Human Behavior
Science

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What determines whether you are left or right handed?

Scientists aren't entirely sure, although they're pretty positive it's genetic. For a long time, a prevailing theory was that handedness is determined by gene expression in the left or right hemisphere of the brain. However, newer research suggests that even before the motor cortex is developed, an early asymmetry in the spinal cord is actually what determines right or left handedness.

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Subjective Questions
Internet

What would you do if the internet was suddenly gone?

Invest in the Pony Express. Seriously, though, I would start writing a lot more letters and subscribe to a lot more magazines. I'd really miss all the pop culture news on the web.
Baseball History

What is the longest plate appearance in MLB history?

That honor goes to Brandon Belt’s first-inning at-bat against the Los Angeles Angels on April 22, 2018. The Giants’ first baseman saw 10 pitches by the time the count ran full, fouling off six and whiffing on another...then fouled off 10 more before finally flying out to right. In total, Jaime Barria (the unfortunate starting pitcher that day) threw Belt 21 pitches.

That said, pitches per plate appearance only started getting counted in 1988. Major League Baseball has been around for over a century, and it’s possible that another plucky batter hung in for more than 21 pitches before ‘88. The late Luke Appling, for instance, claimed to have had at least a 28 pitch plate appearance in 1940, but the Washington Post looked into it, and it looks like that’s a tall tale. Belt’s at-bat is the most verifiable marathon we’ve got.

Oh, and if you have 12 minutes and 45 seconds, here’s Belt’s at-bat. It’s wild.

Statue of Liberty
Nicknames

What is the official name of the Statue of Liberty?

The statue's official name is "Liberty Enlightening the World." She was modeled after the Roman goddess of liberty, hence the "liberty" part, and her torch represents the act of enlightening the world.

The statue was a joint project between the U.S. and the French—America handled the pedestal, and France designed the statue. It was supposed to be a gift for the centennial anniversary of America's independence in 1876, but it wasn't dedicated until October 28, 1886, due to numerous fundraising delays on both sides of the Atlantic.

Dreams and Dream Interpretation

Why can't we remember our dreams?

There are several theories as to why we often cannot remember our dreams. One has to do with the hippocampus, which is part of the brain vital for transferring memories from short-term to long-term storage. During sleep, the brain’s regions turn off at different times, and one of the last to turn off is the hippocampus. If the hippocampus is the last to go to sleep, it may also be the last to wake up. According to Thomas Andrillon, a neuroscientist at Monash University, “You could have this window where you wake up with a dream in your short-term memory, but since the hippocampus is not fully awake yet, your brain is not able to keep that memory.”
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Coins and Paper Money
World Currencies

How are people chosen to be featured on U.S. currency?

Paper currency is largely left up to the Secretary of the Treasury. When the bills were standardized in 1929, the Treasury appointed a committee to decide on the portraits. The committee chose U.S. presidents and statesmen because they were more recognizable to the public, and they've been pretty much left alone ever since.

In 2016, the Treasury announced several design changes, including replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman. Other changes included portraying Martin Luther King Jr. and women's rights activists Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony, among others. Recently, however, current Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said those changes wouldn't come to fruition until 2030, if at all.

Psychology
Neuroscience

Are empaths real?

Except for people with certain personality disorders, everyone can feel empathy. Those who claim to be empaths, however, take it to another level entirely. They say they can literally feel what is going on in someone else's body in their own.

It's a pretty extraordinary claim, and as such, it hasn't been conclusively proven, though there are studies that show some people are naturally more empathetic than others. For example, there's a phenomenon called mirror-touch synaesthesia in which someone who sees a person being touched feels that touch on their own skin.

On the whole, though, the levels of empathy empaths purport to possess aren't fully proven.

Relationships

What are the signs of a toxic relationship?

First, know that a toxic relationship can be any kind of relationship, not just one between romantic partners. And the "toxic" label can be applied to a wide variety of bad relationships?€”emotionally or physically abusive relationships are just one extreme.

The biggest sign that you're in a toxic relationship is that you're unhappy. If you don't enjoy spending time with this person and instead feel anxious, sad, or just generally bad when you're with them, it's time to take a hard look at the relationship and figure out what's wrong. Sometimes you can work through what's making it toxic, and other times, you just have to walk away.

Some specific behaviors that might indicate the person is toxic for you:

  • Excessive negativity
  • Control (subtle or overt)
  • Passive aggression
  • Not taking ownership
  • Constantly undermining you
  • Making you feel like you can't voice concerns

Summer
Sunrise and Sunset Times

Why doesn't the summer solstice have the earliest sunrise or latest sunset of the year?

It's due to the complicated discrepancy between our silly human clocks and the actual length of days. When measured from one solar noon—the time that the sun reaches its highest point in the sky—to the next, days around the solstices are actually about 15 seconds longer than 24 hours. But that means solar noon rarely lines up with noon on your watch, which in turn pushes the sunrise and sunset times around on the clock.

So, even though there is more daylight on the summer solstice than any other day of the year, the earliest sunrise comes before the summer solstice, and the latest sunset comes after.

Holidays and Traditions
African-American History

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a special day in history. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but it did not reach the slaves in states that were part of the Confederacy until much later. The Emancipation Proclamation finally reached Texas on June 19, 1865. Because of this, we celebrate Juneteenth. Juneteenth is mostly celebrated in Texas and surrounding states.

Home Appliances
Food Spoilage

How long will food last in the refrigerator without power?

The food will stay cold for about four hours if you don't open the door, according to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Freezers can keep their contents frozen a little longer—full freezers will be okay for about 48 hours, and half-full freezers are good for 24 hours.

If the power is going to be out longer than that, dry or block ice can keep your food cold until the electricity comes back on. You can make your own ice during winter power outages by filling containers with water and leaving them outside, but don't put your food out in the snow to keep it cold—that's asking for trouble from your local wildlife.

Whipping Cream

Is heavy cream the same as whipping cream?

No; heavy cream has a higher fat content. Granted, it is a pretty subtle difference (at least 36 percent fat in heavy cream and at least 30 percent in whipping cream), but it's important if you're making something that's going to keep its shape—the higher fat content in heavy cream makes it more suitable for those jobs. That extra fat also makes it more resistant to curdling in sauces.

And if you're wondering where heavy whipping cream fits into all this, don't worry, it's just the same as heavy cream.

Health
Sanitization and Germs

Is it better to wash your hands in warm or cold water?

Although the FDA mandates warm water for those in food service, the CDC says any temperature is fine, so it's a bit of a contested subject.

Heat is known to kill bacteria, but the temperature and duration of exposure required would seriously damage human skin, so that argument for warm water is a bust. Additionally, some advocate for washing in cool water because it uses less energy and is therefore more environmentally friendly.

Anyway, no matter the temperature, washing your hands thoroughly with soap for 20 seconds is good practice.

Earth Sciences

What is deep time?

Deep time is the multibillion-year time frame that scientists believe Earth has existed. Their current estimate puts our planet at 4.54 billion years old.

Deep time’s hugeness, and especially the distance between events within it, is a trip to comprehend. Cleopatra, for instance, died in 30 B.C., but she lived closer to the present day than when the Pyramids of Giza were built.

If Earth’s history was represented on a 100-yard football field, modern humans—so Cleopatra, the pyramids, and everyone else—show up an eighth of an inch before the end zone. Heck, the length of deep time has an error range of 50 million years—but in the grand scheme of things, that’s small. Less than two yards on the football field.

Insects

What do lightning bugs eat?

In the larval stage, which comprises most of their lifespan, lightning bugs eat slugs, snails, and earthworms.

As adults, many fireflies don't eat anything at all—they're only adults for a few weeks, so they mostly just procreate and die. However, females from the Photuris group are a notable exception. These "femme fatale" fireflies lure in males from other groups with enticing flashes and then, as the nickname suggests, eat them. Think about that next time you're oohing and ahhing over them in the backyard.

Jeopardy
Game Shows

What is the highest possible score in a game of Jeopardy?

The most that can possibly be won in a single game of Jeopardy is $566,400. In order to achieve this score, the contestant would have to answer every question correctly, of course, as well as select the Daily Double clues last in every round and wager everything. (They'll need some extra luck there, as the Daily Doubles would need to be under $200 squares in round 1 and $400 squares in round 2.) They would also need to wager everything in the Final Jeopardy round.

In April 2019, James Holzhauer set the single-game winnings record with $131,127.

History of Maritime

What’s the oldest shipwreck ever found?

In 2017, the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project discovered a wrecked Greek merchant ship from 400 B.C. The 2,400-year-old ship rests just over a mile deep in the Black Sea. Due to the lack of oxygen at that depth, the ship is remarkably well preserved for its age. Previously, researchers said, ships like it had only been seen in ancient Greek art.

Inventions
Rules of the Road
Ohio

What was the first city to have traffic lights?

Cleveland, Ohio, is widely credited as having the first stoplight. James Hoge, an engineer, hooked up the first traffic light to the trolley line's electricity in 1914, using the red and green lights that were already familiar from their use by railroads. The light was controlled by a policeman in a booth nearby, who would flip the switch between red and green. The yellow light didn't come until later; it was an invention of William Potts, a Detroit police officer.

Technically, there were several experiments with traffic lights before Hoge's success in Cleveland, but none of them took off like his did.

Internet Memes
Subjective Questions

What's your favorite meme?

The real movie that this is from, Uncut Gems, is excellent. Worth checking out!

Inventions

What was the original purpose of Bubble Wrap?

In 1957, the men who created Bubble Wrap, engineer Al Fielding and Swiss chemist Marc Chavannes, originally intended to make a 3D wallpaper by sealing two shower curtains together in a way that captured air bubbles between them. After the wallpaper idea was a bust, the men also tried (and failed) to market Bubble Wrap as insulation for greenhouses.

Four years later, Frederick W. Bowers, a marketer for the company that manufactured the product, had the idea to use Bubble Wrap as a packaging material to protect IBM's new 1401 model computer, and it caught on quickly from there. Today, over $400 million worth of Bubble Wrap is sold annually.

Idioms, Cliches, and Slang
Psychology

What is the Cassandra Effect?

The Cassandra Effect (or Syndrome or Metaphor) has its roots in Greek mythology. Cassandra was the daughter of the king of Troy, and the god Apollo gave her the ability of prophecy. She, however, angered the god, and he turned her gift into a curse—she could see the future, but no one would believe her. Subsequently, when she tried to warn the Trojans not to accept the mysterious giant horse left outside their gates, they didn't listen, which, of course, had disastrous consequences.

So Cassandra's myth is invoked in the present day whenever someone made a prediction that turned out to be correct, but no one believed them. It's also sometimes used in psychology to describe the feelings of people whose accounts of distressing events aren't believed.

Space
Astronauts

How do astronauts use the bathroom in space?

Very carefully. Space bathroom technology has come a long way over the years (there was a time when astronauts only had adhesive plastic bags as bathrooms), but it's still not exactly comfortable. Aboard the International Space Station, the toilets are designed with no gravity in mind—they use funnels, narrow openings, and vacuums to make sure the waste is contained.

Astronauts even go through special toilet training to make sure they can use the space potty properly, since it's kind of fragile and very expensive—NASA bought one for $19 million in 2008.

World War 2
War and Military History
D-Day

What does the D stand for in D-Day?

Although there are a lot of interesting theories (“departure,” “deliverance,” and “doom,” to name a few), it doesn't really stand for anything. The term "D-Day" has been used by the U.S. military since at least 1918 as an “alliterative placeholder” for the day an operation is supposed to take place. This means that although we use it to refer to the invasion of Normandy in World War II, there's actually been a lot of D-Days.

The term was part of a larger system for keeping track of dates: D-3, for example, means three days before D-Day, and D+3 means three days after.


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