It’s one of the oldest psychology facts in the books: In the 1960s, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram infamously conducted an experiment that he thought would prove Americans wouldn’t accept immoral orders like the Nazis had. For a “learning task,” volunteers were told to deliver shocks to a “learner” (an actor, little known to the real volunteers) if they got an answer wrong. To Milgram’s horror, the participants continued delivering shocks, even when the learner screamed in pain.
Most of us haven’t seen Jesus in a piece of toast, but we’ve all noticed cartoonish faces seemingly staring back at us from inanimate objects. That’s called pareidolia, and scientists think it comes from the fact that recognizing faces is so important to social life that our brains would rather find one where there isn’t one than miss a real-life face.
Red Beach, located in Panjin, China, is famous for its landscape featuring the red Suaeda salsa plant. It is based in the biggest wetland and reed marsh in the world and hosts the most complete ecosystem that can be found, including over 260 kinds of birds and 399 kinds of wild animals.
When to visit: The best time of year is to go in Autumn when the colours are in full effect, from mid-September to mid-October.
The Niagara Falls, which straddle the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the American state of New York, have an added dimension of beauty in winter when sub-zero temperatures transform the falls into a frozen landscape unlike any other. The buildup of ice it gives the illusion that Niagara Falls has stopped moving and actually frozen over, while the ice-cold winds of winter spray the nearby ornamental walls, lamp posts, trees and buildings creating lovely frozen ice sculptures.
When to visit: The free Winter Festival of Lights takes place from early November to the end of January. It boasts over two million lights and over 125 animated light displays along the Niagara Parkway, so it’s an ideal time to visit.
The surreal Wisteria blooms can be found in Kawachi Fuji Gardens, located in Kitakyushu, Japan, and features 150 Wisteria plants, along with 20 different species. People often describe walking under the blanket of blooming Wisterias – the flower Buddhists use to symbolise prayer – as a very tranquil experience.
When to visit: The best visiting time is late April to mid-May when the wisteria flowers are in full bloom. A lively annual “Wisteria Festival”, also known as “Fuji Matsuri“, is hosted in the gardens during this time.
Every year, for just a couple of weeks, thousands of fireflies light up the night in a fascinating and beautiful mating ritual where male fireflies compete for the attention of females after the sun goes down in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the United States. The synchronous fireflies are aptly named because they flash together for 5 to 10 seconds before descending the forest into pitch darkness for 5 seconds while waiting to see if a female has responded.
When to visit: The mating season lasts for approximately two weeks each year, most likely to occur between the third week of May and the third week in June.
The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs during summer in places south of the Antarctic Circle and north of the Arctic Circle – including Northern Norway. Because the earth is rotating at a tilted axis relative to the sun, for several weeks, the sun never sets above the Arctic Circle. Many sights and activities in Norway are open at night during these weeks, so you can go midnight golfing, cycling, river paddling, or sea kayaking at midnight.
When to visit: Svalbard is the place in Norway where the midnight sun occurs for the longest period – from 20 April to 22 August.
Each year, almost two-million wildebeest and 20,000 plains game migrate over 3,000km (1,865mi) from Tanzania’s Serengeti to the south of Kenya’s Masai Mara in search of water and grazing grounds and water. It is the largest mammal migration on Earth and is one of the best events in Tanzania to witness.
When to visit: The migration follows every rainy season – generally May or June, though changing climate patterns have caused slight alterations to the migration.
It looks like a ribbon of lava cascading down the east face of the El Capitan walls in California’s Yosemite National Park in America, but it’s actually a regular waterfall illuminated by the bright light of the setting sun. The Firefall only occurs when conditions are perfect – when the sky is clear and the sun is setting at the correct angle.
When to visit: The phenomenon is difficult to time, as it only occurs during a 10-minute window around sunset for just a few days in mid-to-late February.
This is purely an optical phenomenon that forms a band of different colours over the horizon. At times, these types of colourful formations can be seen around the sun in the form of a halo.