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10 Gooey Facts About Milky Way Bars

There’s no mistaking that chocolate-covered combination of caramel and nougat. Developed nearly 100 years ago in Mars company founder Frank Mars’s kitchen, the Milky Way bar has since gone on to candy industry glory, with more than $100 million in yearly sales. Here are a few facts worth biting into.

1. IT ISN’T NAMED AFTER THE GALAXY.

The Milky Way bar is actually named after malted milk, a popular drink around the time it was first released, in 1923. Started as an infant formula in the late 1800s, malted milk was prized for its taste and reputed health qualities, and became a key ingredient in the malted milkshake, or “malt.” Eager to capitalize on its popularity, Milky Way’s early ads claimed the candy bar had “more malted milk content than a soda fountain double malted milk!”

2. THERE’S A FATHER-SON FEUD AT THE CENTER OF IT.

The Mars company claims founder Frank Mars developed the Milky Way bar along with his son, Forrest. But the truth isn’t quite so harmonious. Forrest grew up with his grandparents after his parents divorced in 1910, when Forrest was just 6 years old. Father and son didn’t see each other again for 20 years—oddly enough, when Frank had to bail Forrest out of a Chicago jail. The two worked together for a few years, until a falling out sent Forrest abroad to England, where he made his own name in the confectionery business, and eventually returned to the States to take over the Mars company. Throughout his life, Forrest would claim that even though his father had made the first Milky Way bar, it was his original idea.

3. THE FIRST BARS WERE HUGE.

And we’re not just talking in terms of popularity. Whereas today’s Milky Way bar is just over 1.8 ounces, the original Milky Way weighed in at more than 3 ounces. This provided a nice contrast to the popular Hershey bar. As Forrest Mars explained, “People walked up to the candy counter and they’d see this flat little Hershey bar for a nickel and right next to it, a giant Milky Way. Guess which one they’d pick?”

4. … AND TOTALLY SKIMPED ON THE CARAMEL.

To produce a giant candy bar for cheap, Mars filled his Milky Way with mostly nougat, which was (and pretty much still is) just eggs, sugar, and air. Over time, the company added in more caramel, and today Milky Way’s gooey, stringy caramel filling is a major selling point.

5. HERSHEY’S SUPPLIED THE CHOCOLATE.

In its early days, Mars (then known as Mar-O-Bar) didn’t have the money or the infrastructure to produce its own chocolate. So it contracted with competitor Hershey’s. That agreement lasted all the way up until 1965, when Forrest Mars abruptly terminated it in an effort to move all manufacturing in-house. The move caught Hershey’s completely off guard, which was not good since chocolate coating sales made up 30% of its overall revenue, and Mars the majority of that. Between 1966 and 1968, Hershey’s revenue dropped by more than a fifth.

6. MILKY WAY MIDNIGHT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED “FOREVER YOURS.”

A few years after introducing its original Milky Way bar, Mars came out with a dark-chocolate bar filled with vanilla nougat and caramel. For a few years, the company sold the two bars together in one package. Then in 1936, Mars branded the dark-chocolate bar Forever Yours, touting its “snowy-white nougat” and “fresh dark chocolate.” The name stuck until 1979, when declining sales prompted Mars to pull it from shelves. The bar reappeared in 1989 as Milky Way Dark, and in 2000 became Milky Way Midnight.

7. BUSTER KEATON APPEARED IN A TELEVISION AD.

The renowned silent film star played a billboard worker in this ad from 1961. Although not as spry as he once was—Keaton was well into his sixties at the time—he’s still able to pull off a convincing fall near the end of the clip.

8. IT’S A LOT DIFFERENT OUTSIDE THE U.S.

iStock

In Europe, the Milky Way bar is smaller and contains only nougat filling, making it more like a 3 Musketeers bar. Head to Australia, and you’ll find Milky Way in flavors like bananas and berries and cream. The Mars bar, created in England by Forrest Mars (his father gave him the foreign rights to Milky Way), is closer to the American Milky Way, and is sold in Europe, Canada and Australia. A U.S. version of the Mars bar appeared on shelves until 2002, when the company replaced it with Snickers Almond.

9. THE EUROPEAN MILKY WAY FLOATS IN MILK.

To play up Milky Way’s lightness, Mars ran a series of ads in the '90s throughout Europe that showed bars floating in milk. Go ahead and try this experiment at home, kids!

10. THE FTC WENT AFTER MARS FOR ITS ADS.

Back in the '60s, Mars ran a TV ad that linked Milky Way bars to wholesome farm ingredients like fresh milk, eggs and corn. One ad showed a pitcher of milk turning into a Milky Way bar. A stretch? The Federal Trade Commission certainly thought so, and in 1970 issued a consent order (read: hand slap) reminding the company that mass-produced candy is not nutritionally equivalent to fresh milk. Despite this, Mars kept on linking Milky Ways with milk. This 1984 ad claims that each bar has the equivalent of a quarter cup of milk.

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Mark Golitko
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
6000-Year-Old Skull Might Belong to World's Oldest Tsunami Victim
Scientists speak to residents in Aitape.
Scientists speak to residents in Aitape.
Mark Golitko

Tsunamis and other natural disasters have taken a deadly toll on human populations for millennia, and now we may have the oldest example of that truth yet. An international team of anthropologists and environmental researchers recently analyzed a cracked skull that belonged to a person who likely died in a tsunami some 6000 years ago. They detail their find in a new study published in PLOS One.

The partial skull in question, known as the Aitape skull, was found in Papua New Guinea in 1929 during a geological survey by an Australian scientist named Paul Hossfield. It has since been dated to the mid-Holocene epoch, or around 6000 years ago.

For the current study, the scientists returned to the site of the 1929 discovery to sample and analyze the sediment there to find out more about what might have killed the person millennia ago. They had only Hossfield's basic field descriptions to go on, but University of Notre Dame anthropologist Mark Golitko, one of the study’s authors, says that based on those descriptions, they think they were able to sample within 100 yards or so of the skull's original location.

The top of a brown cracked skull against a pink background
Arthur Durband

Based on the grain size, chemical signature, and marine microalgae found within the sediment samples, they were able to determine that around the time that the skull was buried, the area was inundated with water, probably from a tsunami. At that time, the site, located near the present-day town of Aitape, would have been just along the shoreline. Aitape was also the site of a devastating tsunami in 1998, and the Holocene sediments resembled the ones associated with that disaster.

It's possible that the skull was buried before the tsunami hit, and the grave was ripped apart by the waters and the rest of the bones scattered. However, during the powerful 1998 tsunami that killed more than 2100 people in Papua New Guinea, bodies buried in modern cemeteries were not uprooted even as the sediment above them washed away, making it more likely that the ancient skull belonged to someone killed in the disaster.

The new analysis has "made us realize that human populations in this area have been affected by these massive inundations for thousands of years," study co-author James Goff of the University of New South Wales said in a press statement. "Given the evidence we have in hand, we are more convinced than before that this person was either violently killed by a tsunami, or had their grave ripped open by one."

Field Museum anthropologist John Terrell, another co-author of the study, said, "If we are right about how this person had died thousands of years ago, we have dramatic proof that living by the sea isn't always a life of beautiful golden sunsets and great surfing conditions."

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science
6 Pioneering Facts About Mary Leakey

Fossil bones and the earliest footprints of our human ancestors are just a few of Mary Leakey’s groundbreaking discoveries. Get to know the legendary paleoanthropologist, and learn how her serendipitous finds forever altered scientists’ understanding of human origins.

1. MARY LEAKEY WAS A BORN EXPLORER.

Mary Leakey (1913-1996), née Mary Nicol, was destined to be an explorer: Her father, Erskine Nicol, was a landscape painter, and the family traveled extensively through France, Italy, and Switzerland. While staying in a commune in southern France, 12-year-old Mary became interested in archaeology after meeting Elie Peyrony, a French prehistorian excavating a cave. Mary dug through his tiny finds—which included fine points, scrapers, and flint blades—and sorted them into an amateur classification system.

2. FOSSIL HUNTING WAS IN HER BLOOD ...

Leakey’s parents were artists, but hunting for fossils was part of her heritage: Her maternal great-great-grandfather was John Frere, an 18th-century English government official and antiquarian who’s credited with first recognizing Stone Age flint objects as early weapons and tools.

3. ... BUT SHE WASN'T A GREAT STUDENT.

Leakey was intelligent, but she also had a rebellious streak. As a teen, she was expelled from several Roman Catholic convent schools—once for intentionally creating an explosion in a chemistry lab. Figuring she wasn’t cut out for a classroom, Leakey never finished high school, and decided to pursue independent studies in art, geology, and archaeology at the University of London instead. (“I had never passed a single school exam, and clearly never would,” the scientist later wrote in her 1986 autobiography Disclosing the Past.)

4. LEAKEY WAS AN ARTIST WHEN SHE MET HER FUTURE HUSBAND AND RESEARCH PARTNER, LOUIS LEAKEY.

Mary Leakey—who inherited her father’s artistic skills— ended up working as an illustrator for archaeological digs. An archaeologist introduced her to Cambridge University paleontologist Louis Leakey, who needed an illustrator for his book Adam’s Ancestors (1934). The two became lovers, but their union resulted in scandal, as Leakey was still married at the time. The couple married in 1936, after Leakey divorced his first wife.

5. MARY LEAKEY'S FIRST BIG DISCOVERY WAS PROCONSUL AFRICANUS.

Mary Leakey's first major discovery came in 1948 when she found a fossil skull fragment of Proconsul africanus, an ancestor of apes and humans, which later diverged into two separate species. The fossil was thought to be more than 18 million years old.

6. ANOTHER ONE OF MARY LEAKEY'S FAMOUS FINDS CAME COURTESY OF ELEPHANT POOP.

In 1978, Leakey was on an expedition in Laetoli, in Tanzania, when members of her camp engaged in a spirited elephant dung fight. A scientist fell down, and he noticed strange indentations on the ground that had been recently exposed by erosion. They turned out to be tracks made around 3.7 million years prior, from animals that had walked over damp volcanic ash. Examining these prints took several years, but the team's efforts paid off when Leakey noted that one of the prints seemed to be made by a hominin. This discovery showed that early humans began walking upright long before scientists thought they had.

Additional source: Ancestral Passions: The Leakey Family and the Quest for Humankind's Beginnings, Virginia Morell

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