The invention of Coca-Cola might not seem to belong on a list next to things like DNA. After all, way more people drink Coke than have heard of the double helix.
Coca-Cola is simply the most well known brand in the history of the world. Sure, it's mostly just soda water and sugar. But they sell about 400 billion cans of the stuff a year to about 200 countries, an average of more than 60 cans to every single human being on the planet.
Pretty impressive for a drink that routinely gets beat in taste tests by Pepsi.
Coke has it right there in the name. When Coca Cola was created in the summer of 1885, the market was even more crowded with sodas than it is today. In addition to Coke, Pharmacists were selling thousands of sodas, including Dr. Pepper, which got its name from the Texas doctor who marketed it as a cure for impotence. The belief that effervescent water contained health benefits goes back to the Romans, and given the state of mainstream medicine in the 1890s, customers were more than happy to believe Dr. Pepper got your dick up just as well as an old fashioned leech bleeding. Coca Cola was able to stand out in the crowded market because it's purported health benefits weren't total and utter bullshit.
John Pemberton, the Atlanta pharmacist that invented Coca Cola, claimed that the ingredient it was named after, the Coca leaf, cured everything from depression and nervousness to morphine addiction. If those purported effects sound familiar, congratulations, you could beat a chimpanzee in a game of memory. Coca is the leaf that produces cocaine, and like Freud, John Pemberton was incredibly enthusiastic about its "health benefits."
But surely he wouldn't go so far as to stake the claim of his fledgling business on an unproven drug, right?
Why It Makes Sense:
Like Freud, Pemberton practiced what he preached. In fact, when he said he was convinced from "actual experiments that coca is the very best substitute for opium addicts," he was speaking from personal experience, since he was a himself a morphine addict. But whereas Freud retired his cocaine megaphone once doctors sounded the "shit kills you" alarm, Pemberton chose to put it in his soda, plug his ears, and hum loudly.
In his history of the beverage, Mark Pendergrast claims there was about 8.45 milligrams of cocaine in each serving, which is about 1/4th of what people put up their nose to get high these days. But fans of the drink were known to chug up to five at a sitting, or to drink it with five times the syrup called for in the recipe. When combined with the sugar and caffeine, that brings the drug to right around street level.
So it's not surprising that by the time cocaine was removed from the drink in the early 20th century, people were ordering Cokes by asking for "a dope."
Before You Go Trying It...
If that story makes you think cocaine is cool, you should check out the Russell Crowe smoking commercial The Insider.
There's plenty of controversy surrounding certain parts of the Bible, (where are the dinosaurs?), but most can agree that the Ten Commandments make some good points: killing is wrong, stealing is wrong, and weekends are for sleeping.
When the whole world was presumably murdering whoever they wanted and coveting the shit out of anything that crossed their paths, Moses was the one who God deemed suitable enough to pass his commandments onto. So, one day in... Biblical times, an audience gathered and politely waited while Moses met with God on the top of Mount Sinai to discuss the rules that we still use today, (or are, at the very least, aware of).
Drugs weren't invented yesterday, you know. In fact, they grow right up out of the ground, all on their own. The area surrounding Mt Sinai, for example, was home to two common psychedelic drugs and, according to a 2008 Time and Mind article written by Benny Shanon, a professor at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, psychedelic mushrooms and other mind-altering substances played a huge role in the religious rites of Israelites during Biblical times.
While it would be irresponsible of us to assume Moses was drugged up based solely on the fact that drugs were both acceptable and available at the time, Professor Shanon maintains that the scene described in Exodus, (involving blaring trumpets, bright lighting and thunder), fits the "classic imaginings of people on drugs" and further that "the seeing of light [that occurs in hallucinations] is accompanied by profound religious and spiritual feelings."
Why It Makes Sense:
The evidence isn't completely conclusive, but a closer look at our choices leads to a fairly obvious answer. Either:
1. God visited Moses and decided that he was the perfect spokesman for his commandments, (despite Moses's total lack of previous experience in the supernatural-commandment-liaison department), and all of Moses's friends and family believed him when he said "God spoke to me" and instantly stopped coveting shit.
2. A group of extremely bored Israelites ate a bunch of easily-accessible mushrooms and imagined a bunch of crazy shit.
"Is anybody else freaking out a little bit?"
It was thousands of years ago. No Internet, no TV. There wasn't much to do other than eat plants, particularly when those plants led to conversations with God. It doesn't take a college professor to figure this one out, (although, technically, it did this time).
Still, this is a pretty huge deal. Everyone wants to say how dangerous it is to use psychedelic drugs, but Moses takes a few and comes up with a set of morally sound rules that have held up for thousands of years and, for some, serves as a reason not to murder the guy in front of you who's taking an annoyingly long time at the ATM.
Before You Go Trying It...
There's a really good chance that eating random mushrooms you find on the ground will kill your ass.
Also, we don't think we're speaking out of turn here when we point out how sloppy and half-assed the Ten Commandments are. If you're going to create a system of unchangeable rules meant to govern large groups of people, you might want to think "manual" instead of a "grocery list."
"We should be good with just this, right guys?"
Something with a FAQ page at least. "What about murdering in self defense? And what if your neighbor's wife is really hot? Do two Commandments cancel each other out? Can I murder my hot neighbor's stupid husband?"
Like most stoners (take for instance the ones in Pineapple Express, a movie you should totally see), Moses was probably too lazy to do all that extra work so he just sort of summarized, but the rest of us can agree that it would've been nice to have those answers.
To find out which of these stories involved the shameless screwing of an ingenious female scientist, read Four Great Women Buried By Their Own Boobs only in the new Cracked.com book.