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

Rosh Hashanah is one of the most important holidays in the Jewish religion, celebrating the Jewish New Year and three other important themes.

By Julia Layton

Burning Man is back in the Black Rock Desert for the first time since 2020. What can you expect from this radical event that showcases colorful costumes and massive art installations?

By Julia Layton

Everything we do is controlled and enabled by electrical signals running through our bodies. But how are those signals produced?

By Julia Layton & Mark Mancini

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On June 5, people will chase an 8-pound cheese down an absurdly steep hill in England. And it looks really fun.

By Julia Layton

The Cinco de Mayo holiday is far more popular in the U.S. than in Mexico. Why is that and what does it celebrate?

By Julia Layton & Kathryn Whitbourne

The sources of most bathroom odors are pretty obvious, considering the purpose of this often-windowless space. But every now and then, a mystery arises — what's that lingering smell? It could be the toilet tank.

By Julia Layton

Between venues, entertainment and a cake to feed a crowd, kids' birthday parties can get pricy fast. What are some ways to keep food costs down and still entertain a passel of potentially picky eaters?

By Julia Layton & Cristen Conger

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If you love cheese, but are watching your sodium, that doesn't mean you have to cut it out of your diet completely. Here are five cheeses that are low in sodium that you can still eat, in moderation.

By Julia Layton & Sarah Gleim

In India, springtime is marked by an explosion of color when revelers take to the street with fistfuls of powdered pigment to celebrate Holi. What's the history of the holiday and how did color-throwing become the main event?

By Julia Layton

Diamonds might be a girl's best friend, but thieves like them too. Find out how they orchestrate multimillion-dollar heists and how jewelers switch the real thing for fakes.

By Julia Layton & Carrie Whitney, Ph.D.

Luge is one of the fastest — and most dangerous — sports in the Winter Olympics. The athletes race down the icy, high-banked tracks at up to 90 miles per hour (140 kilometers per hour). How do they do it safely?

By Julia Layton & Patty Rasmussen

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The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists decided to leave the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds before midnight in its 2022 statement. What are the global issues that keep the clock at such a perilous position?

By Julia Layton

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

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

Carrying "high" means she's having a girl; "low" means a boy, says the old superstition. But is there any truth to it?

By Julia Layton & Francisco Guzman

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Hanging, when carried out with modern techniques, can be one of the quickest and most painless ways to be executed. But not all hangings are designed that way.

By Julia Layton & Alia Hoyt

Search-and-rescue dogs are called upon to work after natural disasters, mass casualty events and other incidents to locate missing people. They're smart, agile and obedient, and search-and-rescue work is like "play" for them.

By Julia Layton & Sarah Gleim

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. Learn all about forensic handwriting analysis.

By Julia Layton

Honey is an ancient and delicious pleasure. Read on to learn some of the best ways you can use it to sweeten your kitchen.

By Julia Layton & Mark Boyer

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A heavy rain in which frogs come plummeting down isn't a pretty sight, but it happens more often than you'd think. Why do animals sometimes fall from the sky?

By Julia Layton

Earth Day is the ideal time of the year to form new eco-oriented habits. Here are 10 things you can do to celebrate Earth Day today, and still practice the rest of the year, too.

By Julia Layton & Sarah Gleim

Money laundering is a crime that disguises where money came from — usually because its source was illegal. How can money start out dirty and wind up clean?

By Julia Layton & Oisin Curran

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

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If you're wandering on the beach and happen upon a large mass of some sort of waxy substance, take a closer look. It could be the rare "floating gold" of the sea: ambergris. Find out whether this whale poop can help you retire rich.

By Julia Layton & Alia Hoyt

The forgotten past inside abandoned homes, old warehouses and broken-down factories is a siren call for urban explorers. But even if you're just there to look, is it legal to enter?

By Julia Layton