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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Tuesday, April 08

The Debunker: Do Londoners Check the Time on Big Ben?

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: Do Londoners Check the Time on Big Ben?

When I got married back in 2000, we spent our honeymoon in London. A friend of my wife’s asked her, “What are you guys going to do all day, besides look at Old Ben?” I was a little aggrieved at this description of my anatomy, until I realized she had meant to refer to “Big Ben,” which as everyone knows is the clock tower at the north end of the Houses of Parliament, right? Wrong. Yes, the clock tower is an iconic symbol of London. But no, it’s not called Big Ben.

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Tuesday, April 01

The Debunker: Did Henry VIII Divorce Any of His Wives?

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 Henry VIII Divorce Any of His Wives?

“Divorced, beheaded, died, / Divorced, beheaded, survived.” That’s the mnemonic rhyme we used in school when we were studying the life of Larry King. Oops, that’s wrong. Just dug out my old notes. King Henry VIII of England.

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