STRANGE BUT TRUE- Snooty? No brown-nosers need apply


DRAWING BY DEBORAH DERR McCLINTOCK

Q. Why do dogs have black noses? –M.R. Ramsey

A. Some don't, like a weimaraner or vizsla whose nose matches its silver or red coat color, says New Scientist magazine's "The Last Word." In fact, many puppies start out with pinkish noses that only later darken. One genetic pressure toward black is protection against sunburn, affecting both dogs and cats in areas not fur-protected. Pink-nosed dogs, hairless breeds, and dogs with very thin hair on their ears need to be protected with sunscreen. Another pressure is dog breeders' longstanding preference for black noses, an aesthetic consideration that applies selective influence in pedigree dogs, "adding a bit of human-directed evolution."

Q. In what sport are manufacturers actually being asked to degrade the next generation of equipment? –D. Scott

A. Golf, constituting possibly a first in the sporting world, says David Gould in Popular Mechanics. At issue is how well the modern golfball does its job– too well, says the Augusta National Golf Club, golf course architects and others, including the U.S. Golf Association. Because better and better balls have contributed to longer and longer drives, courses need to keep making renovations, an expensive proposition. At Augusta National, for example, yards have been increased from 6985 in 1999 to 7445 for the 2006 Masters Tournament, the equivalent of one hole! So golf ball makers have been asked to submit prototypes that fly 15-25 yards shorter than current balls when driven at 120 mph. 

Three key steps to help "clip a golf ball's wings": 1. Change the polybutadiene-based core to effect less efficient energy transfer and reduce velocity. 2. Soften the mantle so the ball regains its round shape less quickly, altering acceleration and spin. 3. Revert to prior dimple shapes and geometry, thus increasing ball drag.  

In other words, golf technology in "reverse drive."   

Q. If your two eyes are of different colors, then you probably already know the term for this rare condition. Does it have any special significance? –L.Olsakovsky

A. Called "heterochromia iridium," famous examples reportedly are Jane Seymour (one green iris, one brown) and Dan Aykroyd (blue, brown). Kate Bosworth is said to have partial heterochromia– meaning two different colors in the same iris– with two blue eyes but a hazel section at the bottom of one. Heterochromia can be genetic or caused by eye disease or injury. So check with a doc in any case, and certainly check if an eye suddenly starts changing colors.  But don't worry if your dog, cat or horse exhibits heterochromia, since it's quite common in these species. 

Q. At a math conference of eccentrics, you meet a lady with nice sinusoidal curves– a real prime number! At one point in the spirited evening you mention your palindromic bank account, i.e., its total reading the same forward and backward. (What you don't mention is that it's only $1001.) This prompts her to confide that her bank account total is a "pandigital" number. Wow! You haven't encountered one of those before. So just how rich is she? –K. Federline

A. Pandigital means all 10 digits are used and 0 is not the first digit, says Clifford A. Pickover in Wonders of Numbers. The smallest number to meet these specs would be 1,023,456,789, making her a billionaire at least! And nobody says there can't be many more digits.

Things get tricky, however, when you recall other types of pandigitals, for example, "zeroless" pandigital numbers (123456789 = 123+ million); or ones where exclusivity rules out repeat digits; or (riches be gone) even pandigital fractions such as 6729/13458, worth 50 cents! She sure looks worth a lot more than that.  

Just how eccentric is the lovely lady?

Send Strange questions to brothers Bill and Rich at strangetrue@compuserve.com.

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