World’s Most Poisonous Critters

Brazilian wandering spider
The wandering spider is considered the most poisonous spider in the world. It has the most potent neurotoxin venom of any arachnid. This spider is so dangerous because of its wandering nature, and the fact that it can hide where you least expect it. Its bite is extremely painful and can result in illness, paralysis, and even death if untreated in a timely fashion.

Puffer Fish
The puffer fish is considered the second most poisonous animal on the face of the earth. Its skin is very poisonous to humans, but still it’s meat is considered as a delicacy in Japan and Korea. Most of the death associated with the puffer is due to untrained people catching them or preparing them for eating.

Its venom causes dizziness, vomiting, difficult breathing, and rapid heart rate and muscle paralysis. The victim will die within four to twenty four hours after exposure to the neurotoxin. There are around 40 incidents per year of Puffer fish poisoning. Due to its poisonous skin only experienced and licensed chefs are allowed to legally prepare this fish.

Stonefish
The world’s second most poisonous fish, looks the part. It is very dangerous to humans. Its venom can cause a very severe pain, explained as one of the worst pains known to humans.

Its venom can cause tissue death, shock and paralysis. Its venom is fatal if not treated on time. It is found in the tropical marine waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Blue ringed octopus
It is a small sized octopus, about the size of a golf ball. This small creature carries enough venom to kill 25 people. There is no anti venom to counteract the poison. Its bite is painless, making you feel that it is harmless, but its poisonous venom starts working on the body very fast. It begins with muscular weakness, numbness, and shortness of breath, ultimately resulting in death. They are found in the salty waters of Japan and Australia.

Marble coned snail
This tiny and beautiful looking sail is also on the list of most poisonous animals. It is small but equally poisonous as other bigger critters. Its venom is so deadly that it can kill 20 humans with a single drop.

They are normally found in warm waters. Its venom causes intense pain, swelling, tingling, and numbness, leading to muscle paralysis and breathing failure. The worst part is, there is no anti-venom to counteract the poison.

Inland taipan

This is the most venomous snake in Australia. Its venom is so poisonous that a single bit could kill 100 humans or more than 200,000 mice. Its venom is 300 times more poisonous than the cobra. Its venom can kill a human in just 40 to 50 minutes. Fortunately the Inland Taipan has a shy nature so it is not often found around humans. There is an anti-venom available if it can be administered in time.

King cobra
The king cobra is the world’s longest venomous snake. It is found in south east Asia. It can grow more than twenty two feet in length. A single bite can kill a human. It injects large quantity of venom in a single bite, though its venom is less toxic but it injects five times more venom than any other snake. Its bite is also capable of killing large animals, including elephants.

Poison dart frog
It is known as the most poisonous animal in the world. It venomous bite can easily kill a human in spite of its being only 2 inches in size. Two micro-grams of its toxic venom is enough to kill 20 humans.

Native tribes in South America used the toxic secretion of its venom to poison the tips of their darts, and that’s why they are called Dart Frogs. Their venom is stored in their skin, killing any animal that tries to eat or touch them.

HeLa Cells

Medical researchers use laboratory-grown human cells to learn the intricacies of how cells work and test theories about the causes and treatment of diseases. The cell lines they need are “immortal”—they can grow indefinitely, be frozen for decades, divided into different batches and shared among scientists. In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, created the first immortal human cell line with a tissue sample taken from a young black woman with cervical cancer. Those cells, called HeLa cells, quickly became invaluable to medical research—though their donor remained a mystery for decades. In her new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, journalist Rebecca Skloot tracks down the story of the source of the amazing HeLa cells, Henrietta Lacks, and documents the cell line’s impact on both modern medicine and the Lacks family. Here she is interviewed about the case for Smithsonian Magazine.

Who was Henrietta Lacks?
She was a black tobacco farmer from southern Virginia who got cervical cancer when she was 30. A doctor at Johns Hopkins took a piece of her tumor without telling her and sent it down the hall to scientists there who had been trying to grow tissues in culture for decades without success. No one knows why, but her cells never died.

Why are her cells so important?
Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine. They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.

There has been a lot of confusion over the years about the source of HeLa cells. Why?
When the cells were taken, they were given the code name HeLa, for the first two letters in Henrietta and Lacks. Today, anonymizing samples is a very important part of doing research on cells. But that wasn’t something doctors worried about much in the 1950s, so they weren’t terribly careful about her identity. When some members of the press got close to finding Henrietta’s family, the researcher who’d grown the cells made up a pseudonym—Helen Lane—to throw the media off track. Other pseudonyms, like Helen Larsen, eventually showed up, too. Her real name didn’t really leak out into the world until the 1970s.

How did you first get interested in this story?
I first learned about Henrietta in 1988. I was 16 and a student in a community college biology class. Everybody learns about these cells in basic biology, but what was unique about my situation was that my teacher actually knew Henrietta’s real name and that she was black. But that’s all he knew. The moment I heard about her, I became obsessed: Did she have any kids? What do they think about part of their mother being alive all these years after she died? Years later, when I started being interested in writing, one of the first stories I imagined myself writing was hers. But it wasn’t until I went to grad school that I thought about trying to track down her family.

How did you win the trust of Henrietta’s family?
Part of it was that I just wouldn’t go away and was determined to tell the story. It took almost a year even to convince Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah, to talk to me. I knew she was desperate to learn about her mother. So when I started doing my own research, I’d tell her everything I found. I went down to Clover, Virginia, where Henrietta was raised, and tracked down her cousins, then called Deborah and left these stories about Henrietta on her voice mail. Because part of what I was trying to convey to her was I wasn’t hiding anything, that we could learn about her mother together. After a year, finally she said, fine, let’s do this thing.

When did her family find out about Henrietta’s cells?
Twenty-five years after Henrietta died, a scientist discovered that many cell cultures thought to be from other tissue types, including breast and prostate cells, were in fact HeLa cells. It turned out that HeLa cells could float on dust particles in the air and travel on unwashed hands and contaminate other cultures. It became an enormous controversy. In the midst of that, one group of scientists tracked down Henrietta’s relatives to take some samples with hopes that they could use the family’s DNA to make a map of Henrietta’s genes so they could tell which cell cultures were HeLa and which weren’t, to begin straightening out the contamination problem.

So a postdoc called Henrietta’s husband one day. But he had a third-grade education and didn’t even know what a cell was. The way he understood the phone call was: “We’ve got your wife. She’s alive in a laboratory. We’ve been doing research on her for the last 25 years. And now we have to test your kids to see if they have cancer.” Which wasn’t what the researcher said at all. The scientists didn’t know that the family didn’t understand. From that point on, though, the family got sucked into this world of research they didn’t understand, and the cells, in a sense, took over their lives.

How did they do that?
This was most true for Henrietta’s daughter. Deborah never knew her mother; she was an infant when Henrietta died. She had always wanted to know who her mother was but no one ever talked about Henrietta. So when Deborah found out that this part of her mother was still alive she became desperate to understand what that meant: Did it hurt her mother when scientists injected her cells with viruses and toxins? Had scientists cloned her mother? And could those cells help scientists tell her about her mother, like what her favorite color was and if she liked to dance.

Deborah’s brothers, though, didn’t think much about the cells until they found out there was money involved. HeLa cells were the first human biological materials ever bought and sold, which helped launch a multi-billion-dollar industry. When Deborah’s brothers found out that people were selling vials of their mother’s cells, and that the family didn’t get any of the resulting money, they got very angry. Henrietta’s family has lived in poverty most of their lives, and many of them can’t afford health insurance. One of her sons was homeless and living on the streets of Baltimore. So the family launched a campaign to get some of what they felt they were owed financially. It consumed their lives in that way.

What are the lessons from this book?
For scientists, one of the lessons is that there are human beings behind every biological sample used in the laboratory. So much of science today revolves around using human biological tissue of some kind. For scientists, cells are often just like tubes or fruit flies—they’re just inanimate tools that are always there in the lab. The people behind those samples often have their own thoughts and feelings about what should happen to their tissues, but they’re usually left out of the equation.

And for the rest of us?
The story of HeLa cells and what happened with Henrietta has often been held up as an example of a racist white scientist doing something malicious to a black woman. But that’s not accurate. The real story is much more subtle and complicated. What is very true about science is that there are human beings behind it and sometimes even with the best of intentions things go wrong.

One of the things I don’t want people to take from the story is the idea that tissue culture is bad. So much of medicine today depends on tissue culture. HIV tests, many basic drugs, all of our vaccines—we would have none of that if it wasn’t for scientists collecting cells from people and growing them. And the need for these cells is going to get greater, not less. Instead of saying we don’t want that to happen, we just need to look at how it can happen in a way that everyone is OK with.

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Trivia

In 1927 Otto Rohwedder invented sliced bread. He made the first machine to slice and wrap bread and won a patent for the process. After only six years from invention, more sliced bread was sold than unsliced.

In 1911, pigtails were banned in China because they were seen as a link with its feudal past.

In ancient Rome the punishment for killing one’s father was to be drowned in a sack along with a viper, a dog, and a rooster. Today it is unknown why this scenario came to be.

When anaesthetic was used for the first time in childbirth in 1847, the mother was so amazed and relieved at how painless the birth was that she named her child Anaesthesia.

The last time a cavalry charge was used in war was in the Second World War. A Mongolian cavalry division charged against a German infantry division – the result? Not one German was killed and 2,000 of the cavalry were.

The first policewoman was Alice Stebbins Wells who joined the LAPD in 1910. Because she was the first (and only) policewoman, she designed her own police uniform. Four years later, Britain had their first woman policeman.

Gorgias of Epirus (3rd century BC), a Greek sophist, was born in his dead mother’s coffin! Pallbearers heard him crying out as they carried his mother’s coffin to the grave.

We have all heard of the puritans and their extremely dull ways, but what most people don’t know is that they were not anti-alcohol. In fact, when the Mayflower sailed to America, its cargo hold contained more beer than water and not long after settlement, the production of rum became the largest industry in colonial New England.

When thinking of the oldest free standing structures built by man we usually think of things like the Pyramids and the Aztec temples, but in fact neither is true. The oldest structures built by man, and still standing today, are the Ġgantija temples found on the island of Malta. They were built between 4100 and 2500 BC.

AOL Time Warner owns the copyright of “Happy birthday to you” and will do so until 2030 when the copyright expires. For this reason movies often use different songs (which are not in copyright or are owned by the studio) for birthday scenes. AOL Time Warner earns over $2 million per year from royalties for the song.

The Peshtigo Fire

We’ve all heard of the Great Chicago Fire that killed 200 or so people and destroyed 4 square miles of Chicago, Illinois. However, most of us don’t know that on the very same day a far worse fire occurred, in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. The October 8, 1871, Peshtigo Fire in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, is the conflagration that caused the most deaths by fire in United States history.

By the time it was over, 1,875 square miles of forest had been consumed, an area twice the size of the State of Rhode Island, and twelve communities were destroyed. Between 1,200 and 2,500 people are thought to have lost their lives. A report on the fire submitted in 1873 to the Wisconsin Legislature listed 1182 names of known victims, but the total loss of life was almost certainly higher. More than 350 bodies were buried in one mass grave alone because there was no one left alive who could identify any of them.

The fire was so intense it jumped several miles over the waters of Green Bay, and burned parts of the Door Peninsula, as well as jumping the Peshtigo River itself to burn on both sides of the inlet town.

Surviving witnesses reported that the firestorm generated a tornado that threw rail cars and houses into the air. Many of the survivors of the firestorm escaped the flames by immersing themselves in the Peshtigo River, wells, or other nearby bodies of water. Some drowned, some were boiled to death from the superheated fire, while others succumbed to hypothermia in the frigid river.

The summer and fall of 1871 had been a dry one with only two small rains falling between July and October. The drought in the vast forest lands of the area had dried up ponds, creeks, and bogs, and swamps were reduced to dry clay beds.

The lumbering practices of the day left a lot of waste with brush and sawdust piles dotting the landscape. Loggers often set small debris fires to get rid of these unwanted piles. These fires burned unchecked throughout the timberland and no one gave them much of a thought.

The night of October 8 seemed like any other, with the glow of fires in the distance and black smoke in the air. Hot blasts of wind blew from time to time causing minor concern. Warmer temperatures brought increasingly higher winds into the area and fueled the patch fires cutting the telegraph wires and isolating towns from each other. As the fires picked up they began to rage and burn together, moving rapidly.

A sound resembling the “heavy discharge of artillery” preceded the horrors that followed. The thick smoke made it difficult to see even a few feet ahead. Out of the darkness leapt large fire-whirls that twisted off tree tops while they burst into flame. Flames shot into the sky like lightning as the wind showered the landscape with fire brands, cinders and hot sand. One man recalled how “great volumes of fire would rise up, fifty feet from the top of the trees, leap over thirty acres of clearing and, in an instant, flame up in the forests beyond.”

As the fire continued, it grew exponentially. Exploding marsh gases hovered over the ground like black balloons until they exploded above the ground throwing fire like shrapnel. Houses and people literally burst into flame. “The fire arrived . . . not as a wave or a surge of flame but as though [it] suddenly dropped from the sky.”

Describing the Peshtigo holocaust as a “tornado of fire” is not an exaggeration. Fire-whirls, small fire tornados, traveled ahead of the blaze. Surface winds only blew between fifteen and forty miles per hour, but the firestorm fed itself creating internal winds of up to eighty miles per hour. The fire became a great convection feeding itself and drawing in oxygen and fuel. Hurricane force winds ripped the roofs of houses, blew over barns, uprooted trees, and tossed 1,000 lb. wagons like they were tumbleweeds. Papers and wood caught in the updraft traveled as far north as Canada. The peculiar physics of mass fire had multiplied its fury into a maelstrom of energy equivalent to the chain reaction of a thermonuclear bomb.

Panic quickly settled on the fleeing settlers. With the flames moving so rapidly, people found themselves surrounded with no apparent escape. A constant barrage of falling embers and hot ash caught peoples clothes and hair on fire. The heat alone burned many, causing large blisters on their backs arms and faces. Many seeking shelter in cellars died from asphyxiation when the flames sucked all the oxygen up in its wake. Others seeking safety jumped into wells and shallow marshes where they were boiled alive.

In Peshtigo terrified cattle stampeded over a group laying in a stream. Others losing all sense of reason tried to escape by running into large buildings, which burst into flame and collapsed. Settlers surrounded by flames in the forest laid down face first in the middle of clearings. For some it saved their lives. The majority of the survivors spent the night in rivers, ponds and the Green Bay. Those in the water could only have their heads above the water for a few seconds due to the intense heat, which caused debris to burn on the surface. For the victims consumed by fire on land, most were burned beyond recognition some even being reduced to ashes.

The Peshtigo fire pressed a heavy mark on the lives of the victims in 1871. In Peshtigo, all that stands as a reminder to the disaster is a small memorial. Although the fire is not well known, it is a disaster in every description. The destructive force of the Peshtigo fire ended hundreds of human lives and destroyed an ecosystem. Twenty six years after the fire the area remained void of any valuable forest growth.

Bloated Defense Spending

The US federal government debt now stands at over 13 trillion dollars, yet its excess military spending rages forward. The economy is in shambles and it seems the military is conducting business unrestrained.

If there is one issue that the both major political parties in the United States agree on it’s the need to decrease federal spending to reign in the national debt. Even the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen recognizes the problem.“The biggest threat we have to our national security is our debt,” he said.

The Federal government’s debt now stands at $13.8 trillion and is projected to hit $20 trillion by the end of the coming decade. The breakdown would mean every American would hold more than $10,000 worth of America’s debt. However, the largest portion of the country’s federal budget is hardly ever questioned.

Congressman Jim Moran, for instance, has said: “We’re not going to cut the defense budget.” The country’s military budget, now at $725 billion dollars, has become a price tag of epic and historic proportions. It’s the largest military budget ever! It includes $159 billion dollars for America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the Brookings Institute, a prominent Washington think tank, the issue of America’s defense budget was recently discussed in depth with both neoconservatives and liberals. Despite concerns coming from the audience, the discussion quickly turned to the need to sustain the defense budget and the military apparatus.

One of the headliners of the Brookings event was U.S. historian Robert Kagan. A well known Neocon in Washington, Kagan was one of many who urged war with Iraq long before 9/11. Kagan equates America’s military might to global leadership and world domination.

Kagan said the reason America needs to ramp up its military establishment is because “the reality is this is what America does” and listed a number of events which illustrate America’s hegemony worldwide: “We intervene in Grenada in 1983, In Panama 1989, Iraq 1991, Somalia 1992, Haiti 1994, Bosnia 1995, Kosovo 1999, Afghanistan 2001, and Iraq 2003.”

The United States spends nearly as much on military hardware, fixture and training as all other countries combined.

Brian Becker, the National Coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition explained how the country has become dependent and obsessed with military spending: “We see at a time when there are 25 – 30 million people who are unemployed or underemployed, where 47 million Americans can’t go to a doctor when they are sick, there are limitless funds, limitless resources for the war budget”.

But the military budget is hardly ever questioned in a town that is dominated by its industrial complex. Advertisements for the defense contractors line the metros while TV and print commercials showcase the latest hardware as politicians cave into the lobbying campaigns of the contractors.

“The fact of the matter is and you can see it by the military budget, the U.S. is in fact a warfare state. It’s addicted to militarism, its addicted to war spending and it’s addicted to war profits,” said Becker.

Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia is where most war profiteers are headquartered. Towering over the Pentagon and in clear view of Capitol Hill, Crystal city has become known as contractor’s row. From Crystal City, the interlocked system becomes clear. The revolving doors through which employees from the contracting enterprise land government jobs also feature a significant number of officials from government, CIA and Pentagon who slide into jobs with the military industry complex. Despite this, military contractors spent close to close to $35 million dollars lobbying Congress according to the congressional research service. Defense contractors also dish out substantial amounts for campaign contributions in election years.

Meanwhile, a congressional watchdog group found in 2008, over 150 Members of Congress had $196 million collectively invested in defense contractors. As lawmakers scream louder to cut spending and federal spending for education, healthcare and social services has been reduced, cutting the military budget, which makes up over 20% of the federal budget, is not on Washington’s agenda.

If we could cut a significant portion of our bloated defense spending we could begin to slow down the deficit and even begin to pay down the debt while leaving much needed programs like education, health care, and others intact, thereby building a better informed, healthier, and safer populace. We need to begin pressuring our congressional members on this issue and making our wishes known in no uncertain terms. It’s the only way that we will ultimately save what is left of the American Dream.

Bizarre Accidental Deaths

Woman Smashed by Taco Bell Sign

Diana Durre, of Chambers, Nebraska, died after a 75-foot Taco Bell sign fell on top of the truck cab she was in. The pole broke at a welded joint about 15 feet above the ground owing to strong winds. The sign fell right on top of the quad-cab pickup. Diana was meeting a Wyoming couple to sell them some dogs. They had agreed to meet in North Platte, Nebraska, at about 1 p.m., “right underneath the big Taco Bell sign.” North Platte’s Animal Control Division took two Yorkie dogs to the shelter. The Wyoming couple showed up after the accident.

Lawyer Dies in Fall

Garry Hoy, a 38-year old lawyer and a senior partner at the Holden Day Wilson Law firm in Toronto, Canada, fell to his death on July 9, 1993, after he threw himself against a window on the 24th floor of the Toronto-Dominion Centre, in an attempt to prove that the glass was “unbreakable” to a group of visiting law students. He had apparently attempted this stunt many times in the past, having previously bounced harmlessly off the glass. His first attempt failed to damage the glass at all. On his second attempt the glass still didn’t break but instead actually popped out of the window frame, and he fell over 300 feet to his death.

Man Dies in Vat of Chocolate

In a scene straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but with grim real life consequences, Vincent Smith II, an employee at the Cocoa Services Inc. chocolate factory in Camden, New Jersey, had a fatal accident. He was loading chunks of raw chocolate, when he slipped and fell into a large melting tank filled with 50°C (120°F) Hershey’s chocolate, and was knocked out by one of the mixing paddles. Smith was trapped in the melting tank for 10 minutes before rescuers were able to extract him. He was declared dead a short time later.

Man Suffocates in Condom

A thrill-seeker trying to give himself a sexual high killed himself by pulling a condom over his head, an inquest has heard. Gary Ashbrook, 31, was discovered naked on his bed alongside three empty cans of nitrous oxide he used to blow up the contraceptive. A post-mortem examination revealed that Mr. Ashbrook, who had been HIV positive for seven years, died from asphyxiation.

Roller Coaster Operator Dies From Long Hair

In 2003, an American amusement park operator was killed when his hair and arm got caught on a roller coaster car, pulling him up as high as forty feet before he fell, back-first, onto a fence. Doug McKay, 40, was spraying lubricant on the tracks of the Super Loop 2, a ride at the Island County Fair on Whidbey Island, northwest of Seattle, when his long hair got caught on a car full of fairgoers. It basically scalped him, then he fell and landed on the fence.

Suffocated Inside a Cake

In Consenza, Italy, stag party friends were curious when a stripper failed to jump out of a huge cake. Assuming she was no longer in there, they received a nasty surprise when they found her dead inside it. Gina Lalapola, 23, had suffocated after waiting for an hour inside the sealed cake.

Man Dies on Stretcher

In 1991, Edward Juchniewicz, a 76-year-old man, was killed when the ambulance stretcher he was strapped to rolled down a grade and overturned. The ambulance attendants, while speaking to a doctor’s staff, had left the stretcher unattended. Juchniewicz suffered a head injury and died a short time later. He was being transported from a nursing home to a doctor’s office for an appointment.