youtube
She Built a Shady Guru’s YouTube Army. Now She’s His Fiercest Critic – But Who Will Believe Her?

It was May 2015, and the Hotel Surya in Varanasi, India, was hosting “Inner Awakening,” the flagship spiritual training program of Paramahamsa Nithyananda. To his followers, he is a god incarnate, “His Divine Holiness Bhagavan Sri Nithyananda Paramashivam,” the living avatar of Shiva, or, as one devotee put it, “the only reviver of authentic Hinduism to the fullest of integrity.” Scandal, including an alleged sex tape, rape allegations, and accusations of shady land deals have plagued the guru’s career, and outside the event, protesters like the pink-clad Gulabi Gang, who combat abuse of women in India, marched through the streets, vandalising Nithyananda posters. Inside though, Inner Awakening attendees, who had paid around $6,000 each for the three-week program, meditated, practised yoga, and gathered to commune and be blessed. Sarah Stephanie Landry describes the 2015 event as a major personal turning point in her life, when Nithyananda himself pulled her out of the crowd, and acknowledged the work she’d been doing to spread his message on YouTube. Read More >>

science
Forget the Woolly Mammoth – Let’s Resurrect Some Extinct Plants

From Jesus to “Jurassic Park,” people dream of resurrection, cheating death, defying nature, and uncovering the mysteries of the past. We debate the ethics of reviving extinct species like the passenger pigeon or woolly mammoth, with scientists clamouring to make some poor, hairy proboscidean clone baby take its first awkward steps out onto the ice. Yet somehow, the idea of resurrecting long-lost plants never really caught on in the public imagination. Maybe that’s because most people probably couldn’t even name an extinct plant, let alone one they’d want to smell, see, or study, though Rachel Meyer, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has a hard time picking just one. Read More >>

wtf
For Men Who Will Try Anything to Get Taller, There’s a World of Grifts and Gimmicks

No matter how old you are, the website Height Maximizer claims it can provide you with “legitimate information that will actually help you become taller.” It features “height hacks,” alleged height-boosting supplements, and “8 Ways to Get Taller: Tips That Work (for Every Age).” Each page is topped off with the site’s logo – a picture of a bodybuilder and a bright red arrow pointing upward, and below it, the Height Maximizer tagline: “Puberty or Not, Here We Grow!” Read More >>

conspiracy theories
Ong’s Hat: The Early Internet Conspiracy Game That Got Too Real

On a sunny morning in early 2000, Joseph Matheny woke up to find conspiracy theorists camped out on his lawn again. He was making coffee when he noticed a face peering in a ground-floor window of the small, three-story building he rented in Santa Cruz. Past the peeper, there were three other men in their early 20s loitering awkwardly. Matheny sighed and stepped outside. He already knew what they wanted. They wanted to know the truth about Ong’s Hat. They wanted the secret to interdimensional travel. Read More >>