Rumor Flies

We got the sauce

Rumor Flies comically addresses the origins, evolution, and veracity of your favorite rumors, myths, and misconceptions. Tune in every week for more research, stories, and unsolicited commentary! Participation encouraged. 

Rumor Flies is a member of the Dark Myths collective. Check out these amazingly talented people and their awesome shows!

 

Snap Judgment #35: Alabama's Alleged Absurd Laws

1400: In Alabama, it's illegal to carry an ice cream cone in your back pocket at any time.

Verdict: Probably false. 

This is a great example of the game of "telephone" we constantly refer to and is the basis of this podcast. I found source after source citing this law, and not a single one cites an Alabama statute. It could very well be real, but so far, all I've found is secondary sources with no citation or citing each other. 

Mashable (one of the above sources) claims that the Alabama one is indeed false, but then says it's real in Georgia and Kentucky. I can't find solid proof there either, though I found the alleged reasoning behind it interesting: Horse theft. Specifically, they say ice-cream cones and other sugary-treats were made illegal because the horses would follow the person as they walked off, thus allowing them to steal a horse. 

The fact is, I wanted to get into a fun post about silly laws that are still on the books, but the number of claimed laws that actually exist is actually very low. I found articles about absurd marriage laws, such as you can have annulment "if the wedding was done as a joke or dare" being specifically listed. I read through dozens of variations of "you can't tie [animal] to [object]." Not ONE article provided a primary source. It is crazy to me how wrought this particular set of myths is with this problem!

Do you know of any actual laws that are weird/verifiable? We'd love to hear them!

Snap Judgment #34: Executive Tigers

Snapple Fact #1183: Martin Van Buren was given two tiger cubs while he was president.

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Verdict: True

So this probably wins the award for "most recent sources," as I found an article about this from literally 4 days before releasing this "Snap Judgment." 

Martin Van Buren served as 8th president of the US, from 1837-1841, just after Andrew Jackson left office. He founded the Democratic Party and was the first president not of British ancestry or born a British subject as his family was Dutch. I could go on and on, but if you'd like to know more, wikipedia (as always) has a good overview. 

So let's get to the tigers which are, oddly enough, do not seem to be mentioned at all on his wikipedia entry. According to the website Presidential Pet Museum, the Sultan of Oman, Kabul al Said, gifted the president-elect Van Buren a pair of tiger cubs. Van Buren was actually thrilled at the news and was making adjustments to his home in order to keep them (and one would assume was preparing what to do at the White House). But alas, Congress had different plans. 

Congress was not on board, especially when he expressed he planned on keeping them at the White House. When they pushed back, Van Buren actually did not back down and argued that since they were specifically gifted "to the President," he had every right. Congress argued that the gift was made while Jackson was president and Van Buren was president elect, and seeing as how Jackson was no longer president, they argued the tiger cubs belonged to the US government. 

Unfortunately for Van Buren, Congress won the argument, and not only could he not keep them in the White House...he couldn't keep them at all. The cubs were promptly confiscated and sent to the local zoo (which let's be real, is probably way better. Though it's an 1800's zoo, so ehh...)

To wrap it up, here is a fun article from Our White House on other interesting pets kept by presidents over the years! A few notable ones:

  • Thomas Jefferson was gifted two grizzly bear cubs from an exploratory party sent out across the US led by Captain Zebulon Pike. 
  • Teddy Roosevelt had tons of "exotic animals," such as a zebra, a parrot, bears, a lion, a hyena, a coyote, rats, and a one-legged rooster.
  • Herbert Hoover had two pet alligators that belonged to his son. He even occasionally let them wander the White House.

Cheers!

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Snap Judgment #33: DEM BONES!

SNAPPLE FACT #1388: Human thigh bones are stronger than concrete

Snap Judgment 05032018.jpg

Verdict: True

As with most of our facts here, this requires a caveat. The straight and simple is that the strength of a femur, the longest and most durable bone and our body, depends on the angle of the pressure that is applied to it. At its weakest, the average femur will break from about 20 lbs. of force applied to it at a 90 degree angle. Not much.

This is why car crashes and failed trampoline tricks usually result in the majority of femur breaks. However, at its most ideal load-bearing condition, which is top to bottom of the bone, the femur can withstand 899 pounds of force. This is one of the reasons some extremely morbidly obese people can still move freely. The femur has tons of weight accounted for. This is mainly due to the femur’s light-weighted fibrousness (lots of pores) and flexiblity. These factors make it 12x stronger than a proportionally sized piece of concrete. But that’s not all…

 

Femur are stronger than steel!

Proportionally by weight, at least. This is actually why a lot of structures like bridges and building frames aren’t just solid walls of metal. Bones are so efficient at staying light weight and yet still durable that some of our own infrastructure is built upon their properties. It’s efficient, cost effective, and arguably aesthetically pleasing. Though, I do kind of want to see a bridge of bones. That weird?

-Ryan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlz8O4VMO4o

http://interesting-shocking-facts.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-human-thigh-bone-is-stronger-than.html

Snap Judgment #32: No Stompies in Germany

Snapple Fact #1366: In Denmark, citizens have to select baby names from a list of 7,000 government-approved names.

Verdict: True

So as it turns out, many countries have specific laws as to what you can and can't name your kids. Some are pretty obvious, such as no slurs or generally offensive names, but the laws get a lot more interesting as you dive in a little deeper. Denmark, as it turns out, is just particularly strict, while many countries vary pretty wildly. 

Let's start with the initial subject of this Snapple "real fact" - Denmark. Denmark does indeed have a list of approximately 7,000 government-approved names. One can apply for special permission through their local church, then the government reviews it. They are so strict that they actually reject 15-20% of submitted names. A few banned names: Anus, Pluto, and Monkey. 

According to the earlier linked Mental Floss article, here are a few rules of note:

  • Names must indicate gender 
  • Creative spellings of approved names are largely not allowed
  • Last names can't be used as first names and vice versa
  • Part of the rationale is to protect "rare Danish last names" 
 Image source

Image source

 

In 1982, Sweden enacted the "Naming Law," which was originally designed "to prevent non-noble families from giving their children noble names," but it has since evolved. First names can't be offensive or "cause discomfort" for the individual bearing it, you can only change your name once, and you must keep at least one of the original names you were given if you do change your name. A few banned names: Metallica, Superman, Veranda, Ikea, and Elvis. Interestingly enough, they specifically allow "Goole" as a middle name, and Lego is an approved name. 

The US has its own federal naming laws, but it also varies wildly from state to state. Some states ban obscenities, some states (such as Kentucky) have no name laws at all, and in some cases, courts interpret the right to name a child whatever the parents' want as a matter of Free Speech (1st amendment clause) and Due Process (14th amendment clause). California actually doesn't allow for diacritical marks (ex. José, Noël), and some states limit the number of letters a name can have for record-keeping purposes. 

To close it out, here's an article from Business Insider that lists some interesting banned names by country! Enjoy, and if you live in Germany, do not name your kid "Stompie." 

 

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Snap Judgment #31: Tulip Mania

Snapple fact #175: In 1634, tulip bulbs were a form of currency in Holland

Verdict: False

This is something we have covered in a similar fashion before, specifically about tea being used as a form of currency. It’s not unprecedented to think that something in high demand being used as a form of money. You exchange goods and/ or services for some form of payment, which doesn’t have to mean money. This is where the phrase “tulip mania” originates.

See, tulips were this hot, new item that everyone wanted. There were the fidget spinners or those jump mans everyone loved back in the day. They were fashionable and different unlike any other flower out there. Flowers had so many uses in a time without the internet. 

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The problem is that the value of tulip bulbs fluctuated very quickly in Holland. The peak of tulip mania was in January 1637 and then the market crashed. Except crashed is a very relative term in the sense that nobody really lost any money or product. Money wasn’t really exchanged until the bulbs were in hand and the people that already paid would get them eventually. In fact, not a single bankruptcy was filed because of the flowers that year.

Honestly, I wouldn’t even say that they were used as currency. They were in high demand but they weren’t replacing money used back then. They were just a luxury item for a short while that people loved to appear wealthy. Rumor Flies gun to my head, I’d say this is false.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

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Snap Judgment #30: You don't look like Yourself

Snapple Fact #971: Charlie Chaplin failed to make the finals of a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest.

  Image source.  Singapore's The Straits Times, 10 Aug 1920, "How Charlie Chaplin Failed":

Image source. Singapore's The Straits Times, 10 Aug 1920, "How Charlie Chaplin Failed":

Verdict: Maybe?

I chose this one because I had heard it before as well, unlike many of the more absurd "Snapple Real Facts" we've covered so far. It is pretty well documented. As the above image shows, this actually was reported on at the time it allegedly happened and spread very quickly, probably because of the popularity of Chaplin. 

During Chaplin's 40-film career, especially in the beginning, there were actually many of these "Chaplin look-alike contests." So "The Tramp" himself decided to throw his hat, mustache, and cane into the ring. The results were disappointing. From "The Straits Times"

Lord Desborough, presiding at a dinner of the Anglo-Saxon club told a story which will have an enduring life. It comes from Miss Mary Pickford who told it to Lady Desborough, “Charlie Chaplin was one day at a fair in the United States, where a principal attraction was a competition as to who could best imitate the Charlie Chaplin walk. The real Charlie Chaplin thought there might be a chance for him so he entered for the performance, minus his celebrated moustache and his boots. He was a frightful failure and came in twentieth.

According to the Albany Advertiser, he placed 27th out of 40. While the numbers vary a bit from article to article, the key points are clear: He's a garbage cosplayer. 

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Now for the real question: Is it real? The above discrepancy in how he did, as well as an inability to corroborate the initial report, has presented some issues. As it turns out, many of the papers were just repeating what they heard at the time from each other. From the linked Open Culture article: 

When one researcher asked the Association Chaplin to weigh in, they apparently had this to say: "This anecdote told by Lord Desborough, whoever he may have been, was quite widely reported in the British press at the time. There are no other references to such a competition in any other press clipping albums that I have seen so I can only assume that this is the source of that rumour, urban myth, whatever it is. However, it may be true."

So as much as I LOVED finding the original papers and thought this would definitely prove the myth, it turns out this is most likely a case of early newspapers simply running with a story without verifying it. Chaplin never confirmed it, the source of the story can't even be confirmed to exist, and people simply ran with it. It may very well just be an urban legend that started almost a century ago. 

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Snap Judgment #29: Trailer Misnomer

SNAPPLE FACT #1455: Movie trailers used to come on at the end of movies, but no one stuck around to watch them

Verdict: True

So this one is pretty straight-forward, but I still found it fun to look through. First off, I don't know about the rest of you, but I never really thought about the etymology of "movie trailer." The definition is in the name - the sneak peak/ad/teaser/etc. is supposed to be at the tail-end of the movie. As they quickly discovered, this was very ineffective. The practice did not last long. I've actually had trouble finding when it phased out, but I imagine it's hard to pinpoint that sort of information as it probably wasn't a simultaneous, nation-wide (or international) decision. So now that that interesting little factoid is explored and easily proven, I wanted to go into some fun history/historical factoids about movie trailers, as this turned out to be way more interesting. 

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My next stop in researching trailers was locating big "firsts" and/or trends over time. I stumbled across this very clever and simple interactive presentation on the history of movie trailers. This is worth checking out to start getting your bearings on larger trends as it's SUPER broad and stripped down. According to Filmmakeriq (as well as wikipedia, the above presentation, and a few other sources, so I'd say there's a near-consensus on this), the first trailer was in 1913 and was the brainchild of Nils Grunland, advertising manager of Marcus Loew theaters. He produced a short promotional film showcasing actual rehearsal footage from the Broadway play, Pleasure Seekers. Yup, the first trailer wasn't actually for a movie. 

So at this point I was neck deep in all sorts of history about movie trailers and a bit overwhelmed. I had about 3 different sections going and I felt the flow wasn't good and the research needed more shoring up, so I decided to strip a bunch of it and end on this fun note, as I believe I want to revisit this topic for a patreon bonus or something. What aspect of movie trailers so iconic, so memorable, that everyone knows the reference and would want to know more? Why, that's easy. "In a world..."

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"In a world..." is so iconic, a movie about a female vocal-talent called In a World... went to Sundance (and other festivals) and won awards. The title literally references the famous opening catchphrase and iconic voice of Don LaFontaine (1940-2008). Don "Thunder Throat" LaFontaine, AKA Don "Voice of God" LaFontaine, claimed to be the creator of the famed catchphrase, though many others used it as well. According to the New York Times:

In a 33-year career Mr. LaFontaine did voice-overs for more than 5,000 movie trailers, 350,000 commercials and thousands of television promos, including dozens of “Next week on ‘E.R.’ “ spots.

At this point, the infamous "in a world" line is almost exclusively the subject of parodies, as is the distinct tenor and style of his deliveries, but there's no doubt that he had massive impact on the film industry and popular culture. 

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Snap Judgment #28: Special Agent Catnip

Snapple Fact #1454: In the 1960s, the U.S. government tried to turn a cat into a spy.

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Verdict: True. Completely and utterly true. 

I am not ashamed to admit I spent more time looking at spy cats/coming up with puns (I'm currently favoring "Tacti-cat" for the above image) than I did doing research for this post. It's not that I didn't do a lot of research, it's that I spent in exorbitant amount of time checking out cat pictures. None of us are immune, so stop looking judging me and enjoy the adorable cat pictures like nature intended. 

The CIA did a lot of..."interesting" (often morally questionable) projects in the 60's, and Project "Acoustic Cat" (big missed opportunity for "Acousticat") is arguably one of the more absurd onesA quick warning: if you are squeamish/have issues with what most would consider "animal cruelty," I would not advise continuing on.

The goal was simple in theory, difficult in practice: hide a recording device on a cat, gift it to the Soviet Union, let it do its work. They also wanted to implant a small device to give it cues so they could direct it at at least a basic level. Now remember the year: there are no personal computers, audio recording is still 100% analog, and small batteries with long life are hard to produce (even today that presents a challenge.) The cat had to look like a cat still as well, so where do you hide all the necessary components?

Unfortunately, the CIA went ahead and created what assistant to the CIA director Victor Marchetti described as "a monstrosity." They performed surgery on the cat and implanted a battery, they then had wires running the length of his body woven into the fur, then placed a small microphone in his ear canal. The cat also had serious issues with wandering off or becoming distracted when bored or hungry, so they did more surgery to "help with that." I am not sure what that means, but I'm sure it's just more awfulness. From conception to implementation, this cost $20 million dollars over 5 years. 

On the first trip out into the real world, the cat was hit and killed by a taxi while crossing the road before even making it to the target. From The Atlantic (and once again, Marchetti): 

When it came time for the inaugural mission, CIA agents released their rookie agent from the back of a nondescript van and watched eagerly as he set out on his mission. Acoustic Kitty dashed off toward the embassy, making it all of 10 feet before he was unceremoniously struck by a passing taxi and killed.

“There they were, sitting in the van,” Marchetti recalled, “and the cat was dead.”

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Snap Judgment #27: Sports and those new-fangled Moving Pictures

Snapple fact #150: the first sport to be filmed was boxing in 1894

Verdict: True

As a sports fan in this day and age, you never really give much thought to what the first sport to be filmed. Sporting events have always been readily available I my lifetime and from what my research tells me, it sounds like it’s been around for longer than the rest of us as well. It’s hard to imagine the Super Bowl or The Masters taking place without seeing the game in real time. I don’t believe that sports would have the impact that they would today if we all had to huddle around a radio to tune in.

The first boxing match and sporting event ever filmed took place on June 14, 1894. The match had to be arranged so that way it could be filmed due to normal boxing matches lasting longer than the technology available would have allowed to be filmed. The fighters agreed to six rounds consisting of one minute each.

Another video (link) is footage from the second boxing match ever filmed and is in the Library of Congress. It’s known as Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph. This too was a shortened match like the first and only consisted of six, one minute rounds.

The boxing attire is vastly different from todays modern sport. It’s hard to see Mike Tyson wearing shorts like that or gloves with such little padding. Rules and regulations have adopted over time to make the sport more safe while managing to inflict the most amount of power in the punches. It is a really interesting look into history to see how far we’ve come in a relatively short amount of time.

-Josh

Sources: 

http://www.mixedmartialarts.com/vault/boxing/the-first-recorded-boxing-match-in-history

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corbett_and_Courtney_Before_the_Kinetograph

https://www.loc.gov/item/00694182/

Snap Judgment #26: This Radiation is Bananas

#1282: “EATING 600 BANANAS IS THE EQUIVALENT OF ONE CHEST X-RAYM IN TERMS OF RADIATION.”

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 2.57.55 PM.jpg

Verdict: False

Many of you must have heard some form of bananas being radioactive. This is in fact true. Bananas contain a radioactive element called potassium-40, which is not as scary as it sounds. The 40 attached to the name is because it is an isotope. By nature, an atom of any element must have an exact number of protons to be that element. However, the element can have a varying number of neutrons, changing its mass, hence the number at the end of the name (19 protons + 21 neutrons = 40). This can cause instability, and the atom needs to sweat off that excess energy either by releasing an electron, neutron, or proton (this case changes the element to a different one). This is what most know as radiation. So, is this case of radiation dangerous? Absolutely not.  Take a look at yourself. Yes, you. You’re “radioactive” because the human body contains potassium, and the odds are stacked in favor of some of that potassium being potassium-40, so you can bet you have some excess electrons or neutrons or protons pew-pewing around in and out of you.

So, bananas. Turns out it’s just funny because they’re bananas. So much so that in the mid- nineties, an unofficial “Banana Equivalent Dose (BED)” measurement system for radiation emerged. Let’s stick with a better metric, though. Here is a chart from the XKCD guy, listing radiation does in Sieverts. I’ll include a link to the original image since it’s easier to read and very much worth the read.

 https://xkcd.com/radiation/

https://xkcd.com/radiation/

Goddamn this guy sources well. Anyways, here we see a banana is equivalent to exposure of 0.1 microsieverts. A chest x-ray is 20 microsieverts. Let’s do the math. 20/0.1 = 200

Nope.

-Ryan

 

Snap Judgment #25: Chickensaurus Rex

#732: The chicken is the closest living relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Verdict: True (probably)

Let's open with a real quick reason why this falls under "probably" true: It is hard to define what "closest" relative means because the criteria is varied and different researchers/people may put different weight on different aspects. Genetically speaking, they do seem to be the closest, so let's take a look at some of the sources behind this claim!

In 2003 Mary Schweitzer, a paleontologist at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, along with a team of researchers, analyzed a 68 million-year-old T-rex leg bone discovered earlier that year. It was in remarkable condition and contained "a matrix of collagen fibers," which allowed them gain new insight into the terrifying and powerful T-Rex.

"The analysis shows that T-rex collagen makeup is almost identical to that of a modern chicken - this corroborates a huge body of evidence from the fossil record that demonstrates birds are descended from meat-eating dinosaurs," said Angela Milner, the associate keeper of palaeontology at the Natural History Museum in London. "So, it is very satisfying that the molecules have provided a positive test for the morphology."

The analysis was then used to compare the T-Rex bone's proteins with those of known animals. Simply put, out of 7 sequences, 3 matched chickens "directly." There we also matches with newts and frogs. It is important to note that there is a popular theory that alligators and/or crocodiles are close relatives, but we do not have every species in the database that was used (including alligators and crocodiles), so they may still prove an equal or even more accurate match. The Independent discusses this a bit more, but they seem to pretty much dismiss the connection to alligators without a very good reason, so i'd trust The Guardian (and the cited articles/journals, of course) over it. 

Now here's something The Independent gives us that The Guardian doesn't: A ridiculous video of scientist strapping a fake dinosaur tail on chickens to see how T-Rex's may have walked. It literally looks like they strapped a plunger to the back of a chicken. I know there is more to it, but I find this video so funny. Maybe it's just me...

 

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Snap Judgment #24...? Disney's Gang Problem

Snap Judgment #24*: Disney's Gang Problem

*this post has nothing to do with Snapple. Josh's story was just too good to pass up.

Batman vs. The Joker. The Capulets vs. the Montagues. White Rabbits vs. Main Street Fire Station 55. Okay, one of these things is not like the other ones, obviously. If you don’t know anything about the latest heated rivalry, then you’re not alone. 

There was recently a lawsuit that pitted the Main Street Fire Station 55 Social Club against the White Rabbits Social Club for defamation, invasion of privacy, conspiracy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Not too outrageous as these things tend to happen unfortunately. Except this didn’t occur just out in the heart of the streets, but on a main street. Like the Main Street. Like Disneyland in California Main Street. 

Yeah, you read that right (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-disneyland-social-clubs-20180209-story.html). This story is about how two separate social clubs in Disneyland had a feud that resulted in this lawsuit which also did name Disneyland in it. Apparently it is very common for many different social clubs to gather and spend time together in the park. Some clubs have a few people, while others have over 100 separate members who come together to share in the magic.

These loons, a term which I feel confident in using here since I am most certainly one of them, all have, for all intent and purposes, matching biker vests essentially with patches that display their affiliation for these different clubs. Some members just outright get the patch, while others have an initiation period for him/her to prove his/her worth to the club. Once in these clubs, members hold events outside the park like parties or benefits. And that’s where our lawsuit comes in.

The Main Street Fire Station 55 Club was holding a fundraiser in the park when one of its members was approached by a small group from the White Rabbits. The crew of the Rabbits asked for $500 as a form of protection to ensure the benefit would go uninterrupted throughout the park. I’m going to stop here and remind everyone that this is indeed a park where if you pay for a ticket, you have access to any and all areas designated for guests without any hindrance of anyone or, as I assume, any other social club. So in my mind, there is no reason why anyone would need protection of any sort. For any reason. Ever.

The lawsuit is ongoing at this time but I wanted to highlight such an asinine story. I figured it would be a nice break from the norm of Snapple facts that we have been doing lately to see how crazy, again myself included, people are about these parks. Hopefully both of these social clubs can end this pissing contest.

Thanks again for all the love and support you guys and gals give us. Be on the lookout for big things in the upcoming future for Rumor Flies!

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Snap Judgment #23: Happy birthday, you're not special!

#74: You share your birthday with at least 9 million other people in the world.

Verdict: False on a technicality

Let's open with why it says "False on a technicality." Really...that means false, but I'm giving them just a few points (JUST a few) for making a simple mistake. According to ThoughtCo, the odds of you sharing your birthday with anyone should be approximately 1/365 in any population (0.274%). This assumes ~7 billion people at time of article (though it's more accurately around 7.6 billion). Since we now know you share it with .274% of the population, we do the math (.274% of ~7billion): you share your birthday with over 19 million people around the world (19,178,082). So this means that yes, technically Snapple was right saying you shared with over 9 million people (even if it was understated), right? WRONG. Leap Year, yo! 

If you are born on February 29th, you should share your birthday with 1/1461 of the population (0.068%). That means you share your birthday with 4,791,239 people, making Snapple officially wrong. Now this was a fun but short math adventure accented with pedantry and literal interpretations, so I wanted to add a little something extra to the topic. I went ahead and researched some of the most and least popular birthdays. 

Fun Fact: September is the most popular birthday with Winter being the least popular as a whole (Dec-Feb).

Researchers at Harvard University examined births between 1973 and 1999, and found that the most common birth date for those years was Sept. 16 (2006 report), but more recently, Matt Stiles at The Daily Viz created a visualization based on data FiveThirtyEight compiled on births from 1994 to 2014, updating that to Sept. 9th. The data is from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Social Security Administration.

So there you have it. A short one, but we love finding ones where we get to be SUPER petty about why they are wrong, so we couldn't resist. Ok, not "we," me. 

Cheers,
Greg

Snap Judgment #32: No Stompies in Germany

Snapple Fact #1366: In Denmark, citizens have to select baby names from a list of 7,000 government-approved names.

Verdict: True

So as it turns out, many countries have specific laws as to what you can and can't name your kids. Some are pretty obvious, such as no slurs or generally offensive names, but the laws get a lot more interesting as you dive in a little deeper. Denmark, as it turns out, is just particularly strict, while many countries vary pretty wildly. 

Let's start with the initial subject of this Snapple "real fact" - Denmark. Denmark does indeed have a list of approximately 7,000 government-approved names. One can apply for special permission through their local church, then the government reviews it. They are so strict that they actually reject 15-20% of submitted names. A few banned names: Anus, Pluto, and Monkey. 

According to the earlier linked Mental Floss article, here are a few rules of note:

  • Names must indicate gender 
  • Creative spellings of approved names are largely not allowed
  • Last names can't be used as first names and vice versa
  • Part of the rationale is to protect "rare Danish last names" 
 Image source

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In 1982, Sweden enacted the "Naming Law," which was originally designed "to prevent non-noble families from giving their children noble names," but it has since evolved. First names can't be offensive or "cause discomfort" for the individual bearing it, you can only change your name once, and you must keep at least one of the original names you were given if you do change your name. A few banned names: Metallica, Superman, Veranda, Ikea, and Elvis. Interestingly enough, they specifically allow "Goole" as a middle name, and Lego is an approved name. 

The US has its own federal naming laws, but it also varies wildly from state to state. Some states ban obscenities, some states (such as Kentucky) have no name laws at all, and in some cases, courts interpret the right to name a child whatever the parents' want as a matter of Free Speech (1st amendment clause) and Due Process (14th amendment clause). California actually doesn't allow for diacritical marks (ex. José, Noël), and some states limit the number of letters a name can have for record-keeping purposes. 

To close it out, here's an article from Business Insider that lists some interesting banned names by country! Enjoy, and if you live in Germany, do not name your kid "Stompie." 

 

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Snap Judgment #22: Polar Assassins

#726: A polar bear cannot be seen by an infrared camera, due to its transparent fur

Verdict: False (technically)

So this one is fun because 1. it's not that crazy when broken down, 2. the images are kind of funny, and 3. it's just overall neat-o. According to Now I Know, scientists were attempting to get a headcount on the number of polar bears in the Arctic, especially since they were hunted up through most of the 20th century. While their natural camouflage can make it tricky, obviously there are a number of devices we can and do use to capture images.

Turns out, due to the many layers of fur and fat trapping body heat very efficiently and "well below skin level," heat-detecting devices such as infrared are rendered all but completely useless. This is why I rated it this "Real Fact" as "false." The translucent nature of their fur (which is accurate) is not the reason they do not show up very well in infrared, but rather it's because the outer layers of their skin are about the same temperature as the air around them. Their face and breath can be reasonably detected, but according to the article, "that isn't enough to go on." Ultimately they've had to settle for tranquilizing and tagging each one individually (can't pay me enough to do that). Side note: Now I Know comes in newsletter form. I've been getting it for probably 5+ years now. Dan does great work so you should definitely consider signing up for it!

A few more tidbits about their ability to stay warm (in -40°C no less). They keep their internal body temperature at around 37°C with their distinct fur coat. It is made up of two main layers: a short and dense "underfur" beneath the skin and an outer layer made of translucent, long, coarse hairs. The translucent hair scatters light which is why it appears white to us. 

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Snap Judgment #21: Shrimp Pistoleros

#770: Pistol shrimp can make a noise loud enough to break glass.

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Verdict: True. 

Confession time: I knew this was true because I already knew a tiny bit about these totally awesome aquatic sharp shooters. I just REALLY wanted to share facts and videos about this ridiculous creature. A "pistol shrimp" gets its name from the massive claw it uses to "shoot" other creatures. So let's dive into what exactly this "pistol" is by starting with good ol' Wikipedia page on "pistol shrimp" or "alpheidae" (Quick note: there is literally over a thousand different species of "snapping shrimp," many of which have this "pistol shot" for subduing prey):

Alpheidae is a family of caridean snapping shrimp characterized by having asymmetrical claws, the larger of which is typically capable of producing a loud snapping sound. Other common names for animals in the group are pistol shrimp or alpheid shrimp.

That "snapping" characterization is a serious understatement. According to the previously linked BBC video, the "flash point" of the snap heats up the area - for a split second - to 4000°C. That is not a typo. This super-heated "bubble bullet" can travel as fast as a car and often literally launches their prey several inches (which for a 3-5cm creature underwater is no small feat). In addition to being a tool of brutal fishy murder, according to the BBC, it is also their primary source of communication "with their innumerable neighbors, each tucked away in it its own den in the soft sand." The sound is so loud, that it has become a staple "noise" under the ocean and is often, according to the same BBC article, described as "snaps" underwater or like the "cracks" of burning tinder. 

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So a fun thing I stumbled across in the above mentioned BBC article: 

Between 1944 and 1945, the US Navy deliberately used snapping shrimp colonies as an "acoustic screen" to hide from the underwater hydrophones in Japan's harbours, allowing their submarines to enter undetected. The shrimp might even have had their own part in early atom bomb tests on Bikini Atoll.

Basically, they are so loud and so prevalent that the military used them to as a "noise cover" on multiple occasions. 

So there you have it. These little desperados are awesome. Have a good rest of your week and (an early) Happy Mardi Gras!

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Snap Judgment #31: Tulip Mania

Snapple fact #175: In 1634, tulip bulbs were a form of currency in Holland

Verdict: False

This is something we have covered in a similar fashion before, specifically about tea being used as a form of currency. It’s not unprecedented to think that something in high demand being used as a form of money. You exchange goods and/ or services for some form of payment, which doesn’t have to mean money. This is where the phrase “tulip mania” originates.

See, tulips were this hot, new item that everyone wanted. There were the fidget spinners or those jump mans everyone loved back in the day. They were fashionable and different unlike any other flower out there. Flowers had so many uses in a time without the internet. 

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The problem is that the value of tulip bulbs fluctuated very quickly in Holland. The peak of tulip mania was in January 1637 and then the market crashed. Except crashed is a very relative term in the sense that nobody really lost any money or product. Money wasn’t really exchanged until the bulbs were in hand and the people that already paid would get them eventually. In fact, not a single bankruptcy was filed because of the flowers that year.

Honestly, I wouldn’t even say that they were used as currency. They were in high demand but they weren’t replacing money used back then. They were just a luxury item for a short while that people loved to appear wealthy. Rumor Flies gun to my head, I’d say this is false.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

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Snap Judgment #20: Moogenetic North

#980: When Grazing or Resting, cows tend to align their bodies with the magnetic north and south poles.

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Verdict: Likely

So this was based on a study that originally aimed to prove humans have internal compasses for setting up encampments, since naked mole rats tend to sleep in the southern end of their tiny underground mole homes. Using Google Earth, the researches viewed various tent encampments and checked how they were aligned. I think this may be a flawed study since many campers have actual campers and could be aligning their tents on much less of a hunch than body magnets. Apparently the researchers lost interest in the human subjects and instead ADD’d their way over to a few cow pastures and noticed something interesting: the cows showed a tendency to align themselves along north/south.

The study shifted to cows, resulting in observation (via Google Earth again) of over 8,500 cows in nearly 300 pastures. The trend was starting to be clear. The researches also shifted to another large mammal, the dear, and found the same tendencies in the animals. Many other animals use the earth’s magnetism for navigational purposes, but these are mainly of the flying variety (birds, bats, some insects). The researchers have not found a clear reason yet as to why cows and deer would have this ability for grazing and resting.

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Now, here is my theory: warmth. As many people have heard, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Many others also know that getting the sun in your eyes while driving sucks. I think that, magnetism or not, the simple reason for this alignment is a) to avoid getting the sun directly in their eyes and b) to increase the surface area of their bodies that catches the warmth of the sun. This is based off of no research, but if you know any cow researchers, please send them my way.

-Ryan

 

Snap Judgment #19: Termites are so Metal

#33: Termites eat through wood two times faster when listening to rock music

Verdict: True

So this one I really expected to be nonsense or based on VERY loose research/facts, but turns out it's totally true. When rock is played, termites get amped up, start a circle pit, and chow down. What's also interesting is that this claim has been asserted as early as 1968, but became more well known after Snapple introduced it as a "Snapple Real Fact" sometime around 2002-2003. A 2005 study confirms the strong relationship between the eating habits/speed of termites and various frequencies, as well as the fact that the frequencies found in what most would consider "rock" did in fact speed them up. 

So this goes into 3 elements (at least when I saw it was true):
1. What counts as "rock"?
2. Why rock?
3. Is it TWICE as fast? 

As it turns out, a lot of music can be categorized by the frequency of their main instruments. The sound frequencies generated by electric guitar and bass is ~2.5KHz, with 600Hz - 3kHz being more represented in rock, so I assume that is what is used as the definition of rock. Termites, as it turns out, are attracted to wood vibrating via a ~2.8kHz signal, which answers part 2. Part 3 is where I had the most trouble. I couldn't find any good info or graphs on how much it increased their consumption speed by. So while I still consider this to be a true, there is a strong BUT if you want to be particular about the language. 

So this was a pretty short one, so I decided to add another arbitrary set of facts! One thing I was curious about was what kinds of wood termites prefer. We in New Orleans know that they can't eat cypress wood, which is part of what made (and continues to make) it so popular as a building material. Redwood, cedar, and cypress, as it turns out, are all naturally resistant to termites. Just a little something extra for you. 

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Snap Judgment #18: Flies are Singing for You

Snapple Fact #1382: A housefly hums in the key of F
 

Verdict: True

So I had originally planned a different one since this is another "music related" topic (sort of) like the black holes post, but Ryan and Josh picked up the camel topic I was going to write about for our most recent recording (we did another Snapple fact check episode for this season!). This was the other topic I had prepped, so here we are!

According to Mental Floss, the common household fly flaps its wings around 190 times a second, which the human ear perceives as a note in F major (which includes F, G, A, B♭, C, D, and E). The wings are flapping are responsible for the sound we hear, which is actually pretty common among insects. Even though there is variation in size and speed of each fly, the measurements are proportional, so for instance if the wings are larger the number of flaps will be less frequent (and vice versa). This insures they "stay in key." 

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Female mosquitos, according to the previously linked Purdue article, use this pitch to attract male mosquitos. It is a rare example of a female species using sounds to attract males in their species. It is so enticing, a tuning fork tuned to the key of F will actually attract male mosquitos pretty effectively. I couldn't find a good video example of this, so if you know of any let us know! 

Sorry this one was a little shorter than usual. It was interesting (at least to me) but somewhat straightforward. We will hunt down a big one for you next week. Until then, we hope you enjoyed this "Snap Judgment"!

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