Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Monday, 14 August 2017


10 Urban Legends About Health and Safety That Caused Real Harm
By Gregory Myers,
Toptenz, 13 August 2017.

We laugh at urban myths and legends, often to joke about how stupid or ridiculous people are. It can be amusing to think about what insane things people can be led to believe, but sometimes it really isn’t a joke, and it isn’t funny at all. Many urban legends or conspiracies that are spread around cause people to try to self treat problems for which they should really see a doctor, distrust medicine in general, or take part in dangerous activities or practices that they have been led to believe are safe. It is important to always research what you are being told, especially when it comes to matters of health or safety, and inform others you know when they believe something false that could put them in a dangerous situation or endanger their health.

10. A Conspiracy Theory About AIDS Has Helped It Spread Further


For many years a conspiracy theory has proliferated among the black community: that the government actually created HIV and AIDS, and distributed it among those in the inner city to kill people of color. President Obama, then a Senator, actually went on television telling of the theories of his pastor Jeremiah Wright, who believed in such nonsense. The belief is so widespread that many black people today, and plenty of non-black people as well, believe this theory.

Of course, we know that AIDS was not a man made creation, but this hasn’t stopped the belief from causing great harm. The best way to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS is to catch it early and give people the right drugs for treatment and control of the condition, and for them to be informed of what they have. However, people are unlikely to go get treatment if they believe that the government caused it on purpose and wants them to suffer and die. This means people distrust the government and don’t go get checked when they suspect they may have it, causing it to spread further and further still. The best way to counter this kind of theory is with education - the government did not create such a deadly disease, and treatment options today are actually very good, especially if it is caught early.

9. The Myth About “Safety Belts Costing More Lives Than They Save”


Some people will go on about how they heard some cop somewhere claim that seat belts actually cost more lives than they save. Their theory generally goes that the seat belt could trap you in the car when it is on fire or something similar, with no way for you to get out. Experts in law enforcement who tend to deal with a lot of accidents have pointed out, though, that while you could have a rare situation where a seat belt makes it harder for someone to get out, that unconscious people don’t even have a chance to try, and people without seat belts invariably end up unconscious after a major accident. One policeman who dealt with a lot of accidents was once quoted as saying that he “never unbuckled a dead man.”

In other words, while someone may be able to find a strange, occasional case where a seatbelt caused someone to die in an accident, the vast majority of the time, the seat belt will greatly decrease your risk of fatalities. Sadly, many people get thrown from their vehicles and die in accidents because they believed this ludicrous rumor, and wanted to ensure they didn’t get trapped in their car. The issue is that the whole point of a seatbelt is basically to trap you in your car in the event of an accident, so you don’t get thrown clear of the vehicle.

8. People Held Chickenpox Parties Because They Thought It Had Immunization Benefits


Not that long ago, it was a much more commonly held belief among many people that if a child became infected with chicken pox as a child, it was now impossible for them to get shingles - a version of the disease that can come back as an adult and be much more painful and often life threatening. It would also be impossible for chicken pox to return, as it can only affect you once, ever. To this end, when it was found out that a nearby child had chicken pox, people would have parties where they made sure their kids got into contact with the infected child, so that they could quickly get their kids the pox and get it over with.

Unfortunately, this was founded on complete bunk. Chicken pox actually comes from a similar family of disease as herpes, and as you know, herpes keeps coming back. What this actually means is that giving a kid chicken pox when they are young, instead of immunizing them against shingles later in life, actually increases the chances of it happening to them. The good news is that with modern media, this myth has been busted more and more commonly, and the amount of people setting up these insane parties has dwindled to a much smaller number.

7. Drinking Alcohol To Cure A Hangover Is Only Going To Worsen Your Overall Health


One of the most common ideas in the culture of drinking booze, is that if you get a hangover, you can speed up your recovery process by adding a bit more booze to your morning the next day. Now, this is so common in popular culture and in real life that there are common drinks designed pretty much just for this “hair of the dog” cure. The most popular, of course, are the many variations of the Bloody Mary, which is basically a mix of some form of tomato juice, vodka, various spices, and a bunch of unnecessary garnishes that will probably be discarded, but make the drinker look temporarily like a healthy person who likes to enjoy their vegetables - after a night of destroying one’s liver, this is probably psychologically comforting.

Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing to the idea that drinking will make your hangover go away quicker. The reason you sometimes feel better by drinking is because drinking alcohol dulls your senses in general, but this isn’t actually making you feel properly better or ending your hangover. At some point your body still has to finish processing out the toxins to get you better, and by using the hair of the dog method, you are actually just adding more toxins for your body to process.

6. Vaccine Deniers Really Are Bringing Back Deadly Diseases And We Should Be Worried


The MMR vaccine, which staves off measles, mumps, and rubella, and other vaccines, have been the source of controversy for a long time. However, in more modern times, a man named Andrew Wakefield is the biggest source of ill for the world of medicine in terms of vaccines. He published a paper back in the ’90s that was quickly discredited for awful methodologies and he had his medical license taken away. Unfortunately since then he has still given lectures and talks and done his best to stoke fear of vaccines all over the world.

In the United States, Measles has started to crop up seriously in Minnesota - an area Wakefield and his people have been laying their propaganda heavily. To make matters worse, we are seeing outbreaks of diseases we once thought we had beat all over the country, and they are all linked to vaccine deniers. These people spread ridiculous urban myths, some of which have been around since before Wakefield, that vaccines cause all kinds of crippling conditions for young children, including various forms of autism. Of course this has been entirely disproven, but many people still cling to the belief. Unfortunately many people find it easier to accept this idea that their child’s health problems are caused by vaccines, because life is easier when you have an obvious villain to blame for your problems, instead of trying to accept the sad truth that sometimes life just isn’t fair.

5. The Five Second Rule Has Probably Given Countless People Food Poisoning


Probably the most common health myth is the “five second rule.” Nearly everyone believes it, or some variation of it - some people believe in a one second or even ten second rule. However, while many people will chuckle about it as they say it, as if they sort of know it’s silly, many of us have seen people pick stuff up off the floor and then eat it citing the famous ‘rule’. The truth is that this rule did not come from anywhere official, and is purely an urban myth concocted perhaps by mothers with very clean floors who were trying not to waste food and convince their children it was alright.

However, the truth is that most floors, even those that look relatively clean, have a lot of germs and other bacteria. And the problem with this myth is that it really only takes a moment of exposure for those germs and bacteria to stick to whatever food item you dropped on the floor. It really doesn’t matter how long; if it touched the floor and you don’t know how clean it is, it would be smarter to simply throw the food away.

4. “Cough CPR” Has Possibly Caused The Deaths Of Heart Attack Sufferers

Cough CPR is a legend that has been spread around by pseudo-medical experts, which are a dime a dozen these days. Most of them have some random website that looks sort of official, and will talk about how evil big pharma is, while trying to sell you overpriced products that are basically placebo. This strange idea spread by the misinformed is very dangerous and could potentially be causing people who are suffering from a heart attack to think they can handle things on their own and not take the proper steps. The idea given by the people spreading this idea is that if the heartbeat is out of rhythm, you can cough forcefully to get it back to beating properly. The truth is that if you think you are having a heart attack, experts recommend taking some Advil or equivalent with water, and calling 911.

Now, this doesn’t mean that cough CPR is a completely useless idea; it actually does come from somewhere legitimate. It has just been horrifically misinterpreted by urban myth and medical fraudsters. Experts have said that theoretically a person who is experiencing certain issues where the heart is out of rhythm could keep themselves conscious for a short time by coughing, but it wouldn’t be much help and they would quickly pass out. However, after the emergency and the patient is stabilized for the most part, there are certain situations with cough CPR where, when the patient is guided by a medical expert telling them how and when to cough, it can help stabilize them further.

Remember though, cough CPR is only done guided by medical experts after the initial emergency and only in some situations. If you think you are having a heart attack, get 911 on the line and if you can, get the equivalent of some Advil. If there is anyone nearby, signal to them that you need help so they can assist you however they can. Do not just cough and try to get yourself through the emergency on your own.

3. Doctors Very Rarely Use The Defibrillator, And Never When A Patient Is Flatlining


This one may not cause a lot of harm, as most actual medical professionals know better than to think that what is on TV is real. However, some lay people are trained to be first aid, CPR, and AED (defibrillator) certified, and could potentially misuse this equipment. After all, first aid training is relatively short and doesn’t have a lot of time to make an impression, but TV is constantly around us and it is difficult to escape the thrall of popular media and culture. And the issue here is that popular media has given us a completely incorrect idea of how defibrillator’s work.

Most people have this romantic notion in their head of a patient flatlining - all other hope is lost. There is only one, last, desperate option to bring the hero back to life. The doctor - or perhaps a random citizen who knows what they are doing - will grab some nearby defibrillator paddles, yell “CLEAR!” and then slam them down on the afflicted person’s chest like there is no tomorrow. After a few slams, a few more “CLEARS!” and often a couple shouts of “Don’t you die on me!” the person will gasp and the heart monitor will start pulsing in a nice steady rhythm again - the dead has been brought back to life.

Of course, anyone who knows how absurd this is, especially those who work in the medical field, are likely rolling their eyes to the back of their skulls every time they see a scene like this in a movie or television program. A defibrillator is actually used to shock a person’s heart rhythm back to where they are supposed to be when it is irregular, but it will do absolutely nothing for someone who is already flatlining and has no pulse - if a person is flatlining and the doctors believe they still have a chance they would continue to perform CPR and possibly use epinephrine; they would not shock them with the paddles.

2. Urban Legends About Organ Harvesting And Vaccinations Have Led To Killings Of Medical Volunteers


In some parts of the world, medical myths fly around even thicker and faster than they do in places like the United States or the UK. This is mainly because in many countries, they don’t have as much access to information, or as much education, so it is easier for paranoia and fear to take hold. In Pakistan a few years back, over a dozen Western medical volunteers were killed in about a year, and authorities believe it was because people were paranoid that they were actually trying to do harm under the guise of medicine. In Brazil, many people in the poorer slums will not go to the hospitals because they fear their organs will be stolen there, and fear of organ theft abounds in many third world countries.

Foreign medical volunteers will even become capable of speaking the local languages, and will act kind, but are often distrusted anyway. They will have tools the locals are not used to, and methods that they may not have seen before. Constant rumors make things worse and create further resistance and put the lives of those volunteering medical services at great risk. Unfortunately, trust in Western doctors was set back not long ago when it was discovered that the CIA had someone offering to give Hepatitis B vaccinations in Pakistan, in order to find DNA to locate and take out Bin Laden. While the vaccines were not harmful, they were also not proper medical treatment, and people are understandably now more leery of Western doctors coming to help them out.

1. The Rumor That Gum Stays In Your Digestive Tract For Years Has Caused A LOT Of Trash


To end on a lighter note, one of the most prolific urban legends you will ever hear is that if you swallow your chewing gum, it will stay in your digestive tract for seven years - and in some versions of the legend, even longer. For this reason, people tend to spit out their gum and just stick it anywhere - a wall, under a chair, under a table, the ground, the floor, a corner it will never come out of without industrial solvent, etc. This has led to a horrible mass of filthy, saliva encrusted, germ laden gum being stuck on surfaces all over the world, and providing a constant nightmare to cleaning people.

And it never needed to be this way in the first place. People can swallow their gum safely and without any real worry. While a small child could potentially choke on a larger piece, that is really just an argument for why a small child really shouldn’t be chewing gum in the first place. For anyone else, it doesn’t stay in your digestive tract, but actually just passes right through it when you excrete - this is what your body tends to do with anything it can’t properly digest. Now, if you ate a lot of gum over a short period of time you could get a little constipated, but that is really the worst you are going to go through. If you cannot find anywhere polite and proper to dispose of your gum, it won’t hurt you to swallow it once in a while and keep the world a little bit cleaner.

Top image: Vaccine. Credit: John Keith/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Toptenz. Top image added.]

Sunday, 13 August 2017


Top 10 Surprising Histories Of Common Fruits
By Damian Black,
Listverse, 13 August 2017.

Fruits are wonders of sweetness and seed that we have grown over millennia to feed ourselves. We tend to think that the various fruits we enjoy have been only slightly altered on the orchards of domestication. The truth is that there are more interesting histories of fruit than you can chew.

10. The Kiwifruit’s Nationality


Kiwifruit, shortened as kiwi, was named after the bird of the same name due to its fuzzy brown resemblance. The curiously shaped avians are endemic to New Zealand, and you’d expect the fruits to be, too. After all, they produced over a billion dollars for the country in 2015.

However, kiwifruit actually originated in China under a name that translates to “macaque peach” due to its popularity with the local monkeys. Later on, the English named it the Chinese gooseberry for reasons completely unknown.

At the turn of the 20th century, the principal of a New Zealand college had brought back some seeds from China. After a few decades, New Zealand began exporting Chinese gooseberries to the US. But it soon became apparent that nothing associated with Red China was profitable during the Cold War.

First, New Zealand changed the name to “melonettes,” but that also failed since unattractive tariffs were placed on melons and berries. Finally, in a hilarious marketing move, the goose was reasonably replaced with New Zealand’s national bird and the berry broadened into fruit.

9. The Pineapple’s Adoration


For centuries, everyone involved in the pineapple’s colonial trade absolutely adored it. The earliest records involve Carib Indians, expert navigators who traded and raided across the islands to collect all manner of bounty.

The intense sweetness of the pineapple elevated it as a staple in important feasts and cultural rites. During Columbus’s second voyage to the Caribbean, his crew hauntingly found pineapples beside pots of body parts, evidence of cannibalism at their first inspection of an abandoned Carib village.

When it was brought back to Europe, the pineapple was regarded as nature’s culinary masterpiece, a tropical delight reserved for English royalty and literally held on a pedestal during extravagant feasts because there were no common sweets back then.

The women of colonial America competed with each other in arranging creative displays of food on their tabletops, with the sharp pineapple being king of the decorations and undeniable proof of wealth. Due to its extreme rarity, producers actually rented the fruit for hostesses to proudly exhibit. Then the pineapples were given back to be sold as food.

8. The Tomato’s Toxicity


By now, it is common knowledge that the tomato has a tainted past. Being a member of the notoriously poisonous nightshade family, the bright red tomato was thought by wary Europeans to be toxic for over two centuries.

But this was no simple assumption on appearance. Affluent Europeans did die of poisoning after eating tomatoes on their pewter plates. The acidity from the fruit released lead, a component metal of pewter alloy at the time, producing a deadly combination of tableware and tomato.

Furthermore, 10-centimeter (4 in) tomato hornworm caterpillars were thought to poison the tomatoes they infested. Though we now know they are harmless, the caterpillars had a menacing red protrusion on their tails.

Established American colonists had no issue with the enjoyable tomato, but newer rural settlers still avoided it due to the lack of cross-country information sharing. Interestingly, the Civil War brought tomatoes into the spotlight in America.

As a fast-growing, easily canned food, tomatoes dominated the canning market to support soldiers on both sides. In 1880, Italian peasants popularized tomatoes in Europe as an edible ingredient in the birth of pizza, finally eliminating all fear of the fruit.

7. The Avocado’s Salvation


Before agriculture, avocado seeds enjoyed widespread travel in the bodies of various megafauna before being defecated in fertile feces. Birds and other small animals did not provide any benefit in helping plant the large seed and so were all lethally deterred from eating avocados through development of the toxin persin.

After the Ice Age extinction event, three-fourths of all megafauna were wiped out. With the avocado’s distributors all gone, it required a savior from extinction: us.

Central Americans successfully cultivated avocados during and after the time of the megafauna and named the fruit after its similar appearance to testicles, evoking a sexual mysticism. Indeed, the avocado was thought to be such a potent aphrodisiac that virgin daughters were kept indoors when Aztec farmers harvested avocados!

6. The Pumpkin’s Tradition


Our favorite squash, the pumpkin wasn’t always able to be carved into sturdy, smiling Halloween decorations. However, even Pilgrims praised the pumpkin’s long storage time and sweetly nutritious flesh in this verse circa 1633:

For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon.

Europeans were incremental to the creation of the modern pumpkin. The earliest jack–o’–lanterns were made from lit coals placed in hollow root vegetables such as turnips and potatoes. The lanterns were held during festivals to brighten the night.

As Celtic tradition arrived in America, the pumpkin was grown through artificial selection to become the greatest carrier of fire and light. Decades later, the pumpkin was immortalized as the joyous fruit of the harvest - a massive, creative, and delicious entity of Halloween.

5. The Chili Pepper’s Ubiquity


Chilies are intensely spicy to prevent animals from eating their seeds, which aren’t suited for survival past digestion. In an evolutionary insult, humans raised and ate chili peppers specifically for their natural flame, producing varieties so intense that they blister skin and blind if exposed to the eye.

Latin Americans are stereotypically known to enjoy an apparent immunity to the blazing effects, a not entirely false notion given the cultural origin of the chili.

In the records of conquistadors, the Aztecs and Maya ate chilies with anything and everything. Chilies were believed to have medicinal properties to cure various sicknesses. The smoke was used as both a highly effective pest deterrent and a highly effective children’s punishment.

Chilies also achieved a legendary commonplace status. If not practicing abstinence from chilies for religious or health reasons, a person who didn’t eat chili peppers would straightaway be presumed a witch!

4. The Strawberry’s Union


Uniquely, ancestral strawberries originated in both Europe and North America. The French selected wild strawberries for sweetness, but the fruit was still small. Only the Sun King’s plans for royal domination romantically brought the parents of the modern strawberry together from across the continents.

King Louis XIV of France desired the Spanish throne, so he assigned a spy, Frezier, to study Chilean and Peruvian fortifications. But Frezier’s duty was not only to discover the military strength of the colonial Spanish.

Previously, another dispatch had found unexpectedly large Chilean strawberries. A military engineer posing as a merchant, Frezier purchased the strawberries and brought them back to France.

For years, French gardeners couldn’t reproduce the Chilean strawberry since they grew native strawberries through asexual planting. The Chilean variety had both male and female plants. But the males were culled as weeds due to their different appearance because the Europeans didn’t know any better.

None of the European strawberries were large enough to hybridize with the Chilean, but the Virginian variety, brought over during the French colonization of North America, was. While placed in the same garden, the two plants from the New World coincidentally came together in the Old World to create the globally distributed garden strawberry we savor today.

3. The Apple’s Alcohol


Apples have been eaten since before Jericho’s walls were built. They were revered in Western cultures as a mythical symbol and still are respected as a daily health remedy.

On the great American frontier, Johnny Appleseed planted plenty of apple trees for welcome settlers, but they didn’t munch on them. The notion of eating apples was actually rare since most varieties were bitter and unpleasant. Over time, apples were selected to become larger and tastier, but until then, their main purpose was to create another product.

Apple cider was championed as the most valuable, most available beverage of early America. Compared to the water and whiskey of the colonies, homegrown apple cider could be counted on as a personally confirmed sanitary and healthy drink.

Originally only made as hard cider, which was alcoholic, demand greatly fell during Prohibition. To continue to use their apple stock, producers rightly marketed apples as being directly edible after breeding sweet, nutritious varieties.

2. The Rhubarb’s Warning


The plight of China during the Opium Wars was tragic. Technologically superior militaries allowed Western nations to bully China and steal its wealth. The worst offense was the introduction of opium, which ruined many lives due to uncontrollable addiction and poverty.

After failing to prevent the blockade of Canton, a major trade province, Chinese officials were desperate to retaliate. It would have taken too long to modernize their military, so they looked to other solutions.

To regain respect in trade agreements for their country, officials researched the English to determine if an embargo of a few vital products would help. The studies of Lin Tse-Hsu, the Chinese commissioner in Canton, had exaggeratedly shown him that without rhubarb, tea, silk, and other goods, the people of foreign nations would be devastated.

In a famously ignored plea, Lin sent a letter to Queen Victoria stating that since opium was clearly understood as an illegal, destructive drug in the United Kingdom, it should not be immorally exploited in China.

He proposed that if China were to embargo its rhubarb, widely used as an effective laxative, entire populations of Westerners would start to die of constipation. Unfortunately, he did not realize that these goods were luxuries rather than requirements.

The misunderstanding was recorded in the letter for history to demonstrate the confusion and hope of the vulnerable East.

1. The Breadfruit’s Mutiny


Breadfruit was discovered by a scientific crew in Tahiti, an island located in the center of the South Pacific. Eighteenth-century Europeans had gathered to witness the transit of Venus, an extremely rare astronomical event which is similar in nature to a solar eclipse by the Moon.

With them was botanist Joseph Banks, who correctly and impressively identified the breadfruit as a cheap and nutritious fruit, albeit for the mistreated slaves of the sugar plantations. King George III directed Lieutenant William Bligh to gather this potentially valuable fruit.

Bligh’s crew on the HMS Bounty enjoyed the shores of Tahiti and eventually departed with 1,000 breadfruit plants. However, master’s mate Fletcher Christian led a revolt, discarding Bligh and his followers in an open boat.

Since both Bligh and Christian survived, the history on the reasons behind the mutiny is impossible to truly know. Bligh may have been abusive, Christian may have gone insane, or the crew may have simply wanted to return to the Tahitian women and beaches.

It is confirmed, though, that Bligh had been saving water for the fruit instead of his men. Though dutiful, this would definitely have raised issues.

As an excellent navigator, Bligh managed to safely sail thousands of miles to a hospitable Dutch island, returned to the UK as a hero, and went on to finish the job by bringing back 2,126 breadfruits on his second voyage. Unfortunately, his work was all in vain as the slaves absolutely refused to eat them due to their bland taste!

Top image: Kiwifruits and strawberries. Credit: annca/Pixabay.

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]


13 places on the planet off-limits to visitors
By Angela Nelson,
Mother Nature Network, 10 August 2017.

It's no fun being excluded. Tell us that we're not allowed to go somewhere, and you better believe the stubborn child inside us is buying a ticket for that exact destination.

But sometimes access to certain places is restricted for good reason, whether for our benefit or not. Maybe the climate is too extreme, or maybe the inhabitants are too hostile.

From virgin lands that scientists want to study without human interference to super-secret military bases, here's a list of amazing places you'll never step foot on.

1. Snake Island, Brazil


Ilha da Queimada Grande, also known as Snake Island, is a tiny 110-acre island off the coast of Brazil. It is home to more than 4,000 deadly snakes and is the only known place you'll find the golden lancehead (Bothrops insularis), one of the most venomous vipers in the world. Its venom can kill you in an hour.

While scientists venture here for study, locals fear it; no humans call this terrifying place home. In fact, the island contains no mammal species at all, and birds nest here at their own risk.

2. Heard Island, Australia


Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) is an island group in the Southern Indian Ocean about 2,500 miles southwest of Australia. It's one of the most remote places on Earth, and the climate there is severe: cold, rainy and windy. Scientists go there for wildlife research, as the area is teeming with penguin, seal and flying bird colonies. And commercial fisherman may fish in the nearby rough waters, but otherwise, there are no humans here.

HIMI is home to Australia's only active volcanoes, its highest mountain and its only glaciers. Pictured in the aerial image above is Big Ben, an active volcano that stands 9,000 feet high over Heard Island. Not exactly a warm welcome...

3. Lascaux Caves, France

Photo: Prof saxx/Wikimedia Commons

Lascaux Cave in Southwest France is home to ancient works of art painted about 17,000 years ago. The images, which depict large animals around the time of the Paleolithic era, were discovered in 1940. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site nearly 40 years later, and public interest in the site grew.

However, Lascaux Cave is now closed to visitors because the paintings are beginning to fade and mold was found in the cave. Instead, you can see a replica called "Lascaux II" located nearby.

See, this is why we can't have nice things.

4. Poveglia, Italy

Photo: Chris 73/Wikimedia Commons

This small island sits right off the coast of Venice. While only a half-mile of ocean separates the two locales, they couldn't be more different. While Venice is a glamorous travel hotspot, Poveglia has seen a lot of pain and cruelty over the years.

Poveglia Island is where Europe sent people dying from the bubonic plague in the 1300s. When the Black Death pandemic swept through in the 1600s, sick citizens once again were exiled there. And in the 1800s, the mentally ill were exiled to an asylum on the island. In the mid 20th century, it was converted to a geriatric center, which closed in 1975.

Today, locals and tourists are prohibited from visiting, and fisherman don't go near it.

5. North Sentinel Island, Andaman Islands


Unlike the previous spots on this list, humans do live on North Sentinel Island, a remote island in Bengal Bay off the coast of India. But the indigenous people known as the Sentinelese actively avoid contact with the outside world, and any intruders have been met with hostility. In 2006, two fisherman approached the island illegally and were killed. (There is a three-mile zone imposed by the Indian government around the island.)

India has stopped all attempts to contact the tribe, and they cannot be observed by air due to the thick forest covering the island. They remain, largely, a mystery.

6. Vatican Secret Archives

Photo: Bryan Allison/Flickr

With so much mystery built into the history of the Catholic Church, it's no wonder part of Vatican City lands on a list like this.

The Vatican Secret Archives are kept under lock and key in a fortress-like area behind St. Peter's Basilica, and for good reason. It stores millions of irreplaceable historical documents, and the building is guarded by a "phalanx of Swiss Guards in ceremonial uniform and officers from the city state's own police force, the Gendarmerie," reports The Telegraph. Its 52 miles of shelves contain correspondence between the Vatican and some of the most prominent figures in history, including Erasmus, Charlemagne, Michelangelo, Queen Elizabeth I, Mozart, Voltaire and Adolf Hitler.

While the Vatican insists the contents are not secret (they are technically the pope's personal property), that doesn't mean you can go browse through them. Some scientific researchers from qualified universities may apply to enter, but even if access granted, no document from after 1939 is available for public viewing.

7. Ise Grand Shrine, Japan

Photo: N yotarou/Wikimedia Commons

Forget going into the Ise Grand Shrine in Japan - they won't even let you see the building.

The Shinto shrine is dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu and is one the holiest places in Japan. The story behind it goes something like this:

A sacred mirror, the Yata no Kagami, was used to lure Amaterasu out of a cave in which she had hidden following an argument with Susano-o, the god of storms and the sea, which plunged the world into darkness. The mirror was given to Amaterasu's grandson Ninigi-no-Mikoto, who is thought to be the great-grandfather of Japan's first emperor, Jimmu, through whom it passed into the hands of the Imperial Family.

The mirror is located in the Ise Grand Shrine, and only the chief priest or priestess of the shrine, who must be a member of the Imperial Family, is allowed to enter.

8. Area 51, Nevada, USA

Photo: Tim1337/Wikimedia Commons

You've likely heard of Area 51 as the place in the desert where aliens supposedly landed in the 1940s near Roswell, New Mexico - a landing that resulted in an on-going clash between government officials who deny the landing and conspiracy theorists who smell a cover-up.

But the super-secret U.S. military base is located in Nevada, and the government refused to admit it existed until 2013, when the CIA was forced to acknowledge it under the Freedom of Information Act. According to the History Channel, though you can see the complex’s buildings in satellite images, it doesn’t appear on any public U.S. government maps. And you can't drive anywhere near it, the Los Angeles Times reports.

9. Tomb of the First Qin Emperor, China

Photo: wit/Wikimedia Commons

Known as First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang Di died in 210 B.C. He is credited with uniting the country and building the Great Wall of China. To match his large legacy, he was buried at the center of a complex designed to mirror the urban plan of the then-capital, Xianyang. The massive 21-square-mile structure contains 8,000 lifelike terracotta soldiers, each designed individually with horses, chariots and weapons, which were first unearthed in 1974. The mausoleum is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

"The big hill, where the emperor is buried - nobody's been in there," archaeologist Kristin Romey, curatorial consultant for the Terracotta Warrior exhibition at New York City’s Discovery Times Square, told Live Science. "Partly it's out of respect for the elders, but they also realize that nobody in the world right now has the technology to properly go in and excavate it."

10. Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway

Photo: Frode Ramone/Wikimedia Commons

Tucked into a mountainside on a remote island in Norway, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a fail-safe seed storage facility built to stand both man-made and natural disasters. Permafrost and thick rock ensure that the 930,000 seed samples from the world's crop collections will remain frozen.

The vault functions much like a bank with safe deposit boxes. While the government of Norway owns the facility, it's free to store seeds. Seeds can be deposited and withdrawn in accordance with various international laws and treaties.

11. Surtsey Island, Iceland

Photo: CanonS2/Wikimedia Commons

Surtsey Island is basically a baby - it became part of Earth's geography in just the 1960s. The volcanic island and UNESCO World Heritage site near Iceland is pristine as far as human interference is concerned. It was protected as a nature reserve from birth, and because of its scientific value, the area remains off-limits to tourists.

"Surtsey has been producing unique long-term information on the colonization process of new land by plant and animal life. Since they began studying the island in 1964, scientists have observed the arrival of seeds carried by ocean currents, the appearance of molds, bacteria and fungi, followed in 1965 by the first vascular plant, of which there were 10 species by the end of the first decade," according to UNESCO.

12. Pine Gap, Australia

Photo: Mark Marathon/Wikimedia Commons

We don't know a tremendous amount about Pine Gap, an intelligence facility operated by Australia and the United States in Australia's Northern Territory. According to, it "collects a wide range of signals intelligence as well as providing information on early warning of ballistic missile launches."

A government spokesman told the news outlet that it also “provides intelligence on priorities such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and foreign military capability and weapons developments."

Only employees are allowed inside, and the big white balls in the photograph reportedly protect satellite dishes inside.

13. Mezhgorye, Russia

Photo: Pesotsky/Wikimedia Commons

Mezhgorye is a mysterious and interesting little town in the Republic of Bashkortostan near Russia's Mount Yamantau. About 17,000 people live there, according to a recent census. But otherwise, it's a closed town, which means you can't enter without the permission of a government official. It's rumored to be home to two military battalions, a secret nuclear missile base and a massive underground facility. And apparently it's not represented on maps, unless the maps are classified.

Top image: Area 51 wallpaper. Credit: Niranjan/Flickr.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Some images and links added.]