Tuesday, October 25

The Debunker: Does "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" Stand for LSD?

by Ken Jennings

Thanks to the hard work of the Association of American State Geologists, the second week of October has been officially declared "Earth Science Week" every year since 1998. So we decided to have Jeopardy!'s rarest gem, Ken Jennings, school us on the hardest rock of them all: diamonds. Are they really forever? Are they a girl's best friend? Let's shed the cold, hard light of 10-carat truth onto some of these semiprecious superstitions.

The Debunker: Does "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" Stand for LSD?

In the spring of 1965, John Lennon and George Harrison and their wives were having dinner with a friend, the cosmetic dentist John Riley. (When you're the biggest rock stars in the world, you can hang out with pretty much any dentist you want!) Riley wanted the Beatles to try the newest craze in swinging London, so he laced their coffee with a still-legal lab chemical called lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. John wasn't crazy about the surprise, but ended up loving his first trip, which he described as "a very concentrated version of the best feeling I'd ever had." Acid became a big influence on John's songwriting, leading to Beatles classics like "She Said, She Said" and "Tomorrow Never Knows."

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Tuesday, October 18

The Debunker: Is a Diamond Engagement Ring Traditional?

by Ken Jennings

Thanks to the hard work of the Association of American State Geologists, the second week of October has been officially declared "Earth Science Week" every year since 1998. So we decided to have Jeopardy!'s rarest gem, Ken Jennings, school us on the hardest rock of them all: diamonds. Are they really forever? Are they a girl's best friend? Let's shed the cold, hard light of 10-carat truth onto some of these semiprecious superstitions.

The Debunker: Is a Diamond Engagement Ring Traditional?

Today, everyone knows that if you like it, you should put a ring on it. Diamonds, after all, are an age-old symbol of permanence and strength. What could be a better symbol for the start of a marriage? You'll probably be surprised to hear that the idea of a diamond engagement ring isn't a storied tradition at all. In fact, it's a mid-20th century invention, the result of the most successful ad campaign in history.

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Tuesday, October 11

The Debunker: Is It Really Hard to Crush a Diamond?

by Ken Jennings

Thanks to the hard work of the Association of American State Geologists, the second week of October has been officially declared "Earth Science Week" every year since 1998. So we decided to have Jeopardy!'s rarest gem, Ken Jennings, school us on the hardest rock of them all: diamonds. Are they really forever? Are they a girl's best friend? Let's shed the cold, hard light of 10-carat truth onto some of these semiprecious superstitions.

The Debunker: Is It Really Hard to Crush a Diamond?

At some point in school, I had to learn the Mohs scale of hardness, which assigns numerical values to ten different minerals in order of hardness. I've forgotten most of the actual minerals, though. 1 is talc, I think, which is as soft as rock ever gets, unless you count 1970s AM radio. I don't remember any of the others. Except 10! Nobody ever forgets 10. 10 is diamond. 10 is as hard as rock can get. 10 is Black Sabbath or Cannibal Corpse.

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Tuesday, October 04

The Debunker: Do Diamonds Come from Coal?

by Ken Jennings

Thanks to the hard work of the Association of American State Geologists, the second week of October has been officially declared "Earth Science Week" every year since 1998. So we decided to have Jeopardy!'s rarest gem, Ken Jennings, school us on the hardest rock of them all: diamonds. Are they really forever? Are they a girl's best friend? Let's shed the cold, hard light of 10-carat truth onto some of these semiprecious superstitions.

The Debunker: Do Diamonds Come from Coal?

It's one of Superman's best tricks: hold a lump of coal in his soft, supple Kryptonian hands and casually compress it into a beautiful diamond. Lois Lane swoons. We nod appreciatively, dimly remembering from junior high that this is possible because diamonds are made of carbon, the same element that forms coal. Science!

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Tuesday, September 27

The Debunker: Is There a Clinical Fear of Getting Peanut Butter Stuck on the Roof of Your Mouth?

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: Is There a Clinical Fear of Getting Peanut Butter Stuck on the Roof of Your Mouth?

There's an eighteen-letter-word that's been a trivia favorite for decades, appearing everywhere from board games to Snapple caps to reference books: arachibutyrophobia. This scary-sounding psychiatric disorder is usually cited as something fairly harmless-seeming: "the fear of getting peanut butter stuck on the roof of your mouth." Boy, psychiatrists have a phobia for everything these days, don't they?!?

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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, August 30

The Debunker: Was "The Jazz Singer" the First Sound Film?

by Ken Jennings

This is the season of Hollywood's unrestrained id: the brainless summer blockbuster, the air-conditioned multiplex, the bottomless popcorn refills, the avalanche of kids emerging blinking into bright sunlight, waiting for their parental pickup. But August is also the anniversary of the movies themselves! It was on August 31, 1897 that Thomas Edison patented his first movie camera, the Kinetograph. In honor of 119 years of cinematic glitz and glamour, we've asked movie buff and Jeopardy! tough Ken Jennings to give us the "reel" truth on all kinds of old-movie misinformation.

The Debunker: Was The Jazz Singer the First Sound Film?

Every time the deafening THX or Dolby Digital logo appears on the screen of my neighborhood theater, I kneel down in my row and say a quick thank-you prayer to the makers of Hollywood's first "talkie," without which none of this would be possible. Thank you, movie gods, for…1928's Lights of New York. Oh, you thought I was talking about The Jazz Singer? Wait a minute, wait a minute—you ain't heard nothing yet.

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Tuesday, August 23

The Debunker: Was Ronald Reagan the First Choice to Star in "Casablanca"?

by Ken Jennings

This is the season of Hollywood's unrestrained id: the brainless summer blockbuster, the air-conditioned multiplex, the bottomless popcorn refills, the avalanche of kids emerging blinking into bright sunlight, waiting for their parental pickup. But August is also the anniversary of the movies themselves! It was on August 31, 1897 that Thomas Edison patented his first movie camera, the Kinetograph. In honor of 119 years of cinematic glitz and glamour, we've asked movie buff and Jeopardy! tough Ken Jennings to give us the "reel" truth on all kinds of old-movie misinformation.

The Debunker: Was Ronald Reagan the First Choice to Star in Casablanca?

It's one of the most storied "what if"s in Hollywood history: what if the most iconic screen role of the 1940s, the world-weary Rick Blaine in Casablanca, had been played by not by Humphrey Bogart but by a different actor? Furthermore, what if that actor had been genial future president Ronald Reagan? Reagan, according to movie lore, was Warner Brothers's first choice for the project.

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