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Did the Pentagon Really Ban Furbys?

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Furbys were all the rage in the late nineties—1998 alone saw the sale of a whopping 27 million units—and remain popular to this day. But did you know that they’ve actually been cited as a national security threat?

The key to the dolls’ success lay in their robotic anatomy. Sophisticated programming enabled them to interact with toy owners and each other at an essentially unprecedented degree, which you can see on full display in this retro commercial:

However, one thing these talkative toys couldn’t do, despite rumors to the contrary, was imitate things they’d heard their owners saying. “[Although] Furby is a clever toy,” said a spokesman, “it does not record or mimic voices.”

Apparently, no one bothered to tell the U.S. intelligence community. In 1999, Furbys were officially banned by the NSA, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and the Pentagon. Administrators allegedly worried that an employee might bring one into work wherein it could eavesdrop on a top-secret conversation and “start talking classified.”

Tiger Electronics—a division of the Hasbro toy company—was quick to issue a statement clearing their product’s good name. TE President Roger Shiffman said that the government’s misgivings were based on “funny yet incorrect rumors” and added, “The NSA did not do their homework. Furby is not a spy.

Other wildly-inaccurate anti-Furby allegations Shiffman’s team has had to dispel include several claims that “the current Furby has the technology to launch the space shuttle. We [also] have one woman who is absolutely insistent that her Furby sings Italian operas.” 

Furby was also denounced for supposedly interfering with electronic medical equipment, a myth that was busted by Canadian health scientists in 2000. Dr. Kok-Swang Tan, who helped conduct the research, recalled getting “some strange looks from colleagues who wondered why I was playing with a Furby in front of medical devices.”

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Big Questions
What Is the Difference Between Generic and Name Brand Ibuprofen?
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What is the difference between generic ibuprofen vs. name brands?

Yali Friedman:

I just published a paper that answers this question: Are Generic Drugs Less Safe than their Branded Equivalents?

Here’s the tl;dr version:

Generic drugs are versions of drugs made by companies other than the company which originally developed the drug.

To gain FDA approval, a generic drug must:

  • Contain the same active ingredients as the innovator drug (inactive ingredients may vary)
  • Be identical in strength, dosage form, and route of administration
  • Have the same use indications
  • Be bioequivalent
  • Meet the same batch requirements for identity, strength, purity, and quality
  • Be manufactured under the same strict standards of FDA's good manufacturing practice regulations required for innovator products

I hope you found this answer useful. Feel free to reach out at www.thinkbiotech.com. For more on generic drugs, you can see our resources and whitepapers at Pharmaceutical strategic guidance and whitepapers

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Big Questions
Do Cats Fart?
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Certain philosophical questions can invade even the most disciplined of minds. Do aliens exist? Can a soul ever be measured? Do cats fart?

While the latter may not have weighed heavily on some of history’s great brains, it’s certainly no less deserving of an answer. And in contrast to existential queries, there’s a pretty definitive response: Yes, they do. We just don’t really hear it.

According to veterinarians who have realized their job sometimes involves answering inane questions about animals passing gas, cats have all the biological hardware necessary for a fart: a gastrointestinal system and an anus. When excess air builds up as a result of gulping breaths or gut bacteria, a pungent cloud will be released from their rear ends. Smell a kitten’s butt sometime and you’ll walk away convinced that cats fart.

The discretion, or lack of audible farts, is probably due to the fact that cats don’t gulp their food like dogs do, leading to less air accumulating in their digestive tract.

So, yes, cats do fart. But they do it with the same grace and stealth they use to approach everything else. Think about that the next time you blame the dog.

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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