by Ian Fortey
The universe is full of all kinds of kickass natural phenomena, from black holes to ball lightning to Macaulay Culkin. But even nature can benefit from a helping hand now and then, and when humans give it a little boost, we can create some scifi-horror levels of awesome. For instance ...
The Biggest Man-Made Whirlpool Sucked In Entire Barges
If you had to imagine the kind of damage a 14-inch drill bit could do to ... well, anything, you're probably picturing a plate-sized sized hole in a wall. But you need to think outside the box to appreciate the epic-scale chaos that one caused at Lake Peigneur, Louisiana when a Texaco crew miscalculated where to drill down into a lake.
The lake, which was 10 feet deep and covered 1,300 acres, probably didn't seem particularly significant to anyone at the time. But when the drill bit accidentally tore into a salt mine deep below, it set in motion a chain of events that lead to the largest man-made whirlpool ever created. A massive vortex flooded the salt mine with over 3.5 billion gallons of water.
As the rush of water blasted down through mine, the salt dissolved and washed away, increasing the volume of the underground tunnels ... which, in turn, allowed more water to pour in. On the surface, the drillers abandoned their rig and watched from the shore as it began to sink into a body of water that was previously just the depth of a basketball goal.
"Quick! Does anyone have a slide whistle?"
Below the lake, over 50 miners were working when the wall breached. Luckily the men were well trained and the disaster was of the patient kind, allowing everyone time to evacuate before things got too terrible.
The vortex grew in strength as the salt gave way. A second oil rig was pulled under, and barges, trees and trucks from nearby land were pulled in. It was so powerful it actually reversed the flow of a canal that connected to the lake, sucking it backwards and dragging 11 more barges down to the mine.
Over the next several days, with the canal now flowing back from the Gulf of Mexico instead of into it, sea water filled the gap left where the lake had been sucked under. What had once been an 11 foot deep freshwater lake was now a 1300 foot deep salt water lake. As it refilled, 9 of the lost barges floated back to the surface.
Sorry to ... wait for it ... barge in like this.
An Irrigation Attempt Creates A Freaky Looking Geyser
Fly Geyser looks like a leftover prop from Super Mario Bros. Located at the edge of Black Rock Desert in Nevada, it's bulgy and colorful and spews insanely hot water like a ... well, a geyser. It's actually the result of an ill-conceived drilling effort to find water to irrigate the desert for farmland. A second well was drilled in hopes of using it for geothermal power. The downside is that at 200º F, the water was too hot for one and too cool for the other. We'll let you guess which one is which.
The team tried to seal the second well, but it failed, and the new geyser took the pressure from the old one and got even bigger. The mineral deposits built it up into an amorphous blob, while thermophilic algae flourished in the hot water, coloring the whole thing a bizarre red and green.
You're going to want to see a doctor about that.
It's located near where they hold Burning Man, so if you ever feel like getting super weird and scalded out in the desert, you know where to go. Or maybe don't do that because 1) It's on private property, and 2) Scalding is bad.
Radio Waves Create A Protective Force Field Around The Earth
Old people love to complain about the proliferation of technology. "Everyone's always on their cell phones and tablets and pagers and phonographs and the like. It's just a big, buzzy mess of a world we've created." But dammit, that's a good thing. Like, in the cosmic sense, because we've created a full-on sci-fi force field.
In a twist no one could have predicted, when radio transmissions and high-energy particles interact in the atmosphere, they can create a shield that protects the earth from cosmic phenomena. Which is probably how The Avengers will fight off Thanos.
When we use very low frequency waves to communicate, the low bandwidth isn't really great at transmitting a ton of data. Because of that, they aren't used for much outside of the military. The fact that they can transmit through saltwater fairly well is why they're used to communicate with subs. But like any radio waves, they do travel out into the great beyond, and that's where things get cool.
That's where Doritos are born.
In the atmosphere, these VLF waves have been observed around the Van Allen belts (the rings of particles around the Earth that actually interact with radioactive particles). They create a bubble around the Earth that's literally been observed from astronauts in the space station, and it's believed this bubble can help protect the earth from cosmic phenomena like solar flares.
Obviously no one intended to do this -- force fields are generally easier to make in a comic book than in reality. But it worked out anyway, and the sun will now have to come up with a more in-depth method of destroying us, because SUCK IT, SUN!
Scientists Create A Chicken With A Dinosaur Face
The best thing about a chicken is when a comedian or country singer dresses like a dead southern colonel and fries it up for you. Next on that list is the fact that a chicken is one of the closest living relatives to a T. Rex, which makes it a badass force of tiny, feathered nature. Problem is, they lost a little of that dino magic over the last few million years. They grew beaks, for God's sake. So maybe that's why some scientists opted to fiddle with genetics and accidentally create chickens that have dinosaur faces, the way Darwin intended.
(It's the one in the middle)
The team involved didn't actually make dino chickens -- this was all embryonic stuff -- so don’t send your kids to stay with Chris Pratt just yet. The research was just an effort to understand how giant lizards from millions of years ago turned unto birds today; to learn that evolutionary process. They made note of some specific proteins that differ in how reptiles like alligators are formed versus chickens, which controlled the difference between a snout and a beak. Then they just gave those proteins a nudge in the right direction. The end result was that the embryonic chickens didn't develop beaks, but rather very reptilian snouts, eager to eat lawyers off of toilets at a moment's notice, probably.
Like this article? Check out "The Bizarre Origins Of 5 Totally Ordinary Things" and "Meat Hacking Scientists: Making Beef Without The Cow".