Five of the craziest thing I’ve learned on Wikipedia

When I was in seventh grade, I stumbled upon Wikipedia while researching the country of Rwanda for a geography project.  Until that day, I’d never heard of Wikipedia, but found myself immediately immersed in the endless and unlimited supply of interesting knowledge supplied in the files of the giant website.  In subsequent years, educators stressed the unreliability of Wikipedia, stating the facts contains within its articles were false.  When I found this out, I felt totally cheated and sought to get to the bottom of Wikipedia’s scheming ways.

I’ve since learned all my teachers were liars and only tried to break up the beautiful and majestic relationship between student and Wikipedia because Wikipedia is a free source of knowledge, while “reliable and trustworthy” sites like EBSCO Host or JSTOR cost the school money, so teachers are kind of forced to push them on students.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written A TON of research papers for school, and I’ve used JSTOR so much I think they are sending me a free t-shirt in the mail, but I’ve always begun my research by checking what Wikipedia had to say on the subject.

A few years ago, I realized Wikipedia was no longer just an illicit form of educational knowledge I could exploit for an easier path to knowledge superstardom, but a legitimate form of entertainment.  I have spent many late nights playing video games or crushing a new series on Netflix, but without a doubt the majority of my downtime is spent reading Wikipedia.

You see, I pride myself on my plethora of pointless, trivial knowledge that hopefully will someday be useful.  It probably wont, but it can’t hurt.  Anyway, over the last several years spending countless hours scouring through Wikipedia, I’ve learned a ridiculously diverse amount of pointless knowledge.

5.  The Stone Fish makes you want to amputate your own limbs

If there is one advantage the animal kingdom has over humanity, it’s the fact that certain members of the Animalia phylum are toxic.  Keep in mind, there is a discernible difference between “poisonous” and “venomous”, but’s I’m not here to split hairs so for the sake of argument let’s pretend the two are the same.  Of course, possessing a natural toxic is a defense mechanism, as some animals would be utterly defenseless against predators otherwise.  But sometimes toxins serve a useless purpose, such as a spider, whose venom plays a key role in their digestion.  Spiders literally fill their prey with toxins, dissolving their insides into a liquid so the spider can then drink their victims through a convenient and horrifying straw.  Other animals, such as the Stone Fish, possess toxins for no other reason than to screw with humans.  For starters, the Stone Fish looks like this:

Ugly as he is, his name certainly seems wildly appropriate given the rock-like appearance.  The venom from a Stonefish can absolutely kill a human being, terrifying considering these fellas prefer to hang out in warmer, shallower water.  The fish is covered in hundreds of tiny spines, each of which capable of delivering a toxic sting.  And whoa boy, the sting is not fun.  The venom attacks the immune, respiratory and central nervous systems, as a victims typically reports difficulty breathing, coughing, nausea and vomiting minutes after a sting.  Eventually, a victim will begin to have seizures, experience delirium, and possible paralysis.  If untreated, a full size, healthy adult human could die within a day.  Fortunately, an antivenom exists, and there has been only a singular reported fatality as a result of a Stonefish sting.  However, because of the type of poison extracted, the victim could potentially wish for the sweet relief of death.  The sting, almost immediately, causes the patient to experience such a severe pain, victims have described the sensations as “being on fire” or “being hit with a sledgehammer”, while some victims have outright requested the affected limb be hacked right off.  One unlucky guy even reported feeling severe kidney pain periodically years after he was pricked in his little finger.  Stonefish antivenom is the second most administered in Australia and yes of course this fish is from Australia, where all things horrible and deadly reside.  Unfortunately, both Florida and the Caribbean Islands have pretty darn warm water, so Stonefish are reported to have made a home in these areas as well.

4.  People Love 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

Anyone alive during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 will never forget the events of that day; where they were, who they heard the news from, the looks on their parents faces.  My mom compared that day to the day JFK was assassinated, while others said the same about Pearl Harbor.  It was (and remains) the worst terrorist attack on a foreign country in the history of ever with the 2,996 perishing.  For comparisons sake’s the second worst terrorist attack ever (in Iran) saw just over 700 people lose their lives, while the second worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil claimed 168 lives.  Despite the horrible tragedy that had just unfolded, brave, intelligent conspiracy theorists rose from their computers in the darkest, most secluded of basements to point fingers at any number of factors that could’ve caused the attacks, except, of course for Jihadism as was being reported, because that’s never happened before (go here to see that that has indeed happened before, on numerous occasions).  Because people know George W. Bush would respond unfavorably to a hurricane in 2006, people and their remarkable ability to see five years into the future opined Bush as the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks.  In fact, so many different outlets were blamed, everyone from the Federal Government to Eminem, the Wikipedia article for 9/11 Conspiracy Theories is of equal length to the Wikipedia article about the actual 9/11 attacks.  Most people in favor of a conspiracy theory point to the collapse of the towers as the most sketchy aspect of the events.  Jet fuel, apparently, does not burn hot enough to melt steel according to people who believe in conspiracy theories.  Members of the engineering community (i.e., people extraordinary more intelligent than you or I) have said the conspiracy theories are ridiculous.  Considering everyone from the Illuminati to Tupac himself was partially responsible for 9/11, according to the 9/11 truth movement, who themselves could be most accurately compared to the Westboro Baptist Church, subsequent attacks in both London and Madrid were probably also George Bush’s fault.

3.  The Aokigahara Forest is apparently an awesome place to kill yourself

Despite the how cryptic that opening title sounded, it’s every bit the true.  How true?  Since 1988, over a hundred suicides, on average, occur in the forest each year, making Aokigahara Forest the second most popular place in the world to commit suicide, following the majestic and picturesque Golden Gate Bridge.  Suicides are said to increase towards the end of March, the end of the Japanese fiscal year, and the preferred method is either hanging or drug overdose.  The thick, dense forest, the prevalence for suicides, and the tremendously influx or tourists the forest sees each year leads to some horrifying discoveries, most notably, finding a dead body hanging from a tree in a creepy forest like that midget who hung himself in Wizard of Oz.  The Aokigahara Forest, apparently is absolutely polluted with signs urging people not to kill themselves, which would be disconcerting to say the least to any visitor unaware of the forest’s macabre reputation.  In 2007, officials pulled over 100 bodies from he forest, exceeding the previous record of 78 from 2003, and also breaking the record for most inappropriate record to actually record.  To top of the terrifying cake of horror, the forest is said to be haunted by the souls of those who perish in the forest, as the demon god (sounds like they should cancel each other out) Yueri allegedly gets pretty upset when people kill themselves.  Japan has since stopped reporting the number of suicides that occur in the forest in a given year in hopes of shedding Aokigahara’s reputation as a “suicide forest.”  Unfortunately for Japanese officials, when you routinely fish several dozen corpses out of the woodwork, a sketchy reputation is something you might have to just live with.

2.  No one can name the worst natural disaster in history

Quick, without thinking about it or reading any further, what do you think is the worst natural disaster that can happen?  An earthquake, tsunami, maybe a tornado?  Okay, now, what event do you think was the worst natural disaster in history by death toll (which his how the worst-ness should be judged)?  The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004?  Maybe the Haitian earthquake a few years back?  At the risk of sounding like a hipster begrudgingly admitting his favorite folk band, I would like to suggest most people reading this could probably not name the worst natural disaster in history.  I’ll tell you!  It was a flood!

China was facing some issues between 1928-1930.  A two-year long drought was beginning to seriously threaten both infrastructure and the lives of millions of Chinese citizens.  In the winter of 1930, Chinese was crushed with snow.  Like a Buffalo amount of snow.  The horrible winter wasn’t too inspiring for several million citizens who just endured a drought that lasted twice as long as Lane Kiffin’s Oakland Raiders coaching career.  However, the spring of 1931 granted the patient Chinese citizens with rain.  But, then the rain became a tad problematic, as the heavy rains coupled with the massive snowmelt began to overflow rivers.  Then, in July nine cyclones hit the region (a cyclone is like a hurricane), whereas the average was two cyclones per year.  The combination of these unfortunate meteorological events lead to the flooding of the Yangtze River, the biggest river in China, which ultimately killed several million people.  The most conservative of estimates put the death toll at over a million, while more realistic calculations approximate the death toll at nearly four million lost souls.

1.  Dubai is insane

Dubai, one of the seven Emirates of the UAE, is currently the 22nd richest city in the world, with a hotel room in Dubai costing most folks a second mortgage.  Just over 20 years ago, Dubai was an upstart country, kind of in an awkward position with the whole Gulf War thing happening.  They were sitting on their fair share of oil money, but for the most part Dubai looked like a desert town with a few hotels you wouldn’t think twice about passing through.  And then, the Gulf War ended, sending an influx of Lebanese, Kuwaiti, and western businesses to the tiny emirate.  Also, oil prices skyrocketed.  All things considered, Dubai was in a pretty sweet position for expansion, and they did just that.  Over the past 20 years, Dubai has gone from a small-upstart oil town, to a global economic power and one of the most luxurious cities on the planet.  Here is there transformation:

The picture above would be the equivalent of Bayou LeBatre, Alabama turning into Birmingham, Alabama in 15 years, and then Birmingham turning into New York City in seven more years.  A focus on architecture and making everything as tall and weird as possible led Dubai to creating a hotel that looks like a sailboat:

To the largest free standing structure ever constructed:

And an artificial chain of islands:

Despite the insanity of the structures, the luxurious lifestyles, and $4,000 hotel rooms, Dubai is considered a pretty awesome place to live, a remarkable distinction considering the decade-long volatility of the entire Middle Eastern region.

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