Tuesday, October 07

The Debunker: Is the Big Dipper a Constellation?

by Ken Jennings

Human ignorance, sadly, isn't limited to planet Earth. Even today, over 400 years after the Age of Enlightenment began, plenty of people are still getting plenty of stuff wrong--not just about our home planet, but about the whole universe. Luckily, Jeopardy!s Ken Jennings is the author of a new book about the mysteries of the cosmos, the Junior Genius Guide to Outer Space. In this month's Debunker columns, he'll set us straight on a whole sky full of starry slip-ups. These are some misconceptions of truly astronomical proportion.

The Debunker: Star Myth #1: Is the Big Dipper a Constellation?

Ask someone to name a constellation in the night sky, and odds are most of them will first think of the Big Dipper, the seven bright stars that gleam overhead on summer nights in an unmistakable sickle-shaped pattern. The Big Dipper has helped humans navigate for millennia by pointing the way to Polaris, the North Star. Virtually every culture had its own name for the Dipper, from the "Drinking Gourd" of West Africa to the "Seven Gods" of Mongolia to the "Charles' Wagon" of the Vikings. It's iconic enough to have been borrowed for the corporate logo of Iridium Communications and on the state flag of Alaska. But the world's most famous constellation isn't actually a constellation at all. It's an asterism.

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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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Tuesday, August 26

The Debunker: How Often Did Lassie Have to Rescue Timmy from a Well?

by Ken Jennings

Dog lovers: could there be a better month than August to salute our canine companions? After all, August 10 is the day poor Rin Tin Tin died, and it’s the day Snoopy celebrates his birthday, in a 1968 Peanuts strip. Two weeks later, on August 26, it’s National Dog Day, according to the Animal Miracle Foundation & Network. To celebrate the dog days of summer, we’ve unleashed Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings, who will correct some of man’s worst misconceptions about man’s best friend.

 

The Debunker: How Often Did Lassie Have to Rescue Timmy from a Well?

Comedians have often poked fun at the remarkable communication skills of TV’s heroic collie, Lassie. Despite not speaking English or having opposable thumbs, Lassie is always able to get help appropriate to the specific evil has befallen her master. In the traditional version of this joke, a few quick barks from Lassie are enough for owners to get the picture: “What’s that? Timmy fell down a well?”

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Tuesday, August 19

The Fabulous TCONA4

by Kristy Tye

Trivia is an industry, and every industry has a trade show of their own! In this case, it's TCONA, the Trivia Championships Of North America. For one weekend each year, the casual and the powerhouses combine to have a little fun, swap a few secrets, learn all sorts of useful facts and maybe, just maybe, take home a medal. Social butterfly Kristy Tye (aka agingdragqueen on our forums) forsook the pool and gave trivia her full attention. How did that go? FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK US...

A lot of people have asked me how the Trivia Championships of North America went (aka TCONA, as you may have heard about here), since, as it turned out I was not good at preempting the curiosity by telling my nerdy brethren in time to actually register and head to Vegas. Lesson learned, here’s a whole year’s notice: it went very well and I had a fabulous time, and you should come next year.

 

our hero

 

Come on inside and enjoy the recap. Oh, yeah, and you'll find some trivia questions waiting for you too.

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The Debunker: Can Dogs See Colors?

by Ken Jennings

Dog lovers: could there be a better month than August to salute our canine companions? After all, August 10 is the day poor Rin Tin Tin died, and it’s the day Snoopy celebrates his birthday, in a 1968 Peanuts strip. Two weeks later, on August 26, it’s National Dog Day, according to the Animal Miracle Foundation & Network. To celebrate the dog days of summer, we’ve unleashed Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings, who will correct some of man’s worst misconceptions about man’s best friend.

 

The Debunker: Can Dogs See Colors?

Fans of the children’s book hero Encyclopedia Brown may remember the 1966 classic “Case of the Boy Bullfighter,” in which we learn that young Miguel Sebastian must have lied about his dog being able to see the color red—because dogs are color blind! A humiliated Miguel returns his ill-gotten loot, a stolen tooth collection, and has his mom repair the seat of Charlie’s red pants. A happy ending!

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Tuesday, August 12

The Debunker: Are French Poodles Really French?

by Ken Jennings

Dog lovers: could there be a better month than August to salute our canine companions? After all, August 10 is the day poor Rin Tin Tin died, and it’s the day Snoopy celebrates his birthday, in a 1968 Peanuts strip. Two weeks later, on August 26, it’s National Dog Day, according to the Animal Miracle Foundation & Network. To celebrate the dog days of summer, we’ve unleashed Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings, who will correct some of man’s worst misconceptions about man’s best friend.

 

The Debunker: Are French Poodles Really French?

With their affectionate personalities, big brains, and hypoallergenic coats, poodles are one of the most beloved dog breeds on earth. In the United States, they were the most popular breed for much of the late 20th century, and still hang in the top ten today. Poodles are well-known as the national dog of France, where they’re called caniches—and what could seem more French than a dainty white poodle at a dog show, its fur sculpted into ridiculously stylish puffs, its nose haughtily in the air?

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Tuesday, August 05

The Debunker: Is a Dog’s Mouth Really Cleaner Than Yours?

by Ken Jennings

Dog lovers: could there be a better month than August to salute our canine companions? After all, August 10 is the day poor Rin Tin Tin died, and it’s the day Snoopy celebrates his birthday, in a 1968 Peanuts strip. Two weeks later, on August 26, it’s National Dog Day, according to the Animal Miracle Foundation & Network. To celebrate the dog days of summer, we’ve unleashed Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings, who will correct some of man’s worst misconceptions about man’s best friend.

 

The Debunker: Is a Dog’s Mouth Really Cleaner Than Yours?

You’ve probably heard the old saw about the counterintuitive cleanliness of a dog’s mouth. It often gets trotted out by embarrassed pet lovers when they catch the look of disgust in your eye as their Irish setter’s tongue has its way with their hands/face/tonsils. Sure, sure, this is a mouth that spends all day grubbing around in dirt, feces, its own genitals, other dogs’ butts, etc., but somehow it’s so clean you can eat off of it. Right.

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