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Elika Roohi

Eight Shows to Watch While Hiding from the Heatwave

Wasn’t it just a few months ago that we were suffering with insanely record lows, causing frostbite and freezing pipes? Now large parts of the US and Canada have been plunged into a sweltering heatwave with temperatures soaring above 100F in many places.

The CDC has published some tips for handling the hot weather, including staying hydrated with water (avoid sugary, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages), staying cool in air conditioned areas and wearing light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. They also advise keeping an eye on the inside temperature of your car—if it’s 80 degrees outside, the inside of your car can get as hot as 123F inside within an hour.

Although College News is not a public health organization, we have some suggestions of our own for beating the heat: stay inside and lie in front of a fan with the air conditioning on while eating popsicles. To pass the time, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite shows that will get you through this very warm weekend.

Killing Eve, Season 2 (BBC)

Sandra Oh’s British intelligence agent and Jodie Comer’s assassin-for-hire are back for another season of their incredible cat-and-mouse hunt. Season 2 picks up after Oh’s Eve has stabbed Comer’s Villanelle. The two jump straight back into their complex dynamic, making for excellent television.

Fleabag, Season 2 (Amazon)

Fleabag is a gem of a show that truly found its voice in the second season. Following the life of a messy woman who’s trying to get life right and anchored by script-writing-powerhouse Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag explores all the familiar themes—family, faith, love—but with a unique and beautiful lens.

Big Little Lies, Season 2 (HBO)

Back after the award-winning season 1, season 2 picks up with all of your favorite characters with the addition of Meryl Streep playing the role of evil mother-in-law. After last season’s shocking ending, season 2 follows the Monterey Five as they struggle with the burden of their secret.

Stranger Things, Season 3 (Netflix)

Stranger Things is back! The ’80s-nostalgia sci-fi horror hit picks up a year after we left our protagonists in season 2. Even though the gang all have part-time jobs now, they still have the Upside Down to worry about.

Chernobyl (HBO)

If you somehow missed this one in the first go-round, now is the time to spend five episodes deep diving into the story of one of the most devastating man-made catastrophes in history.

Veep, Season 7 (HBO)

For the final season, Veep is back with with its consistently smart and funny writing, satirizing a practically un-satirizable American political landscape. If you haven’t jumped into Veep before, now is a perfect opportunity.

Good Omens (Amazon)

Party buddy comedy, part time-to-question-religion, Good Omen is about the unlikely friendship between an angel and a demon, who find themselves trying to prevent Armageddon from coming to Earth and destroying everything as we know it.

Queer Eye, Season 4 (Netflix)

Back for its fourth season, Queer Eye is bringing back the Fab Five to bring more emotional, uplifting episodes to you. Perfect for when outside is a burning mess—literally and metaphorically.

See also: What HBO’s “Chernobyl” Got Right and Wrong
Why Feminism in Teen Shows Today Matters
Get Ready for Your Summer Vacation

University of Alaska Prepares for Budget Slash from Which It May “Never Recover”

The University of Alaska system is bracing for a 41 percent cut in funding from the state, after Governor Mike Dunleavy vetoed a $130 million line item in the state’s budget on June 28.

“It is with grave concern for the future of our university and our state that I share with you devastating news of the budget Gov. Mike Dunleavy released this morning,” wrote University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen to members of the university.

Legislators in Alaska have until midnight on Friday to vote to override the vetoes, something which many Alaskans are imploring their representatives to do at the moment. To override, a vote of 75 percent (or 45 legislators) is needed, but it is looking increasingly unlikely that is going to happen as the deadline draws ever nearer. (The legislature can’t even agree on a location to meet, with 38 legislators meeting in Juneau, the state’s capital, and the other 22 meeting with the Governer at Wasilla Middle School, several hundred miles and a plane journey away.)

These vetoes “will strike an institutional and reputational blow from which we may likely never recover,” Johnsen wrote, ominously.

What does this even mean?

What does it mean for a state when its public universities are so dramatically defunded? Especially for a small (but large, but yes, we mean small) state like Alaska?

In Alaska, the University system is one of the biggest things around. It drives a lot of different aspects of the community and economy, and serves more than 26,600 students across three main campuses and multiple branch campuses in more remote locations.

“If we lay people off, they aren’t going to walk across the street and get another job at another company, because we’re it,” Johnsen said. Alaska has almost no private four-year institutions, and what it does have are minuscule and religiously-affiliated schools.

Economists are warning that cuts such as these—which, while most dramatically affect the university, have also been extended to numerous other social programs—could pull the state back into a recession. Lower gas prices over the last few years had caused a downturn in the economy, from which Alaska was only just starting to recover.

Impact on climate

The University of Alaska is also a leading institution for climate research, and such deep cuts will impact the future of environmental studies.

The Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is the primary academic center for Arctic research in the US, and “every climate change researcher, educator, scientist and student in the lower 48 whose work touches the American Arctic” relies on the center’s work, Victoria Herrmann, the president of the Arctic Institute, told Gizmodo. “If the UA is defunded at the current rate, Arctic research in every corner of America will suffer.”

Economic impact

To meet these cuts, all sort of options will be considered. Johnsen envisions having to close down one of the system’s three universities. Should they manage to stay open, the budget veto could put the University of Alaska at risk of losing accreditation, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities warned. For now, furlough notices have been sent to 2,500 employees and there has been a freeze on hiring and travel.

Economists estimate that there will be a loss of over 4,000 jobs, with about 2,000 tied to the cuts to the university specifically. Keep in mind, Alaska is a state with less than a million people. An impact to the livelihoods of 4,000 people is one that will shake communities, especially for those that have always had a hard time holding onto their bright, young people.

Many college-bound Alaskan students set their sights on studying out of state for a variety of reasons—to experience something new or to pursue a program not offered at home—but of the students that leave, only 20 percent return after graduation.

This isn’t a brain drain, “it’s a brain gusher,” said Johnsen to NBC.

Why is this happening?

 So why is Governor Dunleavy so intent on a course of action that could have far-reaching consequences for his state? The answer lies in the way the Alaskan economy works.

Alaska is an oil-rich state, and never seeing the need, never bothered to implement sales tax or income tax. The state in fact has so much money from its natural resources, that it cuts each of its citizens a check every October from a pot of money called the Permanent Fund. The check, called a Permanent Fund Dividend or PFD, generally ranges between $1,000-2,000, although in some prosperous years, it has been higher.

Following the downturn in oil prices a few years ago and without revenue from taxes, the state has been supplementing its budget with the PFD and cutting smaller checks. In 2018, for example, the dividend was estimated to be $2,700; however it was reduced to $1,600 by legislative action.

Governor Dunleavy doesn’t want government spending to draw upon the PFD funds, and supports a full PFD check for every citizen. His budget reflects that ideology, also revealing how challenging such a plan is for a state that depends on falling oil prices and collects a very small amount of taxes.

What makes Alaska special

I grew up in Alaska and got my journalism degree at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Budget cuts are always looming in the public sector and have been simmering for the UA schools for a few years. The programme I graduated from was cut the year after I left UAF, students in Fairbanks interested in journalism can now get a communications degree with a journalism concentration. Or they could, who knows what the future holds.

I went to UAF largely because of the scholarship money. Alaska offers a generous scholarship to students who graduate in the top ten percent of their class, called the Alaska Performance Scholarship. This too, has not been dispersed this year, although its unrelated to the budget cuts. Some 12,000 students received letters this week warning them they would no longer receive their scholarships or state-backed tuition because of a failed budget vote in the Legislature and a decision by the Governor.

And yet, while financial reasons drove me to study in Fairbanks, what kept me there was the vibrant and warm community that grew in a town known for being cold and dark. It flourishes because the young people, the artists and musicians, the outdoor enthusiasts, the geologists and biologists all have a place to mix. With a university looking at cutting programs, jobs and opportunities, its exactly the sort of thing that’s going to be lost.

See also: Here’s What’s Happening with Harvard and Kyle Kashuv
Cornell Alumni Earn Medals at Pyeongchang Winter Olympics
Crash Landing: Two College Freshmen Found Dead after Plane Accident near Colgate University

Study Shows Correlation Between Phone Use and Number of Sexual Partners

Overuse of smartphones by university students may be linked to unproductive behaviour such as lower grades, drinking problems and more sexual partners, according to a new study.

In a survey of more than 3,400 people seeking university degrees in the U.S., those who said they had problems with the amount of time they spent on their phones also reported having more sexual partners. They were also more likely to report anxiety of depression.

One psychiatrist said the findings were “concerning.”

Researchers from the University of Chicago, University of Cambridge, and the University of Minnesota developed the Health and Addictive Behaviours Survey.

Its aim was to assess mental health and wellbeing among university students and to see what impact mobile phones had on them.

To establish whether mobile phone use was excessive, students were asked a variety of questions, including:

  • do friends or relatives complain about excessive use?
  • do you have problems concentrating in class or at work due to smartphone use?
  • do you feel fretful or impatient without your smartphone?
  • do you feel the amount of time you are on it has increased over time?
  • are you missing work due to smartphone use?
  • are you experiencing physical consequences of excessive use, such as light-headedness or blurred vision?

One in five students answered yes to enough questions to be deemed as overusing their phones, with more than 60 percent of these being female.

Neglecting normal relationships

The study found that the proportion of students reporting two or more sexual partners in the past 12 months was significantly higher among those also reporting overuse of mobile phones—37 percent compared with 27 percent who reported no problem use. The proportion with six or more sexual partners was more than double among those who said they overused their smartphones.

The reasons for this are difficult to pinpoint and are likely to be varied, said Dr. Sam Chamberlain, one of the authors of the study.

“It could be that people are using smartphones to date via apps, but they also might be neglecting more normal relationships because of overuse of their phones,” Chamberlain said. “The strongest finding was that people reporting problematic use of their phones were also more likely to have the trait of impulsiveness, and this could also play a part in the number of sexual partners they have.

“If this was a healthy thing we’d expect to see better self-esteem and less mental health issues but the opposite was the case,” Chamberlain added.

The researchers also found that excessive drinking was higher in those reporting problematic smartphone use, compared with those who felt their mobile use was normal. Notably, they found no significant link with any other form of substance abuse or addiction.

Smartphone studies

Previous studies have pointed to a link between excessive use of smartphones and lower academic achievement, and this report also found a connection.

“Although the effect of problematic smartphone use on grade point averages was relatively small, it’s worth noting that even a small negative impact could have a profound effect on an individual’s academic achievement and then on their employment opportunities in later life,” said University of Chicago’s Prof Jon Grant.

While there are an increasing number of studies into mobile phone use and its consequences, none have definitively proved that excessive use causes mental health issues—and there needs to be more funding for deeper research, thinks Chamberlain.

“We need studies that follow young people over a long period of time,” he said.

Dr. Abigael San, a member of the British Psychological Society, said of the study: “It is concerning and I’m glad the work is being done. All of these effects are very real and are problems discussed in therapy sessions. Often people don’t come with a smartphone issue—instead it is a mental health issue or a relationship break-up—but more than often smartphone usage plays a part.”

See also: Dogs Reduce Student Stress, Study Finds
Period Pain Linked to Nine Days of Lost Productivity for Women in a Year

Dogs Reduce Student Stress, Study Finds

Stress among students can be reduced by spending time with animals, according to a new studying from Washington State University.

It has become increasingly common for universities to bring “therapy dos” on to campus; however, claims about their benefits have up until this point been anecdotal. Now, scientists say they have objective evidence to support the use of dogs to reduce stress in students.

Patricia Pendry, from Washington State University, said her study showed “soothing” sessions with dogs could lessen the negative impact of stress.

The study of more than 300 undergraduates had found weekly hour-long sessions with dogs brought to the university by professional handlers had made stressed students at “high risk of academic failure” or dropping out “feel relaxed and accepted.” helping them to concentrate, learn and remember information, Pendry said.

“Students most at risk, such as those with mental health issues, showed the most benefit,” said Pendry.

In the U.S., about 1,000 campuses are using therapy pets. At some, programs to cheer up students with dogs have been in place for a long time, such as bringing dogs to a public place during finals week or other high-stress times of the semester.

“There does seem to be something specific about the reducing of anxiety from the petting of animals,” said Pendry.

See also: Two Hours in Nature Could Be All You Need for a Happier Life
Period Pain Linked to Nine Days of Lost Productivity for Women in a Year
Are the Increases in STIs Signs of a New Sexual Health Epidemic?

Period Pain Linked to Nine Days of Lost Productivity for Women in a Year

New research suggests that the impact of menstruation is underestimate, and period pain is responsible for nearly nine days of lost productivity a year in workplaces and schools.

The study surveyed over 30,000 Dutch women between the ages of 15 and 45 to evaluate lost productivity associated with periods. They measure both time taken off because of feeling ill, as well as working or studying while feeling unwell (otherwise known as “playing through the pain,” something women have been doing for generations).

It was found that one in seven—or just under 14 percent of women—had taken time off from work or school during their period and 3.5 percent said that this happened during ever, or nearly every, menstrual cycle.

Over eighty percent of the women surveyed said they had been less productive as a result of their menstrual symptoms (to which we say, well, duh).

On average, the researchers calculated that women were absent from work or school 1.3 days per year because of their period and productivity loss was equivalent to 8.9 days per year.

“Women said that they weren’t as productive as they could be while at work—they needed to go to the toilet every hour or they had a headache and couldn’t concentrate,” said Theodoor Nieboer, an author of the report and a gynecologist at the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Still a taboo

Although there’s been a lot of menstruation media in the last few years, including a popular video game called Tampon Run where you shoot tampons at villains, there’s still a lot of destigmatizing work to do, especially globally.

This recently published study also found that when women did call in sick because of period pain, only 20 percent told their employer or school the real reason for their absence. And nearly 70 percent of respondents said they wished they had the option of more flexible hours during their period.

The study is the largest of its kind, shining yet more light on the reality that women’s health is an understudied area that needs more attention.

Around the world, 1.8 billion women menstruate.

“Despite being almost two decades into the 21st century, discussions about [symptoms] may still be rather taboo,” Nieboer said. “There’s a need for greater openness about the impact of menstrual symptoms on work, and companies need to be more open about this with their female workers.”

Period leave

Period leave has been presented as a possible solution for the occasions when a woman might need to stay home, due to experiencing pain and discomfort from her period. However, this sort of systemic change comes up against long-held attitudes that menstruation should never be talked about.

We’ve all grown up with the same surround-sound messaging about this biological reality for half the planet. It’s embedded in tampon commercials that stress the discretion of their products and depict blue liquid instead of period blood. Even the name given to period products—feminine hygiene—subconsciously raises the question: Excuse me, are we all dirty?

Legalized time off for menstruation actually exists already in a few countries. Women in Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan and China are allowed to request days off work. And although great on paper, it’s often an entitlement that women don’t take, particularly in male-dominated workplaces.

In other countries, period leave hasn’t even made it onto paper yet. Italy tried to pass legislation for menstrual leave in 2017, and it didn’t pass for all the usual objections. However, policies are emerging on a company-by-company basis in these other contexts. Coexist, for example, is a group based in the United Kingdom that hosts community space, and it allows employees who opt into its period policy to take time off, work from home, or consider other options such as altering their working hours during their periods. And in Australia, the Victorian Women’s Trust, an advocacy group, offers employees paid days off for painful periods.

Whether menstrual leave is the answer is unclear, but at least it puts periods and period pain on the political agenda.

See also: Your Seven Day Break on the Pill is Bogus—Here’s Why
Mad About Maca: Health Benefits of Maca Powder
You’re Not Alone: Facing Loneliness in College
Women’s Health Watch: In Stirrups

Oh No! Kim’s Kimono Shapewear Blasted for Name

Reality star Kim Kardashian West is being accused of cultural appropriation by people in Japan, after naming her new line of shapewear Kimono. Because Kim, get it?

Unfortunately, the name Kimono is not sitting well among users on social media, particularly those in Japan, who are accusing her of disrespecting the traditional outfit.

Kardashian announced the launch of the line in a tweet—and with it launched another wave of criticism that the Kardashian Empire is culturally out of touch, this time with the hashtag #KimOhNo.

It appears nobody in Kardashian’s orbit was too worried that the Japanese had claimed the name kimono first, several centuries ago, when they named those loose-sleeved robes that are traditionally worn as formal outwear (needless to say, a far cry from shapewear).

In Japanese, the word “kimono” means “something to wear,” while Kardashian’s use of it appears to be a way to make money off of her first name. The website for the clothing line offers no explanation for the choice of name, and Kardashian has yet to respond to her online detractors.

The list of moments of cultural appropriation and generally bad decision making by the Kardashian family is long, but some greatest hits bear revisiting:

See also: Everything There is to Know About Psalm West
Kylie Jenner Throws “Handmaid’s Tale” Themed Party, Incenses Everybody
Whoopi Goldberg’s Response to Bella Thorne’s Leaked Nudes Sparks New Debate

Spider-Man’s Tom Holland Rescues Fan

Tom Holland, known best for playing Spider-Man in the most recent iteration of the franchise, proved himself to be a real-life superhero when he helped a fan who was being crushed during the promotional tour for Spider-Man: Far From Home.

The Marvel actor greeted fans outside a television studio in New York City on Monday, but stopped signing autographs when a young woman told the star that she was being crushed.

In a clip shared by the young woman, Holland warned the adult autograph collectors and photographers: “I will throw your shit on the floor if you keep pushing that girl. Can you back up?”



When she told Holland she was “literally having a panic attack,” the 23-year-old star assured her, “it’s ok, I got you, I got you.”

Alongside videos of the exchange, the fan tweeted: “This was absolutely INSANE and should NEVER happen… my neck was literally against the barricade with 30 grown men behind me pushing…”

She claimed that most of the crowd pushing behind her were “6ft tall grown men”, although some fans at the front were not actually that tall. She added later that Holland calmed her down.

Other fans joined in with the thread, saying they were “trampled” by the celebrity hunters and “spent over an hour crying” because the pushing was so intense.

Since sharing the footage, the tweet has garnered a lot of attention. Fans praised the actor on social media, calling him a real life superhero and the best embodiment of his character.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is in theatres on July 2, 2019.

See also: Whoopi Goldberg’s Response to Bella Thorne’s Leaked Nudes Sparks New Debate
What HBO’s “Chernobyl” Got Right and Wrong
What is Camp, Anyway? Our Fave Met Gala Looks

Here’s What’s Happening with Harvard and Kyle Kashuv

Typically, the status of your college application is not national news.

But when the college is Harvard, the student is Kyle Kashuv—a prominent teen conservative activist from Parkland (yes, that Parkland) who has met the President, and when the outcome of his application touches on the raging culture war surrounding politics and college campuses, then yes, it becomes national news.

Harvard’s decision to rescind Kashuv’s admission made major headlines on Monday. And since the whole situation involves moving parts and an-already-well-underway social media backlash, we’ve created a guide for you.

Who is Kyle Kashuv?

Kashuv is a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—the school that experienced the tragic shooting in 2018 that then lead to the national “March for Our Lives” movement.

Kashuv is himself a survivor of the shooting at the school, and he became famous for opposing gun control measures after the attack. He became the high school outreach director for the conservative group Turning Point USA, and lobbied in favor of a federal “school safety” bill that attempts to address the school shooting problem without gun control. He also notably has a large Twitter following.

These noteworthy extracurriculars, together with good grades and high SAT scored, earned Kashuv admission to Harvard earlier this year. However, in late May, a series of offensive comments he made roughly two years came to light. The comments include the repeated use of the n-word in private chats and Google Doc chats, as well as other racist remarks.

Harvard reacts

Kashuv, remember, is not a nobody. He’s a survivor of a tragic school shooting that spurred a national movement of young people to get engaged in the public discourse around gun control—and he is well known for opposing gun control.

Harvard undertook a formal review of Kashuv’s admission. On Monday morning, Kashuv tweeted out a letter from Harvard stating that his admission had been formally rescinded.

Everyone reacts

His thread on Twitter, which included a blow-by-blow account of his efforts to address the problem and restore his admission, went viral. By Monday afternoon, his name was trending on Twitter, and the conservative media was running with allegations of liberal bias in academia.

The issue has quickly become a politically polarizing one, as it may be assumed.

Conservatives are largely seeing Kashuv’s actions through a sympathetic light. It was a personal failing on behalf of a younger teen, one who hadn’t yet gone through the tragedy of the Parkland shooting, which he asserts shaped and changed him. For those holding this view, the real threat isn’t the racist comments—which can be overcome—but the impulse to punish people for them. If you penalize people for every past politically incorrect comment, the logic goes, then people will have no room to grow.

Liberals, on the other hand, see racism as a structural problem that is reflected both in social institutions and deeply ingrained. These biases are firm and can lead even people who believe in ideals of equal treatment to act or speak in prejudiced ways. Addressing the consequences of racism requires work, effort and vigilance.

Through this lens, Kashuv looks less like a kid who made youthful mistakes and more like a young man who’s trying to escape responsibility for his actions, and his attempt to minimize his comment by saying they were designed for shock value is part of the problem. “Ironic” racism is still real racism; the fact that the comments are roughly two years old isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Harvard policy

Whatever your opinions may be about this, Harvard’s admissions policy didn’t target Kashuv specifically. The university’s actions are consistent with its past decisions to enforce a blanket rule about offensive social media use by prospective students. In 2017, Harvard rescinded 10 other students’ admissions, after it found they were participating in a Facebook group that involved swapping racist and anti-Semitic memes.

However, these other 10 students didn’t become martyrs for the cause like Kyle Kashuv. Their names didn’t trend on twitter or get defended in major conservative publications.

What makes the Kashuv case so volatile is the confluence of these factors: not just that he said some racist things in the past, but also that he’s a visible conservative with a national platform who’s answering for his actions to a university.

When all is said and done, it’s likely that Kashuv will end up attending a different elite university. But his case bears considering, for the cultural elements and political issues it touches upon.

See also: Harvard Dean Under Fire for Representing Harvey Weinstein
Harvard evacuated during the peak of exam week because of bomb threats
Parents sue over sons’ Harvard rejection
College-Admissions Scandal Exposes Famous Parents

Suzanne Collins to Release “Hunger Games” Prequel

The story of Panem isn’t over after all.

Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins announced this week that she was writing a prequel to her best-selling trilogy, with a potential movie adaptation also on the way.

The book, currently untitled, will be released in May 2020 and will be set in the world of Panem 64 years before the events of the series begins. It will focus on the time after the so-called “Dark Days,” a failed rebellion.

“With this book, I wanted to explore the state of nature, who we are, and what we perceive is required for our survival,” Collins said in a statement. “The reconstruction period 10 years after the war, commonly referred to as the Dark Days—as the country of Panem struggles back to its feet—provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with these questions and thereby define their views of humanity.”

The Hunger Games books, which focus on a world where teenagers must fight to the death as a form of entertainment, were adapted into a globally successful big-screen franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence as heroine Katniss Everdeen. The four films have made almost $3 billion at the box office, and Lionsgate has expressed interest in extending the franchise as well.

The original books were all New York Times bestsellers upon release, selling more than 65 million copies in the US alone and translated into 51 languages for 56 territories. Since then, Collins has released an autobiographical picture book called Year of the Jungle.

See also: What HBO’s “Chernobyl” Got Right and Wrong
Stranger Things Creators Sued for Plagiarism
Will You Subscribe To Lena Dunham’s Newsletter?

What HBO’s “Chernobyl” Got Right and Wrong

It didn’t seem possible that HBO would rally so quickly after Game of Thrones, but the mini-series Chernobyl has been watched by eight million people already, in fact breaking some records set by Game of Thrones.

The series covers the cataclysmic events surrounding the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and the tragic story of the damage control efforts. Chernobyl is engrossing for many reasons, but perhaps most of all because not much is known about it—the Soviet media disseminated very little information about the disaster. To this day, the series notes, the total death toll caused by the explosion is officially on record in Russia is 31. More realistic estimates by outside entities fall between 4,000 and 96,000.

There have been a handful of books published about the explosion—the biggest and most damaging of its kind—and one or two small documentaries attempting to fill the narrative vacuum where the story of the Chernobyl should be.

This lack of information meant that a lot of viewers went into the series wondering what on the show was truth and what was dramatic embellishment, myself included. Not even ten minutes into episode one, I pulled up google maps to figure out where exactly in the world Chernobyl is (in Ukraine, just south of Belarus and west of Russia), and then following that, I searched the Wikipedia article to figure out what the death toll was—wondering the whole time why my world history lessons hadn’t left a greater impression on me.

If Chernobyl is going to be my main source of information about Chernobyl (and let’s be realistic—I’m probably not going to read Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich or Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham), then I wanted to know how much of the series I could trust. So below, a couple things that were right in Chernobyl, and a couple that were wrong.

MYTH: The Chernobyl fire gave off twice as much radiation as Hiroshima

Both Chernobyl and the bombing of Hiroshima were cataclysmic nuclear disasters; however, it’s difficult to compare the radiation exposure of the two events. In Hiroshima, the major health impact was caused by direct exposure to radiation—the bomb was detonated on a highly populated area.

In Chernobyl, a lot of radioactive material was brought into the atmosphere, which was then spread over a very large area and ingested by people over a long period of time.

FACT: A young firefighter with a pregnant wife died in a hospital shortly after the explosion

The story of Lyudmilla and Vasily Ignatenko is captured quite faithfully by Chernobyl. Vasily, a firefighter, left in the middle of the night, rushing to the power plant. He promised to wake his wife when he got home. But as one of the firefighters who touched a piece of the graphite core of the nuclear reactor, he suffered severe radiation poisoning and was taken to the hospital.

Lyudmilla visited her husband and was ordered not to touch him. “If you start crying, I’ll kick you out right away,” she recalled being told in the book Voices from Chernobyl. Lyudmilla was pregnant at the time but lied to the radiologist to see her husband.

Vasily died 14 days after the accident and was buried, as the series shows, in a zinc coffin. The documentary even shows Lyudmilla carrying her husband’s shoes, which couldn’t fit around his swollen feet. Lyudmilla eventually gave birth to her baby, who died after four hours.

MYTH: A steam explosion would have left Europe uninhabitable

In the wake of the initial blast, nuclear physicists feared a second explosion caused by melting corium coming into contact with groundwater. In the second episode, the team begin taking precautions to mitigate a follow-up explosion, one would carry a force of 2 to 4 megatons, which would wipe out “the entire population of Kiev and a portion of Minsk,” impacting “all of Soviet Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarusia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and most of East Germany.”

Greenpeace senior nuclear energy expert Jan Haverkamp said there were too many hypotheticals considered in this scenario. “They’re not saving the world,” he said. “That situation might play out if all of the melting corium hit groundwater,” he added, but when corium starts melting, it melts “in a very uneven way.” The claim that a second explosion would carry a force of up to 4 megatons, he said, was “an exaggeration.”

FACT: They tried using robots, but eventually resorted to human labor

As the horrifying reality that many men will be essentially given a life sentence from their involvement in the clean-up efforts began to set in, the Soviets considered different options, such as using robots to clear the most dangerous areas.

Like in the show, they did try this, but eventually had to resort to human labor when the radiation was too great for the machinery they were using. They had men clear 100 tons of radioactive debris in 90-second shifts from the area.

Advanced U.S. robots could have aided the decontamination and saved human lives, but the political climate at the time dissuaded the two nations from working together.

MYTH: Naked miners

As a part of the clean-up, 400 miners were recruited to dig a tunnel underneath the reactor to stop the radioactive lava (created by the boron and sand dropped on the fire in an attempt to set it out) from burning through the containment structure and contaminating the groundwater. It was feared that this would have far-reaching consequences.

In the show, the miners complain about being too hot and ask for fans (they are digging under a fire, after all); however, they are told that using fans would be dangerous. In protest, they dig naked.

In reality, there are varying accounts of how much clothing got taken off, said Craig Mazin, series creator, writer and executive producer. More than one account said they took it all off, but it was disputed in other accounts. The scene was written that way to portray the miners as a defiant and powerful force.

“Mikhail Gorbachev himself said the coal miners sort of scared him. They were tough. And they chose willingly to [build these tunnels] in part because of a general sense of honor and community,” Mazin said.

Another part of the miner’s story that didn’t unfold on screen is truly depressing—in the end, the tunnel the workers risked their lives to build weren’t necessary at all. The uranium never melted through the concrete pad that stood between it and the soil that would lead to the water.

However, at the time, not building the tunnels wasn’t an option. “It’s just a chilling fact,” Mazin explained. “I would put myself in [Valery] Legasav’s shoes there and you start to realize the cruelty of the situation. You have no choice. A 50/50 chance that you’re going to poison the Black Sea forever is not acceptable.”

Reportedly one out of four of Chernobyl’s miners later died of cancer and disease connected to radiation poisoning.

If you were also drawn into the story of Chernobyl, HBO released a companion podcast hosted by Peter Sagal and Craig Mazin that provides further information on each episode.

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