Alien Hand Syndrome

Alien Hand Syndrome

by Alan Bellows

Paperback

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780761152255
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date: 07/15/2009
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 7.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Alan Bellows, aka "The Professor," is the writer, designer, managing editor, and marketing mastermind behind DamnInteresting.com. A software designer, he developed his fascination for the odd and unexpected while doing programming for the library industry. He lives with his wife in Orem, Utah.

Read an Excerpt

The Naga Fireballs
A fire-breathing river perplexes citizens and scientists

Every year in October near the end of Buddhist Lent, hundreds of people gather after dusk at Wat Paa Luang, a 450-year-old temple on the edge of the Mekong River in the Nong Khai province of Thailand. Though they cannot predict the exact times or locations, a little patience usually earns spectators a view of a small, pinkish sphere rising out of the surface of the river. The glowing ball lingers above the river for up to a few moments, then ascends rapidly and silently into the atmosphere until it is lost to the eye. Most such nights there are dozens to hundreds of the fist-sized wisps flying skyward. Unlike so many other outlandish claims that photography cannot adequately capture, the Naga Fireballs have been witnessed by thousands of people for hundreds of years.

To believers, these fireballs are the breath of “Naga,” a large, magical serpent who patrols the river. Many of the locals tell tales of spotting a silvery flash of scale or speak of an elusive photograph proving the existence of the elusive Naga. Others seek a more rational explanation.

To many, the fireballs appear artificial in their origin, and thus they consider the entire event a hoax. These naysayers, however, offer only anecdotal evidence to support their theory. Supposed hoaxes include tales of the Wat Paa Luang monks secretly planting or lighting fireworks in order to draw crowds, or that the fireballs are simply a tradition of the region’s youth celebrating in what amounts to a centuries-long ongoing prank. In any case, 100 years of verified sightings makes the case for a conspiracy a weak one—any such ongoing effort would require preparation, equipment, and a superhuman commitment not to brag to the pretty girls who show up to view the spectacle.

Others believe that a natural phenomenon is at play, but look to other causes than the breath of an enormous, camera-shy serpent. While the phenomenon is most readily observed at night, there are some credible reports of daytime fireballs as well, though they are difficult to see in the light. Their appearance is also not isolated to October—they have been spied throughout the year but are especially common in May.

One theory proposed by Manas Kanoksin, a doctor from Nong Khai, postulates that fermenting sediment on the river’s bottom causes pockets of methane gas to form. He further suggests that the Earth’s position in relation to the sun at those times of year causes the bubbles to rise and then spontaneously ignite at the in the presence of ionized oxygen. Other researchers point out that the rocky river bottom doesn’t have much sediment and that the river’s turbulent waters would break up any such methane bubbles before they could reach the surface. Nevertheless, a 2002 study using robotic submarines indicated that the methane theory was at least viable, although it did not address the question of how the bubbles could reach the surface intact.

In 2003, the Thailand Science Ministry released a report that claimed to have solved the mystery of the fireballs. A thermo-scanner was set up near the riverbank, and several teams of specialists stood watch where the fireballs are commonly seen. Reportedly, the scanning equipment detected the movement of phosphine gas coming off the water before anyone could see a fireball form. The presence of phosphine seems a reasonable conclusion—as methane released by decay of plant and animal remains could combine with phosphorus from chemical fertilizer used on nearby farms to form the gas. This does not, however, explain the source of energy or microbes required to make the balls of gas appear fiery.

Despite the locals’ preference for romantic silver-serpent stories, the harsh light of science is slowly disassembling the superstitions. Regardless of its natural or supernatural origins, however, this curious and beautiful phenomenon seems to be unique in our world, which lends it a certain awe that no number of sticks-in-the-mud may dislodge

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Big Book Theory ix

A Alien Hand Syndrome 2

The Amber Tide 6

An American Coup d'État 8

Amoebic Altruism 12

Animal Weaponry 15

B Bacteriological Apocalypse 17

The Bath Schoolhouse Explosion 19

Beheaded and Bewildered 22

Birth Control of Antiquity 25

A Booger a Day Keeps the Doctor Away 28

Bryukhonenko's Dogs 31

C Capgras Syndrome 34

Carnivorous Giant Centipedes 36

Centralia's Hidden Inferno 38

Charles Bonnet Syndrome 40

Clever Hans the Math Horse 44

Cognitive Glitches 47

Coley's Cancer-Killing Concoction 49

Corpse Acres 52

Cyborg Spy Kitties 56

D Davy Crockett: King of the Atomic Frontier 58

Deep Water Mysteries 61

Dogs of War 63

Dreaming on Demand 65

The Dwarf Who Became a Giant 69

E Earth's Artificial Ionosphere 71

The Ethyl-Poisoned Earth 74

The Exploding Lakes of Cameroon 80

F The Farewell Dossier 83

The Fartiste of Paris 86

A Fluke of Nature 90

The Fordlândia Fiasco 92

G Gelotology 101 95

The Gimli Glider 100

Guppy Love 106

H The Hail from Hell Theory 109

The Halifax Disaster 113

High-Rise Syndrome 117

I Interstellar Eavesdropping 119

Irrational Optimism 125

K The Kola Superdeep Borehole 128

Kowloon: The Walled City of Darkness 131

L The Lake Peigneur Disaster 134

LeMessurier's Mess 137

M The Mad Gasser of Mattoon 140

Mad Jack Churchill 143

The McCollum Memo 145

Mike the Headless Chicken 149

The Molasses Flood of 1919 152

Montagu's Manufactured Major 154

N The Naga Fireballs 157

Nature's Nuclear Reactors 159

Nazi-Thwarting Norwegians 161

The Niihau Island Incident 165

The Nucleon 168

O Onoda's Long War 171

On the Origin of Circuits175

Operation Pastorius 179

Orion: The Atomic Spaceship 184

Outer Space Exposure 188

P Peculiar Parasites 191

The Pepcon Disaster 193

The Phobia Factory 196

Pleasure on Demand 200

Poland's Germ Gambit 204

Project Pluto 206

R The Revelations of Restored Sight 209

S Secret Agent Candy Jones 213

Sidis's Superbrain 216

The Skyhook 220

Spies on the Roof of the World 223

Spring Heeled Jack 227

Submersible Aircraft Carriers 230

The Sun Gun 234

Sylbaris the Survivor 237

T Terror on Wall Street 240

Tesla's Tower of Power 245

The Treacherous Toothpick Fish 249

The Tree of Ténéré 251

Tsar Bomba: The World's Most Massive Weapon 253

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study 256

U Unanticipated Side Effects 260

Undark and the Radium Girls 262

Undead Hamsters and the Gaia Theory 266

Urine for a Treat 269

The USS Pueblo and the Hawaiian Good Luck Sign 272

V Vaseline's Healing Power 276

Vesna Vulovic's Lucky Day 278

W Walking Corpse Syndrome 280

Weird Weaponry 284

Z Zero Recall 287

Contributors 291

Customer Reviews

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Alien Hand Syndrome 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
bragan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A collection of strange and interesting stuff: medical oddities, freakish disasters (natural and man-made), historical curiosities, etc. The entries range from mildly intriguing to utterly fascinating, and are written in a clear, pleasant, not overly sensational style with just enough depth and a nice sprinkling of humor. I'm very impressed by the fact that some real care and critical thinking seems to have gone into selecting and presenting these stories. As it happens I was already familiar with a number of the subjects included here, and I know that those are quite well-documented and real, which makes me feel reasonably confident about the validity of the ones I hadn't heard of. And when the evidence for something is circumstantial or incomplete, that fact is carefully and cheerfully acknowledged. You don't always see that kind of care being taken with collections like this, and I appreciated it.My favorite pieces? Well, there's the story of the pilot who safely landed a 767 that had run completely out of gas on a tiny, middle-of-nowhere airstrip he remembered from several years previously... not realizing that it had been converted into a racetrack in the meantime and that he was landing on race day. Or there's the one about the oil rig crew who drilled in the wrong spot and ended up draining an entire lake into the (up to that point, fully functioning) salt mines underneath. Oops! Or there's... Well, I could go on.There are a ton of these strange-but-true books in existence, and a megaton of websites, but this is easily one of the best examples I've encountered. I enjoyed it enough that if these guys happen to put out a follow-up volume, I'll happily pick up a copy of that, too.
cannellfan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was the first Early Reviewers "win" that I can whole-heartedly say I loved receiving. I'm a huge fan of Workman Publishing -- every book I've ever bought from that publishing house has been attractively designed and packaged, and "Alien Hand Syndrome" definitely falls into that category.The book itself is like a treasure trove of oddities -- an updated and expanded Ripley's Believe It or Not! I've only scanned through about 1/3 of the content (at random) so far, but I've enjoyed most of the entries I've read, and I'll be happy to give this one a positive review.
universehall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I knew when I saw the title of this book, Alien Hand Syndrome, that I was going to like it. I requested it, hoping I would get a review copy of it (rather than something like "Coping with Acne: A Personal Story") -- and, for once, I actually got the book I wanted. Generally speaking, I seek out and love books like this; books full of short, random, weird trivia that makes you stop and go, "Huh! I didn't know about that. How about that!"Let me put it to you this way -- I was not disappointed.I read about self-sacrificing amoebas; about the women who painted radium on glow-in-the dark watch dials in the 1800's (and their cruel fate); about "Corpse Farms"; about the one man who survived the Mt. Pele eruption; about a blind man who was given sight and how it ruined his life -- and many, many other random and interesting things. Not even to mention the titular "Alien Hand Syndrome", and my personal favorite syndrome (which I am purposefully refraining from naming. It's a secret.)I do have a couple slight criticisms of the book: first, that there seemed to be a large preponderance of stories about war-related items. Not that I have a problem with interesting facts related to wars -- but a few of them, to me, didn't seem all that surprising or unusual. (I'd heard them before. But then again, as I said, I'm a bit of a "weird facts" buff.) Second, there were a few items that were more "theoretical" than factual -- where they more or less said, "There was an unsubstantiated study that said..." and then expounded on that point. Not that they didn't make a point to say that the study was unsubstantiated... but I just would have preferred if they left the one or two hazy, theoretical items out of the book.All and all, though, a most enjoyable reading experience. Would probably be a good "bathroom book" (if you know what I mean; short articles that take five to ten minutes to read...) It's the kind of book you can pick up, open to any page, and read -- or start from the beginning and read through. Recommended! -- Mrs. Hall
goddesswashu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been a fan of Damn Interesting for some time so I was quite excited to receive Alien Hand Syndrome. If you're a fan of the site, or of Mental Floss, then you'll love this book. Full of interesting trivia and knowledge in easy to digest articles, you can pick and choose or read the whole thing through in one sitting. Would make a great present for anyone who has any kind of interest in the weird and bizarre.
INTPLibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you like websites like Mental Floss and Damn Interesting, this book is definitely for you. Since I'm really into that kind of trivia, I'd heard of most of the phenomena listed in the book, but there were some I hadn't heard of before, which is a nice surprise, and even the entries I already was familiar with were good reads.I've passed the book on to my 66 year old mom after convincing her she'd be interested in it. She, in turn, has unsuccessfully tried to pass it on to a friend of hers who would love it. The problem is the title and the cover art. I guess it looks too National Enquirer and not Believe It or Not.So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that if the cover or title are putting you off, give the book a chance! It's a lot of fun and you want someone you know to have read it, too, so you can talk about it with someone.
pandorabox82 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a fascinating read, mostly stories that I had never heard before. Having the stories placed in alphabetical order made the layout very accessible, and also did not give an order of importance to the stories, letting one decide what they found the weirdest for them. I actually was quite sad to come to the end of this book, and look forward to reading another volume of weird stories in the future. With this many that I'd never heard of, I'm certain there are more out there waiting to be revealed.
gcorrell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I was young I read every Ripley's Believe it or Not paperback I could find. As I grew up I was drawn to things like The Book of Lists and other compendiums of the unusual, forgotten, and just plain bizarre. My interest drifted; none satisfied my maturing tastes.Until now. Alien Hand Syndrome is the most original, erudite, adult, and fascinating "book o stuff" I have ever read. A complete delight from end to end.It takes a lot to surprise me. I read voraciously, But 80% of this book is new to me. The world's largest bore hole in Russia might just be the USSR's greatest scientific achievement, but is largely unknown. Ethyl poisoning, a horror indeed, was caused by additives crowed about in lavish advertising for decades. The Nucleon was a nuclear powered car that persisted as a project for decades, ohmygod. Evolutionary (self-evolving) circuitboards! Vaseline, a gelid waste product, becomes a ubiquitous and useless staple! How to control your dreams!For me, the most moving and amazing of all is the study of and revelations about humor, and laughing. But the book is chock full of what smart people want to know. These aren't gee-whiz, ain't-it-weird blurbs, but well-written, sharply focused essays by pros.I like the skeptical tone, nicely underplayed. More, please. Make this a series. Ripley's for grown-ups, with humanity, excellent selections, wicked humor, and respect for human foibles and frailties woven through-out. A home-run.
ellynv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Filled with fascinating, fun facts presented in with humorous accessibility. Whether you are interested in crime, natural phenomena or that edgy disease to mention when calling in sick for work, this is your book.Did you know that Vaseline can be used to prevent frostbite on your chicken's combs? Do you live in Illinois but never heard of the Mad Gasser of Mattoon? Even if you are familiar with alien hand syndrome - you diagnosed it on 'House' before the docs did - don't think you can't learn something from this book.(This is also the only non-Michael Jackson related place where I have seen mention made of Diprivan. Did you know it can cause red urine? Michael may have. But I didn't.)
MMAC More than 1 year ago
Fascinating stories. Set up as generally short articles on bizarre and/or interesting topics. From the guy who used to run the "Damn Interesting!" website in which he e-published similar articles. Having been a person who often read articles on his website, I was not dissappointed in this book at all.
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