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French EVERYTHING

What is the deal with all these things being called "French"? Are they really from France, or are they named after something else (like German Chocolate Cake being named after the inventor)?

I know this is a weird thing to think about, but I'm curious, so let's find out!

French Braid
This hairstyle has been depicted in art from ancient civilizations such as Greek and Celtic, as well as being drawn in rock paintings from over 6,000 years ago. It is therefore safe to say this hairstyle is not from France. In fact, in France it is called the "African Braid".
Not French.

French Bread
Also known as baguettes, French Bread has been associated with France for centuries. Long, thin loaves of bread were made around the time that King Louis XIV reigned. They tend to be about 6 inches in diameter and can range from 24 to 39 inches long.
+1 French.

A cute French Bulldog from Wiki Commons

A cute French Bulldog from Wiki Commons

French Bulldog
Bulldogs are direct descendants from dogs of an ancient Greek group, the Molossians. They were bred to bait bulls until it was outlawed in 1835, at which point they shifted from a sporting dog to a companion dog, where they became very popular in France. French Bulldogs were then made by crossing early English bulldogs and terriers to try and make them smaller.
+1 French.

French Dressing
An American product created in the 1950's using paprika and tomatoes to get its classic red color. It is an oil and vinegar based salad dressing.
Not French.

French Fries
France and Belgium both claim to be the inventor of French Fries although it is unclear whom is correct. One clue is that in the late 1700's people referred to things being deep-fried, such as onion rings, as being "fried in the French style". There is even a manuscript from Thomas Jefferson where he describes the recipe for French Fries, which he got from a famous French chef at the time. However, Belgium claims to have invented them prior to 1680, pointing to a family manuscript from around the same time that outlines the recipe. They believe that American and British citizens who tasted the fries confused Belgium for France since they do both speak French. Since this is inconclusive, we’ll give it half a point.
+1/2 French.

French Kiss
Kissing has been around for a long, long time and therefore this type of kiss did not originate in France. However, in the 1900's the French were known for being risqué with their sexual practices, so the kiss was named in honor of that, while in France this type of kiss is called a "Lover's Kiss".
Not French.

French Onion Soup
The modern version of this soup does originate from 1800's France, however, the traditional version was Roman; the French just perfected it. We’ll count it since we were thinking of the modern version.
+1 French.

A delicious looking plate of French Toast from Wiki Commons

A delicious looking plate of French Toast from Wiki Commons

French Onion Dip
Also known as California Dip, French Onion Dip is believed to have been created in Los Angeles in the 1950's. The Lipton Company found out about it early on and promoted it around the US using its Lipton onion soup packages.
Not French.

French Toast
The recipe for French Toast goes back to Medieval times in Europe where it is unclear as to where and when it originated. The earliest known reference of this recipe is Latin from around the 4th century.
Not French.

French Vanilla
French Vanilla is generally used in relation to ice cream or other items having a strong vanilla scent, because of the way the French used to make ice cream and custard where they would add bits of the vanilla bean to give it a stronger flavor. French Vanilla is even considered its own extract flavor in some places.
+1 French.

4.5/10 French = Mildly disappointing, but now we know.

Really makes you wonder how many other things are pretending to be French that I didn’t even look into here… Did any of these things surprise you? 

Until next time,

Caitlin

Can Telepaths Read Animals' Minds?

A telepath is someone who can communicate with their mind, whether it's projecting their thoughts into another's mind or listening in on someone else's thoughts. They can do all of this without ever needing to make a sound. Some telepaths can even communicate over great distances or control their subjects, like Professor Xavier from X-Men.

Most people with telepathy however, are just shown to have the basic package of reading other's thoughts and projecting their own.

But what are thoughts?

How can you read or hear a thought?

Professor X using telepathy, image from the X-Men Wiki

Professor X using telepathy, image from the X-Men Wiki

Our thoughts are made up of chemical and electrical signals sent from one part of our brain to another. Together they construct our personality and memories, but when one is thinking, they aren't reading or listening to their thoughts, they are experiencing them.

As babies who couldn't speak, we still had thoughts. We couldn't express them in words, but we still knew when we were hungry or tired or happy, even without these words to communicate.

Almost like a translation guide from Chinese to French, language has allowed us to turn our thoughts into words and complex ideas that others beyond ourselves can then also understand.

But if you concentrate and think about what your thoughts are really like, you'll start to notice that they are almost shapeless. They make no sound and don't look like anything. When thinking of a past experience, one might attribute a voice to specific phrases or have images of places they've been, but generally most thoughts are just simply ideas floating in a void.

So if thoughts are in essence formless, how can one listen in on them?

I honestly don't know.

And since telepathy has yet to be proven, there may just not be an answer. But if someone could listen in on other person's formless thoughts and make sense of all the swirling ideas and feelings, wouldn't they then be able to do the same with animals?

Animals obviously have thoughts, from the most basic being 'I'm hungry' to some animals, like dolphins, having rudimentary languages to communicate with each other. And most of the time you don't even need to be a telepath to tell what an animal is thinking (they tend to have very bad poker faces). This means we as human have the ability to tell what animals are thinking in one setting, so shouldn't it work in the other?

Aquaman asking whales for help with his mind. Do you think he can talk to babies? Image from the Super Friends Wiki

Aquaman asking whales for help with his mind. Do you think he can talk to babies? Image from the Super Friends Wiki

Basic human thoughts, like when we are babies, would likely resemble animal thoughts a lot, as they would be very rudimentary and based around instinctual, basic needs. Meaning, if a telepath can understand a baby's thoughts they should be able to understand most animals. Heck, it might even be easier to read the mind of babies and animals than an adult person!

Although, I don't think I've ever seen Professor X try to read a baby's mind, so maybe telepath's need the collected, more advanced thoughts of someone who understands language and can use that language to communicate with others. Perhaps the mind read-ee has to give and explain their thoughts to the mind reader?

All I know is that telepathy sure seems like an OP (over powered) ability the more I think about it.

Do you think telepaths can read the thoughts of animals? Have you ever seen a telepath read a baby's mind?

Until next time,

Caitlin

Is Everything Fanfiction? Probably

One day my cousin came home from school to announce: "On the bus to school, I always ride next to a girl who is really quiet and usually writing in her journal. I finally got a look at what she is always writing and it's steamy Harry Potter fanfiction."

We all took a moment to laugh at this and tried to find out more details. But here's the thing, teens writing fanfiction is not that uncommon. And honestly, putting effort into writing, even if it's someone else's characters and setting, is still showing an interest in writing and thinking creatively, right? So why is there such a negative connotation with it?

This is because fanfiction is broken up into good and bad, just like TV shows or artwork. And there are different sites that are known for good or bad pieces. Sort of like ABC Family (or I guess it's Freeform now?) versus HBO.

However, most people just know of the poorly written fanfiction that used to be hosted on Quizilla or LiveJournal, and don't think about how fanfiction is actually prevalent in all forms of media. For instance someone might write a short story about Sherlock Holmes based in modern day London, which would be considered fanfiction, but what if an international company made it?

The modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes from BBC America

The modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes from BBC America

The BBC show 'Sherlock' is just that, a present day version of the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Why isn't that considered fanfiction? It's definitely not canon (a piece of a story that's considered to be part of the original work), as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle didn't write the TV show's script. Does that make it fanfiction? Or since it is popular, does that make it something different?

Perhaps the term fanfiction can only be attributed to pieces of work that are currently copyrighted or if you don't own the rights? Such as 'A Very Potter Musical' that was produced a few years ago. That was considered fanfiction, even if it was well received by fans and the writer alike.

Fan made poster for “A Very Potter Musical” from deviantart.com/zersen

Fan made poster for “A Very Potter Musical” from deviantart.com/zersen

And along with that, the recent Lord of the Rings movies aren't considered fanfiction, even if characters that never appeared in the book, appear in the movie, such as Legolas in the three Hobbit films. Even though that was clearly fanservice (writing parts of a story in to please fans/readers) no one calls the films out as being fanfiction, they just consider it to be an adaptation of the books (AKA the definition of fanfiction), even if JRR Tolkien didn't give the films his personal blessing. However, the Lord of the Rings films did buy the rights, and perhaps that is the line that constitutes what is fanfiction or not.

But if having the rights is all you need to not be considered fanfiction, then anything written about Alice's Adventures in Wonderland cannot be considered fanfiction as the story is now public domain, such as Once Upon a Time's spinoff: Wonderland, or the recent Tim Burton films on the same subject.

Which leads me to the question: can authors write fanfiction of their own work? Once Upon a Time is a Freeform show that focuses on the lives of many fairytale characters and how their lives intertwine, such as Elsa from Disney's Frozen. However, Elsa's story in Once Upon a Time is very different from the one told in Frozen, such as Elsa's mother having a sister with ice magic who they cast out of the land, which is never discussed in the original story. Is this story arch canon since it came from the same company (Disney)? Or is it considered fanfiction since the writer of Frozen did not write it themselves?

I personally like to believe that everything in Once Upon a Time is just Disney's giant crossover fanfiction, but since the line between fanfiction and canon is so gray it is hard to tell.

Do you have any ideas for what makes something fanfiction or not?

Until next time,

Caitlin

This Statement is False. (Am I Lying?)

One of the first problems we had to solve in my novice level philosophy class was:

"This statement is false."

We were asked to determine if the statement was true or false, which is, of course, difficult to determine since if the statement is true, then it is false; and if it is false then it is true.

A few people dropped out of the class after that.

It brings up a good point though. Can things only ever be true or false? Is truth binary, living only as black or white with no gray overlap?

Most people would say yes: things can only be true or false, but what if there was another option?

Ancient Greek Philosophers from Wiki Commons

Ancient Greek Philosophers from Wiki Commons

The statement above, as well as "everything I say is a lie", definitely points at the idea that something that can be both true and false at the same time, which got me thinking about the definition of truth.

Truth is generally defined as "that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality". However, does "telling the truth" have the same definition? When something isn't true is it automatically a lie?

For instance, if I tell you that my cat is outside, but it isn't, would that be false? Yes, but would it be a lie?

For all you know, I really believed my cat was outside and thought I was being truthful, but what I said was still false. I'm clearly not telling the truth, but am I a liar?

However, if I was purposely trying to deceive you by saying my cat was outside, then what I would have said would have been false, as well as me attempting to lie to you.

Another question, what if the cat was outside but I thought it wasn't, so I told you it was outside in an attempt to deceive you. Then what I said would have been true but I would still have attempted to lie. Would I still be a liar?

Because of these tricky situations, my college roommate and I developed "tries" or half-truths. They are things you thought were true but ended up being false. The main point with tries though, is that there is no intent to deceive anyone. We felt that if you are trying to trick someone whether what you say ends up being true or false, you are still a liar.

Do you agree that intent is what separates liars from truth-tellers? Have you ever accidentally told tries?

Until next time,

Caitlin

Mythical Biology and How it Works

In high school I, like most students, took biology to learn all about plants and animals and the systems that help keep them alive. I really enjoyed the class, but I ended up with a lot of questions that my teacher, for “some reason”, would not/could not answer.

I always had silly questions, such as 'is a ghost a vertebrate or invertebrate?', which my teacher found amusing but irritating. However, for me and my friends, they helped us get more excited about the subject and remember key bits of information.

I've outlined some of these questions below and my thoughts on them, although I'd love to hear your thoughts as well. These ponderings are obviously for fun since we can't go out and find the answers ourselves, but if considering the anatomy of mythical creatures interests you, then you're definitely at the right place.

An early photograph said to capture a ghost from Wiki Commons

An early photograph said to capture a ghost from Wiki Commons

Are ghosts vertebrates?

Depends on what type of ghost, I would assume. Ghosts tend to appear as either transparent humans, glowing orbs, or ectoplasmic blobs.  I would say both the orb and blob varieties are invertebrates since one is pure energy and the other is basically jello. They both also tend to be in shapes not even resembling a living human or animal, so why should we assume they retain the same kind of bone structure?

'Transparent Human' shaped ghosts however, are a bit trickier. Technically they do not have any mass so they couldn't have a rigid backbone, but they also retain the shape of their living counterpart, who did have a vertebra. Perhaps they have a misty, ghost version of a backbone somewhere in their transparent bodies, but does it really count if is not made of matter?

I would say that unless ghosts can return to physical form, then they are all invertebrates.

Are mermaids really half-human, half-fish?

If mermaids are half-human and half-fish and the fish half was the lower half, that would mean they likely laid eggs. I would also assume that they would have a lot of health problems since fish and humans have very different circulatory, respiratory, etc. systems in their bodies.

I believe it is more likely that mermaids are half-human, half-porpoise. Since porpoises are mammals, the same as humans, they would have much more similar regulatory systems in their bodies, making their chances of survival more likely while still looking very similar to the current depictions of them as being half-fish.

If a werewolf landed on the moon would they constantly be transformed?

Assuming they were always on a section that was facing the sun, so as to reflect that light back up at the werewolf, then it would seem likely that they would constantly be transformed. This is because being on the moon, they would never have different phases; it would just be a constant 'full moon' from their perspective.

A werewolf begins his night out in this image from Wiki Commons

A werewolf begins his night out in this image from Wiki Commons

However, this also brings up the question why werewolves don't transform during the day. A full moon is necessary for a werewolf to change, but the light from the moon is just a reflection of the sun. Therefore wouldn't a sunny day at noon create the same effect? In werewolf lore, werewolves obviously don't transform during the day, but it does seem a bit odd they don't. However, the original creators of the myths, I'm sure, weren't aware of the moon's and sun's lights being one and the same.

If a werewolf was on a different planet, like Jupiter, would its moons make them transform?

Since all we know about werewolves are based on the Earth's moon and its phases, it's hard to say how being on a different planet would affect their transformation cycle. Especially since most other plants have several more moons than Earth. Jupiter, for instance, has at least 67 moons, that means that there could be a full moon almost every single night or possibly even multiple full moons each night. (Would a werewolf's transformation be even more powerful if there were multiple full moons at one time?)

However, being on a different planet could also negate the effects of the transformation, assuming that there is something specifically special about our moon that effects werewolves as opposed to just any moon. And considering that werewolves don't transform in daylight, even though the light of the moon is just a reflection of the sun's light, this would most likely be the case.

Are Ents and Dryads plants or animals?

Dryad exploring outside of her tree, from Wiki Commons

Dryad exploring outside of her tree, from Wiki Commons

It would seem obvious to call them animals over plants since they have humanoid features and mannerisms. However, they do also photosynthesize, communicate with trees, and have 'skin made of bark'. Some can even change in and out of being a literal tree at will. This, to me, says they are in fact plants and not animals.

Many plants can move on their own. Some parasitic plants and vines don't even have roots, and will move based on where they can sense their next host is based on chemicals that the host plant creates. Using these chemicals that plants give off, they can also communicate with each other. Plants with symbiotic relationships with ants, for instance, can signal to their ant friends when they are under attack so that the ants can protect them.

However, Ents, Dryads, and the like could also be parasitic fungi, such as Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, or the zombie fungus. (And yes, fungi is technically different than plants.) The zombie fungus operates by infecting an ant with it's pathogen and then possesses it to climb to the highest leaf it can find, bite down securely so it won't fall off, and die. The fungus then can grow out of the dead ant to make more spores and infect more ants.

This especially makes sense for Dryads since Dryads have such a strong connection and will to keep their tree or forest from harm by any means. Couldn't the Dryad have at one point been a person who was possessed by a fungi to serve it? This would also explain why they have abilities and features similar to a plant and an animal, because they would be both a plant (fungus) and an animal.

Where's Hagrid when you need him?

Do you ave any crazy mythical questions that your teachers won't answer? What do you think about werewolves being astronauts?

Until next time,

Caitlin