Tuesday, September 01

The Debunker: Did Slaves Build the Pyramids?

by Ken Jennings

Summer's winding down as we enter September—or, as they would have called it in ancient Egypt, Akhet, the height of the rainy season that flooded the Nile once a year and made their entire civilization possible. Ken Jennings has a new book out this month on the land of the pharaohs, so all month he'll be sharing his sphinx-like wisdom with us by debunking millennia of misinformation about the ancient Egyptians. Maybe you've been in "de Nile" for a long time, but finally, here are the Ra facts.

The Debunker: Did Slaves Build the Pyramids?

Thousands of years ago, the ancient Egyptians pulled off the most precocious construction feat in human history. At a time when the tallest building on Earth was no higher than an oak tree, the Egyptians used six million tons of masonry—enough to pave a road all the way across the United States—to build colossal pyramid-shaped tombs almost five hundred feet into the air. The Great Pyramid of Khufu, the only surviving landmark from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was the tallest building on earth for 3,800 years straight!

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Tuesday, September 23

The Debunker: Should You Crack Your Windows During a Hurricane or Tornado?

by Ken Jennings

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? The catchy government slogan is "Be disaster aware! Take action to prepare!" But how disaster-aware are we really? Lots of the things we know about life's worst calamities are actually wrong--and in some cases, dangerously so. Luckily, Ken Jennings, Jeopardy! survivor and professional know-it-all, is here to set us straight. Because what could be more disastrous than ignorance? Well, maybe a big volcano. Ignorance, and also a big volcano.

The Debunker: Should You Crack Your Windows During a Hurricane or Tornado?

You probably haven't heard of the National Wind Institute at Texas Tech University, but the lab has saved countless lives over the last fifty years with research into the effectiveness of tornado shelters and other types of storm preparedness. The heart of the lab: a pneumatic cannon that can simulate wind and flying debris at speeds up over 250 miles per hour. If your ground shelter doesn't withstand TTU's wind lab, it's back to the drawing board for you.

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Tuesday, September 16

The Debunker: Did the Band Play "Nearer, My God, to Thee" as the Titanic Sank?

by Ken Jennings

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? The catchy government slogan is "Be disaster aware! Take action to prepare!" But how disaster-aware are we really? Lots of the things we know about life's worst calamities are actually wrong--and in some cases, dangerously so. Luckily, Ken Jennings, Jeopardy! survivor and professional know-it-all, is here to set us straight. Because what could be more disastrous than ignorance? Well, maybe a big volcano. Ignorance, and also a big volcano.

The Debunker: Did the Band Play "Nearer, My God, to Thee" as the Titanic Sank?

More than 1,500 people lost their lives on April 15, 1912 when the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic. Among them were all eight of the ship's on-board musicians, who normally played in a quintet and trio, respectively. Many, many survivor accounts attests that some or all of these musicians kept playing at the top of the Titanic's grand staircase as the ship gradually lowered into the sea, in an attempt to keep passengers calm during the evacuation.

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Monday, September 08

The Debunker: Should You Stand in a Doorway During an Earthquake?

by Ken Jennings

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? The catchy government slogan is "Be disaster aware! Take action to prepare!" But how disaster-aware are we really? Lots of the things we know about life's worst calamities are actually wrong--and in some cases, dangerously so. Luckily, Ken Jennings, Jeopardy! survivor and professional know-it-all, is here to set us straight. Because what could be more disastrous than ignorance? Well, maybe a big volcano. Ignorance, and also a big volcano.

The Debunker: Should You Stand in a Doorway During an Earthquake?

If you feel the earth move under your feet, don't head for a doorway, despite everything you've heard. This colossally bad idea is all California's fault. When earthquakes hit the unreinforced adobe homes of old California, the mud bricks would crumble completely, leaving only the wooden doorway-- the lone reinforced part of the house --standing. The idea that the doorway was the safest part of any house became the collective local wisdom.

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Monday, September 01

The Debunker: Did Mrs. O'Leary's Cow Really Start the Great Chicago Fire?

by Ken Jennings

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? The catchy government slogan is "Be disaster aware! Take action to prepare!" But how disaster-aware are we really? Lots of the things we know about life's worst calamities are actually wrong--and in some cases, dangerously so. Luckily, Ken Jennings, Jeopardy! survivor and professional know-it-all, is here to set us straight. Because what could be more disastrous than ignorance? Well, maybe a big volcano. Ignorance, and also a big volcano.

The Debunker: Did Mrs. O'Leary's Cow Really Start the Great Chicago Fire?

On the night of October 8, 1871, a terrible fire laid waste to Chicago, at the time the fifth largest city in the nation. Nine square miles of the city were wiped off the map, leaving a third of the city's infrastructure down and over 100,000 Chicagoans homeless. The causes of the fire are easy to see in hindsight: a crowded city built almost entirely of wood, drought conditions, high winds to carry cinders aloft. But what set off the first spark?

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