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4 Times Trash Collectors Saved the Day

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From junk haulers to park workers to dump truck drivers, we owe a lot to those who keep our homes, parks, and streets clean—especially when they go out of their way to help people who have lost something.

1. Savings Bonds Worth $114,000

What would you do if you discovered $114,000 worth of savings bonds? If you are Leo Guarente, owner of Junk Depot, and the bonds were discovered in an old locked chest removed from a deceased woman’s home, you would immediately return the bonds to the woman’s daughter, Marie Veloso.

The bonds, purchased for $21,000 in 1972, were already worth almost $114,000 when Guarente discovered them. “I could’ve used that $114,000 just like anyone else,” he said, “I haven’t been on vacation in 10 years. But I did not think for one minute that I was going to keep that money.”

Guarente has been trying to get a reality show based on his business, and he gladly used the incident as proof of how interesting his career is, which is why he hired a camera crew to go with him when he returned the money. He also received other perks from being honest; one local man offered to pay Guarente’s cell phone bill for a full year after hearing about the matter.

2. A 55-Year-Old Wedding Ring

When Bridget Pericolo placed her wedding ring in an empty paper cup before doing some chores, she certainly didn’t realize what a commotion it would cause. That’s because while she was doing stuff around the house, her husband of 55 years, Angelo, took out the trash—including the disposable cup sitting on the bathroom sink.

By the time Bridget realized the cup was gone, the trash truck had already come by and picked up their garbage. Fortunately, the couple realized the mistake before the dump truck had finished making its rounds for the day, so the supervisor was able to get in touch with the drivers to ensure the cargo was dumped separately so Angelo could search through the refuse for his wife’s ring. On the downside, by the end of the day, the truck picked up a total of ten tons of garbage.

Amazingly, it only took Angelo and a few garbage men 45 minutes to find the missing ring amongst the piles of trash. The sanitation workers said that the fact that the Pericolos tied their trash bags up greatly helped speed up the search. Even so, Bridget believed the discovery was a miracle.

3. Savings Bonds Worth $22,000

Try to keep track of your savings bonds and make sure your heirs know where they are too. After all, Guarente isn’t the only worker who has discovered savings bonds in piles of trash.

Mike Rogers was emptying out old bins of scrap metal at Blue Grass Recycling in 1971 when he stumbled upon two dozen US Savings Bonds purchased by Martha Dobbins. While no one knows how the bonds ended up in the barrel, it’s believed the person who bought Martha’s house after she died in 1922 dropped them off at the recycling center along with the metal scraps that eventually found their way to Rogers.

Rather than celebrate the fact that he just discovered $22,000 worth of savings bonds, Rogers immediately set out to find the rightful heir to the discovery. Eventually, he tracked down Dobbins’ son Robert Roberts, who was thrilled and shocked by the call. “I was totally surprised,” he said. “I had taken care of my mother for several years before she died and she never mentioned anything about any bonds."

Even more surprising than the fact that Rogers went about finding the son of the person who bought the bonds is that when Roberts tried to compensate the recycling company employee, his offer was refused.

4. Another Lost Wedding Band

Danielle Hatherly Carroll was tossing out trash from one of her public art classes in Battery Park when her ring slipped off her finger. Danielle realized the ring was gone later in the day, but by the time she and her husband returned to the park, the trash bins had already been emptied by the park workers.

Desperate to get the ring back, but without any ideas on what to do, Danielle left a note on one of the park’s garbage trucks that was parked nearby. Fortunately, Parks worker Gary Gaddist got the note and immediately took up the challenge and dug through the trash until he found the missing ring. “I would hope someone would do the same for me or anyone else,” Gaddist said.

In return for the Parks Department worker’s help, Danielle offered him a space in one of her art courses. “I didn’t even know they had things like painting schools,” Gaddist said. “It’s kind of exciting.”
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It’s easy to say what we would do if we discovered a small fortune that someone threw away, but until you have your hands on the savings bonds, heirlooms, or antiques, it’s easy to speculate. What do you think you would do if you found things like this in the trash?

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]

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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