Back to Amazon.com

Wednesday, October 17

The Debunker: Did Manute Bol Coin the Phrase "My Bad"?

by Ken Jennings

It's October and, sports fans, basketball is back. The NBA tips off this month, and college ball is just a few weeks away. To celebrate the return of America's greatest invention (even if Dr. James Naismith, who dreamed up the game in 1891, was Canadian-born) we’ve invited Jeopardy! all-star Ken Jennings to join our team. He'll be on the court here all month blowing the whistle on a lot of hoops hoodoo that may fool a lot of fans. Is your basketball knowledge a slam-dunk or an alley-oops?

The Debunker: Did Manute Bol Coin the Phrase "My Bad"?

At nearly 7'7", the late Manute Bol was the second-tallest man ever to play in the NBA. The Sudanese-born Bol spent a decade in the league, as a (mostly backup) center for Washington, Golden State, Philadelphia, and Miami. He led the league twice in blocked shots—his specialty, not surprisingly—but when he passed away from kidney failure in 2010, several obituaries and tributes noted that he had left another legacy to the game. In these accounts, it was claimed that Bol had coined the basketball phrase "my bad." "My bad" became the default way of saying "my fault" or "my mistake" in pick-up games, but it's now a grammatically dubious but common way for anyone to say "Oops, that's on me" in any field—not just for a bad pass or getting beat on defense.

read more…

 

Tuesday, October 16

 

Monday, October 15

 

Wednesday, October 10

The Debunker: Can a Basketball Player Draw a Charge While Moving?

by Ken Jennings

It's October and, sports fans, basketball is back. The NBA tips off this month, and college ball is just a few weeks away. To celebrate the return of America's greatest invention (even if Dr. James Naismith, who dreamed up the game in 1891, was Canadian-born) we’ve invited Jeopardy! all-star Ken Jennings to join our team. He'll be on the court here all month blowing the whistle on a lot of hoops hoodoo that may fool a lot of fans. Is your basketball knowledge a slam-dunk or an alley-oops?

The Debunker: Can a Basketball Player Draw a Charge While Moving?

Personal contact in real life is a beautiful thing, but personal contact in basketball, if sufficiently significant, will be whistled by the referees as a personal foul. But when contact occurs, a judgment call must be made. Who committed the foul—the ball-carrier or the defender? That's the difference between charging (called on the ball-carrier) and blocking (called on the defender). The usual layman's explanation is that a defender hoping to draw a charge needs to be "set"—that is, not moving his or her feet—when contact is made. And that's not actually how the rules work.

read more…

 

Wednesday, October 03

The Debunker: What City Gave Us the Harlem Globetrotters?

by Ken Jennings

It's October and, sports fans, basketball is back. The NBA tips off this month, and college ball is just a few weeks away. To celebrate the return of America's greatest invention (even if Dr. James Naismith, who dreamed up the game in 1891, was Canadian-born) we’ve invited Jeopardy! all-star Ken Jennings to join our team. He'll be on the court here all month blowing the whistle on a lot of hoops hoodoo that may fool a lot of fans. Is your basketball knowledge a slam-dunk or an alley-oops?

The Debunker: What City Gave Us the Harlem Globetrotters?

In the 1920s, a Jewish sports agent named Abe Saperstein decided to bail on his dad's tailor shop and devote his life to basketball. Wandering the city parks where he worked as a playground supervisor, Saperstein watched local kids shooting hoops, and dreamed of managing a team of his own. In those pre-NBA days, there was no elite level of organized professional basketball. The best players were on informal traveling teams that "barnstormed" around the country. In 1928, after a pay dispute, the starting lineup of one talented team, the Savoy Big Five, defected to Saperstein, who used them as the core of his new barnstorming team, the Harlem Globetrotters. And where did this all take place? The South Side of Chicago!

read more…

 

Wednesday, September 26

 

Tuesday, September 25

The Debunker: Did Mussolini Make the Trains Run on Time?

by Ken Jennings

September 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of the 1973 coup in which the CIA helped remove the democratically elected (but leftist!) president of Chile, and replaced him with the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. We're celebrating the anniversary by having Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings school us all month on real-life dictators of all kind. Autocratic leaders always have a dim view of actual facts, from ancient Rome up to, well, today, but that's no excuse for us to believe all kinds of silly fake news about them.

The Debunker: Did Mussolini Make the Trains Run on Time?

Today, the fact that "Mussolini made the trains run on time" is usually raised sardonically, in recognition of the fact that even the worst political situations can have trivial upsides. It's the fascist version of "Every cloud has a silver lining." The problem with the fact (besides the iffy utility of a proverb that means "Fascism is efficient!") is that it's not historically accurate.

read more…

 

Wednesday, September 19

The Debunker: What's a Fatwa

by Ken Jennings

September 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of the 1973 coup in which the CIA helped remove the democratically elected (but leftist!) president of Chile, and replaced him with the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. We're celebrating the anniversary by having Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings school us all month on real-life dictators of all kind. Autocratic leaders always have a dim view of actual facts, from ancient Rome up to, well, today, but that's no excuse for us to believe all kinds of silly fake news about them.

The Debunker: What's a Fatwa?

Salman Rushdie was already one of the world's most acclaimed authors in 1988 when he published his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses. The book was immediately controversial among Muslims for various blasphemous elements—including the title, which referred to a disputed tradition that a few verses of the Qur'an had been retracted by Muhammad once he realized they had been inspired by the devil, not divine revelation at all. The same month that the book was published in the United States, Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran's Islamic theocracy, issued a "fatwa" in which he decreed that Rushdie, "along with all the editors and publishers aware of [the book's] contents, are condemned to death." Muslims were called upon to execute these killings "without delay."

read more…

 

Wednesday, September 12

 

Tuesday, September 11

The Debunker: How Many Testicles Did Hitler Have?

by Ken Jennings

September 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of the 1973 coup in which the CIA helped remove the democratically elected (but leftist!) president of Chile, and replaced him with the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. We're celebrating the anniversary by having Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings school us all month on real-life dictators of all kind. Autocratic leaders always have a dim view of actual facts, from ancient Rome up to, well, today, but that's no excuse for us to believe all kinds of silly fake news about them.

The Debunker: How Many Testicles Did Hitler Have?

You know the "Colonel Bogey March"? That jaunty air that the prisoners whistle in Bridge on the River Kwai? During World War II, the march got a new lease on life in Britain, with new lyrics enjoyed by young and old alike:

Hitler has only got one ball
Göring has two but very small
Himmler is rather sim'lar
​But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all

It's catchy—even though the contortions required to make "Goebbels" rhyme with "no balls" fairly boggle the mind.

read more…

 

Friday, September 07

 

Wednesday, September 05

The Debunker: Did Kim Jong-il Claim to Have Shot Five Holes in One the First Time He Ever Golfed?

by Ken Jennings

September 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of the 1973 coup in which the CIA helped remove the democratically elected (but leftist!) president of Chile, and replaced him with the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. We're celebrating the anniversary by having Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings school us all month on real-life dictators of all kind. Autocratic leaders always have a dim view of actual facts, from ancient Rome up to, well, today, but that's no excuse for us to believe all kinds of silly fake news about them.

The Debunker: Did Kim Jong-il Claim to Have Shot Five Holes in One the First Time He Ever Golfed?

The despotic, cult-like Kim dynasty has ruled the nation of North Korea since its 1948 founding. You probably assume that Kim Jong-un is the North Korean president today, but that's not technically true. According to the country's constitution, Kim is currently the "Supreme Leader" of the country, but the title of "Eternal President" stays with his father and grandfather, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. They will always be the official heads of state, though they died in 1994 and 2011, respectively. And you thought American millennials would never be able to retire!

read more…

 

Tuesday, September 04

 

Wednesday, August 29

The Debunker: Would "Daddy Long-legs" Venom Be Incredibly Dangerous If One Could Actually Bite You?

by Ken Jennings

It's August, and that means one thing in warmer climates: people spend more time in nature, and nature, in turn, tries to bite them. August is mosquito season, it's snakebite season—hell, even Shark Week is in summer. But lots of the thing we know about summer's flesh-nibbling threats are dead wrong, and that's why we have Ken Jennings from Jeopardy! lurking here in the underbrush to tell us, at long last, the real truth about summer's bitey pests.

The Debunker: Would "Daddy Long-legs" Venom Be Incredibly Dangerous If One Could Actually Bite You?

Most spider bites, frankly, are bunk. A 2012 study in California found that, of 182 people who had sought medical attention for a spider bite, just 3.8 percent had actually been bitten by a spider. About ten percent had been bitten by something else—fleas, bedbugs, etc.—while the overwhelming majority, 86 percent, had been bitten by nothing at all. They just had some kind of skin infection.

read more…

 

Tuesday, August 28

 

Thursday, August 23

The Debunker: Do Sharks Like to Eat People?

by Ken Jennings

It's August, and that means one thing in warmer climates: people spend more time in nature, and nature, in turn, tries to bite them. August is mosquito season, it's snakebite season—hell, even Shark Week is in summer. But lots of the thing we know about summer's flesh-nibbling threats are dead wrong, and that's why we have Ken Jennings from Jeopardy! lurking here in the underbrush to tell us, at long last, the real truth about summer's bitey pests.

The Debunker: Do Sharks Like to Eat People?

Despite the best attempts of Big Shark, which seems to control the schlock entertainment industry today, most people know that the threat of being attacked by the world's scariest fish (aside from that Amazon urethra one) is way overblown. There were just 88 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide last year, and only five were fatal. In the U.S., that means your odds of being bitten by a shark this year are somewhat less than being dealt a royal flush in your next poker hand.

read more…