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The answer is not here

Editor's note: Slate, the online magazine, has a feature called The Explainer, which answers questions posed by readers about events in the news. Not every question gets answered.

Related News/Archive

The Explainer has completed another year of valuable community service. Over the last 12 months, we've told you how to interrogate a small child, how to survive a 47-story fall and why you can't survive falling into a black hole. And we had the final word on whether terrorists really bump fists to say hello.

But, for all that, the column managed to address just a tiny fraction of the 8,500 messages that arrived in our mailbox. Below are the reader questions that Slate felt ill-equipped or unwilling to answer in 2008.

• What is the most disloyal dog breed?

• Why does some music make you want to shake your butt?

• Could you please explain why it is that squirrels are capable of such amazing athletic feats? What is it about their brains and, to a lesser degree, their bodies that allows it? I watch them at my house and have seen some amazing things.

• Is it just me, or do all national anthems the world over, no matter how rich and exotic the culture, seem to sound like European marching-band music? Wouldn't one expect China's national anthem be more "plinky"? Shouldn't Iraq's national anthem sound a little more "Arab-y"?

• I am an 11-year-old boy and girls in my class harass me constantly and I want to file a restraining order against one of them. Is that possible?

• It is a common baseball prank to give someone a cream pie in the face during a TV interview. Where do these cream pies come from? Do baseball teams keep cream pies in the dugout?

• Why don't humans have a mating season?

• My toaster identifies which of the two slots should be used for making a single slice of toast. Why does it make a difference which slot I use?

• If one gets a personal e-mail from a very famous or important person, such as the president, or the queen of England, or the pope, or Paul McCartney, can that e-mail have monetary value? I guess not. It's just an electronic transmission on a screen. There's no original. There's no way to buy or sell it. Seems a shame tho.

• If you were on a boat, what signs do sharks give if they are hungry and will attack versus if they just want to swim around the boat?

• How did early man deal with growing toe and fingernails?

• If someone with DNA from the Stone Age were born today, would they be normal?

• I wonder what's going on with Obama's eyes. I'm wondering if Obama has had his eyelashes shortened. If he has had them shortened, I think that's an excellent idea. Because that long lashes pretty eyes look actually doesn't look so good on a man. At least not if he's running for president.

• During a football playoff game in Green Bay, the temperature at kickoff was 0 degrees, and by the end of the game was -4 degrees. When players get injured in such weather, do they bother putting ice on the injury? Wouldn't that warm up the injury to 32 degrees?

• Can an average person not in politics get a pardon from the president of the United States? (Possession of forged instrument, October of 1989.)

• Who made up the rule that if you wore a shirt all day, went home, and washed it, you can't wear it the next day?

• Why do cockroaches flip over on their backsides when they die? I sprayed RAID into a hole in my wall the other day, and by the next morning I found six cockroaches laid out on my floor, all flipped over and all very dead!

• Why do the women gymnasts walk around between events with that goofy arm-swing gait?

• Why are pandas names doubled? Ling Ling, Tuan Tuan, Yuan Yuan.

• Are the frequently used "jaws of life" really necessary or just big-boy toys for rescuers?

• How long can humans live when they are caught on fire? For example, when a car crashes and explodes turns into a gulf of flames, but humans are alive.

The answer is not here 12/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 2:25pm]
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