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A Map of the United Monsters of America
One corner of the animal kingdom is immune from extinction: the monsters that thrive in our imagination (and on this map).
The natural world is losing up to 2,000 species a year, and that's a low estimate. Fortunately, one corner of the animal kingdom is immune from extinction: the monsters that thrive in our imagination. This map unites America's most famous cryptids on one map, from Caddy, a Northwestern sea serpent, over Nebraska's Alkali Lake monster to the skunk apes of Southern Florida.
There's a whole discipline dedicated to the study of beasts unknown to science: cryptozoology, literally 'the study of hidden animals'. Although frowned upon by mainstream science, some of these 'hidden animals' have actually been proven to exist. The giraffe-like okapi of Central Africa was confirmed only in 1901. Indonesia's komodo dragon seemed too fantastical to be true until 1912, when its existence finally could be documented. These two species share the questionable distinction of having their existence threatened (by us) so soon after being discovered (by us).
Until science discovers evidence for the Loch Ness monster, the Himalayan yeti or any of their fellow cryptids (i.e. 'hidden creatures'), these monsters will have the good fortune to be as uncountable as they are unaccounted for, free to roam and multiply in our campfire stories and our folklore. The United States has quite a few of these cryptids, some famous, like the Mothman or the Chupacabra, some perhaps only known (and feared) locally, like the Beast of Busco or the Pope Lick Monster.
As shown on the map, which brings them together for the first time, most cryptids are concentrated in the eastern third of the US. Perhaps not surprising: that's where most people live, thus presumable also an agreeable environment for monsters (as notable for their attention-seeking as for their camera-shyness). Further west, monsterdom is spread more thinly, with just 15 out of 32 cryptids mentioned on the map occurring in the two thirds of the land mass west of the Mississippi. So, which are America's favourite monsters?
1. Alkali Lake Monster
A 40-feet horned reptile said to inhabit Nebraska's Walgren Lake (formerly Alkali Lake). Favorite treat: livestock and fishermen. Stinks to high heaven. More at American Monsters.
A 30-foot creature navigating the mount of Georgia's Altamaha River with seal-like movements, blending in to its surroundings thanks to its green skin. A.k.a.: Altie. Possible footage of the monster here.
Although the person who first reported the Monster of Bear Lake, on the Utah-Idaho border, later admitted it was a “wonderful, first-class lie", his tall tale has continued to generate numerous sightings, turning the 30-foot 'water devil' into a modest tourist attraction. More at American Folklore.
4. Beast of Busco
In 1949, inhabitants of Churubusco, Indiana reported seeing a giant snapping turtle which, despite a month-long turtle-hunt, managed to evade its pursuers. The town now boasts a statue of 'Oscar the Turtle', and annual Turtle Days, held in June. More at Unknown Explorers.
Loch Ness has Nessie, Lake Erie has... Bessie. Snake-like and between 30 and 40 feet, Bessie was first sighted as far back as 1793. A.k.a.: South Bay Bessie. Has its own comic book series.
Perhaps North America's most famous cryptid, this large, hairy apeman is said to inhabit the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Bigfoot (a.k.a.: Sasquatch) has left an aptly large imprint on American popular culture, figuring in countless TV series, movies and even a musical. The famous picture, claimed by some to show a genuine Bigfoot, by others a man in a gorilla suit, can be seen here.
7. Big Bird
A giant, ape-faced bird that terrorized the Rio Grande Valley. First spotted in 1976, it has blood-red eyes and a 12-feet wingspan. After a few months, the monster disappeared as mysteriously as it had emerged. Could it have been a jabiru, a Central American stork, as claimed by the Brownsville Herald?
Named after Cadboro Bay in British Colombia, Caddie is a sea monster said to frequent the coasts of Washington and Oregon. A.k.a.: Cadborosaurus willsi. More at The Cryptid Zoo.
Maine and Oregon both have a Portland, and also a sea monster. The Pine Tree State's Casco Bay is home to Cassie. Sea serpents were reported in the area as early as 1751, but have tailed off in the last couple of decades, says Maine Mysteries.
Chesapeake Bay has its own sea monster – unavoidably called Chessie. Reportedly 25 to 40 feet long, it was sighted most often between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, and as recently as 2014. Ranked #8 scariest sea serpent by Animal Planet.
The champion among American lake monsters, Champ's habitat is Lake Champlain on the New York/Vermont border. As with many monsters, the numerous contemporary sightings are supported by Native American traditions – in this case, the local Abenaki tribe's stories about a creature called Tatoskok. Last year, the Daily Mail reported on audio recordings presented as evidence of Champ's existence.
The original sighting of the Chupacabra (Spanish for 'goat-sucker') was in the mid-1990s in Puerto Rico, and apparently influenced by a creature in the sci-fi movie Species. A rash of sightings (and mutilated goats) in northern Mexico and the southern US has been linked to mangy dogs. Yet the legend lives on, reports the Huffington Post.
13. Flathead Lake Monster
The Flathead Lake Monster is that Montana Lake's version of Nessie. Strangely, nobody thought of calling it Flessie. More at NBC Montana.
14. Honey Island Swamp Monster
Seven feet tall, with gray hair, red eyes and a foul smell, the Monster of Honey Island Swamp, Louisiana is a hominid cryptid seen since 1963 (but also linked to older Native American myths).
16. Jersey Devil
Winged and hoofed, the Jersey Devil would probably look like a devil, if it could be coaxed out of its lair in New Jersey's Pine Barrens. More info (and t-shirts) here.
Or the Hudson River Monster. Could also be an unusually large (and very lost) manatee. See also Cryptid Wiki.
20. Loveland Frogmen
Humanoid frogs about 4 feet tall, first sighted in Loveland, Ohio, and from 2014 stars of their own musical, named Hot Damn! It's the Loveland Frog! More at Who Forted?
21. Mogollon Monster
A Bigfoot-like creature sighted along the Mogollon Rim in central and eastern Arizona. No attested sightings confirm its existence, but the monster does have its own website.
'Couples See Man-Sized Bird...Creature...Something', titled the Point Pleasant Register on 16 November 1966. The sightings continued for just over a year, popularized by the book The Mothman Prophecies (1975), turned into a 2002 movie starring Richard Gere.
Is Paddler a real monster in Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho, or is it just a cover story for secret Navy submarine tests? More on Cryptomundo.
A three-foot humanoid from Wampanoag (Massachusetts) folklore, with enlarged noses, fingers and ears, able to appear and disappear at will, transform into a porcupine, and lure humans to their deaths. Hence best left alone.
27. Pope Lick Monster
The Pope Lick Monster is part man, part bovine, lives under a railway bridge near Louisville, Kentucky, and kills people either by luring them onto the tracks, or jumping down on motorists beneath the bridge. Quite disappointingly, no actual popes were licked in the making of this urban legend. More at the Louisville Ghost Hunters Society.
28. Shunka Warakin
An Ioway term meaning 'carries off dogs', the Shunka Warakin is said to resemble either a hyena or a wolf, or both. One such animal was shot and mounted in 1880s Montana, was displayed in a local store until it mysteriously vanished in the 1980s. 'Ringdocus', as the animal was named, was found again in 2007, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
29. Skunk Apes
A.k.a. Florida Bigfoot, the skunk ape, according to the US National Park Service, does not exist. However, some mysterious photos sent in by an anonymous source, seem to indicate otherwise.
Another Nessie spin-off, Tessie swims in Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border. After a few dives in the mid-1970s, famed French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau reportedly said: “The world isn't ready for what is down there".
Large bird-like creatures with enormous wingspans, associated with Native American myths, but sighted (and shot) in modern times; as in one famous (but apocryphical) case in the early 1980s. A picture of a dead thunderbird nailed to a barn in Arizona is one of the many cryptid clues that have 'mysteriously' gone missing. Or is this it?
32. Wampus Cat
A cougar-like cat stalking eastern Tennessee, not unlike the Eewah, a half-woman, half-cougar, from Cherokee mythology. Legend has it that when you hear the Wampus cry, someone will die within the next three days. The Wampus Cat also steals children, and smells awful. More here.
Strange Maps #698
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Evolution proves to be just about as ingenious as Nikola Tesla
- For the first time, scientists developed 3D scans of shark intestines to learn how they digest what they eat.
- The scans reveal an intestinal structure that looks awfully familiar — it looks like a Tesla valve.
- The structure may allow sharks to better survive long breaks between feasts.
Considering how much sharks are feared by humans, it is a bit of a surprise that scientists don't know much about the predators. For example, until recently, sharks were thought to be solitary creatures searching the seas for food on their own. Now it appears that some sharks are quite social.
Another mystery is how these prehistoric swimming and eating machines digest food. Although scientists have made 2D sketches of captured sharks' digestive systems based on dissections, there is a limit to what can be learned in this way. Professor Adam Summers at University of Washington's Friday Harbor Labs says:
"Intestines are so complex, with so many overlapping layers, that dissection destroys the context and connectivity of the tissue. It would be like trying to understand what was reported in a newspaper by taking scissors to a rolled-up copy. The story just won't hang together."
Summers is co-author of a new study that has produced the first 3D scans of a shark's intestines, which turns out to have a strange, corkscrew structure. What's even more bizarre is that it resembles the amazing one-way valve designed by inventor Nikola Tesla in 1920. The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
What a 3D model reveals
Video: Pacific spiny dogfish intestine youtu.be
According to the study's lead author Samantha Leigh, "It's high time that some modern technology was used to look at these really amazing spiral intestines of sharks. We developed a new method to digitally scan these tissues and now can look at the soft tissues in such great detail without having to slice into them."
"CT scanning is one of the only ways to understand the shape of shark intestines in three dimensions," adds Summers. The researchers scanned the intestines of nearly three dozen different shark species.
It is believed that sharks go for extended periods — days or even weeks — between big meals. The scans reveal that food passes slowly through the intestine, affording sharks' digestive system the time to fully extract its nutrient value. The researchers hypothesize that such a slow digestive process may also require less energy.
It could be that this slow digestion is more susceptible to back flow given that the momentum of digested food through the tract must be minimal. Perhaps that is why sharks evolved something so similar to a Tesla valve.
What is Tesla's valve doing there?
Above, a Tesla valve. Below, a shark intestine.Credit: Samantha Leigh / California State University, Domi
Tesla's "valvular conduit," or what the world now calls a "Tesla valve," is a one-way valve with no moving parts. Its brilliance is based in fluid dynamics and only now coming to be fully appreciated. Essentially, a series of teardrop-shaped loops arranged along the length of the valve allow water to flow easily in one direction but not in the other. Modern tests reveal that at low flow rates, water can travel through the valve either way, but at high flow rates, the design kicks in. According to mathematician Leif Ristroph:
"Crucially, this turn-on comes with the generation of turbulent flows in the reverse direction, which 'plug' the pipe with vortices and disrupting currents. Moreover, the turbulence appears at far lower flow rates than have ever previously been observed for pipes of more standard shapes — up to 20 times lower speed than conventional turbulence in a cylindrical pipe or tube. This shows the power it has to control flows, which could be used in many applications."
A deeper dive
Summers suggests the scans are just the beginning. "The vast majority of shark species, and the majority of their physiology, are completely unknown," says Summers, adding that "every single natural history observation, internal visualization, and anatomical investigation shows us things we could not have guessed at."
To this end, the researchers plan to use 3D printing to produce models through which they can observe the behavior of different substances passing through them — after all, sharks typically eat fish, invertebrates, mammals, and seagrass. They also plan to explore with engineers ways in which the shark intestine design could be used industrially, perhaps for the treatment of wastewater or for filtering microplastics.
It could fairly be said, though, that Nikola Tesla was 100 years ahead of them.
The non-contact technique could someday be used to lift much heavier objects — maybe even humans.
- Since the 1980s, researchers have been using sound waves to move matter through a technique called acoustic trapping.
- Acoustic trapping devices move bits of matter by emitting strategically designed sound waves, which interact in such a way that the matter becomes "trapped" in areas of particular velocity and pressure.
- Acoustic and optical trapping devices are already used in various fields, including medicine, nanotechnology, and biological research.
Sound can have powerful effects on matter. After all, sound strikes our world in waves — vibrations of air molecules that bounce off of, get absorbed by, or pass through matter around us. Sound waves from a trained opera singer can shatter a wine glass. From a jet, they can collapse a stone wall. But sound can also be harnessed for delicate interactions with matter.
Since the 1980s, researchers have been using sound to move matter through a phenomenon called acoustic trapping. The method is based on the fact that sound waves produce an acoustic radiation force.
"When an acoustic wave interacts with a particle, it exerts both an oscillatory force and a much smaller steady-state 'radiation' force," wrote the American Physical Society. "This latter force is the one used for trapping and manipulation. Radiation forces are generated by the scattering of a traveling sound wave, or by energy gradients within the sound field."
When tiny particles encounter this radiation, they tend to be drawn toward regions of certain pressure and velocity within the sound field. Researchers can exploit this tendency by engineering sound waves that "trap" — or suspend — tiny particles in the air. Devices that do this are often called "acoustic tweezers."
Building a better tweezer
A study recently published in the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics describes how researchers created a new type of acoustic tweezer that was able to lift a small polystyrene ball into the air.
Tweezers of Sound: Acoustic Manipulation off a Reflective Surface youtu.be
It is not the first example of a successful "acoustic tweezer" device, but the new method is likely the first to overcome a common problem in acoustic trapping: sound waves bouncing off reflective surfaces, which disrupts acoustic traps.
To minimize the problems of reflectivity, the team behind the recent study configured ultrasonic transducers such that the sound waves that they produce overlap in a strategic way that is able to lift a small bit of polystyrene from a reflective surface. By changing how the transducers emit sound waves, the team can move the acoustic trap through space, which moves the bit of matter.
Move, but don't touch
So far, the device is only able to move millimeter-sized pieces of matter with varying degrees of success. "When we move a particle, it sometimes scatters away," the team noted. Still, improved acoustic trapping and other no-contact lifting technologies — like optical tweezers, commonly used in medicine — could prove useful in many future applications, including cell separation, nanotechnologies, and biological research.
Could future acoustic-trapping devices lift large and heavy objects, maybe even humans? It seems possible. In 2018, researchers from the University of Bristol managed to acoustically trap particles whose diameters were larger than the sound wavelength, which was a breakthrough because it surpassed "the classical Rayleigh scattering limit that has previously restricted stable acoustic particle trapping," the researchers wrote in their study.
In other words, the technique — which involved suspending matter in tornado-like acoustic traps — showed that it is possible to scale up acoustic trapping.
"Acoustic tractor beams have huge potential in many applications," Bruce Drinkwater, co-author of the 2018 study, said in a statement. "I'm particularly excited by the idea of contactless production lines where delicate objects are assembled without touching them."
Australian parrots have worked out how to open trash bins, and the trick is spreading across Sydney.
- If sharing learned knowledge is a form of culture, Australian cockatoos are one cultured bunch of birds.
- A cockatoo trick for opening trash bins to get at food has been spreading rapidly through Sydney's neighborhoods.
- But not all cockatoos open the bins; some just stay close to those that do.
Dumpster-diving trash parrots
In a study about these smart birds just published in Science, researchers define animal culture as "population-specific behaviors acquired via social learning from knowledgeable individuals."
Co-lead author of the study Barbara Klump of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Konstanz, Germany says, "[C]ompared to humans, there are few known examples of animals learning from each other. Demonstrating that food scavenging behavior is not due to genetics is a challenge."
An opportunity presented itself in a video that co-author Richard Major of the Australian Museum shared with Klump and the other co-authors. In the video, a sulphur-crested cockatoo used its beak to pull up the handle of a closed garbage bin — using its foot as a wedge — and then walked back the lid sufficiently to flip it open, exposing the bin's edible contents.
Major has been studying Cacatua galerita for 20 years and says, "Like many Australian birds, sulphur-crested cockatoos are loud and aggressive." The study describes them as a "large-brained, long-lived, and highly social parrot." Says Major, "They are also incredibly smart, persistent, and have adapted brilliantly to living with humans."(Research regarding some of the ways in which wild animals adapt to the presence of humans has already produced some fascinating results and is ongoing.)
Clever cockie opens bin - 01 youtu.be
The researchers became curious about how widespread this behavior might be and saw a research opportunity. After all, says John Martin, a researcher at Taronga Conservation Society, "Australian garbage bins have a uniform design across the country, and sulphur-crested cockatoos are common across the entire east coast."
Martin continues, "In 2018, we launched an online survey in various areas across Sydney and Australia with questions such as, 'What area are you from, have you seen this behavior before, and if so, when?'"
Word gets around
Credit: magspace/Adobe Stock
Although the cockatoos' maneuver was reported in only three suburbs before 2018, by the end of 2019, people in 44 areas reported observing the behavior. Clearly, more and more cockatoos were learning how to successfully dumpster dive.
As further proof, says Klump, "We observed that the birds do not open the garbage bins in the same way, but rather used different opening techniques in different suburbs, suggesting that the behavior is learned by observing others." One individual bird in north Sydney invented its own method, and the scientists saw it grow in popularity throughout the local population.
To track individual birds, the researchers marked 500 cockatoos with small red dots. Subsequent observations revealed that not all cockatoos are bin-openers. Only about 10 percent of them are, and they are mostly males. The other cockatoos apparently restrict their education to a different lesson: hang around with a bin-opener, and you will get supper.
Thanks to the surveys, the researchers consider the entire project to be a valuable citizen-science experiment. "By studying this behavior with the help of local residents, we are uncovering the unique and complex cultures of their neighborhood birds."
The few seconds of nuclear explosion opening shots in Godzilla alone required more than 6.5 times the entire budget of the monster movie they ended up in.