Why Does Advent Calendar Chocolate Taste Different?

iStock
iStock

By Sarah Dobbs

If there’s one thing that can make a dark, cold, miserable December morning more bearable, it’s chocolate. Specifically: a tiny square of chocolate that you’ve had to spend five minutes prying out of the grip of the plastic mold inside your Advent calendar. Somehow, there’s something different about Advent calendar chocolate. Technically, you could just break off a chunk of a Hershey Bar every day, but the ritual of finding the right door, carefully opening it, and savoring your prize makes Advent calendar chocolate special.

Is it actually different from normal chocolate, though? Well, that depends on the calendar.

If you buy a branded calendar from a chocolate manufacturer, like Cadbury or Lindt, then you can expect the chocolate to taste pretty similar to the candymaker's regular fare, even if the size and shape of the treat might be different.

Advent calendar chocolate is usually pretty thin, and generally comes as a square with rounded corners and an embossed shape on its surface. That means it will melt quickly when you put it on your tongue, and the relatively large surface area means your taste buds are getting a pretty intense chocolate hit. And while you might typically take another bite or reach for another sweet quite quickly, with Advent calendar chocolate you know you only get one piece per day, so most people will take their time to savor it a little longer.

Basically, it tastes different because you’re paying more attention to it.

If you’ve got a more generic calendar, though, you might be getting a kind of chocolate you don’t often eat.

Cheap chocolate often isn’t "real" chocolate at all: it’s something called compound chocolate, which means that instead of being made with cocoa butter, it’s made with cheaper fats. In all likelihood, it’s made with palm kernel oil, or possibly coconut oil. That gives it a different flavor than true chocolate, and can also give it a slightly different texture, making it seem slightly waxy or a bit oily. Compound chocolate is actually easier to work with and to mold into shapes, and that, along with the lower price point, means it is ideal for Advent calendars.

So yes, you might find that the chocolate in your Advent calendar tastes nothing like the chocolate you plan on serving at your holiday party. Whether you prefer it or not comes down to your own personal taste—plus a healthy dose of nostalgia. If you have fond memories of tucking into Advent calendar chocolate in the lead-up to idyllic childhood Christmases past, it probably tastes like pure joy.

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Has An Element Ever Been Removed From the Periodic Table?

lucadp/iStock via Getty Images
lucadp/iStock via Getty Images

Barry Gehm:

Yes, didymium, or Di. It was discovered by Carl Mosander in 1841, and he named it didymium from the Greek word didymos, meaning twin, because it was almost identical to lanthanum in its properties. In 1879, a French chemist showed that Mosander’s didymium contained samarium as well as an unknown element. In 1885, Carl von Weisbach showed that the unknown element was actually two elements, which he isolated and named praseodidymium and neodidymium (although the di syllable was soon dropped). Ironically, the twin turned out to be twins.

The term didymium filter is still used to refer to welding glasses colored with a mixture of neodymium and praseodymium oxides.

One might cite as other examples various claims to have created/discovered synthetic elements. Probably the best example of this would be masurium (element 43), which a team of German chemists claimed to have discovered in columbium (now known as niobium) ore in 1925. The claim was controversial and other workers could not replicate it, but some literature from the period does list it among the elements.

In 1936, Emilio Segrè and Carlo Perrier isolated element 43 from molybdenum foil that had been used in a cyclotron; they named it technetium. Even the longest-lived isotopes of technetium have a short half-life by geological standards (millions of years) and it has only ever been found naturally in minute traces as a product of spontaneous uranium fission. For this reason, the original claim of discovery (as masurium) is almost universally regarded as erroneous.

As far as I know, in none of these cases with synthetic elements has anyone actually produced a quantity of the element that one could see and weigh that later turned out not to be an element, in contrast to the case with didymium. (In the case of masurium, for instance, the only evidence of its existence was a faint x-ray signal at a specific wavelength.)

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

Can You Ever Truly Lose Your Accent?

DGLimages, iStock via Getty Images
DGLimages, iStock via Getty Images

You may be able to pull off a Spanish accent when showing off your Antonio Banderas impression, but truly losing your native accent and replacing it with a new one is a lot harder to do. The way you speak now will likely stick with you for life.

According to Smithsonian, our accent develops as early as 6 months old—accents being the pronunciation conventions of a language shaped by factors like region, culture, and class. When a baby is learning the words for nap and dad and play, they're also learning how to pronounce the sounds in those words from the people around them. Newborn brains are wired to recognize and learn languages just from being exposed to them. By the time babies start talking, they know the "right" pronunciations to use for their native language or languages.

As you get older, your innate understanding of foreign accents and languages gets weaker. If you're an English speaker raised in Boston, you may think that the way someone from Dallas speaks English sounds "wrong" without being able to articulate what it is that makes them sound different. This is why pulling off a convincing foreign accent can be so difficult, even if you've heard it many times before.

Around age 18, your ability to learn a second language takes a steep nosedive. The same may be true with your ability to speak in a new accent. If you immerse yourself in a foreign environment for long enough, you may pick up some ticks of the local accent, but totally adopting a non-native accent without making a conscious effort to maintain it is unlikely as an adult.

There is one exception to this rule, and that's Foreign Accent Syndrome. Following a head injury or stroke, some people have reported suddenly speaking in accents they didn't grow up using. The syndrome is incredibly rare, with only 100 people around the world having been diagnosed with it, and medical experts aren't sure why brain injuries cause it. But while patients may be pronouncing their words differently, they aren't exactly using foreign accents in the way most people think of them; the culprit may be subtle changes to muscle movements in the jaw, tongue, lips, and larynx that change the way patients pronounce certain vowels.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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