Tag: Death

“Male” Octopus Gives Surprise Birth to Thousands of Babies in a US Aquarium

When Octavius the octopus arrived at the University of Georgia’s Marine Education Center and Aquarium in August, they were holding onto a secret. Well, ten thousand secrets, to be precise.

Despite the name, it now turns out that Octavius is female. But the real surprise was that she also happened to be pregnant; the keepers had no idea until early last week, when she gave birth and turned her tank into a veritable snow globe of cephalopod eggs.

I noticed this cloud of moving dots and I realised, ‘Oh my God, she had babies. There are babies. There are babies everywhere.’ And a sort of panic ensued,” aquarium curator Devin Dumont said.

Dumont didn’t know Octavius’s sex when he received the delivery of the common octopus from Charleston’s South Carolina Aquarium. it had been caught in the wild, and nobody had stopped to check the octopus’s gonads.


Female octopuses can store sperm until conditions are perfect for the fertilisation and release of eggs, so it’s likely Octavius was waiting for the right moment to start her family of thousands.

It was during a routine tank clean that Dumont found the aquarium now had a nursery. The only clue Octavius gave to her imminent arrivals was a quiet retreat into a rocky crevice in the corner of her tank last month.

That said, it might be better not to get too attached. Even in the safe confines of captivity, baby octopuses are notoriously challenging pets. There’s a chance every one of those ten thousand or so larvae could perish.

Depressingly, Dumont could quickly go from thousands of octopuses to zero, since Octavius might also not be long for this world. Mother octopuses are known to starve themselves after giving birth.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Washington Irving Bishop: The Magician Killed by an Autopsy

Washington Irving Bishop

In Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, on a well-worn headstone, you can barely make out the inscription “The Martyr” above the name Washington Irving Bishop.

The rest of the long epitaph below is too deteriorated to read, but the late Bishop was renowned in his time as one of the great mentalists of the 19th century. Yet it was his curious death that would be his greatest mystery.

Bishop was born in 1855 and although the American started out in the spiritualist world — assisting and then managing the famed medium Anna Eva Fay — he later flipped to the side of contemporary magicians like Houdini in exposing spiritualism as superstition.

His own act was pitched as “thought reading,” and he emphasized that it was not anything supernatural but instead his careful reading of the movement of the human body.

Known as “muscle reading,” he learned his skills from mentalist J. Randall Brown and soon soared to his own fame with a distinctly frenetic performance style, one that had an added drama with his suffering from cataleptic fits.

He kept a note in his pocket that stated his seemingly catatonic state was not death, although the presence of that note on a fateful performance in 1889 would lead to a great debate of what really brought down the mentalist.

It was May 12 and Bishop was at the Lambs Club, a theatrical society that was then at 70 West 36th Street in Manhattan. Bishop was said to have fallen into unconsciousness early in the act, and then recovered to continue.

However, a second attack came from which he did not quickly recover. According to reports, an autopsy took place at 3:45 pm, just a few hours after the supposed death.

This included the removing of Bishop’s brain.

It was May 12 and Bishop was at the Lambs Club, a theatrical society that was then at 70 West 36th Street in Manhattan. Bishop was said to have fallen into unconsciousness early in the act, and then recovered to continue.

Washington Irving Bishop’s grave in Green-Wood Cemetery

However, a second attack came from which he did not quickly recover. According to reports, an autopsy took place at 3:45 pm, just a few hours after the supposed death. This included the removing of Bishop’s brain.

Whether or not that note warning potential physicians of Bishop’s condition was on his body, and why the brain was so quickly removed, were the subject of debate and litigation for years to come.

It’s not clear if the Masons ever came to her aid, although the mason Harry Houdini helped her out later in life by buying what remained of Bishop’s legacy.

The death certificate for the 33-year-old mentalist officially read “hysterocatalepsy”; to his mother it was always murder.

And while Bishop’s legacy in the history of magic may have faded, there remains that worn tombstone in Green-Wood Cemetery that declares him as a “martyr” for eternity, or at least until the marble wears beyond recognition.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Can You Really Be Scared to Death?

A friend jumps out at you when you’re turning a corner. Your heart starts pounding, and you gasp. “You scared me to death!” you say.

Of course, the fact that you can utter this common phrase means that you are not deceased. But saying this is so common, in fact, that we have to ask the question: Is it possible to be scared to death?

The answer: yes, humans can be scared to death. In fact, any strong emotional reaction can trigger fatal amounts of a chemical, such as adrenaline, in the body.

It happens very rarely, but it can happen to anyone. The risk of death from fear or another strong emotion is greater for individuals with preexisting heart conditions, but people who are perfectly healthy in all other respects can also fall victim.

Being scared to death boils down to our autonomic response to a strong emotion, such as fear.

For fear-induced deaths, the demise starts with our fight-or-flight response, which is the body’s physical response to a perceived threat.

This response is characterized by an increased heart rate, anxiety, perspiration, and increased blood glucose levels.

How does our fight-or-flight instinct lead to death, though? To understand that, we have to understand what the nervous system is doing when it’s stimulated, primarily in releasing hormones.

These hormones, which can be adrenaline or another chemical messenger, ready the body for action. The thing is, adrenaline and similar chemicals in large doses are toxic to organs such as the heart, the liver, the kidneys, and the lungs.

Scientists claim that what causes sudden death out of fear in particular is the chemical’s damage to the heart, since this is the only organ that, upon being affected, could cause sudden death.

Adrenaline opens calcium to the heart. With a lot of calcium going to the heart, the organ has trouble slowing down, which is something that can cause ventricular fibrillation, a specific type of abnormal heart rhythm.

Irregular heartbeats prevent the organ from successfully pumping blood to the body and lead to sudden death unless treated immediately.

High levels of adrenaline aren’t caused only by fear. Other strong emotions can also incite a rush of adrenaline. For example, sporting events and sexual intercourse have been known to lead to adrenaline-induced deaths.

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Stew From A Polar Bear Liver Will Kill You In A Most Gruesome Way

Liver has long been a staple in many diets. Deep-fried chicken livers are a favorite in parts of the American South. Travel to Germany and you can feast on traditional liverwurst.

In Japan, you can order a heaping helping of sashimi made with raw fish liver. As delicious (or disgusting) as some of these dishes may sound to you, not every bird, fish or mammal necessarily offers the best ingredients for a culinary masterpiece.

In fact, if you ever have the chance to try polar bear liver, think twice — it may be the last meal you ever eat.

The native peoples of the Arctic have never shied away from cooking up some polar bear stew, but they’ve long known to avoid eating the livers of various arctic creatures.

Western explorers, however, learned the hard way. As early as 1596, explorers returned to Europe with accounts of horrible illnesses resulting from the consumption of polar bear liver.

Illness severity depended on how much liver the explorers consumed, but symptoms typically included drowsiness, sluggishness, irritability, severe headache, bone pain, blurred vision and vomiting.

Perhaps the most horrific symptom they encountered was peeling skin. While milder cases merely involved flaking around the mouth, some accounts reported cases of full-body skin loss.

Even the thick skin on the bottoms of a patient’s feet could peel away, leaving the underlying flesh bloody and exposed. The worst cases ended in liver damage, hemorrhage, coma and death.

These explorers suffered from acute hypervitaminosis A, a condition resulting from the overconsumption of vitamin A during a short period of time.

The polar bear’s liver, much like those of arctic seals and huskies, contains extremely high levels of retinol (the form of vitamin A found in members of the animal kingdom).

Know The Most Common But Dangerous Allergies

For an ever increasing number of us allergies are an annoying and often unpleasant fact of life.

Come spring and summer it’s time to break out the tissues and medications, or for the even less fortunate the scratching and sneezing might be an all year thing.

However, for a small but significant percentage of the population allergies can be potentially deadly.

The danger is caused by the body’s immune system falsely recognising the allergen (substance causing the allergy) as an invader and massively overreacting.

This is known as anaphylaxis and can lead to death within a matter of minutes in extreme cases.

Not all allergens cause anaphylaxis; I’ve never heard of anyone dying of hay-fever!

There are however several common allergy triggers that are particularly associated with severe allergic responses.

Whilst it seems bizarre that these everyday things can be even remotely harmful, to some individuals they can be lethal.


Back in the 1970s allergy to natural rubber latex was practically unheard of. Then people got a little more concerned about what they were handling particularly after the emergence of AIDS in the 1980s.

It seemed rubber gloves were a sensible protective measure and their use ballooned (pun intended).

Unfortunately, like many other allergies, exposure to the allergen is a factor. This certainly appears to be the case for the 8% of health workers in the UK who have some degree of latex allergy.

Other industries such as beauty, catering and the motor industry also have a higher incidence of latex allergy; along with those who have a history of hayfever, asthma and eczema.

The most serious (and thankfully rarest) form of latex allergy is type I hypersensitivity. People with this condition can suffer a potentially life-threatening reaction when exposed to only the tiniest amounts of latex.

This can be from eating food that was prepared using rubber gloves or also from particles in the air – latex is often powdered to prevent sticking and these particles can easily become airborne.

Insect Stings

Nobody enjoys being stung by a bee or wasp. At the very best it hurts and is often in just the sort of place you don’t want to be stung.

Lots of people react in some way to various wasp, bee, hornet and ant stings, with symptoms such as local swelling common place.

Things start getting more serious when the reaction becomes system-wide with rashes and swelling appearing some distance from the site of the sting.

Allergy to insect stings affect around 1% of the population, although unlike food allergies the figure tends to increase with age. In fact around 3% of the adult population have some degree of allergy to insect stings.


Generally speaking drugs and medicines are there to make us feel better. Whilst there is always the potential to overdose with certain types, responsible, medically supervised use should do more good than harm.

Unfortunately drug allergies are fairly widespread; globally adverse drug reactions may affect up to 10% of the population. This rises to around up to 20% of hospitalized patients making it a very significant risk factor.

What is most concerning about drug allergies though is the severity of reactions that can occur. Figures suggest that in the region of one fifth of fatalities due to anaphylaxis are caused by drugs allergy.

It is only a few classes of medicines which are associated with allergic reactions. These include antibiotics, particularly those related to penicillin and NSAID-type painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

Whilst the risk of a severe anaphylactic reaction is small (1 in 1,500 for those allergic to painkillers) it is significant. In addition it is possible for a reaction to occur even if you have safely taken them in the past.


Food – can’t live without it, and for an unlucky few, can’t live with it! In the region of 2% of the population of the developed world have some type of food allergy, usually to one of eight foods: nuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, soya (soy) and wheat.

Whilst all of these are capable of provoking a severe allergic reaction, some are more dangerous than others. Wheat and soy products are generally less likely to cause an anaphylactic reaction whilst peanuts are most likely.

In fact, more than half of all food-related anaphylaxis cases are caused by peanuts. What is truly shocking about this figure is that 50 years ago, the only way a peanut could kill you was if you choked on it!

The rise in allergies over the last few decades is still the focus of much research.

However, the evidence is beginning to indicate that much of this is due to our increased hygiene, which has affected the development of our immune systems.

Now, the theory goes, our bodies haven’t experienced the same range of bacteria and dirt so are more likely to over-react to harmless substances.

Whatever the cause allergies are on the rise and so are allergy-related emergencies. Hospital admissions for anaphylaxis are up over 6 times in the last twenty years, and that number is still rising.

Today allergy is the most prevalent chronic illness in the developed world, so expect more of the same.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Just How Dangerous Are Winter Olympic Sports?

Pyeongchang has witnessed its fair share of thrills and spills, but which events result in the most injuries?

Dramatic crashes, spectacular spills and high-profile injuries – if anything, a week and a half of action in Pyeongchang has proved Winter Olympics events carry with them a fairly high degree of risk.

Australian snowboarder Jessica Rich competed at the Games just a month after tearing her ACL, and revealed she had previously broken her back, and twice broken her collarbone.

Her team-mate, Cam Bolton competed in the snowboard cross with a suspected broken wrist, while Jarryd Hughes, who won silver, has had five knee operations over the course of his career.

British speed skater Elise Christie was injured in a dramatic crash in the 1500m, and snowboarder Katie Ormerod broke her heel during training.

Australian snowboarder Tess Coady also sustained an injury during training, blaming strong winds. There have been numerous other examples.

So, just how dangerous are the various Winter Olympic sports?

We don’t yet have the final injury statistics from Pyeongchang, but journal articles detailing injury records are available from the 2010 Games in Vancouver, and 2014 in Sochi.

The relatively new events of slopestyle snowboarding and skiing are both in the top five, with snowboarding having a particularly high rate of injuries at 37 per 100 athletes.

The aerials skiing event also results in a high rate of injury, particularly during the Sochi Games, where the injury rate was 48.8 per 100 athletes, a staggeringly high figure.

The reports also looked at how severe injuries were by measuring the rate of injuries resulting in recovery times greater than a week.

The moguls, slopestyle (snowboard) and cross (both ski and snowboard) all had higher rates of more severe injuries at Sochi, with all these events having a severe injury rate of 14 or higher.

Overuse injuries were also quite common in bobsledding and cross-country skiing, while contact with the ground was the most common cause of injury for slopestyle, halfpipe and cross events.

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People Living In Northern England Are A 5th More Likely To Die Young Than Those In The South

People in the north are far more likely to die young, according to an “alarming” new study.

Dying early is 20 per cent more likely for people who live in the north of England and the government needs to invest urgently to fix the problem, the scientists behind the research said.

The problem is particularly stark among very young people: there were 29 per cent more deaths among 25-34 year olds in the north in 2015, and a 35-44 year old is a full 49 per cent more likely to die suddenly if they live in the north rather than the south.

The number of premature deaths among middle aged adults in the north started to go up quickly in the mid-90s, rising sharply and consistently until 2015.

The research looked at data from the Office of National Statistics to compare the whole English population between 1965 and 2015.

Researchers didn’t look at the causes of death and were therefore unable to give specific reasons for the stark divide in life outcomes, but said that entirely new public policy, economic and healthcare approaches are required to address it.

The findings suggest that attempts to address the north-south divide are failing, the researchers said – and that they might even be making the problem worse.

Five decades of death records tell a tale of two Englands, north and south, divided by resources and life expectancy – a profound inequality resistant to the public health interventions of successive governments,” said lead researcher Iain Buchan from the University of Manchester.

Co-author Tim Doran from the University of York hopes that the findings will encourage the government to develop new data-driven policies to improve the problem.

These important findings were made possible by examining public health data – held by the NHS and other agencies – dating back decades,” he said.

The data, technology and skills now exist to better understand population health and develop public policies to improve it proportionately.

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Pass it on: New Scientist