CLOSE
Original image
ian-albert.com

How Far Does Mario Have to Run (and Swim) in Super Mario Bros.?

Original image
ian-albert.com

In Super Mario Bros., Mario has a pretty rough day. He's forced to rescue a princess completely on his own, which seems suspicious given the fact that most royal families have designated security details at their disposal. What kind of third-rate dynasty hires a plumber to save an heiress?

Despite being woefully under-qualified, Mario agrees to transport to a magical world where he runs, jumps, swims, and kills everything in sight to get to a castle where a smartass toadstool tells him the princess isn't there. He does this seven different times before getting it right. Besides the psychological damage of all that growing and shrinking, killing, and repeated dying, what kind of physical toll is Mario subjected to?

As brilliant reader John D. asked, how many miles does Mario have to travel before he finally gets to Princess Peach?

To figure this out, I took Ian Albert's level maps that he painstakingly stitched together from screenshots (check out his website and amazing maps here) and measured their width. In the NES version of the game, Mario's relative size (in his smaller, pre-mushroom ingestion phase) was then calculated as if he were a normal human man. He stands astride, so the measurements were based on an approximation of someone with their feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, or 26 inches.

If we assume Mario takes a route with no bonus areas or warps, the total distance from his initial starting point to the final castle is about 17,835 feet, or 3.4 miles.

But what about the water levels? If you isolate these, Mario swims an estimated 1218.5 feet, or 371 meters, during his ordeal, which is about 7 and a half laps in an Olympic-sized pool.

The longest single level is the eighth world's first stage, and it comes in at about 1039 feet. The shortest is world four, stage three, which is around 425 feet long.

If Mario does in fact visit every bonus area, the total distance he travels increases by 1574 feet, and his full journey becomes about 3.7 miles. Of those bonus areas, 344 feet are underwater, so Mario tacks on another 105 meters to his swim total.

Mario doesn't go in a straight line and he is occasionally transported to different locations and worlds, so these numbers are just an approximation. But think about all the time you spent toiling away at your NES. All those hours and days spent mashing buttons—jumping on Goombas, falling into abysses, ducking projectiles—all that work resulted in little more than Mario completing a 5K to raise awareness for princess theft.

Thanks to reader John D. for the question and idea. All screengrabs are from ian-albert.com.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Do Cats Fart?
Original image
iStock

Certain philosophical questions can invade even the most disciplined of minds. Do aliens exist? Can a soul ever be measured? Do cats fart?

While the latter may not have weighed heavily on some of history’s great brains, it’s certainly no less deserving of an answer. And in contrast to existential queries, there’s a pretty definitive response: Yes, they do. We just don’t really hear it.

According to veterinarians who have realized their job sometimes involves answering inane questions about animals passing gas, cats have all the biological hardware necessary for a fart: a gastrointestinal system and an anus. When excess air builds up as a result of gulping breaths or gut bacteria, a pungent cloud will be released from their rear ends. Smell a kitten’s butt sometime and you’ll walk away convinced that cats fart.

The discretion, or lack of audible farts, is probably due to the fact that cats don’t gulp their food like dogs do, leading to less air accumulating in their digestive tract.

So, yes, cats do fart. But they do it with the same grace and stealth they use to approach everything else. Think about that the next time you blame the dog.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
What Are the Northern Lights?
Original image
iStock

Over the centuries, many have gazed up at one of the Earth’s most fascinatingly beautiful natural wonders: the Northern Lights. In the past couple of weeks, some lucky American stargazers have gotten the chance to see them from their very own backyards—and could again this week, according to Thrillist. But what are they?

Before science was able to get a read on what exactly was happening in the night sky, ancient tribes had their own theories for what caused the jaw-dropping light show. Many early beliefs had roots in religion, such as that the light was a pathway souls traveled to reach heaven (Eskimo tribes) or that the light was an eternal battle of dead warriors (Middle-Age Europe). Early researchers were a bit more reasonable in their approximations, and most surrounded the idea of the reflection of sunlight off the ice caps. In 1619, Galileo Galilei named the lights the aurora borealis after Aurora, the Roman goddess of morning, after concluding they were a product of sunlight reflecting from the atmosphere.

Today, scientists have come to the general agreement that the lights are caused by the collision of electrically charged solar particles and atoms from our atmosphere. The energy from the collisions is released as light, and the reason it happens around the poles is because that's where the Earth’s magnetic field is the strongest. In 2008, a team at UCLA concluded that “when two magnetic field lines come close together due to the storage of energy from the sun, a critical limit is reached and the magnetic field lines reconnect, causing magnetic energy to be transformed into kinetic energy and heat. Energy is released, and the plasma is accelerated, producing accelerated electrons.”

"Our data show clearly and for the first time that magnetic reconnection is the trigger," said Vassilis Angelopoulos, a UCLA professor of Earth and Space Sciences. "Reconnection results in a slingshot acceleration of waves and plasma along magnetic field lines, lighting up the aurora underneath even before the near-Earth space has had a chance to respond. We are providing the evidence that this is happening."

The best time to see the Northern Lights is during the winter, due to the Earth’s position in relation to the sun (shorter days means darker night skies). And by the way, it’s not just the North Pole that puts on a show—there are Southern Lights, too. There are also aurora borealis on other planets—including Mars—so rest assured that future generations born “abroad” will not miss out on this spectacular feat of nature.

Haven’t seen them yet? Traditionally, the best places to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights are in Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Greenland, northern Canada, and Alaska. Maybe you'll get lucky this week and sneak a peek from your very own window. Check out Aurorasaurus for regular updates on where they are showing.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios