34 amazing first lines of famous books.

Read more: http://imgur.com/gallery/VNrye More »

ever wonder how to get your book reviewed?

Ever wonder “How to get my book reviewed”?

So you’ve published your book. Its been edited and published, and now you’re trying to figure out how to get to your potential readers. While starting your marketing campaign usually happens well More »

‘People are hungry for real bookstores’: Judy Blume on why US indie booksellers are growing

At 78, the multimillion-selling author has begun a new career, opening her own bookshop and joining a business sector thats flourishing again in the US   She might be a beloved and More »

20+ Times People Couldnt Believe Their Luck In Thrift Stores, Flea Markets And Garage Sales

If you think thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets are filled with nothing but piles of junk, you’re missing out. Some incredibly lucky people discover the best things there, but those who search second-hand shops without finding the things they’re looking for usually stumble upon the next best thing – laughter. Bored Panda has collected some of the funniest thrift store finds ever, and the pictures will definitely make you run to that garage sale you walked by.

From “unusual” chocolate molds that look like pee pees to stoner books disguised as reads about cats, these gems were probably bought the second they drew the buyers’ attention. Scroll down to check out the hilarious items and upvote your faves!

http://www.boredpanda.com/funny-thrift-store-finds/

Mythbuster Adam Savage Has Made a Bag, and It’s Beautiful

Adam Savage is clearly overjoyed about his new bag. I met up with the gear-obsessed designer, former Mythbusters host, and Tested.com editor in chief at his workshop in San Francisco to see his latest creation. He's designed his first carryall utility bag, the EDC One, and launched a new brand, Savage Industries, to market it. With the same childlike glee he exudes on camera, Savage flipped the thing around on the workbench, opening and closing it, zipping and unzipping, as he pointed out all the features.

Yes, the bag is white. It only comes in white, at least for now.

It's constructed almost entirely out of upcycled cloth from boat sails, so each bag has some unique quirks, and every specimen comes off the production line with a broken-in look. The handles are held together by magnets instead of snaps or velcro, which, if you've fiddled with those types of closures on your own bag, is a welcome innovation. You just bring the handles near one another and they jump together with a satisfying clonk. Also clever: The straps are stiff enough that the clasped handle stays propped upright like a little pup tent frame. Unzip and pry open the bag, and it holds its shape in that configuration too, thanks to a pair of spring steel inserts that run around the lip and keep the mouth agape like the jaw of a whale shark.

There's a pocket inside to hold your notebooks (Savage adores Tom Sachs Ten Bullets notebooks, though he says his pocket is brand-agnostic) and, via a stack of horizontal loops, your pens and pencils. On the Kevlar-reinforced bottom, there are strips of velcro. This detail hints at accessories to come, like some padded bays for camera equipment or a waterproof bucket-like insert for toting a 12-pack.

Savage Industries

Savage designed it so it could carry absolutely everything he needs for a day, from tools to books to lunch. He says he drew inspiration from two places: First is the old tool case he used when employed as a model-builder at Industrial Light & Magic. It too had the clamshell top that flopped open for full access to the goods inside. He's tried to find something like it on the market, but he was disappointed enough in the options to just build his own version. The other inspiration is the purse given to Apollo astronauts on the missions to the moon. Called the Temporary Stowage Bag or, colloquially, the McDivitt Purse, this tote was mostly forgotten until Neil Armstrong's widow discovered it while going through her recently deceased husband's belongings. Savage borrowed a few elements from the NASA design—the simple shape, the steel closure, and the near-total absence of pigment.

None More White

Yes, the bag is white. It only comes in white, at least for now. It's striking, but it seems impractical for something that's bound to soak up dirt and grime and oil. Savage sells me on it. It will develop a patina, and patinas are cool. Also, you can't find tools at the bottom of a black bag, he says. He certainly didn't want to make something that fell in line with the current fashion trend of "tactical" and "urban camo" that seems to dominate bags and accessories. A white bag stands out as unique. It isn't hyper-masculine like the ubiquitous Cordura messenger. Rather, it's almost feminine, or at least nonbinary.

Savage has been sewing since he was in middle school (he regularly makes his own costumes) but for this project the heavy lifting and stitching was done by Mafia, a company also based in San Francisco that makes a whole line of gorgeous bags primarily out of recycled sailcloth. Mafia has produced a few hundred Savage bags for this first run, and each one gets Mafia's standard lifetime warranty.

The bags are available on Savage's website. Each costs $225. Once the first run sells out, they'll go on backorder until Mafia can catch up. Each one will be hand-numbered for extra collector cred.

So this is a new brand, this Savage Industries. There's more to come, Adam says: a smaller version of this bag and a larger one too, though the big version will still be sized to meet FAA regulations for carry-ons. What else? He wouldn't say, beyond these bags and the accessories that will Velcro into them. Whatever arrives next, I just hope it comes in white.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/savage-industries-bag/

‘Describe yourself like a male author would’ becomes a hilarious Twitter challenge

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/describe-like-male-author-becomes-twitter-thread/

Another Round of 20 Lord of the Rings Facts That You Should Know (Part 3)

Part three of these LotR facts lists. I guarantee you’ll learn something and end up going back to read the books again anyways. 

Part 1

Part 2

Read more: http://cheezburger.com/1660933/another-round-of-20-lord-of-the-rings-facts-that-you-should-know-part-3

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These teachers work up to 6 jobs. Now they’re fed up and ready to walk out

(CNN)Craig Troxell steps precariously across a customer’s roof, marking hail damage from yet another Oklahoma storm. He still smells of the freshly cut grass from the swanky side of town, where he had just mowed lawns to make a few extra dollars.

“Teacher morale gets worse every year,” said Troxell, who also drives a school bus before and after school. “I’ve heard a lot of my (teacher) acquaintances walk away and get a different job. They don’t want to do it anymore.”

    Why Craig Troxell still teaches in Oklahoma

Oklahoma is among the bottom three states for teacher salaries, where educators often work about 10 years before reaching the $40,000 salary mark. And they haven’t gotten a raise from the state in 10 years.
While educators nationwide have seen slight paycheck bumps over the past decade, when adjusted for inflation, teachers have actually lost 3% of their income from 2006 to 2016, according to the National Education Association.
Lawmakers agreed on an average teacher raise of $6,100, $1,250 for support staff and a $50 million increase in education funding — a measure Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Thursday.
But many teachers say it’s not enough. So on Monday, Troxell and thousands of other teachers will walk out — prompting some schools to shut down indefinitely.
    “We’re at the end of the rope,” Troxell said.
    He’s far from alone. Several teachers told CNN they’re working multiple jobs in food delivery, retail, rideshare driving, restaurants and even surrogate pregnancy to pay the bills. Some now rely on a food bank to feed their own children.

    The teacher with six jobs

    Almost every morning, Jonathan Moy’s two daughters ask him the same heartbreaking question:
    “Are we going to see you today?”
    He gets visibly emotional thinking about how many days he tells them no.
    “It’s really tough when your daughters get sad because you tell them you’re not going to see them,” said Moy, 40. “And it almost breaks your heart, because it’s not their fault. It’s not my fault. It’s the situation that we’re in.”
    Moy teaches high school algebra, drives a school bus in the afternoon, coaches football and wrestling, umpires Little League baseball and drives for rideshare services.
    All of that combined, Moy said, brings home about $36,000 a year after taxes.
    “Last night I drove Lyft and Uber for six, seven hours,” Moy said. “When you have to do that to help supplement your income, it’s tough when you don’t get home when your kids go to bed.”
      But he fights off the exhaustion by the time the bell rings at Yukon High School, just west of Oklahoma City. As 32 teenagers fill his classroom, Moy’s demeanor is as cheerful as the yellow and blue lights strung all across his ceiling.
      “Half of teaching is having them just enjoy coming into school,” Moy said. “If you can actually get them to enjoy coming into your classroom with your atmosphere, your jokes or just having a good time, that’s half the battle.”
      When explaining a new algebra concept, Moy draws analogies to jelly beans and tacos. He plays “Hotel California” and “Roll With It” as students practice factoring polynomials.
      Moy’s unorthodox style has paid off.
        “I was looking at your STAR (standardized) test we took,” he told his class of mostly freshmen. “You started the year at a 7th grade level. Now you’re above a 12th.”
        Freshman Zach Ennis said Moy has made algebra easier to learn.
        “I really like him, he’s a really good teacher. He explains stuff really good,” Ennis said.
        Ennis said he supports his teacher walking out next week, even though he might have to make up school days in the summer.
        “It’s kind of sad that he has to do that many jobs,” Ennis said. “He should be able to concentrate just on teaching.”

          What drives Jonathan Moy to stay in education

        Moy said he wants to keep teaching in Oklahoma, where he was born and raised. But he and his wife Kendra, who’s an elementary school teacher, can’t understand why educators in their state are paid so little compared to neighboring Texas and Arkansas.
        “The salary in Fort Worth (Texas) is starting at $51,000 to work at Fort Worth public schools,” Moy said. “In Oklahoma, the starting pay is $31,000. And even if you’ve been teaching 25, 30 years, it’s really tough to get to that level of income as a teacher.”
        Despite their meager incomes, the Moys said they spend a combined $2,000 on their classrooms each year — including crayons and glue sticks for Kendra Moy’s 3rd grade students. At her school, the entire student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch.
          Their 10-year-old daughter Karlie said she wishes her dad could go to more of her basketball and softball games. But she understands why he keeps teaching and working so many jobs.
          “I just want him to do what he likes,” she said. “He’s just trying to help our family out.”

          The teacher who’s also a surrogate mother

          When Allyson Kubat started teaching at Mustang High School, the school had no debate program.
          Just three years after launching one, Kubat’s getting ready to take her undefeated debate team to the most elite tournament this June.
          “We’re going to nationals this year, which is kind of crazy,” said Kubat, 29.
          It will be her final act as a teacher.
          “I decided, as hard as it is, that next year I’m not going to be teaching anymore,” Kubat said.
          She realized the 60 to 90 hours a week she works to support her kids meant that she rarely got to see her kids. The epiphany came when her 9-year-old daughter called her after school one day.
          “She said, ‘Mom, are you coming home today? Or are you going back to work?’ Because I leave work (at the school) and I go to my second job, or my third job, and I don’t get home until she’s in bed or almost in bed.”
          Kubat’s other jobs include event coordinating, food delivery and surrogate motherhood — a venture that puts a significant strain on her body but pays more than her teaching salary of about $33,000.
          “One of my students asked, ‘So what’s your other job?’ Because the kids in this state know that their teachers are not just teachers,” she said. “They know that we have to do something else to survive.”
          Her husband, Clint, is an office manager who doesn’t make much more than his wife’s teaching salary. Before she started her second surrogate pregnancy this week, he said, the couple had already budgeted for that income.
          After this school year, Kubat will become a full-time event planner — a bittersweet move, given how passionately she loves teaching.
          “It is hard to give up what I’ve worked so hard to become,” Kubat said. But she’s tired of sacrificing crucial family time for teaching.
          “It’s time to stop being a martyr.”

          The rookie teacher and waitress

          By 8 a.m., Jennifer Winchester is teaching language arts to 5th graders. By 8 p.m., she’s hoisting trays of enchiladas at a Mexican restaurant.
          As a first-year teacher, Winchester “always understood” she would struggle financially.
          “In college, they would show us the pay increments … from zero to 25 years,” Winchester said.
          She said a guest speaker came into her college class and “literally begged us to stay in Oklahoma,” telling prospective teachers to think of the kids and realize “it’s not their fault.”
          So Winchester pursued her passion, even if it meant moonlighting as a server to help pay the bills.
          “I can remember back in the 4th grade, my teacher told my mom at a parent-teacher conference, ‘If she doesn’t become a teacher, I’ll be very disappointed.’ Even in the classroom, I’d help other students,” Winchester recalled.
          Now, as a professional teacher, she again finds herself going the extra mile for students. Despite her $31,000 teaching salary, she spent about $1,200 getting her classroom in shape for this school year, buying new shelves and books and replacing worn-out desks.
          “I tried to stop tracking those receipts, because it depresses me,” she said.

            Why Jennifer Winchester wants to keep teaching

          Winchester’s long-term goal is to be a high school counselor. But she doesn’t want to take on a master’s degree in counseling until she’s paid off her $23,000 in student loans.
          For now, she’s hoping her nearly 10-year-old car “with as many dents as you can find in it” doesn’t break down, since that could spell financial disaster.
          She fantasizes about owning a slightly nicer car one day.
          “My goal is to have automatic windows and locks,” she said.

          The teacher with 2 degrees and 2 mall jobs

          Shontée Branton has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education. But when she gets to the checkout lane at the grocery store, she has to turn around.
          “In my mind, I’m like, ‘What do I need to put back?’ Because I know I can’t afford all of this,” said the 1st-grade teacher at Epperly Heights Elementary.
          “Maybe I want the strawberries, but I can make it without.”
          Branton, who’s been teaching for nine years, said she makes about $36,000 a year.
          She supplements that by tutoring, teaching summer school and working at Macy’s — both on the retail floor and in the human resources office.
          “Normally, I leave from the school and go straight to Macy’s and clock in,” she said. ‘”There’s times I leave my house at 7 in the morning, and I don’t come home until 10 o’clock at night.”
          That’s when her 3rd-floor apartment looks more like a mountain summit.
          “I literally come home and sit in my car for 30 minutes because I can’t muster the strength to go up the stairs,” she said.
          Branton said she’s thinking about moving to Texas, where a teacher with her experience and education can earn about $20,000 more a year. But she feels a calling to teach in Del City, where she grew up and where all the students at her school qualify for free or reduced lunch.
          “I grew up with a single-parent home; both parents struggled with drug abuse,” she said. “When I see those kids, I see myself. And I had a teacher or two who believed in me.”
          Branton said she’s walking out Monday not just for teachers’ raises, but for another key demand: more funding for education in the state. She said she never wants to teach an overstuffed class of 34 students with only 25 textbooks again.
          “A lot of people are saying we’re walking out on our kids. And that’s been one of the most hurtful things, because we feel like we’re walking for our children,” Branton said.
          “People are expecting us to do a job without the proper resources. And not only is it not fair to educators, it’s not fair to the kids.”

            Why Shontée Branton still teaches

          “It would have to be the kids. I mean, that’s non-negotiable,” Branton said. “Yes, I need more money. I’m tired of working multiple jobs. But in the grand scheme of things, if we educate these kids, then that’s better for society.”
          If neither of those demands are fully met, Branton said, Oklahoma could lose yet another teacher.
          “If it’s not passed, I probably will leave,” she said. “It would be the hardest choice.”

          The state superintendent’s response

          Joy Hofmeister says the teachers’ frustration is justified.
          “Our teachers are right — they have been underpaid,” the state superintendent said. “We know that the frustration is high, that it’s something that comes after a decade-long reduction to public education funding.”

          The Oklahoma teachers’ union wants:

          • $10,000
          • raises for teachers

          • $5,000
          • raises for support staff, such as janitors and cafeteria workers

          • $200 million
          • in education funding

          What just got signed into law:

          • Average teacher raises of $6,100
          • $1,250 raises for support staff
          • $50 million
          • in education funding

          But “the legislature can’t reverse in one bill the cuts that have come over a decade.”
          She said the main reason why it’s been so difficult to increase spending for teachers and education is because in 1992, the state constitution was changed to require a supermajority approval — 75% of the legislature — before taxes could be raised.
          “It’s been 28 years since Oklahoma has raised taxes,” Hofmeister said. “We’ve been operating with the same dollars as 2008, but with more than 50,000 more students.”
          She said it’s “unconscionable” that some teachers work three to six jobs to make ends meet.
          “Our teachers deserve better,” she said. “And that was answered with this historic teacher pay raise. This is an important step forward. But it’s not the only thing that is needed.”

          The food bank that serves teachers

          Lori Decter Wright admits there’s a stereotype about those who rely on food banks. Maybe they work at fast-food restaurants. Maybe they got hit with an unexpected medical bill.
          Then, starting around 2015, she noticed a shocking trend: teachers, including some with master’s degrees, also needed supplies of cereal, beans and canned vegetables.
          “We have teachers near the poverty level,” said Decter Wright, executive director of Kendall Whittier, Inc. — a ministry that runs an emergency food pantry in Tulsa.
          “I really had to start asking the question, ‘What is going on in Oklahoma that full-time, working professional teachers have to rely on services like ours to make ends meet?”
          Michael Turner is one of the teachers who came in to the food pantry, embarrassed that he needed assistance.
          “You’re used to taking care of yourself. No one likes to ask for help, and that’s pretty tough,” said Turner, a recently divorced father of a special needs daughter.
          Turner said he “answered a call to action” when he became a special needs teacher.
          “There was a big push in the state of Oklahoma to hire veterans to teach special ed at the middle school level,” he said.
          “It’s very, very difficult to be a teacher … I knew that it was hard, but teaching today is much more difficult.”
          And when he comes home to his own child, he faces the guilt of seeing a kitchen pantry with empty shelves.
          Turner says he’s grateful for the food bank’s assistance and regrets not reaching out for help months earlier.
          “I always fought the notion that I would be the one asking for services, asking for help,” he said. “I’d much rather be giving it.”

          Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/31/us/oklahoma-teachers-profiles/index.html

          Can Ghostbusters copy Pokmon GOs success with its own AR mobile game?

          You’ll soon be able to trap Ghostbusters ghosts in augmented reality à la Pokémon GO.

          A short demo of the game Ghostbusters World was showcased at Google’s MWC booth, highlighting functionality made possible by the public release of Google’s ARCore augmented reality platform. Details are pretty slim for a wide release date other than it’s “coming 2018.”

          The title will call on ghosts from the franchise’s “films, TV shows, comic books, theme parks, and video games” according to a press release. Ghostbusters is obviously no Pokémon when it comes to the cult following behind it, but the game does seem like it could have some pretty similar gameplay to Pokémon GO when it launches.

          The studio behind the title, South Korea-based publisher FourThirtyThree Inc., has launched a number of popular games, including Blade for Kakao, Monster Super League and Seven Guardians. The studio primarily seems to dabble in RPG-style video games, and early footage makes it seem as though this mechanic will be present in Ghostbusters World. The title was also developed in conjunction with Sony Pictures Entertainment Consumer Products and Ghost Corps.

          For what it’s worth from the short video they’ve shown, it does really showcase what AR can add to the game, and how much more integrated with the environment the game is than past AR titles. Whether the title will embrace the location-based community style that made Pokémon GO a bit of a cultural phenomenon is unclear.

          Though the announcement was made in conjunction with Google, the game will also be coming to iOS. The developers will be making more announcements about the game at next month’s Game Developers Conference.

          Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/02/23/can-ghostbusters-copy-pokemon-gos-success-with-its-own-ar-mobile-game/

          Queen Elizabeth II Formally Blesses Prince Harry & Meghan Markle’s Upcoming Wedding Here’s Everything We Know!

          May 19 can’t come soon enough!!

          Clearly, the royal wedding planners are working around the clock, as new deets about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s nuptials drop every day. Most recently, it was revealed that Queen Elizabeth II gave her formal consent for her “beloved grandson” to marry the Suits actress.

          Related: Meghan Was Kidnapped As Part Of Her Royal Training!

          As Harry is (currently) fifth in line for the throne, he’s required by law to secure the monarch’s permission before wedding anyone. While we knew the approval was coming, as the Windsors are planning and hosting the lavish affair, the British queen only JUST made her consent public.

          In a court circular, the 91-year-old declared:

          “I declare My Consent to a Contract of Matrimony between my Most Dearly Beloved Grandson Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales and Rachel Meghan Markle, which Consent I am causing to be signified under the Great Seal and to be entered in the Books of the Privy Council.”

          YASSSSS. For everything else we know about the royal wedding, be sure to ch-ch-check out the video (above)!!

          Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2018-03-15-queen-elizabeth-ii-blesses-prince-harry-meghan-markle-wedding-everything-we-know-details-video

          This Hit Game Was Created by a 26-Year-Old Who Doesn’t Code

          Japanese frogs are proliferating across Asia. The good news is, they’re not an invasive species, nor are they real.

          Tabi Kaeru, or Travel Frog, became the No. 1 downloaded smartphone app in China for almost two weeks after its debut, and is still hovering at the top of the charts in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. The idea for the game came from Mayuko Uemura, a 26-year-old employee of developer Hit-Point Inc. who has never written a line of computer code.

          The game’s objective is simple: pack a lunch, maybe a tent, plus a few other trip-friendly trinkets for your virtual amphibian and wait for him to come back from his travels with pictures and gifts. If the premise of gathering food and knickknacks while waiting for animals to show up sounds familiar, that’s because it is: Nagoya-based Hit-Point is behind the cat-collecting game Neko Atsume and came up with the latest hit. Both titles share DNA with Tamagotchi, Bandai Namco Holdings Inc.’s handheld virtual pet toy that became a global fad in the 90s and early 2000s.

          Uemura said she was inspired by her passion for travel and the feeling of waiting for a loved one to return from a trip. 

          “We are definitely making people wait, and sometimes I worry because I think: aren’t we making people wait too long?” she said in an interview. “I want to develop games that players can love. I don’t want to develop games where you have to focus too much.”

          Indeed, by no means is the game fast-paced. When the frog is inside his cave-like home, he’s usually scribbling or reading a book. It’s oddly soothing. By collecting clover in the front yard, you can use it to buy food, lanterns and anything else that might help on a long trek. After wandering about for hours or even days, the frog returns with souvenirs and snapshots from his travels. That’s it. The goal is collect more stuff: for the frog to take on trips, as well as the stuff he brings back.

          Even though the game is only available in Japanese, it’s been downloaded more than 30 million times following its November debut (with China making up 95 percent of that), outpacing even Nintendo Co.’s hit title Animal Crossing released around the same time, according to researcher Sensor Tower. By comparison, Neko Atsume has been downloaded 22 million times.

          It’s especially popular among women, according to Daniel Ahmad, an analyst at Niko Partners. Women account for almost half of players in Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s $3 billion hit Honor of Kings. “It shows that there is a huge opportunity to target female gamers in China,” he said.

          While frogs are considered a symbol of fortune and prosperity in China and parts of Asia, Hit-Point isn’t saying how much it’s made from Tabi Kaeru. While there are ads that bring in revenue, users can also purchase additional clover as currency. There’s plenty of potential; Neko Atsume’s popular feline characters are now featured in toys, books and even a movie.

          “I like the attitude it carries: living a simple life, no sophistication at all,” said Chen Jiajia, an accountant at a logistics company. The 29-year-old says she checks in on her frog, named fantuan, or rice ball, a few times a day.

          David OReilly, a game designer whose work appeared in the Spike Jonez film “Her,” said games are evolving beyond button-mashing and puzzle-solving. Tabi Kaeru is a good example of one that strives to calm instead of stimulate. “The internet, games, the screens we look at also need quiet areas,” said OReilly, whose titles Mountain and Everything embody that spirit. “What we think of now as games will change radically in the next 5 to 10 years as more creators enter the space.”

          It still isn’t clear whether Tabi Kaeru will be a hit outside of Asia. It hasn’t generated much buzz in U.S. And while 2014’s Neko Atsume gained popularity in Japan, South Korea, the U.S. and the Netherlands, for now the traveling frog might be limited to crossing just one pond.

            Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-08/26-year-old-woman-who-doesn-t-code-creates-asia-s-hottest-game

            Are Earth’s Magnetic Poles About To Flip, And What Will Happen When They Do?

            There’s a renewed interest right now in Earth’s magnetic poles – specifically, whether or not they’re about to flip, and what may happen. The consequences of this seemingly rapid geomagnetic backflip may sound a little ominous, but don’t worry: we’re not sure when the next reversal will happen, and even when it does, the risks aren’t likely to be as scary as you may think.

            Let’s start with the basics.

            As Earth’s liquid, iron-rich outer core gradually cools, it sloshes around through colossal convection currents, which are also somewhat warped by Earth’s own rotation. Thanks to a quirk of physics known as the dynamo theory, this generates a powerful magnetic field, with a north and south end.

            Although 99 percent of the magnetic energy remains within the core, the slithers that escape extend into space, and spends most of its time deflecting potentially deadly, atmosphere-stripping solar wind.

            Right now, the magnetic north pole is exactly where you suspect it is; the same goes for the magnetic south pole. Both represent locales in which the planet’s magnetic field is vertical, and at which point your compass needle tries to point upwards.

            Throughout geological time, these magnetic poles have switched sides – a phenomenon known as a “geomagnetic reversal”. Although there are several hypotheses that attempt to explain this, geophysicists are still a little unsure as to why it happens. It’s clearly something to do with turbulence and chaos within the metallic outer core, but the specifics haven’t been nailed down yet.

            Either way, the last time a complete reversal happened was 781,000 years ago; dubbed the Brunhes-Matuyama reversal after its discoverers, its path could be traced through volcanic rocks that, upon forming, “froze” a record of the planet’s magnetic field arrangement in place. Prior to this point, today’s magnetic north pole was at the south pole, and vice versa.

            There was a temporary changing of the guard 41,000 years ago, but this only caused a reversal of 250 years or so before “normality” was restored. In any case, over the last 20 million years, the poles have flipped once every 20,000-30,000 years.

            Mars lost much of its atmosphere when its magnetic field collapsed. We aren’t in danger of that, though. JPL/NASA

            NASA is at pains to stress that reversals are the norm, not the exception. They’ve always happened, and always will.

            The current bemusement stems from the fact that we’re 20,000 years or so “overdue” for a reversal, and it’s true that Earth’s magnetic field has been (rapidly) weakening by about 5 percent per decade in recent times – a sign that a reversal is perhaps on its way. This, however, doesn’t mean a flip is “imminent” or “soon” in human lifetimes.

            Even if a flip is approaching, it won’t happen overnight. “Paleomagnetic evidence suggests reversals take around 1,000-5,000 years or so,” Associate Professor Phil Livermore, an expert on Earth’s geomagnetic field at the University of Leeds, told IFLScience.

            Another issue is that the 20,000-year average is pretty uncertain, and this hasn’t held throughout Earth’s history. “In terms of whether we are due for a reversal, it is not possible to say,” Livermore added.

            “Although the strength of the dipole is currently decreasing, this behavior is not anomalous,” based on the geological record. “Previous episodes of decay have not resulted in a reversal, merely a ‘blip’ in the field strength over time.”

            A reversal, or a general weakening of the planet’s magnetic field, does present some potential threats, especially if it gets as low as 10 percent of its total strength before regenerating again.

            Still, the risks are likely not to be severe. During the Brunhes-Matuyama reversal, we know from the fossil record that plant and animal life was just fine. Per NASA, there was no noticeable change in geological activity either, be that seismic, volcanic, or glacial. Earth’s rotation remained steady.

            “The main issue is what might happen to our electrical infrastructure – satellites, power grids, and so on,” Livermore noted. If dangerous space weather brings highly energetic particles along with it quickly and voluminously, they will have a far easier time getting into our atmosphere without a strong magnetic field.

            Satellites within the South Atlantic Anomaly – a notable magnetic field weak spot – are already at a high risk of damage.

            The damage really depends on the severity of the space weather; if it’s severe, and we’re unprepared, it could result in a few major, prolonged blackouts at the surface. Biological life, however, will probably be just fine. Animals relying on magnetoreception to navigate may be a tad bemused for a while, but that’s likely to be it.

            So don’t worry too much. There’s a lot of uncertainty here, but we wouldn’t bet on a surprise apocalypse.

            Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/so-are-earths-magnetic-poles-about-to-flip-or-not/

            8 Scientific Conspiracies That Turned Out To Be True

            The past couple of years have seen the resurgence of the conspiracy theorist, but instead of the foil hat wearing, megaphone-wielding whack job of old, the conspiracy theorist of 2018 sits behind a keyboard and sets up GoFundMe pages raising money to launch homemade rockets.

            Vaccines cause autism. Man-made climate change isn’t real. Nibiru will crash into Earth, wiping out all life. And Stephen Hawking is an imposter. There are plenty to pick and choose from. Recent research has linked this sort of behavior to gullibility and the need to feel special, but conspiracy theorists will tell you this is simply another cover-up.

            There are some occasions, however, when real life is just as strange as fiction. From sinister research programs to health-related cover-ups, here are eight examples from the annals of history that sound so extraordinary they could have been cooked up by a conspiracy theorist.

            The CIA really did experiment with mind control and psychedelics

            The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) crops up in many a conspiracy theory, but its shady reputation is not entirely undeserved. Papers released in the seventies revealed the secret service really had been dabbling in mind control, psychological torture, radiation, and electric shock therapy in a series of studies into behavioral modification known as “Project MK-ULTRA”.

            More than 150 human experiments took place between 1953 and 1964, many of which involved administering drugs to US citizens without their knowledge and consent, and under no medical supervision. The purpose of this research was to develop techniques and substances to use against the Soviet Union and its allies – think truth serums and Bourne-like super agents.

            But things get more sinister. Then CIA Director Richard Helms ordered the destruction of all records relating to MK-ULTRA in 1973, which means there is little evidence of the intelligence services’ nefarious activities around today. We know the research was responsible for at least one hospitalization and two deaths but the true cost could be much higher.

            MK-ULTRA has inspired several Hollywood blockbusters. overturefilms/Youtube

            Politicians and industry leaders purposefully misled the public over the health risks associated with smoking

            Smoking increases your risk of stroke, emphysema, infertility, and a whole host of cancers. But back in the day, Big Tobacco tried all it could to persuade consumers that cigarettes weren’t bad for you. It didn’t stop there. They even tried to convince the public that smoking was healthy. Just take a look at some of the dangerous, not to mention highly sexist, vintage ads from the sixties and earlier.

            Tobacco companies were major lobbyists and generous donors to political campaigns. Essentially, they were able to buy favor with politicians and others in positions of power, meanwhile refuting the science behind the health risks, claiming it was uncertain. It was not until the nineties – at which point, the evidence against smoking was irrefutable – that corporations began to admit there were health risks associated with cigarette smoking.

            And in 2006, after a seven-year-long lawsuit, Judge Gladys E. Kessler found the tobacco companies guilty of conspiracy, having “suppressed research…destroyed documents…manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction”.

            Luckies get the physician’s stamp of approval, apparently. clotho98/Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

            …and sugar

            But it wasn’t just the tobacco companies that were guilty of this kind of malevolent activity. The sugar industry also spent years hiding data and bribing scientists to keep inconvenient research under wraps, all the while advertising Lucky Charms and Kool-Aid on children’s TV.

            In 2016, a paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed the sugar industry had funded research in the sixties underplaying the risks associated with eating the white stuff, instead pointing the finger of blame at fat. According to the article authors, sugar bigwigs have been attempting to control debate around the dangers and merits of sugar and fat consumption for the past five decades.

            For example, a 2011 study made the shocking (and entirely unscientific) claim that children who eat candy weigh less than those that do not. Dig a little deeper and it turns out that the research was funded by the National Confectioner’s Association, a group that represents companies like Hershey and Skittles. Then, in 2015, it was revealed that soda giant Coca-Cola had funded studies linking weight loss to exercise to undermine the important role poor diet plays in obesity.  

            Companies like Coca-Cola have been covering up the health risks associated with sugar for the past 50 years. Physics_joe/Shutterstock

            The US government really did investigate UFOs

            So much for Area 51 being a fiction conceived by conspiracy theorist loons. Last year, the Pentagon confirmed that the US government had been investigating “anomalous aerospace threats”, or what you and I might refer to as UFOs.

            Between 2008 and 2011, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program received close to $22 million, which, admittedly, isn’t exactly a large slice of the Defense Department’s annual budget of $600 billion. Ultimately, the experiment came to nothing and the program was closed down – at least, that’s what official sources are saying.

            Area 51 might not be quite so crazy after all – UFO sighting 1937. Malcolm Dee/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

            …and employed Nazi scientists after WW2

            For those who haven’t seen Doctor Strangelove, the film’s titular character is a former Nazi with a severe case of alien hand syndrome working as a scientific advisor to the US president, who he intermittently referred to as “Mein Fuhrer”.

            The premise seems farfetched but rumor has it he was modeled on Wernher von Braun, who was just one of the 1,600 or so Nazi scientists sent to work in the US following German defeat in World War II. The program, called Operation Paperclip, was exposed in media outlets like the New York Times in 1946.

            Some of these scientists were involved in Project MK-ULTRA. Von Braun, however, was put to work as director of the Development Operations Division of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. He was heavily involved in the moon landing and developed the Jupiter-C rocket used to launch America’s first satellite. Before that, he had been involved in the V-2 rocket program, where he used prisoners from the concentration camps to assist him. Others in the program had similarly dodgy pasts, with some having even been tried at Nuremberg.

            Former Nazi, Wernher von Braun. NASA/Wikimedia Commons

            Water can affect the sex of frogs  sort of

            Alex Jones, the far-right radio host and conspiracy theorist of Infowars fame, claimed chemicals in the water are turning frogs gay. While there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of evidence to back up his “theory” that water is affecting frogs’ sexuality, some studies seem to suggest man-made chemicals do have an effect on a frog’s sex.

            A 2010 paper from the University of California, Berkeley, found that as many as one in 10 male frogs exposed to atrazine, a common pesticide, experience a hormonal imbalance that effectively turns them female. They produce estrogen, mate with males, and even lay eggs. More recently, studies have shown that chemicals found in suburban ponds and road salts can also affect a frog’s sex.

            While the role of man-made chemicals in the environment may be problematic from a reproductive point of view, there is nothing unnatural about animals switching sex. Shrimps, clownfish, coral, and frogs all have the ability to do so. There is also no evidence to suggest that chemicals in the water can affect human sexuality or imply the US government is trying to make children gay with juice boxes, as Jones claims.

            Painted reed frog chilling on a leaf. feathercollector/Shutterstock

            The Public Health Service watched as black men died of syphilis unnecessarily, in the name of science

            Syphilis is a nasty disease that, if not treated, can result in blindness, paralysis, and/or death, and until the discovery of penicillin, there was no cure. Still, that does not excuse the unethical treatment of poor, black men who were recruited to take part in a program to record the natural progress of the disease.

            The “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” began operation in 1932, when 600 men from Macon County, a deprived region of Alabama, were drafted. Of those, 399 had syphilis. The men were misled and told they would receive treatment for “bad blood”, which they did not recieve.

            What’s worse, the researchers continued the experiment after penicillin became the accepted treatment for syphilis in 1945. The experiment, initially projected to last six months, carried on for 40 years. For some reason, doctors decided it was in medicine’s best interest to watch the men die a slow and painful death unnecessarily. The research came to an end in 1972, after The New York Times published a story on the study. During the trial, 28 men died of syphilis, 100 more from related causes, and 40 spouses contracted the disease.

            In the forties, similar experiments took place in Guatemala, where hundreds of men and women were purposefully infected with syphilis.

            Doctor injecting a subject with what is presumably a placebo. US government/Wikimedia Commons

            The US government did poison alcohol supplies, on purpose

            Politicians introduced Prohibition in 1920 to curb the nation’s drinking habit, but speakeasies multiplied and bootlegging (the illegal production and distribution of liquor) was widespread. Apparently, putting something in law is not enough to actually change people’s behavior, so the US government came up with a drastic, far more sinister solution: poison the illegal liquor supply.

            To do this, the government started adding toxins like benzene and mercury to alcohol in the mid-1920s. The most lethal, however, was methanol, otherwise known as wood alcohol, a substance normally found in industrial products like fuel and formaldehyde. Drinking this stuff can cause paralysis, blindness, and even death. In total, it is estimated around 10,000 people died as a result of the government’s moral crusade.

            Ultimately, even poisoning the liquor supply wasn’t enough to dampen the country’s taste for alcohol and the practice died down. Prohibition ended in 1933, but the government adopted a similar tactic in the fight against marijuana use in the 1970s.

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            New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, watches as an officer disposes of (probably poisonous) alcohol during Prohibition. Source unknown/Wikimedia Commons

             

            Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/8-scientific-conspiracies-that-turned-out-to-be-true/

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