Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Facts About Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls
On October 24th, 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor becomes the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
After her husband died in the Civil War, the New York-born Taylor moved all over the U. S. before settling in Bay City, Michigan, around 1898. In July, 1901, while reading an article about the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, she learned of the growing popularity of two enormous waterfalls located on the border of upstate New York and Canada. Strapped for cash and seeking fame, Taylor came up with the perfect attention-getting stunt: She would go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Annie Edson Taylor
Taylor was not the first person to attempt the plunge over the famous falls. In October, 1829, Sam Patch, known as the Yankee Leaper, survived jumping down the 175-foot Horseshoe Falls of the Niagara River, on the Canadian side of the border. More than 70 years later, Taylor chose to take the ride on her birthday, October 24. (She claimed she was in her 40's, but genealogical records later showed she was 63.) With the help of two assistants, Taylor strapped herself into a leather harness inside an old wooden pickle barrel five feet high and three feet in diameter. With cushions lining the barrel to break her fall, Taylor was towed by a small boat into the middle of the fast-flowing Niagara River and cut loose.

Annie Edson Taylor and her Barrel
Knocked violently from side to side by the rapids and then propelled over the edge of Horseshoe Falls, Taylor reached the shore alive, if a bit battered, around 20 minutes after her journey began. After a brief flurry of photo-ops and speaking engagements, Taylor’s fame cooled, and she was unable to make the fortune for which she had hoped. She did, however, inspire a number of copy-cat daredevils. Between 1901 and 1995, 15 people went over the falls; 10 of them survived. Among those who died were Jesse Sharp, who took the plunge in a kayak in 1990, and Robert Overcracker, who used a jet ski in 1995. No matter the method, going over Niagara Falls is illegal, and survivors face charges and stiff fines on either side of the border.
Facts About Niagara Falls

The famous Niagara Falls, found at the border of New York and Ontario. The falls is actually made up of three waterfalls: the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.
Niagara Falls is a geological wonder and one of the most famous waterfalls in the world. Straddling the border between the United States and Canada, it has been a popular tourist attraction for over 200 years, as well as a major source of hydroelectric power.  
Niagara Falls occurs on the Niagara River, a 36-mile (58 kilometers) channel that connects Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and separates New York from Ontario. The difference in elevation between the two lakes is about 325 feet (99 meters), and half of that height occurs at the falls, according to Niagara Parks. 
Niagara is made up of three separate waterfalls: Horseshoe Falls (or Canadian Falls), American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. According to the World Waterfall Database, Horseshoe Falls has a height of about 167 feet (51 m) and stretches over 2,700 feet (823 m) across at its crest; American Falls drops between 90 and 120 feet (27.5 to 36.5 m) and spans about 940 feet (286.5 m) at its crest; Bridal Veil Falls also has a drop of 90 to 120 feet but is only 45 feet (14 m) wide. Together, the average width of the entire falls is 3,950 feet (1,204 m). 
The three cascades form the second largest waterfall in the world (after Victoria Falls in Africa), according to the Travel Channel. More than 6 million cubic feet (168,000 cubic meters), or about 70 Olympic-size swimming pools, of water go over the falls every minute. The water rushes over the falls at about 25 mph, according to the New York State Museum (NYSM). The deepest point in the Niagara River is just below Horseshoe Falls, at 167 feet (51 m) deep — equal to the height of the falls, according to Niagara Parks. The Niagara Gorge begins at the foot of the falls and ends 7 miles (11 km) downstream at Lake Ontario. Cliffs rise as high as 1,200 feet (366 m), formed by thousands of years of erosion.
Niagara Falls empties out into Niagara Gorge where the cliffs rise about 1,200 feet from the Niagara River.
Evolution of Niagara Falls
The geologic forces that formed Niagara Falls started working about 16,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. A glacier more than a mile thick covered the northern regions of the North American continent from Ohio to New York, according to the NYSM. As the ice retreated, it carved out the Great Lakes. 
About 12,000 years ago, waters draining the lakes found a low-lying pathway and carved out a channel - the Niagara River. Lake Erie and Lake Ontario were split between higher elevations and lower elevations and the water drained from the upper lake to the lower over the Niagara Escarpment and eventually created a waterfall. 
When Niagara Falls formed, it was about 7 miles (11 km) downstream from where it is today. Even now, erosion continues to push the falls farther upstream at a rate of about a foot a year. By some estimates, the river will erode back to Lake Erie in about 50,000 years, cutting through an escarpment and through soft shale and beginning to drain Lake Erie. 
Tourists can walk to the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls, on the right, and American Falls.
The History of Niagara Falls

Native Americans settled in the area between A.D. 1300 and 1400, according to Niagara Falls Info. One of the first native tribes called themselves the Onguiaahra, which French explorers turned into "Niagara." Also among the earlier settlers was an Iroquois group, the Atiquandaronk, who were called the "Neutrals" by French explorers because of the tribe's peacekeeping efforts between neighboring warring tribes. In the early 1600's, the Neutrals had a population of 20,000 to 40,000 people.
The first European to visit the falls was probably Étienne Brûlé, a French explorer who lived among the Neutral Nation in 1626. However, he left no written record, but he did report to his patron, Samuel de Champlain, who wrote about the falls. In 1632, Champlain was the first to draw and publish a map of Niagara. The first eyewitness account was written by Louis Hennepin, a priest who accompanied Robert de La Salle to the falls in 1678, according to American Journeys.
The French built the first fort above Niagara Falls in 1679, known as Fort Conti, according to Old Fort Niagara. The fort didn't last long, and Fort Denonville was built in its place in 1687. That fort only lasted for about a year. Fort Niagara, the first permanent fort, was built in 1726. 
The British captured Niagara Fort in 1759 during the French and Indian War, which broke out in 1754 and raged all across the Niagara region. Niagara Fort assumed American control in 1796, was recaptured by the British in 1813, and ceded back to the United States after the War of 1812. Between 1813 and 1963, Niagara Fort served as a peaceful border post and as a barracks and training station for American soldiers. Today, Niagara Fort is a popular place that tourists can stroll through while visiting the waterfalls.
In the early 1800's, the number of visitors visiting the waterfalls was increasing, as was the demand for additional amenities. Hotels, resorts, and other tourist attractions began to spring up on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls while factories and mills were being built on the American side, according to New York Waterfalls.
The area built up quickly. The first man-powered ferry opened in 1820 to ferry passengers across the Niagara Gorge. The Niagara Falls Museum opened in 1827, and the Maid of the Mist opened in 1846 to carry passengers, livestock, and cargo across the gorge. The first suspension bridge opened in 1848, a railway extension brought steam engines to the waterfalls in 1854, and a railway suspension bridge opened in 1855 to allow trains to cross the gorge. A canal to divert water from the river to power plants was built in 1861, and the first electric streetcar began operation in 1887.
Niagara Falls also served as a part of the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s, according to Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area. Many residents were anti-slavery and were part of an established network in the area to help escaped slaves. Many hotels in the area offered employment to the growing African American population, including a great number of those who had recently escaped slavery.
According to Niagara Falls State Park, the Niagara Reservation, which encompasses Niagara Falls, was established as the first state park in the United States in 1885. The park covers more than 400 acres, which includes about 140 acres under water.
Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse designed and built the first hydroelectric power plant in the world in 1895, bringing clean electricity to the growing vicinity, according to the Tesla Memorial Society of New York. According to the Buffalo Library, power was even transported to Buffalo, New York, within a year.
The cities of Niagara Falls in New York and in Ontario were incorporated in 1892 and 1903, respectively, according to New York Waterfalls.
The areas on both the American and Canadian sides of Niagara Falls have continuously built up and are largely built on tourism. Today, approximately 12 million visitors visit the waterfalls per year, according to Niagara Falls Canada.
 The Maid of the Mist takes tourists up to the bottom of Horseshoe Falls.

From the first planned and recorded tourist stunt in 1827, dozens of people have tried to make history by going over the waterfalls or by crossing it in some unconventional manner. Some have succeeded in their efforts but, sadly, others have not. 
The first known stunt was arranged in 1827 by William Forsyth of the Pavilion Hotel. It involved decorating a boat as a pirate ship and putting a number of animals onboard,  including a bison, two bears, two raccoons, a dog and a goose,  and sending it over the waterfalls, according to New York Waterfalls. The two bears escaped before the boat went over but the rest went down with the boat over the waterfalls.
The first person to jump down the waterfalls was Sam Patch (also known as the Yankee Leaper) in 1829 when he dove 85 feet (26 meters) down Horseshoe Falls. He survived the dive, as well as another the following week from a height of 135 feet (41 m).
Charles Blondin was the first to walk across the gorge in 1859 on a tightrope, according to New York Waterfalls. He walked across a 1,100-foot-long (335 m) rope that was 160 feet (49 m) above the gorge just past the waterfalls in approximately 20 minutes. He then followed with many other stunts including crossing his tightrope while blindfolded and pushing a wheelbarrow across. Italian tightrope walker Maria Spelterini was the first and still the only woman to walk across the gorge on a tightrope in 1876. She repeated her stunt blindfolded, with baskets on her feet, and even once with her hands and feet bound, according to New York Waterfalls.
Captain Matthew Webb was the first to attempt to swim across the Whirlpool rapids in 1883 without any aids. Unfortunately, according to New York Waterfalls, he did not make it and his body was found a few days later.
In 1951, shortly after another failed attempt at going over the waterfalls, the Ontario government made any stunting within the park boundaries illegal. This decree, however, has not stopped the occasional person from going over or crossing the waterfalls in some form or another.
Quotes About Niagara Falls
All trembling, I reached the Falls of Niagara, and oh, what a scene! My blood shudders still, although I am not a coward, at the grandeur of the Creator's power; and I gazed motionless on this new display of the irresistible force of one of His elements. - John James Audubon
It's Niagara Falls. It's one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world. Who wouldn't want to walk across it? - Nik Wallenda

From a drop of water a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other. - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Political Cartoons of the Week, No. 123

Nightmares and Hallucinations

by Bahar Gholipour,

Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare may have been inspired by the chest-crushing sensation and hallucinations of sleep paralysis.
It was an ordinary night, but Salma, a 20-year-old student at The American University in Cairo, had a particularly frightening experience. She woke up, unable to move a muscle, and felt as though there were an intruder in her bedroom. She saw what appeared to be a fanged, bloody creature that looked like "something out of a horror movie," standing beside her bed.
She later explained her experience to researchers who were conducting a survey about sleep paralysis, a common but somewhat unexplained phenomenon in which a person awakens from sleep but feels unable to move. Up to 40 percent of people report experiencing sleep paralysis at some point in their lives, and a few, like Salma, hallucinate shadowy intruders hovering over them.
"Sleep paralysis can be a very frightening experience for some people, and a clear understanding of what actually causes it would have great implications for people who suffer from it," said Baland Jalal, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego.

Researchers say that sleep paralysis happens when a person awakens during a stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). People in this stage of sleep are usually dreaming, but their muscles are nearly paralyzed, which might be an evolutionary adaptation that keeps people from acting out their dreams.
It is harder to explain why a subset of people who experience sleep paralysis feel a menacing figure in their room or pressing on their chests.

One possible explanation could be that the hallucination is the brain's way of clearing out confusion, when there's a disturbance in the brain region that holds a neural map of the body or the "self," according to a recent article that Jalal and his colleague Vilayanur Ramachandran, of U.C. San Diego, published in the journal Medical Hypotheses.
"Perhaps, in part of the brain, there's a genetically hardwired image of the body, a template," Jalal told Live Science. Previous studies have suggested that such a region may be a part of the parietal lobes, which are situated in the top-middle part of the brain.
It is possible that during sleep paralysis, the parietal lobes monitor the neurons in the brain that are firing commands to move, but aren't detecting any actual movement in the limbs, which are temporarily paralyzed. This may lead to a disturbance in how the brain builds a sense of the body image, Jalal said. The appearance of a bedroom intruder could result when the brain tries to projectthe person's own body image onto a hallucinated figure, he said.
This idea, though intriguing, would be very difficult to test, Jalal said. One way to gather evidence showing whether this is what is happening inside the brain during sleep paralysis would be to test people who have different body images. For example, if this idea is true, people who are missing a limb might hallucinate figures who are missing the same limb, Jalal said. Still, people with such different body images are likely a small subset of the population, and it would be difficult to conduct such an experiment, he said.
What's so frightening about sleep paralysis?

It's also possible that people's differing experiences of sleep paralysis are due to differences in their cultural beliefs. Previous research has suggested that certain ideas found in people's cultures could shape how they experience certain phenomena, Jalal said.

For example, in a 2013 study published in the journal Cultural, Medicine, and Psychiatry, Jalal and his colleague Devon Hinton, of Harvard Medical School, looked at the rates of sleep paralysis, and the amount of stress that people felt because of the episodes, among people of two different societies: Egypt and Denmark. They found that, compared to study participants in Denmark, the Egyptians experienced sleep paralysis more frequently, and had more prolonged episodes that were accompanied with a greater fear of dying from the experience.
"These are two very different cultures; Egypt is very religious, whereas Denmark is one of the most atheist countries in the world," Jalal said.
Most of the Danish participants said they thought sleep paralysis was caused by physiological factors, brain malfunctioning or sleeping the wrong way, whereas the Egyptians were more likely to believe that sleep paralysis is caused by the supernatural.
In another survey, about half of the Egyptian participants from that study said they thought their sleep paralysis was inflicted by a jinn, a ghostlike, menacing creature from Islamic mythology, according to the study, published in the journal Transcultural Psychiatry in 2014. 
Jalal and his colleagues concluded that people with such supernatural beliefs tend to experience more fear during sleep paralysis, as well as longer episodes of it. It is even possible that the fear actually contributes to an increase in the person's severe episodes of sleep paralysis, and vice versa, Jalal said.
"If you have fear, the activation in fear centers in the brain might mean more likelihood of fully awaking during sleep paralysis, and experiencing the whole thing," Jalal said. "And by experiencing it, you would have more fear, and then, you have all these cultural ideas of what it is added as well, and now you are even more scared of it."
Jalal said he thinks finding a scientific explanation for sleep paralysis could help people who have particularly frightening and stressful episodes because they have culturally learned to attribute it to supernatural beings.

Nightmares and Hallucinations

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Three Poems by Carmine Giordano



From out here 
looking down
the earth is a
misty marble
its business
and the daily fray
lost in the 
presence of
all this absence
the mind aware
wonders of itself
as a bird might
just now
on the shell
of its egg
or a child just wet 
from the womb

*               *              *

Sad News

Sorry to inform you
the message said
of his death after
illness sorry this news
and sorry that the
memory searches for
some goodness past
the scar of hurt from him
when we might have
grieved his passing
found ourselves bereft
missing a friend not
rehearsing old noise
trying to speak of
those who die
nothing but the good

*               *              *


At the end of the tv
documentary all
talk stops all art
all cuts all close ups
the music - stops
just the thing that 
is there is there
the beaver 
the tree branch 
the swim up stream
what we see
we see