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Wednesday, August 15

The Debunker: Do South American Fish Want to Swim Up Your Urethra and 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: Do South American Fish Want to Swim Up Your Urethra and Bite You?

If there's one thing the Internet loves, it's a weird animal story—the grosser the better. This is just an escalation of a fascination that spans human history, from Greek philosophers credulously noting hard-to-believe stories of exotic monsters in Asia and Africa to Victorian amateur naturalists heading to the Amazon with butterfly nets. Certainly nature is full of marvels and mysteries, so why shouldn't there be bigger and weirder ones the harder you look?

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Thursday, August 09

The Debunker: Can You Suck the Venom Out of a Snakebite?

by Ken Jennings

JIt'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: Can You Suck the Venom Out of a Snakebite?

It's an extremely well-worn bit of frontier and Boy Scout lore: in the event of a snakebite, the best first aid treatment—and often the only way to save the victim's life—is to apply a tourniquet, cut the wound open, and suck the venom out. This is such a familiar part of our cultural landscape that it's even a comedy premise, as in the old joke where a man is bit in an extremely sensitive spot and his friend is instructed, over the phone, to suck out the venom. "What did she say?" asks the nervous bite-ee. "She says you're going to die," responds his bro. 

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Tuesday, August 07

 

Wednesday, August 01

The Debunker: What Do Mosquitoes Eat?

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: What Do Mosquitoes Eat?

As Bill Gates has pointed out, the lowly mosquito is by far the most dangerous animal on earth, killing something like 725,000 people every year. That makes it seven hundred times more deadly than the crocodile, and seven thousand times more deadly than the lion. And that's leaving out the psychic wear and tear of millions of itchy, irritating mosquito bites on vacationers worldwide. That's the one thing everyone knows about mosquitoes: that they bite people and drink our blood. But here's the thing: most of them don't.

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Tuesday, July 31

 

Wednesday, July 25

The Debunker: Were Caesar's Last Words Really "Et Tu, Brute?"

by Ken Jennings

July is the first month of the year named for a specific person. Well, January, March, May, and June are all named for Greek or Roman gods, but July is named for a real historical person: Julius Caesar. Caesar was born in the month of July, which is why, in 44 BC, Rome renamed the summer month of Quintilis "Iulius" after the ambitious, toga-wearing general. We've asked Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings to cross the Rubicon this month and set the record straight about the life and death of the ancient world's biggest celeb. Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend him your ears.

The Debunker: Were Caesar's Last Words Really "Et Tu, Brute?"

They say history is written by the winners, but when it comes to British kings and the Roman Empire, lots of history was written by a single guy: William Shakespeare. An actor and playwright! Come on. In our day, that would be like if actor David Duchovny switched from those quirky little novels he writes and started writing big, authoritative biographies of the Founding Fathers.

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Wednesday, July 18

The Debunker: Was Caesar the Emperor of Rome?

by Ken Jennings

July is the first month of the year named for a specific person. Well, January, March, May, and June are all named for Greek or Roman gods, but July is named for a real historical person: Julius Caesar. Caesar was born in the month of July, which is why, in 44 BC, Rome renamed the summer month of Quintilis "Iulius" after the ambitious, toga-wearing general. We've asked Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings to cross the Rubicon this month and set the record straight about the life and death of the ancient world's biggest celeb. Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend him your ears.

The Debunker: Was Caesar the Emperor of Rome?

If you look up the word "Caesar" in the dictionary today, there it is, right between "caduceus" and "Caesar salad." It's now uncapitalized, says Webster's, and just means "emperor" or "dictator." For centuries, German kaisers and Russian czars have borrowed their imperial title from "Caesar," a name that originated as the cognomen (Roman family nickname) of Julius Caesar. As a result, it's often taken for granted that Julius Caesar was emperor of Rome—the most famous emperor, to many people. But that's not historically true.

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Monday, July 16

 

Sunday, July 15

 

Thursday, July 12

 

Wednesday, July 11

The Debunker: When are the "Ides" of a month?

by Ken Jennings

July is the first month of the year named for a specific person. Well, January, March, May, and June are all named for Greek or Roman gods, but July is named for a real historical person: Julius Caesar. Caesar was born in the month of July, which is why, in 44 BC, Rome renamed the summer month of Quintilis "Iulius" after the ambitious, toga-wearing general. We've asked Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings to cross the Rubicon this month and set the record straight about the life and death of the ancient world's biggest celeb. Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend him your ears.

The Debunker: When Are the "Ides" of a Month?

Caesar was famously stabbed on March 15, 44 B.C.—the "Ides of March," according to the Roman calendar. The Romans may have invented concrete, antiseptic surgery and highways, but their monthly calendar was kind of nuts. The days of each month were measured from three reference points: the kalends at the start of a month, the nones about a week later, and the ides about a week after that. What we would call March 16, the Romans would have called "the seventeenth day before the kalends of April."

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Sunday, July 08

 

Wednesday, July 04

The Debunker: Was Caesar Killed in the Capitol?

by Ken Jennings

July is the first month of the year named for a specific person. Well, January, March, May, and June are all named for Greek or Roman gods, but July is named for a real historical person: Julius Caesar. Caesar was born in the month of July, which is why, in 44 BC, Rome renamed the summer month of Quintilis "Iulius" after the ambitious, toga-wearing general. We've asked Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings to cross the Rubicon this month and set the record straight about the life and death of the ancient world's biggest celeb. Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend him your ears.

The Debunker: Was Caesar Killed in the Capitol?

In Shakespeare's mind, the famous assassination of Julius Caesar took place on the steps on the Capitol, where the Roman Senate met. "Come to the Capitol," Cassius urges Caesar with a petition, luring him to his death at the conspirators' hands. Later, in Hamlet, Shakespeare was so confident about this historical fact that he has the gloomy prince of Denmark make a pun about it. "I was killed in the Capitol; Brutus killed me," says Polonius, reminiscing about his acting career. "It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there," ripostes Hamlet.

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