Category Archives: Answers

What Happens When You Freeze Water in a Container So Strong the Water Can’t Expand Into Ice?

Kevin asks: What would happen if you froze water, but the container was so strong the water couldn’t expand into ice? Some readers may recall a science class in which an excitable teacher walked to the front of the class to show off a small, cracked steel container, seemingly damaged by an incredibly powerful, but tiny force; only for said […]

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The Origin of the Hokey Pokey

Karla asks: Where did the “Hokey Pokey” come from? There’s no one definitive answer to where the Hokey Pokey (or Hokey Cokey) ultimately derives from.  Even the modern history of it is somewhat convoluted. Proposed origin theories span oceans, and even centuries. That said, the convoluted nature of the history of something has never stopped us from trying to trace […]

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Who Was Sadie Hawkins and Why Does She Have a Dance Named After Her?

Becky asks: Why is there a dance called “Sadie Hawkins”? Was this a real person? Sadie Hawkins’ renown, which evolved into an American folk-holiday in some places, doesn’t really originate from a dance, but rather from a race, as we shall soon see. Sadie was the product of the fertile imagination of cartoonist Al Capp. She was a character in […]

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Why We “Drop” the Ball on New Year’s Eve

Jeremy asks: Why do we drop the ball on New Year’s eve in Times Square? When Adolph Ochs purchased the floundering New York Times in 1896, he made it his mission to make the newspaper the number one paper in all of New York. He started by forming the New York Times Company and made himself the majority owner, ensuring […]

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Is it Possible to Cash Oversized Novelty Prize Checks?

Mark J. asks: Can people actually cash those big novelty checks? The giant novelty check (cheque to our readers of the non-American persuasion) is a comedy staple, even if you’ve never been lucky enough to handle one in real life, you’ve likely drawn a cartoonishsly huge moustache on a picture of someone holding one in a newspaper. (Just me?) You’ve […]

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Why Nuclear Bombs Create Mushroom Clouds

Susan K. asks: Why do nuclear bombs make mushroom clouds? This phenomenon all comes down to a little something called the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, and by extension, convection. I’ll begin with the somewhat longer, but less geeky explanation before descending once again into extreme nerdery. It all starts with an explosion that creates a Pyrocumulus Cloud. This ball of burning hot […]

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Has Anyone Ever Actually Poisoned Or Put Razor Blades or Needles in Halloween Candy?

Lee asks: How many children have died from people poisoning Halloween candy? Remember your mom sorting through your Halloween candy as a kid, looking for signs of ‘tainted’ candy laced with poison, needles or razor blades?  It turns out, unless she was just using it as an excuse to steal the good candy before you got it, she was wasting […]

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What Started the “Cops Eating Doughnuts” Stereotype

Dan asks: How did the running gag of police always eating donuts come about? Members of law enforcement stuffing their faces full of doughnuts is one of the most enduring stereotypes about the boys and girls in blue. In virtually every media representation of the police that isn’t deadly serious, the stereotype is played out in some way- Police Academy, […]

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