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How Do "Skinny" Mirrors Work?

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Done right, a retail dressing room can be a real ego boost. The lighting is soft and lovely, the atmosphere can be relaxing (think Anthropologie), and the floor-length mirrors are flattering.

In fact, maybe they're a little too flattering. Suspicious shoppers have long wondered if retailers employ “skinny mirror” tricks to increase their sales. After all, how many times have you put a newly purchased piece of clothing on at home and been less than impressed? Making such a mirror wouldn’t be too difficult. As physics professor Dr. Ken Mellendorf explained to Apartment Therapy, all it takes is a slight curve in the glass.

"A completely flat mirror will show an image behind it of exactly the same shape and size as the actual object. Slight curvature along only one axis can make a person look fat or skinny. To make you look thin, your image needs to be compressed horizontally or extended vertically. Most mirrors bend over time top to bottom. If seen from the side, there is a slight curvature in the edge. The top and bottom edges are usually straight. Your home mirror can do this due to its own weight. If the center bulges out a little bit, your height will appear slightly smaller but your width will not be changed."

Yes, even non-retail store mirrors can be deceiving. Thin mirrors are more likely to bend and distort over time, while thicker mirrors—especially those supported by a frame or mounted on a wall—will present a more accurate image.

But back to the dressing room: Though the existence of “skinny mirrors” has been pure speculation in the past, there’s now evidence that such sorcery is real. In 2015, entrepreneur Belinda Jasmine appeared on Shark Tank to pitch The Skinny Mirror, a line of mirrors designed to make reflections appear to be up to 10 pounds lighter than the person really is. None of the Sharks bit on the deal, but Jasmine continued with the business and has apparently been in talks with at least one popular apparel chain. There’s certainly good reason for that anonymous chain to investigate: According to The Skinny Mirror website, stores that use the modified mirrors experience up to 18.2 percent more sales per customer.

Though many customers see the mirrors as consumer deception, The Skinny Mirror website argues that the product helps create positive self image and better self esteem, leading users to feel more confident and satisfied with themselves.

When it comes down to it, are skinny mirrors helpful or harmful? We’ll leave you to reflect on that.

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Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
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WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

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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Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane
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What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

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

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