In the beginning, we needed help naming the book

We're working on a book about the origins of, oh, just about everything, and we need your help. Specifically, we don't know what to call it. And since you've proven so handy with naming Element 118 (we only need eight more signatures before we can send our petition to the lab!), we thought you'd be able to come up with a snappy title for this, too. Want some examples of the kind of stuff you'll find inside?

  • There probably wasn't any turkey served at the first Thanksgiving -- although the Pilgrims and Wampanoag did polish off a lot of lobster and five whole deer.
  • Sudoku isn't Japanese. Originally called "Latin Squares," it's actually Swiss.
  • The full Brazilian bikini wax started life as a Muslim wedding tradition.
  • The disco ball predates disco. (Look closely at the nightclub scenes in the 1927 silent film Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt, and you'll spot a mirrored orb hanging from the ceiling.)
  • Bubble wrap was born out of an ill-fated attempt to make plastic wallpaper.
  • The inventor of the bra was not Otto Titzling -- she was far more scandalous than that.

And there are 300 more pages where that came from. So, your turn -- what do we call them? "In the Beginning?" "Origins?" Please, please, vote on these two options in the comments -- and there's a big fat thank-you in the acknowledgements of the book for the person who comes up with something better.

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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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