Grunge Roundup, June 2020

Hi, folks! Been a while since I rounded up some of the articles I write for Grunge.com articles, so here are a few fairly recent ones:

Grunge: The problematic truth about the origins of the Electoral College

One of the weirdest parts of U.S. democracy is the remarkably undemocratic Electoral College. As angry voters will tell you, two of the last three American presidents were elected despite losing the popular vote. Today, Time Magazine reports that 53% of voters support ending this bizarre institution. How did this nonsense get started, though?

Well, the first thing to understand about the Electoral College is that it was designed to be anti-democratic …

Read More: https://www.grunge.com/182662/the-problematic-truth-about-the-origins-of-the-electoral-college/?utm_campaign=clip

Grunge: Here’s how many people died during the bombing of Hiroshima

If you grew up in the United States, you’re familiar with a certain elementary school narrative regarding World War II, about how the U.S. triumphantly “ended the war” by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The truth? Well, it’s a bit more complex, as usual.

Read More: https://www.grunge.com/202205/heres-how-many-people-died-during-the-bombing-of-hiroshima/?utm_campaign=clip

Grunge: The truth about ranked-choice voting

There’s no arguing that the 2020 Iowa caucus was a mess. However, in the hubbub about how undemocratic the caucus process really is, it’s worth noting that an alternative voting method has been making huge strides in the past few years, which combines the benefits of caucuses and traditional voting in one bright, shiny package: it’s called ranked-choice voting (or instant run-off voting), and it’s a system that allows people to easily vote for their top choice in a crowded field, irrespective of that candidate’s popularity, while also lending their support to other, presumably more popular candidates at the same time.

Here’s how it works.

Read More: https://www.grunge.com/191319/the-truth-about-ranked-choice-voting/?utm_campaign=clip

Grunge: The 1906 San Francisco earthquake was worse than you thought

Human civilization rests on a precarious foundation. People strive to overcome the elements, to build societies, and to assert themselves over nature, but the truth is, people are just one tiny part of a bigger whole, and the Earth — at any moment — can erupt in a rather volatile fashion. That said, while natural disasters are inherently uncontrollably, the human response to such disasters has often caused the most damage of all.

Read More: https://www.grunge.com/210885/the-1906-san-francisco-earthquake-was-worse-than-you-thought/?utm_campaign=clip

Reblog: The Problem with Paywalls

First posted this back in 20`18, but hey, why not reblog? Thus, reblog!

Nicholas Conley

Over the past few centuries, it’s been said many times, in many ways, how the cornerstone of democracy is a free press. For the sake of having a more free and just society, we also want an informed society. Newspapers, news websites, news stations, and so on must have the freedom to write about anyone, or anything, at any time, in order to hold the world’s most powerful institutions in check. In the same way that news institutions need to sharply critique the policies of other institutions, though, it’s equally important for citizens to be able to carefully scrutinize the news they read: to ensure that all news sources, from the New York Times to JoeBillysNews.com (not a real site!), use proper citations, follow journalistic standards, correctly present information, don’t misrepresent facts, and so on, in order to make sure that the public isn’t just informed, but accurately informed.

So…

View original post 428 more words

QUORA: “If aliens arrived n Earth, what human behavior would they find most absurd and incomprehensible?”

If aliens arrived on Earth, what human behavior would they find most absurd and incomprehensible?

Nicholas Conley’s answer: Really, when you think about it, the chances are that they’d find every single one of our behaviors, traditions, language, attitudes, and beliefs to be totally bizarre. It’d be comparable to us analyzing the “social” dynamics of blackberry bushes, as if we’re some pinnacle of life, instead of… READ MORE.

 

I thought I could fix my Alzheimer’s patients. I learned to help them instead.

I thought I could fix my Alzheimer’s patients. I learned to help them instead.

Alzheimer's - Vox - Nicholas Conley

My first day in a nursing home was one of the most traumatic events of my life. I’d taken all the classes. I’d done the required clinical internship. I had the knowledge and the firsthand experience. But nothing prepared me for that first day on the floor.

It was a madhouse. Nurses were scrambling everywhere. Residents were constantly calling for help, ringing their call bells, but the workers were too busy jumping between patients to answer them. Many patients were unable to help themselves, even in small ways. Personal hygiene wasn’t optimal.

It wasn’t because the nurses were apathetic or incompetent. Trust me when I say that the people I worked with were some of the kindest, most giving people I’ve ever met. But the whole system is a chaotic mess; the result of a structure meant to warehouse people, where patient interests and business interests are often in conflict … READ MORE.

October 24th, 1946: The First Time Earthlings saw Earth from Space

As science and technology perpetually shoot forward at the speed of light, there are a lot of things we take for granted today, which would’ve been totally bizarre to past generations. For example, isn’t it weird that telephone calls used to involve using a human operator, instead of calling people directly? Isn’t it odd that “computer” was once a job description?

Or how about this: before human beings ever had the ridiculously ambitious idea of jumping on a rocket and going into the stars, what did they think the Earth looked like?

Seriously, stop and think about this for a moment. Today, popular culture is so inundated with images of our little blue globe that it’s odd to remember that, once upon a time, people had no idea what it looked like from the outside. Sure, everyone knew it was round—ancient Greek mathematicians figured that out thousand of years ago, according to the Independent—but for the majority of human history, it was like every one of us was locked into one house, totally unaware what color the outside paint might be.

Humankind is nothing if not ambitious, so naturally, lots of people tried to figure out what our little globe looked like from space, with varying results. The U.S. Library of Congress shared some of these old images back in 2013, and you have to give those artists an A+ for effort. For example, check out this image of the Earth and the Moon, as seen from Mars, drawn by Marcianus Filomeno Rossi in 1920:

Marcianus Filomeno Rossi

Not bad, right?

Anyhow all that speculation came to an end on this date in history, October 24th, in the year of  1946. According to Vice, it’s now been over 70 years since this pivotal day, where a rocket launched from the U.S. southwest shot into the sky and snagged Earth’s very first selfie:

first photo of earth from space october 24 1946

Sure, there have been a lot of better photos since then. But there’s something magical about looking at this picture, and realizing that it was the first time we ever got to see ourselves.

Meanwhile, if you’re into spacey coincidences: the date of October 24 also marked the death of astronomer Tycho Brahe in 1601, and legendary Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry passed away on October 24th, 1991.

True stories behind American Tall Tales

True Stories Behind American Tall Tales

jackalope

These days, nobody pretends that a superhero like Captain America is a real dude. But back in the centuries before the internet made fact-checking into a spectator sport, a variety of zany “tall tales” lifted up the stories of ordinary mortals and made them into metahuman gods, capable of insane feats of strength, supreme marksmanship, and more. Real American history looks boring compared to the fantastical version told around campfires, where a towering giant carved out the Grand Canyon, a carnivorous “Red Ghost” haunted the desert, and the first U.S. president was such a swell guy that he never, ever lied.

Read More: https://www.grunge.com/131142/true-stories-behind-american-tall-tales/?utm_campaign=clip

Grunge.com: Fake archaeological finds that nearly changed history

Good morning, folks! Got another piece I wrote for Grunge.com, telling the history of archaeological hoaxes that made the world spin backwards—until they got found out, anyway. From the Cardiff Giant to the Kensington Runestone, here are some of the craziest.

Fake Archaeological Finds That Nearly Changed History

At some point in your childhood, you probably wanted to be an archaeologist. Depending on your age, it probably had a lot to do with either the Indiana Jones movies or Tomb Raider. Either way, nothing seemed cooler than digging out old bones, relics, or religious items, and then forcing those snobby history book editors to make revised editions. Real-life archaeology might not involve magical arks that melt people’s flesh off, but it’s still insanely cool: When archaeologists uncover ancient plumbing, statues, or fossils, they reveal the history of humanity, plug up the holes, and sometimes prove old theories wrong.

Every once in a while, though, a prankster gets in the mix and tries to cash in on some fake discovery. These turkeys always get found out sooner or later, but not without breaking some hearts on the way. Here are some of the biggest archaeological hoaxes that would have changed history.

Read More: https://www.grunge.com/131569/fake-archaeological-finds-that-nearly-changed-history/?utm_campaign=clip

Real life people who had medical conditions named after them

Everyone wants to leave their mark on history, and there’s no better way to do that than having something important named after you. A bridge? Awesome. A new invention? Great! An obscure scientific theory? Well … everyone who understands it will appreciate it. It’s no different when it comes to the world of medicine and psychology, where long and unique names like Alzheimer, Klinefelter, Münchausen, and Tourette now fly off any nurse’s tongue as easily as a kid spouting Latin dinosaur names. While critics oppose the practice of naming medical conditions after people, it’s definitely easier for non-medical folks to remember a unique name than a string of letters.

This raises a question, though: What does an ambitious person have to do if they want a medical condition named after them? The answer isn’t so clear. Sometimes doctors get the credit, sometimes it goes to a well-known patient, and sometimes, telling a few exaggerated stories will do the trick.

Read More: https://www.grunge.com/125859/real-life-people-who-had-medical-conditions-named-after-them/?utm_campaign=clip

Time for a Grunge Roundup

Greetings, everybody! As longtime readers know, one of my regular assignments is writing for Grunge.com, where I explore topics from the sociological to the bizarre and otherworldly, depending on the day.  It’s been a while since I’ve linked you all to some of my more recent pieces, so here are a few favorites:

 

Messed up things about elementary school you only notice as an adult

messed up elementary school kid trauma problems

We all remember our elementary school days, but those memories aren’t always so happy. In this article, I examine some of the most inane and problematic policies guiding elementary schools in the United States, including the emphasis on competition (spoiler alert: competition actually inhibits learning), forcing kids to ask for a bathroom pass (who came up with that nonsense?) and why taking away recess actually makes unruly kids more unruly. Read on!

 

 

The bizarre true story of Bigfoot, America’s missing ape

sasqets bigfoot sasquatch native american

Is there really a hairy, humanoid creature wandering through the woodlands of the United States? Probably not, but you never know, and the world would be a lot more fun if there was. Regardless, the legend of sasquatch goes back surprisingly far: various versions of a bigfoot-like figure played key roles in the spiritual belief systems of multiple North American indigenous peoples. Here’s the story!

 

Secrets of living in Antarctica

antartica john kerry research south pole ice snow

Ever wondered who lives in Antartica, how long they stay there, or what they do? Ever wondered what kind of job applications those Antarctic stations might be taking? Wonder no more, because here are (some) answers. Learn the ropes, seek out the iciest continent, and who knows: maybe one day soon, you’ll join the ranks of the 300 Club, the esteemed group who do naked races from a 200 °F  sauna out into a -100 °F Antarctic night. Yes, really.

All right, yanny or laurel?

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the audio file that’s tearing up the internet. Take a listen, and tell us what you hear:

 

So, is it “yanny” or “laurel?”

Yes, there is a technical explanation for this, which has to do with frequency (read that here, on Vox). However, what’s so interesting about this whole shebang—and what was also interesting about the infamous “dress”—is how it tests the limits of perception: we experience reality in a certain way which we often think of as being somewhat objective, which is why it’s so alarming when others perceive the same things in totally different ways. This then calls into question the very method (I.E., our senses) which we use to define the universe around us. Sure, reality exists. But do our eyes, ears, nose, or hands actually understand it? Not so much. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that this interests me, considering it’s one of the big themes in Intraterrestrial

Anyway, when you folks play the clip, what do you hear?

(For what it’s worth, I’m definitely hearing yanny.)