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mental_floss College Weekend

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So, Jason and Mangesh turned mental_floss over to me for the weekend. Yikes. I'm not sure what they were thinking. Don't worry, guys, I'll have 'er back safe and sound Sunday night"¦ mostly. I mean, a few bumps and bruises isn't really a big deal, right?

Nah, the floss is in good hands, and I don't mean mine. We have some great stories lined up for you from college students across the country (although international submissions are definitely encouraged). Here's a little sneak preview of what you can expect to find over the next couple of days:
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"¢ If you've ever wondered if there is a real Necronomicon and where it might be located, you'll want to check out Marissa Minna Lee's story about urban spelunking. She doesn't exactly answer that question, but she does present a pretty interesting theory about it. Plus, she shows us how to turn an entire building into R2D2 and offers up some rather interesting pictures of the steam tunnels at UCLA (which she may or may not have taken herself"¦ shhh).

"¢ You might be surprised to know that more than 60 percent of students participated in marching band during their high school days. OK, I totally made that statistic up. But if you were a band geek (I was), you're in good company. Steven Clontz from Auburn exposes four celebrities who were band geeks before they became famous for other reasons. What, there's no glory in being first chair clarinet?

"¢ As a student, Katie Kelly gets to gaze out at Princeton's scenic Lake Carnegie every day, donated by Andrew Carnegie in 1906. While Princeton apparently preferred donations of the monetary sort, a lake is by far not the strangest thing to be donated to a school. Katie fills us in on donations ranging from a second floor men's bathroom to circus animal corpses.

"¢ If you thought sitting through the Lord of the Rings trilogy or all of the Star Wars movies back-to-back (to back-to-back-to-back-to-back) makes for a long session on your couch, wait 'til you see what Andy Luttrell from Eastern Illinois University has found. These movies make 11 hours of Elijah Wood and Sean Astin look like child's play.

"¢ Unless you've been living in a hole since 1981, you undoubtedly are familiar with Mario. But where did Mario come from? For that matter, where did Donkey Kong come from? And why is a gorilla named "Donkey"? Nick Cannon from Elon University answers all of your burning questions.

"¢ Admittedly I am not a science buff by any means, but I had no idea that hypothermia can be a good thing in some instances. Colgate student Cassandra Galante explains why that is and makes sense out of three other scientific breakthroughs that are going on right under our noses.

"¢ There's something inherently creepy, intriguing and mysterious about entire populations of people that disappear without a trace"¦ it probably makes us wonder if that could ever happen to us. Nathan Johnson from the University of Wisconsin Parkside walks us through four civilizations that just completely disappeared "“ be prepared to get goosebumps.

"¢ In addition to being our resident art historian, Andréa Fernandes knows her architecture too. She takes us on a tour of colleges that have distinguishing buildings or other characteristics that make them stand out from the rest. She passed up Iowa State, but I'll forgive her for that one.

"¢ We also have a quiz or two up our sleeves. If you're interested in submitting a story for the next College Weekend, we'll be posting details tomorrow.

See you guys this weekend! Hey, Jason and Mangesh, is anything in the fridge off-limits? And do you guys get cable? Is it cool if I have a few friends over?

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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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