Category Archives: Answers

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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The Origin of the Phrase “Close, But No Cigar”

J. Ramhit asks: Where did the phrase “close, but no cigar” come from? This popular idiom, which means “to fall short of a successful outcome” or “close call,” was first coined in the United States in the late 19th or early 20th century. While it can’t be proven definitively, it’s likely that the phrase originated at fairgrounds around this time. […]

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When People Started Wearing Clothes

M. Schane asks: When did humans start wearing clothing? Determining exactly when humans began wearing clothes is a challenge, largely because early clothes would have been things like animal hides, which degrade rapidly. Therefore, there’s very little archaeological evidence that can be used to determine the date that clothing started being worn. There have been several different theories based on […]

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The Origin of Language

Kaden asks: What was the first language spoken by humans? It is virtually impossible to know which language developed first, but that doesn’t mean linguists haven’t taken a good whack at it. The main problem is that scientists think language probably developed around 100,000-200,000 years ago. That’s around when modern humans, Homo sapiens, developed with the same skull structure—with the […]

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