One thing I have observed in life and an idea I have been repeatedly exposed to is that one’s social environment has at least as much to do with one’s behavior as one’s innate nature. Sociologists suggest that putting people in jail might be a less effective way to prevent criminality than making sure people grow up in a healthy home environment, have plenty of legal opportunities for advancement, and are kept away from the influence of those who are already criminals. There are even those that have suggested that labeling someone as deviant in some way can cause that person to internalize and even embrace the label, becoming set in their deviant ways, and that if we instead cast their past behavior as an aberration from an otherwise clean record this would be less likely. This is called role theory.
I know that there are times I have been tempted to be rude since all my efforts to be polite were getting me nowhere and I was being accused of being rude anyways. I figured there was no loss to my reputation if I became what they said I was. Social environment matters a lot. I’ll recount three examples from my life:
One: When two of my coworkers failed to get along, management stuck me in the middle of them since I seemed to get along with almost anyone. However, because I was now in the middle, I had to interact with two troublemakers while each of them only had to interact with one of me. Thus, I was in twice as much conflict. Management soon forgot why I was put there in the first place and started seeing me as the problem.
Two: One of my coworkers often stood in the corner when there was nothing to do. I noticed that my other coworkers simply assumed he was lazy and would not help. Whenever a task appeared, they would do it themselves, grumbling all the time about the guy in the corner. When multiple tasks appeared, they simply worked harder. In contrast, when I was alone with him and something needed to be done, I simply left half-finished items near him. He was slow to respond, but soon enough he stepped in to help without being asked. He didn’t see a point in working when others were handling things so well and he couldn’t easily insert himself into the fray.
Three: I also notice that I joke less when there is someone else in the group to fill that role. The class clown is not always the same person; it is merely the funniest person in the class. How talkative or reserved I am changes greatly depending on who I am with. In school, I used to think I was introverted until I discovered that I could be quite extroverted in the workplace. The venue makes a big difference.
Instead of being quick to judge, maybe we should take note of the situation others are in and walk a mile in their shoes.
When was the last time you were labeled as something you weren’t?
English is an often-inadequate language. One word can mean so many different things. This is especially true with the word “fair.”
According to some, an economic situation is fair so long as the participants are equal under the law. The laws are to be followed by all without exception. Those equally guilty are punished equally. The innocent are left unpunished. Each individual has the same amount of representation, the same rights, and their testimony counts the same in court. Everyone is equally taxed and equally regulated regardless of who they are. Everyone is kept safe as much as possible from theft, vandalism, extortion, and fraud.
According to others, being equally free from interference in our economic activities is not enough. We must also be free from the consequences of the freedom others have to govern their activities. To be fair, there must be no monopolies or collusion. Those institutions that do better shall not take advantage of their new status to undersell their competitors only to raise prices later. Sellers must not use their freedom to sell to whom they want to discriminate against those of certain races or creeds. Buyers must not use their freedom to shop where they want to do the same. Enforcing this kind of fairness necessarily diminishes the first kind.
According to others, it is not enough that we all be free of discrimination and collusion. We must all have the same starting point. No matter the economic means of our parents, we must receive the same education and be given the same amount of seed money. We must also be served the same level of health care throughout our lives so that we differ only in our competence and work ethic. Since the seed money and cost of education must come from someplace, in practice it means that the state discriminates against the most productive members of society by interfering in their economic activities. Enforcing this kind of fairness necessarily diminishes the first two kinds.
According to still others, none of this is enough. Fairness only exists when all outcomes are equal. Those who work hard, those who are lazy, those who are intellectually gifted, those who are mentally retarded, those who follow all the rules, those who actively fight against the system, and all those in between are guaranteed the same wage. That doesn’t sound fair at all.
Finally, “fair” can also mean a carnival. This is the best kind of fair.
YouTube channel NileRed is great for three things: First, it shows in detail how to extract various substances, such as getting gold from computer scrap or piperine from pepper. Second, it shows in detail how to synthesize various substances, such as making Tylenol from aspirin or turning paper into plastic. Third, it provides hours of entertainment as the host plays with aluminum and mercury, sodium and mercury, thiocyanate and mercury, color-changing liquids, grows lead crystals, and drops stuff in acid. He also includes the times that things go wrong, such as the time he attempted to make a ferrofluid. Who knew recreational chemistry was so much fun?
The universe is a wild and fascinating place of wild physics, wild geology, wild chemistry, wild biology, and even wild psychology. Science often violates common sense.
I have written before on the rarity of common sense. Many people believe whatever they are told even if it violates everyday experience and basic science I have known since elementary school.
Rumors abound that the LHC might accidentally create a black hole that will destroy the world. It’s hard to see how. Gravity is proportional to mass and the LHC deals with only nanograms at a time. Any black hole would be tiny and tug with no more force than the matter it collapsed from. The danger of black holes comes from their small size allowing one to get closer to the center of gravity than one could an object of lower density, but since fundamental particles might be infinitesimal points (this is how they are treated in mainstream models, i.e. not string theory), they might already be black holes. I’m not worried.
One area full of wild claims is psychology. Psychologists jump to conclusions without data, assuming people secretly racist when the test results might simply show that people are aware that racism exists, or assuming young children can’t think symbolically when their behavior could equally be interpreted as play. Sometimes I think all psychologists are insane.
I am generally more understanding than the average person. I accept people who are shy because I recognize that I don’t always feel like being put on the spot either. I accept people who are emotional or have depression or mania, because I’ve had different emotions and moods before. I accept people with attention deficit disorder because I can sometimes be distracted too. I accept people with obsessive-compulsive disorder because I know what it’s like to settle into a comfortable routine only to have things change. I believe I understand both liberals and conservatives more than they understand each other because unlike the average person, I actually listen first before I close my mind. If there is one thing I have a hard time understanding, it is why some people have such a hard time understanding.
Still, I find some claims of handicap so ridiculous that I literally can’t believe them. They do not pass the test of common sense. I can only conclude that people with these conditions are faking it.
The Man Who Forgot How To Read:
I once read about a man who had a stroke and could no longer recognize objects by sight. He could see and navigate just fine, but he could not know what he was looking at until interacting with it using his other senses.
I don’t get it. If he couldn’t tell by looking at it whether a patch of color was a vertical wall or a horizontal golf course, how could he navigate? Is it possible he simply had difficulty putting words to things, but could recognize what they were just fine? But if that is the case, why could he no longer read? I don’t need to know the names of letters to tie them to sounds or tie words to meanings. Unless I have completely misunderstood, the mental condition described here is internally incoherent and inconsistent. Logic proves that it cannot be true.
I have also heard of people born with aphantasia who can see, navigate, and even recognize objects by sight, but do not store visual memories and are incapable of imagining visual stimuli. They record representations of three-dimensional spatial relationships as strings of words.
I don’t get it. Words alone cannot capture the meaning of a three-dimensional space without the spatial meanings of those words being previously known by demonstration. I can explain how to build a castle using only text by including words such as “angle” and “length,” but if one doesn’t already have an understanding of such concepts, no amount of words alone will ever teach them. To know what an angle is, is to think visually. To know what a length is, is to think visually.
I have also read about a woman who had a stroke and could no longer see motion. To fill cups without overflowing them, she had to draw marks on the sides. When the liquid was above a certain level, she stopped pouring.
I don’t get it. Why use visible marks when she could just as easily imagine one just below the top of the cup? It sounds like she was perfectly capable of seeing the liquid at one level and then later at another level – but seeing a difference in space over a difference in time IS seeing motion! Velocity equals displacement divided by time. What am I missing here?
I have heard of some people born with prosopagnosia who can easily recognize patterns in general, but cannot recognize faces.
What? This just raises too many questions. What qualifies as a face? What separates them from other patterns? Spiders have eyes and legs all over their cephalothoraxes. Do they have faces? Squid have eyes on the sides and move with their tentacles trailing behind, where the beak is hidden. Do they have faces? Do clocks have faces? Do mountains have faces? Doesn’t one already have to be fairly good at pattern recognition to know whether something is a face or not? What causes “faces” to then be shunted over into the dysfunctional part of the brain while “non-faces” are kept for further analysis? What happens if one sees such a realistic photo that for just a moment they recognize it as a real face and their brain stops processing it? Do they never realize that it is just a photo? If these people are really so good at recognizing other patterns, can they cure themselves simply by thinking of everything as a non-face?
After a particular type of stroke paralyzing the left side of the body, some people develop anosognosia. Thus, they are unable to see the left side of objects. This does not mean they see nothing in the left half of the visual field; it means that even objects completely contained in the right visual field will still be subdivided such that they do not perceive their left sides. Supposedly, they are completely unaware of the left side of anything, including themselves. They are known to eat only from the right side of plates, fail to see the pencil in their left shirt pocket when looking in a mirror, and get caught on doorframes when they forget about the existence of half their body!
This condition is really weird and it raises a lot of questions. At what level do they subdivide? Given two plates of beans, do they eat every bean on the right plate and none on the left? Or do they eat the beans from the right halves of both plates? Or do they cut each bean in half and eat only the right sides of each? If the beans are replaced with asparagus, is the stalk seen as a separate object from the crown, or is the entire shoot seen as a single object? Since any object can be arbitrarily subdivided into smaller objects all the way down to the limit of visual resolution, how can there be any consistency in what people see and how they behave? It is meaningless and random.
I have been told that those with autism are unable to form a “theory of mind” of themselves or others in order to predict human behavior, yet are average (or even above-average) when predicting other systems. Those with autism are good at computer programs or physics but not psychology. I have many of the same problems with this description of autism that I do with prosopagnosia.
What qualifies as a mind? Doesn’t one have to understand a phenomenon really well first before figuring out whether it is mind-based or not? Also, how is it possible not to know your own thinking when you’re the one doing the thinking? That’s crazy talk. Are all psychologists insane?
I literally can’t believe any of these conditions are true as described. Logic compels me to reject the notion. You might as well ask me to believe in square circles. There is no doubt in my mind that somebody is lying. I don’t have much patience for this nonsense.
Of course, many people would see me as an intolerant jerk. This brings me to consider another disorder: What if I have a mental condition that blocks me from imagining and accepting such things? After all, I have immense trouble trying to visualize complex motion in four or more dimensions. Most people find it hard to grasp the notion of non-Euclidean geometries, higher dimensions, and the “spin-node network” of quantum loop gravity theory. Some people can’t bring themselves to believe in aliens, ghosts, or God. If it is possible for those with anosognosia to be ignorant of their own ignorance, what might we be ignorant of? Higher dimensions? The Silence? Could we be surrounded by angels and demons who watch everything we do? Can I really trust my own logic? My logic says yes, but that’s exactly what I would expect my logic to say.
In any case, anyone who can entertain the idea that these people might be telling the truth should also be open to the idea that my condition is just as real. For the sake of fairness, anyone asking me to have patience with these people should also have patience with me for not having patience. I can’t help it.
Common Sense Not Common
Common Sense Often Wrong
Aspberger's Is The New Drapetomania
The Undiscovered Mind
One thing I have observed in life and conversation is that many people are confused about the difference between wants and needs. They do not seem to realize that those words only retain distinct meanings within narrow contexts wherein all the actors already have broad agreement over which is which. The terminology cannot simply be carried over to new conversations.
In the general case, all needs are need-fors. A need must have an object. For example, one might need a bridge for crossing a river. One might question whether they truly need to cross the river, and whether they might find other means of traversing it (e.g. a boat), but this does not make the need invalid. If it were so, then no need could pass this test. Even in the extreme case of having needs for living (e.g. air, water, food) where no substitutes will suffice, one could always ask whether one truly needs to live.
All needs are wants and all wants are needs. Wanting a set of roller blades on one’s birthday can also be equally thought of as a needing a set of roller blades for going roller blading, or needing a present for preventing disappointment.
The difference between wanting and needing is only one of relative importance. There is no strict line between them. The terms only make sense when there is a large gulf of importance between two sets of desired conditions. In those rare situations, the less important conditions are called wants and the more important conditions called needs.
So don’t tell me I don’t need cake!
Red’s Burritos are awesome. They are expensive, but well worth the price. The tortillas are never wet and soggy. Nor are they ever dry and crumbly. They seem to be held together by some sort of delicious starchy glue.
The flavors in the fillings are so strong I think the company must make use of technology to isolate and amplify the specific compounds involved in taste, infusing them back in the product. Sugar, salt, or MSG can also enhance flavors, but everyone does that and yet somehow these burritos are special. I don’t understand how they do it.
Bean, Rice, &Cheddar is probably my third favorite. It comes in a whole wheat tortilla, which is usually a no-no for a burrito, but in this case it works. The combination of brown rice and soft pinto beans is perfect. Beef, Bean, &Cheddar is pretty good too.
Philly Steak &Cheese is probably my second favorite. In this one especially, the company has really captured the essence of steak. The pieces are juicy and packed with flavor. The bits of peppers and onions present are also juicy and packed with flavor. They are never burned or overcooked. They are never mushy from being frozen (ice crystals destroy cell walls). I have yet to find a chewy onion skin in any of them. I have no idea how they do it. Steak &Cheddar is pretty good too.
Chicken, Cilantro, &Lime is probably my first favorite. In addition to chicken, cilantro (<3), and lime, it contains brown rice, black beans, and cheddar. It’s great. Chicken &Cheddar is good too.
BTW, cilantro is my favorite vegetable. I like anything with cilantro on it or in it. I have recently learned that there are actually people out there that don’t like it. How? They claim it tastes like soap. Well, if anyone can find soap out there that tastes like cilantro I would love to sample it! I just might take up swearing like a sailor so I can get my mouth washed out with it. Bring it!
I am less impressed with the Egg &Cheddar burrito and the Canadian Bacon, Egg, &Three Cheese burrito. The egg is too wet, there isn’t enough cheese, and the Canadian Bacon (or what civilized people call ham) seemed to have a faint bitter taste. Overall, they were okay, but nothing special.
The oddball of Red’s line is Cheese Quesadilla. It contains a mix of cheddar, mozzarella, and pepper jack cheese with just the right amount of pepper bits. The cheese is a bit on the chewy side but very tasty. It might be my fourth favorite. Strangely, these are always smaller than the others. The tortilla is the same size, but wrapped around less product. Sometimes, I find one end broken off so that all the cheese oozes out when I microwave it. I don’t understand how they do it.
All of these burritos are the same size – too big for a snack and too small for a meal. To make a meal one has to combine them with something, such as an apple or a carrot. A Red’s Burrito and a banana make a good meal too. Better yet, TWO Red’s Burritos make an even better meal!
Of course, some burritos are larger. Taco Bell’s Grilled Stuffed Burrito is the size of two meals. When I am out on errands it makes a good simultaneous breakfast/lunch. It also has cilantro (<3). Delicious!
In contrast, Amy’s Burritos are nothing. They too are expensive, but not worth it. The only kind I like is the Indian Samosa Wrap. This consists of a whole wheat tortilla wrapped around curry potatoes. There are also trace amounts of peas and tomatoe paste. Overall, it’s pretty good if you like curry.
Of course, the cheap standby is always Tina’s Burritos. My favorite is the Beef &Bean. I never get tired of it. I like to microwave it on one side for one minute, followed by 35 seconds on the other, before I stuff pieces of cheddar inside to soften while I pour Herdez’s Guacamole Salsa over the whole thing and eat it with a fork.
Herdez’s Guacamole Salsa is a smooth, creamy, light green sauce with dark green flecks in it. Its dominant flavor is that of tomatillos, which compliment the mashed pinto beans in a burrito perfectly. Other ingredients include cilantro (<3), lime, avocado, onion, and green chiles. It has the perfect amount of heat.
Tina’s Red Hot Beef is pretty good too. Like the other, the filling is mostly beans. I will either eat it plain or stuff cheddar in it and pour on Buffalo sauce (also <3).
Sometimes people remember things differently from others. Sometimes people remember things differently than the official record. I’ve had such experiences going back into the 1980s. It has been a running theme in my life. I’ve also observed others when they were surprised to see reality itself collapse around them. It is the most disconcerting experience there is. I even published a fiction book (The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship) about this exact phenomenon, calling it fifth-dimensional shift. Future stories on the same subject are already planned.
Here is the blurb: This is the story of a man named Nate who finds himself living in a psychiatric health care facility. He does not remember how he got there, but as he starts to remember things from his past life, he realizes that the universe has changed dramatically since he was young. A story of childhood nostalgia, sometimes comically illuminating the differing perceptions adults and children have of the world, The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship is also a journey through the memories of a man for clues as to the real reason he is where he is. Filled with tension between opposing claims of the ultimate reality, this is a novel that will keep the reader guessing until the end. Read more.
Very recently, I encountered a trending topic called the Mandela effect. It was first described when a woman reported that she was certain she had heard on the news that Nelson Mandela had died in jail in the nineties and was very surprised when he was later elected president of South Africa, alive and well. Since sharing her story, millions of others have reported the same experience, as well as numerous other cases of remembering things differently, such as the existence of movies that never existed or other celebrity deaths that never happened.
These people have discussed possible causes for this phenomenon, including blaming particle accelerators for causing them to somehow jump from one parallel universe to another. Many report only experiencing the phenomenon since 2012 and believe that something new is happening. That so many people are apparently noticing it for the first time is most likely a confirmation bias. They are looking for examples, even if only subconsciously. Similar situations happening to them in the past may have simply been explained away as their bad memory, or the assumption that it was the other person that was wrong.
While the alleged cause is very suspect, one cannot deny that the Mandela effect is a real phenomenon worthy of study. That so many people can be so certain of the same version of events both proven false and remembered differently by others says something truly profound about the universe, even if it only says something profound about human perception and memory. That is part of the universe, isn’t it?
Whatever the cause, before we can begin studying just what the Mandela Effect is, we first have to study what it isn’t:
Misheard Or Misread
Sometimes the reason our memories don’t match reality has nothing to do with fifth-dimensional shift or flawed recall. Sometimes the information was misheard or misread in the first place. Many Mandela effect examples have to do with lyrics of songs changing, but it has long been known that people mishear lyrics all the time and this was never thought of before as anything unusual. To see what I mean, just go to YouTube and search for “misheard lyrics.” You will be amused for hours. Setting words to music necessarily changes their pronunciation, leading to errors. That sounds are misinterpreted should surprise no one. In fact, some artists are known for being unclear.
Even in cases where a word sounds as crisp and clear as anything, people can still hear it differently. We all have different ears. This is how some people are able to hear the name “Laurel” while others hear “Yanny” on the same tape, even though Yanny and Laurel sound nothing alike. How much easier it is to hear “the neighborhood,” when Mr. Rogers says “this neighborhood.”
Vision can also be tricked. Several years ago, when I still worked at McDonald’s, they released a new burger called the Big’N’Tasty. Within days, customers began asking for it by name, even reading it off the menu, as the Big Nasty. I noticed that the prominent placing of the “N” and the small and off-level “T” made it very easy to misread. The situation soon got so bad that we all stopped bothering to correct people, allowing the misperception to persist. It would not surprise me if this became the next example of an alleged Mandela effect. The problem isn’t memory, but visual misperception.
Even in cases with a picture as crisp and clear as anything, people can still see it differently. We all have different eyes. This is how some poeple are able to see a blue-and-black dress while others see a white-and-gold dress. How much easier it is to miss that I misspelled “people” in the previous sentence or that Febreeze is actually spelled Febreze.
Before moving on, I should probably point out that people do not always see what they expect to see. Sometimes things jump out and get noticed precisely because they do not fit expectations. I also know people that seem to have great difficulty using context to fill in the gap in a sentence when they miss a word, even when what they claim they heard me say is almost exactly right (such as “nuclear bond” instead of “nuclear bomb”). This makes this a very complex phenomenon that cannot be explained away as quickly as the skeptics would like or confirmed as quickly as the believers would like.
Sometimes information is not forgotten as much as it is simply completely missed in the first place. It has long been known that humans are terrible at paying attention. When told to watch a video of a basketball game and count the number of times the ball changed hands, participants in one study never saw the man in the gorilla costume that walked through the middle of the game. While this represents an extreme case, none of us pay attention to all of our surroundings all the time. We focus on one thing at the expense of another. This sort of misdirection is exactly how magicians and pickpockets make a living. It has never been thought of as the Mandela effect before.
It is also possible to see patterns that aren’t there by missing all the counterexamples that would disprove it. In order to make sense of a messy and chaotic reality, historians necessarily impose a narrative on history, selecting only the relevant facts. Politicians cherry-pick only those examples that support their claims. Stereotypes exist when counterexamples are not noticed. One has to be careful that they aren’t missing the bigger picture.
Nobody Told Me
Other times we miss commonly-known things not for lack of attention, but because nobody told us, probably assuming we already knew. Some people call this the everybody-knows-it-but-nobody-thought-to-tell-me phenomenon.
This has happened to me many times before. Just imagine my shock in my late twenties when I learned for the first time that gypsies are a real, living people group and not a bunch of magical monsters in the same category as witches, fairies, vampires, zombies, and dragons. With all the stories out there of them cheating people with magic, selling cursed objects, and putting hexes on everybody, nobody thought for a moment to tell me that gypsies don’t actually do any of these things and might even be offended at the insinuation. Just imagine if there were stories of African-Americans flying around at night, drinking blood from sleeping white women. It would be called the most racist thing ever. We would never hear the end of it.
I don’t think this is something I would have forgotten. Nor does it prove that I have jumped universes. It just means that I was previously uninformed.
Other times, we are not only uninformed, but misinformed. Not one of us can know everything from personal observation. The majority of our knowledge comes from others, whether from friends and family, school teachers, books, or the news media.
Thinking that Nelson Mandela or Billy Graham had died and being surprised when they die “again” does not mean that one has false memories or that history has changed. It might mean the news got it wrong. They do that sometimes. It was because Alfred Nobel’s obituary was accidentally printed while he was still alive that he decided to start awarding the Nobel prizes, so he would not be known only for inventing dynamite. It happens.
People are misinformed about all kinds of things. Just go on YouTube and search for “ten things you think are true” or “ten things people believe about” and see how many videos pop up. There are whole YouTube shows and television shows devoted to this type of thing. It has never been thought of as the Mandela effect before. It’s just fake news.
I remember being taught that NAZI was an acronym, each letter standing for a different German word. I was even told at one point what the four words were, but I no longer remember. Now, I am told that it is merely an abbreviation for the first of the six words in their full name. I also remember being told that Earth day was always on April twentieth and that this was Hitler’s birthday (only later becoming associated with marijuana). Now, I am told that Earth day changes from year to year and that April twentieth is actually Stalin’s birthday. I just assume that somebody made a mistake in the chain of information transfer, not that I’m misremembering things or that history is changing.
Note: In doing my final, last-minute research for this post, I now hear that Earth day has always been April 22 and that this is Lenin's birthday.
I remember being taught that the great lakes (Superior, Huron, Michigan, Eerie, and Ontario) were the largest in the world, but there are lakes in Africa, Russia, and three lakes wholly in Canada that are bigger than some of them, while the Caspian Sea is bigger than all of them. It is probable that I either misheard or that my teacher misspoke, meaning to say that the great lakes are together the largest freshwater system in the world.
There are also examples of Bible verses supposedly altered. Isaiah never mentions the lion lying down with the lamb, though many people (including myself) remember it that way. The actual passage is as follows:
“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard and the goat will be at peace. Calves and yearlings will be safe among lions, and a little child will lead them all.” – Isaiah 11:6
The lion is mentioned, but it is the wolf that lies down with the lamb. When I first heard of this Mandela effect, I assumed that Isaiah must say it elsewhere. Searching through the entire book, I also found this:
“The wolf and lamb will feed together. The lion will eat straw like the ox. Poisonous snakes will strike no more. In those days, no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain. I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Isaiah 64:25
There is still no phrase with the lion and lamb lying together, but I know I’ve heard it somewhere! What I (and so many others) are probably remembering is our pastors (or somebody else) misquoting it, not from our personal reading. Having already read the passage, we know what is being referred to when we hear the misquote, but can’t remember for certain whether the exact phrase is in there. When people begin to quote others who are quoting others who are quoting others, it isn’t long before the incorrect version is everywhere and so everyone knows it that way. It’s not that history changed or we remember incorrectly; it’s that we remember correctly something that was incorrect to begin with.
While this explanation does raise the question of why it is that “lion and lamb” caught on so much more than “wolf and lamb,” there is probably a good reason for that too. Perhaps it is because Jesus is referred to as both “the lion of Judah” and “the lamb of God.” This might have created an association in the mind making one version easier to recall than the other, but I really don’t know.
Right All Along
Then there are the cases where we have been right all along and the fake news is what is being reported now. As the Mandela effect becomes more widely-known, trolls and hoaxers have started reporting untrue things as the current truth so that even those who remember it correctly will think history is changing. One video I saw reported that Fruit Loops had become Froot Loops, while another reported that Froot Loops had become Fruit Loops! I went to the store to check; it is Froot Loops. More than one video has reported Captain Picard to keep and carry a large crystal in eighty different episodes of Star Trek TNG. Only two scenes are ever shown in these videos and one of them I recognized and was able to find elsewhere on YouTube, sans crystal. Comments left below showed a mix of opinions. While some claimed that they just went back to watch and the crystal did not exist, others claimed that it did, and the majority believed the claims unquestioningly, some using this as further proof that history is changing, and others using it as further proof that people easily miss seeing things and have terrible memories. In this case, neither is true.
Temporal Changes And Spatial Changes
Sometimes things really do change and there is a record of it somewhere – even if you can’t find one easily and someone tells you it has always been the new way. Companies really do change their logos, the highway department really does change exit numbers, politicians change their positions on the issues, cultural mores evolve, big countries split into smaller ones, and smaller countries merge into big ones. It happens. You’re not crazy.
Other perceived changes might be regional, meaning you’ve moved to a new state or are hanging around a new circle of friends with different backgrounds. One thing I’ve observed in life is that most people assume everyone thinks just the way they do. We all live in tiny bubbles of isolation and are surprised the rare times our lives cross with those with different morals, slang, and ideas of common sense.
In elementary school, I was taught how to spell potatoe by remembering the mnemonic: pot-a-toe. The textbook we used had a little picture of a toe growing in a flowerpot. My sister was taught the same way and remembers the same textbook. Later in life, I was told this was wrong; potato does not end in e. Did my sister and I have a shared false memory? Were we from another universe? No, as it turns out, “potatoe” is a regional spelling variation often used in the New England region, though it seems to be rapidly going out of style now.
When I grew up, “wicked” was used as often as the word “cool.” In fact, they were almost always used together, as in “wicked cool.” Whoopie Pies were as universal as Twinkies. Moxie was as universal as Coke and Pepsi. That people from outside New England aren’t familiar with my slang or snack food doesn’t mean I come from a different universe. Some people say soda; some people say pop. Some people say crayfish; some people say crawfish. Others say crawdads. I was always told that while espresso was spelled “espresso,” it was still pronounced “expresso.” Only later did I find that this was the minority position. I never interpreted any of this as history change or bad memory.
Definitions are also a source of endless confusion and strife. Words I have used my entire life are suddenly misunderstood by people who are equally confusing to me. All across the internet, people debate the meaning of the word “ironic” and whether water is wet. All this means is that every generation learns language anew and that education is imperfect. This doesn’t mean the universe changed. It doesn’t prove fifth-dimensional shift.
Suggestion And Conflation
Once we have weeded out the vast majority of examples easily dismissed with mundane explanations, we start getting to the more interesting cases. Some of these can still be explained away as memory being influenced by suggestion or conflation.
Many years ago I saw a movie called Rush Hour, starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, but I rarely pay much attention to actor names. Some time after, I saw Dogma, starring Chris Rock. For a while, Chris Rock was everywhere on TV and Chris Tucker was nowhere to be seen. Since Both of them play similar types of characters with similar voices, mannerisms, and high-strung personalities, and since they look very similar and have very similar names, I got them mixed up. Years later, I was surprised to learn that it was not Chris Rock in Rush Hour, but some other guy I knew nothing about. In this case, the conflation hypothesis is so compelling that even the tiniest bit of uncertainty in my memory causes me accept I must have been wrong.
The same effect is probably in play when it comes to the non-existent Jiffy-brand peanut butter. Many people remember a brand of peanut butter called Jiffy, but do not remember Jif. I think the reason is almost obvious. Jif is not a regular word, whereas jiffy is a unit of time, and therefore more familiar to most people. The existence of oil-change chain Jiffy Lube and Jiffy-brand pancake batter reinforces this. Also, there are similar-sounding peanut butter brands Skippy and Teddy, thus causing people to associate words of the same structure with peanut products, reinforcing the mistake further.
Note: I remember Jif very well because I remember hearing the commercial catchphrase “Choosy moms choose Jif,” so this example does not pertain to me.
Then there is Darth Vader’s famous line, “No, I am your father,” which many people remember as “Luke, I am your father.” The reason for this also seems almost obvious. To make clear who is speaking outside the context of the movie, many people would have included the name “Luke.” Over the years, after hearing it so many times, people would conflate one quote for the other and “remember” the name in the original. Those individuals who watch the movie again might not even notice the discrepancy and mishear it just as they mishear lyrics.
Note: I remember hearing about this being an often-misquoted line since many years before the term “Mandela effect” was coined, so I was tipped off early. I also avoided being confused because I never realized that when I heard others say, “Luke, I am your father,” that they meant it to be an exact quote from the movie rather than merely saying something that Vader would say. After all, people these days parody Batman by attaching the word “justice” to everything, without ever meaning to make a direct quote.
It Never Made Sense
Sometimes people not only remember things a particular way, they also cite reasons why it must be that way, arguing that it makes no sense otherwise. While I am more inclined to believe someone with reason and logic on their side, I know from experience that the world does not always make sense.
It was only in my mid-twenties when I learned that most of the world’s population was lactose-intolerant (as adults). This made no sense to me. If it were true, then lactose intolerance should simply be called “normal” and what previously had no label should be called “lactose tolerance.” This is why I was at first skeptical of the new information.
It was only a few years ago when I heard that Easter and Passover were not going to fall in the same month. For my entire life, my understanding of the symbolic significance of Easter was that it happened at the end of Passover. Just as the angel of death passed over those houses in Egypt that had lamb’s blood on the doorframes, so to the wages of sin (death) would “pass over” those that had been washed by the blood of Jesus (a.k.a. the lamb of God). The “last supper” Jesus had with his disciples happened during Passover. Other holidays are celebrated on the day of the month the original events supposedly occurred, such as Christmas (always December 25) and Independence Day (always July 4). I believed that for Easter to take place on a different date from year to year meant it must be following a different calendar, and I had heard that the Jews use a lunar calendar, so it all kind of fit. As it turns out, holidays don’t have to make sense either.
Looney Tunes has always been Looney Tunes, not Looney Toons as many claim to remember it. The fact that Toons makes more sense than Tunes, since it is a cartoon and not a music program, means nothing. I remember it as Tunes so well because it struck me as so odd. I’m always noticing things that no one else does.
That the girl in the James Bond film Moonraker never had braces as many remember does not mean history is changing. That her sudden attachment to a stranger with metal teeth makes no sense cannot be used as evidence that it must have once been different. Movies don’t always make sense. Heck, even in the real world people do crazy things sometimes.
Whether we misunderstood or were mistaught, over the years a belief can be supported by other facts that only make it stronger. Other people who also misunderstood or were mistaught can back our belief up. This does not mean it was ever true. Rhode Island is not an island. Steely Dan is not one person. When we discover we were wrong, it does not mean fifth-dimensional shift, and it does not mean our memory is bad.
Finally, now that we have eliminated all that the Mandela effect is not, we can discuss what it is. There are times in my life that I have had a very strong memory of something that I was absolutely certain of, as well as corroborating memories that would have made no sense if the first memory were not correct, in ways not easily dismissed by any of the methods previously described. When told I am wrong, it can be very disconcerting, to say the least. It has happened to me and I have seen it happen to others.
When I was young, I disliked all melons. Watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe were all disgusting to me. I also didn’t like turnips, sweet potatoes, or Brussels sprouts. On the other hand, I liked eggplant, but it made my gums itch. I also liked spinach, but it made my teeth squeaky. All this was well known in my family since the earliest days. Recently, my father said something to the effect that he remembers that it was cantaloupe I liked except that it made my gums itchy. I corrected him, and he conceded he was not sure. Days later, he starts telling my grandmother the same thing. Afterwards I corrected him again, but this time he was absolutely certain and insisted that I was the one misremembering it. I would know! It’s my mouth! Worse still, he told my mother and she backed him up. Because I hate arguing, I dropped the whole thing, but I did later text my sister for an opinion. She backed me up. Only after I reported this to my parents did they begin to waver a bit in their certainty.
I used to work with a very difficult person. To explain what he was like to my coworkers, I made up a story as an example of the way he behaved and what my difficulty was. I made clear that the specific events never happened, but that they were representative of the types of things that he did on a regular basis. Some months later, my coworkers began citing my story as if it actually happened. Since I was the one who made it up, I remembered it not to be true, but they all now had false memories of actually witnessing the event! Even stranger, they remembered it slightly differently than I did, blaming me for the situation with the difficult person!
One time I entered my kitchen to find my sister eating the very last of the ice cream. “When did we get ice cream?” I asked. I had not had any of it and never knew it was in the house. My parents told me it had been in the house for several days. I opened the freezer. “Where was it?” I asked, expecting it to have been tucked away in a corner where I might not have noticed. Instead, they point to a spot right in front – a spot I know it could not have always been in since I had been in the freezer earlier that day for some sausage and could not have reached it without first picking the ice cream up and moving it out of my way. When they continued to insist it had always been there, I just dropped it. This incident was the first time I became aware that I had a reputation for missing information and not noticing things, but the truth is that others miss things at least as often as I do. At least, I remember others missing things as often.
Another time I was reading a science fiction book published in the thirties or forties. Coincidentally, it was about travelling to parallel timelines wherein history had run differently, including the migration and divergence of the various human races. The main character was of a race that did not exist in our universe and I remember the book describing him as resembling a Hispanic with red hair. I wasn’t clear on what exactly that meant, since Hispanics are so varied. I read through the entire book trying to picture the character as a Hispanic with red hair only because that was how I remembered the book describing him. Not one week after I finished reading the book did I hear on the news that the “Hispanic” designation was not invented until the seventies by the Richard Nixon administration (my father verifies this). I immediately remembered the book I had just finished reading was published long before that. Something didn’t add up. I went back to find my proof but it had vanished! I ended up rereading the first half of the book searching desperately for the word I knew to be there. It was not a word I would have made up myself. First, I don’t think in those terms; I tend to use sets of attributes to describe people rather than vague racial categories. Second, Hispanics are such a varied group that the term is nigh-meaningless when it comes to appearance. Third, the short description I did find in the book didn’t quite fit my idea of what a Hispanic was. Where did my memory come from?
Then there is the difference between the standard phone layout and the standard calculator layout. I remember both as being that of the standard phone layout. I make regular use of both and would definitely have noticed if they were different; I would have constantly hit the wrong buttons. Oddly, the ATM follows the phone layout, which is good since I remember my PIN as a shape rather than a number (It’s faster that way), even though my mind associates money and banking more with calculators than the phone. Wild.
Then there are the Berenstain Bears. I remember strongly always having trouble remembering how to spell the name. Was it Berenstein? Was it Berenstien? Was it Berenstine? Was it Berensteine? I had likely heard of similar names, such as Frankenstein or Einstein, but I had a very hard time remembering how to spell their names too, often writing Einstien or even Einstine. If the bears’ name had always ended in “stain” this would have been impossible. “Stain” is a word I was very familiar with and would have been noticed and remembered. I used to call my sister Kristen “Kristain” to imply that she was a gross mess (I was mean). Other people might be misremembering Berenstain as Berenstein because they heard it spoken on television more than they had read it and the memory of the assumption of spelling from the sound might be overriding the memory of actually reading it, but I never heard it on TV! I only had the books! I don’t even remember a television show! There is NO WAY it has ever been spelled Berenstain before!
These examples of the Mandela effect cannot be easily explained away like the majority can. Since I had the Berenstain books myself, it can’t be a case of fake news. It’s not likely I repeatedly misread the name over and over, since when I was trying to remember how to spell it I would have paid careful attention. I would not have simply seen what I expected to see because I had no expectations. There is no other family of anthropomorphic mammals with a similar name to conflate it with to confuse me. In addition, loads of other people agree with me that the name has changed!
I’m not the type to remember things poorly. I have a stronger memory than most, who are often surprised at what I retain. I always did well on school tests where I only had to regurgitate facts I had been told. I can multiply four-digit numbers in my head, which requires remembering what and where all the other digits are as I process one at a time. I am always tying connections between different memories, allowing me to reconstruct whatever escapes direct recall. I also tend to remember the sources of where I might have read something, including the side of the page it was on and what room I was in when I read it. This allows me to go back and evaluate the reliability of my source if the facts are ever questioned. While these powers have diminished slightly with age, they are still pretty good.
Even my weak memories are often right. After completing a very large order working at McDonald’s and clearing it off the screen, two more items were added, causing the whole thing to pop back up. I immediately saw what was new to the great surprise of my manager. Another time, I accidentally cleared an order off too quickly before I had read it. Before I attempted to dig into the computer memory for confirmation, I tried to focus on the image I had seen as a whole and then pick out the words. I was right!
I’m not the type to get fact and fiction confused, either. While my mind is full of fictions, whether things I have read or things I have written, I can always remember which memories are real from the “stamp” on them. Fantasies have a very different quality of feel to them, even when they are quite realistic fantasies. They get labeled differently. This is how I am able to remember whether some obscure marine invertebrate is actually a real animal that lives on Earth or whether I read about it in somebody’s speculative evolution project. I have NEVER mixed things up.
I embrace uncertainty. I’m not the type to jump to firm conclusions to ease the discomfort of not knowing. I am happy to admit when I don’t know something. My faith and my doubt exist side-by-side. While I too thought that Sally Field was Sally Fields, I’m really not sure. It’s easy to mix something like that up. I too thought that Pixy Stix were Pixie Sticks and Funyuns were Funions (others remember Pixie Stix and Funyons), but I don’t know. I remember teal being a yellow-green color, but I accepted my mother was right about it being a form of blue-green when I double-checked my crayon box. I’m not the type that feels certainty about everything, so it stands to reason that when I am certain about something, there must be a good reason for it.
I am also relatively immune to groupthink. I am always taking controversial positions and standing alone. Suggestion doesn’t affect me much. When I watch “ghost investigation” television shows, I am always struck by how completely unintelligible sounds that are probably just the house settling are heard as words by some people, who reinforce each other’s impression of which words they were while I still can’t hear it even when they replay the tape. I’m not totally immune to suggestion, but my resistance is pretty high.
If I were as open to suggestion as some people, I would fall for more of the alleged Mandela effect examples, but many of them do not apply to me. For me, “dilemma” has always been spelled “dilemma” and not “dilemna,” as some remember it. I remember all the continents always being exactly where they are on the map today. “The Thinker” has always had his hand on the chin. “Sex And The City” was never “Sex In The City.” I never even watched the show, but I vaguely remember an obscure event at the RNC many years ago when one of the Bush daughters told a joke about her grandmother (Barbara) thinking that sex and the city were things people did and not something people watched. For the joke to work, the word must have been “and.” The Mona Lisa was always known for her smile – though to be fair, it isn’t much of a smile. “We Are The Champions” never ended with “of the world.” Yes, I know it sounds like it should be there, but that it seemed conspicuously missing based on how the rest of the song goes is exactly why its absence was noticed and remembered by me.
It is clear that this is a real phenomenon not already described by known science. We either need some new psychology or some new physics or something. That cannot be denied. What is controversial is when people start assigning causes and drawing conclusions. Just because there is no physical evidence yet to convince others of the phenomenon makes it no less real to those who have experienced it themselves. That this has happened to me necessarily makes me less skeptical of others’ claims. I have never seen nor heard of either the movie Shazaam or the movie Kazaam, but those who remember watching both tell me that they have distinct memories of debating which was better, and thinking Kazaam was a rip-off of the earlier Shazaam while they were watching Kazaam for the first time.
Also, that this has happened to me makes me wonder whether some of those other examples easily dismissed might be valid after all. How many other things in my life can be explained in terms of the same phenomenon? When I am talking with someone and we suddenly find that we disagree on the subject of conversation, giving different context to my words and allowing for misinterpretation, is that the same thing? When people are suddenly mad at me for no reason and I never find out why, is that the same thing? That so many of these examples were able to escape my detection for so long makes me believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg. How many other things do I remember right now that are wrong?
Before we even begin to speculate on causes we would do well to remind ourselves of Occam’s razor: When confronted with two models that equally fit the evidence, preference should be shown to the one requiring the least number of new propositions. In other words, we should attempt as much as possible to explain the phenomenon within established science before resorting to brand-new theories. However, when this fails us, we would also do well to remember Sherlock’s maxim: When the impossible has been eliminated, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth.
There is no known natural mechanism that can cause certain small parts of the universe to change, along with paper and digital records to match, and some people’s memories but not those of others. The closest thing I can think of is quantum tunneling, but it doesn’t really work here. With quantum tunneling, there is always a non-zero probability of a particle formerly observed in one quantum state (such as location, excitation level, or direction of spin) being found in another. It means that individual protons might suddenly find themselves several nanometers away. With greatly diminishing amounts of probability, they may even find themselves several light years away, or all the protons in one atom might be found scattered all over the galaxy, or the entire atom might leap together to the new location intact, or an entire object of quintillions of atoms might leap across the universe intact. While it is possible for the ink molecules on every bag of Funions to change to read Funyuns, it is much much much much much more likely for just a single bag to change, or for the letters to change into something unintelligible, or for the bag to simply develop a hole or become radioactive. Since the synaptic connections between neurons responsible for memories take up very little mass, it is many times more likely for the brains of millions of people to quantum tunnel into a state with identical false memories than for all the bags to change. For all the company records to change along with the bags without all these more likely things happening requires additional explanation beyond simple quantum tunneling.
Ian McFadden of Surrey University might have brought us one step closer with his theory of quantum evolution. He proposes that systems as large as genes and the proteins they code for might remain in superposition long enough for them to tunnel into other states and that there exists a bias for these states to be biologically useful. To apply it to even larger systems, such as our snacks, it means that all Funyun bags remained in a superposition between Funion and Funyun, along with all the records until “observed,” and there is a bias for the letters to be legible. The problem with this is that such large systems have no way of staying in superposition for long without interacting with the environment in some way, requiring that they be in either one state or another. The only way out of this is for the environment (including billions of people) to also be part of an even larger superposition, lasting until somebody takes a “measurement.”
What is a measurement and what constitutes an observation? This is the biggest unsolved mystery of quantum mechanics. There are literally over a dozen interpretations of the data. Some suggest humans are somehow special, being more than a sum of atoms subject to the same laws as those they observe, and are uniquely able to collapse wave functions. Others suggest that wave functions collapse when the energy difference between two states becomes large enough to produce one graviton worth of gravitational radiation. Others suggest that we live side by side with other versions of ourselves making the same measurements with different values. None of this explains the Mandela effect or how it is that only some people see it and not others.
If on the other hand it is true that people can jump from one parallel universe/timeline to another, it raises the question what happened to the versions of themselves in the destination universe? Do they switch places? Does it cause a cascade across all timelines? Can bodies and other objects jump universes as easily as memories? What does this mean for the conservation of matter? Do sets of records ever jump universes, thus conflicting with other sets of records in the same way that human memories sometimes conflict with the memories of other humans?
If the universe can have multiple histories, with some parts of it failing to match other parts, could this explain why we find some evidence of a young Earth (polonium radiohaloes) and some evidence of an old earth (isochron dating)? Then again, could it be that the Earth simply popped into existence fully-formed?
Others suggest a conspiracy of either government agents or large branded companies. Is it possible that a world-wide conspiracy exists to change all the official records, including sneaking into people’s homes to remove their old Shazaam videos, controlling every company and government agency, and not one whistleblower has come forward? How is it even possible to coordinate that many millions of people? Does this mean that my family and coworkers are in on the game since we often disagree in our recollections? For what end? What purpose can it possibly serve? The conspiracy theories are the silliest of all!
While probably ninety percent or more of alleged Mandela effects can be explained within known psychology, some of them need a little more. Some suggest that people are just randomly certain sometimes and then construct elaborate false memories to alleviate the cognitive dissonance when shown wrong – but the only evidence of the memories being false is that they do not match the official records, which was already a given. By calling the phenomenon “false memories,” psychologists give it a name while explaining nothing. It proves nothing. How and why do false memories occur?
While it might make sense to consider other people to have false memories, this hypothesis is ultimately self-defeating and unscientific when applied to ourselves. It is unscientific because there is no way in principle for it to be tested. No matter the results of any experiment, we can never be sure by the time of publishing our conclusions that our memories of the results are still valid. If false memories can strike anyone with such certainty and clarity as to be undetectable, there is no way to do science of any kind at all. Everything must be doubted!
Doubting our own memories is completely self-defeating. To doubt our memories, we must also doubt our memories of the chain of reasoning that first caused us to doubt, meaning we might have been right all along after all! For the same reason, there is no purpose in doubting our senses or our ability to reason. It can serve no function.
If I really took this idea seriously, I could not finish writing this post. I could not be sure of what I had already written and what still needed to be said. I would question whether any of the examples I cite ever occurred or whether I’ve made up this whole phenomenon. I’d question whether I even have a blog to post to. If you really took the idea seriously, you could not be certain that this isn’t your blog and this isn’t something you wrote. You’d have no idea whether the world outside your office or bedroom really exists, whether there is anyone out there to share this with, whether you have a job to go to or where it is you work, whether you should put milk or laundry detergent on your cereal (Which one is it that does a body good, again?), or whether you have ever really met before that person you recognize as your spouse/sibling/friend. Mistrusting memory makes it impossible to function.
If the level of certainty and existence of corroborating memories are truly unrelated to the probability of being correct, then there is no point in being sure of anything before we make a decision. Why ever double-check our math if it makes us no more likely to be right? Why not build bridges with mismatched bolts, arrest the wrong suspects, and rush across the street without looking both ways? Seriously, why bother?
Since we can’t apply the theory to ourselves, we also cannot apply it to others. By opening the door to the possibility of others being affected, we must admit it could happen to us as well – unless we can come up with a theory as to how we alone are immune. For these reasons, the false memory hypothesis is completely illegitimate an answer – even if true. There is no way to study it. It’s a total non-starter.
Whatever is happening, the best way to deal with it is probably the same. Just go with the flow. Deal with the world as it is rather than as it should be. Don’t let the past control the future. Do you remember struggling with addiction yesterday? Maybe in this universe you never had an addiction! Start over. You remember always struggling with finances? Maybe in this universe you are both lucky and hard-working! Don’t give up! Frustrated with the political situation? Remember that no matter how bad it gets, it can still change for the better, just as no matter how good it gets it can still change for the worse.
Remember, the wisest man is the one who knows he knows nothing.
For more information, visit DebunkingMandelaEffects.com
Common Sense Often Wrong
Everything I Know Is Wrong
Models And Reality
The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship
Sometimes the world just doesn’t make sense. This is true not only about the way things are done, but the official historical record of how they came to be done that way. One thing I have observed is that numerous sayings with one meaning today allegedly originated with a very dissimilar meaning totally unrelated that could never have evolved into its current one. Am I being lied to?
Mind Your Ps And Qs
The only way I have ever heard this phrase used is to tell people (especially children) to behave themselves and mind their manners, which is largely another way of telling them not to roughhouse and to say “please” and “thank you.” My parents told me to mind my Ps and Qs before leaving me with the babysitter. I understood P to stand for “please” and Q to stand for “thank you” (ten-Q). This was a common way of saying it in my household. It was a clever pun. On Sesame Street, Ernie once had the same idea.
Only in my early twenties did I read that the saying originated from the time of early typesetting. Those setting up the printing press had to be careful not to confuse lowercase p with lowercase q. Saying “mind your ps and qs” was a way of telling someone to pay attention to detail. How this very different meaning evolved into the modern one is a total mystery.
Later, I read another origin story. This one claimed that in English taverns, ale was sold in pints and quarts. When patrons became rowdy from too much alcohol, they were told to “mind your pints and quarts.” This was eventually shortened to “mind your Ps and Qs.” This explanation makes slightly more sense than the other.
How is it possible to have two completely different origin stories? Historians should either know or not know! Why the controversy? Could this be a macroscopic manifestation of the “multiple histories” of quantum mechanics?
Almost every television detective is stonewalled at some point by someone they are trying to get information from. Usually it means that someone won’t answer their phone or moves slowly in supplying documents. In the general case, stonewalling is what one does when they simply fail to respond to inquiry rather than explicitly declare they won’t cooperate. When a big company never returns your messages, they are stonewalling. Getting questions answered is like interviewing a stone wall. This is a common word used this way and only this way (to my knowledge).
Later in life, I read that the origin of the word had nothing to do with stone walls or failing to answer questions. Allegedly, there was once a gay bar by the name of Stonewall. There had been a fight inside, but some patrons blocked the police from entering. It was a big event and made the national news. Because their lack of cooperation was active and explicit, it is not the same as how the word is now used.
I’m not buying it. Even if the original meaning of the word meant any sort of blocking of access, it’s kind of a strange coincidence that the name of the bar was so fitting, isn’t it?
From my very first day on the world wide web, I kept hearing about something called spam. This was not canned meat, but unsolicited mass emails. How did this slang begin? Only in my late twenties did I find out. Multiple sources say that the word comes from a Flying Circus skit. In it, a couple stops at a restaurant where every item on the menu contains spam. “I don’t like spam!” the lady (played by Graham Chapman) says. Then, the origin story skips what must be at least a half-dozen steps to say that now we refer to junk email as spam.
Why? What’s the connection? The story explains absolutely nothing. It’s like explaining human embryology by explaining how egg and sperm form a zygote and then saying, “And then out pops a successful banker with a house, three kids, two dogs, and a convertible he takes to church on Sundays.” What happened in between? How did the two totally unrelated concepts of canned meat and junk email become linked in enough minds that the meme caught on?
None of these stories make any sense. Even if they are partly true, they leave too much unaccounted for. This must be maddening to sociologists. Why is human culture so confusing and unpredictable?
At least the story of how s’mores got their name makes sense. Believe in s’mores.
BeeHavenAcres.blogspot.com is the blog of Bev, a farmer in Pennsylvania, who takes care of donkeys, ducks, dogs, sheep, chickens, and cats while photographing and commenting on some of their antics. There is rarely a dull day. In addition to supporting her family, the farm produces honey, eggs, and sometimes extra vegetables for sale. Bev has also dabbled in creating hand-made aprons and jewelry.
I’ve been learning a lot lately. Data points that were gradually building up for years have finally reached critical mass, resulting in a new world view. I am almost continually surprised by hearing things I had never heard before that one would think were important to mention.
Nobody Tells Me Anything
History: How is it that with my ability to soak up trivia like a sponge, and my interest in space exploration, that I don’t remember hearing about the five other moon landings that happened after the first? With all those telling the story of how the USA won the space race, those lamenting the fact that we no longer maintain a shuttle and never went back to the moon, those who suggest that the whole trip was faked, and those who debunk such suggestions, I find it extremely shocking that not one of them mentioned any subsequent trips!
Biology: I almost can’t believe that with my interest in biology and all the things I have read, that I have never until recently heard that some mammals have penis bones and that most have penis spines! I do remember hearing on TV many years ago that cats had penis spines, but I was led to believe that they were unique! How did I not know something so basic about mammals?
Ever since a very young age I had always been told that the reason insects (and other arthropods) never got very big compared to vertebrates was because exoskeletons were inherently inferior to endoskeletons. Insects any bigger than those giant rainforest beetles would collapse under their own weight, while vertebrates could be as big as dinosaurs or bigger (none of this applies underwater, where buoyancy cancels gravity). When I was much older, I discovered that vertebrate lungs were much more efficient than the trachea of insects, the “book lungs” of arachnids, and the gills of land crabs. Larger insects require higher oxygen levels. During the Devonian and Carboniferous, when oxygen levels were higher, dragonflies reached wingspans of more than a meter, while millipedes reached three meters long! These days, absolutely nobody mentions the structural limitations of insects. It’s all about oxygen. How did I not know something so basic about insects?
Physics: I can’t believe that with all the books and magazine articles I have read on the subject, just how many aspects of particle physics I was unaware of. Particle physics is incredibly complex and much of the details are incomprehensible to those outside the field, but I thought I had a pretty decent overview of how matter worked. Suddenly, I am hearing of things that are more than details:
Quantum Mechanics is based on the idea that all matter is actually waves that only manifest as particles with actual locations in order to interact with other waves/particles. The locations of these particles are probabilistic – the probability of finding one being the square of the amplitude of the wave, and that at any moment there is a non-zero probability of finding the particle elsewhere – or so I thought. Now I am told that observing the particle “resets” it, adding to the time it needs to transition into a different quantum state (such as location) in accordance with the quantum Zeno effect. I am also told that the probability is not the square of the amplitude, but the sum of the squares of the “real” and “imaginary” parts of the wave function – the imaginary wave being just slightly out of phase with the real one.
Another big part of quantum mechanics is that energy comes in discrete units such that electron orbitals are separated from each other by gaps of non-existence. It is impossible for any electron to be found in these gaps because there exists no partial energy to get them there. I have been told that if energy were continuous it would mean that electrons would simply spiral into the nucleus while continually radiating. The idea of discrete orbitals came from Neils Bohr’s atomic model based on the ideas already described by Max Planck and Albert Einstein. Last year I heard for the first time that while lower orbitals are indeed discrete, some of the higher ones are continuous. That’s kind of a big thing not to mention – especially since it may be the link between the quantum microscopic world and the seemingly-classical macroscopic world.
I was also told for the first time that the weak nuclear force only interacts with “left-handed” particles, which is the idea behind the proposed “sterile neutrino.” The theory is that “right-handed” neutrinos could exist that are impossible to detect because they do not interact with the weak nuclear force. That’s kind of a big thing not to mention when telling me that all neutrinos spin one way!
These are the things nobody bothered to tell me. Then there are the things I was taught wrong:
Everything I've Been Taught Is Wrong
Air: Ever since a very young age I had always been taught that meteors heat up due to air resistance – the same thing that holds back airplanes and race cars – and that air resistance is nothing more than friction. In recent years I have been told that what heats up meteors is almost certainly the compression of air in front of them rather than friction with the sides. This makes much more sense and I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself before, but I’m even more surprised that for so many decades nobody else thought of it either.
Ever since a very young age I had always been told that airplane wings generated lift by being curved, forcing air to move faster over the top than the bottom, creating negative pressure that pulled the wing upwards. No mention of qualifications or controversy was ever mentioned. Now I am told that the real answer is several interwoven factors together and that lift could never be generated by any of them alone.
Water: Ever since a very young age I had always been taught that water makes our skin wrinkly due to turgor pressure brought on by osmosis. The higher concentration of ions inside our cells relative to outside causes moisture to seep in. High school biology reinforced this idea. Now I am hearing from multiple sources that it is thought that our skin muscles contract, giving our skin greater surface area and therefore better gripping power in a wet environment.
Electricity: Ever since a very young age I had always been told that lightning did not come down from the clouds (a common myth based on the fact that lightning only appears when clouds are present), but upward from the Earth. Later I was told that some aspects of the process moved upwards while others moved downwards. Later I was told exactly how lightning worked step-by-step and I don’t recall any part of it moving upwards at all – only downwards. Later I was told that it actually moves upwards but only looks to move downwards due to an optical illusion – but I have never perceived lightning to move at all. To my eyes, it simply exists all along its path in an instant. I don’t know what to think now.
Ever since a very young age I have known of nuclear fusion: It’s what keeps the sun shining. The first astronomy book I ever had gave the following story: Temperature and pressure in the sun’s core drive protons (hydrogen nuclei) together against their mutual electrostatic repulsion. When two protons come together like this, one of them “somehow” becomes a neutron. When there are enough proton-neutron pairs bouncing around, two of them would then be forced together to become a helium nucleus.
Years later, I read another book, mentioning that it was not expected to be hot enough in the center of the sun for outright fusion, so the process required carbon catalysts. Hydrogen would fuse with carbon to produce nitrogen, which would then fuse with more hydrogen to make oxygen, which would then undergo alpha-decay and spit out helium, becoming carbon and restarting the cycle. Electron capture events turned protons into neutrons somewhere along the way.
This story has even come up in the origins debates, with some asking: Since the big bang only produced hydrogen, helium, and negligible amounts of lithium, where did the carbon come from to jump-start hydrogen fusion in the first generation of stars? Since then, every explanation of fusion I have encountered invokes the idea of quantum tunneling to bring protons together that otherwise shouldn’t be.
It was only in adulthood that I heard about Hawking radiation: It was described by saying that pairs of particles – one partner with positive mass and the other with negative mass – pop in and out of the vacuum all the time. When this happens on the edge of an event horizon, they can become separated. For reasons never clear to me, the negative mass particle has a greater chance of falling in while the positive mass particle escapes. In any case, the end result is that the black hole gets lighter while particles escape from its surface.
Later, another explanation surfaced: It was said that since position and momentum cannot both be known with precision, any particle known to be inside the black hole might have enough momentum to escape, and any particle known to have low momentum might already be outside the black hole.
Only recently have I been given the explanation that the event horizon essentially casts a shadow blocking the omnipresent vacuum fluctuation waves, in a manner akin to the Casimir effect. I still don’t totally get it.
I am also told that serious physicists frown on the idea of negative mass and do not accept that pairs of particles could pop out of the vacuum, one with positive mass and on with negative mass, since this would allow an infinite amount of stuff to enter existence every moment – even though I have read in multiple books that this is exactly how some cosmologists have suggested the big bang happened!
Everything Else: I’ve recently been told that tides don’t work the way I was taught, that particle chirality is not the same as particle helicity, that porcupines do sort-of shoot their quills after all (by wagging their tails and flinging them), that margarine isn’t made of what I thought it was, and several different conflicting accounts of how the legend of Atlantis originated. At this point, I’m thinking that I have to go back to first grade and learn everything over. I can’t trust anything.
Everything You've Been Taught Is Wrong
At the same time I’ve been learning just how badly I’ve been mistaught, I have also learned just how badly others have been mistaught. Their stories are much like mine.
Blue Skies: I was always taught that the sky was blue because shorter wavelengths of light from the sun scattered in all directions and thus entered our eyes from around the sun after refracting through the air. Red wavelengths of light followed straighter paths and could penetrate more air, which is why the sun appears redder at sunrise or sunset when the light has to pass through more atmosphere to reach us. Apparently, this is still considered true.
I was extremely shocked to hear that some people report being taught as children (even going so far to assume that all children are taught the same) that the sky is blue because it reflects the sea. Why isn’t the sky brown over the deserts then? Only once have I ever heard such an absurd explanation – and that was from a woman who told me all kinds of nutty things, such as the difference between mammals and animals being that mammals live in the water and animals live on land. I confirmed from her that she believed starfish were mammals and wolves were not. Crazy!
Seasons: I have also heard people claiming that the Earth is cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer because the Earth is farther from the sun in winter and closer in summer. How do they explain that winter in one hemisphere is summer in the other then? How do they explain that the sun never changes apparent size, as it would if we were moving toward or away from it? How do they explain the seasonal change in day length and the changing arc the sun makes across the sky?
I was always taught from the youngest age that the tilt of Earth’s axis caused sunlight to be spread over a larger area in one hemisphere and a smaller area in the opposite hemisphere, causing winter on one side and summer on the other. I am shocked that not everyone knows this.
Everything Else: I have also heard people claiming they were always taught that cars keep us safe from lightning because of the rubber tires on the ground, not from the Faraday-cage properties of the metal roof and sides as I was told.
I have heard people claim they were taught that a hierarchy existed to evolution, with organisms always striving toward more complex forms, finally reaching humans, rather than organisms simply adapting in unpredictable ways to whatever environment they happen to be in, even if it means getting simpler, as in the case of echinoderms (“simple” and “complex” are poorly defined concepts anyways).
I have heard people claim that they were always taught that humans use only ten percent of their brains, hinting at untapped potential or even a sixth sense, rather than less than ten percent of brain cells firing at any given moment - all of them firing at once destroying the possibility of any coherent thought or motion and being almost the definition of a seizure.
I have also heard people claiming they were taught that Jupiter’s red spot is a volcano, rather than a storm on a planet with no solid surface!
Who is teaching kids this garbage? No wonder we have so many scientifically illiterate adults!
I Give Up: I can’t tell who the crackpots are anymore. When even well-respected scientists propose that we likely live in a simulation, that all matter might be conscious, that white holes (requiring negative mass) are real, or really wild ideas like top-down cosmology, I start seriously wondering about reincarnation, telepathy, astrology, and whether the Earth is actually flat.
Remember, the wisest man is the one who knows he knows nothing.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.