Monday, September 01

The Debunker: Did Mrs. O'Leary's Cow Really Start the Great Chicago Fire?

by Ken Jennings

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? The catchy government slogan is "Be disaster aware! Take action to prepare!" But how disaster-aware are we really? Lots of the things we know about life's worst calamities are actually wrong--and in some cases, dangerously so. Luckily, Ken Jennings, Jeopardy! survivor and professional know-it-all, is here to set us straight. Because what could be more disastrous than ignorance? Well, maybe a big volcano. Ignorance, and also a big volcano.

The Debunker: Did Mrs. O'Leary's Cow Really Start the Great Chicago Fire?

On the night of October 8, 1871, a terrible fire laid waste to Chicago, at the time the fifth largest city in the nation. Nine square miles of the city were wiped off the map, leaving a third of the city's infrastructure down and over 100,000 Chicagoans homeless. The causes of the fire are easy to see in hindsight: a crowded city built almost entirely of wood, drought conditions, high winds to carry cinders aloft. But what set off the first spark?

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Tuesday, August 26

The Debunker: How Often Did Lassie Have to Rescue Timmy from a Well?

by Ken Jennings

Dog lovers: could there be a better month than August to salute our canine companions? After all, August 10 is the day poor Rin Tin Tin died, and it’s the day Snoopy celebrates his birthday, in a 1968 Peanuts strip. Two weeks later, on August 26, it’s National Dog Day, according to the Animal Miracle Foundation & Network. To celebrate the dog days of summer, we’ve unleashed Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings, who will correct some of man’s worst misconceptions about man’s best friend.

 

The Debunker: How Often Did Lassie Have to Rescue Timmy from a Well?

Comedians have often poked fun at the remarkable communication skills of TV’s heroic collie, Lassie. Despite not speaking English or having opposable thumbs, Lassie is always able to get help appropriate to the specific evil has befallen her master. In the traditional version of this joke, a few quick barks from Lassie are enough for owners to get the picture: “What’s that? Timmy fell down a well?”

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Tuesday, August 19

The Debunker: Can Dogs See Colors?

by Ken Jennings

Dog lovers: could there be a better month than August to salute our canine companions? After all, August 10 is the day poor Rin Tin Tin died, and it’s the day Snoopy celebrates his birthday, in a 1968 Peanuts strip. Two weeks later, on August 26, it’s National Dog Day, according to the Animal Miracle Foundation & Network. To celebrate the dog days of summer, we’ve unleashed Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings, who will correct some of man’s worst misconceptions about man’s best friend.

 

The Debunker: Can Dogs See Colors?

Fans of the children’s book hero Encyclopedia Brown may remember the 1966 classic “Case of the Boy Bullfighter,” in which we learn that young Miguel Sebastian must have lied about his dog being able to see the color red—because dogs are color blind! A humiliated Miguel returns his ill-gotten loot, a stolen tooth collection, and has his mom repair the seat of Charlie’s red pants. A happy ending!

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Tuesday, August 12

The Debunker: Are French Poodles Really French?

by Ken Jennings

Dog lovers: could there be a better month than August to salute our canine companions? After all, August 10 is the day poor Rin Tin Tin died, and it’s the day Snoopy celebrates his birthday, in a 1968 Peanuts strip. Two weeks later, on August 26, it’s National Dog Day, according to the Animal Miracle Foundation & Network. To celebrate the dog days of summer, we’ve unleashed Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings, who will correct some of man’s worst misconceptions about man’s best friend.

 

The Debunker: Are French Poodles Really French?

With their affectionate personalities, big brains, and hypoallergenic coats, poodles are one of the most beloved dog breeds on earth. In the United States, they were the most popular breed for much of the late 20th century, and still hang in the top ten today. Poodles are well-known as the national dog of France, where they’re called caniches—and what could seem more French than a dainty white poodle at a dog show, its fur sculpted into ridiculously stylish puffs, its nose haughtily in the air?

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Tuesday, August 05

The Debunker: Is a Dog’s Mouth Really Cleaner Than Yours?

by Ken Jennings

Dog lovers: could there be a better month than August to salute our canine companions? After all, August 10 is the day poor Rin Tin Tin died, and it’s the day Snoopy celebrates his birthday, in a 1968 Peanuts strip. Two weeks later, on August 26, it’s National Dog Day, according to the Animal Miracle Foundation & Network. To celebrate the dog days of summer, we’ve unleashed Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings, who will correct some of man’s worst misconceptions about man’s best friend.

 

The Debunker: Is a Dog’s Mouth Really Cleaner Than Yours?

You’ve probably heard the old saw about the counterintuitive cleanliness of a dog’s mouth. It often gets trotted out by embarrassed pet lovers when they catch the look of disgust in your eye as their Irish setter’s tongue has its way with their hands/face/tonsils. Sure, sure, this is a mouth that spends all day grubbing around in dirt, feces, its own genitals, other dogs’ butts, etc., but somehow it’s so clean you can eat off of it. Right.

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Tuesday, July 22

The Debunker: Can Warm Summer Nights Cause “Heat Lightning”?

by Ken Jennings

Lord Almighty, I feel my temperature rising. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, July is the beginning of the “dog days” of summer, the hottest period of the year. But you know what’s cool on a hot day? Knowledge. Grab a tall glass of lemonade, settle down in a hammock under a shady tree, and let Jeopardy! wunderkind Ken Jennings set you straight on some shamefully persistent misinformation about hot stuff.

The Debunker: Can Warm Summer Nights Cause “Heat Lightning”?

You’re sitting on your porch on a warm, humid summer night. Without warning, off on the horizon, you see flashes of lightning. After a few minutes’ pause, the lightning continues. But the whole time, you haven’t felt a drop of rain—in fact, there’s not a cloud in the sky. Even weirder, none of the lightning was accompanied by thunder! This is clearly no ordinary lightning.

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Tuesday, July 15

The Debunker: Did Benjamin Franklin Invent the Franklin Stove?

by Ken Jennings

Lord Almighty, I feel my temperature rising. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, July is the beginning of the “dog days” of summer, the hottest period of the year. But you know what’s cool on a hot day? Knowledge. Grab a tall glass of lemonade, settle down in a hammock under a shady tree, and let Jeopardy! wunderkind Ken Jennings set you straight on some shamefully persistent misinformation about hot stuff.

The Debunker: Did Benjamin Franklin Invent the Franklin Stove?

Benjamin Franklin was certainly one of the great inventors of his time, and his lively intellect led to a series of innovations we still benefit from today: bifocals, the lightning rod, the flexible urinary catheter. Yes, every time an old person is able to finish their Sudoku while not getting struck by lightning and/or peeing his hospital bed, we have Ben Franklin to thank.

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Tuesday, July 08

The Debunker: Are Meteorites White-Hot When They Land?

by Ken Jennings

Lord Almighty, I feel my temperature rising. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, July is the beginning of the “dog days” of summer, the hottest period of the year. But you know what’s cool on a hot day? Knowledge. Grab a tall glass of lemonade, settle down in a hammock under a shady tree, and let Jeopardy! wunderkind Ken Jennings set you straight on some shamefully persistent misinformation about hot stuff.

The Debunker: Are Meteorites White-Hot When They Land?

First of all, let’s settle this “shooting stars” thing once and for all. Feel free to make a wish on a streak of light in the night sky, but what you’re seeing is, of course, not a star. It’s a meteoroid—a small chunk of a comet or an asteroid. When the meteoroid enters the atmosphere, friction produces a burst of light and heat, which we call a meteor. If the whole thing doesn’t burn up during its descent, a fragment of rock may fall to Earth, at which point it becomes a meteorite. Got it? The order is asteroid -> meteoroid -> meteor -> meteorite.

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Tuesday, July 01

The Debunker: Is Human Body Temperature 98.6°?

by Ken Jennings

Lord Almighty, I feel my temperature rising. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, July is the beginning of the “dog days” of summer, the hottest period of the year. But you know what’s cool on a hot day? Knowledge. Grab a tall glass of lemonade, settle down in a hammock under a shady tree, and let Jeopardy! wunderkind Ken Jennings set you straight on some shamefully persistent misinformation about hot stuff.

The Debunker: Is Human Body Temperature 98.6°?

My mom was a slave to the thermometer. A temperature of 98.6° meant that, even if I felt lousy, I was perfectly healthy and had to go to school. Anything higher meant a fever, so I could stay home and watch game shows and General Hospital. Anything lower meant I wasn’t holding the damn thing in my mouth right, and I got just one more chance before she’d go back to the medicine cabinet to get (ominous music sting!) the other thermometer.

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Tuesday, June 24

The Debunker: Are Wedding Dresses White to Symbolize Virginity?

by Ken Jennings

“Oh, my Luve’s like a red, red, rose / That’s newly sprung in June,” wrote Robert Burns, and while it’s always sad when a poet doesn’t know how to spell an easy word like “love,” it’s undeniably true that June is the most romantic month of the year. To this day, it’s the most popular month for Americans to get married, just ahead of August and May. We’ve asked Ken Jennings, the famous Jeopardy! champion and relationship guru, to puncture four matrimonial myths that have stuck around for years, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. If you’re not ready to have all your marital misconceptions shattered, speak now or forever hold your peace.

The Debunker: Are Wedding Dresses White to Symbolize Virginity?

It was rarely a nice day for a white wedding at the turn of the 19th century, so it’s a good thing Billy Idol wasn’t trying to make a go of it as a singer then. Bridal gowns up back then were typically practical affairs: black, brown, or gray dresses that could be reused throughout married life. But then, on February 10, 1840, everything changed.

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