Vaguest Explanations!!To my surprise I've discovered that the revered Explainer on the excellent Slate site, doesn't actually answer all the questions they receive. They recently posted a selected list of unanswered questions, asking for readers to vote a favourite. I have opted to instead answer these questions (note the questions are the property of Slate and their authors, and can be found at The Unanswered Questions Digging through the bottom of the Explainer mailbag. By Daniel Engber).
• What comes after 999 trillion?
999 trillion and one. (I'm guessing that the questioner meant to ask "what comes after 999 trillion, 999 billion, 999 million, 999 thousand, and 999?" That would be 1 quadrillion. However it should be noted that this stuff isn't standardized. An American Billion is One Thousand Million in Britain (although, I believe the Bush administration has pressured Blair into caving in on this one as well, this proves the CIA have something on Blair).
• Why do train whistles at night always sound lonely and mournful? Not so in the daytime.
Because we cannot see the train at night, the mind is tricked into thinking it's hearing an old codger in a jail cell playing a harmonica. This should not be regarded as sad, lonely or mournful, as he has clearly busked without a license, and will shortly be silenced by the gang banger in his cell.
• Given the exchange and dispersion of matter, how likely is it/how often do we inhale/consume and/or incorporate into our own protein structure molecules that were once in some historical figure, say Abraham Lincoln?
The real question here is: Given Lincoln's alleged homosexuality, is more of his matter dispersed amongst heterosexuals or gays? And which States will allow partners (regardless of sex) to wed if they contain so-called Lincoln particles. Sidebar: do owners of Lincoln particles ever find themselves wistfully desiring someone tall dark and stovepiped?
• Lasers are now powerful and small (at least I think they are), so why don't our troops carry laser guns?
Donald Rumsfeld, in secret defense department memos, advocated lasers as the way to conclusively win in Iraq. The Shiah Muslims regard the laser as "the destructive light of Allah" and so would be demoralized into submission. Poor intelligence sources also suggested that Saddam had stockpiled lasers in his arsenal, but all that was uncovered was a Baghdad warehouse with thousands of laser pointers and a similar number of obsolete overhead projectors. Rumsfeld's laser initiative had to be shelved when the combination of insufficient body armor, friendly fire, and the troops tendency to shun reflective overwear led to fatalities.
• Why is smooth peanut butter cheaper than nutty?
The "nuts" in chunky peanut butter are reconstituted from smooth peanut butter. This is why, in certain territories, it must be referred to as "chunky" rather than "nutty" to avoid prosecution under trade description acts.
• If we taught animals to talk, how would that affect the world?
This is a stupid question. Animals already talk. Just not to us.
• What would happen to the stock market if a meteor impacted the earth? What would happen to the global markets and the U.S. market? Say a meteor hits inside U.S. borders and takes out two states.
This is a trick question, like that "where do they bury the survivors?" one. Only natural disasters in Hollywood films are geographically aware enough to attack particular cities or states. Of course, if we're talking "acts of God" then it would depend on whether they were blue or red States, at least then we'd finally know which side God's on. On the other hand small meteors hit the earth constantly, and conspiracy theorists tout the magic meteorite theory of small bullet sized meteors having struck down a number of Kennedy's, MLK, Marilyn, etc.
• Is it possible to collect all the cookie dough in Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream and actually bake cookies from it?
Yes, but it is wisest to remove the ice cream first. This is most easily done by feeding the ice cream to your cat, the ice cream, being milk based will safely enter the cat's digestive system, and the cookie dough will be vomited back up in a fur ball. That, of course, poses a more disgusting problem.
• How clean is bar soap in a public bathroom? Is it "self-cleaning," since it's soap? It seems like a health hazard to me.
This is a conundrum on the level of the shampoo instructions to "lather, rinse, repeat." As long as you thoroughly wash the suspect soap off your hands, and then don't touch anything until you can return home to your sterile clean room environment, you should be ok. Once home, use the high intensity sunlamp to flash singe the upper layer of skin cells off your hands, just to be sure. Also, it is erroneous to think that soap is "self cleaning" any more than the pope is "self blessing." The main thing is not to eat the soap.
• Why did Zidane head-butt his opponent in the World Cup final? Do the French not fight with their fists?
He clearly confused a Glasgow kiss with a French kiss. He was probably seized with a fit of repressed attraction to the other player. Latent homosexuality is rife in football (what do you think soccer is code for?), and Camus, himself a goal keeper, wrote about it in letters to Stanley Baldwin.
• When we are approaching another person, like in a hallway, why do we step to our left? That is, try and pass right-shoulder-to-right-shoulder.
This is a result of a genetic disposition to Lambada. Note: it's the left side below the equator.
• I have been pondering this situation for as long as I can remember (maybe age 7-8) and it drives me nuts. It makes me feel like my head will implode if I think any harder. Is the universe infinite? It must end somewhere. But when it ends … there must be something on the other side … right?
Time/space is curved, so on the other side, you just find this universe. Of course you end up somewhere else entirely if you miss the left turn at Albuquerque.
• If a group of passengers on a hijacked plane wanted to, could they bring a plane down by all of them using their cell phones at the same time?
Only if they can lean out one of the doors far enough to accurately throw the phones into the jet engines. Any other use of the phones to bring the plane down would rely on unpredictable service areas, or incur prohibitive charges.
• Why do humans die so young? In biblical times, people lived for several hundred years; now living to 100 is considered a long life. What happened?
Biblical measures are drastically different from today's. A cubit, for example is now the size of a sugar cube, and yet Noah's Ark was forty cubits long. Of course the variability of the length of "days" and "years" between then and now causes no end of trouble for creationists.
• How can I tell if I was the first person to use the term "K-fed-up" in relation to Britney's divorce?
Britney is divorced? Hold on, when did she get married? Who to? She didn't tell me. Oh wait, she stopped taking my calls about two years ago. Hope she hasn't changed the number. You think maybe she needs a shoulder to cry on?
• Why is the No. 8 always the same combination (tamale, enchilada, rice, beans) in any Mexican restaurant I visit? This includes primarily the southeast United States but not obvious franchises.
Coincidentally, the Spanish word for eight, ocho, also means "combination of the accursed gringo". So clearly your tastes have been anticipated.
• Hi, how does nature make water? How does nature combine one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms to make water? If we knew how nature makes water, then perhaps we can then find an efficient way of separating hydrogen from oxygen, thus creating the ultimate source for energy.
This reader's details have been forwarded to Homeland Security. The understanding this question shows of fundamental chemical processes that could be used, in the wrong hands, to create weapons of unbelievable destructive power (WUDP). Also, everyone knows that God made water, it did not evolve from Oxygen and Hydrogen.
• Why is grilled chicken tasting increasingly rubbery and odd?
As you get older your tastebuds die off, also your ability to discern the difference between the grocery store and an old time joke shop deteriorates. For instance, look closer at those blue corn tortillas you bought to make chimichangas, you will find that they are actually whoopie cushions. And be careful the next time you open a can of peanuts.
• i need more money.....what business can i start that will not take a lot of time...i have internet access daily...........and i have saturday morning free before 12 noon to run around. i work from 7am to 9:30 pm..............
Economic theorists have speculated that there must be a way to use the internet to combine porn, pyramid schemes, and IPO's. If you can find a way to do that, the world is your oyster.
• Just suppose, one day someone wants to sell you an old gold bar. You don't know if it belongs to any treasure, and you can't find out if there is any reward for it, if it was a lost treasure. How would you go about melting it and selling it? The same would go for a gemstone about the size of a dinner plate. How would you go about selling it? If you're living in a country that is corrupt and you cannot trust the government, or anyone else, what can you do?
You are clearly mistaken about the value of these worthless trinkets. You must send them to me, and I will make sure no one is ever again a victim of this sinister fraud.
• Can you tell me how long it will take if you eat rat poison to see if it is going to affect you? Please e-mail me back. Because my niece ate some.
If she's still alive by the time you read this, she'll probably be OK. However, there is no shame in having uncontrollable urges to eat rat poison, you should tell your "niece" this. Or drop the charade, Ben. Just because Michael Jackson let you down.
• Hi. I just wanted to know if our eyeballs roll back when we are sleeping (or closed) or do they shake? Or …
Rattle, ostensibly. You've been listening to a single track on repeat, and it has subliminally affected your thinking. I'm guessing you're using the Elvis cover of Shake, Rattle and Roll, you might find relief by switching to either the Eddie Cochran, or the Bill Haley and Comets versions. The Big Joe Turner original cut is preferred in lower doses, if you have a low mojo threshold.
• PYGMIES: How/when/where/still in existence/do we mate with them?
Only on Thursdays.
• Do dolphins actually save people? If so, why do they do this?
Dolphins have no theological understanding, and so do no religious proselytizing, it is doubtful if any have found Christ and been born again through dolphins. On this point please ignore the Apocrypha of Saint Fa which suggests that Christ did not walk on the water, but was balanced on the noses of two Dolphins (still a pretty nifty, reasonably divine feat, although there's a member of the Chinese State Circus who does this whilst scarf juggling).
• I have a sister that stresses the hell out of me. For example this one sister out of three knows that I am recovering from a serious car accident. I thank God for saving my life, and healing me each and every day. My question is can a person who complains and talks about the same complaining crap every day stress you completely out? About four days ago I had to tell this one sister (Annie) basically to get a life and stop bugging me with her problems and everybody else's. I reminded her that I am still in a neck brace and healing … I really need to know if a person can really stress you out with the same old thing over and over and over again. PLEASE ANSWER BACK ASAP.
Hello, I'm sorry, but we're all out at the moment, could you please leave a message after the exclamation point..........!
• Can someone be forced to masturbate?
It's not masturbation if you make someone else do it.
• Why do we make a "lip-smacking" sound when kissing closed-mouth? We do make the sound; it doesn't happen on its own ...
Obviously you are not lubricating your lips sufficiently to safely engage in the act. This causes a combination of friction, surface tension, and static discharge which may release through sound. This is extremely dangerous.
• What's likely to happen to people, or what might they feel, when they're killed instantly?
Do I look like I care? Obviously, whatever they feel, it happens pretty quickly. Why dwell on it?
• Can a state in the United States split into two or more states? If so, how? I think Texas has a special provision for being able to divide into up to five states. But I am wondering about the others.
Unfortunately the United States is limited to 50. This was due to a pre-millennium programming error. So, yes a State could divide into more States, but they would have to eliminate an equal number of States. See Solid State Physics for a more obtuse answer.
• I have noticed that a lot of mainstream movies feature men peeing. Are the actors really peeing?
Yes, they are peeing. But what you don't know is that there is much contention between the acting theorists. Brechtians follow a strict diet during productions, Grotowskiists insist on implanting a balloon in their own bladders which when inflated will cause pressure leading to urination. Even amongst the Method acting schools there is dispute, Stella Adler advocated the Long Island Iced Tea method, whilst Lee Strasberg supported the clenched sphincter technique. Stanislavski purists pee whilst imagining putting out a fire. You might suppose that with modern effects that this would be unnecessary, but pee is one of the thing that CGI still can't get right, in fact, when a Computer Generated character pees on screen, an actor is paid to urinate in front of a blue screen, with the CGI character "matched" to the end of the resulting stream.
• yea i have my own 620 gang and i dont know how to run it to make not look like a little bitch gang joke it is just me and my friend how do i run it?
Dear Sir, perhaps you would like to take your fake little bitch gang and go to a "rumble" or whatever you homies call it in your modern lingo. Just wait until they reinstitute the draft, you waster.
• Hi. How did the horse in the movie about dreams make it to not only survive but to win again? Was this movie true?
All movies are true. But not all of them are based in fact.
• Working in my yard yesterday, I killed a gnat in my ear canal, where it had flown. I couldn't remove the body as my finger was too fat. What happens to it now?
Most likely your body will slowly move the remains down your Eustachian tube, it should eventually reach your esophagus, stomach, then be absorbed into you through digestion. If you are unlucky, its spirit could bind with one of the tiny bones in your ear, haunting you forever with small irritating gnat noises, or causing dizziness and disorientation. You may need an entomological exorcist. They're under E in the phone book.
• What is the richest religion? Scientology has a lot of Hollywood stars and I think they actually make their members give money, but Catholicism is a very old religion with its own country. Also, Islam has a lot of members but I don't know about their money situation.
Jedi is the richest religion. It's adherents pay unimaginable sums for holy artifacts. They have also made four extremely mediocre movies into blockbuster hits, despite only being enraptured by two pretty good films first.
• Is chicken considered meat?
Cookbooks usually class chicken as poultry, but vegetarian cookbooks would call chicken, or any flesh, meat. And, no, you can't tell that cute hippie girl that you're a vegetarian. You're better off studying sitar if you want to get under that peasant dress of hers.
• Hello ... Could you tell me if there's been any kind of medical discovery in the last 30 years besides DNA.
The only advances in medicine over the last thirty years have been in the area of creative grant applications. In fact all the so called new research into regenerative therapies are just new names for existing things. Stem cells are really just antibiotics. If the public wasn't just so obsessed with everything being new and improved, we wouldn't have all this controversy.
• Are UFOs confirmed to be from other Alien Planets?
No, they are only from the original Alien Planets, apart from Mars, Ork, Vulcan, Romulus, Klingon, Alpha Centauri, and the one from Wrath of Khan, there are no other alien planets.
• I met a 40-year-old stripper back in February of this year. We had a special connection. Yet, she was homeless, going through a divorce and bankruptcy. She has three kids who live in Alabama and she pays $500 a month in child support. Moreover, she used cocaine. At one point, she was arrested for forgery. She spent a month in jail but was released under the condition that she become a narc for the police department. She gave the names of her dealers and would wear wires when drug deals were going down. I let her stay at my place and kept food in the refrigerator. This past Monday she took all her clothes, my money, and left. The night before, she hung out with some friends. I called her, and she said I was too good for her. She said she had never been treated so well. She said she would drag me down and she couldn't bear to handle that. I told her my hopes and dreams the night before. I wonder if I scared her off. I don't know what to make of it. I don't know if she met someone else the night before and doesn't want to tell me. It's killing me inside. I cried for her. I really cared for her. Can you give me some advice?
You really have two choices, pine for her for the rest of your life, or hunt and kill her for the lying whore she was. You may want to seek legal advice first.
If anyone has unanswered questions that I could divine the answers to please feel free to send them the way of this blog.