Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Because I Said So! The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids by Ken Jennings

*Don’t talk to strangers
 *Don’t chew ice, it’s bad for your teeth
*Give your teeth a good hard brush
*It’s okay, just pick it up and eat it. Five-second rule

 You’ve almost certainly heard this advice, and possibly even repeated it, but is it true? Ken Jennings, the amiable mega-winner on Jeopardy, has researched more than one hundred of these admonitions and tips. The results are sometimes surprising!

Jennings has rated each statement with a bar scale from False to True.

 You’d think that “Don’t talk to strangers” would be rated TRUE, but Jennings points out occasions when NOT talking to strangers can be life-threatening. He cites a cub scout who was lost for four days in the mountains because he hid whenever he saw strangers approach. These strangers were actually searching for him. Jennings discovered that for young children, “stranger” is a “tricky abstract concept, defined only by who it doesn’t refer to (people they know).” Experts say that “children are safer when they feel comfortable seeking help from adults,” including adults they don’t know.

 On the other hand, we often laugh about the “five second rule.” Surely it’s just a convenience so we can eat that piece of chocolate that fell onto the carpet. Wrong. Jennings cites researchers who discovered that not only is it usually safe to eat something that fell on the floor after five seconds, but even after it has been there longer. The caveat: if there was gross stuff on the floor already, or if the floor was really dirty, then that morsel will pick up whatever bad germs are there.

Jennings’ easy-going writing style and quiet sense of humor make this book a pleasant read, even when he is citing scientists! Look for Because I Said So in both regular and large print at the library. You may also enjoy Ken Jennings’s Trivia Almanac: 8888 Questions in 365 Days. Interested in learning other morsels of questionable wisdom? Try 50 Popular Beliefs that People Think Are True by Guy P. Harrision, or The Book of General Ignorance (and its sequel) by John Lloyd.

Okay. Chewing ice IS bad for your teeth. Giving your teeth a good hard brush is NOT recommended by dentists.

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