Astronauts are heroes not just to millions of school children, but to millions of adults, too, many of whom grew up watching the first Moon walk, the evolution of the space shuttle, and Elon Musk’s explode-y things that he likes to call rocket ships. And as with all beloved occupations, there are rumors that become myths, myths that become legends, and a whole bunch of other things that people just make up because humans will believe almost anything.
The space program has been at the forefront of technological innovation for decades, so when you hear something about a fantastic new project or idea or discovery, it’s hard not to believe it at face value. And even some of the less fantastic ideas can seem plausible, because, you know, it’s NASA, and NASA has made some pretty implausible things actually happen. So the truth is we kind of all need a bit of a reality check when it comes to astronaut stuff because we wouldn’t be able to die as complete humans without knowing the truth about the whole pooping-in-space thing, and some other questions of significantly lesser importance.
Astronaut ice cream was a thing
So you know that horrible freeze-dried ice cream that you pretended was awesome because it was the ice cream of the astronauts, and if you let on to the world just how awful you actually thought it was, people might think you were unpatriotic or unsupportive of the space program or not astronaut material, or whatever other unspoken reason you might have had for pretending something that tastes horrible is actually delicious? Well great news, you can stop pretending now because astronaut ice cream was never a thing.
According to C-Net , the curator of the National Air and Space Museum says that so-called astronaut ice cream never actually went to space. The company that manufactures it just told us that it did, probably because that was the only way they could convince anyone to eat the stuff. And we know this is true because Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham said it was. “They don’t know their ass, obviously,”
Cunningham told Vox. “We never had any of that.” We’re not actually sure which “theys” don’t know their own collective asses, but we’ll definitely take his word for it.
You need serious qualifications to become an astronaut
Hollywood has told us in no uncertain terms that you have to have the right stuff to become an astronaut. An advanced university degree, 20/20 vision, a mind like a steel trap, and guts like the bear who chewed his own leg off to get out of the steel trap — these are the prerequisites for allowing NASA to put you in a tiny capsule atop more than a half million gallons of highly combustible fuel and then send you hurtling into space where let’s face it, you may or may not die.
But according to NASA, you don’t need to be uber-qualified to become an astronaut anymore. If you have a bachelor’s degree and some relevant experience in a field like engineering, physical science, mathematics, or biological science and you can pass the physical, you can become an astronaut. If you don’t have 20/20 vision that’s okay, just as long as you have it surgically corrected. There’s also no age restriction, no military experience required, and you don’t have to be a pilot.
Now, it’s not that we think NASA is maybe getting a little desperate to recruit new astronauts — surely there’s no shortage of people who want to leave the comfort and security of Earth in a high-powered, potentially explosive vehicle. But doesn’t it seem a little strange that the minimum qualifications are actually less than what you need to teach biology at your local community college? Just saying.
Where did we put the Earth again?
Now that NASA has put a man on the moon, it seems logical that a manned visit to our closest planetary neighbor would be next on our to-do list. That’s what Elon Musk has been fussing about for all these years, and he’s a billionaire so he must be an expert. But
LiveScience says there’s one small problem with that plan that no one has really done a good job of addressing — on a long voyage to Mars, astronauts’ brains would fry like eggs on a hot sidewalk.
In 2016, President Obama wrote that one of America’s goals should be “sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth,” which is a line he probably stole from Kennedy except he just replaced “Moon” with “Mars.” But anyway, going to Mars is the dream of all the Elon Musk and Matt Damon fans in America, and most people think it’s a given that it will one day happen. But then there’s the whole “Space Brain” thing. It sounds kind of cute, like “senior moment” or “momnesia,” but it actually refers to the significant and permanent brain damage caused by long-term exposure to solar and cosmic radiation. In other words, astronauts might make it to Mars, but they’re likely to end up with an astronaut version of dementia, so they’d probably forget how to get home again. Tin foil hats, maybe?
Everyone wants to believe the USA was the first country to send earthlings to the Moon, except for people who don’t live in the U.S. because non-Americans mostly don’t give a crap one way or another. So it may or may not pain you to hear that America was not, in fact, the first nation to send earthlings to the moon. That honor belongs to the Soviet Union.
Now you’ll notice that we said “earthlings,” which is a category that includes humans but is not exclusively human. According to NASA , the first beings to travel to the Moon were actually turtles. Well, turtles, wine flies, mealworms, bacteria, plants, and seeds, but let’s face it we only really care about the turtles. And the turtles didn’t land on the Moon or anything, they just went there, flew around it, and returned to Earth.
The turtles were in remarkably good health after their journey, having lost only about 10 percent of their body weight with no loss of appetite or vigor. They were probably dissected afterward, but at least they had a nice trip. And after that happened, America went “Crap, we really can’t let the Soviet Union send people to the Moon, too,” so at the very least those space turtles made the ultimate sacrifice so we could stick it to the Russians. Because you know, one-upmanship is the mother of invention.
NASA has solved for space poop
The number one question people ask astronauts is not “What is it like to be weightless?” or “How does it feel to look down on our planet from 200 miles above the Earth?” Nope, Americans are way classier than that. One of the most common questions about life in space is this one: “How do you go?”
One story that did not make the history books alongside “one small step for a man” and that line Obama totally stole from Kennedy is the one about the floating turd inside the Apollo 10 command module, which astronauts had to contain with a napkin. Yes, space waste has always been a challenge for NASA, and after more than 50 years of space travel they haven’t completely solved the problem. According to Space.com , modern space toilets require astronauts to use a camera to strategically line their butts up with a suction device, and if they’re just a little off they might actually wreck a $19 million toilet. But there’s hope for the future — some scientists think space poop might help solve the space brain problem. Would you like to hear the most brilliant idea of all time? Lining the walls of Mars-bound spacecraft with astronaut poop, which will help shield its occupants from cosmic radiation. Also, it will guarantee that hostile aliens won’t come within two or three light-years of a human spacecraft, so really the awesomeness of this idea just cannot be overstated.
Space is perfectly safe
If you forget for a moment about space brain and escaping astronaut poop, there’s some evidence that being in space for extended periods of is bad for you in other ways. According to Science Alert, your 20/20 eyesight (whether naturally or via laser surgery with that lid speculum thing wrenching your eyelids open) might actually vanish after long periods of time in space. Up to 80 percent of all astronauts — who have to have 20/20 vision when they leave Earth — will come back from space nearsighted.
One theory says that when you’re on Earth, the water in your body is affected by gravity, but when you’re in space it rises to the top of your body, which also happens to be where the important things like your brain and your eyeballs are. As many as 2 liters of fluid end up in your head, and all that fluid pushes on the backs of your eyeballs, which can permanently mess up your vision.
Oh and you might also wind up a couple inches taller (at least temporarily), so if you look good in glasses and you’re sick of not being able to see over the backs of people’s heads at the movies, then a career as an astronaut might be for you — just so long as you don’t mind the muscle loss. And the whole camera-assisted pooping thing.
The Great Wall of Lies
The myth that you can see the Great Wall of China from space is one of the more stubborn cosmic untruths.
According to The Register, first there was the often-repeated claim that astronauts could see the Great Wall of China from the surface of the Moon, which is more than 200,000 miles from Earth . “Definitely not,” Neil Armstrong said so many times that he was probably almost as sick of talking about it as he was sick of answering questions about space toilets.
It’s not really visible from orbit, either. Astronaut William Pogue, who incidentally wrote a book called How Do You Go to the Bathroom in Space , said he could see the Great Wall from Skylab (300 miles above the Earth) with binoculars, but that really doesn’t count. Space Shuttle astronauts, who were 180 miles above the Earth, said the Great Wall was “almost invisible” because it is only 20 feet wide and is just about the same color as the natural materials surrounding it. So while it does seem rather whimsical to imagine that a structure that embodied technology and human achievement 500 years ago can be seen from a structure that embodies technology and human achievement today, it’s just not true. In fact most man-made objects that are “visible from space” are really only visible with some optical assistance, unless you count entire cities at night. That’s not quite as whimsical as The Great Wall of China, but we’ll take it.
The million dollar space pen
If you were a space-loving kid in the ’70s, you not only got blocks of disgusting freeze-dried ice cream in your Christmas stocking, you probably also got a space pen, which was extra super cool because NASA spent millions of dollars developing it and you could use it to write upside-down. Almost no one on Earth has ever had to do that, but that’s not the point.
It’s also not true that NASA spent millions of dollars to develop the space pen. In fact NASA says it didn’t spend any money at all — rather, a guy named Paul C. Fisher spent $1 million of his own money to design a pen that would work in zero gravity, underwater, and at temperatures between -50° F and 400° F because humans often like to crawl into their ovens and write poetry while the cornbread is baking.
At first astronauts used mechanical pencils, but the problem with pencils is that lead breaks , and little pieces of pencil lead flying around in zero gravity is bad for the equipment, and it’s also bad for the equipment when astronauts throw their pencils because the stupid lead keeps breaking. So in 1967, NASA agreed to buy 400 of Paul Fisher’s pens for $6 each, which meant Fisher had to sell $997,600 worth of space pens before he could break even, hence the stupid things ending up in your Christmas stocking along with that disgusting astronaut ice cream.
These boots were made for Moon walking
One of the silliest astronaut myths is the one that has astronauts floating off the surface of the Moon but for their super-heavy space boots. The source of this myth seems to be some confusion about gravity, or the lack thereof in outer space — astronauts float around in the space station, so there’s no gravity in space. Which means astronauts had to wear heavy boots in order to not float around when they were on the Moon.
So that’s ridiculous on a couple of levels, the first being this one: If the Moon had no gravity, it really wouldn’t matter how heavy your boots were, you’d still float away. And second, floating in the air is not like floating in water — extra weight doesn’t make you sink. And third, that’s just dumb.
According to physicist Stephanie Chasteen , people get this wrong because they use their own world experiences to make assumptions about why things happen the way they do in space. Most of us are familiar with the concept of buoyancy — if light things float in water and heavy things sink, then floating in space must be governed by similar forces. In fact, what is true is that the Moon does have gravity, it’s just not as powerful as the Earth’s gravity. So the astronauts didn’t float away because they were held to the surface by gravity, and it had nothing to do with their footwear.
Bodies in space
When you were a kid, space was all about heroism and patriotism and Tang — no one ever told you about the mortal peril. That’s because space disasters are only supposed to happen to Sandra Bullock and Matt Damon, not to real-life astronauts.
But when you stop to think about it, which you should never do, but if you did, you’d probably realize just how stupidly dangerous the whole space travel thing actually is. If modern technology can’t even figure out how to build an explosion-proof cellphone battery, how could it possibly figure out how to build an explosion-proof rocket? And now that you’re thinking about that, you’re probably also thinking about all the astronauts who went into space and never came back. Hence all the rumors about human corpses still floating around out there somewhere.
It’s a horrible thought, but it simply isn’t true. According to Space.com , humans have died in space only one time in the history of manned space travel. (This doesn’t count the astronauts on space shuttles that exploded during liftoff because they technically weren’t in space.) In 1971, three homeward-bound Russian cosmonauts somehow managed to make a “textbook-perfect” landing even though they were all dead. Evidently the trio died after a ventilation valve ruptured, which exposed them to the vacuum of space. But thanks to the automatic re-entry program, their bodies arrived home intact and space is still blissfully free of floating human corpses.
So let’s say you’re aboard the Apollo spacecraft and a floating turd is headed your way. Do you chase it around with a napkin, or do you hide under a chair until one of your fellow astronauts catches it with a napkin, or do you just throw your hands up and swallow your suicide pill? It’s certainly one of the most important questions of our time, but it has one fundamental flaw — astronauts do not carry and never have carried suicide pills. So escape from the floating turd will not be forthcoming.
According to RealClear Science , this rumor was probably perpetuated by astrophysicist Carl Sagan, who is mostly famous for saying the words “billions and billions” over and over again but also liked to insist that astronauts have cyanide pills on hand, just in case. Astronauts beg to differ. “I never heard of such a thing in the eleven years I spent as an astronaut and NASA executive,” countered Jim Lovell in 1975. In fact, a funny thing about that — if you’re going to commit suicide anyway, you might as well just expose yourself to the vacuum of space, which contrary to popular belief does not actually suck your eyeballs out of your head but rapidly puts you into a “blissful” state of unconsciousness and then kills you within a couple of minutes. Cyanide, on the other hand, is less pleasant and takes twice as long, so it’s really a no-brainer.
Astronauts are heroes not just to millions of school children, but to millions of adults, too, many of whom grew up watching the first Moon walk, the evolution of the space shuttle, and Elon Musk’s explode-y things that he likes to call rocket ships. And as with all beloved occupations, there are rumors that become myths, myths that become legends, and a whole bunch of other things that people just make up because humans will believe almost anything.
Thomas Harvey, the pathologist on call at the time of Albert Einstein’s death, stole Einstein’s brain, later promising to share it with the scientific community for the sole purpose of scientific study. Harvey stole the brain despite Einstein’s wishes to be cremated and was fired from Princeton Hospital for refusing to return it. In the following years, Harvey would take his treasured brain with him in pieces as he moved to several locations in the Midwest, making good on his promise to Einstein’s family and the world by sending segments of the brain to various researchers over the years while taking the brain on a bizarre journey. The research that was eventually performed and published showed many differences between Einstein’s brain and those of individuals with average intelligence, leading some scientists to conclude that these differences allowed Einstein to unlock the secrets of the universe.
The Whole Bushel
Albert Einstein died on April 18, 1955, at the age of 76. He made it well known that he wanted his remains cremated and his ashes scattered so that his body or parts of it wouldn’t be stolen, studied or even worshiped. Thomas Harvey, the pathologist on call at Princeton Hospital, stole Einstein’s brain anyway with blatant disregard to Einstein’s wishes and the wishes of his family. He later convinced Einstein’s son, Hans Albert to give him retroactive permission to keep and study the brain with the provision that Harvey promised to share it with other researchers and only use it for the benefit of science and for research publications only in upstanding journals.
From there, Einstein’s brain started on an unusual journey. After losing his job at Princeton Hospital likely due to his obsession over the brain and his unwillingness to return it to the hospital, Harvey took the brain to the University of Pennsylvania where he photographed the intact brain from numerous angles. He subsequently dissected it into 240 small sections, preserved it in a rubbery substance called celloidin and kept the pieces in two jars filled with alcohol in his basement. He narrowly saved the brain from being lost forever when he retrieved it from his wife, who threatened to discard it. Harvey then moved his treasured brain out to Wichita, Kansas where he stored it in a cider box underneath a beer cooler for over 20 years. He would often send pieces of the brain to various researchers over the years who were interested in studying it. He moved again to Weston, Missouri, where he lost his medical license after failing a competency exam, but continued to study the brain. He relocated again to Lawrence, Kansas, where he and his brain shared a small second-floor apartment adjacent to a gas station. Ironically, Harvey had believed that possessing Einstein’s brain would help advance his medical career, yet he wound up working on an assembly line in a plastic-extrusion factory to pay the bills.
Harvey had planned to return the brain to Einstein’s granddaughter, Evelyn, but after finding out she didn’t want it, he finally returned the remaining brain segments in his possession to University Medical Center at Princeton in 1998. He died in 2007. Eventually, 46 slides of Einstein’s brain were donated to the Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia by a neuropathologist from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. However, the bulk of the brain still remains at University Medical Center at Princeton, finalizing its bizarre journey.
Our brain burglar (Harvey) actually did humanity a favor in defying Einstein’s wishes. He kept his word to Einstein’s son and allowed other scientists to study various brain sections. Numerous anomalies where discovered that may be attributed to Einstein’s genius, including a higher than average ratio of glial cells to neurons. These cells support and nourish the brain, form the myelin, which coats and insulates the neurons and aid in transmitting signals throughout the brain. Another difference between Einstein’s brain and individuals of average intelligence was a more developed corpus callosum, which is a bundle of nerves that allows for communication between the two halves of the brain. Most scientists who studied the brain noted that it did not exhibit any of the usual degenerative characteristics one would normally find in the brain of a 76-year-old male. Other unusual differences in various structures and cells were also noted in later research done in the 1980’s. This included a 15% larger than normal inferior parietal lobe, as well as a missing part of its Sylvian fissure. Some researchers believe that these and other differences allowed for much-improved functioning and communication between different parts of his brain, which made Einstein arguably the greatest genius of modern times
So you want to donate your body to science. Or, more accurately, science wants you to donate your body to science. Because let’s face it, when you really stop to think about it, donating your body to science might not sound like an awesome idea. What if you end up as the test subject for plastic butt implants, or naked on a table somewhere with a bunch of first-year med students cutting you up into little pieces? Yes, there’s not much glamour to being a cadaver, and someone’s probably going to have to talk you into it. That will be a lot easier to do if you’re at least informed about what might happen to said body when science accepts your generous donation.
The good news is that you do have some pre-humous control over what will actually become of you after you’ve died, though you do have to be cautious if you’d really like to not end up becoming a crash-test dummy or having your feet blown off during military testing. There are actually a lot of different uses for human cadavers, and it’s going to help if you know what they are so you can at least say, “Hey, here’s my dead body but just do me a favor and don’t blow it up or run over it with a Ford F-350, please.”
Temporary, long-term, or forever and ever?
Most people have loved ones who give a crap about what happens to your remains after you’ve shuffled off. Which means they may experience varying degrees of horror knowing the ultimate fate of their loved one’s body, how long it remains out there in the hands of “science,” and whether or not they’ll ever be able to give it a proper burial.
According to Vice , you get to decide all that stuff in advance, which will hopefully make it easier for your family to stomach. In the U.K., for example, you have a couple different options. You can give “indefinite consent,” which means whoever gets your body can keep it for as long as they need it. You can also permit short-term use of a few months, after which your body goes back to your family. Some contracts let the school or facility keep some body parts indefinitely, which is cool as long as you don’t spend too much time wondering which body parts.
The consent you give is probably going to depend as much on what your family wants as what you want. For some people, a body is just an empty shell — for others, it’s still connected to the person who once owned it and saying “goodbye” would be difficult or even impossible without it. So it’s probably smart to discuss your decision with your family, just so they’re not blindsided when the inevitable finally happens.
Even in death you can’t avoid the paperwork
In life, you’re constantly being evaluated. At school, you’re tested on aptitude. As an adult, you’re considered for job applications, you’re rejected by potential mates, and you’re rigorously screened for credit applications and promotions. So if there’s anything awesome about death (and there isn’t, but let’s just say there is) it’s the fact that you don’t have to impress anyone to get there. Death is non-discriminatory. Unless you’re donating your body to science.
Yep, scientists don’t accept just any any old (or young) corpse. Medical Daily says most people don’t qualify to become a medical science cadaver — up to 70 percent of those who apply to BioGift Anatomical, for example, get rejected before they’ve even died.
To earn the privilege of being posthumously cut up into little pieces, you must first answer an extensive list of questions about your health and social life. Most whole-body donation centers will exclude people who have communicable diseases like HIV and hepatitis, but you may also get the postmortem boot if you’re overweight. And just because you get into the program while you’re still living doesn’t mean they’ll take you after you die — sometimes your manner of death excludes you. If you had to be autopsied, for example, you’re no good to medical students. And if you had traumatic injuries because of a particularly violent car accident, you’d probably be excluded, too. Talk about kicking a dead guy when he’s already down.
A bunch of strangers will know you as no one ever has
Some who donate their bodies to science might not think too much about what specifically could happen to their remains. It’s enough to just check a couple of boxes on your organ donor card and leave the rest to the scientists.
If you choose “research and education,” there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up on a cold, metal table in a classroom, attended by first-year medical students in various emotional states ranging from delighted to serious to about-to-vomit. According to National Geographic, “disassembling” a corpse is something every medical student can expect to do early in the educational process. And with roughly 20,000 new doctors graduating med school every single year, demand for willing dead people is especially high.
It’s still hard to think about, since your body currently belongs to you and the idea of it naked, vulnerable, and being cut into bits by a bunch of awkward students is sort of horrifying. So it may comfort you to know that most schools teach respect along with anatomy. At
Stanford, for example, students are asked to participate in a moment of silence to honor the lives of the people on the examining tables. And most are grateful for the learning opportunity — it’s one of the first steps on the long road to becoming a physician, and helping those students get there is a pretty noble way to give your death some meaning.
Suppose you’ve always been sort of claustrophobic. The idea of a coffin gives you anxiety, and you don’t like fire very much, either. Or maybe you think nature intended for corpses to decompose out in the open air.
Your family will probably get in trouble for abandoning your corpse in a national park, but that’s not the only way you can fulfill your fantasy of rotting away in a pile of leaves while buzzards peck out your eyeballs. A “body farm” will grant your wish of au naturel decomposition, as long as you let them study your rotting corpse over a period of weeks in the name of science. According to Wired, The University of Tennessee’s Body Farm, a 2.5-acre ” outdoor laboratory,” is a temporary resting place for around 150 corpses, some fresh, some skeletal, some horrifically in between. Some bodies are in water, some are in the sun, some are stuffed in the trunks of old cars.
What’s the point of all this, besides helping the Body Farm earn the title of creepiest place in the universe? Forensic scientists can use the information to build decomposition timelines for bodies that have been left in different conditions. That information can point to a time of death and help solve murders. So your choice to decompose au naturel is not just a zen, one-with-the-Earth decision, it’s also a way for you to fight crime after death. How cool is that?
Become a super scary skeleton
Every med school has at least a couple genuine human skeletons on display. Have you ever wondered where those skeletons came from, and how they ended up mounted on a stand in the corner of the room?
Some people donate their bodies to science specifically for the purpose of becoming skeletons, which is actually pretty cool when you think about it. It’s a kind of immortality — you’ll remain standing for decades after your death, and maybe even longer than that. During that time, you get to gaze creepily at first-year med students. Hopefully, you’ll occasionally scare the bejeebers out of someone who stayed late in the lab one night. As far as donating your body to science is concerned, this one falls just below “saving lives” as the thing most worth doing after death.
Some groups take bodies specifically for the purpose of making them into skeletons. The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology is one such place. Some facilities will take just about anyone, while others are looking for bones that have a more scientific value — the skeletons of cancer patients, for example, can provide valuable insight into bone metastasis, and skeletons with osteoporosis can help scientists discover potential treatments.
Other places — like the Body Farm in Tennessee — will clean up your bones after you’re done decomposing, and then catalog and tag them. And here’s the weird part: After you’ve become a skeleton, your family gets to visit you and see how nicely you clean up.
Travel the world posthumously
Let’s say you’ve always wanted to see the world, but you just never had the money or the time. If you donate your body to science via a “body broker,” you might get to travel the world posthumously. (Note: Don’t do this if you’re a foodie — not being able to taste all those exotic foods would probably kill you.)
Body brokers are kind of like junk yard operators. They pick up dead cars/bodies, disassemble them, and then sell off the parts. Unlike whole-body donation centers, a body broker often sells internationally. There’s actually a huge market for dead Americans, and there’s a pretty simple reason why: because cadavers are in short supply in nations where customs and traditions dictate what can be done with a dead body. Some cultures insist on treating their members with reverence, but cutting up dead Americans is totally cool.
According to Reuters , different institutions are interested in different body parts, which makes selling them piecemeal more practical. If that sounds a little unsettling, just wait for the rest of the story — families don’t always understand that their loved ones might be dismembered and sent overseas, and not every body broker is on the up and up, either. In early 2018, a body broker named Arthur Rathburn was convicted for selling body parts infected with HIV and hepatitis, and keeping them in “grisly, unsanitary conditions.” So if you do decide that body brokering is for you, at least try to be selective.
Get flayed and stuffed with plastic
If you’d rather travel the world more or less intact, you could consider donating your body to a “human body” exhibit. According to NPR, corpses in these fascinating but morbid exhibits are “plastinated,” which basically just means that fluids are replaced with liquid plastic , a process that maintains the body’s natural appearance.
Plastination was made famous by Gunther von Hagens’s “Body Worlds,” which displays plastinated bodies in various states of looking like they’ve been flayed alive. Not everyone thinks displaying plastinated human bodies is a great idea. A lot of critics say it’s disrespectful to the dead, but people on the donor list for plastination seem to think of it as a kind of immortality — sort of like being the skeleton in the biology classroom only you get to stare at people with your actual, plastinated eyes instead of the gaping sockets of your empty skull.
If you love this idea, you can register to be a donor through the Institute for Plastination , but that’s not a guarantee you’ll get to be a part of the show. The institute has more than 13,000 registered donors waiting to be immortalized in plastic, and very few openings in their traveling exhibit. Instead, it promises you’ll be used for “medical training of doctors” and, vaguely, for “the general medical education of the public.” So you might not be a plastinated star or anything, but you’ll still get to do some good. Creepy, creepy good.
Save a life, or make someone’s lips bigger
Tissue donation is closely related to organ donation, but the difference is tissue can be harvested up to 24 hours after death, while most organs need to be harvested right away because they will rapidly begin to deteriorate when starved of oxygen.
Tissue donation can potentially save lives, just like organ donation can, but tissue donation is also big business, which means someone else is going to be profiting off your death. If that sounds kind of unsavory, it’s because it’s totally unsavory.
According to NPR , the tissue industry as a whole is worth about $1 billion annually, and one human body is worth about $80,000 in tissues. That’s right, if you could get an advance on what your body is worth after death, you could buy a 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. In cash. So your generous donation of your mortal remains might feel altruistic, but that doesn’t mean someone isn’t profiting from your death. Worse, there’s no guarantee your tissues are going to save someone’s child or father — they’re just as likely to be used to give someone extra-luscious lips or fully functioning man-bits. If you don’t want parts of your body to end up in someone else’s junk, you might want to choose your tissue harvesting company carefully — nonprofits are more likely to treat your body with respect rather than as a cadaver-sized gold mine.
Die again, in a car crash
Most people don’t realize that donating your body to
science doesn’t always mean for medical research. Other industries depend on cadavers, too — the auto industry, for example. But wait, what about those ads from the ’80s featuring sentient crash-test dummies, aren’t those the guys that take all the knocks in safety testing? Mostly. But a crash-test dummy can’t tell you everything that might happen to a human body in an accident. For that you need an actual human body.
According to Wired , automakers don’t procure cadavers to use in their own tests, mostly because that would be really bad press for them. (It’s hard for the average person to stomach the idea of their departed loved one strapped into the driver’s seat of a vehicle and then propelled at 60 mph into a brick wall.) So manufacturers distance themselves from the whole dead body thing by asking universities to do cadaver testing on their behalf, and then they sit around and wring their hands hoping no one will leak a video of a real human getting mushed in their cars.
It is important research and as a human crash-test dummy you do save lives — maybe not in the same way as an organ donor or if you end up in some guy’s junk, but helping automakers build safer cars can indirectly save a lot of people. It’s not very glamorous, but glamour hasn’t been a common thread in this list anyway so don’t get picky now.
If becoming a crash-test dummy seems too gross and violent, you might want to go out of your way to make sure your corpse doesn’t end up in the hands of the military. Why, oh why does the military need corpses? Because they need to know if their new boot design will stop soldiers from losing feet if they step on a landmine, and the best way to do that is to make a cadaver step on a landmine.
This isn’t usually a scenario that will please your family (depending on your family). And the military knows that, which is probably why some corpses pass through a sort of gray market before arriving at their final destination.
According to the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics , that’s how some bodies got from the Tulane School of Medicine to the military, which paid roughly $30,000 per body. And Tulane wasn’t even aware this was happening — it transferred bodies “it couldn’t use” to a body broker, assuming incorrectly that the bodies would go from there to medical schools.
That’s not to say the military doesn’t obtain most of its corpses legitimately, or that you shouldn’t register to be exploded in a land mine simulation if you want to commit yourself to potentially saving soldiers in the line of duty. It’s still a noble cause if you can get past the whole exploding thing.
Receive an all expenses paid, slightly lame funeral
It’s pretty hard to think of your fleshly husk as anything less than you, even when you’re no longer in it. And though altruism does tend to be the top motivator behind whole-body donation, there are some other factors at play, too.
First, funerals are expensive. A “traditional funeral” with a burial and a headstone costs between $7,000 and $10,000 . Cremation is cheaper, but it will still run you at least $1,500 — that’s a lot of money for some people. Given those hard realities, it’s unsurprising that some people just don’t claim their loved ones’ bodies.
Whole-body donation is one possible solution to the problem — according to Vice , some institutions will cremate donor bodies after they’ve been released and provide a short funeral service complete with a chaplain at no cost to the family. There won’t be any big screen TV with images of the departed on loop or stories from grieving loved ones, but the good news is if you’ve always dreamed of being a fly on the wall at your own funeral, you could probably attend one of these generic donor services before you die and know pretty much exactly what’s going to happen at yours. But if you think the greater gift is saving your family the expense of all those flowers and a shiny wooden coffin, that’s a pretty good reason to donate your body to science.
Space, in the words of the not-entirely-immortal Douglas Adams, is big. Really big. It’s so big, in fact, that you’d actually be forgiven for believing that pretty much all of it is completely empty — hence the name. It’s true that, according to science , only 4 percent of it is made up of stuff. Now, most of that “stuff” tends be planets and galaxies and black holes and all manner of freaky-deaky cosmic shenanigans, but there’s also room for some weirder things up there, too.
Yes, for every millionth planet floating out in space, there’s also a dead dog. For every hundred thousandth galaxy, there’s a record of hit music. And for every few black holes, there’s a man who discovered Pluto. The fact is that, thanks to human meddling (it’s what we do best!) there’s a whole lot of really bizarre stuff floating out among the stars. This is only some of it.
Elon Musk’s ride
This is one of space’s newest residents. On February 6, 2018, SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket with a very special cargo on board: Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster. In a move The Atlantic dubbed ” yet another shift in the American spaceflight business” but which everybody else dubbed “just a little bit nuts,” the Tesla shot into the night sky attached to the upper stage of the rocket. The car is expected to begin orbiting the Sun before being gradually brought closer and closer to Mars. Considering the car is laden with bacteria , this might actually end up being something of a problem for the planet , should that bacteria make it to the planet’s surface, where it could pose a threat to any biological life that might exist there.
Still, for now, it’s at least a fun little gimmick on Musk’s part, and you can even trace the car’s orbit thanks to a nifty website set up shortly after the launch. Just try to ignore the whole “biothreat to life on Mars” bit.
The guy who discovered Pluto
Space burials aren’t a particularly new phenomenon. The idea of blasting your remains (that’d be your ashes, unless you’ve really got resources) into the cosmos has been around for decades, beginning with Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, who became the first dead person to enter outer space when his ashes were taken aboard Columbia. Parts of Roddenberry’s remains have gone up a few times since, but, every time, have actually either returned back safely to Earth or burned up in the atmosphere.
One person whose remains have actually gone where no man has gone before, however, is Clyde Tombaugh. Tombaugh was an American astronomer most famous for discovering Pluto in 1930, and, long after his death, his ashes were shot into space aboard the spacecraft New Horizons with the eventual hope that they’ll successfully depart the solar system. Oh, while we’re at it, there’s also a guy buried on the Moon. Just so you’re aware.
All the movies and the books and the documentaries have such a way of making space flight so romantic, don’t they? For them, it’s all shimmering auroras and dawnbreak over Earth’s horizon and somersaulting through space stations. But there’s a dark side to the business, you know — a grim, grim dark side. You see, despite their propensity toward thrift and their insistence on recycling everything they can, eventually, spaceships have to jettison waste. Sometimes, this takes the form of a water dump . These dumps (which are often mistaken for shooting stars) eject urine and excess water out into the glorious cosmos, where it freezes into a cloud of miniscule ice droplets. After a while, the ice is melted by the Sun and turns into water vapor before floating off through space.
What this basically means is that, at any one moment during a major manned mission, there’s likely to be a small mass of piss-cicles drifting listlessly across the night sky. And, statistically speaking, there’s even a good chance someone saw them and made a wish.
One of America’s sillier plans
The Cold War was a weird time. It was an era of madcap schemes, bizarre military innovations, and inexplicable competitions between East and West. Perhaps weirdest of all, however, is the time the USA attempted to remake the entire planet’s ionosphere just to defend a weak point in America’s communications systems. See, underwater cables (which were used for long-range communications) were vulnerable to attacks by the Soviets. Should the dirty Russians succeed in such an attack, America would be forced into communicating across the world with radio broadcasts. The problem there, though, is that the ionosphere, which allows such broadcasts, is often disrupted by solar activity.
The solution? Project West Ford. Millions and millions of tiny copper needless sent up into space to form a permanent radio reflector that would be invulnerable to attack from either the Soviets or the Sun. To cut a long story short, it didn’t work, and most of the needless eventually burned up as they re-entered the atmosphere. Some thousands, however, are still up there, bunched together in clusters — a continuous cosmic monument to the sad truth that not every idea is a good idea.
Lots of dead animals
While human beings have traditionally hoovered up all the glory for their achievements in space exploration, we all too rarely show appreciation for the unsung heroes in the field: the ones who never made it home. Yes, before we saw fit to send astronauts up there, we saw fit instead to test out space’s dangers by firing a few animals up. In 1947, a troupe of fruit flies successfully launched into space and safely returned to Earth. They were the lucky ones.
Next was Albert I, a rhesus monkey who died of suffocation during his flight. Albert II died on re-entry. The dog Laika, perhaps the most famous cosmic critter, died shortly after launch. Other countries continued to send up monkeys throughout the ensuing decades, with Iran even launching one up as recently as 2013. Some burned up as they came back down to Earth. Others are still up there, trapped inside their own floating tombs. Life as a fruit fly isn’t looking so bad now, is it?
A giant boomerang
What’s more impressive than a piece of space debris that is fired off into the far reaches of the solar system? A piece of space debris that comes back. This is what happened with one piece of the Apollo 12 rocket , part of the spacecraft that delivered Charles Conrad and Alan L. Bean to the Moon. After detaching from the spacecraft, this section of the rocket’s engine drifted off into deep space and began to orbit the Sun. In the early 2000s, however, it returned, baffling scientists, who initially believed the object (which they designated J002E3) was an asteroid.
Eventually, it began to orbit the Earth itself and came close enough to the planet that it seriously threatened other satellites in the sky. Most likely, J002E3 will eventually either burn up in Earth’s atmosphere or smash into the Moon. Either way, it’ll be a fitting end to an extraordinary journey.
Niku, whatever that is
One of the most fascinating aspects of space’s near-infinite size is that, sometimes, scientists discover something they simply cannot explain. Usually, however, they exist hundreds or thousands of lightyears away — not right on our doorstep. Enter Niku, a mysterious object on the edge of our solar system that has experts pretty much baffled. The defining feature of Niku is its retrograde orbit, a peculiar quirk which means it moves in the opposite direction of everything else in the system. It exists somewhere just beyond the orbit of Neptune and is accompanied by five other objects with similar characteristics which all orbit on the same plane.
Weirder still, research has suggested that they may have existed in these orbits for millions of years, and that there may be more objects in the sky acting in a similar manner. Just why they do so, and why they’re all so tightly packed, is a total mystery.
A satellite that might just ruin everything
You saw Gravity, right? It’s the one where Sandra Bullock talks to herself for ages, then briefly talks to George Clooney, then (spoiler alert) it turns out she was just talking to herself after all, and then there’s a fire. Well, Gravity also depicts something called Kessler syndrome, a phenomenon in which one piece of space debris collides with another, which in turn collides with more debris, slowly creating a mass of killer junk that swallows up and knocks out anything in its path. And it’s a real thing, too — experts have been worried about Kessler syndrome and its potentially devastating effects on Earth’s global network for years. Some, such as engineer Charlotte Bewick and Donald Kessler himself,
even believe it’s already happening .
One of the biggest potential triggers for the effect is Envisat, an ESA satellite that was retired in 2013. Defunct and unable to be piloted, the massive satellite is essentially a time bomb, just waiting to collide with another piece of debris and trigger the chain reaction. A scheme known as e.Deorbit , which hopes to sweep up space debris (including Envisat), is currently on the cards, but just how successful it will be is unknown.
Johnny B. Goode
Perhaps one of the most famous space missions of all time, Voyager also happens to be one of the most far-reaching and impressive feats humanity has ever accomplished. In case you don’t know, the concept is simple: two probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 , were sent out into the solar system to study the planets. After surpassing them, however, they now travel through deep space — Voyager 1 is currently in interstellar space and
Voyager 2 is in the heliosheath, far beyond the edge of Pluto’s orbit.
One of the most famous facets of the Voyager program is the Golden Record, a compilation of Earth music sent, with a number of other pieces of information, as part of a time capsule ready to be discovered by other spacefarers in the far future. Among the songs chosen for inclusion on the Golden Record are Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 2,” “Zaire” (an initiation song for pygmy girls), and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”
Lots and lots and lots and lots of water
If you’re a really great guesser, you might have expected to find a Chuck Berry record or a dead monkey floating through the far reaches of outer space. What you might never expect to find, however, is water — masses and masses of it. That’s what happened in 2011 , when two teams of astronomers came across the largest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. It was roughly equivalent to 140 trillion times the water in all of Earth’s oceans and surrounded a ridiculously huge black hole more than 12 billion light years away.
The black hole itself, known as a quasar, is 20 billion times the size of the Sun and produces as much energy as a thousand trillion of our Suns. Although astronomers had expected water to exist at these far distances and in such a capacity, they had never actually managed to observe it before the discover
If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, you call the Ghostbusters . If there’s a weird disease, and you don’t feel good, conspiracy theorists call it a secret plot. They blame sinister social groups, companies with no compassion, and pesky EPA inspectors. Flus become ruses, and plagues become planned coups. When these often-confusing bombshells implode under scrutiny, the refuted revelations refuse to detonate. Instead,
conspiracy theorists demand dent-proof disproof from disbelievers and place unshakable faith in their own holey stories.
Skepticism-driven faith sounds sillier than a singing mime. But such irrationality may serve a practical purpose. Psychological research suggests conspiracy theorists cling to cockamamie claims to reduce the stress of uncertainty, cope with uncontrollable circumstances, and “maintain a positive image of the self and the in-group.” These people aren’t nitwits but knitters who create complex narratives to prevent their worldviews from unraveling. If an outbreak of an illness threatens to break their peace of mind, ill logic dictates that conspiracy theorists treat it with yarn needles. Below are some of their most pathological patterns.
Got your scapegoat
Sickness stinks. Per Popular Science , monkeys called mandrills sniff each other’s poo for parasites, and any mandrill whose poo smells polluted is excluded from grooming. Humans don’t do doo-sniffing, but they sometimes do crappy things to combat pathogens. As
cognitive science researchers elaborated in a 2016 paper, some scientists believe “parasite stress” shapes societies. Social groups fear foreign germs because a community could lack immunity to them. When an ugly infection surfaces, prejudice rears its ugly head. Minorities become major scapegoats, alien groups get alienated, and paranoid people devolve into maniacal mandrills.
If parasite stress stokes social strife, the Black Death may be the sickest instigator ever. It was a first for recorded history, according to author John Kelly . The plague savaged medieval Europe like a bubonic barbarian. Fever and organ failure ran rampant. Over a four-year span in the 14th century, 25 million people perished, a figure proportional to “almost 2 billion lives” in 2005. Faced with an unprecedented pestilence, Christians lost faith in humanity. Many concluded that Jews colluded to kill Christendom. Anti-Semitic sentiments spread like, well, a plague. Authorities jailed Jews and coerced them into corroborating conspiracy claims. Fordham University’s Jewish History Sourcebook detailed the ordeal of a Genevan Jew named Agimet. In 1348 he underwent imprisonment and intermittent torture until he falsely admitted to poisoning communal water repositories at a rabbi’s behest. Such injustices served as justifications to massacre Jews by the thousands “in at least two hundred towns and hamlets.”
The CI-AIDS pandemic
In 2003 physician and New York Times contributor Lawrence Altman called AIDS “the worst pandemic since the plague of the 14th century.” Altman also argued that “No one knows when or where the next plague will occur, or whether it will be from a natural or bioterrorist attack.” Some would say the same of AIDS.
While most scientists say AIDS was transmitted from monkeys to mankind in the 1930s, Time noted that many conspiracy theorists consider it an immune system assassin engineered by the CIA. For decades they’ve claimed the agency aimed to exterminate gays and black people. The list of accusers isn’t a who’s who of WHO officials, but it includes Nobel Prize-winning ecologist Wangari Maathai and former South African president Thabo Mbeki.
Maybe a mandrill infected a man’s “drill” with AIDS, but The Man is easier to vilify. America’s history of hideous discrimination against blacks and homosexuals has fostered distrust toward the government, and the AIDS pandemic’s demographics haven’t exactly allayed laymen’s suspicions. In 2005 the Washington Post
reported results from a survey of 500 African-Americans, a social group severely impacted by AIDS. More than half believed the CIA “created and spread” HIV.
Some experts say the central issue is intelligence. Per the BBC, U.S. military researchers asserted that Soviet spies drummed up the AIDS hubbub via fake news stories during the 1980s. Supposedly, solid evidence supports this conspiracy theory, but you’ll have to take the government’s word for it.
A government’s word is its bond, so naturally Uncle Sam has made numerous statements about bondage. During the mid-1800s the states weren’t united on the issue of slavery, and hostile discourse caused opposing sides to diss and curse each other. Per the book Panic in Washington , the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act infuriated anti-slavery activists because it actively allowed slavery in new Western territories. However, abolitionists’ activeness didn’t stop voters from electing James Buchanan as president in 1856.
Buchanan animated enormous animus during a deeply divisive election. According to the U.S. House of Representatives, people regarded him as a “northern man with southern principles,” and he held slavery in high regard. So when he held his inaugural celebration at the National Hotel, tensions ran high. Before long, Buchanan had the runs. An unfamiliar illness –- which modern doctors diagnosed as dysentery –- introduced itself to the celebrants. Up to three dozen people died in the following months, including one of Buchanan’s nephews and a pro-slavery ex-governor.
The sickness struck twice at the National Hotel, and the president was present both times. Hundreds of politicians, many of them Southerners, were infected. As the American press and public ruminated over possible explanations, rumors circulated. People began to suspect that abolitionists had set out to poison the president and other slavery proponents. Newspapers nurtured paranoia with unsubstantiated suggestions. But the unsettling thoughts settled down when experts deduced the disease was induced by the hotel’s sanitation system spewing sewage fumes.
A fit of coffin
As we’ve previously pointed out, history is pathologically repetitive. As its story evolves it revolves, circling back to prior plot points. If the plot involves a political conspiracy theory, concerned parties get especially wary. Consequently, when an unknown ailment assailed attendees at a hotel gathering in 1976, partiers panicked like it was 1856.
Unlike the 1856 sickness, the 1976 illness didn’t involve a president from Pennsylvania at a hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Instead the events played out in Pennsylvania at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. As an American Legion convention convened, an inconvenient outbreak intervened. People were gripped by “intense, flu-like symptoms,” per the Washington Post . They grappled with “wracking coughs, painful chills, and fevers as high as 107 degrees.” In severe instances lungs filled with bloody, bubbly fluid. Oxygen-restricted, the stricken individuals suffocated to death.
Because the ailment largely affected the Legionnaires, people dubbed it “Legionnaire’s disease.” At the time no one had a clue what caused it, and according to Time , people were terrified. The friends of one fallen Legionnaire chose not to attend his funeral in case his corpse still contained the contagion.
Unable to grasp the illness, scientists began grasping at straws. Some suspected that a crazy guy attacked the convention. A representative of the Veterans of Foreign Wards weighed in as well, alleging a “left-wing” war on military veterans. Eventually the event was traced to the hotel’s air conditioning system, which had become a bacteria incubator.
The revolutionary wariness
Everyone remembers the Revolutionary War for its anti-tea mentality and that turncoat whose name resembles
runny eggs on English muffins . However, smallpox was a huge worry. Public Radio International explained that the virus severely taxed the Continental Army’s health. Inoculation existed, but American colonists resisted it.
According to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, two attempts to introduce inoculation to Virginia in the late 1760s ignited fierce protest. Fiery rioters burned down a doctor’s house.
Part of the problem was inoculation wasn’t completely innocuous. The process entailed giving someone smallpox so they could fight it off. If done improperly, it could propagate the pox. Moreover, the British had intentionally infected Native Americans with smallpox-tainted blankets in the past. So when smallpox obliterated colonial soldiers in Canada during battles with Brits in 1776, colonists chalked it up to English chicanery. According to one witness, “The small pox was sent out of [Quebec] by Carleton, inoculating the poor people at government [expense] for the purpose of giving it to our army.”
Thomas Jefferson investigated the incident as part of a committee. Thankfully, he was an independent thinker. The Founding Father found it self-evident that inoculation saved lives and happily pursued the practice as president. Jefferson also welcomed the advent of cowpox-based smallpox vaccination and facilitated hundreds of immunizations. George Washington, who initially opposed inoculation, did an about-face after the Canada outbreak. He adamantly advocated inoculating troops, which in turn helped the forces of good health defeat Tea-ville.
When a virus goes global, every nation has a dog in the fight. Those dogs must bark in unison or risk biting the dust. However, rabid canines can compound the problem by howling unsubstantiated statements or unleashing misinformation. During the 2003 SARS epidemic these tricks bred unrest.
As CNN contributor Kevin Voigt recalled , severe acute respiratory syndrome suffocated social customs in China. Despite its manageable mortality rate, the novel pneumonia couldn’t be written off because experts knew too little about it. In Hong Kong, handshakes made people tremble and medical masks became a commonplace face accessory. Per the Washington Post , in 2004 civet cats –- a delicacy in Guandong province –- went from doggie bags to body bags when the government had them drowned over SARS concerns.
Before the cat drownings began, authorities sought to water down SARS fears with phony statistics. As SF Gate detailed , the state media misstated that Beijing had 44 cases of SARS and four deaths. After getting caught by netizens, officials updated the figures to 339 cases and 67 deaths.
Internet sleuths were joined by a slew of conspiracy theorists. After a pair of Russian medical experts suggested scientists assembled SARS from several viruses, Chinese truthers accused America of spreading it to divert attention from its recently waged war in Iraq.
Per Reuters , Taiwan’s national security director declared that China created SARS as a bioweapon. But China and Taiwan’s strained political relationship may have led him to bark up the wrong tree.
The ticking Lyme bomb
Physicians have known about Lyme disease since the 1970s, and know-it-alls have studied it ever since. Yet nobody seems to know much about it. Per National Geographic, doctors have linked the ailment to
meningitis, encephalitis, cranial neuritis, arthritis, depression, chronic fatigue, cardiac difficulties, cognitive problems, coughing, sore throat, and irritable bowel syndrome. Infectious disease expert Gary Wormser criticized physicians for making seemingly uncritical diagnoses, remarking, “If I can’t figure out what you have, it must be Lyme disease.”
The inability to delineate Lyme is makes it difficult to pinpoint when people first encountered it. Some scientists posit that
Ötzi the millennia-old iceman had the illness. Others assert that the sickness surfaced during the 1880s or the Great Depression. Unsurprisingly, the uncertainty has inspired speculation. In trying to explain the emergence of Lyme, conspiracy theorists point to the outbreak for which the disease was named.
In 1975, 39 children in Lyme, Connecticut, contracted arthritis attributed to bacteria-toting ticks. What stood out about the incident was the highly guarded government building that stood 8 miles away. Located on Long Island, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center had an “official mandate” to research agricultural bioterrorism. The facility’s proximity led a contingent of tinfoil hatters, including former Minnesota Governor Jessie the body-slammer Ventura, to deem Lyme disease a result of military testing on ticks. Lawyer Bill Carroll wrote a whole book about it, though he told CBS he had no science cred. Predictably, real scientists were incredulous.
Hoax us pocus
Ebola is a malignant Whack-A-Mole. It throws people’s health out of whack, hammering them with horrific symptoms before it dies down and then randomly resurfaces. When it first caught scientists’ attention in 1976, 75 percent of people who caught Ebola tended to hemorrhage blood, according to Dr. Anita McElroy . Sufferers also contend with fever, abdominal pain, and sometimes a feverish, hard-to-stomach xenophobia.
Per NPR , Liberia can’t liberate itself from Ebola because the virus takes breaks between outbreaks. It lies waiting inside human hosts, letting them think they’ve recovered. After a year or so it stops lying and shows its true colors: a bloodthirsty red that pops up out of the blue. However, NPR noted that numerous Liberians believe Ebola is a lie peddled by the government to gain foreign aid.
It seems incredible that people wouldn’t believe in a disorder that doesn’t truly leave. But war has left Liberia in a state of unbelievable disorder. The healthcare system was crippled, leaving few physicians. Some of the remaining docs died of Ebola. As a result, citizens associate hospitals with hopelessness, not healing. Largely devoid of physicians, Liberia suffers from what political scientist Brendan Nyhan described as “an information void.”
That void has incited ill-informed decisions. In 2018
Newsweek reported angry raiders ransacked an Ebola treatment center in Monrovia after a mentally ill woman claimed she helped the hospital perpetrate a hoax. Quarantined Ebola patients broke free, and raiders stole contaminated equipment. Sadly, disbelief is unbelievably dangerous.
Believe it or naught
When it comes to conspiracy theories, conclusive evidence often proves hard to uncover. That’s unsurprising, since conspiracies theoretically come with cover-ups. The upshot is that countervailing evidence gets shot down like a fighter pilot. The truth could leap from the trenches of a fact battle, rip off its trenchcoat, and bare its essentials to the world. But if it essentially disproves the conspiracy theory, a truther will call it fiction. That certainly proved true for cancer.
Even hardcore disease-deniers know cancer is the real deal, but cynics like to focus on a raw deal cancer sufferers allegedly deal with. Cancer researcher Cath Ennis has had to deal with the accusers. Writing for The Guardian, she recalled an enraged guy railing, “all you scientists are sitting on a 100 percent effective cure for cancer.” The mad man’s rant represented the common misconception that cancer has “natural,” low-cost cures but a worldwide corporate cabal conceals them to sell cancer drugs.
As Ennis argued, this theory implausibly assumes that (1) unfathomably powerful money-grubbers couldn’t grub more money with a cancer cure and (2) money-grubbers who die of cancer are just super committed to keeping their secret. The Guardian ‘s David Grimes put that craziness in perspective . Belief in forbidden hidden cures might make cancer appear more manageable. The notion of big brains teaming up with Big Pharma to crush the little guy leaves a little hope that the little guy could crush a big illness.
Read it and leap
Foreign film buffs and insult enthusiasts may have read the term “paparazzi” comes from the 1960 Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita. It alludes to the character Paparazzo, an obnoxious photographer whose name came from “a pejorative term for a very large mosquito,”
per The Guardian. Interestingly, mosquitoes spread the Zika virus, which causes microcephaly in infants. The BBC explained “Zika” means “overgrown” and refers to the Ugandan forest where the virus was first discovered in 1947. So if you ignore chronology and geography, you could follow the clues to see Fellini covertly revealed that obese photographers invented Zika.
Now take a breath. The previous paragraph was a mental tragedy. Sadly, similar logic underlies a widely circulated Zika conspiracy theory. In 2016 The New Yorker reported that a popular Reddit post suggested British biotech firm Oxitec developed Zika in a lab. Oxitec, it turns out, genetically modifies mosquitoes for humanity’s benefit. In 2012 it operated in Brazil, which became the epicenter of a Zika epidemic four years later. Because Zika is found in a mosquito species that also carries dengue fever, the redditor reasoned Oxitec designed Zika to destroy dengue but the project backfired and Zika spread like wildfire.
The redditor’s reasoning was solid as Swiss cheese and overlooked the fact that Oxitec was founded 55 years after scientists discovered Zika. But more than a third of Americans polled by the University of Pennsylvania accepted the incorrect narrative. Because who doesn’t enjoy a tragic tale of human hubris?
Becoming smarter is something you should seek so you can enjoy a better life. According to a 2012 study, Intelligence is a more accurate predictor of future career success than socioeconomic background.
So yes, being smart pays off. And yes, with some consistency and knowledge, you can systematically become more intelligent, make better decisions and improve your life with less resistance. How? From what I`ve read and used, these six practices can make you 2, 3 or even 10X smarter. Here they are:
1. Remove As Many Cognitive Distortions As You Can
Charlie Munger once said: “It’s ignorance removal…It’s dishonorable to stay stupider than you have to be.” What he means is, you can become smarter by understanding and eliminating the cognitive biases and logical fallacies that influence your thinking.
Here`s a list of the top 58 biases. Read, understand and revise it regularly, and you will see yourself becoming wiser over the time.
2. Use Mental Models and Universal Frameworks
One of the popular approaches scientists use to solve problems is applying the frameworks and laws used in one field of science to solve problems in other areas. This is why you often see laws like “Supply and Demand,” or Newton`s Laws of Dynamics used everywhere from health to benefits.
Ever heard the phrase, “An object in motion stays in motion.” This is Newton`s First Law of Inertia, and because the universe works in harmony, you can apply this law to many situations, and it will fit perfectly.
For instance, the more money you make, the easier money making becomes. Or, the more junk food you eat, the harder it will be to switch back to eating healthy.
Another example is the Peacocking technique used by pickup artists like Neil Strauss to standout and appeal to women. This sexual behavior is borrowed from zoology and is called Display.
Smart people like Munger and Warren Buffet use this law of Inertia and other universal laws to make better decisions in business and life, and they call them Mental Models.
You can build such models by reading a wide variety of books on physics, mathematics, biology, finance and different scientific fields. These books will expose you to various frameworks and models that you can then apply to your problems and come up with better solutions.
3. Don`t just read books, learn how to comprehend
Ever watched Suits? They have Mike Ross, the smartass lawyer with the photographic memory who never forgets a thing. In one episode, someone asks him how he managed to memorize an entire sector of a 300-page document after just reading it for once. Ross` reply was, “I read things, I understand them and I, never forget them.”
Similarly, this is what you should do to become smarter, comprehend. Deeply understanding the books you read helps you use that information better and gives you a competitive advantage. This is why an avid reader like Tai Lopez teaches the books he read so he can understand it better and maximize their benefits.
So how to do? Whenever you`re done reading something, do the following:
Close the book and try to summarize it on paper or in your head using mental maps and memory palaces. Then,
Identify the 2-3 main takeaways and ask, ‘’How can I apply this in real life?”
This may sound very simple but trust me, it will make you remember, recall, and better use the material of that book.
4. Give lateral-thinking puzzles a shot
It`s crazy how much you can learn from the puzzles and riddles found in Lateral Thinking books. They will test your brain capacity and teach you how to think outside the box. Besides, you can use the riddles in these books in social situations with friends and dates.
5. Study past mistakes
Richard Dawkins once called learning by trial and error “the worst way for learning.” He believes so because learning from your mistakes is more painful and costs much time and money than if you learn from other people`s mistakes. For that, I want you to grab a pen and do the following:
List the top three mistakes you`ve made before —or are still making. Why you made them, what they say about you and how to change them. (List everything).
List three key figures in your life whom you don`t want to follow their steps; an abusive parent, an annoying boss, or a promising friend who couldn`t live up to his potential. What mistakes they`ve made? And what will you do to avoid them?
List the three common mistakes people make in business, health, and relationships. How would you prevent those mistakes?
Finally, you can start reading history books for fun. If you want something that is both enjoyable and fun, then you can read stuff for Robert Greene, Matthew White as well as the likes of “The Art of War.”
6. Spend more time sharpening the saw
Seeking clarity in everything you do is probably one of the easiest ways to become smart. Many smart people are famous for spending quite a long time on solving problems.
A company once hired Jordan Belfort to sell them stuff, and they noticed that he spent more time studying his material than anyone on their sales team. The same thing goes for Einstein who was quoted for spending 55 minutes of a given 60 to define a problem before solving it.
These people realized that because most problems are more complicated than they seem to be, it`s essential to pause, seek clarity and plan before making a move. And you should do the same. Schedule times where you can analyze your life and think of better ways to do things.
Invest at least 30 minutes in planning your week, and around 5-10 minutes of planning your day. It may sound boring but will improve the way you make decisions.
Cats have a reputation as being standoffish and aloof, when they’re really just adorable, loving little floofballs with some serious trust issues. Once you win that trust you’ll never have a cold lap again, but talk to cat haters and you might hear all that love comes at a price: brain-dwelling parasites and the potential for some mind control, Bond villain-style.
Don’t listen to those people. The mind control they’re talking about is actually the work of a tiny little cat parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, and it’s such a weird — but fascinating — thing we still don’t know exactly how it all works. We do know Fluffykins isn’t guilty of anything except living in the circle of life, and he’s not actually controlling your mind.
Something else is. Maybe. A bit. It’s complicated, so let’s talk about why having a cat parasite hibernating in your brain might be a good thing, and why there’s absolutely no reason to live in fear of cats. (Except for when they stare at nothing. They’re probably looking at ghosts, and then you should be very afraid.)
The parasite in your brain
You’ve probably heard cats are one of the major carriers of Toxoplasma gondii (pictured), the single-celled parasite that’s causing all the fuss. More specifically, the parasites live in cat poops, but that’s not the only place you can find it. You can also pick it up by eating contaminated meat, and the CDC says it’s usually pork, venison, and lamb, although any undercooked meat is a potential risk. You can also come in contact with it in the soil, on unwashed fruits and vegetables, or on food prepared in a kitchen where cross-contamination is the norm.
It’s almost terrifyingly common. The CDC says around 60 million U.S. residents are living with this little hitchhiker, and according to The Atlantic, researchers estimate about a third of the world’s population has one. In other words, you might as well name yours now, because there’s a good chance you’ve got it. (And there are tests that can detect it, if you’re curious .)
You probably wouldn’t know you’ve caught it. When you’re first infected, you might come down with what feels like a bit of a cold. That passes, and your immune system keeps it in line. It’s only if your immune system is seriously compromised that it might start creating some havoc, and if it does, it’ll attack your brain and eyes. Yikes. It’s estimated to kill as many people as malaria does.
Sometimes, the voices are real
The story of how we discovered Toxo’s powers is pretty brilliant, and it’s proof science happens in weird ways. In the 1990s, a Czech scientist name Dr. Jaroslav Flegr became convinced there was a parasite living in his brain, influencing his personality and guiding his decisions. Ha, crazy scientist, right? Not this time.
Flegr told The Atlantic his work began when he read a book on the flatworm, which invades ant nervous systems and paralyzes them to make them easy prey for sheep — the worm’s final destination. It made him look at his own behavior, and he realized he was developing a tendency to do some nutty stuff. He walked into traffic, crossed busy streets without looking, and even spoke openly about his dislike of the ruling communists. Gunfire didn’t bother him, and he realized that’s not normal.
He went to Charles University in 1990 and joined an in-depth study into Toxo. There, he was able to examine infected individuals and the parasite’s life cycle. Essentially, the only place the parasite can reproduce is inside a cat. Once it leaves the cat, it needs to get back in — or die trying. Since humans aren’t usually prey for cats, most of us are a “dead end” host … or are we?
Flipping the fear switch
By the time Flegr got on board with research, they’d already discovered something weird about infected rats. They were more active, less cautious, and more likely to wander into open spaces. Things got even weirder when Joanne Webster, an Imperial College London parasitologist (via The Atlantic ) introduced the scent of a cat. She put infected rats into enclosures that had different areas treated with different scents: cat urine, rabbit urine, and the rat’s own smell. The rats became so obsessed with the cat odor that researchers dubbed it “fatal feline attraction.”
“Rats aren’t people!” you’re shouting. But chimpanzees are more human than some people you probably know, and in 2016 researchers in Gabon presented both infected and non-infected chimps with the smell of their natural predator, the leopard. Infected chimps were all about investigating the smell while non-infected counterparts weren’t so keen, but when scientists exposed them to the smells of lions and tigers — not their natural predators — there was no difference (via the Independent).
The conclusion is a weird one: The cat parasite is modifying behavior to make it more likely the host will get eaten by a cat predator. Another piece of the puzzle was provided by research from the National Institutes of Health in 2011, when researchers found the presence of Toxo in rats activated parts of the brain linked to sex. Instead of causing fear, the smell of cats turned the rats on. Fatal attraction, indeed.
Playing in traffic
Toxo’s influence on human behavior wasn’t documented until 2002, when Dr. Flegr found (via Vice) some evidence the parasite was modifying human behavior just like it was guiding rat and chimpanzee hosts into the jaws of their feline predators. One behavioral difference he noticed in himself was his tendency to become oblivious to car horns, and he also started crossing the street without looking. So it’s not surprising that he found his first bit of evidence by analyzing traffic patterns.
Infected drivers were around 2.6 times more likely to find themselves picking themselves up off the pavement after being in a car accident. Flegr paralleled that human version of risk-taking behavior with that of the rats and chimps, and that’s a big deal. It was the first indication the parasite we thought was harmless and completely under our control was, in fact, affecting us. That’s some serious conspiracy theory-level stuff.
Once, we were prey
Vice sat down with Flegr to discuss his work in-depth, and he had some fascinating things to say about why we’re a part of this cycle at all. At a glance, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. When’s the last time you heard something about someone getting eaten by a cat? (Aside from the occasional rumor someone’s housecat ate them after they died, which has happened
But Flegr says we were once a completely viable vehicle for getting Toxo back into cat hosts and, in some parts of the world, we still are. He suggests that thousands of years ago, those eyes glowing in the dark were a very real danger, and Toxo’s contribution to our poor life choices was designed to make us more likely to be eaten by that lion or tiger. Flegr says he’s found evidence in personality questionnaires given to infected and non-infected people, and says infected people are way less fearful of things like the forest or the deepest, darkest night. In other words, they’re prime pickin’ for big cats hunting at night.
The gender gap
Flegr has also found Toxo doesn’t change all human behavior in quite the same way. He told Vice that infected women were more likely to become more outgoing, friendly, and moral (although, he says, not more promiscuous). Infected men, on the other hand, became more guarded, more prone to jealousy, and more likely to break or bend the rules.
Those reactions are pretty much polar opposites, but Flegr thinks he knows what’s going on. He says it’s possible the parasite is interacting with the way people react to chronic stress, and the opposite personality changes seen in infected people aren’t that strange at all. He says since men tend to withdraw during times of stress and women tend to reach out, it’s possible the parasite is putting the host under an extreme amount of stress, and those around them are just seeing the outward manifestations of that.
It could be good … or bad
Absolutely none of this is sounding good, right? The idea we’re not in control of our own emotions or behavior is a terrifying prospect, and it’s why some people swear by tinfoil hats. But more research has suggested it’s almost impossible to tell how it’s going to impact us.
Ann-Kathrin Stock from the University of Dresden (via
The Atlantic) puts it like this: “It interferes with brain chemistry, but the parasite itself doesn’t intend to harm someone. It always acts by the same mechanism. … It’s just that humans are very rarely prey to cats. That doesn’t help its goal.”
And that means at the end of the day, the effects of the parasite on humans is pretty scattershot. There have been links to an increased likelihood of the development of mental illness, but Stock’s work also shows there’s the potential for some good changes, too. Her team found infected people had faster response times when they needed to react to changing stimuli, and there’s also evidence Toxo increases the amount of dopamine — that’s the feel-good chemical — in the brain. In rats, that’s specific to the pathway that attracts them to cats, but in humans it’s more complicated. The entire system gets flooded, and different people can have different reactions.
A hostile hitchhiker
Researchers have actually uncovered the process Toxo uses to infect what’s essentially an interim host. Melbourne scientists (via Neuroscience News) found the parasite hijacks a healthy, human cell to create a sort of bunker that provides it with everything it needs to survive in a dormant state. The cell releases proteins into the human cell, which then manipulate a person’s chemistry to stockpile starches — think of a bear hibernating for the winter.
Fortunately, our immune systems keep on top of this sort of thing, at least, in healthy individuals. Science is still working on figuring out some of the precise mechanisms, but they do know a healthy immune system will form cysts around little Toxo pockets. Joanne Webster of Imperial College London (via The Atlantic) says it’s possible the increased levels of dopamine come because of the cysts and an increase in one particular enzyme that’s key in both the development of the cysts and dopamine. What kind of impact the cyst has on the brain tissue around it isn’t entirely clear — not yet, at least.
There are other mind-controlling creatures out there
As if one mind-controlling parasite isn’t bad enough, it’s not a precedent-setting creature by any means. Let’s take a look at just one of the others, a parasitic wasp called Polysphincta gutfreundi. Scientists from the
Smithsonian did a series of experiments to see what kind of effect the wasps had on the life cycle of orb-weaving spiders, and the results were downright bizarre.
Researchers found the wasps have a bizarre way of disguising their cocoons. Basically, the females lay their eggs on the spider and when they hatch, the larvae begin life by puncturing the spider’s skin and feeding on their host. During the week they’re hitching a ride on the spider, scientists think they’re also injecting it with a mind-hijacking chemical that influences the way they spin their webs. Instead of the delicate webs they usually make, they start spinning webs that look like they’ve been influenced by a bad LSD trip. Once the larvae matures a bit and the web is done, it kills the spiders, tosses it aside, and builds a cocoon in the center of the web. The wasp matures, hatches, and the cycle starts all over again. Never thought you’d feel sorry for a spider, did you?
No, it doesn’t make you crazy … probably
One of the things you may have heard about the Toxo parasite is it makes people more prone to mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. That’s terrifying, but a 2016 study from Duke University (via Discover) looked at more than 1,000 people and found there was no link between infection and mental illness. Around 28 percent of their sample group (which was made up of people born in New Zealand in the early 1970s) were infected, and ultimately showed no correlation between infection and IQ, depression, schizophrenia, driving offenses, accident claims, or criminal convictions. Other studies — including one with a sample pool of 7,440 individuals — did not support a link between Toxo infection and mood disorders.
University College London (via Medical Daily) has also looked at the claim that when cats are present in the household of a pregnant woman or child, the child is more susceptible to mental illness down the road. Good news for cat lovers: across the 5,000-person sample pool, there was no link found between cat ownership and mental illness or impairments. Vindicated!
Keep your cat, the CDC says it’s ok
Now, to your cat’s role in all of this. It’s undeniable that they play a vital role in the life cycle of this weird cat parasite, but according to the CDC , there’s absolutely no reason to give up your cat — even if someone in the house is or is planning on becoming pregnant. They do recommend pregnant women stop cleaning the litter box, though. Who says there are no perks to being pregnant?
They also say there’s next to no chance of picking up the parasite by even petting a cat who’s infected, as it’s not transmitted by fur. All this is a great reason to keep your cats inside, as the CDC says they become infected by eating small animals that carry the parasite. Keep them inside, and the problem is nonexistent. And you can absolutely start that now. Because the cat is part of Toxo’s life cycle, they can pass along the infection only for about two weeks after becoming infected themselves. The parasite itself dies between one and five days after being passed out of the cat’s system, so you can’t blame Fluffykins for this one.,
The world loves a supervillain, and that just might be what Elon Musk is. Maybe! He definitely blows a lot of stuff up, but so did Mythbusters and those guys were only sort of evil. He also invented a flamethrower and then posted a video of himself flame-throwing things and laughing maniacally, as evil geniuses do, before announcing that he planned to sell them for $500 a piece and that they could be used for roasting nuts (hopefully just the kind that you serve in a dish with a glass of beer). And then there was the time where he literally changed his Twitter profile image to a picture of himself stroking a cat with his pinky finger in the corner of his mouth like Austin Powers ‘ Doctor Evil. And that other time when he joked that he was going to treat himself to a volcano lair.
Regardless of all that evidence, Musk is changing space travel as we know it. SpaceX, his private space company, is exploding its way into the hearts and minds of the American public, and occasionally successfully sending Tesla Roadsters and wheels of cheese into the great not-really-that-unknown-anymore. And if a few payloads full of human ashes and top-secret equipment get lost along the way, whatever. Supervillains don’t have to care.
It actually is rocket science
For most of us, a career is preceded by a college degree and (maybe) some actual work experience. For Elon Musk, a career is preceded by shoving a pile of money across a table. Okay that’s not really fair – according to Business Insider the guy did read some textbooks and ask actual rocket scientists a bunch of questions. For an ordinary person, that might be a pretty laughable way to break into the rocket science industry (or any industry), but Elon Musk isn’t an ordinary person. Aerospace consultant Jim Cantrell called him “the smartest guy I’ve ever met, period.” So the key is that he not only read rocket science textbooks, he also didn’t fall asleep while he was reading them.
The real question is, why would a guy like Musk, who helped found PayPal, decide to start building rockets?
Time magazine says he “just kind of decided to,” although that’s a simplified version of the story. When he wanted to send a greenhouse to Mars to see if the soil could sustain terrestrial plants, he realized there were no rockets capable of doing the job and figured he’d just build one himself. Oh, to be an internet billionaire.
If your car has a rusty nut, you probably just keep driving it around until the engine falls out or something, and then you go, “Crap, the engine fell out, I should have fixed that rusty nut.” If your rocket has a rusty nut, it falls out of the sky and destroys everything on board, so it’s kind of a bigger problem.
According to Popular Mechanics, in 2006, four years after Elon Musk got into the rocket biz, the Falcon 1 was ready for launch. Techs working on the Kwajalein Atoll off the coast of Hawaii readied the spacecraft and loaded it up with the Air Force Academy’s cadet-built FalconSat2 spacecraft , which was supposed to teach students about the effects of space plasma on communications satellites. Then they all stood around and shouted “Go!” and probably also “Woohoo!” and “Hooray!” and so on while the rocket lifted off and flew for exactly 34 seconds. And shortly after that, a room full of SpaceX techs and a bunch of seriously disappointed Air Force cadets watched their hopes and dreams of space flight and learning about space plasma disintegrate as a rusty nut came loose, fuel ignited and burned through a pneumatic line, and the rocket went crashing back to Earth, taking the FalconSat2 with it.
Beam me up, and up, and up
If you’ve dreamed of having your ashes launched into space where they will be forever free to explore the cosmos, you should totally not have SpaceX do it for you.
In 2008, some visionary at SpaceX decided there was a market for shooting the ashes of the departed into space, except for the part where SpaceX wasn’t actually that good at shooting anything into space just yet. In 2008, the remains of 208 people boarded the Falcon 1, their loved ones said a tearful goodbye, and then five minutes after liftoff the first stage collided with the second stage and 208 would-be astronauts got more or less cremated for a second time.
Among those who did not reach the stars was actor James Doohan, who played Scotty in the original Star Trek series. This wasn’t the first time Doohan failed to arrive at his final destination, either — according to The Telegraph, in 2007 his ashes were found on a New Mexico hillside after another failed launch.
It’s not like there were 208 urns up there or anything, though. Celestis, the company that facilitates the ashes-in-space thing only takes 1 gram of cremains per person, but evidently asks for a little back-up cremains, too, “in case there is a problem.” And if you’re wondering, Scotty did eventually go where more than 1,000 other people have gone before, in 2012 aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 . 2:32 & Spock discussing a problem with the Ship
Here’s a coupon
So what do you do when your customer’s pizza arrives cold because your delivery person hasn’t quite gotten the hang of quickly transporting precious cargo? You give your customer a discounted pizza. Now, what do you do if your customer’s expensive cargo keeps blowing up because you haven’t quite got the hang of the whole non-exploding rocket thing? You give your customer a discount because your customer is NASA and really, what else are you going to do?
In a 2016 report, NASA said SpaceX was offering cargo services at “discounted prices” and was also giving the space organization other “significant considerations,” which probably included going on Starbucks runs and passing out moist towelettes in the executive washroom because you have to kiss some pretty major butt in order to calm down a group as important as NASA.
The report was issued a year after yet another Falcon failure in 2015, which destroyed $112 million worth of NASA’s stuff, including some docking equipment and food, water, and air meant for the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS). On a scale of 1 to sucky that lands somewhere between “lost the ashes of loved ones” and “actually crashed into the ISS, killing everyone on board.” Fortunately, the ISS had enough provisions to make it to the next delivery window. Maybe they knew their stuff was coming via SpaceX and planned ahead. 3:16 SpaceX Falcon 9 failure , CRS- 7 crash
We swear, this time you can trust us with your top-secret stuff
Because everyone always forgets the thing about history repeating itself, in January 2018 TechCrunch reported SpaceX launched a “mystery payload” code-named Zuma into space, which appeared to have been lost during that second stage separation (sound familiar?) Then like a kid who’s been caught drawing on the wall one too many times, SpaceX said “It wasn’t meeeee” and hoped Northrop Grumman would forget all about their billion dollars worth of spy stuff. “Falcon 9 did everything correctly,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement. “Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false.”
Even though the statement really does sound kind of whiny, as it turns out they were probably right — a few months later the U.S. government “tentatively concluded” that the spy satellite Falcon 9 was carrying actually fell back to earth because of some shoddy engineering and testing by Northrop Grumman, which must have been a huge relief for SpaceX. Still, it would not be surprising to hear that techs and execs spent a few weeks crunching some “what if we only ever shot human ashes into space” numbers because ultimately, 208 grams of mortal remains plummeting into the ocean seems like a much smaller problem than the splash-down of government-owned equipment worth
billions of dollars. 3:19 se of Northrop Grumman errors , report says
Strings and sealing wax
If you want everyone to know your company is badass, you name your stuff after something else badass, like a dragon. Game of Thrones fans know a dragon is an almost unstoppable force, capable of wiping out entire armies and looking super-cool while sitting on top of castles. That’s why Elon Musk decided to call his space capsule “Dragon,” so everyone would know that SpaceX was a powerful presence in the space industry.
Just kidding. Actually, Musk called the capsule “Dragon” after the world’s lamest dragon, the one that frolicks in the autumn mist and has the very much not-badass name “Puff.” Dude, badass dragons don’t “frolick.” Can you imagine Khaleesi’s dragons frolicking? And also, if your spacecrafts are prone to exploding you maybe don’t want anyone thinking that strings and sealing wax have anything to do with it. Just some advice.
To be fair, though, Phys.org says the name was really meant to be a dig at those who didn’t think SpaceX would ever accomplish anything. And most of the names Musk chooses for SpaceX craft have similarly cute origins: The “Falcon” rockets are named after Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon, and as of 2016 Musk was reportedly planning to name the Mars passenger ship “Heart of Gold” after the starship in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was powered by an Infinite Improbability Drive. That’s actually quite poetic considering the history of SpaceX but you know, really doesn’t do a whole lot to inspire confidence. 3:28 Mary – Puff The Magic Dragon ( with Lyrics)
Because space is too uncontaminated by cheese
Do you know what space needs more of? Cheese. Space needs more cheese. Because really, just about everything could use a little extra cheese.
Congratulations to SpaceX for recognizing the chronic absence of cheese in outer space and working hard to remedy the deficiency. In late 2010, Space.com reported that the “secret payload” that was launched into space on the maiden flight of the Dragon capsule was a wheel of cheese, and not just any wheel of cheese but French Le Brouere , which is a hard yellow cow’s milk cheese similar to Swiss Gruyere.
The payload was actually a nod to a Monty Python sketch in which John Cleese enters a cheese shop and lists off the names of several dozen different types of cheese we never heard of, before concluding that like outer space, the cheese shop just doesn’t have any cheese. Why Musk thought this meant he ought to launch some cheese into outer space takes a bit of contemplation, and afterward you’ll probably just conclude that he watches too much TV. Not that it really matters because supervillains don’t need to sleep and what else is he going to do in his off time, besides train sharks to eat his enemies?
No one seems to remember who got to taste the cheese after it returned to Earth, which is really the information we all wanted. But thanks anyway.
Next up, Iron Man suit
Actors often take inspiration from living people — Johnny Depp got his inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow from Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, and Robert Downey Jr. based at least some of his
portrayal of Tony Stark on Elon Musk. That doesn’t really seem strange when you consider both Musk and fictional Iron Man share some pretty undeniably similar qualities, like megalomania and having more money than they know what to do with.
Elon Musk evidently thinks the comparison is pretty okay, because he even had a cameo in one of the Iron Man movies (the second one, in which he spends 10 seconds discussing electric jet planes with the fictional superhero slash billionaire). According to Forbes, part of the film was also shot at SpaceX headquarters, so that was probably pretty good for Musk’s ego, too.
Now it certainly wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if we learned that Elon Musk’s next big project was a flying, near-invincible iron suit or that he’d replaced his heart with a nuclear reactor, but we’re not totally sure he’d actually use the technology to become a superhero because that would seriously cut into his television time. And also, supervillain. Besides, Musk is a famously awkward public speaker , which means he’d probably be terrible at superhero banter, and no one wants an Iron Man who’s all iron suit and no witty retorts. 0:21 Elon Musk in Iron Man 2
Don’t worry, going to Mars is totally affordable!
So where exactly is SpaceX going with all this? To Mars, hopefully. Remember how Elon Musk conceived the whole plan for SpaceX after realizing he wouldn’t be able to send a greenhouse to Mars? That initial disappointment has morphed into a plan to send a greenhouse to Mars along with an entire colony of people who hopefully will be vetted first to make sure they’re awesome gardeners.
According to Space.com , Musk would ultimately like to offer what amounts to a shuttle service between here and the Red Planet, ferrying as many as 80,000 people to Mars for the bargain price of just $500,000 a ticket. The ambitious plan includes importing and building infrastructure like machines capable of producing methane and fertilizer (um, cows?) and the technology needed to extract oxygen from subsurface ice.
Evidently, Musk thinks the $500,000 price tag is totally affordable, comparing it to the cost of a home purchase in the state of California, while completely forgetting that most people don’t actually pay for their homes in cash but over a period of 30 years or so, and oh by the way homes in California are anything but affordable. But perhaps he’ll develop some sort of Martian economy that allows people to send mortgage payments back home every month, as long as he can also convince most banks that a person who lives on another planet is not a strong candidate for mortgage loan default. Details. 4:22 ideo Shows Vision for Red Planet Exploration
Internet for (almost) everyone
Just in case you’ve been thinking, “That’s all well and good but what’s SpaceX ever done for the common, non $500,000-having citizen of Earth?” Musk also hopes to bring satellite broadband to the world by launching
4,000 internet satellites into low Earth orbit. According to Cnet , if all goes as planned, the service will be available by the mid-2020s. Hopefully they’ve already addressed the problem where satellite internet totally sucks and you can’t actually use it to stream The Walking Dead without getting throttled or charged ridiculous overage fees, because if not someone really needs to tell them that what they’re doing has no actual purpose.
SpaceX hopes the revenue from its totally non-sucky satellite internet service will help fund its Mars colony, so its motivations aren’t entirely altruistic. The fact that it’s evidently a revenue-generating scheme does kind of call into question the notion of global broadband internet, since many of the people who need that kind of service the most are the ones who live in the world’s poorest nations. But hopefully SpaceX spokespeople will know better than to tell farmers in sub-Saharan Africa things like, “$69.95 a month should be totally affordable, because that’s what satellite internet costs in California.” Because they can’t all be that out of touch, can they? 8:35 vide internet access worldwide – TomoNews
Wait, do you have a license for that?
And then in the spring of 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) decided SpaceX vehicles weren’t allowed to send video back to Earth anymore because they don’t have a broadcast license.
In what was clearly a super-lame attempt to stop a supervillain, NOAA’s sudden decision caused a video blackout that meant SpaceX wasn’t able to broadcast images of the 10 Iridium satellites it had recently sent into orbit. According to Cnet, the decision was based on a reinterpretation of a law that’s been in place since 2010, which supposedly says commercial space companies need to have a license in order to broadcast from Earth’s orbit.
In what is perhaps the world’s lamest official statement of all time, the director of the NOAA Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs claimed to have no idea that SpaceX had cameras aboard any of its previous missions, which is sort of like admitting to the whole world that you’re either totally making things up to make your organization look less incompetent, or your organization still doesn’t have the internet so has no idea what is actually happening outside its own walls. Either way, you come out of that situation looking like the supervillain got the better of you, so that’s embarrassing. 3:03 t due to missing license no one knew about
If you’re at a dinner party, and you start telling people that when you die, you want to have your body put on ice in the hope of a future revival … yeah, you’ll probably get some weird looks. Cryonics, the procedure of freezing and (maybe, potentially) resurrecting people, is a controversial subject. Sure, getting frozen didn’t kill Mr. Freeze, but he’s a fictional character. Not to mention, the whole process kinda turned him into a supervillain. Oops.
In real life, the science behind cryonics is a lot more mysterious, but the allure of eternal life is hard to deny, and a number of rich, powerful celebrities have already signed the dotted line. Maybe we’ll still be alive one day when these folks start raiding banks with freeze guns.
Larry King wants to be as immortal as people think he is
Larry King has been around so long, won so many awards, and had so many ex-wives that by this point, he already seems immortal. However, as seen in the
Conan interview above, the Kingster wants to take his immortality to the next level. On many occasions, the world’s most famous television and radio host has made it clear that he seriously intends to have his body cryogenically frozen when he dies, with the hope that he may one day be revived. According to People, he explained that this gamble is, simply enough, “the only hedging of a bet.”
Why is King so hot on this (rather cold) idea? In his own words, he doesn’t believe in an afterlife. Based on this assumption, King figures that freezing himself is an opportunity to have some extra time, a second chance at life — and if it doesn’t work out, well hey, he’s already dead anyway. Who knows, maybe one day in the year 2275, there’ll be a new broadcast of Larry King Live where the TV host interacts with alien mantises and intelligent robots, a la Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.
Peter Thiel is taking the vampire approach
As both the cofounder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, Peter Thiel is the Silicon Valley billionaire who bankrolled a lot of your online endeavors today, for better or worse. Despite possessing mountains of money, Thiel still has to deal with the same old mortality problem regular people face, and he’s not happy about it. Not surprisingly, his response is to fund potential pathways to eternal life. That’s why he signed up with the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the biggest name in cryonics, and has agreed to have his body get frozen when — or if — he ever happens to die, according to The Telegraph.
Thiel’s bid for immortality doesn’t end there, however. If you thought billion-dollar projects couldn’t get any weirder, Vanity Fair reports Thiel is also highly interested in parabiosis, a procedure that, in part, attempts to reverse aging by transfusing blood from a younger individual into an older one. Between the suspended animation attempts of cryonics and the blood transfusions of parabiosis, it certainly sounds like the world is creeping ever closer to real-life vampires.
Simon Cowell has harsh words for future musicians
Apparently not content to merely critique the musical performances of others in the present day, the most famous reality TV judge of our time wants to bring his sardonic commentary to the future as well. In an interview with GQ, Cowell confirmed the longstanding rumors that he wishes to have his body cryogenically frozen whenever he bites the bullet. Cowell reasons that cryonics is “an insurance policy. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. If it does work, I’ll be happy.”
In an interview with Jay Leno , alongside fellow X Factor judge Britney Spears, Cowell again explained his desire to get cold and icy, ensuring that no one will ever think he’s just kidding around. It’s worth noting that Britney Spears did not comment on the matter. Even though tabloid rumors have swirled for years regarding Spears’ supposed desire to undergo the iciest funeral treatment of all, she herself has never made any actual statements indicating she’d be interested.
Ray Kurzweil will never die, but just in case…
There’s probably no futurist as well-known or oft-quoted as Ray Kurzweil, whose name is celebrated by geeks everywhere, probably including geeks in other worlds, dimensions, and universes. Kurzweil is an inventor, a computer scientist, the author of the New York Times bestseller The Singularity is Near, and the director of engineering at Google who foresaw inventions like smartphones and the cloud years before they became realities, according to Quartz .
So yeah, when this guy seems interested in cryonics, you should probably take note. In an interview with
Wired, Kurzweil confirmed that he’s signed on with Alcor to have his body cryogenically preserved after death. Kurzweil predicts the technology will exist to revive people from their icy states in a startlingly short 50 years or less. True to form, Kurzweil has also speculated on the potential downsides of cryonics, such as the fear that he would be awoken prematurely, and potentially be trapped in a sort of “locked-in” state. Perhaps for these reasons, cryonics is only Kurzweil’s second choice: His primary goal is simply to not die at all.
David Pizer wants to bring his dogs along for the ride
Considering the high cost of having your body frozen (or even just your head!), it’s no surprise that most of the people signing up are on the wealthier end of the spectrum. Alongside actors, baseball players, and leading engineers, there’s at least one politician who has enrolled himself for the frost treatment: David Pizer, the businessman, TV spokesman, and Arizona resort owner who challenged John McCain’s U.S. Senate seat in the 2016 Republican primary, according to AZ Central.
David and his wife, Judi, worked to boost Alcor in 2006, and Pizer had signed on with an early cryonics company in the ’80s. He isn’t totally psyched about the idea, having once stated, “I would rather take an anti-aging pill than have to do this,” but nonetheless, the couple also plans to cryogenically freeze their beloved dog companions. They’ve also planned extensively for their potential return, setting aside money in a so-called “Personal Revival Trust” which will accumulate interest during the couple’s decades (or centuries) of suspension. So, if they do come back, they could be some of the wealthiest people on the planet. Either way, beating death is one of Pizer’s biggest goals. “As long as we still have to die someday, the main reason for living now should be to kill death,” he said.
Dr. Aubrey de Grey claims Hollywood has cryonics all wrong
Though his amazing beard should be enough to earn worldwide acclaim, Cambridge University geneticist and transhumanist Dr. Aubrey De Grey is probably most famous for his often-repeated quote, “The first person to live to 1,000 might be 60 already.” In a 2015 Reddit AMA summarized by Life Mag , the heralded Lord of Longevity took this notion a step further, claiming that any 10-year-old living today has a 90 percent chance of achieving “practical immortality.” Hopefully, all these real-life immortals won’t wield swords or constantly be bombarded with electricity.
Jokes aside, Dr. de Grey is serious about what he does, and believes strongly that such anti-aging technology should preserve all classes of people, not just the bourgeoisie. However, according to The Verge, he’s another famous person to add to the list of identified Alcor customers, though he’s only signed up to freeze his head, not his whole body. Dr. de Grey defended cryonics in his Reddit AMA, stating that the negative public perception of cryonics is due to sci-fi movies, and not the actual science itself. If de Grey does get frozen and revived someday, let’s hope his beard is no less magnificent.
Seth MacFarlane is game for getting frozen (if he hasn’t been frozen already…)
We don’t have to question whether Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane is a sci-fi fan, considering his live action series The Orville is clearly intended as a love letter to the original 1960s Star Trek. Maybe those sci-fi roots are why MacFarlane is so intrigued by the idea of cryonics: in the above interview with that other famous cryonics enthusiast, Larry King, MacFarlane expressed that “we share the same desire.” King even suggested that he and MacFarlane should get “frozen together.” Now, considering this is Seth MacFarlane we’re talking about, it’s entirely possible he was joking. But he certainly seems genuine about it, for much the same reasons as King. He also doesn’t believe in an afterlife (or at least, doesn’t appear to), and doesn’t see anything to lose.
Of course, according to one popular “theory” on
CollegeHumor, MacFarlane already was frozen—back in the 1960s—thus explaining his frequent pop culture references (trying to prove he’s a contemporary man), his 1950s swing singer voice, all those “old-fashioned” misogynistic jokes he made at the Oscars, and the fact that Stewie is based on Rex Harrison, who starred in My Fair Lady in 1964. So, if this theory were true, it’d explain MacFarlane’s interest in going icy: he’s done it before, and it worked out fine, so what’s the big deal?
Larry Flynt hopes cryonics may heal him
Once one of the most powerful people in the adult entertainment industry, Larry Flynt is mostly recognized as the publisher of Hustler Magazine . He also has occasionally dabbled in politics, briefly running for president against Ronald Reagan in 1983, and then running for California governor in the 2003 recall election, according to CNN, as the self-proclaimed “Smut-Peddler Who Cares.”
And … yes, he also signed up with the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, according to People. Both Flynt and his wife, Althea, enlisted themselves for cryogenic preservation in the 1980s, after Althea was diagnosed with AIDS, with the hope being she could be awakened if an HIV remedy were discovered in the future. However, the proper procedure for cryonics requires careful timing when it comes to a person’s physical state at the time of death, and Althea was unable to be frozen after a nurse discovered her dead body drowned in a bathtub. However, the 2004 book Mothermelters: The Inside Story of Cryonics and the Dora Kent Homicide, by police chief Alan Kunzman, confirmed that Flynt is still a member of Alcor today, and that the Foundation hopes to not only revive him, but also allow him to walk again. Currently, Flynt has been paralyzed since a gunshot wound in 1978, according to Atlanta Magazine.
Curtis Lovell II wants to pull off the greatest magic trick ever
Though you might not necessarily know the name of magician and escape artist Curtis Lovell II, there’s a good chance you’ve seen his work. He has appeared on TV numerous times, whether he was cutting Paris Hilton in half on The Simple Life , doing tricks on on Gene Simmons Family Jewels, publicly challenging fellow magician David Blaine to a duel, or strutting his stuff in an opening act for Larry King, according to Arts and Entertainment Magazine. However, as documented in a
2006 press release, Lovell hopes to one day pull off his greatest magic trick of all: resurrection, via cryogenic freezing.
That year, Lovell joined the American Cryonics Society and enlisted his team to ensure that if he ever dies during one his dangerous stunts, such as being buried alive or escaping the so-called “Cube of Death,” his body will be whisked away, properly preserved, and put on ice, presumably so he can finish the stunt in another century or so. Maybe Larry King gave him the idea?
Who needs a body? Max More is only freezing his brain
Now, we reach the big man himself. Max More might not have the star power of the other celebrities here, but as the president and CEO of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, he’s the man who controls the fate of almost all of them … well, presuming this whole cryonics experiment actually works out, anyway.
It’d be pretty ridiculous if the man in charge of Alcor didn’t have his own plan to get frozen, but don’t worry. According to the BBC, Max More has his sights set on an even more ambitious goal. While some people are freezing their whole bodies, and some opt to only freeze their head, More has set his sights on the next level: “neuropreservation,” a procedure that freezes only his brain, and nothing but the brain. He feels that preserving the rest of his body won’t be necessary. Based on this, it’s clear More believes strongly in the technological advances of the future, stating that, “I figure the future is a pretty decent place to be, so I want to be there. I want to keep living and enjoying and producing.”
AN ALLEGED time traveller has broken the silence on his “prophetic” journeys through time and space, revealing in a shock confession tape, God himself has sent him back in time to the early years of America’s turbulent time.
YouTuber Steve Pursell shared his bizarre confession online in a bid to spread the revelation of his alleged encounter with God.
In the video, Mr Pursell claims to have travelled back in time to the year 1860, where he found himself right in the middle of the bloody US Civil War.
He said: “Hello brothers and sisters, this is your friend Steve Pursell. The date is April 18, 2018.
“Just wanted to share with you a prophetic experience the Lord gave me yesterday. I was feeling particularly lousy and I was wiped out and I was in bed and I was feeling like I was having a horrible heart attack.
“I was in pain and feeling like I was dying frankly, but the Lord came to me so strongly – He often comes to me when in pain and distress and pulls me through – and He took me back in time again.
“It wasn’t as profound as the first time I went back in time. The Lord took me back in time last year and I don’t think I’ve ever done a video on this. I apologise for that.
“But the Lord took me back in time and I was in a Civil War battle in 1860 and I was on the battlefield. I believe I was fighting with the Union and I was hiding behind a fallen tree.”
The YouTuber claims he was armed with “old style” weapons from the era, taking shots at the enemy, reloading behind the tree trunk and generally participating in the chaos.
Time travel: Steve Pursell claims God sent him back in time to 1860 and 1776 YOUTUBE
The supposed time travelling experience only lasted a couple of minutes, but Mr Pursell underlined it was an extremely “profound” experience.
He said: “The Lord had really taken me back in time, I was really there. It wasn’t just a vision of that thing happening.
“It was me experiencing being there and I believe He was showing me that because He’s been giving me stuff about our Civil War here in America that’s happening.”
But the “time traveller’s” adventures did not stop there because God supposedly thrust him back in time once more this week, all the way to the US Revolutionary War of 1776.
Youtube Truther’s quest to expose top-secret TIME TRAVEL pla
However, this time Mr Pursell claims he did not experience the event “quite as much” as he did in the past.
He said: “There was a sense of me being there but it just didn’t seem – of course I was more out of it because my heart felt bad – but it still had that sense of being back in time and being there.
“I was seeing colonial soldiers loading cannons and rifles, and firing, and I was hearing the sounds and the percussion of the guns.
“It seemed as if they were seeing me because they were pointing at me hollering and stuff like that. I had a sense it was another time travel experience.”
But why has the YouTuber shared his bizarre experiences with the world? Mr Pursell claimed he wants people to openly talk such events.
He said: “Time is just another dimension. Just like you can jump off of a building and travel through the dimension of height.”
And yet there is absolutely no physical evidence at the moment to support the theory humans are capable of travelling backwards into the past.
According to Professor William Hiscock of Montana State University, moving forwards in time is an observable effect of the time-dilation of Special Relativity.
Time travel shock: The YouTuber said he had fought in the US Civil War YOUTUBE
Time travel claims: There is no evidence to support claims of time travelling backwards GETTY
But moving backwards in time appears to be a complete dead end at our current understanding of physics.
The time travel expert said: “Time travel into the past, which is what people usually mean by time travel, is a much more uncertain proposition.
“There are many solutions to Einstein’s equations of General Relativity that allow a person to follow a timeline that would result in her (or him) encountering herself – or her grandmother – at an earlier time.
“The problem is deciding whether these solutions represent situations that could occur in the real universe, or whether they are mere mathematical