10 Misconceptions About Things That Kill You

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Hi, I'm Elliott, this is mental_floss on YouTube. Today, I'm gonna talk about some misconceptions about deadly things and situations, so buckle up. No, really.

1. YOU SINK IN QUICKSAND.

As John Mulaney said, "I always thought quicksand was going to be a much bigger problem than it turned out to be." A 2005 study published in the journal Nature found that people can't totally sink in quicksand.  We actually float in it, because we're not dense enough to sink in the mixture of sand, clay, and saltwater. Even if someone struggles and wiggles like we're told not to do, the most a person will sink is probably waist deep. At that point, if they just wait patiently for the quicksand to settle, they should be able to start floating out.

2. PULLING OUT A KNIFE IS BETTER THAN LEAVING IT INSIDE YOU.

If you get impaled by any object, and I sincerely hope you don't, you should leave it in, then call 911 or get to the emergency room. Emergency medicine physician from the University of Chicago Medical Center, Dr. David Beiser has said, "It may be plugging a hole in an artery or vein, and as soon as you take it out, you could bleed to death."  

3. IF YOU RUN OUT OF WATER IN THE DESERT, YOU CAN DRINK FROM A CACTUS. 

People may tell you that if you're stranded and dehydrated in the desert, you should try to open a cactus for water. First of all, that is not water, okay, it's more juicy cactus pulp, and second, that juicy cactus pulp contains a lot of toxic alkaloids, which can make a person vomit or have diarrhea, which will only make them more dehydrated. So just, if you're out there, just good luck.

4. IF YOU'RE DEHYDRATED, YOU CAN DRINK YOUR OWN URINE.

Gross. Many people have claimed that drinking their own urine has saved them in desperate situations. Lookin' at you, Bear Grylls, okay? And it's true that this will work for a day or two, but 5% of urine is waste products that your kidneys are intentionally getting rid of, so as you continue to pee and drink, just having a great time, partying or whatever, the urine will contain more and more waste products which are dangerous to drink. This will eventually cause kidney failure. Also, gross.

5. AN UMBRELLA WILL SLOW A BIG FALL. 

It will not. In fact, in 2013, pro-skier, Erik Roner tried to skydive with just an umbrella (well, and like, a backup parachute). It may have slowed him down a little bit at first, but within a few seconds, the umbrella flipped up, making it completely useless.

6. HOUSE FIRES ARE LESS LIKELY THAN FIRES IN COMMERCIAL AND PUBLIC BUILDINGS.

According to a survey conducted by The Society of Fire Protection Engineers, 65% of Americans feel safer from fires at home compared to a commercial or public building. But most deaths due to fire happen in the home. In 2011, there were around 2,500 deaths in the U.S. due to fires in the home. That same year, there were only about 100 deaths due to fires in non-residential buildings.  

7. THERE ARE NO TORNADOES IN WINTER. 

Not true! Tornadoes are possible any month or season. In fact, in 2008, there was a notable tornado outbreak on February 5 and 6 in the southern United States. Five states were affected over the course of about 15 hours: Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee, and actually, tornadoes can be even deadlier in the wintertime because they typically move faster. That was me doing a tornado. My mini tornado. You're welcome.

8. IF AN ELEVATOR IS FALLING, JUMPING WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE.

People say that if you're caught in a falling elevator, jumping at the exact moment of impact might save you, but this doesn't really work, okay? You need to have a very impressive reaction time, and even still, you could only reduce the speed of your impact by about 2 to 3 miles per hour. You'd also need to jump faster than the elevator was falling, which would be pretty tough, considering falling elevators tend to hit the ground at about 50mph.

9. ALWAYS PLAY DEAD DURING A BEAR ATTACK. 

According to experts, how to act during a bear attack depends whether the bear is being predatory or defensive.  Grizzly bears tend to attack when they're being defensive. In those cases, it's best to play dead, because that shows the bear you're not a threat. Black bears are usually attacking in a predatory way. In this case, playing dead doesn't do much. If you have food, drop it, and back away slowly. If the bear keeps coming, you should get aggressive, scream and be loud. If you have pepper spray, you should use that. Just get out of there.

10. SUCK THE POISON OUT OF A SNAKE BITE TO SAVE YOUR LIFE.

Emergency room physician at the University of Maryland School of Medicine Robert A. Barish has claimed, "The evidence suggests that cutting and sucking, or applying a tourniquet or ice does nothing to help the victim. Although these outdated measures are still widely accepted by the general public, they may do more harm than good by delaying prompt medical care, contaminating the wound, or by damaging nerves and blood vessels."

Thank you for watching Misconceptions on mental_floss on YouTube. If you have a topic for an upcoming Misconceptions episode that you would like to see, leave it down in the comments and we'll go through it and we'll inform you of all the misconceptions about it. It'll be awesome. I'll see you next week. Bye.  

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What Do Morticians Do With the Blood They Take Out of Dead Bodies?
iStock
iStock

Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

The blood goes down the sink drain, into the sewer system.

I am not a mortician, but I work for a medical examiner/coroner. During an autopsy, most blood is drained from the decedent. This is not on purpose, but a result of gravity. Later a mortician may or may not embalm, depending on the wishes of the family.

Autopsies are done on a table that has a drain at one end; this drain is placed over a sink—a regular sink, with a garbage disposal in it. The blood and bodily fluids just drain down the table, into the sink, and down the drain. This goes into the sewer, like every other sink and toilet, and (usually) goes to a water treatment plant.

You may be thinking that this is biohazardous waste and needs to be treated differently. [If] we can’t put oil, or chemicals (like formalin) down the drains due to regulations, why is blood not treated similarly? I would assume because it is effectively handled by the water treatment plants. If it wasn’t, I am sure the regulations would be changed.

Now any items that are soiled with blood—those cannot be thrown away in the regular trash. Most clothing worn by the decedent is either retained for evidence or released with the decedent to the funeral home—even if they were bloody.

But any gauze, medical tubing, papers, etc. that have blood or bodily fluids on them must be thrown away into a biohazardous trash. These are lined with bright red trash liners, and these are placed in a specially marked box and taped closed. These boxes are stacked up in the garage until they are picked up by a specialty garbage company. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure they are incinerated.

Additionally anything sharp or pointy—like needles, scalpels, etc.—must go into a rigid “sharps” container. When they are 2/3 full we just toss these into one of the biotrash containers.

The biotrash is treated differently, as, if it went to a landfill, then the blood (and therefore the bloodborne pathogens like Hepatitis and HIV) could be exposed to people or animals. Rain could wash it into untreated water systems.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images
Stephen Hawking’s Memorial Will Beam His Words Toward the Nearest Black Hole
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

An upcoming memorial for Stephen Hawking is going to be out of this world. The late physicist’s words, set to music, will be broadcast by satellite toward the nearest black hole during a June 15 service in the UK, the BBC reports.

During his lifetime, Hawking signed up to travel to space on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceship, but he died before he ever got the chance. (He passed away in March.) Hawking’s daughter Lucy told the BBC that the memorial's musical tribute is a “beautiful and symbolic gesture that creates a link between our father's presence on this planet, his wish to go into space, and his explorations of the universe in his mind.” She described it as "a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet."

Titled “The Stephen Hawking Tribute,” the music was written by Greek composer Vangelis, who created the scores for Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire. It will play while Hawking’s ashes are interred at Westminster Abbey, near where Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin are buried, according to Cambridge News. After the service, the piece will be beamed into space from the European Space Agency’s Cebreros Station in Spain. The target is a black hole called 1A 0620-00, “which lives in a binary system with a fairly ordinary orange dwarf star,” according to Lucy Hawking.

Hawking wasn't the first person to predict the existence of black holes (Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity accounted for them back in the early 1900s), but he spoke at length about them throughout his career and devised mathematical theorems that gave credence to their existence in the universe.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, a friend of the Hawking family who portrayed the late scientist in the BBC film Hawking, will speak at the service. In addition to Hawking's close friends and family, British astronaut Tim Peake and several local students with disabilities have also been invited to attend.

[h/t BBC]

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