Tuesday, February 23

The Debunker: Is Curious George a Monkey?

by Ken Jennings


According to the Chinese zodiac, it's been the "Year of the Goat" since last February, and we're getting pretty tired of the nonstop goat-related festivities. Luckily, the lunar new year this month begins the "Year of the Monkey," so the future looks bright. But Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings tells us that a lot of stuff we thought we knew about our mischievous treetop friends is just bananas. All month, he'll be here to put a stop to all the monkey business.

The Debunker: Is Curious George a Monkey?

"What a nice little monkey!" thinks the Man with the Yellow Hat, when he first meets his famous friend in the 1941 children's classic Curious George. Then he picks George up, stuffs him in a bag, and takes him out of Africa on a boat. "George was sad, but he was still a little curious," authors Margret and Hans Rey tell us, in what today seems to be some kind of super-problematic take on colonialism or animal abuse or slavery or something.

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Tuesday, February 16

The Debunker: Did the Monkees Play Their Own Instruments?

by Ken Jennings


According to the Chinese zodiac, it's been the "Year of the Goat" since last February, and we're getting pretty tired of the nonstop goat-related festivities. Luckily, the lunar new year this month begins the "Year of the Monkey," so the future looks bright. But Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings tells us that a lot of stuff we thought we knew about our mischievous treetop friends is just bananas. All month, he'll be here to put a stop to all the monkey business.

The Debunker: Did the Monkees Play Their Own Instruments?

"Madness!! Auditions," read the September 9, 1965 ad in Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. "Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series. Running Parts for 4 insane boys, age 17-21. Want spirited Ben Frank's types. Have courage to work. Must come down for interview." (Ben Frank's was a hip coffee shop well known to L.A. scenesters of the time.)

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Tuesday, February 09

The Debunker: Did Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan Swing from Vines?

by Ken Jennings


According to the Chinese zodiac, it's been the "Year of the Goat" since last February, and we're getting pretty tired of the nonstop goat-related festivities. Luckily, the lunar new year this month begins the "Year of the Monkey," so the future looks bright. But Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings tells us that a lot of stuff we thought we knew about our mischievous treetop friends is just bananas. All month, he'll be here to put a stop to all the monkey business.

The Debunker: Did Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan Swing from Vines?

"Why didn't Tarzan visit Jane?" asks the old joke. "Because her vine was busy." You can tell this is an old joke because it requires knowledge of two things that haven't existed in decades: busy signals, and Tarzan movies. But if we as a culture retain any pre-Disney knowledge of the greatest pulp character in literary history, it's probably this: sometimes he does that yell and swings on those vines. Just like the apes that raised him, right?

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Tuesday, February 02

The Debunker: Did Humans Evolve from Monkeys?

by Ken Jennings

According to the Chinese zodiac, it's been the "Year of the Goat" since last February, and we're getting pretty tired of the nonstop goat-related festivities. Luckily, the lunar new year this month begins the "Year of the Monkey," so the future looks bright. But Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings tells us that a lot of stuff we thought we knew about our mischievous treetop friends is just bananas. All month, he'll be here to put a stop to all the monkey business.

The Debunker: Did Humans Evolve from Monkeys?

In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin was careful never to apply his new theory of "natural selection" to the origin of man, but readers were quick to connect the dots. Before the book was even published, minister John Leifchild was complaining in the Athenaeum about the new "belief that man descends from the monkeys." This caricature of evolutionary theory was so fixed in the public mind that the 1925 trial of John Scopes, for teaching evolution in small-town Tennessee, is still known as the "Scopes Monkey Trial." Prosecuting attorney William Jennings Bryan got big laughs during the trial for reading excerpts from The Descent of Man and then complaining to the crowd that, according to Darwin, humans were descended "not even from American monkeys, but from Old World monkeys!"

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Tuesday, February 24

The Debunker: Do People Breathe in Oxygen and Breathe Out Carbon Dioxide?

by Ken Jennings

In addition to his day job as Woot's full-time "Debunker," Jeopardy! wunderkind Ken Jennings moonlights as an author of books, and this month he has a new one in stores. It's the fifth in his Junior Genius series, this time chock-full of amazing facts about The Human Body. To mark the occasion, he'll spend all of February debunking anatomical anachronisms and medical misinformation for us. Finally: the inside scoop about our own insides.

The Debunker: Do People Breathe in Oxygen and Breathe Out Carbon Dioxide?

Well, okay. Yes, you do breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, which is why you're still alive. Fine. But you also breathe in plenty of carbon dioxide and breathe out plenty of oxygen. It's a lot more complicated than the diagram you remember from third grade where the people are pumping out carbon dioxide and the trees are pumping out oxygen.

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Tuesday, February 17

The Debunker: Do People Have Five Senses?

by Ken Jennings

In addition to his day job as Woot's full-time "Debunker," Jeopardy! wunderkind Ken Jennings moonlights as an author of books, and this month he has a new one in stores. It's the fifth in his Junior Genius series, this time chock-full of amazing facts about The Human Body. To mark the occasion, he'll spend all of February debunking anatomical anachronisms and medical misinformation for us. Finally: the inside scoop about our own insides.

The Debunker: Do People Have Five Senses?

"There is no sixth sense in addition to the five enumerated: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch," wrote Aristotle in his landmark work De Anima, or On the Soul. And for the next two thousand years, Western civilization stuck with this view: five senses, period. "Sixth sense" became shorthand for some rare, ephemeral, unclassifiable-by-science gift, like telepathy.

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Tuesday, February 10

The Debunker: Is the Heart on the Left Side of Your Body?

by Ken Jennings

In addition to his day job as Woot's full-time "Debunker," Jeopardy! wunderkind Ken Jennings moonlights as an author of books, and this month he has a new one in stores. It's the fifth in his Junior Genius series, this time chock-full of amazing facts about The Human Body. To mark the occasion, he'll spend all of February debunking anatomical anachronisms and medical misinformation for us. Finally: the inside scoop about our own insides.

The Debunker: Is the Heart on the Left Side of Your Body?

With Valentine's Day coming up, we're all more aware than usual that there's no greater mystery than the human heart. But it would probably surprise you how little most people know about their own heart. Including where it even is.

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Tuesday, February 03

The Debunker: Does Lactic Acid Make Your Muscles Tired?

by Ken Jennings

In addition to his day job as Woot's full-time "Debunker," Jeopardy! wunderkind Ken Jennings moonlights as an author of books, and this month he has a new one in stores. It's the fifth in his Junior Genius series, this time chock-full of amazing facts about The Human Body. To mark the occasion, he'll spend all of February debunking anatomical anachronisms and medical misinformation for us. Finally: the inside scoop about our own insides.

The Debunker: Does Lactic Acid Make Your Muscles Tired?

If you ever went to a gym- or a gym class - in the late 20th century, you probably heard this helpful exercise "fact": the reason why muscles get sore and give out, my fifth grade P.E. teacher assured us, is a chemical called lactic acid. Yup, the same stuff that makes sour milk sour and yogurt yogurt-y. It's in the body as well, and when it's produced by active muscles, it eventually causes fatigue and then soreness. Burning, overworked muscles were a sign of lactic acid building up, a warning sign from your body that you need to dial it back a bit.

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Tuesday, February 25

The Debunker: Did Atlas Hold Up the Earth?

by Ken Jennings

Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame, was a trivia-obsessed ten-year-old, and now he’s raising a few quiz kids of his own. This month he launches a new series of amazing-facts books for kids, The Junior Genius Guides. Since the first two books in the series introduce young readers to Maps and Geography and Greek Mythology, respectively, we’ve asked him to set us straight this month and debunk some popular misconceptions about classical mythology, which has always been all Greek to us. Myths about myths?! May Zeus have mercy on our souls.

The Debunker: Did Atlas Hold Up the Earth?

The Titan Atlas probably has the worst job in Greek mythology. You’ve seen him in statues and on the cover of unreadable Ayn Rand books, hoisting that giant ball on his shoulders night and day. But you might be surprised to find that, in ancient myths, Atlas does not hold up the Earth. Consider: if he did, what would he stand on?

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Tuesday, February 18

The Debunker: Does The Iliad Tell the Story of the Trojan Horse?

by Ken Jennings

Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame, was a trivia-obsessed ten-year-old, and now he’s raising a few quiz kids of his own. This month he launches a new series of amazing-facts books for kids, The Junior Genius Guides. Since the first two books in the series introduce young readers to Maps and Geography and Greek Mythology, respectively, we’ve asked him to set us straight this month and debunk some popular misconceptions about classical mythology, which has always been all Greek to us. Myths about myths?! May Zeus have mercy on our souls.

The Debunker: Does The Iliad Tell the Story of the Trojan Horse?

To this day, we still use the proverb “Beware Greeks bearing gifts,” remembering the end of the Trojan War. Unable to scale the impregnable walls of Troy, the Greeks rely on stratagem: Odysseus designs a giant wooden horse, and the Greeks pretend to leave Troy by ship. The gullible Trojans think, “Nice! Free horse!” and wheel it into the city. By night, the Greek army sneaks out of the hollow horse and takes over Troy.

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