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April Fool's Day and William McKinley

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Did you know that April Fool's Day was widely popularized in this country by an unlikely source "“ President William McKinley? On April 1, 1897, McKinley convinced his staff that he was serious about nominating bitter rival William Jennings Bryan to the Supreme Court. The story appeared in several newspapers the following day, and McKinley had to release a statement saying he was only joking. He signed this statement, "April Fools, Bill McKinley."

OK, that's not true at all.
But April Fool's Day is a free pass to lie and laugh about it, and it's less than a week away.  The Museum of Hoaxes put together the definitive list of April Fool's Day pranks. Here are a few:

#4. On April 1, 1996, Taco Bell ran this ad in The New York Times:

"In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country's most historic treasures. It will now be called the 'Taco Liberty Bell and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country's debt."

#6. On April 1, 1992, NPR's Talk of the Nation with John Hockenberry played clips of Richard Nixon once again declaring his candidacy for President. His new slogan: "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again." I have a hard time believing people really bought into this, but the Museum of Hoaxes says angry callers expressed their rage until Hockenberry revealed Rich Little was doing his famous Nixon impression.

#10. On April 1, 1976, British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur. Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth's own gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 AM arrived, BBC2 began to receive hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even reported that she and her eleven friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room.

wisconsin.jpg #16. On April 1, 1933, in an effort to raise Depression Era spirits, The Madison-Capital Times announced that the Wisconsin state capitol building had been destroyed by a series of mysterious explosions. The explosions were attributed to "large quantities of gas, generated through many weeks of verbose debate in the Senate and Assembly chambers." Accompanying the article was this picture.

See the rest of the Top 100 here.

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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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