CLOSE
Original image

"Monkeys, Rats, and Me" on the BBC

Original image

Once again, I find myself wishing I lived in Britain, if only so I could watch BBC2 -- NDNL alerts us to a fascinating new documentary made for the channel:

Central to the programme was the new biomedical research lab at Oxford University and the protesters who oppose it"¦ and those who are in favour.

Enter Laurie Pycroft, a sixteen year old geek who started Pro-Test, an action group campaigning in favour of animal testing. And boy, is he quite the character. Whereas the protesters, grouped in SPEAK, were led by a jittery figure who couldn't help get arrested at every rally, Pro-Test is entirely carried by winsome teen genius Pycroft. The boy is a school dropout, he is educating himself and is a member of the National Academy of Gifted and Talented Youth. On the Pro-Test website he describes himself as a polymath. ...

I have to admit, I rather wanted to take the side of the wizz kid and his erudite gang of brainiacs, instead of the agitated bunch of raggle-taggle protesters. Pro-Test has a point "“ a reasonable point. But seeing the miserable lives of the lab rats and the monkeys had me doubting again.

Then it was over to doctor Tipu Aziz and Sean Gardiner, a boy with Parkinson's who had hugely benefited from recent brain surgery that was directly based on animal research "“ and I swung the other way. Again.

No matter which side you're on, you've got to admit it sounds like a good program. For those many of us who don't get BBC2, there's an article by the filmmaker here.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
Original image
iStock

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.

Original image
iStock
arrow
science
Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
Original image
iStock

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.

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios