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Why Does the New Year Begin on January First in Many Countries?

Why Does the New Year Begin on January First in Many Countries?

Melissa January 30, 2014 3

Jamie asks: Why is New Year’s day January 1st? Because Julius Caesar said so. Early Roman Calendar Since long before Caesar’s time, date keeping was dicey. In fact, the 355-day Roman calendar that immediately

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Why the NFL is Tax-Exempt

Why the NFL is Tax-Exempt

Matt Blitz January 29, 2014 2

John K. asks: I heard that the NFL is tax-exempt. Why is this when they make billions every year? The NFL made over nine billion dollars this past year in gross revenue.  That is

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Why Is Ketchup Red and Mustard Yellow?

Why Is Ketchup Red and Mustard Yellow?

Melissa January 28, 2014 3

Jason asks: Why is ketchup red and mustard yellow? Although in other food traditions, ketchup and mustard may be different colors, in classic American cuisine, ketchup is red and mustard is yellow. Here’s why:

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How the Axis and the Allies in WWII Got Their Names

How the Axis and the Allies in WWII Got Their Names

Melissa January 27, 2014 1

Derek asks: Why were the two groups in WWII called the Axis and the Allies? Marking the two main groups of belligerents in the Second World War (1939-1945), the Axis and the Allies slugged

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How Can People Be Held in Contempt after Invoking the 5th Amendment?

How Can People Be Held in Contempt after Invoking the 5th Amendment?

Melissa January 24, 2014 1

Duane asks: Why/how can a person be held in contempt of court after taking the 5th amendment? I read about this taking place quite often. Most Americans know they cannot be forced to incriminate

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The Jiggly History of Jell-O

The Jiggly History of Jell-O

Matt Blitz January 24, 2014 7

Daniel asks: Who invented Jell-O? For over a century, Jell-O has been a part of American culture and, according to a 1904 edition of the Ladies Home Journal, “America’s Favorite Dessert” (conveniently enough named

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The Origin of the Expression “Open a Can of Worms”

The Origin of the Expression “Open a Can of Worms”

Matt Blitz January 22, 2014 0

Seth asks: Where does the expression “open a can of worms” come from? For the uninitiated, the expression “to open a can of worms” means to attempt to solve one problem, or to do

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United States: Republic or Democracy?

United States: Republic or Democracy?

Melissa January 22, 2014 5

Mike asks: Why does everyone say the U.S. is a Democracy when it’s really a Republic? Frequently, politicians, and many ordinary Americans, refer to the United States as a democracy. Others find this aggravating

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Did Unicorns Ever Exist?

Did Unicorns Ever Exist?

Matt Blitz January 20, 2014 5

Kara asks: Did unicorns ever exist? On November 30, 2012, the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s government “news” agency, reported that scientists had “reconfirmed” the existence and location of the final resting place

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Why Figure Skaters Don’t Seem Dizzy After Spinning

Why Figure Skaters Don’t Seem Dizzy After Spinning

Emily Upton January 16, 2014 0

Justina asks: Why don’t figure skaters get dizzy after they spin? To understand why, it’s important to know why people get dizzy in the first place. Dizziness is controlled by the vestibular system in

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

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

Karl Smallwood January 14, 2014 12

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

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The Origin of the Hokey Pokey

The Origin of the Hokey Pokey

Kathy Padden January 10, 2014 2

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.

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How Does Organic Matter Become Fossil Fuels?

How Does Organic Matter Become Fossil Fuels?

Melissa January 3, 2014 0

Kateri asks: How did organic matter become fossil fuels? Three hundred million years ago (or so), about the time amphibians first emerged from primordial seas, enormous, lush swamps filled with large trees, ferns and

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Do Bats Get Confused by Other Bats’ Sonar?

Do Bats Get Confused by Other Bats’ Sonar?

Melissa January 2, 2014 0

Brian asks: How do bats tell whether it’s their own squeaks they’re hearing or another bat’s? Does this ever confuse them? Seeing with sound, bats can find their way around by bouncing sound waves

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What Causes Spontaneous Combustion

What Causes Spontaneous Combustion

Melissa December 19, 2013 2

Dev asks: What causes spontaneous combustion? Most of us experience combustion, a chemical process where a fuel combines with oxygen to produce heat and light, in the form of a fire where both the

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The Filibuster and The Nuclear Option

The Filibuster and The Nuclear Option

Melissa December 16, 2013 0

Lisa asks: Why are filibuster’s allowed? In its modern incarnation, the filibuster demands no personal and political sacrifice by an idealistic legislator who is willing to stand up for what he believes in (e.g.,

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

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

Kathy Padden December 13, 2013 2

Becky asks: Why is there a dance called “Sadie Hawkins”? Was this a real person? Sadie Hawkin’s renown, which evolved into an American folk-holiday in some places, doesn’t really originate from a dance, but

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

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

Matt Blitz December 12, 2013 7

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

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