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The Least Addictive Mistake

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The First Puff: R.J. Reynolds & Co. thought it had it made. The American public wanted a healthier cigarette, and in 1988, RJR was finally ready to give it to them. The company's solution? A smokeless cigarette. If it sounds too good to be true, that's because it was.

After spending around $1 billion to develop and market the Premier smokeless cigarette, not even R.J. Reynolds' chief executive could stand it. His exact quote? Unfortunately, we can't print it in mixed company, but let's just say he wasn't thrilled with the flavor. And that wasn't the only problem. Taking a drag off a Premier wasn't so much a matter of breathing in as it was producing a vacuum force roughly equivalent to the strength of a black hole. Add to that rumors that the Premier could be hollowed out and used as a handy crack pipe, and after a mere four months in test markets, RJR pulled the product.

Can't Have Just One: Amazingly, the company tried the same trick again in 2000, unveiling a new smokeless cigarette, this time called Eclipse. Pitched as the "next best choice" to quitting, independent studies revealed that it actually produced more toxins than regular, low-tar cigarettes. Even worse, another study revealed that 99 out of every 100 Eclipses had glass fibers in the filter that could easily find their way into a smoker's lungs or esophagus.

20-mistaikes.jpg---This summer, mental_floss is re-running parts of "The 20 Greatest Mistaikes in History," Maggie Koerth-Baker's cover story from March-April 2007. To order the back issue, click here. To see other installments in this series, click here.

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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This First-Grade Math Problem Is Stumping the Internet
May 17, 2017
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If you’ve ever fantasized about how much easier life would be if you could go back to elementary school, this math problem may give you second thoughts. The question first appeared on a web forum, Mashable reports, and after recently resurfacing, it’s been perplexing adults across social media.

According to the original poster AlmondShell, the bonus question was given to primary one, or first grade students, in Singapore. It instructs readers to “study the number pattern” and “fill in the missing numbers.” The puzzle, which comprises five numbers and four empty circles waiting to be filled in, comes with no further explanation.

Some forum members commented with their best guesses, while others expressed disbelief that this was a question on a kid’s exam. Commenter karrotguy illustrates one possible answer: Instead of looking for complex math equations, they saw that the figure in the middle circle (three) equals the amount of double-digit numbers in the surrounding quadrants (18, 10, 12). They filled out the puzzle accordingly.

A similar problem can be found on the blog of math enthusiast G.R. Burgin. His solution, which uses simple algebra, gets a little more complicated.

The math tests given to 6- and 7-year-olds in other parts of the world aren’t much easier. If your brain isn’t too worn out after the last one, check out this maddening problem involving trains assigned to students in the UK.

[h/t Mashable]

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