As a kid, one of my favorite cartoons was Popeye the Sailor, who was empowered by eating spinach to take on many daunting challenges, such as battling his brawny nemesis Bluto for the affections of his love interest Olive Oyl, often kidnapped by Bluto.

I am reading the book “The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date” by Samuel Arbesman, who explained, while examining how a novel fact, even a wrong one, spreads and persists, that one of the strangest examples of the spread of an error is related to Popeye the Sailor. “Popeye, with his odd accent and improbable forearms, used spinach to great effect, a sort of anti-Kryptonite. It gave him his strength, and perhaps his distinctive speaking style. But why did Popeye eat so much spinach? What was the reason for his obsession with such a strange food?”

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