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The MacGyver Fact Check

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One of our favorite things in the latest issue of mental_floss is Chris Higgins' wonderful MacGyver Fact Check. We had him analyze a whole bunch of episodes and determine just how plausible the escapes were. Here's just one of the stories that surprised us.

JUMPING OUT OF A PLANE (IN A CAR!)

EPISODE: "The Heist," Season 1, Episode 5

Sticky Situation: A diamond-mogul villain has captured Mac and his most recent love interest in the cargo hold of an airplane. The villain cackles, "Take it up to 30,000 feet. The lack of oxygen will kill 'em!"

macgMacGyverism: Conveniently, the cargo hold also contains a sports car and a comically oversized parachute. Mac attaches the parachute to the roadster (with its top down, of course), and then drives the car out of the airplane. The parachute releases just when oxygen levels are high enough to breathe. While gently floating to the ground, Mac makes out with his girlfriend and the credits roll.

Plausibility Meter: Surprisingly high!

First of all, the bad guy knows his science. At 30,000 feet, humans aren't getting enough oxygen and can suffer from hypoxia, a medical condition that can have fatal results. Climbers trying to reach the top of Mt. Everest (summit: 29,029 feet) often succumb to hypoxia, and that's after they've had days to acclimatize. As for the parachuting with the car, let's run the numbers: A sports car plus two passengers will add up to about 1.4 tons, and a large cargo parachute can easily handle two tons if dropped from that height. MacGyver and his lady friend can even put on a few pounds and still make the thing work.

Best For: Lovers

0805If you're interested in seeing what other surprises the issue has (both about and not about MacGyver) be sure to pick up a subscription here. You'll make our mothers very happy.

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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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