Models vs. Supermodels: What's the Difference?

The Quick Trick: A model gets arrested for snorting cocaine; a supermodel gets on the cover of People for snorting cocaine.

The Explanation:

Like beauty itself, supermodeldom is in the eye of the beholder. One day, perhaps, there will be a Model Sanctioning Body that will establish clear rules for who qualifies as a supermodel—but until then we'll just have to muddle our way through. The difference between regular and super models is generally believed to involve not money but fame: A supermodel is someone whose celebrity extends outside of the fashion world. That is to say, you don't have to know your Dolce from your Gabbana to know that Cindy Crawford is really pretty.

janice.jpgJanice Dickinson, the thrice-divorced Surreal Life alum who wrote the literary gem Everything About Me Is Fake . . . And I'm Perfect, coined the term supermodel in 1979. Hence, she calls herself the world's first supermodel. But we feel that no one who ever appeared on Surreal Lifeshould be legally allowed the title of "super" anything. A better candidate for first-ever supermodel might be Suzy Parker. Born in 1932, the 5'10" Parker ushered in the era of tall female models, starred in many ad campaigns, and appeared in the movie Funny Face with Fred Astaire. She also became one of the first fashion models to be really, really bad at acting. But being unable to act your way out of a paper bag is just all part of la vita supermodel.

Nadja Auermann: Said to have the world's longest legs (they're 45"), Auermann has appeared on many magazine covers, starred in a couple German movies, and has her own perfume. But 1) these days, everybody has her own perfume, and 2) nobody outside of Germany can pronounce her last name. Verdict: model.

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Naomi Campbell: Instantly recognizable, Campbell's made $50 million modeling, was one of People's 50 Most Beautiful People in 1991, wrote (well, cowrote) a novel, and sold one million copies of her first and only album, Babywoman. (It was a failure in America, but a single from it was a huge hit in Japan.) Plus, she used to date Usher. Verdict: supermodel.

Helena Christensen: This former Miss Denmark changed our lives forever with her appearance in the music video for Chris Isaak's Wicked Game. And she dated Leonardo DiCaprio (although, really, at this point who hasn't?) in addition to appearing on the cover of countless fashion mags. But she never managed to parlay the Wicked Game video into widespread renown. Nothing personal, Helena, but we're gonna say: model.

Tyson Beckford: A former gangbanger who left the streets behind to become the face of Calvin Klein apparel, Beckford is the highest-paid male model in human history. He also appeared in Zoolander and 2003's Oscar-nominated Biker Boyz. What's that you say? Biker Boyz wasn't nominated for an Oscar? Oh, well. The verdict's still: supermodel.

This post was excerpted from the mental_floss book What's the Difference? 

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Big Questions
What Do Morticians Do With the Blood They Take Out of Dead Bodies?
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Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

The blood goes down the sink drain, into the sewer system.

I am not a mortician, but I work for a medical examiner/coroner. During an autopsy, most blood is drained from the decedent. This is not on purpose, but a result of gravity. Later a mortician may or may not embalm, depending on the wishes of the family.

Autopsies are done on a table that has a drain at one end; this drain is placed over a sink—a regular sink, with a garbage disposal in it. The blood and bodily fluids just drain down the table, into the sink, and down the drain. This goes into the sewer, like every other sink and toilet, and (usually) goes to a water treatment plant.

You may be thinking that this is biohazardous waste and needs to be treated differently. [If] we can’t put oil, or chemicals (like formalin) down the drains due to regulations, why is blood not treated similarly? I would assume because it is effectively handled by the water treatment plants. If it wasn’t, I am sure the regulations would be changed.

Now any items that are soiled with blood—those cannot be thrown away in the regular trash. Most clothing worn by the decedent is either retained for evidence or released with the decedent to the funeral home—even if they were bloody.

But any gauze, medical tubing, papers, etc. that have blood or bodily fluids on them must be thrown away into a biohazardous trash. These are lined with bright red trash liners, and these are placed in a specially marked box and taped closed. These boxes are stacked up in the garage until they are picked up by a specialty garbage company. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure they are incinerated.

Additionally anything sharp or pointy—like needles, scalpels, etc.—must go into a rigid “sharps” container. When they are 2/3 full we just toss these into one of the biotrash containers.

The biotrash is treated differently, as, if it went to a landfill, then the blood (and therefore the bloodborne pathogens like Hepatitis and HIV) could be exposed to people or animals. Rain could wash it into untreated water systems.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Big Questions
Why Does Asparagus Make Your Pee Smell Funny?
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The asparagus has a long and storied history. It was mentioned in the myths and the scholarly writings of ancient Greece, and its cultivation was the subject of a detailed lesson in Cato the Elder's treatise, On Agriculture. But it wasn't until the turn of the 18th century that discussion of the link between asparagus and odorous urine emerged. In 1731, John Arbuthnot, physician to Queen Anne, noted in a book about food that asparagus "affects the urine with a foetid smell ... and therefore have been suspected by some physicians as not friendly to the kidneys." Benjamin Franklin also noticed that eating asparagus "shall give our urine a disagreeable odor."

Since then, there has been debate over what is responsible for the stinky pee phenomenon. Polish chemist and doctor Marceli Nencki identified a compound called methanethiol as the cause in 1891, after a study that involved four men eating about three and a half pounds of asparagus apiece. In 1975, Robert H. White, a chemist at the University of California at San Diego, used gas chromatography to pin down several compounds known as S-methyl thioesters as the culprits. Other researchers have blamed various "sulfur-containing compounds" and, simply, "metabolites."

More recently, a study demonstrated that asparagusic acid taken orally by subjects known to produce stinky asparagus pee produced odorous urine, which contained the same volatile compounds found in their asparagus-induced odorous urine. Other subjects, who normally didn't experience asparagus-induced odorous urine, likewise were spared stinky pee after taking asparagusic acid.

The researchers concluded that asparagusic acid and its derivatives are the precursors of urinary odor (compared, in different scientific papers, to the smell of "rotten cabbage," "boiling cabbage" and "vegetable soup"). The various compounds that contribute to the distinct smell—and were sometimes blamed as the sole cause in the past—are metabolized from asparagusic acid.

Exactly how these compounds are produced as we digest asparagus remains unclear, so let's turn to an equally compelling, but more answerable question:

WHY DOESN'T ASPARAGUS MAKE YOUR PEE SMELL FUNNY?

Remember when I said that some people don't produce stinky asparagus pee? Several studies have shown that only some of us experience stinky pee (ranging from 20 to 40 percent of the subjects taking part in the study, depending on which paper you read), while the majority have never had the pleasure.

For a while, the world was divided into those whose pee stank after eating asparagus and those whose didn't. Then in 1980, a study complicated matters: Subjects whose pee stank sniffed the urine of subjects whose pee didn't. Guess what? The pee stank. It turns out we're not only divided by the ability to produce odorous asparagus pee, but the ability to smell it.

An anosmia—an inability to perceive a smell—keeps certain people from smelling the compounds that make up even the most offensive asparagus pee, and like the stinky pee non-producers, they're in the majority.

Producing and perceiving asparagus pee don't go hand-in-hand, either. The 1980 study found that some people who don't produce stinky pee could detect the rotten cabbage smell in another person's urine. On the flip side, some stink producers aren't able to pick up the scent in their own urine or the urine of others.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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