Tuesday, April 26

The Debunker: Are Dinosaurs Extinct?

by Ken Jennings

If there's one thing everyone knows about the dinosaurs, it's that they're dead. In fact, they're synonymous with deadness, like disco or doornails or Francisco Franco. About 65 million years ago, an asteroid collided with Earth, splashing down in a shallow sea off the coast of what is today Mexico. The dinosaurs, probably already made vulnerable by a million years of climate shifts, didn't stand a chance against a rock the size of Manhattan. Mile-high tsunamis, volcanoes and earthquakes, shock waves circling the globe, rains of molten glass, a year of complete darkness. It was literally lights out for them.

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Tuesday, April 19

The Debunker: Did Tyrannosaurus Have Scrawny Little Arms?

by Ken Jennings

It's been a long time—66 million years!—since the Cretaceous Period ended in explosive fashion, so there's a lot we don't know about our predecessors atop the food chain, the dinosaurs. Were they hot-blooded or cold-blooded, fast or slow, pack animals or lone hunters? What color were they, and what did they sound like? Could you really use one to make a record player, like the Flintstones did? Luckily, our Jeopardy! correspondent Ken Jennings has just published his seventh Junior Genius Guide, this one all about the dinosaurs! He's here all month to straighten us out on all the Mesozoic misinformation we thought we knew.

The Debunker: Did Tyrannosaurus Have Scrawny Little Arms?

The lamestream media, from The Far Side to the Toy Story movies, has spent the last few decades trying to convince us that the mighty prehistoric carnivore Tyrannosaurus rex should feel bad about its body. Specifically: that it skipped too many arm days at the Jurassic gym.

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Tuesday, April 12

The Debunker: Did Some Dinosaurs Have a Second Brain in Their Butt?

by Ken Jennings

It's been a long time—66 million years!—since the Cretaceous Period ended in explosive fashion, so there's a lot we don't know about our predecessors atop the food chain, the dinosaurs. Were they hot-blooded or cold-blooded, fast or slow, pack animals or lone hunters? What color were they, and what did they sound like? Could you really use one to make a record player, like the Flintstones did? Luckily, our Jeopardy! correspondent Ken Jennings has just published his seventh Junior Genius Guide, this one all about the dinosaurs! He's here all month to straighten us out on all the Mesozoic misinformation we thought we knew.

The Debunker: Did Some Dinosaurs Have a Second Brain in Their Butt?

Poor Stegosaurus. He hasn't walked the Earth for 150 million years, and people are still talking about how dumb he was. That's pretty much his whole reputation. He's the Dan Quayle of dinosaurs.

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Tuesday, April 05

The Debunker: Is the Oil in Your Car Made from Dead Dinosaurs?

by Ken Jennings

It's been a long time—66 million years!—since the Cretaceous Period ended in explosive fashion, so there's a lot we don't know about our predecessors atop the food chain, the dinosaurs. Were they hot-blooded or cold-blooded, fast or slow, pack animals or lone hunters? What color were they, and what did they sound like? Could you really use one to make a record player, like the Flintstones did? Luckily, our Jeopardy! correspondent Ken Jennings has just published his seventh Junior Genius Guide, this one all about the dinosaurs! He's here all month to straighten us out on all the Mesozoic misinformation we thought we knew.

The Debunker: Is the Oil in Your Car Made from Dead Dinosaurs?

We call oil, coal, and gas "fossil fuels" because they were produced by the decomposition of animal life from hundreds of millions of years ago. For over eighty years, Sinclair Oil has been playing up this prehistoric connection: using a bright green brontosaurus as its logo, giving away inflatable sauropods to kids, putting talking cartoon dinosaurs in its TV ads, and even calling its premium gas "Dino Supreme." (Now with 15 percent more "Dino"!) Generations of American kids should be forgiven for assuming that the fossil fuels in their plastics and furnaces and gas tanks were actually made of dinosaur fossils.

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Tuesday, April 28

The Debunker: Do Microwave Ovens Cook from the "Inside Out?"

by Ken Jennings

April is the traditional month for spring cleaning: opening doors wide for the first time in months, polishing things till they gleam, possibly beating on rugs with some kind of stick or club? In honor of this season of good housekeeping, we've asked Jeopardy! mastermind Ken Jennings to help us out with a little mental spring cleaning. He'll be dusting away some persistent around-the-house myths and spraying the sweet-smelling Lysol of Truth over all your remaining brain clutter.

The Debunker: Do Microwave Ovens Cook from the "Inside Out"?

Is there a more misunderstood appliance than the humble microwave oven? My generation was the first to grow up with microwaves in the kitchen, so we heard all the craziest craziness from worried parents. Eating microwaved food might cause cancer. (Not true.) Don't look in the microwave while it's running. (Not true.) You can't put metal in the microwave. (Not true, but you do have to be careful about its shape, thickness, etc.) Don't run the microwave empty. (True, but only a problem on older models.)

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Tuesday, April 21

The Debunker: Is Window Glass Really a Slowly Flowing Liquid?

by Ken Jennings

April is the traditional month for spring cleaning: opening doors wide for the first time in months, polishing things till they gleam, possibly beating on rugs with some kind of stick or club? In honor of this season of good housekeeping, we've asked Jeopardy! mastermind Ken Jennings to help us out with a little mental spring cleaning. He'll be dusting away some persistent around-the-house myths and spraying the sweet-smelling Lysol of Truth over all your remaining brain clutter.

The Debunker: Is Window Glass Really a Slowly Flowing Liquid?

It's easy to see the appeal of this myth. The windows of medieval cathedrals, it's been noticed, are often thicker at the bottom than they are at the top. Imagine these brightly colored panes of religious scenes, seemingly frozen but imperceptibly melting over the centuries, a potent symbol of Time's wingéd chariot, undetectable in any given instant, but inevitably coming for us all!

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Tuesday, April 14

The Debunker: Can One Slide Down the Banister?

by Ken Jennings

April is the traditional month for spring cleaning: opening doors wide for the first time in months, polishing things till they gleam, possibly beating on rugs with some kind of stick or club? In honor of this season of good housekeeping, we've asked Jeopardy! mastermind Ken Jennings to help us out with a little mental spring cleaning. He'll be dusting away some persistent around-the-house myths and spraying the sweet-smelling Lysol of Truth over all your remaining brain clutter.

The Debunker: Can One Slide Down the Banister?

Banisters! Or, less commonly, bannisters! The most exciting part of any staircase! The elderly cling to them. The young and sprightly slide down them. Mary Poppins slides up them. Banisters!

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Tuesday, April 07

The Debunker: Is Most Household Dust Really Human Skin?

by Ken Jennings

April is the traditional month for spring cleaning: opening doors wide for the first time in months, polishing things till they gleam, possibly beating on rugs with some kind of stick or club? In honor of this season of good housekeeping, we've asked Jeopardy! mastermind Ken Jennings to help us out with a little mental spring cleaning. He'll be dusting away some persistent around-the-house myths and spraying the sweet-smelling Lysol of Truth over all your remaining brain clutter.

The Debunker: Is Most Household Dust Really Human Skin?

Do you feel "comfortable inside your skin," as the saying goes? Well, just wait a few hours. You may feel like your skin is a permanent part of you, but in fact, the body is constantly replacing its billions of skin cells as they wear out. Every hour, you lose over half a million dead skin cells. In fact, eight hundred of the little guys just flaked off while were reading this sentence.

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Tuesday, April 22

The Debunker: Did Elizabethans Really Talk Like Americans?

by Ken Jennings

Put on a purple hat and rent some Corgis: Queen Elizabeth II is turning 87 years old this month! (Actually, the queen celebrates her official public birthday in June, because the weather is likely to be nicer then. That is a true fact. But she was actually born in April.) In honor of Her Majesty, we’ve asked Jeopardy! smart-arse Ken Jennings to spend the month debunking misinformation about the monarchy. Apparently we’ve been royally misled for years.

The Debunker: Did Elizabethans Really Talk Like Americans?

The great Shakespearean stage director Trevor Nunn opined a few years ago, after directing Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic theater, that he’d like to see Shakespeare done only in American accents from now on. “Today's American accent is closer to the sounds that Shakespeare heard when he was writing,” he said. Specifically, it’s been claimed since the late 19th century that parts of Appalachia still speak in an accent that’s a virtual time capsule of Elizabethan English. Gadzooks! Hillbillies talking like Hamlet? Can this in truth be so?

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Tuesday, April 15

The Debunker: Did King John Sign the Magna Carta?

by Ken Jennings

Put on a purple hat and rent some Corgis: Queen Elizabeth II is turning 87 years old this month! (Actually, the queen celebrates her official public birthday in June, because the weather is likely to be nicer then. That is a true fact. But she was actually born in April.) In honor of Her Majesty, we’ve asked Jeopardy! smart-arse Ken Jennings to spend the month debunking misinformation about the monarchy. Apparently we’ve been royally misled for years.

The Debunker: Did King John Sign the Magna Carta?

In 1215, a group of feudal barons had enough clout to get King John on board with the Magna Carta, a document that for the first time limited the powers of the English crown. The charter enshrined rights like due process of law, making it the direct ancestor of the many future constitutional documents both in Britain and abroad, including the U.S. Bill of Rights. So powerful is the symbolism of the Magna Carta even overseas that in 1957 the American Bar Association placed a monument to the Magna Carta at Runnymede, the meadow near the Thames where the document was signed.

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