The weirdest, most successful cryptocurrency projects so far

In the world of crypto, the more outlandish the idea, the more potentially disruptive.

In many industries, the more outlandish ideas end up in the trash but in the world of crypto, breaking away from mainstream ideas and conventions is welcomed.

The cryptocurrency community tends to foster the weird. In many industries, the more outlandish ideas end up in the trash but in the world of crypto, breaking away from mainstream ideas and conventions is welcomed. The crypto market is also seeing a lot of activity now with more than 1600 digital coins currently on the market.

Therefore, in this world, the weirdest cryptocurrencies often manage to become extremely successful. Here, I'll look at some of the weirdest crypto projects that exploited their quirks to achieve unlikely success.

1. Dogecoin

Probably the most successful weird cryptocurrency out there. Touted as "an open source peer-to-peer digital currency, favored by Shiba Inus worldwide," Dogecoin was founded as a joke in 2014. It is based on the Doge meme, a Japanese Shiba Inu dog captioned with various internal monologues. Dogecoin has been a runaway success, reaching a market cap of $1bn in January of this year.

Part of Dogecoin's success is due to its vast and vibrant community, members of which created the Dogecoin Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to using Dogecoin to fund goodwill projects. In 2014, the Dogecoin Foundation raised enough to send the Jamaican bobsled team to the Winter Olympics. It also funded the development of two clean water wells in east Kenya via a Twitter campaign.

2. Potcoin

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 14: Dennis Rodman arrives at the Comedy Central Roast Of Bruce Willis on July 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)Comedy Central Roast Of Bruce Willis - Arrivals

Potcoin was started in 2014 as a way of solving banking problems for the legal marijuana industry. The industry generally operates on cash trades in the US, due to federal drug laws regulating the banking system.

Potcoin is not the only marijuana-themed currency. However, it gained notoriety due to its sponsorship deal with basketball star and unlikely North Korean diplomat Dennis Rodman. In a PR stunt, Potcoin funded Rodman's trip to Singapore for the June 2018 summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Rodman was filmed walking around there wearing a Potcoin t-shirt, leading to a brief spike in Potcoin's value.

3. Cryptokitties

Cryptokitties are collectible digital artworks of cats. While this may seem just like a digital version of Pokemon, the launch of Cryptokitties represented a significant step forward in the development of blockchain - the ERC721 token. This was the first non-fungible token, meaning it could not be exchanged for another token of the same value. Each Cryptokitty has its own unique assets and can even be "bred" with other Cryptokitties to combine the assets from two tokens into a new one.

As humans, we have a craze for collectibles, and Cryptokitties is no exception. One Cryptokitty sold at auction for a mind-blowing $140,000. The bidder was reported to have said that the attraction lay in its number - 127. As a prime number, it holds a particular fascination for cryptography geeks. At one time, Cryptokitties trading volume was so high that the Ethereum network slowed down under the weight of transactions.

4. Putincoin

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 11: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the reception for foreign ambassadors at the Grand Kremlin Palace on October 11, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. Putin received credentials from new 23 foreign ambassadors during the ceremony at the Kremlin. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)Russian President Vladimir Putin recieves foreign ambassadors at the Kremlin

Putincoin was developed "to pay tribute to the people and president of one of the largest and greatest countries in the world - Russia!" Although Mr Putin himself appears not to have commented on its existence, Putincoin nevertheless styles itself as a national cryptocurrency for Russia, citing the fast-growing economy as the reason it is needed.

Aside from its dedication to Russia, there is not much else that is noteworthy about Putincoin. Despite this, it has been going for more than two years at the time of writing, reaching a market cap of more than $11m at its peak.

5. Dentacoin

Oral health is probably not the first industry that springs to mind as being ripe for decentralization, but the creators of Dentacoin somehow saw an opportunity. Dentacoin is the "blockchain solution for the global dental industry."

Although it was initially derided by some parts of the crypto community, Dentacoin does have a community of active users, including dentists and clinics across 16 countries. In August this year, the price spiked when Dentacoin announced it had onboarded a clinic in the Bronx area of New York City for accepting Dentacoin as payment.

6. Unobtanium

Only 250,000 Unobtanium coins will ever go into distribution, so the gimmick here is just that the coins are difficult to obtain. While this may seem like a flimsy premise, it appears to be working. Unlike many other cryptocurrencies, Unobtanium has seen a net increase in value over the course of 2018. At the height of the crypto boom during the end of 2017, it had a market cap of over $75m.

We have focused here on the weird cryptocurrencies that have been successful. Many haven't. Special mentions from the crypto-graveyard to Coinye, the coin that was taken down by Kanye West's legal team, and to doomed-to-fail Useless Ethereum Token, which had a USP of being, well, useless.

While the creation of digital tokens remains so accessible and unregulated, it is likely that more weird and wonderful cryptocurrencies will pop up. However, if trading cryptocurrencies becomes subject to legislation then perhaps one day we'll look back on these days of weird crypto with nostalgia.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less
  • A huge segment of America's population — the Baby Boom generation — is aging and will live longer than any American generation in history.
  • The story we read about in the news? Their drain on social services like Social Security and Medicare.
  • But increased longevity is a cause for celebration, says Ashton Applewhite, not doom and gloom.

After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

Credit: Petr Kratochvil.
Surprising Science

Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?

Keep reading Show less

Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. Think a dialysis machine for the mind. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.