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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Daily Drift

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Today  is  - Old Maid Day

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Friona, Alpharettea, Atascocita and Malibu, United States
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Rostov-Na-Donu, Mosocw, Ryazan, Novosibirsk, Vladivostok and Saint Petersburg, Russia
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Puerto De La Cruz, Torrent, Madrid and Santa Cruz De Tenerife, Spain
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Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Bucharest, Romania
London and Leeds, England
Dublin and Limerick, Ireland
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The Pacific
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Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
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Today in History

1070 Roqueford cheese is accidentally discovered in a cave near Roqueford, France, when a sheperd finds a lunch he had forgotten several days before.
1615 The fortress at Osaka, Japan, falls to Shogun Leyasu after a six-month siege.
1647 Parliamentary forces capture King Charles I and hold him prisoner.
1717 The Freemasons are founded in London.
1792 Captain George Vancouver claims Puget Sound for Britain.
1794 British troops capture Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
1805 Tripoli is forced to conclude peace with the United States after a conflict over tribute.
1859 The French army, under Napoleon III, takes Magenta from the Austrian army.
1864 Confederates under General Joseph Johnston retreat to the mountains in Georgia.
1911 Gold is discovered in Alaska's Indian Creek.
1918 French and American troops halt Germany's offensive at Chateau-Thierry, France.
1919 The U.S. Senate passes the Women's Suffrage bill.
1940 British complete the evacuation of 300,000 troops at Dunkirk.
1943 In Argentina, Juan Peron takes part in the military coup that overthrows Ramon S. Castillo.
1944 The U-505 becomes the first enemy submarine captured by the U.S. Navy.
1944 Allied troops liberate Rome.
1946 Juan Peron is installed as Argentina's president.
1953 North Korea accepts the United Nations proposals in all major respects.
1960 The Taiwan island of Quemoy is hit by 500 artillery shells fired from the coast of Communist China.
1972 Black activist Angela Davis is found not guilty of murder, kidnapping, and criminal conspiracy.

Non Sequitur


Speaking 2 languages benefits the brain

Speaking 2 languages benefits the aging brain

New research reveals that bilingualism has a positive effect on […]

A single DNA tweak leads to blond hair

13 Accidental Inventions That Changed The World

Necessity isn't always the mother of invention. Lots of the things we rely on to cure our diseases, cook our meals, and sweeten our days weren't deliberately designed.

Instead, they were a happy accident. Some society-shaping inventions - from Coca-Cola to penicillin and the microwave oven - came about by chance.

The Science Of Bubbles

Bubbles may seem pretty ordinary. We tend to think of them just as beverage enhancers or entertainment for small children. But scientists are uncovering another side to bubbles: They can perform computations, drive climate, and even act as weapons.
In celebration of summer, the unofficial season of the bubble, here's a glimpse into the hidden world of this common, albeit little understood, form.

Jeffrey Hudson: The Queen’s Dwarf

The adventure-filled life of Jeffrey Hudson. Here's the long and the short of it. (Okay, mostly the short.)
Jeffrey Hudson was born, ironically, in the smallest county in England -Rutland County- on June 14, 1619. His father worked as a butcher, a not very well-paying position in those days. Mr. and Mrs. Hudson were both of ordinary stature, as were all their other children, which included three boys and a girl.


As Jeffrey grew older, though, he simply didn’t grow. At the age of seven, in fact, he stood a mere 18 inches tall. Jeffrey probably suffered from a condition common to dwarfs called hypopituitarism, a growth hormone deficiency in the pituitary gland. In every other respect, Jeffrey was quite normal; he was healthy, intelligent, and quite good-looking. He could have ended up spending most of his life as a sideshow in a local fair. But fate had something else in store.


Everyone was curious about him, including the Duchess of Buckingham, whose husband was the best friend and principle advisor of King Charles I (1625-1649). At the request of the duchess, Jeffrey’s parents dressed their son in his best Sunday clothes (such as they were), marched him the mile or so up the hill to the duchess’s mansion, and handed him over. From then on, Jeffrey would be dressed in velvets, silks, and satins, with two servants to attend his every need. He would still be on display, the subject of laughter and curiosity- but there was a big difference between dancing for a duchess and performing in front of the local yokels at the county fair.


In early November 1626, the duke threw a series of lavish banquets at his palatial home in London, including one for King Charles and his queen, Henrietta Maria. Only the finest food in the land was served, and all the guests were showered with gifts. Such fancy soirees called for culinary special effects: At the appointed hour, servants carried a huge, glistening pie to the royal table and set it down before the queen. Then, right on cue, a hand, then an arm, broke through the crust -followed by a small face peering out from beneath a shiny helmet. Finally, a tiny figure dressed in a miniature suit of armor emerged. It was Jeffrey Hudson.


The queen took Jeffrey under her wing. The royal marriage wasn’t going very well; young Henrietta Maria -the sister of Louis XII, king of France- felt isolated and alone. And in a country that was largely Anglican, her passionate devotion to the Catholic faith only increased that sense of foreignness and isolation. So Henrietta Maria turned to her pets. To her menagerie of monkeys, dogs, and birds, she could now add her her own little pet human, Jeffrey Hudson, who thereafter was known as the Queen’s Dwarf.

The queen had already lost one child shortly after childbirth; so when she became pregnant the second time, an expedition was mounted to find the finest nurse in all of France, Madame Peronne, to tend to the queen. Jeffrey had been included. So on March 18, 1630, he and Madame Peronne set sail from Calais. A few hours after leaving port, the ship was taken over by pirates. But after a few days, realizing that the group they’d snatched was probably too hot to handle, the pirates released their captives and sent them on their way.

The decade starting in 1631 was surely the happiest time of Hudson’s life. He was the hit of every social occasion; this was not just because of his curiosity value, but because of his wit, humor, and charm. He learned some new skills that were expected of young men at court, including shooting a pistol, riding, playing cards, and dancing. But while Jeffrey and his fellow courtiers were playing games inside the walls of the palace, some deadly serious games were being played outside of them. The Puritans in Parliament continued to grumble about the lavish spending of the monarchy and the high taxes that King Charles I continued to impose.

By 1641, the royal treasury was tapped out, and the desperate king was forced to reconvene the Parliament he had dismissed in 1629. The next January, Henrietta Maria, Jeffrey, and the rest of the king’s court fled London, through an angry crowd of Puritan sympathizers, and set sail for Holland.

The ship ran smack into a huge storm, which the queen and her entourage barely managed to survive. They finally reached Holland on March 1, 1642. On the return trip -nearly a year later, in what was becoming a depressingly familiar routine for poor Jeffrey- a huge storm hit the queen’s convoy as soon as they lost sight of land. Several ships were lost in the storm, but the queen and Jeffrey managed to make it back to the Dutch coast.


Back in Holland, the queen quickly raised more money and supplies, and she replaced the ships that had been lost in the storm. A year later, they sailed again for England, making it without a hitch. This time the trouble began after they landed, when the fishing village where they were staying overnight was bombarded by parliamentary ships. Dressed only in their nightgowns, the queen and her attendants were forced to flee their quarters. Meanwhile Jeffrey, armed with sword and pistol, joined the other male members of the queen’s household down by the landing area, ready to repel the queen’s enemies. At dawn, the tide carried the attacking ships out of range and the firing ceased.


Henrietta Maria rewarded Jeffrey for his loyalty and bravery by conferring upon him the honorary title Captain of Horse. But by the summer of 1644, with the war against the parliamentary forces not going well at all, the queen and the royal entourage boarded a fleet of Dutch ships and hightailed it for France. Not surprisingly, they proceeded to run right into -yep, you guessed it!- another storm.


Henrietta Maria and company eventually made it to France. Once they had settled in they were joined by Williams Crofts, the queen’s Master of Horse, and several of the courts “young blades,” aristocratic hangers-on whose principle occupation was hanging around the local saloons and getting sloshed. Once again, Jeffrey found himself the easy butt of cruel jokes. The now 25-year-old Captain Hudson let it be known that the next person who insulted him would be challenged to a duel.


The final straw was an insult delivered by young Charles Crofts, brother of the aforementioned William. A duel was arranged, though, in all likelihood, no one -with the exception of Jeffrey Hudson- took it seriously. When the combatants were asked to choose their weapons, Crofts produced the 17th-century equivalent of a squirt gun (it was actually called a “squirt”), a large syringe that served in those days as a fire extinguisher. This apparently produced more than a few chuckles among the spectators. But in Jeffrey’s mind, the time for jokes was over. The water pistol was put aside. The two duelists, 100 paces apart, faced each other on horseback. The horses charged, and when they were only a few yards apart, Jeffrey Hudson leveled his pistol and shot Crofts through the head. He died at the scene.


Though it’s not clear exactly why, Jeffrey was banished from court (the queen may have been trying to protect Jeffrey, but there’s also the factor that dueling was in disfavor at that moment in France).

In October 1644, Hudson packed up his things and left France. By ship. (Oh no! Oh, yes.) Not long out of port, Jeffrey’s ship was boarded by Turkish corsairs, the dreaded Barbary pirates. Jeffrey was most likely taken to one of the slave-trade centers -Algiers, Tunis, or Tripoli- on the Barbary Coast, the group of North African states ruled by the Ottoman Turks. After their capture, slaves were taken down to a central market where they were put up for auction.


Once a slave, it’s likely that Hudson received his fair share of physical abuse. Along with a new regime of physical labor, his diet underwent a radical change: from rich, refined foods to much simpler fare, which would have been something like black bread and vinegar. It may have been this combination of extreme changes in his daily existence that brought about the most remarkable of changes: Jeffrey actually began to grow! Right after reaching the age of 30, he shot up from around two feet in height to three feet and nine inches (a little more than one meter).


Beginning in the mid-1660s, England made concerted efforts to buy back its citizens from the Barbary pirates. After nearly 25 years in slavery, Jeffrey Hudson finally obtained his freedom. He returned home to live with his only surviving brother, Samuel. In 1678, after seven or eight years living the quiet life, he decided to return to London. But anti-Catholic riots had broken out there, and his close identification with the fervently Catholic Henrietta Maria made him an easy target for the mob. He was thrown in prison and clapped in irons, with nothing to sleep on but boards. No heat was provided duing the cold, damp English winters.


Jeffrey was released from prison in 1680, a tired and broken old man. His former connections at court helped him snag a little money from Henrietta Maria’s son, King Charles II, who must have taken pity on the Queen’s Dwarf. It is believed that Jeffrey died in the second half of 1681, but the exact date and place are unknown. There’s no record of his final days. But in all probability, Jeffrey Hudson, a proud and adventurous spirit, died impoverished and alone.

Man who escaped from police on floating log found hiding under a blanket in cupboard

A wanted man who police say fled from them early last week by jumping into the Etowah River in Canton, Georgia, and floated downstream on a log, has resurfaced. Terry Raymond Spriggs was found hiding in a clothes closet at a home in Woodstock and arrested late on Wednesday night, after sailing away from police on May 19, said Phil Price, commander of the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad.
“We knew he would turn back up. Just a matter of time,” Price said. “Our main concern was he made it abundantly clear to us that he would be willing to run and do what it took to get away.” CMANS agents searched the house at about 10pm after following Spriggs, wanted on drug and probation violation charges, from another home a few miles away. The home belongs to acquaintances of Spriggs, a family with three children, Price said. Agents and sheriff’s deputies helped the family out of the house and went in to find Spriggs, 42, of Canton. “Spriggs was discovered hiding in a clothes closet, covered with a blanket,” Price said.
Wednesday nights’ arrest was the end of a week and a half of authorities searching for the suspect, though Price has been candid Spriggs wasn’t a highly-sought fugitive because his charges weren’t especially serious. It started on May 19 when agents with CMANS, a countywide collaborative drug task force, spotted Spriggs at his mother’s house and recognized him as a man with warrants. Police at the time said a chase ensued, and the suspect jumped into the Etowah and hugged a floating log, riding it for about a quarter of a mile before police lost sight of him.  Price said agents later learned, as they suspected last week, Spriggs had got out of the river quickly and fled.
At the time, though, local officers called in the Georgia State Patrol to fly a helicopter over the river to make sure the suspect wasn’t hung on brush or in any physical danger. In spite of the search the suspect has put police through, Price said he doesn’t expect any charges relating to his elusiveness. “Frankly, that’s sort of piling on,” the commander said. “You don’t really want to pile on charges (because) somebody’s a thorn in your side.” The suspect did get an additional charge out of Wednesday night’s event, though; Price said he was charged with theft by receiving for the stolen motorcycle he was riding before police arrested him. Spriggs is being held without bond at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center.

Machete-wielding woman airlifted to hospital after relative ran over her foot with lawn mower

A dispute between family members in Vigo County led to a woman being airlifted to an Indianapolis hospital on Friday afternoon. The Vigo County Sheriff's Department says deputies were called at around 4:45pm and found a 59-year-old woman with severe injuries to her foot.
The woman and her 91-year-old male relative have been involved in a longtime property dispute. Witnesses told deputies that just after 4:30pm, the woman was upset and drove her Jeep through the man's yard causing damage to the yard. The man, who was on a mower at the time, confronted the woman in the driveway.
An argument ensued and the woman got out of the Jeep carrying a machete. The man quickly turned the mower, causing the mower to run over the woman's lower leg which resulted in a severe injury to her foot. Neighbors called 911 and the woman was airlifted to IU Health Methodist Hospital in critical condition.
The Sheriff's Department says detectives interviewed the man but were unable to interview the woman due to her condition. Once detectives complete their investigation, the case will be turned over to the Vigo County Prosecutor's Office to determine if charges will be filed.
There's a short news video here.

Man charged for making bomb threat after not getting a sandwich

A Wisconsin man faces a bomb scare charge for not getting a sandwich.
23-year-old Thomas Rupnik is accused of making the threat at the Sheboygan Senior Community Center on Thursday.
According to the criminal complaint, Rupnik entered the building and asked for some food. When staff turned him down, he left for a few minutes but returned and made the threat to make a bomb and blow up the building.
Sheboygan Police made contact with him at his residence and he admitted to making the threat. Rupnik now faces up to three-and-a-half year in prison if found guilty of the felony.

Thai bus conductors forced to wear diapers due to lack of toilet breaks

Stuck for hours each day in snarling traffic, bus conductors in Bangkok have been forced to use adult nappies as a radical solution to a lack of toilet breaks. With congestion worsening, conductors on Thailand's sprawling capital's aging buses spend long days on the polluted roads in the tropical heat, often with no toilet stops along the route. When she developed a urinary tract infection, Watcharee Viriya had little choice but to start wearing adult nappies to cope with the many hours away from the restroom. "It was uncomfortable when I moved, especially when I urinated inside," she recalled. "When I arrived at the bus terminal, I had to run to get changed. I used at least two nappies a day." She was later diagnosed with cancer of the uterus and needed to undergo surgery.
"The doctor told me that it was because of wearing dirty nappies and the substances from them going into the uterus." Watcharee is not alone in opting for such an extreme answer to a lack of toilet breaks: a recent survey found that 28 percent of female bus conductors in Bangkok had worn nappies on a job that requires them to work up to 16 hours a day. "We were shocked," said Jaded Chouwilai, director of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation which carried out the research.
"We also found that many of them suffer urinary tract infections and stones in their bladders," he said. "Many of the female bus conductors also have uterus cancer." Now Bangkok's bus conductors and unionists are starting to speak out to demand better working conditions. "Their working conditions are not good," said Chutima Boonjai, secretary of the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority labour union, who has asked for more toilets to be placed along bus routes or in bus terminals.
There's a news video here.



Elevador do Bom jesus

Yesterday we posted about the inclined lift at Kaprun in Austria. A reader pointed me to the funicular lift of Bom Jesus do Monte, in the city of Braga in Portugal. It's over 100 years old.
The lift was built in 1882 by Niklaus Riggenbach and is the oldest funicular in the world moving by water counterbalancing, loading water into the car at the top of the hill, which weighs it down so it descends to the bottom, at the same time drawing the lighter, drained car up the hill, where the process starts all over again.

Lochnagar Mine Crater

On the morning of 1 July 1916, the British army detonated a mine in the village of La Boisselle, just north of Albert in France. The Royal Engineers had dug a tunnel, 50 feet deep, extending for about 300 yards from the British lines to the German front line. There, under a German position called 'Schwaben Hohe,' they laid a mine consisting of over 25 tons of Ammonal.
The resulting explosion blew almost half a million tons of chalk into the surrounding fields, sending debris over 4,000 feet into the air. It created a vast hole 300 feet across and 90 feet deep. Known as the Lochnagar crater, it remains the largest crater made in warfare to this day.

D-Day Landings Scenes In 1944 And Now

Peter Macdiarmid has taken photographs of locations in France and England to match with archive images taken before, during and after the D-day landings. The Allied invasion to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation during the second world war took place on 6 June 1944.
Operation Overlord was the largest seaborne invasion in military history, with more than 156,000 Allied troops storming the beaches of France. Click on a photo to reveal the modern view. You can drag or swipe to control the speed of the transformation.

Random Photos

Storm Chaser Gets Zapped on Tape

Storm chaser Scott Sheppard kept the video rolling as a bolt of lightning shot down his arm, through his vehicle, and blasted a hole in the ground.

6 Things to Know About the 2014 Hurricane Season

While forecasters may be predicting a quiet hurricane season this year, there are still ample reasons to keep up our guard.

Contact Made With 36-Year-Old 'Retired' Satellite

Red tape and a moderate earthquake did not deter a private group from meeting its goal of making contact with a 36-year-old NASA spacecraft that has been slumbering in deep space since 1997.

Red Dwarfs Could Sterilize Alien Worlds of Life

Red dwarf stars -- the most common stars in the galaxy -- bathe planets in their habitable zones with potentially deadly stellar winds, a finding that could have significant impacts on the prevalence of life beyond Earth, new research shows.

The 'Godzilla of Earths'

Scientists Have Discovered A Planet They Thought Was Impossible
by Leslie Baehr
kepler 10c smaller
The "Godzilla of Earths!" is in the foreground. Behind it is the smaller 'lava world'. Their sun, in the back, appears to have been created only 3 billion years after the Big Bang.
Based on what we know about how solar systems form, researchers thought that a giant rocky planet could not exist. But they just found one that's 17 times Earth's mass. They're calling it the Mega-Earth.
Scientists say the new planet may have "profound implications for the possibility of life" on extra-solar planets, according to a press release from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. They announced the finding in a talk at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston.
Researchers have always thought Mega-Earths were impossible since any planets that big would attract hydrogen gas, forming a gas planet like Jupiter.
Meet the Mega-Earth
Mega-Earth, also known as Kepler-10c, is 18,000 miles in diameter and 2.3 times as large as Earth. It appears to be as solid as the planet beneath our feet.
Kepler-10c was previously known to astronomers, but they had not yet measured its mass. Due to its size — 2.3 times that of Earth — it was assumed to be a "mini-Neptune," a planet encased in thick gas. But the new observations have confirmed that it is rocky, not gassy.
It orbits an 11 billion-year-old star named Kepler-10 located 560 light years away from Earth. Its year lasts only 45 days.
Interestingly, this solar system is more than twice as old as our own — it was born less than 3 billion years after the Big Bang.
"We were very surprised when we realized what we had found," study researcher Xavier Dumusque, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in a press release.
We've always thought a rocky planet is the best place to look for life, since life on a gas giant is hard to imagine. From what they've observed, the planet may also have an atmosphere with thin clouds, another good sign.
A mysterious system
Researchers had previously thought that this kind of planet impossible.
Not only did they think something that big would be a gas giant, but they didn't even think the elements that make up a rocky planet existed in our universe when this solar system was born: The early universe had only the lighter elements of hydrogen and helium. Heavier elements were forged from these lighter ones in stars over billions of years.
Because of this, many scientists hadn't been looking for rocky planets in these very old solar systems.
"Finding Kepler-10c tells us that rocky planets could form much earlier than we thought. And if you can make rocks, you can make life," study researcher Dimitar Sasselov, of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, said in a release.
The mega-Earth isn't the only weird planet in its solar system. There's also a 'lava-world' 1.5 times Earth's size whose year lasts only 20 hours.

Daily Comic Relief


Six Mysterious and Famous Cryptids

Cryptids is the larger classification for animals unknown to science. Check out these photos of some of the most famous.

Dog rescued from back of a pick-up truck that had rolled into fast-flowing river

A dog has been plucked to safety after a pick-up truck inadvertently rolled into the Chewuch River in the Washington town of Winthrop.
With the aid of guidelines anchored to the river banks, Vikki Buzzard and Ottis Buzzard, members of the county’s Swiftwater Rescue Team, manoeuvred an inflatable raft to the back of the Ford F-150’s bed and rescued Jessie, owned by Paul Picolet of Twisp, at about 1pm on Saturday. Picolet’s truck had rolled into the river at about 11am, and drifted downstream before coming to a rest in rapid water.
Picolet was not in the truck when it rolled into the river, but Jessie endured the adventure with relative calm. The dog waited in the truck, clearly nervous but not showing any inclination to leave, while the rescue team arrived, strategized how to reach the truck and retrieve the dog safely, and prepared their gear. Dog and owner were happy to reunite after the Buzzards brought Jessie to shore.

She shook off her coat and cavorted on the river bank, but stopped short of bounding back into the water. Janet Verkuyl of Winthrop, Picolet’s mother, said she was grateful for the response and professionalism of the rescue team. Personnel from the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, Aero Methow Rescue Service, Okanogan County Fire District 6 and the Winthrop Marshal’s Office responded to the incident.

Massive swarm of grasshoppers picked up on weather radar

Weather officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico, say a mysterious presence that showed up on its radar the last few nights has turned out to be of the insect variety. Their Dopplar radar has been showing something moving over the area each night. Now they know that huge mass is a swarm of grasshoppers.
“In this situation, we know that it’s something other than precipitation because the particles we’re sensing are not uniform – they’re busier,” said Brent Wachter, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. Wachter says he’s occasionally seen activity from bats in the Jemez or cicadas, during particularly bad seasons but never a grasshopper swarm covering the entire area. “We actually thought the radar was broke, so we had our technicians go out there a couple times,” he said.
“They couldn’t find anything wrong, so we had to call the National Radar Depot in Oklahoma.” The people in Oklahoma said they’d seen something like it before and asked whether Albuquerque was having any sort of insect infestation. The radar shows that swarm of grasshoppers is flying about 1,000 feet in the air. “We can explain it, certainly,” said Paul Smith, with the city of Albuquerque Environmental Department.
Smith says the grasshoppers seen in Albuquerque’s invasion are pretty good flyers to start with, and then, there’s the wind. “With temperatures warming up, we have a lot of thermal inversions,” he said. “It’s no stretch to imagine that they’re getting pulled up by some of these up currents and getting high into the atmosphere.” Smith says last year’s big monsoon season, plus the mild winter, created the perfect combination for all the grasshoppers just waiting to hatch a few weeks ago. He says they should die off in mid-June.

Huge North Sea Plankton Bloom Seen From Space

Ghostly and blue-green, a phytoplankton bloom meanders across the North Sea in new satellite imagery.

Now You See Me...

The Amazing Pygmy Seahorse
The seahorse has been known to us for thousands of years: the ancient Romans created beautiful mosaics celebrating their shape and grace. Yet a number of species escaped our attention until the 1970s - and then it took till the 21st century to name six of the seven previously hidden kinds.
Why did they elude us for so long? Well, they are tiny. Yet it is their amazing camouflage which really allowed them to remain concealed for so long.

10 GIFs Of Sea Creatures Straight From Science Fiction Nightmares

There's an oft-repeated quote that we know more about the surface moon than we do about the depths of our own oceans. Which makes perfect sense because the moon is a barren ball of dust and the ocean is a teeming ecosystem of stuff that punched its way out of a sci-fi movie.

Here are 10 GIFs that prove our ocean is pretty much full of alien life.

Animal Pictures