10 Potential Global Superpowers

10 Potential Global Superpowers

 4BY JAMES FRIEND ON JANUARY 3, 2019POLITICSShare8Pin1TweetShareEmailWhatsApp9SHARES

At the dawn of the 21st century, the United States of America bestrode the world as the sole remaining superpower. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade earlier American military and economic might dwarfed that of its rivals. American culture, from music, to film, to the blue jeans they exported around the world were hungrily consumed. The political scientist Francis Fukuyama declared it to be the triumph of liberal democracy and the end of history.

However, the balance of global power is in a state of constant flux. The USA will remain a superpower for as long as can reasonably be foreseen, but other nations are closing the gap. Economists predict that within a few decades America’s economic dominance will be eclipsed. Other nations might attempt to rival the US in military force. In this list we look at 10 potential superpowers of the 21st century.

10. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the 12th largest country in the world, and in terms of natural resources the second richest. The Middle Eastern kingdom sits on huge reserves of oil and natural gas worth something in the region of an astonishing $34.4 trillion.

This wealth of natural resources provides both financial and political capital. As the most influential member of OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the Saudis have considerable influence over the global supply and price of petroleum. With most countries in the world still heavily dependent on oil, this is no small consideration for friends and foes of the kingdom alike.

In recent years Saudi Arabia has added a substantial military capability to its arsenal, with spending that exceeds all other nations apart from America, China, and Russia. In 2015 Saudi Arabia led a coalition of nine African and Middle Eastern nations to war in Yemen. This demonstrated that the Saudis were prepared to use their growing military strength, and that they possessed enough influence to convince several allies to assist them.

With the Western powers becoming less influential in the Middle East, there is an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to become the defining power in the region. From there it could potentially go on to become global a superpower.

9. Iran

The Middle East might just have room for one superpower, but there isn’t room for two. Saudi Arabia’s interests will increasingly collide with those of Iran, another regional power with big ambitions. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are Islamic countries. However, the Saudis are majority Sunni Muslims, and about 90% of Iranians are Shias. The two groups, and the two countries, tend not to get along well.

Iran spent most of the 1980s locked in conflict with neighboring Iraq. With the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq plunging the country into chaos, and wiping it out as a regional power, Iran has looked to profit. The Iranian Government has funded rebel groups and done its best to ensure Iraq remains fractured and destabilized. A weakened Iraq serves Iran well, and the immediate goal seems to be to bring Iraq’s vast oilfields under direct or indirect Iranian control. This would vastly increase Iran’s power and influence, both in the Middle East and across the world.

Despite a well-educated population of more than 80 million, the world’s fourth largest oil reserves, an advanced nuclear program, and an increasingly hi-tech military, American led sanctions remain a substantial drag factor on Iran’s economy. According to the IMF they may have wiped as much as 15-20% from Iranian GDP since 2011. If and when these sanctions are lifted and the economy is unshackled, Iran might quickly become a major force to be reckoned with.

8. Nigeria

The West African nation of Nigeria is beset by problems. It’s widely regarded as one of the most corrupt nations, with Nigerian princes having become synonymous with internet scammers. An estimated 89 million Nigerians, more than a third of the entire population, live in poverty, and their numbers are increasing. A severe brain drain is under way as doctors and other professionals flee the country for better opportunities elsewhere. Meanwhile the government has been unable to quell an armed insurgency by the fanatical Islamic fighters of Boko Haram.

Despite these seemingly insoluble problems Nigeria is a land of immense potential, and it is expected to battle through the chaos to become Africa’s most powerful and influential nation. The process is already underway. Nigeria overtook South Africa as the continent’s largest economy in 2014. While growth in South Africa is expected to remain sluggish, in Nigeria Gross Domestic Product is predicted to more than double from 411 billion dollars in 2018 to one-trillion by 2030.

Nigeria’s growing economic strength will be boosted by its already significant soft power, which is loosely defined as the ability to influence international relations through cultural influence. Nigeria’s soft power rests on its major contributions to various peacekeeping operations, its credentials as a democracy, and an output of music and film admired around Africa and the world.

If Nigeria can take steps to address its endemic problems of corruption and poverty, then its booming population and economy should see it emerge as Africa’s dominant power.

7. Canada

Over the course of 21st century, climate change is likely to alter the world forever. At its worst it could herald the collapse of civilization as we know it. Even under more optimistic predictions it could reshape global politics and the balance of power.

Even a relatively modest temperature increase over the next on-hundred years could potentially render much of the Middle East uninhabitable, while rising sea levels could wipe out several island nations and leave major coastal cities across the globe submerged.

However, the suffering will not be equally shared. Already the second largest country in the world by area, the amount of available land in Canada will increase as the glaciers that cover around 125,000 square miles of the country melt away to nothing.

In addition to natural resources such as oil, minerals, precious metals, and large quantities of timber, Canada possesses 20% of the world’s freshwater. Many experts believe the major wars of the twenty first century are likely to be fought over diminishing reserves of freshwater, so this will become an increasingly valuable resource to possess in such abundant supply.

6. Japan

At the end of 1945 Japan lay in ruins. Defeat in World War Two had laid waste to almost every city and town, and around 3 million Japanese had lost their lives.

However, the United States of America wanted Japan to serve as a bulwark against communism in the East. With American financial aid flowing in, and a society that placed high value on a ferocious work ethic, Japan was soon back on her feet. By the 1980s she possessed the world’s second biggest economy and was being touted as an emerging superpower.

Since then Japanese growth has stalled, with their old rival China overtaking them as the world’s second greatest economic powerhouse. However, Japan should not be entirely written off as a potential superpower.

As the current century progresses, a major new arms race is likely to gather speed. Rather than being between traditional armies, navies, and air forces, it will be fought in the final frontier of space.

The Japanese are in a strong position to become a leading participant. Japan is investing heavily in its space program; this is now seen as not just a purely scientific endeavor, but as vital to the nation’s ongoing security.  Given the country’s considerable economic clout and exceptionally high levels of technological prowess, there are few other nations that would be able to compete.

The ability to potentially destroy, disrupt, or capture satellites belonging to rival powers, or attack targets on the ground from orbit, would be a major strategic advantage. Control of space might prove to be as important to the potential superpowers of the twenty-first century as naval strength was to the great powers of the previous centuries.

5. Russia

The history of Russia provides a striking example of how quickly a superpower can rise and fall. At the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 British intelligence believed Poland to be stronger than Russia. Just a few years later and the Soviet Union, with Russia at its heart, had played a major role in defeating Nazi Germany and occupied most of Eastern Europe. At the beginning of 1990 almost nobody was predicting the imminent demise of the communist superpower, but by 1992 the Soviet Union no longer existed.

After a tumultuous two decades Russian power is growing once again. Russia’s military budget, in both real terms and percentage of GDP, is amongst the highest in the world. A significant chunk of Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union, has again been gobbled up. With the NATO alliance in decline, Baltic states such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania fear they might face the same fate. Meanwhile, Russia feels confident enough to order the poisoning of dissidents ostensibly under the protection of powers such as Great Britain, seemingly without any great fear of reprisal.

Russia is still heavily dependent on oil, and its economy is plagued by corruption. However, it is still one of only five nations with power of veto on the United Nations Security Council, and the Russian bear still has claws in the form of the world’s largest arsenals of nuclear weapons. It’s entirely plausible that Russia might reclaim its place as a 21st century superpower.

4. Brazil

Along with Russia, India, and China, Brazil completes the original quartet of so-called BRIC nations. They were named by Jim O’Neil of Goldman Sachs in 2001, following his investment bank’s prediction that they would become four of the world’s five biggest economies by 2050.

Since then the four nations, joined by South Africa in 2010, have formed a loose political alliance, cooperated on issues such as trade and healthcare, and formed a joint bank to fund development projects across the world.

The South American giant is held back by high levels of poverty and income inequality; this is particularly striking since just the six richest people in Brazil boast a combined wealth greater than the poorest 100 million. However, Brazil is blessed with vast natural wealth. The Tupi oil field, discovered off the coast of Rio de Janeiro in 2008, contains an estimated 8 billion barrels. A second offshore discovery was even more substantial and will see Brazil join the ranks of the world’s major oil exporters.

Brazil is also home to around 30% of the world’s remaining rainforests and with it a wealth of resources such as nickel, manganese, copper, bauxite and timber.

3. India

By 2025 it’s predicted that India will replace China as the world’s most populous nation. While China faces a demographic time bomb due to the recently lifted one-child policy, India has the largest and youngest workforce in the world.

This boom in population is being matched by impressive economic growth, and some experts believe the Indian economy will have overtaken that of the United States of America by 2050.

India is flanked by Pakistan to the west and China to the north, and these powers have not traditionally been friendly. Pakistan and India went to war in 1965, and in 1967 a border dispute brought them into military conflict with the Chinese. However, India now has enough military strength to feel secure despite the proximity of these powerful potential foes.

The military boasts a nuclear arsenal of around one-hundred warheads, and the capability to launch them from land, sea, and air. Two aircraft carriers, with a third under construction, mean that India is one of the few nations capable of projecting significant military force almost anywhere across the globe.

The increasing strength of India’s economy, military capabilities, and fledgling space program is backed up by soft power. The nation is home to more billion-dollar startup business than everywhere except the United States of America and China, and its Bollywood film industry produces more films and sells more tickets than America’s Hollywood.

2. China

Napoleon Bonaparte once described China as a sleeping lion; he warned that when she woke the whole world would tremble. For much of the twentieth century China was weak, divided and troubled, at war with herself and her neighbors. Now, in the twenty-first century, she is finally awake.

In economic terms China is already a superpower. China’s GDP of more than 12 trillion dollars is bettered only by that of the United States of America, and when adjusted for purchasing power parity the huge Asian nation comes out on top.

Chinese banks are funding vast infrastructure projects in 78 countries around the world. This has been described as the China’s answer to the Marshall Plan and the biggest infrastructure project in history. This huge investment will allow China access to foreign markets and resources, buy allies across the world, and potentially rival the United States of America as a superpower.

While China still lags some way behind the USA in military terms, the gap is nowhere near as great as it once was. James Fannel of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy predicts that by 2030China will have more operational warships than the US Navy and will be established as the dominant military power in Asia.

1. The European Union

The United States of America has a GDP of 19.4 trillion dollars and spends more than 600 billion a year on the most powerful military machine on the planet. No single nation comes close to matching this, but the collection of nations that make up the European Union can. For this reason it has been suggested that the European Union should be classed as a superpower.

In 2018 the EU’s GDP was 18.8 trillion, placing it a very close second to the United States of America. While the EU doesn’t field a combined army, at least not yet, several of its member states possess very substantial military capabilities. This is includes more than 1.5 million active military personnel, even more than the USA’s 1.2 million. The Eurofighter Typhoon, built as a joint project between the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain is touted as the most technologically advanced combat aircraft anywhere in the world.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU, has recently said that the time had come for the EU to become a global player. However, it remains to be seen whether the political and economic union 
of so many nations, each of them with differing priorities and interests, is a sustainable project.

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10 Brutal Realities of Life in Kim Jong-un’s North Korea

Kim Jong-un’s North Korea continues to be a cruel oddity, as countries go. Although some progress has been made towards turning the People’s Republic into something its people can actually live in, by all accounts it’s still a pretty ruthless place for the average citizen. Here’s a look at some brutal realities of life in the most secretive country in the world.

10. Labor camps

Every self-respecting ruthless dictator has a labor camp or a hundred in his back pocket, but North Korea’s version of the theme is particularly brutal. Kang Cheol-hwan is a former labor camp prisoner who spent 10 grueling years at the Yodok concentration camp, which was a hidden in a mountainous region and hosted “enemies of the state.” Kang himself had done nothing wrong: He ended up in the camp as a child, with his high-ranking parents who had criticized the Kims for going against communist ideals and turning the North Korean leadership into a dynasty. There, the young Kang was confined to a life of back-breaking labor, which included tasks like hauling heavy wood for several miles.

Still, no matter how brutal the work was, disobeying was not an option. Those who refused to obey orders were taken to a special prison within the camp, where they were confined to tiny cells with cold, muddy water covering the floor. Most didn’t survive this, and the ones who did were damaged beyond repair: The water had literally rotted their flesh. Somehow, this wasn’t even the most humiliating way to die at the camp: Sometimes, the guards hanged prisoners, and the other prisoners were forced to watch and throw stones at the hanged man. The guards would keep the corpse up for a week, and the elements, carrion birds and the effect of the stoning would render it unrecognizable.

Ultimately, Kang was one of the lucky ones: He and his parents were eventually released from the camp. Unsurprisingly, Kang escaped the country the first chance he got, and became a director of the NGO North Korea Strategy Centre, a defector-led human rights organization.

9. Famines

It probably comes as no surprise that a country led as … erratically as North Korea has the occasional problem with food production. What you might not know is just how bad their situation is. The country is the territorial equivalent of a guy who’s just one bounced paycheck away from not making rent: Almost every single mishap runs the risk of sending them plunging into a food shortage. The problem is that they tend to attract plenty of mishaps: As recently as in 2017, they were teetering on the edge of a massive famine caused by a combination of international sanctions, massive drought, and the government’s stubborn tendency to pour way too much of the country’s extremely limited resources into various military programs.

Perhaps the most legendary famine in North Korea’s history was the Arduous March of the mid-1990s. The seeds of the Arduous March were sowed way back in 1948, when the country was created and it became apparent that its soil was less than ideal for food production. Kim Il Sung was able to sidestep the issue by allying himself closely with the Soviet Union, who were happy to throw some food and fuel his way to support the cause. However, when the Soviet Union began to falter, the aid stopped coming and North Korea was left to its own devices. Kim had already started pushing an isolationist policy, so he decreed that North Koreans should be able to feed themselves.

This worked roughly as well as expected, which is to say not at all. Without a steady Soviet supply of fuel and food, the country lost its backup food supplies and the ability to produce chemical fertilizers for their own farms. When El Niño flooded a good chunk of North Korea’s already scant farmland in 1995 and 1996, all ingredient for a recipe for disaster were in place. The entire country hit panic mode: Farmers hid parts of their crops for themselves, international food relief was stolen and hoarded by elite officials as soon as the shipments arrived. Soon, the government stopped distributing food altogether, and hundreds of thousands of desperate North Koreans were flooding out of the country, regardless of the travel ban and its repercussions.   

No one knows the true death toll of the famine, because the North Korean leaders appear to pretend that it never happened. However, estimates indicate that it may have killed millions of people.

8. The “three generations rule”

The “three generations rule” is possibly the most ruthless policy in the already pretty awful North Korean prison system. Its basic gist is this: If a citizen commits a crime, they’re sent to a labor camp, and the sentence also applies to a full three generations of their family. This means that children can be born in the prison camp and they’re already sentenced because of something their parents or grandparents may or may not have done.

This punishment is mostly directed at people who are disloyal to the government, and it can be seriously hazardous to the mentality of the people who are forced to suffer for a crime that was committed decades before they were even born. One defector describes that he could not conceive what the world was like, and could not even have thought of escaping because the prison camp was all he knew … and he thought that the whole world outside the camp’s borders was just more of the same.   

7. Forced mass choreographies

North Korea has a strange tradition. Well, it has a lot of strange traditions, but one of the most famous ones is the Mass Games — a strange event that consists of parades, gymnastic performances and impressive mass choreographies performed by scores of people. According to North Korea researcher Andray Abrahamian, the games are “the official national narrative bundled into a 90-minute spectacle,” and as such, they’re highly valued by the leadership.

But how does a broke, isolationist country like North Korea have so many experts on choreography at its disposal? By force, of course. In the past, up to 100,000 people have been mobilized to take part in the event. For the 2018 Mass Games, thousands and thousands of schoolchildren practiced from early morning to late at night, causing human rights groups to criticize the event as straight up child labor. There are reports of children training for months in all weathers, and being fed urinary infection medication to cope with the long hours of sitting in the cold. Still, it’s said that the households that participate in the Games often receive certain benefits such as color televisions (yes, they’re still a rarity in North Korea), so people actually compete to participate in the event.

6. Media restrictions

A large part of North Korea’s mysterious reputation is due to the fact that they don’t really treat freedom of press as a thing that exists. For a North Korean citizen, it’s borderline impossible to get any real information on what’s going on in the country. Every single domestic media outlet is controlled by the state, and government supervision and censorship run rampant.

Foreign medias that have established offices in the hermit nation are only marginally better off. Their access is tightly restricted, and news teams have been known to be thrown out of the country whenever their work doesn’t please the powers that be. In fact, leaving the country might be the best case scenario for a journalist who has fallen out of favor with Pyongyang: In August 2017, two South Korean journalists and their publishers were sentenced to death, just because they had dared to review a book that happened to discuss socio-economic changes the country has gone through in recent years. Fortunately, the journalists were nowhere near North Korea at the time.

5. Executions

Since North Korea doesn’t think twice of throwing its citizens in a concentration camp until they (sometimes literally) rot away, it probably comes as no surprise that they occasionally execute people. We already mentioned the brutal hanging/stoning deaths and deadly water-cells in the labor camps, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the country’s capacity of deadly inventiveness.

During Kim Jong-un’s reign, the favorite style of public execution seems to be the anti-aircraft gun. This gruesome method has been applied to people who Kim perceives as a threat to his rule, officials who have fallen out of favor, and even humble musicians. One high-ranking defense chief was anti-aircrafted merely because he happened to doze off in Kim’s presence.

The gruesomeness and gore of applying a gun that’s meant to bring down planes to a human body is obviously quite brutal. Of course, North Korea manages to make the process even grislier than you’d expect. They aren’t always content with firing their monster guns at people in the traditional “firing squad” way. Instead, they tie the person to the end of the barrel, yell: “Fire,” and watch as the bits fly around …  while the loved ones of the victim are forced to watch.

4. Restricted religious practices

Technically, you can practice any religion that you like in North Korea. However, the word “technically” is imperative here — after all, you can also technically be critical of the government, for which you will technically be arrested and thrown into a labor camp to technically toil away for three generations. North Korea’s official ideology is called Juche, which is a combination of self-reliance and Marxist ideals that oppose religion by principle. This means that although the country’s official stance is “Sure, whatever,” its practical approach actively discourages all worship that isn’t directed towards whichever Kim happens to be in charge that particular decade.

This is not to say that the country is completely without its beliefs. Some citizens practice their own religious rituals behind closed doors, risking serious repercussions if the officials find out. There’s also a widespread, informal shamanism-style belief system with a heavy emphasis on ghosts and spirits. Because of this, fortune-tellers wield a considerable unofficial power in North Korea: Even the top officials of the country have been known to treat the most famous soothsayers extremely warmly, and invite them to their homes for consultation.

3. Developmental challenges

There are many ways life can hand you a raw deal in North Korea, even if you’re just a child. Apart from the three generations rule, which may define your home base as a concentration camp just because your granddad disrespected a bureaucrat once, and the Mass Games, which will force you to train for months in grueling conditions so that your family can watch the Great Leader’s face in full color, there’s always a chance that the horrible living conditions of the country will cause you to become developmentally challenged … just because of the horrendous living conditions you’re born into.

Here’s the situation that a child born in North Korea faces. There’s a way-too-high chance that they have to drink contaminated water. If they get sick, it’s a spin of the wheel whether the hospital they check into has the drugs and medical equipment required to treat them — tuberculosis and other diseases run rampant, and some hospitals only have the means to treat roughly 40 of every 140 patients. And then there’s malnutrition — the country’s great scourge. Back in 2011, a ridiculous 28% of North Korean children were considered developmentally stunted simply because they didn’t have enough to eat. Fortunately, the recent years have seen some improvement, and the current figure is about … uh, 20%? Yes, as you read this, one in five North Korean children are still developmentally challenged simply because the country’s leaders can’t seem to figure out how food distribution works.  

2. Life in the military

At this point, it’s pretty obvious that the civilians have it bad in North Korea. But surely, the military is a lot better off? After all, the country likes to boast its military might — it stands to reason that the soldiers would be well fed and equipped.

Yeah, no. First of all, the military service in North Korea is mandatory for both sexes, and longer than a stretched dachshund. Women are expected to serve seven years. For men, it’s a full decade, and if you’re fortunate/unfortunate enough to make it to Kim’s personal bodyguard unit, you’re looking at a lucky 13 years of military service. If you’re pursuing higher education, you might get off with three to five years, which is … still a pretty hefty chunk of your life, especially as you’re going hungry for most of it. Although the special forces are obviously given special rations, the vast majority of the military deals with constant hunger. Sometimes they get two or three potatoes per meal. Other times, it’s raw kernels of corn, or corn with some rice mixed in. This is not an ideal diet for the physically oriented life of a soldier, which isn’t helped by the fact that many soldiers are expected to both train and help out on the fields. They grow wiry and desperate, and many attempt to steal food or desert.

Although the military does give the troops the occasional leave when they need to recuperate, many of the soldiers are so weak with malnutrition that they can’t even walk at that point. The lucky families get to pick their children up every once in awhile and feed them back to health. The unlucky ones will find out that their child starved to death while serving the country.

1. Women in North Korea

If you think that men have it bad in North Korea, women are in a much, much more unfortunate position. Many women are treated as little more than property, and domestic violence and sexual abuse run rampant. Interviews with defectors indicate that a lot of this is because of North Korea’s paradoxical culture. Its history as a Marxist communist state and deep-lying roots in Confucian patriarchy has created a strange hodgepodge of values that on one hand promote that everyone, regardless of their gender, is equal, and on the other freely practices the kind of gender segregation that leaves women in a very vulnerable position.

When the UN pointedly called out some of North Korea’s human rights violations towards women, the regime responded by brazenly claiming that the country is “heaven” for women. According to Harper’s Bazaar, their definition of heaven leaves something to be desired, as in reality, the life of a North Korean woman is a lot closer to a living hell. Those fit, powerful-looking women who march in parades and cheerlead in sports events might show all the signs of emancipation, but in reality, they’re little more than sex slaves. When the fancy shows aren’t going on, the same ladies reportedly have to attend politburo parties, and sleep with whoever’s fancy they may catch.

According to defectors, this “use and abuse” attitude applies to pretty much every woman, and it can come up at the weirdest of situations. One lady says that she was just talking about an official about housing options, when said official raped her. She describes the country’s general approach to women as follows: “In North Korea, a woman’s dream cannot be achieved without being raped or without selling her body.”

10 Forgotten Facts About World War I

World War I is one of the most famous wars in history, but despite its significance, it often gets overlooked in favor of its more recent cousin, World War II. The Great War is especially less remembered as clearly by Americans, even though they played a large enough role that they should have felt more affected by it. Even many in Europe may remember well the contributions of themselves, or their closest allies, but some have forgotten the contribution of other less European allies, and many have simplified —  into somewhat erroneous legend — the reasons for the war and the ensuing political ramifications.

10. Flamethrowers Made Their First Appearance In World War I, And Were Found Wanting

Flamethrowers are a popular weapon in various video games, where they are especially good at taking out hordes of enemies. In some games, the enemy literally becomes helpless to fight you anymore once they burst into flames. In reality, when the Germans first tested the flamethrower in World War I, they found initial success, but only because they had the element of surprise. They attacked the British at Flanders and managed to push back the British line and inflict fairly heavy losses, but the British stabilized that same line within a couple days.

After that, the French and British not only started experimenting with their own, but they also started targeting anyone who carried one — operators stuck out like a sore thumb because of their gigantic backpacks and slow movement. To make matters worse, the flamethrower canister can explode under pressure, and many didn’t want to volunteer to use them because the enemy would gun for them. While flamethrowers have a niche use in certain applications, they may not be as good as video games suggest.

9. Germany’s Complaints About The Treaty Of Versailles Are A Whole Lot Of Nonsense

While we can only get so in depth on the Treaty of Versailles in a top 10 article, we will do our best to go over some of the most important myths. The biggest one is that the Allies were asking for a ruinous amount of money from Germany (a lie Hitler repeated constantly), but the allied powers were only asking the Germans to pay for civilian reparations. This was something that had been asked for in the past — and given — when Germany had won previous wars.

It is important to note, as well, that some claim the initial expected amount was 132 billion marks, but historians say that the Allies only expected the Germans to pay 50 billion marks, which was one billion less than the Germans had offered — presumably to round it down and give them some cushion. To drive a final stake in the heart of Hitler’s lie, the Germans never even fulfilled the obligation they agreed to — their economy was just mismanaged.

8. Britain And France Combined To Recruit Close To 150,000 Chinese For Manual Labor

During World War I, both China and Japan were rising powers who wanted to show their clout to the rest of the world. While neither of them really fought on any major front, they still had significant involvement in the war. The Germans had taken a city called Qingdao in Shandong Province, which gave them their own little permanent presence in China. The Chinese were neutral at the time and offered 50,000 troops to help the British take the city, but they didn’t feel it was important at the time. The Japanese retook it in order to establish their own presence in China and joined the Allies.

Now, with the Japanese part of the Allies, the Chinese tried to join in combat and found themselves rebuffed. The Allies would only allow them to fight if the Japanese would allow it as well — it had to be all Allies. And, unfortunately, the Japanese saw the Chinese as direct rivals and wanted all the glory for themselves. In order to still use the war to their advantage to show the world their strength and perhaps gain future favors, the Chinese sent roughly 150,000 non-combat helpers to join the British and French on the frontlines, doing all sorts of important work like repairing tanks, and digging and repairing trenches and other key fixtures.

7. The Story About The Sandwich Leading To The Start Of World War I Is Apocryphal

June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo was a day that will forever live in infamy. Gavrilo Princip assassinatedthe Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which many consider to be the straw that broke the camel’s back of all the tension in Europe and finally led to the start of World War I. Today, most know that the assassin only succeeded because of a sandwich. The story goes that the Archduke’s planned tour route actually was changed due to an attempted bombing and this flummoxed Princip, who had missed his chance at his target, so he went to get something to eat. While he was eating the Archduke stopped at the same sandwich shop, and Princip took his lucky chance and ended the royal’s life.

However, the folks at the Smithsonian Magazine have looked over this legend and found several major problems. For starters the legend only first appeared in 2003, and to make matters more silly, a sandwich is just not something that would have been eaten in a restaurant in Sarajevo in the early 1900s. The final stake in this silly story’s coffin is that the Archduke’s planned tour route did, indeed, go by the restaurant.

6. Some Blame Mutual Defense Treaties, But Tensions Had Been Simmering For Years

While all the causes and tensions leading up the World War I would be hard to fit in an entire top 10 article, much less one entry, the important myth that we want to talk about is that of mutual defense treaties. Many people think that World War I started largely due to many countries — who didn’t even want to fight — being dragged in by mutual defense treaties, against their will. Some even argue that this shows the weakness of such treaties, as they can force countries into unnecessary or unjust wars they didn’t want to be a part of in the first place.

However, that excuse doesn’t really work when many were clamoring for war to begin with and the tensions had been simmering for years. The truth is that when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, it didn’t force anyone to declare war — it was used as an excuse for war by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and others. Furthermore, many of the major players never invoked any particular mutual defense treaty as their reason for getting involved, and most of the smaller players joined (again) not because of treaties, but because they were looking for a share of the glory. The reality was that nearly every major (or minor) power had been trying to expand their empires, and eventually this was going to lead to a seriously major clash.

5. Many Tend To Forget That Modern Chemical Warfare Debuted In World War I


Many people forget, in all the chaos and brutality of World War I, that this was the war where chemical warfare debuted in a truly major way. In fact, many historians now refer to the Great War as “The Chemists’ War” due to all the efforts by the major powers to experiment, with no regard for ethics, with all sorts of horrific chemical agents like chlorine and mustard gas as a way to damage an opponent’s front line, distract them, and push them back.

It started, perhaps unsurprisingly to some, with the Germans, who discretely prepared tanks of chlorine on their defensive line at Ypres in Belgium, and then released 160 tons of chlorine gas into the air, calculating the wind patterns so it would float into the enemy trenches. The effect was devastating, and after that, it was on. All the major, richer powers started experimenting with chemical weapons and testing them on enemy trenches. It was during the Great War that the military started testing all sorts of new attempts at creative gas masks, and some soldiers found that they could protect themselves partially from certain chemical attacks by wearing rags soaked with urine wrapped around their faces.

4. For The United States It Wasn’t That Big A Deal, But Europe Was Changed Forever

When President Trump decided to forego a visit to a memorial for the Armistice Day, on its 100th anniversary no less, many in Europe were quite disappointed, although many may not have been that surprised. What seemed to bother many Europeans a bit more is that most Americans didn’t seem that outraged or bothered by President Trump’s unintended snub. However, the reason for this is likely because Americans (not out of disrespect) just have trouble seeing World War I with the same significance that Europeans do, and with the same significance that they see World War II.

There are quite a few reasons for this. For starters, the United States was only in World War I for a couple years, and their contribution led to a lot less American deaths, a lot less American economic pain at home, and generally much less stress than World War II. The other big reasons are political and economic. The United States was much more isolationist at the time, so even after the war, people were more interested in moving on rather than focusing on war glories, and the Great War didn’t make the United States the economic powerhouse that World War II did. For Europe, however, it was a long slog and a horrific loss of life.

3. Even In Europe, Many Forget The Close To 2.5 Million Muslims Who Assisted The Allies

Today in Europe, there’s a lot of tension with regard to Muslims, who come as refugees from war torn nations in hopes of finding a better life. This tension is partly because there is a lot of overcrowding in some cities, partly because people are worried about there being enough resources for everyone, a little bit because people don’t tend to assimilate quite as much when moving to a European country as they do when moving to America, and sometimes because of racism.

However, some historians feel that if Europeans understood the full, volunteer accomplishments of the Muslims who came from their homes in the Middle East — many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice for the dream of a free Europe — there would not be as much tension or hard feelings over all of the migration. While this is a history that has been largely untold, researchers who have done an incredible amount of digging in recent years estimate somewhere close to 2.5 million Muslims who came to help either in battle or with general labor. Now, this contribution has been forgotten, and when their descendants come to Europe asking for a little help, many wish they would just go away.

2. People Degrade The Leaders Of World War I, But This Was A Time Of Changing Warfare

One of the old sayings from World War I is that the men who fought in the war were “lions led by donkeys.” However, there is good reason to believe that this saying is wrong. The truth was that the men in charge of the war were pretty much all seasoned veterans on all sides who were quite experienced, but it was a massive war, all around the globe, at a time of greatly changing technology and rapidly growing infrastructure.

The commanders weren’t stupid, but trying to adapt to, deal with, and experiment with multiple different new technologies and advancements that were changing the game completely, right in the middle of the worst conflict any had seen in their entire lives. Conflicts like the Battle of the Somme are unfortunate for the heavy losses they inflicted, especially early on, but it wasn’t due to incompetence on the parts of the commanders. The were dealing with untested waters, and were doing the very best they could with the understanding and knowledge they had.

1. Turkey Is Still Trying To Cover Up The Ottoman Empire’s Genocide Of The Armenians

The Ottomans (now modern day Turkey with less territory) had long hated the thriving Armenian ethnic minority, but it was during World War I when they truly moved against them in a massive way. When the Armenians made moves to help the Russians, they called all Armenians enemies and used it as a excuse for genocide. Men, women, and children were ripped from their homes and forced to walk death marches in the desert — if you stopped to take a rest you were shot. Some managed to make it out of the country alive, simply by being forced out, and some escaped, but the majority were taken by surprise by the brutality and organization of the genocidal campaign of the Ottomans.

While it is hard to ever be sure of exact numbers, historians place the number lost during the genocide as anywhere between 600,000 and 1.6 million — the disparity is because it is hard to know how many were killed and how many escaped alive, as the survivors scattered all over the world. While it is hardly talked about anywhere in the world, and illegal to talk about in Turkey, Armenians have found an unlikely champion in Kim Kardashian, who has used her Armenian roots and celebrity to champion more acknowledgment of the genocide against her people.

10 Incredible Facts About Mars

For many of us Mars represents hope. From scientific discoveries (e.g. living organisms against all the odds) to the promise of colonization, the Red Planet may be key to our survival. Certainly as life on Earth grows steadily more precarious, our second closest neighbor seems to present a viable alternative—even if some think that’s crazy.

10. Scientists observed a Martian “civilization” just last century

The astronomer William Herschel made some important observations of Mars, including its rotation period and the seasonal variation of its ice caps. But, like many of his era, he also worked under the assumption that the planet was teeming with life. He saw the dark areas as oceans and observed vegetation on the supposed landmasses. He even suggested that intelligent Martians “probably enjoyed a situation similar to our own.”

That was in the late 1700s, but it was an idea that persisted for centuries. Hence when the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli’s description of canali (channels) on the surface was translated into English as “canals,” people imagined waterways constructed by a human-like society on Mars. And whatever he might have thought of the phenomena himself, his own maps only served to support this assumption—resembling as they did a sprawling port city sectioned into districts by canalsOthers’ maps suggested even more of a man-made Martian Venice.

Even in the 20th century, the American astronomer Percival Lowell praised the Martians’ ingenuity. According to him, the canals (which he built a state-of-the-art observatory to view) were likely constructed to transport water from the poles to the plains—perhaps in a bid to save life on Mars from extinction. They were evidence, he wrote, of “a mind of no mean order … a mind certainly of considerably more comprehensiveness than that which presides over … our own public works.”

By Lowell’s time, most scientists saw these grooves in the landscape as a natural geological phenomenon. But the idea of an advanced Martian civilization persisted in the popular imagination. The science fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs was among those to encourage this belief, portraying a developed (albeit dying) world of majestic cities, warring humanoid races, and a fantastic bestiary of eight-legged horses, ten-legged dogs, and giant, four-armed white apes so ferocious they were among the leading causes of death on the planet.

9. Valles Marineris is the grandest canyon in the Solar System

Valles Marineris cuts a deep scar across 20% of the circumference of Mars, extending an incredible 2,500 miles around the planet. It begins in the maze-like valleys of the Noctis Labyrinthus (‘labyrinth of the night’) in the west and abates in the smooth Chryse Planitia (‘golden plain’) to the northeast.

373 miles across in places with a maximum depth of roughly 5.5 miles (or 30,000 feet), it’s decidedly grander than the Grand Canyon on Earth. That trench extends a mere 497 miles in length, measures up to 18.6 miles across, and is no more than 6,000 feet deep.

The Valles Marineris is thought to have started as a crack in the surface of Mars, dating back to the cooling of the planet as it formed. This assumption is based on evidence of geological processes such as lava flows, collapse pits from rushing water and floods, and glacier carving.

8. Global dust storms encircle the planet

Even regular dust storms on Mars are intense, lasting for weeks at a time and covering continent-sized areas. But once every three Mars years (5.5 Earth years), a mammoth, months-long dust storm encircles the entirety of the globe.

As impressive a sight as that is, Martian dust storms are nowhere near as powerful as storms can get on Earth. In fact, since winds don’t exceed 60 miles per hour, they’re not even strong enough to qualify as Category 1 hurricanes (the weakest, entry-level category). There’s also less pressure on Mars anyway, so it would take considerably more force to create the same effect as on Earth. Simply put, Matt Damon probably wouldn’t have been stranded by the storm at the beginning of The Martian; indeed, the astronauts wouldn’t have left in the first place.

You can actually listen to some of the more average Martian winds here. Recorded by NASA’s InSight lander in Elysium Planitia on Dec 1, 2018, the pressure sensor recordings were so weak they had to be sped up by a factor of 100 just to be audible.

Martian winds aren’t completely harmless, though. Dust particles are electrostatic, so they stick to surfaces upon contact. This is why Mars rovers look so filthy. Electrostatic dust is also problematic for mechanical moving parts, as well as solar panels. The daily sweeping of solar panels in The Martian to ensure their optimal efficiency was therefore something the movie got right.

7. The moons of Mars have different fates

Phobos (fear) and Deimos (panic) are named for the sons of Ares—the Greek god of war, aka Mars to the Romans—who pulled their father’s chariot into battle. But they’re not quite as imposing as they sound. Phobos is a mere 43 miles around and Deimos is just 24 miles. Because of their irregular shapes, they’re actually thought to be captured asteroids caught in Mars’s gravitational pull. And because of their diminutive size, they both have very little gravity of their own. On Phobos, for example, you could easily throw a baseball into escape velocity, while on Deimos you could ride a bike off a hill into space. (Panic indeed!)

The closer to Mars of the two is Phobos, orbiting the planet in just under a third of a day at a distance of 9,377 kilometers. Deimos takes roughly one and a quarter days to complete its orbit, perambulating at a distance of 23,436 kilometers. By way of comparison, the Earth’s moon, at 384,400 kilometers, has an orbit of almost a month (which is of course why we call it a month in the first place).

Phobos’s great speed means it’s actually getting closer and closer to Mars with each orbit. Eventually it’ll reach the Roche Limit, an orbit so close to the planet that tidal forces pulling on the near and far sides of the moon are so powerfully opposed they will simply break Phobos into pieces. When that happens, it will probably form a ring around Mars—a ring that will later rain down upon the equator. Colonists needn’t worry too much, though; this semi-apocalyptic scenario isn’t expected to happen for another 30-50 million years.

Deimos has a rather different fate. Similar to our own moon, it’s gradually getting further away from the planet and eventually it will drift off into space.

6. Olympus Mons is the biggest volcano in the Solar System

With a diameter of 374 miles, Olympus Mons is roughly the same size across as Arizona. Towering 16 miles high, it’s also three times taller than Everest. In fact, Olympus Mons is so tall you could effectively hike into space.

One reason for its vast proportions is Mars’s different geology. On Earth, crustal plates move over stationary hotspots to form new volcanoes and render old ones obsolete. But on Mars, the crust doesn’t move. Instead, lava piles up over billions of years in one spot. And the lower gravity means the resulting mass weighs less than it would on Earth, allowing volcanoes to get much, much larger without collapsing.

Olympus Mons is just the hugest of several huge volcanoes on Mars—all in the region of Tharsis. The next tallest, at 12.4 miles in height, is Arsia Mons, followed by Ascraeus Mons (9.3 miles) and Pavonis Mons (8.7 miles). And it isn’t just the biggest volcano in the Solar System, but the biggest (known) mountain of any kind on any of the eight planets. Only the asteroid Vesta is home to a higher peak—and there’s only a 315-foot difference.

5. The Red Planet used to be blue

While notions of organized life on the surface of Mars have long since been quashed, we now know the planet has water. And billions of years ago, it almost certainly had rivers, lakes, and seas just like the Earth. Digital visualizations give us a glimpse of what this may have looked like—either from within the early Martian atmosphere or from without, looking at the planet from space.

In the latter case, a massive continent fills one side of the western hemisphere. The terrain ranges widely between glacial ice and tundra in the north and south, lush rainforests in the tropical and subtropical regions, and arid volcanic desert in the equatorial region around Mars’s iconic giant peaks. The other side is awash with a vast blue ocean, flowing inland via the Valles Marineris.

Although this image was created more to “trigger the imagination” than as an accurate scientific model, it certainly isn’t unrealistic. Clay samples collected on Mars are evidence of ancient riverbeds, for example, while eroded cliffs are thought to describe the coastlines of former oceans—or perhaps one giant ocean—incorporating the 4-5 kilometer-deep, 2,003 kilometer-wide Vastitas Borealis or ‘northern waste.’

Most of the water is thought to have frozen and evaporated as the atmosphere was stripped away by the Sun. And, unfortunately for those who believe an advanced civilization once thrived on the planet, this may have happened just hundreds of millions of years after Mars had only just formed.

4. Mars could be blue in the future

The Martian atmosphere is now so thin (0.6% the pressure of Earth’s at sea level) that if you were to stand unprotected on the surface, your saliva, tears, and the moisture in your skin, along with any fluid in your lungs, would immediately and painfully evaporate. Of course, you’d also be unable to breathe the 96% CO2 air or withstand (for very long) the average temperature of -81 °F. But if you did, there’s also the ever-present hazard of meteorites—space rocks passing intact through Mars’s ultra-scarce atmosphere.

And, as thin as it is at present, the atmosphere is still being lost into space, stripped away by solar winds at upwards of 100 grams per second. But even at this rate it’ll be another 2 billion yearsbefore Mars loses its atmosphere (practically) completely and ends up like the Moon or Mercury.

So there’s hope. The expectation is that at some point us humans will intervene, terraforming Mars by thickening the atmosphere and replenishing it to livable levels. There are a number of ways to do this, mostly involving the release of carbon dioxide locked up in ice and rocks. Orbital mirrors could be used to melt the polar ice caps, for instance, or thermonuclear bombs could be used to explode them, throwing dust into the air to further increase the greenhouse effect. Introducing gases like ammonia and methane would also help thicken the atmosphere. And the melted ice should naturally flow into oceans. Over centuries, the carbon dioxide could be converted to breathable oxygen by plants or even machines.

Another way could be to seed the planet with microbial life to create the conditions of primordial Earth, then gradually introduce plant and animal life.

However we recreate it, though, the atmosphere would again be sheared off into space for the same reason it’s being lost in the first place: Mars lacks the magnetic field required to hold on to it. Paraterraforming—the terraforming of specific regions rich in carbon dioxide and housing them under domes—may be the most realistic alternative. But, since any global atmosphere wouldn’t be lost for many millions of years anyway, there should be ample time to construct a sphere around the entirety of the planet, thereby containing the terraformed Martian atmosphere. A ‘shell world’ like this might feature artificial lights, hanging cities, and even gravity control—perhaps allowing humans to fly.

3. The new space race is well underway

Efforts to colonize Mars are frequently in the news these days. And, interestingly, they’re mostly being undertaken by private enterprises. This is encouraging given the amount of bureaucracy that hinders national space programs. Although NASA under Trump aims to get people there by the 2030s, for instance, subsequent administrations’ priorities may be different. The United Arab Emirates, which has relatively little in the way of bureaucratic red tape, may have a more realistic, albeit audacious, plan to house 600,000 in a new Martian city by 2117. But, like Russia (which planned to send humans there this year), they haven’t landed anything on Mars as yet—not even so much as a probe.

The private company Mars One famously put out a call for colonists in 2013—no experience required. And the company plans to establish an outpost on the planet by 2026, sending the first humans there in 2031. When they arrive, they’re expected to get to work setting up solar panels, food production units, and other essentials for long-term human survival.

Odds are in favor of SpaceX, though, which plans to get there much sooner. Assuming everything goes according to plan over the next few years, they could start building a propellant production plant on Mars by 2022. This would allow return trips and the establishment of viable long-term settlements (villages to become cities) from as early as 2025. SpaceX founder Elon Musk actually gives himself a 70% chance of moving there by then.

Ultimately, SpaceX intends to send millions of people to Mars. They don’t think it will be without problems (Musk assumes people will die), but they do believe that it’s well worth the risk. As they see it, Mars is just the first step. Long term, SpaceX’s Starship is envisioned as “an interplanetary transport system,” getting humans practically anywhere in the Solar System and setting up propellant production plants along the way.

2. Life on Mars won’t necessarily (or necessarily won’t) be bleak

Despite the differences (e.g. orange skies during the day and blue skies at sunset and sunrise), there are some striking similarities between Mars and Earth. A Martian day is just 40 minutes longer than ours, for instance, in contrast to a Venusian day that’s 242 days longer than ours (and actually longer than a Venusian year). And Mars’s axis is also tilted similarly to the Earth’s (25.19° to our 23°), resulting in comparable changes of season.

But life will obviously be hard for the colonists, at least in the early days. Even if they do get to make a return journey, they’ll probably have to stay for at least a couple of years just to make the months-long trip out worthwhile. And throughout this time they’ll be confined to small spaceswith only brief and occasional walks on the surface.

Life will, however, (probably) get better in the long run. Indeed, it’ll have to if it’s to attract anywhere near the kind of numbers required to make colonization a success (unless people go there simply to get away from Earth). In late 2018, architects released a series of concept imagesfor how life on the Red Planet might look. Although primarily built to withstand harsh radiation and dust storms, as well as the freezing temperatures, Martian homes, they say, will also have to be homely.

Family residences are envisioned as geodesic domes set back in protective caves, complete with soft lounging space and sentimental touches—like shag rugs depicting the Earth from space and cuddly toys for the kids. There’s also an inbuilt garage for a personal rover and a conservatory veranda with indoor garden space. Mansions for the more affluent have sleek, modular designs stacked into the sides of a crater and enormous plate glass windows to survey the otherworldly view. Apartment blocks, meanwhile, needn’t have windows at all. Instead, views could be on a live feed from the Martian surface or else programmed with views of Earth. Of course, virtual reality could allow for more immersive experiences of our home planet.

Looking to the longer term future, it’s interesting to note that humans born on Mars will likely be taller than average. The lower gravity (one third of Earth’s) will allow the fluid between their vertebrae to expand—just as it does for astronauts in space. So born-and-bred Martians will probably avoid visiting Earth at all, since it would be the equivalent of us visiting a planet with three times the gravity of our own. Someone weighing 160 pounds on Mars would suddenly weigh almost 500 pounds on Earth, making it difficult to move around and potentially causing bone problems.

1. There may be life on Mars right now

Because Mars lost its atmosphere and the majority of its water gradually, over a period of millions or billions of years, it’s possible—even likely—that life evolved to survive the increasingly inhospitable conditions.

Back in 1975, the year before the first Viking lander returned data and samples from the surface, Martians were envisioned as ground-based and fungal in appearance. Nowadays, we understand that life on Mars is probably a lot more limited and most likely to be found underground. It could be inhabiting lava tubes, for example—the large winding caves formed by ancient magma flows—where subterranean water is heated by the planet’s core. Researchers are currently working on an insect-like, wall-climbing robot to investigate.

Life could also be proliferating in underground saltwater lakes. Reported in 2018 based on radar data from the orbiting Mars Express, the first suspected lake of this type is around 1.5 kilometers beneath the surface close to the south pole, and at least 20 km across. Magnesium, calcium, and sodium perchlorate salts are thought to act as antifreeze, keeping the water in a liquid—albeit inhospitably briny—state. Comparable lakes in Antarctica are host to plenty of microbial life. Unfortunately, however, it’s tricky to land craft at the southern pole of Mars, owing to the thinner atmosphere and rougher terrain of the region.

Scientists will certainly endeavor to make it happen, though. In the meantime, we can only speculate as to what this life might be like. Perchlorate salts are toxic to most Earth lifeforms, but one notable exception is Dechloromonas aromatica. This ocean-dwelling bacteria breaks down salts using enzymes and converts them into chloride and oxygen to breathe. On Mars, it’s also possible that microbes have evolved to breathe not oxygen but methane—a gas known to seep from the planetary interior.

Of course, Martians may not be microbial in nature. Although the limitations of the planet’s atmosphere and climate are assumed to restrict lifeforms to very simple expressions, they could be more complex than we think.

Either way, the discovery of life on Mars will have ethical implications for colonization. Terraforming, in particular, could wipe out all existing life on the planet—even before we’ve had a chance to meet it. But even the arrival of humans risks contamination. For this reason, the scientific community will probably impose restrictions on where human colonists can go. Areas designated Special Regions under a Planetary Protection Policy will be strictly off-limits—not just for the Martians’ own safety but also to prevent potentially deadly, potentially rapidly multiplying Martian bacteria from hitching a lift on to Earth.


10 Things People Get Wrong About the Founding of America

10. The Republican Party Of Today Has Nothing To Do With The “Party Of Lincoln”

Many Republicans today will try to hype themselves up to others by talking about how they are from the “Party of Lincoln.” They figure this will make them look good, as Lincoln’s presidency helped keep the country together. However, the truth is that the platform of Lincoln’s Republican Party, and that of today’s Republican Party (or the Democrats, for that matter) is so far removed that it really cannot be compared.

Slavery simply dominated back then, and no one really cared about anything else. Apart from a line about railroads, which really had to do indirectly with the overall slavery issue, the entire platform of the freshly made Republican Party was related to slavery, or the spread of slavery, especially in the recent flashpoint of Kansas. Lincoln, if he were alive today, may well have simply made his own party.

9. The Founding Fathers Were Not Really Interested In Common Folk Voting

Most people revere the Founding Fathers today as if they were gods, which is perhaps fitting, because the Founding Fathers certainly thought that we were beneath them. As far as they were concerned, the idea of the common folk voting wasn’t good, because the uneducated masses could band together to make decisions that were bad for everyone, especially the more well-to-do landowners.

For this reason, the Founding Fathers idea of freedom was just the rich, white landowners. After the Revolutionary War, it started to slowly become those who were paying any taxes, and were white males of age, but it took some time to reach that point and it was never something the founders were really interested in achieving. Most of them were even less interested in achieving suffrage for women and minorities, which came even later.

8. Abraham Lincoln Was A Rock-star Corporate Lawyer By The Time He Ran

Abraham Lincoln was perhaps one of the most successful politicians ever when it came to personal propaganda. He was very good at putting across a sort of aww shucks farm-boy persona, and this helped disarm people and trust him as he was running for political office. Some people really do think he was just a farm-boy, who worked overnight in a small room, studying by candlelight to be a lawyer so he could one day be president. While all of this is mostly true, once he became a lawyer, things were different for him.

Lincoln was making extremely good money, which helped him launch his later campaigns, and learned all kinds of valuable speaking skills trying cases in court, which also helped him. He was also not the lawyer for the downtrodden that many might expect, but a rock-star corporate lawyer for the railroads — the equivalent back in the day of, say, working for the oil companies — and he took cases many today might have criticized him for defending. 

7. The South Can Squawk About “States’ Rights” But Their Own Words Damn Them

Today, many Southerners stubbornly believe that the Civil War was the war of Northern aggression, and that slavery would have died out on its own. Many insist the war wasn’t actually about slavery anyway, but about states’ rights, and that the North was just being despotic. Now, to be clear, the issue was about states’ rights… to have slavery. Some revisionists have been trying, and sometimes succeeding, to confuse people for a good 150-odd years now that it was for anything else.  

In their own constitution, they have several lines ensuring that black people within the South would never, ever be free under their rule. They resolved that this is why they created the Confederacy, solely to protect this alleged “right” over black people. The states’ various declarations also speak at length about slavery as their main and sometimes only grievance, and the South’s greatest leaders echoed the same sentiments. Despite this, with a few lies, those who wish to believe otherwise are easily fooled and go on thinking things were much rosier than they were.

6. People Revere George Washington, But They Tend To Forget His Gravest Warning

George Washington is revered by many Americans as the greatest American, the greatest president, and one of the best leaders the world has ever seen. He is a legend today, and his exploits are taught to every child in school. But his final speech likely didn’t have the impact he hoped it would. While people did take an example from him to resign after two terms (and after it was breached, it was turned into an actual law), the real brunt of his speech has been largely ignored.

Washington warned against getting too involved in the foreign affairs of other countries. He thought it could bog us down into quagmires, or get too many enemies besetting us, cost us a great deal of money, and in general, just be more trouble than it was worth. He would likely be very alarmed at the incredible amount of foreign involvement we have today. We have military bases in many allied countries, foreign aid and embassies all over the world, and are incredibly caught up in various conflicts around the globe. More than likely, he would shake his head in disappointment, and go hit the bottle that he was so famously known for enjoying.

5. The Constitution Was Absolutely Not Meant To Be A Permanent Document


While the Constitution has had amendments added to it, the body of the document and the structure of our government have remained largely the same over the years. Also, at this point, many experts now feel we have something called an “entrenched Constitution” wherein it would require an incredible effort just to make a small Constitutional amendment in our current political climate, or even a change to an existing one.

Some people think they are honoring the founders by keeping an incredibly outdated set of rules, laws, and structures largely the same, but the truth is the founders would likely consider us quite foolish. Some of them, like Jefferson, believed that not only should it not be a permanent document, but that the healthiest system would have the new generation — roughly every 25 years or so — pretty much completely restructure our current system of government to fit their generation’s needs. In no way did he, or most of them, think it should be a document kept mostly the same, save some amendments over the course of a couple hundred odd years.

4. The South May Have Been Able To Keep Slavery, If Not For Their Unquenchable Greed

Many people like to think of the North as crusaders for good who wanted to take down the evil South and free the slaves — we all love a cut and dried story about heroes and it is nice when everything is black and white. However, the truth is that some in the North were not so enthusiastic about going after the South actively, or trying to pursue a long-term end to slavery.

While there were, of course, plenty of abolitionists, there were also a lot of Northerners who thought slavery was ethically wrong, and did not want it to expand, or want it in their country, but still deeply looked down on the intelligence and general capability of black people. The truth is that the conflict between the North and the South partly heated up so much over time because Southerners kept wanting to expand slavery westward to new states and the Northerners wanted to keep the new parts of the country slave free — they wanted the stigma contained.

Some politicians, like Lincoln in his debate with opponent Stephen Douglas, wanted the citizens of the new state to decide — a compromise that pleased few, except some of the more aggressive Southerners. The truth is that if the South had kept slavery to the South and not tried so aggressively to expand, things may never have reached the point they did and the North would never have been motivated enough to waste so much blood freeing people they already mostly looked down on, and the South may never have even tried to secede in the first place, as the drama wouldn’t have reached that point.

3. The Founding Fathers Didn’t Think You Were Smart Enough To Vote For Senators

Recently, a lot of Americans voted for new senators, although the current balance in the senate seems to be staying largely the same for now. Many people took selfies with their “I voted” stickers and more young people are voting than ever, so that is certainly a good thing, regardless of who they vote for. However, while today we may be able to enjoy the opportunity to choose our senators, that wasn’t always the case.

Sadly, back before 1913, even rich, white, landowning males did not have the power to choose their state’s senators, as the Founding Fathers had not thought them capable or smart enough to make such an important decision for the country. It wasn’t until 1912 that congress passed a law giving the power to the people, and it was finally ratified in 1913. Before then, you just voted for your state legislature’s representatives and they chose the senators for you — now, your democracy is a little less representative and a little bit more direct.

2. Most Freed Black People Went Straight Back Into Slavery And Never Left It Again

Many people think that Lincoln freed the slaves and that the 13th amendment ended slavery, but both of these things are essentially untrue. The Emancipation Proclamation did free all slaves currently held in states in uprising, but that was not even close to all of the slaves at that time. And unfortunately, the 13th amendment did not fix things either. It left a loophole wherein if you were incarcerated for a crime, you could be forced to work against your will (for nothing) all the same. Which, you know… is basically slavery.

In the South, black people were tricked into sharecropping and tenement farming, which was basically a form of debt bondage. Those people were often the lucky ones, though, as many black people were tried and convicted in what were basically kangaroo courts for the most ludicrous of crimes, even well into the Civil Rights era. Going to jail for whistling at a white women, or other ridiculous charges, were not just stereotypes or racial jokes — they were very real and horrible things that happened to real people, long after most of us would imagine it could have possibly been happening.

1. The Founding Fathers Happily Tore Into Each Other Like Politicians Of Today

Perhaps one of the most amusing things about the Founding Fathers of America is just how much Americans have practically deified them in history. People like Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Hancock, Franklin, Paine and so many others still stir the imaginations of people today, and hold a truly mythical status. Now, we’re not trying to denigrate these men and convince you they weren’t really so great after all. Far from it. In fact, all of them accomplished great things for their time and had a lot to be proud of, and while some may have had beliefs we would disagree with today, many were still ahead of their time.

The source of amusement lies with the fact that while we deify them all almost reverently, they fought, had fallings out, bickered, quarreled and argued vehemently for opposite political parties just like politicians today. Some of the earliest elections involved multiple Founding Fathers and were some of the dirtiest political fights in our history, with both sides using name-calling that would have made many hardened partisans today blush. The Founding Fathers worked together for a common goal, but it doesn’t mean they were a hivemind who had one idea for America that they expected us to follow perfectly from then on. They were a group of men with various different beliefs who came together and formed an imperfect system, expecting us to change it and make it better to suit our needs as we went along. Now, it is up to us to honor them by doing just that.

10 Business Debacles of the 21st Century (So Far…)


In a capitalist society consumerism is king, but people can be fickle with their loyalty to a brand. The public may choose to boycott a product or service at any given moment, so one false move can bring an entire business empire tumbling down. Even the most successful multi-billion dollar businesses are capable of making mistakes, but some are far worse than others. Here are 10 of the craziest business debacles of the 21st century… at least, so far.

10. Blockbuster Passed Up The Opportunity to Buy Netflix in 2000

We all know that Blockbuster Video eventually completely tanked in the US, and there is only one store left in existance. But they could still be around today, if only they had purchased Netflix. In the year 2000, Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, met with the CEO of Blockbuster, John Antioco, and pitched the idea that they could be partners in bringing digital video rentals to customers. Antioco turned Hastings down because he believed that customers would be loyal to their brand.

Eventually, Blockbuster could see that Netflix was growing into a multi-billion dollar company, and by the time they tried to catch on to the digital revolution, it was far too late. People were no longer getting their movies from Blockbuster when they could pay one flat monthly fee for an unlimited amount. While there may be a lot of nostalgia for those of us who grew up renting movies at Blockbuster, it simply wasn’t enough to keep them in business.

9. The Enron Scandal Revealed Corporate Greed in 2001

Enron was a natural gas company that had been founded in the 1980s. Over the years, it became one of the most valuable companies in the United States, with an estimated value of $63.4 billion. It turns out that the company was doctoring their books to make it seem as if they were making massive profits every quarter. Because of this, investors felt confident that the company was doing well, and money was pouring in.

In the year 2000, Enron’s stock price was as high as $90.75 per share, and by the time the truth was revealed in 2001, the value of their stock dropped to less than a dollar. Thousands of employees and investors lost their jobs, and their retirement funds. Enron’s executives were put on trial for fraud and insider trading, and the incident sparked several government reforms to try to prevent this from happening again. However, it wasn’t enough to stop the corporate greed that led to the 2008 recession.

8. In 2003, Hooters Started an Airline

The Hooters restaurant chain is known for beautiful women wearing skimpy uniforms while they serve beer and wings. In 2003, the CEO thought it would be a good idea to open a Hooters Airline, where beautiful waitresses and stewardesses served the same kinds of food during a flight. The airline was located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and it actually brought a lot of new tourism to the city.

However, the CEO was very inexperienced with running an airline. They sold tickets at the flat price of just $129 each way to 15 locations in the United States. This was far too cheap to cover the expenses. Not only did it fail to bring in profits, but customers were disappointed to learn that their experience did not live up to the fantasy they had in mind. After just three years, it was clear that Hooters Airlines was hemorrhaging money. The project ultimately lost the corporation $40 million.

7. Urban Outfitters Has Been Controversial on Purpose Since 2003

Urban Outfitters is a Philadelphia-based clothing brand that also sells home decor and quirky gifts, but for years, their edgy products have often crossed the line of having incredibly poor taste. In 2003, they released a board game called “Ghettopolly”, which featured illustrations of African Americans, where the cards say that they are pimping or robbing stores. The NAACP immediately called them out for the racism, and it was pulled from the shelves.

You would think that the incident would have made them more careful, but that’s where you’re wrong. Over the years, Urban Outfitters has been in the news for dozens of controversies, including a sweatshirt of Kent State University that appeared to be bloody, which was a reference to a shooting at the hands of the Ohio National Guard in 1970. They have also featured clothing with references to the Holocaust by making a t-shirt with the Star of David on the chest. In 2015, they gave away free kittens with every purchase. Despite all of these ridiculous business decisions, some believe that they are causing controversy on purpose to keep themselves relevant in the media.

6. In 2010, The BP Oil Spill Wreaked Havoc On Our Oceans

On April 20, 2010, eleven employees of the BP Oil company were killed while drilling for oil off the US Gulf Coast. According to Reuters, the oil rig did not have an engineer working on-site, and the employees had failed to contact an expert on shore who would have been knowledgeable enough to help them issues they were having with the equipment. The pressure of the underwater pipes was too high, and this caused an explosion. Millions of barrels of oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico, and it was so extensive it could be seen from space.

Millions of sea creatures died, and dead wildlife was washing up on the shores following the incident. Years later, we are still seeing the effects of the incident on the oceans and in our environment. There are now an unprecedented amount of “dead zones” in the oceans where life can no longer exist. In 2015, after years of court proceedings, BP agreed to pay $18.7 billion in fines, and they have been sued in so many lawsuits it’s totaled a payout of $42.2 billion.

5. JCPenney Profits Plummeted by Getting Rid of Sales in 2011

In 2011, the department store JCPenney was concerned over the fact that there was a decrease in their annual revenue. Someone came up with the brilliant idea of eliminating their coupons and sales completely, advertising that their products were now going to have low prices every single day. They dropped the price of everything in the store by an average of 40%. You would think that customers would love this, but this strategy actually tanked.

It turns out that people truly do feel more motivated to shop when they have a sense of urgency, and when they believe that they need to rush to the store in order to get some kind of discount. Their sales were 27.9% lower than the previous year. They quickly realized that they needed to switch back to using sales and coupons, but not before losing $163 million. The CEO of JCPenney, Ron Johnson, now realizes that “Coupons were a drug” and that they “really drove traffic.”

4. In 2014, Millions of Target Customers Were Hacked

If you live in the United States, you probably still remember the cybersecurity hack on Target’s credit card system in 2014. The credit and debit card information of 40 million customers was stolen. It all started when a company called Fazio Mechanical Services was fixing the air conditioning in the Target corporate offices. The credentials of this contractor were stolen, and the hacker was able to gain access to the computer mainframe and steal the customer data.

Target responded by releasing chip-in-pin credit cards to all of their customers. Most European countries had already converted over to the chip system years before the US, but Target hack was the incentive for companies across the nation to finally make the switch. The incident caused a ripple effect where all of the major banks and credit card companies began releasing cards with chips, and major retailers were forced to update their payment systems to keep customer data secure.

3. In 2016, Samsung Phones Were Exploding

In 2016, Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones started exploding all over the world. While it sounds hard to believe, it was finally caught on security camera footage while a South Korean man was at work. There was no denying these incidents were truly happening. When they could no longer deny it, Samsung tried to save their reputation by blaming the victims, saying that these people must have been using batteries that were not official Samsung products. Later, more and more phones were exploding, and there was no getting around the fact that it was a manufacturing error. It turns out that the company installed batteries that were the wrong size, which caused them to catch on fire. Samsung had to recall 2.5 million Galaxy Note phones, and the company lost $5 billion.

Their sales went down 15% that year. While this incident had the potential to completely ruin Samsung as a company, they were actually saved by memes. That’s right, the Internet swooped in and made exploding cell phones such a hot topic that people actually thought it was kind of funny, and they were willing to forgive and forget. By the time Samsung released their Galaxy Note 8, their sales were back up to where they had been before the major fiasco.

2. In 2017, a United Airlines Passenger Was Forcibly Removed From His Flight

On April 9, 2017, a doctor named David Dao was on United Airlines flight 3411, which was leaving Chicago to his home in Louisville, Kentucky. Unbeknownst to most people at the time, United had a policy where they would overbook flights on purpose, and then kick people off when they ran out of seats. Dr. Dao was already seated, and security asked him to leave the plane. He refused to go, and he tried to explain that he was a doctor and had patients to see the next morning. After refusing to leave, security dragged him down the aisle, and he slammed into the arm rest, which left him bleeding and unconscious. The security officer never stopped to give him medical attention, and horrified passengers pulled out their cellphones to capture it all on video.

The CEO of United, Oscar Munoz, tried to blame the incident on Dr. Dao, saying that he was “belligerent” and “disruptive” — basically insinuating that he deserved what was coming to him. This caused such an uproar that even Donald Trump agreed that it was horrible. Munoz was informed that if they did not change their policies immediately, the company would have to appear before Congress. Following this incident, United stock prices dropped and they were suedby several people who were victims of mistreatment.

1. In 2018, Facebook Faced Trials For Selling Customer Data

Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is no stranger to controversy. Over the years, he’s been involved in multiple lawsuits and scandals. A company called Cambridge Analytica was harvesting the data of Facebook users and using personal information to manipulate advertisements. An FBI investigation has revealed that Russians may have used Cambridge Analytica to manipulate the 2016 presidential election, with Facebook somehow involved.

Zuckerberg denied the accusations, but in April 2018 he was forced to appear before both Senate and Congress to answer for the company selling customers’ private data. Zuckerberg was made to pay fines and urged to step down, but he refused to leave his seat as CEO. The value of Facebook’s stock has dropped 20%, or $120 billion. Only time will tell if the social media platform will ever make a comeback.


10 Things That Will Change How You Think of the Valkyrie

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Norse Mythology has heard of Valkyrie. Readers, artists, and audiences have imagined them as noble warrior women and maybe symbolic of a proudly militaristic past when Scandinavians raided much of the rest of the world to their heart’s content. If nothing else, there’s a good chance a reader is familiar with a version of them through the 2017 hit Marvel film Thor: Ragnarok, although before that point Valkyrie was rated a B-level comics character.  

If we brought someone familiar with the mythology back when it was new here to the present and showed them examples of our current media about Valkyries, they’d probably be a bit bewildered. It isn’t so much that in the original mythology the Valkyrie were a bunch of accountants instead of warriors, but it’s much closer to that than you might think…

10. Not Really Warriors

Most pop culture depictions of the Valkyrie will feature them in helmets, heavily armed, and ready for battle. But battle’s not the main function that the Valkyrie served in the original mythology at all. The perception is the result of a cultural blend of their legend with that of the Amazons from Greek mythology.

The true, primary purpose that the Norse god Odin had the Valkyrie serve was to arrive after the end of a battle and escort distinguished fallen warriors to the hallowed Valhalla, where they would rejoice with Odin (their name literally translates to “Choosers of the Slain”). They left the rest of the soldiers to the afterlife known as the Folkvangr (“Soldier Field”). Considering that Folkvangr was an afterlife ruled by the goddess of love and beauty Freya, it was probably a decent way to spend eternity, too. It’s understandable that being in proximity to battlefields convinced generations they must be female warriors. Honestly, though, getting a duty that involved staying out of the fray of battle seems like the best jobs they could have been assigned. Especially considering the status of medical equipment at the time.

9. Elevated Mortals?

You’d probably think that Odin would fill the ranks of his women who decide which soldiers are worthy of his warrior heaven with goddesses. That’s the kind of job you’d want to assign to with someone with the objective perspective that comes with immortality. That wasn’t how Odin did things, though: The Valkyrie were chosen from the realm of mortals and elevated to the state of demigoddesses.

That’s not to say they were necessarily peasants before Odin made them his maids. One by the name of Svana was the daughter of King Eylimi. Others had the full title of queen before joining Valhalla. Usually they were queens and princesses of tribes rather than full nations, but it was very esteemed company by Norse standards nevertheless.      

8. Virgins

In every region of the world there seems to be written record of a culture venerating female virginity. But in a manner similar to the Vestal Virgins of Rome, the exalted status of mortal virgins to Valhalla wasn’t so much because female virginity was supposed to be an inherently good thing. It was because the Valkyrie needed to remain virgins so that they could remain immortal.

You might think this requirement would prevent any tales of humans forming relationships with Odin’s own, but no, the original tales often included mention of human/valkyrie relationships. They were tragic romances. In some cases, the romances would involve rival lovers where one would be murdered, then the victim would return from the dead and kill her rival just as the initial victor was about to claim her male prize. But even doomed love is less tragic than none at all.

7. Feather Capes

The general image for a Valkyrie no doubt features them in more Mediterranean-style armor and garb. They’d be dressed in light tunics, chain mail, and similar implements. Not like they were originally envisioned at all.

The original Norse mythology had them dressed in capes made of feathers, which came either from swans or ravens. So there weren’t just the white-silver uniforms featured in Thor: Ragnarok. Valkyrie purists should also be picturing the cloaks of the Night’s Watch from Game of Thrones. Additionally, some versions of the Valkyrie exploits include the ability of the Valkyrie to turn their capes into wings. They must have resembled the menacing wings that Maleficent had in her 2014 movie.   

6. Nightmare Looms

It’s almost forgotten today, but there was a particularly grim portrayal of Valkyries that makes them sound less like some kind of feminine ideal and more like horror movie monsters. In Eddas and the Sagas, one of the definitive texts of Norse Mythology, an early depiction showed their activities before the Battle of Clontarf (a particularly deadly battle in 1014 wherein an Irish army under the command of King Brian Boru killed thousands of Norse soldiers). Instead of going amongst the fallen after the battle to select worthy warriors, the twelve Valkyries were sitting at looms to determine the fates of soldiers. This may sound like it’s copying the Fates of Greek mythology, but it was actually derived from early Norse mythological figures called the Norns.

The Valkyries were not using looms that were in the slightest way whimsical or celestial. The cord on them was made of intestines, and the weights were severed heads. The weaving involved the use of arrows and swords as weaving tools. There was no stately reserve as they did their duty; they were chanting the nature of their business with delight. This saga was in keeping with the times, as Celts and other European groups from roughly the same region imagined goddesses of death in similarly macabre ways that did not provide death in battle with any semblance of dignity.   

5. Servers

Selecting the warriors for Valhalla or Folkvangr and accompanying Odin to certain events (such as the funeral of his brother) might make the Valkyrie sound like highly esteemed members of society among the gods. The reality was that in the considerable downtime between battles, they were assigned to pour drinks for Odin and the heroes they’d brought up to Valhalla. Considering that Valhalla was so big that it was supposed to have about 540 doors, that was no light job!

Mead, which was a form of alcohol that came from fermenting honey in water, was definitely the drink of choice during the many feasts in that hallowed hall. It was so identified with Odin that he was supposed to have gained strength from drinking it as a baby. His drinking horn was never to be left completely empty.

As far as food went, the most prominently mentioned was meat from a boar named Saehrimnir. This was a particularly unlucky animal in that every night after a feast the meat that had been cut from it would completely rejuvenate. Even in descriptions of Norse heaven the mythology can produce some surprisingly creepy aspects. There was mention in one of the myths that Odin didn’t eat any of the meat in favor of his drink, and it’s hard to blame him.  

4. Blood Magic

Their duties of handing out honors to the valiant who were killed in action and giving Odin refills might make the Valkyrie seem considerably less militarily majestic than being a collection of warriors who fought in the fray. However, these were people that were not necessarily constrained by their roles as Odin’s maids, and that could mean their stories went in wild directions. For example, in one saga there was a Valkyrie named Skuld who reanimates a group of soldiers to attack her brother Hrolf (and ultimately kill him).

As operatically grotesque as using a contingent of the undead to kill a family member is, the Valkyrie could go much further than that in terms of actions that sounded out of gothic horror. The second most elaborate was in a saga called Borva Gefn, wherein Gefn caused a rain of blood. The most elaborate was when Valkyries would manifest rivers of blood in the sky so that Norse ships could row in them. It’s an image of staggering psychedelic violence, like a vision that an anti-hippie would experience.

3. Origin of the Sleeping Beauty Myth

We’ve seen in several entries that there are signs that Norse sagas were influenced by Greek mythology. As it happened, Norse mythology left some major influences of its own on classical storytelling. By far the most famous of these, even more so than the Valkyries overall, was the way that the saga of Sigrdrifa and Sigurd was the basis of the story of Sleeping Beauty.

The saga, as recounted in the 13th Century compendium Poetic Edda, begins with Sigrdrifa taking part in a battle against King Hialmgunnar. Against Odin’s wishes, she won the battle for Hialmgunnar’s enemy. The punishment for this was to be pricked with a sleep thorn. Odin further encircled her sleeping space in a column of fire. Years later, along came the knight Sigurd, who braved the fire. Sigurd wasn’t on a rescue mission. When he found the body, he didn’t even know Sigrdrifa was a woman because she was dressed in full armor and helmet, showing that there were no local legends of a woman in the fire or anything of the kind.

Sigurd did not bring her out of her sleep with a kiss–he woke her by removing her armor. It further turned out that Sigrdrifa didn’t regain her memory until she had a horn of mead. Interestingly, instead of making romantic proposals straight off, Sigurd asked for Sigrdrifa to provide him with the great wisdom that she, as a demigod, must possess, and she obliged him. You don’t need TopTenz to tell you that subsequent versions of the story (among them the German version, which changed her name to Brunhilda and his to Siegfried) changed that part!   

2. Beowulf Inspiration

Most of us consider the Vikings in a fairly academic way, without feeling any outrage over the atrocities that they inflicted on numerous communities across Europe. But there’s a glimpse of this in how Danish literature treated the legend of the Valkyrie. They didn’t just reject the notion they were statuesque, fair beauties. They even went further than portraying them as women working on a ghoulism loom. The anonymous author of the 10th Century epic poem Beowulf took the Valkyrie legend and turned it into one of the most famous, and yet nameless, monsters in European fiction: Grendel’s Mother.  

The influence of the Valkyrie on the character of Grendel’s Mother is more subtextual than it is explicit. Oxford professor Helen Damico argued that the connections exist in how she is also a half-mortal, half-superhuman entity, and how both the character and the inspiration are implied to be some form of higher class (though this is primarily through the pronouns used to describe Grendel’s Mother). There’s also how she’s a wandering spirit of death, as the Danes would likely have considered their Norse adversaries and their religious figures. In its own way, it brings the grievances that were held against the Norse raiders vividly to life to see other cultures interpreting their mythical figures as wretched beasts.  

1. Not Numerous

Fantasy stories and movies like Thor: Ragnarok will present us with images of formidable ranks of Valkyries. Going by the number that were present at even the largest, most epic of battles in the sagas, there actually didn’t seem to be that many of them. Sources such as Norse Mythology A to Z state that there were either never more than 13 of them at a time. Sometimes there were nine of them. But the earliest surviving writing about them says that there were only six Valkyrie at the beginning.  

Now granted, ancient Scandinavian armies were not huge. The roughly 4,000 the Vikings got together for the Battle of Maldon in 991 was very high by the standards of the time. Still, we would want many more than six potential eye witnesses/judges on hand to decide if we go to eternal reward, especially if there are numerous battles happening on Earth at the time. That doesn’t even seem like it would even be enough for a good serving staff for Valhalla, but they must have made do.

Dustin Koski invented some mythological figures of his own for his cult fantasy novel Not Meant to Know.

10 Misconceptions About the British Monarchy

It is unquestionably the most famous, the most slavishly observed royal family in the world. The 2018 wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle garnered more than 29 million viewers in the United States of America alone, and the USA is not a nation you’d expect to be particularly friendly to the idea of royalty at all. And those were reported as being notably low ratings.

Now consider the extent to which British monarchs have left their direct stamp on the world as the nation grew into the empire on which the sun never set. How many people are familiar with Richard the Lionhearted and his role in the crusades but who couldn’t name another thing that happened a century before or after. Entire eras are named by historians in honor of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. Still, one of the lessons we’ve learned since we began TopTenz is that the more people have a passing familiarity with something, that usually means the more ways people misunderstand it.

10. The 1215 Magna Carta was a Key Part of the American Revolution

For many American history students, when King John II signed this document, it was practically the birth of the American Revolution that would come five and a half centuries later. It was legal precedent that the powers of a monarch were to be held in check by outside powers, divine right or no divine right. The document included stipulations against the king being able to levy taxes as he saw fit, to regulate such seemingly mild matters as uniform measurements of a piece of cloth or corn in transactions. And that’s the thing: Many of those original clauses were subsequently removed.

The rewriting of the Magna Carta began almost immediately, in historical terms. As early as 1216, John’s successor Henry III was releasing a new version. Then it was changed again in 1217, and yet again in 1225. These were not slight changes, either. The 1225 revision, for example, cut the number of lines down from 63 to 36. Most significantly, the 1225 revision that was most momentous in being cited as precedent in 1628 included the right of the king to levy taxes at will. Considering that one of the main rallying cries of the American Revolution was “no taxation without representation,” then the Magna Carta was not actually useful as legal precedent for those who sought independence.

9. Richard the Lionheart was a High Point of the Monarchy

Many tellings of the story of Robin Hood present Richard I as the worthy king of England, and his younger brother John as the wretched usurper. It doesn’t hurt in some circles, particularly the papacy, that he was one of the primary figures of the third and most successful of the many European crusades in the Holy Land.  

For one thing, Richard’s crusades were an immense strain on his nation’s finances. In 1190 he resorted to openly accepting bribes for political and legal offices. By 1192 he had been drawn into a stalemate against the Muslim forces and only won the right for unarmed Christians to enter Jerusalem. Then he lost a fortune in a far less defensible way when he was captured in a sea wreck, and his ransom cost literally two years worth of revenue for the entire nation, meaning even the wealth of the churches had to be seized. When Richard returned in 1194, he named John his heir, indicating he either approved of what John was doing in his absence or didn’t care, and then went to Normandy to resecure British control. He was killed there in 1199, having won neither of the wars he fought, spending barely any time in his home nation, and having bled it financially.

8. Henry V was a Glorious Leader

In 1415 a badly outnumbered, starving British army (the ratio has been reported as anywhere from two to one through five to one) used guile, longbows, and mud to soundly defeat a well-equipped French army. Consequently Prince Hal, as he was nicknamed before taking the crown, was put on a historical pedestal among monarchs and generals. Generations grew up hearing his stirring St. Crispin’s Day Speech, or rather the one that William Shakespeare wrote for him.

In truth, his glorious war in France was marred by two great atrocities. At Agincourt, when Henry’s army took a large number of prisoners, Henry ordered them put to death, which was a violation of the rules of war even at the time. In 1417 during the siege of Rouen, he outdid that atrocity when he allowed 12,000 French refugees to starve to death between his entrenchments and the city. It seems Shakespeare wrote something truer to the real man’s character than the St. Crispin’s Day Speech when he wrote in his play that the king who’d just claimed every man who fought with him would be of his “band of brothers” looked at a list of his dead soldiers, read the first four, and then said of the rest “none else of name.”  

7. King George III was a Mad Tyrant

In North America, this monarch’s madness and the loss of the colonies are the only two things for which he’s remembered. There isn’t an entire film adaptation of a play devoted to his insanity with the unsubtle title The Madness of King George for nothing. It certainly helps paint the American Revolution as having additional justification if His Majesty across the Atlantic is unbalanced. Also, the fact that for the last decade of his reign he was so insane that Prince George IV was regent for Great Britain certainly adds to that.

The truth was that the king was, during the first 50 years of his reign, far more enlightened and tolerant of liberty than many monarchs before or after him. He had a keen scientific mind, being the first king in British history to receive an education in the sciences and enough interest in the subject to establish a royal observatory, which he used to accurately predict future transits of Venus. The Royal Library was freely offered to scholars during his rule. He made it his avowed policy to veto any legislation which would restrict the rights of preachers critical of the crown — “There shall be no persecution in my reign” were his strong words on the subject. He allowed the courts of Britain to make rulings independent of his judgement.  

As far as America was concerned, for one thing, the unpopular taxes and policies were parliament’s decisions instead of his. During the American Revolution he kept detailed records of the troops and their supplies. When it was over, he worked to an amiable reconciliation between his empire and the new nation. While being the king meant losing the colonies was his responsibility, it was hardly the fault of his actions.   

6. Queen Victoria was a Model of Repression

For awhile, there was a piece of trivia that circulated around about how, in Victorian England, there were skirts placed on tables for fear that the curves of a table leg might be too arousing. It was nonsense, but it fit an image of the era that had come to permeate the popular perception. With Queen Victoria as the figurehead of the period, it was inevitable that taciturn portraits of her from later in life would mean she was viewed as a stoic prude herself.

That would have been quite a surprise to many during much of her reign. When Victoria and Prince Albert were married in 1840, the press was agog about how glamourous and eager Victoria was. Victoria wrote to correct them only that she had not shed any tears. These feelings for Albert were not affected for public benefit: Victoria gushed in her diary about how she “NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening” and how his “excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before.” She also praised his appearance at length, from his “slight whiskers” to his “broad shoulders and fine waist.” These thoughts were not kept particularly private. She enthused to Prime Minister Melbourne about how Albert’s “kindness and affection… were beyond everything” over and over again. Not exactly X-rated material. But in an era where serious academic writings asserted that women did not experience orgasms, it definitely went against the grain.   

5. King John was All Bad


With Richard I off in the Holy Land and Europe, triple-bankrupting England, regent (and eventual King) John took up the mantle of managing the homefront in a pretty bad spot, pretty much from the beginning. While Richard was winning battles, John had to be the bad guy who took wealth from churches to finance the war effort, winning him the animosity of historian monks such as Roger Wendover and Matthew Paris (although being excommunicated for trying to install a friendly archbishop for Canterbury certainly didn’t help). Add to that the fact his owns barons put him under threat of rebellion to sign the aforementioned Magna Carta, and everything is set up for him to seem like he must have been a travesty of a monarch, if not a person. But the man had his redeeming aspects.

As asserted by History Extra, John had a number of redeeming features and successes. Although landholdings were lost during his reign, he conducted a number of skillful sieges, such as Le Mans in 1200 and Rochester in 1215. He also lifted the Mirebeau. Indeed, he saved the defenders of the castle Chateau-Gaillard in 1203 through an amphibious assault that was praised by military historians. John was also able to maintain England’s power in Scotland and Ireland, which was particularly impressive while already being embroiled in a costly war across the channel.

In terms of administration, John was industrious to the point that he was credited with “modernizing” a government which had fallen significantly behind. As far as the Magna Carta was concerned, it should be noted that only a relatively few 39 baronies of the 197 in his kingdom were rebelling against him, while roughly as many were supporting him. Otherwise the barons certainly wouldn’t have bothered making him sign any documents when they could just depose him. However fraught with peril his reign was for England, in his own time he was hardly the mewling creep he has since been labelled.

4. King Alfred the Great Saved England from the Vikings

The general impression given is that, for centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, Great Britain was essentially easy pickings for the Vikings. It wasn’t until the 9th Century that a particularly mighty king was able to unite the many states of the Isle and drive the raiders and their colonies out. Surely King Alfred would feel embarrassingly flattered by it, being a fierce advocate for education in addition to a highly effective general.  

While it is true that by the time his reign ended in 899 Alfred had conquered London for the Anglo-Saxons and fought the Danes to a standstill and peace treaty, his descendants failed him in both military and humanitarian terms. In 1002, King Æthelred the Unready ordered the murder of all Danes on the island, which resulted in the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. This brought the full fury of the Danes under the command of King Sweyn Forkbeard, who subsequently conquered all of England. Thus Alfred could hardly have been said to have saved England from the Danes — he only delayed its full capitulation to them by roughly a century.  

3. Queen Elizabeth I’s Virginity

Since her 1558-1603 reign was without a marriage or children, Queen Elizabeth I gained the label “the virgin queen.” Naturally this meant that many men, most notably the very incestuous King Philip II of Spain who’d already been married to her sister Mary, vied savagely for her hand. Recently, evidence has emerged that she was hardly chaste even after taking the throne.

In 2018, The Telegraph reported that Dr. Estelle Paranque had uncovered letters written by Bertrand Salignac de la Mothe Fénélon, a French noble who’d been stationed in England from 1568 to 1575 working as a diplomat. His letters, including one to Catherine de Medici, talked about how he’d received a number of invitations to Elizabeth I’s private chambers, how they’d reached a level of surprisingly casual and intimate conversation during their time together (e.g. her blaming him for forgetting her while he was away on business), and that she would at least once “drew (him) off in a corridor aside.” The tone of this correspondence was hardly bragging, with Fénélon writing admiringly of how the Queen looked “as a wonder” and admiring her for having the upper body strength to use a crossbow, which was unusual among noblewomen at the time. It’s not secretly recorded surveillance footage, but it’s the best evidence we’re likely to receive of such a liaison.

2. Henry VIII Exploded

After his death in 1547, it seemed like perfect propaganda for Catholic historians that the king had done so much to persecute for them to claim that his body had ignominiously exploded from all the gases stored in it as part of the rapid decomposition process, allowing dogs to have a taste of the royal remains. These days the little tale seems like a grimly amusing anecdote. Even to us, it feels like telling the truth is spoiling the fun a little.

Sadly, reports of the corpse of the Tudor king detonating aren’t so much exaggerated as they’re wrong. As recounted in Thea Tomaini’s 2017 book on the subject The Corpse as Text, another myth that emerged was that Mary Tudor secretly had her father’s body exhumed and burned, a fate Henry VIII visited on the corpse of Thomas of Canterbury. Mythmakers certainly thought that the fate of Henry VIII’s corpse was lively.

1. The Monarchy has No Power Currently

Moving into modern days, the monarchy of Britain seems so much less powerful that there is some controversy about whether the United Kingdom should continue to have a monarchy at all. It can be highly expensive to have such ceremonies as the annual inspection of the navy or those tightly-guarded royal weddings, not to mention that Her Majesty has an estimated net worth of $425 million and the Crown Estate owns £12.4 billion in land (though admittedly sites such as Fast Company report that it only comes out to 69 pence per taxpayer per year and more than makes up for its cost in tourism revenue).

Her Majesty currently has powers that would be fairly staggering for anyone who thinks she and the royal family are just figureheads. As head of state there’s the power to dissolve parliamentand appoint a new prime minister, a power which extends to every state in the Commonwealth. She has veto power for all bills being signed into law. She appoints bishops and archbishops in the Anglican Church (if they pass muster with the prime minister). On a lighter note, she has carte blanche ability to issue money to senior citizens on Easter. If someone considers that a figurehead, we’d hate to see what they consider a micromanaging tyrant.

Dustin Koski wishes good health to the royal family. He is also the author of the dark fantasy novelNot Meant to Know.

10 Wars Sparked by the End of WWI

On November 11, 1918 — “the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” — an armistice took effect that ended the fighting of World War I in the air, land, and sea. Finally, the war was over. It had taken the lives of millions, and maimed millions more. While Germany and its allies stopped fighting, there was not total peace. The war had destroyed the old European ways and the European Empires of old had crumbled. From their ashes new wars broke out, some even before the November 11 Armistice stopped the battle against Germany.

10. Allied intervention in Russia

World War I destroyed a key British and French ally, the Russian Czarist Regime. In 1917, three years into WWI, the Russian Empire ceased to exist and the Allies watched in horror as first, the new Russian government made peace with Germany, and then Lenin and the Soviets (Red Russians) seized the country. While officially invading Russia to protect Allied war material CanadianAmerican, British, Japanese, Czech Legion soldiers, and many more fought and died in a shadow war against communism.

The confused goals and purpose of the intervention and varied motives of the armies in Russia doomed the venture. For example, the Japanese wanted to expand their Empire and influence into Russian Siberia. The Americans wanted to check Japanese expansion while everyone was supporting their favorite anti-communist forces (White Russians) that became more and more brutal until their Russian allies were reduced to glorified warlords. As the years dragged on the soldiers became more and more demoralized and near mutinous. The Allies pulled out of Russia by 1920, although the Japanese stayed in Russian Siberia until 1922.

9. Iraqi revolt against the British

Lawrence of Arabia promised the Arabs that if they helped overthrow the Turks, they would get to determine their own destiny. They helped the allies do exactly that but were betrayed when the French and British carved up the Arab world between them. One of the new nations created by the British Imperialists was the “Mandate” of what would become Iraq. Seeing that they were ruled by puppet regimes, they rebelled again — this time against their former allies, the British. The United Kingdom, however, was broke, and couldn’t afford another war. Winston Churchill, then the war secretary, implemented a novel strategy: “aerial policing.”

While still requiring boots on the ground, with total British control of the skies the Royal Air Force could bomb the Iraqi rebels and the villages that supported them from the safety of the air. Within a few months, the rebellion was over and the Iraqi people subdued. The campaign went so well that the British commanders became convinced that not only could air power defeat armed Iraqi tribesmen, but whole industrial nations. Decades later, the same commanders pushed to bomb Nazi Germany into submission and to those ends used hundreds of bombers to firebomb Hamburg and Dresden off the map. While they killed 600,000 Germans, “RAF’s strategic bombing campaign alone could not force Germany’s surrender.”

8. Polish-Ukrainian War

Poland was once a European superpower before it was dismembered in the 18th century by the Russian, German, and Austrian Empires. World War I saw all three in various forms of defeat, allowing Poland to emerge from their ashes. Quick to assert itself between 1918 and 1921, the Second Polish Republic went to war more than six times with all of its neighbors. As the Soviets retreated from South Russia it created a power vacuum, and just before WWI ended a newly created state — the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic (WUPR) — declared its existence as well as another Ukrainian German puppet regime further East.

Poland saw these as threats and the newly restored Polish state quickly invaded, as it wanted the lands for the new Polish state. When WUPR crumbled Poland attacked Ukraine proper. The Poles won a quick victory as independent Ukraine quickly crumbled. In addition to the Polish Army Ukraine faced internal strife as well as Soviet attacks. By 1921 the Red Army controlled what remained of Ukraine and it became a Soviet Republic in the USSR in 1922.

7. Armenia vs. Azerbaijani (and Turkey, Georgia, and the Soviets)

Mostly under control of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, Armenia and its people endured one of the first modern genocides when, during WWI, the Turks killed 1.5 million Armenians. As the war ended the two Empires that controlled the historical region of Armenia retreated. To the West, the Turkish Empire collapsed, and to the East the Russian Empire slipped into civil war. As the Ottomans left the area, Armenia and the neighboring region of Azerbaijani decided to settle some ancient feuds. In 1918 this would set the stage for the Armenia-Azerbaijani War that is still simmering 100 years later. In December 1918, Armenia also fought a short battle — the Georgian-Armenian War — with its northern neighbor, Georgia. During this time Armenia became a cause celebre, and almost became an American mandate.

While the world decided how to help Armenia, a revolution in Turkey saw the rise of nationalists who overthrew Ottoman control and launched a victorious military campaign against Armenia. Exhausted from years of fighting the surviving Armenian forces, demoralized from their defeat at the hands of Turks, they were no match against the Soviet forces who eventually crushed the Armenians and merged them into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. Along with Soviet Russia, Soviet Ukraine, and Soviet Byelorussia, it was one of the four republics that became the Soviet Union in 1922.

6. Baltic States

With Russia in the throes of Revolution, the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania saw their chance to declare independence. Once Germany was defeated, however, the new Soviet Regime sought to establish control over the former Russian provinces.

With the help of anti-communist forces and the powerful British Royal Navy, the three were able to fight off the Soviets and maintain their freedom. The Soviets never forgot and during WWII seized the three states. They remained under Soviet control until the fall of communist USSR in the ’90s.

5. Turkish War of Independence

The Ottoman Empire was once viewed as the greatest threat to European civilization, but by the 1900s was seen as the sick man of Europe. During WWI it saw some victories but by the end of the war faced total defeat and surrendered. The Allies circled like vultures and cut up most of the Ottoman Empire between them, leaving a small rump state. Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk rallied against this overthrowing the old Ottoman order. The British and French were alarmed by this new Turkish threat and armed the Greeks as a proxy army against Kemal.

Initially they were successful, regaining most of Western Turkey that hadn’t been under Greek control for thousands of years. The Turks regrouped, made alliances with the Soviets and bought off the French by backing their control over Syria. Isolated when the British didn’t back them, the Greeks were forced out of Turkey and Kemal ripped up the WWI surrender and signed the new Treaty of Lausanne on July 24, 1923, establishing Turkey’s modern borders.  In October of the same year, the Republic of Turkey was declared. The last sultan, Mehmed VI, had already left the capital on November 17, 1922.

Under Ottoman control, the region had a long history of Greek and Turkish settlements and migration. Due to years of war, the new nations of Turkey and Greece decided to push for a purer ethnic makeup so in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that ended the war, there was a provision for population exchange. 1.2 million Greeks from Kemal’s new Turkey moved to Greece while 355,000 Muslims from Greece moved to Turkey.

4. German Revolution of 1918-19

In Russia a revolution overthrew the Russian Tsar, and then Lenin and his communists seized control. After Germany’s WWI defeat, in Germany, too, there was a revolution that overthrew the Kaiser: the Revolution of 1918. The communists hoped to duplicate the communist success in Russia with an uprising in Germany. Led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, they called themselves Spartacists after Spartacus, the legendary leader of the famous slave rebellion in the ancient Roman Republic. The uprising started on January 4, 1919, and was initially backed by a general strike with hundreds of thousands of participants. The revolution soon became bogged down with infighting and most people went home.

While the Spartacists bickered the German government controlled by the moderate Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) recruited ex-soldiers into a militant strike group called “Freikorps.” On January 6, the SPD unleashed them on the Spartacists and easily defeated them, The revolt was considered over when their leaders were arrested and beaten to death on January 15. The SPD continued to exist until it was banned by Hitler. After the war, it returned and is still involved in German elections winning 153 seats in 2017 election, the second biggest party behind Angela Merkel’s party.

3. Polish-Czechoslovak border conflicts

Several new nations emerged after WWI and some of them struggled with each other over border disagreements. Some solved their problems diplomatically, while others like Poland and Czechoslovakia sent their new armies to spill blood. As Poland and Czechoslovakia emerged from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, they both wanted the area of Cieszyn Silesia, or the Duchy of Teschen. It was highly valued by both countries due to rich coal deposits and important Railway line which linked the Czech with Slovakia lands.

The resulting war lasted seven days before other nations pressured an end to the fighting while allowing Czechoslovakia to annex more land, much to the chagrin of Poland. Decades later as the Nazis swallowed up Czechoslovakia, Poland too took upon itself to kick the Czech nation while it was down and annexed parts of Czechoslovakia with Hitler.  

2. Irish War of Independence

During WWI the Irish infamously started an uprising, the Easter Rebellion, to overthrow British rule. It lasted five days from April 24 to April 29, 1916. Even though the British were deeply invested in the trenches of the Western Front they were able to divert enough soldiers to quickly crush it. The uprising and resulting crackdown by British forces awakened the Irish nation, setting the stage for the Irish War of Independence.

The Easter Rebellion taught the Irish that they couldn’t fight the British in a conventional war so they sparked a guerrilla uprising from 1919 to 1921. Through raids, bombings, and targeted assassinations they were able to force the British Empire to the negotiating table that eventually saw the creation of a self-governing Irish state, having its own army and police. Northern Ireland was not included in the new Irish state, which sparked continued Irish warfare decades later.

1. Polish-Soviet War

Poland saw conflict with all of its neighbors but of these wars, none was as serious as the battle between it and communist Russia, the Polish-Soviet War. As communist forces emerged victorious in the Russian Civil War they sought to regain regions once controlled by Imperial Russia. At the same time, Poland looked to expand its influence and territory, also wanting to set up a friendly anti-communist Ukranian State.

The two forces slammed into each other and Lenin’s Soviets were initially able to push Polish and their White Russian allies all the way to Poland’s capital, Warsaw. It was only there, in August 1920 during the Battle of Warsaw, that Poland was saved from the jaws of defeat and soundly defeated the Soviet forces. As the Poles chased the Soviets east, Lenin’s communists sued for peace, settling Poland’s eastern borders on March 18, 1921, with the Peace of Riga.

DNA Test Kits: 10 Cool Things You Can Do With Your Spit

DNA testing is something in the realm of futuristic sci-fi movie territory: most people have heard of the concept, but we don’t really believe it works, know much about it, or want to be experimented on to find out! But like most futuristic concepts, DNA testing has some seriously cool applications that can change the way you live your life forever.

Nervous about taking the plunge with your own DNA test kit? Check out ten awesome things you can learn from one of these tests and how it can benefit your day-to-day life.

Image result for DNA Test Kits

Cool Discoveries and Gains You Can Make From DNA Testing #1

Discover new ancestors or distant relatives

DNA test kit services don’t just look at your DNA samples. Instead, they comb through an entire database of DNA samples and cross-reference your DNA with theirs to find common ancestors. This is an amazing discovery tool that has helped people learn about their family tree and relatives that they never even knew existed.

One story helped a woman from Honduras find out about a great, great, great, great, great grandfather who had been dead for three hundred years!

Cool Discoveries and Gains You Can Make From DNA Testing #2

Getting back to your roots

Do you have a preference for a certain type of beer? Ever notice you’re particularly pedantic about the way people pronounce words? Maybe you have particularly rosy coloring in your cheeks that you just can’t place? Well, all these traits might be the result of your heritage, and DNA test kits can help you solve the mysteries at last. Scanning your DNA across hundreds of regions around the world, these tests can trace your lineage back for generations, and many times the results are enlightening. So, if you always felt like you had a bit of Irish in your heart, a DNA test could prove that you actually do…

Cool Discoveries and Gains You Can Make From DNA Testing #3

Find a brother or sister you never knew you had…

A recent study showed that more than 22,000 babies are left in hospitals, at churches, or tragically on the side of the road. Sometimes, these babies are adopted by loving homes, cared for, and raised to adulthood. And when these kids grow up, they naturally have a lot of questions about where they came from, who they are, and who their birth parents are.

One of the biggest questions kids from adopted homes have is do they have any siblings. With DNA testing technology, people are finding their birth brothers and sisters, creating new bonds, and answering life-long questions at last. What’s really cool about these discoveries is that a lot of times you’ll find that one of your long-lost relatives looks just like you!

Cool Discoveries and Gains You Can Make From DNA Testing #4

…or a Parent!

Even more emotionally cathartic than finding a sibling is being able to walk up to your birth mother or father for the first time and give them a hug, ask them your burning questions, or just say hello over a cup of coffee. With billions of records in their databases, DNA test services are making connections faster and easier than ever before. What’s really amazing is that even if your biological parent didn’t take a DNA test, you can still find each other. How? Because of the DNA chain. If anyone related to your birth mother or father took a DNA test, their results will be in the database. DNA services can use these results to connect your DNA back to the biological parentyou are searching for.

Often, when people find their birth parents, they also discover many half-siblings that they never knew existed, extending their families even more.

Cool Discoveries and Gains You Can Make From DNA Testing #5

You might be famous!

Well, you’d probably know if you were famous (paparazzi outside your windows is a good indication), but DNA testing can tell you if you’re related to someone famous. In fact, in one well-known case, a guy found out he was related to Abraham Lincoln from doing a simple DNA test from MyHeritage.

Cool Discoveries and Gains You Can Make From DNA Testing #6

Or you might be Jewish

In another weird case, a woman who had been raised in a completely Irish Catholic home with Irish Catholicism coursing through their veins made a wild discovery. The woman had strong Jewish strands of DNA mixed in with her Catholic chromosomes. This was confusing to the family since as far back as both parents knew, there hadn’t been any intermarriage at all. After much digging and through the help of 23andMe, a genetic testing lab that does at-home DNA test kits, this family found out that the father had been accidentally switched at birth in the hospital! The two babies had been born at the same time in the same hospital (back in 1913), and because identification procedures were less than perfect back then, the two babies had been given to the wrong parents. After 100 years, the truth came out, both families were reunited, and now they are one big(ger) happy family!

Cool Discoveries and Gains You Can Make From DNA Testing #7

You can trace your lineage back to locations

Many of us know what general area our heritage came from, but wouldn’t it be cool to know exactly where in that city your family tree took root? With a good DNA test kit service, you can narrow down your location to regions, countries, and sometimes even a specific town. Imagine visiting Sicily, hearing a story about the local butcher from 200 years ago, and knowing ‘hey, that was my granddaddy!’. Now that would be a trip!

Cool Discoveries and Gains You Can Make From DNA Testing #8

Genetic disposition towards diseases

One of the most useful discoveries you can make from taking a DNA test is what genetic diseases you may be predisposed to. While this is not a medical diagnosis, DNA tests can show you that you have a stronger propensity towards a certain disease or condition than the general public. Since genetic risks are hugely based on probability, knowing what dispositions you have is the kind of early warning information that can help save your life.

Cool Discoveries and Gains You Can Make From DNA Testing #9

Discovering your health/weight body type

Another fascinating discovery DNA test kits can help you make is what type of biological makeup you have going on inside you. With the right combination of results, you can find out what foods are good for you, how well your body responds to different types of exercises, and what type of eater you are. This kind of information is invaluable if you’ve been trying to lose weight and can’t seem to manage. These DNA test results can help you figure out what diet plan will work for you, how and when to exercise for maximum results, and which foods to avoid for optimal living.

Cool Discoveries and Gains You Can Make From DNA Testing #10

You could change the world

Finally, some DNA test kit services will offer you a chance to take part in a research program. These programs use your donated DNA samples to research the connections between various genetic information and traits or conditions to see if they can find causal relationships, preventative medicines, and cures. Current studies are working with infectious diseases, as well as life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and dementia. So, your DNA sample could really change the world for the better!

DNA test kits are non-invasive, quick, and easy to administer. And as technology advances, the price of these tests keeps going down. So, if you ever had a question about your heritage, personality, or body makeup, now is the time to find your answers.