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Week in Review: Signs of the End Times

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As you may have heard, scholar Bernard Lewis recently announced in the Wall Street Journal that August 22, 2006 would be the end of the world. Or, more precisely, that if a man did come around on that date, he'd probably be the president of Iran:

This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.

So, it didn't happen. Deep breath. But did you notice all the other signs of the apocalypse this week, right here on mental_floss?

* All the waters that were in the river turned to blood. And the fish that were in the river died, and the water stank.

* My very earthly mother just served us nine pizzas, and we mourned.

* The hound of hell appeared, dressed for the occasion.

* Little baseball-playing children swore as the Yankees swept the Sox. (I'm from Boston. This is apocalyptic.)

* There were phantoms, there were fires on the road, and the white man Chinese women dancin'. (Not a Leonard Cohen fan? Here's the reference.)

* The "destroy another fetus" part of that Cohen song became (at least partially and theoretically) moot.

* The planet was rocked by 244 earthquakes.

* "Suddenly the sky turned blood-red "“ there were tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city."

* There were plagues of frogs and snakes.

* Religious fervor peaked as an organ sounded a rumbling bass note.

* And women wept.

Enjoy your weekends; we'll see you Monday, assuming that the planet's still here by then.

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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

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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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