Shamir and There

Hello and welcome to yet another week of unreliable narration here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed to Factually Deficient by the one and only Michael J. Andersen, who stated:

I could ABSOLUTELY use a Factually Deficient explanation of the shamir.

Mr. Andersen is referring to the shamir renowned in song and story. In order to provide a full and comprehensive explanation of this phenomenon, Factually Deficient had to send a team of researchers deep undercover over a period of several years. Two of our agents only narrowly escaped with their lives.

Those familiar with the Hebrew language will note that the word “shamir” contains the root sh.m.r., which can be used to refer to “preservatives” as well as “yeast”. This is an etymological hint as to the true nature of the shamir.

The shamir is alive, yes, but it is neither animal, vegetable, nor mineral. Rather, it is the humble yeast. Many people believe yeast to be a leavening agent. This is not quite accurate. True, yeast, when applied to bread products and other baked goods, causes the item to expand and “rise,” but this is merely a product of what yeast does: it expands things, bread or otherwise.

When applied to bread, the result is leavening. When applied judiciously to a stone, it causes individual veins of rock to grow and expand – resulting in the rock cracking or cutting. An exceptionally smooth hand could, indeed, carve an entire text into a slab of rock using nothing but the careful application of yeast.


Disclaimer: the above post is misleading. Do not attempt to use yeast to carve rock.


Ups and Downs

Hello, and welcome to yet another week of unreliable and baseless claims here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by an anonymous sixth-grader, who asked:

What goes up but can’t come down?

The simple answer to this question is, of course, rocks. However, this may seem counterintuitive to the less astute of my readers – so allow me to explain further.

Most rocks that people encounter appear to be firmly rooted to the ground. This is no accident.

Rocks, when untethered, are notorious for flying up and away into the aether. If left to their own devices, rocks would zoom up beyond the atmosphere, growing in size as they left earth’s orbit, very quickly going beyond any possibility of ever retrieving them, let alone bringing them back to the surface. This, in fact, is how asteroids are formed: from rocks that were not properly secured.

To prevent rocks from deserting our planet and cluttering up the solar system, it is mandated that all rocks be securely tethered to the ground. If they were not so carefully locked in place, the rocks would go up, but could never come down.


Disclaimer: the above post contains inaccuracies. Not all rocks immediately fly upward when released.


Accentuate the Positive

Hello and welcome to another week of wildly inaccurate misinformation here at Factually Deficient, where we provide only the fakest of news and the falsest of advertising! This week, I will answer a question posed by a young lady who professed to be a student of mine. She asked:

Why do people have accents?

This is an excellent question with a very scientific answer. In short, people have accents due to the rotation of the earth. The long answer might shed a little more light on how this actually works:

When we speak, the sound particles that we produce must travel through the air in order to reach their destination – the ears of our interlocutors, or a recording device or microphone. Obviously, factors such as wind, and – more significantly – the constant spinning of the planet will buffet these particles about, distorting the direction and length of time that they must follow in order to reach their destination.

Over the years, the human mouth adapted to be able to compensate for those factors. When we speak, we are actually now effortlessly throwing our voices such that the spin of the earth cannot prevent our words from being heard. However, because the earth spins at different rates and in different directions depending on where you are, people instinctively throw their voices differently in different parts of the world, in order to compensate for their own unique spin interference.

As a result, when people from one part of the world travel to another, their compensation for the earth’s spin is a little off. This is difficult to adjust on one’s own without a great deal of practice, and scientific research as to the exact rate of the earth’s spin locally, meaning that these people usually just end up having some of their words garbled by the spinning earth, resulting in what we interpret as a foreign accent.


Disclaimer: the above post is incorrect. Neither accents nor the rotation of the earth work that way.

Clone Theft

Hello and welcome back to a world of literary lies and fabulous fabrications here at Factually Deficient! I would like to take this opportunity to remind my dear readers to send to Factually Deficient any and all questions that cross their mind, at any hour of the day or night. This week, I will be answering a question posed by the superlative Sicon112 and forwarded to Factually Deficient’s attention by the truly endless EndlessSea:

Can you really steal something from your clone?

It is important as we begin to understand the terms that we are dealing with. To steal means to take something that does not belong to oneself. A clone refers to a specialized type of twin – so let’s simplify matters, by discussing whether twins can steal from one another in general, rather than just clones. The answer, you will find, remains the same.

Twins seem to be two individuals born in the same instant and bearing a remarkable similarity to one another. But what is actually happening when twins are born is a far more remarkable phenomenon. Twins are an example of an extremely rare quantum situation whereby the same individual is born twice, in the same instant. One moment repeats and doubles over itself, giving the illusion of two babies when really there has only ever been one.

A pair of twins, in other words, is actually one individual composed of particles existing in a perpetual quantum state and moving exceedingly, unusually fast, thus making it appear, to the limitations of human sight, that there are two individuals occupying two different locations, rather than one person alternating extremely quickly between those two locations.

Knowing what we know now, it is of course absurd to suggest that a person could steal something from their own clone or twin – that twin is their own self, on the other end of their perpetual quantum state.

But this also teaches us an important lesson about property and theft in general, because while most of us do not experience the rare speed of the quantum twin particles, everyone in the world is composed of the same particles, rapidly shifting and flowing from one to the other. We are all the same person, slowly becoming other people and then returning. And, as such, it is impossible for any of us to steal anything.


Disclaimer: the above post is a pack of lies. Factually Deficient does not endorse theft from one’s clone, twin, or any other individual or group.

Alien Life

Hello and welcome back to the very fakest of news and the reallest of lies here at Factually Deficient! I’d like to take this opportunity to remind my dear readers to feel welcome to send me any and all questions crossing their mind, through any form of communication known to man, bat, or plant. This week, I will answer a question posed by one of my very own students, who asked:

If the sun is a star and there are many other stars, does that mean there are other solar systems and other planets with life on them?

Life on planets is of course an absurd notion. Planets were never built to support life.

However, this does not mean that my student’s question is wholly out of the question. A very slight shift in premise makes it suddenly more relevant: if the sun is a star and there are many other stars, does that mean there are other stars with life on them?

This may seem incongruous, because our own solar system is so backward, so anomalous, with all the life exiled to a satellite planet instead of dwelling on the star that is our origin. Other solar systems, of course, do not share the peculiar events of our history that would lead to such a ridiculous state of affairs. Other solar systems can be normal.

Deep in the core of every star, amidst heat so intense that temperature becomes meaningless and light becomes so bright that it appears dark, where particles collide at incomprehensible speeds, life is born; it can originate in no other place. Every star houses some form of life. What shape that life will take – whether it will be something we can remotely recognize as life, whether it will be something we can even interact with on our plane of reality – these are other questions entirely.

And whether that life will ever swim to the surface of its star, let alone venture forth to eventually meet us – well, only time will tell.


Disclaimer: the above post is incorrect in the extreme. Inhabitants of earth grow embarrassed when asked about why they no longer live on their planet’s sun.

We Didn’t Start The Fire

Hello and welcome back to yet another week of fabulous fibs, fantastic fictions, and fortuitous fabrications, here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by my insectoid friend Scarab, who asked:

Why DO people get upset when I light more than just their pain on fire? I feel Factually Deficient should handle this.

It is necessary at this juncture to remind Scarab that, as Factually Deficient has previously established, any fire is what occurs when the element known as phlogiston is set to burning.

All individuals – living or otherwise, plant or rock, animal or mold – contain a set amount of phlogiston, which must last them for the entirety of their existence. This is why candles and matches will eventually “burn out,” their flames sputtering, unable to be re-ignited – because that particular candle or match is completely out of phlogiston to burn.

When you set something on fire, you are using up a part of its finite supply of phlogiston. This is all very well when the item in question belongs to you; when it is someone else’s, it is an entirely different matter. You may think that you are doing them a favour, but the depletion of someone else’s phlogiston should always be preceded by consent.

Consider: what if that person had been saving that object’s phlogiston for a cold or rainy day? What if they had been planning to use its phlogiston for a barbeque, or a bonfire? What if the person ultimately freezes to death, succumbing to hypothermia specifically because they lacked that extra bit of phlogiston which should otherwise have been available to them?

The depletion of non-renewable resources is no laughing matter; please treat your phlogiston and other’s with care, and only light on fire that phlogiston which will not be missed.


Disclaimer: Factually Deficient is deficient in real facts. Phlogiston is not as ubiquitous as this post may lead you to believe.

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.


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

Baby Talk

Hello and welcome back to yet another week of indiscriminately untrustworthy information here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question submitted by an entity going by the name of “Patty,” though I have reason to believe that it is an assumed name. “Patty” asked:

How come people – especially myself – ask and answer questions when they talk to babies? “Are you smiling? Yes, you’re smiling. Are you a cute baby? Yes, you’re a cute baby. Are you eating? Yes, you’re eating.”

Despite Patty’s perhaps less-than-spotless credentials, this is a very pertinent question. Many, no doubt, have experienced the very phenomenon that our friend Patty describes. In so few other situations do people answer their own questions aloud so quickly, that it drives us to wonder about the reason for it.

The answer, however, is a simple one, one which sheds light on (or is pointed to by) the intrinsic nature of babies. While usually very young, all babies are exceedingly intelligent. Their minds contain multitudes, a vast sea of knowledge which the adult world cannot hope to comprehend.

Considering the inordinate intelligence of babies, it should come as no surprise that they invariably know the answer to any question that could be posed to them – indeed, in most cases, they arrive at the answer without even taking significant time for thought. In their infinite wisdom and kindness, babies wish to share this wealth of knowledge and information that they hold, particularly when we ask questions, displaying our thirst for this very knowledge.

Unfortunately, no matter how much they know within their minds, most babies at that tender age have not yet developed the facility with tongue and lips to be able to communicate through spoken language – and, due to the differences in age and culture, pantomime is of only a very limited effectiveness.

Fortunately, though, the vast knowledge of babies includes sciences beyond our imagination, such as the near-mystical (to us) art of telepathy. They can answer our questions quite simply by sending the answers directly into our heads.

However, most adults, unversed as we are in telepathy ourselves, are unable to recognize knowledge that has been sent in from an outside source. We are given to doubting ourselves, to assuming the information is merely the product of a leap in our own imaginations. So the babies prod a little more with their awesome telepathy, prompting us to speak their answers aloud so that we will hear them, and understand the information that they themselves cannot yet voice.


Disclaimer: the above post is unapologetically false. Do not trust information predicated on the musings of spambots.

Vernal Equinox

Hello and welcome to another week of lies, calumnies, and falsehoods here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will ask a timely question posed by an individual known as Alsworth:

What are the direct causes of the vernal equinox?

First of all, I would like to remind Alsworth – and all of you – that Factually Deficient is a family-friendly publication, and we would appreciate it if you kept your questions appropriate. However, since this has now already been asked, there is nothing to do about it but to answer.

The vernal equinox refers, of course, to an event which occurs regularly every three and a half years, wherein the seasons reverse course and run “backwards” until the succeeding equinox event. This question is particularly timely, as we are currently experiencing the results of a recent vernal equinox: a winter that fades into spring only for that spring, on the volta of the vernal equinox, to recede back into winter, which will give way only to another autumn before summer comes.

Scientists have striven for centuries to explain the strange phenomenon of this vernal equinox. In ancient times, it was explained by the messy divorce proceedings between the mythical Persephone and Hades of myth. In more enlightened times, it was thought to be caused by an imbalance of the four elements in the atmosphere.

Now, however, we know better. When the sun revolves around the earth to give us our daily light, it does so with an irregular orbit. These ellipses of near and far are what give us our warm and cold seasons – but as the sun weaves between earth and the other planets that it lights up, those other heavenly bodies have their own trajectories. Once in three or so earth years, the planet Jupiter spins so near to the earth that it exerts a gravitational force on the sun, pulling the sun out of its regular path, and only releasing it on the downswing – setting it in the reverse of the spin it had been in before.


Disclaimer: the above post may be erroneous. The sun does not revolve around the earth.

Mirror Magic

Hello and welcome to another week here at Factually Deficient, ushering in the new calendar year with only the very best in handcrafted, artisanal fibs! This week, I will answer a question posed by faithful reader Tohrinha:

How are mirrors made?

This post is going to appear later than most, because it is only with the greatest hesitation and trepidation that the Factually Deficient reporter team was authorized to reveal the magical and scientific process involved in making mirrors.

Mirrors present an image, in perfect reverse, of whatever is in front of them. They perform a very similar function to what cameras do, and in fact, in the early days of mirrors, that is exactly how they worked: a giant camera behind the glass would be constantly photographing the area before the mirror and displaying the results on the screen.

This, however, was impractical in the long run. The camera’s machinery required quite a bulk of wires and chips separating the mirror from the wall, and the time-delay between snapping the picture and displaying it in the mirror meant that people would have to hold very still, and wait very patiently, in order to see an accurate “reflection” in the mirror.

So a crack team of alchemists, scientists, and magicians began experimenting with alternative methods. There was talk of hiring a skilled artist to sit behind every mirror and paint what lay in front of it, but it turned out that this would actually take more time and require more space than the camera mirrors ever had.

And then quicksilver was discovered. Like regular silver, it had a shiny, silvery colour, akin to the surface of a mirror. But unlike regular silver, it caused everything in its immediate vicinity to move extremely quickly – hence its name. With quicksilver as the medium, painters were suddenly able to paint the mirror’s “reflections” in a fraction of a second, far faster than the cameras could ever throw out their displays, and repaint over the screen in a new layer of quicksilver every time the image changed.

That is how the mirrors we use today operate: a skilled, and very slim, painter sits behind the screen, painting you in the quickest of silvers.


Disclaimer: some of the statements in this blog post are inaccurate. Quicksilver does not actually affect the passage of time.