The New Issue is Out (and it's twice as shiny as before!)

The new issue is finally (FINALLY!) on newsstands, and we're so excited to talk about it. This month, mental_floss is covering all sorts of things, including exciting new cures for blindness, Crohn's disease and MS; America's next top energy source (icy methane bricks mined from the bottom of the ocean); and why Kashmiri men carry pumpkins on their bellies. We've even got great stories on the incredibly bizarre life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and a little peek at all the skeletons hiding inside IKEA's well organized closet. In fact, there's so much great content that we'll be previewing it here all week.

But today we're focusing on Ethan Trex's wonderful piece on Tools. Here are our 2 favorite stories from the piece:

The 9/11 Squeegee

imagesOn September 11, 2001, a window washer named Jan Demczur found himself in a perilous spot. He was riding an elevator in the World Trade Center's North Tower when a jet struck the building and the elevator stalled out at the 50th floor. Luckily, Demczur and his five fellow riders had the foresight to pry open the elevator doors. But when they finally got them open, they found something grim on the other side: a solid wall. Rather than give up, Demczur grabbed his brass squeegee and began hacking at the wall. He eventually broke through, and all six passengers escaped to safety. Demczur's tool, meanwhile, ended up in the Smithsonian.

The Swiss Army Scalpel

While most Swiss Army knives are relegated to a mundane existence of tightening screws and opening beer bottles, Dr. John Ross' pocket knife has some better stories to tell. In 1989, the Canadian surgeon had a spot of bad luck when he arrived in Uganda. Before he could start practicing medicine, thieves stole his surgical saw. Thankfully, he'd also packed a Swiss Army knife. Whenever Ross needed to perform an amputation, he sterilized his trusty tool in boiling water and then used the saw blade to take off the injured limb. Ross praises the knife's high-quality steel for working "faultlessly," and by his count, he used the tool to perform at least six Swiss Army amputations.

In any case, there's tons more great stuff in the issue. Make our editors happy and pick up an issue on the newsstands. Or better yet, pick up a t-shirt and a subscription for a very low price here.

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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