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Is Cash Cab for Real? 7 Contestants Speak!

If you're reading this post, you probably love trivia and game shows as much of the rest of us _flossers. So chances are you've watched at least one episode of Cash Cab on Discovery Channel, right? And chances are you've wondered whether it was rigged or not.

Well, the short answer is no, it's not rigged. The more complicated answer is: eh, sometimes sorta. Mixed in with my narrative below, you'll find seven first-person accounts I scooped off the Web to give you a clear understanding of how the show, er, rolls.

First of all, the cab is a real, licensed cab. While host Ben Bailey is actually a comedian, he HAS taken and passed the New York City cabbie exam and is a licensed cab driver. The money he hands out isn't real, but if contestants win, they're sent a real check after the show airs. (This is probably done for tax purposes so the network and the IRS can track the money, legally.) After the contestants agree to be on the show, a production assistant gets in and sits shotgun. He/she helps Ben along the route, though the questions are fed into Ben's earpiece as he drives.

So what about the contestants? Well, basically about ½ of them are pre-screened and about ½ are actually randoms off the street. In fact, if you look closely at the credits at the end, you'll notice the line: "Some contestants have been pre-screened prior to their appearance on the show."

So let's tackle those contestants first. Here are a couple excerpts from first-person accounts -- actual contestants talking about their experiences, most found over on Yelp.

Contestant #1

Basically, I was interviewed in Union Square Park for a show called "Show Me New York," which would feature New Yorkers of all walks of life talking about their favorite spots in the city. Awesome, right??? I wasn't sure why that show required a trivia quiz in the interview (maybe they didn't want anyone stupid on-air?), but I aced it. After 2 weeks of emails with the producers, I got my film date. My friend and I waited for a cab, which we were told would take us to Century 21 downtown, where we were going to film our segment. Except, when the cab pulled up....the obvious happened...

...I'm episode 45 if anyone is interested.

Contestant #2

I, too, was picked up in Union Square to be in this show! Same scenario as [contestant #1] and we had to fill out this ridiculously long survey which obviously meant nothing since it was fake. Alas, we frickin lost one block away from our destination and we didn't even think to use our street shout-out! I'm telling you, it's easy to say 'that's so easy, I could have been on the show", but when you're in that cab and those lights are all over the place and Ben Bailey's staring at you to answer the question, 30 seconds is just NOT enough time! I got a stupid shirt for playing (and losing) and every time I wear it to the gym someone has to comment. They say "hey! you were on the show! did you win??". And I always answer: I'm wearing this shirt. What do you think?" Guess that's the closest I'll get to being a celebrity - I'll take it! :-)

Contestant #3

My husband and I were recruited for a "smart" tourism show to talk about our favorite places in New York. They told us to get in a cab and meet them at the destination. Lights came on and you know the rest. Unfortunately, my husband and I disagreed on an answer. I deferred to him because I thought he was an expert on the subject, and my answer came from a dirty joke. Turns out I was right and he wasn't and out on the curb we went.

My street shout-out? We happened to pick someone who started cursing out the crew like a crack addict. Ben Bailey said that had never happened before. I don't know if this ever aired.

Contestant #4

I was on the show and although we had fun it is a scam! I met a rep after responding for an on-camera role for a "travel show" and after passing a current events oral exam (20 questions) I was told that I was what they were seeking. I was then informed that I was going to receive a call that would direct me to a location where I would be expected to speak about. At that point I knew something wasn't on the up and up but I figured what the hell...nothing ventured - nothing gained. Then they threw me an even weirder curveball, I was asked to bring one to two additional people along. When I inquired why - especially after they wanted to know my depth of topical news etc., they said that more people helped the shot. Being a NYC radio talk show host and on-camera host I was getting more leary {sic} about going through with a situation that got more bizarre by the day but I did. My plan was to simply tell them NO THANKS or go scratch depending on how funky the scenario was if I decided to pull the plug. My buddy and his girlfriend accompanied me and we did very well (1 wrong answer and we gambled on the grand prize and lost : (

Yes, I was disenchanted over the misrepresentation but I had some laughs and it made for compelling content...or at least that's what others told me. Buyer...or respondents BEWARE. ;

Contestant #5

So then what about the randoms who aren't pre-screened? There are many people out there talking about how they were picked up by the Cash Can, but the best example I could find was from a redditor, who had a lot to say, answering questions from other redditors. You can read the whole thread here, but below are some excerpts:

Yes, I couldn't tell it was the Cash Cab, but there was a 10 minute period after he hit the lights where they stopped, a PA came and talked to me, told me the rules, I signed a waiver, and continued, but that's entirely cut out. I had the chance to opt out, but I don't know if they would've still driven me. My guess is no.

Contestant #6

This person was very excited to be on.

Cash Cab is REAL!!! I was on it yesterday!!! I can't say if i won or lost, but BEN ROCKS!!!

Contestant #7

Another blogger raves...

My friend Kristian and I found ourselves stepping into quite a surprise today. I won't give away the details, since I want the show to remain successful, but hot sh*t was it a fun time!

And we won! We really did. There were a few close calls, of course. In fact, we got the first fucking question wrong! I was not pleased. But, in the end, we walked away with quite the pocket full of pennies. We even won the video challenge / double-or-nothing question at the end and doubled our score! I don't know when our episode will air, but rest assured, America's favorite bald spot will be seen on the Discovery Channel before too long. We couldn't have done it without the help of my friend Brian aka Taco Bull. He was our "lifeline" and he answered a question correctly for us!

Anyone have any experience with the show? Feel free to tell us about it below!

If you liked this post and want to keep up with all my writing, be sure to follow me on Twitter: @resila. And be sure to follow @mental_floss too for the latest on all our great content and amazing facts, 140-characters at a time.

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Cell Free Technology
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This Pixel Kit Will Let You Play Tetris With Jellyfish DNA
Cell Free Technology
Cell Free Technology

Forget playing Tetris on your phone. Now you can play it with jellyfish DNA. Bixels is a DIY game kit that lets you code your own games using synthetic biology, lighting up a digital display with the help of DNA.

Its 8-by-8 pixel grid is programmed to turn on with the help of the same protein that makes jellyfish glow, called green fluorescent protein (GFP). But you can program it to do more than just passively shine. You can use your phone and the associated app to excite Bixels' fluorescent proteins and make them glow at different frequencies, producing red, blue, and green colors. Essentially, you can program it like you would any computer, but instead of electronics powering the system, it's DNA.

Two blue boxes hold Bixel pixel grids.

Researchers use green fluorescent protein all the time in lab experiments as an imaging agent to illuminate biological processes for study. With Bixels, all you need is a little programming to turn the colorful lights (tubes filled with GFP) into custom images or interactive games like Tetris or Snake. You can also use it to develop your own scientific experiments. (For experiment ideas, Bixels' creator, the Irish company Cell-Free Technology, suggests the curricula from BioBuilder.)

A screenshot shows a user assembling a Bixel kit on video.

A pixel kit is housed in a cardboard box that looks like a Game Boy.

Bixels is designed to be used by people with all levels of scientific knowledge, helping make the world of biotechnology more accessible to the public. Eventually, Cell-Free Technology wants to create a bio-computer even more advanced than Bixels. "Our ultimate goal is to build a personal bio-computer which, unlike current wearable devices, truly interacts with our bodies," co-founder Helene Steiner said in a press release.

Bixels - Play tetris with DNA from Cell-Free Technology on Vimeo.

You can buy your own Bixel kit on Kickstarter for roughly $118. It's expected to ship in May 2018.

All images courtesy Cell-Free Technology

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Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images
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science
Play a Game to Help Scientists Defeat a Cancer-Causing Toxin
Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images
Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images

If you're used to fighting virtual zombies or flying spaceships on your computer, a new series of games available on Foldit may sound a little unconventional. The object of the Aflatoxin Challenge is to rearrange protein structures and create new enzymes. But its impact on the real world could make it the most important game you've ever played: The scientists behind it hope it will lead to a new way to fight one of the most ruthless causes of liver cancer.

As Fast Company reports, the citizen science project is a collaboration between Mars, Inc. and U.C. Davis, the University of Washington, the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. The team's online puzzles, which debuted on Foldit earlier this month, invite the public to create a new enzyme capable of finding and destroying carcinogens known as aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins form when certain fungi grow on crops like corn, nuts, and grains. Developing countries often don't have the resources to detect it in food, leaving around 4.5 billion people vulnerable to it. When people do eat food with high aflatoxin levels unknowingly, they can contract liver cancer. Roughly a quarter of all liver cancer cases around the world can be traced back to aflatoxin exposure.

The toxin's connection to agriculture is why the food giant Mars is so interested in fighting it. By working on a way to stop aflatoxins on a molecular level, the company could prevent its spread more efficiently than they would with less direct methods like planting drought-resistant crops or removing mold by hand.

The easiest way for scientists to eradicate an aflatoxin before it causes real harm is by making an enzyme that does the work for them. With the Aflatoxin Challenge, the hope is that by manipulating protein structures, online players will come up with an enzyme that attacks aflatoxins at a susceptible portion of their molecular structure called a lactone ring. Destroying the lactone ring makes aflatoxin much less toxic and essentially safe to eat.

The University of Washington launched Foldit in 2008. Since then, the online puzzle platform has been used to study a wide range of diseases including AIDS and Chikungunya. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the Foldit's new aflatoxin project for the next several weeks or so, after which scientists will synthesize genes based on the most impressive results to be used in future studies.

[h/t Fast Company]

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