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 #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. 

 Image Source

Image Source


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. 

Thumbnail source

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. 

 image source

image source

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..."

 Image source

Image source

"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. 

Thumbnail image source

Snap Judgment #28: Special Agent Catnip

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

 Image Source

Image Source

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.”

Thumbnail image source


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.



Snap Judgment #26: This Radiation is Bananas


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.

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




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...


Thumbnail image source

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 ( 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!

Thumbnail image source

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. 


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. 

Thumbnail image source

Snap Judgment #21: Shrimp Pistoleros

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

 Image Source

Image Source

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. 

 Image Source

Image Source

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!

Thumbnail image source

Snap Judgment #20: Moogenetic North

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


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.


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.



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. 

Thumbnail image source

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." 

 Image source

Image source

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"!

Thumbnail source

Snap Judgment #17: Those Trees had it Coming!

SNAPPLE FACT #705: Every ton of recycled paper saves about 17 trees

 Awww yeeee getting fancy with the gifs now. Also,  source video.  

Awww yeeee getting fancy with the gifs now. Also, source video. 

Verdict: True

Recycling: We've all known about it since we were kids (for the most part, I assume). Recycling paper is often particularly harped on because 1. It's relatively easy to do compared to glass or cardboard, and 2. Because of the association with trees. Trees are the arguably the biggest, easiest to identify symbol of nature, and the imagery of trees being chopped down and bulldozed en masse by "evil companies" is a very tried and true tactic for building support for ecological causes (think: "Save the Rainforests" or FernGully). So a claim like this is naturally going to engender a few reactions. 

Well, it's true! We have a few sources and some interesting other stats to accompany them. According to The University of Southern Indiana, the average household throws away 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year (mostly through packages and junk mail) and the average American uses seen trees a year in paper, wood, and other tree-based products. According to Recycling Revolution, the 17 trees you can save from recycling can absorb up to "250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year," while, "burning that same ton of paper would create 1500 pounds of carbon dioxide." According to the EPA, recycling one ton of paper would "save enough energy to power the average American home for six months, save 7,000 gallons of water, save 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, [and] reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton of carbon equivalent (MTCE)."

 Image source:

Image source:

I started looking into the arguments of how the paper industry planting/using trees factors in, but that argument got pretty political emotional very quickly so I haven't found any great sources that show the net cost/benefit for that. If you have any info we'd love to see it! Otherwise we may have to revisit this...

Thumbnail Source

Snap Judgment #16: The Black Note

#931: The nothingness of a black hole generates a sound in the key of B flat.

 Image source:

Image source:

Verdict: False (sort of)

Black holes are crazy. For those who aren't quite sure what they are, here's a little primer for you. There are many variations and sizes and origins for black holes but the incredibly untechnical tl;dr version is this: It's a point in space that is so dense and compressed (TONS of mass squeezed into a very tiny space) with an absurd amount of gravity that even light can't escape. You literally can't look at one, you can only see what it's doing to the objects around it, as well as its effects on space and time. They are often the result of massive, dying stars, though again there are variations and this is an over-simplification. 

So now for the "False (sort of)" rating. It's actually pretty simple: There is a blackhole that "emits" a tone of B-flat, but not all blackholes do this and NASA even has examples of other notes. The black hole Snapple is probably referring to is a Super Massive Black Hole" in the Perseus Cluster. This note is also 57 octaves lower than middle-C, making it, "the deepest note ever detected from an object in the Universe" (as of 2003). It is literally over a "million billion" times lower than what the human ear can hear. Perhaps South Park was on to something...

So let's hit another aspect of black holes since that was all pretty simple and since black holes are so totally crazy awesome while simultaneously operating as a potential source of literal and existential dread that you can't control!

If you observe an object entering a black hole, it will first seem to "slow down" then appear to freeze in motion and time because the light can't escape, meaning it'll take an infinite time to reach you. You are quite literally stuck with the "last image" of the object before it crosses what is called "The Event Horizon," the point of "no return" for objects near a black hole. The closer you get to this point, the more time seems to "slow down." If you saw the movie Interstellar you saw this effect at work on the water planet. The planet was pretty close to a black hole, meaning it felt some of the effects (while remaining outside the event horizon). The longer they spent on that planet, the more time passed outside of the area due to the relative effects of time. A few hours on the planet equaled dozens of years in "normal" space. 

So yeah, don't get too close to your local black hole, everyone. 

Thumbnail image source

Snap Judgment #15: Columbus is a Citrus-Planting Piece of $%*&

#402: Christopher Columbus brought the first lemon seeds to America.

 Image source:

Image source:

Verdict: True

Greg here, and as is the case with anything Columbus related, that particular context is important. Anyone who has listened to even a few episodes of this show will quickly recognize that my complete and utter distaste at anything Christopher Columbus-related is hard to truly capture. That's partially why I chose this subject: it forces me to just do some research and sit back without too much editorializing. But this topic also gives me a fun launchpad to discuss some side stuff, which we will get in to momentarily. So now: Citrus stuff!

 Image source:

Image source:

A cursory google search will quickly reveal to anyone that this is widely accepted and parroted. While all the specifics are a little debated, it seems to be consensus that Columbus brought lemon seeds - along with several other citrus seeds - to the "New World." Ironically, his crew also suffered a horrible bout of scurvy on their long expedition.

I made it a point to find a more "academic" or accredited source to back it up, and indeed there doesn't seem to be any major contradictions to the claim. I found a few books that point to sources saying he planted them in Haiti for sure, then in the Americas, where they flourished. He also brought death and ruination in the form of poor governorship and horrible diseases (I had to get at least one dig in). 

It's important to note that this trend of bringing and unleashing animals, plants, and even diseases, is something we see over and over again in colonization discussions (and even beyond). The Spanish introduced horses in the 16th century, which fundamentally altered the lives of Native American communities in the plains regions of North America, who famously learned to integrate horses into their communities. Over the next centuries, horses became as culturally ingrained in the mythos of the "American West" as tumbleweeds and six-shooters. A quick digression, but something worth mentioning (in my opinion). 

  Ok. Two digs.    Source:  XKCD  under Creative Commons. 

Ok. Two digs. 

Source: XKCD under Creative Commons. 

So now for something completely different and probably a solid 30% of the motivation for my post/topic choice. Did you know there's an indie record called Columbus? Did you know it was a musical? Did you know it was produced by Andrew Dost (Anthallo, Fun.) and features such indie darlings as Nate Ruess (Steel Train, Fun.), Michael Nau (Page France), Joel Thiele (Anathallo), and more? It is an absurd and plucky record that takes ridiculous liberties (knowingly). It is so silly and funny and even catchy (and yes, at times a bit cringe-y, but that's always a risk with something like this). They even pressed a bright magenta vinyl record. I don't know if Columbus will ever rock broadway...but hey, stranger things have happened. 

 Image source:

Image source:

Snap Judgment #14: Will Headbang for Food

#437: The woodpecker can hammer wood up to 16 times per second

 Image Source:

Image Source:

Verdict: True

So this one isn't as crazy insofar as checking true vs. false, because it's pretty easily verifiable; however, that isn't why I gravitated towards it. Reason 1: I really wanted to make a Woody Woodpecker reference, as seen above. Reason 2: Woodpeckers are really cool and I was kind of curious how they don't damage their brain (and general face area). Turns out, it was really interesting! 

According to Gizmodo, woodpeckers basically have giant sponge heads. The beat, their muscles, their bones, even a third inner eyelid - all these contribute to shock absorption (combined with the angle, or lack thereof, of their strikes). Because they can absorb it without damage, "a male woodpecker will peck between 500-600 times a day, 18-22 times per second — twice that during courtship season — with deceleration forces of about 1200 g." The deceleration is another key component here as it makes it so the energy from the impact is released over a longer period of time. There are all sorts of industry and safety applications from this research, from potential redesigns of football helmets to shielding spacecraft from orbital debris or other possible impacts.

 Image Source:

Image Source:

According to Mental Floss, 99.7% of the impact is absorbed by the woodpecker's body, with the remaining .03% impacting the brain in the form of heat energy. The prevailing theory is that they deal with it via short breaks - hence why you don't hear them go consistently for long durations. They take a break, let the brain cool down, then get back to smashing their face in to find food, to build a nest, to attract a mate, or even to simply mark their territory. They also slightly shift the impact point between brain and skull as they work while maintaining the linear striking motion, so the angle is maintained but they don't keep striking the same spots over and over again. 

Basically, woodpeckers are the best metal heads (you knew this was coming). They can thrash around for hours a day and keep on truckin'. They're basically concussion-proofed birds, so as we mentioned earlier, the scientific research opportunities are pretty substantial. 


Snap Judgment #13: Bro, do you even fold?

#77 No piece of paper can be folded more than seven times. (False)

 From "The Hydraulic Press Channel"

From "The Hydraulic Press Channel"

So let's jump right into this, because there's a lot to unfold (hue hue hue). So the answer is no, a piece of paper can in fact be folded more than 7 times; however, it's very difficult and has a lot of parameters that need to be met. If you tear a small piece of paper out of a notebook, you will not be able to do it without serious strength, and even then, if it's the wrong material it can simply explode or suffer some other sort of failure. Every time you fold the paper, it becomes exponentially thicker and thus harder to bend/flatten - this is the crux of the challenge. 

As is often the case, Mythbusters also tested this and found it to be false. The video is fun as always, and they even managed to fold it eleven times. In this case, they were able to accomplish it by 1. making sure the paper was massively large, and 2. bringing enough "strength" to bear in the form of heavy machinery to flatten/crease the paper (as well as having several people fold it). 



Enter: Britney Gallivan. Britney decided to REALLY test this, as well as do research into the forces at play. Mental Floss has a solid overview: she used a 4000-ft long roll of toilet paper and managed 12 folds. For the more mathematically inclined among you, she even derived a formula. She also figured out that "single side folding" is arguably the best method. Later in January of 2012, St. Mark's School in Massachusetts beat her record with another method, achieving 13 folds.

So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed this week's Snap Judgment. 


Snap Judgment #12: Deliver us from Shell!

#455: Lobsters can live up to 50 years.

 Pictured: The Crustacean Elder Council

Pictured: The Crustacean Elder Council

Verdict: True

I am, well, disappointed. For so long, I have touted my offhand knowledge about how lobsters have no shortage of a particular enzyme called telomerase, which causes them to not “age” in the style that most other animals do. Telomerase is an enzyme that lengthens the segments of DNA called telomeres, whose degradation is a well-known cause for many diseases, particularly cancer. In easier terms, telomerase is a spell-checker for your DNA that tries to keep up with your atrocious genetic grammar as you grow older. However, as one ages, eventually the editorial staff decides that this work isn’t worth the pay and starts quitting one by one. Welcome to old age and the eventual transformation into a delicate human card tower in the wind.

Lobsters pay their editors better. There is little to no decrease in telomerase present in lobsters as they grow older. So, this means they don’t reap all the hinderances of old age, right? Well, yes and no. While you won’t be seeing a chemo clinic for lobsters any time soon, they still have their downfalls. Most lobsters die from complications during molting, which is the process of shedding its previous shell as it grows into a new one. This process takes up tons of energy for lobsters, and the energy required grows as they grow. It’s like starting with a marathon on your 26th birthday, then adding a mile every birthday.

At some point, you would die from exhaustion, just as lobsters die from exhaustive molting. Now, these critters have a nice workaround to avoid molting death: don’t molt. However, this just leads to the shells being more prone to damage, infection, and eventual death. Generally, though males can live on average 30 years and females 50 years before the molting issues catch up to them.

Pretty good.
Now that we know lobsters aren’t immortal, what is?
Drum Roll….


This Fucker.

Meet Turritopsis dohrnii, otherwise known as the immortal jellyfish. Most jellyfish live only a few months at best. This one found a strange workaround. The three main stages of the jellyfish lifecycle are larva, polyp, and medusa. Most of us are familiar with the medusa stage, since it is generally the largest and fanciest looking. Turritopsis dohrnii can literally cycle its stages in a single life.

When things are starting to look bad, such as conditions of starvation of inhospitable environment, the medusa can revert back to polyp and start over again when better conditions arise. Sometimes they revert back just for the hell of it. It’s the non-metaphorical born-again Christian of the sea. In human terms, it’s like realizing you made a serious of fuck-ups in your career and adult life, so you decide to hit reset and go back to the first day of high school, then you fuck up again and keep trying to fix it.

This jellyfish’s process effectively can cause it do skip death. As great as this sounds, consider this: this jellyfish will never die a natural, peaceful death. There is no slow fade into the abyss as an old jellyfish on its little jellyfish rocking chair surrounded by its polyp children and larva grandchildren. It pretty much has to get eaten or starve before it can slide back into an early stage. So, score one for every other animal. 


Snap Judgment #11: "We're having a Bay-Bee"

#775: “Bees are born fully grown”

Verdict: False

I remember seeing this in a commercial not too long ago. It was a very weird setup where a husband and a wife are dressed in bee costumes in the delivery room of a hospital. Next thing you see, a big beautiful baby boy pops out…except he’s not a baby boy. He’s an adult. The fact that Snapple was advertising this to be true means that it can’t be false, right? Whomp whomp. It’s bullshit.

Funny enough, I had a hard time tracking down this commercial. They got a ton of backlash over something that seems really trivial and takes minimal effort to seek the validity of a statement. Bees, like most other insects, undergo the normal process from eggs to larvae to big beautiful bee. While the growth from larvae to a fully grown bee can take as little as ten days, there is a cycle that all bees undergo. If I had to guess, people say bees are born adults because of how quickly they go.

What also bugs me about this statement, as with many different topics we cover in this podcast, is the vague and broad “fact” that this applies to all bees. Why is it bees and not a specific type of bee? Not all bees are the same. They’re just like people in the regard that they have different cultures, environments, and lifestyles. Don’t paint all the same bees with the same brush. Actually, just don’t paint bees at all. They don’t like it 


Thumbnail source: