Tuesday, December 23

The Debunker: Did Someone Else Write the Works of Shakespeare?

by Ken Jennings

If you're an anglophile, a lover of all things British, then this time of year must be like Christmas for you. Well, it's real Christmastime as well, but you know what I mean, right? If you have a soft spot for Dickensian carolers, candlelit mince pies, snow-covered country villages, special episodes of inexplicably popular TV shows like Downton Abbey and Doctor Who... well, in December, we all become a tiny bit British, don't we? But not everything we think we know about life across the pond is strictly "pukka." We've enlisted Sir Kenneth Jennings, VC, GBE, DJO (Distinguished Jeopardy! Order) to help us "mind the gap" between fact and fiction when it comes to Merrie Old England.

The Debunker: Did Someone Else Write the Works of Shakespeare?

It was Francis Bacon! Or Christopher Marlowe. Or could it have been Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford? With all the hype that alternate theories of Shakespeare authorship have received lately (including Anonymous, a big budget movie by Independence Day director and Shakespeare skeptic Roland Emmerich) you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is an actual academic controversy. Could someone else have written the plays of Shakespeare? It would certainly be big news if the most celebrated writer in the history of the language--of any language maybe--were revealed as a fraud.

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Tuesday, December 16

The Debunker: Does the Gulf Stream Keep Britain Warm?

by Ken Jennings

If you're an anglophile, a lover of all things British, then this time of year must be like Christmas for you. Well, it's real Christmastime as well, but you know what I mean, right? If you have a soft spot for Dickensian carolers, candlelit mince pies, snow-covered country villages, special episodes of inexplicably popular TV shows like Downton Abbey and Doctor Who... well, in December, we all become a tiny bit British, don't we? But not everything we think we know about life across the pond is strictly "pukka." We've enlisted Sir Kenneth Jennings, VC, GBE, DJO (Distinguished Jeopardy! Order) to help us "mind the gap" between fact and fiction when it comes to Merrie Old England.

The Debunker: Does the Gulf Stream Keep Britain Warm?

Travel due west from the United Kingdom, and what's the first U.S. state you'd hit? Virginia? Massachusetts? Maine, maybe? A quick look at a world map will probably surprise many: the whole of the British Isles lies to the north of the northernmost point in the contiguous 48 states. Due west from London, you'd reach the New World at the subarctic forest of southern Labrador, Canada. The only state you could hit traveling west from anywhere in the U.K. is actually Alaska! In short, Britain is a lot farther north than a lot of people think.

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Tuesday, December 09

The Debunker: Did Ye Olde British People Really Say "Ye Olde"?

by Ken Jennings

If you're an anglophile, a lover of all things British, then this time of year must be like Christmas for you. Well, it's real Christmastime as well, but you know what I mean, right? If you have a soft spot for Dickensian carolers, candlelit mince pies, snow-covered country villages, special episodes of inexplicably popular TV shows like Downton Abbey and Doctor Who... well, in December, we all become a tiny bit British, don't we? But not everything we think we know about life across the pond is strictly "pukka." We've enlisted Sir Kenneth Jennings, VC, GBE, DJO (Distinguished Jeopardy! Order) to help us "mind the gap" between fact and fiction when it comes to Merrie Old England.

The Debunker: Did Ye Olde British People Really Say "Ye Olde"?

Does anything convey an air of enforced jollity better than the phrase "Ye Olde" appended to a pub, renaissance fair, candle shoppe, ice cream shoppe--hell, any kind of "shoppe"? The word "ye" is all over the Bible and Shakespeare and Thor comics, so surely this old-timey language must have some historical cred, right?

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Wednesday, December 03

 

Tuesday, December 02

The Debunker: Did the Druids Build Stonehenge?

by Ken Jennings

If you're an anglophile, a lover of all things British, then this time of year must be like Christmas for you. Well, it's real Christmastime as well, but you know what I mean, right? If you have a soft spot for Dickensian carolers, candlelit mince pies, snow-covered country villages, special episodes of inexplicably popular TV shows like Downton Abbey and Doctor Who... well, in December, we all become a tiny bit British, don't we? But not everything we think we know about life across the pond is strictly "pukka." We've enlisted Sir Kenneth Jennings, VC, GBE, DJO (Distinguished Jeopardy! Order) to help us "mind the gap" between fact and fiction when it comes to Merrie Old England.

The Debunker: Did the Druids Build Stonehenge?

"Hundreds of years before the dawn of history a lived strange race of people: the Druids! No one knows who they were or what they were doing, but their legacy remains hewn into the living rock... of Stonehenge!" So begins Stonehenge, the epic rock saga brought to the stage with disastrous results in the classic 1984 rockumentary (if you will) This Is Spinal Tap.

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Monday, December 01

 

Tuesday, November 25

The Debunker: Can Owls Turn Their Heads All the Way Around?

by Ken Jennings

In November, we set our clocks an hour forward and officially say good-bye to an hour of daylight every evening. From now until spring, we're going to be spending most of our non-working hours in the dark: commuting home from the office when it's dark, making dinner when it's dark, meeting friends when it's dark, getting the kids to and from a million stupid activities in the dark. Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame, is going to brighten this gloomy month with the light of knowledge, debunking some long-held myths about other nocturnal urban wanderers: the birds and critters you might see on a streetlit November night.

The Debunker: Can Owls Turn Their Heads All the Way Around?

One of the secrets of owls' lethal hunting skills is their amazing eyesight. Unlike most birds, owls have two front-facing eyes, which give them binocular vision. In other words, they're one of the few birds that could actually enjoy a 3-D movie (assuming they gave a hoot and could find a pair of the special glasses to fit them). But there are trade-offs involved: bird eyes are fixed into their sockets by a tiny ring of bone, so owls must move their whole heads any time they need to look around. In popular belief, they can swivel their heads all the way around. You know, like R2-D2, or Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

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Monday, November 24

 

Tuesday, November 18

The Debunker: Do Cats Use Their Whiskers for Balance?

by Ken Jennings

In November, we set our clocks an hour forward and officially say good-bye to an hour of daylight every evening. From now until spring, we're going to be spending most of our non-working hours in the dark: commuting home from the office when it's dark, making dinner when it's dark, meeting friends when it's dark, getting the kids to and from a million stupid activities in the dark. Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame, is going to brighten this gloomy month with the light of knowledge, debunking some long-held myths about other nocturnal urban wanderers: the birds and critters you might see on a streetlit November night.

The Debunker: Do Cats Use Their Whiskers for Balance?

No Brooklyn hipster bartender has ever been more protective of his showy whiskers than cat fanciers are for those of their little darlings. Whiskers are sensory organs and must not be trimmed, they insist. Sometimes they're so emphatic as to claim that cats need their whiskers to balance, and wouldn't even be able to walk in a straight line without them.

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