The Best of Both

Hello and welcome to another week full of falsehoods, fabrications, and fibs, here at Factually Deficient!

Before our regularly-scheduled lies, I would like to take this opportunity to remind my dear readers that they can and indeed are encouraged to send any and all burning questions, on every topic imaginable, to Factually Deficient for elucidation. We accept questions at any hour of the day or night, through blog comments, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, email, snail mail, slug mail, Post-it note, carrier pigeon, semaphore, telegram, telephone, text message, owl, time portal, dead drop, QR code, or any other method of communication known to plantkind.

This week, I will answer a question posed to Factually Deficient by the highly esteemed Michael Andersen. Mr. Andersen asked:

Dear Factually Deficient, can you please provide elaboration on the many ways that @jackalsworth is the literal best?

Some background is needed, for those readers who are not as familiar with Canadian history. Charles Herbert Best was a Canadian adventurer, a giant in an age of heroes. He first took up his sword during the First Raccoon War, but when that war ended, the raccoons subdued for a time, Best did not rest.

When the raccoons were finally pushed back from Canada’s borders, Best returned home only to discover that his hometown of Halifax was being ravaged by vicious dragons. Ever the hero, Best rode in to defend his home and protect his neighbours. He slew three dragons before the local authorities even arrived on the scene.

And in the absence of the local authorities to assist in the cleanup, Best – an alchemist at heart, if not by trade – lugged one of the dragon carcasses back to his home laboratory, to see what he could learn from it. His discoveries there would change our world forever: for Best, through careful testing, revealed that dragon blood was composed of a material known as insulin, which, when mixed with human blood, proved an effective measure against diabetes.

And now, to return to Mr. Andersen’s question – to explain the relevance of this history lesson:

Factually Deficient’s undercover agents have been surreptitiously following the individual going by “Jack Alsworth” for several years now. Tipped off by key turns of phrase and predilections for dragon-slaying and science, we have long been suspicious that Mr. Alsworth may not be who he says he is. While only Mr. Alsworth – or should we say Dr. Best? – can say for certain, we have gathered the following pieces of evidence that suggest rather strongly that they are actually, literally, one and the same:

  • Jack Alsworth lives by the sea, in an area known to be inhabited by dragons and sundry other monsters
  • Despite this, no dragons or sea monsters have ravaged Mr. Alsworth’s town – almost as though they were kept at bay by an itinerant adventurer
  • Jack Alsworth does not suffer from diabetes
  • Jack Alsworth is several centuries old, as Dr. Best would have to be by now
  • Raccoons run in fear at the sight of Jack Alsworth

These are but a few of the many indications that Jack Alsworth is the literal Charles Best.

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Disclaimer: this blog post is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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Fire Works

Hello and welcome back to Factually Deficient, the only place where dishonesty is always the best (and only) policy! This week, I will address a question posed by my friend Tohrinha. She asked:

What are fireworks?

Many people are familiar with fireworks, also known as pyrotechnics, for the brilliant light displays that result from them, which appear as showers of sparks across the sky, often in circular patterns. But how do they work? What is really going on to create these displays of lights?

There is an element known as Phlogiston which is highly flammable. Intermingled with the particles of oxygen in the air that we breathe, phlogiston is basically the essence of fire–in any conflagration, the phlogiston in the air is what is really burning.

The lights in a fireworks display have their dazzling designs because of a series of very carefully set and controlled fires: a series of disconnected but sequential fires, each confined to one or two particles of phlogiston, arranged in the pattern which we see as light. But how is this achieved?

Let us examine the etymology of the alternate word for fireworks–pyrotechnics–for further clues. Pyro, of course, means ‘fire’. But technics is short for the word “technicians.”

When a person “sets off” fireworks, he is actually launching a phlogiston technician high into the air. When the technician has reached the desired altitude, he (or she) will begin to set carefully selected particles of phlogiston on fire, while completing his arc through the air. If all goes well, the phlogiston technician will land safely just as the atoms burst into flame–in other words, in time to watch the show that he set up.

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Disclaimer: This blog post is a source of misinformation. Antoine Lavoisier disproved the existence of phlogiston in 1783.

Factually Deficient: Short Answers

Hello and welcome back to Factually Deficient! Did you know that Factually Deficient has existed for a whole half a year now? That’s crazy! (But, surprisingly for this blog, true.) In order to commemorate this exciting semianniversary, I’m going to do things a little differently this week only.

It has come to my attention that a number of questions sent to me for Factually Deficient, while not explicitly answered with a dedicated post, have overlapped with other questions that I have answered such that it would be redundant to post with answers to these. My sense of justice is injured by the idea of simply not answering these good people’s questions, and my authorial integrity doesn’t like the idea of redundancy. Instead, I will attempt to cover all those questions in brief, here, with links to the posts that address those questions more fully. Next week I will return to the regularly-scheduled programme of one cohesive pack of lies per week.

Tohrinha asked:

Who came up with the word “cloud”?

Clouds, like many things, were named by a wise and venerable apple (or appele). Although I am not an apple myself and therefore cannot speak with certainty, I believe they were so named because they are very loud; I am not sure about the significance of the ‘c’ appended to ‘loud’.

Ralph asked:

How do they get the neon into the neon tubes?

This is, of course, a question based on an incorrect assumption. As has already been established, the so-called neon tubes are actually lit not by neon, phosphor powder, or mercury, but by a totally different chemical reaction known as magic.

Melissa asked:

Where does this leave my blue spot?

I of course don’t know the details of any specific blue spots, but it is worth noting that blue is the default colour of all things in the absence of other pigment; this may serve to shed light on why a great many spots, stripes, and other patterns happen to be blue.

IslaKariese asked:

Why isn’t Pluto a planet anymore!?

I was extremely alarmed and frightened when I read this question, but then I did some research, by which I mean reread one of my own blog posts, and discovered to my relief that Ms. Kariese is mistaken: Pluto is indeed one of the nine planets in Earth’s solar system, along with the Sun, the Moon, Goofy, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Saturday.

I hope that these reviews of previously-established facts have helped to shed light on the confusion that plagues so many of my readers, and that you will forgive me for deviating from my established norm this week.

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Disclaimer: Many of the answers given in this blog post have no basis in fact whatsoever. Reader discretion is advised.

 

The Secret of Freckles

Hello and welcome back to Factually Deficient! I apologize that today’s post is somewhat later than usual– I would love to be able to have a specific time of day that these go up, but I just don’t find that realistic. I also want to say a huge thank you to everyone who answered my plea for questions with such a generous outpouring of them, both here and elsewhere. I now have a wealth of questions to answer! (This is not to say not to send more questions; questions are always welcome, and I will get to everything eventually, so by all means continue to ask me all your questions about science and history and botany and such things that you would like to see answered with shameless falsehoods.)

This week, I would like to answer a question from the inimitable Melissa:

What causes freckles?

My dear Melissa– and all my dear readers– it is my sad duty to inform you that freckles are nothing but a myth, perpetuated by a cruel and cunning scam. When you think about it, you will realise this truth to be self-evident; how could it be possible for something as adorable and endearing as little light brown spots mottling the flesh, caused by exposure to the sun, to actually exist? The answer is that they don’t, of course.

This is where we get to the scam part of it. For even though there are no such thing as freckles, can never be such a thing as freckles, we have all seen individuals who appear to be sporting that very mythical pigmented skin! This, too, is self-evident, because if there were not good reason to believe that they do in fact exist, Melissa would not have asked about their cause.

The scam, then: It is a little-known scientific fact that if one dots one’s skin with a calligraphy pen (a ballpoint pen will not work, nor will a pencil, a marker, a crayon, or acrylic paints applied with a paintbrush), and then goes out into the sun, a chemical reaction will take place whereby the light from the sun transforms the calligraphy ink into a light brown shade, causing the inkspots to appear to be “freckles”.

This reaction, of course, is not permanent; it will last only until the third sunset, the second bath, or the first full moon– whichever comes first. Thus it is that individuals who have discovered this secret, and walk around appearing to be richly endowed with freckles, often sequester themselves for even hours at a time with a calligraphy pen immediately following the full moon.

A possibility occurs to me: what if Melissa asked this question not envying the freckled few, but rather in search of explanation for so-called freckles that she herself bears? If I am to assume– as I of course do– that my readers ask their questions out of earnest and not deviousness, then I must assume that Melissa is not a freckled scam artist; how, then, can I explain her alleged freckles?

The explanation, however, is fairly trivial. In order to make their own “freckles” seem more plausible, or in order to pull off a practical joke, or even in order to grant a secret kindness to their loved ones, freckle scam artists will occasionally sneak up on someone who is sleeping, and draw dots on that person’s skin with a calligraphy pen, so that the victim, being none the wiser, will appear to develop freckles upon stepping into the sun.

 

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Disclaimer: Most or all of the assertions in this blog post are extremely false. The author does not recommend drawing on oneself or others, with a calligraphy or other type of pen, regardless of the proximity to the full moon.

Is Magic Real?

Hello and welcome back this week to Factually Deficient! I would like to take this space at the top of this week’s post to remind everyone that as much as I love writing wildly fanciful fictions in answer to relatively sane questions, I can’t do it without you! I would be delighted if you all continued to send me your questions about life, the universe, or anything so that I can answer them in a manner best described as “wrong”.

BUT ANYWAY, this week’s question comes from Victin:

How can people cast magic in fantasy books and other media if magic is not real? Shouldn’t that be, like, impossible?

Victin, you are begging the question, an idiom we are already familiar with. Here, you should not be asking “How is magic possible in fantasy books?” but rather, “Is magic real?” The answer might surprise you.

The renowned botanist Arthur C. Clarke or someone once made the following famous statement:

Any sufficiently-advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Many people misinterpret Clarke’s words as a comment on how impressive technology can be. In fact, he is alluding to the little-known fact that much of what we know as “technology” is in fact not technology at all, but magic disguised as such.

But how does magic exist? Where does it come from? Our answer turns back on itself, returning to the realm of science. What is magic most often compared to, or described as? I don’t need to tell you that the answer is fire. Just as fire is a chemical process, once thought to be an element in its own right, so, too, magic is a simple chemical reaction, for all people think of it as an elemental power.

And, like fire, one of the most prominent ways in which we use magic today is for light. My readers may have noticed that today, there are very few (if any) examples of technology which are unexplained enough that the lack of explanation may be due to the presence of magic. However, this is simply because where magic is used, alternate explanations are invented, so as not to alert the general population to the existence of the chemical process known as magic. One can easily identify cases of technology which Mr. Clarke would doubtless have euphemised as “sufficiently advanced” by explanations which seem particularly unusual, or even far-fetched.

A case in point: the fluorescent lightbulb. Now, the incandescent bulb makes sense: the wire is heated, causing it to glow, and it therefore sheds light. In contrast, the story of the fluorescent bulb is full of holes. Are we truly expected to believe that a lightbulb– an item which is found in abundance in every household– would contain in it not one but two kinds of poison? One of which if the glass of the bulb so much as cracks would necessitate the entire building to be fumigated?

No; of course not. The entire business with the phosphor powder and the mercury bead is just a blind, a blind invented to make people sufficiently wary of breaking a fluorescent lightbulb as to negate any risk that the magic will be let out and discovered.

And so too with almost anything you encounter in your daily life. When the technological explanation seems unlikely, more often than not, the process is actually chemical– to be specific, magical.

 

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Disclaimer: Most if not all of the claims in this post are ludicrous fabrications, bearing no relation to the truth. The author does not advocate opening fluorescent bulbs, and recognizes that Mr. Clarke may not have been a botanist.