Killer kisses: Pucker up without biting

Q. What are the riskiest "kisses" of them all? –J.S. Frost
A. The recent rise of interest in vampires, particularly among teens, has brought to the fore the practice of biting another person to draw blood, says Sheril Kirshenbaum in The Science of Kissing.
         "Just don't do it," she cautions. Swapping saliva through trading kisses is vastly safer than injecting gobs of potentially dangerous microorganisms into the bloodstream of your beloved. Many of the germs in our mouths are harmless until they break the skin barrier. In fact, doctors consider the human bite to be of greater concern than most snake bites or broken bones and often send human bite victims straight to the emergency room.
          Killer kisses of an entirely different sort can strike even a conventional pair when one of them becomes covered with hives or has trouble breathing after coming into contact with trace amounts of food on the other's lips. Allergens like peanut butter or shellfish or split pea soup can kill more than a romantic mood.
         Then there was the bizarre case reported in 2009 by Florida's Lee County Health Department, when authorities put out a search for three boys, aged ten to twelve, who had been seen kissing a dead rabid bat.
          "Who knows what they were thinking but they were taking a tremendous risk. There is no cure for rabies," a news story reported.

Q. What's the shortest English word in which every vowel is used once and only once? –P. M. Roget
A. There's the everyday "sequoia" and the equally short "eumonia," for "the state of having good laws that are well administered," says Anu Garg in The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two. Other short five-vowelers are "eulogia" (eulogies or blessings) and "aerious" (airy), the latter with all the vowels in order. To add the sometime vowel "y," make that "aeriously." And for a word that more than takes the vowel prize, consider "ultrarevolutionaries," which contains two full sets of regular vowels!

Q. A puzzle for you math lovers: Several cats are brought on board a ship to eliminate a rat infestation. Each cat kills exactly the same number of rats, and that number is larger than the number of cats. If a total of 1,111 rats are killed, how many cats were there? –J. Fariello
A. Let C = the number of cats, R = the number of rats killed by each. You know C x R = 1,111. There are only four ways to factor 1,111: 1 x 1,111; 11 x 101; 101 x 11; 1,111 x 1. So C must be 1, 11, 101 or 1,111. Since there were "several" cats, 1 can be eliminated. But if C is 101 or 1,111, then R = 11 or 1 respectively, meaning more cats than rats, so eliminate them as well. Therefore the number of cats must be 11, with each cat dispatching 101 rats (from ScienceIllustrated.Com magazine).

Q. What does the following statement illustrate about the nature of stereotypes? "Heaven is a place with an American house, Chinese food, British police, a German car, and French art. Hell is a place with a Japanese house, Chinese police, British food, German art, and a French car." –B.Connor
A. That's 10 stereotypes in under 50 words! Stereotypes are beliefs about the personal attributes of a group of people, and, as the above quotation shows, can be either positive or negative, say Lee Vussin, Clark McCauley and Yueh-Ting Lee, as reported by David G. Meyers in Social Psychology. The easy understandability of these 10 is testament to their wide currency. An accurate stereotype may actually exhibit "sensitivity to diversity" or "cultural awareness in a multicultural world."
       Yet the problem with stereotypes arises when they are over-generalized or just plain wrong. Any germ of truth can be overblown, with individuals in the group varying far more than expected. Now prejudice and discrimination become tragically close at hand.
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Send Strange questions to brothers Bill and Rich at Strangetrue@cs.com



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