Old Thoughts, Bad Thoughts – WIF Myth and Legend

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Odd Things

People Used

to Believe

Humans have believed all kinds of strange things throughout our short time on this planet. This is, in part, because humans (and our evolutionary ancestors) love stories. We gather around campfires and invent entire mediums, industries, and technologies to aid in their telling. But on the other hand, humans have always had a deep need to understand the world we inhabit, and the combination of these qualities can lead to very uninformed people believing some very strange things.

10. The Sun is Actually Really Cold

He believed that the sun wasn’t hot, that it was actually very cold, but that its outer layers were of a luminous material, or an extremely reflective ocean. The discovery of sunspots had him reeling with possible ideas, suggesting that these were either momentary glimpses at the surface beneath the atmosphere or great mountain peaks that were being exposed by the tides of a vast ocean.

Obviously, these theories were laughed out of scientific circles by a host of polymaths, and Herschel’s ideas never caught on. The sun isn’t cold, and those sunspots are actually produced by the sun’s magnetic field.

9. Isaac Newton’s Future

Isaac Newton may have been known for his scientific exploits, but he was also absolutely obsessed with Alchemy, going so far as to construct his own furnaces to produce alchemical experiments. He wrote about these things extensively, using code to hide his theories from prying eyes, believing that anything could be transformed into anything else (something we know now is very wrong). If these texts were observed by anyone from modern times, they would be seen as occult or religious tracts. He was so obsessed with Alchemy and the supernatural that it might be considered that his interest in science was his real hobby.

To Newton, the philosopher’s stone was a real thing, which he was constantly searching for.

Newton was also fiercely religious and believed that the Bible should be taken literally. He spent much of his time attempting to uncover a secret code created by the authors of the Bible, something left by God that would redeem humanity before His inevitable return.

After studying Biblical texts extensively, he concluded that the world as we know it would end in 2060 and that it would be preceded by an apocalypse.

8. Bloodletting

All the way up until the start of the 1900s, the practice of applying leeches or cutting parts of a person’s body open to drain them of their blood was not only common, it was a thriving industry. The practice comes from the erroneous belief that all illness comes from the body having too much blood in it and that to cure that illness, the excess blood needs to be drained from the patient.

This is, of course, false, and while the practice of bloodletting fell and rose throughout history, it was perhaps never more popular than in the 1800s. It was a common practice for leeches to be imported for this purpose, and it’s estimated that in France alone, 42 million leeches were imported each year. These leeches were used to drain the blood from patients, cared for by barbers (yes, you read that correctly). A patient could have as many as 100 leeches applied to them. Barbers and caregivers would coat the part of the body they wished to apply the leech to with sugar-water, milk, or blood to entice the tiny critters to start sucking. This industry caused leeches to become fairly scarce, driving the cost of them up by 300%, and forcing “care-givers” to find inventive ways to extend the life of a leech.

The first physician didn’t come out against bloodletting until 1828.

7. Lambs Grew on Trees

During the Middle Ages, it was a common belief that the cotton being imported from India came from a vegetable that had a lamb attached to it by umbilical. This inaccuracy was reported by Sir John Mandeville in the 1300s. Mandeville wrote that in Tartary (the part of the map we know of as Russia and Mongolia today) a strange plant that produced gourds containing tiny lambs was a common sight.

It turns out that much of what Mandeville wrote about his travels were either outright lies or based on notes from other travelers.

Another version of this myth suggests that these vegetable lambs would die once they ran out of food surrounding their pod if they weren’t killed by their natural predator (wolves).

Other writers would go on to claim to have seen these vegetable lambs, and the belief would not start to crumble until the 1600s.

6. Women’s Orgasms Were A Sign of Insanity

As late as the early 20th century, it was believed that women did not experience sexual desire and that the female orgasm was something that needed to be solved, rather than a thing which could be beneficial to a woman’s mental and physical health.

Sigmund Freud was one of the physicians who proposed the idea that clitoral stimulation could lead to psychosis in women, a “theory” which saw quite a few women institutionalized as a result. Women who had difficulty or could not have a vaginal orgasm were labeled as lesbians (which was also thought to be a mental illness), imbalanced, and masculine.

History has had a bad habit of demonizing the female orgasm. The vibrator was originally invented so that doctors could relieve “hysteria” (known as sexual frustration today) in women, and it was generally not believed that women were capable of experiencing sexual desire and were merely receptacles for male anatomy.

Today, we know that the female orgasm is beneficial not only to a woman’s mental health but also to her physical health as well.

5. Cosmic Ice Theory

In 1912 Hanns Hörbiger attempted to challenge the scientific community by introducing a controversial theory which suggested that humanity, the stars, and the planets were all made of… ice. Hanns and his partner, Philip Fauth, argued that the formation of the Milky Way was caused by the collision of a massive star with a dead star filled with water. This collision resulted in the formation of the Milky Way galaxy and dozens of other solar systems—all made of ice produced from the collision. When these ideas were challenged for not making any mathematical sense and for there not being any physical evidence for it, Hanns said “Calculation can only lead you astray,” and, “Either you believe in me and learn, or you will be treated as the enemy.”

This ridiculous theory didn’t catch on with mainstream science at the time, not until the conclusion of World War I at least, when Hanns decided to take his theories into the public sphere, where they might be better appreciated.

His rationale was that if the general public grew to accept the theory that they were in-fact made of ice, then the scientific community would have to accept it as well (we mean, isn’t that how science works?). While serious scientists did not accept his theory, many socialist thinkers at the time did, concluding that it was superior to theories invented by Jews.

And you are probably guessing where this is leading. Hitler, Himmler, and all of his cronies also adopted these ideas as well, along with a whole bunch of other horrifying things.

4. Doctors Didn’t Need to Wash their Hands

Before the advent of germ theory, medical professionals would go from examining dead bodies to performing live births on mothers, which as you can imagine, caused all manner of infections and a high mortality rate among patients they cared for. It wasn’t until 1840, when Ignaz Semmelweis, a 19th-century Hungarian doctor observed that one of his fellow surgeons died after cutting his finger during an autopsy.

Semmelweis surmised that because many of the doctors in his hospital often operated on corpses before treating live patients, they were inadvertently spreading “cadaveric matter.” And when he instituted the policy that all of his doctors were to wash their hands between patients, the mortality rate at his hospital dramatically dropped. Naturally, he wanted to spread this discovery with the rest of the medical world.

There was quite a bit of resistance to this idea, though, mostly because Semmelweis’ publication on the matter was barely coherent, and handwashing wouldn’t be strongly advocated for until 1860 by famous nurse Florence Nightingale. And it wouldn’t be until the discovery of germ theory that handwashing would become a staple in hospitals around the world.

3. Sexual Energy Controls the Universe

Wilhelm Reich went from being the enemy of Fascist Europe to being the enemy of the US Government, from psychoanalyst to the founder of sexual liberty in the West. Reich believed that orgasms were caused by a mysterious energy in the atmosphere called “orgone” and that this energy permeated and moved the entire universe. He suggested that a good orgasm could liberate a man or woman, and a bad orgasm could make them a prisoner.

Sexual liberation was not exactly in vogue in Hitler’s Germany at the time, so Reich was forced to flee to New York, where his ideas would be embraced by the disenfranchised left. Reich even “invented” a device that he claimed could “energize” a person with orgone. The device, called an “Orgone Energy Accumulator,”  was feared by conservatives and revered by left-leaning individuals, and some even swear by its power today. Reich’s ideas got him labeled as a communist sympathizer in the 50s, and eventually, the FDA would come after him for selling his Orgone Accumulators, demanding that they be destroyed along with all literature pertaining to them.

Reich would be arrested for violating this order and sent to Federal prison, where he would die alone in 1957.

2. Women’s Bodies were not Designed to Handle Train Rides

The resistance we’re seeing to the rise of artificial intelligence and 5G internet is nothing new, it’s age-old. When the first locomotive was unveiled, men feared that its immense speed (top speed getting up to 50 miles per hour, or 80 kilometers per hour) would cause a woman’s uterus to fly from her body.

A companion to this fear was that the human body, male or female, might melt if brought to similar speeds.

Cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell suggests that this revulsion to new and developing technologies results from a kind of “moral panic” that a society experiences when an invention threatens to alter how we perceive time and space. Put more simply, we humans hate changes to the status quo, and we’ll kick and scream until that change either goes away or we realize it really isn’t so bad after all.

1. The Earth was the Center of the Solar System

Up until the end of the 2nd Century AD, it was thought that the Earth was the center of the universe. Although this notion is ridiculous to the vast majority of us who accept the clearly superior Heliocentric model (which purports that all bodies in the solar system revolve around the sun), to humans observing the skies in the 2nd Century, it did seem like the sun, stars, and the moon all revolved around the Earth.

Beyond famous Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Ptolemy, early Christianity taught that God had placed the Earth at the center of the universe, thereby making it unique.

Though recently, conspiracy theorists have begun a movement bordering on cult-like proportions suggesting that the Heliocentric model is a huge hoax perpetrated by world governments and that the Earth is actually flat, we don’t have to tell you that this is bullocks, do we?

The Geocentric model of the universe was so pervasive in human history, that it would remain the scientific rule until being invalidated in the 16th Century AD.


Old Thoughts, Bad Thoughts

WIF Myth and Legend

Truth or BS? – Wild Card Saturday

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Things That Sound

Like BS,

But Are True

In a world where fake news and false facts are rampant, it’s hard to distinguish what is true and what isn’t, especially when it sounds so unbelievable. We have gone through some crazy news stories and unbelievable tales from history and culled even more of the most interesting, unbelievable facts that sound like BS, but are completely true.

 10. The Highest Court of the Land

The Supreme Court is called “The Highest Court in the Land” because their rulings decide the laws for the rest of the United States.

The physical courtroom is on the second floor of the Supreme Court building, but on the fifth floor is a basketball court, appropriately nicknamed “The Highest Court in the Land.” The area was once used to house journalists, but in the 1940s it was converted to a gym. Later, the basketball nets were added.

The basketball court is smaller than a regulation NBA court and, unfortunately, it’s not open to the public. It’s only used by off-duty officers and employees of the court, but people are not allowed to use it on days when court is in session.

Many of the current Supreme Court Judges are a bit too old to play (though we like to imagine Ruth Bader Ginsburg crossing fools over and making it rain from way downtown), but apparently Neil Gorsuch plays basketball, which we learned during his hearing, so maybe he’ll use it.

9. If You Crack an Egg 60 Feet Underwater It Will Stay Together

If you were to crack an egg deep underwater, what would happen to it? One thought is that it would break apart. The second thought is that, geez man, what a waste of a delicious egg. Think these things through. However, what reallyhappens is that it actually stays together and looks like some type of alien jellyfish.

The reason it stays together is because the pressure underwater at that level is about 2.8 times the atmospheric pressure than on land, which makes the water act like a shell. This pushes the egg together, in a spherical, creepy looking blob.

8. Hippos Sweat Red and it Works Like Sunscreen

Hippopotamuses are distant relatives of pigs and are known for their aggressive behavior towards other species – especially humans.

One interesting thing about their physiology is that their sweat appears to be red. The Ancient Greeks thought that they were sweating blood. But, it actually turns out that a hippo’s sweat comes in two different colors: red and orange.

The sweat is a clever solution to the hippo’s evolutionary niche. During the night, hippos venture out onto land and eat as much food as they can and then spend most of the day in the water digesting their food. But since hippos are such big animals, they need to venture out during the day, under the hot sun, to get food. Mammals that live on land generally have natural protection from the sun – fur. However, having fur isn’t helpful if you spend your days in the water. So the hippos developed the two types of sweat, which both act as sunscreen. The red one also has antibacterial properties that prevent pathogens from getting into the wounds and accelerate healing, which is helpful to the aggressive animals.

7. Three to Five Pounds of Your Body Weight is Bacteria

Your body is a complex machine with many running parts and just like Goldilocks’ porridge, many people consist of just the right amount of components. Case in point, our body contains 1,700 types of bacteria. According to Lita Proctor from the National Institute of Health’s Human Microbiome Project, that would be enough to fill a large can of soup, which is about three to five pounds of bacteria.

Until recently, most of these bacteria were unidentified. Researchers took samples from the bellybuttons of 95 subjects and found 1,400 strains of bacteria. 662 of them had previously been unrecognized. In total, there are over 10,000 species of microbes in the human body. And apparently, waaaaay too many of them live in our bellybuttons. Someone pass the cotton swabs…

6. Barry Manilow Wrote Some of the Most Famous Jingles Ever

Barry Manilow is one of the biggest American pop singers of all time. He’s had 47 Top 40 hits including “Mandy,” “Can’t Smile Without You,” and “I Write the Songs,” which he ironically didn’t write.

While some people reading this list might be too young to know who Barry Manilow is, there’s a good chance that you know some of his work. That’s because he’s written and performed some of the most famous jingles ever.

One of the most famous ones is “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” He was apparently paid a flat fee of $500 for it in the 1970s and it’s still in heavy use today. Another famous one he wrote and sang was “I am stuck on Band-Aid / ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me.” A third one he wrote and performed was “Give Your Face Something to Smile About” for Stridex.

Besides just writing several famous jingles, Manilow also performed “You Deserve a Break Today” for McDonald’s, KFC’s “Grab a Bucket of Chicken,” Pepsi’s “Feelin’ Free,” and finally, “I’m a Pepper / He’s a Pepper / She’s a Pepper / Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?” jingle for Dr. Pepper that was written by Randy Newman.

5. The Tragedy of New Mexico’s State University’s First Graduating Class

New Mexico State University was founded in 1888 as Las Cruces College. Two years later, it merged with New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.

The first graduate of the newly formed New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was a 17-year-old named Samuel Steele. In 1893, Steele was the only member of the senior class, but tragically, he never made it to his commencement.

On March 9, 1893, Steele was shot while delivering milk. There were no witnesses and the motive remains a mystery. There was a suspect in the case, a man named John Roper. He was even convicted, but later released on an appeal.

The first graduating class to make it to New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts’ commencement did so a year after the murder in 1894 and consisted of five students.

In 1995, a street near the university had its name changed to Sam Steele Way in honor of their fallen first graduate.

4. Why is Bluetooth Called Bluetooth?

When it comes to questions about Bluetooth, usually “why the hell isn’t it connecting?” is probably what comes to mind first. “Wait, I don’t even have Bluetooth turned on, what the hellis connecting?” is likely the second. But have you ever thought about why it’s called Bluetooth? After all, it’s wireless technology, what does blue or a tooth have to do with it?

In the 1990s, when short-range wireless technology was being developed, different companies were working on different technologies. Some of the engineers thought it would be better if the companies pooled their resources together and came up with one industry standard for short-range wireless technology.

The name was suggested by Jim Kardach, an Intel engineer who was reading a book about Vikings around the time the new division was created, and it contained the story of Harald Bluetooth, who was the Viking king of Denmark between 958 and 970. He was famous for uniting parts of Denmark and Norway together and for converting the Danes to Christianity. Essentially, he was a good at uniting people and that’s what Kardach wanted to do with short-range wireless technologies – unite them in one format.

The name Bluetooth was meant to be just a placeholder until they came up with something better, but it got picked up by the media and has stuck around ever since.

3. A Man Cured Himself of OCD by Shooting Himself in the Head

In the early 1980s, a man only identified as George was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The disorder forced George to wash his hands hundreds of times a day and to shower frequently. It had a crippling effect on his life and the 19-year-old was forced to drop out of school and quit his job.

Things got to be so bad that he told his mother that he wished he was dead. Amazingly, she said that he should go shoot himself. We assume her Mother of the Year trophy got lost in the mail. Anyway, George grabbed a .22 caliber rifle, put the barrel in his mouth, and pulled the trigger.

George didn’t die and the bullet got lodged in his front left lobe. Surgeons were able to remove it, but they weren’t able to get all the fragments. In a stroke of unbelievable luck, the bullet destroyed the area of the brain that causes the symptoms of OCD. In extreme cases of OCD, surgeons will remove that area of the brain.

If all that wasn’t amazing enough, George also didn’t lose any of his intelligence. After taking some time to recover from being shot in the head with a rifle, he completed high school, went to college, and he was able to get a job.

2. You’re More Likely to be Killed by a Hospital Accident than a Car Accident

Four studies using data from 2008 to 2011 found that 210,000 to 400,000 deaths were caused every year in America by preventable accidents that happened in the hospital. That would make it the third leading cause of death, just behind cancer and heart disease. In 2011, there were 126,438 deaths from other kinds of accidents, which includes car accidents. Canada isn’t much better, according to The National Post, 70,000 Canadians are hurt every year while in the hospital.

The problem comes down to the fact that doctors are not infallible computers. They’re just people who make mistakes and they are susceptible to biases just like the rest of us. In Michael Lewis’ 2016 book The Undoing Project, he relays a story of a young woman in Toronto who was in a bad car accident and suffered multiple broken bones and injuries. When she was taken into the emergency room, the medical staff discovered that she had an irregular heart beat. Sometimes, it would miss a beat and other times it would add one. Before the woman lost consciousness, she said that she had an overactive thyroid.

Overactive thyroids can cause irregular heartbeats, so the staff instantly thought that was the cause. However, an overactive thyroid wasn’t the most likely cause for an irregular heartbeat. Statistically, some other injury was likely to be the culprit, like a collapsed lung.

Sure enough, the woman had a collapsed lung and the tests results came back that the woman’s thyroid was working normally.

While it’s a scary thought that hospitals can be dangerous, the story of the woman in Toronto is an example of how this type of situation could be curtailed. In that case, the hospital had a doctor named Don Redelmeier, who works as an auditor on medical cases. When a patient comes into the emergency room, he gets the medical staff to take a moment and try to think as logically and rationally as possible, and his hospital has seen a decrease in medical mistakes and accidents.

1. There’s a Lost Nuclear Bomb Submerged Off the Coast of the State of Georgia

On February 5, 1958, Col. Howard Richardson was flying a B-47 loaded with a 7,000 pound nuclear bomb near Tybee Island, Georgia, when an F-86 fighter plane on a training mission accidentally collided with him. The pilot in the F-86 didn’t see the B-47 on the radar and descended directly into it. The collision ripped the left wing off the F-86 and it damaged the fuel tank of the B-47 that was carrying the nuclear bomb.

Richardson flew towards land, but he was worried that the landing would detonate the large nuclear bomb, so he dropped it in the water before reaching land.

Luckily, all the men in the planes survived the collision, but the bad news was that the nuclear bomb was nowhere to be found.

The Navy spent over two months looking for the bomb, but couldn’t find it. Experts think that the bomb isn’t dangerous and should remain inactive as long as it’s not disturbed. So if you want to go treasure hunting, you might want to steer clear of Tybee Island.


Truth or BS

– Judge 4 Yourself