Life would be dull without the world’s weirdest moments. But sometimes, they exceed our wildest expectations. There are spooky forests that move and footage of the Moon that nobody believes. Things get weird inside a beatboxing throat and when people bite products in stores. But the most terrifying moments happen when clips show what unregulated kill-bots can do and when drones see hundreds of blindfolded people in China.
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In 2017, Australian beatboxer Tom Thum said “Ah,” and let doctors look at his throat. More precisely, he allowed a camera to slither up his nose and down his throat. Then he made a bunch of noises so that the team could see his vocal cords do their thing. The view was not for kids, lunchtime or anyone with a sensitive stomach.
The footage of the camera going up the nose and past the soft palate was gross enough. However, for those who could keep watching, it became clear how versatile the human larynx really is. Most of the noises created by the tongue’s movements started at the top of Tom’s soft palate against the mouth’s roof. Then, twisting into freaky-looking shapes, the tissues of the larynx also moved to help form different sounds. Some squeezed like mad while others shivered, flattened, lifted or pulled. As remarkable as this design was, the footage remained far from pretty.
Thanks to one man, iPhone users now know not to bite batteries. Although the logic is obvious, this customer learned his lesson the hard way. In 2018, there was a rush after Apple users realized they had to replace their batteries. Apple was giving a discount to anyone who had an iPhone 6 or any model after that. The offer came after the company admitted to slowing these devices to stretch out battery life.
Since the response was positive – a veritable stampede occurred – some people ended up on long waiting lists. Those who found the idea of waiting for weeks unacceptable turned to third-party providers. The problem with that avenue included fake iPhone batteries. This thought was apparently the main concern of the unnamed man who entered a Chinese store that sold electronics. He eventually found what he was looking for. Like some people bite coins to test their authenticity, he chomped down to make sure he was getting a genuine iPhone part. The battery exploded. Remarkably, the man was unharmed. But his dignity might suffer forever. The whole thing was caught on the store’s security camera and uploaded to the Internet.
From 1945 to 1962, around 10,000 films were shot of nuclear tests. They recorded the U.S. detonating devices both underground and on the surface. Most of these reels languished for decades in high-security storage. In 2017, 6,500 were recovered by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). For years afterward, researchers battled against time to digitalize the historic footage. All of them were on the verge of decomposing beyond repair.
The Laboratory had several reasons for wanting to preserve the explosions. Apart from being an integral part of human history, some were freshly declassified and available for studies for the first time. The footage also corrected a few mistakes. Back in the day scientists had to use eyesight to measure the explosions’ fireballs and shockwaves. Most of the published measurements turned out to off by about 25 percent. While correct facts are always a joy for researchers, the greatest achievement LLNL is hoping for is that the unsettling films would discourage the future use of nuclear weapons.
A growing number of people, including Stephan Hawking and Elon Musk, have voiced their concern about a future that includes killer robots. They are not alone. Several organizations also exist to monitor the situation and spread awareness.
The Future of Life Institute is dedicated to protecting human life from unsavory inventors and their bots. In 2017, they released a fictional film about killer drones. The footage had a deliberate documentary or news-read feel to make the “event” more real. The 7-minute clip was graphic. It followed swarms of slaughterbots as they were released to eliminate targets like US lawmakers and political activists. The machines needed no human guidance to find these people. The hand-sized robots used real-time data mining and their own intelligence to track down their victims. Once located, the unfortunate individuals received the business end of an explosive charge.
This was not a homemade video that went nowhere. “Slaughterbots” was screened at a convention at the United Nations in Geneva. This particular meeting, called the Convention on Certain Convention Weapons, have already banned lasers designed to blind people. The hope is that the film would raise awareness about just how close we are to creating weapons that can kill on their own. Frighteningly, everything that engineers would need to make them – the desire, technology, and skill – already exists.
In 2018, a crowd formed on Ponta beach, in Mozambique. They were watching a beached whale and those trying to save it. However, all rescue attempts ceased when it became clear that the humpback was too ill to survive and the animal died shortly afterward.
Locals started to gather for their share of the meat but the sharks beat them to it. The whale’s corpse was deep enough for about 60 sharks to tear off a chunk and swim back to safety. However, it was too shallow for one particular customer. A tiger shark, measuring 4 meters (13 feet) long, grabbed a mouthful but beached itself right next to the humpback.
At this point, a diving instructor joined the crowd and started filming. The footage shows the shark thrashing next to the mutilated whale, something that frightened some of the locals so badly that they can be heard shrieking and cursing. After a few minutes, a large wave pulled the shark back into the water and ended the bizarre scene.
When a hurricane comes along, people usually get out of the way. Scientists fly into the storms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has two planes just for this purpose. Called after the muppets Kermit and Miss Piggy, they brave the dangerous conditions to gather more information about hurricanes.
In 2018, Kermit took on Florence. Since this was one of the season’s most powerful hurricanes, the mission was very dangerous. The four-engine Lockheed WP-3D carried onboard an aerospace engineer called Nick Underwood. He managed to capture Kermit’s harrowing flight into the hurricane before the aircraft broke through to the eye of the storm. Unlike the outer chaos, the center was quiet with blue skies. Another researcher, Heather Holbach, was also filming and captured the strange beauty within the eye. The plane was surrounded by a wall of white clouds with the sun overhead.
The center might appear preferable but the real benefits are reaped from the hellish conditions surrounding it. During a flight lasting up to 12 hours, GPS cylinders are dropped into the air. The devices gather an incredible amount of data which allows for better hurricane prediction and management.
In 2018, Daniel Holland shared a video on Twitter. The footage showed a forest in Quebec, with densely packed trees and a carpet of moss. However, the carpet was moving. The rising and falling looked freakishly like the forest was breathing. One of the weirdest responses on Twitter said that the heaving was caused by a giant, hidden turtle.
There was no reptile or even an earthquake tremor. When weather experts were shown the footage, they failed to get excited. This was something that creeped-out locals had already brought to their attention. The “breathing” was a result of natural forces. In particular, wind and water. The phenomenon only happens when the soil is moist enough. Usually, after a storm drops a ton of water on the forest, the tree roots become saturated and disconnected from the earth. When the wind is powerful and persistent enough, the trees are forced to one side. This toppling causes their loosened root web to lift the forest floor.
In 2017, a Boston man encountered an eerie sight. There was a dead cat in the middle of the road. What made it so unsettling was the circle of turkeys marching around the corpse. Each bird followed the one walking in front of her. That was the other thing. All the turkeys were hens. During the film, the man can be heard to say, “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.” A lot of people agreed.
At first glance, the performance looked like a creepy display of dominance. However, when bird experts viewed the tape, they came to a different conclusion. The fact that the birds were all female was a strong clue. Hens lack the formidable weight and leg spurs of males. When a predator bounds closer, females have two choices. Run like crazy or flock together with the hope that another hen gets eaten.
In this case, their curiosity got the better of them. The turkeys decided to eyeball the cat but stayed true to their flock defense. Walking around the dead animal, they could look without getting too close. However, people wanted to know why the birds kept circling. It must have clicked at one point that the dead feline was not dangerous. A turkey expert had the unflattering answer. Apparently, in this case, the instinct to follow another turkey was stronger than realizing it was time to go.
Drones are changing the way we view the world. These nifty devices can fly over deep-sea whales, mountains and inhospitable terrains, capturing images that would otherwise be impossible or require too much effort. Drones also find things nobody is supposed to see.
In 2019, a video was posted on YouTube. Perhaps fearing retribution, whoever uploaded the footage did so anonymously. The video showed a bird’s view of hundreds of prisoners. They were shackled, blindfolded, wore identical clothing and had their heads shaved. Some clues were immediately obvious. The police offloading the men from a train were Chinese. The fact that China is known for transporting prisoners blindfolded and handcuffed added more certainty that this was happening somewhere within the country.
The captives also appeared to belong to an ethnic minority, most likely Uighurs. Currently, over a million Uighur and other Muslim minorities are held in Chinese internment and “re-education” facilities. Most of this shepherding are due to China’s anti-terrorism campaign which is being heavily enforced in Xinjiang. When experts reviewed the YouTube video, they used landmarks and the sun’s position to identify the location. They believe that the drone captured the sad crowd at a train station in south-east Xinjiang about a year before the footage was released.
This footage is so extraordinary that most first-time viewers dismiss the clip as fake. The skepticism is understandable. The video shows a mountain range with tiny human figures. Above them is the Moon, huge and hanging close to the Earth. Worse, it appears to be moving towards the planet. The footage seems fake because, you know, the people are not running away screaming. In fact, they appear oblivious to the Moon’s presence.
The video is real. In 2018, Daniel López wanted to film a “milk moon,” the first full moon in May. On that day, he set up his equipment on Mount Teide in the Canary Islands. López was separated by the people seen in the video by about 16 kilometers (10 miles). He used a powerful telescopic lens to zoom the Moon into focus. This caused the extraordinary illusion that it was moments away from crashing into the hikers below. The speed was real too but not because the Moon was hurtling towards mankind’s doom. This effect was caused by the Earth’s rotation. As the planet turned, the Moon was setting in real-time behind the mountain.