Pablo Neruda's Death Wasn't Caused by Cancer, Experts Conclude

MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images
MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images

Pablo Neruda—whose real name was Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto—died on September 23, 1973, less than two years after he was awarded the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature. The official cause of death was recorded as cancer cachexia, or wasting syndrome, from prostate cancer. But while Neruda did have cancer, new tests on his remains indicate that the left-leaning Chilean politician and poet didn’t actually succumb to the disease, according to BBC News.

It’s still unclear what, exactly, caused Neruda’s demise. But in a recent press conference, a team of 16 international experts announced that they were "100 percent convinced" that the author's death certificate "does not reflect the reality of the death,” as quoted by the BBC.

Neruda died in 1973 at the age of 69, less than two weeks after a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet ousted the Marxist government of President Salvador Allende. Neruda, a Communist, was a former diplomat and senator, and a friend of the deposed politician.

In 2011, Manuel Araya, Neruda’s chauffeur, claimed that the poet had told him that Pinochet’s men had injected poison into his stomach as he was hospitalized during his final days, Nature reports. The Communist Party of Chile filed a criminal lawsuit, and Neruda’s remains were exhumed in 2013 and later reburied in 2016, according to the BBC.

Many of Neruda’s relatives and friends were reportedly skeptical of Araya’s account, as was the Pablo Neruda Foundation, according to The New York Times. But after samples of Neruda’s remains were analyzed by forensic genetics laboratories in four nations, Chile’s government acknowledged that it was “highly probable” that his official cause of death was incorrect.

And now, the team of scientists has unanimously ruled out cachexia as having caused Neruda’s death. “There was no indication of cachexia,” said Dr. Niels Morling, a forensic medical expert from the University of Copenhagen, as quoted by The Guardian. Neruda “was an obese man at the time of death. All other circumstances in his last phase of life pointed to some kind of infection.”

The investigating team says that their analysis yielded what might be lab-cultivated bacteria, although it could have also originated from the burial site or been produced during the body's decomposition process. Test results will be available within a year, they say.

[h/t BBC News]

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

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Mental Floss Is Up for a Webby Award—Here’s How to Help Us Win!

This woman doesn't work for us, but she sure is happy about our Webby Award nomination!
This woman doesn't work for us, but she sure is happy about our Webby Award nomination!
Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

The writers, editors, videographers, tech whizzes, and everybody else on the Mental Floss team began today like any other: guzzling coffee by the gallon, eager to deliver a blend of zany and informative content straight to the brains of our readers. By mid-morning, our makeshift home offices were buzzing with a heightened, electric energy—because we’d just been nominated for a Webby Award, and we’re really excited about it.

The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences (IADAS) has included Mental Floss in the “Weird” general website category, which highlights sites “that reflect a fresh perspective in thought and action strong enough to start a revolution, change a behavior pattern, or advance old thinking lodged in bad habits, or that are just plain weird.”

Basically, there are two winners for each category. The Webby Award is chosen by IADAS members like Arianna Huffington, Monica Lewinsky, Darren Aronofsky, and representatives from just about every other industry out there. The IADAS has honored Mental Floss with two Webby Awards in the past; the website won one in 2013 for best cultural blog, and John Green nabbed another in 2015 for being the much-beloved host of our YouTube channel.

The Webby People’s Voice Award, on the other hand, is voted on by the public. So if you think Mental Floss embodies any (or all) of the aforementioned criteria for Best Weird General Website, you can help us win a People’s Voice Award by voting here. We’re up against some steep competition, including Brand Name Pencils, the world’s largest collection of vintage brand-name pencils, and Amazon Dating, a completely fake dating site modeled after Amazon’s homepage.

Voting is open through Thursday, May 7, and the winners will be announced on Tuesday, May 19, before a special online celebration called “Webbys From Home” that’ll showcase some of the internet’s best content from the past year.

You can explore all the nominees and vote in other categories here.