I often wake in a cold sweat, swiping at my arms and inside my ears frantically trying to scatter the insects crawling on my skin. These are my nightmares, invaded by creepy crawlers of all shapes and sizes. Perhaps it's because my worst nightmares seem to be coming true. Recently in China, a woman found that a spider had made a home of her ear for five days before doctors extracted it. If ear-nesting spiders don't do it for you, perhaps these recently discovered creatures will have you calling out for Mommy in the wee hours of the night.
What's scary about the Trogloraptor marchingtoni isn't that it's pretty big for a spider or that it was found right here on our home turf (in a cave in Oregon), it's that at the end of its legs are barbed, scythe-like claws. Affectionately called the "cave robber" spider, its body isn't much bigger than your garden variety spider, but when its legs are extended, it measures one and a half inches wide. And with those claws, entomologists suspect they are more predator than wait-and-grab. Should something touch its legs while dangling from the air, the spider may snap shut and grab its prey. Experts have never seen anything like this spider, which puts the cave robber not only into a new category of species, but in its own family of spiders. Which means there may be more where this came from.
What do you do if you're a spider without claws? How about spin such a giant web that you can catch human-sized food? That's what the Caerostris darwini is capable of. Discovered in 2007 in the jungles of Madagascar, the "Darwin bark spider" is only an inch wide but can cover 30-square-foot areas with its webs. One anchor line of its thread can stretch up to 80 feet in midair. If that weren't enough, the silk it spins is NASA-grade strong, potentially 10 times better than Kevlar.
3. The Roach That Can Jump on Your Face
Now this is what I'm talking about. It's bad enough that cockroaches can scurry in and out of unfathomably small spaces and, most likely, survive nuclear warfare. Now they can take flight!
Introducing the chill-inspiring Saltoblattella montistabularis or, as it's affectionately called, "leaproach." Unlike the 4,000 some-odd other species of roach, this talented little guy can jump. The bug catapults itself from the grass to the tops of flowers with its buff hind legs. It's so powerful, in fact, that it can cover as many as 50 bug-body lengths in one jump (we can only manage about two body lengths).
In 2010, scientists happened upon a new type of leech whose mere existence will surely ruin your future freshwater swims. Dubbed the Tyrannobdella rex, or "tyrant leech king," this new species was discovered in the remote Peruvian Amazon. The three-inch long bloodsucker has exceptionally large teeth (hence the name), which it uses to saw into the soft inner tissue of mammals' orifices. In horror-speak: this hideous creature can crawl up your nose, into your ear, or other unmentionables, and dine on your insides using its little razor-like teeth. Good luck ever enjoying Stand By Me again.
5. The Cricket That Wants Your Blood
Jiminy this guy is not. This flesh-eating cricket was discovered by a film crew exploring a South American cave in 2012. The yet-to-be named creature swims instead of jumps and has developed highly specialized palps, or mouthparts, for better locating its prey and stealthily moving about its dark habitats.
As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.
1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.
MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.
2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.
MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.
3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.
But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.
4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.
A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.
5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.
From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.
6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.
Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.
7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.
Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.
8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.
With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MADTV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Madparodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)
9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.
MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.
10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.
MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.
11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.
In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic toldEntertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.
12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.
In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.
Additional Sources: Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.
GIFs are silent—otherwise they wouldn't be GIFs. But some people claim to hear distinct noises accompanying certain clips. Check out the GIF below as an example: Do you hear a boom every time the structure hits the ground? If so, you may belong to the 20 to 30 percent of people who experience "visual-evoked auditory response," also known as vEAR.
Researchers from City University London recently published a paper online on the phenomenon in the journal Cortex, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest reports. For their study, they recruited more than 4000 volunteers and 126 paid participants and showed them 24 five-second video clips. Each clip lacked audio, but when asked how they rated the auditory sensation for each video on a scale of 0 to 5, 20 percent of the paid participants rated at least half the videos a 3 or more. The percentage was even higher for the volunteer group.
The likelihood of visual-evoked auditory response, according to the researchers, directly relates to what the subject is looking at. "Some people hear what they see: Car indicator lights, flashing neon shop signs, and people's movements as they walk may all trigger an auditory sensation," they write in the study.
Images packed with meaning, like two cars colliding, are more likely to trigger the auditory illusion. But even more abstract images can produce the effect if they have high levels of something called "motion energy." Motion energy is what you see in the video above when the structure bounces and the camera shakes. It's why a video of a race car driving straight down a road might have less of an auditory impact than a clip of a flickering abstract pattern.
The researchers categorize vEAR as a type of synesthesia, a brain condition in which people's senses are combined. Those with synesthesia might "see" patterns when music plays or "taste" certain colors. Most synesthesia is rare, affecting just 4 percent of the population, but this new study suggests that "hearing motion synesthesia" is much more prevalent.