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USA Today not ready for some football

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Our research editor, Sandy Wood, reads the newspaper with a red pen -- even the USA Today sports section, apparently, because in the course of his after-the-fact checking this weekend, he found a doozy of a mistake:

"Like many of you, I take part in a 'friendly' fantasy football league each week, so I made sure to pick up last Friday's USA Today, which included a 22-page preview of the NFL season - and noticed something very, very wrong.

In 2005, there were bad teams. Horrible teams. Four of them, the Titans, Raiders, Packers, and 49ers, went 4-12. The Saints went 3-13, and the Texans went 2-14. But USA Today predicted that 2006 would be looking up for, oh, just about everybody. The only teams they thought would go 5-11 this season were the Texans, the Bills, and the Rams. The 49ers were predicted to bring up the rear at 4-12. Okay, so fewer horrible teams must mean fewer great ones, right? Or at least a higher-than-normal share of teams with middling records like 7-9 and 6-10.

Per USA Today, the Colts will go 14-2, the Panthers 13-3, the Broncos, Patriots, Buccaneers 12-4, and the Steelers, Dolphins, Bears, and Falcons will end up 11-5.

The overall numbers add up to a mathematical impossibility.

To check the math, I added up the wins and losses in USA Today's projected final 2006 NFL standings. The AFC, the calculations revealed, will go 138-118. That's possible with all the inter-conference games, but it would mean the NFC would have to go 118-138, giving the league a 256-256 overall record. For every game an NFL team wins, there has to be another NFL team that loses. But USA Today's NFC predictions also resulted in a 138-118 record. Huh. They're trying to tell us that this year, NFL teams will win 276 games, but only lose 236 of them. Sorry, guys.

I'd like to believe that USA Today simply wants all of us to think that all of our teams are going to win a game or two more than they actually will. Fans feel good when their favorite team performs better than expected.

But really, I think they just didn't do the math."

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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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