Save a life. Give Blood” that the advert intended.

For four years, a mobile National Blood Service truck has visited Sutton, parking at the same spot outside a group of offices, so volunteers can give blood. But seeing the good citizens of the town turn up and exchange a pint of the red stuff in return for a cup of tea and a biscuit was too much of a temptation for one parking attendant. Whilst those inside were giving blood, the parking attendant gave in his own unique way – in the form of a parking ticket.

Sutton council eventually waived the fine, saying the parking attendant had made a simple error of judgment. Or to put it more aptly, a rush of blood to the head.


#7 - Bus(ted)

Picture the situation. You’re a bus driver. You’re driving your bus. You see a queue of people waiting for you at a bus stop. You pull over to pick them up. So far, so good. But wait, not everyone wants to buy a ticket. This chap in the queue wants to give you one instead…

This was the extraordinary scene that greeted Manchester bus driver Chris O’Mahony, when he stopped his number 77 bus to let people on. He and his passengers looked on in absolute disbelief as the Manchester City Council parking attendant joined the queue to prepare the parking ticket, deposited the £40 notice and then walked away. The bus driver’s crime? Parking in a restricted area.

The attendant said he'd been told to issue tickets to buses that park. Manchester City Council bosses cancelled the ticket and ordered the warden to be retrained. Hopefully, as something other than a warden.


#8 - Heart attack

Whilst David Holmes was driving along he felt chest pains. So he immediately drove himself to hospital. When he arrived he was forced to park on the road and was treated for a heart attack. A kind nurse left a note on the windscreen saying it was an emergency and that David's daughter would pick the car up later. Despite the note, a pitiless parking attendant slapped a parking ticket on David’s car.

Despite an appeal to the local council, the £40 fine was not cancelled.


#9 - Welcome to Warwickshire

Warwick is a beautiful part of England but it had no appeal for one man who received a parking ticket from the local Council.

Krister Nylander was dismayed to receive a parking ticket in the post for parking in Warwick. But he knew the parking ticket was wrong because he lives in Sweden and had not visited England since he was 16. The offending vehicle was his 20-ton snowmobile which had barely ever left his barn, let alone Sweden.

How did it get the ticket? We’ve absolutely no Ikea.


#10 - Driving you crazy

Driving instructors are used to the trials and tribulations of teaching people to drive. Three point turns, as we all know, can be very tricky to learn. So spare a thought for the driving instructor who got a CCTV parking ticket when his pupil stalled whilst attempting a three-point turn and could not restart the car. The offence? Parking more than 50 centimetres from the kerb.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Top 10 Greatest Mysteries in Science


#10  - What Drives Evolution?


What Drives Evolution? You've heard it before: Natural selection is accepted by scientists as the main engine driving the array of organisms and their complex features. It is one of the most well tested theories in science.

But is evolution via natural selection the only explanation for complex organisms?

"I think one of the greatest mysteries in biology at the moment is whether natural selection is the only process capable of generating organismal complexity," said Massimo Pigliucci of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University in New York, "or whether there are other properties of matter that also come into play. I suspect the latter will turn out to be true."


#9 - What Happens Inside an Earthquake?


We were surprised this one made the initial list, then surprised again when it got voted into the Top 10 by you. But it is odd that we don't know what's going on right here on our home planet, right under our feet.

Experts can explain exactly where a quake started and what type of fault is involved and maybe even predict how long aftershocks will last. But they are quite unsure of what happens inside the planet during a quake. The nature and behavior of the forces that keep faults from moving and then suddenly fail are still unknown.

"The problem of frictional sliding in earthquakes is one of the most fundamental problems in all of Earth science," said Caltech geophysicist Tom Heaton. "It has been a 30-year mystery story of figuring out the basic physics of the earthquake problem."


#8 - Who Are You?


The nature of consciousness has long baffled psychologists and cognitive scientists. Part of the answer, however, is surprisingly simple: Most of what drives what we do is embedded in neural networks not readily accessible by conscious thought, said Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at New York University.

"The intuitive everyday idea about the sense of self and its control over behavior is as incorrect as the idea that the earth is flat," Morsella agreed. Although we think of ourselves as independent agents, we're not. Everything we do is influenced by unconscious processes and our environment, he added.

The leap to figuring out how we make conscious decisions, and what gives us each a mind of our own and a soul, well ... only No.


#7 - How Did Life Arise on Earth?


We expected this to be voted higher. But some votes for No. 2 on the list might have been split from this one.

Early evidence for simple, microbial life on Earth dates back more than 3 billion years. How it arose, nobody knows. Ideas range from chemical reactions around seafloor heat vents to reactions in rock.

"Many theories of the origin of life have been proposed, but since it's hard to prove or disprove them, no fully accepted theory exists," said Diana Northup, a cave biologist at the University of New Mexico.


#6 - How Does the Brain Work?


Some readers argued that we have a good handle on this. Well, sure, a lot more is known than was the case just a few decades ago. But with billions of neurons, each with thousands of connections, this is a tough nut to crack.

"We all think we understand the brain--at least our own--through our experiences. But our own subjective experience is a very poor guide to how the brain works," said Scott Huettel of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University.

Among the enigmas: "We do not yet have a good way to study how groups of neurons form functional networks when we learn, remember, or do anything else, including seeing, hearing moving, loving," said said Norman Weinberger, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine. "If we understand the brain, we will understand both its capacities and its limits for thought, emotions, reasoning, love and every other aspect of human life."


#5 - Where is the Rest of the Universe?


It stinks when try to study something and most of it isn't there. So it is with the universe.

"I call it the dark side of the universe," said Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, referring to the great mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.

In fact, only 4 percent of the matter and energy in the universe has been found. The other 96 percent remains elusive, but scientists are looking in the farthest reaches of space and deepest depths of Earth to solve the two dark riddles.


#4 - What Causes Gravity?


You'd think this down-to-earth concept would be well understood. Heck, Newton figured it out long ago, right?

Nope. Gravity is the weakest of all known forces in the universe, and the standard mode of physics does not explain how it works. Theorists think it might involve tiny, massless particles called gravitons that emanate gravitational fields.

"Gravity is completely different from the other forces described by the standard model," said Mark Jackson, a theoretical physicist at Fermilab in Illinois. "When you do some calculations about small gravitational interactions, you get stupid answers. The math simply doesn't work."


#3 - Is There a Theory of Everything?


Only a smart bunch of readers would vote this up so high. This stuff is really, really complex. Here goes the short version:

Physicists have a good "standard model" that carves the known universe into particles to describe everything from magnetism to what atoms are made of and how they remain stable. The standard model views particles as infinitesimal points, some of which carry basic forces.

Two glaring problems with the standard model: It fails to include gravity, and it becomes gibberish at high energies.

If a theory can be designed (some say it'll never happen) to withstand the incredible energies of the early universe as well as incorporate gravity, then a universal theory of physics could become a reality, researchers figure.


#2 - Does Alien Life Exist?


Life is everywhere. At least on this planet. So it's logical to assume it might be everywhere in the universe, too. But so far we've only thoroughly examined one world, so the sample size is a bit small.

We know now that the ingredients for life are widely distributed. And we know there are solar systems strikingly like ours our there. "We are here, made of stardust. Therefore, it is at least possible that there are others," said Jill Tarter, director of the Center for SETI Research in California.

And there ought to be some smart life out there, too. "Mankind has achieved scientific-technological civilization only in the last 200 years or so, out of about 4.5 billion years of life on Earth," said Frank Wilczek, a Nobel-Prize winning physicist at MIT. "So it seems we ought to expect there to be many scientific-technological civilizations that have had many millions, or even billions, of years to develop."


#1 - How Did the Universe Begin?


Yes, the clear winner in our minds, and in your votes. Simply put: "All other mysteries lie downstream of this question," said Ann Druyan, the author and widow of astronomer Carl Sagan. "It matters to me because I am human and do not like not knowing."

Yes, theory holds that it all started with the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, with everything starting in a space smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. In the blink of an eye, it all grew to cosmic scales in by a process called inflation. Problem is, while this predicts a lot of what's seen today, it can't be directly tested.

"Inflation is an extremely powerful theory, and yet we still have no idea what caused inflation--or whether it is even the correct theory, although it works extremely well," said Eric Agol, an astrophysicist at the University of Washington.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Animal Hybrids: The Half-Lives Of 10 Curious Creatures


Animal hybrids… they’re more common then you think. Whether as a result of natural animal magnetism or through the meddling machinations of Mankind, hybrid creatures prove a little “monkey business” in the animal kingdom can sometimes be a good thing.

#1 – Beefalo


Beefalo, a hybrid of beef cattle and the American Bison, have been hailed as one of the meat industry’s greatest successes. Docile enough for ranching, beefalo provide meat that has more protein and less fat than that of the typical steer. Even better, beefalo beef is very low in cholesteral and is said to taste just as good as classic steak, if not better.





Hybrid buffalo-cattle were first noticed in the mid-nineteenth century and efforts to standardize the hybrids, called at first “cattalo”, gained momentum after tens of thousands of cattle died in the Blizzard of 1888. It took nearly a century, however, to produce fertile and viable beefalo that did not require a herd of buffalo cows to be kept on-hand. The American Beefalo Association, Inc., founded in November of 2008, was now oversees the registration of beefalo in the USA.


#2 – Cama


Camel-Llama hybrids, or “Camas”, appear camel-like in coloration but without the stereotypical camel’s hump. Camas are both viable and fertile – though separated by several million years of evolution, these camelid mammals each have 74 chromosomes. Would you walk a mile for a camel? You might if you were the last llama on earth (or at least, in the general area), but since these animals live oceans apart a little human matchmaking is required to crossbreed them. Not to mention, the use of artificial insemination… dromedary camels weight about 6 times as much as the average llama.


The Camel Reproduction Centre in Dubai has set its sights on making Camas, with the expectation that the hybrids would retain the camel’s desirable size, strength and hardiness while imbuing them with the much more cooperative temperament of the llama. The first Cama, named Rama, was born at the Camel Reproduction Centre on January 14, 1998. Unfortunately, Rama grew up mean, mad and generally uncooperative. Back to the drawing board!


#3 – Cheetoh


Evocative name notwithstanding, the Cheetoh cat has no relation to either Cheetahs or cheese-flavored corn puffs. Instead, this relatively new feline is descended from selected Bengal Cat and Ocicat bloodlines, resulting in an exotically spotted cat with the Ocicat’s long legs and low-shouldered walking style. Cheetohs are larger than average domestic cats with males ranging from 15 to 22 pounds and females topping out at about 15 pounds.



According to The International Cheetoh Breeders Association, “The goal of the Cheetoh breeding program was to create a very intelligent cat that is larger (than domestic cats) with an extraordinary wild look, without adding more wild blood. Most importantly, (the Cheetoh is) an extremely social, docile and gentle-natured lap cat that is safe for all family members.” A 22 pound lap cat? I just can’t weight.



#4 – Geep


Your Prius may be a hybrid but a Geep – Wrangler or not – is actually a chimera. Chimeras are man-made, the result of the fusing of two distinct, very early embryos. The end result is a creature that exhibits a patchwork of traits depending on which embryo’s tissue is dominant.




Actual sheep-goat hybrids are extremely rare: though they may look somewhat similar, sheep and goats are separate species with differing numbers of chromosomes (goats have 60, sheep just 54). A recent sheep-goat hybrid with 57 chromosomes dubbed “The Toast of Botswana” was born in the year 2000. The creature, which had a hairy outer coat and a wooly inner coat, was healthy but had to be castrated due to its overactive libido – rather ironic, because the horny demi-goat was believed to be sterile.


#5 - Grolar Bear


It may look mixed up, but the uncomfortably-named Grolar Bear proves by its mere existence that brown and white can get along. Though not common by any means, these Grizzly-Polar bear hybrids occur from time to time where the range and habitat of these majestic creatures overlaps.




If “Grolar Bear” sounds a little forced, consider the alternative: the Pizzly Bear. Weird name or not, these ursine hybrids demand a whole lot of respect; they are intermediate in size between Grizzlies and Polar Bears – in other words, BIG.



#6 – Liger


The nature of animal hybrids often depends on exactly who the parents are. Take the Liger, for example. Ligers are the offspring of a male lion (Panthera leo) and a tigress (Panthera tigris) while in Tigons, the roles are reversed. Ligers only occur in captive environments as their natural ranges have not overlapped for many centuries. In appearance, Ligers superficially resemble lions though they may display subtle skin and fur mottling and have no manes. They also tend to grow larger than either parent – in fact, ligers are the largest of all the big cats. Lastly, although Napoleon Dynamite says Ligers are pretty much his favorite animal, they are NOT bred for their skills in magic. Gosh!


Now this is one good-looking beast! Unfortunately it’s a creation of photoshop and NOT that of a lion and a tiger. Ligers do indeed combine the traits and characteristics of lions and tigers, just not as clear cut as the whimsical creature above.





#7 - Spider Goat


Spider Goat, Spider Goat, does whatever a… well, you’ve seen that movie but are you ready for actual Spider Goats? Ready or not, here they come – and aren’t they cute? Nevermind the fact that the goats have spider genes that allow the females to excrete spider silk proteins in their milk… I’m afraid to ask how the males excrete it. The resulting spider silk fiber is said to be “more durable than Kevlar, more stretchable than nylon, and stronger than steel.”


In case you were wondering (and you know you were), yes, it is possible to use the same gene-splicing technique to create Spider Pigs. There’s no guarantee, however, that they would be able to walk on ceilings, hide behind clocks or provide us with tasty yet stringy bacon. Watch a short video on Spider Goats here… if you dare:



#8 – Toyger


Toygers are not strictly hybrids but breeders have accessed Bengal Cat bloodlines in order to give these surprisingly striped tabbies a more wild appearance and a “big cat body”. Toygers can trace their lineage back to 1980 when breeder Judy Sudgen noticed that a couple of her tabbies sported unusual and distinctive mackerel markings. Sudgen was able to enhance the markings in subsequent generations after importing a similarly striped tom alleycat from India. Currently, breeders are using advanced computer modeling and imaging techniques to project what an ideal, tiger-like Toyger should look like and that goal is expected to be reached later in 2010.


Toyger cats are rapidly increasing in popularity, perhaps in response to an unstated demand for baby pets that don’t grow up. At their present state of development, Toygers have the ability to turn heads and provoke double-takes from those unfamiliar with the breed, something that in itself many owners find extremely appealing.







#9 – Wholphin


Breeding a whale with a different species of marine mammal would seem to be an impossible task – if not uncomfortable for the breed-ees – but if the whale is one of the smaller types like the False Killer Whale (Pseudorcas) than all bets are off. Such is the case with Kekaimalu, a hybrid of a 2,000 lb. male False Killer Whale and a 400 lb. female Bottlenose Dolphin born in 1985 at Hawaii’s Sea Life Park. Kekaimalu subsequently gave birth to a healthy female “Wholphin” named Kawili Kai in early 2005.



The Wholphins born in Hawaii have 66 teeth, the median between a False Killer Whale’s 44 teeth and a bottlenose dolphin’s 88. As for Kekaimalu, she’s the star of Sea Life Park’s aquatic show and, according to trainer John Oakley, “She’s one of the brightest animals I’ve ever worked with.”




#10 – Zebroids


A zorse is a zorse, of course, of course… except when it’s a zonkey, a zony or a zetland. As you might have guessed, the “z” comes from zebra and all of the aforementioned hybrids display some form of zebra striping. Zebroids typically combine the strength of zebras with the docility of domesticated horses, donkeys and, in at least one special case, a Shetland Pony. Zorses are bred with a purpose, however: they inherit the zebra’s resistance to the Nagana pest disease and are used for tourist treks on and around Mount Kenya.


The above zorse’s strikingly patterned coat resulted from the inherited zebra-striping only being expressed on pigmented areas of the coat. White areas on what would normally be a piebald horse remain white. Zowie!









Do these ten animal hybrids seem a bit too, er, tame? Not to worry, scientists and researchers are moving beyond hybrids and even chimeras in an effort to create “living laboratories”. Examples include pigs with mouse genes whose excrement is less damaging to the environment, and pigs with human – yes, human – genes whose organs could be used in transplants without fear of rejection. “Not to worry,” huh… perhaps I spoke too soon.


Monday, February 22, 2010

What Really Scares People: Top 10 Phobias

Whether you jump at the sight of a spider or work up a sweat at the mere mention of getting on an airplane, fears and phobias abound. About 19.2 million American adults ages 18 and over, or some 8.7 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have some type of specific phobia, or extreme fear. Here are some of the worst.

#10 - The Dentist


Not many people jump for joy at the thought of an intense session of plaque removal. And between 9 percent and 20 percent of Americans say they avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety or fear, according to WebMD.

Full-blown dental phobia is a more serious condition in which a person avoids the dentist at all costs. People suffering from the phobia usually only show up at the dentist when forced by excruciating pain.

Various factors can keep someone from the dental chair, including a bad experience in the past, fear of injections, and feelings of helplessness (think dental chair and drill in mouth). How to get to the dentist before you have a mouth full of rotting teeth? Realize a dentist can work with you to make you more comfortable during cleaning and other procedures. For instance, you can set up a hand wave that signals the dentist to stop a procedure immediately.


#9 – Dogs


From tiny, purse-size pups to buff German shepherds, any flavor of man's best friend can scare the pants off some who suffer from cynophobia, or extreme fear of dogs. Typically, people tend to develop fear of dogs as a result of being bitten themselves or seeing somebody get bitten, according to psychology professor Brad Schmidt of Ohio State University. Some dog phobics, however, became fearful of pooches because they know dogs do sometimes bite. Treatment generally involves coming maw-to-maw with the barkers.


#8 - Frightful Flight


There's no such thing as "the friendly skies" for the 25 million or so people in the United States who suffer from some form of flying fear. Such fears range from just a bit of anxiety to an extreme flying phobia called aviophobia that can keep a person off airplanes at any cost.

These frightful fliers fall into two evenly split groups: those who are afraid of plane crashes and those who are claustrophobic and risk a panic attack inside a plane's tight cabin quarters, according to Barbara Rothbaum, professor in psychiatry and director of the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at Emory University School of Medicine.

Like other phobias, reason plays little role in calming such crash fears. For instance, the lifetime odds of dying in an air travel accident are 1-in-20,000 compared with 1-in-100 for an auto accident and 1-in-5 from heart disease (based on 2001 statistics). However, treatment for flight fears -- sans a drunken stupor -- which includes virtual reality therapy and other forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy has shown much success, Rothbaum notes.


#7 - Thunder and Lightning


The crackling of thunder and lightning can lead to a heart-pounding, sweaty-palm meltdown for individuals with severe weather phobia. In fact, some even pack up and move to regions known for calm weather, according to John Westefeld of the University of Iowa.

Westefeld reported on a survey of mostly college-age students in 2006 in which 73 percent of participants had "a little bit" or "moderate" fear of weather. "I think there are more people out there who have [severe weather phobia] than most people might assume," Westefeld told LiveScience. "A lot of the folks I interviewed indicated they were very embarrassed about this so that they hadn't told anybody about it. In some cases they indicated their spouses didn't even know about it."

In terms of treatment, Westefeld recommends "a combination of social support and accurate information, and training in ways of coping with anxiety and panic." That way, those with intense storm frights can reach a middle ground, where they have enough fear to keep them safe without debilitating them.


#6 - The Dark


For many kids, lights out can mean immediate distress that the boogey man, or some variation, will pop out from beneath the bed or behind a closet door. In fact, being afraid of the dark is one of kids' most common fears. "What always amazes us are the thoughts or beliefs that kids have," said Thomas Ollendick, professor of psychology and director of the Child Study Center at Virginia Tech. "Kids believe everything imaginable, that in the dark robbers might come or they could get kidnapped, or someone might come and take their toys away." Essentially, their fears stem from "the unexpected," he said. While kids grow out of such fears, if the anxiety reaches extreme levels and is considered a phobia, called nyctophobia, Ollendick says that can last through adulthood if left untreated.


#5 - Harrowing Heights


If you get the heebie-jeebies when standing on a rooftop or looking up at a tall building, you're not alone. Fear of heights is one of the most common phobias (followed by public speaking) with an estimated 3 percent to 5 percent of the population suffering so-called acrophobia.

While scientists had thought such phobia was the result of an irrational fear to normal stimuli, new research is suggesting otherwise.

In the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, participants had to judge the height of a building when standing at ground level and when atop the building. Compared with participants who scored lowest on an acrophobia test, those most afraid of heights judged the building to be about 10 feet (3 meters) higher at ground level and 40 feet (12 meters) taller from the top of the building. So the building actually seems taller to acrophobics, it seems.


#4 - Other People


Does the thought of speaking in front of an audience color your face a bright red, send sweat pouring from your pores and bring a sick feeling to your gut? Those are just a few of the signs of social phobia, which affects about 15 million American adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And it's not limited to public speaking: Those affected can get the sweats over eating or drinking in front of others, or a general anxiety when around almost anyone other than family members. The fear begins in childhood or adolescence, usually around the age of 13.


#3 - Scary Spaces


About 1.8 million American adults over 18 years of age suffer agoraphobia, which involves intense fear and anxiety of any place or situation where escape might be difficult, according to a 2008 report by the National Institute of Mental Health. Commonly feared spots and activities include: elevators, sporting events, bridges, public transportation, driving, shopping malls and airplanes, according to the Mayo Clinic. The fear can lead a person to avoid leaving their home, traveling in a car or being in a crowded area.


#2 - Creepy Crawlies


While most would at least flinch at the sight of Aragog, the human-eating spider depicted in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the everyday spider can cause the same fear in some people. And it turns out, women are four times more likely to fear such arachnids than men.

In a study being published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, David Rakison of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that 11-month-old girls quickly learned to associate images of spiders and snakes with a fearful facial expression, while baby boys did not.

From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense, as women would have encountered such creepy crawlies regularly while gathering food, Rakison speculates. And, he says, the cringe factor could keep both moms and their infants safe. Macho men, on the other hand, would have needed to take frequent risks when hunting and so evolutionary pressure to jump at the sight of a spider would be less than beneficial.


#1 - Slithering Snakes


Considered one of the most common phobias, an extreme fear of snakes could be evolutionarily imprinted in people, studies suggest. Long ago, spotting a snake (or even a spider) would have been an advantage to a person's survival, according to one study in which adults and children could pick out images of snakes among various non-threatening objects more quickly than they could pinpoint frogs and flowers. The ability to spot a snake in the blink of an eye, the researchers say, likely helped our ancestors survive in the wild.


Amazing Animal Abilities

You might think you're smart, but none of your senses rival the keenest abilities in the animal world. Animals see in the dark, sniff prey miles away, and detect electrical output from muscle twitches in hidden meals. Read on, so you don't become one of those meals.


#10 – Bats


Bats avoid obstacles and nab insects on the wing by emitting ultrasonic squeaks and interpreting the echo the sound waves make after bouncing off objects in the environment. This biological sonar, called "echolocation," is also used by dolphins to navigate murky waters.



#9 – Sharks


Never play hide-and-seek with a shark because you'll lose. Sharks have special cells in their brains that are sensitive to the electrical fields other creatures generate. This ability is so refined in some sharks that they can find fish hiding under sand by the weak electric signals their twitching muscles emit.


#8 - Boa


Temperature-sensitive organs located between the eyes and nostrils of boas and pit vipers allow the snakes to sense the body heat of their prey. There is one located on each side of the snakes' head, so the animals can perceive depth and strike with deadly accuracy even in complete darkness.



#7 – Hummingbirds


The eyes of insects and birds are attuned to wavelengths of light outside the visible range that humans see in. Birds that appear drab to us are often radiant in colors we donet even have names for when seen in near-ultraviolet light. Telescopes like Hubble make ultraviolet images, which are colorized by technicians so we can enjoy them.


#6 – Cats


Cats have a mirror-like membrane in the backs of their eyes that lets them hunt and move in almost complete darkness. Called a "tapetum lucidum," the membrane reflects light after it has already traveled through the retina, giving the eyes another chance to nab the photons as they make their second trip.


#5 – Snakes


A snake flicking its forked tongue might look ominous to us, but it's just the animal sniffing its surroundings. A snakes use its tongues to collect particles wafting in the air. The coated tongue is then dipped into special pits in the roofs of the snake's mouth, called Jacobson's organs. There, the odors get processed and translated into electrical signals that are sent to the brain.


#4 – Moths


For moths, the term "love is in the air" is something to be taken literally. The furry insects can detect chemical love signals, called "pheromones," emitted by the opposite sex from up to seven-miles away. Some studies show humans also detect pheromones, but the effect seems to require close encounters.


#3 – Rats


Most rats have poor vision, but they make up for it with the "whiskers on their snouts. They use the long hairs, also called "vibrissae," in the same way that blind people use canes. By whisking the hairs across objects the come across, rats and other rodents form mental pictures of their surroundings.



#2 - Drum Fish


Some fish like this drum fish "hear" using their air bladders. The bladders detect sound vibrations and relay them to the inner ear via a set of bones in the middle ear called the "Weberian apparatus." Hair cells in the inner ear respond to the vibrations and transmit the sound information to the fish's brain.



#1 - Migratory birds


Many birds, especially those that migrate, can use the "Earth's magnetic field to stay their course during long flights. Scientists still aren't sure how they do it, but one recent study suggests birds might have a form of synesthesia that lets them "see" the planet's magnetic lines as patterns of color or light that is overlaid on their visual surroundings. Humans must rely on familiar landmarks or the sun's position to locate North, and many can't even manage that.