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Die and Let Live: Dutch Company Develops Fungus-Powered Green Coffin

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  • There might be life after death, even if it’s in the form of mushrooms

It’s pretty safe to say that, in general, we as humans like to live long and prosper. To that end, we’re constantly developing new and innovative ways to stave off our eventual demise.

We’re pretty good at it, too. The average life expectancy is rising pretty much all around the world. It’s thanks to leaps in medical science, availability of better food, and other more esoteric technological advances – like robots that care for the elderly.

But despite all our rage against the dying of the light, the rules to the great game of life say that eventually it must end. Not to be morbid or anything, but’s that just how it goes – we’re all going to die.

Here’s where we’re running into a bit of an issue. With the constantly growing human population, there are more living people than ever on planet Earth.

The problem arises when the masses of living people become dead people. While ways to dispose of the deceased vary between cultures, by far the most popular method is a good old-fashioned burial.

Unfortunately, that’s also the most inefficient method. Many places in the world are running out of burial space, as reported by the BBC already back in 2015.

To cope with the problem, cemeteries have started coming with their own ways to deal with the issue. For example, in Israel graveyards have started digging multi-story burial tunnels, while in Spain and Greece bodies are moved to communal graves once they have decomposed sufficiently.

It’s a bit of a conundrum, really. The dead should be able to rest in peace, but at the same time, they take up way too much space.

If only the dead could decompose with dignity, and maybe even help the planet while they’re at it…

Looking plump today, grandpa.

Ashes to Plants, Dust to Mushrooms

Well, there are ways to do that. Some of them are already pretty well known, like pressing your cremated ashes into diamonds.

But now Dutch biotech company Loop has taken a further step in cultivating the Circle of Life. With their invention, a fun guy from life can become literal fungi in death.

The vessel for that grand transformation is called the Living Cocoon. That’s a fancy name for what’s essentially a biodegradable coffin made out of fungus spores, microbes, and plant roots.

The coffin, covered on the inside with soft green moss for a comfortable final rest, is “powered” by mycelium. That is, the underground “roots” of a fungal network. You probably learned about them in elementary school biology.

“Mycelium is nature’s biggest recycler. It is continuously looking for dead organic matter to transform into key nutrients,” Loop’s founder Bob Hendrikx told Vice.

The Living Cocoon offers a corpse an all-natural ticket back into the cycle of life. Once buried, the presence of ground water activates the fungi in the coffin and the decomposition process begins.

According to the Loop team, the coffin itself will biodegrade completely in 35 to 45 days, depositing the corpse and now thriving mushrooms into the ground. Within roughly three years, there will be nothing left but fungus and nutrient-rich soil.

Oh yes, that’s one of the intentional benefits of the Living Cocoon. Your body will pass on and in turn help new life flourish.

“[The coffin] also hosts bacteria and microorganisms that neutralize toxins in both the body and surrounding soil, enabling people to enrich and clean the soil with their own nutrients.

“Your own body will increase biodiversity and allow new seedlings to thrive,” Loop says.

The coffin has already been, uh, test-driven, too. A person was recently buried in it in the Hague.

‘Parasites’ on the Planet

With the Living Cocoon, Hendikx and Loop want to help transform the way we think about cemeteries and burying our dead.

“We have a dream of having super-new natural funeral-based concepts in which we go to different cities and search for the most dirty soil and start cleaning that up,” envisioned Hendrikx.

If Loop would have its way, in the future we would not visit our loved ones in somber graveyards. Instead, we would pay our respects for the dead in lush woodlands teeming with life.

The company’s vision is rooted in a – shall we say – harsh view on the human condition. Loop says that we as people “parasitize” on the plant not only in life, but also in death.

“To be buried, we cut down a tree, work it intensively and try to shut ourselves off as well as possible from microorganisms,” the company says.

“And for those that don’t want to be buried, we waste our nutrient-rich body by burning it with cremation, polluting the air and ignoring the potential of our human body.”

Furthermore, according to Loop, the modern lifestyle causes the human body to continue polluting even beyond the mortal life.

“The average human body contains 219 chemicals that can endanger ecosystems,” the firm claims.

The phrasing might be radical, but they have a point. If we have to decay eventually, we might as well help new life grow while we’re at it.

It’s the circle of life and it moves us all, sang Sir Elton John. Maybe we should be more willing to participate in it.

What do you think? Would you rather take the fungus train or be preserved like the Egyptian pharaohs? Let us know in the comments!

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Fossilized Butthole Answers Long-standing Questions about Dinosaur Sex Life

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  • Dinosaur genital expert is one of those jobs you’d never think exists, but here we are

If you haven’t caught our last week’s article about the world’s first robot to operate inside a living butthole, you should go check it out. Then you can return here for some more butthole-related news!

Well, we suppose technically it’s not about buttholes. That particular piece of anatomy is really more of a mammalian thing, and today we’re talking about dinosaurs.

In any case, it’s a great day for any prehistoric butthole or butthole-like orifice enthusiasts. Scientists have discovered a fossil that contains the first preserved dinosaur cloaca.

In case you’re not clear on what a “cloaca” is, think of it as the Swiss army knife of orifices. It’s a single multi-purpose bodily hole used for excretion, laying eggs, and mating.

Out of animals that still exist today, reptiles and birds have cloacas. Considering that they’re either more or less related to dinosaurs – or directly descended from them as birds are – researchers have long speculated that dinosaurs, too, had these organs.

Those days of speculation are now over, though. We finally have confirmation.

“Eyes up here, buddy.”

A Rare Discovery

The preserved butthole belongs to what’s known as a Psittacosaurus, or “parrot lizard”. This 6.5-foot-long creature lived in what is now Asia some 125-100 million years ago.

As a ceratopsian dinosaur, it’s related to the well-known three-horned Triceratops.

The discovery of the cloaca is particularly significant because it is soft tissue. While bones fossilize easily, it’s exceedingly rare to find preserved organs and skin is pretty much like winning the lottery for a paleontologist.

“The reproductive biology of extinct non-avialan dinosaurs is rarely interpreted from the fossil record,” the team behind the discovery says, in more sophisticated terms.

“To date, exceptionally well-preserved remains and the extant phylogenetic bracket have clarified details including their brooding behavior, nesting style and timing of sexual maturity. However, the anatomy and function of the cloaca has continued to remain elusive.”

A Window to the Past

What’s left of the cloaca gives at least the scientists a pretty good window into what its function was for the Psittacosaurus. The organ is just under an inch in length, doesn’t protrude out of the body like it does in some modern animals, and it has darker pigmentation than the surrounding area.

Unfortunately, only the external opening of the cloaca has survived to this day. The internal parts have been lost to time and decay. The precise functionality of the dinosaur butthole remains an enigma.

With that being said, even the outer parts give those in the know about such things a good platform to make educated guesses based on the anatomy of similar animals that are alive today. The scientists were glad to note that the dinosaur cloaca closely resembles that of current crocodiles.

“The gross morphology of the vent in Psittacosaurus, which combines a longitudinally opening vent with a rosette pattern of cloacal scales and transverse rows of quadrangular ventral scales, most closely matches that of crocodylians,” the researchers say.

The discovery makes sense. Crocodiles are ancient beasts that existed already at the same time as dinosaurs. They’re both reptiles, so it stands to reason that they would have similar private parts.

Speaking of private parts, there’s more knowledge to glean from the fossilized butthole in that regard…

What’cha Packing?

One question that has haunted both scientists and those with freaky-deaky interests is how did dinosaurs mate. Looking at their skeletal structures, it seems that the process of baby-making may not have been particularly easy for a lot of species.

Dinosaur intimacy has been a contentious topic in the paleontologist community. Some of them have posited that they did the deed like birds do.

That is, they just sort of… Rub their orifices together.

The act is known as “cloacal kissing” and we’ll leave it at that. You can do your own googling if you’re interested.

However, like we said, the crocodile-like Psittacosaurus cloaca now gives scientists ample opportunity to make educated guesses of what the dinosaur was packing. And their educated guess is as follows:

“The crocodilian-like vent of Psittacosaurus implies that, unlike lizards and later-diverging birds, Psittacosaurus probably had a muscular, unpaired, and ventrally-positioned copulatory organ and a ureter that was decoupled from the copulatory organ.”

In more colloquial terms, the dinosaur probably had a penis. Or at least some kind of a dong-like organ.

This seems to confirm the second prevailing theory about dinosaur sex, which is that they had penises. It’s a reasonably theory, particularly when you think about species like Stegosaurus or Diplodocus.

Seems like it’d be difficult for them to get busy without a… Yeah.

Unanswered Questions

Whether the long-since expired owner of the fossilized cloaca had a dong, though, we will never know. The scientists say that it’s impossible to determine the specimen’s sex from the parts available to them.

“In crocodylians, sex determination is entirely dependent on the inspection of the genitalia and has no relationship to the external morphology of the cloaca/vent,” they say.

The researchers note that there are some features that might suggest that the Psittacosaurus in question was female. That, however, is just a guess with no statistical support.

We suppose some things will just be forever lost to time. In any case, whether it be Sir or Madam, we thank this particular dinosaur for its contribution to science.

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Men or Robot Males: That is the Question

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  • And the answer? Well, that depends on you.

Male love robots could really replace men for good, if we want them too. Love dolls are nothing new but now there’s a male doll that’s also a robot, robot males.

These robot males can do things that a real man would, including engaging in verbal communications. There are a couple popular companies making these robot males.

“Real Doll” leaves little to worry about with these as far as your user experience is concerned. A good example is that the battery recharges for these have become a thing of the past.  

They call these robots the “Ultimate Pleasure Experience.” The name tells you what the doll is all about. 

Different personalities, traits, narratives, and characteristics will be designed into the dolls to best serve the needs of women all over the world. And women have it easier, too.

With a robot man, you wouldn’t feel the need to look a certain way, be a certain size, or have anxiousness about sleeping with them. It sounds a little bit unbelievable but you can see for yourself by learning about this technology and what it means for the future. 

Ladies, the love life you always wanted is here. The creators of the doll made sure to make it a superman, so that it could out perform real-life males, stating that women would want to choose these robots over real life guys.

If there are any guys out there not putting in 100% to your relationships, you better rethink that before a replacement male kicks you to the curb.

The “Ultimate Pleasure Experience” was designed to make real-life men obsolete. Great news for women, not so much for men.

The company even believes in this product so much so, it sees the robot males becoming boyfriends to these women, and not just sex friends.

Any of the regular sex dolls have no chance against this high tech alternative. And how could they?

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Cleaning Lady Usurps Incumbent Mayor in Russian Election

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  • The 35-year-old cleaning lady put her name on the ballot as a favor to her boss, the mayor.
  • She ended up earning 62% of the vote in her small rural Russian town.

In a sweet story of someone getting their just desserts, a Russian mayor asked the building’s cleaner to sign up for the local election to assure his victory. But then she won. In Povalikhino, a small town in rural Russia, official elections must have at least two candidates to validate the process. So, Nikolai Loktev, the 58-year-old incumbent mayor, asked the city hall’s 35-year-old cleaning lady to join him on the ballot as a formality. 

 

An Election Day Surprise

Photo by ANGÉLICA SABINA on Unsplash

Loktev’s plan didn’t work out quite as planned; Marina Udgodskaya earned 62% of the vote to Loktev’s 34%. However, some residents would have preferred a third option–no mayor at all. The local shopkeeper told the BBC, “If we could have voted against all we would have done, but we had the option to vote for Marina, so we did.” 

 

Initially, Udgodskaya was going to resign the position, feeling uncertain about her ability to run the town of 242, “I didn’t think people would actually vote for me.” It’d be up to her to fund a new election if she refused to take the new job. 

 

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

The town’s overwhelming support didn’t end with the election; the former cleaning lady has the townspeople’s commitment to helping her learn the job. The mayor’s assistant, Irina Nechayeva, has faith in the newly elected mayor, “I think she’ll cope. The whole village will help. Though, of course, her education needs a bit of a boost.” 

 

The increased paycheck may have temped Udgodskaya as well; the new position doubles her salary as a cleaning lady. She already has an agenda. She committed to bringing street lights to Povalikhino, a longstanding request from the townspeople. 

Elections with Pre-Selected Winners and Losers

Photo by Maria Rodideal on Unsplash

Russia and a handful of former Soviet states use democratic elections for selecting leaders only as a matter of ceremony. The establishment pre-selects winners and losers, going to great lengths to prevent viable opponents from even appearing on the ticket. Vladimir Putin’s opponent Aleksei A. Navalny was poisoned just before the Russian election this year.   

 

It was just a matter of personalities in such a small town that caused a historical breakdown of election expectations. The townspeople saw Loktev as too withdrawn. He didn’t talk to the townspeople or show he cared. Meanwhile, people knew Udgodskaya and liked her, even if she didn’t have political experience. 

 

In an interview, Udgodskaya claimed she wouldn’t have run except as a favor for her boss, as she never cared for politics, “I like farming.” 

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