Tuesday, May 16

The Debunker: Is the Ideal Martini "Shaken, Not Stirred"?

by Ken Jennings

It's May, and that means only one thing to all men and women of good will: National Beverage Day on the sixth of this month! We all love a refreshing beverage, but how much do we really know about them? If you're thirsty for knowledge, take a deep, satisfying swig of Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings, who will be debunking drink-related disinformation all month. As Alexander Pope once said, "A little learning is a dangerous thing, / Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring"!

The Debunker: Is the Ideal Martini "Shaken, Not Stirred"?

Ian Fleming's super-spy James Bond is a man of elegant tastes. Fleming's elaborately detailed prose made sure readers knew that Bond shared his preference for fast Bentleys, tailored serge suits, caviar with plenty of toast, and custom-blended Morlands cigarettes. But Bond's most famous indulgence is the martini, which he orders thirty-five times in Fleming's oeuvre. And as early as Casino Royale, he's instructing barmen to "shake it very well until it's ice-cold." Sean Connery went on to turn "shaken, not shtirred" into a much-imitated catchphrase. In 2005, it was voted one of the 100 most memorable movie quotes of all time by the American Film Institute.

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Tuesday, May 09

The Debunker: Was the Famous McDonald's "Hot Coffee" Lawsuit Frivolous?

by Ken Jennings

It's May, and that means only one thing to all men and women of good will: National Beverage Day on the sixth of this month! We all love a refreshing beverage, but how much do we really know about them? If you're thirsty for knowledge, take a deep, satisfying swig of Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings, who will be debunking drink-related disinformation all month. As Alexander Pope once said, "A little learning is a dangerous thing, / Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring"!

The Debunker: Was the Famous McDonald's "Hot Coffee" Lawsuit Frivolous?

It's Exhibit A for people who blather on about scheming lawyers, credulous bleeding-heart juries, and the damage done to this country by frivolous lawsuits. In 1992, a 79-year-old woman named Stella Liebeck ordered a cup of coffee from a McDonald's drive-thru, and then proceeded to spill it all over herself after she'd driven away. Despite the fact that she'd spilled the coffee on herself, through no fault of McDonald's employees, a jury awarded her $2.86 million. What an injustice! What happened to the tough, self-sufficient Americans who tamed the frontier, am I right? When did we become such sissified, litigious snowflakes?

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Tuesday, May 02

The Debunker: Does Dr. Pepper Have Prunes in It?

by Ken Jennings

It's May, and that means only one thing to all men and women of good will: National Beverage Day on the sixth of this month! We all love a refreshing beverage, but how much do we really know about them? If you're thirsty for knowledge, take a deep, satisfying swig of Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings, who will be debunking drink-related disinformation all month. As Alexander Pope once said, "A little learning is a dangerous thing, / Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring"!

The Debunker: Does Dr. Pepper Have Prunes in It?

The flavor of Dr. Pepper is hard to pin down. It's the oldest soft drink still found on supermarket shelves nationwide, having made its debut at a Waco, Texas corner drugstore in 1885. The company says that its secret formula is a mix of no less than twenty-three different flavors, and the recipe is supposedly split into two halves kept in the safety deposit boxes of two different Dallas banks, so that no single soda-pirating criminal could ever abscond with it.

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Tuesday, April 25

The Debunker: Are Babies Born With Kneecaps?

by Ken Jennings

Babies: they're everywhere, especially when we fly coach. But how much do we really know about them? Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame asked if he could spend April debunking some persistent misconceptions about babies, in hopes that it will persuade the universe to deliver Beyoncé's twins this month. Hey—she cancelled Coachella on doctor's orders. It could happen.

The Debunker: Are Babies Born With Kneecaps?

This one was a favorite on those "Re: FW: Re: FW: FW: amazing trivia facts" emails that used to circle the Earth thirty times a day. Do those lists still exist? Did they ever colonize Facebook and find a new life? Anyway, alongside other dubious things on those lists (your heart stops when you sneeze! Winston Churchill was born in a ladies' room during a dance!) the nation's aunts and grandmothers very much wanted you to know one important fact about babies: they have no kneecaps.

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Tuesday, April 18

The Debunker: Are Caesarean Sections Named for Julius Caesar?

by Ken Jennings

Babies: they're everywhere, especially when we fly coach. But how much do we really know about them? Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame asked if he could spend April debunking some persistent misconceptions about babies, in hopes that it will persuade the universe to deliver Beyoncé's twins this month. Hey—she cancelled Coachella on doctor's orders. It could happen.

The Debunker: Are Caesarean Sections Named for Julius Caesar?

The Caesarean section is an increasingly popular way to deliver babies in the United States. By 2011, a third of all babies in this country were born via C-section. But the technology isn't a new one. Ancient texts from China, India, Persia, Ireland, and Rome describe a similar technique—though it was inevitably fatal to the mother (and often the child as well) until the modern invention of antiseptic surgery.

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Tuesday, April 11

The Debunker: Do Blackouts and Blizzards Cause Baby Booms?

by Ken Jennings

Babies: they're everywhere, especially when we fly coach. But how much do we really know about them? Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame asked if he could spend April debunking some persistent misconceptions about babies, in hopes that it will persuade the universe to deliver Beyoncé's twins this month. Hey—she canceled Coachella on doctor's orders. It could happen.

The Debunker: Do Blackouts and Blizzards Cause Baby Booms?

If anecdotal news accounts are to be believed, nothing gets couples hot and bothered like a good hurricane, power outage, or terrorist attack. Hospitals are readying their maternity wards, the media will report! Exactly nine months after (Hurricane Andrew, the Oklahoma City bombing, Snowpocalypse, etc.) there's going to be a baby explosion! Then when the nine-month-mark arrives, it's easy for reporters to find an obstetrician or hospital that did, indeed, see an upswing. It's counterintuitive, but lots of people believe it's true: a working television and the ability to leave the house are apparently the only thing keeping American couples from a never-ending yearlong wave of fertile unprotected sex.

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Tuesday, April 04

The Debunker: Do Newborn Babies Cry?

by Ken Jennings

Babies: they're everywhere, especially when we fly coach. But how much do we really know about them? Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame asked if he could spend April debunking some persistent misconceptions about babies, in hopes that it will persuade the universe to deliver Beyoncé's twins this month. Hey—she cancelled Coachella on doctor's orders. It could happen.

The Debunker: Do Newborn Babies Cry?

Every parent knows that the old expression "to sleep like a baby" is malarkey. No one sleeps less soundly than a baby—and babies like to make sure that the insomnia is shared with the whole household. But what about the other parenting simile, "to cry like a baby"? Surely that one's safe. As the old song goes, "Every time I hear a newborn baby cry, or touch a leaf or see the sky, Then I know why!"

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Tuesday, March 28

The Debunker: Do Goats Eat Tin Cans?

by Ken Jennings

March brings the first soft breezes and crocus buds of spring, as the earth awakens after its winter-long sleep. I can only assume this new season of life and fertility explains why the Agricultural Council of America has named March 21, often the first day of spring, as "National Agriculture Day." But how much do you really know about farming? In honor of the equinox, Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings is here to plant some seeds of knowledge among your weeds of agricultural ignorance.

The Debunker: Do Goats Eat Tin Cans?

This Debunker installment needs a little caveat. Yes, goats will absolutely eat tin cans… if they are cartoon goats from a 1940s Warner Brothers short. If they are real flesh-and-blood goats, then I'm sorry but the answer is no.

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Tuesday, March 21

The Debunker: Was Daylight Saving Time Instituted for Farmers?

by Ken Jennings

March brings the first soft breezes and crocus buds of spring, as the earth awakens after its winter-long sleep. I can only assume this new season of life and fertility explains why the Agricultural Council of America has named March 21, often the first day of spring, as "National Agriculture Day." But how much do you really know about farming? In honor of the equinox, Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings is here to plant some seeds of knowledge among your weeds of agricultural ignorance.

The Debunker: Was Daylight Saving Time Instituted for Farmers?

Okay, first of all, it's not "daylight savings time." It's "daylight saving time," singular, according to the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which standardized the summertime clock shift in the United States. (Other countries mostly call it "summer time.") And Benjamin Franklin didn't invent it. He did write a 1784 essay called "An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light" for The Journal of Paris, noting that it was a waste of time to sleep through so much morning daylight in the summer—so why not take his trademark "early to bed, early to rise" advice and kick it up a notch? But (a) he was just joking around, and (b) he was proposing getting people out of bed earlier, not actually changing all the clocks. Serious talk about springing forward and falling back was still a century away.

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Tuesday, March 14

The Debunker: Can Amish People Use Electricity?

by Ken Jennings

March brings the first soft breezes and crocus buds of spring, as the earth awakens after its winter-long sleep. I can only assume this new season of life and fertility explains why the Agricultural Council of America has named March 21, often the first day of spring, as "National Agriculture Day." But how much do you really know about farming? In honor of the equinox, Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings is here to plant some seeds of knowledge among your weeds of agricultural ignorance.

The Debunker: Can Amish People Use Electricity?

Bad news for hipsters who have just discovered knitting and beekeeping and home-churned butter: the Amish were doing all your old-timey hobbies before it was cool. These Christian traditionalist sects, a modern offshoot of Swiss Anabaptists, maintain their separation from the secular world by avoiding many modern innovations and luxuries. In the words of "Weird Al" Yankovic's 1996 hit Amish Paradise, they "party like it's 1699." Yankovic also claims that the Amish "shun fancy things like electricity," and that certainly jibes with our idea of candlelit Amish homes, kerosene-lit buggies, and so on. The problem is that this stereotype is almost entirely untrue. Most Amish love electricity—couldn't live without it, in fact.

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