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Weird city rankings

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Inspired by David's (admittedly bizarre) claim that Missouri is "the" place to live, I decided to get to the bottom of this. Heading straight for Bert Sperling's popular bestplaces.net, I quickly discovered that the "best city" title is a hotly-contended one: there are at least eight U.S. metropoli vying for the honor -- and none of them are in Missouri. Satisfied that such subjective rankings will leave cities like jogger-friendly Portland, OR, Southern charmer Charlottesville, VA and spickety-span Fort Collins, CO (Money magazine's 2006 top city) duking it out for decades to come, I gravitated toward the weirder rankings. For instance:

  • Birmingham, AL: the home of mental_floss, and also the city in which you are 2nd most likely to develop a respiratory infection. #1 was Nashville; in fact, 8 of the top 10 cities are in the South. (This study doesn't discuss contributing factors -- anyone care to hazard a guess?)
  • Boston, MA: hardest city to navigate. Factoring in one-way streets, bodies of water, congested freeways and days per year when snow exceeded 1.5 inches, Boston took the cake. Can you dig it?
  • Detroit, MI: worst place to get a good night's sleep. A recent study found a link between high unemployment and sleepless nights, putting the Motor City way ahead of New York -- the "city that never sleeps" -- at #6.
  • Cincinnati, OH is the city in which you're most likely to develop a migraine headache. Big triggers include rapidly-changing weather and a high rate of red wine consumption.
  • Kansas City, MO: toughest place to get a date. A lack of date-friendly hangouts like coffee shops, bars and bowling alleys (always my preferred lady-wowing venue), combined with a lack of eligible singles 18-24 make Kansas City the city least likely to help you get your freak on.
  • The people of Las Vegas, NV have the highest rate of resistance to antibiotics. And if you need more information to explain that one, it's time you left Kansas City.
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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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