+
Heroes

6 weird things that came out of nature's deep freeze and 1 we should worry about.

Some amazing things are buried up there in the Arctic.

True
League of Conservation Voters

I desperately need to clean out my freezer. There are things there I'd swear I haven't seen in years. What is this? Chicken? Why do I have frozen tamales? When did I eat sweet potatoes?

Well, it turns out Mother Nature has this conundrum too.


The permafrost is kind of like nature’s own deep freeze.

The permafrost is a band of permanently frozen land that rings the Arctic Circle, and it makes up about a quarter of all the land in the Northern Hemisphere. Some sections can be nearly a mile thick! And though the top layer may thaw and re-freeze as the seasons change, the lower levels stay ice cold and rock solid.

Which makes it an amazing place to find old, preserved things. Some of which are, frankly, astounding.

Without further ado, here are six of the weirdest things to come out of the permafrost.

1. Ancient plants

The ancient plants would have looked similar to this white campion. Image from Manuel Anastácio/Wikimedia Commons.

In 2012, a team of Russian scientists revived 30,000-year-old plants they found frozen in the tundra. The plants appeared to be an ancient form of narrow-leafed campion and were found in the cache of an ice-age ground squirrel.

The scientists brought the plants back to the lab and, through a little coaxing, were able to actually grow new specimens. They even flowered and produced new seeds!

2. Giant viruses

Image from AJC/Flickr.

Inspired by the Russian team’s success with the plant, other scientists wanted to see what else they could find preserved in the permafrost. By fishing through samples of permafrost, the scientists found a 30,000-year-old monster of a virus dubbed Pithovirus sibericum.

The virus was staggering large, nearly the size of a bacteria. If you don't know viruses, that's like finding a cat the size of an rhino. What’s more, it seems almost alien — two-thirds of its proteins are unlike those of any other virus. No need to worry, however, as it appears to only hunt amoebas. We’re not on the menu.

3. Woolly mammoths

Image from Yatadeihom/Wikimedia Commons.

In 2007, a reindeer breeder named Yuri Khudi found something odd in the frozen tundra of Russia's Yamal Peninsula. He trekked over 150 miles to notify a local museum director. When authorities arrived, they found a nearly 42,000-year-old baby mammoth.

The baby (which had been moved to outside a local store) was named Lyuba after Khudi's wife. Lyuba is one of the best-preserved mammoths in the world; scientists could even tell what she ate before she died.

Lyuba is only one of many mammoths unearthed in the permafrost. Other ice-age animals have been found too, like horses and woolly rhinos.

4. Really weird shapes

Image from Emma Pike/Wikimedia Commons.

Not everything that comes out of the tundra is alive. Sometimes the Earth itself gets freaky.

These weird shapes include small, volcano-shaped hills called pingos (which some people have claimed to have seen explode like massive, icy landmines), ice wedges, and geometric shapes made of rocks. These weird shapes happen when water in the ground keeps freezing and thawing.

In the last few years people have even reported massive craters. The craters were probably made when underground gases built up and exploded outward.

5. Human bodies

A scene from Svalbard nearly 100 years ago. Image from Richard Fleischhut/Wikimedia Commons.

People sometimes bury bodies in the frozen ground. And sometimes those bodies don’t stay buried.

In the 1980s, for instance, a river exposed a mass grave near Pokhodsk, Siberia. There are some fears that bodies like these could be reservoirs for past diseases. In 1998, six frozen bodies in Svalbard were found to have traces of the Spanish flu, which killed 50 million to 100 million people in the early 20th century.

6. Puppies

Image from Jonathan Kriz/Flickr.

Scientists have found dogs in the permafrost, including a family of puppies. The animals were likely buried in a landslide and were in amazing condition, considering they were over 10,000 years old.

"The condition of our new find is perfect," Sergei Fedorov, head of exhibitions at the Mammoth Museum of Yakutsk, told The Siberian Times. "It is preserved from nose to tail, including the hair."

The dog could be one of the earliest domesticated breeds and may even be the same kind of dog that crossed the Arctic land bridge into North America along with people.

But there's something else coming out of the permafrost. And it's not so much weird as it is a bit worrisome.

Besides puppies and mammoths, the permafrost has also trapped a lot of old organic matter, like peat moss and decayed plants. If the permafrost thaws and that stuff starts to rot, it could release a lot of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

And it looks like a huge thaw is on the way. Climate change could thaw a quarter of Alaska's near-surface permafrost by 2100. Other parts of the world are expected to lose just as much, and 60% of the world's permafrost may be gone by the end of the next century.

If that 60% happens, it will release an estimated 190 billion tons of carbon dioxide — as much as half of all human activity has released since the industrial age. And the trapped methane could have an even bigger impact — the equivalent of another 7.5 billion to 400 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Image from "Steven Universe."*

That would have a massive impact on the atmosphere and could fundamentally change our global climate.

Luckily, there's something we can do. Stop leaving the freezer door open already.

Slowing our own carbon emissions is one of the best ways we have of reducing climate change and keeping the permafrost perma-frosty.

As cool as all these discoveries are, I don't mind it if some things stay frozen for the sake of our world.

If you're as sick of this defrosting as me, consider signing this petition from the League of Conservation Voters showing the government your support for the Clean Power Plan.

Science

Sustainably good news: Recycling is getting better and this family is showing us how

What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these stories as an invitation to do better?

Via Ridwell

Ryan Metzger and son Owen

There is no shortage of dire news about the state of modern recycling. Most recently, this NPR article shared the jaw-dropping statistic that about 5% of all plastics produced get recycled, meaning the rest of it ends up in landfills. While the underlying concerns here are sound, I worry that the public narrative around recycling has gotten so pessimistic that it will make people give up on it entirely instead of seeing the opportunities to improve it. What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these news stories as an invitation to do better?

Keep ReadingShow less
The Prince Charles Cinema/Youtube

Brendan Fraser dressed as Rick O'Connell.

Brendan Fraser might be making the greatest career comeback ever, racking up accolades and award nominations for his dramatic, transformative role in “The Whale." But the OG Fraser fans (the ones who watch “Doom Patrol” solely to hear his voice and proudly pronounce his last name as Fray-zure, for this is the proper pronunciation) have known of his remarkable talent since the 90s, when he embodied the ultimate charming, dashing—and slightly goofball—Hollywood action lead.

Let us not forget his arguably most well known and beloved 90s character—Rick O’Connell from the “Mummy” franchise. Between his quippy one-liners, Indiana Jones-like adventuring skills and fabulous hair, what’s not to like?

During a double feature of “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” in London, moviegoers got the ultimate surprise when who should walk in but Brendan Fraser himself, completely decked out in Rick O’Connell attire. The brown leather jacket. The scarf. Everything.

Keep ReadingShow less

Little boy and his mom get surprised with tickets to Eagles game.

In today's world, it's easy to get caught up in all the negative news we're exposed to, but in reality, most good deeds are done away from a camera—just one person helping another without desire for fanfare. And for mom Bryanne McBride and her young son, Mason, that's exactly what they were doing when they got the surprise of a lifetime.

Bryanne was approached by a man in a parking lot asking for a dollar to catch the bus. The entire time, the mom scrounged around in her purse looking for spare change and revealed she felt bad because she thought she had some. Bryanne's desire to help was a simple act of kindness to another human in need without the expectation of something in return.

During the time it took for the unsuspecting mother to dig for loose change, the "stranded" stranger, Zach, introduced himself and asked if the duo were from Philly. Once they said they were from the area, he then inquired if they were Eagles fans...the football team, not the birds. "You ever been to an Eagles game?" Zach asked.

Keep ReadingShow less
Education

Woman without an internal monologue explains what it's like inside her head

“She's broken my mind. I don't even understand what I'm not understanding."

PA Struggles/Youtube

An estimated 50-70% of the population doesn't have an internal monologue.

The notion of living without an internal monologue is a fairly new one. Until psychologist Russell Hurlburt’s studies started coming out in the late 90s, it was widely accepted that everyone had a little voice narrating in their head. Now Hurlburt, who has been studying people's "inner experience" for 40 years, estimates that only 30-50% of the population frequently think this way.

So what about the other 50-70%? What exactly goes on inside their heads from day to day?

In a video interview originally posted in 2020, a woman named Kirsten Carlson gave some insight into this question, sharing how not having an inner dialogue affected her reading and writing, her interactions with others and how she navigates mental challenges like anxiety and depression. It was eye-opening and mind-blowing.
Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Two couples move in together with their kids to create one big, loving 'polyfamory'

They are using their unique family arrangement to help people better understand polyamory.

The Hartless and Rodgers families post together


Polyamory, a lifestyle where people have multiple romantic or sexual partners, is more prevalent in America than most people think. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, one in nine Americans have been in a polyamorous relationship, and one in six say they would like to try one.

However popular the idea is, polyamory is misunderstood by a large swath of the public and is often seen as deviant. However, those who practice it view polyamory as a healthy lifestyle with several benefits.

Taya Hartless, 28, and Alysia Rogers, 34, along with their husbands Sean, 46, and Tyler, 35, are in a polyamorous relationship and have no problem sharing their lifestyle with the public on social media. Even though they risk stigmatization for being open about their non-traditional relationships, they are sharing it with the world to make it a safer place for “poly” folks like themselves.

Keep ReadingShow less
Community

Native Siberian shares what daily life entails in the coldest village on Earth

See how the people of Yakutia, Siberia take showers, do laundry, go to school and more in minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit.

A man in the Yakutia region of Siberia takes an ice bath in minus 50 degrees Celsius.

For most of us, waking up to a temperature of minus 50 degrees would spell catastrophe. Normal life would come to a screeching halt, we'd be scrambling to deal with frozen pipes and power outages, school and work would be canceled and weather warnings would tell us not to venture outside due to frostbite risk.

But in the Yakutia region of Siberia, that's just an average winter day where life goes on as usual.

When you live in the coldest inhabited area on Earth, your entire life is arranged around dealing with ridiculously cold temperatures. Villages don't have running water because freezing pipes wouldn't allow for water treatment. Kids go to school unless the temp drops below minus 55 degrees Celsius (which is then considered dangerous). Showering involves spending hours stoking a fire in the bathhouse to create a steamy, warm room.

Native Siberian Kiun B. has created a series of documentary short films detailing what daily life is like in Yakutia's frigid winters. She was born and raised in Yakutsk, Siberia, widely recognized as the coldest city on Earth, where average winter temperatures hover around minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. As seen in her videos, smaller villages in the Yakutia region regularly dip down into the negative 50s, with the lowest recorded temp in the Yakut village of Oymayakon reaching a mindblowing minus 96 degrees Fahrenheit.

The popularity of Kiun's YouTube channel demonstrates how curious people are about life in such harsh conditions, as her videos have been viewed by tens of millions of people in the past year alone.

Check out this video detailing a day in the life of a family in a Yakutia village.

Can you imagine going out to use an outhouse in minus 40 degrees? Oof.

Another of Kiun's videos goes into more detail about how people shower and do laundry in the region. You might assume they wouldn't line-dry their laundry outdoors, but they do.

Watch:

What do people wear to protect themselves from the negative temperatures? Frostbite is a real risk, so it's important to have the right kinds of clothing and outdoor gear to stay safe and relatively comfortable.

Kiun shared some frigid fashion norms from Yakutsk, which include traditional fur hats and boots as well as lots of layers and down jackets.

However, there are some Yakut folks who see the cold as something to embrace. For instance, this man takes an ice bath out in the elements as a morning ritual. It's something he has worked up to—definitely not something to try on your own during a cold snap—but it still has to be painful.

(Seriously, please don't try this at home.)

The way humans have learned to adapt to drastically different environments, from the sweltering tropics to the Arctic tundra, is incredible, and it's fascinating to get a close-up look at how people make life work in those extremes. Thank you, Kiun B., for giving us a glimpse of what it's like to experience life in the dead of winter in the world's coldest inhabited places.

Grayscale photo of woman in bikini.

Facebook has been a great place for people to bare all when it comes to their emotions. But when it comes to baring all with regards to bodies, Facebook has always seemed as if they’d rather people bare none of it. Facebook has received criticism for over-sexualizing breasts, but a new recommendation from Meta’s advisory board says the nipples can come out for nonbinary users.

Recently, Facebook censored two posts from a transgender and nonbinary couple that featured the couple appearing topless. Even though their nipples were covered, an AI system took the photos down for "violating the Sexual Solicitation Community Standard" after they were flagged by a human user. The couple appealed to Meta, and the photos were reinstated, but it was enough to catch the attention of Meta’s oversight board, which advises Meta on content moderation policies and is made up of academics, politicians and journalists.

Keep ReadingShow less