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Five Lies You’ve Been Told About Snow

Should you really avoid eating the yellow snow? Will we ever revive a frozen mammoth? Let’s find out the truth.

The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Snow! What’s the deal with Frosty? And just how accurate is Cool Runnings?

Lie #1: You Should Never Eat the Yellow Snow

Frank Zappa wrote a multi-part suite dedicated to the idea that yellow snow had piss in. And fair enough, sometimes it does, and unless you wish to drink piss (which you might), any yellow snow you stumble across or slip in is best avoided. It might also get its color from pollen, air pollution or sand, all of which are similarly probably best not eaten.

But what about yellow snow cones? Eh? Rachael Ray provides a recipe for pineapple shaved ice on her site, and there’s no piss to be found in there. Search her whole site for piss if you want: Nothing! You can eat that yellow snow to your heart’s content.

Lie #2: You Might Just Find A Silk Top Hat Lying Around in the Snow

The children who built Frosty The Snowman just found an old silk hat lying around in the snow. In fact, the whole iconography of snowmen suggests a world in which the millinery industry is in much ruder health than it truly is. Until the 1960s, a hat was an essential part of a man’s clothing — you’d wear a hat to and from work, tip it at young ladies, take it off during the national anthem and funerals and humiliate rivals by punching through theirs. Hats hats hats.

These days, though, wearing any hat more formal than a baseball cap is statement dressing, and a lot of the time, as in the case of the fedora (or more likely, a trilby whose owner thinks it’s a fedora), the statement is, “Hello, I’m a shithead.”

So what happened? A few factors are thought to have been at play in the decline of formal headwear. The suburban spread caused by extensive highway building in the 1950s, coinciding with a boom in car ownership, made a huge impact. Smartly-dressed men going to and from work were doing so in a different way, and there’s a big difference between wearing a hat on a high-ceilinged train or tram and wearing one in a car. Then along came style icons like Elvis and James Dean, followed by JFK and the Beatles, who had magnificent hair and weren’t going to go hiding it from the world. 

So just like that, snowman builders of the future were left with nothing but baseball caps, novelty St. Patrick’s Day headwear and that one Kangol flat cap you bought off Amazon while drunk and doesn’t suit you even a little bit.

Lie #3: A Snowman Looks Like A Man, But Made Of Snow

Speaking of snowmen, the most common type of snowman has three balls (ahem): one for the head, one for the torso and one for the legs. Now, you might have noticed this, but that’s not what a person looks like. We have limbs, for instance, and even the curviest of individuals don’t curve that way. What a snowman most resembles, if we’re being realistic here, is the head, thorax and abdomen of an insect.

What you’ve done there is, you’ve created an insect with their legs and wings ripped off. Pulling insects apart and harming small animals are generally seen as a precursor to psychopathy, so building endless colossal effigies of maimed insects is probably a cause for concern. Just sayin’.

Lie #4: One Day We’ll Bring A Frozen Mammoth Back To Life

We’ve all seen Encino Man. Yes, it is excellent. Yes, Brendan Fraser should be in more films. But despite its awesomeness, and the perpetual feeling that the tundra is full of perfectly preserved mammoths itching to be defrosted and given the kiss of life, in real life, Link would be very much dead, his brain having stopped functioning as he froze. The same goes for big hairy elephants.

The remains of a lot of mammoths are out there in the tundra — an estimated 150 million, in fact — but they’re a) all unrevivably dead and b) mostly fairly shittily preserved. This century, there have only been half a dozen really significant discoveries of mammoths with soft tissue intact, and even that’s still pretty impressive considering we’re talking, in some cases, about flesh that’s 45,000 years old (fun fact: the Berezovka mammoth, unearthed in 1901, is thought to have died of asphyxiation, a conclusion reached partly as a result of the fact it had a hard-on).

Nobody has ever officially set out to bring a frozen mammoth back to life, though — the idea of melting it out and letting it run wild is sadly just the stuff of a madman’s dreams. However, hope springs eternal in the minds of marginally less mad men that a new mammoth might one day be created. The three methods currently being kicked about — straight-up cloning, artificially inseminating an elephant with mammoth sperm and gene editing to turn elephant cells into mammoth ones — all present fairly massive challenges, mainly due to the sheer Goddamned oldness of everything. 

The most likely scenario, if people are convinced to bypass the ethical concerns of completely unnecessarily creating the loneliest mammoth in history, is an elephant-mammoth hybrid manufactured to look as mammoth-y as possible while remaining mostly elephant. Why? Because we can. Maybe.

Lie #5: The Jamaican Bobsled Team Were Treated Like Shit

We’ve all seen Cool Runnings. Yes, it is excellent. Yes, Doug E. Doug should be in more films. But despite its magnificence, its eternally stirring tribute to the underdog spirit and the joy of sportsmanship, it takes some massive liberties with the truth. 

In the film, the Jamaican bobsled team are bullied by the East German team and generally treated like assholes by everyone, while in reality, other teams rallied round and lent them equipment and Prince Albert of Monaco fought their corner. Their coaches, unlike the washed-up cheat played by John Candy, were a five-time U.S. champion and the commercial attache at the American Embassy, neither of whom were ever involved in any scandals. And their crash was slightly less heroic than that portrayed on screen: In the film, it’s all down to their knackered old sled, while in real life they just, uh, weren’t that good at bobsledding. What a film, though!