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   Bastille Day

What's the "Bastille" in Bastille Day?

   The Bastille was a prison and fortress built in the 14th century to protect Paris's eastern entrance. At the height of its use, it held political prisoners, but by 1789, it was mostly vacant except for supplies like gunpowder. In fact, the Bastille was supposed to be demolished and replaced with a town square. Revolutionaries had other ideas, though—they wanted to get at that gunpowder, so they stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789, losing about 100 people in the process. However, they ended up winning the day and proceeded to execute the Bastille's governor and dismantle the building entirely.

   Interestingly enough, they don't even call it Bastille Day in France—they use la Fête nationale or le 14 juillet.
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   Subjective Questions
   Education

If you could make one change to the education system, what would it be?

   The complete digitalization of books. The textbook industry in the United States is a massive scam, as they barely change anything between editions that can end up costing students hundreds of dollars per new book! It's also made worse when courses require these new editions over old ones, making the barrier for entry based mostly on an individual's economic status. Access to these types of resources should not only be free, but made easily available via technology.
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   Plumbing
   Physics
   Thunderstorms and Lightning

Is it safe to take a shower during a thunderstorm?

   No—in fact, the CDC encourages avoiding all water in your house during a thunderstorm. Your plumbing and the water coming out of it can conduct electricity if lightning strikes your home, and that can lead to you getting seriously hurt. Granted, this is a pretty rare occurrence, but experts still advise against it as an easy way to avoid something potentially fatal. You should wait half an hour after hearing the last boom of thunder before hopping into the shower.
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   Big Ben
   London

Why is the clock tower in London called Big Ben?

   It's not. The "Big Ben" moniker technically refers to the bell inside the clock tower—the tower itself is officially called Elizabeth Tower, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II. The bell was installed in 1858 and was probably named after Sir Benjamin Hall, a civil engineer and member of the House of Commons whose name is inscribed on the bell.

   There is a less likely theory that the bell was named after Ben Caunt, a bare-knuckle boxing champion who went by "Big Ben." Though this theory is a lot more fun, it can't be proven.
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   Space

Why don't satellites crash into earth?

   Well, they do eventually, when they’re done doing their jobs. If defunct satellites don’t burn up on their way down, they usually land in the ocean or somewhere else away from civilization.

   As for why that doesn't happen immediately, it's science, baby. Satellites are launched into space by rockets, and even though the force of gravity pulls on them, the initial velocity from the rocket is enough to counteract gravity's pull. The closer the satellite is to Earth, the faster it needs to go to stay in orbit. Sometimes they need to change orbit to avoid bumping into another satellite or other space debris, but once they're out there, satellites can stay in orbit for hundreds of years.
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   Central America

Where is the origin of the Panama hat?

   Panama hats do not, in fact, come from Panama. Shocking, I know. They are, and always have been, woven in Ecuador. However, they only gained worldwide popularity when they were exported to Panama. Gold Rush travelers on their way to the mines in California picked up the delicately woven hats as they passed through Panama, and the misleading name was born.
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   Weddings

Have you ever crashed a wedding or had your wedding crashed, if so what happened?

   When I was little, my cousins were all going to be in a wedding for someone on the other side of the family. My mom and I were not technically invited, but she wanted to see everybody all dressed up, so she put me in a velvet dress with a matching scrunchie and we snuck in. I didn't really know what was going on, but I was just happy to be along for the ride. I didn't realize we weren't invited to that wedding until about 15 years later.
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   Joe Biden

How many times did Joe Biden run for president?

   Joe Biden is currently on his third presidential run. His first attempt to make it to the White House started in 1987, but he dropped out after a few months. He decided to try again 20 years later, but of course, he ended up Barack Obama's running mate in 2008 and subsequently served two terms as Vice President. That takes us to this year, 2020, where he's the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

   Although Biden considered running in 1980, 1984, and 2004, he did not actually launch a campaign in any of those years.
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   Carbonated Beverages

What is the world’s oldest soft drink?

   First, it's interesting to note that soft drinks don't necessarily have to be carbonated—technically, they're any flavored non-alcoholic beverage. An alcoholic beverage is hard, whereas a non-alcoholic beverage is soft.

   Although the makers of Schweppes tonic water, which was invented in 1783, claim their product is the world's first soft drink, soft drink history actually goes back even further. In the 1600s, a type of lemonade (water flavored with lemon and honey) became popular in Paris, and carbonated beverages followed soon after. Europeans of that time period thought drinking spring water was beneficial to one's health, and they were trying to make fizzy drinks to mimic it.
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   Asked by Stefan Egan
   
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   Charles Dickens

How many novels did Charles Dickens write?

   Charles Dickens, prolific Victorian author, wrote 14 complete novels in his lifetime and left behind one unfinished one. He was more than a novelist, though—he also wrote novellas (A Christmas Carol is one of them), short stories, poetry, and nonfiction.

   Dickens published all of these novels serially, meaning a few chapters at a time would come out regularly, typically once a week or once a month. He was paid per installment, but not per word, as some erroneously believe.
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   History of the United States
   Flag of the United States

What do the colors on America's flag mean?

   Red represents hardiness and valor. White represents purity and innocence. Blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice
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   Harry Houdini

How did Harry Houdini come up with his stage name?

   Harry Houdini was born Erik Weisz, but that name wasn't going to cut it for his magical ambitions. The origin of "Harry" was simple—he'd gone by "Ehrie" as a kid, so he just Americanized the old nickname. "Houdini" was an homage to one of the pioneers of modern magic, Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin. Robert-Houdin was a clockmaker who opened his own magic theatre in 1845. He's widely credited with being the first to perform in evening attire instead of fantastical robes, thus making magic a little more mainstream.

   Oddly enough, Houdini turned on his magical namesake later in life, writing a book called The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin in which he criticized Robert-Houdin for stealing other magicians' tricks.
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   Clothing
   Sewing

What is modal fabric?

   Soft, breathable, and stretchy, modal is a popular fabric choice for activewear, underwear, and pajamas. Modal is a type of rayon made from beech trees. It's a somewhat high-end fabric, as it’s smoother and more durable than regular rayon with limited wrinkling.

   Plus, it's fairly eco-friendly. Since beech trees need far less water than cotton to grow, modal is pretty sustainable to make, and on top of that, it's even biodegradable.
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   Asked by Maynard Windler
   
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   Health
   Oral Health and Dental Care
   Founding Fathers
   US Presidents
   George Washington
   Fillings Crowns and Dentures

What were George Washington's false teeth made from?

   Washington wore many partial and full dentures over the course of his life, but contrary to popular belief, none were made out of wood. Instead, they were made from ivory, lead-tin alloy, copper alloy, silver alloy, real human teeth, and probably cow and horse teeth, too.

   Dentures made of wood weren't common in his time, and although his false teeth were very uncomfortable, they were also fairly advanced for the late 18th century. The wooden teeth myth probably stems from the fact that as the ivory dentures were used and stained, they developed a grainy look, possibly being mistaken for wood.

   Unfortunately, the real human teeth he used were likely purchased from slaves, and they didn’t really have the option to refuse the purchase.
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   Asked by Lorenza Eichmann
   
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   Yale University

Who was Yale University named after?

   Yale University was originally called the Collegiate School when it was founded in 1701. It was renamed in honor of Elihu Yale in 1718. Yale had made a fortune with the East India Company and later the diamond trade, and he made some sizable donations to the school—books, a portrait of King George I, and some expensive textiles—and the school returned the favor by adopting his name, becoming Yale College. Yale was born in Massachusetts, but he left for England when he was three years old and never came back, so he never even visited the school that ended up bearing his name.
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   Human Behavior
   Science

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.
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   Asked by Eulalia Mraz
   
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   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.
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   Asked by Aurelie Renner
   
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   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.
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   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.
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   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.
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   Asked by Darian Altenwerth
   
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   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

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