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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Crazy Barbar With Balls

Dangerous Barber (video-link)

This sucksRating: 0 This is cool


Click image to watch video at Useloos.com

High flyers: bees on cocaine 'behave like humans'

Honeybees

Bees given cocaine became unusually enthusiastic communicators. Photograph: Rex Features

They are highly social, adhere to a rigid class system and are intensely house-proud. And now it emerges that bees resemble human beings in one more, previously overlooked, respect: they behave just like us under the influence of cocaine.

Australian researchers found that bees which had been given a dose of cocaine threw themselves into unusually energetic dance routines, felt compelled to "talk" to their nest mates - and even went "cold turkey" when the drugs ran out.

The research, carried out at Macquarie University in Sydney, examined the behaviour of the bees after returning from a trip looking for food.

"When foraging honeybees discover a particularly good source of pollen or nectar, they fly back to the hive and perform a symbolic dance for their nest mates," said Dr Andrew Barron. "This is a specialised form of communication to tell their nest mates about the rewards they have found."

But after dabbing low doses of cocaine on the bees' backs before they went out, the researchers observed that when they returned they were more likely to dance for their nest mates, and performed particularly vigorous routines explaining where the food was located.

The dance language gave Barron and his colleagues an indication of what was going on in the bees' brains. Rather like a cokehead in a crowded nightclub, cocaine made the bees much more enthusiastic communicators. This was not simply because they were generally more energetic: the extra enthusiasm was in order to communicate with nest mates.

The results are reported in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Next, Barron's team investigated whether the bees suffered withdrawal symptoms when the drug was removed. This involved giving the bees a cocaine diet for a week, then testing their ability to learn how to distinguish between two different smells. "The poor little buggers had to drink cocaine for a week. Then we just stopped it dead and we gave them a learning test," said Barron. "Their performance absolutely crashed."

The finding is the first time scientists have shown that bees are affected by cocaine in a similar way to humans.

Addiction is much more complex in humans than in honeybees, said Barron, but he believes bees can provide a tool for looking at some aspects of the phenomenon, such as which genes are activated when the bee's brain goes cold turkey.

The Great Depreciation- Best Used Cars Buys


A tanking economy doesn't have to be all bad news and nooses. Just look at fuel prices, which have come crashing down from unprecedented heights down to levels some younger drivers have never seen at the pump. For the ever-dwindling segment of the population still afloat, a deep recession may be the best time to indulge in a few luxuries that were just out of reach in the past.

In some cases, lightly used luxury rides like Range Rovers, Porsche Caymans, or Cadillac CTS-Vs can be had for Honda Accord prices; dollar amounts that far outstrip normal depreciation. Just be prepared to feel the wrath of your fellow motorists — nowadays, a luxury car can be a rolling target for loose-nut road-ragers with Buy American bumper stickers on their pickups.

Below is our list of top deals. We ignored the obvious stuff like ten-cent Tauruses and went for a set that's more aspirational. Remember, our nation's cup may be mostly empty, but at the same time it's a little bit full.

Sport-Utility Vehicles

LandRoverLR3HSE.jpg

LincolnNavigator.jpg

RangeRoverHSE.jpg

yuk.jpg

Sports Cars


Porsche911Turbo.jpg

PorscheCayman.jpg

BMWMRoadster.jpg

Sport Sedans

CadillacCTSV.jpg

CadillacSTSV.jpg

AudiS6.jpg

ChargerSRT8.jpg

Luxury Sedans

MercedesBenzE550.jpg

AudiA8L.jpg

JaguarXJRSupercharged.jpg

Motive would like to thank AutoTrader.com, L.L.C., of Atlanta, GA, for data provided for this article.

Surfing still shapes life of landlocked Gerry Lopez

Gerry Lopez
Andy Tullis / For the Times
Gerry Lopez and his dog, Jack, in his surfboard shop in Bend, Ore., where the Hawaii native and former surfing legend now lives.

The pioneer, now 60, lives in Bend, Ore., but makes it to coast 'pretty much any time it looks good.' He returns to Hawaii each December to dole out awards at Pipeline Masters, renamed in his honor.
Jerry Crowe
December 22, 2008
One of surfing's most famous tube-riding icons makes his home not in a balmy, palm-lined paradise but in central Oregon.

But Gerry Lopez, 60, still answers the siren call of the ocean.

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A master at the notorious Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu, one of the world's most dangerous breaks, Lopez says he continues to surf "pretty much any time it looks good," even though doing so requires making the four-hour drive between his home in Bend and the distant waves off Pacific City.

"It's not the Pipeline," he says, "but it can be pretty fun."

Revered within the sport for navigating Pipeline's treacherous barrel-shaped breakers with a signature soulful detachment, Lopez moved his family from his native Hawaii about 15 years ago after shuttling back and forth for years.

"When our son started the first grade, we kind of had to settle into one or the other," Lopez says of his family of three, including wife Toni and son Alex. "So we tried Bend and we've been here ever since."

Do other surfers find it odd to spot him off the coast of Oregon?

"They do," he says. "I don't."

His son, now a college sophomore, prefers snowboarding to surfing, his father says, and Lopez frequently joins him on the slopes.

"I enjoy snowboarding a lot," says Lopez, whose home on the eastern edge of the Cascades is only about 15 minutes from Mt. Bachelor ski resort. "But surfing is and always will be the foundation of pretty much everything I do."

Lopez, who helped launch the Lightning Bolt brand of surfboards in the 1970s, still shapes boards. Either as an actor or playing himself, he has appeared in numerous surfing movies and documentaries, and in 1982 he co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Conan the Barbarian."

A collection of his short stories about surfing was published last spring, and he works as an ambassador for Patagonia clothing company.

"I test their winter gear," he says, "and their surf gear."

One of surfing's most prestigious contests, the Pipeline Masters, was renamed in honor of Lopez, who not only made the break famous but won the event in 1972 and 1973.

Lopez returns to Hawaii each December to dole out the awards. (This year, one of the prizes was a Lopez-designed surfboard that event winner Kelly Slater, a nine-time world champion, said he would "cherish.")

It has been years, though, since Lopez last surfed Pipeline.

Too crowded, he says.

"All my earlier experiences were so much better," Lopez notes. "I came to the realization that I could enjoy it more just watching from the beach. The level of surfing has really gone through the roof from what it used to be in my day, and the younger guys are so much more skilled than any of us ever were. There are a lot of girl surfers nowadays that surf better than I ever dreamed of surfing."

A Hawaii state champion at age 14, Lopez grew up a "town guy" in Honolulu, son of a news editor for the Honolulu Advertiser. From an early age, though, he was a regular at the now-famous breaks only about an hour away.

Back in those days, Lopez said, "nobody called it the North Shore. We called it the country, and it was about as close to heaven on Earth as any of us could ever imagine."

Unimaginable to Lopez, whose seeming nonchalance in the tube created a signature aura about him, was the coming explosion in surfing's popularity, a cultural phenomenon that vaulted the sport squarely into the mainstream.

"When I started, the only industry was guys who built surfboards," he says. "There weren't clothing companies or anything like that, like there are now. None of us had any idea of what was to come. We just thought it was kind of an obscure, underground sport that weirdos like us liked. . . .

"It was growing the whole time we were doing it, but our only thought was that more guys would be wanting waves, which meant less waves for us."

This realization led to Lopez's becoming a pioneer in surf exploration, an endeavor that led to the discovery of now-legendary breaks in Bali and other Indonesian locales that Lopez still visits on his numerous surf trips.

"I've had a great time," says Lopez, whose latest adventure, on behalf of autism awareness, involved navigating a stand-up paddleboard around Manhattan the last two summers. "I wouldn't change it for anything."

He says he can't envision a time when he won't surf.

"I'm still as passionate as I ever was -- I think that's just the nature of surfing," Lopez says. "I was 10 years old and it was a recreation, and then after I'd been doing it for six or seven years, I understood how difficult it was to learn and I decided it was one of those things that would be a lifetime endeavor.

"To this day, I find lessons to be learned in the surf."

In Oregon, Lopez found one that's the title of his book: "Surf Is Where You Find It."

jerome.crowe@latimes.com

Last major VHS supplier throws in the towel

By Jacqui Cheng |

Farewell, VHS... and don't let the door hit you on your way out. Though most of us have given up our VHS players by now in favor of something a little less dated, there have been the usual stragglers in the "old 'n' busted video format" department that have kept VHS alive long past its expiration date. But with the last major VHS supplier in the US ditching the format at the end of this year, the sound of the death knell has forced us to reminisce on VHS and other formats we wish would die with it.

VHS, which became wildly popular in the 80s and rode out its popularity well into the 2000s, has been on a very steady decline since the advent of DVD (and now digital downloads and Blu-ray). As a result, most VHS distributors have long ago ditched the format, but not Distribution Video Audio Inc., which prides itself in keeping little tidbits of pop culture alive. But this is one trend that is finally going to the grave after the 2008 holiday season is over, despite steady sales over the last several years.

"It's dead, this is it, this is the last Christmas, without a doubt," Distribution Video Audio co-owner Ryan Kugler told the L.A. Times. "I was the last one buying VHS and the last one selling it, and I'm done. Anything left in the warehouse we'll just give away or throw away."

The last Hollywood-produced VHS movie was released sometime in 2006, which was already well into DVD release territory. Kugler points out, however, that even though major retailers (like Walmart and Best Buy) were phasing out their VHS selection, bargain basement stores like the Dollar Tree and mom-and-pops were still buying inventory from him. He says he also sold to public libraries, military bases, and cruise ships, although those venues are looking for DVDs now too. As it turns out, Distribution Video Audio now sets up discount DVD displays for big-box retailers, although Kugler warns that DVD's days are numbered as well. "The DVD will be obsolete in three or four years, no doubt about it. Everything will be Blu-ray," he said.

With VHS's death about to become a reality, the Ars staff got to thinking about what other formats we'd like to see buried before the end of this decade. I, for one, wish car makers would stop even offering to put cassette players into vehicles—the only function those things are good these days is acting as a cheap intermediary between an iPod and a stereo system. Several other staff members chimed in with the QuickTime .mov and the dusty old .gif when it comes to file formats. What are some of yours?

HP enables photo printing from the iPhone

Hewlett-Packard on Monday launched an application that allows users to print pictures wirelessly from an iPhone.

The free application, HP iPrint Photo (App Store link), allows pictures stored on an iPhone to be printed using certain HP's inkjet printers attached to a Wi-Fi network.

Users launch the application on an iPhone, select a photo by touching it, and then the app sends a print command to the inkjet printer over a Wi-Fi network. The software also runs on the iPod touch.

Currently, the software works only with 4-by-6-inch (10-by-15-centimeter) photo prints and resizes images accordingly.

HP says the software is a better way for users to print from the thousands of images stored on their iPhones. The application works with Apple's Bonjour networking technology to help identify HP wireless printers on the network.

Currently, you can print only JPEG images using the application—it doesn't support any other image or documents formats for now, HP said. The printing may also be cancelled if a user receives a call or a text message on the iPhone.

HP iPrint Photo is only compatible with wireless HP inkjet printers or other HP network inkjets connected to a Wi-Fi network, an HP spokeswoman said. "Currently we cannot comment on future plans to expand the compatibility," she said.

Additional features and functionality will be decided with future versions of the software, the spokeswoman said.

The technology will be on display at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Macworld Expo, both of which will be held next month.

Pictures of the year: lions, tigers and bears (oh my!)


telegraph.co.uk — In 2008, we saw many gregarious animals showing off for the cameras, which is why we must tip our hats to the more bashful wild animals, like this panda cubs..

Click here for this Fantastic Gallery

Manswers - How Beer Makes your Gilfriends Boobs Bigger!

NASA to have atronauts on moon by 2020, plan permanant base


NASA Looks Forward Beyond 2008 Successes


22 December 2008

At NASA, 2008 will be remembered for shuttle missions, discoveries on Mars, and mysteries revealed across the solar system and beyond. While looking back at the U.S. space agency's 2008 successes, VOA looks at the agency's uncertain future and its plans to bring humankind to Moon.

NASA's Constellation project is accelerating, with engineers building and testing rockets and capsules that will be the primary vehicles for human space exploration after the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.

The core of NASA's current activities is a return to the moon, with astronauts landing there by 2020.

TS-126 spacewalker Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper rides the International Space Station's Canadarm2 to space shuttle Endeavour's payload bay, 18 Nov 2008
TS-126 spacewalker Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper rides the International Space Station's Canadarm2 to space shuttle Endeavour's payload bay, 18 Nov 2008
Meanwhile the International Space Station has been racing towards completion.

In February, the Shuttle Atlantis blasted off on the first of four missions to the space station. In 2008, repairs and upgrades doubled the station's crew capacity. Two major science labs were delivered.

In 2009, a new solar wing - to generate energy - will complete major additions.

In 2008, NASA's unmanned probes caught the public's attention. Three around the sun began sending data and the first ever three dimensional images of the star.

The Cassini spacecraft passed through Saturn's rings and turned its instruments on one of the planet's moons, analyzing icy geysers that erupt from its interior.

Photo of Mercury's surface, taken by MESSENGER
Photo of Mercury's surface, taken by MESSENGER
The MESSENGER probe flew by the planet Mercury twice, mapping its surface.

The fascination with Mars grew with six spacecraft exploring the red planet.

For many, the most exciting moment came when the unmanned probe Phoenix completed its 10-month journey, landing on the red planet in May.

The probe dug into the planet's surface and confirmed the presence of frozen water, a sign there could have been life on Mars at some time in the past.

A pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies called Arp 147 is more than 400 million light-years away from Earth
A pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies called Arp 147 is more than 400 million light-years away from Earth
The Hubble Space Telescope continued to focus on distant worlds, bringing images of colliding galaxies and more. 2008 will be remembered for Hubble's gift of the first ever image of a planet outside our solar system.

Despite budget uncertainties, eight shuttle missions, almost all to the space station, are planned before the fleet is retired.

NASA's long term plans are to build a permanent base on the moon that may one day be used as a launching pad for manned flights to Mars.

100-Car Pileup On I-94 In Michigan Leaves One Dead

A 100-car pileup on I-94 in western Michigan as a result of sustained whiteout blizzard conditions left one person dead and closed down an 11-mile section of the freeway for hours.


Eye witnesses and those involved said the crash was virtually inevitable, given the relentless blizzard conditions, 70 vehicles ended up wrecked on the freeway with another 30 on the side of the road in the ditch. Aside from the one fatality, 31-year-old Raymond Candage III of Elgin, IL, who died when his car hit a stopped semi, no other serious injuries were reported by police. Given holiday travel is about to spike, this should be a reminder to everyone to slow down on the winter roads. Grandma's holiday ham will still be there if you're a little late. [WSBT]


Holy sh*t that was close: A lighting strike that close would make anyone's butt hole pucker

10 Most Fascinating Tombs in the World

Posted by Alex

There is perhaps nothing else so distinctive of the condition and character of a people as the method in which they treat their dead.
- William Tegg, 1876

Throughout the history of human civilization, different cultures mourn and treat the dead differently. Some, like Tibetan Buddhists, have no use for burials as they dispose the dead by feeding corpses to vultures or by burning them in funeral pyres. Most cultures, however, show their respect by burying the dead, sometimes in complex and ornate tombs, crypts, and catacombs.

This article takes a look at ten of the most fascinating final resting places around the world, from the largest prehistoric burial mound in Europe to the the tombs of pharaohs to the most beautiful mausoleum in the world:

Newgrange

The burial mound of Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland is definitely one of the most impressive prehistoric monuments in the world. Build between 3300 BC - 2900 BC, it is the also the world’s oldest surviving building (it’s older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt).

Newgrange is impressive: the circular mound is 250 feet (76 m) across and 40 feet (12 m) high. It covers an entire acre (4046 m²). A long tunnel under the mound leads to a high-domed burial chamber, a corbelled vault with ceilings made of huge, interlocking stone slabs.

The entrance to Newgrange is marked with a huge curbstone that is elaborately carved with "megalithic art," which includes spiral and concentric arc motifs chipped into the stone with flint tools.


Newgrange burial mound. Image: mike nl [Flickr]


The wall of Newgrange. Image: Barbara y Eugenio [Flickr]


The engraved slab in front of Newgrange’s entrance. Image: mike nl [Flickr]

Tana Toraja

The Toraja people in Sulawesi, Indonesia, have what is probably the most complex funeral ritual in the world. When someone dies, the funeral is attended by a lot of people and can last for days! But that’s not the strange part - this is: the funeral ceremony is often held weeks, months, or even years after the death (to give the family of the deceased time to raise enough money for expenses).

Torajans can wait that long because they believe that death is not a sudden event but instead a gradual process towards the afterlife (if you’re wondering about the smell - the dead body is embalmed within the first few days of death, then stored in a secret place until the funeral ceremony).

After much partying (including the slaughter of one or several water buffaloes), the dead is buried in a stone cave carved out of a rocky cliff. A wood-carved effigy called tau tau, carved with the likeness of the dead person is then placed in the balcony of the tomb to represent the dead and watch over their remains.


Toraja cave tombs with balconies, filled with tau tau. Image: Kaeru [Flickr]


"In Tana Toraja, everything revolves around death. The graves can be very sophisticated yet sometimes, long after the coffins are destroyed by time, people gently place bones along natural cave ‘racks’. Often, the bones are offered cigarettes or various offerings. This is supposed to prevent dead ancestors from bringing bad luck and otherwise making the lives of the living miserable."
Image: phitar [Flickr]

Westminster Abbey

The gothic church Westminster Abbey in London, United Kingdom was established by Benedictine monks in the tenth century (and rebuilt in the 13th century by King Henry III) - since then it has evolved into both the coronation church for English royalty and the final resting place of monarchs.

Though at first Westminster Abbey was the burial place of kings, aristocrats, and monks, it soon became the tomb-of-choice (if there is such a thing) for the who’s who in England. Poets and writers like Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and Alfred Tennyson; as well as scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Ernest Rutherford were all interred there.


Westminster Abbey. Image: Inetours


Newton’s grave at Westminster Abbey. Image: Sacred Destination

Giza Necropolis

There are more than 100 pyramids in Egypt, with the largest and most famous being the complex of pyramids in Giza Necropolis, Cairo, Egypt. This complex consists of the Great Pyramid of Giza (tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Khufu or Cheops), the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure, the Great Sphinx statue, as well as several other smaller satellite pyramids.

Let’s take, for instance, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the only surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. When it was completed in 2560 BC, the pyramid was 481 feet (147 m) tall with each base side being 758 feet (231 m) wide. The blocks weigh about 1.5 tons each, with the internal granite blocks used as the roof of the burial chamber being about 80 tons each. The ancient Egyptians knew what they were doing: the base sides have a mean margin of error of only 2 1/3 inch (58 mm)! Needless to say, it is an amazing work of engineering.


The Pyramids of Giza. Image: liber [Flickr]


The Great Sphinx. Image: ironmanix [Flickr]


The Pyramids of Giza are not too far from the urban sprawl of Cairo.
Image: graspnext [Flickr]

Valley of the Kings

Even if you don’t know much about the Valley of the Kings, a burial ground of ancient Egyptian pharaohs and one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, chances are you know about one of its occupants: King Tut and the Curse of the Pharaohs that accompany his grave.

In 1922, Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered and opened the tomb of Tutankhamen - despite warnings that "Death shall come on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the King." Lord Carnarvon, the funder of the expedition, was the first to die: he was bitten by a mosquito and later accidentally lashed the bite while shaving. His wound became infected and he died of blood poisoning.

Whether the "mysterious" deaths associated with the Curse of the Pharaoh actually had anything to do with opening of the tombs or just great copy to sell newspaper, scientists did recently discover that the tombs indeed contained potentially dangerous molds, bacteria, toxins, and even hazardous gases.


Valley of the Kings. Image: Shelby PDX [Flickr]


The tomb of King Tut in the Valley of the Kings. Image: Hajor [wikipedia]


Tomb of Ramses III in Luxor, Valley of the Kings. Image: Peter J. Bubenik [wikipedia]


Sarcophagus of the Pharaoh Merenptah in the KV8 tomb of the Valley of the Kings.
Image: Hajor [wikipedia]


Luxor Temple. Image: mike nl [Flickr]

Catacombs of Paris

Officially called les carrières de Paris or "the quarries of Paris," the Catacombs of Paris is a network of underground tunnels and rooms that used to be Roman-era limestone quarries.

In the late 1700s, Paris was suffering from diseases caused by improper burials and mass graves in church cemeteries. Local authorities decided that they would remove thousands of bones and place them stacked in the abandoned underground quarries.

Today, the entrance to the catacombs is restricted and only a small portion of the 186 miles (300 km) worth of underground tunnels is accessible to the public. Secret entrances to the Catacombs, however, dotted Paris - urban explorers have found access via sewers, manholes and even the Paris Metro subway system.


Catacombs of Paris. Bones from the former Magdalene cemetery, deposited in 1844 in the western ossuary (bone repository) and transferred to the catacombs in 1859. Image: Vlastimil Juricek [wikipedia]


Wall of bones in the Catacombs of Paris. Image: Ivan Paganacci [Flickr]

Terracota Army

In 1974, local farmers in Xi’an, China, discovered a vast underground complex of mausoleum while drilling for water. They had serendipitously stumbled upon the burial ground of Qin Shi Huangdi, the First Emperor and the unifier of China.

According to legends, the First Emperor was buried alongside great treasures inside a tomb with pearl-laced ceilings (in a pattern that represented the cosmos) and channels dug in the ground with flowing mercury to represent the rivers of China. But the most famous feature of the tomb is the Terracota Army, about 8,000 life-like and life-sized statues of soldiers buried alongside Qin Shi Huangdi to help the Emperor rule in the afterlife.


Terracota army. Image: MichaelTyler [Flickr]


Image: mkools [Flickr]


Each face and pose of the Terracota army soldier is distinct from the others. Image: Peter Morgan [wikipedia]

Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo

When the Capuchin monastery in Palermo, Italy, outgrew its original cemetery in the 16th century, monks excavated the catacomb below it and began a bizarre tradition that lasted until the 19th century.

The Capuchin monks mummified the bodies of the dead, dressed them up in everyday clothing and then put them on display on the monastery walls. Apparently, it was quite a status symbol to be entombed in the Capuchin monastery - prominent citizens of the town would ask to be preserved in certain clothing or even have the clothes changed on a regular basis according to contemporary fashion!

When the last body was interred in the late 1800s, there were 8,000 mummies on the walls of the Capuchin monastery and in the catacombs.


Capuchin Catacombs. Image: deadgoodbooks [Flickr]


Mummies on the wall of the Capuchin Catacombs. Image: Kircher Society

Sedlec Ossuary

The Sedlec Ossuary resides in a small Roman Catholic chapel in Sedlec, Czech Republic. If you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t have guessed that inside the unassuming building is an ossuary containing about 40,000 human skeletons artistically arranged to form decorations, chandeliers, and furnishings!

In the 13th century, an abbot returned to Sedlec with a small amount of earth from Golgotha, the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, and sprinkled it all over the abbey’s cemetery. This made the grounds of the church a desirable burial site and over centuries thousands of people were buried there.

In 1870, František Rint, a woodcarver was hired to put the heaps of bones in order. He decided to make a work of art out of the skeletal remains: a chandelier made from skull and bones, a coat of arms of the family that paid him to do the work, and even an "artist’s signature" done in bone, of course!


Little would you suspect what lies inside … Image: currybet [Flickr]


Entrance to the Sedlec Ossuary. Image: Curious Expeditions [Flickr]


The chandelier at Sedlec Ossuary. Image: B10m [Flickr]


The Schwarzenberg family’s coat of arms, done with at least one of every
bone in the body. Image: goldberg [Flickr]

Taj Mahal

No article on tombs is complete without the Taj Mahal, a magnificent mausoleum in Agra, India. The Taj Mahal was built in 1631 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who was devastated when his wife Mumtaz Mahal died during childbirth. Grief stricken, he ordered that the most beautiful mausoleum be built.

Taj Mahal is an amazing architectural wonder: the marble tomb in the center of the complex is flanked on four corners by minarets. The massive central dome, called the onion dome because of its shape, is striking in its symmetrical perfection. Finials and calligraphy are everywhere.

Inside the Taj Mahal is even more ornate: Precious and semi-precious gemstones are inlaid into the the intricately carved marble panels that serve as walls. The caskets of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan are decorated with gems and inscribed with calligraphy, reciting the 99 names of God.

The story of the Taj Mahal actually didn’t end with the completion of its buildings: shortly after its completion, Shah Jahan fell ill and a power struggle amongst his four sons ensued. The victor, Aurangzeb, locked the king in the Fort of Agra, where he remained until he died. Legend has it that he spent the remainder of his life gazing at the Taj Mahal, the tomb of his beloved wife, from the window of his prison.


Taj Mahal from a distance. Image: Christopher Chan [Flickr]


The Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Image: micbaun [Flickr]


The tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Image: William Donelson [wikipedia]

Bonus:

Here is another one that didn’t quite make the list:

City of the Dead in Northern Ossetia, Russia

In the remote, rugged Gizel valley of Northern Ossetia, Caucasus, Russia, there is a set of stone buildings that from a distance look like a regular village - but with one important detail: it is not for the living. A closer look inside the buildings with slanted slate roof reveal something gruesome: mummified bodies dressed in their best clothes and shoes with hair tidily combed.

Local legends have it that in the 18th century, a plague swept through Ossetia. The clans built quarantine houses for sick family members, who were provided with food, but not freedom to move about, until death claimed their lives. A slow and painful way to go, indeed.


City of the Dead in Northern Ossetia. Image: dziadek.mroz [Flickr]


Image: dziadek.mroz [Flickr]

Other Tombs

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this list is subjective and far from complete - if you have any suggestions of a final resting place that should be included, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a comment.

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