Say cheese: Smiles work better than face lifts

Q. If you don't quite meet our culture's beauty standard, you can just accept yourself, imperfections and all. Or you might get an extreme makeover, sucking away fat, reshaping your nose, getting a chin tuck and paralyzing your wrinkle-causing muscles. Or you could try the cheaper, painless, "natural" approach. Such as what? –B. Straka
A. In a "Bizarro" cartoon titled "Announcing an Incredible Alternative to Cosmetic Surgery," creator Dan Piraro pictured the same woman frowning and then smiling to convey the idea that a big, friendly smile can effect a profound makeover on many everyday faces, reports David G. Myers in Social Psychology. In fact, studies have shown that not only do we perceive attractive people as more likeable, but we also perceive likeable people as more attractive. Even just written descriptions of pictured people being warm, considerate, and helpful will make them look more attractive.
Now that's as "cheap" a tip as tips can get.

Q. "We put the people in acid. In 15-20 minutes they were no more. They became a liquid." Was this Mafia informant just exaggerating or revealing a sinister m.o.? –G. Barker
A. In "lupara bianca" or "white shotgun" murders, the subject is known to be dead but a body is never found, says Rachel Ehrenberg in Science News magazine. Contrary to claims from the Sicilian Mafia, sulfuric acid will not dissolve a corpse in minutes, a new study finds. Experiments conducted on pig carcasses, a common stand-in for human bodies, showed it takes days to melt flesh in the acid, though the process can speed up with the addition of water, which dissolves muscle and cartilage within 12 hours and turns bone to dust within two days. True enough, this will render a corpse completely unrecognizable but won't completely destroy it, at least not in minutes, said Massimo Grillo of the University of Palermo in Italy.
While the research suggests that members of the crime clan were not particularly good at judging time, noted Atlanta medical examiner Michael Heninger, at least "They're smarter than some Georgia criminals who think they're destroying a body but actually do things that preserve it." 

Q. Try to identify the seven-letter word that has 13 words in it, spelled using consecutive letters.—N. Webster
A. The answer, of course, is "therein," containing itself and the other dozen consecutive-letter words: the, he, her, er, here, I, there, ere, rein, re, in and herein (from the Writing Center of Central Washington University).

Q. Why does your car use hollow tires filled with air or maybe nitrogen? Wouldn't solid rubber last longer? –H. Ford
A. A solid rubber tire would be stronger and could last longer but getting it to turn with decent angular acceleration and speed would be a real gas guzzler, says UVA's Louis A. Bloomfield in How Things Work. Such a tire would have rotational mass about 10 times as great as a hollow tire. With the wheel lifted off the ground, the energy would have to increase by a factor of 100 to get the same spin speed. Now not only would getting it to spin be more difficult but so too would stopping it from spinning.
Picture a playground merry-go-round: It's hard enough to get it moving when empty but with lots of kids loaded on, its angular acceleration and velocity will drop dramatically. And just as with the tire, the farther out from the axis of rotation the kids are positioned, the greater the slowing leverage will be. Better to keep their numbers down and to keep car tires hollow. 
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