Could You Deposit One of Those Giant Novelty Checks?

Michael Cohen / Getty Images
Michael Cohen / Getty Images

Win a golf tournament, a sweepstakes or the lottery, and you usually get two things: One regular check for your winnings and one oversized cardboard one for photo opportunities and framing above your fireplace. What if you wanted to take the big one down to the bank, though? Could you deposit that behemoth?

Hypothetically, yes, if it’s got the right stuff on it.

A valid check has to have certain information right on it: the account owner’s (payer’s) name and account number, the name of the bank where the payer’s account is held (along with the bank's state), the date, an instruction to pay another party (e.g. “pay to the order of”), the payee's name, the dollar amount of the check in numerical and in written form and the signature of the account owner.

Beyond that, there’s a little bit of wiggle room as far as the material and dimensions of a check. There’s no standardized size (my checks from mental_floss, for example, are several inches longer and taller than the ones I get from some other publications). There’s no special check paper, and plain old printer paper is fine. You can buy software to design and print your own checks at home.

Paper might not even be a necessity. There are plenty of stories out there, no doubt some of them apocryphal, of people writing checks on cocktail napkins, doors, human flesh and the shirt off their back (that one supposedly got sent to the IRS), and having them accepted.

The Fine Print

The big cardboard novelty check seems tame, even downright normal, compared to some of these, but don’t push your luck too much. While an oversized check, shirt-check or door-check is valid in theory, many banks have rules (often included in the agreement you sign when you open an account) about the form of documents used for an account. These include what they will and won’t accept as a check, and usually enable them to reject a check or other document that doesn’t meet their standards. One bank might require that you must use the checks issued to you by the bank or a printing company it partners with, while another might regulate the material documents can be written on.

If your bank doesn’t have any such rules, your giant check, with the correct info, should pass muster. Just don’t try and deposit it at an ATM.

Are Any of the Scientific Instruments Left on the Moon By the Apollo Astronauts Still Functional?

Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first footprint on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first footprint on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images

C Stuart Hardwick:

The retroreflectors left as part of the Apollo Lunar Ranging Experiment are still fully functional, though their reflective efficiency has diminished over the years.

This deterioration is actually now delivering valuable data. The deterioration has multiple causes including micrometeorite impacts and dust deposition on the reflector surface, and chemical degradation of the mirror surface on the underside—among other things.

As technology has advanced, ground station sensitivity has been repeatedly upgraded faster than the reflectors have deteriorated. As a result, measurements have gotten better, not worse, and measurements of the degradation itself have, among other things, lent support to the idea that static electric charge gives the moon an ephemeral periodic near-surface pseudo-atmosphere of electrically levitating dust.

No other Apollo experiments on the moon remain functional. All the missions except the first included experiment packages powered by radiothermoelectric generators (RTGs), which operated until they were ordered to shut down on September 30, 1977. This was done to save money, but also because by then the RTGs could no longer power the transmitters or any instruments, and the control room used to maintain contact was needed for other purposes.

Because of fears that some problem might force Apollo 11 to abort back to orbit soon after landing, Apollo 11 deployed a simplified experiment package including a solar-powered seismometer which failed after 21 days.

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

What Makes a Hotel Breakfast 'Continental'?

Hotels often offer a complimentary pastry and fruit breakfast.
Hotels often offer a complimentary pastry and fruit breakfast.
tashka2000/iStock via Getty Images

The continental breakfast, which is typically made up of pastries, fruit, and coffee, is often advertised by hotels as a free perk for guests. But why is it called continental, and why don’t patrons get some eggs and bacon along with it?

The term dates back to 19th century Britain, where residents referred to mainland Europe as “the continent.” Breakfast in this region was usually something light, whereas an English or American breakfast incorporated meat, beans, and other “heavy” menu options.

American hotels that wanted to appeal to European travelers began advertising “continental breakfasts” as a kind of flashing neon sign to indicate guests wouldn’t be limited to American breakfast fare that they found unappealing. The strategy was ideal for hotels, which saved money by offering some muffins, fruit, and coffee and calling it a day.

That affordability as well as convenience—pastries and fruit are shelf-stable, requiring no heat or refrigeration to maintain food safety—is a big reason continental breakfasts have endured. It’s also a carryover from the hybrid model of hotel pricing, where American hotels typically folded the cost of meals into one bill and European hotels billed for food separately. By offering a continental breakfast, guests got the best of both worlds. And while Americans were initially aghast at the lack of sausages and pancakes on offer, they’ve since come around to the appeal of a muffin and some orange juice to get their travel day started.

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