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Sneak Peek #2: Animals at War

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The countdown continues! The new Jan/Feb issue is just a few days from hitting newsstands, and we're eager to give you a glimpse of some more content. This issue, we've got a spread on animal heroes who served in war. There's a dog that earned a Purple Heart, a pigeon that won the animal version of the Victoria Cross, and then, there's this incredible bear. I'll let the author take it from here:

Bearing a Heavy Load

Screen shot 2009-11-17 at 6.06.38 PMDuring World War II, the Polish army was stationed in Iran. On a lark, a group of soldiers gave the locals some canned food in exchange for a baby bear. They named the cub Wotjek-- or Smiling Warrior-- and fed him condensed milk from an empty vodka bottle. Later he developed a taste for marmalade, beer and even cigarettes. "He was like a big dog," said Polish veteran Augustyn Karolewski. "No one was scared of him."


Well, almost no one. One day, Wotjek spotted an open door in the barracks, and upon wandering in to investigate, he found an Arab spy. The intruder simply cowered in the corner until Wotjek's keepers came back. In the presence of soldiers and a bear, the spy was quick to confess and Wotjek earned two beers and extra playtime for his work. Soon after, the men accepted Wotjek as one of their own and registered him as a soldier in the 22 Artillery Supply Company. Over the next few months, Wotjek proved himself equally valuable on the battle front. He carried shells for cannon operators during the brutal Battle of Monte Cassino "“ and reportedly never dropped a crate. After the war, Wotjek retired to the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland.

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For more incredible stories of animals in war time, be sure to pick up the new magazine. Better yet, pair the subscription with a brand new mental_floss T-shirt and save yourself some money! Click here for details.

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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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