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December 28th, 2007

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Top 10 Women in Science developments of 2007. Too recently it would have been difficult to come up with ten developments at all!
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If you didn't like what you got for Christmas, don't wait too long to return it! Here are return policies for 15 major retailers.
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Different ways to pack the holiday decorations, so they'll be easier to use next year. A little bit of time now will save you a ton of aggravation next Thanksgiving weekend.
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10 Signs of Intelligent Life at YouTube. They've done some serious homework to put this list together.
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A new book claims to have definitive evidence that Alexander Graham Bell stole the idea for the telephone. Did Bell take his technology from rival Elisha Gray's patent application?
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What happens when you race a full-sized remote control car with the normal toy-sized r/c vehicle? Top Gear ran the test, but treachery can trump skill.
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Too weird to die. Four of the strangest creatures on the planet.

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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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