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

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

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

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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. 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

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

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

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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

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

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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

World-famous "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, died on Monday, September 5, in a shocking accident with a stingray. But Stingray-related fatalities are almost unheard of, so what happened? Find out.

By Julia Layton

Everything we do is controlled and enabled by electrical signals running through our bodies. But how are those signals produced, and what happens when your electrical system breaks down?

By Julia Layton

The story of Amazon.com is an e-commerce dream. Find out what Amazon does, what makes it different from other e-commerce Web sites and how its technology infrastructure supports its multi-pronged approach to online sales.

By Julia Layton

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Learn what really goes on when a CSI "processes a crime scene" and get a real-world view of crime scene investigation from a primary scene responder with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

By Julia Layton

In psychology, the study of brainwashing, often referred to as thought reform, falls into the sphere of "social influence." Is brainwashing a system that produces similar results across cultures and personality types?

By Julia Layton

When absinthe was banned in many countries in the early 1900s, it had really fallen out of favor. How does absinthe affect those who drink it?

By Julia Layton

The Kim Jong Un regime continues to demonstrate its desire to threaten the U.S. and its allies with nuclear-armed ICBMs. But can any of these missiles actually reach the U.S. mainland?

By Julia Layton & Sarah Gleim

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Is the same substance that makes your shampoo so pleasantly 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

Coping with bullying is difficult, and it's not about fighting back or sucking it up. What are five ways a parent (or any adult) can intervene to help a bullying victim find a way out, or at least a way through, this type of peer abuse?

By Julia Layton

You'll find low-sodium versions of lots of cheeses at the supermarket. But if you want real cheese -- cheese that still tastes like cheese -- the five choices on this list won't leave you disappointed.

By Julia Layton

The difference between a skilled boxer you've never heard of and a skilled boxer named Muhammad Ali is often a really good promoter.

By Julia Layton

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You've almost certainly seen sudoku puzzles on bookstore shelves this year. They've quickly grown as popular as crossword puzzles, if not more so. Find out what a sudoku puzzle entails how to go about solving one and where the concept originated.

By Julia Layton

In the city of Cannes, May is the 'month of the movie.' The Cannes Film Festival is the crossroads of international cinema and anybody can submit a film for consideration. But how many are chosen?

By Julia Layton