Tuesday, January 15

The Debunker: Will Sleeping in Extreme Cold Kill You?

by Ken Jennings

 

T. S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruelest month,” but January brings the Northern Hemisphere its cruelest temperatures of the year. We’ve asked ex-Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings to come in from the cold and put a chill on some of the most persistent cold-weather myths he could think of. You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you freeze (yes, we stole that from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dialogue in Batman and Robin.)

Icy Myth #2: Don’t Fall Asleep in the Cold—You Could Die!

Hypothermia kills over six hundred Americans per year, mostly as a result of exposure during cold-weather recreation. One common symptom of late-stage hypothermia is drowsiness, and so we get the common trope in survival narratives—both real and fictional—of the mountain climber or Arctic trekker who just wants to lie down in the snow and rest. No, he is told by his brave companions! If you lie down, you will never wake up!

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Tuesday, October 16

The Debunker: How Blind Is A Bat, Anyway?

by Ken Jennings

The poet John Keats called autumn a “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” Let’s leave the “mellow fruitfulness” for November - October is all about the season of mists. We’ve asked Jeopardy! smart-aleck Ken Jennings to fact-check the spookiest Halloween lore he could dig up and fill us in on all these monstrous misconceptions.

Spooky Myth #3: Bats Are Blind.

Bats do have amazing ways of getting around that have nothing to do with eyesight, as you probably know. One suborder of bats, the microchiropterans, can echolocate, which means they emit high-pitched squeaks and listen for the sound bouncing back to help navigate and detect tasty nearby bugs. But echolocation wasn’t discovered until 1938, so it has nothing to do with the popular saying “blind as a bat,” which goes back to Shakespeare’s day. Maybe the cliché originally derived from the confused flailing of bats trapped indoors, or from the assumption that a nocturnal animal like a bat would be, in Bruce Springsteen’s words, blinded by the light.

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Wednesday, October 03

The Debunker: Do Your Hair and Nails Keep Growing in the Grave?

by Ken Jennings

The poet John Keats called autumn a “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” Let’s leave the “mellow fruitfulness” for November, with its harvest festivals and frost on the pumpkin and whatnot. October, on the other hand, is all about the season of mists: mystery, sinister doings, ghouls and goblins, thrills and chills. In honor of the season, we’ve asked Jeopardy! smart-aleck Ken Jennings to fact-check the spookiest Halloween lore he could dig up and fill us in on all these monstrous misconceptions.

Spooky Myth #1: A Corpse’s Hair and Nails Keep On Growing.

Boy, what a huge untapped market this would be for the styling industry if it were true, especially as those preening baby boomers begin passing away. Permanent Waves and Mani/Pedis of the Living Dead!

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Tuesday, September 25

The Debunker: Can You See the Great Wall of China from the Moon?

by Ken Jennings

In honor of the late Neil Armstrong and the Apollo astronauts, we’ve asked Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings to run down some common misconceptions that lots of people still believe about the moon. Did you know it’s not even made out of green cheese? Science ruins everything.

Moon Myth #4: The Great Wall of China Is the Only Manmade Object Visible from the Moon.

This myth was always slightly silly. From the surface of the Moon, the Earth only looks about four times bigger than a full moon does to us, so that’s about the size of a jam jar lid held at arm’s length. The lunar explorers of the Apollo era described the Earth at that size as a brightly lit swirl of blue and white and brown—they had a tough time making out continents, much less a brown line only 30 feet wide. That would be like claiming to see a human hair from two miles away.

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Tuesday, September 18

The Debunker: Is The Moon Bigger Nearer The Horizon?

by Ken Jennings

In honor of the late Neil Armstrong and the Apollo astronauts, we’ve asked Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings to run down some common misconceptions that lots of people still believe about the moon. Did you know it’s not even made out of green cheese? Science ruins everything.

Moon Myth #3: The Moon Is Larger In The Sky When It's Nearer The Horizon.

This impression is so convincing that it can be hard to convince people that it is, in fact, a psychological phenomenon and not an astronomical one. Don’t feel bad: even Aristotle was so suckered by the illusion that he thought it must be caused by atmospheric effects or something. But no: if we go by physical factors alone (refraction and actual distance), the Moon actually appears 1.5 percent smaller when it’s rising or setting! So why does it look so much bigger?

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Tuesday, September 11

The Debunker: Do People Go Crazy During A Full Moon?

by Ken Jennings

In honor of the late Neil Armstrong and the Apollo astronauts, we’ve asked Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings to run down some common misconceptions that lots of people still believe about the moon. Did you know it’s not even made out of green cheese? Science ruins everything.

Moon Myth #2: Human Behavior Gets Nuts During a Full Moon.

Fully 45 percent of American college students, according to one survey, believe the old saw that a full moon makes people a little wacky. This idea dates back to the ancient Greeks. They observed the near-correlation between the length of the lunar cycle and women’s menstrual cycles (a link that’s still controversial, but which many statisticians now believe to be an evolutionary coincidence), and they knew that the Moon’s orbit tugged at the ocean tides. In that case, why couldn’t it tug on the fluids in human brains and bodies as well? In fact, the Moon’s phases were so closely tied to the way the ancients saw mental illness that our word “lunatic” comes from the Latin “luna,” meaning Moon.

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Tuesday, September 04

The Debunker: Is There A "Dark Side" Of The Moon?

by Ken Jennings

Last month, Neil Armstrong died at age 82. One of the best test pilots of his generation, Armstrong thought that his chances to be an aviation pioneer had passed him by in 1947 when his future colleague Chuck Yeager became the first human to fly faster than speed of sound. That all changed when he entered the space program, of course, and in 1969, Armstrong made history when he became the first man to walk on the moon. (If that doesn’t ring a bell to you kids, just picture the astronaut on the MTV Video Music Award.) The day of his August 31 memorial service was, appropriately enough, a “blue moon”—the second full moon in the same month, an astronomical oddity that won’t happen again until 2015. In honor of Neil Armstrong and the Apollo astronauts, we’ve asked Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings to run down some common misconceptions that lots of people still believe about the moon. Did you know it’s not even made out of green cheese? Science ruins everything.

Moon Myth #1: I’ll See You on the Dark Side of the Moon.

It should be obvious that, indeed, one half of the Moon is always lit by the Sun, and one half is dark. But, despite the impression you may have gotten from bad science-fiction movies and prog-rock albums, it’s not always the same side...



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Thursday, July 12

Sean University: The Heat Is On (in the natural way)!

by Sean Adams


 
Here at the Sean Adams University of Business Management Development Leadership, we specialize in preparing you for the world by giving you a hot degree. But that’s not just all! We also know a thing or two about living in a world of hot degrees, and not just the paper kind! The temperature kind too!

Degrees, in the temperature sense, represent how tall the red stuff (Mercury) gets inside a thermometer. Think about it this way: the hotter it gets, the closer Mercury wants to be to the ceiling fan. But hot weather isn’t all fun and growing. No, heat can be dangerous. That’s why you need to educate yourself, or better yet, let us educate yourself with these answers to frequently asked questions about heat!

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Thursday, June 21

Sean University: Don't be buggin' bout these bugs!

by Sean Adams


 
When I first announced we were going to do summer electives here at The Sean Adams University of Business Management Development Leadership, power commenter abitterwoman suggested a course on how to kill flies. But violence isn’t what I’d like to promote here. So, instead we’re going to use this space to talk about why you should be thankful for bugs. 

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Wednesday, June 06

The Four Stages Of Holding A Tesla Gun

by Sean Adams

So, Scott and I went to the Seattle Mini Maker Faire this past weekend and attended a presentation entitled "The Tesla Gun" (because why would you NOT go to something called "The Tesla Gun"?). Well, Rob Flickenger, the gun's maker and primary wielder, showed up a bit early, so, to kill a little bit of time, he decided to walk around and chat with the audience. While he did, I snapped some pictures that inadvertently told a story: The Four Stages Of Holding A Tesla Gun.

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