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No (global) Child Left Behind

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The MIT Tech Review is reporting that the $100 laptop project already has over 4 million orders from around the world! For those of you who haven't been watching closely, the initiative hopes to deliver one laptop per child in an effort to help kids in developing communities learn online, communicate across the globe, and express themselves creatively through computer media. (The computer actually comes all decked out with a Linux system, word processing, multimedia playback, and web browsing).

What's amazing about the project isn't just the idealism behind it, but also the innovation: early versions of the computer used a hand crank to generate the power, so kids in villages could use the laptops without electrical plugs. Since then, the group (headed up by former MIT Media Lab honcho Nicholas Negroponte) has figured out an even better way to generate electricity: a pull-string crank that you can tug with other body parts (like your leg if you're sitting at a desk) so that it doesn't interrupt your typing!

Another exciting factor is that other companies are going to try and compete: word on the street is that Microsoft is trying to build an even cheaper laptop. Well, whatever else happens, one thing's for sure: the next generation is going to be a whole lot better at Solitaire.

Link via MIT Technology Review

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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science
Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
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Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.

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