Thursday, July 15, 2010

10 Brutal Historical Weapons of War


Today’s weapons of war are increasingly geared towards felling an enemy in as humane a way as possible, with high velocity firearms ensuring a quick death. Soldiers are also trained to kill enemies quickly and (well, almost) painlessly, with bladed side-arms. However, in times gone by, humane weapons were the last thing warriors were looking to wield. Pain and maximum suffering were the order of the day, and the popularity of a weapon could be measured by its brutality. For good reason, too! A weapon that scared the crap out of your enemy was a useful tool, as well as an empowering asset.

Let’s take a look at some of the more fearsome, and downright nasty, weapons employed by warriors of times gone by. In no particular order (I wouldn’t fancy encountering ANY of these!)


#10 - Knobkerrie


A knobkerrie refers to any blunt impact implement located at the end of a shaft weapon or staff. Usually a small ball of wood or metal, a knobkerrie would be used by being slammed into the nose or groin at close range. This type of weapon has been used in many different incarnations over time, but was originally used in Africa by tribal groups as a means of self defense. This weapon is still used today and can be found on the end of most hunting knives, in the form of a small ball or point of metal at the end of the handle.

Notable appearance: The Knobkerrie is employed by numerous Zulu warriors in the movie “Zulu”.

#9 - Caltrop


Most famously used in ninja movies, and the like, a caltrop (or caltrops) are objects with multiple sharp points, designed to be dropped when under pursuit, in order to either catch your pursuer off guard and cause nasty injury to the feet, or to force approaching enemies in to following a certain path as a trap. The primary idea behind these nasty implements is to be used as a trap which will render your foes immobile, or at least in great pain!

Notable appearance: Caltrops appear in a number of James Bond movies as a feature of Bond’s car, dropped from the vehicle to puncture the tires of pursuers.

#8 - Morning Star


The mace’s nastier cousin, the morning star, consists of a solid wooden or metal shaft atop which sits (in most designs) a large metal ball adorned with a number of spikes or blades. The morning star was used by infantry and horsemen, alike, in medieval times. The primary method of attack was to simply swing the weapon at your foe. The most common target was, logically, the face or head, although the blow could be directed at the legs or knees in order to disable a foe. Morning stars have returned in different forms since medieval times, and are often confused with the mace, the difference being that a mace has no spikes, instead favoring metal studs. Another form of this weapon is the well-known flail, which incorporates a chain between the shaft and spiked ball, allowing the weapon to be swung harder with less exertion.

Notable appearance: The Cave Troll appearing in The Lord of the Rings books and movies wields a huge Morning Star as his weapon of choice.




#7 - Chakram


Often misidentified as a Glaive, which is actually a pole weapon similar to a pike, a Chakram is akin to a large throwing star (or shuriken). Also known as a war quoit, the weapon is of Indian origin and was usually a large bladed metal disk. Chakrams were used both for throwing, like a Frisbee, or in melee combat, where slashing was the usual method of attack. Another form of the Chakram was the Chakkar, another bladed throwing weapon in the shape of a hoop rather than a disk. Chakkars were used by Sikh warriors, again, as both a throwing and melee weapon. The weapons have a frightening range of up to 100 meters, if well manufactured.

Notable appearance: Xena, in the Xena: Warrior Princess series often uses a Chakram as a throwing weapon.

#6 - Maul


Similar to a modern sledgehammer, the Maul is a nasty blunt force weapon, initially appearing in use by French citizens. Mauls were not originally used particularly as a weapon, rather as tools, but in time they have been employed by various factions for combat purposes. There is no particular method for using a Maul, aside from striking almost anywhere on the body for severe damage. Common target areas would be (as is common with blunt force weapons) the head, arms or legs. A single blow from a Maul is sufficient to shatter bones and cave in skulls, even when a helmet is worn. The length of the handle allowed for the Maul to be wielded in two hands. A common tactic was to break the legs of the victim with a stout blow to the knees or shins, then finish the poor guy off with an over-head smash to the skull.

Notable appearance: Leatherface in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, uses a sledgehammer as a Maul to incapacitate one unlucky victim.


#5 - War Scythe


Adapted from the common farming tool, war scythes were altered so that the blade pointed straight from the top of the shaft. War scythes were used as both a slashing and a stabbing weapon, their weight and aerodynamic shape making them devastating. Capable of cutting through a metal helmet, the weapon is thought to have originated from use as an improvised weapon by peasants, which was then adapted for military use. Arguably worse than the military form, the version wielded by peasants in revolts would often be blunt from use in farming, meaning the victim was likely to survive numerous slashes before dying.

Notable appearance: The grim reaper, death himself, is usually depicted wielding a scythe type weapon.

#4 - Dragon Beard Hook


This nasty piece of kit was employed by Chinese warriors as a means of ensnaring and immobilizing a victim. The weapon consists of a metal head bearing two or more serrated hooks, attached to a length of rope or chain. Used by “casting” out the head, the aim was to pierce, or snag, a part of the foes body with one of the hooks, and then reel them in for the kill by pulling on the rope. This often resulted in tearing the victim’s body as they struggled to escape. Arterial damage was common and the victim was often killed by the hook itself, before they could be reeled in. The Dragon Beard Hook originates from the Song Dynasty.

Notable appearance: The Mortal Kombat character, Scorpion, uses a weapon similar to a Dragon Beard Hook to drag distant opponents into close range.






#3 - Nunchaku


Originating as a tool for threshing crops, nunchaku are an Okinawan weapon consisting of two lengths of wood, or sometimes metal, joined by a chain. The weapon is used by holding onto one of the wooden arms and swinging the other extremely quickly at the victim. The target area would usually be the face or arms, with the aim of breaking bones or causing blunt trauma. Nunchaku come in various flavors, ranging from the basic wooden or metal arms, to arms with attached blades or razors for extra damage. Nunchaku use is considered an art, and a skilled wielder can operate the weapon at such speed, passing from hand to hand, that they could potentially strike a victim a number of times per second. A trained user is also able to “bluff” swings, making it very difficult to defend against, since it is nearly impossible to predict where the blow will come from. Nunchaku can also be used in pairs, with one pair in each hand.

Notable appearance: Almost any martial arts movie!

#2 -Bardiche


This weapon lies somewhere between a polearm and an axe (a family of weapons known as poleaxes), consisting of a long pole with a wide axe head attached along the side and tip of the shaft. The Bardiche is of Eastern European and Russian origin. Used as a slashing or cleaving weapon, the weapon was wielded in two hands and swung both horizontally and vertically. Bardiches were often wielded alongside a firearm for use in the event of close-quarters encounters, although weapons of this style were in use long before the arrival of firearms. The power of the weapon came from the weight of the blade, which was usually over 2 feet wide. The method of attack would usually consist of cleaving at the limbs or torso of the foe.

Notable appearance: Bardiche variants are often seen in fantasy and manga stories, often in the form of a giant axe with a short handle running behind the blade.



#1 -Blunderbuss


The only firearm to make this list, the Blunderbuss was an early form of shotgun, using powder and shot. The weapon was muzzle loaded and is identified by the distinctive flared muzzle. The nasty part of the Blunderbuss was actually a flaw in the design, the flared muzzle caused the shot to spread quite widely and reduced the muzzle velocity, meaning that shots outside of very close quarters resulted only in shrapnel wounds rather than death. A blunderbuss could, in theory, be loaded with any kind of shrapnel or shot, small stones or scraps of metal were used as ammunition at times. The gun was used by armies of various nationalities, although the weapon originates from Europe. A smaller, one handed version of the Blunderbuss, called a Dragon, was also used. Wounds sustained from a close range hit from a Blunderbuss would be brutal, potentially blowing away whole chunks of the body.

Notable appearance: Jack Sparrow, of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, wields a handgun similar to a Dragon, while at least one member of the undead pirate crew seen in the first movie uses a Blunderbuss type firearm.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

10 More Bizarre and Fascinating Medical Tales


From miraculous survivals to bizarre medical disorders, the medical world is crawling with astounding tales. Here’s just a sampling of the many stories the medical community has to offer.


#10 - Trimethylaminuria


Thimethylaminuria is a rare metabolic disorder that causes the defect in a certain enzyme that breaks down trimethylamine, a compound released by protein-digesting bacteria, living in our stomach. Sufferers then begin to release the compound through their sweat, urine and other bodily fluids. The result? A lingering body odor reminiscent of rotten fish, thus earning the disease its more famous nickname ‘fish odor syndrome.’ The bad news? The disease is incurable. The good news? Aside from the odor, the disease has no other visible effect on the body (not counting the psychological effect the disease inflicts upon its victims), and the odor can be controlled by a low-protein diet that limits the intake of choline, an amino acid that can cause the odor to arise (although there has been cases where this didn’t have an effect on the symptom).

Interesting Fact: In the William Shakespeare play ‘The Tempest,’ one of its characters, Caliban, the socially rejected island dweller, exhibited symptoms of fish-odor syndrome, as evidenced by the following lines: “What have we here? A man or a fish? Dead or alive? He smells like a fish; a very ancient and fish-like smell …” which may suggest that the disorder was known at that time. In reality, the first recorded case of trimethylaminuria in medical literature happened in the 1970’s.

#9 - Survived Rabies Without Vaccination


Jeanna Giese, of Fon du Lac, Wisconsin, defied medical odds by being the first person to survive rabies without a vaccination in 2004. The, then-15-year-old girl, got infected with the virus when she got bitten by a bat, but since the wound she sustained was shallow, she didn’t seek medical attention until thirty-seven days later, when the virus began attacking her body. The disease then progressed so fast that by the time she was admitted and diagnosed at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, she was in a near-state coma. But instead of giving up, Rodney Willoughby, an infectious disease specialist in the hospital, decided to try a novel treatment on Giese to save her life. The treatment involved giving her a cocktail of drugs that would induce a coma, to preserve her brain from the virus. This was to give Giese’s immune system time to fight the deadly disease, while giving her a chance to survive. The risky treatment worked, however, and thirty-one days later, she was declared rabies-free. Although the treatment left Giese with some brain damage, the girl responded to rehabilitation therapy and recovered quickly, much to the surprise of her doctors.

Interesting Fact: The experimental treatment that was used to cure Giese, dubbed the Milwaukee Protocol, is now currently under trial, and so far two patients out of twenty-five were cured. However, there had been some controversies regarding Giese’s survival under the treatment, one of which is that Giese was infected with a weaker form of rabies, and that significantly affected her response to the treatment.

#8 - Constant Eater


Lizzie Velasquez of Austin, Texas, suffers from an extremely rare, yet-to-be-diagnosed, disorder that prevents her from gaining weight. As a result, she has almost zero body fat and she needs to eat a small meal every fifteen minutes just to stay healthy. Also, the disorder left her with a weakened immune system and blindness in one eye. Only two other people in the world are known to have this bizarre syndrome, which gave Velasquez a withered, skeletal appearance. Despite all of this, the disease didn’t hamper Velasquez’s will to live. She is currently studying communications at Texas State University, and lives a very active life. She wants to be a motivational speaker, inspiring others to live life to the fullest, as she does. She has written an autobiography, to be released this September. “God made me the way I am for a reason and I would never change that,” she writes. “I lead a normal life as much as possible, and deal with the bumps in the road as they come along, with my head held high and a smile on my face!”

Interesting Fact: In an effort to diagnose her mystery condition, Velasquez has joined a genetic study run by Professor Abhimanyu Garg of the University of Texas. Garg suspects Velasquez may have a form of neonatal progeroid syndrome, which causes “accelerated aging, fat loss from the face and body, and tissue degeneration.” For more information, visit Lizzie’s site.

#7 - Baby with a ‘Mask’


A 14-month old boy from Hunan, China, was born with a transverse facial cleft crossing his face from ear to ear, dividing his face into two parts, giving him the illusion that he’s wearing a mask. The cause for the defect of the baby (named Kangkang) is still undetermined, but an infection might be the culprit. Although the treatment to correct the cleft is terribly expensive, Kangkang’s family were, fortunately, able to come up with the 300-400,000 yen needed for the surgery. Pictured above is a much milder form of the same illness.

Interesting Fact: Facial clefts are, comparatively, rarer that cleft lips and palates, but they have similar origins: they are caused by the incomplete fusing of the facial bones of babies during conception.


#6 - Three Babies from Two Wombs


Hannah Kersey of Northam, Devon, England, was born with uterus didelphys, a malformation of the reproductive organs that resulted in her having two wombs. In December 2006, Kersey defied odds of 25 million to one by giving birth to three healthy girls from her two wombs. Identical twins Ruby and Tilly were delivered from one womb, while Grace was delivered from the other. While simultaneous gestation of the two wombs in women with uterus didelphys can happen (70 cases were recorded), Kersey’s triplet birth was a medical first.

Interesting Fact: Women with uterus didelphys are often asymptomatic, meaning they aren’t aware of their condition until they are medically examined. In pregnancies of women with this condition, premature birth is quite common. In Kersey’s case, the triplets arrived seven weeks prematurely.


#5 - Liver Baby


Ncise Cwayita, from South Africa, gave birth to a healthy 2.8 kilogram baby girl, despite the fact that she developed, not in her mother’s womb, but in her liver. The strange pregnancy was thought to be caused by the embryo falling out of the fallopian tube and attaching itself to her liver (this is called extrauterine pregnancy). Since the liver is a rich source of food for the embryo, it continued to gestate as normal, as it is protected by the placenta. Although babies developed out of the uterus often die within a few weeks, the baby girl, named Nhlahla (‘luck’ in Zulu) appears to be perfectly healthy.

Interesting Fact: There have been only fourteen documented cases of babies conceived in their mother’s liver. Of these cases, only four survived the pregnancy (including Nhlahla).

#4 - Lost Skin


After taking a ten-day course of Bactrim, a very common antibiotic, to treat a sinus infection, Sarah Yeargain, from San Diego, California, was shocked when her skin suddenly started sloughing off her body. ‘I started to get some minor swelling and discoloration in my face and it progressed into blistering on lips and swelling on my eyes. It then progressed into blisters all over my face and chest and arms,’ Yeargain said. Two days later, at the San Diego Regional Burn Center at the University of California, she lost the skin on her entire body, including her internal organs and the membranes on her eyes, mouth and throat. Doctors gave her a slim chance of survival, but after covering her entire body with transcyte, an artificial skin replacement, and some medications to control the internal bleeding, Yeargain miraculously recovered. Within a week later, her skin grew back. It is thought that the cause of Yeargain’s dramatic skin loss is toxic epidermal necrolysis, which basically is a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotic she took.

Interesting Fact: Fans of the TV series ‘House, M.D.’ might recall the second-to-the-last episode of Season 5 (entitled ‘Under My Skin’), where a patient exhibited toxic epidermal necrolysis while under House and his medical team’s care.

#3 - Keys in Brain


In September 2008, 17-month old Nicholas Holderman, from Kentucky, made an astonishingly fast recovery after a freak accident where the toddler had a set of car keys impaled to his brain. The toddler was playing with his two older brothers when he somehow fell upon the keys. One of the keys pierced his eyelid and made it all the way to his brain. The parents Staci and Chris, alerted by his scream, went immediately to see what happened and were shocked by what they saw. The mother immediately called 911, and Nicholas was helicoptered to a medical unit. The medical team managed to remove the key successfully, without damage to the brain, and although the eye was ruptured, Nicholas’s eyesight was completely unaffected.

Interesting Fact: A quite similar but less severe incident occurred at a restaurant in Minnesota on July 2007, where an unnamed boy accidentally fell upon the fork he was holding. Fortunately, the fork only went through and out of his nose, and it was successfully removed with little damage to his face.

#2 - Head Reattached


On July 12, 2002, 18-year old Marcos Parra was involved in a car accident that left his skull literally separated from his cervical spine, in a condition called internal decapitation. Only the ligaments on his neck were connecting his head with his body, but his spinal cord and arteries were intact. However, a medical team led by Dr. Curtis Dickman (pictured above), a neurosurgeon at the St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, saved his life by performing a radical, groundbreaking operation wherein two surgical screws were used to fasten Parra’s head to his spine. Amazingly, the risky operation worked, and Parra fully recovered. Since then, Dickman’s team has successfully performed the same surgery on two other patients.

Interesting Fact: There is a similar story to this. Ricky Barker was also internally decapitated after a 2004 accident where the bike he was riding collided with a car. Three months later however, Barker walked out of the hospital with only a paralyzed left arm, a limp and a hole in his throat (so that he could breathe) to remind him of the accident that almost took his life.

#1 - The girl who doesn’t age


Brooke Greenberg of Reisterstown, Maryland, has baffled the medical world because of her mysterious condition. Brooke, who just turned seventeen last January, still has the physical appearance and mental capacity of a toddler. She is just 30 inches (76 cm) tall and weighs around 16 pounds (7.3 kg) and her mental age is estimated to be about the same as a 9 to 12 month-old child. She also hasn’t learned to speak yet. Scientists, who have termed Brooke’s condition Syndrome X, believe that her abnormality is caused by a defect in the genes that control her body’s aging. “There’ve been very minimal changes in Brooke’s brain … Various parts of her body, rather than all being at the same stage, seem to be disconnected,” said Dr. Richard Walker of the University of South Florida College of Medicine, of Brooke’s aging process. However, scientists see Brooke’s condition as an opportunity for them to study the mysterious process of aging. Walker, who has already published a paper on Brooke’s disorder, said, “Our hypothesis is that she is suffering from damage in the gene or genes that coordinate the way the body develops and age. If we can use her DNA to find that mutant gene then we can test it in laboratory animals to see if we can switch if off and slow down the aging process at will. Just possibly it could give us an opportunity to answer the question of why we are mortal.”

Interesting Fact: When specialists began decoding Brooke’s DNA sequence, they found out that certain genes associated with DNA repair were normal. Mutated copies of those genes are thought to be responsible for ‘rapid aging’ disorders like progeria and Werner syndrome.


10 Craziest Scientific Theories


Crazy is such an ugly word but how else can we describe these concepts? They each try to explain some aspect of our universe in a manner that just seems bizarre. Granted, most things in the universe are odd already, and we haven’t even begun to fully understand a fraction of it, but there’s something particularly disturbing about these theories. They express ideas that are too mindboggling and inconceivable, even for fellow scientists. While none of them have been verified or completely dismissed, we should still speculate because in a universe as crazy as ours, we just never know what might be true.

#10 - Ekpyrotic Universe


The ekpyrotic scenario provides an alternative to the widely accepted Big Bang theory. It suggests that, unlike the Big Bang that began from singularity, our universe is one of a pair of universes that collided. The effect of the collision resets the universe. From there, it expands for billions of light years (the way we imagine the Big Bang occurring) until it contracts back to the Big Crunch. The speed and energy of that reduction creates another massive collision and the universe is reborn. The cycle continues for infinity.

Did you catch the crazy part? This theory states there’s another universe out there. That’s not too strange considering we accept the possibility of parallel universes. But if the ekpyrotic scenario is correct, our twin universe is right next to us in another dimension, separated by a distance less than the diameter of an atom. That’s close, even for siblings.


#9 - White Holes


White holes, unlike their black hole neighbors, have not been studied because they only exist in an extremely hypothetical situation. In fact, there’s not even a clear understanding what a white hole could be. Is it the other end of a black hole? Is it a wormhole? Is it something else entirely?

Generally, white holes are thought to spit out matter, much like black holes eat matter. For this to happen, the matter that passes through a black hole would have to be protected during the voyage, avoiding the process of merging into singularity. No white holes have ever been detected, up to this point, and no black holes have been seen without an event horizon (the guarding force around a black hole that prevents us from seeing them) that may show us just how matter passes through. To do that, white holes would have to break a few laws of physics and reinstitute some ideas that have been discarded; that’s asking a lot. Until then, white holes are best left for hypothetical ideas or naughty jokes.


#8 - Dark Energy is Murder


According to Professor Lawrence Krauss, every time we look at dark energy, we’re killing the universe. Now dark energy, as you may recall, makes up 70% of the universe. It answers for all the invisible peculiarities we see in deep space. It’s also one of the most perplexing concepts that’s becoming more accepted nowadays. Why wouldn’t we try to explore it?

He suggests that the Big Bang was initiated when strange high energy with repellent gravity decayed into zero-energy; it went from a false vacuum to an ordinary vacuum causing the universe to happen. Now in quantum mechanics, there is what’s called the quantum Zeno effect. It states that if an unstable object is observed regularly, it will never decay. Krauss argues then, that under the same principle, if dark energy is continuously observed, we are keeping it unstable and reducing the universe’s lifespan by forcing it back to that state when it was a false vacuum. With our interest so high in the invisible dark energy that makes up the universe, it seems unlikely that astronomers will stop studying it. If Krauss is right, we’re doomed.

#7 - Matrix Universe


Does anyone remember that little movie that came out a few years ago? The protagonist could stop bullets and see time slow down as he fought his enemies. It was called the Matrix. Did you catch it?

If you haven’t, (been living under a rock much?) go check it out, because it might provide the ultimate answer to the universe: we live in a computer program. It surely seems like science fiction to say that one day computers will become so powerful that they will be able to simulate consciousness, but as technology advances, that crazy thought could become reality. In a simulated world, we could be trapped in the mundane until death or live out fantasies and never even realize we’re hooked up to a machine. Hell, for all we know, we’re in a matrix universe right now. Time to start a rebel team and escape, don’t you think?

#6 - Universe is a Hologram


On the subject of the unreal, there’s another theory that suggests we’re not in an elaborate computer program but that much of what we think is the universe is nothing more than a hologram made by the universe itself.

The idea is when we look at the night sky, we’re seeing a wall with an image on it (that includes all the galaxies and stars). This holographic principle might explain why the universe appears grainy on the most basic of energy scales. Remember that a holographic image is created when an object is bathed by the light of a laser and a second laser jumps off the first’s reflective surface (which is then recorded). A third light illuminates the image to reveal the holograph. If changes to gravity waves is caused by patterns of light, than it would simulate what is, essentially, the process of creating a holographic image. If this was proven, then it would change most of what we think we know about the universe.


#5 - Black Hole Babies


We could be the child of a black hole. The idea is, when matter gets pulled into a black hole, it becomes so dense before reaching singularity, that the black hole might spit it back out and form a universe from that very same matter.

In other words, a universe with many black holes would have created many baby universes. We still can’t detect exactly where black holes are located in our universe (though we can estimate their location by recording the movement of stars and planets around them) but that might just be because we’re a baby universe, a product of another universe’s black hole with insufficient means. This idea supports the possibility of the multiverse where there could be an infinite amount of universes.

#4 - Many-Worlds Interpretation


On the subject of an omniverse, the many-worlds interpretation takes a different approach explaining multiple universes. While I can tell you that this concept of quantum mechanics argues the objective reality of space but denies the reality of wavefunction collapse (or rather the condensing of physical possibilities into one single occurrence) but I go cross-eyed just thinking about that. Basically, the interpretation says for every decision we make, a new universe is born.

When you woke up this morning, did you brush your teeth? Another you may be living in a different universe where you didn’t, while you live in the universe where you did (I’m giving the present you the benefit of the doubt). After that, did you floss? Again, a separate universe exists depending on the outcome of your choice. Each decision then is played out in full until you come across another decision and another universe branches out from there. If this is the case, then there are an infinite amount of universes, each accounting for every person’s every decision.

#3 - Heat Death


The argument uses the second law of thermodynamics by stating that if the universe was infinite, it should also be infinitely old. Or to make that sound less daunting, a star one hundred light years away could only be there if the universe was at least one hundred years old (if the speed was constant, more on that later). So if the universe is infinitely old, heat death suggests everywhere should be the same temperature and there should be no stars in the sky because they all would have died out (or they should all be at the same cooled temperature).

The explanation: If the universe was infinitely old, then stars should be cool because they warmed their surroundings, making the temperature across the universe uniform. However, there are stars and the universe doesn’t have an equal temperature throughout (as detected by cosmic background radiation). This idea also only works if the speed at which the universe is expanding has remained constant because such ideas as cosmic inflation claim expansion is not always the same. When you have variables such as dark flow and dark energy also pushing and tugging on matter, heat death’s vision of a starless sky appears dim (slight pun intended).

#2 - Theory of Everything


The theory of everything will be the ultimate discovery. It would combine quantum mechanics and general relatively to solve all the riddles around us into a neat little package. It would be able to name all the physical constants in the universe, whether or not those constants vary over time, locate other fundamental elements in the unobservable universe (such as dark matter and dark energy), and so on.

But why mention it here? Well, to have a theory that would explain all the mysteries of a seemingly changing universe seems insane. Think of a screw trying to fit into hundreds of holes in a wall but every hole is a different size and shape and possibly in a different dimension or universe. That’s a big achievement but scientists hope to find a unified answer. The closest possibility we have right now is the M-theory, an extension of string theory.

#1 - Time Travel


What do Marty McFly, Dr. Who and Bill and Ted have in common? They’re time travelers. They were able to do the impossible and make the voyage through our perception of time. It should go without saying time travel comes with a whole universe of problems, making the possibility extremely unrealistic. Consider the following:

You go back in time and kill your father. Theoretically, you can’t kill him because then you wouldn’t be born to kill him. You do so anyway and it turns out, he isn’t your real father and you actually killed your step-father. You’re real father goes untouched and thus the past and present line up perfectly. Well, not yet. When you left the present to go into the past, there’s an issue about your body. Do you become a duplicate so you exist in your own present time and in the past or are you displaced from time itself and inserted in another? That also doesn’t make sense because if you follow the rules of what we perceive as time, you’d return to the past as a baby, if even that. What if you go back in time and kiss your high school crush, making him/her fall in love with you? That should alter the future where you lived by yourself that led you to go to the past in the first place. That kiss and its alteration of history keeps you from going to the past at all. If in that different chain of events you still go to the past to make it in time for that kiss, you’ll be trapped in a cycle. And consider that all these questions are only applicable if time is cyclical. If time is linear, your past, present and future aren’t constantly happening somewhere, making time travel impossible (there would be nothing to travel back to). If time was cyclical, this suggests that everything is preordained and you have no free will. What you think of as free will would already be recorded and whatever action you believe is different than the original action is actually the decision you were going to make anyway.

Don’t worry, I got lost along the way too. To simplify all this, we look to Stephen Hawking who provides us with one question that indicates whether time travel will ever be possible: Why aren’t we inundated with time travelers from the future? They should be here right now, knowing full well that we’re interested in such topics as time travel to explain just how they accomplish it from a future tens of thousands of years in the future. This isn’t the case because maybe this science fiction dream is just that: a dream.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

10 Most Terrifying Places on Earth


There are places on this planet that are stranger than the most alien landscapes we have ever imagined. Places that make your skin crawl. Places that induce heavy breathing and paranoia, before anything has even happened. We walk the dark, dusty steps of old castles and houses. We roam the halls of asylums and tunnels, hoping to glimpse something otherworldly. But sometimes, we wish we wouldn’t. Sometimes, our curiosity gets the better of us in the beginning, and is then squashed by a feeling that no human ever wants to be familiar with: absolute terror.

We hear screams in the night, footsteps in the hall. We see shadows flit by, and fog taking the shape of something eerily familiar. We breathe, we pray, and step lightly. We scream, we curse, and we sprint. Some encounters are mysterious, others violent, all terrifying. Why do we insist on investigating places such as these? Mere curiosity only gets us so far, and then we need a driving force embedded much deeper into our psyche in order to power on. Would you spend the night alone in these places?

#10 - Riddle House


The History

The Riddle House in Palm Beach County, Florida, was originally a funeral parlor. The Victorian house was dismantled and rebuilt in Yesteryear Village at the South Florida fair grounds. In the 1920’s the house became privately owned by Karl Riddle.

The Terror

Joseph, one of Riddle’s former employees, committed suicide by hanging himself in the attic of the house. Joseph, for whatever reason, hated men, and displays this hatred by attacking men who enter the attic. One man had a lid flung at his head, and men are now no longer allowed in the attic. Other places in the house are haunted as well, with furniture being frequently moved.


#9 - Helltown


The History

The Northern part of Summit County in Ohio is known by the eerily blunt moniker, Helltown. In the 70’s, Boston Township was the site of a government buyout, and subsequent mass eviction of citizens. The houses were intended to be torn down and the land used for a national park, but the plans never quite manifested. Legends spawned wildly, and who can blame the legend mongers? Driving through the dark, wooded landscape was enough to give you chills even when it was populated, let alone when you have to drive by boarded up houses standing next to the burnt out hulks of others (the local fire department used some buildings for practice).

The Terror

Whether based on a kernel of truth or cooked up in the heads of creative visitors, the persistent legends of Helltown add to the creep factor. The steep Stanford Road drop off, immediately followed by a dead end, is aptly named The End of the World. If you get stuck at this dead end for too long, according to ghost story enthusiasts, you may meet your end at the hands of many members of the endless parade of freaks patrolling the woods. Satanists, Ku Klux Klan members, an escaped mental patient, an abnormally large snake, and mutants caused by an alleged chemical spill proudly march in this parade. And if you stray from the roads, you may find Boston Cemetery, home to a ghostly man, grave robbers, and the quirkiest of all, a moving tree.


#8 - Stull Cemetery


The History

Stull, Kansas, is a tiny, unincorporated town in Bumfuck, Nowhere- er, pardon, Douglas County. Ten miles west of Lawrence and thirteen miles east of Topeka puts it far from anything resembling a large population center. The population of Stull is approximately 20 people. But, don’t let the deceptively quaint village fool you. A darker side lurks behind the bushes and in the shadows.

The Terror

In the early 20th century, two tragedies rocked the tiny settlement (please observe, these are not legend or folklore, but fact). First, a father finished burning a farm field, only to find the charred corpse of his young son in the aftermath. The second incident to occur was a man went missing, and was later found hanged from a tree. As far as legends go, the infamous cemetery is where you can find your fill of supernatural lore. The book Weird US has this to say on Stull Cemetery:

“There are graveyards across America that go beyond merely being haunted and enter into the realm of the diabolical. They are places so terrifying that they say the devil himself holds courts with his worshippers there. The cemetery on Emmanuel Hill in Stull, Kansas, is one of these places.”

Rumors exist stating that Stull Cemetery is one of the 7 gateways to Hell. While the old church is now demolished, many attempt to sneak in at night for a peek at the unsavory goings-on. But be warned, the police patrol heavily, especially on Halloween and the spring equinox. The place is supposed to be so unholy, in fact, that some claim Pope John Paul II refused to allow his plane to fly over eastern Kansas, on his way to an appearance in Colorado. The validity of this last claim is up for debate, but none can deny that legends or not, Stull Cemetery is a terrifying place to be.


#7 - The Ridges



The History

Originally known as the Athens Lunatic Asylum, The Ridges was renamed after the state of Ohio acquired the property. The hospital saw hundreds of lobotomies, and often declared masturbation and epilepsy to be the causes of insanity in patients.

The Terror

Athens, Ohio, is listed as the 13th most haunted place in world as per the British Society for Psychical Research. The nearby Ohio University (which currently owns most of the property on which the Ridges is located) is said to be heavily haunted. The notorious rapist with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Billy Milligan, was housed at the facility for years. The most famous story, however is that of a 54 year old female patient who ran away and was missing for 6 weeks. She was found dead in an unused ward. She had taken off all of her clothes, neatly folded them, and laid down on the cold concrete where she subsequently died. Through a combination of decomposition and sun exposure, her corpse left a permanent stain on the floor, which is still visible today. Her spirit now haunts the abandoned ward.


#6 - Humberstone and LaNoria


The History

These two abandoned mining towns in Chile were recently featured on an episode of the SyFy Channel’s show, Destination Truth. In 1872, the town was founded as a saltpeter mine, and business boomed. However, after several heavy blows (including the Great Depression), the business declined and then collapsed in 1958, and the town of Humberstone and it’s surrounding towns were abandoned by 1960. Treatment of workers in both towns bordered on slavery, and now the towns are left standing derelict.

The Terror

It is rumored that the dead of the La Noria cemetery rise at night and walk around the town, and ghostly images frequently show up in photographs in Humberstone. These towns are so terrifying, the residents of nearby Iquique refuse to enter them. The former residents never left, and can be seen walking around, and children have been heard playing. The cemetery of La Noria, regardless of whether it’s occupants actually walk at night, contains opened graves where the bodies are fully exposed, leaving you to wonder why. Is ghosts, or is it grave robbers? As if either prospect is very appealing.

Full episodes of Destination Truth, including the episode featuring Humberstone and La Noria, can be seen here.



#5 - Byberry Mental Asylum


The History

The Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry, or known simply as Byberry, was the poster image for patient maltreatment. The hospital, in it’s most popular form, was founded in 1907 and known as the Byberry Mental Hospital. It exceeded it’s patient limit quickly, maxing out at over 7,000 in 1960. It housed everything from the mentally challenged to the criminally insane. Due to it’s atrocious conditions, and the sub-human treatment of it’s patients, the hospital was closed and abandoned in 1990. It had since become a nuisance for the neighborhood, as it was a breeding ground for vandals, arsonists, Satanists, and urban explorers. It was demolished in 2006, in spite of the fear of spreading asbestos, (which is what kept it standing for 16 years).

The Terror

The terrifying aspect of this location isn’t so much it’s hauntings or the unsavory characters that lurked after dark (although you would have been wise to be wary of both while exploring the building). The terror here comes from the facts of the how the hospital was run. Human excrement lined the hallways, which were also where many patients slept. The staff was abusive, and frequently exploited and harassed patients. One patient had a tooth pulled without Novocaine, while another killed and dismembered a female patient. Although the killer, Charles Gable, was never found, the victim’s body was found strewn across the property. Her teeth were found being played with by another patient. Even as the hospital was in the process of closing, two released patients were found dead in the Delaware River, two successive days after their release. Perhaps that gate in Stull Cemetery opens here.


#4 - Leap Castle


The History

While this Irish castle is perhaps the most popular location featured on the list, it is worth recapping the long and often gruesome history. Although it was built by the O’Bannons in the late 15th century, the castle was taken over by the ruling O’Carrolls, to whom the O’Bannons were subject. After the death of Mulrooney O’Carroll, a fierce rivalry erupted, culminating in two brothers struggling for control. One of the brothers, a priest, was brutally murdered in his own chapel, in front of the family, by the other brother. This chapel is now know as the Bloody Chapel, for obvious reasons. Many people were held prisoner and even executed at the castle.

The Terror

The castle is rumored to be haunted by a vast number of spirits, including a violent, hunched beast known only as the Elemental. It is most recognizable by the accompanying smell of rotting flesh and sulphur. While renovating the castle, workers discover an oubliette, which is a dungeon accessible only through a ceiling hatch, into which prisoners are thrown, then forgotten and left to die. This particular oubliette contained three cartloads of human remains, and was filled with spikes to impale those thrown into it’s depths.


#3 - Shades of Death Road


The History

This New Jersey road winds through 7 miles of countryside, and along that stretch it gives us no definitive clues as to the origin of it’s eerie name (for those wondering, Shades of Death is not a nickname given by locals, but is in fact the road’s official moniker). While the explanation for this highly unusual name has been lost, many theories abound. Some say that murderous highwaymen would rob and kill those along the road. Others say the reason was because of violent retaliations by the locals against the very same highwaymen, resulting in their lynched corpses being hung up as a warning. Some attribute it to three murders that occurred in the 20’s and 30’s. The first murder saw a robber beating his victim over the head with a tire iron, the second saw a woman decapitate her husband and bury the head and body on separate sides of the road, and the third consisted of poor Bill Cummins being shot and buried in a mud pile. Some attribute it to massive amounts of fatal car crashes, while others consider it the fault of viscous wildcats from the nearby Bear Swamp. The most likely explanation, however, is that malaria-bearing mosquitos terrorized the locals year to year, and the remoteness of the area prevented good medical attention from being prominent in the area. This is supported by the fact that, in 1884, most of the swamps in the area were drained.

The Terror

Gruesome history and spooky name aside, you have much to fear along this byway. South of the I-80 overpass lies an officially unnamed lake, that most will tell you is called Ghost Lake. This lake is frequently the home of specter-like vapors, and the sky is supposed to be unusually bright, no matter what time of night you are there. As per the name, ghosts of the highwaymen’s victims roam the area, and they are most frequent in the abandoned cabin across the lake. The dead-end road known as Lenape Lane is home to thick fogs and apparitions, you may be chased off the road by a white light. I’ll let Wikipedia detail the most disturbing aspect of the road:

“One day during the 1990s, some visitors found hundreds of Polaroid photographs scattered in woods just off the road. They took some and shared them with Weird NJ, which published a few as samples. Most of the disturbing images showed a television changing channels, others showed a woman or women, blurred and somewhat difficult to identify, lying on some sort of metal object, conscious but not smiling. Local police began an investigation after the magazine ran an item with the photos, but the remainder disappeared shortly afterwards.”


#2 - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum


The History

Welcome to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, home of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This former high school was converted, in 1975, to Security Prison 21 by the Khmer Rouge. The prison was used as a base to torture and murder prisoners. Most of the prisoners were former soldiers and government officials from the Lon Nol regime. However, the Khmer Rouge leaders’ paranoia soon caught up with them, and they began shipping people from their own ranks to the prison. Many prisoners were tortured and tricked into naming their family and associates, who were them also arrested, tortured and murdered.

The Terror

The ghosts of the estimated 17,000 victims of Tuol Sleng continue to roam the halls, and odd happenings around the place are often attributed to them. And it isn’t hard to see why. Most were forced to confess to crimes they didn’t actually commit. Although most victims were Cambodians, many foreigners fell victim to the death machine, including Americans, French, a New Zealander, a Briton, Australians, Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis and Vietnamese. Only 12 people are thought to have survived. To close this entry on the sad history, I’ll leave you with the actual security regulations, the ten rules all prisoners had to abide by. All imperfect grammar is said in context due to poor translation.

1. You must answer accordingly to my question. Don’t turn them away.
2. Don’t try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that, you are strictly prohibited to contest me.
3. Don’t be a fool for you are a chap who dare to thwart the revolution.
4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.
5. Don’t tell me either about your immoralities or the essence of the revolution.
6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.
7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.
8. Don’t make pretext about Kampuchea Krom in order to hide your secret or traitor.
9. If you don’t follow all the above rules, you shall get many many lashes of electric wire.
If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.


#1 - The Mines of Paris


The History

The seemingly infinite tunnels that run below the streets of Paris should not be confused with Catacombs of Paris, the famous underground ossuary, although the mines are also mistakenly referred to as the catacombs. Exploring the mines is illegal, and penalties include heavy fines. The mines were used to dig out minerals from Paris’ varied sediment (the location where Paris is was submerged for millions of years), and the tunnels are what got left behind.

The Terror

The mines are now unkempt, unpatrolled, and unsafe. As far as legends go, ancient cults and creatures patrol the depths. Spirits dwell in the infinite shadows, and if one wanders deep enough, and survives, they may even enter Hades itself. As far as reality goes, those legends can take a back seat. The tunnels stretch for close to 600 kilometers throughout the Parisian underground, and most of them are unmapped. Saying it is easy to get lost is an understatement. It is nearly impossible not to get lost. Many parts of the catacombs are hundreds of feet below street level. Some hallways are flooded, or are so narrow you have to crawl through them. There are holes that drop hundreds of feet, and manholes that are unreachable, luring unwary urban explorers in with false promises of freedom. The infinite underground maze absorbs sound, mutes it, making it unlikely you will hear somebody yelling for help, even if they are not far away. Or, worse yet, making it unlikely somebody will hear you. Thousands of human bones litter the tunnels, due to overcrowding in many of Paris’ cemeteries. Weird paintings adorn the walls. Are they ancient? Are they new? Are they warnings? Or pleas for help? If you have claustrophobia, you will want to avoid the mines at all costs. If you don’t have claustrophobia, you probably will after a trip through the mines. Bring plenty of batteries, backup flashlights, clean water, a friend, and say a prayer before entering the mines of Paris. You will need them all.


10 Human Creations Attributed To Aliens


Since the beginning of humanity, people have invented explanations for things they don’t understand. The culprits for the unexplained have evolved from gods and demons, to ghosts and spirits, to extraterrestrials. A recent study showed that almost 1 in 4 Americans believe that, at least some of the reported UFO’s, are actually spacecraft from other worlds. Many people believe space aliens have visited Earth in the past – if they’re not here right now. Of course the vast majority of “evidence” of extraterrestrials have simple (albeit WAY less exciting) explanations. Here are 10 man-made things falsely attributed to extraterrestrial influence. Enjoy.

#10 - Ancient Cave Paintings


Discoveries of ancient artwork depicting mysterious figures have helped give rise to the “Ancient Astronaut Theory”, which claims that alien beings visited prehistoric humans, possibly interacting and sharing knowledge with them. Advocates of this theory usually point to specific examples, such as a particular rock carving in the Val Camonica site in Italy, as well as the Wandjina Petroglyph (above) sites in Australia. Using these examples as evidence reaches unsturdy ground when held up to scientific scrutiny. The popular image of two “alien” figures in Val Camonica was picked out of over 200,000 drawings – a pretty clear sign of confirmation bias. Testing at the Wandjina site showed some drawings had been repainted numerous times over, with the images evolving over time at the artists’ discretion, rendering the original artwork unknown.

#9 - Egyptian Carvings


According to many UFO enthusiasts, the Temple of Osiris at Abydos contains definitive proof of advanced ancient technology. The glyphs seem to include depictions of a helicopter, a jet plane and some sort of flying saucer. Unfortunately for believers, the glyphs are a result of erosion and actual replacement and re-carving of hieroglyphics. The original text is part of the titulary of Seti I, that had been changed to reference Ramsses II. Modifying and defacing inscriptions was common in ancient Egypt’s history, and in this case yielded some strange-looking results. Even stranger, UFO enthusiasts do not find it odd that there are no other examples like this in the thousands of hieroglyphs discovered elsewhere, nor is there any mention of flying machines anywhere in Egyptian literature.

#8 - Nazca Lines


The Nazca Lines are a series of hundreds of ancient geoglyphs located in Peru. These include depictions of animals, birds, fish and humans, along with simple lines and geometric shapes. Some of them are over 600ft. across and can only be viewed properly from the air. This has led to speculation by the Ancient Astronaut crowd that the ancient Peruvians were capable of advanced flight, or were trying to communicate with beings that were. Scientists have claimed the lines were of a spiritual significance, possibly pertaining to the availability of water. Also, historians have since recreated similar lines using primitive techniques without aerial assistance.

#7 - Antikythera Mechanism


The Mechanism is a clock-like instrument from around 85 BC, that was discovered in 1900 near Antikythera, Greece. It was used aboard ships as a navigation tool because it could accurately predict locations of the sun, moon and the 5 known planets, at any given date. The device contained a complex system of gears, built with sophisticated technology, that rivaled that of 14th century clocks. Because of the precision involved in it’s construction, it’s almost exact predictions of cosmic bodies, and the apparent 1300 year gap in technology, UFO enthusiasts have cited this as evidence of alien contact, as humans could have never figured it’s complex technology out that early. However, if aliens were to blame, they would have probably told the Greeks about more than just five planets, or at least given them a magnetic compass. Of course ancient Greek literature mentions mechanisms like this one without mentioning other-worldly visitors.

#6 - Saqqara Bird


Found in a tomb excavation in 1898, the Saqqara Bird has been rumored, by believers in the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to be evidence of advanced flight in ancient Egypt. They note the vertical tail of the “bird” resembles a tailplane on an aircraft as opposed to the horizontal tail feathers of a real bird. The lack of legs, and the angle of the wings has lent to speculation about the design’s capability of aerodynamic lift. Tests performed on recreations of the artifact have shown it to have no aerodynamic properties conductive to flight. Modern scientific theories suggest it’s either a religious artifact or even just a simple children’s toy.


#5 - Dogu


Dogu are small humanoid figurines created in prehistoric Japan. The unusual appearance of the Dogu has been claimed to resemble some sort of space suit, supposedly complete with goggles, armor and hoses. Adding to the mystery, their exact purpose remains unclear to historians. Ancient Astronaut proponents tend to ignore the fact that the “goggle-eyed type” figures are only one of many types of Dogu, and that archaeologists have pointed out the similarity of the figure’s eyes with Inuit snow goggles. They are seldom discovered intact, with limbs having been cut or broken off. This with the exaggerated hips, buttocks, and breasts depicted suggest a possible usage in fertility rituals.



#4 - Crop Circles


In 1966, a man claimed to have seen a saucer shaped craft over a field near Tully, Australia. The saucer allegedly left a circular pattern of flattened reeds over the area it had taken off from. Years later, this unique story inspired two English pranksters to create their own patterns of flattened crops in local fields, using simple tools. The fad quickly spread, and crop circles became increasingly complex and intricate. While some believe this is a result of alien technology advancing, or the increasingly complex nature of an extraterrestrial “message” to humans, the overwhelming majority of crop circles have been revealed as products of deception, artistic expression and/or business or tourist interests.

#3 - Norwegian Spiral


In December of 2009, an enormous spiral appeared in the sky over northern Norway, leading to speculation of an extraterrestrial visit. The unusual visual phenomenon lasted for 2-3 minutes, and consisted of a blue light originating on the horizon, which gained altitude, culminating into a large white pinwheel effect before disappearing “into a wormhole.” UFO enthusiasts cited this as evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, while the official explanation from the Russian government wasn’t quite as fantastic. Apparently, a Russian military missile test went haywire, and the spiral effect was either a result of a broken stabilizer engine, or the missile circling an airborne misfire beacon until it ran out of fuel and fell into the sea.

#2 - Stonehenge


With it’s enormous stones dating past 2400BC, the purpose and construction methods of Stonehenge have long been debated. Humans are generally accepted to have built the actual monument, as comparably large stones have been erected in modern times using primitive tools. However, Ancient Astronaut theorists claim that the positions of the stones confirm an ancient ability to predict eclipses. This ability would mean the ancients had knowledge of lunar nodes – the two points in space where Earth’s orbit intersects the moon’s orbit. This knowledge wouldn’t be possible without extraterrestrial influence — or by generations of astute study that was continuously passed down and improved upon. Modern science obviously leans towards the latter, but it is possible that scientists have also attributed too much astronomical meaning to the placement of the stones.

#1 - Pyramids of Giza


Similar to many other megalithic sites around the world, the Pyramids of Giza have been repeatedly attributed to extraterrestrials throughout the years, mostly because of the sheer magnitude of their construction. According to believers, the technology needed to build the massive monuments was not available to the Egyptians during the time they were built. The cuts and placement of the stones are said to be so precise that we cannot recreate them even in modern times. The placement of the pyramids themselves and the measurements contained within are also said to support the Ancient Astronaut Theory, such as the height of the Great Pyramid being an accurate, scaled-down measurement of the distance between Earth and the Sun, or the three Giza Pyramids correlating with the constellation Orion. Modern measuring techniques have proven hopeful ideas like those to be false, yet the rumors persist. The Pyramids of Giza do display a remarkable knowledge of engineering and measuring for their time period, but one would think that if creatures capable of interstellar travel were actually responsible for them, they would have done a better job.

Bonus - Religions


Believers in extraterrestrials have also pointed to religious texts to support their claims of a previous visitation. Proponents often mention the imagery in the Book of Ezekiel, or the vimanas of Hindu Vedic texts, while some religions, like Raelism and Scientology, hold the belief of extraterrestrials as basic tenets of their faith. One thing some Ancient Astronaut theorists like to mention as a modern day comparison are the so-called Cargo Cults. These “cults” arose when the primitive, indigenous populations of isolated islands were exposed to visitors from civilized countries. For example, U.S. soldiers landed on the tiny island of Tanna, Vanuatu, during WWII to build airstrips for their fight against Japan. The tribal inhabitants viewed the soldiers as gods, and accepted gifts from them as rewards from their deities. When the soldiers left as quickly as they came, the inhabitants began recreating their “rituals,” such as marching in formation and building makeshift landing strips and planes, in order to continue the delivery of their divine “cargo.” Some ufologists have speculated that ancient religions may have developed the same way, with extraterrestrials acting the part of American soldiers.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Top 10 Traitors in US History


Black’s Law Dictionary defines “treason” as ”attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which one owes allegiance, either by making war against the state or by materially supporting its enemies”. Submitted here are ten people who did their level best to see that America couldn’t celebrate her official 234th birthday this week. And yes, this list is “too American.”

#10 - Jane Fonda


During the height of the Vietnam war in 1972, film starlet Jane Fonda visited North Vietnam and shilled for the North Vietnamese government, screeching that American prisoners of war (POWs) were being treated humanely. She then went on to condemn all US soldiers as “war criminals”. On hearing that many POWs claimed to have been tortured, Fonda denounced them as “liars”. She encountered no legal or professional repercussions upon her return to the US, but claims to deeply regret her actions today. How nice for her.





#9 - Adam Yahiye Gadahn


An American-born convert to Islam, Adam Yahiye Gadahn (aka, “Azzam the American”) threatened a terrorist attack on Los Angeles in a 2005 Al Qaeda video. As a full-on member of their “media committee”, Gadahn served Al Qaeda as translator, video producer, cultural interpreter and spokesman. His zeal in their propaganda was cartoonish in its intensity, but all too real. After Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri endorsed the videos—some of which referred to the United States as “enemy soil”–the Justice Department indicted Gadahn, the first American accused of treason since World War Two. It is widely believed that “Azzam the American” is now “Azzam the Dead American”; following reports that he was killed by a Predator drone in January 2008.


#8 - Aldrich Ames


Aldrich Ames began working for the CIA during high school, and did so until he was discovered to be a Soviet double agent in 1994. He specialized in selling the identities of CIA agents, placed within the KGB, to the KGB. In true cloak-and-dagger fashion, Ames would mark a blue postal drop box with a piece of chalk whenever he needed to contact his KGB handlers. The damage he caused US intelligence efforts can’t really be known, but conservative estimates indicate that he exposed over 100 agents, and was directly responsible for at least 10 deaths. A thorough accounting of his finances revealed that he and his wife made over $4.6 million over the course of their espionage career. Ames explained the full extent of his activities as part of a plea bargain to mitigate his wife’s sentence (how gallant). As a result, Ames was sentenced to life in prison, while his wife received 63 months.


#7 - Tokyo Rose


“Tokyo Rose” is a collective nickname applied to not one, but several sultry-voiced women who worked for Radio Tokyo during World War 2. In between popular songs, these sirens cooed Japanese propaganda designed to make American soldiers nostalgic and homesick. UCLA grad Iva Toguri D’Aquino was the most infamous. An American citizen of Japanese descent, she worked as a Radio Tokyo announcer from 1943-1945. Immediately after the war, D’Aquino was arrested, but released without being charged. Authorities reopened her case with a vengeance in 1948, and she was promptly convicted of treason in 1949. D’Aquino served six years in prison. Throughout her trial she denied any disloyalty to the US, and prosecutors didn’t present a single radio broadcast as evidence against her. In fact, critical testimony against her was later found to be false and coerced, to the extent that President Gerald Ford pardoned D’Aquino in 1977.


#6 - Aaron Burr


Yes, an American Vice President was also one of its greatest traitors. Fresh off his duel with Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr noticed his political career was now as dead as Hamilton was. So he looked fondly on the Louisiana territory, with its disputed borders, and residents toying with secessionist notions. Burr believed a small army could steal Louisiana away, so he contacted Britain’s ambassador, offering to help Britain take the territory. In return, Burr wanted money and ships. But he also needed a general. So Burr sent the infamous “Cipher Letter” to General James Wilkinson, Commander-in-Chief of the US Army, detailing the plot and requesting his services. However, Wilkinson believed the plan would fail, and ratted him out to President Thomas Jefferson. Thus, on December 9, 1806, the US Army seized most of Burr’s boats and supplies. But Burr knew it was REALLY over when he saw a New Orleans newspaper article with a verbatim copy of the Cipher Letter to Britain. Burr appeared in court and was not initially indicted, but fled when asked to appear a second time. After recapture, he was found not guilty, due to a very precise Supreme Court reading of the Constitution’s definition of treason. He then fled to Europe but returned after four years, finding work as an attorney.


#5 - Julius and Ethel Rosenberg


In 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were the first American civilians executed under Section 2 of the Espionage Act. Charges related to passing atomic bomb secrets to Russian agents (the data came from Ethel’s brother, who worked on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos). Their legal prosecution was the “Trial of the Century” (prior to O.J., at least), and many felt the couple were unfairly convicted. However, recently declassified cables from the Soviet Union’s VENONA project, now support testimony that Julius was, indeed, a courier and recruiter for the USSR. In fact, Morton Sobell, who was tried along with the Rosenbergs (and served 17 years in prison), admitted in 2008 that yes, he was a spy, and that Julius Rosenberg handed atomic bomb information to the Soviets.


#4 - Robert Hanssen


Robert Hanssen is a former FBI agent who spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services against the United States for 22 years (1979 to 2001). During his espionage career Hanssen compromised scores of investigations and operations, including the surveillance of suspected mole Felix Bloch, and completed an eavesdropping tunnel directly under the Soviet Embassy decoding room. At one time, he even became responsible for apprehending himself, and he passed some of that off to Aldrich Ames (above). Worse, however, were his leaks to the USSR of every KGB agent contacting the FBI— conveniently identifying detected double-agents and prospective defectors alike. The FBI was so flummoxed at finding Hanssen, they had to buy the information to put him away (most of which they already had). Cash and Hanssen’s carelessness eventually led to his capture, and in 2001 he pled guilty to 13 counts of espionage in the United States. He was then sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole, and can be found in America’s “Supermax” prison, where he remains in his cell, alone, 23 hours a day. Many have described his activities as “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history.”


#3 - Nidal Malik Hasan


Nidal Malik Hasan was a U.S. Army Major, and the sole suspect in a shooting at the Fort Hood military base, only weeks before he would have deployed to Afghanistan. Prior to the shooting, Hasan had repeatedly expressed extremist views, most of which had been communicated to his superiors and the FBI. The Feds had even monitored his e-mails to Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, also known as the “Bin Laden of the Internet”. Sadly, political correctness and a slow-moving investigation prevented the Army from taking action before Hasan murdered 13 people and wounded 30 others. Oddly, the Pentagon never mentions Hasan’s Islamism in its entire 86-page review of the incident. Never mind that during the attack, he was not in uniform, but dressed in traditional Muslim clothing, and was shooting unarmed victims while shouting “Allah Ackbar”. Hasan currently resides under heavy guard at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Houston, Texas, reportedly a paraplegic.


#2 - John Walker, Jr.


In 1967, Navy communications officer John Walker, Jr. snuck into the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C., and offered to sell secrets. He then handed over settings for the KL-47 cipher machine, which decoded sensitive US Navy messages. His motivations were purely financial, and he proved to be a screaming bargain: over the next 17 years, Walker gave the KGB the locations of all American nuclear submarines, as well as the procedures the US would follow to launch nuclear missiles at the Soviet Union in the event of war. The Soviets also learned the locations of underwater microphones tracking Soviet nuclear submarines. Moreover, KGB agents learned every American troop and air movement to Vietnam from 1971-1973, and they passed this on to their allies, including the planned sites and times for U.S. airstrikes against North Vietnam. According to Vitaly Yurchenko, a KGB defector, “It was the greatest case in KGB history. We deciphered millions of your messages. If there had been a war, we would have won it.”


#1 - Benedict Arnold


His name is synonymous with disloyalty. During the American Revolutionary War, Arnold began the war in the Continental Army, but later defected to the British Army. While still a general on the American side, he became Commander of the West Point fort in New York, and offered to surrender it to the British. After the plot came to light, in September 1780, Arnold joined the British Army as a brigadier general, with a sizable pension and £6,000 signing bonus. Many believe that he was frustrated at being passed over for promotion, sickened by others taking credit for his achievements, and tired of (groundless) accusations that he exacted private property for the use of the army . In fact, Congressional investigations later found Arnold had spent much of his own money on the American war effort. Much like Aaron Burr (above) Arnold’s plan unraveled due to an intercepted document: when American forces captured British Major John André carrying papers revealing the proposed surrender of West Point, Arnold fled to a British ship docked on the Hudson river, narrowly escaping the forces of one highly pissed off George Washington. Britain quickly secured Arnold’s services, and he led British raids in Virginia, New London and Groton, Connecticut, before the war ended with the American victory at Yorktown. Arnold died in London, and monuments to him there are ambiguous at best.