Wednesday, April 25

The Debunker: Did the Greeks Love the "Golden Ratio"?

by Ken Jennings

April has been Mathematics Awareness Month since 1999, making this the nineteenth time it's been observed. Wait, that's not right. The twentieth time. To celebrate our mathematical awareness, or lack thereof, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! will be with us all month debunking all the popular misinformation about numbers that you thought once you could count on.

The Debunker: Did the Greeks Love the "Golden Ratio"?

The "golden ratio" is an irrational number approximately equal to 1.62, and it's a relationship easy to find in many natural sequences and geometries. Take two line segments, a longer one and a shorter one. The two lengths are in the "golden ratio" if the ratio of the shorter to the longer is the same as the ratio of the longer to the sum of both segments together. Readers of pop mathematics are probably familiar with claims that artists and architects have always loved the golden ratio, and that it can be found by measuring everything from the Pyramids to the Parthenon in Athens to the face of the Mona Lisa. In Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, the golden mean (which he calls "phi," a Greek letter sometimes used to represent the ratio) provides pivotal clues to the mystery, and is said to underlie a lot of great classical and Renaissance art.

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Wednesday, April 18

The Debunker: Will Counting Sheep Help Me Fall Asleep?

by Ken Jennings

April has been Mathematics Awareness Month since 1999, making this the nineteenth time it's been observed. Wait, that's not right. The twentieth time. To celebrate our mathematical awareness, or lack thereof, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! will be with us all month debunking all the popular misinformation about numbers that you thought once you could count on.

The Debunker: Will Counting Sheep Help Me Fall Asleep?

Great, this is the first "Debunker" column ever where the title question rhymes! But just like every other "Debunker," the title question has the same answer: No. No, it probably won't.

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Wednesday, April 11

The Debunker: Is Infinity a Number?

by Ken Jennings

April has been Mathematics Awareness Month since 1999, making this the nineteenth time it's been observed. Wait, that's not right. The twentieth time. To celebrate our mathematical awareness, or lack thereof, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! will be with us all month debunking all the popular misinformation about numbers that you thought once you could count on.

The Debunker: Is Infinity a Number?

Many an elementary school argument can be won—or escalated into violence—by introducing the mathematical concept of infinity. Comebacks like "I dare you times infinity" or "You want to kiss [classmate X] infinity times" are hard to trump. "I dare you times a million" can always be defused with a little "I dare you times a million and one." But how can you beat infinity? What number comes after it? Obviously nothing—unless you're Buzz Lightyear and believe in going beyond infinity.

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Wednesday, April 04

The Debunker: How Much Less is .9999… than One?

by Ken Jennings

April has been Mathematics Awareness Month since 1999, making this the nineteenth time it's been observed. Wait, that's not right. The twentieth time. To celebrate our mathematical awareness, or lack thereof, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! will be with us all month debunking all the popular misinformation about numbers that you thought once you could count on.

The Debunker: How Much Less is .9999… than One?

Like me, you may remember the first time you were asked to perform long division on two numbers that produced a repeating quotient. Do you recall the dreary, slowly dawning realization that these numbers were going to keep repeating in that pattern indefinitely? Even a respectable, friendly, familiar fraction like one-third turned out to be unending in its decimal expansion: 0.333333333333… We were taught to just put a horizontal line over the digit(s) that repeated and call it a day, but it sure wasn’t very satisfying.

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Wednesday, March 28

The Debunker: Did 300 Spartans Hold Off a Million Persians at Thermopylae?

by Ken Jennings

March has come in like a lion, and I hope that you're just as excited as I am to celebrate March 25, the Greek holiday that marks their 1821 war for independence from the Turks. Opa! "Greece" is the word! In honor of Greek independence, Ken Jennings from Jeopardy! is here all month to correct a lot of Greek mythology—things we thought we knew about the ancient land that gave us democracy, logic, and nude wrestling. It turns out a lot of this Socratic wisdom is all Greek to us.

The Debunker: Did 300 Spartans Hold Off a Million Persians at Thermopylae?

If your knowledge of Greek history come solely from the bombastic, slow-motion carnage of Zack Snyder's 300 movies, you probably deserve what you get. In a shocking twist, these 'roided-up fantasy bear little resemblance to actual history.

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Tuesday, March 27

 

Wednesday, March 21

The Debunker: Was Epicurus an Epicurean Kind of Guy?

by Ken Jennings

March has come in like a lion, and I hope that you're just as excited as I am to celebrate March 25, the Greek holiday that marks their 1821 war for independence from the Turks. Opa! "Greece" is the word! In honor of Greek independence, Ken Jennings from Jeopardy! is here all month to correct a lot of Greek mythology—things we thought we knew about the ancient land that gave us democracy, logic, and nude wrestling. It turns out a lot of this Socratic wisdom is all Greek to us.

The Debunker: Was Epicurus an Epicurean Kind of Guy?

Epicurus founded his own school of philosophy in Athens around 300 BC: the Garden, named for its pleasant outdoor setting. It drew hundreds of adherents—including women and slaves—who studied with Epicurus during the last thirty years of his life. He's an important figure in the history of science for insisting that belief be backed up by logical deduction, but today he's mostly remembered for lending his name to the word "epicurean." An epicurean, the dictionary tells us, is a sybarite, someone devoted to sensual pleasures.

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Wednesday, March 14

The Debunker: Did the Greeks Love Gleaming White Statues and Temples or What?

by Ken Jennings

March has come in like a lion, and I hope that you're just as excited as I am to celebrate March 25, the Greek holiday that marks their 1821 war for independence from the Turks. Opa! "Greece" is the word! In honor of Greek independence, Ken Jennings from Jeopardy! is here all month to correct a lot of Greek mythology-things we thought we knew about the ancient land that gave us democracy, logic, and nude wrestling. It turns out a lot of this Socratic wisdom is all Greek to us.

Did the Greeks Love Gleaming White Statues and Temples or What?

The grandeur that was Greece, at least in epic Hollywood movies, is really heavy on white marble. Big marble statuary, big marble pillared temples. If you've been to modern Greece, you know that the colossal ruined temples-the Parthenon in Athens, the temple of Poseidon at Sounion-are indeed big chunks of white marble. So what's the big deal?

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Wednesday, March 07

The Debunker: Did a Messenger Run 25 Miles After the Battle of Marathon?

by Ken Jennings

March has come in like a lion, and we hope that you're just as excited as we am to celebrate March 25, the Greek holiday that marks their 1821 war for independence from the Turks. Opa! "Greece" is the word! In honor of Greek independence, Ken Jennings from Jeopardy! is here all month to correct a lot of Greek mythology—things we thought we knew about the ancient land that gave us democracy, logic, and nude wrestling. It turns out a lot of this Socratic wisdom is all Greek to us.

The Debunker: Did a Messenger Run 25 Miles After the Battle of Marathon?

Today, all a marathon will get you is orange slices, chafed nipples, and a smug bumper sticker for your car, but in 490 BC, Marathon saved western civilization. At that battle, the outnumbered Athenians successfully fought back a larger Persian army, ending Darius the Great's dreams of conquering Greece for the next decade.

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Tuesday, March 06

 

Wednesday, February 28

The Debunker: Do Moths Eat Clothes?

by Ken Jennings

February means Fashion Week in New York, where style trends are born and the newest looks are big business. But what about the rest of us? What about you, a randomly chosen non-supermodel reading a short trivia piece on the Internet? What do you know about fashion? Don't get me wrong, you look great today, but there are a lot of sartorial misconceptions that make the rounds in our culture. We've asked Ken Jennings, who is well-dressed at least by the low standards of Jeopardy! contestants, to go through our closets and throw out all the wrong stuff we thought we knew about our clothes.

Do Moths Eat Clothes?

I've always loved the cartoon trope of articles of clothing turning to tatters before Daffy Duck's very eyes in a flutter of moth wings. (What does Daffy care? He doesn't even wear clothes.) But depending on your definition of "moth," this is a thing that has never happened in real life. Most moths have the perfect alibi: they don't even have mouths!

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Tuesday, February 27

 

Thursday, February 22

Woot's Extra Official Professional Press Release

by Grace Queen

Our boss said we had to write a press release about the new free shipping benefits for Amazon Prime members, so we did. Then our boss said we had to put it up on the website, so we did. Now our boss says we have to get the story published by the New York Times. We're still working on that one...

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Wednesday, February 21

The Debunker: What Color Is Puce?

by Ken Jennings

February means Fashion Week in New York, where style trends are born and the newest looks are big business. But what about the rest of us? What about you, a randomly chosen non-supermodel reading a short trivia piece on the Internet? What do you know about fashion? Don't get me wrong, you look great today, but there are a lot of sartorial misconceptions that make the rounds in our culture. We've asked Ken Jennings, who is well-dressed at least by the low standards of Jeopardy! contestants, to go through our closets and throw out all the wrong stuff we thought we knew about our clothes.

What Color Is Puce?

Have you heard of the Mandela Effect? It's a modern phenomenon of collective false memory, named for the (apparently not uncommon) misconception many people have that Nelson Mandela died sometime in the 1980s. In the past, when a bunch of people were wrong about a clear point of fact, we called this "being wrong." But today, many tender-hearted millennials who misremember their childhood have become convinced that their memories are unimpeachable and there must, therefore, be a paranormal explanation that will vindicate their false beliefs. Perhaps they've somehow been recently transported to this alternate reality in which Mandela died in 2013. Sounds implausible? Sure, but I dare you to prove they didn't switch universes!

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Sunday, February 18

Announcing FREE Shipping for Amazon Prime Members!

by Biff Jezos

Prime header

 

You may have already heard, but Woot! is owned by a much larger company that goes by the name of Amazon. Now, after EIGHT long years of subsidiary-ship, we want to bring some of that Amazon goodness directly to our customers.

That's why today we're very happy to announce FREE SHIPPING for Amazon Prime customers! Yes, we know it sounds pretty awesome and yes, it is as awesome as it sounds. (And yes, for you old-timers who have been asking for this for, um, eight years, thanks for waiting. This computer stuff is hard).

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Wednesday, February 14

The Debunker: What Do Scotsmen Wear Under Their Kilts?

by Ken Jennings

February means Fashion Week in New York, where style trends are born and the newest looks are big business. But what about the rest of us? What about you, a randomly chosen non-supermodel reading a short trivia piece on the Internet? What do you know about fashion? Don't get me wrong, you look great today, but there are a lot of sartorial misconceptions that make the rounds in our culture. We've asked Ken Jennings, who is well-dressed at least by the low standards of Jeopardy! contestants, to go through our closets and throw out all the wrong stuff we thought we knew about our clothes.

The Debunker: What Do Scotsmen Wear Under Their Kilts?

There's a logical goof called the "no true Scotsman" fallacy, in which the speaker consistently re-defines his terms in the face of new evidence. The original case, from a 1975 book by philosopher Antony Flew, imagines a Scot reading a news article about a sex maniac on the loose in England. "No Scotsman would do such a thing!" he says. The next day, he sees a second article about a similar crime spree in Scotland. "No true Scotsman would do such a thing," he still insists.

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Wednesday, February 07

The Debunker: Should You Freeze Your Jeans?

by Kathleen Richards

February means Fashion Week in New York, where style trends are born and the newest looks are big business. But what about the rest of us? What about you, a randomly chosen non-supermodel reading a short trivia piece on the Internet? What do you know about fashion? Don't get me wrong, you look great today, but there are a lot of sartorial misconceptions that make the rounds in our culture. We've asked Ken Jennings, who is well-dressed at least by the low standards of Jeopardy! contestants, to go through our closets and throw out all the wrong stuff we thought we knew about our clothes.

The Debunker: Should You Freeze Your Jeans?

In 2014, speaking at a business summit on sustainability, Chip Bergh told the crowd that he was wearing a pair of jeans that hadn't been laundered in over a year. That might sound like an odd way to begin a corporate speech, but Bergh had a little credibility: he's the president and CEO of Levi Strauss.

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Friday, February 02

 

Wednesday, January 31

The Debunker: Was Pompeii Buried in Lava When Mount Vesuvius Erupted?

by Ken Jennings

We usually think of volcanic eruptions as sudden and dramatic events, but that's not always the case. The Hawaiian volcano of Kilauea, for example, has been erupting continuously since January 3, 1983, covering 48 square miles of the state's "big island" with new lava. In honor of the thirty-fifth anniversary of Earth's longest-erupting volcano, Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings will be here all month providing explosive corrections to a lot of popular misinformation about volcanoes. The results might just rock your world.

The Debunker: Was Pompeii Buried in Lava When Mount Vesuvius Erupted?

Mount Vesuvius, a stratovolcano on the Gulf of Naples, erupted violently in the year 79 AD, destroying the resort towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. "Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore," wrote the Roman author Pliny the Younger, who witnessed the eruption and then the death of his own famous uncle, Pliny the Elder, in the subsequent cataclysm.

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