STRANGEBUTTRUE- Snap, Crackle: But why all the Crispies' noise?


DRAWING BY DEBORAH DERR McCLINTOCK

Q. What's the story behind the "snap, crackle and pop" slogan long used by one popular breakfast cereal? –G. Mills

A. The cereal consists of toasted, puffed rice grains that, when placed in milk, make the signature sound, says Jearl Walker in The Flying Circus of Physics. Each grain is brittle and under stress, with the various parts pulling on one another.

When the grain becomes wet, it loses rigidity and the stresses rip it apart, causing momentary oscillations and producing a faint pulse of sound that is more crackle than a snap or pop.

"If you eat this type of breakfast cereal, keep in mind that the sounds you hear are the dying shrieks of puffed rice grains," Walker writes.

Q. "I'm looking over a four-leaf clover that I overlooked before." Lucky you! But how lucky exactly, and why might this good luck be coming to an end soon? –C. Lindberg

A. The natural frequency of a four-leaf clover, as reported in the journal Crop Science, is a mere 1 percent in 10,000 plants. That's about your chance of flipping 13 heads in a row.

Yet the genetic variable for producing four leaves has been identified sufficiently that breeders might soon be able to grow more of this variety– meaning the bottom could be about to fall out of the four-leaf clover business– from being "in the clover" to being over-clovered and lucky no more, according to New Scientist magazine.

Q. At the amusement park, too much round-and-round riding is starting to make you feel queasy. You need to lie down– fast!– but the only place to do this is along a radius to the car. Should you lie with your feet or your head toward the center of the circle? –K. Dominion

A. Physicists answer that if you lie with your feet towards the hub of rotation, there is nothing to give your gutful of food an inward acceleration and so it will tend to move up your gullet, says Keith Lockett in Physics in the Real World.

Biologists say that being sick has nothing to do with the forces on your stomach, but rather is due to your perception of speed and acceleration. With your legs toward the center, your head will experience a bigger acceleration than your feet– making you feel sick.

"So perhaps the physicists' answer is right but for the wrong reason," writes Lockett.

Q. Don't let anyone tell "you you" can't fix the eyesore in this sentence. So, can you? –R. Hingeley

A. Just separate the two you's with the word "that," says Mark Davidson in Right, Wrong, and Risky: A Dictionary of Today's American English Usage. He's here to tell you that you can easily fix this eyesore anytime it occurs, so it'll be sore no more.

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Send Strange questions to brothers Bill and Rich at Strangetrue@cs.com

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