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The Surprising Origins of Child-Proof Lids

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While the modern versions of child-proof lids have been around for decades, their history may extend back thousands of years.

Dr. Henri J. Breault of Tecumseh, Ontario, is credited with inventing the current-day child-proof cap in 1967. At the time, children were inadvertently ingesting household medicines intended for adults at a terrifying rate. It was a global epidemic, and Canada alone suffered 100,000 annual cases, claiming the lives of at least 100 kids each year.

Breault, a career pediatrician and father of two, just couldn’t take it anymore. “At three o’clock [one] morning,” recalled his widow, Monica, he came home and said, “‘You know, I’ve had it! I am tired of pumping children’s stomachs when they’re taking pills that they shouldn’t be having! I’ve got to do something about it.’”

After several unsuccessful attempts, he finally invented and patented a device dubbed “The Palm N' Turn,” and the rate of local child poisonings dropped by a staggering 91 percent. The ingenious device rapidly swept the globe and is responsible for saving untold numbers of young lives. In light of this remarkable service, Tecumseh established the Henri J. Breault Award in 2000 to reward its most honorable residents.

But while Breault’s achievements are certainly worthy of the highest praise, the ancient Mayans may have beaten him to the punch. In 1986, the University of Texas at San Antonio sent a group of archaeologists to examine the ruins of Río Azul in present-day Guatemala. Built by the Mayans in 500 BCE, the site contained a number of pots and bottles, one of which proved surprisingly difficult to open.

In the words of one team-member, “The lid to this unusual vessel ... twists off much like a child-proof cap on a modern medicine vial.”

So what exactly did this remarkable artifact contain? Chocolate.

Knowing the intense religious significance of chocolatey beverages to Mayan culture, archaeologist Grant Hall collected samples from the pot’s interior and sent them off to none other than the Hershey Laboratories for analysis. Their results proved conclusive: History’s first known child-proof lid had been created to protect a vat of chocolate.

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Watch a Chain of Dominos Climb a Flight of Stairs
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Dominos are made to fall down—it's what they do. But in the hands of 19-year-old professional domino artist Lily Hevesh, known as Hevesh5 on YouTube, the tiny plastic tiles can be arranged to fall up a flight of stairs in spectacular fashion.

The video spotted by Thrillist shows the chain reaction being set off at the top a staircase. The momentum travels to the bottom of the stairs and is then carried back up through a Rube Goldberg machine of balls, cups, dominos, and other toys spanning the steps. The contraption leads back up to the platform where it began, only to end with a basketball bouncing down the steps and toppling a wall of dominos below.

The domino art seems to flow effortlessly, but it took more than a few shots to get it right. The footage below shows the 32nd attempt at having all the elements come together in one, unbroken take. (You can catch the blooper at the end of an uncooperative basketball ruining a near-perfect run.)

Hevesh’s domino chains that don't appear to defy gravity are no less impressive. Check out this ambitious rainbow domino spiral that took her 25 hours to construct.

[h/t Thrillist]

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Big Questions
How Are Balloons Chosen for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
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Getty Images

The balloons for this year's Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade range from the classics like Charlie Brown to more modern characters who have debuted in the past few years, including The Elf On The Shelf. New to the parade this year are Olaf from Disney's Frozen and Chase from Paw Patrol. But how does the retail giant choose which characters will appear in the lineup?

Balloon characters are chosen in different ways. For example, in 2011, Macy’s requested B. Boy after parade organizers saw the Tim Burton retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (The company had been adding a series of art balloons to the parade lineup since 2005, which it called the Blue Sky Gallery.) When it comes to commercial balloons, though, it appears to be all about the Benjamins.

First-time balloons cost at least $190,000—this covers admission into the parade and the cost of balloon construction. After the initial year, companies can expect to pay Macy’s about $90,000 to get a character into the parade lineup. If you consider that the balloons are out for only an hour or so, that’s about $1500 a minute.

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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