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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

This is a roundup of interesting, cool, and weird* things reported in the past week:

  • This may be the oldest dress in the world: Mental Floss.
  • Cute: This 106-year old woman can dance better than me: Huffington Post.
  • What's the world's deadliest animal? Yahoo.
  • Huge meteor explodes over earth, but no one notices: Forbes.
  • Dodo birds were not dumb: UPI.

* Yes, weird stuff happens virtually all the time. Doesn't mean aliens/ghosts/conspiracy did it.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The belief of witchcraft as something evil and capable of doing supernatural things (such as placing a curse on a neighbor or telling the future), comes from ancient times. 

Religious texts like the Bible condemned anything that did not seem to come from God.

In the Middle Ages, THOUSANDS (maybe even millions) of people were killed on suspicion of being witches.

Even though some people did not believe that witchcraft actually did anything -that it had any supernatural powers, most people were afraid of it in case it did have powers or in case they were killed by being accused of being witches.

Pilgrims, Puritans, and settlers that came from England to America, brought those beliefs and fears with them. 
In one small town, Salem Village, Massachusetts, those beliefs in the supernatural were to become a very public show, like the biggest news of the century for them, like a reality TV show happening in real life in front of them.

In the house of a minister, Reverend Samuel Parris, his daughter Elizabeth and his niece Abigail (in the picture on the left) had been acting strange in their house: “getting into holes and creeping under chairs and stools”, speaking weirdly and to themselves, staring into nothing, and even crawling on the floor like animals
The town doctor couldn’t find anything physically wrong with them so he said they must have had a spell on them -here’s the start of something wrong, as you wouldn’t expect a doctor to diagnose someone as having something supernatural. Doctors can only diagnose physical and mental illness.

So because of this diagnosis, the Reverend Parris confronted the girls and the girls started accusing people, starting with their slave and then neighbors.

The women were tried in court, even a 4-year old was tried and mistreated as a possible witch.
About 200 people ended up being tried in court, accused by the kids or by neighbors -neighbors that wanted each other’s land or property, or were mad at each other for other reasons. They saw this trial as an opportunity to get revenge or get the things they wanted.

The accusers (also called witnesses or afflicted), made their story bigger and bigger every time they testified in court. They put on a big show in court, acting like they were being hurt right there by the witches.

The judges also did not conduct the trial correctly -they mistreated the accused women and men, they did not question them properly, and conducted these questionings in front of the whole community, which may have influenced people to accuse each other. It’s like the judges and ministers were just trying to convict people of witchcraft, whether they had proof or not.

Can you imagine accusing your neighbor of being a witch, of being evil, just because you want their stuff or because you want revenge? Even though you know that they are probably going to die for what you are saying against them?

There other witch trials in the new America, and other people were killed. But the Salem Witch Trials lasted longer, had more suspects, and killed more people. Twenty people were executed and 5 died while in jail.

Afterwards, -after all the deaths, only some of the accusers confessed about their lies and asked for forgiveness, but the damage had been done.

Maybe the girls had been sick, maybe her parents really believed they had a witch’s curse. But the accusers did not get a fair trial, and people took advantage of the fear of witches to start accusing and mistreating their neighbors. That is the danger with believing in supernatural stuff without looking for other explanations.

To Read More:


Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide, by David K. Goss. Published by Greenwood Press. Dec 2007.

The Salem Witch Mania, by Benjamin C. Ray. Published by Osford University Press. Mar 2010.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Every Friday we feature amazing discoveries and facts, because, yes, the world is full of wonders that are real and natural-occurring (without divine or supernatural intervention).

This week we are going back in time, when giants roamed the earth.

Large animals like elephants, rhinoceroses, and giant squids are amazing to watch and wonder at. But thousands and millions of years ago there were even bigger animals. Thanks to archaeologists and scientists, we know a lot today about those animals too.

The most famous large animals are perhaps dinosaurs. There seems to be so many variations of them (from flying, to small, to large, to herbivore, to carnivorous) and Hollywood movies have made them famous. Although we don’t exactly what dinosaurs looked like (their colors, etc.) because they lived millions of years ago, before humans, we have discovered enough bones and remains to learn a lot about them. One of the most interesting pieces of fossil is actually their poo. Read about how their feces are helping scientists understand more about how dinosaurs lived: BBC.

Thanks to the Ice Age movies, you may know about the Woolly Mammoth. It is believed they existed more than 400 thousand years ago, could reach over 4 meters tall and weigh over 6 tons (12,000 pounds!). It’s called “wooly” because it was covered in fur and long hairs. The Woolly Mammoth became extinct because of climate change (yes, the Ice Age) and being hunted by humans. We know they existed because even as recent as last year we have been discovering their remains. Watch here: National Geographic.

Another large animal that’s extinct is the Steller’s Sea Cow -named after George Stellers, who discovered the creature in 1741. As you can see in the picture, this sea cow closely resembles the Manatee, although it was much bigger (could grow to 8 meters and weighted up to 10 tons!). It was a gentle and tame creature, which made it vulnerable to humans, and in just 27 years it was hunted to extinction.

The Baiji White Dolphin lived for about 20 million years, before humans destroyed it in the last century. As humans used the dolphin’s territory, these creatures were wiped out due to pollution, heavy fishing, and boat propeller accidents. It is not officially extinct, but no one has seen a Baiji White Dolphin since 2002.

As much as we admire and learn about these and other magnificent big creatures that lived before our times, it is important to recognize that, with few exceptions like the dinosaurs, humans are largely responsible for the disappearance of many of these animals -from hunting to destroying their habitat.

If we care about the world we live, we should respect all lives, including animals.

To Read More:

  • Huge Kangaroos and 5-meter lizards: Australian giants: BBC.
  • These people are trying to bring the Woolly Mammoth back from extinction: Long Now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

This is a roundup of interesting, cool, and weird* things reported in the past week:

  • No, that is not a monkey on Mars (VIDEO): MSN.
  • This "Sea Monster" is no monster at all: The Herald.
  • This teen has an idea for cleaning up the entire Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Inhabitant.
  • New YouTube video doesn't show Bigfoot, just a prankster in a suit: MSN.

* Yes, weird stuff happens virtually all the time. Doesn't mean aliens/ghosts/conspiracy did it.