Tuesday, September 27

The Debunker: Is There a Clinical Fear of Getting Peanut Butter Stuck on the Roof of Your Mouth?

by Ken Jennings

Do you celebrate National Peanut Day every September 13? Of course, we all do! It's a cruel coincidence that the peanut's big moment comes every fall, just as kids are returning to their increasingly peanut-free schools. If you're not allergic, you probably love peanuts in your trail mix, on sundaes, or in sandwiches (butter form only). But how much do you really know about the protein-rich foodstuff? Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings is here to tell us that a lot of your favorite facts about this beloved snack are just plain nuts.

The Debunker: Is There a Clinical Fear of Getting Peanut Butter Stuck on the Roof of Your Mouth?

There's an eighteen-letter-word that's been a trivia favorite for decades, appearing everywhere from board games to Snapple caps to reference books: arachibutyrophobia. This scary-sounding psychiatric disorder is usually cited as something fairly harmless-seeming: "the fear of getting peanut butter stuck on the roof of your mouth." Boy, psychiatrists have a phobia for everything these days, don't they?!?

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Tuesday, September 20

The Debunker: In "Peanuts" Is Charlie Brown Bald?

by Ken Jennings

Do you celebrate National Peanut Day every September 13? Of course, we all do! It's a cruel coincidence that the peanut's big moment comes every fall, just as kids are returning to their increasingly peanut-free schools. If you're not allergic, you probably love peanuts in your trail mix, on sundaes, or in sandwiches (butter form only). But how much do you really know about the protein-rich foodstuff? Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings is here to tell us that a lot of your favorite facts about this beloved snack are just plain nuts.

The Debunker: In Peanuts, Is Charlie Brown Bald?

Charles Schulz always hated the name Peanuts. When he pitched his revolutionary comic strip to United Feature Syndicate in 1950, he called it Li'l Folks, the name of his panel comic about children that had been running since 1947 in the St. Paul Pioneer Post. Production manager Bill Anderson suggested Peanuts as a replacement name, referring to the "peanut gallery" audience used by children's TV shows of the time. Schulz thought the new name was "totally ridiculous" and lacked dignity, and spent years trying to get his bosses to retitle the strip Good Ol' Charlie Brown. That's why the Sunday strip was labeled as Peanuts, featuring Good Ol' Charlie Brown for most of its run.

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Tuesday, September 13

The Debunker: Are Peanuts Nuts?

by Ken Jennings

Do you celebrate National Peanut Day every September 13? Of course, we all do! It's a cruel coincidence that the peanut's big moment comes every fall, just as kids are returning to their increasingly peanut-free schools. If you're not allergic, you probably love peanuts in your trail mix, on sundaes, or in sandwiches (butter form only). But how much do you really know about the protein-rich foodstuff? Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings is here to tell us that a lot of your favorite facts about this beloved snack are just plain nuts.

The Debunker: Are Peanuts Nuts?

Peanuts took a roundabout route to get to your kitchen cupboard. They were carved on pottery and left in Peruvian tombs five thousand years ago, and European settlers first ran across them in Brazil. Then the Portuguese spread them around the world, as far as Africa and China. But they didn't catch on in North America until African slaves returned them to the New World, planting them in Virginia. Dive bars and ballgames would never be the same again. In the 19th century, this new crop was often called the "ground nut" or the "ground pea"; our word "peanut" is a conflation of the two. But strictly speaking, peanuts are neither peas nor nuts.

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Tuesday, September 06

The Debunker: Who Invented Peanut Butter?

by Ken Jennings

Do you celebrate National Peanut Day every September 13? Of course, we all do! It's a cruel coincidence that the peanut's big moment comes every fall, just as kids are returning to their increasingly peanut-free schools. If you're not allergic, you probably love peanuts in your trail mix, on sundaes, or in sandwiches (butter form only). But how much do you really know about the protein-rich foodstuff? Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings is here to tell us that a lot of your favorite facts about this beloved snack are just plain nuts.

The Debunker: Who Invented Peanut Butter?

George Washington Carver was one of the most celebrated American intellectuals of his time. As a freed slave who rose from poverty to become a successful botanist at a time when nearly all educational and professional doors were closed to African-Americans, Carver was a powerful icon of black talent and achievement. He consulted with world leaders from Teddy Roosevelt to Mahatma Gandhi. But that doesn't mean that Carver's legacy is purely symbolic. He also pioneered methods of crop rotation that saved the farms of countless poor Southerners whose cotton and tobacco fields were failing due to poor soil and hungry bugs.

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Tuesday, August 30

The Debunker: Was "The Jazz Singer" the First Sound Film?

by Ken Jennings

This is the season of Hollywood's unrestrained id: the brainless summer blockbuster, the air-conditioned multiplex, the bottomless popcorn refills, the avalanche of kids emerging blinking into bright sunlight, waiting for their parental pickup. But August is also the anniversary of the movies themselves! It was on August 31, 1897 that Thomas Edison patented his first movie camera, the Kinetograph. In honor of 119 years of cinematic glitz and glamour, we've asked movie buff and Jeopardy! tough Ken Jennings to give us the "reel" truth on all kinds of old-movie misinformation.

The Debunker: Was The Jazz Singer the First Sound Film?

Every time the deafening THX or Dolby Digital logo appears on the screen of my neighborhood theater, I kneel down in my row and say a quick thank-you prayer to the makers of Hollywood's first "talkie," without which none of this would be possible. Thank you, movie gods, for…1928's Lights of New York. Oh, you thought I was talking about The Jazz Singer? Wait a minute, wait a minute—you ain't heard nothing yet.

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Tuesday, August 23

The Debunker: Was Ronald Reagan the First Choice to Star in "Casablanca"?

by Ken Jennings

This is the season of Hollywood's unrestrained id: the brainless summer blockbuster, the air-conditioned multiplex, the bottomless popcorn refills, the avalanche of kids emerging blinking into bright sunlight, waiting for their parental pickup. But August is also the anniversary of the movies themselves! It was on August 31, 1897 that Thomas Edison patented his first movie camera, the Kinetograph. In honor of 119 years of cinematic glitz and glamour, we've asked movie buff and Jeopardy! tough Ken Jennings to give us the "reel" truth on all kinds of old-movie misinformation.

The Debunker: Was Ronald Reagan the First Choice to Star in Casablanca?

It's one of the most storied "what if"s in Hollywood history: what if the most iconic screen role of the 1940s, the world-weary Rick Blaine in Casablanca, had been played by not by Humphrey Bogart but by a different actor? Furthermore, what if that actor had been genial future president Ronald Reagan? Reagan, according to movie lore, was Warner Brothers's first choice for the project.

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Tuesday, August 16

The Debunker: Do Movies Work Through "Persistence of Vision"?

by Ken Jennings

This is the season of Hollywood's unrestrained id: the brainless summer blockbuster, the air-conditioned multiplex, the bottomless popcorn refills, the avalanche of kids emerging blinking into bright sunlight, waiting for their parental pickup. But August is also the anniversary of the movies themselves! It was on August 31, 1897 that Thomas Edison patented his first movie camera, the Kinetograph. In honor of 119 years of cinematic glitz and glamour, we've asked movie buff and Jeopardy! tough Ken Jennings to give us the "reel" truth on all kinds of old-movie misinformation.

The Debunker: Do Movies Work Through "Persistence of Vision"?

Nearly every work on film theory begins with one starting principle: that the illusion of motion in motion pictures is only possible through a phenomenon called "persistence of vision." This was a turn-of-the-century attempt to explain the miracle that makes cinema possible: images flash on a screen, and even though they don't move, our brain believes they do. Psychologists decided that something called "persistence of vision" must be involved: some kind of retinal after-image in the eye itself weaves the still images together into a moving whole.

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Tuesday, August 09

The Debunker: What Kind Of Animal Roars At The Start Of The MGM Movies?

by Ken Jennings

This is the season of Hollywood's unrestrained id: the brainless summer blockbuster, the air-conditioned multiplex, the bottomless popcorn refills, the avalanche of kids emerging blinking into bright sunlight, waiting for their parental pickup. But August is also the anniversary of the movies themselves! It was on August 31, 1897 that Thomas Edison patented his first movie camera, the Kinetograph. In honor of 119 years of cinematic glitz and glamour, we've asked movie buff and Jeopardy! tough Ken Jennings to give us the "reel" truth on all kinds of old-movie misinformation.

The Debunker: What Kind Of Animal Roars At The Start Of The MGM Movies?

In 1924, theater magnate Marcus Loew merged his Metro Pictures with two other movie production companies belonging to Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer. The result was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the biggest and most legendary star factory of the Hollywood "studio era." MGM's marketing genius was a man named Howard Dietz, who had been Sam Goldwyn's director of publicity and advertising. Dietz was an alumnus of Columbia University, and adapted the Columbia lion mascot into Leo the Lion, who's now been roaring away for almost a century at the start of MGM movies, from Ben-Hur to Spectre.

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Tuesday, July 26

The Debunker: Do Lightning Rods Attract Lightning?

by Ken Jennings

In July 1820, Danish scientist Hans Christian Oersted published a groundbreaking pamphlet on the relationship between electric current and magnetic fields, effectively kicking off our modern electric age. You may think about electromagnetism every July when you look at your power bill and see how it spikes when your air conditioner is on. In honor of everyone getting zapped by the electric company this month, we've asked Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings to set us straight on some high-voltage misconceptions about electricity, correcting all of our shocking ignorance. He knows "watts" up. He keeps current.

The Debunker: Are Power Lines Insulated?

Lightning kills as many as 24,000 people every year, and injures ten times as many. It's a real safety issue, not one of these overhyped 11-o'clock-news dangers, like shark attacks. When you've got bolts of electricity blazing out of the sky with a currents of 50,000 amps and temperatures up to 50,000 degrees, you don't want to fool around. Thank goodness Benjamin Franklin took the time in 1749 to dream up the lightning rod, a grounded metallic terminal that can be placed atop a lightning-vulnerable building. This way, lightning can be drawn to earth without causing too much damage on the way.

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Tuesday, July 19

The Debunker: Can Defibrillators "Restart" a Stopped Heart?

by Ken Jennings

In July 1820, Danish scientist Hans Christian Oersted published a groundbreaking pamphlet on the relationship between electric current and magnetic fields, effectively kicking off our modern electric age. You may think about electromagnetism every July when you look at your power bill and see how it spikes when your air conditioner is on. In honor of everyone getting zapped by the electric company this month, we've asked Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings to set us straight on some high-voltage misconceptions about electricity, correcting all of our shocking ignorance. He knows "watts" up. He keeps current.

The Debunker: Can Defibrillators "Restart" a Stopped Heart?

If TV medical dramas have taught me nothing else, it's this: you can magically turn a dead person into a not-dead person by rubbing two little paddle things together, yelling "Clear!" and jolting them in the chest. L.A. improv classes probably spend at least two or three sessions practicing the "defibrillator jerk" they'll need to master if they're ever going to play Heart Attack Patient #2 on Code Black.

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