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The "Smokey Bear Effect"

Smokey Bear was created by the U.S. Forest Service in an attempt to prevent forest fires -- and it worked too well. By preventing the small fires that are part of how forests function (clearing out underbrush and small trees), the "Smokey Bear Effect" is causing massive, forest-destroying fires that eradicate large forests. In this short video, NPR explores the effect -- and how we must accept small fires as an integral part of the life of forests.

Representative quote: "For a hundred years, we've been very good at suppressing [forest fires]. And now, we're reaping that fiery maelstrom -- we have fires now we can't stop! And they're going to continue to burn...until there isn't a whole lot left to burn." -William Armstrong, Fire Manager, U.S. Forest Service. Even Smokey Bear himself agrees -- total fire suppression is a recipe for disaster, and small fires "clean" the forest. Check it out:

This video is part of a five-part series.

If you're interested in forest policy, check out Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, in which the author attempts to hike the Appalachian Trail, with long digressions on the history of the U.S. Forest Service.

See also: How Smokey Bear Helped Win World War II, Smokey Bear is no friend to the redwood tree, 3 Things You Might Not Know About Smokey Bear, and 5 Fictional Bears and Whether They’d Kill You. Also, just to clear things up about Smokey's name, he's technically "Smokey Bear," though "Smokey the Bear" is an acceptable alternative that became popular in the 1950s.

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science
What Pop Culture Gets Wrong About Dissociative Identity Disorder
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From the characters in Fight Club to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, popular culture is filled with "split" personalities. These dramatic figures might be entertaining, but they're rarely (if ever) scientifically accurate, SciShow Psych's Hank Green explains in the channel's latest video. Most representations contribute to a collective misunderstanding of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, which was once known as multiple personality disorder.

Experts often disagree about DID's diagnostic criteria, what causes it, and in some cases, whether it exists at all. Many, however, agree that people with DID don't have multiple figures living inside their heads, all clamoring to take over their body at a moment's notice. Those with DID do have fragmented personalities, which can cause lapses of memory, psychological distress, and impaired daily function, among other side effects.

Learn more about DID (and what the media gets wrong about mental illness) by watching the video below.

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History
Scientists Reveal Long-Hidden Text in Alexander Hamilton Letter
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Age, deterioration, and water damage are just a few of the reasons historians can be short on information that was once readily available on paper. Sometimes, it’s simply a case of missing pages. Other times, researchers can see “lost” text right under their noses.

One example: a letter written by Alexander Hamilton to his future wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, on September 6, 1780. On the surface, it looked very much like a rant about a Revolutionary War skirmish in Camden, South Carolina. But Hamilton scholars were excited by the 14 lines of writing in the first paragraph that had been crossed out. If they could be read, they might reveal some new dimension to one of the better-known Founding Fathers.

Using the practice of multispectral imaging—sometimes called hyperspectral imaging—conservationists at the Library of Congress were recently able to shine a new light on what someone had attempted to scrub out. In multispectral imaging, different wavelengths of light are “bounced” off the paper to reveal (or hide) different ink pigments. By examining a document through these different wavelengths, investigators can tune in to faded or obscured handwriting and make it visible to the naked eye.

A hyperspectral image of Alexander Hamilton's handwriting
Hyperspectral imaging of Hamilton's handwriting, from being obscured (top) to isolated and revealed (bottom).
Library of Congress

The text revealed a more emotional and romantic side to Hamilton, who had used the lines to woo Elizabeth. Technicians uncovered most of what he had written, with words in brackets still obscured and inferred:

Do you know my sensations when I see the
sweet characters from your hand? Yes you do,
by comparing [them] with your [own]
for my Betsey [loves] me and is [acquainted]
with all the joys of fondness. [Would] you
[exchange] them my dear for any other worthy
blessings? Is there any thing you would put
in competition[,] with one glowing [kiss] of
[unreadable], anticipate the delights we [unreadable]
in the unrestrained intercourses of wedded love,
and bet your heart joins mine in [fervent]
[wishes] to heaven that [all obstacles] and [interruptions]
May [be] speedily [removed].

Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler married on December 14, 1780. So why did Hamilton try and hide such romantic words during or after their courtship? He probably didn’t. Historians believe that his son, John Church Hamilton, crossed them out before publishing the letter as a part of a book of his father’s correspondence. He may have considered the passage a little too sexy for mass consumption.

[h/t Library of Congress]

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