Posts filed under ‘Demystified’

The Five Second Rule Works Best on Carpet

The “five second rule” is an unofficial pass to eat food dropped on the floor—provided only a few seconds have elapsed. The general wisdom is that it takes several seconds for bacteria to transfer to the food item, making it safe to eat if picked up quickly. In one survey, 87% of people admitted to eating dropped food at least once. The five second rule was never backed up by science but some researchers have decided to test the idea.


In the first major study, researchers tracked the transfer of common bacteria, including E.coli, to food after it had been dropped. They found that carpet was less likely to transfer bacteria than smooth surfaces. While moist foods could become colonized within seconds, most foods were declared safe. For dry snacks, such as cookies, it could take 30 seconds or longer for bacteria to show up. The researchers decided that the five second rule works—in specific cases. (more…)

October 22, 2016 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Some Nature Documentaries are Filmed in Studios

By Erica Geiger

Nature documentaries can provide insights into the natural world and behavior of wildlife. Although often educational, they are still a form of entertainment. Reality TV shows are known for being staged but few people realize just how often nature documentaries are faked.

green screen camera studio

Stories Are Compiled Using Footage from Different Animals

Footage from different shoots can be weaved together to create a cohesive story. It’s difficult to track the same animals, especially over great distances. Instead, multiple animals play the roles of the various “characters”.

Chris Palmer, an ex-producer of nature documentaries, writes in his book that this tactic was used in the film Whales. Throughout the film, two whales named Misty and Echo are followed as they migrate over 3,000 miles. In reality, the story was told using footage from different whales. The whales seen at the end of the documentary are not the original whales filmed in the beginning.

Rented Animals Are Common

In many cases, the animals seen in documentaries aren’t even wild. This saves the crew time and money but can also be better for the animals in question. Rented animals and premade sets can spare wildlife from extra stress, which is especially important when filming endangered species. Some shots are impossible to get without captive animals. The problem is that nature documentaries never give any indication that they’re using rented animals.

The BBC used captive polar bears from a Dutch zoo in an episode of Frozen Planet. The scene, supposedly of a polar bear giving birth in the Arctic, was actually shot on a premade set. The den was built by humans, not the bear. The BBC said it was “standard practice” in nature documentaries. They defended their actions by pointing out the impossibility of trying to film a wild polar bear giving birth. The show never mentions any of this, however, and many watchers felt misled.

The IMAX Documentary Wolves had a similar birthing scene and also relied on rented animals. The den was artificial and the wolves used in the documentary were all captive animals. An episode of Life used captive-bred clownfish in an aquarium for one of their scenes. In Blue Planet, a lobster spawning scene was shot using lobsters in a tank. No matter the type of nature documentary, rental animals tend to be used whenever possible.

Feeding Scenes Are Nearly Always Staged

For scenes that involve animals feeding on carcasses, the film crew employs a few different strategies. The carcasses are normally planted; a nature documentary producer admitted to using road kill to lure wild animals. This isn’t always enough to entice the local wildlife, however, since most animals prefer fresher meat. Filmmakers get around this by adding treats, including M&M candies, to the planted carcasses. This can cause a feeding frenzy, encouraging animals to dig in as they look for the treats.

In some cases, the animals used for feeding scenes were captive-bred. In one documentary, tame bears were directed to carcasses by their trainer. The bears were further encouraged with treats. This is much safer than filming wild bears, which could become aggressive while feeding.

Lemmings Don’t Commit Suicide

Unfortunately, past nature documentary fakery wasn’t always harmless. The one fact most people know about lemmings is that they hurl themselves off cliffs in an act of “mass suicide”. Lemmings do migrate and they might occasionally fall off cliff sides, drowning in the process. They certainly don’t kill themselves in droves, however.

White Wilderness, a Disney nature documentary released in 1958, is responsible for this myth. The documentary shows footage of a group of lemmings jumping to their deaths. The narrator states, “A kind of compulsion seizes each tiny rodent and, carried along by an unreasoning hysteria, each falls into step for a march that will take them to a strange destiny.”

In reality, the lemmings were captive animals that had been rented by the crew. The scene was filmed in Canada, not the lemmings’ native habitat of the Arctic. As for the suicidal behavior, the film crew used turntables that pushed the lemmings, causing them to rush and eventually fall off the cliff.

Thankfully, today’s documentary fakery is usually done out of convenience or respect for wildlife.

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Photo: Eelke (cropped)

Sources: CMSI, NPR, BBC, BBC, BBC,

August 31, 2016 at 6:00 am 1 comment

The Difference Between Pyramid Schemes and MLM

Multilevel Marketing (MLM) Organizations are not Pyramid Schemes. I’m not trying to defend MLM companies, because I think those are terrible businesses for most people, but I wish more people knew what a real pyramid scheme was because they’re so fascinating!

Pyramid Dollar

So try to forget everything you know about MLM and pyramid schemes, unless of course you already know that a pyramid scheme is very different from Multilevel Marketing.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with multilevel marketing companies, these are the companies where your success depends heavily on how many other people you can recruit into the company (because you get a bonus for selling them in and/or a cut of their sales). They also involve direct selling of products. Some of the largest and most recognizable MLMs are:

  • Avon Cosmetics
  • Amway (Household Goods)
  • Mary Kay (Cosmetics)
  • Herbalife (Vitamins/Supplements)
  • Primerica (Financial/Investment Products)
  • Tupperware (Home Storage)
  • Pampered Chef (Kitchen Tools)

You probably recognize most of the companies listed above and they’re not small companies. Pampered Chef is the smallest one in that list and it’s a $500 million publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange! Avon is the largest at over $10 billion in revenue with more than 6 million sales people.

$10 billion in revenue and 6 million sales reps is impressive, but it also cuts at the heart of why I don’t like MLMs and why many people try to steer clear of them. If we do some quick math to understand those numbers, $10.3 billion in revenue leaves each of the 6.2 million sales reps and 42,000 employees with about $1650 each.

Of course, we can assume the 42,000 employees are being paid a reasonable salary or they’d probably go work somewhere else. So that leaves a sales rep with even less than $1650 as an average. We see the best sales reps driving around in pink Cadillacs, so we can also assume the best sales reps are making much more than $1650. In other words, some sales reps are doing very well and others don’t make enough to survive.

That’s not a problem per se, any sales rep is responsible for their own success of course. But a lot of people are sucked into these ventures with the promise of (potential) wealth. I’m not speaking about Avon specifically, but I have been invited to meetings for other MLMs and that was always the pitch. When the results don’t match the pitch, people start to feel like they’ve been scammed, especially when they’ve paid money to join or buy product inventory to get started selling. While they’re not exactly trying to scam people, they are giving a hard sell and I have been to pitch meetings where people were misled about typical results.

Multilevel marketing companies are legal, assuming they’re actually selling a real product (and the product is legal). Again, they might not be good business opportunities but they are technically legal. Like I said, they’re on the New York Stock Exchange! In fact, there are plenty of legal and lousy business opportunities out there, go to any franchise trade show and see some for yourself — MLMs do not have a monopoly on lousy (high failure rate) business opportunities.

On the other hand Pyramid Schemes are illegal. They are fly by night operations (sometimes literally since they may only operate at night). They are not traded on stock exchanges. In fact, these are some pretty big indicators that a business is not a pyramid scheme: it is legal and the company is on a stock exchange.

Because a lot of people dislike MLM organizations and think they’re a scam, they often refer to them as “Pyramid Schemes” either out of confusion or as an insult or exaggeration. There’s also that funny scene in The Office where Michael Scott draws the Organization Chart of an MLM and then Jim draws a pyramid shape around it to demonstrate that it’s a Pyramid Scheme:


It’s a really funny scene, but as we know: MLMs are not Pyramid Schemes.

So, let’s get to the really interesting part:

What is a Pyramid Scheme?

The key indication that you’re dealing with a Pyramid Scheme is that the people involved actually describe it as a pyramid scheme. They may have clever code names for the organization, but nobody is denying the fact that it’s a pyramid scheme because it’s important for everyone to understand how that works and it’s important for everyone to know it’s illegal so they can tread carefully. On the other hand, people in MLMs never refer to their organizations as Pyramid Schemes, because they probably don’t know what a real pyramid scheme is, and they do know they’re not in one because their business is actually legal — lousy perhaps, but still legal.

So let me get back to the beginning, if there’s no product involved then how does anyone make money? That’s the evil genius of some pyramid schemes: they just pass around money!

The Eightball Model

This type of Pyramid Scheme is called the eight ball model because there are exactly 8 people at the bottom of the pyramid. There are exactly 4 people above these 8 (one person for every two below). There are exactly 2 people above the 4 (again, one person for every two below). Then there is 1 person above the 2 (again, one person for every two below). If you haven’t figured it out, this structure makes something that resembles an actual pyramid shape:

8 Ball Pyramid Scheme Structure

This is another key difference between Pyramids and MLMs — Pyramids actually look like Pyramids. MLMs can have any number of people on each level and therefore the never actually look like pyramids.

So how does a Pyramid Scheme keep its pyramid shape when new people join? The person at the top of the pyramid gets kicked out (blue) and the pyramid divides in two new pyramids with the 2 people on the second level (red) now as the top person in each of their own pyramids.

8 Ball Pyramid Split

Now there are two pyramids and the people in each pyramid will try to recruit people to join the bottom of their pyramid which will then force these 2 pyramids to become 4 pyramids (and so on). This is illegal because there are only so many people who can join the pyramid so eventually there will be many pyramids that are waiting for people to join and not enough people in existence to join them, thus everyone already “invested” in the pyramid will lose their money.

So again, MLMs are not Pyramid Schemes. But, to make things more complicated, some scams pretend to be MLMs. This further confuses people into thinking MLMs are scams and scams are Pyramid Schemes. One method of making a Pyramid Scheme sound like Multilevel Marketing is called a:

Matrix Scheme

In a matrix scheme, victims typically pay a fee (or buy a fake or worthless product) to join a queue to receive a luxury item (iPad, Cellphone, etc). These businesses are sometimes made to seem like MLMs because the people are told they will receive their item quicker if they get their friends to sign up.

The person running the scheme waits until income equals double (or more) of the cost of the item and then they send out the first item to the first person on the list. When income doubles the cost of the item a second time, they send the item to the second person on the list. This is a ponzi scheme to some degree, but it also suffers from the same problem as the 8 Ball Pyramid Scheme: exponential growth is required to pay each new person who joins, which eventually becomes impossible to sustain.

At the end of the day, the Federal Trade Commision does have some specific criteria to tell the difference between MLMs and Pyramid Schemes. MLMs:

  1. Have a real product to sell
  2. Sell the product without requiring the customer to join the MLM
  3. Pay commission for real sales, not recruiting

Regardless of the differences, you should be wary of both Pyramid Schemes and MLMs since it’s quite possible that you’ll lose your money in both.

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Sources: FTC, College of New Jersey

May 2, 2016 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Mountain Dew was Invented as Whiskey Mix

About 4000 years ago, Whiskey (or Whisky) was invented to purify perfumes and aromatics. Now, some Whiskey is aged longer than many people were back then.

Soft drinks are a much more recent invention, although perhaps still older than you may think. Soda water was first introduced to the world by Joseph Priestley in 1767 when he published his paper, Impregnating Water with Fixed Air. Yes, that’s the real name of the paper.


Through a series of followup inventions, flavored soda became popular in the late 1800s, starting with lemon and orange varieties. Large soda bottlers and distributors weren’t common back in the 1930s, so the Hartman brothers invented their own whiskey mixer: Mountain Dew. The Hartman brothers sought advice from Coca-Cola about Mountain Dew, but Coke didn’t help. Pepsi was interested, albeit 35 years later, when they bought Mountain Dew. (more…)

August 12, 2013 at 2:00 am 4 comments

Why Bars Put Ice in the Urinals

Ladies probably don’t know this, but the urinals in men’s bathrooms, usually at bars or clubs, sometimes have ice in them.

ice in urinal

Even though many men have seen this, they don’t usually know why it’s there.

Well, auto flush exists because some people don’t flush. Urinal cakes exist because some people don’t flush. So of course, ice exists in urinals because some people don’t flush. (more…)

July 31, 2013 at 2:00 am 37 comments

Phone Area Codes Based on Dialing Speed

By Chad Upton | Editor

Telephones have been around in some capacity since the mid to late 19th century, depending on who you credit with the invention.

fisher price phone

Early dialing was accomplished by inserting your finger in the rotary disk adjacent to the number you wanted and rotating the dial to the stopping point, then you would remove your finger and the dial would rotate back to its default position. Each number it passed on its way back would induce a pulse — a short variance in current — on the phone line. This pulse communicated the number to the phone system. (more…)

June 14, 2013 at 11:59 pm 10 comments

Why Watches are Set to 10:10 in Adverts

Once a fundamental tool, the wrist watch is now an accessory more than necessity.

The ubiquity of cellphones eliminated the need for watches on most people’s wrists. However, smart watches that accompany smartphones may catalyze a revival in wrist watches. Although these new fangled smart watches can emulate the analog hands of a traditional timepiece, they lack verisimilitude.


If you’re looking for the real thing, you may notice almost all analog wrist watches are photographed with a time of 10:10. The time doesn’t have any special meaning, it’s just aesthetics. The manufacturer’s logo is typically below 12 o’clock and the hands at 10 and 2 frame the logo proportionally and draw the readers eyes toward the logo itself.


One exception is chronograph watches. Since they often have multiple dials, the logo may not be top and center and/or the hands may be moved to a position that doesn’t block other dials.

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June 3, 2013 at 2:00 am 13 comments

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