‘Tales of the Weird’ book lives up to its name

Carol A. Wright Contributing writer

By A Contributor

Normally, I don’t pay much attention to stories and photographs that seem to be staged, especially those found in magazines that do not really have a good reputation anyway. These stories are so fabricated and ridiculous that it is no wonder why people like me shake their heads in disbelief, but, nevertheless, experience fits of laughter if only for several minutes.

With “National Geographic Tales of the Weird: Unbelievable True Stories,” it becomes a totally different story. I always have had a high opinion and much respect for National Geographic television documentaries, its magazine articles and outstanding photos. They all are well-researched and tweak my curiosity. I actually do learn from National Geographic, not whether Alec Baldwin gets into yet another fight with his daughter, or if Donald Trump firmly admits to the need to run for the President of the United States.

These news bits of gossip, terror and glamour might arouse interest among some people, but I prefer to discover the truth behind how scents smell better through the right nostril than the left, or the Giant panda poop studies by leader Fuwen Wei, with the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Zoology in Beijing.

I kid you not. Not a single story from this book is faked or an outright fib. They are not tall tales told by tots who delight in playing Halloween pranks, although some are freakish enough to cause fear and indigestion. But wouldn’t it be more interesting to find out that certain species of spiders help their mates relax prior to mating by giving them a massage? And what’s this about researchers studying cockroach brains which could very well one day save human lives?

The sight of cockroaches can make some people disgustingly sick. However, if your life depended on them, would you have a change of heart for the tyrants that seek refuge in your coffee mug, invade your home and have managed to survive for millions of years?

As it turns out cockroaches produce powerful antibiotics that can kill harmful bacteria, which are often deadly to humans. Think twice about stomping out cockroaches and remember what their brains are able to achieve.

Perhaps you might want to send your children out of the room for this next jewel. The male tuberous bush-cricket holds the record for the world’s biggest testicles. Unfortunately, it delivers little output. Yet the sperm-producing organs account for 14 percent of the bush-cricket’s body mass. (Wow! I did not know that.) Behavioral ecologist Karim Vahed, of the United Kingdom, is fascinated by this discovery.

“I was amazed by the size of the testes — they seem to take up the entire abdomen,” Vahed was quoted as saying.

Although my intentions are not to be ones of sarcasm, it is natural for readers like myself to chuckle. The editor presents these weird, but true, tales in a manner that is likely to keep readers involved with the studies. I suppose some people demand to see the truth, and this demand is granted. Numerous nature pictures and illustrations fill the viewer with wonder. The written text is factual, fun and really not a bit boring.

Other subjects studied in this massive volume include paper wasps that have the ability to recognize different faces of their species, just like people recognize family members, friends and possible enemies. Wasps do have marvelous memories.

There exist vampire ants, bats and frogs. Did you know that ants can and will turn into zombies?

And chances are, American alligators will not be caught cheating on their spouse. They are loyal to their mates and also surprisingly gentle.

We’ve heard how music and music therapy can pull one out of a depression or traumatic incident. Today, music is being used as medicine to help treat neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Also it helps those who are dyslexic.

One could assume that music is a drug that can positively alter moods, chemicals in the brain, memories and emotions. Listening to music or dancing to music can assist a person to perform better at his or her job, in school or in uncomfortable social situations.

   “Tales of the Weird…” may indeed be weird, but most people tend to think of these studies and others not yet conducted as wildly weird until they are proven remarkable and true. This book is like an educational tool, but it is so strange and entertaining that many readers will not immediately realize that they are being educated.

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