On the other hand...

Q. The power of suggestion can be pretty amazing. Is it possible for someone simply to will warts away? ­M.H. Erickson

 A. In The Medusa and the Snail, noted biologist Lewis Thomas tells of cases where people afflicted with large numbers of warts were able, under hypnosis, to "think them" off their body.

There has always been some mystery surrounding warts. Virus induced, they frequently just disappear, for no good reason, after long stays on the carrier's body. Now, adding more mystery, nine out of 14 subjects in one clinical study were able, under hypnotic suggestion, to unleash unknown body processes that cleared up all the warts on one side of the body– as directed by the hypnotist while leaving warts on the other side intact!

One of the subjects confused left and right and destroyed all the warts on the "wrong" side of the body. Nobody has the slightest clue how this works, says Thomas, but at some level, matters of cell rejection are involved, including how viruses get identified as being "foreign"– all done subconsciously. There's an amazing sort of "superintelligence" within us that is far wiser than any of our current technological know-how.

 

Q. English and French dogs sound the same in Nature, as do English and French birds, cows, bees. But do they sound the same in English and French?R. T. Tin

A. The same dog that goes "bow wow," "arf," "woof" or" ruff ruff" in English will go "ouah ouah" in French, "woef"in Dutch, "hau hau" in Finnish, "wau wau" in German, "wangwang" in Chinese (Mandarin), "wanwan" in Japanese, "guauguau" in Spanish (Spain) and "vov vov" in Swedish, says linguist Catherine N. Ball of Georgetown University.

In English, birds call out "tweet tweet," in Arabic (Algeria) "twit twit," in Finnish "tsirp tsirp," in Korean "ji-ji-bae-bae," in Spanish (Argentina) "pi pi." Cows "moo" in English, Turkish, Arabic, Greek or Hebrew; "muuuu" in Portuguese, Italian, Ukrainian, Swedishor Spanish (Spain, Argentina); "mu mu" in Chinese; "maw maw"in Thai, "booooo" in Hungarian, "boeh" in Dutch.

And busy bees "bzzzz" in English, French, Finnish, Dutch, Hebrew or Spanish (Spain, Argentina); "bzz bzz" in Swedish; "bezzzz" in Arabic; "dzzz" in Ukrainian; vzzzz" in Turkish; "zzzzzz" in Italian; "bunbun" in Japanese; "boong-boong" in Korean; "summ summ" in German.

 

Q. Don't you wish at times you could step into a time machine and go back to a simpler, more romantic age? How about searching for your true love with the Cavalier poets three centuries ago, "gathering ye rosebuds while ye may"? ­R. Herrick

 A. Sex appeal was likely a rare commodity back then, with most people suffering poor nutrition and lacking even the energy for sex, says English historian Lawrence Stone. Even if they had the energy, often along with it went lice-filled hair, bad breath, rotting teeth. People rarely washed, add psychologist Elaine Hatfield and historian Richard Rapson in Love and Sex: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Their skin crawled with eczema, scabs, running sores, oozing ulcers, and other disfiguring skin diseases.

Women suffered from gynecological problems– infections, ulcers, tumors and bleeding, making sexual intercourse painful or impossible. "Men or women who engaged in sexual relations were likely to catch any number of venereal diseases. For example, James Boswell, the 18th-century biographer, contracted gonorrhea at least 17 times."

Q. If it weren't for "flicker fusion," there never would have been Independence Day, Godzilla, Gone With the Wind, or any other famous or infamous flick. What's flicker fusion, anyway? ­S. Goldwyn

 A. Turn a bright light off in a dark room and your eye-brain system won't register the turn off for a split second as the image fades in memory. If you could turn the light on and off extremely rapidly– say 48 times a second– the brief bright bursts would fuse into one seeming continuous light. That's the flicker rate of many motion pictures (24 frames/second, each frame flashed twice), leading to apparent continuous action even though if you could slow things down enough and take a look, the screen would in fact be totally blank much of the time.

Send strange questions to brothers Bill and Rich at StrangeTrue@Compuserve.com.