You are browsing the archive for 2019 March 29.

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The Rigged Quiz Shows That Gave Birth to 'Jeopardy!'

March 29, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Jeopardy! creator Merv Griffin, with the game show’s original host, Art Flemming.

A 55-year-old show that commands 23 million viewers and is the top-rated game show in history. The answer is: “What is Jeopardy!?”

In 1965, the answers-first show made its debut. But if not for a group of popular—and fraudulent—quiz shows, it may never have existed in the first place.

Throughout the late 1950s, viewers were riveted by a series of scandals related to TV quiz shows. The high-stakes games were extremely popular…and extremely rigged. Once the nation realized they were rooting for contestants in televised frauds, a grand jury, a congressional investigation, and even a change in communications law followed. But though the shows were short-lived, their format lives on in Jeopardy!.

Game shows were born right around the dawn of television, but first became popular on the radio. In 1938, Information Please, a radio show that rewarded listeners for submitting questions that stumped an expert panel, debuted. Later that year TV’s first game show, Spelling Bee, appeared. The format really took off after World War II, as more households got TVs. Low-stakes shows like This Is the Missus, which had contestants participate in silly contests, and Queen For a Day, which rewarded women for sharing their sob stories, reeled in daytime viewers.

CBS television quiz and audience participation program, Missus Goes A Shopping, in 1944. (CBS via Getty Images)

But it took a Supreme Court suit to usher in big prizes for the shows. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in FCC v. American Broadcasting Co., Inc. that giveaways weren’t gambling. This decision paved the way for higher stakes in game shows. Suddenly, prime-time viewers could choose between a new rash of game shows with massive prizes.

The first popular high-stakes show, The $64,000 Question, created by CBS producer Louis Cowan and based on an older radio show, Take It or Leave It, paid the winners of a riveting general-knowledge quiz the equivalent of over $600,000 in modern dollars if they could beat out experts in their own fields. It was an immediate hit, and so were its most frequent winners. Soon another show, Twenty-One, reeled in NBC viewers by pitting two players against one another in a trivia game that involved isolation booths and headphones.

The shows were popular because of their tense gameplay and gimmicks like audience …read more


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9 Outrageous Pranks in History

March 29, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

From a Swiss “spaghetti harvest” to a fake UFO landing, these pranks went above and beyond.

April Fool’s Day, once a time to pull a prank on both friends and enemies, has turned into a day for corporations to try and fool customers with predictable internet hoaxes. Come April 1, we can all count on an announcement about a fake new show, feature or a tinkered application.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of truly original (and elaborate) pranks that will actually surprise you.

Satirist Jonathan Swift.

A Modest Prank-posal

One year, satirist Jonathan Swift decided to play a very elaborate All Fools’ Day prank on John Partridge, a famous astrologer who sold bogus predictions to the public in almanacs. After Partridge predicted in his 1708 almanac that a fever would sweep London in early April, Swift published an almanac under a fake name predicting that on March 29 at 11 p.m., Partridge would die “of a raging fever.”

The public was intrigued, but Partridge was irate, and he published a rebuttal to Swift’s almanac calling its author a fraud. Then, on the night of March 29, Swift published an elegy (again, under a fake name) announcing that Partridge—a “cobbler, Starmonger and Quack”—had died, and admitted on his deathbed that he was a fraud.

News of Partridge’s death spread over the next couple of days, so that when Partridge walked down the street on April 1, people stared at him in surprise and confusion. Partridge angrily published a pamphlet saying he was alive, and Swift again publicly asserted that Partridge was dead, and claimed Partridge’s pamphlet was written by someone else. The whole escapade helped to discredit Partridge, who eventually stopped publishing almanacs.

A man in a bottle.

Prankster in a Bottle

In January of 1749, London newspapers advertised that in an upcoming show, a man would squeeze his entire body into a wine bottle and then sing while inside of it. The ad promised that, “during his stay in the bottle, any Person may handle it, and see plainly that it does not exceed a common Tavern Bottle.” The ad promised the show would feature other tricks as well, including communicating with the dead.

Legend has it that the ad was the result of a bet between the Duke of Portland and the Earl of Chesterfield. Reportedly, the duke bet that he could advertise something impossible and …read more


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Neanderthals Resorted to Cannibalism in the Face of Climate Change

March 29, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

We know that Neanderthals were carnivores, with a diet that consisted primarily—if not exclusively—of meat.

But a new study by researchers in France suggests that around 120,000 years ago, when a period of sudden climate change wiped out many of the animals who made up their food supply, some Neanderthals resorted to cannibalism.

In the 1990s, the remains of six Neanderthals were found in Baume Moula-Guercy, a small cave in the Rhône valley in southern France. The remains, which belonged to two adults, two adolescents and two children, showed many of the tell-tale signs of cannibalism: , suggests one explanation. The Neanderthal remains in the cave at Moula-Guercy were discovered in the layer of sediment dated to the last interglacial period, which lasted from around 128,000 to 114,000 years ago. During that time, temperatures jumped several degrees higher from the era that occurred directly before the interglacial period, as well as from the period that came directly after it.

Tooth of an adult Neanderthal from Les Cottés in France. Her diet consisted mainly of the meat of large herbivore mammals.

When researchers examined the animal remains found in the layers of cave floor, they noticed the sudden change in climate had caused a dramatic shifting in food sources. Before the interglacial period, remains of larger mammals such as bison, reindeer and woolly mammoths, along with smaller ones like lemmings and mice, were found. But after the temperature warmed, they saw no evidence of large mammals, with snakes, tortoises and rodents discovered instead.

Scientists have long debated how meat-centric the Neanderthal diet actually was, and some evidence supports the idea that they consumed plants as well. But one recent study based on nitrogen isotope ratios, a measure scientists use to track the position of an organism in the food chain, found that Neanderthals mainly consumed meat, usually in the form of large herbivorous mammals.

The findings at Moula-Guercy suggest that as the climate warmed, and open grasslands turned into temperate forests, Neanderthals would have found fewer of these animals to hunt. As their food supply dwindled, apparently, some of them took drastic steps to assuage their hunger.

“The change of climate from the glacial period to the last interglacial was very abrupt,” Emmanuel Desclaux, co-author of the study, told Cosmos. He suggested the bodies were likely devoured over a short period of time, after their killers grew …read more