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Discovery - Racing Extinction

There's a reason why we're told to live every week like it's Shark Week.

GIF via “Step Brothers."


Sharks are simultaneously some of the most exhilarating and terrifying forces of nature on the planet.

They are glorious, majestic apex predators that affect entire ecosystems with their toothy, subaqueous badassery and demand our constant admiration and respect.

Hear me roar. All shark photos via iStock.

But they're also probably one of the most misunderstood species on the planet.

Thankfully, they're just one of many featured in "Racing Extinction" — a terrifyingly beautiful film that soon premieres on Discovery Channel. But before we get to that, let's explain why you should care about one of the many species showcased in that film — sharks!

Here are 10 facts that explain why we love sharks (and why you should if you don't).

1. Sharks promote bio-diversity.

'Sup everyone?

Apex predators like sharks actually increase the wildlife diversity of the ecosystems they live in by preying on the most available species, in turn preventing them from over-consuming the resources of a given area.

2. Sharks are fast. Like really, really fast.

Let's race.

Shortfin mako sharks are called the cheetahs of the sea. While they cruise around 20 mph, they've been observed notching speeds upward of 50 mph in a burst to nab prey. This video has one hitting 68 miles an hour before devouring a bluefish. Experts caution it's really difficult to accurately measure mako speeds, but still — it puts a whole new spin on "fast food," does it not?

3. Sharks are AMAZING listeners.

"Tell me more about growing up in the north tropical Atlantic."

A shark can hear a fish thrashing in the water from nearly 2,000 feet away — that's over one Freedom Tower away.

4. Fear of sharks is basically the ocean's answer to birth control.

"Walk into the club like..."

Through intimidation alone, sharks are able to control other species of fish from overpopulating by forcing them to lessen their reproductive habits and alter their migratory patterns. Effective!

5. Speaking of birth control, they're naturally good at it.

"Ah remember this time last year? We were at the beach without a care in the world."

While sharks may live long, prosperous lives (up to 25 years), they actually grow slowly and produce very few offspring in comparison to most fish. The average litter of a Great White, for instance, is just two to 10 pups a year, with a gestation period lasting as long as two years (!!).

6. Shark embryos have built-in security systems.

Hello, ocean!

Not only do sharks detect their prey by tracking the electric fields they emit, but some shark embryos can actually do the same with predators, recognizing the electric fields they put out and responding by completely shutting down their respiratory functions.

7. More sharks = fewer diseases.

"I know carcass isn't fancy, but it really hits the spot when you're hungry."

Sharks typically feed on the weakest and sickest members of their prey colonies and even scavenge the sea floor to feast on dead carcasses, acting as a sort of oceanwide CDC (more like sea-d-sea, amiright?!) by preventing potentially fatal diseases from spreading and even strengthening the gene pools of these hunted species.

8. Seriously, like even our diseases.

We owe you, big time.

Both humans and sharks have an immune system that relies on antibodies to prevent and fight disease, but the shark's immune system is unique in that it actually contains large quantities of urea, an excreted substance that keeps them from dehydrating.

Since urea actually destabilizes antibodies, sharks have also developed several molecular adaptations to prevent urea from making them vulnerable to diseases, which researchers are now applying to human antibodies in the hopes of turning us into invulnerable Terminators, more or less.

9. That tuna salad you're eating? Thank a shark.

This time, the food chain tables have turned, sea birds.

If hungry sharks weren't keeping down the seabird population, some species of tuna might be facing extinction since they are the go-to meal of these winged assailants. Tiger sharks are credited with eating about 10% of the albatross population annually, and great whites have even beached themselves seeking a seagull appetizer.

10. And while you're at it, thank them for the coral reefs we all love so much.

Just coral reefin', the way I usually do.

When sharks are removed from reef ecosystems, the population of plant-eating fish species in reefs also drops, leading to overgrown algae that suffocates what few growing reefs we have left. The same goes for seagrass, which tiger sharks also help make flourish by keeping sea turtles from overgrazing and subsequently destroying their own habitats.

For all the bad press they get, sharks are basically the omnipresent healers of the ocean, which makes this next fact all the more unbelievable.

There's still one terrifying truth about sharks.

Large shark populations have declined by over 90% in the last generation alone and are facing extinction due to a variety of factors — chief among them, overfishing and fin poaching.

For every human killed by a shark, 2 million sharks are killed by humans, with over 200,000 sharks being killed in the fin trade per day.

The extinction of several shark species within our lifetime is a very real possibility that would lead to disastrous environmental effects.

That's why Racing Extinction recently created a quiz to shed some light on this pressing issue.

We are the last generation that can put an end to shark finning.

Yeah! So, head over to their website, take the quiz, and pass it along to your friends to help spread the word.

That, or get used to the idea of living in a world where Shark Week doesn't exist, which is just…

GIF via "That '70s Show."

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Dan Fischer takes people's lost loved ones out surfing for "one last wave."

Dan Fischer understands grief. He also has some idea of how to cope with it—and how to help others through it as well.

Fischer has experienced tremendous loss in the past few years, losing both his father and his best friend. As a surfer, he's a believer in what he calls "the transformative power of the ocean." Originally from Montreal, Canada, Fischer has found healing riding the waves off Newport, Rhode Island, where he's lived for the past seven years.

Now he wants to share that healing power of the waves with others.

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The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

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