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 podcast

Snap Judgment #36: Laugh it up

#831: Adults laugh only about 15 to 100 times a day, while six-year-olds laugh an average of 300 times a day

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Verdict: partially true

Live. Laugh. Love. Simple rules to live by and a pretty strong mantra for only three words

When I first read this, it sort of made sense. As adults, we get caught up with life and our day to day activities while forgetting the simpler things in life. Bills need to be paid, diapers need changing, and beer needs drinking. We tend to lose our sense of humor rather easily while kids don’t have any of the stress. Kids are more worried about their Fortnites and pokemans or whatever they are into these days.

Laughing 300 times a day though? That seems a bit excessive to me. Simple math tells me that if you’re awake for 16 hours a day, that means you need to laugh almost 20 times in an hour or approximately once every three minutes. That just seems a bit excessive for anyone.

So what did my research tell me? That this is all subjective. As unsexy as that is, it boils down to what you would count as a laugh. Is one good laughing spell count as one laugh or 50? Do you tell the difference between a chuckle with a good guffaw? It really all depends.

There was one study that was done on the amount of laughter adults have over a three day period. They did find on average adults laugh about 18 times a day. Unfortunately, this is the only credible study I found on laugh counting. I did not find much concrete evidence on children laughing around 300 times a day. It was mostly research that was referencing other studies that referenced other studies that referenced one study in particular but no literature was out there for me to get my hands on.

The bottom line is that we all need to laugh more. While children may not laugh 300 times in one day, they do laugh more. I think there’s something to that because I feel that children are happier than adults most of the time. It’s good to laugh and important for our mental health. Don’t take life to seriously and remember to let lose. In the words of Bo Burnham, “Laughter is the best medicine, ya know, besides medicine.” 


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.


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Snap Judgment #26: This Radiation is Bananas


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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