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March 6th, 2008

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A new study shows it's not always best to keep your options open. But people want to anyway, because it's painful to lose one.
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7 Insane Conspiracies That Actually Happened. If these plots were from the movies instead of history, you'd say they weren't believable.
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How To Stop a 500-Foot Monster. A two-part post advising the military on ways to defeat Godzilla and his cohorts.
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In the game 10 Gnomes, you've got ten minutes to find ten gnomes hidden in a panoramic photograph. Click an area to zoom in, and click near the bottom of the picture to zoom out.
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Deliberate flooding in the Grand Canyon. After damming up the Colorado River, we have to artificially recreate natural floods to keep the ecosystem the way nature intended it.
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Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories has working circuit boards for their new business cards. See how they made it, what it can do, and how you can design one yourself!
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Does your computer or entertainment system look like a chaotic spaghetti factory? Then read the Top 10 Ways to Get Cables Under Control.
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Math explains the "beer goggles" effect. Of course, if you've had a few beers, math becomes more difficult.

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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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