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How Smokey Bear Helped Win World War II

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Only you can prevent forest fires, but only Smokey could help us topple the Axis powers.

© CORBIS

Forest fires posed a terrifying threat during World War II. Fighting wildfires required huge chunks of precious manpower that otherwise could have been utilized for building tanks or guns. Infernos also swallowed up thousands of acres of wood, a crucial ingredient in everything from warships to gunstocks.

To curb forest fires, the U.S. Forest Service and the War Advertising Council teamed up on a propaganda campaign. Walt Disney loaned the government the use of Bambi for a year to get things rolling, but the Forest Service wanted their own anti-fire mascot. Commercial illustrator Albert Staehle drafted an image of a shovel-toting bear. It took a few drafts, but after some government-mandated tweaks—including making the bear wear pants—Smokey was born.

When Smokey debuted in 1944, his first posters bore the slogan “Smokey says—Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!” Although the words weren’t as catchy as the venerable “Only YOU can prevent forest fires”— a line he picked up in 1947—the character resonated with the public. Soon, Smokey was showing up on billboards and in magazines, and Americans became a bit more careful with their campfires and cigarette butts.

When forestry workers rescued a bear cub from a New Mexico wildfire in 1950, the Forestry Service adopted the cub as the living version of Smokey. The bear received so much fan mail that in 1964 he got his own ZIP code (20252). Today, the Department of Agriculture pulls in more than $1 million a year licensing Smokey’s likeness, all of which goes to—you guessed it—fire prevention programs.

This article originally appeared in mental_floss magazine. Get a free issue!

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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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