Google Questions

  • What's the Origin of "Nor'easter"?

    by Bradley Craig

    In a break from tradition (or perhaps it’s merely the start of a new one) the Weather Channel has given names to the major winter storms from the 2012-2013 season. Time will tell if this has been a particularly snowy winter, but as of the end of February sixteen of the twenty-three proposed storm names have already been used. None were more severe this year than Winter Storm Nemo, which socked the Northeast at the beginning of February, causing power outages throughout the Northeast and killing fourteen people.Nemo was far from the worst of the so-called “nor’easters” which regularly impact New England. Documented since at least the early nineteenth century, nor'easters regularly devastate the eastern coasts of Canada the United States.  Nor'easters typically occur between the months of September and April (so there’s time still yet for another round – in 2007, a powerful nor’easter hit the East Coast in mid-April), and these storms usually cover an area of hundreds of miles or more.  Heavy rain, snow, and winds tend to hit the New England region heaviest, causing flooding, property damage, and coastal erosion. 

  • Which Other Popes Have Resigned?

    by David Austin Walsh

    UPDATE, 2-28-13: As of 2:28 pm today, Pope Benedict XVI has stepped down from the papacy.* * * * *In an unexpected announcement today, Pope Benedict XVI stated he is resigning from the papacy as of February 28. Benedict's abdication, reportedly due to ill health, apparently took even the pope's closest advisors by surprise. Indeed, a pope hasn't stepped down from the papacy in over six hundred years, and the few instances when popes have resigned have been for reasons either more political -- or more corrupt -- than health.A look back at the confirmed instances of papal abdication:

  • Who Killed Emmett Till?

    by Bradley Craig

    Emmett Till was one of the 3,446 black men lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968, but his story is not just one more statistic. How the death of a boy from Chicago galvanized the civil rights movement and changed the world.

  • What Killed the Talking Filibuster?

    by Kris Wood

    How 'bout it, Senator Payne? Where'd it go?On August 29, 1957, Senator Strom Thurmond sat in a steam bath, preparing himself for what he knew would be a long evening. Normally an undertaking reserved for post-physical activity, Senator Thurmond’s time in the sweat box was in preparation for an oratory workout that would come later in the evening. While most people make use of steam baths for relaxation, Thurmond had other plans in mind. The senator intended to flush any excess liquids out of his body, forestalling the need to use the washroom, for what would end up being the longest solo filibuster in the history of the U.S. Senate, a filibuster that lasted for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

  • Is "Argo" a True Story?

    by Lee P. Ruddin

    Ben Affleck is receiving well-earned praise for directing (if less so for acting in) the movie Argo. Set in an authentically recreated 1979, Chris Terrio’s script (heavily based upon Joshuah Bearman’s 2007 Wired article) tells the dramatic, declassified true story of how Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “exfiltrator” Tony Mendez (Affleck) extracted six fugitive American consular employees out of Shah-toppled, revolutionary Iran.Hollywood critics are currently falling over themselves to congratulate Affleck on his third feature as director and some (The Hollywood Reporter, Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times, to name but three) have even gone as far as to suggest the Academy Award-winner (awarded for Best Screenplay and shared with Matt Damon, co-writer of Good Will Hunting) make room on his mantelpiece for another gong. The praise comes from far and wide, and a reviewer from the Czech Republic (writing in The Prague Post) articulates the case for actor-director Affleck as good as any other and highlights that

  • How Was History Made in the 2012 Election?

    by Mariana Villa

    As 2012 draws rapidly to a close and with eyes of political observers already turning to 2014 and 2016, it’s important to note the history that was made in this past year’s elections.So what historical firsts were made in 2012?Well, for starters, obviously Barack Obama was re-elected as president. That makes him the first African American to ever be re-elected president, the first Democratic president to be re-elected since Bill Clinton in 1996, and is part of the longest stretch of unbroken two-term presidents since Jefferson-Madison-Monroe (and, unlike the three Virginians, the past three two-term presidents have been from different political parties).Mitt Romney, too, made history. Formally nominated at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida at the end of August, he was the first Mormon to be a major party presidential nominee. Had he won the election, he would have been the first Mormon to hold the nation’s highest office.

  • How Many Women Have Served in Congress?

    by Mariana Villa

    Montana representative Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress. Credit: Wiki Commons.Short answer: 277.Currently there are ninety women in Congress. Seventy-three are serving in the House of Representatives and seventeen are in the Senate.Some simple math -- dividing 90 by 277, multiplying the result by 100, and rounding to the nearest tenth -- equals 32.5. This means that out of all the women that have ever been elected to Congress, 32.5 percent, or approximately one-third, are in office today.Which leads to the question, how exactly did women make it to Congress?1848 is perhaps a good year to start. It was the year when a group of women met at Seneca Falls, New York to participate in a two-day assembly organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. This notable gathering marked, in many ways, the beginning of a 72-year struggle to grant women the right to vote.Victory, however, came before ratification of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920. Her name was Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to be elected to Congress.

  • Who Made Velcro?

    In 1941, a Swiss engineer named George de Mestral returned from a hunting trip with burs clinging to his pants and tangled in his dog’s coat. When de Mestral examined the seedpods under a microscope, he marveled at how they bristled with hooks ingeniously shaped to grasp at animal fur. “Most people stop at the ‘Oh, that’s cool, that’s what nature does,’ ” says Janine Benyus, a pioneer in the field of biomimicry, the science of studying natural models — anthills and lizard feet, say — to solve human problems. “He probably had to go back a lot of times,” she adds, “and really look” at those hooks. A bur, of course, can clamp onto wool socks with surprising force, and — even more amazing — once you pry it off, it can stick again and again, like glue that never wears out. But how to imitate this trick with human-made stuff? Eventually de Mestral learned to mold nylon into a fabric studded with tiny hooks or loops that acted like artificial burs.When Velcro first arrived in America, it caused a sensation. In 1958, a syndicated financial columnist named Sylvia Porter announced that “a new fastening device” had so bewitched her that she spent days playing with it. “It’s on my desk as I type this,” she wrote.

  • Did Lincoln Own Slaves?

    by Mariana Villa

    No, of course not. What kind of stupid notion is that? But it's one that pops up a lot in Internet searches.Civil War historian Gerald J. Prokopowicz, addresses this and many other questions regarding Lincoln in his aptly titled book, Did Lincoln Own Slaves? And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln with “No, but people keep asking.”According to Prokopowicz, Lincoln’s views on slavery were consistent. In April of 1864, almost exactly a year before his assassination, Lincoln wrote, “I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.”And yet, where do these misguided presumptions derive from?One way to approach this question is by examining the plethora of neo-Confederate and revisionist views that have infiltrated and successfully corrupted the American mind.