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8 Strange Things Trucks Have Spilled (Besides Corndogs)

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Twitter.com/WAFB

Earlier today, a truck in Shreveport, Louisiana overturned, spilling corndogs across I-220 West. The carnival staple stalled traffic for much of the morning as the highway was shut down for cleanup. This is hardly the first time an unusual spillage has taken over the roads. With help from friends at TruckSpills.com, we found some other crazy things that have littered the highway.

1. 40,000 Pounds of Sausage

Back in March of 2009, a two-truck crash in Sheboygan County scattered 40,000 pounds of meat products on Interstate 43 in Wisconsin. Mmmm, meat products.

2. 5000 Gallons of Molasses

If any town might prepare for a sticky truck spill, you'd expect it to be Sugar Land, Texas. That's where, in 2008, motorists came face to face with a monstrous wave of molasses. Five thousand gallons spilled when the truck carrying it jack-knifed and rolled over. The cleanup took eight hours and 8 trillion handy wipes.

3. A 56-Foot Whale

The Taiwanese city of Tainan looked like the set of a slasher movie after a 56-foot sperm whale exploded on its way through town. The whale had beached itself earlier, and was being carted via flatbed truck to a research facility for autopsy. As the whale lay rotting in the sun, gases began to build up inside its carcass until they detonated in a flood of whale guts.

4. Lots of Keystone Light

In 2008, when a driver lost control of his rig on a Colorado interstate ramp, the capsized trailer was shorn open like a beer can ... full of beer cans. That's right: This particular truck was carrying 12-packs of smooth-drinking Keystone Light. Keystone markets itself as "Always Smooth, Even When You're Not"—like, say, when you take a ramp too fast and crash your tractor-trailer. Fortunately, the "uninjured" beer was recovered and loaded on another truck, leaving me to imagine that a poor beer-lover somewhere bought himself a very foamy twelve-pack.

5. Lots of Money

In 2004, a wrecked armored truck spilled $2 million in coins on the New Jersey Turnpike. In 2005, an armored truck caught fire and splashed $800,000 in scalding quarters on an Alabama road. And in 2008, a truck carrying 3.5 million nickels (worth about $185,000) to the Miami Federal Reserve dumped its load after a violent wreck that killed the driver.

6. A Ship Engine

What do you do when a 200-ton marine engine destined for a San Diego shipyard flips off its flatbed? Get a crane. Actually, get three cranes—and a new road. The massive engine pancaked cars and even shoved one below the pavement. The truck driver involved went to the wrong address, realized his mistake, backed up, hit a curb, and kaboom! For a cool description of how engineers put the engine back on a truck, check out the original article on the crash.

7. 35,000 Pounds of Explosives

In 2005, a truck carrying 35,000 pounds of explosives rolled over on a Utah highway and (in classic A-Team fashion) blew up moments after the driver and passenger escaped. The blast dug a crater 30 feet deep and 70 feet across. It also propelled concrete road barriers hundreds of feet in the air and twisted nearby railroad tracks like straws. Fortunately, no one died.

8. 40,000 pounds of Edy's Ice Cream

In December 2011, 40,000 pounds of Edy's ice cream—including vanilla and caramel praline crunch—spilled from a semitrailer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, closing two southbound lanes of Interstate 69. It took six hours to clean up the mess.

Portions of this article originally appeared in 2009. Visit TruckSpills.com for many more. Primary image courtesy of WFAB's Twitter account.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
A Chinese Museum Is Offering Cash to Whoever Can Decipher These 3000-Year-Old Inscriptions

During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia. But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking member of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.

The museum began farming out their oracle bone translation efforts in Fall 2016. The costly ongoing project has hit a stalemate, and scholars hope that the public’s collective smarts—combined with new advances in technology, including cloud computing and big data—will yield new information and save them research money.

As of today, more than 200,000 oracle bones have been discovered—around 50,000 of which bear text—so scholars still have a lot to learn about the Shang Dynasty. Many of the ancient script's characters are difficult to verify, as they represent places and people from long ago. However, decoding even just one character could lead to a substantial breakthrough, experts say: "If we interpret a noun or a verb, it can bring many scripts on oracle bones to life, and we can understand ancient history better,” Chinese history professor Zhu Yanmin told the South China Morning Post.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.

1. SALMONELLA (OR SMITHELLA?)

In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.

2. AMERICA (OR COLUMBIANA?)

An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.

3. BLOOMERS (OR MILLERS?)

A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.

4. GUILLOTINE (OR LOUISETTE?)

Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.

5. BECHDEL TEST (OR WALLACE TEST?)

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

6. STIGLER’S LAW OF EPONYMY (OR MERTON’S LAW?)

Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."

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