Day: August 6, 2018

10 Terrifying Dangers Of Our Sun That Have Scientists Worried


10 Terrifying Dangers Of Our Sun That Have Scientists Worried

JOSHUA SIGAFUS 

The Sun has an immense impact on every facet of life on our planet. As the hot, glowing ball of gas that sits in the center of our solar system, it influences all life on Earth and plays a major role in existing conditions on our neighboring planets as well.[1] The Sun has been worshiped by many cultures as a god, and for good reason. Without the intense energy and heat provided by it, life could not exist.

But the Sun also holds many secrets—and some of them are quite dangerous. In fact, a handful have our scientists legitimately worried! Here are ten rather terrifying dangers of our Sun that have some scientists more than a little bit concerned.

10UV Radiation


Due in part to ozone depletion in our atmosphere, harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation emitted by the Sun constantly bombard our planet’ssurface.

While this is a good thing in some respects, it also comes with some dangerous downsides. UV radiation is responsible for contributing to a lot of problems, including skin cancer, premature aging, cataracts, and even immune system suppression in humans. But what makes this even scarier is that ozone depletion has actually led to an increase in skin cancers over the last 30 years, and some researchers worry that it will continue to rise.[2]

9Solar Flares


A solar flare is basically a huge, intense burst of radiation that shoots outward from the Sun’s surface. These flares are the result of the release of magnetic energy and are actually some of the largest explosive events that happen in our solar system.

But could a solar flare potentially damage or destroy the Earth? NASA says no—though they could “temporarily alter the upper atmosphere” through the creation of disruptions.[3] This could play havoc with electronics on Earth, including GPS satellites and similar technology.

In other words, they could cause an expensive mess . . . but they don’t necessarily pose an immediate danger to humans on the ground.

8Coronal Mass Ejections

Coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, are essentially solar explosions that result in large clouds of plasma shooting outward from the Sun. They can erupt in any direction and continue onward in that direction after the eruption, pushing right through the solar wind. These ejections can contain billions of tons of matter and can accelerate until they are moving at several million miles per hour, which is pretty terrifying!

But could a well-placed CME damage Earth or possibly even destroy it?

Again, NASA scientists say no. But in an increasingly electronic world, many are worried about the effects that solar phenomena could have on our technological infrastructure. CMEs could release and propel bursts of particles that could strike Earth and massively disrupt our electrical systems. They could cause electronic fluctuations, blow out transformers on the power grid, and disrupt satellite systems.[4]

7Coronal Holes

Photo credit: NOAA

Coronal holes can form anywhere on the Sun at any time. They generally appear as “dark areas” on its surface and are more common during the years around the solar minimum in the Sun’s 11-year cycle. They appear darker because they are cooler and are actually made up of open, unipolar magnetic fields.[5]

But the bad thing about these holes is that they can allow solar wind to escape through them. If these winds impact our atmosphere, they can buffet our planet for several days at a time and cause geomagnetic storms. These storms can range from mild to dangerous and are actually pretty scary.

For the most part, scientists say that solar winds aren’t a serious or “direct” danger to humans on Earth—but they are a danger to our satellites, electronic systems on-world, and to astronauts traveling through space. The Aurora Borealis and the Aurora Australis are actually caused by solar wind, and these events can be seen with the naked eye.

Astronauts in space would face the gravest threat if caught in the path of a solar wind. They could sustain chromosome damage and/or develop cancer from the radiation. These conditions could be fatal if they were severe enough and make solar wind a dangerous challenge for the future of spaceflight.

6Geomagnetic Storms


Back in 1859, the largest solar storm in modern history was recorded by scientists. It was called the Carrington Event and was the result of a “mega-flare” that created incredible geomagnetic disturbances on Earth. The event was so massive that the Northern Lights could be seen in Honolulu and the Southern Lights in Chile. At the time, there wasn’t much sensitive electronic equipment in operation around the world, but telegraph operators reported sparks “leaping from their equipment,” sometimes even starting fires!

Researchers say that a geomagnetic storm of that magnitude could paralyze modern life if it were to happen today. It could disrupt communications, affect satellites, and even bring down the power grid. Some studies even indicate that a “solar megastorm” could cripple modern satellites for a decade.[6]

But the scariest part? Many scientists believe that it is only a matter of time before a solar megastorm of this magnitude hits our planet in the future. It is a rare occurrence, but it is certainly not impossible.

5The Sun Makes Interplanetary Travel A Lot More Dangerous


We have already mentioned that solar radiation can be dangerous for astronauts, but this creates an even scarier secondary problem. We all know that life on Earth is likely on a timer. It will only be a matter of time before our planet is incapable of sustaining life.

Many believe that we will need to become an “interplanetary species” if we hope to survive in the long term. But the Sun’s radiation could make this extremely problematic!

According to NASA, there are two types of radiation that astronauts have to deal with once they leave the protective “bubble” of Earth’s magnetosphere. Some of that radiation comes from galactic cosmic rays . . . but the rest of it comes from the Sun itself.[7]

Researchers are constantly working on new technologies to protect humans from this radiation—but even a short trip to Mars presents a lot of challenges. This begs us to ask the question: Will we figure out how to protect ourselves from interplanetary radiation in enough time to escape a dying Earth?

4The Sun Will Eventually Evaporate The Earth’s Water Supply


This is where things start to get pretty dark.

Our Sun is currently in the stage of its life cycle where it is classified as a main sequence star.[8] In this stage, it is mostly stable and spends its time peacefully converting hydrogen into helium.

The good news? A star the size of our Sun will usually spend about eight billion years in this phase. This means that the Sun, estimated to be about 4.5 billion years old, still has quite a bit of life left in it.

But the bad news? Well, as the Sun burns hydrogen, it also increases in brightness at a rate of about ten percent every billion years or so. A ten-percent increase in luminosity would change the hospitable zone in our solar system, which would lead to catastrophic changes for our world. A ten-percent increase in brightness will make Earth hot enough that our oceans will begin to evaporate.

3The Oceans Will Boil


Unfortunately, after the Sun begins to evaporate the oceans, things do not get any better. There is obviously some speculation about exactly what would happen, but scientists generally agree that as the oceans continue to evaporate, more water will get trapped in our atmosphere.[9]

This will, in turn, create a greenhouse gas effect that will trap even more heat within our atmosphere, causing even more of the oceans to evaporate. Eventually, our oceans will boil . . . and the cycle will continue until the ground is mostly dry and most of the water is contained within the atmosphere at an extremely high temperature.

2The Sun Will ‘Bleed’ The Water From Our Atmosphere


If there is water left in the atmosphere, that means that there is still hope for humans and life in general, right?

Well, not exactly. As the Sun continues its transformation into a red giant, the water that is saturating the atmosphere will be bombarded by solar energy. This will eventually lead to the molecules being split apart, allowing the water to escape the atmosphere as oxygen and hydrogen.[10]

So, basically, the Sun will “bleed” the water right out of our atmosphere after boiling our oceans dry.

1Scientists Disagree On How Long It Will Take, But The Sun Will Eventually Die

Different models predict different endings for our planet. But where the Sun is concerned, there is really only one main area of disagreement—how long it will take. Some models suggest that life will blink out quickly and that our planet will become a barren chunk of rock within the next billion years. Others suggest that some forms of life might hold on a little longer than that, based on the complexity of some of the systems at work.

Eventually, as our star becomes a red giant, forces causing compression at its center will allow its surface to expand outward. Our Sun, which is presently white-hot, will cool to become red-hot. However, it will grow larger, burn brighter, and eventually drag Earth to a fiery destruction within its massive red surface. Or maybe the Earth will move farther away as the Sun loses mass, but either way, our planet will be an unrecognizable dead husk.

That will be the end for Earth.

Many scientists agree that in the distant future, our Sun will likely one day shrink down to a white dwarf before running completely out of fuel and becoming a planetary nebula.[11] Researchers believe that this will take about ten billion years, but what are the odds of humans being around to witness it?

Let’s just say that those odds are “pretty slim.”

Top 10 Spookiest Submarines


Top 10 Spookiest Submarines

LOUISE PORTIER 

Humans have been sailing for millennia, but submarines as we know them today are a more recent innovation. It takes a brave soul to journey in one of these claustrophobic underwater vessels, surrounded on all sides by the crushing pressure of the sea.

We all know about the Yellow Submarine, but most people don’t know about the following tales of intrigue and mystery from deep underwater, and sometimes right at the surface. Ghosts, sea monsters, UFOs, and skeletons aren’t just for pirate ships, or spaceships for that matter. Submarines have their own stories of unexplained lore.

10U-505

Photo credit: Mobilus In Mobili

On October 24, 1943, U-505 was bombed with depth charges by British destroyers. In the midst of the attack, Peter Zschech, the commander of the sub, shot himself in the head in front of his crew in the control room.

In an account of the day’s events, a crewman named Hans Goebler notes that Zschech didn’t fully die by the gunshot and was making loud sounds after he shot himself, making it easier for the British to locate them by sonar. He then describes someone grabbing a pillow and placing it over Zschech’s mouth, to the dismay of the crew doctor, who protested, but two other crew members held the pillow firmly until Zschech was silent.[1]

Zschech’s second-in-command took over and led the crew through the attack, and everyone on board survived but Zschech. The entry from the logbook that day reads “Kommandant tot,” meaning “Commanding Officer dead.”

9UB-65

Photo credit: Mysterious Universe

Another German U-boat, this time from World War I, that had uncannily morbid luck was UB-65.

Before she set out to sea, a torpedo exploded, injuring several crewmen and killing the second officer, Lieutenant Richter. Soon after she left port, a lookout who was in the conning tower reported seeing Lieutenant Richter, returned to haunt the boat, standing on the deck. Maybe it was the long, lonely days at sea, but crewmen kept reporting sightings of him, and things got so bad that the higher-ups had to step in. The Imperial Navy ordered a pastor to kick the ghost out.[2]

In UB-65 ’s final stroke of terrible luck, an American submarine found the U-boat along the Irish coast. As the Americans prepared to attack, they were shocked to see UB-65 explode on its own before they fired. One American officer also reported seeing a silhouette on the deck wearing a German officer’s overcoat, with folded arms, standing sturdy while the boat sank.

8UB-85

Photo credit: Scottish Power

Who doesn’t love a good sea monster story? On April 30, 1918, the crew of the German U-boat UB-85 surrendered willingly to a British patrol boat as their sub sank. The Germans’ commanding officer, Captain Krech, had a strange story about why they didn’t resist: He said that the previous night, while UB-85 was surfaced, a “strange beast” had crashed out of the water and attached itself to the deck, its enormous weight nearly sinking the boat. The beast, according to Krech, had “large eyes, set in a horny sort of skull.” The crew started firing their sidearms at it, eventually hurting it enough to weaken its grip. The monster let go, but it left the deck so damaged that UB-85 couldn’t dive.[3]

In 2016, the wreck of UB-85 was discovered, bringing attention to what could have possibly happened back in 1918. Was it a sea monster, or something else?

Historians recently uncovered an interview with another crew member which tells us what might have really happened: Apparently, Krech had a heater installed in the officers’ quarters. The cables for this heater ran through a watertight hatch, making it vulnerable to flooding. It’s likely that Krech’s story is just a “sea monster sank my submarine” excuse for his own indiscretion, though believers still insist it was a kraken-like monster.

7The H.L. Hunley

Photo credit: Conrad Wise Chapman

Picture this: It’s 2000, and you’re a diver going underwater to help pull out the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, the first combat submarine ever to sink an enemy warship. The submarine disappeared the same day it sank the USS Housatonic, on February 17, 1864.

When you get to peek inside the craft, you are struck by the sight of eight skeletons, each manning a respective submarine station, none of which appear to have been alarmed by sinking or have moved from their posts. What could have caused them to stay where they were, perfectly preserved in a strange image of action?

The answer scientists found is that the H.L. Hunley suffered from the explosion of its own torpedo, which was detonated by ramming the Housatonic, knocking them unconscious. Unable to guide the sub or do anything else, they remained at their stations, not to be discovered for 136 years.[4] The H.L. Hunley came to rest about 300 meters (1,000 ft) away from the wreck of the Housatonic.

6USS Trepang

Photo credit: Top Secret

Submarines are the last place you would think you’d see a UFO. But in 2015, mysterious photographs published to the French magazine Top Secretshowed just that: a cigar-shaped unidentified flying object.[5]

The photos were reportedly taken in March 1971 by an officer aboard the Trepang in the middle of the ocean between Iceland and Jan Mayen, a barely inhabited Norwegian island. At the time, the Trepang was conducting a routine expedition and apparently found the UFO by accident, as it was spotted through the periscope by officer John Klika.

A British UFO investigator named Nigel Watson has said that similar-looking cigar-shaped aircraft have been spotted and reported since 1896, and reports have come from all across the world. While he is skeptical of the authenticity of the photographs, we can dream, right?

5Quester I

Photo credit: Marie Lorenz

Have you ever seen the shipwrecks on Coney Island Creek in New York City? They look like skeletons could pop out at any moment. The most unusual of these ships is a submarine that has a rusty orangish-yellow conning tower sticking up. This submarine, called the Quester I, was built for a purpose that never ended up being fulfilled: to rescue treasure from a sunken ocean liner that lies under the Atlantic off the coast of Massachusetts, the Andrea Doria, which sank in 1956.

In the late 1960s, Jerry Bianco set about building a submarine that could submerge to the sunken ship and salvage the valuables. He painted the sub yellow not because of the famous Beatles song but because the yellow paint was the best deal he could find.

On October 19, 1970, after four years of hard work, the sub was lowered into Coney Island Creek. The crane operator wasn’t supposed to lower the sub entirely into the water, but he did. Bianco had only removed the ballast from one side as money-saving measure, so the sub ended up tipping on its side so much that Bianco’s investors lost faith in its ability to float, and it never left the creek. The Quester I still sits in the same spot today.[6]

4K-219

Photo credit: US Navy

On October 3, 1986, Soviet submarine K-129 was patrolling in the Atlantic Ocean about 1,100 kilometers (700 mi) northeast of Bermuda. An engineer noticed a leak from a plug in the torpedo room and tried to stop it. Water started rushing in. Eventually, a torpedo casing split, and the resulting explosion killed three crew members and started an enormous flood. One of the crewmen gave his life to enter the nuclear compartment to shut down the engine, and they were able to surface.

When the captain opened the hatch, however, he noticed something strange: There appeared to be two long scratch marks along the side of the submarine, but they hadn’t collided with anything along the way. The Soviet Navy suspected that the cause of the scratch and explosion was an American submarine patrolling nearby, the USS Augusta. The US Navy, to this day, denies that they attacked K-219.

In 2010, Soviet captain Nikolai Tushin gave an interview about what he believes collided with K-219 instead: an unidentified underwater object called a “Quacker,” called that because of the sound it makes, a cross between a duck quack and a frog croak. These odd sounds started to be noticed by sonar operators during the Cold War, likely because of the advances made in sonar during that time.[7] If a Quacker is responsible, it can still visit K-219 at the bottom of the sea today.

3U-166

Most people know about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but less known is the German U-boat patrol in the Gulf of Mexico in an effort to sink American merchant ships right on their home shore.

One of the 17 U-boats in this German fleet was U-166. In 1942, it spotted a steam passenger ship called the Robert E. Lee, and the unsuspecting passengers on board thought they saw a shark streaming toward them underwater until a torpedo struck the ship and sent her sinking to the bottom of the ocean. While survivors clung to lifeboats, the US Navy’s PC-566 dropped a depth charge on the U-boat, never finding out whether they had successfully hit it. Coast Guard planes also spotted and bombed another U-boat, but once they returned to base, they were told that the matter was classified and never found out whether they had made a hit in either case.

It was only in 2001, upon a petroleum survey’s discovery of a U-boat near where the Robert E. Lee sank, that historians found the answer: The U-166was sank by the first attack.[8] Both the Robert E. Lee and U-166 now sit at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, an eerie reminder of a German attack incredibly close to American soil during World War II, less than 80 kilometers (50 mi) south of the Mississippi River Delta.

2The Surcouf

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

At the time it was launched in 1929, the Surcouf was the largest submarine in the world, built to rival the ever more advanced U-boats put out by the German Navy. When Germany invaded France, the Allies were fearful that they would also seize control of French submarines. The Surcouf was ordered to Plymouth, England, and the French crewmen didn’t exactly enjoy being boarded by their historical foe, despite being on the same side, and there was a fight onboard which resulted in four deaths.

Tension didn’t exactly stop after the fight. Each side of the French forces believed the other was secretly working for the Germans, and the British even suggested that some French ships attacked British ships. Eventually, the Surcouf was ordered to the Pacific and stopped in Bermuda to refuel. In February 1942, she disappeared in the Caribbean off the coast of Panama and was never heard from again.

One theory is that the sub collided with an American merchant ship, which reported striking something in the water. Some people credit the loss of the Surcouf to the Bermuda Triangle, years before it would become infamous.[9]Whatever happened, neither the remains of the Surcouf nor her crew have ever been found.

1U-537

The Germans had some strange military initiatives in World War II, but perhaps one of the most unusual was the scientific outpost they created in the Arctic Circle. Since the Allies occupied the westernmost areas, they were much better able to predict the weather for their naval strategies. That was until Germany decided to set up a weather outlet of their own. This weather station was delivered by U-537, which was outfitted to be able to install the equipment on the northern shore of Labrador.[10]

The submarine persisted north despite pretty intense obstacles: It hit an iceberg and sustained major damage, rendering it unable to submerge. The Germans, however, managed to reach their destination and set up their weather station. They disguised their setup as much as possible, making up a fake Canadian name for their equipment and strewing American cigarette packs around to make it seem like it was an Allied station. On its way back to its port in occupied France, U-537 was attacked three times by Canadian planes but managed to escape.

10 Interesting Viking Rituals


10 Interesting Viking Rituals

JESSICA B. ESSER 

The Vikings are well-known for fighting and exploring, yet religion and ritual practices were a big part of their culture and everyday life. Their religious beliefs included many different gods and goddesses, so much so that it is considered a “non-doctrinal community religion.” This means that their beliefs and rituals varied among people.

Although they all had the same gods and beliefs, there were no set practices that had to be followed and people worshiped only the gods that were relevant to their lives. Vikings also worshiped their dead ancestors, communicated with spirits, practiced divination and sorcery, and had a wide variety of burial practices. This resulted in a large range of ritual practices, both within and between communities.

The Vikings passed on knowledge through oral history rather than writing things down. Thus, accounts from the Viking era were either written by outsiders, who may not have fully understood what they were witnessing or being told, or written long after the Viking period had passed.

Descriptions of rituals are sometimes conflicting, potentially inaccurate, or made up, either to paint Vikings in a bad light or to tell a more tantalizing story. Yet here are 10 rituals that are generally considered to have been practiced by the Vikings.

Featured image credit: Live Science

10Blot Sacrifice

Photo credit: natmus.dk

The blot was a sacrifice practiced to gain the goodwill of the gods. These rituals were carried out in large groups on the estate of the local chief who functioned as a priest during the ceremony. They were both a way for people to honor the gods and for the chiefs to show off their wealth.

A blot supposedly happened at four fixed times a year, close to wintersolstice, spring equinox, summer solstice, and autumn equinox. They would also have additional ones if they were having problems, like a bad harvest.

In the 13th century, Snorri Sturluson wrote a detailed description of a blot performed by Sigurd Hakonsson. He said that all the local farmers gathered at the temple. There, they sacrificed many animals, mostly horses, and cooked the meat. Twigs were used to spray blood from the animals around the temple and on the participants.[1]

The cooked meat and glasses of beer were blessed by the chief. While drinking the beer, they toasted to Odin and other gods. Lastly, they toasted to their dead ancestors.

A different story was told by the Arab al-Tartuchi who visited Hedeby, Germany, during winter solstice. He said that people from around the area came together to feast and anyone who sacrificed an animal stuck it on stakes in front of their farm.

9Human Sacrifice

Photo credit: hurstwic.org

Though not a common part of Viking life, human sacrifice was practiced at times. As stated, stories from the Viking period are not always reliable, but archaeological remains indicate that human sacrifice did happen occasionally.

In the 11th century, Adam of Bremen wrote about the Vikings based on secondhand accounts. He talked about a tradition practiced at Uppsala, Sweden, every nine years at the beginning of spring. This ritual lasted nine days, with a feast and sacrifice every day. There were nine sacrifices each day for a total of 81 sacrifices.

Each day, they sacrificed a male human and eight male animals. The bodies were hung from trees in a sacred grove that was next to the temple in which the ritual was carried out. This tradition was practiced to honor Odin and secure victory in the coming year. Although they normally sacrificed criminals or slaves, they once sacrificed a king at Uppsala during a time of extreme famine.[2]

In Snorri Sturluson’s saga, he says that they appeased the gods by sacrificing a large number of oxen one fall in the seventh century. When that didn’t work, they sacrificed a group of men the next year. The following year, they blamed the king for the continued famine and sacrificed him, covering the altar in his blood.

8Yule Celebrations

Yule, spelled “Jol” in Old Norse, was the name for the period between the winter solstice and the blot associated with it, which is speculated to have happened on January 12. It is uncertain exactly why Yule was celebrated, though it may have been to honor the dead, to receive good luck in the new year, to celebrate the Sun and light as the days were getting longer, or to honor Thor as he was the god who protected the world from the darkness.

The exact rituals followed are also unclear, but texts refer to it as “drinking Jol.” Thus, drinking alcohol was probably a large part of the celebration. There was also a feast that lasted for three days and nights with games and singing.

Vikings would make a large sun wheel (a circular symbol with a cross in the middle), set it on fire, and roll it down a hill to get the Sun to return. They made Yule logs from large pieces of oak, decorated them with yew, holly, or fir, and carved runes into them. This was their way of asking the gods for protection, and a small piece was kept until the next Yule to protect the family and start the first fire of the new year.

They decorated evergreen trees with food, clothes, and carvings of runes and gods to get the tree spirits to return in spring. Young people would dress up in goat skins to represent the goats that pulled the wagon that Thor rode through the sky. Then they would go from house to house to sing and perform plays in exchange for food and drinks.[3]

7Berserkers And Ulfhednar

Photo credit: historyextra.com

Vikings are well-known for their battle fury, and there was nothing more terrifying than their berserkers and ulfhednar. Both were the result of shamanistic war rituals, but they took on different totem animals. Berserkers (“bear-shirts”) were those who became bear-men and ulfhednar(“wolf-hides”) became wolf-men.

Sometimes wearing nothing but animal furs and heads, these men would go to war, using their bare hands and teeth to fight instead of weapons and shields. Others would get so worked up that they would start biting down on their own shields. According to legends, they also felt no pain and kept fighting despite being badly injured.

To reach this state in battle, they first had to join the ranks of their fellow fighters. To do this, they would live in the wild like their totem animal. This would strip them of their humanity and allow them to take on their animal’s strength.

There were likely many techniques used to reach the frenzied state for which they were famous on the battlefield, including exposure to extreme heat, ritual weapon dances, and fasting. This could cause a self-induced hypnotic trance, resulting in them losing their sense of pain and conscious control of their movements.[4]

It has also been theorized that they used psychedelic mushrooms or a poisonous fungus to reach a state of delirium before battle. However, these have never been mentioned in sagas and several of the strains proposed would either have been too poisonous or would have resulted in apathy and depression, the opposite of a battle frenzy.

6Tooth Modification

Photo credit: zmescience.com

Vikings put great effort into their appearance with practices such as bleaching their hair with lye, combing it often, and ironing their clothes with hot rocks. However, archaeologists have fairly recently discovered that Vikings also modified their teeth.

Skeletons show signs of intentional changes in the form of horizontal lines carved into the upper front teeth. The researchers believe that the grooves were filled in with dye, most likely red. This practice was not seen anywhere else in Europe at the time.

This may have been a ritual conducted by warriors to incite fear in those they were about to attack or as a symbol of an achievement. However, there are no written records about this practice. As a result, further information about this ritual and any associated traditions are still unknown.[5]

5Cremation Rituals

The Vikings had many different ways of disposing of the dead, which included cremation. The ashes could be buried in graves, under piles of rocks, or sometimes with grave goods. The ashes could also be burned with a ship, though this was reserved for high-ranking members of society as ships were expensive.

A description of a Viking ship cremation was written by the Arab Ahmad Ibn Fadlan in the 10th century. He told of the treatment of a chief from the Rus Vikings.

After his death, the chief’s body was left in a grave for 10 days while they made new clothes for him. A slave girl was selected to be sacrificed with him and was then kept drunk and dressed in fine clothing.

On the 10th day, the chief’s ship was pulled up to land and filled with expensive furniture, drinks, food, weapons, and animals. The slave girl had to go to each tent in their settlement and have sex with the man in charge. Afterward, he told her, “Tell your lord I have done this out of love for him.”[6]

When the girl was ready to get on the ship, the men who had slept with her held their hands together, forming a sort of walkway for her to walk across. The chief was already on the ship.

She went into his room, where six of the men followed and had sex with her again. Afterward, they laid her down next to her master and a woman came in, giving the men a rope with which to strangle the girl. Meanwhile, the woman repeatedly stabbed the girl in the ribs. The ship was then set on fire.

4Warding Off Draugr

Photo credit: Wikia

Draugr (aka aptrgangr) and haugbui were the Vikings’ versions of modern-day zombies. Once a person was buried, it was believed that his corpse would be animated again. The haugbui would live innocently in its barrow, protecting its grave goods from grave robbers. However, a draugr would wander out of its barrow and harm any humans it could.

To prevent this, many precautions were taken when burying a body. Pieces of straw would be placed in crosses under the shroud while a pair of open scissors was placed across the chest. The deceased’s big toes were tied together so that it couldn’t walk, and nails were pressed into the foot soles.

When the coffin was carried out of the house, the bearers would stop before walking out the door to lower and raise the coffin three times in different directions, creating the shape of a cross. Sometimes, the dead person was carried out of a house through a special “corpse-door,” a hole in the wall covered in bricks. It would be torn open to remove the deceased and then put back together.[7]

Vikings thought that the dead could only return the same way that they came. As a result, the deceased wouldn’t be able to enter the house. The body would also be carried out feet first so that it couldn’t properly see which route they took to the burial mound.

When the coffin was out of the house, all the jars, saucepans, and any chairs and stools previously used by the deceased were turned upside down. If the dead were buried in a churchyard, the parson was meant to bind the dead to their graves with magic words.

3Wedding Ceremonies

Photo credit: vikinganswerlady.com

Before a wedding, the bride would remove her kransen, a gilt circlet worn by unwed women with their hair loose. She would likely replace this with a wedding crown, and her kransen would be saved for her future daughter.

The groom would have to acquire a sword from one of his ancestors. It is uncertain whether this was done by breaking into the grave of a dead ancestor and taking the sword, breaking into a fake grave prepared for this occasion, or asking a living relative for his sword. During the ceremony, the groom would carry his sword and possibly a hammer or axe to symbolize Thor. Neither the bride nor groom wore special wedding clothes.

The wedding would be held on a Friday as it was Frigg’s day. (Frigg was a goddess of fertility.) The ceremony would start by getting the gods’ attention, possibly by sacrificing or dedicating an animal to one of the gods.

During the ceremony, the groom would give the sword from his ancestor to the bride so that she could keep it for their future son. In turn, she would give the groom a sword. They would then exchange rings and vows.[8]

After the ceremony, they would head to a hall to feast. Here, the groom would help his bride over the threshold before he plunged his sword into a pillar. The deeper it went in, the more luck and children they would have. The couple had to share some bridal ale (usually mead) that night and for the next month.

At the end of the feast, the couple would be accompanied to bed so that witnesses could testify that their union had been consummated. The next morning, the bride’s hair would be tied up and covered with a cloth to show her status as a wife. The groom would then give her the keys to his house.

2Infant Rituals

Photo credit: spangenhelm.com

When a baby was born, a couple of rituals were needed for the infant to be considered a real person. Before this, the baby was not considered a human yet, probably as a way for people to protect themselves emotionally as infant mortality was so high.

When the baby was born, he was placed on the ground until the father picked up the child and placed him inside the father’s coat. This symbolized that the father accepted that the baby was his child.

He would then inspect the child. If the baby had any problems, he would be left exposed to die. If he was healthy, they would perform a ceremony called ausa vatni in which they sprinkled water over the baby.

At this point, the child would be named in a ceremony called nafnfesti. For this, the father would state the child’s name and give him a gift. The gifts usually consisted of things such as a ring, weapon, or a farm or land deed. After this, the child could no longer be subject to exposure as it would then be considered murder.[9]

1The Blood Eagle

Photo credit: aminoapps.com

Popularized by the TV show Vikings, this gory method of execution was possibly committed in real life, too. The blood eagle consisted of the victim being placed facedown and restrained. An eagle was carved into his back, and then the ribs were severed from the spine with an axe.

The ribs and the skin around them were pulled outward to represent the wings of the eagle. Next, salt was rubbed into the wound. (The victim was still alive at this point.) Then the lungs were pulled out of the body and stretched across the ribs.

As the victim died, the lungs were fluttering in the wind, reminiscent of a bird’s wings. This is purportedly the method used to kill King Aella of Northumbria in AD 867.[10]

Random Acts of Kindness.


  1. Make someone’s day – tell a friend why you appreciate them
  2. Old laptop or mobile lying around? Donate it
  3. Make someone a cup of coffee
  4. It’s hard to stay connected – reach out to an elderly person you know
  5. Give up your seat on the tube/bus
  6. Help a younger student with their work
  7. Write a complimentary note for someone
  8. Make a hot beverage for a friend/family
  9. Plant a seed
  10. Reconnect with your grandparents or an elderly person you know – give them a call!

Random Acts of Kindness

Author Anne Herbert coined the phrase “Random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty,” basing it on the all-too-commonly used “random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty.” The idea has caught on, but there are times when you shouldn’t be practicing acts of kindness. So, before we look at why you should practice them, let’s be mindful of two reasons why you shouldn’t do so:

  • Self-aggrandisement and publicity.That’s right! No selfies when you give that homeless guy food!
  • Getting in the way of emergency services (although your intentions are good). In situations where emergency services are already active, ask how you can help instead of just diving in head-first.

Lastly, let’s not forget that charity begins at home. Unexpectedly helping a friend or family member also counts. The person you help needn’t be a stranger. Now that we’ve got beyond the caveats, let’s look at some reasons why you should practice random acts of kindness.

You genuinely get to help, even if it’s only in a small way

This one’s a real no-brainer. You aren’t being kind if you aren’t helping. By helping someone else, even if it’s only holding a door open, smiling at someone or offering to carry shopping bags, you have genuinely helped. The person you’ve been kind to feels more valued, and who knows? There could be a knock-on effect.

Make others feel good

There are a lot of sad, lonely or depressed people out there. Even if the person you help wasn’t feeling down, you’ll make them feel good. If you’re truly a kind person, this will be one of your prime reasons for practicing random acts of kindness.

Feel good yourself

Although this shouldn’t be the reason why you are kind to others, it will be an inevitable consequence. Psychologists point out that as social creatures, helping others satisfies a very deep need within our psyche. It’s instinctive and inevitable. Your self-esteem will improve because you’ll feel like a “good person.” You may even find yourself smiling to yourself when you think about some act of kindness you’ve carried out or are planning.

Build stronger relationships

When you practice kindness as a habit, and do things you don’t have to do to help people you know, you’ll build stronger relationships. If you are ever in a disagreement or do something silly that isn’t helpful at all, you’re far more likely to be forgiven.

Change someone’s life for the better

You never know when something kind that you do will change someone’s life for the better. I recently read a story about a drug addict who lived on the streets and was always treated like filth. One day, he received a small act of kindness from someone, and it made him realize that he still had worth as a human being. He went on to quit drugs, and later became a motivational speaker. Even a small act of kindness can have very powerful, even life-changing, effects.

Give, and you never know, you may receive when you need it most

I’m not sure if we should believe in instant karma, but one thing is certain: when you help others, they become more willing to help you. Since we all go through difficulties at some point in life, that help can prove to be more important to you than you would ever believe.

Others will pass it forward

Kindness is catching. Has someone ever made your day, and you spend the rest of it spreading the sunshine? That’s what I’m talking about!

You’ll become less judgmental

This is a tough one, but when we start seeing people as human beings and not as “labels” like “worthless drug addict,” a “homeless wastrel” or “sourpuss,” we feel a lot better. Everyone has their own problems, and whether they are to blame for them or not, it’s not our place to judge them. Make a point of helping someone you don’t really like. It’s good practice.

Life will have more meaning to you

If you’re forever planning acts of kindness, or grabbing opportunities to help those in need, you’ll be eager to see what each new day will bring.

Make the world a better place

Imagine if everybody in the world was kind to others. What a wonderful place the world would be! You can’t force others to be kind, but you can do your best, and the kindness contagion will spread. Whether you can help in large ways or small, do what you can to build the momentum.

Did you know…


… that today is Supernova Discovery Day? In 1181, a supernova was first observed by Japanese and Chinese astronomers. The astronomers recorded the supernova, now known as SN 1181, in eight separate texts. One of only eight supernovae in the Milky Way observable with the naked eye in recorded history, it appeared in the constellation Cassiopeia and was visible in the night sky for about 185 days.

~~~

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

— Albert Einstein

Did you know…


… that today is Supernova Discovery Day? In 1181, a supernova was first observed by Japanese and Chinese astronomers. The astronomers recorded the supernova, now known as SN 1181, in eight separate texts. One of only eight supernovae in the Milky Way observable with the naked eye in recorded history, it appeared in the constellation Cassiopeia and was visible in the night sky for about 185 days.

~~~

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

— Albert Einstein

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