Category Archives: History

THE ADULT ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY

Edited By Alex Santiago

As therapist John Woods recently wrote, pornography “is no longer just a private problem. It is a public health problem.”

It’s no secret that adult entertainment is one of the leading industries driving website traffic online. But just how much of this traffic is actually going to porn websites, and what locations is it coming from? We got an inside look alongside SimilarWeb to explore the murky world of online porn consumption. The results may surprise you—and also provide a fresh perspective on how online marketers working in this category maximize their returns.

Pornographic websites are responsible for 4.41% of all desktop visits on the internet worldwide. To put that in perspective, ExtremeTech surveyed usage data pulled from Google’s DoubleClick Ad Planner and discovered that the most popular porn site on the web serves up 4.4 billion page views per month. Reddit, by comparison, clocks in with just 2.8 billion.

The adult entertainment category ranks seventh on the list of leading categories on the internet, falling just below computers and electronics and surpassing a variety of other very strong categories, including games and sports.

Which countries have the most shares of porn sites?

Porn sites are clearly the unhealthy habit of choice for many, as it outranks gambling, beauty and fitness, travel, health, and recreation. The adult entertainment industry is known for driving huge profits, and is in fact twice as large as the online finance industry, in terms of traffic share, as we can see in the chart below.

Adult entertainment percentage desktop worldwide
Countries with biggest share adult entertainment

World average – 4.41%

According to SimilarWeb’s analysis, the top two countries with the highest share of adult websites are Iraq and Egypt, two very socially conservative countries that many wouldn’t have previously thought would factor in the top 10. Rounding out the category are predominantly European nations with the likes of Japan and Peru making up the Asian and South American contingent.

Which countries have the longest sessions, and visit the most pages?

Meanwhile on the list of countries with the longest average session time, East outranks West. Middle-Eastern countries along with those in Asia dominate the top of the rankings. Interestingly, neither the USA, UK nor Canada are ranked on the below chart, suggesting that there is a very lucrative market for adult websites overseas.

Countries longest sessions adult entertainment

World average – 0:03:16

Countries most pageviews adult entertainment

World average – 3.8

Once again Europe is dominating the list—and in terms of highest pages viewed per visit, specifically northern Europe. However, way out in front is Hong Kong, with its nearest Asian neighbor, Singapore, placed in fifth.

Which search engine is used to find porn?

Google is the clear search engine of choice for users looking for porn, with a whopping 83.48% of all adult-site search coming from the brand. Maybe this isn’t too surprising since Google is by far the biggest and most popular search engine, and with adult sites especially, people want a search engine they can trust. However, there have been suggestions that Google’s filtering results are sending more users to Bing.

Traffic source adult entertainment

Fun fact: our data shows that the social media channel driving the most traffic to adult websites is not Facebook as we had expected, but reddit.com. You might be surprised to see that Tumblr is missing from this list, but that’s because the blogging site is built on subdomains, and therefore each subdomain is counted as a separate website. (Analysis can be done on Tumblr alone, but this would warrant its own study.)

Social networks traffic adult entertainment
Top suppliers adult entertainment traffic
Why This Matters

The key takeaway here is that porn sites have absolutely flooded the web. And the more our society becomes sexually saturated, the more porn makers pump out harder and harder material to make sure they stay on the cutting edge.

“Thirty years ago ‘hardcore’ pornography usually meant the explicit depiction of sexual intercourse,” wrote Dr. Norman Doidge, in his recent book on neuroscience, The Brain That Changes Itself. “Now hardcore has evolved and is increasingly dominated by the sadomasochistic themes…all involving scripts fusing sex with hatred and humiliation. Hardcore pornography now explores the world of [violence], while softcore is now what hardcore was a few decades ago… The comparatively tame softcore pictures of yesteryear…now show up on mainstream media all day long, in the pornification of everything, including television, rock videos, soap operas, advertisements, and so on.”

And not only is there more porn to watch, but also there are more ways than ever to watch it. Today, not only do we have high-speed Internet, we’ve got it on tap for devices we have with us 24 hours a day. Families have gone from having one shared computer to often having multiple personal laptops, smartphones, and tablets. It’s now virtually possible to have an Internet-enabled screen in front of our eyes nearly every minute of the day.

As porn’s availability has risen, so have its devastating effects on people, relationships, and society at large. As therapist John Woods recently wrote, pornography “is no longer just a private problem. It is a public health problem.”

THE USA ECONOMY

U.S. Economic Outlook

Edited By Alex Santiago

The economy likely recovered robustly in Q3, after Q2’s unprecedented contraction due to the blow dealt by Covid-19. In September, the unemployment rate dropped 0.5 percentage points from the month prior while non-farm payrolls continued to rise, although they were still down 10.7 million compared to February. This, coupled with consumer confidence hitting a six-month high, likely boosted private spending, as suggested by a jump in auto and clothing sales in the same month. Furthermore, upbeat construction activity and a surge in housing starts in Q3 should have supported residential investment. Meanwhile, Joe Biden and the Democrats are currently leading the polls ahead of the presidential elections on 3 November. Under a Biden administration, economic growth would likely benefit from increased spending on infrastructure and social security, as well as a less disruptive foreign trade policy.

United States Economic Growth

Next year, GDP should rebound on the back of ample monetary and fiscal stimulus and as the impact of the pandemic fades. A lower unemployment rate and rising consumer confidence levels should support household spending next year. U.S.–China trade tensions and renewed lockdown measures are key downside risks to the outlook, however. Focus Economics panelists see GDP growing 3.8% in 2021, which is unchanged from the previous month’s forecast. In 2022, our panel sees the economy expanding 2.9%.

United States Economy Overview

Economic Overview of the United States

Despite facing challenges at the domestic level along with a rapidly transforming global landscape, the U.S. economy is still the largest and most important in the world. The U.S. economy represents about 20% of total global output, and is still larger than that of China. Moreover, according to the IMF, the U.S. has the sixth highest per capita GDP (PPP). The U.S. economy features a highly-developed and technologically-advanced services sector, which accounts for about 80% of its output. The U.S. economy is dominated by services-oriented companies in areas such as technology, financial services, healthcare and retail. Large U.S. corporations also play a major role on the global stage, with more than a fifth of companies on the Fortune Global 500 coming from the United States.

Even though the services sector is the main engine of the economy, the U.S. also has an important manufacturing base, which represents roughly 15% of output. The U.S. is the second largest manufacturer in the world and a leader in higher-value industries such as automobiles, aerospace, machinery, telecommunications and chemicals. Meanwhile, agriculture represents less than 2% of output. However, large amounts of arable land, advanced farming technology and generous government subsidies make the U.S. a net exporter of food and the largest agricultural exporting country in the world.

The U.S. economy maintains its powerhouse status through a combination of characteristics. The country has access to abundant natural resources and a sophisticated physical infrastructure. It also has a large, well-educated and productive workforce. Moreover, the physical and human capital is fully leveraged in a free-market and business-oriented environment. The government and the people of the United States both contribute to this unique economic environment. The government provides political stability, a functional legal system, and a regulatory structure that allow the economy to flourish. The general population, including a diversity of immigrants, brings a solid work ethic, as well as a sense of entrepreneurship and risk taking to the mix. Economic growth in the United States is constantly being driven forward by ongoing innovation, research and development as well as capital investment.

The U.S. economy is currently emerging from a period of considerable turmoil. A mix of factors, including low interest rates, widespread mortgage lending, excessive risk taking in the financial sector, high consumer indebtedness and lax government regulation, led to a major recession that began in 2008. The housing market and several major banks collapsed and the U.S. economy proceeded to contract until the third quarter of 2009 in what was the deepest and longest downturn since the Great Depression. The U.S. government intervened by using USD 700 billion to purchase troubled mortgage-related assets and propping up large floundering corporations in order to stabilize the financial system. It also introduced a stimulus package worth USD 831 billion to be spent across the following 10 years to boost the economy.

The economy has been recovering slowly yet unevenly since the depths of the recession in 2009. The economy has received further support through expansionary monetary policies. This includes not only holding interest rates at the lower bound, but also the unconventional practice of the government buying large amounts of financial assets to increase the money supply and hold down long term interest rates—a practice known as “quantitative easing”.

While the labor market has recovered significantly and employment has returned to pre-crisis levels, there is still widespread debate regarding the health of the U.S. economy. In addition, even though the worst effects of the recession are now fading, the economy still faces a variety of significant challenges going forward. Deteriorating infrastructure, wage stagnation, rising income inequality, elevated pension and medical costs, as well as large current account and government budget deficits, are all issues facing the US economy.

U.S. Economic History

The end of World War II marked the beginning of a golden era for the U.S economy. This period was marked by a surge in economic activity and productivity, a growing and more prosperous middle class, and the rise of the baby boomer generation. From the late 1940s to the early 1970s, U.S. GDP grew at an average annual rate of nearly 4%. By the 1970s, the structural change in the economy away from industry and manufacturing to services was in full force. However, after several decades of unprecedented growth, the economy began to show signs of slowing and a series of events, including the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, the 1973 oil crisis and increased global competition, precipitated important economic changes. The 1970s were marked by a period of stagnating growth and inflation referred to as “stagflation”.

The 1980s gave rise to Reaganomics, a series of economic policies promoted by President Ronald Reagan. The main objectives were reduced government spending and regulation, as well as lower taxes and a tighter money supply. Regan was highly successful in overhauling the tax code and pushing ahead with deregulation in several major sectors of the economy; and while growth and productivity increased, the government’s debt multiplied significantly. In a broader sense, Reaganomics marked a turn toward free-market supply-side economics and away from the Keynsian-inspired economics that had been favored since the Great Depression.

Increasing global integration and the rise of new technology, including the adoption of productivity-enhancing IT in the workplace and the surge of high-tech companies, helped fuel an economic boom in the 1990s. The period between 1993 and 2001 marked the longest sustained expansion in U.S economic history, and powered a steep rise in employment, income and consumer demand.

Moreover, the strong growth and low unemployment during this time were particularly remarkable because the government budget was reigned in simultaneously and actually achieved a surplus for four years between 1998 and 2001. The fiscal improvement was made possible in part by tax increases introduced by President Bill Clinton, but also thanks to the booming economy and surging stock market. The stock market was driven up by the rise of internet-based companies in what is known as the “dot-com bubble”, which generated vast sums of unanticipated revenue for the government on capital gains taxes and rising salaries. However, the overvaluation of dot-com stocks eventually became apparent and the bubble burst in 2000.

The first years of the 2000s saw a sharp drop in economy activity following the dot-com burst. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and several corporate scandals put a further damper on economic activity and business confidence. The Federal Reserve (the Fed), under Alan Greenspan, stepped in to counteract the struggling economy by introducing low interest rates. This move would later be considered a major factor in causing the massive housing market bubble that burst and precipitated the Great Recession that began in 2008.

United States’ Balance of payments

Over the past several decades, the U.S. current account balance has been heavily influenced by international trade flows, with the ongoing trade deficit resulting in a consistent current account deficit. Earnings on U.S. assets and investments owned abroad have a very small part in the current account, and a surplus in this category is not nearly enough to offset the large trade deficit. Overall, the current account deficit implies that the value of the goods and services being purchased from abroad by the United States exceeds the value of the goods and services being sold to foreigners. The U.S. current account deficit widened progressively since the 1990s and reached an all-time record and global high of 5.8% of GDP in 2006. The deficit has since narrowed due in part to increased domestic oil production.

The current account deficit is mirrored by a capital account surplus. The net amount of capital inflows received in the United States from abroad makes it possible to finance the current account deficit. Foreigners continue to invest in U.S. assets and companies, and so the net international investment position of the United States has grown over time. The United States is by far the top recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI). About 80% of FDI in the United States comes from a set of just nine industrialized countries. The UK, Japan and the Netherlands are the top sources of FDI in the U.S. The U.S. manufacturing sector draws about 40% of FDI.

United States’ Trade Structure

The U.S. is the 2nd leading exporter of goods and services in the world and the number one leading importer. The U.S. has consistently run a trade deficit, mainly due to the dependence on foreign oil to meet its energy needs and high domestic demand for consumer goods produced abroad, however thanks to advances in domestic oil production, the energy gap is closing. The main trading partners of the U.S. are Canada, China, Mexico and Japan. Canada is the main destination for U.S. exports, whereas China is the main source of imports.

The U.S. plays a major role in the international trade system and is generally seen as a proponent of reduced trade barriers and free trade agreements. The United States currently has more than a dozen free trade agreements in place. Among them are the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was created in conjunction with Canada and Mexico in 1994. The United States is also an active member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Exports from the United States

Although the United States has lost some of its competitive edge in recent decades, material goods still represent two thirds of its total exports. The United States mainly exports high-value capital goods and manufactured products, including industrial machinery, airplanes, motor vehicles and chemicals. In 2015, the U.S. exported USD 1.510 trillion in goods.

The United States is the world’s leading exporter of services. This includes financial and professional business services as well as other knowledge-intensive services. Travel, transportation and tourism services are also a major export. Services represent about one third of total exports.

Imports to the United States

More 80% of total imports brought to the United States from abroad are goods. Roughly 15% of these imports are in the form crude oil, fuel oil and petroleum products. Industrial machinery, supplies and equipment represent another 15% of imported goods. Almost 25% of imported goods are capital goods, such as computers, computer accessories, electronics, medical equipment, and telecommunications equipment. Consumer goods represent another 25% of imported goods. Cellphones, pharmaceuticals, toys, household equipment, textiles, apparel, televisions, and footwear are the main types of consumer goods imported to the United States. An additional 15% of imported goods are automotive vehicles, parts, and engines. Food and beverages represent only about 5% of imported goods. Services represent only 20% of total imports, and are primarily financial services, as well as travel and transportation.

United States’ Economic Policy

The U.S. government has faced the momentous task of reversing the effects of the recession with a combination of expansionary fiscal and monetary policy. On the fiscal side, government stimulus spending and tax cuts prevented further deterioration of the economy. On the monetary side, the Federal Reserve has tackled economic weakness with both traditional and unconventional policies.

The United States is typically regarded as the home of free-market economic policies. However, the U.S. government exercises a significant amount of regulation over economic, commercial and financial activities. Following the recession, the government stepped up its oversight in the financial sector. The Dodd-Frank act, passed in 2010, represents the most comprehensive reform of financial markets regulation since the Great Depression.

United States’ Fiscal Policy

The U.S. government tends to spend more money than it takes in, and thus has incurred fiscal deficits almost uninterruptedly during the past several decades. The only time when the government managed to balance a budget in recent history was between 1998 and 2001, when the strong economy resulted in higher-than-usual tax revenues. The fiscal deficit reached the highest point since 1945 in 2009 at 9.8% of GDP, but has improved progressively since then; the deficit dropped to 2.4% of GDP in 2015.

The largest portion of government spending is mandated by existing laws, with a large amount of funds allocated to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicaid. Mandatory spending represents nearly 60% of total government spending. The remainder is referred to as discretionary spending, and is determined by the annual federal budget. About half of the discretionary budget is spent on the military and defense, with the other half spent on government programs and public services.

Nearly 50% of tax obtained by the U.S. government comes from income taxes on individuals, with an additional 10% coming from income taxes on businesses and corporations. Another 35% of collections come from payroll and social security taxes. Excise taxes charged on goods such as liquor, tobacco and gasoline bring in a smaller amount, less than 5%. Tax revenues equaled about 18% of GDP on average between 1970 and 2010. Total tax revenues as a percentage of GDP were about 18% in 2015.

The stimulus package introduced by the Obama administration in 2009 included USD 288 billion in tax cuts and incentives. Less than two years later, Obama announced an extension to the tax cuts that had been introduced during the Bush administration at a cost of more than USD 400 billion over two years.

United States’ Monetary Policy

The U.S. Congress has established that the monetary policy objectives of the Federal Reserve are to promote maximum employment and price stability in what is known as the “dual mandate”. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the Fed’s monetary policymaking body. The FOMC meets about eight times a year to discuss developments and the outlook for the U.S. economy and to debate different policy options, including the level of interest rates. The federal funds rate, the main interest rate managed by the Fed, is the rate which deposit banks charge each other to trade funds overnight in order to maintain reserve balance requirements. The federal funds rate is one of the most important in the U.S. economy because it influences all other short term interest rates.

During the years since the recession hit, the Fed has been very active.. Interest rates were initially supposed to be kept low only until the unemployment rate dropped to 6.5% or inflation surpassed 2.5%. However, this specific forward guidance was revamped in March 2014 when the Fed announced that any future decisions to hike interest rates no longer depended on previously-established quantitative thresholds, but rather on the assessment of a broad range of more qualitative information. In an additional response to counter the effects of the recession, in December 2012, the Fed announced an unconventional policy known as “quantitative easing”. This policy involves the purchase of vast sums of financial assets in an attempt to increase the money supply and hold down long-term interest rates.

United States’ Exchange Rate Policy

The U.S. dollar is often referred to as the world’s currency because it is by far the most used currency in international transactions and also the most widely held reserve currency. Almost two thirds of currency reserves held throughout the world are in U.S. dollars.

Although the Treasury Department has the primary authority to oversee international financial issues, the Treasury’s decisions regarding foreign exchange are made in consultation with the Federal Reserve. However, U.S. intervention in the foreign exchange market has become increasingly less frequent. U.S. authorities typically let the open foreign exchange market and domestic monetary policies determine rates.

ten famous mysteries solved

Explaining the unexplained: 10 famous mysteries solved

Author Rebecca Northfield

Edited By Alex Santiago

The most famous supernatural phenomena can be explained by science. Or can it? Well, yes, it can.

Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

This picture captures one of the most famous ghosts in Great Britain, the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall. Or does it?

It has been said the Brown Lady haunts Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. She is supposedly the ghost of Lady Dorothy Walpole (1686-1726), sister of Robert Walpole, who is regarded as Britain’s first Prime Minister.

The image was taken by Captain Hubert C Provand, a London-based photographer working for Country Life magazine, and his assistant, Indre Shira. They were taking photographs of Raynham Hall for an article, and had just taken a shot of the Hall’s main staircase.

Allegedly, Shira saw “a vapoury form gradually assuming the appearance of a woman” coming down the stairs, and the duo snapped a picture under his instruction. The later negative showed the ‘Brown Lady’, which was published in Country Life in 1936, along with Shira and Provand’s written account of events.

Critics claimed Shira put a greasy substance on the lens to create the figure, or moved down the stairs during an exposure. There is also a theory of double exposure upon detailed examination, as well as one picture being superimposed over the other due to a patch of reflected light at the top of the right hand banister appearing twice.

The magician John Booth said the ‘Brown Lady’ could be duplicated by natural methods. By covering fellow magician Ron Wilson with a bed sheet – like a last minute Halloween costume – and instructing him to walk down a staircase, the faked image looked very similar to the Lady.

It is also said the ‘Brown Lady’ closely resembles a standard Virgin Mary statue that is found in a Catholic church.

The public were bamboozled by cheap camera trickery. Good effort, though.

Bermuda Triangle

The infamous region of the Atlantic Ocean, which earned its reputation due to claims of planes and ships disappearing between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Miami, Florida without a trace, turned out to be not as scary as it seemed.

Bermuda triangle

In 1975, Larry Kusche, a research librarian at Arizona State University, found some disappearance claims were either exaggerated or wholly false. Additionally, the Bermuda Triangle doesn’t actually have an unusual number of shipwrecks or plane crashes when compared to any other areas that experience similar traffic. To explain the mysterious absence of wreckages, the strong current of the Gulf Stream is powerful enough to wash away any evidence of destroyed ships and planes.

Coast Guard records also proved that many disappearances were down to human error, boat failure and other natural sea-based problems. Also, it would be strange for there not to be vanishings due to the colossal size of the triangle.

Stonehenge

Ah, some stacked, Neolithic stones. Wonder what this could be?

Stonehenge is a circle of old stones in Wiltshire, England. Carbon dating makes it between 4,000 to 5,000 years old, so it puzzled many when you look at how advanced the architecture is, given what kind of tech was available back in the day.

Slave labour and even alien activity populated the theories about how the mysterious rocky collection came to be.

We may never know what the structure was used for, but to disprove the notion that its construction was somehow magical, Michigan carpenter Wally Wallington built a Stonehenge replica in his garden, on his own, using only what was available to humans back then. This proved at least the possibility that the celebrated stone circle was pretty much a doddle for even an ancient group of builders if they were tech-​savvy enough.

Sailing stones in Death Valley

At California’s Death Valley there are hundreds of trails from large, rough blocks of rock in the aptly-named Racetrack Playa. It clearly means the stones are moving, but nobody pushes them, and no one has seen them move. Ooooh.

Supernatural theories for the phenomenon include the rocks being remains of a UFO crash, mysterious ‘unseen hands’ that move the rocks, or magnetic fields of some kind.

So what was the best way to figure out how these creepy rocks were moving? Fit them with GPS units, use time-lapse cameras and study the weather, obviously.

Scientists figured out that although Death Valley is blisteringly hot in the summer – its highest recorded temperature stands at 56.7°C – during the mild winter, rain collects to form a shallow lake, which subsequently freezes into thin sheets when the temperatures drop at night.

In the morning, the sun warms the ice, which breaks into small plates. If a plate is under a rock – which can weigh over 300kg – wind and flowing water slowly pushes it. A rock can move 224m in the winter, leaving a trail in the mud.

Flying rods

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s probably a moth.

In photographic and video recordings around the world, a strange solar entity – lines of light dashing across the sky – would sometimes occur, with no clear reason why. A common interpretation of these rods was – you guessed it – an incident of the paranormal, or tiny alien life forms. Adorable, right?

Jose Escamilla is a spokesperson for the rod aliens, as he claimed to be the first to film them back in 1994. The location? Roswell, New Mexico, no less. This guy has gone on to lecture on the subject, as well as make more videos of the tiny ‘aliens’. So it must be true?

Alas, this totally plausible theory wasn’t paranormal. It was, well, normal.

Tonghua Zhenguo Pharmaceutical Company in Jilin Province, China, thought Escamilla’s claims were poppycock. With huge nets and surveillance cameras, they captured the spooky rods doing their thing. When they checked the nets, there were no aliens. Just moths and other flying critters.
The rods were actually motion blur – ‘afterimage’ traces of bugs and wingbeats – caught on camera. It’s an optical illusion, and is more likely to occur in interlaced video, where slower recording speed makes moths look like aliens.

Ley lines

A weird connect-the-dots moment occurred in 1921, when archaeologist Alfred Watkins noticed that many ancient sites seemed to line up in a too-straight-to-be-a-coincidence way. He called them ‘leys’, and later, ‘ley lines’.

This sort of finding doesn’t go unnoticed by believers in the supernatural. They think where the leys intersect there are pockets of concentrated energy: deep and mythical power which can be harnessed. There’s one line, from Ireland to Israel, that connects seven locations linked to St Michael.

Sadly though, it all seems to be bogus, and the lines pass through the sites by chance. Watkins himself believed ancient Britons used landscape features as navigation points.

The Nazca Lines of Peru

Discovered in the 1930s (when we could finally fly high enough), the Nazca Lines are massive white geoglyphs – some being 275m across – made from shallow lines dug into the ground. The whole area is about 190 square miles (500km²). They are thought to have religious significance to the Nazca culture.

Given that aeroplanes are thought to have been in short supply between 500 B.C.E. and 500 C.E., how could the Nazca people see what they were doing?

Author Jim Woodman thought it could have been done by using a basic hot air balloon and shouting directions to the diggers below. To test the theory, Woodman made a functioning balloon with materials they would have had back then. The only problem is there is no proof the Nazca people even knew what a balloon was. Popped that theory.

However, wooden stakes at the site, carbon-dated to the Nazca period, have given researchers a hunch that people at the time may have drawn long ropes between stakes to make the lines. So Dr Joe Nickell and three assistants – including an 11-year-old – used the method to make a giant bird. And it only took them a few hours.

Mystery solved.

Ball lightning

Ball lightning is a potentially dangerous atmospheric electrical phenomenon. It’s reported as looking luminous and spherical, and can vary in diameter – from pea-sized to several metres long.

Ball lightning doesn’t happen very often, so it hasn’t been recorded under natural conditions.

It is said to occur during thunderstorms, but it lasts a good deal longer than your usual split-second lightning. Early reports noted that the ball explodes and leaves a sulphurous odour.

I know we’re all about explaining the unexplained here, but the cause of ball lightning remains unclear; scientists can only really theorise about how these little devil balls are created.

The best explanation comes from a team of Brazilian scientists back in 2007. They passed large amounts of electricity through a silicon wafer, which created a vapour. When it cooled, the vapour condensed into an aerosol which glowed when recombined with oxygen, leading to little balls of electricity bouncing around like jumping beans. Because of this, the Brazilian scientists reckon the ball lightning phenomenon occurs when bog-standard lightning strikes quartz-or-silica-rich ground – like sand. The theory has gained such traction that other scientists are rumoured to have agreed. Shocking.

Spontaneous human combustion

Have you ever been so angry that you feel like you’re going to burst into flames? Well, these people look very much as if they did. Spontaneous human combustion was first described in the 1600s: someone would burn to death without an obvious source, the head and trunk being reduced to ash. All that would remain would be the leg or legs, poking out from the remains. Quite horrific.

However, investigation into this frightening phenomenon has shown that exploding fiery humans combusting into dust was actually widely exaggerated.

People are, it turns out, mostly made of water, so the likelihood of us actually randomly bursting into flames is negligible. If you look at images of supposed spontaneous combustion, victims were often near a source of flame, like a fireplace. One further explanation would be the person’s clothing being set on fire by a candle or cigarette. Old age or physical condition justified why the victim couldn’t put out the fire or move away from it. Clothing acts as a sort of wick and when the skin breaks, fat from the body is fuel to prolong the burning. How pleasant.

Corpse candles

The name is a bit gross to begin with. Rather like spontaneous human combustion, but more manufactured.

It’s not how it sounds, though.

Back in the day, when you were transporting your dead loved one to the cemetery across the gloomy marshes, a flame or ball of light would float just above the Earth, seeming to travel with you to and from the burial ground. This was aptly named the corpse candle, following you in your time of deepest grief.

Mystery and folklore surrounded this strange occurrence – many associated the corpse candle with pesky spirits of the dead, or other supernatural wanderers like stillborn and unbaptised babies that were in limbo between heaven and hell. How depressing.

Science has determined that the creepy corpse candles were in fact luminescent barn owls that had fungus growing on them, or, more likely, methane gas made by rotting organic material, which is usually found in swamps and marshes. The gas can produce a low-temperature ‘flame’ through chemiluminescence.

So instead of seeing an attentive spirit, you’d be witnessing the Earth doing a glow-in-the-dark fart. You’re welcome.

SECRET WEAPONS OF THE UNITED STATES

10 Alleged Secret Weapons Of The US Military

Samuel Popejoy Author

Edited By Alex Santiago

The art of war has evolved dramatically with the advent of contemporary technologies. One thing about war, however, hasn’t changed. To win a war, it’s still essential to keep the true strength of your forces and the extent of your arsenal hidden from your opponent. The most important military secrets are only disclosed to the select few who can be trusted to carry out the mission.

For this reason, the US government can’t divulge complete information about its tools and tactics for the national defense to the people it is sworn to serve. So there must be at least some instances when weapons of war have been developed and deployed without the knowledge of the American populace (or the rest of the world).

But what if the opponent of the military-industrial complex, having acquired unwarranted influence, became its own people? What fantastic secrets of kinetic, psychological, biological, and energetic warfare might then be hidden well below the surface of public knowledge?

At least some aspects of the existence and operational parameters of the following 10 weapons have made their way into general awareness. Yet their development begs the question: What other tools of death and destruction might be lurking in the shadows, utterly obscured from the public eye?

10 Directed Energy Weapons

Directed Energy: The Time for Laser Weapon Systems has Come

The Greek mathematician Archimedes may have made history over 2,000 years ago as the first person to ever use a directed energy weapon. According to a mysterious legend, during the Roman invasion of Syracuse, Archimedes rapidly constructed a hexagonal mirror when the Roman admiral Marcellus moved his ships out of the range of bowshot.

Archimedes was apparently able to capture the energy of the Sun and reflect it onto the ships, setting them ablaze and causing them to sink within minutes. MIT students were able to recreate this effect in 2005 but noted that their mirror was only capable of effectively burning a stationary target.

Though scientific knowledge has advanced a great deal since the days of Archimedes, the underlying theoretical principles of directed energy weapon (DEW) technology remain the same. A DEW inflicts damage from a distance by firing an intensely concentrated beam of energy toward a target.

Different types of DEWs fire different types of energy, but the most popularized form of directed energy weapon in use today is the high energy laser (HEL). These DEWs are just like the lasers seen in science fiction movies. They fire a soundless beam of energy, invisible at certain frequencies, that can incinerate a target from hundreds of miles away.

HELs have been developed by contractors like Lockheed Martin for use in missile defense and space war, but some believe that these weapons might have been designed with much more sinister purposes in mind.

During the Thomas Fire that ravaged California in December 2017, many witnesses and researchers noted property damage that seemingly defied every preconceived notion of how a wildfire should behave. Though wildfires use foliage to spread, entire blocks of houses burned to the ground while the surrounding trees remained untouched.

Though no official explanation of this anomalous phenomenon is forthcoming, multiple witnesses across California recorded video of beams of light coming down from the sky as the blaze spread across the state. Given the fact that HELs are commonly mounted on the nose cones of planes, some have concluded that the mayhem wreaked by the Thomas Fire was boosted with directed energy weaponry.

9 Long Range Acoustic Devices

USA: Sound cannon blasts curfew defiant protesters in Ferguson

A new type of crowd control weapon came to the fore during the Ferguson, Missouri, protests of 2014. As an active demonstration of the newfound capabilities of an increasingly militarized American police state, countermeasures employed by the Ferguson Police Department to quell civil unrest included the use of LRAD sound cannons.

Capable of projecting voice commands over a distance of 5.5 miles (9 kilometers), a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) inflicts grievous bodily pain upon anyone within 330 feet (100 meters) of its sound path. LRAD manufacturers are careful to call their products “devices” rather than “weapons” for public relations reasons, but anyone who has endured the effects of an LRAD is well aware of the difference between the truth and the spin.

Just ask the US diplomats stationed in Cuba who recently started losing their hearing. Soon after the detente between the United States and Cuba that transpired in 2015, diplomats deployed to the newly reopened US embassy on this Caribbean island nation started reporting a sudden and permanent loss of hearing.

US investigators concluded that the diplomats had been hit with an advanced and unnamed acoustic device that doesn’t make any audible sound but causes irreparable damage to the ears and brain of anyone in its path. This incident was considered so serious that the United States expelled two Cuban diplomats from their embassy in Washington.

However, the exact nature of this LRAD-like device and the identity of the agents responsible for its use on American officials are still unknown. If a sonic weapon was indeed used on US diplomats in Cuba, this would be an unprecedented incident in the history of international relations.

8 Low-Frequency Microwave Mind Control

Microwaves suspected in attacks on US diplomats in Cuba and China

The apparent sonic attacks on the US embassy in Cuba rekindled decades-old fears about a different kind of secret weapon. In 1965, at the height of the Cold War, the Pentagon discovered that the Soviets were blasting the US embassy in Moscow with extremely low-frequency (ELF) microwave radiation.

While far too weak to cook anything, it was determined that the so-called Soviet Signal carried the possibility of affecting the health or altering the behavior of the embassy staff. Instead of doing anything to stop it, the Pentagon decided to study the potential effects of the signal and attempt to mimic them back home.

DARPA, then a freshly-minted branch of the Department of Defense, subsequently founded an initiative called Project Pandora and began researching the effects of ELF microwave radiation on primate subjects. Though the results were inconclusive, project leader Richard Cesaro remained convinced until Pandora’s disbanding in 1969 that ELF radiation posed a serious threat to the national security of the United States.

The Pentagon never figured out what the Soviets were up to at the American embassy and opted to solve the situation by wrapping the embassy in a building’s equivalent of a tinfoil hat: An aluminum screen was erected to surround the perimeter of the complex.

Though DARPA may have closed the case on ELF radiation in 1969, studies have since indicated that low-frequency microwave and radio waves may indeed have a deleterious effect on the human body. It’s even been demonstrated that the signals emitted and received from cell phones have an effect on the functioning of the mind that frequently shows itself in the disruption of natural sleep cycles.

Today’s world is absolutely saturated by invisible signals that keep us connected and informed. But how much do we truly know about this all-pervasive radiation and how it might be affecting our health and even our thoughts?

7 Heart Attack Guns

SYND 7 9 75 CIA DIRECTOR WILLIAM COLBY BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEE

In the wake of the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s, Democratic Senator Frank Church led a committee dedicated to getting to the bottom of any actions perpetrated by the CIA that may have violated the charter of this secretive intelligence agency. It was believed that the CIA had accrued undue unilateral power under the pretext of the Cold War, and the Church Committee was assembled to expose this nefarious plot to the American people.

Though history shows us that the attempts of the Church Committee to curb the totalitarian zeal of the CIA were all but ineffective in the long run, a few interesting findings were uncovered during the course of this 1975 investigation. One such discovery was the so-called “Heart Attack Gun,” a modified pistol that was capable of delivering a nearly undetectable but absolutely lethal dose of shellfish toxin into the body of a distant target.

The darts fired by this soundless gun would theoretically leave a pinprick no larger than a mosquito bite and dissolve almost instantly into the tissues of the body after delivering a payload so poisonous that the target would be almost guaranteed to have a heart attack within moments. It’s unknown whether or not the “Heart Attack Gun” was ever used, but for all we know, it could still actively be in use today.

6 Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munitions

Explosively Formed Penetrators | Combat Tech

In Arthur C. Clarke’s book Earthlight, the legendary science fiction author of the 20th century conceives of a futuristic weapon that uses electromagnetism to propel a jet of molten metal miles into space, spearing and destroying an attacking battleship. This type of armor-piercing weapon isn’t entirely unheard of. Since World War II, various arms manufacturers have supplied combatants with tools of war called self-forging penetrators (SFPs).

Making use of a chemical explosion and a metal liner, SFPs propel themselves at an armored vehicle and then change their shape to penetrate the target. However, conventional SFPs are inefficient and hard to use, giving rise to the demand for a more effective armor penetration weapon.

DARPA has developed a specialized projectile to fit this niche called the Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition (MAHEM). Using electromagnetism to form and direct a sustained jet of molten metal at an armored target, MAHEM is much more adaptable than a conventional SFP and closely resembles the fictional weapon featured in Earthlight.

Beyond these basic details, not much is known about this secretive military project. However, China’s Nanjing University of Science and Technology has apparently reverse engineered MAHEM for its own purposes.

As with many other aspects of the shadowy war for global supremacy currently being waged between the superpowers of the East and West, the full details surrounding the development and deployment of this fearsome weapon may never fully filter their way into the public awareness.

5 Biological Weaponry

Between 1949 and 1969, the United States military tested biological weapons on its own people without their knowledge or consent. One such experiment occurred in 1950 when a US Navy ship sprayed billions of tiny microbes into the atmosphere over San Francisco, causing a massive upsurge in illness and potentially killing one resident.

Another took place in the subway system under New York City in 1966 when researchers dropped light bulbs filled with bacteria onto the tracks to test how far the motion of a train would carry these potentially deadly pathogens. Still other experiments consisted of engulfing entire cities in a cloud of zinc cadmium sulfide under the pretext of providing a smoke screen to hide the population in the event of the outbreak of nuclear war.

The military tells us that all this was done to learn how to better protect us from foreign adversaries, but many wonder whether the benefits of such reckless experimentation truly outweigh the costs.

However, dangerous pathogens released into the atmosphere might be the least of the biological threats to which the American people have been exposed by their government. In 2016, DNI director James Clapper expressed his concerns that gene editing technology might become a weapon of mass destruction if it fell into the wrong hands.

The science of gene editing has proliferated throughout the modern world, seemingly with little to no thought given to the potentially disastrous ramifications of tinkering around with the genetic structure of the biosphere.

While naturally occurring pathogens are bad enough, genetic engineering has given rise to the potential existence of secretly developed biological weapons that could wipe out entire national populations practically overnight. But microbes given superpowers by mad scientists might actually pose less of a danger than other types of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that have been let loose among an unwitting populace.

In 2013, a group of around 300 scientists formally rejected the premise that there is a scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs for human consumption. This statement led numerous restaurant and grocery chains such as Chipotle and Trader Joe’s to outright ban GMOs from their kitchens and shelves.

Yet agribusiness corporations continue to alter the genetic code of vital crops like corn and soybeans under the protection of an army of scientific publications and news outlets that repeatedly assure their audiences that GMOs pose no threat to the human body or to the biosphere.

Agribusiness giants like Monsanto are heavily subsidized by the United States government. If GMOs truly are detrimental to human health, the unending spread of these unnatural organisms could be serving as a covert continuation of the government’s deadly habit of exposing its people to biological weapons.

4 Subliminal Messaging

It’s been well established that subliminal messaging is used extensively in advertising. This type of marketing usually exploits the baser urges of the populace to influence them to buy a product or service. But what if the same principles used in subliminal advertising are also being used by the United States intelligence community for the purposes of espionage or even mind control?

A formerly secret CIA document titled “The Operational Potential of Subliminal Perception” describes in precise detail the prescribed methodology for gaming the principles of subliminal perception to persuade someone to do something that they usually wouldn’t do.

While the author of the document ultimately concludes that the operational effectiveness of subliminal perception is “extremely limited,” the CIA is widely known for its knack for operating within the strictures of extreme limits and still accomplishing its clandestine objectives with flying colors.

3 Flying Aircraft Carriers

Gremlins: Airborne Launch & Recovery of Unmanned Aerial Systems

In the late 1920s, the United States Navy began exploring the tactical potential of airborne aircraft carriers. Two zeppelin-style airships were constructed, the USS Akron and the USS Macon, both of which carried a crew of 60 men and were capable of deploying and recovering Sparrow hawk fighter planes in flight. However, both Navy flying aircraft carriers met unfortunate ends and their remains now rest at the bottom of the ocean.

Recently, however, rumors have surfaced of DARPA’s plans to reopen this chapter of American history and initiate another attempt to develop airborne aircraft carriers for military use. This time, these proposed sentinels of the skies would carry drones instead of manned warplanes. Called the “Gremlins” program, this audacious DARPA initiative would consist of modified C-130 air transports loaded with stealthy drones capable of penetrating enemy defenses undetected.

Given DARPA’s reputation for suddenly announcing the planning stages of already-completed projects as soon as their cover might be blown, it’s reasonable to wonder whether there might already be “Gremlins” flying over our heads. If the fanciful testimony of supposed secret space program insiders like Corey Goode is to be believed, there may even be Avengers-style Air Force “Helicarriers” patrolling the skies now, rendered undetectable by advanced cloaking technology.

2 Project Thor

‘Rods from God’ Weapon System Gets Another Look

Potentially overshadowing the MOAB as the most lethal non-nuclear weapon in the United States’ arsenal, Project Thor is a technology designed by Jerry Pournelle in the 1950s that would obliterate enemies with bolts from above.

Colloquially termed “rods from God,” this type of Kinetic Energy Penetrator (KEP) would theoretically consist of a pair of satellites. One serves as a targeting hub, and the other is equipped with 6-meter-long (20 ft) tungsten rods that would be dropped on a target from orbit. Capable of penetrating hundreds of feet into the Earth’s crust, these thunderbolts from Thor would produce damage equivalent to a nuclear blast without the fallout.

Though the cost of delivering such rods into orbit is seen as prohibitive, reopening the Project Thor initiative was seriously considered as recently as the George W. Bush administration. With $21 trillion supposedly appropriated without authorization by the Department of Defense and a few other agencies, it’s hard to know what potentially cost-prohibitive theoretical projects the United States government might be silently making into reality without the knowledge or consent of its people.

1 HAARP

Behind the gates of HAARP Alaska ~ Are the conspiracies real?

Hugo Chavez brought international attention to the HAARP facility in Alaska when he accused the United States Air Force of using this high-frequency transmitter array to trigger the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Until this point, casting aspersions on this United States Air Force research station was a faux pas committed by only the looniest of tinfoil hatters.

Theories about the darker side of HAARP were supposedly put to rest when the Air Force announced that this ionospheric research complex would be closing its doors in 2014. But the speculation was kindled back into flame when HAARP was reopened in 2017 by the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).

Admittedly, it probably wasn’t a good choice from a PR perspective on the part of UAF to pick the artificially induced manifestation of a weather phenomenon as their first experiment. When HAARP’s new custodians announced their plans to create a version of the aurora borealis that was invisible to the naked eye in the skies over Alaska, many took this as confirmation of this controversial research station’s weather-manipulating abilities.

Although the HAARP program has been repeatedly accused of manipulating the weather and broadcasting mind control signals, none of these claims have been clearly demonstrated to be either true or false so far.

Samuel is a freelance writer and inquirer into the unknown. By rejecting the authority of conventional belief systems while grounding his perspectives in the core of human experience, he manifests content that dissolves barriers between perception and comprehension. Follow Samuel on Twitter.