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4 Times Trash Collectors Saved the Day

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.”
* * *
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?

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Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
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iStock

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

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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Space
More Details Emerge About 'Oumuamua, Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor
 NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties. Now, a team from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy has published a detailed report of what they know so far in Nature.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid. New observations have researchers concluding that 'Oumuamua is unusual for more than its far-flung origins.

It's a cigar-shaped object 10 times longer than it is wide, stretching to a half-mile long. It's also reddish in color, and is similar in some ways to some asteroids in own solar system, the BBC reports. But it's much faster, zipping through our system, and has a totally different orbit from any of those objects.

After initial indecision about whether the object was a comet or an asteroid, the researchers now believe it's an asteroid. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our own.

'Oumuamua may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form. The 750,000 asteroids we know of are leftovers from the formation of our solar system, trapped by the Sun's gravity. But what if, billions of years ago, other objects escaped? 'Oumuamua shows us that it's possible; perhaps there are bits and pieces from the early years of our solar system currently visiting other stars.

The researchers say it's surprising that 'Oumuamua is an asteroid instead of a comet, given that in the Oort Cloud—an icy bubble of debris thought to surround our solar system—comets are predicted to outnumber asteroids 200 to 1 and perhaps even as high as 10,000 to 1. If our own solar system is any indication, it's more likely that a comet would take off before an asteroid would.

So where did 'Oumuamua come from? That's still unknown. It's possible it could've been bumped into our realm by a close encounter with a planet—either a smaller, nearby one, or a larger, farther one. If that's the case, the planet remains to be discovered. They believe it's more likely that 'Oumuamua was ejected from a young stellar system, location unknown. And yet, they write, "the possibility that 'Oumuamua has been orbiting the galaxy for billions of years cannot be ruled out."

As for where it's headed, The Atlantic's Marina Koren notes, "It will pass the orbit of Jupiter next May, then Neptune in 2022, and Pluto in 2024. By 2025, it will coast beyond the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects."

Last week, University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.
WIYN OBSERVATORY/RALF KOTULLA

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

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