Questions without answers #11

How do you call the tool that divides customer’s goods in a supermarket?
Everyone has used these helpful tools at the checkout of a supermarket. They’re quite effective preventing cashiers from accidentally scanning the good of another customer. Standing in line at the checkout you grab one of these little things to state: “These are my goods.” The fascinating thing is that most people really do not know what these things are called. Or maybe they don’t believe they know as the answer is very (too) simple. These “things” are called checkout dividers or grocery dividers.

If man is an advancement of the ape, why are there still apes?
First and foremost, it’s the same with every “model”. Although there are new ones out on the market, old models are still produced and sold. Of course man evolved from the ape and sometimes this is still obvious today. Anyway, man’s ancestor was an ape called Hominini. The Hominini comprises seven genera. Six of them are already extinguished and only one exists until today: homo, i.e. man.
Of course there are still apes these days but not the ones that were man’s ancestors. So, the apes that man developed from have nothing to do with the apes that still exist today.

How do you know that your invisible ink is empty?
Invisible ink is not really invisible, Mr. Bond. It rather becomes invisible when it is applied to paper. To understand how this works you have to know what you can use as invisible ink: vinegar or citric acid. Moisten the tip of a feather, tooth pick or whatever with one of the liquids and write your secret message on a piece of paper. As soon as the paper has dried it will look as though it has never been used. By ironing the paper the message will become visible. Ergo: you can see when your invisible ink is empty.
If you want to know why the message becomes visible read on:
Both vinegar and citric acid are acids that dissolve the paper wherever they are applied. Through heating the paper this chemical reaction – called thermic decomposition – is quickened. The result is that the paper becomes brown where there is acid. Thus, the message becomes visible.

If you choke a Smurf what color does it turn?
Whenever people are choked or strangled their skin turns blue. Choking someone leads to a missing gas exchange causing hypoxemia, i.e. the oxygen partial pressure in the arterial blood decreases. Therefore, the skin turns blue.
For the sake of answering this question we have to assume Smurfs were real (I apologize beforehand if I have just destroyed someone’s world view).
A Smurf is blue by nature. So maybe it turns a deeper shade of blue if you choke it. The answer is no. I went on a long and hard journey through dense forests and deep marshes to get to the Smurfs’ village and choked the first Smurf I met along the way. It did not change color.
Seriously (more or less), look at the picture of a Smurf. What catches your eye immediately? Correct, Smurfs have no necks, so you cannot choke them and so they cannot change their color.

Questions without answers #10

Do zebras have white or black stripes?
Believe it or not, zebras are black. This was shown by embryological evidence. The white stripes are nothing but an addition. Why exactly zebras are striped is unclear. There are, however, some hypotheses ranging from reasons of camouflage to the stripes enabling zebras to identify their herd.
Another hypothesis is that the stripes serve as a protection from the tsetse fly as well as the horsefly. Experiments showed that horseflies do not like stripe patterns.

A man who says dirty things to a woman is called a sexist. A woman saying dirty things to men gets 1€ per minute. Why?
Every form of sexism is discrimination, mostly committed by men against women. There can be different forms of sexism, positive as well as negative. Positive sexism is not (directly) insulting. If there’s a group of consisting of several men and one woman having a meeting positive sexism could be something like this: The woman has to keep the minutes because “she has the most beautiful and best legible handwriting”. An example for negative sexism would be to call a woman a hardcore lesbian because she has short hair, loves soccer and beats you in an arm-wrestling contest.
Anyway, women don’t want to be reduced to their body and judged by certain stereotypes. Most men, however, think they are superior to women. To keep up this alleged superiority they talk about women in discriminating ways. Women don’t want to be discriminated or insulted.
On the other hand, the supposedly sexually hyper-active and overly potent alpha males want to tell their dirty thoughts to someone. Who do they favor? Right, not their drinking mates, but women. Of course they cannot tell their wives their dirtiest fantasies, so there have to be women who pretend to play along, at least on the phone. Well, and that costs 1€ per minute.

Why do coffin lids have to be nailed up?
Better safe than sorry. Remember the dude from Transylvania? You don’t want him to leave his cozy coffin to sneak around your house at night, do you?
The most logical reason for nailing up a coffin lid seems to be protection – not from but for the dead. A coffin has to be transported by car, carried into the church and to the grave and lowered into it. Those are task where accidents could happen. The nails prevent the lid from falling of the coffin. Additionally, having a closed casket for a funeral is often legally fixed.

When you close the door of a fridge where does the light inside go?
This depends on where your fridge stands. A fridge standing in the kitchen has a switch and when you open the door it is released and the light is on. Closing the door means putting the switch in the off position so the light goes out. Just open the door and just press the switch, it has the same effect as closing the door.
The light inside the fridge has to be turned off because the burning bulb would heat up the inside of the fridge. Then the cooling compressor would have to work harder through even more heat exchange which would increase the temperature in the room. There are, however, exceptions. When a fridge is placed in a cool surrounding (like a basement) its control “feels” the coldness and consequently “thinks” that if it’s cool enough already the cooling compressor does not have to do the work. Therefore, the fridge will stop cooling and the goods inside defrost. To prevent this from happening there are fridges where the light is only dimmed when you close the door. This way, the light heats up the inside of the fridge enough for the cooling compressor not to stop working.

Questions without answers #9

Why do airplanes offer life jackets rather than parachutes?

When a plane crashes down onto the ground there is no need for either life jacket or parachutes because in all probability you’ll be dead. When a plane crashes into the water or has to ditch having life jackets on board makes much more sense than having parachutes. Life jackets are easy to use and, once you’re in the water the vest will keep your head above the surface. This way it can even save unconscious people. Wearing a life jacket also lengthens the time before hypothermia sets in because of keeping you afloat and thus saving your energy.
Using a parachute is far more complicated. First and foremost there would be chaos. If a plane is crashing down everyone would want to jump out first. There’d be accidents in the air when people crash into each other. Additionally, it takes a certain height to be able to jump and open your parachute. While a plane is losing height quickly, some people might not have that time. Another problem is that most people don’t know how to steer a parachute.
All in all, parachutes are no good compared to life jackets even concerning plane crashes.
And why need a parachute? When a plane crashes you’re always sure to come down.

If a “Black Box” is indestructible, why aren’t planes build from this material?

Black boxes or more accurately flight recorders help to investigate airplane incidents or accidents. To preserves black boxes they have to be build to a certain standard. Normally, a black box can stand temperatures up to 1000 °C and impacts of up to 3400 g (1 g = 9.81 m/s²) and they’re waterproof until at least 6000 meters. Through an underwater locator beacon (ULB) a black box can be located underwater.
The two most common types of flight recorders are flight data recorders (FDR) and cockpit voice recorders (CVR) often combined as a single FDR/CVR unit.
A black box can be found either in the middle or in the tail of an airplane as those parts will most likely to “survive” a crash.
The interesting thing is that the box itself and its inner life might or will be destroyed in a crash. Only the so called crash-survivable memory units (CSMU) are protected by three layers of materials and, it seems, indestructible. The memory cards are encased by an aluminum housing protected by high-temperature insulation which is made of dry-silica and 2.54 cm thick. The outer case is made of stainless steel and 0.64 cm thick. It can also be made of Titanium.
If planes consisted completely of steel they’d simply be too heavy and thus they would need too much fuel. And planes that are constructed completely of aluminum wouldn’t be stable enough. So, various materials are needed to build planes.

Why does someone ask questions although he does not want to get an answer?

In that case it’s important to know why someone asked the question in the first place. If the person is expressing an opinion or conveying his point of view he may ask a rhetorical question at the end of his speech emphasizing what he just said. Rhetorical questions require no answer as they don’t serve the purpose of gaining information.
On the other hand people might not want to hear the answer to a question because they already know it. Or maybe they are afraid of the answer but had to ask the question for reasons of peace of mind. So, there are many reasons one might ask a question but not want to know the answer.

How do “Keep off the grass”-signs get onto the grass?

If such a sign is found at the edge of the grass whoever put it there did not have to step on the grass. However, if they are placed in the middle of the grass somebody had the right to put it there. Additionally, as long as there is no sign asking you to keep off the grass, you are allowed to step on it. And as soon as you put the sign in place you leave the grass and so are obeying what the sign dictates. See, no harm done.

Questions without answers #8

Why does sour cream have an expiration date?

Sour cream is a dairy product which is obtained by fermenting cream with some kinds of lactic acid bacteria. The bacteria cause the cream to become sour and thicker. Sour cream can be used as a topping for baked potatoes or as the base for salad dressings, to name only a few examples.
Anyway, even sour cream has an expiration date. One could argue that whenever cream is fermented (on purpose or not) the result is sour cream and can still be used. That might be correct but once there is mold visible on top the sour cream can be contaminated. The mold may cause the development of mycotoxins and aflatoxin. Mycotoxins belong to the family of fungi and their ingestion can lead to damage of the macrophage system. Macrophages are leucocytes and they belong to the immune system.
Aflatoxin is another fungus belonging to the group of mycotoxins which can even delay a child’s development although it is not too dangerous for grown-ups. Therefore, even sour cream needs and expiration date.

What do butterflies have in their stomachs when they are in love?

The highly romantic answer is: nothing. A male butterfly courts the female with a special kind of flight and then circumambulates her on the ground. During their flight the butterflies “touch” each other and sent out different scents to increase their partner’s willingness for mating. Interestingly enough, some female butterflies don’t even need a male to fertilize their eggs.
Having butterflies in one’s stomach is an idiomatic expression describing the chemical process of someone being in love. The process includes different hormones like dopamine, oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin and vasopressin initiate a learning process in the lovers’ striatum – a part of the forebrain – during which they learn to associate positive feelings with each other.
Dopamine, a messenger substance, floods the lovers’ reward systems at the slightest sign from their beloved. So it seems to be the interaction of these hormones that causes people to feel butterflies in their stomach.
What is quite interesting is that the serotonin level of people in love and people suffering from compulsion neurosis lies 40 % below the standard value. This means that in a biochemical sense people in love are mentally ill. This phenomenon is called “micro-paranoia”.

Are there coffee breaks in tea factories?

A so called coffee break is nothing but a short period of time one might use to drink coffee. So, generally, one has the opportunity to drink anything because coffee break does not mean you have to drink coffee – otherwise you’d have to cancel coffee breaks for people who don’t like coffee. As each factory has certain periods of time that offer the possibility of having a drink, tea factories also offer these breaks. Consequently, tea factories have coffee breaks.

Do blind Eskimos have seeing-eye sledge dogs?

Firstly, I don’t think that Eskimos who weren’t born blind ride a sleigh. Of course I may be wrong but I imagine it nearly impossible to keep your balance standing on a moving sleigh while you don’t see anything. It might be different if you were born blind or have been blind from an early age on, but still.
Anyway, back to the question at hand. Let us assume there is a blind Eskimo who wants to travel from point A to point B. Would he be able to do so? Yes, he would and he does not need specially trained seeing-eye dogs. Apart from having to be mentally fit, sledge dogs have to be able to understand commands and implement them. Additionally, they must be able to find the right trail. So, when they hear the command “To point B” they will know how to get there, even if their driver is blind. Maybe they won’t get to new locations but they’ll find known ones.

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.