Category Archives: Articles

What Are Goose Bumps?

goosebumps

Justin R. asks: What is going on in our skin to create goose bumps? A holdover from an earlier stage in our evolution, goose bumps are a function of the autonomic nervous system reacting to a primal threat. Technically, the phenomenon is called the pilomotor reflex, and occurs when the arrector pili muscle, which runs between the base of a […]

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Kits and Caboodles

knapsack

Meaning a complete collection of a set of related things, the curious expression the “whole kit and caboodle” has part of its origin in military life. In the 1785 version of his A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, Francis Grose gives us the first mention of the word “kit” with this meaning, as well as the phrase “the whole […]

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In Which Teddy Roosevelt Makes Men Everywhere Feel a Little Less Manly

teddy-roosevelt-boat

Along with serving two terms as the President of the United States between 1901 and 1909, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt also had a laundry list of supremely manly escapades throughout his life, such as the time he was shot in the chest in an assassination attempt, but went ahead and gave a lengthy speech he’d planned anyway before seeking medical attention. […]

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What It Means for a Show to Be Syndicated and How the Practice Got Started

tunnel-of-television

Karla S. asks: What does it mean when a show gets syndicated? Selling the right to broadcast a television or radio program to independent stations, syndication has enabled the modern system of 24/7 broadcasting by providing producers of content with a consistent revenue stream, and stations with enough programming to satisfy their eager audiences. There are a variety of syndication […]

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Flotsam and Jetsam

shipwreck

Marcus asks: Where did the words flotsum and jetsum come from? Bumping into a rock or a reef, war, swamped by rough weather or high waves, pilot error or pirates, there are a variety of ways a ship can sink. After it does, depending on whether it floated out on its own, was thrown overboard or sank to Davy Jones […]

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Saccadic Masking

blurry-image

Unknown to most, thousands of times each day we momentarily lose sight of the world around us. Known as saccadic masking, it is a function of the brain protecting us from suffering through blurred images that would otherwise be produced when our eyes move or shift. A saccade is a rapid eye movement between the places where the eye rests […]

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Blackboard Chalk Isn’t Chalk

chalk

Ubiquitous in many classrooms since the 19th century, chalk and chalkboards are familiar to most of us. White, powdery and prone to sticking to those surfaces where it is put (and just as easy to wipe away), chalk and its accompanying board are excellent instructional aids. Notably, however, most chalk today isn’t technically chalk at all, but gypsum. Chalk and […]

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The Perfect Town

celebration-florida-2

The town of Celebration was first loosely imagined by Walt Disney himself, though the current town differs wildly from Disney’s original idea. Whereas Disney pictured a “perfect” futuristic city where technology blended seamlessly with real life and all possible needs were taken care of, an idea that served as the basis for the Epcot theme park in Disney Land, Michael Eisner (the CEO of Disney at […]

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The Youngest To Serve: The Story of 12 Year Old Calvin Graham

Calvin_Graham

Calvin Graham was the youngest of seven children of a poor Texas farm family and because of his abusive stepfather, he and one of his older brothers decided to move out. Calvin supported himself by selling newspapers and delivering telegrams on weekends and after school. He was just eleven when he first thought of lying about his age to join the Navy. The […]

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The Wild and Wacky World of Mating in the Animal Kingdom

gay-dog

Karen A. asks: How prevalent is homosexuality in animals? Are there any animals besides humans that have members that are exclusively homosexual? While it is sometimes claimed that only humans engage in bisexual or homosexual relationships, this is far from the truth and the practice is actually quite common in the animal kingdom. For example, nearly 10% of male sheep […]

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The Truth About the Surprisingly Recent Invention of the Tea Bag, and the Women Who Really Invented It

tea-bags

Mark A. asks: Who invented tea bags? Legend says that brewing tea dates back to around 2737 BC, when tea leaves fell into water being boiled for Emperor Shennong of China. There does not appear to be any hard evidence of tea being discovered this way, but evidence we do have suggests that brewing tea did indeed likely start in […]

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