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$50 Challenge Winner!

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On January 25, we announced a $50 challenge. We made up a 10-question challenge based on information in the January/Febuary 2009 issue of mental_floss magazine; the goal was to be the first reader to submit the correct (as found in the magazine) answers for all 10 questions.

The Winner

"Ben Linus" got all 10 correct answers to us at 1:43 p.m., a mere 13 minutes after the challenge was posted! Congratulations! (We'll be in touch via e-mail about your prize.)

Check out the winning answers, and some inventive guesses, after the jump.

The Answers

1. The death of what actor caused "worldwide hysteria" and "several suicides," as well as attracting a line of mourners that stretched for 11 blocks?
A. Rudolph Valentino (page 70)
Inventive guess: Heath Ledger

2. "Girls don't dream about the circus"¦ they dream dirty dreams," according to what choreographer?
A. Agness de Mille (page 27)

3. Of the many animal-inspired dances, which one was so scandalous it landed an "unfortunate young lady in New Jersey" a jail term?
A. The Turkey Trot (page 19)

4. "Welcome to the Jungle" roared over the loudspeakers to blast what dictator out of hiding?
A. Manuel Noriega (page 15)

5. In the treaty between Cuba and America enabling American military use of Guantanamo Bay, what little detail in the fine print prevents Cuba from evicting us?
A. The agreement can only be terminated through mutual consent from both countries (page 46)

6. Hails of arrows have prevented documentary crews, governments, fishermen, and rescue crews from getting anywhere near what unexplored territory?
A. North Sentinel Island, in the Bay of Bengal, which is technically part of India (page 42)

7. According to Andy Davis, mental_floss has come pretty far since its beginnings at Duke. Just how far, geographically speaking, has it gone?
A. Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan, which one entrant pointed out is approximately 7100 miles (page 9)
Popular guesses: 544 miles (the distance from Duke to the m_f address in Novelty, OH); 529 miles (the distance from Duke to the m_f address in Birmingham, AL)
Inventive guesses: 400 miles; 886 miles (the distance from Duke to Mount Morris, IL); 399 miles ("as the crow flies" from Duke to the OH m_ office)

8. What previous economic crisis was referred to as the "Great Epizootic"?
A. The panic of 1873 / equine influenza (page 36)

9. Which sport was designed for "businessmen who found the new game of basketball too vigorous"?
A. Volleyball (page 70)

10. Five years after a study by RAND into the effectiveness of free health care, what percentage of medical plans had deductibles?
A. More than 90 percent (page 54)
Popular guess: 30 percent

And if you STILL don't have a copy of that issue, you can purchase it here.

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NASA
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Space
NASA Could Send Your Tweet Into Deep Space
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NASA

The inventors of Twitter could never have imagined how their creation would change the world. The social media platform has become the stage upon which some of the most important dramas—and pettiest comedies—of the last few years have played out. And now it'll help beam one lucky person's message into interstellar space, thanks to NASA's #MessageToVoyager contest.

The Voyager 2 and Voyager 1 spacecrafts launched on August 20 and September 5, of 1977. The probes set sail in opposite directions, bound for the outer reaches of space, each bearing a golden record imprinted with messages of peace and welcome from Earth to whomever else the spacecraft might encounter along the way.

The decades since have seen years of astonishing firsts from the two little probes. Voyager 2 has cruised past and sent back images from Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Just five years ago, Voyager 1 became the first craft to enter interstellar space.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the missions, NASA wants to give the people of Earth the opportunity to send a new message. The agency will transmit the single winning tweet into the area of deep space Voyager 1 now occupies.

To participate, compose a message of up to 60 characters. That includes letters, numbers, spaces, and punctuation. Tag your submission with #MessageToVoyager and post it to Twitter by August 15. You can also share it on Instagram, Facebook, Google+, or Tumblr.

Representatives from NASA, JPL, and the Voyager team will narrow down the entries, and then hold a public vote for the winner.

For full contest rules, check out NASA's #MessageToVoyager website.

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Airbnb
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You Could Be One of the First People to See the Upcoming Solar Eclipse With New Airbnb Contest
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Airbnb

Airbnb is going to help two lucky people become some of the first in the nation to see the cross-continental total solar eclipse when it journeys across the U.S. on August 21. As Travel + Leisure reports, the company is holding a contest to send two guests on a deluxe eclipse-viewing mini-vacation in Oregon.

First, the winner and their guest will head to Bend, Oregon on August 20 to stay in a geodesic dome under the stars, looking up at the night sky from the observation deck with multiple telescopes, according to the press release. They’ll hang out and chat about the stars with with astrophysicist Jedidah Isler, who studies black holes, and learn how to shoot great nighttime photos with Babak Tafreshi, a National Geographic photographer.

An interior view of the Airbnb geodesic dome.
Airbnb

The next day, Isler will accompany the winners on a private jet for a two-hour flight over the Pacific Ocean. The plane will fly along the path of totality, potentially extending the amount of time the guests have to view the Moon completely covering the Sun by up to a minute compared to what people will see from the ground.

Even if you don’t win, plenty of people are trekking out to the path of totality, and you can probably find another place to crash. Airbnb estimates that it has around 3800 listed houses along the path of totality. (This one in Oregon is going for $10,000 a night that weekend.) But you might have more trouble finding a private plane to fly you to a viewing spot atop the clouds. The next total solar eclipse won't be visible from the U.S. until 2024, so this is your last chance for a while.

You have until August 10 to send Airbnb your best argument for why you should get to go on a great eclipse adventure.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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