The cheese-making process produces a lot of whey as a by-product — whey being a watery, yellowish-green liquid. For most of history, cheese makers simply threw out the whey, usually in the nearest river. But eventually the cheese industry began to wonder if there was anything they could do with it to make some extra money.
One possibility was to dehydrate it into a protein powder that could be fed to livestock, or bodybuilders. But in the mid-1970s, researchers at Oregon State University hit upon a potentially more lucrative use: making wine out of whey. They detailed their study in a pamphlet titled “Utilization of Cheese Whey for Wine Production.”
The reason this was possible is because the lactose in whey will ferment, if one uses the right microorganisms. The end result was a whey wine that, according to the researchers, "was acceptable to a great majority of tasters, who preferred it slightly sweet.” Which doesn't sound exactly like a glowing recommendation. Nevertheless, the researchers were enthusiastic about the potential of whey wine:
The U.S. cheese industry is in most urgent need of a development of whey by-product that would not encompass relatively expensive processes for water removal. The fermentation of sugar-fortified whey by selected wine yeast and the production of an acceptable whey wine may represent a “near ideal” solution for the whey disposal and utilization dilemma of the U.S. cheese industry. The production of an acceptable wine by whey fermentation may be the means of transposing a “cost of doing business” into a “profit opportunity.”
It doesn't seem that their dream of raking in the big bucks with whey wine ever panned out. The idea of whey-based alcohol products is still kicking around, however. Various gins and vodkas made from whey can be found, such as Bertha's Revenge Irish Milk Gin or Sheep Whey Gin. But I can't find any wines being made from whey.
During World War II, millions of men served their country by fighting in the military. Hundreds of thousands of others worked in hospitals or factories. And thirty-two men did their part by wearing lice-infested underwear.
Model of a body louse, National Museum of Health and Medicine.
It began with the recognition of the serious public-health problem posed by body lice (Pediculus humanis corporis). Being infested by these tiny insects is not only unpleasant, but also potentially deadly, since they're carriers of typhus. During World War II, medical authorities feared that the spread of lice among civilian refugees could trigger a widespread typhus epidemic, leading to millions of deaths, as had happened in World War I.
In an attempt to prevent this, the Rockefeller Foundation, in collaboration with the federal government, funded the creation in 1942 of a Louse Lab whose purpose was to study the biology of the louse and to find an effective means of preventing infestation. The Lab, located in New York City, was headed by Dr. William A. Davis, a public health researcher, and Charles M. Wheeler, an entomologist.
The first task for the Louse Lab was to obtain a supply of lice. They achieved this by collecting lice off a patient in the alcoholic ward of Bellevue Hospital. Then they kept the lice alive by allowing them to feed on the arms of medical students (who had volunteered for the job). In this way, the lab soon had a colony of thousands of lice. They determined that the lice were free of disease since the med students didn't get sick.
Next they had to find human hosts willing to serve as subjects in experiments involving infestation in real-world conditions. For this they initially turned to homeless people living in the surrounding city, whom they paid $7 each in return for agreeing first to be infected by lice and next to test experimental anti-louse powders. Unfortunately, the homeless people proved to be uncooperative subjects who often didn't follow the instructions given to them. Frustrated, Davis and Wheeler began to search for other, more reliable subjects.
Eventually Davis and Wheeler hit upon conscientious objectors (COs) as potential guinea pigs. The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 allowed young men with religious objections to fighting to serve their country in alternative, nonviolent ways. At first they were put to work domestically at jobs such as building roads, harvesting timber, and fighting forest fires. But in 1942, inspired by the example of the British government, it occurred to U.S. officials that these young men were also a potential pool of experimental subjects for research, and they began to be made available to scientists for this purpose.
The Vancouver Sun - Feb 3, 1943
In theory, the COs were always given a choice about whether or not to serve as guinea pigs. In practice, it wasn't that simple. Controversy lingers about how voluntary their choice really was since their options were rather limited: be a guinea pig for science, or do back-breaking manual labor. But for their part, the COs have reported that they were often eager to volunteer for experiments. Sensitive to accusations that they were cowardly and unpatriotic, serving as a test subject offered the young men a chance to do something that seemed more heroic than manual labor.
Eventually COs participated in a wide variety of experiments, but Davis and Wheeler were the very first researchers to use American COs as experimental subjects. And they planned to infest these volunteers with lice.
In the absence of any of the actual music, here are the lyrics to "Bessy," described in the liner notes as “a rock ballad for Bethlehem Steel.”
Let me tell you that if you’re in doubt,
I’ll re-tool quickly, and we can iron things out,
I just want to be specific,
I’ll shun foreign interest
and things’ll be ‘tarrific’.
You can’t let your workers go,
You got to put up a fight,
Cause Bessy, I won’t let you throw
Steel away, steel away, steel away,
Into the night.
Productivity is dropping,
And even though I’m with you
it won’t all be Bliss and Laughlin.
You know I’m not here to condemn
The only thing I want from life
is to be your Star of Bethlehem.
Odd partners in advertising: when Skippy and Hellmann's teamed up in 1963, claiming Together Tremendous!
The recipes for those peanut butter/mayo sandwiches, enlarged:
Update: Astute readers noted that if this was a nationwide ad campaign, then the version of the ad that ran west of the Rockies should have referred to Best Foods mayonnaise, rather than Hellmann's. I checked, and it turns out this was exactly the case. It was an identical ad, but with Best Foods substituted for Hellmann's.
The internet is home to some very weird and wonderful things, but just when you think you’ve seen it all a guy unveils a five-inch thumb... The baffling appendage belongs to Tik Tok user Jacob Pina, a student from Westport, Massachusetts, who went viral after his followers noticed his thumb was wildly out of proportion with the rest of his fingers.
Pina, who has since been dubbed ‘Thumb Boy’, has now amassed almost 150k followers on the video-sharing app, with one of his videos achieving two million likes.
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.