With the opening of a new office in Brazil, a leading U.S. Christian conservative organization may be taking on one of its biggest challenges yet — but one with some big opportunities if it succeeds.
Pat Robertson founded the American Center for Law and Justice in 1990 to provide a national presence opposing the American Civil Liberties Union — often filing and defending cases all the way to the Supreme Court. But in recent years it has been growing its foreign operations, making it a player in policies to constrain LGBT rights on three continents.
The head of the new Brazil office, Filipe Coelho, is a scion of one of Brazil’s leading evangelical families, and aims to stop hate crime legislation from becoming law, opposes marriage rights for same-sex couples and speaks strongly about the dangers of employment protections for LGBT people.
The ACLJ already has offices in countries where the climate is hostile to LGBT rights, such as Russia, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. But as Political Research Associates’ Jandira Queiroz points out in a new report, the organization is setting up shop in the country that is home to the world’s largest gay pride parade. Same-sex marriage is also legal in some Brazilian jurisdictions. This includes São Paulo state, which has a population of more than 40 million people, roughly the same size as Argentina.
But Brazil also has an evangelical movement that most closely parallels the United States. It accounts for about 20 percent of the population and it has serious muscle in election campaigns and the country’s legislature. Queiroz writes that the Evangelical caucus in Brazil’s congress includes:
about 70 deputies (out of 513) in the lower house and three senators (out of 81) currently in its ranks. Most are pastors, bishops, or self-nominated “apostles” from a range of denominations. This caucus, though a minority group, is influential because of its alliance with landowners, entrepreneurs, and other conservative groups represented in the Brazilian Parliament. Together, they make up the majority of the Congress and have been blocking some of the progressive aims of the federal government, especially over the last decade.
The ACLJ is sending monthly installments to bankroll the new organization. And, despite his Brazilian pedigree, Coelho has deep roots in the United States, where he lived for half his life and received his education at the Presbyterian-affiliated King College in Tennessee.
Coelho says that one of his top priorities will be to fight a nondiscrimination and hate crime bill sought for more than a decade by the country’s LGBT rights advocates. “[H]omosexuals are trying to treat homosexuality as if it were a race, while it is really an attitude, a behavior,” he has said.
The organization that published Queiroz’s report on the ACLJ’s new Brazilian foray has also documented the ACLJ’s work in Africa. Her colleague, Kapya Koama, has written that its Zimbabwean operation has influence with the government of President Robert Mugabe, which raided the offices of the country’s gay rights group last fall. A draft of a new constitution for the country that became public in January included a ban on same-sex marriage.
J. Lester Feder is a BuzzFeed contributor and a 2013 Alicia Patterson journalism fellow.
If you’re looking for a present for a one-of-a-kind special someone this holiday season, don’t just gift another hum-drum device. Cases, stands, decals and other customizable accessories add pizzazz and flair to the devices that you hold near and dear.
For ambitious gift-givers, custom-designed presents are always stand-outs under the tree — as are gifts that allow recipients with an artistic flair to put a custom, DIY spin on their own accessories.
Below are a few gift ideas that can be customized to appeal to anyone’s tastes and style.
For smartphones and tablets
For a device that may as well be an extra appendage, it’s worth adding some personalization to your smartphone. These gifts and ideas are unique ways to customize your beloved tablets and phones.
Put a photo on it: For a truly personalized laptop, tablet or phone case, upload your own special memories and photographs to Snapfish and order a custom case that will put a smile on your loved ones face.
Perfect for: Parents, siblings, BFFs
Price: Starts at $34.99
3D-printed cases: If you’ve got a flair for design, consider creating your own custom phone case on Shapeways, a company that will 3D-print your designs in any number of materials and send you the physical copy in a matter of weeks. You can also choose from a variety of pre-designed versions, which — though perhaps not one-of-a-kind — still feel futuristic and will definitely elicit compliments on your creativity.
Perfect for: Techies and futurists
Price: Starts at ~$20
Swarovski crystals: For a unique and beautiful DIY gift, loose crystals present endless bejeweling possibilities, from a beautiful phone case to a laptop sleeve to handmade charms for any number of devices.
Perfect for: Teenagers, glamorous girls
Chalkboard paint: A layer of chalkboard paint over a plain phone or tablet case is a creative way to make your devices stand out from the crowd.
Perfect for: the DIY-er, the Pinterest-obsessed, kids
Price: Plain phone case + paint starts ~$15.00
Lily Pulitzer-inspired monogram stickers: These vinyl decals are lovely, and the perfect gifts for your friends who look like they walked straight out of a Vineyard Vines catalogue. The stickers range from 2-12 inches, so they’ll fit almost any smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Perfect for: Sorority sisters, roommates, siblings
Price: Starts at $4.50
For music tech
For audiophiles, adding a personal flair to your favorite pair of headphones is a great way to personalize the tech that you use every day.
Earbud sleeves: Tangled earbuds are (arguably) one of life’s most annoying grievances — but that doesn’t have to be the case with these cleverly designed earbud sleeves. The designs are made-to-order, and you can choose from a variety of color combinations.
Perfect for: Teenagers, commuters, runners
Crocheted headphones: Nothing says comfort and warmth like hand-crocheted headgear — and these charming and handmade headphones are cute, to boot.
Perfect for: Grandparents, kids, mom
Custom wooden headphone stands: WoodWarmth makes beautiful headphone stands, and you can choose the wood stain for each design. Classy, elegant and practical = the trifecta of gift-giving. The Etsy shop also offers a variety of stands for laptops and smartphones, so there’s something for everyone on your list.
Perfect for: Audiophiles, teenagers, dad
Price: Starts at $35.00
Pocket DJ mixer: Make and take music wherever you go — the Pokket Mixer portable sound mixer can turn your phone or laptop into a beat-making machine. Just plug into your device’s headphone jack.
Perfect for: Party people
For tech accessories
Dress up your tech with these nifty gifts.
Leather laptop cases: Great for travel and for protecting your delicate laptop or tablet screens, leather cases come in a variety of styles and sizes — as well as personalized, monogrammable and customizable designs.
Perfect for: Dad
Keyboard skins: Add some pizzazz to your plain keyboard and change up the font with skins that come in almost unlimited designs and funky patterns.
Perfect for: College students, teens
The LG Quick Circle wireless charging folio: This case fits the LG G3 smartphone, a Mashable Choice product. Simply remove the back of your LG 3TM and snap this case onto your phone — it fits seamlessly and displays a clock, as well as a swipeable screen that enables you to access your music player, call logs, camera and more.
Perfect for: Techies
Cute and functional USBs: It seems like almost anything comes as a USB these days, including these adorable cufflinks — fashion meets function. Looking for something for a female coworker? This message-in-a-bottle flash drive is a great stocking stuffer.
Perfect for: Coworkers
1. Fabulous Fashionistas.
A lively, inspiring and sometimes emotional documentary following six women who refuse to believe that you have to “dress for your age”.
Watch it here.
2. The Call Centre.
Ostensibly a real-life version of The Office, this fly-on-the-wall documentary set in a Welsh call centre has a sweet backbone. Manager Nev’s eccentricities bumble their way into your heart.
Find out more here.
“From the creators of Skins” paints a different picture to what this actually was – a smart, funny and sometimes complicated series about, well, a series of dates.
Watch it here.
4. Burton and Taylor.
Vampy and glamorous, this BBC retelling of the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton love story was a gem. Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter wallowed in the roles, making their scenes together electric.
Find out more here.
5. The Fall.
A pacy crime thriller with Gillian Anderson (and Jamie Dornan – soon to play Christian Grey in 50 Shades…). Series two is coming in January 2014, so you’ve got time to catch up.
Find out more here.
6. Top of the Lake.
With more than a touch of Twin Peaks, Top of the Lake was murky, creepy and mysterious. Elisabeth Moss’s Kiwi accent isn’t half bad either.
Find out more here
A brooding, almost suffocating four-parter, about a town in England coping with a spate of shootings. Also features Joe Dempsie (Game of Thrones, Skins).
Watch it here.
8. Welcome to the World of Weight Loss.
From acclaimed documentary-maker Vanessa Engle, Welcome… focuses gently yet unrelentingly on the weight loss journeys of a number of people – young and old. Sometimes sad, sometimes funny.
Find out more here.
We have previously published two lists of bizarre deaths so we thought we ought to make it a trilogy. A first in this new list is that we have the chance to include an entire group of people as one of the entries. Read the previous lists before reading this one and feel free to contribute any additional entries via the comments.
Donatism was an early Christian heretical movement which was named after Donatus Magnus, Bishop of Carthage, in 313 AD. The Donatists believed that the Church should be a church of saints and not sinners. This view led huge numbers of them to seek out martyrdom – either by suicide, or by asking strangers (often in large groups) to kill them all. This was such a widespread belief that it is surprising to know that they survived (albeit as a very small sect) until the 7th or 8th century.
In 1258 the Grandson of Genghis Khan (Hulagu Khan) invaded the Abbasid region (comprising modern Iraq and Syria). The Caliph (Al-Musta’sim) raised no repelling army and consequently fell into the hands of Hulagu who, being a relatively decent man, needed to execute him but didn’t want to spill royal blood. Khan came up with a brilliant idea. He had the Caliph rolled up in a rug and ordered his men to trample him to death with their horses. Such compassion was not shown for Al-Musta’sim’s sons, most of whom were summarily executed.
Clement Vallandigham was a member of the US House of Representatives, from Ohio. Vallandigham had not just a bizarre, but rather an ironic death: He was representing a defendant in a murder case for killing a man in a barroom brawl. Vallandigham wished to prove the victim had, in fact, killed himself while trying to draw his pistol from a pocket while rising from a kneeling position. As Vallandigham conferred with fellow defense attorneys in his hotel room, he decided to show them how he would demonstrate this to the jury. Grabbing a pistol he believed to be unloaded, he put it in his pocket and enacted the events as he imagined them to have happened, shooting himself in the process. Vallandigham proved his point, since the defendant, Thomas McGehan, was subsequently acquitted and released from custody.
Alexander I, King of the Hellenes, died of sepsis caused by the bites of two monkeys three weeks earlier. The King was taking a walk in the Royal Gardens, when his dog was attacked by a monkey, and the King, attempting to defend it, received a bite by the animal and its mate. His death had, as a result, the reinstatement of his deposed father Constantine I who, being pro-German, changed the fortunes of the Greek nation for the years to come.
John Godfrey Parry-Thomas was a Welsh engineer, and motor-racing driver, who at one time held the Land Speed Record. He was killed at Pendine Sands in March 1927, while trying to regain his own world land speed record, that had been broken just weeks earlier by Malcolm Campbell on the same beach. He was suffering from influenza and turned down a lucky black cat charm from a little girl, announcing “I will put my faith in my maker!”. His Liberty engined car, Babs, used exposed chains to connect the engine to the drive wheels, while the high engine cover required him to drive with his head tilted to one side – the right. On his final run, the right-hand drive chain broke at a speed of 170 mph (270 km/h), causing a fatal head injury.
Tennessee Williams was an American playwright who received many of the top theatrical awards for his works of drama. He moved to New Orleans in 1939 and changed his name to “Tennessee”, the Southeastern U.S. state, his father’s birthplace. His greatest works are A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He suffered through his life with alcoholism, and had a nervous breakdown in 1969. In 1983, possibly dazed from drug use, he used his mouth to open an eyedrop bottle. He would routinely hold the bottle cap in his mouth while administering drops to his eyes. On this occasion, the lid of the bottle became lodged in his throat and he choked to death.
Garry Hoy was a lawyer for the law firm of Holden Day Wilson, in Toronto. He is best known for the circumstances of his death; in an attempt to prove to a group of his partners at the firm that the glass in the Toronto-Dominion Centre was unbreakable, he threw himself through a glass wall on the 24th story and fell to his death after the window frame gave way. He had apparently attempted this stunt many times in the past, having previously bounced harmlessly off the glass. For his unusual death, Hoy was recognized with a Darwin Award in 1996.
Allan Pinkerton was a Scottish American detective and spy, best known for creating the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, the first detective agency of the United States. In late June 1884, he slipped on a pavement in Chicago, biting his tongue as he did so. He didn’t seek treatment and the tongue became infected, leading to his death on 1 July 1884 of gangrene. At the time of his death, he was working on a system that would centralize all criminal identification records, a database now maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Frank Hayes was a jockey who is most well know for being the jockey to win a horse race whilst dead! Hayes suffered a fatal heart attack in the midst of a race at Belmont Park in New York atop his horse “Sweet Kiss”. Despite carrying a dead weight, Sweet Kiss ran ahead of the field and won the race.
Mithridates was a Persian soldier, who accidentally killed Cyrus the Younger (son of Darius II of Persia). For such a blunder he was put to death by scaphism. Here is an ancient account of his grueling 17 day death:
[The king] decreed that Mithridates should be put to death in boats; which execution is made in the following manner: Taking two boats framed exactly to fit and answer each other, they lay down in one of them the malefactor that suffers, upon his back; then, covering it with the other, and so setting them together that the head, hands, and feet of him are left outside, and the rest of his body lies shut up within, they offer him food, and if he refuse to eat it, they force him to do it by pricking his eyes; then, after he has eaten, they drench him with a mixture of milk and honey, pouring it not only into his mouth, but all over his face. They then keep his face continually turned towards the sun; and it becomes completely covered up and hidden by the multitude of flies that settle on it. And as within the boats he does what those that eat and drink must needs do, creeping things and vermin spring out of the corruption and rottenness of the excrement, and these entering into the bowels of him, his body is consumed. When the man is manifestly dead, the uppermost boat being taken off, they find his flesh devoured, and swarms of such noisome creatures preying upon and, as it were, growing to his inwards. In this way Mithridates, after suffering for seventeen days, at last expired. –Plutarch
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Since ancient times, people have experimented with light, cherishing shiny metals like gold and cutting gemstones to brighten their sparkles. Today we are far more advanced in how we work with this ubiquitous energy.
Starting with 19th-century experimentation, we began to explore controlling how light interacts with matter.
Combining multiple materials in complex structures let us use light in new ways. We crafted lenses and mirrors to make telescopes to peer out into the universe, and microscopes to explore the world of the small.
Today this work continues, on a much more detailed level. My own research into what are called metamaterials explores how we can construct materials in ways that do amazing and previously impossible things.
We can build metamaterials to respond in particular ways to certain frequencies of light. For example, we can create a smart filter for infrared cameras that allows the user to easily determine if the white powder in an envelope is baking soda or anthrax, determine if a skin melanoma is benign or malignant and find the sewer pipe in your basement without breaking through the concrete. These are just a few applications for one device; metamaterials in general are far more powerful.
Working With Light
What scientists call light is not just what we can see, but all electromagnetic radiation from low-frequency radio waves to high-frequency X-rays.
Normally, light moves through a material at a slower speed. For example, visible light travels through glass about 33 percent slower than it does through air. A materials fundamental resistance to the transmission of light at a particular frequency is called its index of refraction. While this number changes with the lights frequency, it starts at 1 the index of refraction for a vacuum and goes up. The higher the index, the slower the light moves, and the more its path bends. This can be seen when looking at a straw in a cup of water (see below) and is the basis of how we make lenses for eyeglasses, telescopes and other optics.
Scientists have long wondered if they could make a material with a negative index of refraction at any given frequency. That would mean, for example, that light would bend in the opposite direction when entering the material allowing for new types of lenses to be made. Nothing in nature fits into this category. The properties of such a material were it to exist were predicted by Victor Veselago in 1967.
These odd materials have properties that look very strange compared with our everyday experiences. In the picture below, we see two cups of water, each with a straw in it. The picture on the left is what happens normally the section of the straw in the water appears disconnected from the part of the straw that is in the air. The image is displaced because air and water refract light differently.
The image on the right indicates what the straw would look like if the fluid were a material with a negative index of refraction. Since the light bends in the opposite direction, the image is reversed, creating the observed illusion.
At left: normal refraction. At right: with simulated negative refraction. Water glass with straw (normal) from shutterstock.com
While Veselago could imagine these materials in the late 1960s, he could not conceive of a way to create them. It took an additional 30 years before John Pendry published papers in 1996, 1998 and 1999 describing how to make a composite man-made material, which he called a metamaterial.
An early metamaterial using repeating elements of copper split-rings and copper wires. D. R. Smith et al., Left-handed Metamaterials, in Photonic Crystals and Light Localization, ed. C. M. Soukoulis (Kluwer, Netherlands, 2000)., CC BY-ND
This work was followed up experimentally by David R. Smiths group in 2000, which created a metamaterial using copper split-rings on circuit boards and lengths of copper wires as repeating elements. The picture below shows one such example produced by his group. The size and shape of the split-rings and copper posts determines what frequency of light the metamaterial is tuned to. The combination of these components interacts with the incident light, creating a region with an fully engineered effective index of refraction.
At present, we are only able to construct metamaterials that manage interactions with very specific parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Smiths group worked initially in the microwave portion of the spectrum, because working with larger wavelengths makes metamaterial construction easier, as multiple copies of the split-rings and pins must fit into the space of one wavelength of the light. As researchers work with shorter wavelengths, metamaterial components need to be much smaller, which is more challenging to build.
Since the first experiments, multiple research groups have made metamaterials that work in the infrared; some are skirting the fringe of the visible portion of the spectrum. For these short wavelengths, circuit boards, copper wires and pins are far too large. Instead the structures have to use micro- and nano-fabrication techniques similar to what is used to make computer chips.
Soon after the first metamaterials were fabricated, researchers began engineering applications for which they would be useful. One application that got a lot of press was the creation of an invisibility cloak.
Normally if a microwave radar were aimed at an object, some of the radiation would absorb and some would reflect off. Sensors can detect those disturbances and reconstruct what the object must have looked like. If an object is surrounded by the metamaterial cloak, then the radar signal bends around the object, neither being absorbed nor reflected as if the object were never there.
By creating a metamaterial layer on the surface of an object, you can change what happens to the light that hits the object. Why is this important? When you look at a still pool of water, it is not surprising to see your reflection. When you point a flashlight at a pond at night, some of that light beam bounces off onto the trees beyond.
Now imagine you could coat the surface of that pond with a metamaterial that worked for all the visible spectrum. That would remove all reflection you wouldnt see your own reflection, nor any light bouncing into the woods.
This type of control is very useful for determining specifically what type of light can enter or exit a material or a device. For example, solar cells could be coated with metamaterials that would admit only specific (e.g., visible) frequencies of light for conversion to electricity, and would reflect all other light to another device that collects the remaining energy as heat.
The Future Of Wave Engineering
Engineers are now creating metamaterials with what is called a dynamic response, meaning its properties vary depending on how much electricity is passing through it, or what light is aimed at it. For example, a dynamic metamaterial filter might allow passage of light only in the near infrared, until electricity is applied, at which point it lets through only mid-infrared light. This ability to tune the responsiveness of metamaterials has great potential for future applications, including uses we cant yet imagine.
The amazing thing about all of the wondrous possibilities of metamaterials’ interaction with light is that the principle works much more broadly. The same mathematics that predict the structure needed to produce these effects for light can be applied to the interaction of materials with any type of waves.
A group in Germany has successfully created a thermal cloak, preventing an area from heating by bending the heat flow around it just as an invisibility cloak bends light. The principle has also been used for sound waves and has even been discussed for seismic vibrations. That opens the potential for making a building invisible to earthquakes! We are only beginning to discover how else we might use metamaterials and their underlying principles.
If I see my friend’s location from a Foursquare post, what’s the protocol for me trying to get myself invited to the hanging out going on? Can I just stop by?
Oh my god, no. No! What are you talking about? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT??
You are never EVER allowed to “just stop by” to something you weren’t explicitly invited to. At any time, at any place. This doesn’t even necessarily have anything to do with the internet, so that part of your question is really beyond the scope of this column, but I just want to make sure you know that. I’m taking off my “tech etiquette” hat and putting on my “general human decency” hat and also, like, twelve protective helmets, because I’m not convinced you are safe to be around. Do you want to sit on my lap or something? No, ahhh, don’t, just stay over there. Just back up like three more feet. Perfect.
Foursquare is the DUMBEST, okay? I think we’re agreed on that one. The only time you should even acknowledge it is if you (NATURALLY) find yourself in a place where your friends have posted they also are. Then you may text “LOL hello, I see you,” or whatever, and go from there. Otherwise, forget about it. You’re saying “Why would my stupid friends post their hang-out locales publicly if they weren’t okay with drop-ins?” and I’m sort of nodding in this way where my head is increasingly tilting to the right, because even though I see your point in theory, I’m also still a little on edge around you. The fact is that both your friends and you are acting like maniacs. No, there IS no logical reason to post where you’re hanging out publicly unless you a) want everyone to think you’re cool or b) (theoretically) want everyone to come say hi. Nevertheless, here we are, giving each other economically and politically impotent government titles for simply patronizing a given food establishment.
That said, my friend, there IS no protocol for you to follow here. You can’t text or call your friend pretending you don’t know what s/he is doing and hoping to get a last-minute invite, because that is creepy and sad. You certainly can’t “just stop by.” You CAN ask your friend about it later, though. Say this: “How was your 7:43 pm dinner at ________? Did both Nathan Andrews and Mel Peterson enjoy themselves? What about Emily Wexler? Tell me everything each person drank and ate, and PLEASE, for god’s sake, do it in the order the entrees were given to the server.”
I’m always on Facebook/Twitter/email so when I get something on there I write back RIGHT away simply because I’m always on. Does this make me look more desperate than someone who ISN’T always plugged in to social media?
Ugh, I think so. *Exaggerated, theatrical sigh* Look, I’ve been trying to find a way around this for approximately twenty-two years. Like, I was even preparing for it before most people even HAD the internet — that’s how worried I was about looking pathetic, friendless, and non-important when the internet finally did show up. Most babies around that time were potty training, but I was planning for the pressures of the digital age. (I AM potty trained. Mostly. No, completely.)
The thing that I say to myself that you should also say to yourself is this: people who take a long time to respond to things are ANNOYING. When you write to somebody online, and they respond within five minutes, are you not overjoyed and relieved? If your response to that type of punctuality is to wonder why s/he doesn’t have anything better to do, you are PART OF THE PROBLEM. More than likely, though, you are happy. So, also more than likely, the people you respond promptly to will feel the same way. Nobody writes to you hoping to receive a reply only AFTER a minimum of eight hours has passed unless s/he is a total weirdo. No weirdos! No jerks allowed! Write back to everyone instantly. Write back before you even GET their original messages, if you can.
On the flip side to the question about drunk texting the other week…what’s the polite thing to do when you’re the very sober recipient of a drunk text? I seem to be a magnet for these things. 🙁
Oh I’m so so SO sorry, everyone thinks of you when they’re feeling liquor-based nostalgia and/or lust and/or affection! You’re the first person most people think about when their faces are flushed and they’re grabbing their phones to make contact with the one human they love best in that moment, and that must be REALLY HARD. Let me guess, you’re also irritated because your skin smells naturally of lavender and because your skillet is always making you pancakes independently, as if by magic, every morning.
OK look, I don’t know if this is fair or even logical, but it’s unquestionably RIGHT so just trust me on this: just as drunk texters are undeserving of sympathy, so too are drunk text recipients. As the recipient, you are the one with the power, and you’re going to use it to crush this epidemic. Nobody is allowed to complain about drunk texting on either end, because that won’t make it go away. Kim Kardashian is not allowed to complain about being famous, and you aren’t allowed to complain about having to witness her be famous. “Let it be said that the quiet, happy peasant ne’er gave breath to the rich and fornicating nor to the inebriated correspondences of the night” – a proverb.
Here’s what you do: never respond. Never, not once, not ever. That person needs to learn a lesson, and that lesson is this: there will be no dog treats for this Pavlov’s dog. Drool-y dogs are bad enough, but DRUNK drool-y dogs are an embarrassment to the canine race. Why are you giving your dog alcohol again?? Ah, I’m off track. Anyway, put your phone on silent every night, sleep well, and ignore everything that showed up there between 1:00 and 6:00 am. Repeat.
Katie Heaney is a writer and volunteer text message analyst living in Minneapolis. She thinks you should have good manners, even on the internet.
Illustration by Cara Vandermey
Mother Nature has seen fit to adorn her animals with all sorts of bizarre and colorful features. While they certainly make for great National Geographic spreads, they’re not just for show. They also allow each of these animals to survive, thrive, and carve out an evolutionary niche of their very own.
10Lowland Streaked Tenrecs Communicate With Their Quills
The lowland streaked tenrec—found only on the Eastern coast of Madagascar—resembles less a rodent and more a spiny little bumblebee. Its spines can be used with adorably lethal force, as the tenrec is known to attack enemies with a spiky headbutt.
Oddly enough, these spikes can also be used to communicate through a method known as stridulation, which is a noise made via the rubbing of body parts. When crickets keep you up at night by rubbing their legs together to produce an incessant chirping noise, that’s stridulation. This is common behavior among insects, but has never before been displayed by mammals, until now.
Similarly, the lowland streaked tenrec can communicate by using a patch of quills on its back to create a high-pitched sound. The specialized quills vibrate, rub against one another, and produce the noises through friction. Most of these calls are beyond the range of human hearing, so they’ve been recorded with bat detectors.
9Chiton See Using Hundreds Of Rock Eyes In Their Shells
Chiton are a variegated group of marine mollusks that often feature fancy patterns on their backs. They also have numerous tiny beads embedded within their shells—these were originally thought to act as simple light sensors, but several years ago scientists learned that these beads are actual eyes with finely crafted lenses. Not only do they sense light, they’re also capable of detecting shapes and movement to help the chiton avoid sea-beasties. With these beads scattered across their backs, the chiton’s shell is essentially a large calcified eye.
The tiny individual components are made of aragonite and are actually far less sophisticated than similar-sized eyes on other organisms. In addition, their vision is 1,000 times less refined than our own. However, they’re perfectly suited to the chiton’s habitat, since they live in churning tide pools. Squishy protein eyes like ours would quickly be eroded into nothingness by rushing waters, leaving us blind and defenseless against the many horrible creatures that live in the water.
8Christmas Tree Worms Catch Prey In Their “Boughs”
Spirobranchus giganteus specimens are colloquially referred to as “Christmas tree worms” due to their brilliant colors and segmented crowns that mimic the boughs of pine trees. Flashy as they are, these little worms are less than 5 centimeters (2 in) long and spend almost all their lives inertly anchored to the surfaces of coral.
The worms live in cozy, self-constructed tubules built out of a mixture of sugary mucus and crystallized calcium secreted from special glands. Other than this initial feat of homemaking, these are hopelessly sedentary creatures—once attached to corals, they pretty much chill there until they die. The business parts of the worm actually burrow into the body of the coral while their tree-like plumes remain exposed.
And these same plumes that are responsible for the worms’ resemblance to a decorated pine also carry out basic processes, such as breathing and eating. Regarding the latter, the increased surface area is useful for trapping the microscopic particles of plant life that compose a worm’s diet. Since it’s stationary, it hunts simply by swaying in the current, passively collecting phytoplankton in its branches.
7The Camouflaged Looper Can Blend Into Anything
Many animals use camouflage to avoid detection by predators or to ambush lesser creatures that will hopefully become lunch. But the Synchlora aerata—or camouflaged looper—puts most of them to shame by creating crazy “costumes” on the fly, allowing concealment in a variety of settings. It does this by adorning itself with leaves, flowers, branches, and whatever else it tears off while scavenging for tasty plants. Thanks to this dynamic camouflage, the looper never looks out of place and so remains perfectly hidden.
And the looper takes it a step farther, displaying an unnatural swaying gait while in hiding. You’d think sudden herky-jerky movements would draw predators’ attention, but the looper’s no dummy—it further consolidates the illusion by imitating a piece of vegetation blowing in the wind.
Sadly, it loses these amazing abilities when its time as a caterpillar runs out and it turns into a beautiful emerald green moth. During this phase, it closely resembles a leaf and can fly, meaning it no longer has any need to gussy up with flower petals and dandelions.
6The Orb Weaver Spider Hunts And Hides By Looking Like Bird Poop
The orb weaver spider has grown comfortable in its evolutionary niche, since its silver-tinted body ensures that it’s attractive to prey yet easily overlooked by predators. This is especially true when the spider unleashes its elaborate disguise ruse. The patterns it weaves into its web take on the appearance of bird droppings—the weaver will often incorporate bug carcasses and other debris as well, just to further disgust anything that might have wanted to eat it otherwise.
Scientists initially thought resembling poop was mere coincidence and not an actual survival tactic. To find out for sure, they compared the disguised webs with actual bird poo splatters. They quickly discovered that it was no coincidence—the colors and textures match so well that wasps and other predators cannot effectively distinguish the spiders from the actual poo.
Other species can also masquerade as turds—one of them, the bird-dung crab spider, completes its disguise with an authentic stench produced from scent glands. This stink also has the added benefit of attracting flies for the spider to munch on.
5Inca Terns Win Mates By The Power Of Their Mustache
The Inca tern is an attractive, medium-sized bird found along the Pacific coast of South America. Perhaps their most distinctive feature is their “mustache”—these birds are among a select few animals that sport an upper lip accessory.
These mustaches aren’t just for the sake of fashion either—they’re an evolutionary signifier that the terns use to pick suitable mates. Since birds usually don’t sit down to dinner and discussion before getting busy, they need another method of quickly deciding between a selection of potential partners. Enter the male’s snazzy white mustache—a sign of good health and vitality. The condition of the appendage reflects the condition of the tern, meaning a full and vibrant ‘stache helps them show off their good genes and entice the female into working together to preserve their species.
4Wombats Poop Cubes To Mark Their Territory
Wombats have one of the most peculiar pooping methods in all of the animal kingdom. When they do their business, they leave behind poo in the shape of cubes. But this square scat isn’t just a case of nature having fun at the poor wombat’s expense—with their shabby eyesight, the nocturnal marsupials must strategically place their poops in order to mark their territories.
Wombats even place their feces at nose level, so others can easily pick up the scent and realize that they’re on a possible rival’s turf. This is where the bizarre shape of their poo comes in handy. To achieve this careful placement, the wombats scatter their poo on raised surfaces such as logs, mounds, and even mushrooms. Round or cylindrical pieces would be useless because they would just roll off and disappear among the foliage. Square dumps, however, stay put.
In addition, the wombats’ cuboid poop helps keep it well-fed and healthy. Wombats have an incredibly long digestive tract, which is useful for drawing nutrients from a green, plant-based diet. This extra-long path squeezes every last drop of water from the waste, shaping it into neatly formed squares and depositing it thusly.
3Sloths Are Green Because They Grow Algae In Their Fur
It might seem unlikely that such a famously sluggish animal such as the sloth could possibly procure enough food to survive. However, it turns out that sloths are natural farmers. Their fur is home to a species of moth that lives nowhere else in the world except within the sloths’ plumage. These moths are so comfortable living on these slowpokes that they actually shed their wings and spend the rest of their days lazing about their fuzzy host.
The sloths descend from their trees once a week, risking jaguar attacks to defecate at ground level. Though it may seem unnecessary, this task allows for the moths to lay fresh eggs, incubating their larvae in hot sloth turds. Reared on feces, they mature into moths and fly up into the trees to find a vacant sloth.
The cycle continues as the moths die and relinquish nitrogen. This nitrogen is the preferred food source for another organism living on the sloth: algae. These tiny plants are responsible for the green tint obvious on many sloths. More importantly, they offer a static food source that requires zero energy to harvest, which is perfect for an animal slower than most tectonic plates.
2Dyeing Dart Frogs Fool Predators With Illusions
Dyeing dart frogs display the animal version of a stop sign on their backs. Their vibrant, colorful markings alert predators that the frogs are very poisonous, while Plain Jane frogs offer no such warning and are quickly gobbled up.
Scientists were stumped when they discovered that no two dart frogs look the same and that each one sports its own unique design. To them, it seemed like a more effective warning would be for each pattern to be virtually identical—that way, there’s no room for interpretation among predators.
Upon further study, scientists learned that the frogs followed two movement patterns: 64 percent of them zipped about randomly, while the remaining 36 percent preferred to move in straight lines. This offered the scientists an important clue regarding the varied markings, since it appears that the patterns are dependent on a frog’s preferred evasive tactics. This allows the frogs to fool predators by creating a type of illusion that throws off an attacker’s timing. The markings also denote the speed of the frogs, since the straight-liners were found to move about three times faster than the random zippers.
1Dolphins Blow Water Rings To Hunt Fish
It’s common knowledge that dolphins are among the smartest and most playful animals in existence. Yet researchers are still often surprised by the bounds of cetacean creativity—when studying younger individuals, it was observed that they engage themselves by blowing the aquatic equivalent of smoke rings.
The cuddly sea mammals can form all sorts of rings and bubbles—they’ve even been seen playfully whipping up small vortexes like a child creating whirlpools in the bathtub. Furthermore, dolphins often use their fins to manipulate the rings—sending them in different directions, combining them into larger rings, and even threading the needle.
This might seem like pure whimsy, but studies have shown that dolphins use these rings to hunt prey as well. They do so by swimming underneath a school of fish that they wish to eat and then blowing ring after ring until the fish either get trapped in the bubble vortex or get blown away from their school and are left alone for easy pickings.
Meet Nelson, the completely spikeless and bald hedgehog who can be found at the Foxy Lodge Wildlife Rescue in Norfolk, UK. This tiny fellow is shy and vulnerable and needs human protection to survive. Without spikes, he wouldn’t last long in the wild, being a very easy prey to predators. But Nelson doesn’t mind staying at the sanctuary at all! There, he enjoys good life, plenty of TLC and regular SPAs with oil massages…
‘‘We will likely never know what caused him to lose his hair and spikes,’’ Tonia Garner, the manager at Foxy Lodge told Metro. ‘‘He’s a mystery but to have survived into adulthood he must have had prickles and his health is very good other than the fact he is bald.’’
Volunteers at the sanctuary guess that Nelson’s condition is due to stress-related alopecia he got after experiencing some sort of trauma in the wild. All of his spines fell out without growing back.
Staff was hoping the spikes will reappear, so everyday they massaged the little fellow with almond oils to stimulate growth. Unfortunately, this didn’t help. They still continue to massage Nelson on a daily basis, because the hedgehog seems to enjoy his SPA sessions – it keeps him warm and his wrinkly skin soft and smooth.
One positive thing is that Nelson’s lack of spikes makes this adorable animal even more cuddle-able than regular hedgehogs!