Rumor Flies

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

Filtering by Tag: urban myths

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." 

 

Thumbnail image source

 

 

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 #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...

 

Thumbnail image source

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." 

 

Thumbnail image source

 

 

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). 

Sauce: https://www.scienceabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/The-group-which-made-a-record-with-13-folds.jpg

Sauce: https://www.scienceabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/The-group-which-made-a-record-with-13-folds.jpg

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. 

Cheers

Snap Judgment #10: Mango Burns

#1416: “Mangoes can get sunburned.”

Image source: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/H4SW8yOoSNM/maxresdefault.jpg

Image source: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/H4SW8yOoSNM/maxresdefault.jpg

Verdict: Probably

So Snapple is on a winning streak right now going into Snap Judgment #10! The score is currently 7-3, so Snapple is batting a .700. Not bad, but we are sure we'll find some more mistakes down the line. So I decided to give them a "yes" on the scoreboard here, despite the "probably." I had trouble pinning down mangoes getting sunburned, but it is well documented that fruit trees can receive sun damage, so they get this one for now. This one I decided to stick out if for no other reason than I found some other crazy info down the rabbit hole. Snapple also did a commercial for this topic

So get this: the enzymes in mangoes can actually cause a severe skin reaction when combined with sun exposure. Don't worry, this does not happen to everyone just because a little fruit juice may spill on you. It is the result of "phytophotodermatitis," which the article describes as "a skin condition that happens as a result of sensitivity to chemicals in certain plants and fruits." This condition, coupled with sun exposure/juice on the skin, leads to a chemical burn. 

Image source: https://www.thelittleepicurean.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/lime-margarita.jpg

Image source: https://www.thelittleepicurean.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/lime-margarita.jpg

This also occurs with several other fruits and vegetables. According to this CBS article, a bartender (Justin Fehntrich) working on the beach received what's called "the margarita burn." This burn was also the result of "phytophotodermatitis" combined with lime juice and extended exposure to the sun. The juice from the limes Fehntrich was squeezing made his skin hyper-sensitive to UV-rays, thus resulting in 2nd degree burns. Don't worry though - as long as you wipe the juice off within a reasonable amount of time (it needs 10-30 min to absorb) you'll be fine. 

Cheers!

 

 

Snap Judgment #7: Incessant Bloodhound Gang

#435: Bloodhounds can track a man by smell for up to 100 miles

BH.png

Verdict: True (more or less)

Here we are discussing smell again, but whatever. BLOODHOUNDS ARE SO COOL. Seriously. They are crazy good at sniffing things out. The specific claim "up to 100 miles" is hard to pin to the very number, but they have reportedly tracked a scent for up to 130 miles according to PBS, so Snapple probably played it somewhat conservative at 100 miles. In addition, "their extraordinary ability to discern a cold trail has sent them on fruitful missions, following tracks over 300 hours old.”

Bloodhounds have up to 230 million olfactory cells (40 times more than humans). Their sense of smell is so good and so reliable that it is admissible in court as evidence. According to that same PBS article, one famous dog, “Nick Carter” (yup, Nick Carter), led to the capture and conviction of over 600 criminals. 

BloodhoundsHunting.jpg

In order to really put them to the test, Mythbusters took a crack at trying to fool bloodhounds as shown in movies: running in random directions or zig-zags to throw off a pattern, running in a stream or other body of water to throw off the scent, and other commonly depicted techniques. Despite their best efforts, they were unsuccessful, and the ever capable Morgan tracked him with little issue. Having learned their lesson that bloodhounds are friggin' awesome at finding people, they tried again. This time, Jamie threw fish on the ground to throw off the scent and distract his pursuer. He also attempted to mask his scent with various products and suits as well as cross an even larger body of water than the first time. Once again, the able Morgan found him with little trouble. 

So there you have it. Bloodhounds are coming to get you - AND THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT. 

Thumbnail image source
Bloodhound pack image source

Cool technical piece by CIA on usefulness of scent in investigations