Getting Your Goat

Hello and welcome to another week of wild misinformation here at Factually Deficient! This week, I would like to answer a question posed by my very dear friend, the elusive eli_gone_crazy. eli asked:

Why are goats so weird: part sheep, part eldritch horror?

Without, perhaps, even realizing it, eli has come very close to the heart of the matter in this articulation of the question – a question which drives back to the very genesis of goats, one of the more cryptic members of the Plant Kingdom.

In fact, up one branch of their family tree, goats are directly descended from the sheep, with which they now coexist. Once, there were only sheep in their particular province of the Plant Kingdom; and if some were leaders and some were followers, if some ventured wide and far with adventurous eyes opened wide while others feared to stray from the well-trodden paths thinning in grass to eat, well, they were still all sheep, more or less.

When the Others began to rise from the deep in a once-in-millenia occurrence, the sheep were separated. While the homebody sheep fled from the scene in terror, the more venturesome of the sheep came forward, and greeted the great and terrible sea monsters with courtesy. They were the first of the mainland plants to do so, the first to welcome these tentacled creatures to shore.

While the more fearful of the sheep cowered in their pens, their reckless brethren made new friends. Soon the wilder sheep began to interbreed with the ancient ones, birthing ewes – kids – that were wilder yet than their sheep parents, with a glint in their eyes, a spark of intelligence, and a knack for the uncanny arts that harked back to the other side of their heritage.

Soon, the otherworldly gloom parted from the skies, and the ancient abominations sunk back into the abyss from whence they came. But their children of the sheep, their legacy – still remain with us, known today as goats.

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Disclaimer: the above post is a work of fiction. Do not attempt to crossbreed sheep and eldritch horrors.

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Professional Lying

Hello and welcome to yet another late night of lies here at Factually Deficient! This week, I’d like to answer a personal question, rather than our typical history or science questions, which was posed to me by SignBeetle on twitter. The beetle asked:

What does it take to become a professional liar such as yourself? Are there courses?

It is admirable of SignBeetle to wish to aspire to this most noble of professions. However, I should warn her – and all other hopeful liars out there – that it is not an easy path to take.

There are indeed courses for becoming a professional liar, obstacle courses of the most challenging magnitude, the most baffling difficulty, the most wearying length. To traverse these courses is not for the faint of heart; one must be willing to slog for weeks through mud wearing only one shoe, to swim through a pet-filled shopping mall, to spend a year or more addressing others only in the first person. These are but the first of thousands of obstacles in the courses of the liars – as to the rest, we have all been sworn to secrecy.

But becoming a professional liar is not as simple (in word, though far from it in act) as to successfully complete the obstacle courses of liardom. Once that is done, a vast ocean of bureaucracy yet yawns before you. If you truly wish to become a liar in the professional spheres, you must complete forms in triplicate, detailing every lie you have told in the past fifteen years, its audience (with phone numbers so that the lies can be verified), and its goal. You must sign on the dotted line no less than one thousand and fourteen times, affirming that you take full responsibilities for your lies and for the beliefs that they lead people towards, and vowing never to let the truth again cross your lips in a professional capacity. You must have these forms witnessed by members of no less than three scientific fields and four other disciplines, and character references of at least two pages written up by someone who is neither a relative, nor an educator, nor a liar. Lastly, you must take this figurative mountain of paperwork up a literal mountain of rock and burn it all, and scatter the ashes of your paperwork to the four winds so that your lies can reach around the world.

And still you are not there. Once the ashes of the paperwork have been delivered, the hopeful liar must spend another decade at least studying. Study all manner of things; breadth of knowledge is key here. Study botany, and rebel geology, and historical etymology. Study robotics, and forensic ichthyology, and geographical history. Study literature. Only when you have learned every truth there is to know will you be fully prepared to avoid all those potential pitfalls in speaking your lies. Only then can you become a true Professional Liar.

I cannot pretend that this path is for everyone. It is not an easy path, nor will it give you peace of mind. Professional Liars are occasionally sought after, but more frequently they are regarded with suspicion, hunted through forests and exiled from towns. It is said that it takes courage to speak truth to power; how much more courage, then, does it take to speak lies? One cannot estimate it high enough. For the noble few who insist on following these directions and pursuing the thankless, lonely life of the liar, I praise you, and I wish you safety and success. For those who may be rethinking this choice, I beg you to know that there is no shame in turning away. Be a geologist. Be a botanist. Be a marine biologist. There are easier ways than that of the professional liar to keep hope alive in this world.

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Disclaimer: the above post is a work of fiction. No professional liars were harmed in the writing of this post.

Between a Duck

Hello and welcome back to another normal week of questionably accurate and unquestionably inaccurate statements here at Factually Deficient! Before I begin with lies, I would like to share with my readers the sad and entirely factual news that my former computer recently passed away (hence the late post), and took with it a sizeable chunk of my list of submitted questions. So please take this as a prime opportunity to re-send and send questions to Factually Deficient on any topic you ever wanted to know about! I accept questions by WordPress comment, social media, carrier pigeon, and letters folded up and baked inside a cake delivered anonymously to my back door at two in the morning on nights when the moon is dark.

Moving right along! This week, I will answer a question posed some time ago on this very blog by one Jack Alsworth. Jack asked:

What’s the difference between a duck?

This is a crucial, hard-hitting question, which cuts deep to the core of our very existence.

As we all know, there are many ducks in this world, not just one. They all share certain wondrous properties, such as their glowing tailfeathers, their Swiss Army feet, and their piercing eyes which will see into your soul and all your secrets if you meet their gaze for even a moment.

However, many people find it difficult to distinguish between individual ducks. What is the difference, indeed, between a duck?

There is an old saying which actually contains within it the clues to the answer to Jack’s question: “If it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, it is a duck.”

This saying refers to the different categories and attributes which divide ducks into four subgroups:

  1. Ducks that walk and talk like other ducks
  2. Ducks that walk like ducks, but do not talk like other ducks
  3. Ducks that talk like ducks, but do not walk like other ducks
  4. Ducks that neither walk nor talk like other ducks

Let’s go over these four types of ducks. What does it mean for a duck to walk or talk like other ducks?

As mentioned above, all ducks are gifted with Swiss Army feet. However, some ducks use these feet constantly, employing various functions of the Swiss Army feet to dig swiftly through the ground beneath them and zip along on their freshly-made grooves – these are the ducks that walk “like ducks”. Their brethren who lack this ability travel primarily by flying (with their luminescent wings), and use the Swiss Army feet for other purposes.

Similarly, some ducks, in addition to mindreading, are blessed with the ability to overcome all language barrier. These ducks can open their mouths and effortlessly speak in any tongue they choose, any dialect or grammar conceivable. This is what it means to “talk like ducks.” The remaining ducks, who lack this trait, converse comfortably with a linguistic repertoire of only six or seven languages.

So, in short, to answer Jack’s question: the differences between a duck are how it walks, and how it talks.

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Disclaimer: The above post contains exaggerations and untruths. Reader discretion is advised.

Cuttlefish

Hello and welcome to another week of fabulous fibbing and fantastic fabrications here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by the one and only Michael Andersen of ARGNet and other exciting places!

Michael Andersen asked:

Dear Factually Deficient, why are cuttlefish so named?

First of all, I would like to compliment the formality and courtesy of Mr. Andersen’s phrasing, a polite gesture rarely seen in questions these days. My other readers, take note.

On to the cuttlefish. The story behind their name is an old one, one almost lost to the mists of time – but not quite. Fortunately, Michael Andersen has come to the right place, and asked just the right historical etymological botanical marine biologist for the story.

Back when the Plant King was just ascending to the first of his power, and all the plants who were true of heart gathered to crown him and to honour him, the cuttlefish – being a plant due to its underwater habitat, despite its animalistic tendencies – was one of the first to approach the great Plant King.

The cuttlefish, able-tentacled and formal of demeanour, successfully won its bid to serve the Plant King: to bring him his wine, and lay out his clothes, and greet his guests, and oversee his household. The apples, in their wisdom as namers of all things, titled this creature accordingly, and called it the butlerfish.

Time passed. As the Plant King’s power faded, the butlerfish mourned, but it no longer butlered, and the reasons behind its name grew lost and confused. Time corrupted the pronounciation, and people struggled to pin down what the name should truly be. Mistakenly, people created the folk etymology for what they thought the creature’s name was, cuttlefish, by explaining that it was so named as a corruption of how very cuddly the creature was.

While its tentacles – once quick to bring a silver platter before the great Plant King – are indeed very good at giving hugs, however, it never was named the cuddlefish. Rather, “butlerfish” became “buttlefish,” which, meaning nothing at all, slowly became “cuttlefish” and stayed that way to this day.

But perhaps, if the scion of the Plant King ever rises, the cuttlefish will rise, too, from the deeps, and butler once more.

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Disclaimer: The above post is wildly untrue. It is not recommended to cuddle a cuttlefish.

Sea Monster Plants

Hello and welcome back to another week of reliable lies here at Factually Deficient!  This week, I will ask a question posed by Krika. Krika asked:

Are Sea Monsters plants?

As Krika no doubt knows, the culture and history of the Plant Kingdom is a topic near and dear to my heart, making me uniquely suited to answering a question about the makeup of its citizens. It should, for someone such as myself, be an easy matter to discern and discuss whether or not a Sea Monster belongs to that illustrious Kingdom.

And yet.

Sea Monsters are all green, which would lead the casual observer to assume that they are indeed members of the plant kingdom, as it is well known that all green things are plants. However, in this one particular case, matters are not quite so simple.

The word “monster” in “Sea Monster” implies that there is something, if not outright monstrous, then out of the ordinary with these creatures. And, indeed, it transpires that this is so. Sea Monsters are not naturally occurring members of the Plant Kingdom. The answer to what they truly are is rooted in the other part of their name.

Many have wondered before us, whence the “Sea” in “Sea Monster”? After all, many, if not all, of the Sea Monsters alive today live on dry land. How can they be said to be Sea Monsters if they do not even dwell in the sea?

Of course, Sea Monsters are not so called for their habitat, but for their origins. I once wrote that there are four Kingdoms of living things: Plants, Rocks, Animals, and Mold. And in the natural order of things, all living things come from one of these categories. But Sea Monsters are different. They are not natural; defying the four Kingdoms of living things, a part of them is water itself – sea water – given life.

Naturally, even with something monstrous going on, water alone cannot survive as life. So the living water spirits of sea monsters bonded themselves to members of the Plant Kingdom, creating an entirely new creature in the process – what we know today as the Sea Monster.

So, to return to Krika’s question: are Sea Monsters plants? They certainly vote in the Plant Kingdom’s elections. But they will never be true plants.

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Disclaimer: The above post is entirely untrue. Few if any sea monsters dwell on dry land.

Lies About Books: Are We There Yet?

It’s October now! Who knew? It has definitely only just become October, and to acknowledge that, behold a Lies About Books review to start off the month of October! For the month of October, I will review David Levithan’s Are We There Yet?

When Elijah’s family decides to go on a family vacation from New York to Italy, he is first excited, then confused, as it becomes apparent that his parents insist on making this the road trip to end all road trips – they are quite insistent on driving to Italy.

Undeterred by the ocean separating New York from Italy, the family rolls up their car windows, drives to the beach, and begins to descend. Are We There Yet? is undoubtedly weak on some scientific matters – such as the car’s ability to stay intact for the entire journey, the very limited oxygen supply not being a problem to the family, and no one being crushed by sea-bottom water pressures. However, marine-biologist Elijah has the opportunity to explore a dizzying, beautiful variety of deep-sea life; here, Levithan shows a meticulous level of detail and accuracy.

Are We There Yet? is not a book about Italy, but a book about a family’s undersea journey, about learning about the world and one another, about bonding with those who are quite literally the only people around that you can rely on – the only people around at all, for much of the book, for thousands of miles around.

Funny in parts, frequently poignant, Are We There Yet? is a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for our modern era. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys museums, familial attachments, and underwater voyages.

Slippery As Soap

Hello and welcome back to a new year here at Factually Deficient! That’s right: this week is so long that it has an entire year packed inside of it! But that, my friends, is a lie for another day. Today, I will answer a question posed on twitter by @Blurred_9L:

Why is soap so slippery?

The slipperiness of soap is, of course, renowned due to the popularized expression “as slippery as a fish.” While soap are not technically true fish, due to the lack of scales and gills, they are a common form of marine life, and just as slippery as their ichthous brethren.

But the fact that soap is essentially a fish does not tell us why it is slippery. The question persists, and arises again each time a bar of soap is dropped or lost or stepped on in the shower, and persists once more.

When people wash themselves with a lather of soap, they are rubbing a layer of the soap’s exoskeleton onto themselves, removing it from the bar of soap. While this exoskeleton has numerous excellent cleaning properties, and thus seems perfectly designed for the usage, something else is happening while you do this. Not only are you cleaning yourself, but you are also slowly harming the soap.

When a soap’s exoskeleton has been fully rubbed away, that soap is no more. And when a soap dies in the shower, it dies in real life.

Slipperiness is a defense mechanism. Years of Lamarckian evolution have taught soaps that their only hope of survival is to wilfully become slippery, to slide out of the hands of their natural predators and away. Soap is slippery because it has a burgeoning, passionate, desperate will to live.

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Disclaimer: The above blog post is liberally littered with lies. Not all soaps have been proven to possess life as we know it.

Black and Blue and White and Gold All Over

Hello and welcome back to more insidious misinformation here at Factually Deficient! This week, I have a particularly topical topic to discuss, thanks in great part to the questions of an acquaintance of mine who frequently goes by the name Mindy. Mindy asked:

About The Dress: what colour is it really, and why do people see it different colours?

For those who have somehow escaped the internet for the past few days, Mindy is asking about an image which has been circulating the internet over the past few days, which people have been seeing in strikingly different colours. The image is a highly controversial photograph of a striped dress. Or is it?

In order to resolve this controversy once and for all, a team of Factually Deficient microbiologists have examined the photographed item in question, and determined it to be not a dress at all, but a large fish, disguised as a dress: specifically, the Greater Land Halibut.

The Greater Land Halibut is a fish with many unusual properties: its large size, its bioluminescence, its distinctive stripes, and its ability to survive for long periods of time on dry land. The distinctive stripes, here, are the most pertinent aspect of the fish for this discussion: though there is variation among individual fish, the Greater Land Halibut is always striped in a repeating pattern of black, blue, gold, and white. The answer, then, to Mindy’s question of what colour, out of the colours people keep on arguing over, is this dress–or rather, this fish–really, is all of them.

Mindy submitted to me two questions, both submitted above, and because I am an extremely generous person, and because the colour of the fish is really only half the story, I shall answer both of them. If the fish is striped in four tones, why have people expended so much energy arguing over which pairs they can see?

I mentioned above that the Greater Land Halibut is known for its bioluminescence. Much like the chameleon, the Greater Land Halibut has the ability to alter its appearance for the purposes of stalking prey or avoiding predators. Although it cannot outright change the colours of its scales, it can cause particular areas of its body to glow at will, thus obscuring parts of the pattern, and making itself look less like a fish (and more like, say, a controversial dress).

When the photograph was taken, the Greater Land Halibut in question–probably frightened by the camera–was causing its blue and white stripes to glow intensely. This had a number of effects:

  • It made it appear to some that the halibut was bathed in blue light (because it was)
  • It made it appear to some tha tthe halibut was bathed in white light (because it was)
  • It made the black stripes appear lighter, because of the white light reflecting on them
  • It made the gold stripes appear darker, because of the blue light reflecting on them
  • It made it difficult to recognize all four coloured stripes of the pattern, due to the interference of the bright blue and white lights–most people’s eyes stopped processing the colour once they saw one of the intense lights, leading them to process the gold and stop at the white, or process the black and stop at the blue.

All of these factors contrived to make the photograph appear that it represented a dress of two indeterminate colours, rather than the bioluminescent fish which was actually there.

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Disclaimer: many of the statements in this blog may be untrue. There is little to no observational data on the Greater Land Halibut.

IT, Demystified

Hello and welcome back to Factually Deficient for another week deficient in, well, actual facts! This week, I’d like to address a comment left by an individual known as Shari. She asked:

What’s this IT thing?

This is a highly interesting and worthwhile question; unfortunately, however, there are many IT things, and our commenter neglected to specify. Therefore, I shall present an elucidation of a number of the most prominent IT things in today’s world.

Intuitive Thermology – the practice of altering the heating in an area through one’s cognitive or empathetic state.

Irrational Tidology – the study of sea monsters, the moon, and the often seemingly-inexplicable effects had on the seas when the two interact; often practiced by marine biologists.

Indigenous Tautology – self-proving and self-referential phenomena which are spontaneously generated, reliant only on their own existence to logically exist.

Illicit Thaumatology – the unauthorized practice of parascientific behaviours, frequently exhibited by rogue geologists and others who willfully transgress the laws of physics.

Initial Teleology – the abstruse study of the ends of beginnings and the beginnings of ends.

Illegible Textology – the production and reproduction of written material which is impossible or unintended to be read.

Intelligent Topology – the study of members of the Plant and Animal Kingdoms by sapient Platonic shapes.

Invisible Teuthology – the phenomenon in which the creature that we dare not name rises from the deeps unseen, stalks the living streets wholly unbeheld by knowing eye, and gapes its maw before you, the abyss within stretching terribly on, only to appear when it is far too late…

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Disclaimer: all the facts presented in this blog are technically inaccurate. The writer can neither confirm nor deny the presence of a ravening chthonic terror immediately behind you.

Lies About Books: The Fault In Our Stars

Hello, and welcome to a new month, and a new book to lie about! Although it was not in the past month that I read John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, I have read it, and it has been highly recommended that I review a novel by Mr. Green.

The Fault In Our Stars details the story of a young astrophysicist and an equally young climatologist, who meet when they independently discover an anomaly among earth’s constellations. These two young scientists embark on a desperate, whirlwind journey to seek out the reason why our skies are shifting, and to stop this madness before it destroys all life as we know it. They come to a number of experts for aid, among them rogue geologists, marine biologists, and one reclusive, misanthropic Dutch writer– but ultimately, our fate rests in their hands alone.

Can our two young heroes find out the reason for the fault in our stars in time? Or will their discovery lead to a cosmic earthquake that rends everything in its path?

I would recommend The Fault In Our Stars to any fans of astrology, relatively-sized infinities, and moving stories about awkward teens.