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, 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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