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.
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.