As a contributing writer and true generalist freelancer, Julia researched and wrote more than 600 articles for HowStuffWorks on topics ranging from how polar bears work to how police interrogations work. Julia received her B.A. in English Literature from Duke University and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Miami.

Recent Contributions

How does a hybrid car improve your gas mileage? And more importantly, does it pollute less just because it gets better gas mileage? Learn how hybrids work, plus get tips on how to drive a hybrid car for maximum efficiency.

By Karim Nice, Julia Layton & Sascha Bos

A bunch of Yale physicists decided to give Schrodinger's cat not one but two boxes. And that, strangely enough, could eventually prove handy for quantum computing.

By Julia Layton

In 2007, Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey came under fire for refusing to classify water boarding as torture. What does water boarding entail? Does it work?

By Julia Layton

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Since its inception in the late '50s, NASA has accomplished some amazing technical feats. But what are some of the agency's greatest moments?

By Julia Layton & Mark Mancini

You may assume you know how to wash baby clothes, but for their skin and good health, it's worth taking this refresher course. Washing baby clothes isn't a complicated process, but it is a different process than washing your own load.

By Julia Layton

Faster, safer, and more energy efficient, induction cooking is finally making waves in North America. But what is an induction cooktop, exactly? Find out if it's worth the expense by exploring these benefits!

By Julia Layton

Solar energy is clean and plentiful. There's one big problem, though: The sun doesn't shine all the time. Is there a way to keep solar plants powered up through the night?

By Julia Layton

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Stethoscopes started as a way for 19th-century doctors to put some distance between themselves and grubby patients. Today though, this simple listening tool is one of the best ways to diagnose a range of problems.

By Julia Layton

Polar bears are facing a grim future as global warming melts their Arctic home. What problems are they up against and what's being done to save them?

By Julia Layton

Sure, your hair dryer or toaster sucks up a lot of kilowatt-hours during the short time it's on, but what are the truly big drains on your home energy budget?

By Julia Layton & Sascha Bos

Earth Day is the ideal time of the year to form new eco-oriented habits. Here are 10 things you can do to celebrate our planet all year long.

By Julia Layton & Sarah Gleim

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When there's a suspect in a crime and the evidence includes a handwritten note, investigators may call in handwriting experts to see if there's a match. How exactly do experts go about analyzing someone's handwriting?

By Julia Layton

Underground mining has come a long way from the days of men with pickaxes and canaries. It relies much more heavily on machinery that makes it much safer than in the past. Which techniques are used in mining today?

By Julia Layton

In 2023, the U.S. bottled water industry was worth $94 billion, even with the rise of popular reusable water bottle brands.

By Julia Layton

In what may prove to be the first nuclear explosion since 1998, North Korea claims it has conducted an underground test of a nuclear weapon.

By Julia Layton

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Length, height and wingspan are all popular ways to rank an aircraft, but truly giant planes are often judged by their maximum takeoff weight. Which plane outlifts them all?

By Julia Layton

Polygamy: Explore the practice of marrying multiple spouses across cultures and time.

By Julia Layton

Is the same substance that makes your shampoo so sudsy really going to give you cancer? Here's the real dirt on whether sodium lauryl sulfate is bad for you.

By Julia Layton & Valerie Stimac

We'd be up a creek without Earth's atmosphere and the greenhouse effect it provides, but it turns out that an overactive greenhouse effect can result in a similarly devastating outcome.

By Julia Layton, Ed Grabianowski & Sascha Bos

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Green, clean energy sounds good at first: Harness the power of the wind to run our creature comforts. But could the sounds people hear (and don't hear) from wind turbines endanger their health?

By Julia Layton & Austin Henderson

Plants produce energy so perfectly: converting sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into power and emitting nothing harmful in the process. Can we imitate such an elegant system?

By Julia Layton & Yara Simón

Three weeks of hard work. Is that all it takes to kick your smoking habit, taste for junk food or serial inability to stop hitting the snooze button? Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn't it?

By Julia Layton

Auroras themselves aren't rare, but spotting one can be tricky: You need a clear, dark sky within one of the auroral zones. What are 10 spots that up the odds a bit?

By Julia Layton

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If you've seen the movie "The Exorcist," you have some idea of what exorcism is. But is it real, or are there other explanations for what some people call "possession"? Learn why a priest might perform an exorcism and more.

By Julia Layton

While most psychologists believe that brainwashing is possible under the right conditions, some see it as improbable or at least as a less severe form of influence than the media portrays it to be. So how does someone get brainwashed?

By Julia Layton & Alia Hoyt