Meteorologists get a bad rap. They’re right up there with doctors as the most visible scientists in society, but their work is routinely badmouthed and unappreciated by so many people who benefit from it every day. “They get paid for being wrong half the time!” is a common insult, and it couldn’t be farther from the truth. The vast majority of forecasts are very accurate these days—a three-day forecast today is as accurate as a one-day forecast was during the waning years of the Cold War—but some predictions can still go awry.
1. GETTING THE FORECAST WRONG IS CALLED A "BUST."
Some busts are bigger than others. If your local forecast called for a high of 85°F today and it only hit 79°F, that was a bust, but it’s not one many people are going to notice. If a forecast calls for flurries overnight and you wake up to find your car buried under a snow drift, that’s a huge bust.
The science of meteorology has advanced at breakneck speeds in recent years. Each new tool they create allows meteorologists to understand more about our atmosphere, and better anticipate its next moves. It wasn’t uncommon a few generations ago for people to go completely unwarned before a hurricane tore through town. Now we know if something is brewing days before the first cloud pops up.
2. THE MODELS CAN SCREW UP.
Hurricane Joaquin’s forecast track on September 30, 2015, compared to the actual track the hurricane took. Image credit: Dennis Mersereau
Some of the worst forecast busts come from weather models giving us bad information. These advanced computer algorithms use what we know about the weather right now to predict what the weather will do in the near future.
A perfect example of this is Hurricane Joaquin, a powerful storm that developed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2015. Warm water and the late September heat allowed Joaquin to pack 155 mph winds at its strongest, and many weather models showed the storm making landfall near Washington D.C. a few days later. Few models showed it moving out to sea, so meteorologists were concerned that a major storm was about to hit a huge metropolitan area.
All of the models that showed Joaquin hitting the United States were wrong. Joaquin raced out to sea and hit Bermuda instead. The weather models had a hard time figuring out a complicated weather pattern north of the hurricane that affected its future path—and since they didn’t figure it out, they didn’t get the track of the storm right.
This is usually the story for most major, news-making forecast busts; when a hurricane doesn’t hit or a blizzard doesn’t materialize, it’s usually because the models screwed up.
3. YES, HUMAN ERROR CAN PLAY A ROLE.
Weather models are called “guidance” for a reason. They can give you an idea of what’s going to happen, but it’s up to you to interpret the data and use knowledge and experience to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong. Since there’s a decent amount of instinct and judgment that goes into forecasting, it’s not unusual for a meteorologist to get one wrong. Maybe he or she misjudged the timing of a warm front, or mistakenly brushed off a pocket of cold air that allowed the rain to turn into ice. Humans are fallible, and as long as there’s some level of discretion involved in predicting the weather, there’s going to be occasional human error.
4. RANDOM CHANCE ALSO HAS AN IMPACT.
Sometimes what plays out in the sky escapes both weather models and the trained eye. A great example of this is “the cap,” which is an inversion layer (a layer of warm air above cooler air) that prevents air from rising through it. A capping inversion can stifle a day expected to see horrible thunderstorms: If the cap doesn’t erode, air won’t be able to rise, and thunderstorms won’t form. A day can have the perfect ingredients for severe weather, but sometimes nothing happens because the air just couldn’t rise.
5. WE ALL FEED THE MEDIA BEAST.
One way the internet has affected meteorology is how it makes us perceive the weather. The race for clicks and ratings causes some sources to exaggerate the effects of certain storms. The bigger and meaner a storm, the more play it gets. This can lead people to believe something worse is on its way than what’s forecast. If you read about a horrible tornado outbreak that was never forecast to be that bad, you might think the forecast was a bust if only a handful of tornadoes touched down. Not only do forecasters have to work through actual errors in the process, but the Facebookization of the weather means they have to play the expectations game as well.
The recent coronavirus-related toilet paper shortage has put the spotlight on the TP-less alternative that Americans have yet to truly embrace: the bidet.
It's not exactly a secret that toilet paper is wasteful—it's estimated to cost 437 billion gallons of water and 15 million trees to produce our yearly supply of the stuff. But while the numbers are plain to see, bidets still aren't common in the United States.
Well, if price was ever the biggest barrier standing in the way of swearing off toilet paper for good, there's now a cost-effective way to make the switch. Right now, you can get the space-saving Tushy bidet for less than $100. And you'll be able to install it yourself in just 10 minutes.
What is a Bidet?
Before we go any further, let’s just go ahead and get the awkward technical details out of the way. Instead of using toilet paper after going to the bathroom, bidets get you clean by using a stream of concentrated water that comes out of a faucet or nozzle. Traditional bidets look like weird toilets without tanks or lids, and while they’re pretty uncommon in the United States, you’ve definitely seen one if you’ve ever been to Europe or Asia.
That said, bidets aren’t just good for your butt. When you reduce toilet paper usage, you also reduce the amount of chemicals and emissions required to produce it, which is good for the environment. At the same time, you’re also saving money. So this is a huge win-win.
Unfortunately, traditional bidets are not an option for most Americans because they take up a lot of bathroom space and require extra plumbing. That’s where Tushy comes in.
The Tushy Classic Bidet Toilet Seat.
Unlike traditional bidets, the Tushy bidet doesn’t take up any extra space in your bathroom. It’s an attachment for your existing toilet that places an adjustable self-cleaning nozzle at the back of the bowl, just underneath the seat. But it doesn’t require any additional plumbing or electricity. All you have to do is remove the seat from your toilet, connect the Tushy to the clean water supply behind the toilet, and replace the seat on top of the Tushy attachment.
The Tushy has a control panel that lets you adjust the angle and pressure of the water stream for a perfect custom clean. The nozzle lowers when the Tushy is activated and retracts into its housing when not in use, keeping it clean and sanitary.
Like all bidets, the Tushy system takes a little getting used to. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll never want to use toilet paper again. In fact, Tushy is so sure you’ll love their product, they offer customers a 60-day risk-free guarantee. If you don’t love your Tushy, you can send it back for a full refund, minus shipping and handling.
Normally, the Tushy Classic retails for $109, but right now you can get the Tushy Classic for just $89. So if you’ve been thinking about going TP-free, now is definitely the time to do it.
At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.
You may not think about it very often, but there's so much to learn about the human body. For instance, did you know that people are actually covered in invisible stripes? In this article, which was adapted from an episode of The List Show, we take a look at some fascinating facts about the human body you might not know.
1. Only humans have chins.
Humans are the only animals with chins. While you may think every animal has one, that’s just what we tend to call the bottom of the head. But in reality, a chin is a very specific bone feature that extends forward from the lower jaw. Some experts propose that elephants and manatees have chins, but others argue that they’re such fundamentally distinct structures they shouldn’t be compared to humans. Experts still aren’t sure why people evolved to have chins; the reason might have to do with eating or speaking, or they may just have emerged as a side effect from some other useful feature.
2. Humans have a strange bone called the hyoid.
A peculiar bone humans have is the hyoid. This is the one bone that doesn’t form a joint with another bone. Instead, it’s connected to muscles and ligaments. The hyoid sits between the jaw and the voice box and it’s used to keep all the lower mouth muscles in place. It also helps with swallowing and talking.
3. People that have more hair and innie belly buttons are more prone to lint.
Hairy people with innie belly buttons are more prone to belly button lint, which comes from fibers that rub off of clothing over time. Your stomach hair grabs onto the fibers and pulls them into your belly button.
Starting in 2011, a group of scientists started the Belly Button Biodiversity Project to learn about what's going on inside these little caves of mystery, and as it turns out, it's quite a lot. Samples from about 60 people revealed over 2300 total species of bacteria. And of those, only eight were identified as common, appearing in over 70 percent of belly buttons.
4. While it varies person to person, fingernails grow faster than toenails.
Your fingernails grow faster than your toenails. Though it varies from person to person, typically, fingernails grow about a tenth of a millimeter each day, while toenails grow at around half that pace. There’s a correlation between nail growth speed and the length of the nearest bone. This means that your longest fingers have faster-growing nails than your shorter fingers.
5. Fingernails grow faster on your dominant hand.
Your fingernails grow faster on the hand that you write with. No one knows why.
6. As you age, your nails change.
Specifically, they grow more slowly and then nail cells, known as onychocytes, start accumulating. That’s why older people have thicker toenails. Fingernails aren’t as noticeably different because people manage them better, plus our toes endure a lot of damage throughout our lives.
7. It's a misconception that people's hair and nails continue to grow after they die.
What’s actually happening is the skin dehydrates and then recedes. So it looks like the hair and nails are getting longer, but in reality it's actually the skin that's getting shorter.
8. Breastfeeding will not cause breasts to sag.
It's a common misconception that breastfeeding causes breasts to sag. Pregnancy itself might affect breasts in that they may stretch and then recover differently. But research on breastfeeding confirms it will not cause breasts to sink. A behavior that will, though, is smoking.
9. Hands and feet contain over half the bones in an adult body.
With around 27 bones in each of your daddles—that’s an old slang word for the hands—and about 26 bones in each of your plates of meat—which is another old slang term for feet—these appendages account for over half of an adult’s bones, of which there are around 206 total. But that’s not always true. Feet mostly contain cartilage at birth, then bones form over time. They don’t fully harden until humans are in their early twenties.
10. You can fracture a rib just by sneezing.
While it's rare, it is possible to fracture a rib by sneezing. In 1885, there was an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association about a 72-year-old man who fractured his eighth rib while sneezing. Sneezer, by the way, is a 1940s Australian slang term meaning “excellent, wonderful,” which could definitely describe a good sneeze—but probably not one that would break a rib.
11. You can see stars if you rub your eyes.
If you've ever seen stars while rubbing your eyes, you’re not imagining it. The cells in our eyes are interpreting the pressure as an input, and treat that the same way they’d treat a light input.
12. Goosebumps are pretty much useless.
Goosebumps are frequently associated with adrenaline being released in the body, like when we’re feeling a particularly strong emotion, for example. They used to be important when people had way more hair on their bodies because goosebumps would elevate that hair and make a person look bigger when they were in danger. But now, they’re a pretty useless feature.
13. Spleens help the immune system.
The spleen is surprisingly not totally useless even though that was the belief up until the 1950s. It’s OK to get your spleen removed, but it does assist the immune system. While blood is in the spleen, the immune system creates the necessary antibodies to fight bacteria in that blood. A fetus’s spleen also creates red blood cells.
14. The appendix seems to help the immune system.
It's OK to get your appendix removed, but the organ also aids the immune system. In 2018, Dr. Mohamad Abouzeid, assistant professor and attending surgeon at NYU Langone Health told Mental Floss, "[The appendix] has a high concentration of the immune cells within its walls." Experts don't know exactly how the appendix affects the immune system, but it seems to play some role in keeping us healthy.
15. A fetus's face forms in the first three months after conception.
During the first three months after conception, a fetus’s face comes together, fusing in the area of the top of the lip. That means the dent under the nose, which is called the philtrum, is evidence of a person's time in the womb.
16. Babies don’t just see in black and white.
A newborn baby has pretty terrible vision. But it’s not true that they can only see in black and white. In reality, if there’s a large amount of the color red, they can identify it, but only if it appears in front of gray. Newborns have about 5 percent of the visual acuity that adults do, but it improves quickly and takes only around six months before they can see about as well as a grown-up. Though there are some eye tests that babies can school adults on, which are ones centered around subtlety. For example, up until 6 months old, a baby can tell monkeys apart, while older babies and adults can’t do that.
17. The liver is very good at regenerating itself.
In fact, with just 25 percent of the original liver tissue, it can regenerate. Liver transplants are generally only needed if someone has experienced severe damage to the organ or an injury.
18. Some people are born with three kidneys.
Some people had a kidney split while they were still in the womb, so they're actually born with three. This makes them prime candidates for donation, but the problem is people often don't know when they have three kidneys.
19. A person's large intestine can be stretched 5 feet and the small intestine can stretch 20 feet.
The intestines are pretty long: The small intestine stretches to about 20 feet and the large intestine hits 5 feet. The surface area of your intestines could take up two entire tennis courts, although some Swedish researchers have downgraded it to studio apartment size. Compare that with a blue whale, though, which has over 700 feet worth of intestines.
20. The stomach can hold up to 50 fluid ounces.
The stomach may not be tennis court size, but it can hold around 16 to 50 fluid ounces. It's interesting to note that a Trenta size at Starbucks is 31 fluid ounces, which is more than many adult stomachs can technically hold.
21. The neurotransmitter serotonin can be found in the gut.
Our gut contains 95 percent of the neurotransmitter serotonin. In fact, the gut, with its 100 million neurons, is so important to mood that it’s sometimes called the “second brain.” Medications that affect serotonin will often also cause GI issues.
22. The skin is the largest organ.
The skin is considered an organ and it's the body's largest one. An adult may have 22-square feet of skin on their body. Basically that means your skin could comfortably stretch across half the floor of the typical bathroom.
23. The skin makes up a large part of your body weight.
Fifteen percent of your total body weight, to be exact.
24. The ovaries are in communication with the brain.
It was once believed that the ovaries and uterus sort of sat dormant until they were needed, but the ovaries actually communicate with the brain in ways we’re just learning about. The hypothalamus and ovaries work together to make sure that the levels of hormones in the ovaries, like estrogen and progesterone, are where they need to be.
25. Humans are covered in stripes.
The human body is covered in stripes called Blaschko’s Lines, which are typically invisible. They’re cellular relics of our development from a single cell to a fully formed human.
26. Humans glow, but our eyes aren't able to detect it.
Humans glow, but it’s just around 1000 times weaker than our eyes can detect. Every animal that has metabolic reactions glows because in that process, photons get emitted, causing light. In 2009, a study was published in which a camera captured the bioluminescence of five men. According to that study, our upper body lights up the strongest. And the glow is on a cycle; when we’re on a normal sleep schedule, our bioluminescence is at its strongest at about 4 p.m.