Month: February, 2018

5 Ancient Sites Some People Think Were Built By Aliens

These spots might not have been crafted by extraterrestrials, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out of this world.

Planet Earth is home to some spectacular relics from bygone eras, constructions that seem to defy the technological capabilities of their time either because they’re too big, too heavy, or too complex.

As such, some suggest the ancient builders of the Egyptian pyramids, the Nasca lines, and others were following an extraterrestrial instruction manual. Perhaps the hands that crafted these sites weren’t really of this world.




To be sure, it’s fun to think about whether aliens have visited Earth. After all, humans are on the threshold of expanding our reach in space, and places like Mars are in our sight.

But the truth is, there’s no evidence suggesting that aliens have ever been here.

And invoking a supernatural explanation for some of the most monumental of human achievements means skipping over the fascinating ways in which prehistoric civilizations managed to make some of the largest and most enigmatic constructions on Earth.

Sacsayhuamán

Outside the old Inca capital of Cusco, a fortress called Sacsayhuamán rests in the Peruvian Andes.

Built from enormous stones that have been chiseled and stacked together like a jigsaw puzzle, some say Sacsayhuamán could be the work of an ancient civilization that had a little help from interstellar friends.

The 1,000-year-old interlocking fortress walls are made of rocks that weigh as much as 360 tons each, and which were carried more than 20 miles before being lifted and fit into place with laser-like precision.

How an ancient culture accomplished such a feat of engineering is a fun little problem to solve; turns out the Inca were as adept at building houses and fortified complexes as they were at watching the sky and keeping calendars.

In fact, Sacsayhuamán isn’t the only example of this intricate masonry: Similar walls exist throughout the Inca Empire, including one in Cusco where a 12-angled stone has been carefully wedged into place.

More recently, archaeologists have uncovered traces of the rope-and-lever system the Inca used to transport stones from their quarries to their cities—a system that relied on strength and ingenuity, rather than alien architects.

Nasca Lines

On a high and dry plateau some 200 miles southeast of Lima, more than 800 long, straight white lines are etched into the Peruvian desert, seemingly at random.

Joining them are 300 geometric shapes and 70 figures of animals, including a spider, monkey, and hummingbird.

The longest of the lines run straight as an arrow for miles. The biggest shapes stretch nearly 1,200 feet across and are best viewed from the air.

Scientists suspect the Nasca drawings are as many as two millennia old, and because of their age, size, visibility from above, and mysterious nature, the lines are often cited as one of the best examples of alien handiwork on Earth.

Otherwise, how would an ancient culture have been able to make such huge designs in the desert without being able to fly? And why?

Turns out, it’s rather easy to understand the how. Called geoglyphs, these enigmatic designs are made by removing the top, rust-colored layer of rocks and exposing the brighter white sand underneath.

The why is a bit tougher to comprehend. First studied in the early 1900s, the designs were initially suspected to be aligned with constellations or solstices, but more recent work suggests the Nasca lines point to ceremonial or ritual sites related to water and fertility.

And in addition to being visible from the air, the shapes can be seen from surrounding foothills.

Egyptian Pyramids

Just outside Cairo, in Giza, the most famous of Egypt’s pyramids rise from the desert. Built more than 4,500 years ago, the Pyramids at Giza are monumental tombs where ancient queens and pharaohs were buried.

But how, exactly, did the Egyptians build these things? The Great Pyramid is made of millions of precisely hewn stones weighing at least two tons each.

Even with today’s cranes and other construction equipment, building a pyramid as big as that of Pharaoh Khufu would be a formidable challenge.

And then there’s the astronomical configuration of the pyramids, which is said to align with the stars in Orion’s belt.

As well, alien theorists often point to the fact that these three pyramids are in way better shape than others built centuries later (never mind the amount of work that has gone into preserving them over the past several centuries).

So are Egypt’s pyramids artifacts of aliens? Not exactly.

It’s true that scientists aren’t quite sure how the ancient Egyptians build the pyramids—and especially how they did it so quickly—but there’s ample evidence that these tombs are the work of thousands of earthly hands.

Stonehenge

A huge circle of stones, some weighing as much as 50 tons, sits in the English countryside outside Salisbury.

Known as Stonehenge, the Neolithic monument inspired Swiss author Erich von Däniken to suggest it was a model of the solar system that also functioned as an alien landing pad—after all, how else could those massive stones have ended up hundreds of miles from their home quarry?

No one knows what, exactly, the meaning of Stonehenge is, but, as with all the other sites in this collection, the explanation is not aliens.

Instead, scientists have demonstrated it’s actually possible to build such a thing using technologies that would have been around 5,000 years ago, when the earliest structures at the site were built.

And now, it appears as though the stones are aligned with solstices and eclipses, suggesting the Stonehenge builders were at least keeping an eye on the heavens, even if they didn’t come from above.

Easter Island

The enigmas surrounding the moai, Easter Island’s fleet of large stone figures, pretty much follow the same narrative as the other sites described here: How in the world did the Rapa Nui make these figures more than 1,000 years ago?

And how did the moai end up on Easter Island?

Carved from stone, the nearly 900 human figures are sprinkled along the flanks of the island’s extinct volcanoes.

The figures average 13 feet tall and weigh 14 tons and appear to have been chiseled from the soft volcanic tuff found in the Rano Raraku quarry.

There, more than 400 statues are still in various states of construction, with some completed figures awaiting transportation to their intended resting place.

The reasons for carving the moai are mysterious, though they were likely sculpted for religious or ritual reasons.

It’s also not exactly clear what happened to the stone-crafting Rapa Nui, but a leading theory suggests their civilization succumbed to an environmental disaster of their own making… which is something that probably could have been prevented had ancient aliens bestowed their infinite wisdom upon the culture.

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Looks Like The Universe Isn’t As Special As We Thought

There are a few ideas being tossed around perplexing to know what competence be function around these incomparable galaxies. Some of a theories concentration on a thought of tidal army in a formless blank of space.

If we have communication between dual bigger galaxies, afterwards in this communication there will be some bridges or tidal bridges [between a galaxies],” Müller says.

The sobriety of a incomparable star will usually slice out stars and gas identical to a sobriety of a moon, that creates a tides on a Earth.

The ensuing dwarf galaxies would circuit a incomparable ones in a craft and along a same direction, identical to what Müller and colleagues observed.

But researchers have no thought how prolonged these tidal dwarf galaxies would final after a collision, and that does have implications for cosmology.




The thing about tidal dwarf galaxies is that we don’t know how prolonged they live. Can they be stable? This is in contrariety to a customary model, where we consider that a dwarf galaxies are a building blocks of a universe.

“They are a initial galaxies that are combined and they combine [to form incomparable galaxies], so they are a oldest objects. But with tidal dwarf galaxies, they would be a youngest objects,” Müller says.

Going from building retard to afterthought is a lot to reconcile.

People consider we have rescued dark matter, though dim matter is usually a hypothesis,” Müller says. “We are still looking for it.

Dark matter is a vicious member of a customary model, assisting to explain a gravitational lift between objects in a universe, that can’t be explained by a manifest matter in a universe.

This investigate isn’t a genocide knell for a customary cosmological model, that can explain what happened in a star moments after a Big Bang, calculate a series of atoms that were benefaction in a star mins after it started, explain a participation of vast credentials radiation, and explain how matter is distributed in a star today.

It’s a biggest hits list that’s tough to beat.

How to determine a observations with a theory? More calculations, some-more thinking, and some-more data.

For this study, Muller and colleagues looked during a velocities of a satellite galaxies in propinquity to a viewpoint here on Earth to extrapolate some-more fact about their transformation around Centaurus A.

“We’re means to magnitude a velocities of these galaxies along a lines of sight, though we’re not means to magnitude a quickness of a star perpendicular to a line of sight,” Boylan-Kolchin says.

So we don’t know if they’re rotating in planes or if they demeanour like they’re rotating in planes.

There are ways to answer that question. The arriving James Webb Space Telescope, in further to a brave Hubble, could assistance astrophysicists investigate some-more galaxies and their satellites.

By comparing images of a same star taken months or years apart, Boylan-Kolchin says, researchers competence be means to get a improved clarity of how dwarf galaxies are orbiting their hosts, generally if researchers wish to take a demeanour during a circuitously Andromeda.

But it won’t be easy.

It’s like perplexing to magnitude hair expansion on a moon—from Earth. It’s really slow, really excellent measurements, though it should be possible,” Boylan-Kolchin says.

At a really least, these new observations will let people take a closer demeanour during how a galaxies formed.

I consider now people have to take it seriously, some-more severely than before.Müller says.

Before, there was always this guess that we are atypical, we are usually a special box in a universe, that routinely it works.

“But now we have shown that another star organisation circuitously also has this feature, so a village has to figure out how we can make such structures some-more frequently.

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Top 5 Ways To Find Better Answers Online (That Aren’t Google)

You can Google just about anything, but it’s not always your best resource for finding the exact answer to what you want. Here’s a look at our top ten tools for finding better answers online.

You can’t ask Wolfram Alpha anything, but you can ask it for information you can’t find anywhere else. It’s full of information and calculations that no other search engine can provide.

For example, you can use Wolfram Alpha to calculate activity-specific calorie burn, analyze illness symptoms and generic drug options, and make sense of your confusing family relationships.

For more ideas, check out our full Wolfram Alpha coverage, or just play around with it yourself.

 

4. Wikipedia

You might be thinking, “duh.” For that reason it’s pretty much impossible to keep Wikipedia off of a Top 10 list about finding better answers online.

Wikipedia contains an enormous wealth of information and it ought to be your primary destination when you want quick information on a given topic.

While you can’t ask it a specific question, if you know what you’re looking for you’re bound to find it on Wikipedia. It doesn’t have an article on everything, but if it did there would be no need for this Top 5.

3. Ask Reddit

For the more casual and fun questions, you have Ask Reddit. If you’re not familiar with Reddit, it’s a social news site with a dedicated user base.

Those users make Ask Reddit a good tool to get answers, but most of the questions you find tend to fall on the light side of things.

You can learn how to cope with putting down your old cat, combat your extreme paranoia, and find out how many people feel Christmas isn’t worth it anymore, making the tool more interesting to read when you’re bored than the best tool to find the answer you’re looking for.

In the event you have a question that fits the topics floating around Ask Reddit, however, you’ll have plenty of people to join in and answer.

2. Duck Duck Go

Duck Duck Go is a clever search engine that provides tons of shortcuts to help you find what you’re looking for very quickly. The idea is to get you your information without the need to click around too much.

Need a color swatch for a particular HEX value? Just enter the HEX value in Duck Duck Go and you’ll get it. It can even help you quickly generate a strong, random password.

Although search, in general, is pretty fast, Duck Duck Go has a tool set to help you get answers and information as quickly as possible.

1. Aardvark

Aardvark lets you ask just about any question and receive an answer in under a minute—for free. Aardvark aims to keep the process simple by keeping your questions short and sweet.

You ask a question that’s about the length of a tweet and you get an answer that isn’t much longer from helpers whose interests match that of the question.

In return, you’re encouraged to answer questions that fall into your area of expertise.




5. Wolfram Alpha

Aardvark is possible because of this information exchange and generally works very well, although it did fail to find a good soft-serve ice cream shop in Los Angeles.

I guess I’ll have to settle for Tasti D-Lite, whenever it finally shows up. But why is Aardvark number one? Because it effectively does the same thing as Twitter, but without the need for a base of followers.

It does a fantastic job at matching your question with relevant, helpful people and it does it fast.

Even though it couldn’t do the impossible and find soft server ice cream in Los Angeles, it’s probably the best question and answer service you could ask for.

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How High Is Air Pollution In Your City And How Does It Compare To The Most Polluted Cities In The World?

Pollution is a greater global threat than Ebola and HIV, according to warnings by the World Health Organisation.

According to its recent report, one in four deaths among children aged under five are now due to environmental hazards such as air pollution and contaminated water.

Previously this year, air pollution levels in London were worse than those in Beijing for a brief period – with the UK capital’s pollutants frequently breaking UK limits.

Now, the UK Government plans to tackle such dangers by banning diesel and petrol cars by 2040.

But how bad is air pollution in other areas of the UK?




How does the UK compare to the world?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), London is just a mid-table city when it comes to the international league table of polluted places.

London only ranked 1,389th out of the nearly  3,000 cities and towns around the world monitored in the WHO’s database of annual air pollution readings.

WHO guidelines state that cities should aim to have an annual average of no more than 10 micrograms of PM2.5 (very fine particulate matter) for every cubic metre of air. London had an annual PM2.5 average of 15 μg/min 2013, far lower than Beijing’s average of 85.2 μg/m3.

These particles are very small in diameter and are classed as carcinogenic by leading health organisations. Thousands of deaths a year are attributable to air pollution in the UK.

Which cities have the highest air pollution levels worldwide?

According to the WHO, the most polluted city in the world is Zabol in Iran.

Zabol’s PM2.5 measurements were found to average a massive 217 μg/m3 for the latest available year – more than 20 times higher than the recommended level.

The next two entries on the list are both located in India (Gwalior and Allahabad) while the first non-Asian city on the list is Bamenda in Cameroon which came in eighth place.

Tetovo in Macedonia was the most polluted European city in the database, followed by Tuzla in  Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The most polluted city in the UK isn’t actually London. Glasgow topped that list, followed by Scunthorpe and Leeds with London in sixth place.

However, given that these rankings are based on figures taken in 2013, the situation may have changed since. London may also experience greater peaks in air pollution but these figures are all annual averages.

Asian cities tend to be more polluted

The WHO’s database is by no means a comprehensive list of every city in the world – many places will simply not be able to provide air pollution figures of sufficient quality to be included.

However, from the figures available, Asian cities were the likeliest to exceed the 10 μg/m3 guideline for PM2.5.

Just four of the 632 Asian locations included in the data were found to be below this level, meaning that the equivalent of 99.4 per cent of Asian cities exceeded it.

African cities were the next most likely to annually exceed their recommended levels of air pollution while towns and cities in Oceania were the least likely.

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You Might Apply For Your Next Job By Playing A Mobile Game

The next job you apply for could involve a challenge even before you submit your resume. Two companies are gamifying the recruiting process to change the way they search for talented candidates.

It’s not surprising, given the major shift in the way people look for jobs over the last decade.

Research from the Boston Consulting Group and Recruit Works Institute reveals that 55% of searches globally happened through Internet job sites and 35% via a smartphone.

Applying through social media and submitting a video interview are rapidly becoming more accepted.




But on the recruiters’ side, things aren’t changing as quickly, even though 95% of companies admit to making bad hires each year.

Communication channels are broken or unused as employers invest resources in less efficient ways to attract talent.

According to Talent Board, as many as 88% of employers are allowing more candidates to complete their applications even after they fail screening questions.

And those who rely on software to automate the recruitment process could unknowingly be discriminating against qualified, diverse candidates.

Changing recruiting wasn’t the original intent for CodeFights. The platform was designed to offer users a way to learn and improve their coding skills by proposing, solving, and discussing challenges with other programmers.

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Hug Hormone Oxytocin Boosts Bonding By Releasing Cannabis-Like Molecules

Whichever persona you prefer – the love molecule, cuddle chemical or hug hormone – oxytocin plays a big role in bonding.

Spraying monkeys with the stuff, for example, has been found to positively affect their social behavior, making them more communicative and promoting interaction with others.

Among many other things, weed also exerts similar effects on human behavior, but how exactly it does this has been hazy.

Now, a new study is offering us clues, and a link between these two very different substances.

It turns out that oxytocin might make social interactions more rewarding and pleasurable by stimulating our own cannabinoid system.

According to the research, it does this by triggering the release of another wonderfully nicknamed chemical, the “bliss molecule” anandamide, coined as such due to the fact that the brain receptors it activates lead to increased motivation and happiness.




This is the first time that this marijuana-like neurotransmitter has been shown to contribute to the reward of being social, and also offers us further insight into how oxytocin acts on the brain.

Importantly, these findings could help us understand the mechanisms underlying certain social impairments, for example in those with autism, suggesting a possible avenue to explore for treatment.

Rewinding a little bit, endocannabinoids, like anandamide, are molecules our own body produces that act on the same system that cannabis does, binding to receptors on various cells throughout the body called the cannabinoid receptors.

Previous work has found that the endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating neuronal signaling from the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain region shown to be critical for the effects of oxytocin on social reward.

To scrutinize these links further, scientists from the University of California, Irvine looked at the brains of juvenile mice reared in groups that had been isolated from their peers for 24 hours, then either returned to the group or kept in isolation for a further three hours.

They found that social contact increased the release of anandamide in the NAc, whereas isolation had the opposite effect. The resulting cannabinoid receptor activation, they found, reinforced the rewards of social interaction.

Taking this one step further, the team wanted to see how oxytocin, known to reinforce both parental and social bonding, fits into this emerging story.

After stimulating oxytocin-producing cells in the brain, they noticed a subsequent boost in the mobilization of anandamide in the NAc.

But when they blocked oxytocin receptors with drugs, the same response was not observed.

Tying the results together, the team found that boosting anandamide levels by blocking its degradation with a drug promoted social reward, causing mice to spend more time interacting with others when compared to those given a placebo, which could have implications for those with social deficits, for example in autism.

We think that there is a disruption in cooperative oxytocin-anandamide signaling in autism,” lead researcher Daniele Piomelli told IFLScience. “

Animal models of autism have multiple disruptions in endocannabinoid signaling.

In these models, Piomelli said, increasing anandamide levels in the same way as before corrected social reward deficits.

This raises the possibility that similar effects could be achieved in humans, helping those with autism socialize more.

The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Mich Ultra’s Super Bowl Ad Is Heavy On Sweat, Light On Beer

Is it an ad for your local health club … or a beer? Michelob Ultra will continue its fitness-themed campaign in the Super Bowl with a spot that includes a lot more cycling and running than drinking.

The low-calorie brew does not appear until the very end, when all the sweating is over.

The Anheuser-Busch InBev brand seeks to link social drinking and working out via the soundtrack: The theme song from the classic TV show “Cheers.”

The agency is FCB Chicago, which was behind a similar athletic-themed spot for the brand that aired in last year’s Super Bowl called “Breathe.”




This year’s ad is called “Our Bar.” An extended cut (above) will be trimmed to 30 seconds for the in-game airing.

The spot uses “real fitness enthusiasts — not actors — doing what they do day-in and day-out: going through a tough workout together and sharing cold beers afterwards to celebrate,” Ultra stated in a press release.

We recognized that the social lives and beer-drinking occasions of the Michelob Ultra consumer extend beyond gathering at the bar or at home with friends,” Azania Andrews, VP-Michelob Ultra, stated in the press release.

Communities forming around fitness activities represent a new type of socializing. ‘Our Bar’ emphasizes that beer is a part of this new world, grounded in celebrating accomplishments.”

With Friday morning’s release of the ad, AB InBev has now made public all four of its Super Bowl ads, including spots for Budweiser, Bud Light and Busch.

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter And ESA’s Venus Express Are Using Atmosphere To Get Closer To The Planet

Mars has historically been unfriendly to Earth’s attempts to visit it. More missions have been attempted to Mars than to any other place in the Solar System except the Moon, and about half of the attempts have failed.

Some of these failures occurred because Mars was the first planet Earth attempted to explore, and the early exploration attempts taught us many lessons that have made subsequent missions more successful.

But many failures have occurred relatively recently, proving again and again that space exploration is very, very difficult.

But since 1996, Mars exploration has undergone a Renaissance, with data from four orbiters and four landed missions developing a revolutionary new view of Mars as an Earth-like world with a complex geologic history.




ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

This first mission of ESA’s ExoMars program consists of a Trace Gas Orbiter plus an Entry, descent and landing Demonstrator Module, known as Schiaparelli (which transmitted data during its descent before crash landing on the martian surface).

The main objectives of this mission are to search for evidence of methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could be signatures of active biological or geological processes and to test key technologies in preparation for ESA’s contribution to subsequent missions to Mars.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is searching for evidence of past water on Mars, using the most powerful camera and spectrometer ever sent to Mars.

Its cameras are also helping in the search for landing sites for future Mars rovers and landers, and to monitor martian weather on a day-to-day basis.

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When A Machine Learning Algorithm Studied Fine Art Paintings, It Saw Things Art Historians Had Never Noticed


Georges Braque’s Man with a Violin (left) and Pablo Picasso’s Spanish Still Life: Sun and Shadow, both painted in 1912

The task of classifying pieces of fine art is hugely complex. When examining a painting, an art expert can usually determine its style, its genre, the artist and the period to which it belongs.

Art historians often go further by looking for the influences and connections between artists, a task that is even trickier.

So the possibility that a computer might be able to classify paintings and find connections between them at first glance seems laughable.

And yet, that is exactly what Babak Saleh and pals have done at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

These guys have used some of the latest image processing and classifying techniques to automate the process of discovering how great artists have influenced each other.

They have even been able to uncover influences between artists that art historians have never recognized until now.




The way art experts approach this problem is by comparing artworks according to a number of high-level concepts such as the artist’s use of space, texture, form, shape, color and so on.

Experts may also consider the way the artist uses movement in the picture, harmony, variety, balance, contrast, proportion and pattern.

Other important elements can include the subject matter, brushstrokes, meaning, historical context and so on. Clearly, this is a complex business.

So it is easy to imagine that the limited ability computers have for analyzing two-dimensional images would make this process more or less impossible to automate. But Salah and co show how it can be done.

At the heart of their method, is a new technique developed at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and Microsoft research in Cambridge, UK, for classifying pictures according to the visual concepts that they contain.

These concepts are called classemes and include everything from simple object description such as duck, frisbee, man, wheelbarrow to shades of color to higher-level descriptions such as dead body, body of water, walking and so on.

Comparing images is then a process of comparing the words that describe them, for which there are a number of well-established techniques.

Left: Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650) by Diego Velazquez. Right: Study After Vel´azquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953) by Francis
Bacon

For each painting, they limit the number of concepts and points of interest generated by their method to 3000 in the interests of efficient computation.

This process generates a list of describing words that can be thought of as a kind of vector. The task is then to look for similar vectors using natural language techniques and a machine learning algorithm.

Determining influence is harder though since influence is itself a difficult concept to define. Should one artist be deemed to influence another if one painting has a strong similarity to another?

Or should there be a number of similar paintings and if so how many?

So Saleh and co experiment with a number of different metrics. They end up creating two-dimensional graphs with metrics of different kinds on each axis and then plotting the position of all of the artists in this space to see how they are clustered.

The results are interesting. In many cases, their algorithm clearly identifies influences that art experts have already found.

For example, the graphs show that the Austrian painter Klimt is close to Picasso and Braque and indeed experts are well acquainted with the idea that Klimt was influenced by both these artists.

The algorithm also identifies the influence of the French romantic Delacroix on the French impressionist Bazille, the Norwegian painter Munch’s influence on the German painter Beckmann and Degas’ influence on Caillebotte.

The algorithm is also able to identify individual paintings that have influenced others.

It picked out Georges Braque’s Man with a Violin and Pablo Picasso’s Spanish Still Life: Sun and Shadow, both painted in 1912 with a well-known connection as pictures that helped found the Cubist movement.

And yet a visual inspection shows a clear link. The yellow circles in the images below show similar objects, the red lines show composition and the blue square shows a similar structural element, say Saleh and co.

That is interesting stuff. Of course, Saleh and co do not claim that this kind of algorithm can take the place of an art historian.

After all, the discovery of a link between paintings in this way is just the starting point for further research about an artist’s life and work.

But it is a fascinating insight into the way that machine learning techniques can throw new light on a subject as grand and well studied as the history of art.

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Killer Whales Should Not Be Kept In Captivity

The release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013 shined the national spotlight on the perils and problems of killer whale captivity.

Focusing primarily on killer whale aggression against trainers at SeaWorld and the associated fallout in the wake of veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau’s death in 2010, the film made a strong case against keeping killer whales in captivity.

Killer whales, also known as orcas, aren’t really whales at all. Though in the same infraorder, Cetacea, they are actually dolphins — the largest dolphins, in fact.




They generally weigh between 6,000 and 15,000 pounds when fully grown and stretch 30 feet long from fluke (tail) to rostrum (nose). In the wild, they are apex predators, hunted by no animal apart from man.

In captivity, however, the tides are turned on man. In the half-century that humans have kept orcas in tanks, there have been dozens of documented incidents of aggression, resulting in six deaths.

Orcas form complex societies reminiscent of those seen in chimpanzees. But in captivity, these hierarchies are severely muddled.

Often, a dominant female (orcas are matriarchal) asserts herself, usually violently. In the cramped conditions of captivity, other whales suffer lacerations from her intimidating tooth rakes.

Captive orcas also suffer from a wide range of health problems not seen among wild ones.

 

Their shallow pools render them vulnerable to higher-than-normal levels of ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which suppresses their immune systems.

They also spend more time exposed to the air than in the wild, often moving slowly due to the restrictive size of their habitats. Thus, orcas are prime feeding targets for mosquitos.

In fact, two captive orcas have died from mosquito-borne illnesses. Perhaps the most emblematic health problem associated with captivity is the collapse of the orca’s daunting, shark-like dorsal fin.

Though not actually harmful, the deformity affects over half of killer whales in captivity. Less than 10% of animals in the wild are afflicted.

Killer whales are extremely intelligent creatures, one of the few capable of passing the mirror self-recognition test. It’s no surprise, then, that they are easily subject to boredom in captivity.

One of the ways this manifests is paint nibbling. Whales often use their teeth to peel the paint off of their enclosure’s inner walls, similar to a human biting his fingernails, if his fingernails were made of concrete.

Almost all the whales in SeaWorld wear down their teeth, Hargrove says, dealing damage that requires regular dental procedures to prevent the growth of potentially deadly bacteria.

All of these issues contribute to a startling statistic. While most animals in captivity outlive their wild counterparts, orcas in captivity live shorter. Orca activists claim the gap is wide, while SeaWorld claims that there’s no gap at all.

The best estimates say that captive lifespan is slightly reduced, but improving. Male and female killer whales survive an average of 31 and 46 years in the wild, respectively.

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