Wednesday, December 13

The Debunker: Do UPS Drivers Never Turn Left?

by Ken Jennings

December is a month full of festive observances, but one of the most important often gets overlooked: National Impaired Driving Prevention Month! Between all the holiday merrymaking and the terrible road conditions, it's a pretty good time to think more carefully about our driving. But what if not everything you think you know about the rules of the road is accurate? We have Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings behind the wheel all month to set you straight. Buckle up, check your blind spot, and pull away from the curb when it's safe and legal to do so.

The Debunker: Do UPS Drivers Never Turn Left?

Now that you know you're probably turning left wrong it's time to consider the real existential question: should you be turning left at all?

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Wednesday, December 06

The Debunker: Should Your Hands Be at Ten and Two on the Steering Wheel?

by Ken Jennings

December is a month full of festive observances, but one of the most important often gets overlooked: National Impaired Driving Prevention Month! Between all the holiday merrymaking and the terrible road conditions, it's a pretty good time to think more carefully about our driving. But what if not everything you think you know about the rules of the road is accurate? We have Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings behind the wheel all month to set you straight. Buckle up, check your blind spot, and pull away from the curb when it's safe and legal to do so.

The Debunker: Should Your Hands Be at Ten and Two on the Steering Wheel?

For decades, driver's ed teachers recommended that students place their hands at the ten o'clock and two o'clock positions, which were assumed to be the gold standard for leverage, comfort and control. But that's not true anymore, due to new research in ergonomics, and new technology in steering wheels.

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Wednesday, November 29

The Debunker: Was the U.S. Interstate System Designed to Provide Emergency Landing Strips for Aircraft?

by Ken Jennings

November is here, and you know what that means—National Aviation History Month! Yes, like all good citizens, you undoubtedly wait all year for this fun-filled celebration of great achievements in the history of flight. But as you get together with loved ones during this festive flight-themed season, we want to make sure you don't perpetuate any myths and misconceptions. Ken Jennings, high-flying Jeopardy! whiz, is here all month to correct a lot of common aviation knowledge that's just plane wrong.

The Debunker: Was the U.S. Interstate System Designed to Provide Emergency Landing Strips for Aircraft?

We're so blessed to live in a time when humankind has invented the Internet, an amazing digital utility used mostly to store pornography and pages of "Completely Random and Useless Facts You Should Know." These numbered trivia lists nearly always include this standby: "The U.S. interstate highway system requires that one mile in every five be straight. These straight sections function as airstrips in times of war and other emergencies." What a fun thing to consider, as we travel the highways and byways of this great land: the interstate system's Eisenhower-era engineers had Cold War paranoia on their minds as they surveyed it!

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Wednesday, November 22

The Debunker: Do Airplanes Dump Frozen Waste in Flight?

by Ken Jennings

November is here, and you know what that means—National Aviation History Month! Yes, like all good citizens, you undoubtedly wait all year for this fun-filled celebration of great achievements in the history of flight. But as you get together with loved ones during this festive flight-themed season, we want to make sure you don't perpetuate any myths and misconceptions. Ken Jennings, high-flying Jeopardy! whiz, is here all month to correct a lot of common aviation knowledge that's just plane wrong.

The Debunker: Do Airplanes Dump Frozen Waste in Flight?

When Charles Lindbergh made his historic trans-Atlantic flight and met all the crowned heads of Europe, Britain's King George V had a question. "There is one thing I long to know," he said. "How did you pee?" Lindbergh, put at ease by the question, let His Majesty in on the secret: he had a funnel attached to an aluminum container, which he dropped somewhere over the French countryside. "I was not going to be caught with the thing on me at Le Bourget (Airport)!" he said.

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Wednesday, November 15

The Debunker: Is the Bermuda Triangle a Mysterious Nexus for Air and Sea Disappearances?

by Ken Jennings

November is here, and you know what that means—National Aviation History Month! Yes, like all good citizens, you undoubtedly wait all year for this fun-filled celebration of great achievements in the history of flight. But as you get together with loved ones during this festive flight-themed season, we want to make sure you don't perpetuate any myths and misconceptions. Ken Jennings, high-flying Jeopardy! whiz, is here all month to correct a lot of common aviation knowledge that's just plane wrong.

The Debunker: Is the Bermuda Triangle a Mysterious Nexus for Air and Sea Disappearances?

Secrets of the pyramids! Chariots of the gods! Bigfoot! Crystals! Roswell! The 1970s were a boom time for all kinds of purportedly Unexplained Mysteries, eagerly embraced by people who would go on to buy all those Time-Life Books series about the paranormal. But no phenomenon was more faddish than the Bermuda Triangle, a strange region of the North Atlantic where, everyone knew, planes and ships were always going missing in eerie and inexplicable ways. In Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, released in 1977, aliens end up taking the blame for the Bermuda Triangle disappearances. Of course! Aliens! It's always aliens.

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Wednesday, November 08

The Debunker: Did the Wright Brothers Achieve the First Sustained, Powered Airplane Flight?

by Ken Jennings

November is here, and you know what that means—National Aviation History Month! Yes, like all good citizens, you undoubtedly wait all year for this fun-filled celebration of great achievements in the history of flight. But as you get together with loved ones during this festive flight-themed season, we want to make sure you don't perpetuate any myths and misconceptions. Ken Jennings, high-flying Jeopardy! whiz, is here all month to correct a lot of common aviation knowledge that's just plane wrong.

The Debunker: Did the Wright Brothers Achieve the First Sustained, Powered Airplane Flight?

On May 6, 1896, Samuel Pierpont Langley, the head of the Smithsonian Institution, brought his steam-powered Aerodrome Number 5 vehicle down to the Potomac River, where it flew over half a mile. The Aerodrome was a tandem-wing contraption that looked like a giant dragonfly, and its ninety-second test flight smashed all previous records for lift and stability. But wait—the Wright Brothers didn't test their Flyer at Kitty Hawk until 1903. Did Langley beat Wilbur and Orville to the punch by seven full years?

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Wednesday, November 01

The Debunker: Did Howard Hughes Build a Giant Plane Out of Spruce Wood?

by Ken Jennings

November is here, and you know what that means—National Aviation History Month! Yes, like all good citizens, you undoubtedly wait all year for this fun-filled celebration of great achievements in the history of flight. But as you get together with loved ones during this festive flight-themed season, we want to make sure you don't perpetuate any myths and misconceptions. Ken Jennings, high-flying Jeopardy! whiz, is here all month to correct a lot of common aviation knowledge that's just plane wrong.

The Debunker: Did Howard Hughes Build a Giant Plane Out of Spruce Wood?

McMinnville, Oregon, an hour southwest of Portland, is today the unlikely home of the H-4 Hercules, a mammoth flying cargo ship built by the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1942. After getting the government contract to build the prototype, Howard Hughes spent $23 million on the H-4—almost $300 million in today's dollars. The war ended before the project could be completed, and Hughes was dragged in front of the Senate in 1947 to defend the boondoggle. "The Hercules was a monumental undertaking," he testified. "It is the largest aircraft ever built. It is over five stories tall with a wingspan longer than a football field. That's more than a city block. I put the sweat of my life into this thing."

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Wednesday, October 25

The Debunker: Is Crime on the Rise?

by Ken Jennings

October is Crime Prevention Month, says the National Crime Prevention Council, and would the nonprofit that brought you McGruff the Crime Dog lie to you about crime prevention? In honor of the occasion, we've decided to shine the hard light of truth on the underbelly of the criminal underworld. As a Jeopardy! superhero, Ken Jennings doesn't fight crime—just misinformation about crime. He'll be here all month debunking felonious falsehoods and misdemeanor myths.

The Debunker: Is Crime on the Rise?

If there's one thing Americans always agree on, despite the shifting winds of politics, it's that crime in this country is increasing. Gallup has been asking Americans since 1993 if they think crime is up over the past year; in every single year except for 2001, most respondents said yes, there's more crime lately. Pew Research's most recent numbers, from late 2016, show 57 percent of voters share this gloomy perspective on crime stats. Fully 78 percent of Trump voters believed crime numbers are getting worse, which could either be a cause or effect of their candidate's frequent insistence, on the campaign trail, that crime is up.

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Wednesday, October 18

The Debunker: Did Witnesses Ignore the Murder of Kitty Genovese?

by Ken Jennings

October is Crime Prevention Month, says the National Crime Prevention Council, and would the nonprofit that brought you McGruff the Crime Dog lie to you about crime prevention? In honor of the occasion, we've decided to shine the hard light of truth on the underbelly of the criminal underworld. As a Jeopardy! superhero, Ken Jennings doesn't fight crime—just misinformation about crime. He'll be here all month debunking felonious falsehoods and misdemeanor myths.

The Debunker: Did Witnesses Ignore the Murder of Kitty Genovese?

The tragic 1964 stabbing of Queens resident Kitty Genovese would probably be completely forgotten today—there were 636 murders committed in New York City that year, after all—if not for a follow-up story printed in The New York Times on March 27, which reported that thirty-seven neighbors had witnessed the killing outside Genovese's own apartment building—and not called the police! This launched decades of study into the mysterious phenomenon that psychologists call bystander apathy, or even "the Genovese effect": the decreasing likelihood that an individual will intercede in a situation as the number of onlookers increases.

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Wednesday, October 11

The Debunker: Is the "F Word" an Acronym for "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge"?

by Ken Jennings

October is Crime Prevention Month, says the National Crime Prevention Council, and would the nonprofit that brought you McGruff the Crime Dog lie to you about crime prevention? In honor of the occasion, we've decided to shine the hard light of truth on the underbelly of the criminal underworld. As a Jeopardy! superhero, Ken Jennings doesn't fight crime—just misinformation about crime. He'll be here all month debunking felonious falsehoods and misdemeanor myths.

The Debunker: Is the "F Word" an Acronym for "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge"?

Because its history often went unwritten for reasons of propriety, the notorious "f-word" has left itself open to all kinds of crazy folk etymologies. In two common versions, the word is actually an acronym. Sometimes the word is said to come from a sign advertising that a newlywed couple's marriage in olden times had been approved by the crown: "Fornication Under Consent of the King." (Presumably when a woman sat on the throne, the word was spelled "fucq.") In another version, prisoners locked in the stocks for sexual shenanigans were placed under a sign that read "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge." Van Halen was so charmed by the transgressive power of this last acronym that they named a 1991 album and tour after it. Those naughty boys!

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