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CORRECTION: That Time We Let Pretend Science Ruin Real Science And Decided To Apologize For It

FROM THE EDITORS: Hey everyone. So a video made it onto our site that put Chicken McNuggets under a microscope. It had some problems (there's a link at the bottom of the page if you REALLY need to see it.) You let us know. Rather than explain the problems ourselves, we're going to let all our brilliant commenters do it for us.

CORRECTION: That Time We Let Pretend Science Ruin Real Science And Decided To Apologize For It


Part of what makes this an amazing place to work is how careful we are to deliver only the highest-quality content for you to share, not the fluff that usually gets passed around. We have a very cohesive and well-implemented vetting and fact-checking process at Upworthy. Editors look at content before it's curated for our site. Our trained fact-checking team investigates finalized content before we publish it for public consumption.

Yet somehow, ALL of us totally blew it on this one. We'd like to let you all know that we are collectively really really sorry. This was not our best show. You deserve better than that, and we really appreciate the fact that so many of you brought it to our attention.

To keep ourselves accountable, we will be creating a page devoted to our screwups (coming soon.) You will always see our latest major corrections there. Additionally, whenever we let something this egregious happen, you can be damn sure we'll try to give the correction as much attention as we gave the original piece of content. It'll go up on our wall with new information, and we will do our best to make sure nothing like this falls through all the cracks again.
Now here's a palate cleanser in the form of an explanation of the scientific method from a dude who actually understands science.

We know that mammals feed their young with milk from their own bodies, and we know that whales are mammals. But the logistics of how some whales make breastfeeding happen has been a bit of a mystery for scientists. Such has been the case with sperm whales.

Sperm whales are uniquely shaped, with humongous, block-shaped heads that house the largest brains in the animal world. Like other cetaceans, sperm whale babies rely on their mother's milk for sustenance in their first year or two. And also like other cetaceans, a sperm whale mama's nipple is inverted—it doesn't stick out from her body like many mammals, but rather is hidden inside a mammary slit.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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