+
Heroes

These bizarre circles have baffled scientists for years. Now we may know what they are.

See these weird circles? Do you know what they are?

Image from Thorsten Becker/Wikimedia Commons.


They're big, circular patches of bare ground surrounded by plants. When I say big, I mean big — they can get up to 50 feet in diameter and can be seen for miles along desert grasslands.

They're called fairy circles.

A fairy circle in Namibia. Image from Thorsten Becker/Wikimedia Commons.

"Ohhhh it's fairies! Case closed!" you might be saying.

But, no, I'm sorry. As much as we all love Tinker Bell, fairies just aren't an accepted scientific hypothesis, no matter how much we'd like them to be.

Fairy circles only appear in certain, special places like Namibia. But recently, they've been spotted in Australia.

Image from Kevin Sanders/UFZ.

Scientists have known about Namibia's fairy circles since about the 1920s. But as of 2014, we know they appear in the dry, remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, too.

(If you want to have a bit of fun, they're visible on Google Earth in Namibia and in Western Australia.)

Fairy circles have baffled scientists for a long time.

Image from Stephan Getzin/Wikimedia Commons.

Some people thought they might have been created by termites, or carbon monoxide from deep within the Earth, or plants poisoning the ground. Tour guides in Africa have apparently been telling people it's because of a mythical dragon's incredibly awful breath.

But one idea seems pretty promising: It has to do with water, or a lack thereof.

Dr. Stephan Getzin of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany and other colleagues analyzed the soil in the Australian circles.

Here's what they think happens:

When a bare, plant-less patch of soil dries out, the sun bakes it into a hard, impenetrable crust. Once the crust is formed, any rain that does fall on it either runs out to the edges or just evaporates. At the edges, however, the plants prevent the soil from baking as much, so the water drains into the dirt.


Image from Stephan Getzin/UFZ.

It's a kind of natural balancing act. Over time, these circles naturally grow and shrink as conditions change.

Getzin did caution that the process in Namibia may be different, however, because Namibia has a different, sandier kind of soil, but that fairy circles in both areas depend on water to form.

"The details of this mechanism are different to that in Australia," Getzin explains in a press release. "But it produces the same vegetation pattern because both systems of gaps are triggered by the same instability."

Getzin believes more undiscovered fairy circles may lie in other remote parts of the world.

If he is right and these fairy circles really are tied to water shortages and cycles, it's possible that these magical circles will spring up in other dry, desert areas as climate change alters weather patterns.

It's just a cool reminder about how much there is still left to discover in the world around us and how much we can learn about what the Earth is telling us about its needs if we just know how to understand the signs.

Family

Professional tidier Marie Kondo says she's 'kind of given up' after having three kids

Hearing Kondo say, 'My home is messy,' is sparking joy for moms everywhere.

Marie Kondo playing with her daughters.

Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up," has repeatedly made huge waves around the world since it came out in 2010. From eliminating anything that didn't "spark joy" from your house to folding clothes into tiny rectangles and storing them vertically, the KonMari method of maintaining an organized home hit the mark for millions of people. The success of her book even led to two Netflix series.

It also sparked backlash from parents who insisted that keeping a tidy home with children was not so simple. It's one thing to get rid of an old sweater that no longer brings you joy. It's entirely another to toss an old, empty cereal box that sparks zero joy for you, but that your 2-year-old is inexplicably attached to.

To be fair, Kondo never forced her way into anyone's home and made them organize it her way. But also to be fair, she didn't have kids when she wrote her best-selling book on keeping a tidy home. The reality is that keeping a home organized and tidy with children living in it is a whole other ballgame, as Kondo has discovered now that she has three kids of her own.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

13-year-old ventriloquist sings incredible, sassy version of 'You Don't Own Me' on 'AGT'

Ana-Maria Mărgean only started her hobby in 2020 and is already wowing audiences on "America's Got Talent."

America's Got Talent/Youtube

Ana-Maria Mărgean singing "You Don't Own Me" on "America's Got Talent"

It’s not every day a ventriloquist act is so jaw-dropping that it has to be seen to be believed. But when it does happen, it’s usually on “America’s Got Talent.”

Ana-Maria Mărgean was only 11 years old when she first took to the stage on “Romania’s Got Talent” to show off her ventriloquism skills, an act inspired by videos of fellow ventriloquist and “America’s Got Talent” Season 2 champion Terry Fator.

Using puppets built for her by her parents, the young performer tirelessly spent her quarantine time in 2020 learning how to bring them to life, which led to her receiving a Golden Buzzer and eventually winning the entire series in Romania.

Mărgean is now 13 and a competitor on this season of “America’s Got Talent: All-Stars,” hoping to be crowned the winner and perform her own show in Vegas, just like her hero Fator.

Keep ReadingShow less
Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

A person of color uses a crosswalk.

This article originally appeared on 11.01.17


You missed a study that illuminates the very real dangers of literally "walking while black."

In addition to rogue police officers targeting people of color on the street, a study from Portland State University found that drivers are less likely to stop for black pedestrians.

The study, a follow-up from one conducted in 2014, administered tests using identically dressed black and white volunteers attempting to cross the same intersection. The 2014 study revealed black male pedestrians waited 32% longer than white male pedestrians for cars to stop. The 2017 research expanded on these tests to include black and white women and marked versus unmarked crosswalks.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

6 lessons in making life choices based on the wisdom of Warren Buffett

These are the six factors Warren Buffett says he considers when he's making big business decisions.

Warren Buffett speaking at the 2015 Select USA Investment Summit.

True
TD Ameritrade

This article originally appeared on

Warren Buffett isn't just rich. He's known for being ethical, straightforward, and wise. And also generous. Not just with his money but with his ideas.

Buffett straight up spelled out how he makes decisions on how to invest in and acquire businesses in a public letter sent to his shareholders. To be clear: His instincts and insights are what have made him such a rich man. And that's what he's sharing so openly with the world.

These are the six factors Warren Buffett says he considers when he's making big business decisions.

Maybe they could help the rest of us think through some tough decisions in our own lives? Let's see.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

All hail the mocktail: Growing demand makes non-alcoholic socializing a lot more fun

Sober bars and events are growing in popularity with delicious, grown-up alternatives to alcohol.

Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

Non-alcoholic drinks go way beyond club sodas and Shirley Temples.

For as long as there's been alcohol, there have been people who don't drink it. Some don't care for the taste, some don't like the buzz, some have religious prohibitions against it and some are recovering addicts who need to avoid it altogether.

Whatever reasons people have for not drinking, there's an unspoken attitude by some that they're missing out on a key part of social culture, especially when countless movies and TV shows portrays people winding down (or wooing one another) with wine and bonding over beers at bars. There's an air of camaraderie over sharing a cocktail or clinking champagne flutes together that's hard to capture with a basic Coke or sparkling water.

But what if you want that fun, social atmosphere without the alcohol? What if you want to go out and have fancy, alcohol-free drinks with your friends at night without being surrounded by drunk people? Where do you go for that?

Keep ReadingShow less