Do Little Half and Half Creamers Ever Go Bad?

Goldfinch4ever/iStock via Getty Images
Goldfinch4ever/iStock via Getty Images

So I'm up in Seattle this week, staying at a hotel some blocks from the original Starbucks (which, it turns out, isn't REALLY the original, but rather the second location, which was situated better for marketing purposes, but who's counting). So I bought some ground coffee, took it back to my hotel room and threw it in the French press at my coffee station, just above the mini-bar with the lasers that detect even the slightest movement - as if tiny Ninjas are going to descend and try and make off with a Snickers bar.

When the coffee was ready, I reached for the little half and half creamers and then stopped dead in my tracks: Seattle is cold this time of year, but how long have these things been sitting out here at the coffee station and what if they've soured? So I did a little research and this is what I discovered:

The average little half and half has a shelf life of about 6 months or more. That's because, in essence, the dairy has been "canned." All bacteria is killed during the canning process (heating it up, mostly) and then they seal it up quickly, so it can sit on your shelf for half a year before it starts to solidify. If you open up one and it's a little chunky, probably best to toss it.

Now then, any requests for the busker when I go back to Starbucks this morning? Yesterday, he was doing a mean version of "U.F.O." by Coldplay - not a song I would have thought made it into the busker repertoire yet. I'll leave you with one other shot I took, of the interior of the Starbucks, which, as you see, looks nothing like the 9 zillion other Starbucks that came after this one.

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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