Mind Controlling Fungus Turns Insects into Zombies

By Anupum Pant

If you have played the game Last of Us on PS3, you’d know that the game is set in a time 20 years after a fungal-based, brain-altering pandemic has taken over the world and infected nearly 60% of the world’s population. Sounds too fictional. Right? Well, of course the game is fictional, but the brain-altering fungus parasite is not very far from reality.

The real fungus, Cordyceps isn’t really fatal to Human beings. However, there’s always a chance. In a very absurd way they kill insects. In fact their life cycle is totally dependent on insects. And a there are more than 1000 different kinds of these fungi, each one of which specializes on one kind of insect. What these fungi do to insects is something very incredible.

The fungus infects insect brains and turns them into zombies! Something similar to what this wasp does to cockroaches. This is how it works…

When an insect comes in contact with the spores of this parasitic fungus, they start acting in a weird manner. That is because the fungus affects its brain and turns it into a zombie, an insect zombie which takes directions from a fungus. The infected brain tells the insect to climb up. At some point, high up on a tree or plant, the insect dies and the fungus hollows the body and starts growing a shoot out of the insect. It’s bizarre to watch! (see the video below)

The fungus programs the brain to make the insect move up because its life-cycle actually benefits from it. The higher the insect goes, the better its spores can spread and can have a better reach.

The fungus is like a nature’s way of saying to an insect species that your population has reached very high levels.

Hit like if you learnt something.

Shepard Tone – An Incredible Auditory Illusion

By Anupum Pant

Here’s the thing. Go to ToneDeafTest.com and take that little test they have on their homepage. That is what you need to do first. Stop reading further if you haven’t done it yet.

Assuming you did what I asked you to do…
If you did well in the test (with a few silly mistakes which can be ignored), you’ll probably understand better what I’m talking about in the following article. Otherwise, you might miss the point.

Nevertheless, there is still a chance that you’d understand even if you are tone deaf. I’m not sure because I’m certain not tone deaf and it’s impossible for me to understand the subjective experiences of tone deaf people (I can boast that the first time I took it, I got a perfect score in that test). Anyway, that test is a fun thing to do. You’ll at least learn something about yourself.

The endless stairs and the endless tone

Everyone knows the endless stairs (in the picture below). Now, you’d think why is the author talking about a visual illusion just after he told us to take an auditory test. That is because the popular visual illusion helps you to relate better to a relatively lesser known auditory illusion.

endless stairs illusion

If you start going up on the endless stairs, you always keep moving up. Even after you come back to the same place, you still keep going up. An impossibility. But it’s something that fools your eyes. The same thing happens if you start going down the stairs.

A similar thing can happen with tones. Listen to the following (continuous?) note sweep.

It sounds like a tone that is continuously going down, endlessly. Only, it isn’t. It’s actually a much smaller looped sound that starts from a high point and then goes down. These little loops have been placed one after the other. If you do not carefully listen to it, you’ll never find the exact point at which one loop ends and the next loop starts. You’ll always interpret it as a continuously going down sound. Just like the continuously going down stairs. This is called the Shepard tone.

This works for discreet notes also. Listen to this endless mario stairs video to get an idea how it works for individual notes (not sweeps).

Why?

Notes are not simple frequencies. A single note is usually composed of several other frequencies. To not overwhelm us with data, the brain puts all these frequencies together and we hear a single sound (note).

Also, our brains like continuity. So, it cherry picks the frequencies from the loop’s notes that makes us hear a continuous sweep. This is the reason we hear no individual loops. Bah! I’m not very good at explaining this. So, here goes the Vsauce video which explains it better. Note that the arrows in the video are the frequencies I was talking about…

A Natural Explosion That Knocked 80 Million Trees

By Anupum Pant

In the year 1908 (June 30), a remote part of Siberia experienced something really mysterious and really huge. It was an explosion that took place at about 5-10 km altitude in the air which was estimated to be as powerful as 1000 (or 185 according to NASA) Hiroshima bombs!

No one could ever figure out what really caused it. However, scientists were pretty sure that it was either a huge meteorite of about 100 feet (some say 1000 m) in diameter which crashed into the earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated, or it just bounced off the earth’s atmosphere like a huge skipping stone. Besides the scientific theories, there are a number of other “UFO and alien” stories that have been associated with this event. This was called the Tunguska event.

The sheer size: The explosion was utterly gigantic. So big, that it is still considered to be the most powerful natural explosion in the known history. The shock-waves from the explosion knocked people off their feet, and these people were 40 miles away from where the explosion happened. It wasn’t just people, 80 million trees over an area of 2,150 square kilometres were knocked down in a radial pattern (with trunks pointing away from the epicentre). 80 million! Wow!

It caused a mini earthquake and a NatGeo article says that the lake Checko could have been created due to this impact.

Eyewitness’ account:

Suddenly in the north sky… the sky was split in two, and high above the forest the whole northern part of the sky appeared covered with fire… At that moment there was a bang in the sky and a mighty crash… The crash was followed by a noise like stones falling from the sky, or of guns firing. The earth trembled.
[NASA website]

Had this taken place above a metro city, the city would have been completely levelled by the event. But that is highly unlikely because cities take up a very small fraction of area on the earth’s surface. Moreover, very rarely do such events happen.

What is very likely is that such an event could happen over the part which covers 70% of the earth’s surface – the ocean. Such an event could create a huge Tsunami causing a lot of destruction on land.