Questions without answers #7

Isn’t the word self-help group paradoxical?

A self-help group consists of people suffering from the same disease or sharing the same problem(s). People go to self-help groups to meet others with the same problems, share information and experiences. This way they can learn about new methods in order to be able to help themselves. Furthermore, there are self-help groups for relatives where they can learn how to help their ill or problem-laden husbands, kids etc. Having someone to talk who and who understands and knows your situation is also a good way of helping yourself. Additionally, sharing your experience enables others to help themselves, too. Thus, the word self-help group is by no means paradoxical.

How would chairs look if we had our kneecaps on the back of our legs?

If we had our kneecaps at the back of our legs we would hardly be able to sit on a chair because our knees would hinder us. So we would probably have to use stools as they have a small seat enabling us to position our legs at its side.

Why do noses run while feet smell?

The figurative meaning of a running nose is that someone has a cold. However, it does not mean that your nose is literally running but that secretion is coming (running) out of your nose. It seems that over the years it has become easier to speak of a running nose than of something running out of your nose.
Actually, you smell with your nose. So how come your feet can smell too? Well, when your feet smell it’s not because they have the same abilities as your nose but because of excessive transpiration often combined with a lack of washing. And old sweat simply smells.

Why do women never go to the toilet alone?

Now we’re entering the field of female psychology – or something I think could be an explanation. As little girls women learned never to go anywhere alone because the world and (especially) strangers are dangerous. We all learned this: never go with strangers…unless they have some candy.
Anyway, in order not to fall victim to a man who may be lingering on a public women toilet (yes, there are sickos out there) they go in pairs of two. This way no one can ambush them and following them to the toilet is useless, too.
Of course not going alone to the toilet has the big advantage that conversations don’t have to be halted as they can be continued over the walls of the toilet stalls. News can be exchanged and the girls can tattle about this and that. I don’t mean to offend anyone but I think the explanation makes sense…more or less.

Questions without answers #6

Why does lemonade contain artificial flavor while detergents contain real citric acid?

Considering this question one has to distinguish between lemonade and soda (i.e. soft drinks). The basic recipe for homemade lemonade is lemon juice mixed with water and sweetened with sugar. Soda on the other hand is factory-made and, therefore, contains additives such as sweeteners and flavoring agents. But why is that so?
Obviously, sweeteners are used to sweeten the drink. Flavoring agents have a different function. The taste of a drink is limited to the seven basic tastes (sour, sweet etc.) but the possibilities concerning the smell of a drink are way higher. Therefore, flavoring agents are used to alter the smell and consequently the taste of a drink. This, it seems, cannot be done with real flavors. E.g. mixing water with orange juice will cause your drink to taste like orange. With industrial flavoring agents your orange water may smell and taste like chocolate.
Dishwashing liquid is not a beverage. Well, at least you shouldn’t try it. The citric acid in dishwashing liquid is used to soften hard water by binding the metal in hard water. The detergent is then able to produce foam and work more efficiently.
So, the artificial lemon flavor is used for taste while the citric acid helps the detergent to clean the dishes.

Why doesn’t Tarzan have a beard?

Tarzan is a fictional character created by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs and first appeared in the novel Tarzan of the Apes (1912/1914). He is often described as the archetype of the feral child or the noble savage.
It seems that has never been seen having a beard, so it’s logical to assume he is not able to grow one. The question is why? Maybe he is suffering from alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease causing partial or complete loss of body hair. This idea might be a bit far-fetched but it’s not illogical. Still, it is not the correct answer.
Hoping to find an answer I searched for the e-book of the first Tarzan novel and looked for the word beard. And here’s the thing: Tarzan actually has a beard. In chapter 13 it becomes apparent that he is afraid of becoming an ape. To show that he is a human being he learns to shave and “[a]lmost daily he whetted his keen knife and scraped and whittled at his young beard to eradicate this degrading emblem of apehood.”
Tarzan simply shaves too much.

Do married people live longer or do they only feel that they do?

This strongly depends on whom you are married to. If you’re married to a nagging shrew or to the reincarnation of any late dictator, life can be a long, long song.
But seriously, several studies showed that married people do indeed live longer. Being married and living in harmony causes people to lead a healthier life than singles. While single women tend to become depressed single men become more prone to drinking alcohol and eating unhealthy food.

Is there a synonym for synonym?

Synonyms are words with the same or at least a similar meaning which can occur in any parts of speech, i.e. verbs, adjectives etc. The only condition is that both words belong to the same parts of speech. An example for synonymous verbs would be buy and purchase.
There is indeed a synonym for synonym. It most likely has vanished in modern day English but it exists nonetheless. The Latin word poecilonym is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “any of several names for the same thing”. See, there is a synonym for synonym.


Questions without answers #5

If today it was 0° and tomorrow was twice as cold, how cold would it be tomorrow?

At first glance this question seems pointless. However, there are two ways of finding an answer to this question which, I hope, make sense. As the question does not define the temperature unit let’s assume it is degrees Celsius. Now you could say that 2×0 °C is still 0 °C. Well, you’re right. But… according to the ITS-90 (the International Temperature Scale of 1990) the triple point of water (i.e. the freezing point of water) is 0.01 °C. This point is used to define the scales of thermometers, so I think I can use it for my answer without getting egged.
So, if today it was 0 °C it would actually be 0.01 °C and if tomorrow it was twice as cold, it would be 0.02 °C. Not that you’d feel any difference, but still.

Do you get your money back if a taxi drives backwards?

Of course you do. Whenever I take a taxi I tell the driver to drive backwards, so he has to pay me. That’s how I earn a living. Quite smart, isn’t it?
If only…
The first taximeters worked like tachometers for bicycles. They were used on hackneys, measuring the turns of the wheels and thereby calculating the fare. Today they work differently. When today’s taximeters are activated they automatically show a basic fee to which the extra fees for the distance traveled and the time waited (at traffic lights) are added.
Once the taxi is driving you can compare it to riding a bike: the tachometer does not count the distance when the wheels turn backwards. It’s the same with cars. Whenever you drive backwards the odometer does not register any changes. So, no, there is no chance of getting your money back when the taxi drives backwards.
Even if the odometer counted the distance covered when driving backwards, it would be to your disadvantage as all the kilometers would still be added to the total distance.

Why are carrots more orange than oranges?

Carrots and oranges are orange because they contain β-carotene. Carotene is a photosynthetic pigment which is important for photosynthesis and for the color of various fruits and even animals. Consequently, the intensity of the color of oranges and carrots must have to do with amount of carotene of both. While oranges contain approximately 0.5 mg/kg of β-carotene, carrots contain around 80 mg/kg. So a carrot contains 160 times more β-carotene than an orange. Therefore, they are more orange than oranges.

Why does everyone see that I am drunk but not that I am thirsty?

Being drunk comes along with certain signs, e.g. swaying, slurred speech etc. These symptoms become obvious at around 0.5 ‰. By-standers are able to observe and identify the signs of drunkenness, i.e. a drunkard is obvious.
Someone who is thirsty does not display such obvious signs. When you lose around 10% of fluid you will have a dry mouth and impaired speech. These signs, however, are not obvious to by-standers. E.g. a bar keeper will never notice your dry mouth and impaired speech could also be due to having had too much to drink.
Even when you’re dehydrated and lose consciousness no one might suspect you’re thirsty. People become unconscious for a lot of reasons.
All in all I’d say the signs of being drunk are more obvious and easier to identify beyond all doubt than those of being thirsty.

Questions without answers #4

If olive oil is made of olives and corn oil made of corn, then what about baby oil?

Believe it or not, baby oil is made of babies. Do you remember the news about Chinese potency pills containing pulverized flesh from dead babies? Well, some of the powder was processed, filled into bottles, labeled baby oil and exported into the whole world.
Well, black humor aside. While olive oil and corn oil are named after the natural resources they are made of, baby oil is simply named after its target group.

If superglue sticks to everything, why doesn’t it stick to the inside of its tube?

Superglue works through polymerization; i.e. it reacts with air moisture and when pressure is applied. For example when you want to glue to pieces of wood together you need pressure. Inside the tube the amount of humidity is not nearly as high as on the outside and the glue is not exposed to pressure. Additionally, superglue does not necessarily bond well with surfaces that are too smooth – and the inside of a tube is pretty smooth. For all these reasons (and maybe some more) superglue does not stick to the inside of its tube.

Why do you need an appointment for visiting a fortune-teller?

Although a fortune-teller might say “I knew you would come” does not mean that he foresaw your visit. They rather do it to create a certain effect.
Actually, fortune-tellers need you to be present to “work their magic”. Therefore, they make use of a technique called “cold reading which consists mainly of being able to read body language, understanding human nature and knowing about probability statistics. With these abilities a good fortune-teller will “read” you with an accuracy of around 80%. The rest is putting on a show.

If the universe is everything and if it is expanding, where does it expand into?

Honestly, I have never been the brightest bulb in the chandelier of physics. So I will try to keep my answer as simple as possible.
To understand the expansion of the universe we have to go as far back as the big bang, the origin of the universe. Imagine a firecracker exploding on the ground, its contents being spread all over the place. It was the same with the big bang and since then the universe is expanding continually.
To illustrate the expanding universe take a balloon. It symbolizes the universe shortly after the big bang. Now inflate the balloon a bit and paint a red dot on one side and a blue dot on another side of the balloon. Both dots are galaxies. Measure their distance, then inflate the balloon further and measure the distances again. The result is that your balloon universe – let’s call it ballooniverse has expanded even further and the dot galaxies are farther apart. However, our ballooniverse can only be expanded to a certain limit. Otherwise the balloon will explode right in your face.
The real universe expands further; i.e. the distances between the galaxies become bigger.
Depending on the universe’s geometrical form it can either expand even further (open universe), retract (closed universe) or expand further but slower (flat universe). Considering the question, let’s assume we have an open universe which expands into infinity.

Questions without answers #3

If drinking and driving is forbidden why do bars have parking lots?

Well, bars also serve non-alcoholic beverages. When a group of people visits a bar there often is a designated driver who needs a place to park the car. Also, the bar’s staff has to park somewhere.
What is also important is that many countries have a drunk driving limit, so driving under the influence of alcohol is permitted.
So, there are plenty of reasons why bars need to have a parking lot.

If nothing sticks to Teflon, how does Teflon stick to the pan?

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), better known as Teflon, is a partially crystalline polymer consisting of fluorine and carbon. It was accidentally discovered in 1938 by chemist Roy Plunkett who was searching for refrigerants and experimented with Tetrafluoroethylene (TFE).The pan’s surface is mechanically roughened by sandblasting which causes the surface to become uneven. The PTFE is then applied under pressure, sticking to the pan’s uneven surface. However, the PTFE’s surface is smooth and therefore the food doesn’t stick to it.

What’s the name of the plastic ends of shoelaces?

The hard ends of shoe laces are called aglets deriving from the Old French word aguilette, the diminutive of aguille (needle). Aguille in turn comes from the Latin word acus (needle).

If a shop is open 24/7 all year, why does it need door locks?

Firstly, I have never seen a shop door without locks.
Anyways, I think there are various reasons for these shops to have locks on their doors. The shop can be closed due to its owners being on vacation or ill. On the other hand shops need repairs.
However, some shops are open 24/7 but still have their doors locked at certain times; e.g. gas stations. Their doors are locked at (I think) 10 p.m. so customers have to use the night desk to buy goods or pay for gas. This is done for reasons of security as gas stations are often robbed at night. So, there are enough reasons for these shops to have locks on their doors.

Questions without answers #2

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

The actual name of the Japanese unit flying suicide attacks was Tokubetsu Kōgekitai, meaning “Special Attack Unit”. In Japanese Kamikaze actually means “divine winds” and is known since the 13th century when the Mongols tried to invade Japan. Although the Mongols could land on the island of Kyūshū their fleets were destroyed twice by typhoons. These typhoons are said to have killed 10,000 and 100,000 men respectively.
Concerning the Kamikaze pilots I searched the internet for images and it struck me that they do not wear helmets. The pilots I saw wore aviator caps made of leather. Anyway, let’s count these caps as helmets. Still, the question remains why they wore helmets if they were going to die?
I read an extract from a Kamikaze pilots’ manual saying that the pilots should remain in good health and good spirit. So wearing these caps might have had some psychological effect. They felt safe during the flight and the cap made their uniforms complete. Thus, the pilots might have felt complete keeping them in good health and good spirit.

Why is there no cat food with mice-flavor?

Cats love mice to bits. Still, you won’t find any mice-flavored cat food no matter how many supermarkets you go to. Why is that so?
The production of cat food is closely related to, if not depending on, human food. It consists of meat scraps and variety meat of human food production. Since people don no eat mice there is little chance of producing mice-flavored cat food.

When a schizophrenic threatens to commit suicide is he taking a hostage at the same time?

No, he is not taking a hostage. It is a common misbelieve to think that a schizophrenic “consists” of several personalities. The symptoms of schizophrenia are rather delusions and paranoia.
Actually, the question refers to people suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). People with MPD are controlled by at least two personalities, e.g. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Applying the same question to an MPD patient is still interesting although I can only answer it according to German criminal law. There it states that taking a hostage means to abduct or to seize another person in order to hurt the latter and/or a third party. Consequently, a hostage situation has to involve at least two different people: the hostage and the hostage taker. Consequently, one person cannot be both at the same time even when suffering from MPD.

If you tell people there are 400 trillion stars in the sky they believe you. But why do they have to touch a bench if you tell them it’s freshly painted?

400 trillion is a number we cannot grasp and no one can actually verify the amount of stars in the sky. So people tend to believe things they cannot argue about. It was – and still is – the same with me and math. Tell me everything about curve sketching and I’d say amen to that because I’m neither keen nor able to prove you wrong.
However, tell me koalas love smoking eucalyptus reefers and I’d never go to a zoo without a lighter anymore –just in case.
Everyone can verify if a bench is really freshly painted and people tend to verify their belief by touching things. Studies showed that people are more likely to buy things they could touch beforehand.
So maybe it’s because the stars are literally out of reach while the bench isn’t.     

Questions without answers…

…or not.

I found the following questions on the Internet. They were called “Funny Questions”, “Pointless Questions” or “Questions without answers”. And at first glance all these attributes apply to the questions. However, at second glance I felt like answering them. It took me quite some time but in the next days I am going to post a few questions a day and their respective answers that make more or less sense – I hope more rather than less. If I made any mistakes shame on me. Anyway, you’re welcome to comment, correct my mistakes or ask further questions (I’ll try to answer them). To cut a long story short here is the first bunch of questions.

How fast does darkness spread?

We all know that light is pretty fast traveling at around 300,000 Km/h. This means that a ray of light can cover the distance between the earth and the moon – 384,400 Km – in 1.3 seconds. Saying “twenty-one” will take as much time.Considering this speed it is no wonder that whenever you flick a switch the room will immediately be filled with light. How about darkness?
Considering the example of flicking a switch darkness spreads as fast as light. If you turn the light off in a room then it’s dark, isn’t it? So, if light in a room spreads with 300,000 Km/h so does darkness.
Surely, it is different with night and day but that’s another story.

In winter a thermos bottle keeps drinks warm while in summer it keeps them cool. How does a thermos bottle know when it’s summer or winter?

A thermos bottle is made of a stainless steel or plastic shell. The shell contains some kind of a lined glass jar. Between these two layers of glass there is a vacuum to improve insulation. All the thermos bottle does is to slow down the temperature equalization between the inside of the bottle and the outside world. Of course it does not know whether it is summer or winter. Otherwise, you would never be able to keep your coffee hot in the summer, would you?

Why are “lethal injections” performed with sterile needles?

One could think that as the inmate is going to be injected a lethal cocktail it does not matter if a needle is sterile or not. Actually, the states could use the same needles over and over again just cleaning them after they have been used. The prisoner is going to die anyway, so why care about germs and infections?
In their Lethal Injection Procedures the Florida Department of Corrections (and other as well, I guess) states that “[t]he foremost objective of the lethal injection process is a humane and dignified death.” Think what you like but I guess that using sterile needles keeps up some of the prisoner’s dignity, no matter what crimes he has committed. Public executions – justified or not – have always been humiliating for the condemned as death is such an intimate moment.

Why is the line never busy when you dial the wrong number?

There were two answers I could find concerning this question. One had to do with old analogue telephones. When a number was no longer in use but not completely deactivated, a caller could still get a free-line signal.
The other answer is about human selective perception. Selective perception means that one perceives only parts of the environment caused by the brain’s ability to recognize certain patterns. This helps us to deal with vast quantities of information. We filter out the (seemingly) unimportant parts.
But what has selective perception got to do with dialing the wrong number? Well, if you unintentionally dial the wrong number and the line is busy you would not think that you dialed the wrong number. You would assume that you dialed the correct number and that the person you called is just talking on the phone because this is the pattern your brain recognizes: busy line = phone being used.