A 7-year-old boy saved his father and younger sister by swimming a mile to get help after a boating accident over Memorial Day weekend.
Chase Poust and his 4-year-old sister, Abigail, were swimming alongside their father’s anchored boat on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida, on Friday night, the family told WJXT. But as the two children enjoyed their time in the water, Abigail lost hold of the boat when they were caught in a strong current.
“The current was so strong that my sister — she usually hangs out at the back of the boat — and she let go. So, I let go of the boat and grabbed her, and then, I was stuck,” Chase told the news station.
Steven Proust, their father, jumped into the water to save them and told Chase to swim to shore as he tried to retrieve Abigail, who was being carried along with the current while wearing a floatation device.
“I told them both I loved them because I wasn’t sure what’s going to happen. I tried to stick with her as long as I could,” Steven recalled to WJXT. “I wore myself out, and she drifted away from me.”
Chase then began the long, 1-mile swim back to land, switching between floating on his back and doggie paddling. The journey, he told the outlet, lasted an hour.
Once he reached shore, Chase said he ran to the nearest home he could find and knocked on their door. Florida Fish and Wildlife — who were helped by Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office — eventually spotted Steven and Abigail after an hour-long search.
WJXT said Chase and Steven were not required to wear a life vest. Only children ages 6 and under must wear one for a vessel 26 feet long or shorter.
Steven knows how fortunate they are to have made it out of the situation.
“We’re here. By the grace of God, we’re here,” he said. “Little man … made it to shore and got help, and that’s what saved our lives.”
When asked how he became such a skilled swimmer, Chase was honest: “I have no idea.”
3. In the late 1700s, the chainsaw was invented as a more efficient way to to cut the pelvic bone during childbirth – a common practice at the time.
Before the caesarian was introduced, babies had to pass through the pelvis to be born. So, when the pelvis was too narrow that meant bones had to be cut in a process called symphysiotomy. The invention of the chainsaw in 1780 actually improved this ordeal – before then, the bones were cut with a small knife in a long and painful procedure.
Many doctors believed that teething was responsible for seizures, diarrhoea, and other illnesses that infants at the time were dying from. The procedure, which involved cutting the baby’s gums down to the teeth, was very popular until as late as the 19th century, and was also practised in the States.
Archaeologists have found a number of skulls that have evidence of this procedure which is called trepanation, but scientists don’t completely agree on exactly why it was performed. While findings indicate that some cultures used trepanation to treat pain, many researchers believe that it may have also been part of spiritual rituals.
10. Europeans in the 16th and 17th would ingest remedies that contained human blood, fat, and bones, often sourced from Egyptian tombs and Irish burial grounds.
11. And up until the sixth century, in the Roman Republic, drinking gladiator blood was believed to be a cure for epilepsy.
Several medical authors from the time reported that consuming the blood or liver from a fallen gladiator (which was believed to have sacred properties) had healing powers. When gladiatorial combat was outlawed, the blood of people who had been executed became the go-to.
12. Up until the early 1900s, chloroform and smoking were both recommended as treatments for asthma.
And if you’re wondering if they were gargling their own urine, the answer is probably not. Families had specific chamber pots for saving their wee, and there were even traders who collected it from public urinals and had to pay a special tax on it.
When left to become ammonia, urine has strong cleansing properties (and a very strong smell). Back in the day, workers would mix said ammonia with water, pour it onto their dirty laundry, and then step on it (barefoot, might I add) until they reached their desired cleanliness.
16. And finally, in early 20th century America, douching with Lysol – the cleaning product that contains a bunch of toxic chemicals – was recommended as a method of birth control.
For married couples in the states, birth control was illegal until 1965 (and 1972 for singletons). Advertised as a “feminine hygiene” product, Lysol was the best-selling “contraception” during the Great Depression, despite the fact that many people died from using it.
Demand for batteries, specifically lithium-ion batteries, over the last several years has grown exponentially with the continued growth of cell phones and electric cars. As the demand for more and more batteries grows, especially as electric cars start to become more popular, so goes the need for their core components as well. “Rare earth elements” such as cobalt and lithium are just some of the materials that make up lithium-ion batteries. The problem, however, lies within procuring these items morally and ethically.
According to Green Tech Media, over 50% of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo). The government of DR Congo reports that 20% of all cobalt exports out of the country are from unregulated mines that are operating illegally. Because of the poor working conditions in Congo, many of these mines use child labor to extract cobalt ore. In fact, it’s estimated that at least 40,000 children are “employed” by these illegally run mines (via Amnesty International) that are unfortunately referred to as “artisanal” mines.
The horrors of child labor
Mining cobalt is hazardous. The process used to extract cobalt ore from the earth leaches hazardous materials into the local environment. Further, to extract the cobalt requires a process called smelting which emits sulfur oxide, which not only goes into atmosphere, but is being breathed in by the children working (via The New York Times). And this all occurs within “regulated” mines within DR Congo. Conditions in the illegal “artisanal” mines are far worse. According to Amnesty International, the conditions these 40,000 children face in the mines are life-threatening. Breathing in cobalt dust causes a condition called “hard metal lung disease” which can cause trouble breathing and asthma, and if left untreated, could lead to death (via NCBI).
Making the situation even more dangerous are the tools the child laborers used to mine the ore. According to the Financial Times, workers in these mines use either hand tools to remove the ore or just their bare hands for hours with no break. One child working in a cobalt mine told Amnesty International he would “spend 24 hours down in the tunnels. I arrived in the morning and would leave the following morning.”
Crisis of water
Construction Photography/avalon/Getty Images
It’s not much better when it comes to the lithium needed to power batteries, as well. Primarily located in the salt flats of South America, within countries like Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, mining lithium wreaks havoc on the local environment. Removing lithium from the salt requires huge amounts of water.
According to Mining Technology, just one Bolivian Mine uses over 13,000 gallons of water a day to extract lithium from the salt, causing a massive water shortage for local farmers. Ana Carballo, a leading researcher investigating lithium mines in Argentina, said, “Severe water scarcity means the ecosystems in these areas are very fragile — the water is not always reachable or readily available. It’s taken a very long time to come to terms with the consequences of the mining processes and one of the main challenges is in getting adequate environmental impact assessments.“
With an estimated 40 more lithium mines going online in the near future, the water situation in these countries will continue to worsen before they get better.
Chicago does not have a reputation for being the safest city in the United States, so much so that it has earned the nickname Chiraq. Murders are a far too common aspect of living in any big city, but according to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago plays host to a disproportionate number, only a fraction of which are genuinely investigated or solved.
Most murders are isolated crimes of passion or done during the commission of other crimes. The case of the Chicago Strangler, a potential serial killer operating in the city for two decades, is far different. Since 2001, at least 55 women (and counting) have lost their lives at the hands of the Chicago Strangler, whom the police have denied even exists. The alleged serial killer’s methods are brutal, cold, and repetitive, practically a calling card at this point. If anything, by his apparent indifference to capture, he is almost mocking authorities.
Still, the police swear they see no connections, and too few in the communities affected will admit to having seen anything. How can you combat a monster you won’t accept is there?
Two victims in two days
In 2007, the murders of two women in 48 hours, within a few miles of one another, awakened many to the possibility that there might be a serial killer operating in Chicago, according to A&E. They were far from the first women to allegedly fall to the Chicago Strangler, who is suspected to have been operating since 2001. Still, they made the morbid conclusion difficult to ignore.
The first found, Theresa Bunn, had been missing less than a day when she was discovered strangled, stripped, and stuffed in a dumpster. Her body had been doused in accelerant and set on fire. Theresa was eight months pregnant. The next was Hazel Lewis, discovered when the firefighters put out the flames in the garbage can into which she had been shoved. The police hadn’t even identified Bunn at this point. Investigators assumed that, given their proximity and the near-identical methods, someone had it in for these women. They set out to find some connection, some person or place, that the two had in common and came up empty.
Both murders remain unsolved, but they were only the beginning of the story of the Chicago Strangler. In 2018, the Chicago Tribune quoted Kaethe Morris Hoffer, executive director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, saying, “It is … upsetting to realize how, if you spread out over a long period of time, how inured people are to the murdering of women, particularly marginalized women.”
The Chicago Strangler’s victim profile
Per-anders Pettersson/Getty Images
The Chicago Strangler’s victims are, without exception, women, killed on Chicago’s South and West sides in the last 20 years, according to WBEZ.
Strangulation is a personal way to kill someone, which led the police to suspect intimate partners when encountering women killed in this way. However, when you are dealing with 55 (or maybe as many as 75) women, all murdered in similar, ghastly ways, all their bodies disposed of with disrespect and in public, that theory must go out the window.
Three-quarters of the Strangler’s victims are Black. The Chicago Tribune reported that 47 had some history of sex work. He (given the nature of these crimes, it is very likely the killer is a man) knows that the disappearances of Black sex workers will not be noticed as quickly as other demographics. That gave him all the time he needed to dispose of the victims in alleys, snowbanks, or dumpsters.
The Murder Accountability Project says the Chicago Strangler is real
The Murder Accountability Project is a nonprofit organization founded by Thomas Hargrove, a former journalist who uses an algorithm to analyze uncleared homicide cases in cities to find patterns. Hargrove explained to WBEZ that the algorithm works by looking at murder records and grouping them into similarities between victims (age, gender, weapon, location) and then finding clusters of unsolved cases. These can signal the presence of a serial killer. Women are statistically the most likely victims of serial killers, so the algorithm focuses on them in particular.
Chicago Reader reported that Hargrove used his algorithm to great success in Gary, Indiana. His Murder Accountability Project assisted in the 2010 capture of Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer (pictured) — who also focused his murders on sex workers. The police had not seen the pattern in the 70-some murders before Hargrove stepped in. CBS Chicago quoted him as saying, “We had total radio silence from those guys.”
When the algorithm looked at the uncleared homicide cases in Chicago, it let off a red alert. The Murder Accountability Project maintains that a serial killer is operating in Chicago. Hargrove said, “We know this is a series. We have no doubt.”
The Chicago Strangler’s M.O.
The Chicago Tribune reported that, with few exceptions, the women were killed by strangulation, either by bare hands or with a ligature like a belt, rope, or the women’s bras. Some were suffocated via plastic bags placed over their heads. Most were at least partially undressed, if not completely naked, and many of them showed some signs of sexual assault.
The bodies were found in semi-public places, like back alleys, empty lots, snowbanks, or dumpsters — places where someone should have seen them placed and set on fire. The Chicago Strangler barely attempts to hide his crimes, and that’s if he’s not outright gloating about them, knowing that the police do not take him seriously. The murders show a consistent enough modus operandi that it’s surprising the police haven’t made the connections.
Beyond the similarities in the deaths and victims, there is no established profile for the Chicago Strangler. Is he college-educated? White? Does he believe that he is on a holy mission to kill sex workers, or is he venting his sexual inadequacy like other, known serial killers? Any of this information could identify him, but there is nothing but the results of his crimes.
According to Chicago Reader, the killings stopped in 2014, only to pick up again in 2017, which signified to Thomas Hargrove that the killer had been incarcerated and released, immediately picking back up his murder spree. The police, however, just saw typical city violence.
Where the bodies are found
To A&E, Thomas Hargrove noted, “There is one very odd pattern in the map: There is a very linear array of body recovery sites on the Chicago Near South Side, which forms an almost perfect north-south line.” This is pretty much the same line as the Chicago Green Line elevated train. Hargrove shared this information with the Chicago police, though neither the Murder Accountability Project nor the CPD were willing to state outright that the killer was using mass transit to find and slay his victims. It would be impossible to move the bodies on a train, but surely there are usable data points that have yet to be explored.
WBEZ reported that the largest cluster in the South Side is linear, north to south, suggesting that the killer found the woman along a certain route. If this were the case, the killer would also likely have a vehicle to transport the bodies — far more manageable than on the train.
Where the bodies are found are unsurprisingly not the safest corners of Chicago, so much so that people who live there don’t use the alleys where the bodies have been discovered. One resident, Becky DeaKyne, told the Chicago Tribune, “I don’t drive in them. I don’t walk in them. It’s not safe. It’s not smart. … Everybody is afraid to go out, so there is nobody to scream help to.”
The Chicago Police Department put out a statement to Vice reading: “[T]here is absolutely no information to suggest this is the work of an active serial killer. To conclude otherwise, without detailed case information known by detectives, would be hyperbolic and careless.”
Yes, these women are dead, but women are murdered every day, rarely provoking suspicions of a serial killer. Intimate partner violence is far from unusual, and if one is going to kill a sex worker, strangulation after sexual assault is, sadly, hardly an unheard-of method. As noted by Chicago Reader, plenty of men are being shot in Chicago — no one is presupposing that one person is killing all of them.
Different precincts are not working together on these cases — or, it seems, most. Without that pool of resources, it falls to the public to draw the lines. The Chicago Tribune reported that a task force to respond to the city’s many murders of women was formed in the late 1990s, but it was disbanded soon after despite the killings continuing unabated. (To their credit, they did convict several unrelated subjects, including serial killers. Just not the Chicago Strangler.)
Why hasn’t the Chicago Strangler been caught?
Given the long-running nature of the killings, it seems perplexing that little headway has been made in the cases. However, it is precisely because the killings have gone on so long that complicates it.
Compared to any similarly sized city in America, Chicago has a shockingly low clearance rate for homicides. Thomas Hargrove said to Chicago Reader, “Chicago spiraled out of control when it started solving only a third of its murders. Murder begets murder.” Though it would only be speculation to wonder if the killer chose Chicago for this deficit, it must be appealing to know that his chances of being caught are comparatively small. Spending two decades operating in the city, hearing the police publicly doubt that he even exists, could embolden a killer. If he were going to be caught, wouldn’t he have been long ago?
According to Medill Reports, backlogs in the Illinois State Forensic Labs have delayed the processing of some evidence as much as 30 years, causing miscommunications when it comes to interdepartmental collaboration. Some improvements in the late 2010s helped them catch up on their backlogs, but they don’t have the funding or staff necessary to clear them all, which could only be to a serial killer’s benefit.
Is racism to blame?
Racism may play a factor in the Chicago Strangler’s longevity. Most of the victims are Black women, a demographic whom the police have often been accused of not prioritizing. To WGN 9, Roosevelt University journalism professor John Fountain said, “I am convinced that if there were 51 dogs killed in the city of Chicago, people would be up in arms but we aren’t.”
Many feel that the deaths of more than 50 primarily Black women, many of whom were sex workers, have been largely met by a shrug from the police and media, to the victims’ families’ horror, before the Murder Accountability Project noted the pattern. WBEZ reported that Chicago has a poor rate of murders being solved for Black residents: less than 22%, compared to 47% for white residents, during a 19-month period.
Chicago Reader noted that the real serial killer here might not be a man but the indifference toward Black lives and the economic disparity of the city. People care so little about these groups that a serial killer could act with impunity, or there are so many unsolved cases in these neighborhoods that it is easy enough to imagine a pattern.
Victims’ families silenced
The voices of the victims’ families are often silenced. In part, this is because they are met with cruelty when mourning a mother, sister, or daughter who had turned to sex work or drugs, as though brutal murder is a natural consequence.
The silencing is also more insidious and institutional. In some of these neighborhoods, it is generationally known that the police are not who you go to for help. If you call the police, even about the corpse in the dumpster, you may be asking for trouble. According to Dawn Valenti, a victims’ advocate and crisis responder, speaking to A&E, “People are scared, and people don’t want to talk. They want to retaliate.”
Involving the police can also interfere with the grieving families receiving what small help a life insurance policy can provide. If the police label a murder as a gang-related killing — even if the victim had nothing to do with any gangs — the family could end up with nothing.
In some cases, the families are eager to speak to the police, but the police do not feel the same. They will not interview anyone, just note that it happened and go about their shifts. The son of one of the victims told the Chicago Tribune, “They just picked the body up and left. We (are) just looked over.”
The Chicago police finally investigate
Eventually, owing to the Murder Accountability Project allowing the victims’ families’ voices to be amplified, the Chicago Police Department agreed to assign officers to solve these murders.
Four detectives in total, Chicago Reader reported, teamed up with agents from the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force. They reviewed what evidence they had, including DNA taken from the bodies. According to Medill Reports, they were able to identify DNA belonging to 21 different men, none of whom were in the system. Thomas Hargrove said, “DNA has not been the magic bullet that we all had hoped for, especially the Chicago police.” It is strange enough that a case of strangulation would turn up so little DNA evidence that Hargrove suggested that the killer was intelligent or practiced enough to leave little behind. To him, the absence of evidence is evidence. What is certain is that the murderer or murderers of these women have not been caught.
The police concluded again that none of these cases were connected. They feel, for example, that some murders were likely acts of domestic violence ending in back-alley dumpster fires, not cases of women being killed because they were in high-risk situations.
Arthur Hilliard, the Chicago Strangler?
Chicago Police Department
According to A&E, in January 2020, the Chicago Police Department arrested Arthur Hilliard for the murder of Diamond Turner, a presumed victim of the Chicago Strangler. DNA evidence tied him to the 21-year-old woman, whose body was found in a garbage can behind Hillard’s apartment in March 2017. She had experienced blunt-force trauma before being asphyxiated. Thomas Hargrove noted, “Any arrest they make among these 51 strangulations should be — and I’m sure will be — aggressively reviewed for the possibility that they are in fact linked to other killings.”
Chicago Reader reported the abundance of evidence: Hilliard had been in a sexual relationship with Turner, witnesses saw him cleaning bloodstains that led from his bedroom to his back door, and Hilliard disposed of his mattress soon after. As such, after identifying him as Turner’s possible murderer and collecting the evidence, it is baffling that the police waited three years to get around to arresting him for her murder. While people suspected a serial killer was prowling the city, Hilliard was left free to roam. The reason? It took that long to process the DNA evidence from the scene.
Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan noted no links between Hilliard and any of the other Chicago Strangler slayings.
What is the better scenario? One killer or many?
Medill Reports claimed that the Chicago Police Department received confidential information from witnesses that there are two to three serial killers, all operating under the presumed umbrella of the Chicago Strangler. In a forum with his district, Chicago Reader noted, U.S. congressman Bobby Rush said, “We all must continue to think that there is a possible serial killer or killers that’s living among us.”
Instead of one twisted, soulless monster who gets off on strangling and burning women, we theoretically have as many as 50-some killers who adopted a similar M.O., with only one arrest. Is it more reassuring that there are individual murderers by droves in Chicago or that there are only one or two guilty of all of them?
Thomas Hargrove said, “These 51 women were not killed by 51 separate men. Many of these [women], probably most of these were killed by men who have killed before.” No matter how terrifying the thought of a serial killer is, if there is only one culprit — or only a few — they can be arrested, and the Chicago Strangler’s next victim can be saved. To CBS Chicago, Hargrove said, “Women in Chicago should be warned that they’re being targeted. That sex workers, women who habitually use illegal drugs, there’s a target on them.”
We like to believe our teachers are infallible. After all, they prime our minds during our formative years, imbuing us with a knowledge base we’re meant to build on for the rest of our lives. It’s those years that create our core foundation for learning and our trust in educational authority figures. But contrary to what their students may believe, teachers are far from omniscient beings.
Some of what we’re taught during our K-12 education is useful, and while most of us won’t use our knowledge of World War II or our ability to identify mitochondria as the powerhouse of the cell in any professional capacity, at least those facts are true. Educators, unfortunately, still manage to perpetuate a surprising amount of urban myths and misinformation. It’s not their fault, though. Some of these falsehoods have been widely believed for years, decades, or even centuries — much longer than they should’ve been. We’re here to set the record straight. Here are the lies they taught you in school.
Lie: You only use 10% of your brain
We’ve all heard it a thousand times: “You only use 10% of your brain.” The phrase leads one to believe there’s a trove of hidden brainpower that could turn us into superhumans if we only buckled down and tapped into it. This, however, is a myth. If humans could only use 10% of their thought box, you probably wouldn’t be capable of reading this article or tying your shoes. Lucky for you, our species is capable of harnessing a lot more of the brain’s power than we were told.
According to neurologist Dr. John Henley of the Mayo Clinic (via Scientific American), people use close to 100% of their brains throughout the day. At the lowest, we might be using 10% of our brains at any given time, but even that’s unlikely since the organ controls such a wide range of functions — conscious and unconscious. It has designated areas for everything from language to math to basic life support functions such as breathing. Only using the mythic 10% would make it quite difficult to breathe, walk, and talk on the phone without dying.
So while the 10% brainpower excuse might help us feel better about forgetting why we walked into the kitchen three times in a row, we have a much larger percentage of our brains to blame for our boneheaded behavior.
Lie: The first Thanksgiving marked a long, peaceful friendship with Indigenous Americans
This feel-good story was practically shoved down U.S. students’ throats during primary school. The pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the land was inhospitable to the newcomers, and many of them starved. Luckily for the colonists, the indigenous people felt bad for them and taught them how to grow crops on unfamiliar soil so they could share a happy celebration with a very unlucky turkey. Where much of this story is technically true, minus the turkey, it’s often used a sort of trick to make children believe those early colonists shared a peaceful relationship with America’s indigenous populations, and that’s anything but the truth.
There isn’t much historical data about that first Thanksgiving in 1621, but as you’d gather from sources such as History, the events of the festival are generally accepted as truth by most Americans, and they even led to a short-term treaty with one indigenous tribe (and only one). But many Indigenous Americans view the first Thanksgiving quite differently. According to WBUR, it’s common for people of Native heritage to hold a morning fast over Thanksgiving because to them, the day marks a tainted history filled with genocide and other hardships they never would’ve faced if Europeans didn’t take over their lands. The first Thanksgiving may have been peaceful, but it was peaceful like a motionless snake waiting to strike.
Lie: Slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation
Slavery is one of the worst atrocities the United States has ever seen. It’s mortifying to know that Americans behaved that way toward other humans, but at least it’s over … ish. The accurate history of abolition isn’t widely known. For example, and contrary to popular belief, slavery didn’t end in the United States with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. According to PBS, the proclamation did free slaves … in Confederate-controlled states. The Union states were still allowed to keep slaves mostly because Lincoln didn’t want to offend them and add more allies to the bank of dissenters. Pretty messed up, huh?
Don’t worry: Slavery was mostly ended with the passing of the 13th Amendment in 1865, as noted by The Atlantic, which outlawed both slavery and involuntary servitude in all forms, minus a giant, gaping loophole that’s still taken advantage of today. According to the language used in the amendment, involuntary servitude is still allowed as long as it’s punishment for a crime, and we’ve seen this tradition live on through prison labor. Many historians blame the loophole for the booming prison industry in the United States, one that disproportionately incarcerates Black Americans. Chain gangs might be a thing of the past, but prisoners forced to work under threat of punishment is still very much a reality in this country, despite the work of modern abolitionists.
Lie: It’s unacceptable to start a sentence with a conjunction
Experts will likely agree that the English language is an illogical mess of several ill-fitting European languages smashed together by a hyperactive four-year-old, and the way the “rules” are taught to us through school doesn’t make it any easier — mostly because these “rules” aren’t actual rules at all. Take, for example, this piece of grammar advice: You can’t start a sentence with a conjunction. Most of us were conditioned to nix these improper sentence-starters from the moment we put our pencils to our cat-covered composition notebooks. We were taught it, we believed it, and it’s absolutely false.
There’s no single authority on the English language, which is why we get things like MLA vs. APA vs. Chicago Manual of Style, and so on. Language is a dynamic beast, and as long as it does its job — namely conveying ideas from the writer to the reader — whatever you decide to do with the words is acceptable. If you need an authority to tell you it’s okay to start a sentence with “and,” “but,” or “or,” you can check out Merriam-Webster, which says we’ve been breaking this “rule” since at least the ninth century.
So, the next time you feel the urge to correct someone for using a conjunction to kick off a sentence, you’ll be arguing against the greatest style guides in the world. And, you’ll likely lose.
Lie: You can’t end a sentence with a preposition
Similar to beginning a sentence with a conjunction, most of us were warned that ending a sentence with a preposition is an improper use of the English language, and there were plenty of red marks on our essays to back it up. It’s probably best to forget most of what you learned in high school English class, though. Once you get to college, you’ll have all of most of those rules ripped apart by a rabid TA with delusions of grandeur, anyway.
Language changes based on how it’s used in everyday speech, and as we’ve seen with internet lingo, it can change overnight. There was certainly a time when ending a sentence with “to,” “for,” “of,” or “with” would’ve made you sound like uneducated street rabble, but that time has long since passed. According to Grammarly, it’s perfectly fine to end sentences with prepositions; it’s simply an informal use of the language. You’ll find it in virtually all written and spoken media because if you go around throwing out too many “of which”s or “to which”s, you’ll sound like a pompous Victorian hipster with very few friends.
Lie: Slang, colloquialisms, and AAVE aren’t ‘proper’ English
This one gets a little dicey. There have always been teachers who taught us that things like slang, colloquialisms, and African American Vernacular English (AAVE) don’t count as “proper” English, but that teaching isn’t just false — it’s problematic.
Let’s knock out the simple stuff first. Slang and colloquialisms are literary devices, as LiteraryDevices.net points out, used to regionalize or culturalize one’s words because language just sounds better if it’s relatable. You might not want to use too much slang in a term paper graded by a tenured professor at a prestigious college, but colloquial language is a good way to give your words an authentic and informal tone.
Onto the meat… Linguistics researcher Geoffrey K. Pullman’s title sums it up pretty well: “African American Vernacular English is not Standard English with Mistakes.” AAVE is a solid cultural English dialect spoken by many Black Americans. It’s in the same boat as Creole or, you know, regular American English. The reason AAVE is often thought to be improperly spoken American English has nothing to do with the evolution of language and much more to do with subtle racism being passed into academia, through the classroom, and onto students.
Lie: Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
One night in 1752, United States Founding Father Benjamin Franklin decided it was a brilliant idea to take a key, a bit of string, and a kite and sail them through the tumultuous air of a thunderstorm. We might categorize this type of behavior as “certifiably insane” nowadays, but Franklin was on a scientific mission he likely didn’t know would go down in mythic history as the discovery of electricity. Shockingly, this famed experiment didn’t lead to the discovery of electricity at all, despite what teachers have wrongly claimed for years.
Electricity wasn’t exactly a new concept in Franklin’s time. The world had known about it for centuries, even if they didn’t yet know how to utilize it. According to Universe Today, the ancient Greeks ran experiments with static electricity. Ancient clay pots containing iron rods and copper cylinders were found in Baghdad in the 1940s, as the BBC notes, and they appear to have been early batteries, suggesting that parts of the world may have been able to harness electricity before others knew it existed.
Franklin’s experiment served its purpose, though. The Founding Father wasn’t setting out to discover electricity but instead demonstrate the electrical nature of lightning, which the experiment did perfectly.
Lie: The Great Wall of China is visible from outer space
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Considered one of the wonders of human ingenuity, the Great Wall of China was one of the longest construction projects in history, both in physical length and length of time. It’s so long, in fact, that many of us were told in school that it’s visible from space. Wrong. Here’s the thing about visibility: The benchmark for human vision is only 20/20, and even with the best possible human vision, which Moorestown Eye Associates claims to be 20/10, a person couldn’t actually see the Great Wall from outer space.
NASA points out that this myth was so widely believed, it made its way into textbooks. Some even claim the wall is visible from Earth’s moon, which is even more of a stretch. The truth is you can’t even see the wall from the International Space Station with the naked eye, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of work to bring it into view from there. A Chinese astronaut was able to photograph the wall with a 180mm and 400mm camera lens while on the ISS. Experts say, however, that the wall was only visible because the photos were taken under perfect conditions — the structure is no wider than a house and is a similar color to its surroundings.
Lie: You lose the most heat from your head
“Put your hat on before you go out for recess,” our teachers would scold. “You lose most of your body heat through your head.” None of us thought to refute it. Granted, we were young, but it made sense with everything else we were taught about heat movement. After all, heat rises, right? Well, not exactly. Heat excites air molecules and causes them to rise, but the heat itself radiates, which doesn’t have much pertinence to the biological thermodynamics of the head. Unless, of course, your head is filled with hot air.
According to The Guardian, the whole “losing more heat through your head” thing is nothing more than a popular myth that likely cemented itself into society through a 1970s survival manual published for the U.S. Army. It claimed, in one line, that you lose “40 to 45 percent of body heat” from an uncovered head, and from there, the myth spread like an inconsequential disease that hat manufacturers are thankful for. As a lucky break for hatless children everywhere, two researchers at Indiana University published a study on medical myths in 2008 and totally debunked this lie. Now, they do say you’re more likely to notice cold temperatures on your head and face because of the plethora of nerve endings in the area, so you’ll likely be more comfortable wearing a hat in winter, but it’s not a health crisis if you don’t.
Lie: Newton discovered gravity when an apple fell on his head
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Physics isn’t the easiest subject to get young people interested in, but it’s important. Besides being a necessary evil for anyone interested in a STEM career, physics is unique subject, as it’s the field that studies the rules of our existence. One way teachers seem to try to get kids to pay attention in these initially dry classes is with lighthearted anecdotes, such as the famous one about Sir Isaac Newton and the apple. It goes something like this: Newton was lounging against an apple tree in his mother’s garden when — plop! — one of the fruits fell and bonked him on the head, and with a bang, Newton conceptualized gravity … except that’s not how it went down.
The Independent explains how gravity wasn’t exactly a new concept to Newton. He’d thought about the subject long before the falling apple. Better yet, there’s no evidence suggesting the falling apple ever hit him. In fact, all accounts, of which there are few, claiming the apple sparked Newton’s insight into gravity are secondhand at best. Even if the anecdote were true, it only influenced a small part of his theory, and it certainly didn’t happen instantaneously. The majority of the Father of Physics’ fascination with gravity stemmed from his interest in the Moon’s orbit around the Earth.
Lie: Einstein failed math in high school
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Some of the lies we learned in school were simple informational blunders, while others seem to be more benevolent falsities. Those white lies, whether believed or not, serve a purpose. For example, we have a famous and false anecdote about Albert Einstein. The great physics master and formulator of the theory of relativity was supposedly a poor student in high school who performed so badly in math that he actually failed the subject. Of course, this never happened.
The truth, according to The Washington Post, is that Einstein was a fantastic student who excelled from a young age in just about every subject he studied. The only known time where this maestro of relativity failed was during his first crack at taking the entrance exam for Zurich Polytechnic, and he only failed because the exam was in French, a language he wasn’t very familiar with.
Regardless of whether or not Einstein actually failed math doesn’t affect the usefulness of the myth. Though it may lose teachers some perceived integrity later in a student’s life, the anecdote tells children that even if they fail now, they can succeed later on in life. It’s heartwarming and encouraging.
Lie: Deoxygenated blood is blue
It’s easy to see why one may think deoxygenated blood is blue. If you happen to have a skin tone where your veins are easily visible, they appear blue-green through your skin, and as we all know, with the exception of the pulmonary veins, veins carry deoxygenated blood. Ergo, deoxygenated blood is blue. That at least seems to be the sort of fallacious logic that’s led teachers to perpetuate this myth through the classroom. From primary school all the way through university and in every diagram of the circulatory system, we see this. In reality, all blood is red. Veins, too.
According to Medical News Today, blood is never blue, regardless of its level of oxygenation. Oxygen-rich hemoglobin makes blood appear a brighter red than the deoxygenated stuff, but it isn’t a drastic enough change to shift blood to a different wedge on the color wheel. So, why do blood and veins appear blue from the outside when visible? The Australian Broadcasting Corporation explains that the false color perception comes from a mix of variables that can basically be summed up as: Red light is absorbed by lighter skin tones, while blue light is reflected. It’s science.
Lie: Bats are blind
Bats’ abilities to perceive the world around them are superpowers compared to humans’ limited sensory capabilities. Their big ears capture reflected squeaks and clicks to paint a detailed sonic map that allows them to avoid obstacles and catch meddlesome mosquitos. Sonar is pretty useful when you’re nocturnal, especially if we’re to believe that bats are blind, which has been wrongfully taught in schools everywhere for as long as most of us can remember. The myth has pervaded society deeply enough to give rise to phrases such as “blind as a bat,” but idioms don’t have the power to make falsities true.
In all actuality, bats don’t just have super hearing; they also have super light-dark vision, which National Geographic says is three times better than human vision. According to the United States Geological Survey, bats can see — yes, with their eyes — in conditions humans consider “pitch black.” This is really the only type of vision they need, and it’s also the only vision of theirs that’s any good. It’s a perfect adaptation to their nocturnal evolution. But what bats gain in light-dark vision, they lose in color sharpness. So, bats won’t likely be painting million-dollar mosaics anytime soon, but they can see well enough to keep from getting tangled in your hair.
Lie: You need to drink eight glasses of water each day to be healthy
Somewhere along the line, the world decided we couldn’t be trusted to keep track of our own water intake. We’re bombarded with the reminder constantly, on television, from doctors, online, and — yes — in school: You need to drink at least eight glasses of water each day in order to maintain good health. You’d think that since this rule of hydration is present everywhere in society, it must be true, but no. It’s a lie so insidious that even many doctors have bought into it, but it’s just a myth.
As explained by MDLinx, there’s never actually been a study done on how much water a person should drink each day, and that’s mostly because it’s not easy to calculate. Body weight, exercise, temperature, electrolyte intake, food intake, pH balance — pretty much everything affects how much water the human body needs, not to mention all the possible differences in glass size. So, if eight isn’t the perfect number, how much water should a person drink every day? Exercise physiologist Dr. Tamara Hew-Butler from Oakland University explains it concisely on an episode of “Adam Ruins Everything“: You only need to drink when you’re thirsty. The human body was built for this, and it knows when and when not to add more liquid. Keep that in mind next time you try to choke down an extra liter before bed.
Lie: If you get too cold, you’ll catch a cold
Your mothers, grandmothers, and, of course, your teachers probably warned you about spending too much time out in the cold, especially if it was both cold and wet, because you’ll catch a cold from being cold. Of course, that’s not how any of this works. There’s a kernel of truth in the lie, but we’ll get to that in a second. The common cold is usually caused by a rhinovirus or a similar culprit, and the human body can’t make a virus out of exposure to winter weather. According to Winchester Hospital, viral infections are more common during winter months for a plethora of reasons that have nothing to do with your body temperature. Low humidity allows viruses to live longer outside of a host, people spend more time in poorly ventilated indoor environments, the protective mucus inside of your throat and sinuses becomes dryer and more easily infected, and so on.
Now, here’s the kernel of truth, as Discover Magazine explains: Lowered body temperature wreaks havoc on the immune system and makes one more susceptible to infectious disease. So where winter weather isn’t going to give you a virus by itself, it still has real consequences on the human body if you don’t dress properly for outside temps, but the only health issues you’re likely to find as a direct result of those cold temperatures are frostbite and hypothermia.
Pretty much everything you learned from the food pyramid is a lie
In the United States, students have been taught “proper” dietary nutrition through the USDA food pyramid since 1992. In the first iteration of the pyramid, people were expected to eat an extremely grain-heavy diet while avoiding all forms of fats and oils. Sure, have some vegetables and up to six combined servings of meats and dairy, too. Well, even the USDA realized this wasn’t a healthy way too fuel our bodies, so they replaced the classic pyramid with MyPyramid in 2005. The new pyramid added activity into the mix and focused more on helping individuals tailor a healthy diet unique to them, but it was heavy on carbs and milk while demonizing all fats. This too, as it turns out, isn’t great.
In truth, as Scientific American explains, the little-detailed dietary advice in all forms of the USDA pyramid leave out too much to be a comprehensive guide and focus too heavily on foods that are only good for humans in moderation. There’s more than enough evidence to show that you can maintain great health while eating a low-carb diet. Fats like omega-3s shouldn’t be avoided. Your sodium intake is important. Etc, etc. While the dietary information housed in USDA graphics certainly means well, modern evidence suggests the pyramids don’t really know what they’re talking about. You’re better off keeping up with the latest research.
Lie: Thomas Edison invented the light bulb
Despite what Edison-heads may want you to believe, Thomas Edison didn’t actually invent the light bulb. According to Science Focus, the first known person to successfully light up a filament with electricity was an English chemist by the name of Humphrey Davy around the turn of the 19th century. He ran current through a high-resistance wire and — poof! — there was light, but his design was nothing more than fancy science fair project. There was no way his thick wire would’ve been efficient on an industrial scale. Cue Warren de La Rue, another British chemist, who took the wire idea but made it of a thin, high-endurance metal and stuffed it into vacuumed glass, creating a light bulb almost 40 years before Edison. La Rue’s bulb, like Davy’s, would never be produced on a large scale, mostly because the filament was made of platinum.
As they say, the best lies contain a grain of truth, and this particular fib is no exception to that rule. Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb, but he did create the best light bulb of his time. Edison’s design used a thin carbon filament and better vacuum than La Rue’s design, providing the bulb with both longevity and commercial producibility. He may not have been the first person to invent the light bulb, but Edison’s company is the reason we have electric lighting in our homes, even if his design is growing rapidly obsolete since the introduction of LEDs.
Lie: There are three states of matter
In the world of, well, everything, we’re taught in basic science courses that there are only three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. We learned it first with water vapor and ice cube experiments in primary school, and it’s a fact that’s stuck with most of us ever us since. But what we were taught then wasn’t just a mild simplification; it erased several less prevalent states of matter from popular knowledge.
As Forbes explains, there are twice as many states of matter than we were initially taught, though you’re only likely to encounter the basic three here on Earth. The fourth state of matter, known as ionized plasma, occurs when atoms are pumped with enough energy to strip away their electrons and break the gaseous threshold to form a whole new state that behaves by different rules. The fifth and sixth states of matter, to our knowledge, have only been created under laboratory conditions. They’re known as Bose-Einstein condensates and Fermionic condensates. Bose-Einstein condensates occur when a collection of bosons (one of two types of subatomic particles) are cooled to their lowest energy state, whereas Fermionic condensates occur when fermions (the other type of subatomic particle, which includes electrons) reach their lowest energy state and create a superfluid. Since the world is as confusing as it is interesting, it would take a major crash course in quantum physics to really understand these states further.
Lie: Humans evolved from apes
When you visit the zoo, one order of animals stands out above the rest: the primates. They look suspiciously like us. They have hands, faces, and demeanors that remind us of our favorite uncle or our nose-picking, poop-slinging best friend. (You have one of those, right?) And why shouldn’t they? We are, after all, hairless great apes. We just happen to stand straighter, and some of us are smarter than our tree-climbing cousins. You were probably told in school, as most of us were, that we evolved from apes like the gorilla or the chimpanzee, but that’s not really how evolution works.
About 6 million years ago, according to the Smithsonian, protohumans and apes set off on divergent evolutionary paths. We have yet to find any physical evidence of a single common ancestor, but based on genetic evidence, there should be one trapped in the fossil record somewhere. What scientists can see from tracing back our evolutionary history, though we only know bits and pieces, confirms that this ancestor was indeed “apelike.” So where the claim about humans evolving from apes is partially true, it’s widely misunderstood. Humans and the other modern apes share a common primate ancestor that was neither human nor anything like modern apes. Until we find the “missing link,” it’ll be impossible to say for sure if this creature was an ape or some sort of proto-ape deserving of its own classification. So, don’t take to the trees just yet.
The devastated mum of a teenager who died suddenly fears that her chewing gum habit could have caused the tragedy.
Samantha Jenkins, from Llanelli, was just 19 when she began to feel ill on June 3, 2011, three days before her death.
As the 10th anniversary approaches, mum Maria Morgan told Wales Online : “I remember it like it was yesterday.”
She said her daughter complained of feeling unwell, but initially she thought it was dehydration from being in the sun.
Maria recollected: “She said ‘Oh God, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I can’t even pick my bottle up, it keeps falling on the floor.’ I told her to go and have a lay on the bed and take a bottle of water with her as she probably had too much sun.
“She told me: ‘I don’t want to go upstairs, I want to sleep down here’, so I told her to go upstairs to get a quilt to bring downstairs. Then I heard this thud.
“Me and my other daughter got up and went to the door and I said, ‘What the hell was that?’ And she shouted downstairs, ‘Is this what it’s like to die?’ and then we heard a thud again.”
Maria ran upstairs to find her daughter collapsed on the floor having a fit. An ambulance was quickly called and Samantha was rushed to Llanelli’s Prince Philip Hospital.
“They took her up to the ward and she started convulsing,” Maria said. “They called me in and said because she was fitting so much, they couldn’t get the medication into her that they needed and so they put her into an induced coma.”
Tragically, Samantha’s condition was not going to improve. Three days after her daughter was rushed to hospital, Maria was told the extremely sad news by a doctor at Morriston Hospital, where her daughter had been moved to the neurological ward.
“She never came back,” Maria tearfully explained.
“On the Sunday, I was sitting next to her in this intensive care unit and the doctor came in. He introduced himself and he told me he had come for a chat.
“He basically told me that in his opinion there was nothing they could do.”
The following day a brain scan confirmed the worse, and Samantha died on the Monday.
“All I can remember is that I went into the hospital on Friday with a daughter, and I came out on the Monday with her glasses,” Maria said.
“That’s all I had. I remember thinking how, how on earth can you go into hospital on a Friday with a 19-year-old daughter and walk out of there just two days later with just her glasses? It was the most, I can’t even explain, most surreal – I can’t even explain. It was just horrendous.”
In the months that followed, Samantha’s grief-stricken family had to face up the reality of their loss, and try and solve the mystery as to how her premature death could have possibly happened.
“For months it was constant phone calls,” Maria explained. “They did the toxicology report to find out what was in her system and it all came back negative. One day, my other daughter mentioned that Samantha used to chew chewing gum, so I mentioned that to the coroner’s office because she did used to chew gum a lot. That became a whole new thing and they wanted to know everything.
“But if it was chewing gum, why would I be alerted and think how many chewing gums was she having? I didn’t think anything of it.”
It was during a search of her daughter’s room that Maria discovered the extent of how much chewing gum Samantha would buy on a regular basis.
“I could see by receipts that she was having them every day. I couldn’t have told you how much she chewed, but I could say what I found – evidence that she was chewing them every day and was buying at least a packet a day on the way to work, sometimes two packets.”
She continued: “I did research and I went on Google looking at chewing gum and what could happen if you chew too much chewing gum. It was mind blowing, completely mind blowing. To be honest, I was thinking ‘Why don’t people know about this?’ As a parent you give your kids chewing gum and you don’t think anything of it. The artificial stuff that is in chewing gum is so dangerous, aspartame and sorbitol.
“It causes your salts to drastically drop in your body, and can lead to lots of things starting to go wrong with you which can be misdiagnosed – like lupus, irritable bowel syndrome. There is a list of everything it can do to your body.”
Maria and her family had to wait four years until her daughter’s inquest was heard.
A coroner was unable to rule out the fact that chewing gum might have played a role in Samantha’s death. Dr Paul Griffiths, a pathologist at Morriston Hospital, gave the cause of death as being a cerebral hypoxia caused by convulsions and electrolyte depletion. Samantha, the inquest heard, had a severe magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium deficiency.
She was said to have consumed excessive amounts of chewing gum over a long period. Dr Griffith even reported finding “four or five bright green lumps” which turned out to be chewing gum. The coroner said studies had shown the sweeteners used in chewing gum to be safe but in recording a narrative verdict he mentioned chewing gum could have played a role in the electrolyte depletion. Dr Griffiths later added: “The most we can do is flag it up.”
Maria said: “They wouldn’t put down that it was definitely from chewing gum, but aided from chewing gum. It was red flagged with the FTA that it has to go down as a warning.”
Sunday, June 6, marks ten years since Samantha passed away and she would have been turning 30 the same month. Her mum explained the lasting impact of the loss to her and the entire family.
“There are so many ‘whys’ for me, but the biggest why is why on earth have I lost my daughter to chewing gum? I mean chewing gum, come on, it’s ridiculous,” she said.
“I still can’t get my head around it 10 years down the line. She was such a loss. Bubbly, vivacious, fun loving, wouldn’t harm a fly. She loved life, she wasn’t high maintenance, she was such a lovely girl. All she wanted to do was work in Wilkinson. She loved her job, she loved going out on the weekend enjoying with her friends, she loved her little brother Mckenzie, who was eight months at the time, she was dotty over him. She wanted to get married and have a kid. It is just so maddening that she didn’t know what she was doing to herself.
“It’s been horrendous. I get on with life, because I have other children and I can’t not get on with life, but I developed anxiety not long after she had gone and I have still got it. “
The family plan to mark the tragic anniversary together, Maria said.
“She will be remembered for just being chatty, fun loving,” she said.
“The sort of girl who wouldn’t know you, but say you go to the bus shelter to have a bus to town, she would make a conversation with you and know you by the time you had gotten to town. Everybody that I used to speak to always used to say, ‘Oh I met her once, what a lovely girl she was’. So bubbly, so chatty and she would do anything for anybody, just very, very vibrant and fun loving. Always happy, always loving life. She had such an infectious laugh, I miss that the most I think. I know it’s sad for us because we miss her but it’s her I feel sorry for, that’s the worst bit for me.”
Maria and her family visit Samantha’s favourite restaurant, McDonald’s, every year to mark her birthday, but this year plan to mark the occasion a little bit differently.
“I am going to make it a bigger thing this year. One of my children has moved away and is living in London and I don’t want him to be on his own on the day of her death,” Maria said.
“We are going up there and are going to be with my son on the anniversary of her death and we’re going for a meal and when I come home we are going to go to McDonald’s in the day and come back to the house and have a little family get together and let balloons or lanterns off at the back.”