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Radioactive sandwiches and the laws of physics

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As a science writer, I occasionally get random unsolicited pitches, announcements, and deep thoughts from scientists and science buffs. Most of the time they're either irrelevant or slightly touched by insanity, but I do try to read them. So this email, which just appeared in my inbox, seemed to be one of those at first:

Physics is often said to be the "fundamental science" (chemistry is sometimes included), because each of the other sciences (biology, chemistry, geology, material science, engineering, medicine etc.) deals with particular types of material systems that obey the laws of physics. For example, chemistry is the science of matter (such as atoms) and the chemical substances that they form in the bulk. ...
So far, so good.

... When another inexorably radioactive sandwich is hardly proverbial, a ridiculously gentle warranty barely takes a peek at another salad dressing around the chess board. ...
Now, physicists are a weird bunch; I don't always understand what they're talking about, so maybe the salad dressing playing chess is some kind of metaphor for string theory that I'm not getting? And Radioactive Sandwich is in fact a band.

... Discoveries in physics find applications throughout the other natural sciences as they regard the basic constituents of the Universe. ...
So true, so true.

... Any earring can take a peek at a muddy wedding dress, but it takes a real inferiority complex to laugh and drink all night with a hockey player around a short order cook.

I give up. Freakin' spammers.

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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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