Posted in History & Literature

Zodiac: Scorpio

Scorpio is the Zodiac sign for those born between October 22 and November 21. The symbol for Scorpio is a gigantic scorpion.

The model for Scorpio is the scorpion that killed Orion. Orion was a great hunter. He always boasted that there was not a single animal that he could not kill and would kill every beast he saw in the forest. Many gods and goddesses were not pleased with his narcissism, but among them Artemis, the goddess of hunting, particularly disliked him. She was worried that he would kill every animal on Earth, threatening the ecosystem. So she summoned a giant scorpion and commanded it to kill him. The scorpion proceeded to swiftly sneak up to Orion and stung him with a deadly poison, killing him instantly. Thus, the great hunter Orion fell shamefully. Both Orion and the scorpion were lifted into the heavens and became constellation. This is why when the Scorpio constellation rises in the night sky, the Orion constellation hurriedly falls to the west, scared that he might be attacked once more.

(Part of the Zodiac series:

Posted in History & Literature


The Faroe Islands are a group of islands between Scotland and Iceland in the North Atlantic Ocean. Although a small nation, they are known to the outside world for their tradition of whaling – specifically pilot whales that are native to the North Atlantic Ocean. The media often show photos of bloody shorelines with a line of whale carcasses, decrying the so-called “inhumane hunting” of the whales. The dramatic scene and cuteness of the whales seems to appeal to the masses and has caused quite a controversy regarding the Faroese tradition, known as grindadráp. However, the media often tells a misinformed story regarding the whaling. One thing to know is that Faroese whaling is fundamentally different to whaling seen in other parts of the world, such as Japanese whaling. 

The Faroese have been killing pilot whales for food for the past millennium and have done so in the most humane and sustainable way possible. Despite popular belief, the pilot whales are not endangered and in fact overpopulated in the North Atlantic Ocean. As they are carnivorous, an overpopulation of the whales causes a shortage in fish. Fishing is the major industry in the Faroe Islands and constitutes their livelihood; so ironically, the pilot whales can endanger the Faroese people by consuming all the fish in the surrounding sea. Thus, the Faroese kill a small portion of the whale population (roughly 0.1%, a completely sustainable rate) to balance the ecosystem while protecting their most important industry and their livelihood.

Faroese whaling is not commercial and only enough whales are killed to provide enough food for the people (equally distributed to the participating families). The killing is not for fun or money, but simply to support the lives of the people. As such, the Faroese have also come up with the most humane way to kill the animals.

When whaling season starts and the pilot whales come near the shore, “drives” are initiated where a semi-circle of boats herd nearby whales towards the shoreline (only whales near the shoreline are killed). When the whales approach the shore, the people use blunt blowhole hooks that catch the whales without causing wounds (unlike harpoons and spears) and draw them closer to shore. Only adult males are drawn in (no females or babies) and only enough that can be killed swiftly are drawn in.

Once drawn in, the men quickly use their knives to cut the spinal cord and artery supplying the brain, killing the whale within 15 seconds of being beached. It is the quickest and most painless way to kill the whales and only those who have been trained to do it properly are allowed to kill. As a major artery is cut and whales are big mammals, a large volume of blood is released, dying the sea a bloody red colour.
The whales are then divvied up equally, with no part of the whale going to waste. As only nearby whales are killed, sometimes no whales are killed for years.

Unfortunately, due to pollution in the ocean, there have been increasing levels of heavy metals such as mercury found in the whale meat. This is endangering the health of the island population and the deeply engrained tradition of grindadráp. The saddest part is that the pollution is from industrialised countries such as USA and European countries, not the Faroe Islands. Yet the Faroese have to put up with bigotry from those who do not understand the culture, process or the reasoning behind the tradition. If anything, it is by far more humane and sustainable than killing animals after a lifetime of captivity then sending them to a slaughterhouse.

It is extremely important to see the truth behind controversial issues such as this, as more often than not the truth is shrouded by bigotry and subjective comments by people who have only seen the issue through some photographs on the internet.


(Notice the single, deep horizontal slash through the dorsal aspect of the spinal cord, just before the brainstem. Such a cut would immediately sever any pain signals and cause almost instant unconsciousness due to ischaemia of the brain.)

Posted in Science & Nature

Badass Weapons Of Nature: Pistol Shrimp

A gun is, without a doubt, a manmade object. It is an invention that has existed less than a thousand years in history. However, there is an animal that has been using firearms to hunt prey for a significantly longer period of time than mankind has.
The pistol shrimp is well known for its disproportionately large claw, with the other claw being much smaller like a normal shrimp. The massive claw is what is called the “pistol” and it is the weapon of choice for the shrimp.

When a pistol shrimp identifies a target, it swiftly takes aim with the claw and snaps it shut with enough force to create a bubble jet reaching a speed of almost 100km/h. Not only are bubbles produced, but the pressure wave created by the cavitation (the effect of a bubble imploding and generating energy) reaches a sound level of 218dB – which is about 100,000,000 times larger than a gunshot, or 10,000 times larger than a rocket launch. Furthermore, the energy is also released as light and heat, generating a temperature as hot as 4700°C (for comparison, the surface temperature of the sun is 5500°C).
The combination of the bubble jet, pressure wave and heat energy instantly stuns the target and the pistol shrimp proceeds to devour its prey.

Yes, the pistol shrimp has mastered a skill that humans can only dream of in comics such as the Incredible Hulk’s Thunderclap, or in games such as Guile’s Sonic Boom (from Street Fighter). It has also mastered the skill to the level of an effective ultimate move that is reliable as a hunting tool. In fact, it is quite possibly the closest any animal on Earth has gotten to an actual beam weapon.

Posted in Science & Nature

Badass Weapons Of Nature: Long-tailed Weasel

Long-tailed weasels are ferocious predators found in North America that likes to stalk its prey and pounce it with lightning speed. With small prey such as mice, the weasel will wrap its long body around the prey and then crush the head with a strong bite. As the weasel is very slender and sleek, it can easily dig into burrows to hunt hiding animals by crushing its skull, or to add variety, ripping out the windpipe.

Although it usually preys on small rodents, the long-tailed weasel is also known to fearlessly attack much larger animals such as birds and rabbits. As wild rabbits tend to be bulkier (sometimes even ten times larger) than the weasel, it cannot use its characteristic hunting style. To overcome this difficulty, these weasels have developed a strange behaviour that zoologists have labelled the Weasel War Dance. The War Dance (NB: two videos on what it looks like) is a chaotic set of movements where the weasel runs left and right frantically, jumping and flipping upside-down and almost appearing insane. This type of behaviour is observed in other species of weasels and ferrets when they are excited, but few use it as a hunting tool.

It has been observed that when the long-tailed weasel performs a War Dance in front of a rabbit, the rabbit becomes dazed and enters a trance-like state. It is possible that the chaotic and confusing movements disorient the rabbit. Once the rabbit has been disabled, the weasel promptly jumps on the rabbit’s back and delivers a powerful bite to the back of the neck, instantly killing the rabbit.
Wild weasels and stoats practise this skill by playfully ambushing each other when they are young.

Long-tailed weasels, despite their cute appearance, are notorious for their vicious temper. Being a carnivore that prefers fresh meat, it actively hunts and collects food. Despite seeking fresh food, the weasel also exhibits a curious behaviour of storing carrions, which is often only eaten in times of food shortages. This behaviour leads to the weasel going on killing sprees just because they can. Long-tailed weasels have also been observed lapping up blood from the wounds they inflict, and enjoys making their nest from the fur of their victims.

Posted in Science & Nature

Badass Weapons Of Nature: Roadrunner

Roadrunners are medium-sized birds that grow to about 60cm and found in desert environments. They prefer walking or running (top speed 27km/h) to flying and have been portrayed as Road Runner in Looney Toons. In the cartoon, the bird is shown as a witty, intelligent bird that easily runs away from its predator. In real life, the roadrunner is a much more formidable animal.

Although it usually feeds on lizards and insects, roadrunners also enjoy feasting on rattlesnakes. Thanks to its quick speed, the thin bird can swiftly dig its beak into the rattlesnake before it can retaliate with its venomous bite. What happens next is quite surprising.
With its prey secured on its beak, the roadrunner promptly begins whipping its head around, bashing the snake to the ground in a circular motion. This whip-like attack causes the snake to lose consciousness or even die from the sheer impact and rotational force, essentially becoming tenderised. This deadly move has been named by ornithologists as the Centrifugal Slam. The roadrunner does this until it is certain the snake cannot attack back, then swallows it whole. As snakes tend to be longer than the bird, roadrunners are often found running around the desert with a long piece of tail dangling from its beak, the head being slowly digested in the bird’s stomach. 

Roadrunners are also known to eat horned lizards (spiked lizard that shoots blood from its eyes to deter predators), tarantula hawk wasps (giant wasp that defeats tarantulas to lay eggs inside it, with no other known predators) and even flying birds. As mentioned before, roadrunners do not fly unless in an emergency. So to hunt flying birds, they simply run, jump and Centrifugal Slam the living daylight out of the unfortunate prey.


Posted in History & Literature


The unicorn is pictured as a white stallion with a single, prominent horn on its forehead. It is still loved and is one of the most well-known mythical creatures. As with any mythical beasts, there are interesting stories related to the unicorn.

The horn is the source of the unicorn’s strength – the infinite fountain of magical power that grants the unicorn unmatched strength and speed. If it meets an enemy it either sprints and disappears, or uses its large weapon to impale even the hardest armour. This makes it extremely hard to capture.

Medieval people believed the horn of the unicorn to be a highly valuable magic ingredient, with extremely potent cleansing properties that could purify even lakes and seas. But as the only way to attain the horn is to capture a unicorn, it was an extremely rare commodity.
To catch a unicorn, one must know its most important (yet not well-known in the modern age) trait. Although they are wild beasts with a savage temper, they calm down like lamb in front of one group of people – virgin maidens. If it detects even the faintest scent of a virgin, it rushes towards her and places its head on her lap, soundly falling asleep. Due to this characteristic, it is often portrayed as a symbol of purity and chastity, and also Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
According to notes written by Leonardo Da Vinci himself, hunters used this trick to capture unicorns that would fall asleep on a virgin’s lap (whom they brought with them to aide in the hunt). Even a mighty beast has a weakness that can be exploited.

On a side note, it is also written that if the unicorn senses that the maiden is not a virgin, it would instantly use its large weapon to impale her until death.