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How To: Be Misquoted

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Like George Washington
"I cannot tell a lie." Except, of course, for that one. We've all heard the story about how young George Washington was bad enough to chop down a neighbor's cherry tree, but not bad (or, perhaps, smart) enough to lie about it"¦but it turns out that the story itself is a big, fat fabrication. Washington's first biographer, the questionable Anglican minister "Parson" Weems, cut the tale from whole cloth. It's the most famous story from Weem's saintly 1799 biography, conveniently published right after Washington died and could no longer defend himself.

Like Sherlock Holmes
"Elementary, my dear Watson." Famous words, but not ones Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have recognized. Doyle never quoted his literary creation, Sherlock Holmes, as saying that famous line. Instead, it came from a series of Sherlock Holmes movies starring Basil Rathbone. Which just proves what you learned in high school English class, watching the movie isn't the same as reading the book.

Like the Bible
"Spare the rod and spoil the child." You'll be happy to know that the maxim cited by your parents right before they turned you over their knees is not Biblical in origin. In fact, its source is rather scandalous. Like a T.V. preacher caught in a seedy motel, "spare the rod" actually leapt from the brain of Samuel Butler, an English playwright who's also known for his long poem Dildoides, which holds the distinction of being the only book-length poem written about a shipment of French dildos. In the poem, the dildoides are destroyed by British customs, but not before Butler can describe them in somewhat painful detail. Painful, like your bottom after a good spanking.

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Watch How to Make a Compass
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Let's say the mega-earthquake comes and you're stranded with just some MacGyver-style bits and bobs. If you've got a magnet and a little knowledge, you can make a compass that reliably points north. Below, check out a vintage segment from Curiosity Show explaining how to do it—and a bit on the science of why compasses work.

In the clip below, presenter Deane Hutton shows three methods involving a mirror, cork, a pin, a drinking straw, and a circular magnet (in different combinations). There's something for everyone!

Incidentally, one of the key issues in making a compass is knowing which end of a magnet points north and which points south. One YouTuber asked how to determine this, if it's not already marked—as might be the case in a survival situation. Decades after the clip aired, Hutton chimed in via YouTube comments to answer:

Wait till the Sun is about to set. Stand with your right shoulder toward the setting Sun. You are now facing South. Suspend the magnet and let it swing freely. When the magnet stops swinging, the end pointing South is the South Pole of the magnet. Deane.

Science is cool. Anyway, enjoy:

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Watch How To Make a Self-Starting Siphon Using Bendy Straws
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In this vintage video segment from Curiosity Show, we learn about self-starting siphons. These things start a flow of water without the user having to squeeze a pump or suck on a tube, which is a distinct benefit.

In the segment, we also observe the limitations of self-starting siphons. Because the act of submersion starts the flow, we're limited to siphoning water out of very full vessels. But still, this could be useful for a home aquarium, which is one of a thousand scenarios in which you don't want to use a mouth-primed siphon.

The best part of the segment is when presenter Rob Morrison shows how to make your own self-starting siphon. File this under "Handy stuff you can do with bendy straws." Tune in and enjoy this simple physics demo:

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