Theodore Roosevelt and a bar fight. When it snows Dutch police look for cannabis growers. The tobacco industry researched on stress [r/TodayiLearned, Episode #21]

#1

TIL that Theodore Roosevelt –a successful boxer at Harvard, got into a bar fight after a man called him ‘four eyes’.

Though it may seem like a typical tall tale of the Old West, Theodore Roosevelt once found himself in a bar fight in Mingusville, MT (now Wibaux, MT), 35 miles west of Medora. Roosevelt never specified the exact date of the event, but the incident likely occurred in the summer of 1884. That year, Roosevelt was still relatively unknown in the area and grieving the loss of his wife and mother earlier that year.

Roosevelt had been riding for his own enjoyment through the badlands and the prairies of western Dakota Territory and eastern Montana Territory for many days when he arrived at the Nolan’s Hotel in Mingusville. There, he encountered a bully who, like others had done who did not know Roosevelt well, teased him about his glasses. Roosevelt described the incident in his own words in his autobiography:

“It was late in the evening when I reached the place. I heard one or two shots in the bar-room as I came up, and I disliked going in. But there was nowhere else to go, and it was a cold night. Inside the room were several men, who, including the bartender, were wearing the kind of smile worn by men who are making believe to like what they don’t like. A shabby individual in a broad hat with a cocked gun in each hand was walking up and down the floor talking with strident profanity. He had evidently been shooting at the clock, which had two or three holes in its face.

…As soon as he saw me he hailed me as ‘Four Eyes,’ in reference to my spectacles, and said, ‘Four Eyes is going to treat.’ I joined in the laugh and got behind the stove and sat down, thinking to escape notice. He followed me, however, and though I tried to pass it off as a jest this merely made him more offensive, and he stood leaning over me, a gun in each hand, using very foul language… In response to his reiterated command that I should set up the drinks, I said, ‘Well, if I’ve got to, I’ve got to,’ and rose, looking past him.

As I rose, I struck quick and hard with my right just to one side of the point of his jaw, hitting with my left as I straightened out, and then again with my right. He fired the guns, but I do not know whether this was merely a convulsive action of his hands, or whether he was trying to shoot at me. When he went down he struck the corner of the bar with his head… if he had moved I was about to drop on my knees, but he was senseless. I took away his guns, and the other people in the room, who were now loud in their denunciation of him, hustled him out and put him in the shed.”

By the next morning, the bully had left town on a freight train.

Before coming to Dakota, Roosevelt was a successful boxer at Harvard. Roosevelt maintained an interest in various martial arts throughout his life, including judo, kendo, jiu-jitsu, boxing, and wrestling, practicing many of them at the White House.

#2

TIL When it snows in the Netherlands, Dutch police look for cannabis growers by spotting rooftops without snow

Police in the Netherlands has swooped on a house in the town of Haarlem, arresting the owner for growing cannabis plants, after they noticed that his house was the only one in the street not covered in snow.

A dusting of snow covered all the roofs in the town, except for one.

Once inside, police found industrial-scale cultivation of cannabis, and the heat lamps used to nurture the plants.

After the raid in the town near Amsterdam on February 5, officers tweeted the photo of the house as a warning to other growers.

The Netherlands is known for its tolerant attitude towards personal consumption of marijuana. However, the Dutch government only tolerates the cultivation of up to five cannabis plants, and people are only allowed to carry up to five grams of weed (0.17 ounces) each.

#3

TIL that “Type A” personalities (stressed workaholics prone to angry outbursts) and “Type B” (more relaxed and agreeable) are “to a large extent a construct of the tobacco industry” and “the tobacco industry was a major funder and stimulant of research on stress.”

The modern idea of stress began on a rooftop in Canada, with a handful of rats freezing in the winter wind.

This was 1936 and by that point, the owner of the rats, an endocrinologist named Hans Selye, had become an expert at making rats suffer for science.

“He would subject them to extreme temperatures, make them go hungry for long periods, or make them exercise a lot,” the medical historian Mark Jackson says. “Then what he would do is kill the rats and look at their organs.”

What was interesting to Selye was that no matter how different the tortures he devised for the rats were — from icy winds to painful injections — when he cut them open to examine their guts it appeared that the physical effects of his different tortures were always the same.

For the past decade or so, Petticrew and a group of colleagues in London have been searching through millions of documents from the tobacco industry that were archived online in the late ’90s as part of a legal settlement with tobacco companies.

What they’ve discovered is that both Selye’s work and much of the work around Type A personality were profoundly influenced by cigarette manufacturers. They were interested in promoting the concept of stress because it allowed them to argue that it was stress — not cigarettes — that was to blame for heart disease and cancer.

In the years since Selye’s foundational work, research on stress has exploded. There’s no question that stress, particularly chronic stress in childhood, has a very serious impact on long-term health.

But some scientists now argue that our usual narrative of stress — that stress is universally bad for health — is too one-sided and doesn’t reflect the reality that some degree of stress can actually benefit people. Stress isn’t always a bad thing.

Still, the narrative of stress promoted by the tobacco industry through research and marketing is alive and well. A ghost from a long time ago continues to shape how we see, and experience, stress.