Skepchick Quickies 11.18

On November 18, 1307, William Tell shot an apple off of his son’s head. Allegedly. (Admittedly, I have not given this legend much thought before this very moment. It’s still a neat story though.)



Mary Brock works as an Immunology scientist by day and takes care of a pink-loving princess child by night. She likes cloudy days, crafting, cooking, and Fall weather in New England.

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  1. Re Apples, I’ve eaten the entire apple for many years. I mostly started because I work out in the woods, and eating the core saved me the bother of hauling it out.

    I also read an article years ago about analysis of medieval European diet that found it was standard to eat the whole apple. But the only variety was crab apples and they were a lot smaller.

    Boring trivia: I’m decended from Isaac McMahon, who developed the McMahan apple. His sons went off to the Civil War, and brought back seeds from places they’d traveled to. He raised the different varieties and crossed them.

    1. ….why would you have to haul an apple core out of the woods? It’s … a piece of fruit. In the woods. Which animals will eat, or it will just rot. Into the ground. No need to haul it out. Just toss it under a tree.

          1. Maybe Weatherwax is talking about back country? No trash cans there. Also, to save money for trash collection, many parks have removed their trash barrels (and closed their restrooms. Thank you, cheapskate republicans.)

            Many back country places have a “pack it in, pack it out” rule and/or a “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” policy. These rules are probably sufficient for sustaining pristine (what ever the hell that is) wild places, but I think are in many cases obsessive. Most people violate these principles by burying human waste, rather than pack it out. (Does the pope shit in the woods? Does the bear wear a big hat?)

            I once got into a big argument in the car as a bunch of friends and I were driving to the White Mtns (New Hampshire) for a camping and hiking trip. We were eating apples and I was going to throw the core out the window as we drove up I-93, and everyone else laid into me about it. I’m normally someone who supports capital punishment for littering, but an apple core is totally biodegradable, tossing it results in it being recycled rather than being buried in a landfill somewhere, apple trees are not invasive and are extremely common in New England, this was an interstate highway, not some pristine backwoods trail, and the worst possible consequence would be that one of the seeds would sprout and provide some spring flowers and wildlife habitat along the highway. The other side had no valid arguments that I could see :-)

          2. Back from work so time for a longer reply. As Buzz pointed out, the leave nothing but footprints is a big part of it, and also the issue of animals learning to associate people with food.

            I’m usually on private property, so even if it’s out in the back 40 you have to show a certain amount of respect. And if I’m in a park or US Forest service, they consider it litter. And of course any work permits will always specify that all garbage will be removed. Since I’m the guy who makes sure the work crew is actually doing that, I have to be extra anal.

          3. @Buzz Parsec– The argument against throwing food waste out along highways is that it attracts wildlife, which then leads to road kill and accidents.

            I grew up in what a lot of folks would call back country, and proximity thereof. People dumping their garbage on old logging roads and the like rather than paying to leave it at the disposal center is a serious problem where I’m from, but even the most hardcore anti-dumping folks don’t tend to have much of an issue with the occasional apple core, provided it’s not on the side of the highway or interstate. Deer love apples, cars, not so much.

          4. @Onamission – no one made the “attractive to wildlife” argument at the time (the best was “an apple tree might grow in the middle of the road, causing an accident” :-) ), but that makes sense. Thanks.

            P.S. if an apple tree actually sprouted along the edge of the road, it would never survive the first time they cut the grass, which they do at least twice a year. They have to or else the naturally occurring brush and trees would grow enough to obscure sight lines in just a few years. It only takes about a decade in New England for an abandoned field to turn back into forest.

            Antarctica (and the Arctic and many desert and alpine areas) are different, since there is no or very little natural recycling, due to extreme cold or lack of water. So anything you dump, even apple cores, will just sit there for many many years.

        1. Just wanted to try to say briefly – I think the US model for National Parks is something for you all to be enormously proud of. You may recall that my son is about to go on a mission to one of our Antarctic Bases, and according to him the rules are just as strict there if not more so. You cannot leave excreta in the wilderness.

          This effort to maintain the pristine natural environment has paid priceless dividends in the ability to do critical research into climate change and many other areas.

          Once again, I hope that even more strict guidelines apply when it comes to exploration of the planets for signs of life.

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