13 Myths About Society Too Many People Believe

I am to science what Albert Einstein was to trap music. All I can do is defer to the experts, and what the experts say is alarmingly different from what I’m hearing from friends and headlines. So here’s a pile of commonly believed things which people smarter than me, using scientific methods, have said are probably bullshit.


Myth: Millennials Are Both Lazy And Refuse To Buy Homes

What I love about science is its ability to quantify things that could otherwise remain the subject of lazy jokes and shitty pundit rants forever. For example, a study found that there’s no measurable difference in work ethic among Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials.

I think the reason for the misconception, aside from people turning into dicks as they get old because their backs hurt, is that they cling to an outdated idea of what kind of work is “hard.” There totally are Millennials who don’t want to shovel coal all day, but there are also grizzled old miners who would have a stroke if they were forced to spend all day doing phone tech support for entitled, abusive morons.

Also, you know how there was that joke that Millennials don’t buy homes because they spent all of their money on roasted avocados or whatever it was? And how the rebuttal from Millennials was that it’s because they’re too buried in debt and the American Dream is dead forever? Well, it turns out Millennials are in fact buying houses, and home ownership is growing faster among them than any other group. Hey kids, the next time your bathtub fills with poop, you won’t have a landlord to call! Wait until you see the bill! The American dream is alive, but it’s your plumber who’s living it.


Myth: Certain Political Ideologies Embrace Science, Others Reject It

Let’s try an experiment:

Nearly 3.7 billion birds a year are killed due to emissions from a certain type of offshore oil drilling (known as Bulk Uncapped Thermal Transfer), along with another 21 billion(!) mammals. At least one species of bird was rendered extinct by this. Knowing that, would you support banning this technique, or at least tightly regulating it?

OK, now what if I told you that those 3.7 billion birds and 21 billion mammals are actually killed by house cats, and when a few feral cats were introduced to an island off New Zealand, it took them all of two years to totally wipe out a local species of birds? And that, in fact, cats may be more destructive to wildlife than any other human-linked cause?

All of that is true. So did you just now think, “Well, I definitely need to see how they came up with those numbers!” and if so, why didn’t you say the same when I blamed oil drilling for those deaths, especially considering that “Bulk Uncapped Thermal Transfer” is just a string of words I picked because they spelled BUTT?

See, it’s not that we don’t demand to see sources for claims; it’s that we only demand to see them for things we don’t agree with. And studies show that, yes, liberals and conservatives are equally prone to this. This is becoming worse in the information age — avoiding information that upsets us is a really common stress management technique. Consuming information that reassures us is calming, it’s like a gentle brain massage. Hell, I just watched an entire two-hour video confirming my belief that Breath Of The Wild sucked, and it’s been six months since I played it. Your weapon breaks after every enemy!

Of course, that is an objectively terrible way to process information, and I need you to keep that in mind as you read this next one …


Myth: Some Rare Exceptions Aside, Sexual Assault Perpetrators Are Men, Victims Are Women

Holy shit. We’re … just jumping right into this, aren’t we?

All right. Here we go: Toxic ideas about gender roles, sex, and consent threaten everybody.

One study of college-age males found that half of them had been sexually victimized in some way since age 16, and half of those said the perpetrator was female. That same link points out that in prison, female inmates are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted by another woman than an inmate in a male prison is to be assaulted by another man. And if you’re reading this, I hope I don’t have to tell you that this is not a fucking contest. This is not a rebuttal to those raising awareness of male-on-female assault. This is an addition. The epidemic is more insidious than we think.

One study found that 21% of sexual harassers are women. Those aren’t exactly rare, once-in-a-blue-moon occurrences. As this insightful writeup points out, it means that all of us probably have a friend who is a harasser, whether your friends are male or female. But as that author points out, nobody mentions Mariah Carey as part of the #MeToo movement, even though her male bodyguard publicly accused her of sexually harassing him.

The problem is that outdated gender role bullshit infects everybody, even those trying to fix it. We’re still stuck with the idea that women can’t be aggressive or have raw sexual urges. We fall back to the idea that physical strength is the only true form of power, when if anything, #MeToo has taught us that coercion involves all forms of power (money, job status, emotional manipulation), and that much of the trauma is psychological or emotional. And while women are discouraged from reporting sexual misconduct, men are even less likely to report. Again, it’s not a contest. Gender roles screw everybody!


Myth: Sexual Assault Is Becoming More Pervasive

Now here’s the good news: Sexual assault has dropped in half since 1993. Culturally, we’re doing an incredible job of fighting this problem, even if there’s lots more to do. As with the thing about Millennials earlier, issues sometimes get louder in the national conversation as they improve. The same factors that reduced assaults cause us to notice them more, which causes us to talk about them more, which causes them to seem more common.

That’s good in the sense that it encourages people to keep doing something about it (assaults still happen with horrific frequency, I surely could have left that unsaid), but bad in the sense that it can create the impression that nothing has worked so far. It totally has. I’m telling you as a kid who grew up in the ’80s, these conversations about consent did not used to happen. I watched comedies that played rape as a punchline. It was a whole genre.


Myth: Harassment Is Definitely The Reason Not Many Women Work In Male-Dominated Fields Like STEM

It’s true that only 24% of science, tech, engineering, and mathematics jobs are held by women, and everyone agrees this is a problem, partly because it’s a self-sustaining cycle. Male-dominated workplaces would logically be a deterrent to women, as it sends a message that they don’t belong and, let’s face it, boys clubs aren’t any fun if you’re not a boy (and in many cases, even if you are). There are all sorts of initiatives to get more women into these fields right now, since those will be the only good jobs once everything is robots. This is good and should continue. Also, there is no evidence that the millions of women who aren’t working in STEM wish they were.

Only 16% of teenage girls say they’re “very interested” in computer science, even though 48% say they think they could do it if they wanted to. So it’s true that only 18% of CS degrees go to women, but that’s actually higher than the percentage who show lots of enthusiasm for it earlier in life.

Also, the data shows that in countries where women have more equal rights and greater ability to make choices, they’re actually less likely to choose STEM careers than in countries where women have fewer rights (like Algeria, where 41% of STEM graduates are women). If something is still steering women away in these more progressive countries, it apparently starts early, way before they’re even thinking about a career. The link in the paragraph above does show that boys get more encouragement in school (teachers suggesting they could grow up to be engineers or whatever), and in fact, boys tend to be more confident in their ability to do science even when they’re worse at it than the girls.

It might also be that most women just don’t want to work in STEM.

If so, we can surely agree that the goal is to A) make sure every workplace is welcoming, regardless of gender and B) make sure nobody is being made to feel weird about their choices, whether they want to be an engineer, housewife, soldier, or Instagram butt model. That goes for everyone — another study found that when women are mistreated at work (insulted, berated, etc.), it’s more often by other women. This happens, according to the subjects, when they act assertive or dominant — meaning that when they broke traditional gender norms, it was usually other women who punished them. Does anybody sell a “Toxic Gender Beliefs Screw Everybody” T-shirt?

Let’s see, what else is in the news these days …


Myth: School Shootings Are Rampant

Ah. This.

Well, you’ll be happy to know that the rate of school shootings has been dropping for decades, and today kids are about ten times more likely to be killed walking or bicycling to school than they are to be fatally shot. Actually, most people are not happy to hear it, but we’ll talk about that.

Now, you may have recently seen a stat claiming there have been 290 school shootings since Sandy Hook, but that’s incredibly misleading. Half of those are accidents, nonfatal incidents, or suicides, mostly on college campuses — which are a huge problem, but not what a single person imagines when they hear “school shooting.” (Note: The real public health hazard of firearms is suicide, but apparently everybody thinks that’s boring.)

Anyway, I know why people hate seeing stats like this. They’re afraid positive news will rob the gun control movement of urgency. But I never want to be relying on weaponized ignorance as a strategy, and there’s something extremely important to note here: A single huge news event shouldn’t be treated like a statistical trend. These shootings should be treated like terror attacks, because that’s what they are. And just as we shouldn’t harass Muslims after every ISIS attack (since that’s precisely what ISIS wants), we shouldn’t target socially isolated kids as potential mass shooters.

(Related: Incidents of bullying at school have been dropping since 2005, when the government started keeping track. That’s another supposedly unsolvable, inevitable part of life that turned out to be neither of those things.)

While we’re on it, I guess we have to get this one out of the way …


Myth: Mass Shootings Are A Significant Danger To The Average Person

I became such an asshole after 9/11 that it retroactively made me become an asshole for my previous 25 years of life prior to the event. It took me a solid five years to figure out that terrorists are manipulating this particular flaw in the way information is spread: Humans tend to mistake the spectacular for the common.

The target isn’t the victims, it’s the viewers at home. They know that due to a glitch in the human brain, seeing 100 news stories about one terror attack equals 100 terror attacks. That’s how a rare, statistical blip of an event can make 100 million people afraid to leave the house. Mass shooters, like all terrorists, know this.

The reality is that assault rifles account for about 2% of gun deaths in the USA, even with all of the mass shootings lumped in. Rifles of all types — including hunting rifles and such — only account for 3%. It’s just not convenient to commit crimes with a rifle; it’s only the most dedicated who’ll take the trouble.

By the way, I don’t care if you want to heavily regulate assault rifles or high-capacity magazines. Go right ahead. Make every gun owner pass six months of training and a Voight-Kampff Test. But if you’re worried about gun deaths (including the two-thirds of those that are self-inflicted), handguns are literally 97% of the problem. You’re statistically more likely to be killed by someone’s bare fists than by an assault rifle, and you’re more than 100 times more likely to die of any other cause than to be murdered by any method. Those numbers keep going down because what we’ve been doing the last couple of decades to fight these problems has been working.

Not that the average person realizes it. Experts can tell you that fear of crime isn’t spread by crime — it’s spread by other people who are afraid of crime, even in low-crime communities. The whole reason mass killings occur in clusters is that (we think) the media attention triggers the next potential killer who’s lying in wait. If they’re living a power fantasy, their true power isn’t in dealing death, it’s in dealing fear. What psychopath can resist the prospect of a whole culture cowering before them?

You may say that the news should just stop covering those shootings, but that’s again talking about using structured ignorance as a problem-solving strategy. What needs to change is how we choose to react to it.


Myth: Putting Body Cameras On Cops Keeps Them In Line

So as I’m writing this, news broke that another young, unarmed black man was shot in his back yard, by officers who claim they mistook his cell phone for a gun. Click that link if you want to watch the body camera footage of the whole thing, from the cameras the officers knew were on when they pulled the trigger. Or you can check out this story of two cops beating the shit out of a black man for jaywalking, captured clearly on nine different body cam videos.

That brings us to the data none of us were hoping to hear: The largest study on the subject, done in Washington, D.C., found no change in citizen complaints or use of force by the officers after they started wearing body cameras. Prior studies had shown mixed results — in at least one case, fatal shootings actually went up. Like most data, it can be interpreted in any number of awful ways. You can say that this proves the system is so corrupt that cops know they’ll get off even with video, or that it proves cops always believed they were making the right decision in the moment, and that if anything, they were holding back before.

You know what did reduce citizen complaints and result in fewer suspects being killed, according to one study? Providing military gear to police.

“There must be something those studies missed!” you say, and so do I. I don’t want my police to have tanks, because I prefer not to live in a motherfucking dystopia. But this is the data we’ve got to work with, and we don’t get to just hand-wave it away if we claim to believe in science. Oh, and while you’re arguing among yourselves about this, go ahead and talk about that other huge study that found no link between poverty and violent crime.


Myth: Racism Is On The Rise In America

That “Mistaking the spectacular for the common” mechanism that makes Americans in quiet towns fear being gunned down by a mass shooter or beheaded by MS-13 is at play here, too. And everywhere, really.

Racists want you to believe they’re taking over, but all that’s growing is a fringe of highly visible, spectacular racism. The number of hate groups in the USA has gone up about 7% since 2015, and that’s right in line with the FBI’s data showing hate crimes rose by about 5% last year, though reporting is spotty. I guess you could say that a 5-7% increase in extremism isn’t exactly an explosion, but I don’t want to downplay it, and it really does feel like white nationalist YouTube channels have exploded by 5,000%. Nice algorithm you’ve got there, guys. I love seeing these in my recommendations:


But overall, racist attitudes continue their sharp decline, even in the Trump era. You’re not seeing a turning of the tide in racism. You’re seeing increasing polarization, the losing side getting louder and crazier. This includes intentionally staging appearances they know will draw protests so that they can play victim. The fact that the rest of us find them repulsive is what generates the noise.

We’re seeing the same thing happen with religion. This is maybe the least religious generation in the history of America, but what remains is the hardcore Evangelical Christians, who are going to get louder and more strident as this trend continues. The fact that they’re losing ground is the very thing that drives them.

Wait a second. It just occurred to me why the NRA has gotten so flamboyant and cultish in recent years. Let me do a quick check … yep, gun ownership in the USA is at its lowest point in 40 years. Never forget: The losers get louder.


Myth: White People Are Happier, Because They’re On Top

I bet you’ve never heard this stat before: Polls show low-income blacks are more optimistic about their futures than poor whites. The ones living in the South — the worst place to be a poor black person, I’d assume — are the most optimistic of all. More optimistic than rich people of the same race, even.

This isn’t new. One reason Bernie Sanders couldn’t get much traction among minorities in 2016 is that black Americans were much more likely to rate the economy as “good” in polls. Latinos, too — they were much more likely than whites to say they expected their fortunes to improve in the next year. The most pessimistic group was the white people. In fact, the white suicide rate is surging, even though their prospects are statistically still much better.

But statistics don’t matter. Perception matters. That’s what this whole article is about. It matters so much that people will take this bleak, false depiction of reality to their fucking graves.

That same “No, this can’t be right” reaction you’ve had to who knows how many of the points in this article is the exact same one white people have when they hear that they’re still getting the best of everything. Related …


Myth: The Lower Classes Are Getting Killed In This Economy, And It Keeps Getting Worse

Hey, did you know that for the last couple of years, wages for low-income workers have been growing faster than rich people’s? Blue-collar jobs, service jobs, manufacturing — their pay has been surging. Some industries are struggling to find workers. We’ve been in a booming economy for years now.

See? Do you feel yourself rejecting that news? Do you feel like it threatens you somehow, puts you in a weaker position? Like it’s just ammunition for the bad guys? That’s how it works! We have all sorts of reasons to believe or not believe things, and “What does the data say?” ranks way down on the list.

If you were able to swallow that one, how about …


Myth: Sweatshops Are Bad

“What?” you say. “Implying that sweatshops are good is like saying Breath Of The Wild wasn’t a tedious pile of shit.” OK, but then why do 85% of the people in developing countries say it’s a good thing when foreign companies build factories there?

It’s complicated. Look, if you find out your favorite product is made by sweatshop labor in a third-world country, you have every right to demand they stop. But it’s only good if it means improving conditions in that factory. If they just move the jobs elsewhere, that’s a fucking disaster for those workers. Ignoring that doesn’t make us noble.

Even the shitty factories improve their standard of living because those sweatshops didn’t replace good jobs, they replaced abject poverty. More jobs means other employers have to offer more to compete for those workers. That’s why wages in general go up and more jobs tend to also bring improved work conditions. Poor countries with liberalized trade see less absolute poverty, lower child mortality, and improved gender equality. The data is overwhelming.

That can seem confusing if you’ve heard that globalization brings with it inequality, but remember that inequality doesn’t necessarily mean the poor are getting poorer — they can both be rising, the rich just rising faster. If you want to do something, then tax those people, don’t take the jobs away. And don’t pat yourself on the back if you lobbied a company to stop using sweatshop labor, only to have them use robots instead.

One more …


Myth: Politicians Just Do The Bidding Of Corporate Lobbyists

Wait. That … no, that can’t be right. I may know even less about politics than the creators of Breath Of The Wild knew about weapon durability mechanics, but I know this. We just saw Net Neutrality get repealed because big internet providers threw cash and lobbyists at the government. Right?

Well, this 2017 study found companies didn’t benefit at all when the candidates they supported took office (meaning there were no return favors). This even larger study spanning 18 years of data found that corporate lobbying efforts made no difference, and that companies were basically wasting that money. There was an earlier study that found the opposite, but was roundly debunked by multiple experts.

This has to be a flawed study, or looking at the wrong thing, or … something. Yeah, I’m just going to refuse to believe that one. You know what, just forget I said anything.

David Wong is the Executive Editor at Cracked, follow him on Twitter or on Facebook or on YouTube or on Instagram.

Wouldn’t hurt you to pick up a copy of The Science of Positivity, maybe make some sense of things.

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For more, check out 5 Things ‘Smart’ People Believe (That Are Totally Wrong) and 19 Commonly Held Beliefs, Debunked With Statistics.

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7 WTF Details About Historical Events Everyone Forgets

Tragic events are typically followed by periods of shock, grief, anger, and the occasional flash of inexplicable horniness. So it’s only natural that when we’re dealing with lives lost and places destroyed, we tend to only focus on these important matters and damn everything else to hell. But sometimes, that means we ignore all of the chaotic insanity that typically accompanies history, making textbooks just that little bit blander. So let’s put on our Indiana Jones hats and dive into the past, and remind ourselves of some truly crazypants parts of history that usually get left out of the conversation. For example …


The Manual For The German Tiger Tank Contained Poetry And Porn

War is chaos. With bullets flying and bombs whizzing everywhere, preparation and alertness are the keys to survival. But while combat is exciting, combat training can be mind-numbingly boring. So how do you get a group of disinterested, overly hormonal boys to sit up, pay attention, and remember stuff? By turning that stuff into smut, of course.

During World War II, German commanders needed to quickly familiarize new recruits with the inner workings of the complicated Tiger Tank. Unfortunately, the Fuhrer’s finest were less than thrilled with spending long days memorizing the dry technical manuals. Finally, the Nazis came up with an elegant solution to motivate the laser-like focus necessary to master the tank: They included a naked lady on every other page, and made sure the important parts rhymed.

German Federal ArchivesTranslation: “Danger lurks in the sump! Read your manual well, otherwise your Tiger goes to hell!”

After the war, it was discovered that the manual for the German Panzerkampfwagen was full of nudes, jokes, and dirty limericks. This masterpiece was the brainchild of Josef von Glatter-Goetz, who had novel ideas on how to warm up his cadets’ learning muscles (among others). And most of the warming up was done by Elvira, a buxom blonde who appeared every few pages to keep the boys thumbing — or whatever else helped them get there faster.

German Federal Archives“Klaus, why do you keep taking the manual to the bathroom?”

She would pop up (often with her clothes popped off) whenever the cadets were supposed to pay extra attention to the lesson, like the importance of making accurate measurements when firing or keeping the engines clean, even if it led to making the cockpits sticky.

German Federal Archives“I only read it for the articles.”

The program was a demonstrable success, and both von Glatter-Goetz’s excellent understanding of his target audience and Elvira’s ass helped untold numbers of troops masturbate their way to mastering the Tiger Tank.


Hurricane Katrina Ejected Over A Thousand Coffins From Graves

According to FEMA, Hurricane Katrina was “the single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history.” It caused over $41.1 billion in damage and killed more than 1,800 people. But not content with causing misery for the living, Katrina decided to go after the deceased as well, digging them up so she could pee her hate water on their faces.

Petty Officer Kyle Niemi/US Navy“You whine when it doesn’t rain, you whine when it rains too much, what do you want from me??”

During the disaster, over 1,000 coffins — and, more gruesomely, those coffin’s residents — were ejected from their places of rest. The transition wasn’t gentle, either. One New Orleans native found his grandmother’s body, still in her pink burial dress, splayed out in the open like she was trying to get a tan. Skeletal remains were sprawled among cemetery statues, and more than one coffin was found up a tree. According to the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (Dmort), it’s unlikely that all the uprooted bodies will ever be located and returned. “Many are in extremely remote and inaccessible areas,” a spokesman said. “They have been carried way downrange into muck and swamp and forest.”

APWe don’t want to sound too alarmist, but this is exactly how a zombie apocalypse would start.

Despite the difficulties, officials are still doing their best to return the drifting dead to their correct burial sites — or as much of them as they can scoop up, at least. Unfortunately, since we have this silly idea that the dead aren’t supposed to move about, corpses and coffins tend to not have any labels of traceable information. Finding a corpse that’s buried with something unique is like finding a corner piece of an especially macabre puzzle. So far, officials have been able to identify bodies buried with their favorite golf club, some unusual rosary beads, and a six-pack of beer. It won’t be long before the government starts insisting we all get buried with a valid driver’s license and two utility bills.

In the meantime, less stringent coffins laws have been introduced in order for us to better retrieve these lost soulless husks. After Katrina, Louisiana passed a law requiring labels for coffins. However, they weren’t clear enough in their wording, so now Louisiana morticians are labeling their coffins with everything from smartphone tracking apps to the less-than-ideal paper tags. Inhabitants of one particularly low-lying cemetery now have beacons attached to their coffins, but the battery life for the floater-be-found is still to be determined.

William Widmer/The New York Times“Warmer … warmer … colder …”


King George V Was Euthanized So His Death Could Make The Right Headlines

For all the perks associated with being born into a royal family (unlimited wealth, the right to eat peasants, fancy hats), living the life of royalty also means you’re always in the public spotlight. Never can you falter from keeping up appearances, making sure your every action benefits the crown as best as possible. That includes your death, because god forbid a royal should die at an inconvenient time of day like some low-class pleb.

Library of CongressGod Save the Facial Hair

When Britain’s King George V lay on his deathbed in 1936, doctors were concerned about more than his failing health. Convinced that the king was not long for this world, medical staff began suspecting he might not kick the gilded bucket at the most dignified of times. Deciding that the matter couldn’t be left in the clumsy hands of God or fate, steps were taken to “hasten” the king’s death, and he was euthanized in his sleep shortly before midnight on January 20th.

Why the rush? According to the notes of his physician, Lord Dawson, the king was given lethal doses of morphine and cocaine so that word of his death would appear ”in the morning papers rather than the less appropriate evening journals.” Dawson administered the injections to King George himself at around 11 p.m., right after he’d had his wife in London ”advise The Times to hold back publication.” That’s right, the king’s life had a literal deadline.

Bradford Timeline“Here is the royal speedball, your grace.”

Whether the injections counted as mercy or murder is still a topic of debate. Though the king had been in generally poor health for some time, the doctor had only been summoned to care for him four days prior to his death. On the morning of his last day, the king held a meeting with his privy counselors, which is pretty lucid for someone who’s about to get injected with mercy coke. Documents give “no indication that the King himself had been consulted,” but seeing as his last words were “God damn you” to a nurse administering a sedative, we don’t think he would’ve liked being involuntarily Belushied so that the morning papers would sell a few extra copies.


Millions Of Landmines Were Left In The Sahara After WWII, And Now ISIS Is Digging Them Up

Aside from proving how adept people can be at killing each other, World War II also highlighted how much the resulting clean-up sucks. Entire continents had to deal with the debris of their broken nations, the costly effects of which can still be felt. One group that was exempt from their collective spring cleaning were, of course, the Nazis, who were a bit busy getting tribunaled to death. Which is a shame, because they had millions of unexploded landmines buried in the African desert, and every other country had already touched their noses and called “Not it!”

German Federal Archives“I’m sure my actions will have no lasting consequences.”

But that was over 70 years ago. Surely we’ve taken care of those pesky balls of death we left buried in the sand since then, right? While countries like Egypt have tried to reduce the 17 million landmines both Nazi and Allied forces left behind in their desert, the place is still a minefield of … minefields. Thanks to the high temperatures and dry climate, the Sahara is doing an amazing job of preserving these war relics, which means they’re still very capable of taking a limb (or life) if fiddled with too much. But while most people are content with not going near any unstable explosives, there’s one pesky little death cult that doesn’t mind going out in a blaze of glory, intentional or otherwise.

In the past few years, ISIS has realized that one man’s minefield is another man’s massive cache of explosives, so they’re digging up and reusing landmines and their components. There have been several reports of ISIS terrorist attacks in which they used old munitions “MacGyvered” into IEDs. At least when it comes to age, ISIS seems to be quite open-minded.

NATOAs well as being adrenaline junkies.

And landmines aren’t the only type of antique firepower people in the region are packing these days. In 2015, video footage showed Syrian rebels firing a 1935 German howitzer. Meanwhile, Iraqi weapons inspectors documented the capture of a 1942 Lee-Enfield rifle, and the Armament Research Services report that British Webley revolvers, Italian cavalry carbines, Mausers, and Bren guns have appeared for sale in Libya. As long as it goes “boom” and someone dies, they’re only too happy to put it to terrible use.

via Shaam News NetworkNazis: ruining your day since 1933.


The Feud Between The Hatfields And The McCoys Was Probably Caused By A Medical Condition

History has seen its share of epic feuds, but few are as legendary as the pissing contest that took place between the Hatfields of West Virginia and the Kentucky McCoys in the late 1800s. Why were they so special? Longevity. They kept their fiery hatred going for a solid decade. But recent medical tests have revealed that, at least on the McCoy side, that might have been because hatred literally runs in their blood.

via Encyclopaedia BritannicaMoments later, the man on the right was riddled with bullets.

Why did these two ornery tribes want to shed each others’ blood so badly? Some say the beef started over a stolen hog, while others think it was residual hostility from the families having fought on opposite sides during the Civil War. Over a hundred years later, we still have no idea what spark started the fire, but we have an idea of where they got the gasoline. In 2007, a young girl called Winnter [sic] Reynolds was struggling at school. She had anger issues, and would often fly into fits of rage. While her teachers thought it was nothing but a bad case of ADHD, a series of medical tests revealed it was worse than that. She had bad blood. McCoy blood, to be specific.

Winnter is the latest offspring of the McCoy bloodline, from whom she had inherited her temper. She suffers from a rare genetic condition called von Hippel-Lindau disease. The illness causes the formation of adrenal tumors which cause, among other things, “hair-trigger rage and violent outbursts.” After Winnter’s diagnosis, it was revealed that several other McCoy descendants had also been diagnosed with the same condition. And while having tumors keeping you pissed off 24/7 still doesn’t shed any light on the start of the feud, it does go a long way toward explaining their whole “I’m going to kill you over some bacon” reputation.

Earl Neikirk/AP“Cleetus, go fetch the tumor chart, we gotta black another circle.”


We Are Still Paying A Civil War Pension

War is never not tragic, but civil wars pile all the hurt on one people. With an estimated 620,000 lives lost during the American Civil War, the cost of that little disagreement hurt the nation badly. The price paid was terrible — not only in human lives, but also in the long-term financial state of the country. How long-term? They’re still adding up, apparently.

US ArmyYeah, were sure their main concern was how much this was gonna cost.

While the indirect ramifications are impossible to calculate, there is still one straightforward bill the U.S. Civil War is serving America: $73.13, to be exact, paid monthly to one woman in North Carolina. You see, because soldiers have a tragic tendency of not always being able to collect what Uncle Sam owes them, the government compensates by also paying out pensions to widows and children of war veterans. And while the Civil War ended more than 150 years ago, believe it or not, there’s still one soldier’s child alive and kicking. That would be Irene Triplett, 86 years young, and she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Irene’s father, Mose Triplett, was born in 1846, and managed to fight on both sides of the Civil War — though that sadly didn’t mean he’d get to draw two pensions. He later married a woman 50 years his junior, who we’re assuming must’ve been into antique cannons. When Irene was born, Mose was 83 years old and ready to mosey on up to Heaven.

via Stoneman Gazette“Ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex …”

But Irene’s isn’t the only 19th-century war pension that still being paid out. We’re also still supporting 88 people for their families’ contributions to the Spanish-American War, which started and ended in 1898. And while we’re certainly not begrudging anyone their dues, if we keep up our current military policies, half of our country’s 2080 budget will be going to Iraq vets’ second families.


The Search For Wreckage Of The Challenger Turned Up A Lot Of Junk — And A Duffel Bag Of Cocaine

Being an air crash site investigator must be a harrowing gig. Their entire job revolves around cataloging the most horrific of disaster scenes, where the Earth has gotten a dose of corpse buckshot to the face. But finding 73 separate pieces of the same human being isn’t the only weird thing they might find at a crash site. Sometimes they also find a shit ton of coke.

CNNGodspeed, friends.

Like 9/11, the Challenger disaster is one of those awful tragedies seared into memories of all who witnessed it. Seven people lost their lives simply because some faulty O-rings and unusually cold weather caused their vessel to blow up and plow into the ocean. After the crash, NASA immediately began searching the Atlantic for any and all portions of the shuttle that survived the crash, as well as any remains of the crew that could be retrieved and given a proper burial. But with such a spread out investigation site in constantly shifting water, the crew was bound to encounter some weird stuff.

For nine weeks, experts spent 15-hour days combing sonar data of a 420-mile area. But when their submarines or robots finally found the wreckage, they also stumbled upon what looked like Poseidon’s garage sale. During NASA’s investigation, they encountered a whole warehouse full of lagan (that’s maritime for “junk”). Some of the more ordinary items included batteries and paint cans, a refrigerator, a filing cabinet, a kitchen sink, and a toilet. More interesting finds were eight shipwrecks, a Pershing missile, and half of a torpedo.

But the best non-shuttle find by far was a duffel bag containing 25 kilograms of cocaine. When NASA handed it over to the police (what a bunch of goody-two-shoes), they revealed the estimated street value of the marching powder at $13 million, roughly the cost of the entire salvage mission. So if you’re struggling to find rent money or hoping to remodel your house, maybe spend more time hanging out at the beach.

Kelly Stone remembers watching the Challenger explode, and speaks only as much German as Google Translate does. She sometimes Tweets about cats and Star Trek.

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6 Classic Movies That Get Ruined By Grade-School Science

Some movies are destined to be classics. One look, and you know their harrowing escape scenes and climactic battles are going to be pop culture legend. And then you look again. And again and again, until you finally realize the writer got something terribly wrong, and it is ruined for you forever. Pardon us for pulling a Neil deGrasse Tyson, but we’re going to do exactly that.


You Could Probably Outrun A T-Rex

With a massive body and incredible bite strength, the Tyrannosaurus Rex reigned as the apex predator of all apex predators. And she’s an inescapable threat in the movies, tenacious enough to smash through walls and fast enough to run down any meaty human. If T-Rex wants you dead, you’re dead. In the first Jurassic Park, one of them chases down a jeep going 50 mph!

Here’s Why It’s Bullshit:

Buzzkill scientists have analyzed T-Rex remains, and concluded that the A#1, Duke of New York, King of Dinosaurs was, well … rather plodding, by predator standards. There is a very good chance you could survive an encounter with one simply by running away from it at your normal human speed. Every healthy adult in the Jurassic Park franchise had decent odds of surviving if they left on foot with any kind of urgency. Paleontologists’ best estimates place a T-Rex’s top speed around 16 mph, roughly the same as the sustained top speed of the average human, and considerably slower than the average CrossFitter.

Universal PicturesGoing with the name “CrossFit” instead of “T-Rex Survival Training” was a real missed opportunity.

We aren’t as vulnerable as movies make us out to be. Humans evolved to run over distances, and can even theoretically beat a horse in a marathon. Large animals take longer to build up speed, and are gassed in no time. And large animals aren’t built like a cheetah or greyhound, instantly running down prey. A T-Rex would be something closer to a Saint Bernard trying to catch a tennis ball rolling down a hill and giving up on it after ten yards. A cranky ol’ T-Rex huffing and puffing after Jeff Goldblum as he casually hustles away would be a very different movie, but … not necessarily bad?

You can try this “leaving in a hurry” defense against a lot of big animals still alive today. The size-to-endurance ratio is a consistent principle of biology in elephants, hippos, and rhinos. Large size is a disadvantage for predators. Smaller, tastier prey like us have a huge metabolic advantage. T-Rex’s prey was believed to consist of other large, bumbling dinosaurs, like hadrosaurs or triceratops, or maybe even each other. The point is, a T-Rex chasing after a single human would be like you chasing a speeding taxi because you left a French fry inside it.


Andy Dufresne Should Have Died In The Sewage Pipe

At the climax of The Shawshank Redemption, after 20 years of digging and planning, only one more thing stands between our hero, Andy Dufresne, and justice: a long pipe filled with five inches of fetid sewage. All he has to do is low-crawl through 500 yards of wretch-inducing filth to win his freedom. Here’s one of the most iconic scenes from the internet’s favorite movie of all time.

Even schlepping through shit can be made majestic by a Morgan Freeman voiceover.

Here’s Why It’s Bullshit:

No human could survive that five-football-field-long crawl through a poorly ventilated sewage pipe. Noxious vapors like ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and methane gases would displace all of the oxygen. All that ammonia would sting his eyes to the point of blindness, and all that methane would kill him in minutes, probably before he even knew it was happening.

Methane inhalation fatalities occur all the time, thanks to faulty pipes in basements, landfills, and agricultural cesspits. We aren’t supposed to breathe poison, is the point. When oxygen levels dip to 12 percent or lower, you black out and die before you even have time to drown in diarrhea. Though the movie still works if you imagine the beach was a hallucination as Andy’s brain was choked by poop fumes.

Columbia Pictures“Wow, look at these blue waters. Let me dunk my head!”

Similar jailbreak attempts have been attempted using steam pipes, drainage pipes, and tunnels connected to sewers, but no one has ever made it through 1,500 feet of a 18-inch pipe full of raw sewage. Such attempts have happened, and they all ended about as badly you’d think. A 2003 jailbreak in Brazil is the most gruesome example — at least six, maybe 13, prisoners asphyxiated in their daring attempt. The fumes were so dangerous that their bodies had to be retrieved with a backhoe. The point is, if you’re in prison, enjoy it, because it beats sucking lethal shit gas in a pipe.


The Kids In Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Would Have Suffocated To Death Within A Few Agonizing Minutes

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids had everything you could want from a kid-shrinking adventure film. They made friends with an ant, flew on a bee, and gorged themselves on a giant cookie. Lawnmowers and sprinklers became life-ending apocalypses, and after 90 minutes of watching children taken to the very brink of death, they all came together as a family.

It was really normal for ’80s movies to put children in unspeakable danger just to see what would happen.

Here’s Why It’s Bullshit:

The kids are shrunk down 10,000 times their normal size, and that means their cells are also reduced 10,000 times. The issue is that the oxygen, water, and countless other elements they need to live remain the same size. And having a water molecule 10,000 times larger relative to your blood vessels is no small thing. A slight fluctuation in the chemistry of a cell or the surrounding molecules can have catastrophic consequences, like cells bursting — or in this case, drying up.

Smaller molecules, like water, slip into and out of semipermeable cells in order to create a balance. This is called osmosis if you’re a nerd, and hydro-fucking if you like to party. But if the molecules were suddenly 10,000 times bigger, the discrepancy would be fatal. An absence of water in a red blood cell causes it to shrivel and malfunction. Any number of substances that need to be expelled might be too large to exit cells, and only the smallest molecules or ions would have access into them. It’s only a question of which compromised bodily process would kill them first. The second Rick Moranis miniaturized his kids, they were doomed to a grim fate. Think less Disney, and more David Cronenberg nightmare.


The Blood Farming Operation In Fury Road Would Poison The War Boys, Not Save Them

In Mad Max: Fury Road, Max happens to be a universal blood donor, which makes him a mobile blood bank for any road warrior lunatics who might be missing some. That’s why the irradiated War Boys use him for quick transfusions so they can stay alive long enough to die a death worthy of Valhalla.

This information now qualifies you for your post-apocalyptic medical degree.

Here’s Why It’s Bullshit:

“Universal donor” doesn’t mean you can exchange blood at will, like swapping out a half-chewed piece of gum. Blood has two primary components: red blood cells and plasma. The universal donor type for plasma (the liquid part that acts like the broth for the red blood cells, facilitating easy flow) is actually AB, and you need special equipment to separate plasma from red blood cells before you can safely inject it into a needy patient. Imagine taking the filling out of a Twinkie and replacing it with the ingredients for the filling of a Twinkie. You mash in corn syrup, industrial lubricant, white house paint, and 84 types of preservatives. It’s like that, but far more complicated and less delicious.

Warner Bros. PicturesOr equally so, depending on your Tom Hardy feelings.

An emergency transfusion might save Furiosa’s life temporally, but unless she then immediately gets a transfusion from the right donor, she is in for a world of pain. We’re talking “filled with angry bees” levels of agony. Doctors call this acute hemolytic reaction. Most of the War Boys would die from clotting complications or organ failure long before they had the chance to impress King Immortan Joe. Their glorious deaths would be more of a painful, wheezing, bed-ridden affair. A botched transfusion recipient experiences breathing problems, heart problems, excruciating muscle pains, nausea, hypertension, severe bleeding, and a series of symptoms the medical community describes as a “feeling of impending doom.”

While you can overlook Academy Award voters and viewers for missing this, it’s strange that writer/director and former physician George Miller never noticed.


The Great White From Jaws Would Have Puked Up All Its Victims

Nothing sends down a chill down a surfer’s spine like a shark fin jutting out of the water. Great whites are the terrors of the seas, able to smell a drop of blood from a mile away and packing 20,000 more teeth than they need to shred you into human poke.

The Jaws franchise did for sharks what Halloween did for the William Shatner mask industry — a dead-eyed beast was turned into public enemy number one overnight. To this day, most people think of themselves as a shark’s favorite food.

Here’s Why It’s Bullshit:

We’re not really in a shark’s food chain. Only younger sharks feed near the coastline, and juvenile great whites risk breaking their face on your durable human femur. Their jaws are surprisingly flimsy, secured to their heads only by ligaments and cartilage. We are the human peanut brittle to their shark dentures.

Mature sharks don’t eat humans — we’re “too bony,” and take days to digest. Sharks eat fat to survive, and filling up on a skeleton-rich diet like people could kill them. They need a massive intake of calories, and that’s only obtainable in animals rich in hundreds of pounds of fat, not scrawny ’70s teenagers. Essentially, if you’re fat enough that a shark wants to eat you, you’re only in the water because something terrible has happened already.

A stomachful of humans might even result in brain damage, as a great white needs that blubber to warm its body in order to maintain homeostasis and keep its brain functioning. Statistically, people tend to survive attacks because sharks (regardless of their size) suck at eating us. Rather than devouring prey whole, marine biologists say they engage in complicated eating practices, and the shark that kills an animal isn’t necessarily the one who eats it. Sharks are also quite picky, and known to puke at will. If a shark did eat a person, license plate, or errant oxygen tank, it would not be lurking around looking for co-eds to eat; it would be vomiting its guts out and leaving a zero-star review on Land’s yelp page.


Batman’s “Nonlethal” Arsenal of Tools Is Pretty Lethal

Batman carries any number of devices ready to incapacitate, electrocute, or tie up his enemies. And aside from the time he blew up a man dick-first with a bundle of dynamite, he uses all these devices to take criminals down without murdering them. For instance, here’s a six-and-a-half-minute video of him fucking people up with grappling hooks alone.

Here’s Why It’s Bullshit:

People die, and not infrequently, from chokeholds and blows to the head, and that’s most of Batman’s day. When joy-killing scientists calculated the amount of force that Batman’s grappling hooks would apply to the bodies of criminals, they concluded that most of them would likely end up dead. If you’re looking for realism, the 1966 Adam West series is more accurate than the Chris Nolan movies ever were.

Warner Bros. VideoYup, checks out.

Batarangs are no better. Boomerangs were designed as deadly weapons by Aboriginal hunters, and aren’t much different than throwing a wrench at someone’s head. You do that at ten different heads, and at least one of them isn’t getting up. Basically, every graveyard in Gotham has an ever-growing “Batman” section.

Doesn’t mean Batarangs aren’t still really cool to have sitting around on your desk.

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5 Common Household Products (That Have Crazy Dark Secrets)

We don’t mean to be alarmist, but everything and everybody is trying to kill you. If nuclear winter and climate change don’t get you, auto-erotic asphyxiation certainly will. Really, the only safe thing to do is barricade yourself in a shelter and commit to a life of hermitage and normal, boring wanks. But even embracing life as a bunker weirdo won’t save you. That’s right, your impending death is coming from inside the house.


Scented Products Leave Behind Particles That Turn Into Formaldehyde

After a long day, what’s better than lighting a few scented candles, sinking into a hot bath, and surrendering yourself to the sweet smell of death? That’s essentially what you’re doing if you use scented candles, air fresheners, or any number of products that exude fragrant chemicals into the air. These chemicals, once released, react with the ozone to produce formaldehyde — you know, the stuff they use to pickle corpses. Turns out it’s not great to breathe in, causing anything from minor irritation to cancer.

How can any of this be legal? Well, the thing is, the products don’t contain the harmful chemicals themselves, and under the correct circumstances, it’s not a problem. In ye olden days, when people had to endure the horrors of a slight draft now and then, household air circulation was good enough that the formaldehyde particles went right out the window, along with any money you spent on heat. Now those particles are trapped by our energy efficient windows, slowly entombing us with the smell of cinnamon buns. There is hope, though. Certain houseplants can counteract these effects by absorbing the chemicals, so that’s one way to keep your home smelling like an old lady’s purse without risking a slow death.

Madaise/flickrThough one of those is the spider plant. The last thing you need is some toxic chemical reaction mutating that thing.


CFL Bulbs Emit UV Radiation And Could Cause Cancer

Let’s be honest: If you’re reading this site, you’re probably the indoor type. You’re more likely to get some kind of nerd cancer from snuggling up to a reading lamp or something than from frolicking in the sun all day. No really, you actually can. In a 2012 study, CFL light bulbs were found to emit enough UV radiation to damage human skin.

The cause is tiny little cracks in the bulbs’ phosphor coating, which is a byproduct of the manufacturing process. We’re not talking a rare defect; every single bulb tested featured these cracks, and thus the death rays. To protect yourself, the researchers suggest staying at least one or two feet away from the bulbs and placing a glass shield over them. But it may already be too late. How many sleepless nights have you spent reading A Song Of Ice And Fire books under a secret cancer machine already? Better go see your nerdologist and get your nerd skin checked.

Really, do get that checked, though. Skin cancer is serious.


Antibacterial Products Could Harm Fetuses

We tend to be a bit overprotective of our newest humans. A bottle of Purell practically pops out right along the placenta and is passed around to all prospective cuddlers. (The hand sanitizer, not the placenta.) But it turns out that such products are even worse for you than previously known, and we already knew they’ve created super germs.

Dr_Microbe/iStockEverything comes at a price, and apparently the price for clean hands is antibiotic-resistant staph.

Two common chemicals found in antibacterial products, triclosan and triclocarban, have been detected in the urine of pregnant people, who tend to have a lot of the stuff. It was also found in the umbilical cord blood of their fetuses, meaning it was successfully being transferred from parent to baby. Whatever benefits these products might have, there’s a reason we’re discouraged from shoving them up our various orifices. These chemicals can lead to cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental abnormalities. Welcome to the world, kid — you just got this body, and it’s already jacked up.


Cosmetics Leave A Lasting Chemical Coating That Alters The Bacteria Living On Your Skin

Choosing the rainbow glitter pomegranate body wash doesn’t seem like it should be that big of a commitment, but that stuff sticks around a lot longer than you think. Researchers recently recruited a few surprisingly open-minded volunteers, then tracked the movement of every molecule on every surface of their bodies. They couldn’t identify most of the molecules, which seems troubling, but most of the ones they could identify were from cosmetic products. Keep in mind, these subjects were instructed not to shower or use any kind of soaps or cosmetics for three days beforehand.

Theodore Alexandrov/PNASGood look for Comic-Con, not so great as a chemical contamination map.

This means that everything you slather and spray on yourself sticks around for at least three days, even after you “wash it off.” That’s bad, because there appears to be a relationship between different cosmetic chemicals and different kinds of bacteria. For example, on one subject’s body, an area containing a chemical frequently used in sunscreen also displayed significantly elevated bacteria growth. If you needed another reason to turn down the guy marinated in Axe body spray, there you go. It’s practically a sexually transmitted disease.


Tons Of Foods Contain A Colorant That Causes Cancer In Rats

Titanium dioxide is the stuff many companies use to turn products like toothpaste and candy white. The problem is that it’s also easily absorbed by the intestines of mammals, and a recent study found that rats whose water was laced with titanium dioxide showed a 40 percent growth of precancerous cells in their intestines and colons, as well as weakened immune systems. A bigger problem: The report specifically notes that these rats ingested amounts similar to what humans are exposed to through a totally normal diet.

Environ Sci TechnolWhich is to say damn near everything you eat.

The researchers are careful to note that these results can’t necessarily be extrapolated to humans, who are famously not rats. This is just the first step toward assessing how it affects us. In the meantime, to be safe, maybe stop doing literally anything. Because if you look hard enough, way down at the very molecular level, you’ll observe that everything in this universe hates you and wants you to die.

If you’d still like your house to not smell like old pizza boxes and wet dog while not being all unhealthy, you can try an essential oils diffuser.

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5 Dumb Science Problems That Are Causing Real Damage

Scientists are great! We’ll take a bold stand here and declare that we are pro-scientists. They’re smart, they’re dedicated, and those white coats they wear are just rockin’. But we should never forget that scientists are people too. And no matter how smart a scientist is, people are always idiots. That’s why the scientific community is rife with shockingly stupid issues bringing down that whole “noble pursuit of knowledge” thing. Like how …


Scientists Give Silly Names To Their New Discoveries, And It All Turns Horrifying

There are innumerable genes, and it’s up to science to name them all. It’s harder than it sounds. Off the top of our heads, we can only come with about six names, and one of them is “Buttrick.” So geneticists could be forgiven for having a little fun with their naming conventions, especially if it’s something as harmless as labeling the genetic code of fruit flies with terrible puns.

There’s the tinman gene (fruit flies born with no heart), the ken and barbie gene (no external genitalia), and the maggie gene (permanent arrested development), among others. It’s all obscure, pointless wackiness … until those equivalent genes are discovered in humans, at which point not only the traits but also the wacky names get ported right over.

Warner Bros. PicturesThat tinman gag is a lot funnier when youre not a pediatric surgeon explaining it to terrified parents.

When geneticists found a human variant of the “hedgehog gene” in fruit flies, they decided to get cute with it and call it the “sonic hedgehog gene.” That must’ve gotten them some weak-wristed high fives, right until it was discovered that the sonic hedgehog gene caused “severe brain, skull, and facial defects” in humans, at which point you’ve named a horrific disfiguring affliction after a video game mascot. But lesson learned, right?

Not at all.

Recently, an inhibitor has been found to counteract the sonic hedgehog deformation, which scientists have dubbed the Robotnikinin. Somewhere in a lab out there today, a 29-year-old PhD is gleefully looking for a defective gene that causes people to be born with two tailbones solely to keep the joke running.

SEGAWell never be able to play a new Sonic game again (not that anyone’s wanted to since around 2004).

In 2001, one geneticist thought it would be fun to name a cancer-causing mutation the “Pokemon gene” (short for POK erythroid myeloid ontogenic). Understandably, Pokemon USA threatened to sue the lab if they didn’t change it, having to then explain, “We don’t want our image undermined by associating Pokemon with cancer.” Leave it to the suits to suck all the fun out of science.

The ludicrous naming got so bad that in 2015, the World Health Organization had to establish guidelines to stop scientists from turning turning life-destroying agents into pop culture references. Plenty disagreed with the move, calling it “political correctness” gone mad and saying that it would result in “boring names.” But if they had their way, one day, future doctors would have to tearfully inform their patients that, unfortunately, the Pickle Rick hasn’t responded to chemo, and it’s time to make arrangements.


Scientists Draw Biased Conclusions Because They’re Afraid Of Sharing

It is the goal of every scientist to eliminate as much human error and bias from science as possible. Yet ironically, their biggest hurdle now lies not in research having too much bias, but not having enough of it to cancel each other out. In 2014, a group of researchers went full Inception: They did a study on bias by researching groups of researchers doing research on bias.

They gave 29 research teams a query about soccer: “Are dark-skinned players more likely to be given red cards than light-skinned ones?” They were all given the same batch of statistics, but no further instructions on how to approach the problem. As expected, the research teams used a wide variety of analytical models, and their findings reflected this variety. Some deduced an overwhelming bias against players of color, while other groups failed to find any bias whatsoever. It seems that in both soccer and science, diversity can quite polarizing.

Michael Regan/Getty Images“For tripping … and being uppity.”

After the initial round of research, our heroic meta-researchers pooled the results and organized a round of feedback and technique refinement. After combing over each other’s work, all the research teams agreed on a more nuanced result: There was about 30 percent worth of racism, which seems realistic for anyone who has ever heard soccer fans chant. Now, readers with a BSc behind their names might already be screaming this at the screen, but yes, that’s called peer review, and it’s been happening in science since the second caveman tried to replicate the fire-creating qualities of sharp stones. But the study found that peer review happens too late in the process. “Once a finding has been published in a journal, it becomes difficult to challenge. Ideas become entrenched too quickly, and uprooting them is more disruptive than it ought to be.”

Their solution is simple: crowdsourced research — also known as the nerd hive mind. By making research available for all to inspect before it gets published, faulty science can be corrected long before it hits the shelves of the ol’ Science Store. The problem? Many scientists are far too paranoid to share their unpublished work, fearing both that someone else will steal their breakthrough and that splitting their work means having to split the glory. That’s the problem with graduating from MIT at the age of nine — they didn’t stick around kindergarten long enough to learn about sharing.


Joke Science Papers Can Cause Real Scientific Harm

Science can be an all too serious business, so sometimes a researcher might like to have some fun by publishing a “joke paper” — a satirical take on bad science in the form of an academic essay.

We all define “fun” in different ways.

Every Christmas, British Medical Journal publishes an entire joke edition, full of silly studies like “Sniffing out significant ‘Pee Values’: genome-wide association study of asparagus anosmia.” What a hilarious fake study!

Wait … that is fake, right?

British Medical JournalLOL?

You see the problem. This is the age of the internet, so after these joke papers have done the university rounds, they get filed into dozens of online archives along with all the regular papers. Suddenly, your little academic equivalent of a bad office party skit has an audience of seven billion. And before you know it, a joke study that tracked the energy expenditure of teenagers playing video games has found its way into about 400 footnotes and counting. In fact, people accidentally citing joke papers has become such a problem that there have been actual studies done on their damaging effects. We think. That could’ve also been a joke paper. It’s hard to tell.

Ohhhhh. Pee-values. Like p-values. That’s good. That is good stuff.


Want To Be A Scientist? Speak English

Science is the great equalizer. Do the proper research, employ the right model, and your work will speak for itself.

As long as the language it speaks is English.

American Inst. Of PhysicsFor now.

Unfortunately for 94 percent of humanity, scientists have a far greater chance of getting published if they write for English-language scientific publications … even in their own countries. In the Netherlands, there are 40 English-language scientific journals for every one in Dutch. That’s bad news all around for non-English speakers, as speaking in another language makes it harder to understand complex topics, more difficult to communicate precisely, and slows down research.

But the English hegemony isn’t just bad for scientists; it’s bad for science itself. Forcing scientists to approach their field from a single language comes with “the great cost of losing their unique ways of communicating ideas,” says Sean Perera, a researcher into scientific communication. Forcing everything through the lens of a single language means a decrease in the variety of perspectives. For the most part, English has a common culture attached to it, which has its own specific way of thinking. Doing it this way eliminates “indigenous knowledge,” which in turn reduces outside-the-box thinking. Speak like the English, reason like the English, and soon you’ll think the answer to every problem is to recolonize India.


Predatory Science Journals Are Hilarious … And Also Destroying Science

You’ve heard the old adage “publish or perish.” In academia, if you’re not publishing notable papers, your career might as well be dead. It seems unfair, but that’s the reality of the profession. Enter what one researcher has dubbed “predatory journals.” They all have official-sounding names, like cheap knockoff versions of reputable publications. They spam university email addresses, offering the chance for quick and easy publishing. And for those naive enough to submit, the predatory journals then hold their papers hostage in exchange for exorbitant fees.

Plenty of knowingly unscientific bunkum gets laundered through these journals, from climate change denial to the adverse health effects of not dating scientists. And it all seeps out into the mainstream, unedited, un-reviewed, and unsubstantiated. So some scientists have made a game out of exposing predatory journals, seeing how ridiculous their submission can be while still getting published. So far, enterprising academics have gotten the following published: two Simpsons characters, a fake woman whose name literally means “fraud” in Polish, a dog, and Apple’s auto-complete function. Two researchers also published a ten-page essay simply titled “Get me off Your Fucking Mailing Lists,” which consists of nothing but the sentence “Get me off Your Fucking Mailing Lists,” accompanied by handy graphs showing the values of getting them off Your Fucking Mailing Lists.

Mazieres, Kohler The “unsubscribe” button might help, but it isnt nearly this satisfying.

But where one scientist sees an opportunity for a hilarious joke, another just sees opportunity. There exists an “ugly symbiosis” between publishers eager to exploit academics and academics hungry to stick another published paper on their university’s break room fridge. Predatory journals aren’t just thriving. They now have their own conferences, where for the right price, anyone can be a speaker — something that looks very good on any academic resume. They don’t even have to show up. The audience sure won’t.

When he’s not calling every person smarter than him a dum-dum, Cedric Voets can be found gibbering like an idiot on Twitter.

You know what’s some great science you can do at home? An ant farm. Why aren’t there more ant farms?

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Millions Of Americans Go To Mexico When They Need Healthcare

How much does healthcare cost in the USA? Let’s put it this way: It’s often cheaper to fly to another goddamned country, get treatment there, and fly back. It turns out that Americans do this all the time, and their preferred destination is their constantly insulted neighbor to the immediate south …


Going To Mexico For Treatment Can Be Worth It — Even If You’re Already Insured

You probably already knew that healthcare is way more expensive in the USA than just about anywhere else. But you probably also know we got a big ol’ health care overhaul this past decade that was supposed to fix things (among other effects, it reduced the number of uninsured Americans by a significant amount). And yet even today, Americans find it worthwhile to leave the country when they need treatment. Looking only at California, a million medical tourists a year went across the border both before Obamacare and after Obamacare. “If anything, we’ve gotten more business since Obamacare,” says Jerry, who ferries medical tourists south in his shuttle bus. So what’s going on here?

“American health insurance is really strange,” says Dr. Juan, a Mexican dentist whose practice is a mile south of the border. “It can cover so much or so little.” Some of the American patients who come to Dr. Juan don’t have insurance, but most do, and they tell him it’s still cheaper to pay out of pocket in Mexico than to throw it to insurance in the U.S. Plans still generally leave you with a deductible to pay, and deductibles keep growing. Unless you qualify for subsidies, your out-of-pocket costs probably went up under the Affordable Care Act.

So cheap care in Mexico can look like one hell of a good alternative. Costs overall are said to be 40-65 percent less than in America — 70 percent or even more if we’re talking about dental work. When you’re facing a five-figure bill in the U.S., that means you can buy a plane ticket to Tijuana, book a hotel there, get healed, and then throw in another week of sightseeing and tequila on top of that, and you’ll still end up spending less than if you’d gotten the work done at home.

You might even save time, since these hospitals don’t make you wait for elective procedures. We should mention, though, that American wait times are hardly the worst in the world. “I get enough Americans complaining about waiting months,” says Jerry. “Canadians have to wait years.” So even some Canadians make the medical trip to Mexico, despite cost not really being an issue when you’ve got government healthcare. One recent Canuck passenger of Jerry’s needed leg surgery so she could walk properly. “She told me that the wait in Canada was five years,” he says. “I couldn’t believe it.” But she got fixed up five years sooner by heading south (or as we assume Canadians call it, “south-south”).


Some Tourists Like Mexican Healthcare While Still Being Racist Against Mexicans

You might imagine there’s something of an internal conflict for patients who screamed for a border wall to keep the filthy Mexicans out, only to themselves go south in their time of need. This is not representative of most people Jerry transports, but there are enough of them that he’s come to expect it.

Someone might refer to the “beaner doctor” they’re going to see. Or “wetback doctor,” which comes off as very ignorant both in the that’s racist sense and in that the speaker appears not to know what that slur literally means. “Wetback doctor would be working outside a Home Depot if it wasn’t for us,” said one passenger, according to Jerry, showing so many levels of misunderstanding that we don’t even know where to start.

One large man got on the shuttle and announced to everyone, “I’m a Vietnam vet, and the VA can’t do shit about what I have.” It could be the first line of a moving tale of woe, but Jerry predicted merely by looking at him that the guy would be trouble. “He kept saying ‘spic with a scalpel,'” he tells us, “in place of ‘Mexican doctor’ — or, let’s be real here, ‘doctor.'” Jerry has light skin (plus a name tag that reads “Jerry”), so passengers seem to assume he’s cool with hearing slurs, not realizing he’s half-Mexican himself.

He usually doesn’t say anything, though in the case of the large Vietnam vet, he did tell the guy he should consider keeping that shit to himself once he’s off the bus.


It’s Hilarious How Mistaken Patients’ Idea Of Mexico Is

Jerry can generally guess how much a patient knows about Mexico based on where they’re from. He’ll get people from Texas or New Mexico or Arizona, and they know exactly what to expect from a major Mexican city, especially if they happen to be Latino. “And then we get people from way up north,” says Jerry — people who’d never visit Mexico but for this surgery of theirs. “They expect to see mariachi bands everywhere.”

Now, we totally recommend you check out some mariachi music next time you’re in Mexico, but not every place you go will look like a cheesy themed amusement park. Dr. Juan’s office, for example, looks like a dentist’s office anywhere else in the world, to the disappointment of many Americans with vague hopes of something exotic. A Mexican hospital is … a hospital, with no special ethnic flourishes. “Some people expect taco stands inside,” says Jerry. He’s not kidding; one Canadian patient gleefully pointed at a brochure that said “taco bar on premise,” thinking he could get pico and guac in the waiting room. Jerry had to explain that the brochure was for a hotel.

Other passengers complain to Jerry when a hospital lobby has English magazines set out by staff trying to cater to Americans. These patients want Spanish magazines so they can “see the culture” (even if they can’t read said magazines, since they don’t know Spanish). Some elderly patients, whose entire knowledge of Mexico appears to come from Westerns and footage of illegal border crossings, complain about never seeing the “real” Mexico, because the city they visit has sidewalks and paved roads.


Patients Make Whole Vacations Out Of Hospital Visits

Some medical tourists do take the opportunity to spend a little more time in the country they’re visiting. Jerry will be taking some busload to the hospital, and he’ll notice that hardly any of the talk behind him is about anything medical. Instead, passengers talk about relaxing by the pool later, or going horseback riding. “It sometimes feels like I’m taking them to a resort,” he says. The medical procedure is simply one day of a week-long vacation.

Good for them, but that’s the most surreal part of this whole thing. Medical costs force Americans into bankruptcy, leave others dead, and made these particular patients leave their country in search of treatment they can afford, but it can also be an excuse to spend a few days working on your tan. “An American said it was like being given a five-hour sales pitch on a timeshare for two nights free,” says Jerry. “The surgery is like the lecture, and the rest of the trip makes up for it.” And why not? They’re still saving money, even with all the extra stuff included. We’ll say it again: This is nuts.

And the towns they visit happily cater to this specific kind of traveler. Shuttles like Jerry’s are one part of the medical tourism industry, because no one wants to drive right after surgery (or bring their car to a country they’ve heard is full of crime). Clinics advertise these shuttles, which pick you up at an American airport or other spot north of the border and take you directly to an eager doctor swinging a stethoscope.

Many of these are standalone clinics, but others grab the all-inclusive / office park model to dive into the “tourism” part of medical tourism. “There will be restaurants, shops, spas,” says Jerry. The restaurants have rice and other soft foods, perfect for dental patients still sore from Dr. Juan’s probing. Pamphlets direct you to the spa from within the hospital itself. And when you walk out of an eye clinic, you’ll see hawkers selling something perfect for patients with dilating pupils as well as tourists of all kinds: sunglasses! Which might be genuine Ray-Bans, if you don’t look at the logo too carefully.


Even Medical Tourists Mistrust Foreign Doctors

Expensive means good, we’ve been taught. Cheap means bad. Cheap knockoffs are sure to be inferior, with cheap Mexican knockoffs definitely not an exception. So some Americans view lost-cost Mexican healthcare with the skepticism of, say, that tourist being handed $5 Ray-Bans.

Dr. Juan’s patients think they know more about mouths than he does, and insist on describing how their own dentists back home do things. Or they’ll ask if he knows what Novocain is. “Not if I’m going to use it,” he clarifies for us, “but if I know what it is.” (He does know what Novocain is. He also knows they probably mean lidocaine, because most dentists haven’t used Novocain for decades.)

His favorite line came from a patronizing New Yorker, who advised him before a procedure, “Be sure to use surgical gloves.” Other patients are surprised he has state-of-the-art equipment. One was surprised to see solid brick buildings.

Those attitudes seem ridiculous to Dr. Juan, but patient advocates do suggest that you research any foreign clinic and even check it out personally before agreeing to be treated. Sure, good doctors in Mexico may be as skilled as their counterparts in America, but that doesn’t mean you can trust just any building in a border village or resort town that swears it’s a hospital. Maybe you’ll find yourself operated on by a cosmetologist instead of a surgeon and needlessly end up dead. Or maybe the mistake will be less major, but you won’t have American courts protecting you afterward or getting you compensation. Medical tourism comes with risks. It’s a messy workaround that shouldn’t be necessary, not some awesome hack that beats the system.

Every so often, a patient of Dr. Juan’s will get up from the chair, still in severe pain, and leave. “Sorry,” they say, leaving their nonrefundable payment behind. “I can’t do this.” And at least once a month, Jerry takes some passenger like that back to the U.S., their procedure abandoned. One memorable guy made it as far as having his leg shaved in surgical prep before getting out of there, spooked at the last minute by hearing the doctors speaking Spanish. On the shuttle north, the other passengers talked about how well their own operations had gone, so after they crossed the border, he phoned the hospital, asking if he could do the surgery after all. They told him it was too late — to go forward with it, he’d have to pay the fee a second time.

Maybe he ended up doing that. Even paying twice, it would still be a bargain.

Evan V. Symon is a writer, interview finder and journalist for the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. Have an awesome job/experience you’d like to see up here? Then hit us up in the forums.

Interested in making a trip to Mexico? Check out Fodor’s Guide to San Diego and Tijuana.

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4 Creepy Ways Everyday Life Is Turning Into Sci-Fi

The goal of any good dystopian story is to warn us about the future that we could end up with if we’re not careful. But they’re usually inspired by something that’s happening right now. Which means that while most of us are watching some cool new show in which future people live in pods and are haunted by cyber ghosts, a few unlucky SOBs are out there already living it.


Japanese People Are Having To Live In Internet Cafes

Much like America, Japan’s middle class is shrinking thanks to the upsurge in contract-only and temporary work. That makes paying rent all but impossible, so as many as 4,000 people in Tokyo alone are now living out of internet cafes — those places you thought became outdated shortly after we all moved on from 56k modems. They’re called saiba homuresu, or cyber homeless, which is a cool name for a sign of the crushingly bleak economic times.

Japans Disposable Workers, via YouTubeThe “tiny house” thing is a little less cute when taken to its logical conclusion.

And this isn’t a trendy way for young people to keep their lives simple before they get their feet on the ground. Nearly 40 percent of the cyber homeless are in their 30s, and 29 percent are in their 50s. There’s an imbalance in Japan’s economy whereby many people can’t get jobs, but those with jobs feel like they have to work themselves to death (and sometimes do) to stay in the game. And if you can’t afford a home, and have no free time to spend in one anyway, why not downgrade? Many cafes, which charge around 15 dollars a night, offer showers, laundry, and other amenities to their long-term residents. It’s kind of like living out of your car, except with much easier access to pornography. Plus you get to look like someone out of a William Gibson novel.

Japans Disposable Workers, via YouTube

Japans Disposable Workers, via YouTubeThe Depression Engine

The cyber homeless try to see the bright side of downsizing, but take a look at the ancient computers they’re stuck with and try to tell us that that’s not suffering. If you’re going to have your life destroyed by a brutal economic recession, at least you shouldn’t also have to use Windows XP.

Japans Disposable Workers, via YouTubeUpside: hardwood floors. Downside: Theyre also his bed.


Iran Has A Legal Organs-For-Cash Program

Sci-fi dystopias frequently revolve around the stark contrast between the wasteful opulence of the wealthy and the brutal desperation of the poor. One of the most popular ways to illustrate this is organ replacement for hire. Whether a poor person needs to rent an organ on a monthly payment plan in Repo Men or a wealthy person simply has their own clone murdered for spare parts like in The Island, the idea of cashing in on organ donation immediately signifies that we’re in a nightmarish dystopia.

Well, unless you live in modern Iran. Then it’s a fact of life. Iran has a legal marketplace for kidney sales, and while “kidney sale” immediately conjures images of spiked drinks and a bathtub full of ice and regret, it’s all above-board. Poor Iranians are so eager to “donate” that the streets leading to some hospitals are plastered with homemade advertisements proclaiming how healthy their signmakers are …

Shashank Bengali / Los Angeles TimesNo better way to advertise lifesaving surgery than with Sharpie on the side of a tree.

Before you write off Iran as a backwards country with inferior healthcare, it’s been argued that their system is in some regards actually better than that of the United States. For all we may squirm at the concept, Iranians in need of kidneys, well, get kidneys. Meanwhile, as obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise, America’s demand for healthy kidneys is only increasing. As of 2015, 100,000 Americans were waiting for a new kidney, and in 2014, 7,600 Americans either got too sick (or too dead) to receive one.

Shashank Bengali / Los Angeles TimesLuckily, the transplant specialists dont have to advertise like someone trying to sell a pee-stained couch … we hope.

Iran’s healthcare system saves money overall, because patients get new kidneys quickly instead of spending a long time on dialysis, and the legal framework prevents the donor from getting screwed on payment. Plus, both donor and receiver must be Iranian nationals, so you don’t see “kidney tourism.” Iran has largely managed to address their organ shortage, although information on the long-term health of the sellers is unavailable, because the future is a morally complicated quagmire of nightmares.

The system has its flaws, of course, with prospective patients making some seriously sketchy side deals to get around waiting periods. Oh, and also the whole vampiric overtone of the rich buying body parts from the poor. That’s pretty weird too.


Apple’s iPhone Factories Have Suicide Nets Lining The Buildings

Our iPhones are made in Chinese factories, of which Longhua is the largest and most ominous. About 450,000 workers live and work in the highly regulated quasi-city-state. Nobody else gets in. Delivery truck drivers must first have their fingerprints scanned, and unauthorized visitors have been beaten in the past. Why all the secrecy? Well, if you were running a secret mini-dystopia, you’d be less keen on visitors too. Longhua workers alternate 12-hour shifts and live in grey dorms a few feet from the high-pressure environment where they work. Perhaps understandably, this situation has led to mass suicides. It turns out that forcing workers to pay for running water and getting mad at them for wanting bathroom breaks is bad for morale, even if you do throw the odd potluck.

Tyrone Siu/ReutersHaving a workplace that could pass for a scene from 1984 isnt super encouraging.

Now, to be fair, Steve Jobs did highlight how the suicide rate in China was about the same as at the factory, which is only a couple steps removed from telling someone that it’s statistically unlikely to be murdered while you’re stabbing them. Nevertheless, Apple and Foxconn, the factory’s parent company, did take measures to prevent suicides. If you think that sounds nice, think more literally. No steps were taken to improve the working and living conditions, which are infamous for their relentless pace, cruel management, and blatant recruiting lies. Instead, workers had to sign pledges stating they would not attempt to kill themselves. Quickly realizing that a pinky promise didn’t mean much to someone standing on a ledge, they took one more measure: adding netting to all the tall buildings in the complex.

Thomas Lee/WiredAlternately, a quick way down from the upper floors for people trying to preserve their four minutes a day of personal time.

Shockingly, these measures haven’t really helped, as threats of mass suicide have become the workers’ only negotiating chip. In 2012, 150 of them gathered on a roof and threatened to jump if working conditions didn’t improve. It happened again in 2016 over withheld wages, which suggests that the 2012 protest didn’t go as well as it could have. Guardian journalists interviewed workers in 2017 to see if any improvements had been made, and one worker summed things up thusly: “It’s not a good place for human beings.”

The iPhone X looks neat though, huh?


The Japanese Corpse Warehouses That Deliver The Dead Via Conveyor Belt

Japan is running out of space to bury their dead, and a booming elderly population means that they’re going to have a whole lot of dead to bury. Further compounding the issue, people who have moved away from their hometowns are finding it troublesome to return to their family graves to care for them. The solution? Conveyor belts for the dead!

Alexander Martin/Nikkei Asian Review

.Tokyo GobyoObviously.

The empathetic folks at Toyota are trying to save people from the tedious job of keeping their family graves clean by providing a low-maintenance alternative, meaning that a night on the town can now feature both sushi and your father’s ashes being brought to you by the same technology. When you arrive at the urn warehouse, you scan an ID card and are directed to a private prayer booth. In under a minute, a conveyor system transfers the relevant ashes into your booth from a behind-the-scenes storage area.

Kazuhiro Kobayashi/The Japan TimesAll while enjoying a quiet Buddhist ceremony hosted by a vacant-eyed robot.

A typical conveyor-fed urn warehouse holds 5,500 remains in just over 20,000 square feet, and a slot is roughly half as cheap as a traditional grave site. The only major downside is that it looks like Ghost In The Shell meets Beetlejuice.

Chunichi Shimbun/The Japan TimesHonor your loved ones memory with the gift of high-volume automated storage.

Oh, and that you couldn’t be sure — truly sure — that grandpa’s ghost likes hanging out in a robotic corpse warehouse for all eternity. You know old people and technology.

Tiagosvn would love to hear about the most dystopian elements of your life on his Twitter. Nick is an attorney who hopes his writing career will continue to keep him out of the courtroom.

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5 Surprising Ways The World Is Secretly Looking Out For You

Very few professions are out there actively trying to keep you alive. Firefighters, doctors, uh … erotic bakers? What even is life without a good dong cake? But that’s pretty much it, right? Nope. We’ve told you before how some famously “good” organizations are secretly doing awful things. Now let us restore some of that lost faith in humanity by showing you the other side of the coin …


Illinois Is Training Hairdressers To Recognize Domestic Violence

When you’re stuck making awkward chitchat with your hairdresser for extended periods of time, some secrets are bound to slip out. That was more or less the thinking behind a recent state ruling in Illinois, which now requires salon workers be trained to recognize signs of domestic abuse and sexual assault. It’s not as easy as saying, “So, uh, has the hubby punched you lately?” and reporting it to the authorities. In fact, calling 9-1-1 yourself is a big no-no. Instead, salon workers are taught to 1) encourage their clients open up on their own speed, 2) listen compassionately, and 3) provide support and information about professional resources.

While this is not a new idea, Illinois is the first state to actually require cosmetologists to go through the one-hour training class every two years if they want to renew their licenses. Now 14 other states, including New York and Wyoming, are working on similar laws and initiatives. Sometimes, asking for frosted tips is a cry for help, and salon workers are here to answer it.


One UK City Recruited Plumbers And Handymen To Spot Child Abuse

Plumbers are used to dealing with problems most of us wouldn’t touch with several ten-foot poles stuck together. It’s appropriate, then, that the city of Lincoln, England recruited them (along with repair men, electricians, and housing officers) to spot and report child abuse and neglect. Since it can take a while to fix a sink or unclog a toilet, the city trained contractors to keep an eye out for signs that the children of the household might be in danger. For instance, if a kid is wearing long sleeves on a really hot day, that might be less about making a fashion statement and more about hiding bruises. Things like scalds and cigarette burns are dead giveaways for physical abuse, but the checklist includes other signs of trouble, like unexplained mood changes, avoidance of certain family members, or … well … pregnancy.

Yeah …

Hey, here’s a puppy being perplexed by a mirror:


Facebook Uses Their Creepy Algorithms To Fight Suicide

Facebook is simultaneously one of the most popular things to have ever existed and one of the most criticized, for many, many reasons. But while the amount of information Facebook has on each of us will never not be creepy, they’re doing at least one positive thing with all those fancy algorithms: helping spot suicidal users in real time. Basically, Facebook’s giant decentralized brain pores through billions of posts, trying to find patterns that correlate to suicidal thoughts, in the hope that maybe they can save a few lives. When a user is flagged as suicidal, a Facebook moderator can immediately get in touch and send them helpful resources, or even contact local first responders. Oh, and this is where all those “friends” come in handy, since health experts claim that hearing from a bud is one of the best ways to prevent a suicide. The moderator can make that happen, too.


FacebookThe “Talk to someone” option really needs a “(Not that racist guy from high school)” disclaimer, though.

Within one month of testing, Facebook says they’ve initiated over 100 wellness checks, helping first responders reach troubled users before they did anything rash. Considering the disturbing trend of teens committing suicide via livestreaming services (like Facebook’s own), and the fact that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people aged 15-24, an idea like this could have a real impact on young people. Why, it almost makes up for the sin of inventing Facebook in the first place.


Tattoo Artists And Beauticians Are Being Taught To Watch Out For Skin Cancer

Both tattoo artists and beauticians have to look at your greasy, pockmarked skin for extended periods of time. Why not make the most of it? Specialists have started training them to identify signs of skin cancer on their customers, so people might receive earlier treatment and thus have better chances of survival. On the beautician side, researchers from the University of Southern California and the University of Colorado Denver collaborated on this training video designed to teach hairdressers about melanoma and how to recognize lesions.

University of Southern California and University of Colorado DenverIf you don’t have melanoma, but also don’t have a face, definitely talk to a doctor anyway.

Meanwhile, tattoo artists have gone from hindering melanoma detection (because a lot of people specifically ask to cover up ugly moles) to presenting a great opportunity to raise awareness of the subject. The artist doesn’t have to be an expert on skin cancer; they just have to know the basic warning signs and pass that information on to the public. And it’s working! From the U.S. to Australia to Brazil, multiple referrals, diagnoses, and successful treatments have resulted from hairdressers and tattoo artists being like, “Uh … this black thing consuming your face might not be normal.”


Cab Drivers, Flight Attendants, Bankers, And UPS Are All Fighting Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a subject most of us don’t even like thinking about, but people far braver than us are tackling the problem head-on. And it’s not who you might expect.

First up, cabbies. Taxi drivers are being trained by authorities in New York, London, Houston, and Canada to spot victims of sexual exploitation. They’re looking out for certain telltale signs in their passengers: young people travelling long distances and paying high fees in cash, requesting collections from house parties, hotels, or B&Bs, and travelling with just huge, huuuge jerks. Even Uber, that trash bag of a company, decided to start educating their drivers about this issue after one of them saved a soon-to-be-trafficked underage girl in California in 2016.

Next up on unlikely sources of help: bankers. The European Bankers Alliance recently released a toolkit that searches for red flags indicating that slavery is involved in a financial transaction. But we know what you’re thinking: What about UPS drivers? Yep, them too. In a program started in January 2017, UPS freight drivers all over the country undergo training to recognize signs of human trafficking, with help from the Truckers Against Trafficking organization. (Oh right, truckers help too!)

Of course, some traffickers prefer to move their “cargo” through more luxurious means … and that’s where flight attendants come in. Since 2009, Airline Ambassadors International has been training flight attendants to look out for common signs of human trafficking, and their efforts quickly paid off. In 2011, a flight attendant on a flight to California noticed a disheveled teenage girl flying with a well-dressed older man and left a note in the bathroom for her to find. She did, and rescue swiftly followed. According to an ABC report …

86 children were freed from a sex ring in Boston after the trafficker and two crying victims were noticed on a flight.

Yep, kids crying on a plane saved the day. Forgive us as we reconsider everything we know about life.

Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs. S.S.A is also on TopBuzz. Check him out here. Look out for more mind-blowing facts on Markos’ Twitter.

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How A Trailer Park Becomes A Secret Haven For Sex Offenders

“Sex Offender Trailer Park” sounds like either a great horror movie, a middling rock band, or a horrible sitcom. In real life, neighborhoods like that do exist, because of a problem society has no goddamned idea how to solve. In many cities, laws keep registered sex offenders from living anywhere near where children gather, which means there are only tiny areas where they can live. We talked to James, who owned a trailer park that became known as a haven for the people society would prefer not to deal with at all.


Laws Against Sex Offenders Have Created An Unexpected, Stupid Problem

Most of you probably don’t disagree with states banning people on sex offender registries from living anywhere children hang out (and if you do, you probably don’t say so in public). Those laws are in theory reserved for those supposedly most likely to reoffend, including violent sex offenders and child molesters, while a bunch of caveats and sub-clauses spare people who aren’t as much of a threat to society, like 18-year-olds who dated 16-year-olds. The laws leave a bunch of parents sleeping easier. But how do they work in practice?

Well, when you keep offenders from living 1,000 feet (or 2,000 feet) from playgrounds, schools, public parks, and even bus stops, you block off a whole lot of space. One programmer had a go at mapping what areas of Detroit are off-limits:

James says that one of his residents showed him a map like that for his city. “The only areas the rings didn’t encompass,” he says, “were really rich areas he couldn’t afford, really poor areas where he was afraid he might die, and the ocean.” It’s actually worse in Milwaukee, a city of half a million people in which the entire map is blacked out save for 55 addresses. In Denver, a judge struck down these laws when it turned out they left effectively no livable space at all.

Offenders look to the few areas they’re allowed to choose, and when landlords realize sex offenders are eyeing them, they generally respond by releasing the hounds. It’s not legal to discriminate that way, but it’s easy to vet potential tenants by looking at your state registry and then rejecting anyone whose name is there. “They can claim ‘poor credit,'” says James, “‘not good references,’ ‘we already rented it,’ or another excuse.” Out of options, maybe they could flee the urban center altogether for some distant county (states have been accused of making rural areas a dumping ground for sex offenders), but unless there’s a job waiting for them elsewhere, they aren’t leaving.

So what then? Do they simply go homeless? Yeah, that happens, and on a large scale. And as much as some people might relish the thought of people like this having no roof over their heads, the whole point of the registry is to keep tabs on them, so thousands of transient roaming sex offenders should be the absolute last thing anyone wants. There’s got to be some other solution. That’s where people like James come in.


Sex Offenders Turn The Trailer Parks That Accept Them Into Safe Havens

James inherited his trailer park from his father, and before he owned it, he’d had no idea a huge chunk of the residents were sex offenders. As soon as he learned the truth, he set about researching the quickest and easiest way to kick them all out. “But then I met one who gave the rent check and thanked me for letting them stay there,” he says. “Without the park, he said, he would have literally nowhere else to live nearby. And by ‘nearby,’ he meant 20 miles.” James previously had vague plans of helping the less fortunate, but nobody was going to make an inspirational movie about this shit.

Plus, he says, keeping them on had a bonus: “Sex offenders always pay on time.” That’s not a joke. They’re required to find jobs as part of their release conditions, which makes them a surer bet than a lot of other people in the trailer community. Sex offenders also made the neighborhood safer, ironically enough. Police knew how many high-risk people lived there, and responded by prioritizing the area when it came time for patrols. Oh yeah — police were totally aware that James was running a sex offender commune. They welcomed the idea, and whenever they released a new inmate, someone in the department would unofficially suggest the trailer park as a possible place to live. Rental agencies knew too. So thanks to the grapevine, word got around, even without James putting up a neon sign saying “Sex offenders welcome!” Every time a vacancy opened in the park, there was a renter with a record eager to move in.

That’s the thing: Everyone involved with the system knows that these people need a place to live, and that it’s to everyone’s benefit that they find one (including their victims!). But solutions must come under the table, unless you want to be seen as aiding predators. We have a long history of creating a broken system and then declaring the dysfunction to be part of the punishment. That’s not how laws work! Or how they’re supposed to work, at least.


Running The Park Had Complications — Like Keeping Kids Out

So while there was no flashing sign in front of the park that said “Sex Offender Paradise. Free WiFi!” there was one that said “No Children Allowed.” This wasn’t a matter of law. The law says offenders can’t live near specific public areas where children congregate, not that they can’t be near any kid anywhere at any time. James put the rule in as a precaution. “It could have tempted them,” he says. “No way was I allowing that.”

Nonetheless, every so often, kids would come by on their bikes. They would get down and approach the park, because while the sign kept most families away, it was an absolute magnet for unsupervised Bart Simpson types. If James was around, he’d tell them to leave while most residents stayed huddled in their trailers. Then James would return and hear a bunch of nervous sex offenders asking, “Are the kids gone yet?” They were convinced that any contact whatsoever with kids could be used to send them back to prison.

But not everyone in the park was a fan of the child ban, because not everyone in the park was a sex offender. In fact, more than half of the population were regular folks, a good portion of whom were elderly and really wanted their grandchildren to come visit. “It couldn’t happen,” says James. “Having a sleepover at Grandma’s could have turned into a huge deal very quickly.”

James rented to people who weren’t sex offenders because some of the trailers were too expensive for your average ex-con. He let all new renters know exactly what the situation was in the place, and incredibly, he found plenty of non-criminals OK with living there. Sometimes, even families with kids wanted to move in (we guess the park had an absolute killer location), and James would have to find an excuse to reject them. He says he never had to really push the issue; as we mentioned earlier, there are usually legit reasons to reject an applicant.


The Way We Treat Offenders Post-Release Helps No One

Though James sees many of his residents as people who made one mistake and should now be forgiven, we’re guessing a lot of you aren’t too broken up over the pains experienced by sex criminals. These people did evil stuff. They deserve to be punished.

But here’s what you have to remember: Restrictions on sex offenders aren’t designed to be a punishment. The Supreme Court actually ruled on this. If registries were a punishment, they would be unconstitutional (and when they’re judged to be punitive, courts keep striking them down). The offenders already got the full punishment that we decided they deserved when they went to jail. Everything afterward is in theory put in place to make them live in normal society without assaulting anybody.

Yet the public keeps taking it upon themselves to go after released sex offenders, which rarely results in anything good. Trailer parks like James’ see nightly vandalism, with everything from spray-painted messages to sacks of dead rats stuck in a clothes dryer. James recalls one resident who received regular verbal abuse from others in town. After he fled one store to get away from the people hounding him, his tormentors tailed him by car, yelling curses until he lost them by steering into a random side street. The guy then drove back to his trailer and didn’t leave for a month.

“He had other people buy him groceries,” says James. “He quit his job.” He didn’t get another job for six months, and then he never went outside, other than commuting there and back. “He had several mental health issues, and that day pushed him over the edge,” says James. “It broke him.” You can hate the crime all you want, but after the criminal’s been punished, you’ve got to reintegrate them back into the world. “Because if you don’t, and take it to the extreme, you can destroy someone who was trying to become right again.”

Or maybe you’re fine with destroying criminals, so long as it keeps them from offending again. Certainly, any future victim would suffer way more than what these guys are going through. The question is: Do any of the measures protect people? We haven’t specifically studied the effects of hot spinning dryer rodents, but from what we have studied, it doesn’t look good.

The basic requirement that offenders check in with police does reduce their chance of reoffending, says the data. But state sex offender registries, along with the associated restrictions, don’t appear to lower the chances at all. Public notification through mailers or the internet — which leads to stuff like landlords discriminating and vigilante car chases — appears to increase recidivism. The theory is that when you make a sex offender a pariah and make their life suck in general, they’re more likely to reoffend because they have nothing to lose.


Yes, Some Of Them Relapse

One of James’ residents, a child molester, was pretty much always drunk. He came home one time after being stopped by police, bragging to the rest of the park about how he’d escaped a DUI: “I demanded a blood test, and they let me go!” When police called the park about the resident sometime later, James figured the guy’s drinking had finally landed him a violation. But then the police demanded a key to the man’s trailer, saying they had a warrant. “All of this over a DUI?” asked James. No, said the policewoman. The resident had assaulted another kid. Later, it happened again, with another resident.

Overall, you can expect 13-35 percent of sex offenders to get caught breaking a law within 15 years of release, depending on what sort of sex crime they originally did. That’s a big number. Still, it’s nowhere as high as people think. People assume that most sex offenders will rape again, basing this “knowledge” on the villains seen in every episode of Law & Order: SVU. You can argue that maybe far more could be offending without getting caught, and of course that’s impossible to know, but also remember how closely they’re being monitored.

Reoffending hurts everyone, says James, even beyond the obvious effects on the new victim. “The other non-offender residents think less of everyone as a whole now … The other offenders get mad at him or worry that it might happen to them and call in for more treatment. And of course the town used it both times as a crusade to ‘Get them all out.'” After that second relapse, someone ran for city council promising to pass a law to kick the sex offender residents out. He won.

In the end, no law was necessary. After two years in charge, James sold the park. The relapses and the overall hassle had gotten to him. The final straw was when another family applied to move in and James couldn’t bring himself to dig up an excuse to turn them down and keep the place running.

“The park’s gone now,” he says. “They tore it down some years ago.” In its spot is a supermarket, and the residents have all gone elsewhere. “I can’t tell you where they went. But I hope they found another haven.”

Evan V. Symon is a journalist and interview finder guy for the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. Have an awesome job or experience you’d like to see in an article? Then post us up here or here!

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6 Of Your Favorite Foods (That Have Horrible Secrets)

We don’t mean to overstate our case, but some might say that food is literally crucial to human survival. That’s why, over time, we’ve learned to stop eating random berries in the forest and pay attention to what exactly we’re putting into our food holes. But while we assume that our restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers are being honest about what they’re selling, the horrific truth is that what they’re truly feeding us are lies. Damn lies.

And sometimes mold.


Wineries Are Spiking Wines With Wood Chips And Grape Juice

Good wine, the kind that doesn’t come in boxes with a mascot on it, can get expensive. It’s made from the finest of grapes, and is then left to ferment in caskets made of rich oak. That’s why wines with a deep color and a slightly wooden taste are a surefire sign of quality. Except that wineries have found a much more efficient way of giving their wine its oaken flavor: They simply put wood in the wine.

Greece and Grapes“I’m getting hints of broken chair and old deck.”

Turns out that those barrels you saw on the tour of your local winery may have only been for show. Wooden barrels are now being replaced with steel vats, but to keep the wine’s expensive oaken taste, it gets mixed with “barrel alternatives.” That’s a fancy term for wood staves, chips, and even shavings thrown into a vat along with the wine. Why? Because using shavings shaves a dollar off the price of a bottle (on their end, of course, not ours), up until all those splinter-related lawsuits presumably start pouring in.

Carol Franzia/Bronco WineYes, this one has a very nice garden hose bouquet.

But that’s not the only way wineries are cutting corners. A lot of wine is made using something called “Mega Purple,” which sounds like the main villain in a coloring-themed manga. It’s a grape concentrate, or slurry, which big wine labels add to underwhelming red wine to intensify the flavor and color and sometimes even to mask spoilage. It’s estimated that over 25 million bottles get spiked with Mega Purple on a yearly basis. Many wineries rely so heavily on it that they have their own reverse-osmosis machines which let them make their own concentrates by extracting the alcohol from their shitty wines to pump up slightly less shitty wine. Yummy.

Andy Perdue/Great Northwest WineThe flavor of a thousand $3 wines.

And then there’s the migrant labor. California’s famous Napa Valley is heavily dependent on migrant laborers, to the extent that The New York Times wrote that “nearly every drop” of the wine depends on them. And lest you think they’re being treated well, that’s not how migrant labor works. Vineyards overwork their laborers, and often cheat them out of most of their paychecks through exorbitant living expenses, making it so that a typical worker might only earn $10 for ten hours of backbreaking work. It seems that from field to cellar, something other than grapes is being squeezed.


A Third Of All Fish Is Intentionally Mislabeled

Like most humans (except for those people who compulsively eat pennies), we’re very particular about the things we eat. As a result, “mystery meat” is regarded as less of a gourmet experience and more of a post-apocalyptic necessity. But in seafood restaurants, one out of three times, what you shovel on your fork might not be what you pointed at on the menu at all.

As we’ve mentioned before, the food industry has a long history of falsely labeling things to attract picky customers. However, when it comes to selling fish, mislabeling has become an epidemic. According to an investigation by Oceana, which tested 1,200 samples from supermarkets and restaurants across 21 states, it was discovered that 33 percent of fish were mislabeled. In South California, that number rose to an astonishing 52 percent, meaning there were more phony fish than the real McCod. Nowhere but LA could even their fish be mostly fake.

Yoon S. Byun/The Boston GlobeOne always lies about being tuna, the other always tells the truth. You may ask no questions.

The fish most likely to be counterfeit was red snapper. Of the 120 samples they tested, only seven were in truth red snapper, making them the rarest fish to spot, second only to the Loch Ness monster. White tuna also belongs on a milk carton, as 84 percent of its samples turned out to be escolar, which can cause nasty digestive problems. Other commonly mislabeled fish include halibut, grouper, cod, and Chilean sea bass. And it turns out that sushi restaurants also rest their sashimi on a bed of lies, because 74 percent of the samples from such venues were mislabeled, making your local gas station actually the safest place to eat sushi.

So for those of us who would like to know what sea monster we’re shoveling down our throats, here’s a helpful chart:

OceanaAnd the side of prawns you ordered are spray-painted cockroaches.

As you can tell, lots of these hidden fish don’t sound too tasty, and they’re also nowhere near as valuable as the listed fish. But even if they were as good (they aren’t), not a lot of people would pay the same for some slickback, toothfish, or weakfish … or giltheaded seabream, which sounds like one of Jethro Tull’s lesser albums. We’re most worried about the Asian “catfish,” but that’s because we don’t believe in eating food that comes with a garnish of quotation marks.


Farmers Markets And Farm-To-Table Restaurants Are Full Of Frauds

Tired of the faceless franchise eateries serving over-salted slop? The depressingly lit chain supermarkets selling you genetically modified, hormone-injected, battery-farmed zucchinis? Well then it’s time to put on your horn-rimmed glasses and plaid shirt and head on over to those quaint farmers markets and farm-to-table eateries for some wholesome, unmolested food. Except that the ethical side of food production isn’t all that ethical either, having been infiltrated by frauds and con artists. Who knew you couldn’t trust some random dude in overalls?

In California, farmers market cheaters are running rampant. Plenty of the state is farmland, so it’s easy to assume most of your food is coming straight from the field. However, when the NBCLA did an undercover investigation of farmers markets in the area, they discovered that many of them were clearly selling produces they hadn’t cultivated themselves.

See, in order to sell at a farmers market, you actually have to be a farmer — a verified one, with a pitchfork and everything. But when the NBCLA drove to the “farms,” all they found were a bunch of weeds / dirt fields. So unless these farmers were all part of some wizardly hippie collective magicking up their produce out of thin air, it’s safe to assume they were selling you the same stuff you could find at a Walmart at half the price. Fake farmers are popping up all over the country, some of them so brazen that they’ll specifically label their food pesticide-free while having no idea whether that’s true or not. How would they know? They’re not really farmers.

The same sort of chicanery goes on at farm-to-table restaurants. A series of exposes in The Tampa Bay Times revealed the myriad ways your favorite locally sourced hipster eating collective could be lying to you, from frozen food masquerading as fresh and buying pre-made dishes, to fish mislabeling and food marked as “organic” or “non-GMO” which was the exact opposite. As the owner of the famous Chino Farms noted: “Chefs will come, write down notes, leave without buying anything, and then say they’re serving our food at their restaurants.” They hypocrisy is so intense that one restaurant even had a “F**k Monsanto Salad” on its menu (along with truffle fries), but when a reporter confronted the chef about where he got his produce, he shrugged and said, “It’s really hard to find non-GMO produce.” But it’s so, so easy to lie.


Lots Of Craft Whiskey Labels Don’t Even Make Their Own Alcohol

Whiskey is the drink that breaks through all social barriers — and we don’t just mean that it’ll make you get naked in public. The brown stuff is famous for its variety in taste, each brand having its own distinct flavor profile. There’s a whiskey out there for everyone, almost literally these days. With the growing popularity of small batches, hundreds of artisanal whiskeys are bringing their subtly unique flavor to the masses. Well, not all that unique, really, as most American small batches all come from the same giant vats in Indiana.

Eagle Country OnlineYour typical seven-story startup.

While craft whiskeys like to pretend they’re all wholesome small businesses distilling hooch from an ancient family recipe, the sad truth that this is often a marketing stunt. To cut corners, many of these new artisanal labels buy their alcohol wholesale from a single factory distillery in Indiana. MGP (formerly Seagrams) mass produces all kinds of alcohol (including “food grade industrial alcohol”), and is known for its low cost and consistency in taste — the same consistency that then gets poured into dozens of differently labeled bottles, each boasting of their “individual and unique” taste. So if you ever wondered how you were able to buy 15-year-aged rye from a company that only started in June, there’s your answer.

As for the why, start-up distilleries often use the same excuse. They do it as “a means to develop a brand and help fund the next step” of distilling their own alcohol. But it’s easier and cheaper and lazier, and often they never stop. Some craft labels even go as far as to create “Potemkin distilleries” — shiny distilleries that produce nothing but the appearance of self-sufficiency while the label keeps slinging their cheap factory booze. Even some pretty large labels cut the same corners, such as Bulleit, George Dickel rye, and Angel’s Envy, while other so-called craft labels are in fact owned by bigger, more mass-produced companies looking to upsell their leftovers. Most of them don’t even modify their factory booze before they pour it into their fancy bottles, which turn out to be the only things they put some effort into.

Knotter BourbonAt least these guys are upfront about it.

But if you really like MGP’s stuff (after all, you’ve probably already drunk loads of it without realizing), at least there’s one label that doesn’t lie to you. Knotter (as in “not our”) Bourbon markets its booze with the statement “We didn’t distill this bourbon. Nope, not a drop.” Now that’s the kind of straight-shootin’ honesty we like to see.


Licorice Causes All Sorts Of Medical Problems

Licorice is one of those divisive candies. Either you love ’em, or you’ve eaten the black ones. Its distinctive taste comes from the licorice root, a plant that shows nature can easily be a very boring Willy Wonka. But as is the case with any plant life, new biological discoveries can change the way we look at them each day. And unfortunately for licorice fans out there, licorice root is terrible for you.

Rik Schuiling/TropCrop – TCSAnd not just terrible-tasting.

In 2001, Finnish researchers discovered that licorice root is a complicating factor in pregnancies, leading to premature birth — so best not use it as a teething tool either unless you want your kid to stay under four feet. But the list goes on. The root can also be a contributing factor in kidney disease, breast malignancies, and (obviously) diabetes. It can also interfere with medicines such as blood thinners and insulin. It’s poison, is what we’re saying. Just be safe and eat sugar straight out of the bag.

But don’t worry about those little health niggles, as licorice can straight up kill you as well. Because it screws with your potassium level, the FDA has warned people over 40 that they can develop heart problems merely by eating two ounces of licorice candy daily for two weeks. The FDA even went so far as to say that everyone, regardless of their age or how healthy they are, should be careful consuming licorice. Fortunately, the problem is usually reversible if you stop eating the stuff. Great! It’s the cigarettes of sweets! Time for a whole new ad campaign.


The Best “Aged” Steaks Involve Mold

Aged steak is delicious. It’s so delicious that most of us never even question why on earth “aging” meat would be a good thing; it just obviously is. And for those of you who would like to keep living with that ignorant bliss, best you stop reading here and go enjoy a juicy Matrix steak right now.

Christopher Thomond/The GuardianBon appetit.

For the rest of you intrepid explorers … we don’t know how to sugar-coat this for you, so we’re just going to show you what your $80 dry-aged steak looks like 15 minutes before you put it in your mouth.

Men’s HealthBad appetit.

The somewhat-revolting truth is that steak gets aged by controlled rotting — like cheese, only made from the decaying carcass of a dead animal. Dry-aging beef, the old-school way of doing it, is done by placing the meat in an environment where the chef controls the temperature, humidity, and ventilation. This process causes the meat to dry in a way to increases its flavor while the beef slowly decays and becomes more tender. Meanwhile, the outer layer of the beef quickly transforms into a horrific crust of mold, which is then cut off right before you eat it, which means hobos eating out of the dumpster and people paying a few hundred dollars for a steak do have something in common after all.

Unfortunately, this fungus feast for steak lovers is only getting worse, as gourmet restaurants are starting a crazy arms race about it, trying to out-age each other like they’re bitter rivals who wound up in the same retirement home. 55-day steak, 100-day steak, 180-day steak … soon, you’ll have an aged steak that’s old enough to drive. The current winner appears to be the Dallas Chop House in Texas (where else) which served a 459-day steak. If they’d aged it any longer, it’ll look about as appetizing as a zombie from The Walking Dead right before it hits your plate.

Serious EatsAre we sure “aged” isn’t naturopath for “roadkill?”

So while the food industry is constantly lying to you about where and how your favorite eatings come into being, we guess the moral here is that sometimes, we should be grateful for the lies.

Dry-aging steak at home is actually still kind of a neat process to watch, try it yourself and see.

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