Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday's Super Site

Have you ever gotten one of those emails telling you about some shocking thing you never dreamed was true, but one which the email assures you is fact? You know, like the one telling you about the dangers of aspartame, or the one about gators in the sewers. (Okay, that's not an email chain, but it's the same principle.) I don't get those letters often, but when I do, it's usually from some well-meaning relative who wants to keep me safe or keep me informed.

Snopes seems to be the leader in debunking all the urban myths. Hell, they've got myths I've never even heard of - like the one about reusing plastic bottles. (Supposedly freezing water in them releases dioxins that could kill you... Except a researcher at John Hopkins totally debunks that.)

These myths floating through the email are usually easy to spot. Their claims are so wild sometimes, you can't help but laugh. Other times, though, the myth seems real enough to actually scare people.

For instance, last year I get a call from my oldest sister. She never calls me. Never. It seems she got an email from a dietician she knows claiming that aspartame is poison. Since a great deal of our family drinks diet pop, she was quite concerned. She called me to warn me because my daughter drinks diet pop. Hell, after she read me the email, I was almost freaking out. (It was one scary ass email.) Before I let myself fall into the full-on freakout, though, I did some research. Google it, and you'll find a bunch of sites confirming the dangers of aspartame. Until you get to Snopes - and they tear the whole thing down like a pack of badly stacked cards. The aspartame myth is false. They even have a copy of the letter my sister received posted there.

Needless to say, I talked to my sister. I told her the truth and pointed her toward Snopes so she could see for herself. (We're not a family that takes each others' words for anything.) Another crisis averted, and we all get to sip our Diet Dew in peace.

So, if you ever receive an email from anyone telling you something like this, take a moment and utilize Snopes. Even if it turns out the email is true - like the one warning about teenagers dying after snorting canned air - you'll at least have confirmation from a reliable source. In this day of information, never take anything as a given. Check your sources, and if you're still not sure, check them again.

As for this site and writing, think of the story ideas you could play with from the myths alone, let alone the ones you'll find in the true reports. It's a veritable treasure trove.

Whatever you use it for, enjoy the site - but make sure you have good pop-up blockers. Sometimes their advertisers get a little overzealous.

What are some things you've heard that you're not sure are true? Check it out at Snopes and them come back here and tell us what you found out.

Oh, and BTW, Alligators in the sewers? Even if they did make a movie out of the idea, it's still false.

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