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Your Official Groundhog Round Up

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In case you haven't already heard, Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring! If you're not sold on Phil's accuracy rate, however, there are plenty of other groundhogs you can consult instead. Here they are, complete with what they declared today:

1. Buckeye Chuck

Tired of waiting on word from across state lines, Ohio managed to find their own forecasting groundhog back in the 1970s. Hailing from Marion, Ohio, Buckeye Chuck is said to be accurate about 75 percent of the time.  His 2016 verdict: Six more weeks of winter.

2. General Beauregard Lee

General Beau is likely the only groundhog with not one, but two honorary doctorates. His degree from the University of Georgia declares that he is a "Doctor of Weather Prognostication", while Georgia State bestowed a "Doctor of Southern Groundology" title upon him. As befitting of any grand Atlantean, General Beau has his very own version of Tara. His 2016 verdict: Early spring.

3. Balzac Billy

Despite the fact the Balzac Billy in Alberta, Canada, is just a dude in a groundhog costume crawling out of a mulch pile (or perhaps because of it), "The Prairie Prognosticator" boasts about an 80 percent accuracy rate. His 2016 verdict: Early spring.

4. Staten Island Chuck

This little guy, whose formal name is Charles G. Hogg, is notorious for nipping Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the 2009 prediction ceremony at the Staten Island Zoo. His 2016 verdict: Early spring.

5. Wiarton Willie

Willie, an albino groundhog, has been predicting the weather since the 1950s—even though he was nothing but a fur hat back then. The story goes something like this: In 1957, a fellow named Mac McKenzie used Groundhog Day as an excuse to throw a boozy bash for his friends. Reporter Frank Teskey somehow got wind of the affair and misinterpreted that there was a big Groundhog Day festival in Wiarton, Ontario. When he arrived and discovered that the gathering was just a few guys drinking with no groundhog in sight, Teskey complained that he was going to be in trouble for having no story. In response, McKenzie grabbed a white fur hat from a female party-goer, half-buried it in the snow outside, and declared that Wiarton was home to a rare albino groundhog. The legend has grown, and now thousands of people show up yearly to celebrate Wiarton Willie, who has been upgraded from a fur hat to a real, live groundhog. His 2016 verdict: Six more weeks of winter.

6. Shubenacadie Sam

Thanks to Nova Scotia's time zone, Shubenacadie Sam at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park is the first to make a prediction for North America every year. His 2016 verdict: Early spring.

7. Queen Charlotte

Queen Charlotte the groundhog made her public debut in Charlotte, North Carolina, this year. Though she predicted six more weeks of winter last year, she did so in a private ceremony—at the time, the Queen was new to the limelight and wasn't ready to perform in front of a crowd of onlookers. Her 2016 verdict: Early spring.

8. Jimmy the Groundhog

It seems that Jimmy the Groundhog from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, wasn't too thrilled about coming out of hibernation last year. When Jimmy's handler held him up to Mayor Jon Freund's ear to "whisper" his weather findings, the groundhog gave the mayor a little nip on the ear. Jimmy didn't get the chance to get so up close and personal this year—he had to stay in his cage for the official announcement. His 2016 verdict: Early spring.

9. Chuckles

Chuckles the Groundhog makes her predictions live from the Lutz Children's Museum in Manchester, Connecticut. They're currently on Chuckles VIII, an orphaned groundhog who was sworn in to her position in 2013 using a copy of the Farmer's Almanac. Her 2016 verdict: Early spring.

10. Polk County Paula

Polk County Paula, a groundhog mascot from Des Moines, predicts the weather and distributes free bottles of Miller High Life. It probably helps the "more winter" predictions go down a little easier. Her 2016 verdict: Early spring.

Good news: Early spring has the majority. Happy Groundhog Day!

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12 Things Called ‘French’ In English and Whether They're Actually French
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Happy Bastille Day! To celebrate this French holiday, let’s take a look at some of the things we call "French" in English that may not be French at all.

1. FRENCH TOAST

They don’t eat French toast in France. There, it’s called pain perdu ("lost bread," because it’s what you do with stale bread) or pain doré (golden bread). In the 17th century French toast was a term used for any kind of bread soaked and then griddled: In a 1660 citation, it refers to bread soaked in wine with sugar and orange and then cooked.

2. FRENCH VANILLA

Vanilla is a bean from a tropical plant not grown in France, so what’s so French about French vanilla? French vanilla was originally not a term for a type of vanilla, but a type of vanilla ice cream, one made using a French technique with an eggy, custard base. It’s since detached from ice cream and become a flavor with a certain rich profile.

3. FRENCH DRESSING

Originally the phrase French dressing referred to the type of dressing people might actually eat in France: oil, vinegar, herbs, maybe a little mustard. But somehow during the early 20th century it came to be the name for a pinkish-red, ketchup-added version that’s totally American.

4. FRENCH PRESS

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In France, the French press coffeemaker, a pot for steeping coffee grounds with a plunger for filtering them out, is called a cafetière à piston or just a bodum after the most common brand. It may have been invented in France, but the first patent for one was taken out by an Italian in 1929. The style of coffee became popular in France in the 1950s, and was later referred to by American journalists as "French-press style coffee."

5. FRENCH KISS

The term French kiss, for kissing with tongue, came into English during World War I when soldiers brought the phrase—and perhaps the kissing style—back from the war with them. French had long been used as a common adjective for various naughty, sexually explicit things like French letters (condoms), French postcards (naked pictures), and French pox (VD). In French, to kiss with the tongue is rouler un patin, “roll a skate” (having to do with gliding?), but in Québec they do say frencher.

6. FRENCH HORN

In French, a French horn is a cor d’harmonie or just cor, a name given to the looping, tubed hunting horns that were made in France in the 17th century. French became to the way to distinguish it from other horn types, like the German or Viennese horn, which had different types of tubes and valves.

7. FRENCH FRIES

The phrase French fries evolved in North America at the end of the 19th century out of the longer “French fried potatoes.” The dish is said to be more properly Belgian than French, but it was introduced to America by Thomas Jefferson after he brought a recipe back from France. In French they are simply pommes frites, fried potatoes.

8. FRENCH MANICURE

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The French manicure, a pinkish, nude nail with a bright, whitened tip, was apparently invented in Hollywood in the 1970s. It began to be called a French manicure after the look made it to fashion runways. The style isn’t as popular in France, but women there do tend toward a groomed look with a natural color. In France, the term has been borrowed in from English: It's called la French manucure.

9. FRENCH BRAID

The term French braid (or French plait in British English) has been around since the 1870s, but the braid style itself, where hair is gathered gradually from the sides of the head over the course of braiding, has been around for thousands of years, according to archeological artifacts. It may have become associated with France simply for being seen as high fashion and French being equated with stylishness. In French, they also call this specific style of braid a French braid, or tresse française.

10. FRENCH TWIST

The vertically rolled and tucked French twist hairdo also came to be in the 19th century, and was also associated with French high fashion. In French it is called a chignon banane for its long, vertical shape.

11. FRENCH MAID

Housemaids in 19th-century France did wear black and white uniforms—though they were not quite as skimpy as the French maid costumes you see today. The French maid became a trope comic character in theater and opera, and the costume, along with other titillating characteristics, came to define what we now think of as the classic French maid.

12. FRENCH BREAD

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These days French bread has come to stand for any white bread with a vaguely baguette-like shape, whether or not it has a traditional, crusty exterior. It has been used as a term in English as far back as the 15th century to distinguish it from other, coarser types of bread.

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The Chemistry of Fireworks and Sparklers
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Independence Day is upon us, and that means grilling, s’mores, and plenty of good old-fashioned explosions. In other words: lots and lots of chemistry. For a breakdown of exactly how our favorite pyrotechnics work, check out the videos below from the American Chemical Society.

As a professor emeritus at Washington College, John Conkling may have one of the coolest jobs ever: experimenting with explosive chemicals and teaching his students to do the same. As Conkling explains in the video above, every explosion in a fireworks display is the result of two separate chemical reactions: one to launch the device into the air, and another that produces all those ooh- and ahh-inspiring sparkles.

The sparkles themselves are tiny flecks of metal, burning up in midair. Getting them to explode is easy, Conkling says. But getting them to explode blue? That’s a science

While sparklers may look like miniature, handheld fireworks, the mechanics are quite different. They do rely on fuel and oxidation like fireworks, but rather than just going off in midair, those reactions have to occur safely on a metal stick. Sparklers’ reactive chemicals are mixed with a binder that keeps the fire in place and slows it down, so you can enjoy your tiny explosions for just a little longer.

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