This week, something special! Graycen hosts a science game show for Alison, Max, and newcomer Erin. For each round, she lists two true facts and one false statement. Can you figure out which is the fake fact? In the process you’ll learn about boobs, bees, and buffalo. Listen here or subscribe on iTunes!
Below are all of the sets of truths and lies used in the game, plus some extras that got cut! I (Graycen, writing to you in delightfully conversational first person, because I really don’t want to go through and convert all of my fact discussions below into the third person) initially had the terribly misguided idea to format this game around the major arcana in tarot, so that is how these questions are laid out. I’m leaving that structure in the show notes to lend a little peek behind the curtain of this episode and/or so you know some of these topics aren’t as nonsensical as they initially seem.
If a “Fact Collector” is listed, that means that I got the facts from that category from a single source, like a Cracked list or a quiz about forensics trivia. Usually I had to vet these facts elsewhere, because BOY has Cracked gotten less rigorous since the last time I spent a lot of time there (ca. 2011). Otherwise, I found the facts from wandering around on the internet, and individual sources are cited.
I: THE MAGICIAN (STUFF INSIDE OTHER STUFF. YOU KNOW, LIKE RABBITS IN HATS) (Fact Collector: Cracked)
Most toothpaste contains single-celled algae. They’re called diatoms! Their cell walls are patterned with silica and are good for scraping your little teefers. Diatoms are also responsible for 25-40% of CO2 fixation that happens on Earth. (diatoms.org)
Twinkies are made with beef fat. This makes them lower in trans-fats – cool? (HuffPo)
Gelatin is made from grinding up horses’ hooves. Surprise! It actually comes from the bones. Horse hooves contain keratin, which is a horse of a different color. [finger guns] (Snopes)
II: THE HIGH PRIESTESS (BOOBS)
The German military unintentionally created a unit of male soldiers with one breast. At least 35 soldiers in the Wach bataillon unit have developed a left boob. Nobody’s exactly sure why, but it’s probably because they slap their rifles on their left side over and over during drills, which stimulates their mammary glands (usually inactive in men) to produce hormones. At time of press, they hadn’t changed the drill. (Katie Halper, Jezebel)
Larger-breasted women experience less depression than demographically similar women with smaller breasts. I made this up off the top of my head, but I did Google it (at work! Like a perv!) to make sure it was false. Anyway, here’s a link to my favorite thing on the internet, just in case any of those sneaky contestants look over at my paper and think, “Huh, the second one is really short, and it doesn’t have a link citation.” Gotcha, creeps! (Clickhole)
Exposure to arsenic-contaminated groundwater makes you 50% less likely to develop breast cancer. In a village in Chile where the groundwater contained 80% more arsenic than normal/safe groundwater, breast cancer instances decreased by 50% overall. Even more bonkers: Women over 60 in that village were 70% less likely to get breast cancer than women who lived nearby!!! This could be why the US saw a spike in breast cancer after new water treatment methods were enacted in the 1970s. (Berkeley News)
III: THE EMPRESS (BEES) (Fact Collector: Zac Holmes)
In addition to the spectrum of light visible to humans, bees can see ultraviolet light. They can’t see the entire “visible spectrum,” they can only see it up to yellowish light, no red or orange. (Sharla Riddle)
Squash bees sleep in pumpkin flowers. They also pollinate them! It’s just the males and unmated females who sleep in the flowers – the mated females sleep and lay their eggs in holes they bore into the ground. (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs)
Bees who pollinate rhododendrons produce hallucinogenic honey. This “mad honey,” found in Turkey and Nepal, contains the neurotoxin grayanotoxin. It gives you a nice, absinthe-like high (light-headedness, hallucinations), but it can also cause seizures, numbness, fainting, and an irregular heartbeat (in addition to regular drunk-like symptoms). P.S. These bees? Very large. (Emma Bryce, Modern Farmer[!])
IV: THE EMPEROR (CREATURES, BECAUSE THERE ARE PENGUINS IN HERE, AND SOME PENGUINS ARE EMPEROR PENGUINS)
Platypuses don’t have stomachs. Stomachs are distinct organs that contain all the enzymes needed to digest food. Platypuses just let these enzymes wander around in their intestinal tracts. (Charles, Q. Choi, Live Science)
One extinct species of penguin was 6 feet tall and weighed 220 lbs. They lived in New Zealand 55-60 million years ago. They were flightless divers, and they probably went extinct because of the rise of predatory sea mammals in that area (tusked dolphins!!!! Also, whales and seals). (Natasha Frost, Atlas Obscura)
If a pair-bonded baya weaver bird dies, its mate usually dies within 48 hours. In fact, the baya boy-os aren’t even monogamous. No evidence exists to support this fact, except for a video of two male baya weavers dying next to each other in a parking lot, which just isn’t the same. (Snopes)
V: THE HIEROPHANT (EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN)
To determine the extent to which burrowing armadillos disrupt archaeological studies, researchers set armadillos loose on a fake dig site and tracked how they moved objects. They were able to use their observations to determine the original positions of real artifacts that had been moved by armadillos irl. It was in Brazil, where armadillos are particularly rampant. Miraculously, no one got leprosy from the armadillos. One time, my friend’s mom participated in an armadillo race, which is where you blow on an armadillo’s butt to make it move towards a finish line, and then she had to stay on leper alert for like ten years, because that’s how long leprosy can lie dormant and undetectable. (Araujo and Marcelino, Geoarchaology)
In order to measure whether swearing helps you withstand pain, researchers had subjects put their hand in a bucket of ice water for as long as they could stand. They did this either while repeating a swear word of their choice or a control word. Subjects were able to withstand longer submersion while repeating their swear word. “One patient was excluded because none of their suggested words were swear words.” This was more effective for women than for men. (Stephens et al., NeuroReport)
NASA sent snakes to the International Space Station in 2008 to see how they adapted their movements to microgravity. They found that snakes in microgravity initially tie themselves into knots and sometimes even attack their own tails, but they eventually adopt an uncoiled resting posture and are able to navigate small distances through the air by modifying their slither. This is mostly baloney – Kelsie and I made it up based on the headline “Snakes on a Spaceship.” But the thing about snakes attacking themselves and tying themselves into knots in microgravity is true, and they do reference Snakes on a Plane in the cited article. (Jason G. Goldman, Gizmodo)
VI: THE LOVERS (BODY PARTS THAT RESPOND TO FEELINGS OF ATTRACTION)
Male people have more sweat glands than female people. Women actually have more sweat glands, but men produce more sweat overall, because of testosterone and whatnot. Good on you, men; keep making the best of what nature has given you. (Piedmont Healthcare)
Doctors can graft skin from your forearm onto your penis to make it larger. It’s called phalloplasty, and it can definitely make penises bigger. But it’s usually used by trans men as they transition, or by people with micropenises or penile injuries. (Wikipedia)
Brown eyes are just a layer of melanin over a blue iris. It turns out that this is actually true! Stroma Medical developed a technique for blasting this layer of pigment away so you can get the blue eyes of your dreams, but it costs $5000, and you have to go to Mexico. And it seems sketchy and also bad. P.S. What’s going on with green eyes? Do I have like swamp creature melanin? This does make sense as to why both mine and my mom’s eyes have gotten little brown starbursts around our pupil as we’ve gotten older.(IFL Science!, but I learned it from u/crwilso6)
VII: THE CHARIOT (SPEED)
Before 2003, you could travel on a commercial passenger flight that went faster than sound. Yup, on the Concorde and the Tu-144, both introduced in the mid-1970s. Concordes were phased out after a pretty devastating Air France crash in 2000 that killed all aboard. (Wikipedia) The article I read about the how sick the Concorde was was by Jacopo Prisco at CNN.
A red blood cell completes a circuit of the whole human body in about 60 seconds. (The Naked Scientists, but I learned it from u/gjbbb)
A male dolphin can ejaculate with enough force to snap a human neck. I accidentally went on a bestiality FAQ website to figure out whether this was true, but alas! No. HOWEVER, the dolphin vagina has a ton of folds in it, so if a female dolphin is catchin’ bone from somebody she’d rather not have a baby with, she can adjust the angle of penetrashe to trap the sperm in a fold and keep it away from her ova. Pretty neat! (Christie Wilcox, Discover. But I learned about this claim from Otto Kletzien, who heard it on Drunk History.)
VIII: JUSTICE (FORENSICS) (Fact Collector: Martin Enserink, Science.)
90% of testimony given by microscopic hair evidence experts is erroneous. “26 of 28 FBI hair analysts who were investigated provided testimony or submitted laboratory reports with ‘grossly exaggerated’ data that often helped prosecutors. The review looked at cases prior to 2000, the year in which the FBI adopted more stringent procedures for its hair analysis.” (Science)
Scientists have developed a cheap way of fooling fingerprint readers like the one on your cell phone using Elmer’s glue. Just kidding, they used ink that could conduct electricity and cool special paper, but just a regular old ink-jet printer to fool Android fingerprint sensors! (Science)
You can determine the gender of a person based on their fingerprint. It turns out that lady fingersweat has twice as much peptide content as men’s fingersweat. This means you can figure out the gender of a finger that only left a smear or a tiny partial print. This is a relatively new method, developed in 2016. (National Geographic)
IX: THE HERMIT (CRABS, MYSELF. ALSO, THIS IS INTERMISSION)
When my mom was in college, her roommate had a hermit crab named Houdini, because he always escaped his lil habitat, even when they put books and whatnot on top of the lid. Houdini eventually made his final, permanent escape to my mom’s sweater trunk, where his body was discovered weeks later.
My first celebrity crush was the chef from The Little Mermaid who keeps trying to cook Sebastian. My first celebrity crush was either Steve Irwin or Martin Kratt from Zoboomafu and The Wild Kratts. Science communicators, you guys! They’ve always been hot.
We sometimes call my sister “Crabby Abby” or “The Grumpy Pumpkin.” It’s true. Every Abby’s family calls her “Crabby Abby.” The grumpy pumpkin thing comes from one time that we were at a craft fair and Abby was in a real sulk when we encountered a kitschy ceramic pumpkin with a really pouty face painted onto it. We bought it, which did not improve Abby’s immediate mood or her general disposition.
X: WHEEL OF FORTUNE (GEOGRAPHY OF NORTH AMERICA. THIS TAROT THEME DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE, BUT IT’S OKAY.)
Miami, FL, has recorded more days of snowfall than days with temperatures over 100° F. They’ve recorded one day of snow, on January 19,1977. It snowed for an hour and a half and none of it stuck. The record high temperature in Miami was set in 1942 and is exactly 100° F. (NBC Miami, but I learned about it from u/CrewCamel.)
Mexico City experiences more seismic activity than any other metropolitan area with a population over 5 million. Nope, you’ve been fooled. Istanbul, Turkey, and Delhi, India, beat it. I was going to make the lie be that there are more cacti than people in Sonora, Mexico, but research reveals that that’s actually probably true. (Forbes)
On Planet Earth, there are more lakes inside Canada than outside of it. Canada has 35,000 lakes over 3 square kilometers in area. It has 3 million lakes if you include ones under 3 square kilometers. Bonks. But they’re mostly frozen solid, and we don’t know that much about them! (Nicole Mortillaro, CBC. But I learned this from u/splepage.)
XI: STRENGTH (CATS, BECAUSE THERE’S USUALLY A LION ON THIS CARD)
The human genome is more similar to that of a cat than to that of a dog. We share 90% homology with cats and only 84% with dogs. (Lydia Ramsey & Samantha Lee, Business Insider; Lori Garrett-Hatfield, Seattle Pi)
Three cats in Wyoming have been diagnosed with bubonic plague in the last year. Actually, just in the 2019 calendar year, which yikes. They were all in different counties too, which is a bad sign for people who like to say hi to cats. No people in Wyoming have caught plague since 2008, so that’s good. (Snopes)
In 2005, cats surpassed dogs as the most popular house pet in the United Kingdom; the United States followed in 2008. It’s actually freshwater fish, which lol. But there are more cat pets than dog pets, by about 14 million. (Andrea Thompson, Live Science)
XII: THE HANGED MAN (ORGAN TRANSPLANTS) (Fact Collector: Cracked)
During a kidney transplant, the recipient’s offending kidney is usually not removed. It makes things simpler. The new kidney is installed lower and more ventrally. (Johns Hopkins)
During a lung transplant, it is possible for a left lung to be used in place of a right lung and vice versa. But the right lung is bigger than the left, so you have to trim it if you’re going in that direction. And obviously the whole thing has to be flipped around backwards. (The Annals of Thoracic Surgery)
Men are more likely to become living organ donors than women. Buddy, you thought. 60% of living organ donors in the United States are women. 59% of patients awaiting an organ transplant, on the other hand, are men. (Molly Kendrick, BBC)
Researchers have determined that malaria has killed approximately half of all the people who have ever lived. Fact submitted by Julie, who learned it from This Podcast Will Kill You. But it turns out not to be true. It’s possible, but it’s also unproven and pretty unlikely. Interestingly, though, the WHO has been able to record a cause of death for more than half of all deaths since 2017, which will be useful for future people who want to make this kind of claim. (WHO)
Bronchitis causes twice as many annual deaths as tuberculosis. Yeah, but nowhere near as many as heart disease. (WHO)
The average left-handed person’s lifespan is nine years shorter than that of the average right-handed person. It was at least true in 1991! And it’s true for both men and women. It’s probably because they have to use products that aren’t designed for them, so they’re five times more likely to die in an accident of some sort. (The New York Times)
XIV: TEMPERANCE (FUDGING DATA)
The earliest measurements of Mt. Everest determined that its height was exactly 29,000 feet. The height was publicly reported to be 29,002 feet, so the public wouldn’t assume the number was an estimate. Andrew Waugh, the guy who did this, is ALLEGEDLY sometimes referred to as “the first person to put two feet on top of Mt. Everest.” Boooooooo. (Wikipedia)
By the time it’s sold, the average bottle of rum labeled “151 proof” only contains 73.8% alcohol. No, you guys. This fact is entirely made up. Also, you can buy 95% Everclear, which seems kind of scary? (Wikipedia)
Einstein’s proofs of E = mc2 were fudged and based on cherry-picked data; he never properly solved a proof for the equation. Between his first publication on the theorem in 1905 until his last publication on it in 1946, Einstein was unable to demonstrate the efficacy of E = mc2. The definitive proofs were solved by Cockcroft & Walton in 1932, Rainville et. al in 2005, and others. (Eugene Hecht, American Journal of Physics)
XV: THE DEVIL (CAPITALISM) (Fact collector: Mental Floss)
McDonald’s has more storefronts worldwide than any other fast food chain. Subway has 44,000 locations in 112 countries; McDonalds only has 36,000, but they’re in 119 countries. (Amanda Harding, Cheat Sheet)
IKEA consumes ~1% of the world’s lumber. At least according to an IKEA newsletter in 2015. (Oliver Roeder, FiveThirtyEight)
The layout and lighting of malls are methodically designed to send customers into a dazed stupor. The design principle is called Gruen transfer; I’ve always called the daze it induces mall lethargy. (Wikipedia)
XVI: THE TOWER (CU BOULDER)
CU Boulder is home to the first zero-waste stadium in the country. Including both college and professional football stadia! Pretty neat. (Wikipedia)
The two most recent Ralphies (Ralphie IV and Ralphie V) have been gift to the school from bison ranches owned by ex-NBC CEO Jeff Zucker. Actually by Ted Turner, who founded CNN and owns the Ted’s Montana Grill chain. Apparently he’s trying to repopularize bison meat? He has the largest herd of bison in the world and was the largest private landowner in the United States before 2011. ALSO, HE CREATED THE SERIES CAPTAIN PLANET?! He is often a crossword answer, or else he’s involved in a clue for “CNN.” (Wikipedia, also Wikipedia)
The dining area in the UMC is named after Alferd Packer, noted frontiersman and cannibal. The UMC website even distinguishes him as “Colorado’s most famous cannibal.” That’s why they have a sub-restaurant called El Canibal. (UMC; Wikipdia)
XVII: THE STAR (SPACE)
If we took all the protons in our universe and distributed them evenly throughout the universe, there would be about 1 proton every 3 cubic meters. The mass density is 5.9 proton masses (atomic mass units) per cubic meter, but only 5% of that is atoms. The rest is cold dark matter (24%) and dark energy (71%). (NASA, but I learned it from u/inkseep1
Mercury is slowly getting smaller. That’s right, it’s still contracting 4.5 billion years after our solar system was formed. This makes it the only tectonically active planet in our solar system besides Earth. And we just figured this out in 2016! (Nola Taylor Redd, Space)
Although hydrogen is the most abundant atom in our solar system, helium makes up most of the solar system’s mass. Hydrogen is actually at 72-74% volume by mass. Helium only makes up 23-25% of the solar system by mass, and since it weighs four times as much as hydrogen, that means there’s a lot less of it. (Wikipedia)
XVIII: THE MOON
On average, emergency rooms see an 8% increase in patient traffic on nights with a full moon. It turns out no. When I was volunteering in the ER, EVERYBODY claimed the full moon made things crazy. But that was debunked in 1996. The full moon didn’t affect patient volume, ambulance runs, or admissions over the course of a 4-year period. N of 150,999 patients. (Thompson et. al, American Journal of Emergency Medicine via Science Direct)
The 1979 Outer Space Treaty forbids any nation from trying to own the moon. It failed, but it was a true thing. It was enacted by the United Nations General Assembly’s Legal Subcommittee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. A lot of countries signed it, but not the United States, the USSR, or China (e.g., countries who had actually been to space and who were also probably secretly hoping to own the moon). (Michael Listner, The Space Review)
XIX: THE SUN (SPECIAL THANKS TO SOME BRILLIANT FOLKS)
Kelsie Anson & Adrian Ramirez, pretty much our favorite people, for letting me test all of these on them and for helping to hone my lies.
Zac Holmes, Julie Sadino, and Otto Kletzien, for submitting facts and/or “facts.”
Tom Rivas, for sending me EXTREMELY helpful links to Reddit posts where they aggregated unbelievable science facts. (Although a lot of those Redditors’ facts were like, “Pi is an infinite number, but it’s still less than 4. MIND BLOWN.” Or, “The fact that we live on a floating rock in space.” But another lot of them were very good.)
XX: JUDGEMENT (THE WINNER): MAX LEVY
Enjoy your victory. But enjoy it with the caveat that you didn’t actually defeat the reigning champion, one Graycen Elizabeth Wheeler, BS, PhDc.
XI: THE WORLD (THE RUNNERUP): ERIN HIGGINS
Congrats! You didn’t win, but you don’t have to write a limerick. You get classified as “The World,” because everybody else on our glorious planet neither won nor has to write a limerick.
XII: THE FOOL (THE LOSER): ALISON GILCHRIST
You have to write a limerick that’s somehow relevant to your Buffs Talk Science Two Truths and a Lie experience. It could be about the agony of your defeat, the wonders of tarot, your ineffably glorious host, etc.