10 Surprising Secrets About Air Travel

Flying has become an increasingly common way to travel, with more than 37 million commercial flights flown in 2017. However, even if you’re a frequent flier, there may still be some things you don’t know. Below, find 10 surprising facts about air travel that may be new to you, or at least fresher than the blankets on your next flight…

10. The tiny hole at the bottom of your window is keeping you safe

When you’re stuck in an aluminum tube for hours at a time, staring out the window at the clouds might provide a welcome diversion from the cramped seats, crappy food, and unruly fellow passengers you may encounter as part of your in-flight “experience.” And when you look out that window, you may have noticed something strange about the window itself—the pin-sized hole near the bottom. That tiny hole is called a “bleed hole” or “breather hole,” and it’s there for a reason.

As your plane makes its way up to its cruising altitude, air pressure drops. The plane’s pressurization system keeps the air pressure much higher in the plane then in the surrounding air, ensuring that oxygen levels remain high enough for the people on the plane. This pressure differential puts a lot of stress on the plane’s windows, but each window is made up of three panes of glass to keep passengers safe. The innermost layer is mainly to keep the other two safe from passengers. The middle pane is the one with the tiny hole, which ensures that the outermost pane is the one to bear the pressure (and that it is the one that would break if the pressure became too much. If anything happened to the outermost pane, the middle pane would be able to “take over” handling the pressure differential without compromising the passenger cabin. The bleed hole also serves to manage the temperature differential between the cabin and the surrounding air, keeping the windows (mostly) clear of fogging and frost.

9. Airplane bathrooms can be unlocked from the outside

Airplane lavatories have improved from their early incarnations, some of which just released waste directly into the air. Nonetheless, most people wouldn’t describe them as pleasant or seek to spend any unnecessary time in them. In recent years, aircraft bathrooms have become even more cramped, as airlines seek to maximize the number of seats they can squeeze onboard, making visiting the lavatory an even more claustrophobic experience for passengers. Those rare few who still can’t get enough of the aircraft lavatory should be aware of one fact—it is possible to unlock the lavatory door from the outside.

The mechanism for doing so varies from plane to plane. In some versions of the Airbus A380, for example, one must simply lift the “lavatory” sign and slide the knob over to unlock the door. While this might seem like a great way to prank a friend (or a helpful trick for dealing with a misbehaving child), a Virgin America flight attendant says this technique is often used in reverse, to lock the door of an empty bathroom shut during turbulence, further noting that unlocking an occupied bathroom would be done only to ensure passenger safety, in the event the occupant has been in there a long time and is unresponsive, or if the smoke alarm goes off.

8. Hot beverages are best avoided when you’re in the air

While a cup of coffee or tea may seem like the perfect way to wake up after a red-eye flight, you might be better off waiting until you’re inside the airport to enjoy a hot beverage. Not only will the diaretic effect of coffee and tea have you making extra visits to the tiny plane bathroom, the water used to make your drink may be pretty gross.

After an EPA study in 2004 showed 15% of water samples taken from more than 300 planes had coliform bacteria, new standards were introduced to ensure airlines cleaned and tested their water tanks for bacteria. However, the water systems on some planes are only cleaned and tested once a year. EPA data from 2012 shows that 12% of commercial planes still had at least one positive test for coliform bacteria. Coliform bacteria won’t make most people sick, but does show that the plane’s water systems are not the cleanest water source, and that more dangerous bacteria, such as E. coli, could potentially exist in that environment. While US carriers serve bottled water to passengers, water from the plane’s system is still used to make tea, coffee, and cocoa, and it doesn’t generally get heated to the temperatures needed to kill all bacteria. The danger is likely small, but it’s enough to keep some flight attendants from drinking coffee and tea onboard, and maybe enough that you’d rather get your caffeine fix from soda or wait till you’re in the terminal to grab a coffee or tea.

7. There’s a reason why airplane bathrooms still have ashtrays, even though smoking is banned

You may have noticed an odd feature in the airplane lavatory—an ashtray on the back of the door. Confusingly, it’s often located right under the sign that reminds you that smoking is prohibited. On most US domestic flights, smoking has been prohibited since 1990, and it’s been outlawed on flights between the US and foreign destinations since 2000. But ashtrays can still be found even on brand new planes—why?

In the US, the bathroom ashtrays are there because the FAA mandates that they be. While initially, this make seem like another nonsensical law, there’s actually a pretty obvious reason why it makes sense to keep the ashtrays: not everyone obeys the law against smoking on planes. On a flight from Portland to Sacramento, one woman, who claimed she needed to smoke to deal with “anxiety,” became so violent after a flight attendant stopped her from smoking in the bathroom that she had to be restrained by passengers and crew until the plane could make an emergency landing.

Given that there are some people who are going to try to sneak in a cigarette no matter what the law says, no matter what kind of hefty fines might be assessed, it makes sense to make sure the cigarettes can be put out safely, and not tossed in a trash bin full of flammable paper towels. The legally mandated presence of ashtrays on planes has its roots in the tragic case of Varig Flight 820 in 1973. An onboard fire, possibly started by a lit cigarette tossed in the lavatory trash bin, killed most of those aboard (via smoke inhalation) before it could make an emergency landing, prompting the FAA to ensure that all commercial aircraft were equipped with ashtrays going forward.

6. Some planes have teeny-tiny bedrooms for the crew

On long-haul flights (those over 10.5 hours), you may have noticed that the crew members serving you rotate during the course of the flight. With some flights (like those from LA to Singapore and from New Zealand to Qatar) clocking in close to 18 hours, it makes sense that more than one crew of pilots and flight attendants would be needed to staff the plane, rotating between work and rest.

But where does the crew go when they are resting? While they all have seats in the main cabin for takeoff and landing, you don’t see the crew snoozing in them during the course of the flight. That’s because planes that fly these long-haul flights are equipped with special little bedrooms for the pilots and flight attendants (usually the pilots and flight attendants sleep in different quarters because of their different schedules). These sleeping cabins are either above or below the main passenger cabin, and are accessible by little staircases or, in some cases, via an overhead storage bin. Configurations vary based on the airline/plane, but generally include single beds, an overhead light for reading, and a privacy curtain. A KLM flight attendant reports that KLM crew beds come equipped with a set of mandatory KLM PJs, so that the crew is recognizable if they are called into service during an emergency.

5. Occasionally, a plane lands with more passengers than appear on the original manifest

This one isn’t as cryptic as it sounds. Pregnant passengers are generally permitted to fly up until their 36th week of pregnancy, though some carriers will require a note from a doctor or midwife after 28 weeks. However, as many moms will attest, due dates aren’t always accurate. Some babies make their entrance earlier than expected, and occasionally, these surprise preterm births happen at 36,000 feet up.

When babies are born on international flights, determining citizenship can be quite a tricky matter. Usually, the child will be accorded the citizenship of one or both of its parents. Some countries, including the US, will also grant citizenship to a baby that is born within national airspace. Additionally, 70 countries have ratified or acceded to the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which says that a baby born on an aircraft is entitled to citizenship in the country where the plane is registered, but only if that baby would otherwise be “stateless.” Perhaps out of gratitude for the positive news coverage they bring for air carriers, some (though not all) babies born in flight have received perks from the airline where they made their debuts—including scholarships and free flights.

4. Flight crews want to get the door closed and the plane pushed back as fast as possible, even if they know they’ll be a tarmac delay

We know that everyone wants to get the plane in the air as fast as possible (well, except for that one guy casually blocking aisle with the full-size suitcase he insists will fit in the overhead bin), but the pilots and flight attendants are motivated not just by the desire to depart and land on time (for which they may receive some bonus pay), but also by the fact that, on many airlines, the crew isn’t paid until the plane door is closed and the parking brake of the plane is disengaged. Flight crews may receive some pay for long delays at the gate, but the pay gets much better when the plane pushes back.

While some airlines only pay the flight crew for the time they are actually in the air, most pay them once they leave the gate. While most pilots and flight attendants want to avoid delays altogether, if there’s going to be a delay, they’d much rather it be on the tarmac (where they get full pay) versus at the gate (where they get minimal or no pay).

3. Pilots have secret distress signals, though sometimes they mess them up

Pilots have ways to communicate, both verbally and nonverbally, that their plane is in distress. Obviously, we don’t know all the current ways that pilots signal problems on board to outside observers, but we do know some of what has been used in the past.

In the air, depending on the nature of the emergency, pilots are trained to set their transponder code (or “squawk” in pilot lingo) to a number corresponding to their situation, in order to alert air traffic control. Squawking 7500 signals hijacking, 7600 stands for loss of communications, and 7700 is a general emergency signal. Additionally, for a hijacking, a pilot would add the word TRIP following the aircraft designator (for example, “United TRIP 319”) when communicating with air traffic controllers, as an indicator that he or she was unable to communicate freely (likely due to monitoring by the hijacker[s]). In 2011, on a flight from Chicago to Frankfurt, a United pilot spilled coffee on the communications equipment, resulting in an accidental squawk of code 7500. The plane’s crew was able to confirm with officials on the ground about the communications error, though the plane was still diverted to Canada because of the issue. Another in-air distress signal involves flying the plane repeatedly in a triangular pattern, a maneuver that indicates to radar stations that the plane is unable to establish radio contact.

In the past, the plane’s wing flaps have been used to communicate distress on the ground. If the wing flaps were lowered while the plane was still on the ground, or full flaps were left down after landing, this signaled a request for immobilization of the aircraft and armed intervention. In 1986, a pilot inadvertently triggered a response by a SWAT team by taxiing for takeoff with the aircraft’s wing flaps down.

While some of these above techniques have been rendered less necessary by the fortified cockpit doors that became standard after the 9/11 attacks, there are still situations where these, and other distress signals, can provide necessary information about the plane’s situation to allow those on the ground to formulate a proper emergency response.

2. Pilots and copilots can’t eat the same meal

“Fish or chicken?” This question may be a vestige of the past on most domestic flights, but many international carriers still offer passengers a choice of entrée for long-haul flights. For the pilot and co-pilot though, the answer is pretty much set: they’ll each eat a different entrée. The reason for this is pretty obvious: eating different meals reduces the chance that both pilots will be incapacitated by food poisoning during the course of the flight.

This rule is not law, but is a policy at many airlines. A China Eastern pilot reports that generally the pilot takes a first class meal and the co-pilot takes one from business class. Lufthansa also confirms that it has an “unwritten rule” that pilots and co-pilots should avoid eating the same thing before the flight (for the same reason). Not every airline has this rule (though pilots may still follow it out of common sense), and even when pilots avoid the same meals, it’s not foolproof. In 1982, 10 crew members (including the pilot, co-pilot, and flight engineer) became sick on a flight from Lisbon to Boston. Luckily the plane was less than an hour from its destination, and it was able to land safely. The crew had eaten different meals, but were sickened by the same dessert—tapioca pudding.

1. Your best chance for a free upgrade is to die mid-flight

There are many purported tricks for scoring a free seat in first class, but unless you are an elite frequent flier or pay for an upgrade (with money or miles), your chances of moving up from economy to first class are remote. There’s one exception—but not one many of us would be willing to pursue. If you die mid-flight, your body is likely to get a post-mortem upgrade.

Airline protocol means that, technically, very few people ever die on a flight, since death must be declared by a doctor to be officially recorded. However, when it’s clear to all onboard that a passenger has passed away, airline personnel are trained to move the body to a relatively private location. This could mean an empty row of seats, but those can be hard to come by on crowded flights. The first class cabin generally has more empty seats and offers more room to maneuver the deceased, so that’s where bodies are often moved, and usually covered by a blanket to avoid traumatizing the other passengers. Previous solutions relied on deception: one British Airways flight attendant recalls that “many years ago,” dead passengers were simply handled Weekend at Bernie’s-style–propped up with a drink, eyeshades, and a newspaper in the hopes that other travelers would assume they were just sleeping.

Singapore Airlines used to have a so-called “corpse cupboard” on A340s it used for long-haul flights, though when the planes were taken out of service, the company noted the compartments had never been called into action. There’s one place you won’t end up if you die on a plane: the bathroom. Because rigor mortis could make it hard to get the deceased out again, flight attendants are discouraged from moving dead passengers into the lavatory.

10 Deadliest Days in American History

Quick: what’s a scary date for you; one that seems filled with foreboding and bad luck? We’re guessing a whole lotta people just plumped for something with a 13 in it, or maybe Halloween. Well, common sense has got news for them. Disasters don’t happen when we expect them to. Instead, they have a habit of flying out of the blue, sowing chaos, and then vanishing, leaving us all standing around wondering what the heck just happened.

And so it is for the deadliest days in American history. We’ve gone digging through the history books, and found what appear to be the 10 days with the highest number of deaths to ever take place on American soil. While some, such as 9/11, won’t surprise you, others you might never have heard of before. And guess what? There’s not a single Friday the 13th among them…

(A quick note before we start: we’re only counting people killed in a single 24-hour period, hence some famous Civil War battles are missing. Got that? Good. Let’s begin!)

10. October 8, 1871: The Peshtigo Fire (Death toll: at least 1,200)

In fall 1871, there was probably nowhere in the United States as flammable as the Wisconsin town of Peshtigo. The summer had been one of the driest in memory, and Peshtigo was right in the epicenter of wildfire territory. Despite this, the buildings were all made of wood, the bridges into the town were made of wood, and the entire town, plus the roads in, were covered in sawdust. If you’re thinking this sounds like a recipe for disaster, congratulations! You’re even more right than you realize.

On October 7, a huge wildfire broke out not far from the town. It spread quickly, swallowing the village of Sugar Bush and killing all its residents. But this turned out to just be the starter before the main course. Winds whipped the fire until it was 200ft high and burning at 2,000 F. It was so hot, it caused trees it touched to explode like bombs. It was this beast of a fire that blew into Peshtigo shortly after midnight.

The results weren’t pretty. People burned to death in their homes. Those who jumped into the river were boiled alive. All told, over 1,200 Wisconsinites were killed. Yet the nation barely noticed. The Great Chicago Fire had broken out at the same time, and the papers reported that instead.

9. April 9, 1865: Sultana Disaster (Death toll: approx. 1,700)

Don’t be ashamed if you’ve never heard of the Sultana Disaster. Almost no-one has, despite the staggering number of people who were killed. That’s probably due to when it happened. The Sultana sank just after the end of the Civil War, when the press was busy with other, more important stuff. We’re guessing the whole “fourscore and seven years” ago thing was cold comfort to the families of the dead.

The setting was Vicksburg. Newly released Union POWs were being evacuated up the river on steamers, and the government was paying big money for each soldier returned. So steamboat captains were stuffing as many men as possible onto their boats, way beyond the point remotely marked safe. The Sultana’s captain was even worse. When his boiler sprung a leak, he patched it up, desperate not to lose his lucrative commission. He then stuffed 2,300 people onboard a boat built for under 1,000. You can see where this is going.

Shortly after midnight, about five hours after it left Vicksburg, the Sultana exploded. The boilers burst and triggered a massive fire, which killed nearly everyone onboard. The lesson to any steamboat captains reading this? Never cut corners.

8. May 31, 1889: Johnstown Flood (Death toll: 2,209)

Nope, not the far more famous Jonestown Massacre (death toll: 909). The Johnstown Flood was the much deadlier almost-namesake of the 1978 disaster. While it wasn’t malicious, it was powered by a level of stupidity that’s somehow even more maddening. Prior to May 31, 1889, Pennsylvania’s South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club had been asked repeatedly to repair their leaky dam. They didn’t. The night of May 30 was marked by unusually heavy rain. The next morning, the dam finally gave way.

The result was a roaring, roiling wall of water 60ft high which swept downstream, picking up debris, railcars and barbed wire until it was a gigantic wave of terror and death. It hit the township of Johnstown at 40 miles an hour and proceeded to cause… well. Terror and death.

Most of the town was swept away. When the debris finally crashed to a halt against a railroad bridge they caught fire, meaning survivors of the initial flood were then swept helplessly into a deadly inferno. All told, 2,209 died that day. The Fishing and Hunting Club didn’t pay a dime in compensation.

7. June 27, 1862: Battle of Gaines’ Mill (Death toll: 2,377)

Here’s a little secret about battlefield casualties. Most of them aren’t deaths. When you read about “over 50,000 casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg” it’s including those who were captured, wounded, or went missing alongside the dead. Typically, only 20% of the casualties in the Civil War were actually killed, which is why this article ain’t just a list of Civil War battles. The Battle of Gaines’ Mill wasn’t much different in this respect. What changed was the sheer number of total casualties. In less than the time it’d take to rewatch the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended cuts), 15,000 men were wounded out the war. 2,377 were killed outright.

Part of the Seven Days’ Battles, Gaines’ Mill was a bruising, 9-hour punch up on the fringes of the Confederate capital Richmond. We could go deep into the historical background, but, really, all you need to know is that it was marked by total incompetence on both sides. Confederate generals led their men into battle up a steep hill, allowing Union soldiers to pick them off, while General Cooke on the Union side wasted hundreds of lives in a useless casualty charge. Before the sun had set, over 2,300 were dead.

6. December 7, 1941: The Bombing of Pearl Harbor (Death toll: 2,403)

Of all the sucker punches ever delivered against the USA, perhaps none stung so bad as the attack on Pearl Harbor. At 8am Sunday morning, hundreds of Japanese bombers appeared out the blue skies over Hawaii and did what bombers do. They destroyed US Navy ships, blew up US planes, crippled the South Pacific fleet, and did so while only sustaining minimal casualties. On the US side, the picture was far less rosy. Over 2,300 servicemen were killed outright, with another hundred or so dying shortly after of their injuries.

You probably don’t need us to tell you what happened next. The “day that shall live in infamy”, as FDR called it, spurred the US into going to war with Japan, which meant also going to war with Italy and Nazi Germany. The result was America entering a little conflict known as World War II, leading to yet more deaths on a colossal scale. Still, it did also lead to no more Hitler, no more Holocaust, and no more militaristic Japan, so that’s a win.

5. September 28, 1928: Okeechobee Hurricane (Death toll: 2,500 minimum)

Back in 1928, hurricane early warning systems weren’t even a pipe dream, which might explain what happened in Palm Beach County, Florida one fateful September day that year. An unnamed storm that had just trashed the Caribbean, killing over 1,500, finally made landfall, at a time when Palm Beach County was utterly unprepared for anything above a minor gale. Those warnings that did arrive just ahead of the storm were mostly ignored. People had seen hurricanes before, and didn’t think they could be that bad.

Major mistake.

When the Great Hurricane of ’28 made landfall, it made every previous hurricane look like a mere puff of breeze. Buildings vanished. Trees flew through the air. When it hit Okeechobee Lake, it disintegrated a dyke, unleashing a storm surge that flooded the surrounding farming communities. Of the 6,000 people living around the lake, nearly half would be killed, about three quarters of whom were African American laborers. To add insult to injury, the non-white dead didn’t even get markers for their graves.

4. September 11, 2001: 9/11 (Death toll: 2,996)

Of all the other items on this list, maybe only Pearl Harbor lives on so vividly in memory. The only day in the 21st Century to result in anywhere near as many deaths (Hurricane Katrina killed well over a thousand, but over the course of several days), 9/11 was carnage on a scale most of us had never witnessed before. Just after 9am on Tuesday morning, al-Qaeda terrorists slammed planes into the sides of the Twin Towers, before smashing another into the Pentagon and another into a field in Pennsylvania.

Had the day stopped there, it would already have been enough to probably get on this list (many hundreds died on impact in both towers, while another 200 or so died at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania). As we all already know, sadly it didn’t.

Despite the towers being designed to withstand a hit from a plane, both collapsed, killing hundreds and hundreds more. When the dust finally settled, many days later, and a reckoning could be made, it was discovered more people had died than in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Somehow, 19 hijackers had managed to cause more carnage than an actual war fleet.

3. April 18, 1906: San Francisco Earthquake (Death toll: 3,000 minimum)

So, here we are. The only three days in which more than 3,000 people were killed on American soil. Appropriately enough, the first one started off with a cataclysmic bang. At 5:13am on April 18, 1906, San Francisco woke up to the sound of the San Andreas plate shifting, triggering a massive earthquake. The quake itself was bad enough, a violent shaking and tearing that killed an unknown number of people. But it was what came next that really made this day so bloody. The damage triggered a fire which went out of control and tore through the city. People who had just survived a devastating quake found themselves burned alive.

The overall death toll is, incredibly, unknown. We know it was more than 3,000 people, but after that? We’re basically just guessing. Hundreds of deaths in Chinatown are known to have been underreported, and plenty of homeless people likely perished. However, even this disaster did have an upside. The city was reconstructed in a less sprawling, more-logical, and far more earthquake proof way.

2. September 17, 1862: Battle of Antietam (Death toll: 3,650, approx.)

It was the deadliest 24-hour period of the entire Civil War. On September 17, 1862, General Lee’s attempt to invade Maryland was beat back, resulting in death and carnage on a colossal scale. Before the sun went down, some 3,650 Union and Confederate troops would be killed, with another 19,000 wounded or captured. The massacre was so great that we can’t actually say for certain how many people died. Our best guess is that it was something like this number, but possibly many hundreds more.

What’s particularly tragic about Antietam is that it was largely a waste of life. Gettysburg may have killed north of 7,000 (albeit over three days rather than one), but at least that struck a decisive victory for the Union. By contrast, Antietam may have pushed Lee back from Maryland, but it also left him in a strong defensive position, and with fewer of his men killed or wounded than in the Union Army. For all that endless death and awful suffering, effectively nothing had changed.

1. September 8, 1900: the Galveston Hurricane (Death toll: 6,000 minimum)

Remember in the introduction how we said there was no way of telling what day a catastrophe would befall you? Turns out we were wrong. If something terrible happens in the US, it apparently happens in September. After the 1928 hurricane, 9/11, and the deadliest one-day battle of the Civil War, we now have the deadliest natural disaster, and just plain deadliest day in US history. Wow, September, what did we ever do to you?

The Galveston Hurricane was a level of death modern Americans simply have no experience with. Even if you were to combine the deaths of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina and every terror attack from September 12, 2001 onwards, you still wouldn’t touch the Galveston disaster. A small island off the coast of Texas, it was once a massive vacation spot. On September 8, authorities issued last minute warnings of an incoming hurricane, urging people to get to high ground. Most of those on vacation didn’t listen. Whoops.

Galveston is only 9ft above sea level. As the hurricane hit, a storm surge 15ft high overwhelmed the island, washing thousands of people away. Somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 drowned, a stupefying death toll. Hopefully, it will never be exceeded.  


10 Unbelievable Facts About Fast Fashion

We seem to be constantly bombarded by all sorts of information about climate change, and what negative effects it has on the environment and humanity as a whole. But in light of those many gloomy facts, we’re not really given any options as to what we can do ourselves to counter the situation – making us feel more anxious and less in control with every passing day. We somehow see this whole climate-change thing as a governmental responsibility of sorts, but as things often are, the environment is usually pushed to the sidelines of policymaking, as if somehow the problem will solve itself.

There are, nevertheless, things that we can individually do to curb global warming. This isn’t called The Age of Efficiency for nothing, and we can do our part simply by becoming more efficient in everything that we do. And almost nothing is as wasteful as the clothes we wear. Known as fast fashion, this apparel industry has crept itself under the radar to become one of the leading causes of pollution in the world.

10. What is Fast Fashion?

Sometimes described as “low cost clothing collections that mimic current fashion trends,” fast fashion is a modern term used by fashion retailers to reference a particular segment of the fashion industry that focuses on getting new garment designs from the catwalk and into the hands of consumers as fast as possible. Its emphasis is on optimizing the supply-chain so as to lower the price as much as possible, and to offer an aggressive marketing campaign that will generate as many new trends as it labels others as obsolete. Fast fashion clothes are usually made out of low-quality materials so as to reduce costs, and are usually bought by young consumers who want to keep up with the latest trends.

Fast fashion, or cheap chic, got its start in the 1990s, when fashion designers were under pressure to increase their revenue as department store chains were beginning to create their own lines of cheap, but fashion-oriented clothing. A figurative war began to produce as many trends of clothing as possible, fueled in large part by the emergent manufacturing powerhouses from Asia. A Cambridge University study showed that in 2006 people were buying a third more clothes than they were in 2002. Moreover, people had four times as many clothes as they had in the ’80s. Today, retailers like ZARA, H&M, Primark, Peacocks, NewYorker, C&A, Forever 21, Topshop, and many others are synonymous with fast fashion.

9. Fast Fashion’s Worth

Fast fashion is big business, as you can imagine. But just how big is it? Well, according to the latest statistics, the global fashion market is worth at somewhere around $3 trillion – which represents roughly 3 percent of the world’s entire GDP, and $500 billion more than the GDP of the United Kingdom. The womenswear industry accounts for $621 billion, menswear is worth $402 billion, while the rest is comprised of childswear, sportswear, bridalwear, and all sorts of luxury goods. Fast fashion accounts for $1.2 trillion here, with $250 billion coming in from the US alone.

Among the high-earners here are people like Doris Fisher with $2.7 billion. She and her husband cofounded Gap. Philip and Cristina Green, the owners of fast fashion brands such as Topshop and Topman, Dorothy Perkins, and Miss Selfridge, are worth $5.3 billion. Stefan Persson, the owner of H&M, is worth $19.7 billion, while Amancio Ortega, the owner of Zara, Bershka, Oysho, Zara Home, and Pull&Bear, has a net worth of $82.5 billion. In 2017, he was the richest man in Europe and the richest retailer in the world. For a short time, he even surpassed Bill Gates as the official richest man in the world. Inditex, the parent retail company for all his other brands mentioned above, has business in over 7,200 stores worldwide.

8. Planned Obsolescence

Even though fast fashion isn’t the only one to make use of planned obsolescence, it is, nevertheless, an industry that’s entirely defined and dependent on it. A planned obsolescence, as its name suggests, is an economic strategy in which a product is purposefully made so as to last for a short period of time so as to incentivize continued consumption. Today, a low-cost shirt is designed to last for around 30 washes, and a pair of cheap trainers lasts for about 60 miles, on average. Up until fairly recently in our history, before synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon became popular, clothes were made exclusively out of natural materials like wool, cotton, silk and linen. These natural fibers are more durable than synthetic ones and thus last for much longer. But besides the fabric itself, clothes from 50 years ago were better made and of a much higher quality that they are now.

Daniel Milford-Cottam, a fashion cataloguer at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London, said in an interview that there are also some deliberate measures being taken so clothes will not last as long. Some of these ‘tricks’ go from using inappropriate fabrics, to delicate materials roughly stitched together – things that accelerate wearing and tearing, especially during washing. Most clothes manufacturers are also aware that people don’t usually check washing labels too carefully, or use too much detergent, and take this situation for granted. Moreover, many clothes are a blend of two or more materials, such as cotton and polyester – which shrink differently in the wash, destroying the shape of the clothing in the process. Buttons are also not properly sewn on, and they’re almost guaranteed to fall off. Manufacturers also know that many people are too lazy to sew them back on, preferring instead to buy a new garment instead. But hey, what can you expect from a $5 shirt, right?

7. Fast Marketing

But in order to make this planned obsolescence go seemingly unnoticed by the average consumer, fast fashion retailers make use on an aggressive and continuously-ongoing marketing campaign that keeps shoppers always off balance. The sheer amount of new designs and collections that go on and off the shelves is simply staggering. Not that long ago, most fashion labels produced two collections per year – a spring/summer one and an autumn/winter one. But ever since fast fashion came into play, that number has skyrocketed. Today, most fashion houses are offering 18, or even more, new collections every year. This means a piece of clothing becomes fashionably outdated in about a month, or even less. And as a result, statistics show that we wear these low-cost clothes only 5 times, on average, and keep them in our closets for just 35 days before we throw them away (or just let them start to collect dust).

There are currently two main strategies in fast fashion. One is by investing heavily in their new collections with billboards, TV commercials, “on sale” seasons, and marketing TV shows, among other such advertisements. Primark, on the other hand, operates with no advertisements whatsoever. It instead relies on strategies like store layout, shop fittings, and visual merchandising to add for an overall pleasurable shopping experience and impulse buying.    

6. Overconsumption

Back in the 1960s, the average American was investing in roughly 25 pieces of clothing every year. Today, it’s over 80. Around 150 billion new clothes are being manufactured every year. That’s about 20 for every man, woman, and child on the planet. In 2010, an average family from the US spent roughly $1,700 on apparel every year, while the average ‘Manhattanite’ spent about $362 per month. In the United Kingdom, it’s estimated that roughly $46.7 billion worth of clothes exist in people’s closets, often having never been worn.

But once these clothes become outdated, or we no longer have any more room in our wardrobes, then, nine times out of ten, they end up at the dump. There is a surprising amount of clothes being thrown away. An average British person throws away about 66 pounds of clothes (about 235 million items in total for the whole country, or about 1.2 million metric tons every year). An average American is responsible for about 82 pounds. There is an estimated 13 trillion tons of clothes at landfills in the US. Now, to be fair, some fast fashion companies do have some recycling programs, trying to curb the so-called ‘throwaway culture,” but critics that this is just some sort of token gesture and it only ends up increasing consumption by offering a ‘guilt-free’ feeling to their customers.

5. Cheap Labor

As recently as 1990, half of the clothes that you’d regularly find in stores around the US were made in America. But since fast fashion, that percentage has dropped to only 2%. And as you can imagine, so have the number of jobs that revolve around this industry. If in 1990 there were roughly 900,000 people working in the apparel manufacturing business in the US, in 2011 that number dropped to 150,000. Roughly 42% of these imports come from China, with the rest being shipped in from other countries such as Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, or Mexico, among others.

You probably know already where we’re going with this – exactly where the manufacturing sector went. “Sweatshops” in developing countries. There are currently 75 million people in the world working long hours to produce the many cheap clothes that we buy, and 80% of those people are women. In fact, the garment industry boasts that it’s the top employer of women in the world – which is true. Unfortunately, however, what they oftentimes forget to mention is the fact that 98% of their employees are paid less than a living wage for up to 14 or even 18 hours per day of work. In Bangladesh, for instance, the median salary is around $340 per month. The average clothes maker, however, is paid just $68 per month. This means that these underpaid workers are caught in a poverty trap from which is incredibly hard to escape from.

And let’s not forget about child labor. There are currently over 168 million children involved in child labor across the globe – that’s 11% of the global population of children. And many of them are in the apparel industry. Well known high-street brands such as Nike, H&M, Gap, and Adidas, among others, have all employed the services of offshore manufacturers that were later exposed for using children working in unsafe conditions.    

4. The 2013 Rana Plaza Collapse

The fashion industry’s supply-chain network is so convoluted and complex that Helena Helmersson, H&M’s Head of Sustainability, says that’s “impossible to be in full control” of it. And because of this complexity, these world renowned brands always have deniability in case something terrible happens, or is discovered. As we’ve mentioned before, the driving force behind fast fashion is keeping the entire supply-chain as cheap as possible. When relying on quantity instead of quality, some corners need to be cut, and this oftentimes means the safety measures. With increasingly high demand, manufacturers feel pressured to deliver on that order, most often by making the factory employees work extra hours, as well as to employ a sub-contractor of their own, a sort of ‘shadow-factory,’ if you will.

In principle, only approved factories can make the clothes for any particular brand, but as time has shown us, this is rarely the case. This is how North Korea’s second largest export after coal is textiles. China is subcontracting manufacturers in North Korea to make clothes on their behalf, which they then ship to the United States and the rest of the world. And if child labor is discovered or something bad happens with any of these shadow factories, high-street brands can cite deniability by saying that they had no idea their clothes were made there. Most of these brands have been caught multiple times with all sorts of safety irregularities or child labor, but always said that they had no idea their clothes were made there. But given the fact that this has been happening for more than two decades and there are no visible improvements, some begin to wonder whether these brands don’t actually prefer things to stay this way.  

Anyway, the Rana Plaza collapse that occurred in Bangladesh is the largest clothing-related accident in the world. Some 1,134 people died and another 2,500 were injured after the building collapsed in 2013. Most of the victims were employed in the manufacturing of clothing, and many safety measures were cut and bypassed in order to increase profits and fulfill the orders. A week after the accident, a meeting between retailers and several NGOs was held in order to reach an agreement where the retailers would pay more for the clothing they bought from the manufacturers so they could improve their safety standards. Of the 29 brands that were sourcing their products at Rana, only nine actually showed up for the meetings. Walmart, Carrefour, Mango, Auchan and Kik did not want to sign the agreement. Most of these multibillion dollar companies found it extremely hard to put together $30 million for the victim’s families, and only after being, more or less, coerced by the leaders of the G7 summit.

3. The Resource and Energy-Intensive Fabrics

In 2015, the world produced roughly 155,000 square miles of fabric (about the size of California). Cotton is among the most common of these fabrics found in our clothes today. It makes up roughly 40% of all the fabrics used in the apparel industry. But cotton is an especially ‘needy’ plant. For instance, even organic cotton, which might seem a better choice, still needs roughly 5,000 gallons of water in order to produce a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. In Uzbekistan, which is the sixth largest producer of cotton, so much water was diverted away from its natural flow in order to irrigate it, that the Aral Sea (which was actually the 4th largest lake in the world), disappeared almost entirely. This was one of the largest man-made disasters in history. And even though cotton takes up just 2.4% of all the croplands available on Earth, it consumes 10% of all the fertilizers, as well as 25% of all insecticides used in agriculture.

Now, polyester and nylon are the other two major materials used to make cheap clothes. Both are derived from petrochemicals, and both are non-biodegradable. In the manufacture of nylon, large quantities of nitrous oxide (which is a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO2) are emitted. When it comes to polyester, it is estimated that around 70 million barrels of oil are used every year. Fortunately, however, clothing manufacturers are looking to recycle this material – mainly from used drinking bottles. But while the US recycles only 6% of these bottles, some clothing manufacturers, eager to get that “recycled” badge, have begun to buy unused bottles straight from the producer and to use it in their clothes.

Furthermore, with every washing, every polyester-based article of clothing sheds around 1,900 individual microfibers of plastic that eventually find their way in the ocean. These are then eaten up by fish and eventually find their way into our own bodies. Scientists have also discovered that 83% of all tap water across the globe is contaminated with these microfibers. The US had the highest concentration of 94%. Luckily, two inventors have designed a bag capable of catching these fibers while still in the washing machine. Lastly, but equally as important and devastating is rayon. This is a fabric made out of wood pulp and which is responsible for over 70 million trees being cut every year to produce it. Viscose, modal and lyocell are all specific types of rayon.

2. Your Cheap Clothes Travel More Than You Do

Even though most of the large apparel conglomerates are based in the United States or Europe, more than 60% of all the clothes made worldwide are manufactured in developing countries. And what’s more, the largest consumers are found halfway across the world in the already-developed part of the planet. This means that those clothes need to be shipped from one place to the other. The same thing applies for cotton and all the other materials that may not be produced in the same are that the clothes are. This means that over 90% of clothes in the world traverse at least one ocean to get in the hands of their owners.

Cotton will, most likely, travel by truck, train, cargo ship and even plane before it becomes a shirt or a pair of jeans. It total, cotton travels more than the circumference of the Earth. Fast fashion accounts for 10% of the planet’s greenhouse output. And when taken with all the other negative effects it has, like water usage and pollution, land degradation and dye toxicity, fast fashion manages to creep its way to the second place as the dirtiest and most pollutant industry after oil. But hey, it’s only a $5 shirt, what do you expect, right?     

1. Slow Fashion

Like food and food waste, fast fashion and the garment industry was given little to no attention during the Paris climate agreement. This means that, even under the most optimistic predictions, almost nothing will be done about the issue. But from a brighter perspective, this means that more can be achieved than the Agreement set out to do in the first place. And what’s more, this issue is in our hands, and not in the hands of our governments. Because all that we’ve talked about up until this point is only half of the equation, while the other half is us, the consumers. And here is where Slow Fashion comes into play. And as its name suggests, this movement is focused on the quality of the clothing rather than selling or buying it by the truckload.

There are many ways to engage in this sort of slow fashion trend. You could buy your clothes from a thrift store, for instance, and then bring that piece of clothing to a tailor to modify it according to your size or design. If you don’t have time on your hands to scour for ‘hidden treasures,’ then there’s the option of looking for brands and companies that produce and sell ethically made, eco-friendly garments. There are even some mobile apps, like GoodGuide, that helps you find out more about a particular product – about how it’s made and what impact it has on your health and on the environment. You could chose instead to buy your clothes from a local small business, or you could even make it yourself. The point is that there are a multitude of ways to fight against fast fashion and its negative effects it has on the world.

10 Notorious Highwaymen (and Women)

During their heyday (roughly from the 16th to 19th centuries), highwaymen were considered a special type of criminal, known for their good manners, noble bearing, and, in some cases at least, their scrupulous moral values.

Some of the best known operated in Britain, France, and other European countries, as well as their overseas territories. And, famously, highwaymen were said to give each of their wealthy victims the almost gentlemanly ultimatum to “Stand and deliver! Your money or your life!”

Many have since attained a kind of folk hero status, but it wasn’t uncommon for highwaymen to be revered in their own day too. This is hardly surprising, of course, considering these gallant rogues on horseback were acting out the largely suppressed fantasies of the downtrodden underclass; in many cases, they even stole from the rich to give to the poor. They also tended to die pretty young, many before they were 30.

There were dozens of iconic highwaymen, and even some highwaywomen. These are just 10 of the more noteworthy examples, including some of the most notorious, unusual, or cherished from around the world.

10. Louis Dominique Garthausen (1693-1721)

Louis Dominique Garthausen, aka Bourgignon, aka Cartouche, was the embodiment of the dashing rogue. Born to a German mercenary-turned-French wineseller, he was equal parts rapacious hooligan and refined, sybaritic gentleman. By his teenage years, he was already in charge of a small band of thieves and by his twenties was leading the Cours des Miracles gang, pillaging wealthy travelers along the Versailles-to-Paris route.

Once, disguised as a wealthy marquis, he actually robbed a police lieutenant of the bounty that was on his own head. Besides wealth and prestige, only two things mattered to Garthausen—one being his reputation as a crowd-pleaser. He was, for example, well known for his strong sense of moral justice, even (or especially) when breaking the law. Robbing private mansions and distributing spoils to the poor was all in a day’s work for Cartouche; more impressive were his poetically good deeds, like saving a bankrupt merchant from suicide by paying off his creditors and then promptly robbing back the money. He also pleased crowds at carnival time by pushing a cart full of police effigies and openly whipping them for the parade—a satirical protest of the police’s own custom of publicly punishing criminals.

He would no doubt be pleased with how he’s gone down in history, immortalized in the works of William Thackeray and Nicolas Grandval, and remembered as a folk hero in France—a bodice-ripping villain with a heart of gold. He even got his own movie, the swashbuckling comedy caper Cartouche in 1962.

The other thing that mattered to Garthausen—perhaps above all—was loyalty, or honor among thieves. Following his capture (or recapture, having unsuccessfully tunneled out of the first dungeon he was in), he was prepared to undergo the most atrocious tortures to protect the names of his associates. Only when it came to the very moment of his own execution, having seen from the scaffold that no-one was coming to save him, did Garthausen meticulously list each and every one of his “friends” and their crimes to his prosecutors. He was then beaten to death on the breaking wheel and his corpse was displayed for the public.

9. Nicolas Jacques Pelletier (1756-1792)

Nicolas Jacques Pelletier was the first person executed by guillotine, a device specifically designed to be as humane as possible at the time. Actually, the guillotine was still in development when Pelletier was condemned to die and it took the intervention of the judge, who apparently pitied the highwayman, to hurry its construction up “in the name of humanity,” and to spare the “unfortunate man … for whom each moment that prolongs his life must be a death,” the agony of extended waiting.

Or perhaps he was just eager to see Pelletier killed. For many years, the bandit had been terrorizing the Parisian elite, seemingly hellbent on becoming the richest man alive. And for many years, he also managed to evade capture—living longer than many highwaymen to the ripe old age of 36.

However, the law finally caught up with him on the night of October 14, 1791, when cries in the street alerted the authorities to his whereabouts. Having violently attacked, robbed, and possibly killed a man on the rue de Bourbon-Villeneuve, Pelletier was chased down, arrested, and quickly charged for his crime—sentenced to death in December. But it wasn’t until the following March that the guillotine was ready for use.  

8. Philip Twysden (1714-1752)

Like other highwaymen, Philip Twysden led a double life; but his was especially incongruent. Not only was he an Oxford-educated doctor of civil law, he was also the Bishop of Raphoe in Ireland, having been nominated to the role by none other than King George II himself.

It is thought that he turned to a life of crime after running out of money in London, effectively bankrupting his family. But he wasn’t very good at it. In fact, he was shot and killed by the very first person he attempted to rob—ironically a medical doctor. The night before, Twysden is said to have removed the charge from the doctor’s guns—only for an interfering patient to point it out to the man. When the masked bishop held up the doctor the following night, boldy assuming him to be defenseless, he was shot down himself and his identity was revealed.

Nevertheless—presumably to uphold the King’s reputation for infallibility, not to mention the Church’s virtue—the official cause of death was given as “inflammation,” and Twysden’s crime was covered up.

7. Jack Sheppard (1702-1724)

Born into poverty in Spitalfields, London, Jack Sheppard actually started out on the straight and narrow, becoming an accomplished carpenter by the age of 20. But he soon fell in with criminals and prostitutes, frequenting the taverns of Drury Lane and developing a taste for the lifestyle.

It wasn’t long before he fell in with highwayman Jonathan “Blueskin” Wild and his gang, and Sheppard’s career as a criminal took off. Between 1723 and 1724, he was jailed on five occasions for robbery and escaped on all but one—thanks in part to his knowledge of carpentry. The first time, he removed the bars from a window and escaped with his lover “Edgworth Bess” on strung-together sheets and blankets. The second time, Bess and another prostitute, Moll Maggot, helped him escape by squeezing his slight 5-foot-4 frame out between iron spikes and into a lady’s dress. Another time, he simply slipped out of his handcuffs and lockpicked or forced his way to freedom.

His exploits were so daring and dramatic that he was rapidly embraced as a hero—particularly by London’s working classes. Even Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, became a fan of the young rascal and ghostwrote the highwayman’s biography. In fact, when Sheppard was finally brought to the gallows in 1724, aged just 22, Defoe and his publisher, Appleby, had a plan to help him escape. Believing it possible to survive 15 minutes hanging by the neck, they intended to retrieve his body as soon as the crowds had gone.

But, unfortunately, Sheppard’s massive popularity was also his final undoing. His execution was unexpectedly well attended by some 200,000 people, including weeping women in white who threw flowers on the ground for the scoundrel. And when the trapdoor swung open beneath his feet, his adoring crowd jostled forward to pull on them, ensuring as quick and painless a death as possible.

6. James Ford (1775-1833)

By day, Kentuckian James Ford maintained a squeaky clean public image as a pillar of the community, known for his civic leadership roles and various business accomplishments. By night, however, he led a shadowy gang of river pirates and highwaymen, plotting from a remote wilderness hideout known today as Illinois’ iconic Cave-in-Rock.

Far from being a gentleman rogue, Ford actually had dealings with John Hart Crenshaw, an illegal slaver who kidnapped free blacks from the North and sold them back into slavery in the South. He also reportedly leased land to the notorious Sturdivant Gang of counterfeiters.

But Ford himself is far better known for hijacking flatboats on the Ohio River, even going so far as to steal the farm goods entrusted to his own ferry service. Perhaps fittingly for a criminal who outwardly represented “the Man,” it wasn’t the authorities who eventually brought Ford to justice but a band of unknown vigilantes who assassinated him in 1833.

(By the way, if you’re a fan of the TV series Lost this name might sound familiar – it was the real name of the con man character Sawyer, in what is no doubt a very intentional nod. Of course since we just had a Jack Sheppard, too, maybe the creators of Lost were huge fans of highwaymen.)

5. Sam Poo (1838-1865)

In 19th-century Australia, highwaymen were known as “bushrangers,” spending much of their time in the bush and preying on passers-by. Many, like Alexander Pearce, were convicts escaped from British penal colonies, while others, like Ned Kelly, were descended from them.

Yet others initially came to Australia in search of gold, only to get disillusioned with the hard graft and slim pickings of prospecting and turn to a life of crime. One such man was Sam Poo, the only Chinese bushranger in all of Australian history.

A dark and enigmatic character, Poo lived in isolation at his camp in the bush, practicing his shooting on an old tree stump. And, unlike many other highwaymen and bushrangers, of whom flattering photos or etchings abound, only one oversaturated and sinister-looking photo of Sam Poo (allegedly) has been found.

Nevertheless, he must have been fairly conspicuous in his day and it didn’t take long to locate him. Following a spate of highway robberies in 1865, 29-year-old trooper John Ward was alerted to Poo’s whereabouts by a couple of drovers between Dubbo and Dunedoo, New South Wales. When Ward arrived at the camp, Poo fled into the bush and shot him in the groin, yelling “You policeman. Me fire.”

Ward died of his wound shortly afterwards and a manhunt was launched in response. Cornered for a second time, Poo again shot the authorities out of nowhere, narrowly missing the Aboriginal tracker who had helped to find him. This time, however, Poo was shot, arrested, and forced to stand trial. Before the year was out he was hanged at Bathurst jail.

4. Mary Bryant, née Broad (1765-?)

The only one on this list whose fate remains unknown is also one of only two women. Although originally sentenced to death for highway robbery (of little more than a silk bonnet from a spinster) in 1786, Mary Broad was deported to Australia instead—one of the First Fleet of convicts to be shipped to the new colony when she was just 21-years-old.

There, she married fellow convict William Bryant and became one of the first escapees.

With seven others, she and her husband and children stowed away on the Dutch trading ship Waaksamheyd in March 1791. And although they didn’t get far from Australia, their voyage took them thousands of miles around the coast from the Great Barrier Reef to the island of Timor—a 69-day trip in total.

Posing as shipwreck survivors and attempting to settle in the Dutch colony, it wasn’t long before they were outed as convicts and summarily jailed at Batavia (present-day Jakarta, Indonesia). It was here that Mary’s husband and son tragically succumbed to disease. Mary and her daughter Charlotte (ironically the name of the ship that took Mary to Australia in the first place) were sent back to England, but only the mother survived the voyage.

Upon her arrival back home in June 1792, Mary was immediately imprisoned. But less than a year later, still in her twenties, she was fully pardoned and freed—thanks in no small part to the intervention of respected Scottish laird and writer James Boswell, who was apparently captivated by her tale.

Little is known about Mary Bryant’s life after that; however, it is understood that she returned to her family in Cornwall, and to her life before stealing that fateful silk bonnet.

3. Lady Katherine Ferrers (1634-1660)

Katherine Ferrers was no stranger to wealth and luxury. Born into nobility, she became the sole heir of her grandfather’s fortune at the age of 6 following the death of her father. And when her mother died some years later, she was left alone with her servants in her spacious childhood home—the imposing Markyate Cell near Luton, England.

Although she was married off young to her step-brother Thomas Fanshawe, her husband spent much of his time away, fighting on behalf of the king in the English Civil War. And she was apparently involved with another man anyway—the working class highwayman Ralph Chaplin, with whom she is said to have joined forces.

Although historians disagree on whether he really existed, it’s easy to imagine a bored, lonely heiress getting her kicks with a known criminal. But even if he did exist, her enduring reputation as the “Wicked Lady” cannot be attributed to his influence alone. Following Chaplin’s supposed hanging for highway robbery, Ferrers went on undeterred, haunting the aptly named Nomansland Common in the countryside close to her home.

Something of an evil Bruce Wayne, she is said to have had a secret room tucked away behind a staircase in her manor, and it was here that she prepared for her raids. Donning the traditional highwayman’s garb—a tricorne hat, a black mask and cloak—she took off each night through a secret exit on the back of a jet black horse.

But, unlike other highwaymen, she wasn’t in it for the loot; instead, she appears to have enjoyed the thrill of terrorizing travelers from the darkness, attacking and often brutally murdering her victims. She is also thought to have slain cattle, shot a policeman, and burned down houses with their occupants asleep inside.

Her excitement came to an abrupt end, though, when, aged just 26, she was wounded and killed during a hold-up. Servants dutifully recovered her body from the scene and she was buried at a church in Ware. But her memory (and a hint at the location of her spoils) lives on in a local rhyme: “Near the cell, there is a well / Near the well, there is a tree / And under the tree the treasure be.”

2. Robert Snooks (1761-1802)

In 1802, Robert Snooks became the last man in England to be hanged for highway robbery. His real name was actually James Snooks, but his notoriety as a thief meant many people just knew him as that “robber Snooks,” which corrupted over time into “Robert” and stuck even for the inscription on his gravestone.

He spent the latter part of his life as a fugitive, and was actually tried in 1799 for the theft of a horse—a crime for which there was ultimately too little evidence to convict. But Snooks’ career-defining criminal caper was the hold-up and robbery of a postal courier in the spring of 1801.

Ambushing the Tring Mail on Boxmoor, Hemel Hempstead, he stole several bags of letters from a bewildered post-boy, and many of these were stuffed with high-value banknotes. Unfortunately for him, these proved too incriminating to be spent. He was identified trying to exchange one for some fine cloth in London and a bounty was placed on his head. But this wasn’t the standard £100 parliamentary reward for highwaymen (although that would have been hefty enough); the Postmaster General also put up £200 of his own.

Naturally, it wasn’t long before Snooks was apprehended—by his former schoolmates no less—and he was sentenced to hang at the scene of the crime, as was the custom. But he is said to have retained his dignity and wit to the last, enjoying a final drink at the Swan Inn and helpfully telling passers-by on their way to his execution: “It’s no good hurrying—they can’t start the fun until I get there!”

1. Juraj Jánošík (1688-1713)

Juraj Jánošík (pronounced Yu-ra Yano-sheek) is relatively little known outside of Slovakia. But in his homeland he is venerated as a folk hero, similar to Robin Hood in England—and for much the same reasons as well. He even has his own gleaming, 25-foot statue overlooking the Vrátna Valley ski resort and keeping watch over the village of his birth. As if that wasn’t enough, he has also been depicted on national currency as well as in numerous films.

Jánošík was introduced to his ultimate calling through legitimate work as a soldier. Posted as a prison guard at Bytca, he gradually became friends with one of the more notorious convicts, Tomáš Uhorcík, the leader of a band of thieves. It’s unclear whether Jánošík helped his new friend escape, but they met again later on the outside, this time joining forces for a heist. And when Uhorcík decided to settle down with a wife, Jánošík was appointed his successor.

Although his career as a criminal was brief, Jánošík rapidly made a name for himself. Knowing firsthand how hard life as a peasant could be, he was always willing to share his spoils with the poor. And, in return, they were usually happy to hide him from the authorities.

But after just two years at the top, Jánošík, now aged 25, was captured while visiting his old friend Uhorcík. During the trial that followed, Jánošík’s legendary reputation ultimately contributed to his downfall; dozens of testimonies were given over an arduous, two-month period. Yet despite the merciless torture he was subjected to, he never gave up the names of his accomplices. He even refused to betray them in exchange for a last minute reprieve on the day of his execution, famously saying to his guards: “If you have baked me, so you should eat me!” He then impaled himself on a hook and remained there for three whole days. Apparently, the public uproar was such that guards were unable to remove his body any earlier.

10 Famous People Mistakenly Cited as Experts

Celebrities are a big thing in the world, especially in the United States, and enjoy a status almost akin to a sort of royalty. This has led many people to lend to celebrities a false sense of authority, and soon they start considering their favorite entertainer an expert on a subject that the entertainer is, at best, a dedicated hobbyist at.

While some people consider themselves good at knowing the difference, it can get especially tricky because some of these celebrities are scientists themselves, and quite competent — just not at the field that someone is citing them on. Becoming an actual expert at something takes a lot of time, dedication, and mastery — being famous and enjoying doing something or talking about it doesn’t mean you are more qualified to lecture on it than the average person.

10. Bill Nye The Science Guy Is Not A Trained Climate Science Expert

Bill Nye has long been known for his award winning show Bill Nye The Science Guy, and more recently he became very notorious in some circles for his debate with Ken Ham, the founder and creator of both the creation museum and the Ark Encounter attractions. Those who believe in climate change were in one way delighted by the debate, because a scientist was spending time arguing against what they saw as erroneous biblical explanations, but the debate was not really very productive for anyone. Both people talked at each other for the most part and didn’t really find any common ground at all to start from, making it difficult to have a productive conversation.

Part of the problem here was that instead of sending a climate scientist, a television personality was sent to argue with Ken Ham. Now, we aren’t saying that Nye isn’t at least in some way a scientist — he is a mechanical engineer. But mechanical engineering is certainly quite far removed from the field of climate change, and knowing the one certainly doesn’t make him much more knowledgeable about the other than anyone else. Nye vociferously argues against charges like this, stating that he knows enough to make valid observations about how climate change is real. But so do we, and we don’t even have advanced science degrees. Nye, like many celebrities, could use a dose of humility and needs to accept that while he may be very good at explaining scientific concepts, that by no means suddenly makes him an expert at a subject that is not his field.

9. Neil deGrasse Tyson Is Cited As An Expert On Almost Everything Imaginable

Neil deGrasse Tyson is possibly the most memeable scientist who has yet lived — for some time you couldn’t swing a cat picture on the internet without running into yet another Neil deGrasse Tyson meme, and some people believed their enthusiasm for Tyson memes helped kids learn more about science. So that’s certainly a good thing. However, like Bill Nye his main skill when it comes to public interaction is that he is good at explaining simple concepts; however, that doesn’t mean he is an expert at all of those concepts. You don’t just get a degree in science — there are many specialized fields and you cannot expect to be a master of more than one or two.

To his credit, Tyson does not try to say that he is more than he is — he is clear that he is an astrophysicist, and doesn’t claim to have any special reputation or awards among the scientific community when it comes to discoveries as compared to scientists like Stephen Hawking. He is good at astrophysics and explaining basic scientific concepts and he sticks to what he is good at. Unfortunately, the internet tends to get a little out of control over some things. Even though Neil Tyson mania has faded a bit, people still constantly cite him as a certified expert on every scientific concept imaginable — even ones that have no connection whatsoever to astrophysics.

8. George Tsoukalis – Also Known As The “Aliens!” Guy With The Hair On The History Channel

The “History” Channel is a channel that once used to show lots of documentaries and specials about what happened in the past, but has now gone completely off the rails. The History Channel has become a den of madness where conspiracy theorists with half baked ideas go on about anything from lizard people, to Bigfoot, to the pyramids, and manage to somehow connect it all back to “ancient aliens” or even “ancient astronauts.” One of the most famous of the people brought on these shows as a so-called “expert” is a man named George Tsoukalis, known for his crazy hair and his strange obsession that causes him to connect everything to aliens.

Most people assume he is an expert at history of some kind, or at least has a related degree. However, the man actually was a Greek TV personality, who was known for commentating on sports. His degree was in sports media and communication, which means he has absolutely zero credentials when it comes to talking about anything historical or anthropological. The only way he made his way onto the show was because he eventually made his way to the top of an alien conspiracy group, and they were likely starving for guests so he kept coming back. Now, most people assume he is at least some kind of historical expert, though he is anything but.

7. Donald Trump Is Actually Incredibly Terrible At Both Real Estate And Business

Donald Trump is probably currently the most polarizing figure in the entire world — people tend to either love him, or hate him so much they wouldn’t let Trump shine their shoes if he paid them. However, whether you love him or hate him, the main thing he claims to have built his success on is his expertise at business, and an enormous and tremendously successful real estate empire. Many people who haven’t dug too deep may not know, however, that Trump is in all actuality a terrible businessman and an even worse real estate investor.

To start off with, Trump has had to file for bankruptcy in some form or another six times, which certainly doesn’t sound like someone who is great at picking projects, investors or strategic partners. In order to assuage his own ego, he has tried to lie openly in public and claim it was only four, even though it is a matter of very well documented public record. However, the real kicker is that Trump just really isn’t very good at making money. Number crunchers who looked into Trump’s finances realized that he would have made more money over the years if he had just invested his money in low risk, low return investments of various sorts, instead of trying out various real estate ventures. Trump is so bad at actively making money that he would have made more if he had simply put his money in the bank, had a few financial managers put it in low risk stocks, and sat back and played golf for the rest of his life — and yet he has built his reputation on his skills as a financial genius.

6. Being A Celebrity Does Not Make You An Expert At Cooking

Recently, interacting with your favorite celebrity online directly has become so much more commonplace that paparazzi are almost going out of business. This means that people get more access to the celeb, which in some ways can give people who are more on the sane side a healthy dose of reality — they see all the flaws of the celebrity, all of the personality defects, and realize they are not going to get with someone they don’t really know. However, some people fly too close to the sun and totally get burned — they start to become obsessed with this level of interaction and start doing everything they can to feel closer to the celebrity, even copying all of their terrible recipes.

Now, don’t get us wrong. We aren’t saying you can’t be a decent cook or come up with a decent recipe without years of culinary training, but being famous doesn’t make you an expert at cooking or make you a trained chef. BuzzFeed, known for their vapid and mostly soulless content, has been running a series where a staff member tries several different recipes, usually from mostly trained chefs, and then gives the verdict. However, they’ve also been using recipes from a lot of celebrities, which gives a false validation to people who haven’t been trained in that field, and shouldn’t be compared alongside trained chefs. Celebrities like Rihanna, who more than likely don’t know how to make a roux and put mustard and ketchup in mac and cheese, should not even be compared to the cooking skill of, say, Gordon Ramsay.

5. Vani Hari (AKA The Food Babe)

For those who don’t know her, Vani Hari is a woman who started a blog calling herself “The Food Babe” back in 2011, and quickly gained tens of millions of followers. Hari delusionally believed, or at least claimed to believe, that anything that was slightly chemical or processed was definitely poisonous and bad for your body. She even claimed that anything a small child couldn’t pronounce should not be eaten, which — as most reasonable people know — is an absolutely absurd thing to say. However, despite the fact that her claims are complete nonsense, she has gained a following that has led to giants like Subway phasing out perfectly safe ingredients because it was easier to quell the outrage that way and get good PR than argue with customers and explain why they are wrong.

The truth is, Vani Hari has a degree in Computer Science and no certifications whatsoever in the medical field, or even in nutrition. She has no degree or certification in chemistry either, yet claims so much knowledge of chemical interactions and how they work with our bodies. In short, she is known by tens of millions as an expert on a subject for which she has no training at all. However, there is also some reason to believe that Vani Hari is not being an entirely honest human being to begin with. She makes a fair amount of money from affiliate marketing, and many of the products she is making money from selling either directly or through affiliate links, actually have chemicals that she put on her very own “banned” list.

4. Jon Stewart And Stephen Colbert Were Always Nothing More Than Comedians

The Colbert Report is off the air, and without Jon Stewart, The Daily Show has taken on a new vibe, but for some time those shows seemed to rule the airwaves when it came to the younger generation, especially those who were more politically involved. Even those people who didn’t tend to be into politics knew about Stewart and Colbert, and watched them at least on occasion. This led to many young people making the claim, more and more often, that they didn’t even watch the news, they just watched those two comedy shows, and that was their news. Many were actually quite proud of themselves for this habit, as if it made sense to eschew the actual news stations in favor of simply watching a short recap while a comedian makes funny faces and exasperated sighs.

The truth is that while Stewart and Colbert are both very funny and talented individuals, neither was trained as a news anchor, and neither was trained as experts in politics or world events. (Stewart studied psychology in college, while Colbert studied philosophy as an undergrad.) Both of them are entertainers who were often giving their own opinions or own takes on today’s events. For as much as many like to decry talking heads, that is essentially exactly what Stewart and Colbert were, just with a slightly more comedic bent. Now, they had quite a positive impact in that they got a lot of young people thinking about world events and politics and got them involved. However, many of those young people also became confused, and some of them today still don’t understand what is and isn’t a legitimate news source or legitimate news programming — this makes it much easier to convince them that real news is actually fake.

3. Beyonce Gets A Lot Of Credit For Being A Genius Songwriter But She Has A Gigantic Team

Last year, Beyonce lost out at the Grammys to singer/songwriter and independent folk musician Beck. Beck plays 16 instruments and wrote all the songs for his award winning album, but Kanye West, famous for previously getting outraged at Beyonce losing out on an award to Taylor Swift, publicly suggested that Beck should give his award to Beyonce, because she deserved it more. Kanye, and many of Beyonce’s fans, often cite her as an expert at songwriting and an expert on musical theory and style in general, but she really doesn’t have any particular expertise, practice or training that puts her above others when it comes to that subject, much less those in her own industry.

Now, we aren’t saying that Beyonce doesn’t have a great voice, or that she doesn’t work hard, or that she doesn’t contribute creatively to the process of her songwriting, or that she isn’t an extremely skilled dancer. Calm down, #BEYHIVE. We love the Queen, too. However, she doesn’t know how to play any instruments, and she has teams of dozens of people to help her write all of her songs. Of course, we don’t want to be entirely unfair and only single out Beyonce — most of the biggest in the industry such as Taylor Swift or Drake have a huge songwriting team right now; the difference is that they are more open about it. Unfortunately, Beyonce is almost forced to maintain the illusion, as her public image as a demi-goddess of R&B kind of requires her to pretend that she is perfect and did everything on her own. The truth is that Beyonce is not the female Prince, she isn’t a singular genius songwriter, and should not be wrongfully cited as one.

2. Albert Einstein Knew Little About Theology And Cared About It Even Less

Albert Einstein is one of the most misquoted and over quoted people in history. He has at times been quoted as being an ardent believer in God, a staunch atheist, and everything in between. And for some reason, the masses seem to have decided that it is important to figure out where Einstein really fell on that spectrum, as if being able to prove such will somehow start swaying unconvinced people to their side — or perhaps they just want the validation. Regardless, Einstein is one of the most oft quoted figures on the subject of religion and religion philosophy, despite it being something he talked about little and cared about even less.

Einstein was not entirely against religion, but he was not a theologian or a particularly religious man. He believed that if there was some kind of god, he was likely much more removed and aloof, on a more cosmic scale, and didn’t bother himself with the petty affairs of men on such a small scale. However, for the most part Einstein was simply an agnostic who chose not to believe one way or another, as he really did not believe it was important. As far as he was concerned, science could and should be able to do its work without needing to be in conflict with religion at all, which also meant by extension that he felt he had no need to be well versed in the subject of theology.

1. A Collective Group Of Moms (Or The Like) Is Often Seen As More Trustworthy Than Science


The anti-vaccine movement has taken hold in an alarming number of people throughout the United States and some other Western parts of the world, and has health experts worrying that many deadly diseases that were thought beaten could start seeing a serious resurgence. While the anti-vaccine movement started with an erroneous paper by Andrew Wakefield, it really picked up steam due to word of mouth and celebrity mothers like Jenny McCarthy, who insisted that vaccinations had given their baby autism — she later claimed that she and Jim Carrey “cured” the baby of autism by feeding it a gluten-free diet. While scientific consensus has been strongly against this nonsense from the very start, it hasn’t been able to stop it from taking hold with far too much of the general public.

The problem comes down to the way many people evaluate information, and it leads to many parents improperly considering other mothers or parents as experts simply because they happen to also have a child — as if having and taking care of a kid not only makes you an expert at child rearing, it also makes you an expert at everything that could possibly befall them. One mother says her baby has autism because of vaccines, she is just sure of it, and some of her friends, who are perhaps less experienced mothers, start to consider she may be on to something despite scientific consensus saying otherwise, because she is a fellow mom with experience. Other moms can be a great source of knowledge for a young mother looking for advice, but especially with matters of health, their word should not be taken over the word of a trained medical professional.

10 Amazing Practical Effects You Thought Were CGI

One of the most important aspects of the filmmaking is keeping the audience immersed in the world it’s being shown. Whether the characters are in a fantasy world or jumping out of a moving car, the audiences’ willingness to go along with the story is, in large part, due to the viewer’s willingness to suspend disbelief. The goal of a filmmaker is to keep the audience so entranced that it’s only afterward that they begin to question or wonder how some of the amazing feats were accomplished.

And because of the advancements in CGI, many audience members simply write off the incredible as ordinary. Many believe that the stunts are simply CGI when, in fact, some of the most powerful scenes in recent memory have been real, practical, extremely dangerous stunts.

10. The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan is something of a realist. One of the best directors of his generation, he has resisted the switch to digital and has continued to shoot on film; it’s not surprising, then, that he’d do everything in his power to make CGI as limited as possible in his blockbuster works. A daring filmmaker who continues to tell stories in a unique narrative style and voice, Nolan was at the helm of the revitalization of the Batman franchise. In one of the most iconic scenes from The Dark Knight, Batman attempts to save Harvey Dent from the Joker, who is determined to blow up a police escort. In the well-known tunnel sequence, the Batmobile rams into a garbage truck. The scene left many scratching their heads, marveling about the realism of CGI. The truth is that it was real. Every bit.

Nolan and his team constructed a one-third scale model of the Batmobile, as well as the truck and that particularly part of Chicago’s lower Wacker Drive. Nolan’s stunt team placed both models on a guide and smashed them into each other to create the scene. The same strategy was used for the semi-trailer truck that flips on its head. All in all, the plan was executed brilliantly and viewer is left marveling at the world they created.

9. The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan was at it again in the final installment of his Batman trilogy. According to Nolan, one of his proudest moments was executing the opening scene, where Bane escapes from the CIA plane, mid-flight. It’s an exhilarating sequence, that – again – did not use CGI. The scene was filmed in Scotland, over the Cairngorm Mountains of the Scottish Highlands. It’s the highest mountain range in the UK and is described as incredibly cold, with incessant winds and an unforgiving climate. The CIA plane used in the film was a Lockheed C-130 Hercules, commissioned by the US military. It was a perfect fit for the stunt with a stall speed as low as 111 miles per hour. Nolan and his camera crew were able to follow the plane in a helicopter, recording the exterior action. The particulars are so difficult to describe in detail that when Nolan was asked about the stunt, he said “It was sort of an incredible coming together of lots and lots of planning by a lot of members of the team who worked for months rehearsing all these parachute jumps.”

The action inside the plane was much more straightforward. It was accomplished by building a simulator, where Nolan could rotate, shake and twist the fuselage, making the actors almost weightless inside the device. Put together, Nolan was able to add another jaw-dropping scene to his filmography.

8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

One of the most highly anticipated films in recent memory, Star Wars: The Force Awakens made sure to capitalize off the hype, introducing several real props, creatures, and locations. Probably the most notable prop was the droid BB-8. JJ Abrams and crew made sure they had a BB-8 for whatever sequence they were filming. They constructed a BB-8 that could show emotion when held be actors, a BB-8 that could be thrown around and stay upright, a BB-8 controlled by rod puppeteers, and even a fully functioning droid that could roll around like a possessed bowling ball.

Abrams and crew didn’t phone it in with CGI when they really probably could have, either. Don’t get us wrong; there’s obviously a ton of CGI in a movie featuring literal spaceship battles. But even small effects like Rey’s food materializing was real. A sequence that was on screen for seconds took more than 3 months to develop and execute. And while it may not seem worth it, the smallest things can take a viewer out of a world, and The Force Awakens did a great job of refusing to allow the audience to easily fall astray.

7. Apollo 13

One of the best films depicting NASA astronauts is Ron Howard’s Apollo 13. Starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton, the film depicts the aborted 1970 lunar mission, which became a mission of survival. Instead of using CGI, Howard wanted to create an atmosphere or experience that allowed viewers to truly appreciate the fear and unease that the astronauts experienced. Howard utilized NASA’s “Vomit Comet” KC-135 airplane, designed for one purpose: creating a zero-G environment on Earth.

In order to accomplish such a feat, the KC-135 does a series of parabolic arcs at very fast speeds; this results in a window of weightlessness for the passengers. According to reports, it took more than 600 arcs for Howard to get the take he liked. It’s now clear that he knew what he was doing: the movie was nominated for 9 Academy Awards and grossed more than $355 million worldwide.

6. Skyfall

Good filmmakers certainly know how to catch an audience’s attention. The opening scene from Skyfall is no different. Every kick and punch thrown in the scene is actually performed by Daniel Craig and his counterpart on top of a speeding train. The only thing keeping them from falling is a wire that’s as thin as one’s finger. Bond films are notorious for real stunts that push the boundaries.

In Spectre, the follow-up installment in the Bond franchise, filmmakers set a Guinness record for stunts in a single production. So next time you’re watching a Bond film, make sure you take a second to appreciate the risks that some of these men and women are taking for our entertainment.

5. Mad Max: Fury Road

This is one of the most unique examples on our list because of its utilization of both CGI and real stunts to make compelling scenes. In that iconic scene where Tom Hardy is dangling perilously close to the ground, that’s completely real. All that was keeping Hardy from being roadkill was a thin cable. The sequence in question was also filmed while Hardy’s son was on set, too. Director George Miller, when asked what would happen if the cable snapped, remarked, “He’d probably go under the wheels.” Good one, George. Miller is known for pushing the limits of ordinary film practices. He hired “Cirque du Soleil performers to rock around on Chinese acrobat poles while a camera rig weaved through them at up to 100 mph.”

If that wasn’t enough, the film’s production also saw the invention of a new way to flip a car: a “nitrogen-powered metallic blade” was designed to pop down on the car, forcing it to make those ridiculous flips in the movie. Not bad for the director of Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City. That’ll do, George. That’ll do.

4. Mission: Impossible (Pretty Much the Whole Film Franchise)

Tom Cruise is notorious for doing most of his own stunts in his films. Shooting the upcoming installment in the Mission: Impossible series, Cruise even broke his ankle trying to jump to an adjacent rooftop. This wasn’t the first time Cruise has put himself into harm’s way. In the original, he dangled from a ceiling; in the sequel he hung off the side of a cliff. In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, he scaled the side of Burj Khalifa. And in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, he clung to a side of a flying plane.

Each of these stunts was performed by Cruise, without the use of stuntmen. Talk about courage (or lunacy… or maybe a little bit of both). In Rogue Nation, Cruise only had wires attached to his body as he gripped the side of a flying plane. We suppose that’s why they pay him the big bucks.

3. The Amazing Spider-Man

One of the unique bits of the Spider-Man reboot was director Marc Webb’s decision to make the web-slinging aspects of the film real. In past Spider-Man movies, the web-slinging was mostly all CGI and it became apparent in scenes that took many viewers out of the movie. Instead, The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel relied mostly on stuntmen and Andrew Garfield himself, who was willing to participate in the action. Stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong described in an interview the difficult process of executing such a stunt. Through his research, he found that the difficulty in the execution was based, in part, on the past versions of Spider-Man depicting his downward swing as the same as his upward motion.

Armstrong and his team constructed “a track being pulled by a high-speed winch to help emulate Spidey’s web-swinging ways.” He’d go on to describe it as cracking a whip. A stuntman would “drop into the bottom of the pendulum, and as he reached the bottom of his arc, someone driving the winch would pull a dolly along to the next spot.” With a little digital effects to boot, The Amazing Spider-Man films created a whole new way of looking at one of our favorite superheroes.

2. The Matrix Reloaded

Don’t jump down our throats. We know The Matrix Reloaded relied on a heavy amount of CGI. However, it’d surprise most readers to know how many of the action sequences actually relied upon real stunts. One of the most memorable sequences in the entire trilogy, the Agents chasing Morpheus and Trinity on the highway, was no exception.

Although the Agent seen jumping from the hood of a vehicle was added later in post production, the chain reaction of car crashes and the actual implosion of the car was real. The Wachowskis managed to oversee the use of special rigs, cannons, and ramps to create the massively destructive sequence. The filmmakers choice to use real stunts and props is one of the major reasons The Matrix series has, for the most part, continued to stand the test of time.

1. Inception

Hey, we couldn’t end our list without another Christopher Nolan movie. The uncompromising auteur has managed to consistently create stunning visual sequences without relying on CGI. Probably the most memorable scene in Inception was Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page’s characters conversation at a coffee shop in Paris. Suddenly, an explosion sends debris, and broken glass into the air. All the while, DiCaprio and Page remain in the center of the storm.

The sequence was executed by production designer Chris Corbould, shooting a series of air cannons while director of photography Wally Pfister shot at 1,500 frames per second. It made for one of the most memorable parts of the movie, introducing the audience to the idea of Inception. Not to be outdone, later in the film there’s a fight scene featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a hotel room and hallway, in which the room continues to rotate, allowing the combatants to run up the walls and on the ceiling. As you’ve no doubt guessed by now, particularly if you watched the video up above, that was all done entirely with practical sets and stunts.

10 Oldest Living Things Killed by Humans

Humans think about having the potential to live forever, while at the same time thinking of most animal life as short and sweet. We’re pet owners, after all. Pets don’t live particularly long. In nature, every winter sees many animals die after mating, and continuing on their next generation. On the farms, our food is planted in the spring and we harvest it just before it dies in the fall. Life is short, but humans defy this by living for decades.

However, we are not alone. Some animals outlive whole generations while some plants live for thousands of years. Well, until we occasionally come along and snuff them out. Here are 10 of the longest-living things killed by man… 

10. 130-year-old whale

In May 2007, indigenous hunters killed a bowhead whale off the Alaskan coast. Usually, when they butcher the whales it is not unusual to find old stone harpoons and other weapons from past hunting attempts but these tools are difficult to date. But this time, embedded into the shoulder bone of the whale was an exploding harpoon that they were able to date to being used in 1890, meaning the whale survived the attack and lived a further 117 years with the harpoon under its skin.

Since 19th-century whalers would likely have only attacked large, mature whales, the whale was probably already in its teens. This allowed scientists to guess the age at around 130. Incredibly, it was probably not the oldest bowhead, either, as scientists estimate that other whales in the wild can live as long as 200 years.

9. 200-year-old rockfish

On June 21, 2013, Seattle native Henry Liebman was fishing the deep ocean off the Alaskan coast for his favorite prey: the Shortracker rockfish. Living in waters ranging from 83 feet to 3,960 feet, the fish haunt the ocean depths eating whatever shellfish they come across. A skilled fisherman, Liebman baited his hook and dropped it down to 886 feet when he got a bite.

After wrestling the fish to the surface he was shocked at the size of the beast. It smashed the Alaskan record for biggest Shortraker at 40 pounds. When researchers counted the growth rings along its ear bone, the world was amazed to find that Liebman had killed a rockfish that was about 200-years-old.

8. 400-year-old sharks

Sharks have a bad rap. Australia, one of the top shark attack locations in the world, averages about 12 shark attacks per year. This compares to the 100 million sharks that are killed, sometimes just for their fins, worldwide every year. All those sharks taken out of the ocean have taken their toll. In Australia, studies have shown shark attacks, per million people, have actually gone down, probably due to being heavily fished even though we don’t know much about their lives.  

One of the most heavily misunderstood sharks is the giant Greenland shark. One of the slowest moving sharks, it prowls the icy cold water around Greenland (duh). Due to it having no hard bones, scientists historically had no way to check their ages. Recently a method to determine the age was discovered: checking their eye lens nuclei. Researchers were shocked to discover sharks caught in fishing nets that were around 400-years-old. In and around Greenland there could be bigger, older sharks that haven’t been caught. There could have been even larger and older specimens before WWII, a time when they were heavily overfished for their livers, which were ground up and used as machine oil. After a synthetic oil alternative was invented, demand dropped and the overfishing of the Greenland shark eased.

7. 405-year-old shellfish

Also in the icy depths of the Northern Atlantic are the Quahog clams. These mollusks are known for their long lives, which are determined by counting the annual growth rings of their shells. This is useful for climate scientists as they can use these rings to check historic temperature levels year by year.

In 2007 it was reported that one large Quahog was pulled from a depth of 80 meters and killed so researchers could count its rings. They were stunned when they determined the shellfish was 405-years-old, making it the oldest non-colonial animal ever discovered.

6. 4,900-year tree cut down by a lazy scientist

Like the Quahog clam, trees also make a new ring of growth every year. Climate scientists can use this data to track historic temperatures. This can be done by killing a tree, cutting it down and counting the rings from the center. Another non-lethal way would be to use a borer that drills into the tree and removes a long sample, which also shows the rings. This sample can then be counted, leaving the tree still standing and alive.

In 1964, geographer Donald R. Currey got permission from officials to take tree ring samples in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park. One of the species that grow in this high altitude area is the Bristlecone pine, which is famed for its age. Currey hoped that he could use its ring data to track glacier movements. For some reason, he decided not to use the tree borer, and just cut down the tree instead. When he got back to lab it was learned that he had killed the oldest tree ever discovered, estimated to be about 4,900 years old. Nicknamed Prometheus, the tree held the record until 2012 when an older tree was found – another bristlecone, which was 5,065 years old.

5. 100-year-old elephant

In the 1950s, Spanish big game hunter JJ Fenykovi was trekking through the Portuguese colony of Angola when he came across giant elephant tracks at a watering hole. So giant were these tracks that each footprint measured exactly 3 feet. He knew he didn’t have enough time to track the beast and vowed to return the next year to hunt it down. The giant elephant’s habit of returning to the same watering hole doomed it, as the next year Fenykovi was waiting. It took 16 high-caliber bullets from .416 Rigby rifles to kill the giant, which weighed about 8 tons, stood 13 feet, 2 inches tall, and was about 100 years-old.  

Not wanting to waste such a specimen, Fenykovi had dozens of locals strip its 2 tons of hide and haul it to the ocean, where it was shipped to America, stuffed, and reassembled in the lobby of the Smithsonian, where it still stands. For decades it was the largest pachyderm ever killed until November 1974, when an elephant standing 13 feet, 8 inches was killed by a car salesman from Nebraska. The carcass from this slain giant was left where it fell, with only an ear and its tusks being kept as trophies.

4. 327-Pound, 94-year-old dinosaur fish

Alligator gar is an ancient fish that fossil records show date back to the time of dinosaurs almost 100 million years ago. They range from the Mississippi to the coastal region of the United States because they can inhabit salt and freshwater, as well as having adaptations that allow them to breathe out of the water. Historically this allowed them to live as far north as Kansas as well as the American coastal states.

On February 14, 2011, Kenny Williams landed a monster-sized Alligator gar near his home in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The dinosaur fish was so big he had to use nets to drag it onto his boat. Once it was weighed it smashed earlier records at 8.5 feet long, and weighing in at 327 pounds. Such a large Alligator gar was determined to be about 94-years-old.

3. 100-year-old (at least) lobster

Lobster fishermen pull about 200 hundred million lobsters from the North Atlantic every year. In all those millions of lobsters are a number of oddities, including lobsters that are a bright blue. One of lobsters’ stranger features is their lifespan. Recently a study was published that proposed lobsters have the ability to live forever. While their DNA, in theory, has resistance to aging, lobsters need to molt or shed their skin.

As they get older, molting gets more and more stressful with about 15% dying from the effort required each time. If a lobster does get a bigger shell, the bigger shell has a greater chance that it will become infected, which will kill the lobster. The biggest lobster ever (that we know of) was caught off Nova Scotia, Canada in 1977. It weighed in at 44 pounds, 6 ounces and was believed to be around a 100-years-old. The ancient lobster giant was sold to a restaurant, where it ended up on the menu. 

2. Giant tortoises living 100s of years almost wiped out

Giant tortoises used to thrive on tropical islands around the world. The slow, meandering beasts grew to over one meter long and could weigh as much as hundreds of pounds. They also live incredibly long lives. An Aldabra tortoise, from the Seychelles, was famously gifted to British general Robert Clive of the East India Company. Clive became addicted to opium and killed himself in 1774. At some point, his tortoises were gifted to a zoo in Calcutta, India. One of the tortoises spent 130 years at the zoo before dying on March 22, 2006. This ancient tortoise, named Adwaita, “the only one” in Bengali, was already old when he was given to Clive, with researchers dating him to around 250-years-old.

Without human interference, Adwaita’s cousin tortoises who lived around the world most likely lived as long as well. Most of the giant tortoise species were driven to extinction when sailors first started to explore tropical islands. Tortoises have what turned out to be an unfortunate ability to live for long periods of time with very little food or water. This made them the perfect food source for long term sea adventures. Explorers and traders could easily visit an island and grab half a dozen giant tortoises that each weighed over a couple hundred pounds. They could then be stored on board alive and kept with very little sustenance, often stacked one upon the other. Then weeks into their sea voyage the sailors would kill a tortoise, as needed, and have some fresh meat. As the sailors sang their sea shanties they would be feasting on an animal that was hundreds of years old.

1. Florida’s oldest (at 3,500 years) tree, burned down by a meth-head

Before the first successful English colony of Jamestown in 1607, before the Normans conquered England in 1066, before the birth of the Roman Empire, and over 1,000 years before Alexander the Great, a small bald cypress sprouted out of Florida’s earth shortly after 1500 BC. For the next 3,500 years, it grew proud and tall in what would become Big Tree Park in Longwood, Florida. Nicknamed “The Senator,” it stood 125 feet tall, with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet, and was one of the oldest trees in the world.

On January 16, 2012, Longwood native Sara Barnes broke into the park, as she often did, to smoke meth. This night was particularly dark, so she gathered some wood to make a small fire so she could see her meth pipe. The fire quickly got out of control and Barnes decided to take out her camera and film the flames as they burned toward, and eventually consumed, “The Senator.” Look, she’s a meth addict. Wise decisions aren’t to be expected here.

Concerned neighbors called the fire department, but they arrived too late and could only watch as the ancient tree collapsed in a fiery blaze. Investigators were puzzled as to why the tree burst into flames and eventually placed the blame on a freak lightning strike. That was until word worked its way to police that Barnes had told her friends about what truly happened and had a video of the fire. The authorities raided her house and found the footage and drug paraphernalia. For killing a 3,500-year-old tree, she got 5 years probation, which she ended up violating in 2016. After her parole was rescinded, she was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

Jon Lucas covers WW1 live, 100 years ago. You can follow the action on Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram

How a Fake Disease Saved Lives During the Holocaust

In the beginning of World War II, Italy was partnered with the Axis Powers under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. Around halfway through the war, Italy decided to switch over to the Allied Powers. Of course, Germany was not very happy about this betrayal. For nine months of 1943, the Nazi party occupied Rome. Thousands of people were denied access to food, and many were tortured and killed. At one point, the Nazis even bombed the Vatican, which was supposed to be a neutral territory. Pope Pius XII just barely made it out alive, but refused to abandon Rome.

Not surprisingly, the Nazis ordered that all Jewish Italian people should be surrendered and sent to concentration camps. Many Italians resisted the oppression of the Nazis, but one of the most in-depth operations was kept a secret until fairly recently. This secret mission was not run by the military or by undercover spies in the government. It was a plan made up the employees of the Fatebenefratelli Hospital in Rome.


The Fatebenefratelli Hospital was originally built in 1585. The massive building looks more like a castle or a military fortress than a hospital. It sits on its own small island on the Tiber River, which made it a perfect place to seperate patients with infectious diseases from the general population. That exact location was actually home to a hospital as far back as the year 1000 CE. Before that, it housed the temple to the Greek God of medicine, Asclepius. In the 1940s, it was a Catholic hospital run by friars called the “Brothers of Mercy.”

The staff of the ancient Fatebenefratelli Hospital were proud of their heritage. Doctors swore an oath to protect human life, and they were not going to stop with helping the people who were already patients in the hospital. While Nazi soldiers patrolled the halls on a daily basis, the staff was secretly plotting a resistance. They came up with a plan to tamper with the records of Jewish patients by adding the diagnosis of “Syndrome K” to their charts, and move them into their own wing of the hospital.

You will never find Syndrome K on WebMD or a medical textbook, because it doesn’t actually exist. In fact, the code name “K” stood for Albert Kesselring. He was the Nazi commander in charge of the Roman occupation, and you could say that the Italians were not exactly his biggest fans.

Dr. Giovanni Borromeo was a surgeon who had worked at the Fatebenefratelli Hospital since 1934. He collaborated with the Catholic hospital’s head priest, Father Maurizio Bialek, to make the hospital one of the most reputable and state-of-the-art medical facilities in Italy.

In 1938, Italy was working with the Axis Powers, and they began to create anti-Semitic laws that would prevent Jews from finding work. Dr. Borromeo and Father Bialek were both anti-Fascist, and they could see the writing on the wall that these laws were just the beginning of a much darker future. They began hiring Jewish doctors to work for them, and helped to falsify their paperwork so that they would appear to be Catholic and avoid persecution.

One of these young Jewish doctors was a 28-year-old named Vittorio Sacerdoti. In 1943, when the Nazis took over Italy and began invading ghettos to bring Jews into concentration camps, Sacerdoti personally managed to save 45 people and shelter them in the hospital, including his 10-year-old cousin Luciana Sacerdoti and several other young children.

At the time, people had a very real fear of tuberculosis. This highly infectious disease caused people to have fevers and cough up blood as they died a slow and agonizing death. In the 1940s, Antibiotics had only just begun to treat the illness that had killed so many people in Italy for centuries. Foreign soldiers would have been understandably jumpy while they patrolled the hallways. After all, this hospital had a very long history of isolating people away from civilization to stop the spread of disease.

Dr. Sacerdoti instructed his Jewish “patients” to cough very loudly and act like someone with tuberculosis every time a German soldier walked by their ward. The trick worked, and soldiers steered clear of the quarantine for fear of catching this mysterious Syndrome K.  Years later, he described watching the Nazis “run like rabbits” as soon as they heard coughing.

A psychologist who worked at the hospital named Adriano Ossicini spoke about the Syndrome K resistance movement during an interview. According to Ossicini, the hospital also sheltered anti-Fascist political refugees. He said that in his opinion, the Nazis were a bit stupid, and they seemed uneducated about the world outside of Germany. He remembered hearing them whisper to one another about how serious this Syndrome K epidemic was in Italy, and that they refused to get anywhere near the side of the hospital that housed these patients.

It was because of this fear that they were never able to suspect that Jews and political refugees were being transported right under their noses.There was even a secret network of young hospital staff who would transport Jewish people from safe houses as far away as Poland in ambulances to their hospital, all under the guise that they were moving these sickly patients with “Syndrome K.” They always insisted that the high-tech hospital in Rome was their only shot at survival, and the Nazis always let them go.

At 83-years-old, a woman named Luciana Tedesco told her story of hiding as a Jewish refugee in the hospital when she was a young girl. She said that women and children slept in the beds of one large hospital ward, while the men stayed in another. Her entire entire extended family- including 10 children, were all saved.

Another survivor named Gabriele Sonnino was just 4-years-old at the time. What he remembered of the experience was that none of the young children were ever made to feel afraid. In fact, they actually felt quite bored to be stuck inside all the time, and they felt like they were being grounded. Father Bialek was  incredibly friendly and kind. He tried to entertain the children and make the families feel as comfortable as he possibly could.

Meanwhile, the hospital staff was doing so much more behind the scenes as part of the resistance. Father Bialek had built a secret radio room in the basement of the hospital. He would intercept Nazi communications during the day, and give them to Dr. Borromeo, who would pass them on to Italian Air Force General Roberto Lordi. Their efforts help to end the German occupation after only 9 months.

The German occupation ended in 1944, and the refugees at the hospital were able to go free. World War II officially ended in 1945, and the Allies celebrated their victory with Italy by their side. Despite the fact that the occupation was over, the staff of the hospital were still cautious. They swore to never reveal the secrets about Syndrome K, for fear that one day, the Nazis may rise to power again, and they would need to use hospital and the fake epidemic once more.

According to records, Giovanni Borromeo saved hundreds of Jews that were under his care. They say that he never turned anyone away, no matter how dangerous the situation may have been. He died at 62-years-old in his own hospital in 1961. He took the secret of Syndrome K to his grave.

Dr. Vittorio Sacerdoti saved 45 of his fellow Jews, and he held onto the secret until 2004, when he gave his testimony to the BBC. He continued to practice medicine in Rome for the rest of his life, and lived just a few minutes away from the hospital.

While there is no record that shows exactly how many people were collectively saved by the hospital staff, we know that it is in the hundreds. All of these doctors kept the secret of Syndrome K for over 60 years. Today, they have been awarded for their humanitarian efforts with awards from several different Jewish societies. A plaque now hangs in the hospital courtyard to remember the bravery of the staff in 1943 who refused to go down without a fight.

(Recently, fans of TopTenz let us know on YouTube that they’d be in favor of the occasional non-list article, with a narrower focus, enabling us to take a deeper dive. This is the first of what will be a recurring feature, giving you just that.)

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