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Facts About Every Student From the 30th Story of Wayside School

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Louis Sachar's Sideways Stories From Wayside School series is still a favorite of elementary-age kids, decades after the first book hit the shelves. Each of the three books features 30 chapters -- one for each floor of the Wayside School building -- and each chapter (usually) features one student. Here are a few facts about each of the 30 students in Mrs. Jewls' class on the 30th story.

1. Allison was once stuck in Miss Zarves' class on the 19th floor for a week after she wondered whether Mrs. Jewls' class was really on the 29th floor, since the 19th story doesn't exist. (Sorry.) She knocked out Rondi's adorable front teeth.

2. Bebe Gunn's little brother Ray is trapped on the 19th story. (He's there because she made him up, and like a lot of things that don't exist, he's in Miss Zarves' class.) Bebe Gunn is the fastest drawer in class; she can knock out a picture of a flower in under 8 seconds.

3. Benjamin Nushmutt is called Mark Miller by everyone in class because he was too shy to correct Mrs. Jewls when she first introduced him. A student named Mark Miller is in Miss Zarves' class, but everyone calls him Benjamin Nushmutt. He has no idea why.

4. Calvin has a tattoo of a potato, and is best friends and drawing partners with Bebe. He has a cat named Mrs. Jewls. He was once sent to deliver a note to the 19th story, but Mrs. Jewls (the teacher) forgot to give him the note, and he didn't know how to find the 19th story because it doesn't exist. (Sorry.) So he went back to class, where Mrs. Jewls (the teacher) thanked him for being such a good helper.

5. Dameon runs up and down the stairs a lot, and is in love with Mrs. Jewls. Joy once stole his lunch and lied about it, then gave him hers when her mom dropped it off.

6. Dana owns a dog named Pugsy, who was instrumental in Myron's demotion from Class President. When she comes to class with a ridiculous number of mosquito bites, Mrs. Jewls turns Dana's mosquito bites into numbers so they won't itch anymore.

7. Deedee loves sports so much that she disguises herself as a dead rat (Mrs. Jewls' least favorite thing) so she'll get tossed out of the window at recess, giving her a jump on snagging one of the coveted green balls, which bounce the highest.

8. D.J. has a dog named O.K. D.J. is super-happy all the time. His best friend is Dameon, but he gets along with everyone because he's just so happy. (He says no explanation is required to be happy. Kid's onto something.)

9. Eric Bacon is the skinniest kid in class. Everyone calls him Fatso, because all Erics are fat. He may have been the left-handed Eric who called Miss Zarves the principal, Mr. Kidswatter, a mugworm griblick. He's a pretty great breakdancer, too, but he breaks things when he dances so breakdancing is banned at Wayside. His dog's name is Billy.

10. Eric Fry is the fattest kid in class, and the best athlete (even though he once dropped the ball during a game). Everyone calls him Butterfingers, because all Erics are terrible at sports. He has a goat named Billy.

11. Eric Ovens is the nicest kid in class. Everyone calls him Crabapple, because all Erics are grumpy. His cat's name is Billy.

12. Jason is in love with Allison. He has a big mouth (literally) and chews on pencils all the time. His dentist is a scam artist who extracts healthy teeth for extra money. Jason was once stuck to his chair, thanks to a wad of gum placed there by Joy. Joy kissed his nose and made him fall over, which freed him from his chair.

13. Jenny wears a helmet to class, for which she is always late. Jenny is famous for turning the evil Mrs. Gorf into an apple (by holding up a mirror as Mrs. Gorf tried to turn her into an apple) and for coming to school on a Saturday, where she encounters the men with attache cases.

14. Joe can't count but he always gets the right answer on math problems. One day he wakes up and is able to count perfectly, and then he announces that he has 55,006 hairs on his head. (All curly, as fans will remember.)

15. John sees the blackboard upside-down, which is a problem because Mrs. Jewls only writes right-side-up. Dana is afraid she has a crush on him. After trying to learn to stand on his head, John discovers that he can read right-side-up.... but now everything else is upside-down.

16. Joy is a lunch thief. She doesn't know why she does it, but she felt so guilty after stealing Dameon's lunch that, for a whole year, every item she took from him tastes like Miss Mush's cooking. (So, the worst ever.) She likes Todd's lunches especially, but has also been known to take Maurecia's ice cream. Joy is never punished herself, but manages to get other students in trouble in nearly every chapter.

17. Kathy is a terrible kid who doesn't like anyone but Sammy. The reasons she hates everyone else are really specific, but she also hates the person reading the Wayside books.

18. Leslie has long pigtails, which Paul likes to pull. Leslie's toes are useless to her, so she tries to sell them to Louis (the schoolyard teacher). He won't pay full price, but offers to pass them along to Miss Mush to make little hot dogs from. She declines, because she'd really like to get at least 50 cents for her toes. When Louis offers to buy her pigtails, Leslie is shocked. "Cut my hair! Are you crazy?"

19. Mac was once named Nancy, which was terrible for him because he was a boy. Nancy traded names with a girl named Mac, who later became his girlfriend. He also named his dog Mac.

20. Everyone loves Maurecia (except Kathy), and Maurecia loves ice cream and Todd (but only secretly). After trying every flavor of ice cream, her love for it disappears. But she still (secretly) loves Todd.

21. Myron is the only person ever brave enough to try Miss Mush's Mushroom Surprise. (The surprise was that he liked it.) He does not like dancing the tango in Mrs. Waloosh's class, though, which the other students think is crazy. After Myron was late for school because he rescued Dana's dog on the way, he is demoted from his role as Class President.

22. Paul pulls Leslie's pigtails every single day. First one, then the other. Despite this, Paul and Leslie are best friends.

23. Ron is the worst kickball player in school. No one will play with him, except the time Louis decided to give it a go. They were defeated two days in a row.

24. Rondi's best feature is her front teeth, according to everyone. Her best friend Allison punched them out. When Rondi's front teeth come back in, no one thinks she's cute anymore.

25. Sammy has a bad attitude and wears a bunch of raincoats to class. He's so rude and smells so terrible that only Kathy, the meanest girl in school, actually likes him. It is revealed that Sammy is actually a dead rat, Mrs. Jewls' least favorite thing, and she tosses him out.

26. Sharie has very, very long eyelashes and a non-stop life, so she wears an enormous coat to class, which she sleeps inside of during class. She fell out of the building once, only to have Louis save her at the last possible moment.

27. Stephen is a natural blond who took in a little too much pool time, turning his hair green from the chlorinated water. He always wears a bad outfit, and is the only student to dress up for Halloween (because it fell on a Sunday that year). When Pet Day comes around in the third book, Stephen doesn't have a pet. He names an orange Fido and brings that instead.

28. Terrence is really bad at playing ball, so he kicks it over the fence whenever he has a chance. Secretly, he really wants to play, but his reputation as a bully is better than being the new Ron of kickball, so he keeps it up even though he doesn't actually want to be mean.

29. Poor Todd gets in trouble every day, but it's never his fault. As a result, he goes home on the kindergarten bus at noon, and has no idea what happens in class from 12 to 2. Maurecia is in love with him, but talks badly about him when he isn't around, which is every afternoon.

30. A girl named Sue is featured in a spin-off book, Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School, but never appears in the three novels. She can't understand Mrs. Jewls' method for doing math, and no one in class can understand her "normal" way of doing math. Mrs. Jewls finally suggests Sue try a different school.

My favorite student was Sammy. Do you have a favorite Wayside story? Or better yet, a potato tattoo?

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The Elements
9 Diamond-Like Facts About Carbon
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How well do you know the periodic table? Our series The Elements explores the fundamental building blocks of the observable universe—and their relevance to your life—one by one.
 
 
It can be glittering and hard. It can be soft and flaky. It can look like a soccer ball. Carbon is the backbone of every living thing—and yet it just might cause the end of life on Earth as we know it. How can a lump of coal and a shining diamond be composed of the same material? Here are eight things you probably didn't know about carbon.

1. IT'S THE "DUCT TAPE OF LIFE."

It's in every living thing, and in quite a few dead ones. "Water may be the solvent of the universe," writes Natalie Angier in her classic introduction to science, The Canon, "but carbon is the duct tape of life." Not only is carbon duct tape, it's one hell of a duct tape. It binds atoms to one another, forming humans, animals, plants and rocks. If we play around with it, we can coax it into plastics, paints, and all kinds of chemicals.

2. IT'S ONE OF THE MOST ABUNDANT ELEMENTS IN THE UNIVERSE.

It sits right at the top of the periodic table, wedged in between boron and nitrogen. Atomic number 6, chemical sign C. Six protons, six neutrons, six electrons. It is the fourth most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen, and 15th in the Earth's crust. While its older cousins hydrogen and helium are believed to have been formed during the tumult of the Big Bang, carbon is thought to stem from a buildup of alpha particles in supernova explosions, a process called supernova nucleosynthesis.

3. IT'S NAMED AFTER COAL.

While humans have known carbon as coal and—after burning—soot for thousands of years, it was Antoine Lavoisier who, in 1772, showed that it was in fact a unique chemical entity. Lavoisier used an instrument that focused the Sun's rays using lenses which had a diameter of about four feet. He used the apparatus, called a solar furnace, to burn a diamond in a glass jar. By analyzing the residue found in the jar, he was able to show that diamond was comprised solely of carbon. Lavoisier first listed it as an element in his textbook Traité Élémentaire de Chimie, published in 1789. The name carbon derives from the French charbon, or coal.

4. IT LOVES TO BOND.

It can form four bonds, which it does with many other elements, creating hundreds of thousands of compounds, some of which we use daily. (Plastics! Drugs! Gasoline!) More importantly, those bonds are both strong and flexible.

5. NEARLY 20 PERCENT OF YOUR BODY IS CARBON.

May Nyman, a professor of inorganic chemistry at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon tells Mental Floss that carbon has an almost unbelievable range. "It makes up all life forms, and in the number of substances it makes, the fats, the sugars, there is a huge diversity," she says. It forms chains and rings, in a process chemists call catenation. Every living thing is built on a backbone of carbon (with nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and other elements). So animals, plants, every living cell, and of course humans are a product of catenation. Our bodies are 18.5 percent carbon, by weight.

And yet it can be inorganic as well, Nyman says. It teams up with oxygen and other substances to form large parts of the inanimate world, like rocks and minerals.

6. WE DISCOVERED TWO NEW FORMS OF IT ONLY RECENTLY.

Carbon is found in four major forms: graphite, diamonds, fullerenes, and graphene. "Structure controls carbon's properties," says Nyman.  Graphite ("the writing stone") is made up of loosely connected sheets of carbon formed like chicken wire. Penciling something in actually is just scratching layers of graphite onto paper. Diamonds, in contrast, are linked three-dimensionally. These exceptionally strong bonds can only be broken by a huge amount of energy. Because diamonds have many of these bonds, it makes them the hardest substance on Earth.

Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 when a group of scientists blasted graphite with a laser and the resulting carbon gas condensed to previously unknown spherical molecules with 60 and 70 atoms. They were named in honor of Buckminster Fuller, the eccentric inventor who famously created geodesic domes with this soccer ball–like composition. Robert Curl, Harold Kroto, and Richard Smalley won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering this new form of carbon.

The youngest member of the carbon family is graphene, found by chance in 2004 by Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov in an impromptu research jam. The scientists used scotch tape—yes, really—to lift carbon sheets one atom thick from a lump of graphite. The new material is extremely thin and strong. The result: the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.

7. DIAMONDS AREN'T CALLED "ICE" BECAUSE OF THEIR APPEARANCE.

Diamonds are called "ice" because their ability to transport heat makes them cool to the touch—not because of their look. This makes them ideal for use as heat sinks in microchips. (Synthethic diamonds are mostly used.) Again, diamonds' three-dimensional lattice structure comes into play. Heat is turned into lattice vibrations, which are responsible for diamonds' very high thermal conductivity.

8. IT HELPS US DETERMINE THE AGE OF ARTIFACTS—AND PROVE SOME OF THEM FAKE.

American scientist Willard F. Libby won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960 for developing a method for dating relics by analyzing the amount of a radioactive subspecies of carbon contained in them. Radiocarbon or C14 dating measures the decay of a radioactive form of carbon, C14, that accumulates in living things. It can be used for objects that are as much as 50,000 years old. Carbon dating help determine the age of Ötzi the Iceman, a 5300-year-old corpse found frozen in the Alps. It also established that Lancelot's Round Table in Winchester Cathedral was made hundreds of years after the supposed Arthurian Age.

9. TOO MUCH OF IT IS CHANGING OUR WORLD.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important part of a gaseous blanket that is wrapped around our planet, making it warm enough to sustain life. But burning fossil fuels—which are built on a carbon backbone—releases more carbon dioxide, which is directly linked to global warming. A number of ways to remove and store carbon dioxide have been proposed, including bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, which involves planting large stands of trees, harvesting and burning them to create electricity, and capturing the CO2 created in the process and storing it underground. Yet another approach that is being discussed is to artificially make oceans more alkaline in order to let them to bind more CO2. Forests are natural carbon sinks, because trees capture CO2 during photosynthesis, but human activity in these forests counteracts and surpasses whatever CO2 capture gains we might get. In short, we don't have a solution yet to the overabundance of C02 we've created in the atmosphere.

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Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

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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