Mbiyimoh (pronounced Bee-Mo) Ghogomu was born in Cameroon, West Africa in October of 1991. Upon leaving Cameroon in 1993, his family spent a few years in Chicago before finally settling in Houston, Texas in 1999. Following high school graduation in 2009, Mbiyimoh spent two years playing basketball in the Ivy League at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. After playing for 3 different head coaches in two seasons, Mbiyimoh decided to return home to Houston and re-evaluate his life goals. It was during this time that he, along with longtime friend Dylan Dement, first came up with the concept of The Higher Learning. Mbiyimoh is now finishing undergrad at the University of Texas at Austin, studying Sociology and Business, with plan to pursue Finance and Journalism as well.
Earlier today, around 200 South Korean activists gathered in a park near the border with North Korea. The activists released 50 massive helium balloons, each toting a large bag of snacks.
In total, they sent 770 pounds of snacks to the North. The bulk of this weight came from the 10,000 Choco Pies the activists sent North. Why Choco Pies? Well, there’s a story there.
The Choco Pie is somewhat symbolic of the conflict between the South and the North, and has actually played a direct role in the shaky history of North-South relations.
The snack was originally introduced to the region by American soldiers during the Korean War in the 1950s. Of course that version of the snack was the well-known American “Moon Pie”.
The treat quickly became popular in the region, and in 1974 the South Korean candy company Tongyang Confectionery released their own version: the “Orion Choco Pie”.
In 2002, North and South Korea came together to create the Kaesong Industrial Zone. The zone was created as a joint project between the two countries. Its goals were to provide cheap labor to South Korean companies while simultaneously creating more available jobs to laborers from the North.
One of the perks that the South Korean companies offered to try and attract North Korean workers to Kaesong was the irresistible Choco Pie.
However, since the snacks weren’t available in the North, workers began smuggling the treats out of the factories and reselling them at extremely inflated prices. The Pies spawned a lucrative black market in North Korea, and even became a sort of unofficial currency because of their high value.
Apparently, the idea of a South Korean snack becoming an unofficial currency in the North didn’t sit very well with North Korean leadership in Pyongyang. In May, the North Korean government officially asked the factories to stop passing out Choco Pies to its workers.
And that is why activists like Choo Sun-Hee, who helped organize the event, gathered in the park today to send balloons to the North.
“Embarrassed by the growing popularity of Choco Pie, North Korea banned it as a symbol of capitalism,”
Choo told the Associated Free Press. Choo also added,
“We will continue to send Choco Pie by balloons because it is still one of the most popular foodstuffs especially among hungry North Koreans.”
Activists in South Korea regularly use balloons as a way to communicate with the North, but usually they are carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets.
North Korean leadership in Pyongyang has condemned the act, and even threatened to shell the launching areas if the South Korean government doesn’t stop the activists.
Though malaria rates have dropped by 42% since 2000, the disease is still expected to kill anywhere from 600,000 to 800,000 people this year, with the majority of them being children under the age of five. In fact, malaria is the third largest killer of children worldwide.
And while improving medical technologies and practices have been steadily reducing the number of malaria-related deaths, there is no proven vaccine against the disease.
But a promising new vaccine created by pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) may be about to change that.
The vaccine can’t prevent every single case of malaria, but it has proven to have a very significant impact. During multiple trials of the vaccine, researchers found that on average about 800 cases of malaria could be prevented for every 1,000 children who got the vaccine.
In the most advanced of these trials, 1,500 children in several different African countries received the vaccine. 18 months later, researchers found that the vaccine had nearly halved the number of malaria infections in small children.
The testing also suggests that the vaccine’s impact becomes even more pronounced in areas that have particularly high infection rates.
For example, in a number of Kenyan cities, the researchers were able to prevent about 2,000 cases of malaria with only 1,000 vaccines (many people in the area contract the disease multiple times).
GSK has now applied for regulatory approval of the vaccine from the European Medicine’s Authority. This is the first malaria vaccine to ever reach that step.
Sanjeev Krishna is a professor of Molecular Parasitology and Medicine at St. George’s University of London. He was one of the scientists who peer-reviewed the study before it was published in the journal PLOS Medicine. He had his to say:
“This is a milestone. The landscape of malaria vaccine development is littered with carcasses, with vaccines dying left, right and centre…
We need to keep a watchful eye for adverse events but everything appears on track for the vaccine to be approved as early as next year.”
The United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction just released its “Afghan National Security Forces: Actions Needed to Improve Weapons Accountability” report for July.
The report revealed that a total of 747,000 weapons supposedly given to the Afghan National Security Forces by the U.S. Department of Defense are now unaccounted for.
According to the report, 465,000 of these weapons are small arms that include, “…rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers, and shotguns.”
The Department of Defense relies primarily on two programs to track the flow of weapons to Afghanistan’s security forces: The Security Cooperation Information Portal (SCIP) and the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database (OVERLORD).
Both of these programs were found to have major errors and discrepancies. In fact, a whopping 43% of the serial numbers (used to identify and track each individual weapon) in the OVERLORD system were found to have, “missing information and/or duplication.”
On top of that, the report found that as of November 2013, the U.S. had provided Afghanistan’s Security Forces with nearly 113,000 more weapons than they actually needed (based on the “Tashkil”, the official list of requirements for the ANSF issued by the Afghan government).
The SIGAR report also warns that these weapons could easily find their way into the hands of hostile groups like the Taliban, if they haven’t already:
“Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons, SIGAR is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to Afghan civilians and the ANSF.”
About two weeks ago, I reported on a giant crater that appeared on the Yamal peninsula in Siberia.
Well, while scientists are still trying to figure out what caused this first crater, two more have been discovered in Siberia.
Crater of Antipayuta
This crater was alo discovered on the Yamal peninsula, near the village of Antipayuta (a few hundred miles from the first crater). It measures 50 feet in diameter.
Mikhail Lapsui is a deputy of the regional parliament in the area. He visited this second crater and talked to locals from Antipayuta.
Lapsui reported that locals claimed this crater was formed in September of last year. When he asked about what caused it, he got a number of different stories:
“According to the first, initially at the place was smoking, and then there was a bright flash. In the second version, a celestial body fell there.”
Crater of Nosok
The second crater is a bit smaller, measuring just 15 feet across. However, it has an estimated depth of about 200-330 feet and observers say the crater is perfectly cone-shaped. It is located near the village of Nosok, in the Krasnoyarsk region.
One expert in the region had this to say about the strange, cone-shaped crater:
“It is not like this is the work of men, but also doesn’t look like natural formation.”
While no official explanations have been given by scientists studying the craters yet, most theories center around the melting of permafrost in the Siberian tundra. This melting releases gas that was trapped in the ice underground.
As more permafrost melts, the pressure of this gas builds up. Hypothetically, this build-up could cause the ground above it to be ejected if the pressure gets high enough.
Since we reported on the first crater, video has been released showing it in more detail. Check it out below:
Read the original story from the Siberian Times here.
As a boy, Bart Weetjens loved to play with his pet rats. One thing that always stuck in his memory was the rat’s strong sense of smell and the ease at which they could be trained.
Bart recalled these skills years later as a student at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, where he was working on an analysis of the global land-mine detection problem (ie. how to find all of the unexploded mines left over from countless wars around the world).
Bart felt that rats could provide a cheaper, more efficient and more locally available solution to the land-mine problem, so he began to do early research on this concept in 1997.
Bart called his project APOPO, which stands for Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling (English translation: Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development).
The organization moved to Mozambique in 2000, where they partnered with the Tanzanian People’s Defence Force to help mine-clearing operations in that country.
By 2006, APOPO’s HeroRATS were also fully integrated into land-mine detection programs in Tanzania. In 2010, APOPO began operations in Thailand as well.
Check out below to learn more about the HeroRAT’s mine-detection skills:
The reason that these rats are so good at detecting land-mines is that they have an extremely acute sense of smell, which allows them to easily identify the scent of TNT (after being trained to recognize it).
Early on, Bart realized that the HeroRATS’ amazing sense of smell wasn’t being fully utilized. In 2003, he entered APOPO in the Development Marketplace Global Competition sponsored by the World Bank.
His idea: using the rats to help detect tuberculosis as well as land-mines. APOPO won the competition, and in doing so received the necessary funding for their research into training TB-detecting HeroRATS.
TB is one of the deadliest diseases in the world. About 9 million new cases are reported annually, and the disease kills nearly 2 million people each year.
The HeroRATS give health workers a huge advantage over humans when it comes to detection of the disease.
A human lab tech can only process about 40 samples in a day; the HeroRATS can do that same amount of work in only seven minutes, and they often find TB-positive samples that the human technicians missed.
Check out the video below to learn more about he HeroRATS’ work in tuberculosis detection:
To learn more about the APOPO organization’s land-mine and tuberculosis detection programs, you can visit their website here.
NASA’s Opportunity rover landed on the surface of Mars in January of 2004. As of Sunday (July 26), the Opportunity rover had driven a total distance of 25 miles (40 kilometers).
Opportunity took the top spot in total off-world distance traveled by surpassing Russia’s Lunokhod 2 lunar rover, which traveled a total distance of 39 kilometers across the surface of the moon between January and May of 1973.
The Russian rover helped to bring about a golden age of space exploration in the 70s. As a sign of respect, the Opportunity rover’s operators decided to commemorate the Russian rover by naming one of the first craters they encountered after it.
The craziest part of this record is that the Opportunity rover was only expected to travel a short distance when it was first sent to Mars in 2004. Here’s John Callas, who manages the Mars Exploration Project at NASA’s Jet-Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California:
“This is so remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for distance. But what is really important is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance.”
The Opportunity rover is collecting data on Mars as part of a long-term plan for a manned mission to the planet around the year 2030.
The infographic below compares the distances driven by different rovers throughout the years. Click to enlarge (courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech):
Stephen Wiltshire was born in London in 1974. As a child, Stephen was a mute. At the age of three he was diagnosed as autistic, and in that same year his father died in a motorcycle accident.
At five he was sent to the Queensmill School for the autistic in London. The instructors there discovered that Stephen had an intense passion for art. Even as a child, his skill and attention to detail was exceptional.
They used this passion to help teach him to talk. Stephen was a mute, and avoided communication with others as much as possible.
So his instructors at Queensmill would take away his art supplies when he wasn’t using them so that he was forced to communicate with them when he wanted to draw again. He started with just sounds, but eventually he said his first word: “paper”.
He learned to speak fully at the age of nine. By that time, his passion for art was already extremely developed. His favorite subjects were American cars (he’s said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of them) and the buildings of London.
During his time at Queensmill, Stephen’s instructors discovered that he had an extraordinary gift: he was able to reproduce extremely intricate sketches after seeing an image only once.
As an adult, Stephen used this skill to jump-start his career as an architectural artist by flying over massive cities and then reproducing huge, elaborate sketches of the cities, down to the number of windows in each building and the clothes on clothing lines.
I’ve gathered a few videos showcasing his mind-blowing talent. Enjoy!
Stephen draws New York City for UBS’s “We Will Not Rest” campaign in 2011:
Stephen draws Rome after flying over it for the first time:
Stephen draws Singapore after a helicopter fly-over (time-lapse):
Stephen takes on his largest ever panoramic drawing: a nearly 360 degree image of Tokyo:
Stephen is what is known as an autistic savant. Autistic savants have damage to the left anterior lobe of the brain, which plays a key role in processing sensory input and forming memories.
Because of this, they are able to access lower-level information like the extremely intricate details of buildings in Stephen’s works of art.
This information actually exists in all of our brains, but it’s normally unavailable to our conscious awareness because our brains classify this information as superfluous or non-essential.
However, studies and controversial experiments have proved that we can tap into these same talents by using transcranial magnetic stimulation: temporarily shutting down parts of the left anterior lobe using magnets.
Check out the video below to see how it effected creativity and other brain functions in the fascinating video below:
A group of Danish researchers recently made an interesting discovery about the relationship between our education level and how fast we age.
The researchers were led by Eigil Rostrup, who works as a doctor at Denmark’s Glostrup Hospital.
The study, published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, was based off of data from a group of 2,400 boys who had been born in the Greater Copenhagen area in 1953. The boys were tested both physically and mentally at the age of 20, and again when they were 57.
The testing gathered data on the participants general state of health, as well as their weights, smoking habits and IQs.
After the second round of testing at age 57, the researchers invited 200 men to the Glostrup Hospital for additional research: the 100 men with the best scores compared to their first test (at age 20), and the 100 men with the worst scores compared to their first test.
“We asked the participants to lie completely still in the MR-scanner without doing anything. Once in a while a light would flash in the scanner and at the same time the participant had to move his fingers,”
said Rostrup. This allowed the researchers to see how fast the men’s brains were able to switch from “default mode” (ie. when our brain is relaxed) to problem solving mode. Moving your fingers when a light comes on may not seem like a complex problem, but problem solving (even for the most basic problems) all happens in one region of the brain.
Rostrup and his team found that the men who had received a better education were able to more quickly and efficiently switch from default mode to problem solving mode than those with the least amount of education.
The findings suggest that an education or job that challenges you regularly can actually stave off diseases related to brain aging like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Here’s Rostrup again:
“In young people the brain quickly and efficiently switches from the default mode to problem-solving activity. But in elderly people, and especially those who are demented or suffer from Alzheimer’s, this change is slow and inefficient…
The better our brains manage this change from rest to problem-solving when we are 60, the better equipped we will be at the age of 80 when it comes to handling the tasks of daily life and avoiding the symptoms that are especially common in patients with dementia, including Alzheimer’s.”
Researchers and neuroscientists alike hope that this new study can help doctors predict conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s ahead of time.
One thing is for sure though: mental exercise keeps the mind young just like physical exercise does for our bodies. Keep that mind sharp!
Villagers from a village in the Sichuan province of China just collected the largest ever aquatic insect specimen.
The bug, a massive dobsonfly, has a wingspan of more than 8 inches. The previous record-holder for the world’s largest aquatic insect was a South American helicopter damselfly, which had a wingspan of 7.5 inches.
Though dobsonflies are relatively common (there are over 200 species across Asia, Africa and South America), one of this size had been unheard of until now.
Looking at a dobsonfly can actually be very misleading. For one, those massive, grisly-looking mandibles protruding from its head are actually only used for mating. Males flaunt them to impress the females and hold them in place during the actual mating process.
Also, those massive wings are pretty much all for show. The insect almost never flies, preferring to spend the bulk of its time in the water (both underwater and on the surface), or sheltering underneath rocks.
Dobsonflies are also a biological indicator of water quality. They prefer clean water with very low levels of pollution and a relatively neutral pH. If water quality falls below their standards, they will leave and find a new body of water to call home.
The villagers gave the record-setting specimen to the Insect Museum of West China.