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A Thank You to the United States Postal Service and Mail Carriers

We’re saying thank you to the Postal Service for all they do! Since before America claimed independence, there’s been a form of postal service. Today, they’re more essential than ever.

It’s been more than two centuries since Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first Postmaster General in 1775. By 1896, people in rural areas received free delivery, which today, we have generally taken for granted until recently. 

Notably, more than 200 federal laws protect the sanctity of the U.S. Mail. Further, the laws are enforced by one of the oldest law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The USPS shaped how our country came to be in many ways. (see video below)

In 1847, Congress authorized United States postage stamps, and one featured Franklin. They were five cents and had to be cut apart with scissors. Another ten-cent-stamp featured George Washington, who appears on more stamps than anyone in history.

 

Today, anybody can send a letter for 55 cents to anybody in the United States. Incredibly, the USPS is the only organization that delivers to every residential and business address in the country.

The Postal Service Guiding Principle

Today, the United States Postal Service states the service is rooted in one single, great principle:

“The history of the United States Postal Service is rooted in a single, great principle: that every person in the United States – no matter who, no matter where – has the right to equal access to secure, efficient, and affordable mail service.”

USPS Mail meme 1
The guiding principle of the USPS with image via YouTube

The USPS Mission Statement

The USPS is an independent establishment of the Executive Branch of the Government of the United States. As such, it operates in a business-like way but is written into the U.S. Code in Title 39, the Postal Reorganization Act.

The USPS mission statement, as written in Section 101(a) of Title 39:

“The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.”

Below, see a vintage instructional film called “The Mailman” from 1946:

Postal Service Unofficial Motto

The famous unofficial motto is still commonly used today, dedicated to mail carriers’ heroic daily efforts serving Americans.

Though not official, the motto is chiseled into the granite over the entrance to the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue. (Now the James A. Farley Building) The words come from Greek historian Herodotus in The Persian Wars. As far back as 500 B.C., the Persians had reliable mounted postal couriers.  

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

USPS unofficial motto
The USPS unofficial motto with image via YouTube

The USPS: Looking Out for Americans

Today, the Postal Service is delivering in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, hurricanes, earthquakes, snowstorms, and wildfires. As they carry out their duties, they keep an eye out for communities.

For example, last week, mailman Fernando Garcia ran to help a man cut by a chainsaw in California. Garcia sprang into action and used his belt as a tourniquet, saving a Norwalk resident.

“I was a little panicky but at the end of the day…did what anybody else would have done, which was to try to stop the bleeding,” Garcia said. “I was just fortunate to be there, to help him out.”

A Quote from the Former Washington D.C. Post Office

You’ll find a lesser-known inscription carved into white granite at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum. Before it became the museum, it was the D.C. Post Office. 

It’s a beautiful tribute to mail carriers written by Dr. Charles W. Eliot, former president of Harvard University. Originally entitled “The Letter,” it was edited by President Woodrow Wilson before the version below was carved into the Post Office:

“Messenger of Sympathy and Love 

Servant of Parted Friends 

Consoler of the Lonely

Bond of the Scattered Family 

Enlarger of the Common Life 

Carrier of News and Knowledge

 Instrument of Trade and Industry

 Promoter of Mutual Acquaintance

 Of Peace and of Goodwill Among Men and Nations.”

USPS quote by Dr. Charles W. Eliot
USPS poem by Dr. Charles W. Eliot with edits by President Woodrow Wilson with image via YouTube

Recommended Reading: Freedom of Speech Quotes and Sayings With Images

Thank You to Our Mail Carriers!

Today, receiving the mail has never been more important as we get through a pandemic. Postal workers are links to the world during the pandemic, delivering more packages than ever. 

To thank USPS employees for putting their lives on the line for us every day, one might be tempted to give them money. However, mail carriers must comply with the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Exec­utive Branch. Thus, they may not accept tips or gifts worth greater than $20 and o gifts worth more than $50 from a customer per year.

Ideas to Say Thank You

Therefore, man people are leaving personal handwritten notes, and gifts of snacks and thoughtful small items. Readers’s Digest recommends an insulated travel mug or a pair of warm gloves.

Another idea is to send a letter to USPS’s Office of Inspector General to share appreciation and kind reflections about your mail carrier.

Since the USPS relies on postage sale, not tax dollars, it’s always a great idea to buy stamps. Notably, you can buy stamps at the post office’s website without leaving the house. Also, you can buy stamps from many retailers, grocery stores, pharmacies, and some banks.

Below, the USPS shared a video thanking Americans for the many “Thank You’s” they’ve been seeing lately.

Recommended Reading: 10 Amazing American Dream Quotes and Sayings

Watch “How the Post Office Made America” by Wendover Productions below:


Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube

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Facts About Strange Forms of Currency used During a Pandemic

Today, digital currency stands to eliminate paper money one day, possibly. As people can now transfer money electronically on their smartphones, governments are moving to eliminate cash.

Today, business professors say that using digital currency could help eliminate the spread of viruses like Covid-19.

Whatever the eventual fate of paper money, it’s interesting to look at alternative forms of currency throughout history. So, we’ll look at two strange currencies from medieval times.

One of these forms of money lost popularity after a pandemic, the Black Plague. The other currency may have helped stop the spread of the same widespread pandemic.

Finally, we’ll look at one odd paper money with a fascinating story. (But not plague-related for a happy change!)

Eels as Currency

In medieval England, one common form of currency was eels. Recently, a Ph.D. student in Medieval Studies from Cornell University, Dr. John Wyatt Greenlee, explained how the eels were used.

Eels were so popular in England that they appeared on medieval shields and crests and were a favorite food for nobles and King Henry I.

Notably, Shakespeare talked about eels more than any other fish.

Paying Rent in Eels

Greenlee shared a map showing where people paid taxes in eels. In 1200, people paid as many as 500 thousand eels. Landlords received payments from their tenants in “sticks” of 25 eels. On the other hand, the English called a bundle of ten eels a “bind.”

According to TIME:

“Many landlords collecting rent payments in eels were monasteries; being paid in eels meant the monks would have enough fish to eat during the Lenten season when they couldn’t eat meat. The fish was thought to be the perfect food to eat to suppress sexual thoughts during this fasting season.”

Dr. Greenlee, now an eel historian, says that an Amazon Prime subscription would cost between 150 and 300 eels today. However, European eels are critically endangered. Thus, Greenlee is trying to show people why endangered animals like eels are worth saving today.

Eels After the Black Death

In 1348 and ’49, the Black Death outbreak led to a rapid 90% decline in rent payments made in eels annually during the 13th century and the 14th century. Unfortunately, the human population declined rapidly. At the same time, other forms of protein became available, and it seems eels were no longer as essential.

Next, we’ll look at another animal form of currency that seems to have protected a country to some extent from a plague.

Related: The Most Amazing Facts About Fish: Everything You Should Know

Payments in Squirrel Pelts and Parts?

As we’ve seen, eels were an extremely popular currency in England until the Black Death. Meanwhile, in medieval Russia, one popular form of money was squirrel pelts. The pelts were a form of currency. Also, people used parts like ears, claws, and snouts. Today, we speculate those parts were to make change.

Related: 22+ Fun And Nutty Facts About Squirrels: Acorns, Habitat And More

Squirrel pelt currency
image by CreditCards.com, CNBC

Pennsylvania Bank executive David Doty collects odd forms of currency from around the globe. In a CNBC interview, Doty speculated about a possible benefit of trading in squirrels during the Black Plague.

By reducing the number of squirrels, it stands to reason it also could have reduced the exposure to infected fleas.

“During the Black Plague, Russia didn’t get hit as hard as everybody else. By making their currency the squirrel pelt, it may have reduced the number of disease-bearing parasites,” Doty explained.

However, today Russia is cracking down on hunting another rodent, the marmot. Officials suspect the hunters on the border with Mongolia and China could be spreading bubonic plague carried by the animals.

Red Squirrel Currency

In medieval Europe, red squirrel pelts were a form of currency and appeared in currency exchange charts until 1926.

In Finland, the word for money, Raha, translated to ‘dried fur,’ comes from squirrels. If you had ten pelts, it was called a Tikkuri, while 40 pelts were called a Kiihetelys. With 100 pelts, you could buy yourself a cow.

Seeing how we can now trade in digital currency, could it be going the way of the squirrel soon? That’s the topic of this video from VoxCreative below:

Cook Islands Bill Featuring Ina Riding a Shark

Now for something totally unrelated but fascinating. One of the weirdest paper currencies may be a bill from the Cook Islands in the South Pacific.

On the note, which can be 3 or 20 dollars, a naked woman rides a shark into the sunset. As she rides, she holds a coconut, which she has opened by cracking it on the shark’s head, per the legend.

The woman is Ina, a representative of the “first woman.” 

Per the island myth, she’s the loved one of the Eastern Polynesian God of the Ocean named Tinirau. The sea God lived on a floating island called the Sacred Isle Motu-Tpau.

On a journey to visit Tinirau, Ina travels by shark, aided by Tekea the Great, the king of all sharks, per the Cook Island News.

Ancient DNA Tied to Ina

Interestingly, an American man from Montana, Darrell Crawford, was found to have the oldest North American DNA ever tested last year. Astonishingly, his mitochondrial DNA was traced back 17,000 years to an ancient female ancestor: Ina, one of four ancient ancestors, including Ai, Chie, and Sachi. 

The four women were among the earliest colonizers of North and South America. The ancient women’s mitochondrial DNA was passed through generations until today as discussed in the Seven Daughters of Eve by Oxford genetics researcher Bryan Sykes. 

Cook Island Bill
$20 bill from the Cook Islands screenshot via Foreign Currency & Coin Exchange
Image via MoreBankNotes.com

As another odd footnote: The Cook Islan $3 bill featured Ina is by artist Rick Welland who died in 2016. Little did he know, his artwork and the bill became one of the country’s most sought-after souvenirs after it was adopted in 1992. Before he died, he was surprised to learn the bills were going for $300 on eBay. 

Footnote: Last year, the island’s government reportedly provided $450,000 in the budget to reprint more of these bills.


Featured Image: Squirrel via Pixabay and Eels via Pixabay

 

 

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North Kingstown Community Rallies After Egg Thief Steals Roadside Stand

Guy Daniels from North Kingstown, Rhode Island, added 21 new all-female feathered family members in April. He and his wife decided to try his luck at raising chickens in his back yard, and it was going great after building a large chicken coop.

“We used to have some years ago and decided to do it again,” he said. 

After many months, the chickens were finally old enough to start laying. That’s when Daniels decided to set up a roadside stand to sell the eggs.

Along the road by a fence, he set up a table and refrigerator with a sign that read, “Fresh Organic Eggs.” Using the honor system, he allowed the community to pick up the eggs and leave just $3 for a dozen.

“It’s just for fun,” Daniels explained.

An Egg Thief

Almost two weeks later, Daniels discovered that someone had stolen the refrigerator, the eggs, and the money. A new sign was added to the fence that read, “Sorry, no eggs today. Someone stole fridge, eggs, & money” with a frowny face. 😕

A frustrated Daniels took to social media, reporting what happened to the page for the town. After describing what the thief took, he wrote, “Really? Did you need it so bad, you had to steal from us? I can’t afford to buy another fridge so I’ll try using a cooler. What a discouraging way to start the day.”

That’s when the community came to the rescue within minutes!

“It was the dark-heartedness that really bummed us out, but the response we got just blew us out of the water,” Daniels said.

Faith in Humanity –Restored

Hundreds of people started posting messages of support. Then, a woman named Deb Lynn decided to offer Daniels a mini-fridge to replace the one stolen.

I thought, that’s terrible, in these trying times somebody is trying to sell eggs to make a little bit of money,” said Lynn. “I had an extra mini-fridge, so I posted on there I have an extra one I had one I can drop it off at your house after work.”

Later, the kindhearted woman from nearby Exeter stopped by and delivered the fridge in person. She had never met Daniels before but wanted to help.

“When this guy needs the fridge. I’m like good karma, what goes around comes around,” she said. “I don’t need money that bad I give things away all the time; I’m a giver,” she told NBC.

 

“That was really wonderful and generous of her. We appreciate her,” said a thankful Daniels.

Soon, another person came by to donate a second refrigerator. Even better, dozens stopped by to express interest in buying eggs.

“Make you want to give, makes you want to pass it on or pay it forward,” said Daniels. “It’s wonderful to know that the town supported us that fast and that generous,” he said.

On social media, people commented on how touched they were to see their community rallying together.

“As disheartening as this was…it is uplifting to see the outpouring of support for you as well as the offers to replace your fridge. So sorry this happened to you.”

Overwhelming Support

Daniels responded after seeing hundreds of supportive comments:

“I can’t cover everyone, but thanks for all the kind words, The two replacement fridges, the offering to chip in to buy one, It is very encouraging. My day was turned around by you wonderful people. I love NK. And thank you all!!!”

Daniels said he planned to put up his egg stand again on Saturday.

North Kingstown sounds like a great community! Plus, they also know how to enjoy themselves, judging by the Halloween festivities at nearby Wickford Village. Witches and Warlocks took to the harbor on paddleboards!

(Too fun not to share!)

Paddle boarding Witches of Wickford

Posted by Grace Heart on Saturday, October 24, 2020

See the video from St. Louis’ 5 On Your Side, an NBC affiliate, below:


Featured image: Screenshots via YouTube

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Veteran Pilot Comes Forward to Report Orange Orb UFO in North Carolina

The Carolinas are a hotbed of documented UFO sightings. In fact, the Queen City of Charlotte has been rated among the top 10 large North American cities for UFO sightings. So far, there have been 153 sightings of mysterious lights, discs, and orbs in the sky since 1910. 

Last year, we shared the story of a man from Liberty, North Carolina, who caught a UFO on a Facebook Live video. Now, there has been another similar UFO sighting reported in the Charlotte Observer.

This time, an 88-year-old Korean War combat veteran and 45-year pilot came forward with his UFO account. Charles Cobb of Morganton once served on a Navy destroyer during the Korean War. Thus, he’s certainly familiar with aircraft, but at 11:18 a.m. on June 12, 2020, he saw something unlike he’d ever seen before.

“None of my flying friends have any idea as to what it was,” he said.

Zooming Orange Orb UFO with Kite-like Tail

Cobb makes daily visits to Silver Creek Airport in Morganton, where he keeps a 1940 Piper Cub. On Friday, the 12th, he was sitting at the airport and spotted a strange object in the sky. 

An orange-tinged orb was moving in the sky. As it shot up and down, it moved in the direction of Table Rock, a popular tourist spot with a panoramic view. For 15 to 20 minutes, he observed it flying.

After all his years around aircraft, he hadn’t seen one that could “zoom up almost out of sight” as it was doing.

Definitely Not a Comet

The longtime pilot described a round, irregular orb shooting thousands of feet into the air. Then, it would plummet back down and soar back up again. Cobb estimated it was some 30,000 to 40,000 feet high with an exhaust plume trailing behind it. At times, it would vanish and then fly paralell to the ground.

As a pilot, he knew how to identify aerial phenomena such as comets, and this was no comet.

“Comets come toward you,” he said. However, this object “always pointed north.”

At first, he thought it appeared to be “a huge kite with a tail.” In the middle of the orb, it appeared to be “opaque.” After watching a while, he took out his iPad and snapped photos of the object, which he later shared with the Observer.

Orb flying
Via Charlotte Observer: Charles Cobb of Morganton took this photo of the object he saw high in the North Carolina mountains sky on a sunny late morning in June. CHARLES COBB

Related: Ancient Aliens: Modern UFO from Chile Matches Ancient Chilean Geoglyph

The Observer confirmed with the nearby Astronomy Club that the object was almost certainly not a comet. Bernard Arghiere, the board director of the Asheville group confirmed:

“There is no reported astronomical object, certainly not a comet, in the sky that would appear that bright on that June 12, 2020, date,” Arghiere said in an email. “There were no comets then that would be that bright, so they would be visible in the daytime sky.

 

“It really looks to me more like sunlight reflected off a distant jet and its related condensation trail; typically, that would disappear from sight in less than 20 minutes.”

 

“Good luck getting a definitive answer on this one,” he added.

Veteran Pilot Says It Wasn’t a Plane or Reflection

Notably, Cobb pointed out that he viewed the orb for an extended period and was convinced it was not a plane reflection.

“No reflection off a jet,” he said. “This object, while zooming to incredible heights, and coming back down, was always heading in a northerly direction as the photos show, yet it remained in the general area that I was viewing. 

“A plane of any sort passing through my viewing area would have been out of sight in a matter of a few minutes,” he said.

More Sighting Nearby

Going by reports to the  National UFO Reporting Center, we can see that similar reports took place around the time of Cobb’s sighting, the morning of June 12.

About ten hours after Cobb saw the orb, Huntersville’s witness reported seeing “bright light flares” turning 90 degrees in the sky.

Then, in nearby Salisbury the following morning, someone reported a “spear or teardrop structure streaming across the sky with a vapor trail and cast off glare from the rising sun.”

In Arden, NC, someone reported a “Glowing orange inverted teardrop silently flying low overhead,” on June 29. Alos, orange orbs were reported in Ocean Isle Beach on the same day and previously on the 25th over North Myrtle Beach.

Indeed, the reports about orange flying orbs are very common. Below, see a couple of the posts we’ve made about these UFOs.

Related story: Thousands of Americans see glowing amber orbs flying silently in formation over states

Related story: Mysterious floating orbs over Kansas City confound everyone, including the National Weather Service

Another Pilot Prompted Cobb to Come Forward

The International Business Times shared the story about Cobb’s UFO sighting. Also, they noted that “UFO sightings in various parts of the globe have increased drastically.” The rise in reports follows the 2017 Pentagon admission that they have secretly been studying unidentified aerial phenomena for years. 

Cobb decided to come forward with his account after seeing the video below about an airline pilot who reported a UFO. The object came dangerously close to the plane he was piloting as it traveled from Dallas-Fort Worth to Charlotte in 2003. 

See the History Channel video below:


Featured image: Table Rock NC by Omarcheeseboro via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) with simulated ‘orb’ created in Photoshop

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The Rare and Not-So-Rare Fascinating World of the Chimera

When you think of the word Chimera, you might think of the mythological beast. In Greek myths, the Chimera was a female fire-breathing monster with three different animal appearances. 

A Strange Mythological Beast

From the front, a Chimera had a lion’s appearance. However, the middle was that of a goat. At the back end, the Chimera resembled a dragon. Nevertheless, artistic representations are widely different. Sometimes, the lion has a bizarre goat’s head in the middle of its back with the tail of a snake.

Today, Chimera can describe any imaginary beast seen in architecture. More broadly, the word conjures a fanciful illusion, fabrication, or unrealizable dream, according to Merriam-Webster.

Chimera sculpture
Chimera by Sailko via Wikimedia Commons  (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Real-Life Chimeras

Apart from the mythological beasts, Chimeras are also very real. In fact, it’s possible that many people are Chimeras, to some degree. Also, it’s known that many mammal species are a type of Chimera due to the ancient process of childbirth. 

What does that mean?

A Chimera describes a person or animal with two different sets of DNA in their bodies. Sometimes, the DNA is from the same species, but today, Chimeras can also feature genes from different species.

Artificially Created Chimeras

How does this happen? Chimeras occur naturally but can also happen as a result of genetic tinkering. (Hence, the possibility of more than one species.)

Today, due to advances in DNA gene editing, scientists can create Chimeras in the lab. Firstly, in 2015, Chinese scientists first edited human embryos’ DNA using a gene-editing technique. By 2018, a Chinese scientist announced Chinese girls named Lulu and Nana had been successfully born with edited genes.

Then, in 2019, China created Human-Monkey Chimera embryos to grow human organs.

Ethically, creating Chimeras in a lab is, of course, extremely controversial. The practice, along with CRISPR gene-editing in human embryos, sparked a global outcry from scientists. It remains illegal in most parts of the world.

More recently, the researchers who developed the CRISPR tool won the Nobel Prize. The technique has transformed responsible genetic science, but an international team concluded it wasn’t mature enough to alter human embryos. Nevertheless, it’s already happened.

See more from ABC News Australia below:

Naturally Occurring Chimeras

Historically, most Chimeras occurred naturally. For example, a woman pregnant with fraternal twins can give birth to a Chimera. 

If one embryo dies in the womb, it can be absorbed by its twin. Thus, a baby is born with two sets of DNA. Most of the time, the person won’t ever know they are a Chimera. The New York Times dubbed it a “pregnancy souvenir.”

Also, a pregnant mother can become a Microchimera when she absorbs cells from a fetus that migrate into the blood and organs. Interestingly, this type of Chimera could be “very common, if not universal,” according to experts. 

In addition, there have been studies that show Microchimeras are common. Unfortunately, mothers lose twins at a relatively high rate, as much as 21 to 30% of the time. It’s referred to as the “Vanishing Twin Syndrome.” In such cases, it’s possible the mother may absorb the cells.

Researchers can detect Microchimeras by finding mothers who have a Y chromosome found only in males. In such cases, they know for sure that the cells came from a male fetus. 

Interestingly, the cells can live inside the mother for a lifetime. In one case, a woman who lived to 94 years old was found to have DNA traces from her male fetus inside her brain. Scientists are just beginning to research how these cells could influence behavior.

Rare Documented Human Chimeras

Cases in which a person is a documented Chimera remain exceedingly rare, with as few as 30 documented cases worldwide. 

In one case, a mother named Lydia Fairchild almost lost custody of her children when Social Services discovered her children didn’t share her DNA. Then, she was accused of abducting the children!

After many accusations, a court officer witnessed her giving birth to another child, immediately testing the baby. Even so, the test showed the child wasn’t hers, and officials still suspected she was a surrogate.

Finally, a similar case from Boston tipped off her attorney that she could be a Chimera. Following testing, Fairchild was found to be her own twin and not an imposter.

See more from Facts Verse below:

Organ and Tissue Transplant Chimeras

When a person receives tissue or organs from a donor, that can technically result in a Chimera. A donor’s bone marrow retains the donor’s DNA. Sometimes, the recipient has 100% donor DNA in their blood cells. In this case, it’s called “complete chimerism.”

In other cases, there’s a case of “mixed chimerism,” with DNA from donor and recipient mixed.

Recommended reading: Science Facts – 80 Interesting Facts About Science

Rare Half-Male, Half-Female Chimeras

In nature, sometimes, a Chimera can exhibit the genetic traits of both males and females. Recently, one such specimen was found in Pennsylvania. There, a beautiful songbird called a grossbeak was found exhibiting male coloration on the right and female on the left. In 60 years of bird collection, only five cases have been recorded.

Amazingly, the grossbeak was perfectly split down the middle as male and female. Consequently, it’s a case of bilateral gynandromorphism, a type of genetic chimerism. 

In the 1920s, a case of bilateral gynandromorphism was described in a chicken, which laid eggs. Early in the bird’s development as a zygote, two ova fuse, bonding two fraternal twins.

The condition has been found in lobsters, crabs, shrimp, ants, butterflies, moths, spiders, and bees. However, it’s exceedingly rare. In humans, it’s thought that hormones that determine sex rule out cases of bilateral gynandromorphism.

The researcher who captured the bird alive said finding the bird was like “seeing a unicorn,” a “once-in-a-lifetime discovery.” The rare bird’s discovery delighted the biologists who found the bird as part of a routine banding program. Afterward, the researchers released it back into the wild.

See the bird below in the video from LiveScience:

A Chimera Cardinal

Last year, another male/female songbird was spotted in Erie, Pennsylvania. This time, it was a northern cardinal. In appearance, it had the female colors on the left and the red male colors on the right.

A homeowner who set up a bird feeder described how the bird behaved, singing with a male companion in courtship behavior.

“It does seem to be traveling with a male. Every time we have seen this bird, there is a male cardinal as a companion. They always fly in and out of our yard together,” Caldwell told Forbes.

Although both a male and female, the Cardinal may be able to produce eggs. On the left side, it could have one functional ovary.

See the Chimera Cardinal from Nat Geo WILD below:


Featured image: Screenshots via YouTube

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Colette the Artist Pig Brings Smiles and Health Care to Her Community

At a hotel called Hotelito in Todos Santos, Baja California, an unlikely artist is flourishing. Colette, named after a French novelist, is like a pig in mud. (Or in this case, fine art.)

For the past two years, She’s been living the high life near the famous Hotel California. Now a video artist who sometimes sprouts wings, she’s also a ‘piganthropist,’ donating contributions to worthy charities.

Colette the Artist Pig and a Magical Menagerie

The Hotelito’s kindly gardener, Don Javier, rescued Colette as a piglet. Narrowly escaping the inevitable fate of becoming bacon, Colette won the piggie lottery.

Now, Colette the artist pig is enjoying a lavish pigsty with a chandelier and fine art furnishings. Amusingly, among the art is a famous 18-karat-gold toilet once shown in the Guggenheim.

Jenny Armit, the British immigrant who has called Todos Santos home for 17 years, lives near Hotelito. There, she has rescued many animals at the desert farm. Each of the menagerie of animals has a special part in Colette’s acclaimed short documentary film, accepted into the Mill Valley Film Festival. 

Among the animals are a cast of characters:

  • Terrence ‘el Violador’ the violent goat
  • Chapo the smiling, friendly sheep
  • Valentín the horse, the object of Colette’s crush

In the film, Armit hilariously translates the world, as seen from Colette the artist pig’s perspective. (And with a British accent.) The result is a welcome relief from an otherwise stressful and chaotic 2020.

Newsweek put it this way:

“If 2020 is the year when anything can and has happened, couldn’t it be the year for a suspension of disbelief that a pig can be an artist? ‘Colette the Artist’ offers a downtrodden world hope that 2020 still can hold joy and possibilities.”

A World Where a Pig Can Fly

Colette’s artistic abilities thrived in the nurturing care of the caring people surrounding the menagerie. Now a video artist, she has explored Cubism, installation, and conceptual art. Unlike most pigs, she found a haven where her unique intelligence is recognized –and fully appreciated. 

“She’s like a person with a personality. She’s very smart,” says Javier. Then he clarifies, “If there’s food involved, she’s extremely smart.”

Recommended reading: Meet Lulu – The Pot-Bellied Pig That Once ‘Played Dead’ To Save Her Dying Owner

Armit first recognized Colette’s potential, which Don Javier encouraged. Thus, he brought her paints and other mediums for self-taught experimentation. Newsweek even reports that he installed Wi-Fi so she could be exposed to works of art from all over the world.

 In the artistic oasis recognized by Mexico as “Pueblo Magico,” Armit the interior designer and the animal lovers live in idyllic harmony. Aware of the dangers of the world outside, they’ve created a refuge. There, childlike innocence, humor, and a love for all things are cherished.

Recommended Reading: Mama And Baby Pigs Rescued From Slaughter, Finally See Sun For 1st Time In Lives

It seems in Todos Santos, a pig can truly fly. Imagination runs wild, and anything is possible, even a world-renowned aesthete who happens to be a swine.

“It’s an essential childlike quality you have to tap into in order to survive all this nasty stuff going on in the world,” Armit said.

Other Animal Artists

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a pig could have an art appreciation, considering that we’ve seen other animals display such a predisposition? For example, for over 20 years, elephants have been producing abstract art. 

At zoos and aquariums, animals are sometimes offered enrichment programs, allowing them to create with art supplies. According to ARTNews, the list of animal artists is bigger than one might expect.

Here are some of the residents of the National Zoo in Washington which participate in art enrichment programs:

  • A banded armadillo
  • Orangutans, Gorillas, and other primates 
  • A naked mole-rat
  • Hissing cockroaches
  • A leopard gecko
  • Lions
  • Grizzlies
  • Sloth bears
  • The Elegant Crested Tinamou, a toucan
  • Tian Tian, the giant panda

Other animals create what could loosely be considered art:

  • Elaborate nests of Bowerbirds
  • Intricate spider webs
  • Awe-inspiring beehives

Of course, Colette isn’t the first artist pig. Below, see another renowned artist pig named ‘Pigcasso’ from Nat Geo WILD:

 

Colette’s Piganthropy Saves Lives

Is Colette a true artist? You decide. However, her story reminds us to appreciate and respect all living creatures. What a better world we would live in if that were more widely understood?

Plus, as she attains international renown, Colette’s piganthropy, as she prefers to call it, helps those in her community struggling during the pandemic.

On her dedicated website, she promotes the Padrino Children’s FoundationThus, her story helps provide free health care, just as Armit and Don Javier offered her once as one lucky piglet. 

See more of Colette in the film via Vimeo below and follow her adventures on Instagram.

“Colette the Artist” – EngVO EspSubs from Lisa F Jackson on Vimeo.


Featured image: Screenshot via Instagramhotelitotodossantos

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Facts About Asian Giant Hornets, the So-Called ‘Murder Hornets’

The year 2020 has been one of many troubles, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the largest wildfire in recorded California history. Then the cruel fates seemed to say, “Hold my beer,” and we learned that giant “murder hornets” invaded North America. Truly, 2020 is a year not to be forgotten.

Fortunately, facts always help when confronting any potential threat, from big to small. So, with that in mind, we’ll look at what is currently known about murder hornets.

The World’s Largest Hornets

As you might have suspected, murder hornets are the world’s largest hornet species. Their scientific name is Vespa mandarinia. No, not Mandalorian, but there is a slight resemblance, don’t you think?

The queens can grow up to two inches long. Although their popular name is certainly catchy, they are Asian giant hornets. These insects are native to the forests of eastern and southern Asia. However, they are most common in the forests of Japan.

A Painful Sting 

Using spiked mandibles that look like shark fins, they viciously attack honeybee colonies, tearing off the heads of bees. They’re also armed with a long stinger and potent venom that can puncture a beekeeper’s suit. 

According to the Times, being stung feels like “hot metal driving into” the skin. Others say the sting feels like being “stabbed by a red-hot needle.”

One researcher expert from Japan described the sting:

“Usually, the stung part severely swells and continues aching for a few days,” stated Shunichi Makino. And “although you could also have these symptoms when stung by the other hornet species, the intensity is said to be much more severe in Vespa mandarinia.”

Similar accounts suggest the painful sting can last for two days, disturbing restful sleep.

Annually, murder hornets kill 50 people in Japan. For comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that stings from hornets, wasps, and bees combined kill about 62 people in the United States every year.

Notably, most people who are stung will recover with symptoms of swelling and redness. Thus, they pose little risk to most people who are not allergic to bee stings. If stung repeatedly, the neurotoxin from the sting can be dangerous, but no more than the Africanized bee.

As you would expect, their relatively toxic venom can pose a real threat to allergic people. 

A Tasty Hornet Treat

Of course, the hornet’s painful sting doesn’t prevent people from finding them delicious. In Japan, their venom is used in liquor after live specimens are drowned in a clear beverage called shochu.

In the central Chubu region of Japan, murder hornets are a delicacy and eaten as a snack. There, they are commonly called “giant sparrow hornets,” and the queen grub is considered most delicious.

According to the Times:

The giant hornet, along with other varieties of wasps, has traditionally been considered a delicacy in this rugged part of the country. The grubs are often preserved in jars, pan-fried or steamed with rice to make a savory dish called hebo-gohan. The adults, which can be two inches long, are fried on skewers, stinger and all until the carapace becomes light and crunchy. They leave a warming, tingling sensation when eaten.”

A Growing Interest in Entomophagy

Although you might feel squeamish at the thought, the hornets are a cheap protein source for impoverished people in rural areas. In the past, eating hornets was widespread across Japan. 

Today, young urban dwellers are attracted to the novelty of eating the large hornets. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that insects are an environmentally friendly source of protein. Today, there’s a growing international interest in entomophagy, the practice of eating insects.

Thus, murder hornets are popular in Tokyo restaurants, eaten as snacks, and as “hornet liquor.” Curiously, hornet saliva is used in energy drinks and is considered a source of strength by some Japanese athletes.

 Kushihara Hebo Matsuri: The Wasp Festival

Every year, for generations, a Japanese wasp festival has taken place. Then in 1993, a public celebration developed as elderly wasp hunters passed along the tradition. In the rural Gifu prefecture, families who hunt the huge giant wasp nests come together for a November contest. Contestants with the most impressive nests win trophies. During the festival, wasp larvae –still alive in the oversized nests are eaten like treats.

To locate the wasps, hunters place a piece of fish in the forest. Attached to the fish, they place a piece of paper. Soon, a wasp arrives to carry off the fish, waving the paper like a tiny flag.

Then the hunters follow along, chasing the wasp through the forest until they discover the nest. Incredibly, the enormous underground nests can house a thousand hornets and their larvae.

See more about the wasp hunters and the prized giant nests from Journeyman Pictures below:

They’re Attracted to Hair Spray and Perfume

According to accounts from Japan, if you live in an area where murder hornets are present, they are attracted to hair spray and perfume. 

But, don’t worry.  Encountering the hornets in the United States is so far extremely unlikely. Since their arrival in northwestern Washington State, scientists are urgently trying to destroy them all. And, that’s a good thing for native honeybees. 

Murder Hornets Could Spread Rapidly

Today, scientists are doing their best to prevent the spread of murder hornets in North America. Unfortunately, they say the risk to honeybees and other native insects is very high. Western honeybees have no defense against the wasps, and they can quickly devastate whole colonies in the late summer and fall.

On the other hand, Asian bees have developed a defense strategy, buzzing together in a ball to raise the hive’s temperature, cooking hornets alive.

See what murder hornets do to honeybees in the video from VICE News below:

Native Bees are Most at Risk

Sadly, panic about the hornets causes some people to act irrationally, killing already threatened native bees. In Washington, authorities called on residents outside the state not to attempt to trap the hornets. As they tried to trap murder hornets, they were accidentally killing the wrong bees. 

In September 2019, the giant wasps were found in western British Columbia, Canada. From there, it spread to Washington state along the border. Now, studies suggest murder hornets are most likely to spread through along the west coast and eastern seaboard. Fortunately, the interior states may be at much less risk due to extremes in heat, cold, and precipitation.

Flying 68 miles a year, murder hornets could spread fast if left unchecked. Fortunately, scientists believe the invasion is presently manageable and are working to stop them from gaining a foothold. Notably, many of them would like people to stop calling them “murder hornets,” which has led to overblown media hype.


Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube

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ancient-code.com

Ancient Drepanosaur – A Mix of Anteater, Bird, and Chameleon Found in Petrified Forest

During an internship at the Petrified Forest in Arizona, Idaho State University Ph.D. student Xavier Jenkins and a group of National Park Service interns made a spectacular find. They found fossils of a strange reptile called a drepanosaur, which probably lived before dinosaurs. 

Drepanosaurs lived during the Triassic Period, a time known as the dawning age of dinosaurs.

Jenkin’s colleague Virginia Tech graduate student Ben Kligman happened across the fossil-rich site they called “Thunderstorm Ridge.” The new creature was “quite literally found in a deposit of fossilized poop,” Jenkins recalled.

“It is genuinely so surprising that a site like Thunderstorm Ridge took this long to be discovered, and it’s revealing a hidden diversity of ancient life at Petrified Forest,” Jenkins told CNN.

 

Millions of years ago, the Petrified Forest was swampy, with gentle rivers and lakes. Today, it’s one of the country’s oldest national parks.

 Jenkins suggested that the fossil shows that millions of years ago the area might have been strangely familiar. Like today, animals occupied all available ecological niches. Thus, you could find animals swimming, flying, climbing, and burrowing.

“These prehistoric ecosystems are not as alien as once thought, and are … eerily familiar in composition to those of today,” Jenkins said.

Drepanosaur: a Cross Between an Anteater, Chameleon, and Bird

The creature dubbed Skybalonyx skapter lived 220 million years ago. In Greek, that translates to “dung-claw digger.” The name is a reference to an unusually wide claw on the second finger.

After studying the fossils, a team of researchers says it looked like a cross between an anteater and chameleon. With the enlarged claw, the creature dug a burrow like a mole or an echidna. Previously, it was thought all drepanosaurs were insectivorous tree-dwellers.

A news release from Petrified Forest National Park described the appearance:

“Drepanosaurs have been noted to have interesting features, such as “enlarged second claws, bird-like beaks, and tails ending with a claw,” the release said.

The University of California Museum of Paleontology  described the creature as “seemingly drawn at random from evolution’s spare parts box.”

Recommended reading: Mass extinction saw an invasion of giant-headed Komodo Dragon-like Triassic predators

Thousands of Fossils Discovered

According to WRTV, the team found the fossil by a method similar to panning for gold.

“Due to their small size, the remains were reportedly difficult to find using traditional methods. Essentially, research teams used a series of metal screens and water to sift and break down rocks to find the fossils,” reported WRTV.

The discovery of a new ancient reptile is just the beginning. Amazingly, the lead paleontologist, Adam Marsh, says there were more than 3,000 fossils discovered in the area over two years.

See what Skybalonyx skapter possibly looked like in the artwork below:

A Petrified Forest Rich in Life

Notably, the discovery shows life in the Petrified Forest lived in the area longer than previously thought. 

In related news, a paleontological team from Virginia Tech discovered an extremely rare frog fossil near Petrified Forest National Park in 2019. The frog also lived during the Triassic, thought to be living in near a river where large horsetail-like plants and giant trees grew.

“The environment at the time was very different from how you or I would think of a river. There were no angiosperms (flowering plants) at the time,” said professor Sterling Nesbitt.

At the close of the Triassic period, a wave of volcanic activity caused a spike of CO2 in the atmosphere. As a result of rapid global warming and ocean acidification, most life, including the drepanosaurs, was wiped out. Afterward, the age of now more familiar dinosaurs began.

Recommended reading: Researchers Discover Fossilized Remains that Rewrite Antarctica’s History

See more about the bizarre drepanosaurs from PBS Eons below:


Featured image: Petrified Forest via Pixabay with drepanosaur screenshot via YouTube

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The Wisdom of Supermodel of the World – RuPaul

RuPaul Andre Charles became the quintessential “Supermodel of the World,” debuting with the album of that name 27 years ago. In 1993, seeing a drag queen hit the mainstream was unheard of, but RuPaul knew he had finally arrived a born performer who always knew he would be famous.

“I knew this was happening for me when I was shooting the ‘Supermodel’ video in Central Park, and I had a Winnebago,” he told EW in a 2017 interview. “I thought I have a freaking Winnebago. I am here.”

When his mother was pregnant with RuPaul, he says a psychic told her she would have a boy and that he would be famous. The rest, as Ru might put it, is HERstory.

RuPaul meme 1
RuPaul from the ’93 video Supermodel of the World via YouTube

Throwing Open Doors

RuPaul seemed to magically destroy prevailing homophobic attitudes with his charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. In a world where gay people remained in closets, RuPaul busted the door wide open. With undeniable charm and powerful singing voice, he sashayed through as if no door had ever been there.

Manager Fenton Bailey said, “RuPaul is basically Big Bird from Sesame Street. He’s non-threatening and family-friendly.” As a black, gay man in drag, RuPaul had plenty of hurdles to overcome.

Nevertheless, the fearless performer rose to fame, and the next year became the first drag queen with a major cosmetics campaign contract for MAC.  

On the Only Thing that Scares Him

In a 2019 interview with Vanity Fair, RuPaul revealed the one thing that truly scares him.

“It’s the only thing I’m afraid of: Ignorant people. Especially ignorant people who think that they’re smart –that’s the scariest thing on Earth.”

RuPaul via Vanity Fair interview via YouTube

Drag Race Changes the World

In 2009, he debuted the groundbreaking RuPaul’s Drag Race, bringing the colorful world of drag into homes everywhere. More than a show about queens in impressive outfits, the show focuses as much on the people out of drag. Thus, we learn about their serious struggles with a dash of education on LGBTQ rights throughout history.

At the 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards, RuPaul won his fifth consecutive Emmy as host of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Meanwhile, the show has become the most-awarded reality competition show in history with an astonishing 19 wins.  

Over the years, the show has launched a slew of empowering quotes, catchphrases, and one-liners. Below, see one that Mama Ru says on every episode of Drag Race:

“If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Get I get an amen up in here?”

Another quote from one of RuPaul’s many hit songs tells us that queens are far from the only ones wearing drag. It’s a good reminder that underneath we’re all human beings searching for the same things.

“I famously said you’re born naked, and the rest is drag,” said Ru. “What that means is that we are all more than just what it says we are on our driver’s license or what it says in our job description. We are actually, in reality, an extension of the power that created the whole universe.” 

RuPaul meme number 3
RuPaul’s iconic look from the Season 10 trailer, image via YouTube

Rather than hiding from the world through what we wear, it can bring out our confidence to be our authentic, vulnerable selves.

“Drag doesn’t change who you are…it reveals who you are.” – RuPaul

 

“Vulnerability is power.” – RuPaul

On Ignoring Negativity

Another quote you’ll hear Ru say frequently tell us that other people’s negativity doesn’t have to be an obstacle.

“What other people think of me is none of my damn business.”

A lesson Ru learned from his mother that guides him to this day:

“Unless they are paying your bill, pay them bitches no mind.”

As well as blocking out negativity from others, RuPaul reminds us frequently not to heed “the inner saboteur” inside us all.

Today, RuPaul has been called one of “the single most impactful TV stars of the decade” by Variety. Meanwhile, drag queens are “the new rock stars,” as Season 11 winner Yvie Oddlyrecently noted. 

On ‘Condragulations’ for a Fifth Emmy 

As RuPaul accepted “condragulations” for his latest Emmy, he had an inspirational quote:

“On behalf of VH1, World of Wonder, and our incredible cast and crew, I want to thank the Academy for this great honor. I’ve always said, every time I bat my false eyelashes, I’m making a political statement. Well, tonight, the only political statement I want to make is this: Love,” RuPaul said.

“Love for our LGBT brothers and sisters, love for Black queens and brown queens, and love for the United States of America, where a little gay boy with nothing more than a pussycat wig and a dream can build an international platform that celebrates sweet, sensitive souls everywhere.”

RuPaul meme 4 copy
RuPaul from the season 12 trailer via YouTube

On the Importance of Drag

In 2020, we’re all in drag with masks and social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, RuPaul and Drag Race are helping us through quarantine. Ratings are higher than ever, and the show couldn’t be more culturally important during a trying moment in history.

Some might question why the show has risen to such prominence. In 2017, RuPaul explained why he thinks drag is so important in an interview on Good Morning America.

“Our show, it’s a lot of fun, but at its core, it’s about the tenacity of the human spirit. These kids, against all odds, have said, you know what society, I know you want me to spit in this box, but you know what, I’m not going to. I’m going to do my own thing.”

Later, RuPaul explained why his show is particularly critical now, as many minorities face an uncertain future.

“In this culture, in the political culture right now, the fact that we get to show people that love is strong, we are Americans, and we believe in open hearts and love. We believe in love, in acceptance, and this show is so important more now than ever,”

See the interview from Good Morning America below:

On Choosing Your Own Family

In a world that can be threatening to those who are different, RuPaul shows us that we can choose who deserves a place in our inner circle. Choose to surround yourself with those who understand, appreciate, and lift you up –always. 

 “We as gay people get to choose our family and the people we’re around. I am your family. We are a family here.” – RuPaul.

If You Feel Alone

In his Vanity Fair interview, RuPaul gave his advice on what to do if you feel alone. We all feel like outsiders sometimes, but we are all connected. At no point are we ever truly alone.

“Feelings are not facts. What you feel is an indicator, but a lot of times, it’s not really the truth. The truth is, we are not separate from one another… We are actually one thing together.”

Thanks, Mama Ru, and amen to that!

RuPaul meme number 5
RuPaul from his 2019 Vanity Fair interview via YouTube

See more gems from RuPaul in his personal 2019 Vanity Fair interview:


Featured image: Composite of screenshots from YouTube

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ancient-code.com

Was the Drive to Rewrite the Code of Life Seeded In Our DNA?

If extraterrestrials visited Earth in the distant past, what kind of evidence might they leave behind? For Paul Davies, an Astrobiologist from Arizona State University, the traces of ancient alien (or their robot) visits might be found in one of three places:

  1. Nuclear waste
  2. Large-scale mining operations
  3. A “message in a bottle.” (metaphorically)

Now the third option isn’t literal but could be any number of things. For example, Davies suggests that the message “could be living cells.”

“One idea I had is that maybe the “bottle” [is] living cells -terrestrial organisms, and that message is encoded in DNA. Viruses are continually infecting organisms and uploading their DNA into the genomes of those organisms,” notes Davies.

Davies noted that viruses could encode DNA, so why not extraterrestrials? Indeed, it’s one of the hallmarks of today’s ancient astronaut theory.

“If viruses can do it, E.T. can do it. And it seems to me that we could; in addition to scouring the skies for radio waves with a message encoded; we could scour terrestrial genomes, which are being sequenced anyway, to see if there’s a message from E.T. encoded.”

See Davies discuss this in the video from Big Think below:

Intentionally Seeded Ancient Code

At the time, Davies knew that finding a message from extraterrestrials in our DNA was a stretch. However, not long after, two scientists from Kazakhstan reported they might have discovered just that: an “intelligent “signal within the human genetic code.”

The mathematician and astrobiologist titled their paper “The ‘Wow! signal’ of the terrestrial genetic code.” The Acknowledgments give the nod to Davie’s ideas. The “Wow” refers to the now-famous 1977 SETI signal that prompted a researcher to write, “Wow!” next to it.

The researchers didn’t use the phrase “intelligent design,” but suggested they found code that seemed to be “seeded intentionally.” That information, they argued, appeared to be non-biological and mathematical and symbolic.

They speculated the ancient code came from another solar system, possibly intentionally seeded by panspermia. Could it be the “message in a bottle” that Davies suggested before them?

“Whatever the actual reason behind the decimal system in the code, it appears that it was invented outside the solar system already several billions years [sic] ago,” they wrote.

You can see more about this study in the video clip from the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens series below. Prepare to entertain the idea the humans are nothing more than artificially created “organic robots” with artificial intelligence. (A.I.)

DNA From Alien ‘Close Encounters’

The scientists from Kazakhstan don’t claim to know how an ancient code was seeded in our genes. Rather, they suggest the DNA code could have arrived on Earth through panspermia, space dust that drifted from outer space. 

However, modern stories about extraterrestrials actively tinkering with humans’ DNA are commonly accepted by Ancient Astronaut theorists.  

In at least one case, there was some evidence of interbreeding between an extraterrestrial and human. A man named Peter Khoury claimed that two humanoid females entered his room. One of the humanoids had long blond hair, large eyes, and a long chiseled face. The other appeared to be Asian in appearance. 

Following a bizarre sexual encounter with the blond woman, he found and kept a piece of her hair she left behind. 

Later the DNA from the optically clear hair was tested, revealing rare DNA markers. Instead of being typical of a light-skinned caucasian woman, they were characteristic of rare Chinese and old Gaelic lineage.

See Khoury discuss the story in the video from the History Channel below:

Rewriting the Code of Life

Are extraterrestrials actively designing humans’ DNA in some way even today? Well, now, humans are doing it themselves. The 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for their 2012 work in precisely editing DNA.

As they were introduced for the prize, the secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Goran K. Hansson, said:

“This year’s prize is about rewriting the code of life.”

The two women stumbled across the revolutionary technique called Crispr while studying the bacteria that causes scarlet fever. When inspecting the microbe’s DNA, they found repeating segments. These segments were made up of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats: Crispr for short.

The segments were derived from a virus that had attempted to infect the bacteria.

Thanks to their research, repeating code from a virus has revealed how to change our DNA effectively. As Paul Davies said, “If viruses can do it, E.T. can do it.” Now, we are doing it too, and rapidly transforming science, the world, and probably ourselves.

Is it possible this discovery was inevitable, something artificially ingrained in our being all along? Are we artificial 


Featured image: Screenshots via YouTube