The Great Wall of China has many impressive attributes, least of which is that it extends for approximately 1,500 miles. When Holly heard Ms. Miller say that it was the only manmade structure visible from the moon, she was correct to be skeptical and made the right choice in investigating her suspicions using the Urban Legends Reference Pages, otherwise known as Snopes. This website debunks common urban legends and myths as well as new myths (such as the ubiquitous “missing child” e-mails).

Holly would have received confirmation of her doubts upon seeing the page entitled, “Great Walls of Liar”. The webpage first states the claim that the Great Wall is the only manmade structure visible from space, and then would see that the claim is false. The next section provides details as to the origins of the myth and why it is not true. First of all, there are no manmade structures visible from the moon. At a distance of 180 miles, astronauts could not view the Great Wall.

The moon, of course, is 237,000 miles away, and from that distance, only large features such as water, land and some vegetation can be seen. If Holly continued to read the page, she would find that the assertion was old and oft-repeated by self-proclaimed experts such as Richard Halliburton, who stated the claim in his book. Second Book of Marvels, The Orient gave credit to astronomers for the idea that the Great Wall can be viewed from the moon. Crediting a seemingly-reliable source with false information is a common way of spreading and maintaining an urban myth.

In conclusion, Ms. Miller will be helping herself to a large helping of humble pie when Holly returns to class and shares the information she found on the Urban Legends Reference Pages. Vending machines can be both convenient and frustrating. One can find all nature of drinks and snacks in just about every location from schools to businesses. Vending machines are not only handy, but they are also a magnet for those who enjoy the challenge of getting things for free. Last August, a Michigan girl got stuck in an arcade game when she tried to reach the elusive stuffed animals. Mr. Taylor heard that one can pour saltwater into the coin acceptor in order to short-circuit the machine and get access to money and sodas.

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Holly, fresh from her victory in Ms. Miller’s class, decided to research this claim on Snopes. The page entitled, “Salt Water and Vending Machines” shows that this saltwater solution is somewhat false. Thanks to a creative episode of MacGyver, kids all around the United States were salting vending machines, which resulted in a jackpot of free merchandise and money. This bonanza was not only beneficial to the thieves, but to the vending machine owners as well.

Having learned that there was a flaw in the construction of the machines, the coin changer was moved so that it could not be affected by saltwater. Mr. Taylor will be more likely to keep his job if he does not make any further suggestions on how students can get away with illegal activities. He is partially correct, because the saltwater trick did work for a while, but the trick can no longer be used due to better construction. Holly is good with research; she might be able to locate vending machines that are still active without the relocated coin changer.


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