Once upon a time, when I was a little kid, I was wandering around with my friends. It wasn't a time of technology in India, so less information, more rumors and a lot of mumbo-jumbo. Everything was black and white. I came across some pink flyers stuck on the poles at the side of road. As i moved closer to read it, one of my friends said don't read it, otherwise you'll be in trouble. I couldn't see why,so I read the flyer which basically said-"If you don't make a 1000 copies of this same flyer and paste it on thousand poles, you'll be dead in 24 hours!"(In hindsight, an early version of today's chain mails!). I was a little taken aback, and a tiny bit scared. My friend said -"see, now you have to print a 1000 copies of this thing!". I said in a usual manner that these things are unreal and stuff but was a little uneasy nonetheless. I asked him, you know about this but you aren't dead. He said I haven't read it but heard from someone else. I further probed, "does this guy read it". He didn't seem to know. We parted ways for the night.

My brain started firing up lots of logical queries to make it go away. I did a rough probability of no. of flyers posted, number of them read and resulting deaths and printed posters. It did seem to indicate ridiculous no. of deaths and posters which meant it was very less likely. I also thought what difference it would make in reading and hearing the same information. I spent a lot of time analyzing this situation, it was one of the rare situations where such crap had some impact on me. Finally, 24 hours came and went and nothing happened.

Some days later, I was coming home from school with the same group of kids. We saw some artifacts and food material(called a 'tona' in India), on a cross-road. People are supposed to avoid it like the plague. It is usually done to transfer a destructive disease(Usually a mental illness!) from their family member to someone else who touches it. As usual, my friends said to avoid it. I said to them -"Guys! whenever you see something like this, always remind me to do this!" and then I kicked that stuff all over the place.

After years of doing this, I have the confidence of telling any small children(and grown ups) if they come to me with any such scary thing, - "I did all that and my life turned out even better than other's who didn't."

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Comment by Amit Malik on July 9, 2016 at 11:14am

@Michael: Scams then, scams now..

Comment by Michael Penn on July 9, 2016 at 11:01am

I used to get mail a long time ago that had a list of addresses inside. The letter said to send one dollar to the person at the top of the list, add your name to the bottom, and then mail it on to as many friends as possible. You would get rich. Sometimes there were others you could call to verify this with, and they agreed it worked.

I never got one penny. Never ever.

Comment by Loren Miller on June 29, 2016 at 1:43pm

No amount of belief makes something a fact.
-- James Randi

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