Tuesday, September 20

The Debunker: In "Peanuts" Is Charlie Brown Bald?

by Ken Jennings

Do you celebrate National Peanut Day every September 13? Of course, we all do! It's a cruel coincidence that the peanut's big moment comes every fall, just as kids are returning to their increasingly peanut-free schools. If you're not allergic, you probably love peanuts in your trail mix, on sundaes, or in sandwiches (butter form only). But how much do you really know about the protein-rich foodstuff? Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings is here to tell us that a lot of your favorite facts about this beloved snack are just plain nuts.

The Debunker: In Peanuts, Is Charlie Brown Bald?

Charles Schulz always hated the name Peanuts. When he pitched his revolutionary comic strip to United Feature Syndicate in 1950, he called it Li'l Folks, the name of his panel comic about children that had been running since 1947 in the St. Paul Pioneer Post. Production manager Bill Anderson suggested Peanuts as a replacement name, referring to the "peanut gallery" audience used by children's TV shows of the time. Schulz thought the new name was "totally ridiculous" and lacked dignity, and spent years trying to get his bosses to retitle the strip Good Ol' Charlie Brown. That's why the Sunday strip was labeled as Peanuts, featuring Good Ol' Charlie Brown for most of its run.

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Tuesday, September 13

The Debunker: Are Peanuts Nuts?

by Ken Jennings

Do you celebrate National Peanut Day every September 13? Of course, we all do! It's a cruel coincidence that the peanut's big moment comes every fall, just as kids are returning to their increasingly peanut-free schools. If you're not allergic, you probably love peanuts in your trail mix, on sundaes, or in sandwiches (butter form only). But how much do you really know about the protein-rich foodstuff? Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings is here to tell us that a lot of your favorite facts about this beloved snack are just plain nuts.

The Debunker: Are Peanuts Nuts?

Peanuts took a roundabout route to get to your kitchen cupboard. They were carved on pottery and left in Peruvian tombs five thousand years ago, and European settlers first ran across them in Brazil. Then the Portuguese spread them around the world, as far as Africa and China. But they didn't catch on in North America until African slaves returned them to the New World, planting them in Virginia. Dive bars and ballgames would never be the same again. In the 19th century, this new crop was often called the "ground nut" or the "ground pea"; our word "peanut" is a conflation of the two. But strictly speaking, peanuts are neither peas nor nuts.

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Tuesday, September 06

The Debunker: Who Invented Peanut Butter?

by Ken Jennings

Do you celebrate National Peanut Day every September 13? Of course, we all do! It's a cruel coincidence that the peanut's big moment comes every fall, just as kids are returning to their increasingly peanut-free schools. If you're not allergic, you probably love peanuts in your trail mix, on sundaes, or in sandwiches (butter form only). But how much do you really know about the protein-rich foodstuff? Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings is here to tell us that a lot of your favorite facts about this beloved snack are just plain nuts.

The Debunker: Who Invented Peanut Butter?

George Washington Carver was one of the most celebrated American intellectuals of his time. As a freed slave who rose from poverty to become a successful botanist at a time when nearly all educational and professional doors were closed to African-Americans, Carver was a powerful icon of black talent and achievement. He consulted with world leaders from Teddy Roosevelt to Mahatma Gandhi. But that doesn't mean that Carver's legacy is purely symbolic. He also pioneered methods of crop rotation that saved the farms of countless poor Southerners whose cotton and tobacco fields were failing due to poor soil and hungry bugs.

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Tuesday, September 22

The Debunker: Did Napoleon's Soldiers Shoot Off the Sphinx's Nose?

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 Napoleon's Soldiers Shoot Off the Sphinx's Nose?

The Great Sphinx at Giza is the largest single-stone statue in the world, and an iconic symbol of Ancient Egypt. It would be even larger (though less iconic) if it had something that most other statues do: a nose! Napoleon Bonaparte campaigned in Egypt in 1798, and a popular legend has a ball from one of his cannons knocking off the Sphinx's nose. One act of lousy French marksmanship and a four-thousand-year-old statue gets scarred for life!

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Tuesday, September 15

The Debunker: Did a "Curse of King Tut" Strike Down His Tomb's Discoverers?

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 a "Curse of King Tut" Strike Down His Tomb's Discoverers?

The tomb of Tutankhamen, the "boy Pharaoh" of Egypt's New Kingdom, survived undiscovered for over three thousand years before archaeologist Howard Carter discovered it in 1922. When Carter's financier, Lord Carnarvon, died of blood poisoning two months later, the press began to report that an inscription in King Tut's tomb promised that "Death will slay with his wings whoever disturbs the peace of the pharaoh," and news reports eventually credited almost two dozen deaths to this "curse." The spooky story inspired all kinds of modern folklore, including the Boris Karloff Mummy movie.

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Tuesday, September 08

The Debunker: Was Cleopatra Egyptian?

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: Was Cleopatra Egyptian?

Cleopatra is the quintessential Egyptian queen, of course, with all the trappings: the barge, the snakes, the kohl-eyed beauty, the lovestruck suitors. She was the last pharaoh of Egypt, and two of the most powerful men in the world, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, fell for her hard.

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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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