Food, dangerous food

You don't have to swallow food for it to be dangerous -- or even kill you. As proof we offer this, mental_floss' honor roll of the weirdest food-related disasters in history.

1. The great beer deluge of 1814
Where it went down: London Towne's down-in-the-mouth East End.
What happened: When a 20-foot-high vat of beer fermenting inside the Meux and Company Brewery burst, the collateral impact smashed open several other large vats, creating a chain reaction. When the flood of suds hit the surrounding streets, it was more than a million liters strong.
Why 1,224,000 liters of free beer was considered problematic: Because it killed nine people -- eight from drowning and one from alcohol poisoning. The tidal wave of beer rushed down several city blocks, destroying two homes, knocking over walls and flooding basements. Survivors scooped up as much of the deadly brew as they could, in buckets, pots and cupped hands.
The verdict: A judge cleared the brewery of liability, calling the accident an "act of God." (I know some frat brothers who would agree.)

2. Boston's infamous molasses flood
When: About 100 years after the beer deluge, on January 15, 1919.
What went down: A six-story tank filled with 2.5 million gallons of molasses, thanks to an explosion inside the tank. 8 to 15-foot waves rushed down the streets of Boston's North End as quickly as 35 miles per hour, pushing buildings off their foundations, overturning cars and wagons and molassessing 21 people to death. Many rescuers became mired in the sticky goo, and so needed rescuing themselves.

Coincidence? Much of the molasses in question was to be used in making liquor. The day after the accident, Congress enacted Prohibition.
Legend has it: On hot summer days, you can still smell the sickly-sweet odor -- of disaster.
The verdict: Lawyers for the distilling company tried to pin the disaster on anarchist saboteurs, but despite this paid out millions in settlements to victims' families.

3. The Dublin Whiskey Fire
When: June 26, 1875.
What went down: According to the Illustrated London News, 1,800 "puncheons" of Irish whiskey (that is, casks) -- or about 560,000 liters of the stuff -- flowed down the streets of Dublin's run-down Liberties district.
Why that was a problem again? It was on fire. The lake of flaming whisky eventually burned three square blocks of the city; firefighters couldn't turn their hoses on it, for fear of spreading it even more. Crowds "took off their hats and boots to collect the whisky," and four people died "from the effects of drinking the stuff, which was burning hot as it flowed."
The verdict: The distillery got off Scot-free (so to speak); apparently it was the whiskey's fault, for being so flammable.

4. The near-sinking of the Cassarate
When: July 1972, off the coast of Wales.
The culprit: 1,500 tons of dry tapioca, stored in the ship's cargo hold.
What went down: The ship, almost, thanks in part to a fire that started on its deck. Overzealous fire crews extinguished the blaze, but the combination of water and heat cooked the tapioca -- which began to exapand dangerously, threatening to tear the Cassarate apart.
And? Despite the incredible pressure exerted on it by the quivering, glutinous mass in its belly, the ship held -- but just barely. Afterward, a relieved Cardiff fire chief credited his men with defusing the "ticking tapioca timebomb" -- 1,000,000 bowls-worth according to some estimates.
The verdict: Children have always hated tapioca -- now firefighters do too.

College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy

One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

North America: East or West Coast?


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