Most-visited Tourist Attractions (Source: Yahoo! Travel)

So what is the most-visited tourist attraction in the world? And can 39.2 million people be wrong? Read on to see the results.

No. 1 Times Square, New York City

Annual Visitors: 39,200,000

Tourists flock to New York’s neon heart for the flashing lights, Broadway shows, megastores, and sheer spectacle. Pedestrian-only areas with café tables introduced in 2009 have only made it easier and more appealing to hang out here. Times Square can even be a convenient, if chaotic, base, thanks to hotels at every price point and easy access to public transportation: subways, rails, buses, and more yellow taxis than you can count.

No. 2 Central Park, New York City

Annual Visitors: 38,000,000

New York has larger green spaces, but none is more famous than Central Park, which stretches across nearly 850 acres of prime Manhattan real estate—an oasis for both tourists and locals. You can ride in one of the famous horse-drawn carriages; check out the modest-size zoo; climb to the top of 19th-century Belvedere Castle; or take a break from pounding the pavement to sprawl on the Great Lawn, gazing at the skyscrapers above.

No. 3 Union Station, Washington, D.C.

Annual Visitors: 37,000,000

Opened in 1907, this busy station shuttles some 12,500 passengers daily in and out of the city. But it also handles serious tourist traffic: 37 million who pass through to take in the impeccably mixed architectural styles throughout the colossal building: from Classical to Beaux-Arts to Baroque. More than 70 retail outlets make Union Station a shopping destination, and it’s also a jumping-off point for many D.C. tours

No. 4 Las Vegas Strip

Annual Visitors: 29,467,000

Sin City was hit hard by the recession, but don’t bet against this legendary destination, which got a boost from the summer 2009 blockbuster The Hangover. Last year, 79 percent of tourists (29,467,000 people) chose to stay at hotels right on the Strip like Caesar’s Palace—the choice of the movie’s zany four-pack. And why not? Roll out of bed and onto the Strip to catch the Bellagio fountains in action, shop, gamble, and, of course, people-watch (which can get especially fun later at night).

No. 5 Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario

Annual Visitors: 22,500,000

Straddling the borders of the U.S. and Canada, this massive waterfall spills about six million cubic feet of water—from a height ranging from 70 to 188 feet—every single minute. While there are about 500 taller waterfalls in the world, Niagara Falls is spectacular for its sheer power. It’s also more accessible than many major falls, a short flight or drive for millions of regional tourists.

No. 6 Grand Central Terminal, New York City

Annual Visitors: 21,600,000

Unlike harried commuters, visitors take their time in the main concourse of this Beaux-Arts landmark, pausing to view its glittering ceiling painted with a map of the constellations from the night sky. There are shops and events to distract your attention, and, a level below, the historic Oyster Bar—featured on an episode of AMC’s Mad Men—serves two million fresh bivalves a year.

No. 7 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston

Annual Visitors: 18,000,000

Dating back to 1742, Faneuil Hall (“the Cradle of Liberty”) once hosted speeches by such greats as Samuel Adams and George Washington. Today, the downtown marketplace has more than 100 specialty shops and eateries and occupies a pedestrian-only, cobblestone area that swarms with tourists and street performers.

No. 8 Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando

Annual Visitors: 16,972,000

The Most Magical Place on Earth is high on virtually every family’s to-do list and remains the most-visited theme park on the earth. The Kingdom’s most notable feature, naturally, is Cinderella’s castle—complete with a moat and built at special angles to appear even grander than its actual height of 189 feet. Paths branch out to classic rides (Dumbo, the Mad Tea Party) and newer additions like The Pirates of the Caribbean.

No. 9 Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA

Annual Visitors: 15,980,000

Though not as massive as its Orlando counterpart, the original Disney park—which occupies about 85 acres of land—welcomes enough thrill-seekers to qualify as the second most-visited theme park in the world. One of its coolest rides is still Indiana Jones Adventure, careening over lava, past swarms of beetles, and under that 16-foot rolling boulder.

No. 10 Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Annual Visitors: 15,000,000

Hand-painted ceramics, lanterns, intricately patterned carpets, copperware, gold Byzantine-style jewelry, and more eye-catching products vie for your attention within this 15th-century bazaar’s vaulted walkways. It has since expanded and become increasingly touristy, but locals, too, were among 2010’s 15 million bargain-hunters. If it all gets overwhelming, break for a succulent doner kebab or strong cup of Turkish coffee.

 

This Day In History: First Nixon-Kennedy Debates

For the first time in U.S. history, a debate between major party presidential candidates is shown on television. The presidential hopefuls, John F. Kennedy, a Democratic senator of Massachusetts, and Richard M. Nixon, the vice president of the United States, met in a Chicago studio to discuss U.S. domestic matters.

Kennedy emerged the apparent winner from this first of four televised debates, partly owing to his greater ease before the camera than Nixon, who, unlike Kennedy, seemed nervous and declined to wear makeup. Nixon fared better in the second and third debates, and on October 21 the candidates met to discuss foreign affairs in their fourth and final debate. Less than three weeks later, on November 8, Kennedy won 49.7 percent of the popular vote in one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history, surpassing by a fraction the 49.6 percent received by his Republican opponent.

One year after leaving the vice presidency, Nixon returned to politics, winning the Republican nomination for governor of California. Although he lost the election, Nixon returned to the national stage in 1968 in a successful bid for the presidency. Like Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Nixon declined to debate his opponent in the 1968 presidential campaign. Televised presidential debates returned in 1976, and have been held in every presidential campaign since.


Maggots May Help Treat Diabetes (Source: Reuters.com)

To jump-start the healing of difficult diabetic wounds, researchers have a suggestion: let maggots do the work.

To allow such wounds to heal, doctors remove infected or dead tissue with scalpels or enzymes, a process they call debridement. But these tools often fail.

"These problem patients with diabetes really need better treatments in order to salvage their limbs," said Lawrence Eron from Kaiser Hospital and the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, who with colleagues presented their findings at a recent scientific meeting in Chicago.

"Maggot debridement treatment is overwhelmingly effective. After just one treatment these wounds start looking better," he told Reuters Health.

The results from Eron's team, which treated 37 diabetics with the maggots, still haven't been vetted by independent researchers.

All of the patients in the study suffered from a type of artery disease that causes poor circulation in the limbs and they all had stubborn wounds, some up to five years old.

The doctors put 50 to 100 maggots, of the species Lucilia sericata, on the wounds and left them there for two days, at which time they applied new ones. They repeated this five times on average.

"We cage the maggots in a mesh-like material. Nylon panty hose might be used. And then we seal them so they don't get out," Eron said.

Maggots secrete substances into wounds that liquefy dead tissue and then ingest the material to further degrade it in their gut. The wounds are cleaned, and other substances contained in the maggot secretions allow the development of granulation tissue, a type of connective tissue that forms during wound healing.

Twenty-one of the patients had successful outcomes, defined as eradication of infection, complete removal of dead tissue, formation of robust connective tissue in the wound and more than three-quarters closure of the wound.

Five wounds were infected with the "superbug" MRSA, but they healed successfully with the maggot therapy. Nine wounds were infected with another bacterium called MSSA, and six of those healed. All 10 cases with infection due to group B streptococci were successfully treated, Eron said.

The treatment failed in some patients. One had excessive inflammation surrounding the wound, two bled too much, and three had problems with infected bones.

Asked how he persuades patients to undergo the treatment, Eron said he carefully explains the procedure and then has them sign a consent form.

"A lot of patients might be somewhat wary of having live insects placed into their wounds so we explain how it works and what possible problems might occur," he said.

"After this, we go on to do further treatment with hydrogels, grafts of cell culture tissue, or negative pressure dressings. But to get to the point there these treatments will work, you really need to clean up the wound, get rid of dead tissue, and get robust granulation tissue into the wound -- and this is where the maggots help."

September 26th is National Good Neighbor Day (Source: ThinkQuest)

Ah, Good Neighbor Day. It's definitely a good thing. Being good neighbors is an important part of the social fiber that makes this country so great. Therefore,  it seems only fitting that one day a year honors good neighbors.

This day of recognition is not to be confused with other forms of "Good Neighbor Days". Stores proclaim "Good Neighbor Days" to promote sales, a wide range of organizations announce "Good Neighbor Days" to promote their cause, and local municipalities and governments proclaim "Good Neighbor Days" for a variety of reasons.

Rather, this day is to truly recognize and appreciate your good neighbor. Hopefully, one of those good neighbors is you!


Top Ten Misunderstood Creatures (Source: Toptenz.com)

Many animals unfortunately suffer from a rather negative image in human culture, regarded by us as frightening, disgusting or just plain lowly. Nature, however, has no “vermin” or “pests” – all things have their place in the natural order of things, and in most cases, the benefits of an organism far outweigh its (accidental) inconveniences. Even animals many of us find “ugly” are only demonstrating the perfect body shape for their particular ecological niche. Open up your mind a little, and you just might find some beauty in something that once made your skin crawl.

10. Snakes

Millions of people the world over suffer from a fear of snakes, and even those who don’t may kill the limbless reptiles on sight, fearing for the safety of their pets or children. This is most unfortunate, as only around fifteen percent of known snakes possess venom at all, and dangerous species can be easy to distinguish with a little research. Wherever you may live, there are likely only a few distinct varieties worthy of extreme caution, and as the saying goes, they’re more afraid of us than we are of them. The last thing a snake wants to do is waste its precious venom on something it can’t even eat, so unless startled or cornered, snakes will nearly always attempt to flee and hide before actually striking. It’s still easy to vilify a slithering, unblinking serpent as it strangles and engulfs a pudgy little tweety bird, but even “cute” animals like songbirds are often lethal predators to still smaller creatures. It’s important to remember the role hunters play in saving the very species they prey upon from the starvation, disease and inbreeding that comes with an uncontrolled population.

9. Black Widows

We’ve always heard that the black widow is one of the deadliest spiders in the world, but while this is more or less true, it’s just not saying much. Completely unaggressive towards larger creatures, widow bites are quite rare, and lethal bites are even rarer – those at risk are normally only infants, the elderly or those suffering some pre-existing medical conditions. They’re still creepy though, right? With that whole “devouring the male” thing. Yeah, about that…of the 31 species of Latrodectus or “widow” spider, only two species have been observed eating their mates at all, neither of which are the famous red-hourglass black widow, and the cannibals in question were likely just frightened by their gigantic human voyeurs. Though the male is weak and snack-sized, the larger female normally allows him to escape or even hang around in her web a while, where her presence makes him a tad safer from an assortment of spider-eating things.

8. Termites

The only thing most people know about termites is that they eat wood, and we like to live in wood, so that’s bad. Many organisms can make a nuisance of themselves by colonizing a human dwelling, but only termites can outright destroy one from the inside, costing us billions of dollars in damages each year. As far as nature is concerned, however, dead wood is nothing more than a fire hazard standing in the way of fresh growth, and nothing in the wild mulches a dead tree as quickly and thoroughly as a termite colony. Working together with fungi, bacteria and an assortment of other wood eating insects, termites are integral in the continued health of every forest on the planet. It’s hardly their fault that we like to build houses out of perfectly good food…the little guys don’t even have eyes, cut them some slack.

7. Rats

It’s a classic image of horror: mangy, greasy rats crawling out of the decaying human corpse they’ve been gnawing at. Rats have had a reputation as filthy, dirty carrion-eaters ever since they were blamed for the dreaded bubonic plague, but while the disease is indeed carried primarily by the fleas of rodents, cases are rare today and many experts argue that it was not responsible for the infamous “black death“. Rats are also quite shy, highly unlikely to bite and can be very rewarding pets, demonstrating much more intelligence and affection than such dumber, nippier rodents as hamsters and guinea pigs. As for corpse-eating, scavenging decayed meat is actually rather low on a rat’s list of dietary preferences.

6. Wasps

Millions of people suffer from a fear of wasps, as some species seem needlessly aggressive and are well known for their painful, venomous stings. A majority of wasp species, however, are unable to actually sting us humans or even lack stings entirely, and venomous or not, they play a tremendously important role both as pollinators and in the control of other insect species, regulating their populations far better than almost any other predator. Many trees and plants are even capable of *communicating* with wasps, releasing chemical signals to attract just the right wasps for whatever pests might be munching their foliage. Incidentally though, those plant-eating insects are important themselves; as long as they’re kept in check by wasps and other predators, their natural pruning service can maintain a strong, healthy plant population. When wasps do attack us larger mammals, it’s often because our own fear makes us appear more aggressive, and social wasps will risk it all when they feel their defenseless young are threatened. Mind your own beeswax around buzzing bugs, and they probably will too. Only maybe more literally.

5. Sharks

One of nature’s most feared predators, sharks are generally portrayed by the media as ravenous, unfeeling jaws and teeth that happen to have animals attached to them. World-wide, however, the typical year sees under a dozen human deaths by shark attack, as opposed to thousands of deaths by drowning or other swimming accidents. Sharks are quite a bit more intelligent than most people give them credit for, and often avoid prey as unfamiliar as humans. Predation by sharks is of great importance to the health of fish populations, maintaining the balance necessary for many different species to thrive in the same environment, and they’re far from brainless eating machines – some species even demonstrate play behavior and sharks in captivity may be possible to “tame.”

4. Dolphins

What…you thought all of these were going to be *negative* misconceptions? Many of us unfortunately have it in our heads that while Sharks are mindless, ravenous eating machines, Dolphins are sweet, playful little sea-people, ready to protect us from those big, bad sharks and do fun tricks for our amusement. Dolphins, however, are predators themselves; lethally powerful, cunningly intelligent, fiercely territorial, pack hunting flesh-eaters. Animals live by very different rules, and while it isn’t fair to categorize them as “good” or “bad,” it’s hard to find dolphins very cute when they have been observed tormenting, killing and even sexually assaulting other animals for often unclear reasons, including young pups of their own species, and attacks on humans are by no means unheard of.

Maybe they’re only smiling so much at their own perverse fantasies.

3. Cockroaches


Ewww, cockroaches! Everyone hates cockroaches! They’re dirty, nasty, parasites who only exist to live in our garbage, right?! Can there possibly be anything good about them? Do I still have to answer that at this point? The order Blattodea has over 30,000 known species, yet only around a dozen or so have the special characteristics to thrive in our homes – characteristics which make them useful scavengers in the wild. Most roaches prefer a more conventional insect life outdoors, where they help to recycle decaying vegetation, pollinate plants, and in some cases even prey on more harmful insects. Even those few “pest” species aren’t as filthy as you think…in fact, they’re only ever as filthy as their surroundings, and they’re just as likely to live in perfectly sanitary conditions as in decaying garbage. House roaches only have the potential to spread disease primarily by walking through something germ-ridden (like an unkempt kitchen trash bin) and accidentally tracking it onto your food, which is actually rather unlikely; germs don’t cling to their bodies all that easily, and the little neat-freaks groom themselves almost constantly.  Yes, believe it or not, roaches practice better hygiene than a lot of humans.

2. Maggots

The very thought of fly larvae squirming around in a corpse is difficult for some people to stomach. It seems like they’re often regarded as one of the most nauseating, abhorrent organisms in nature, largely due to the whole “squirming around in corpses” thing, but the same reasons people detest them are the same reasons they shouldn’t. A dead body is a ticking time bomb of contagious diseases, and no other scavenger can even come close to the importance of maggots. Everything about these little critters – shape, size, squirminess, sliminess and even that ghostly pale coloration – is adapted for maximum efficiency carcass removal, scouring every nook and cranny of a skeleton for the tiniest scraps of soft tissue. Thanks to maggots, most carcasses only lie around in the wilderness for a few weeks before only bones remain, while other processes of decomposition would have them festering for months. Maggot activity is even somewhat antiseptic, destroying the bacteria they’re basically competing with for food. The bottom line is…would you rather every animal dropping dead every moment of every day nourish several hundred flies or several million Anthrax bacteria?

1. Parasites

“Parasites” is admittedly a pretty damn broad umbrella. You can find them within every phylum of every kingdom of life on our planet, they easily outnumber non-parasitic or “free living” lifeforms and almost nothing lives entirely free from their influence. The very word “parasite” is associated with uselessness, and even science was once guilty of the belief that parasites were “lower” on the evolutionary ladder. Today, however, biologists are waking up to the incredible sophistication and significant ecological impact of parasitic organisms. Nearly every wild animal on this planet has parasites feeding and breeding inside it as we speak, influencing the host’s health and even behavior to better suit their needs. It may sound disturbing, but as this has been going on since the dawn of life as we know it, it should have always been obvious that they’re as much a part of nature’s delicate balance as any other form of life, even regulating entire food webs and possibly influencing evolution itself. Most have adapted to cause as little harm to hosts as possible (why kill your own delicious, delicious house?) and even those that haven’t are still playing their part in population control. Parasites are just the eyeless, brainless little governors of ecoville, working hard on the inside to keep those cheetahs running on time.