Pop a top: Then watch

Q. Ever "popped" a friend's beer in a tavern? Better be a good friend. –Flounder

 A. You sound like you hang with a classy crowd, Flounder. Here's how it works: Some poor sucker sets down his unfinished longneck on a table or the floor, and along comes a wiseacre who thunks down his own bottle onto the rim of the bottle beneath, which now erupts like Vesuvius. What probably happens is that a sound wave is unleashed inside the liquid, creating high and low pressure zones. Inside the low-pressure regions, activated microbubbles suddenly expand like mad, creating the wet whooooooosh!

Q. You run into an old friend, an astronomer, and she tells you her marriage has gone sour. "Joe and I make love now only once in a blue moon. And I mean that literally." From this, how cold would you say their lovebed has grown? ­M. Hubble

 A. "Once in a blue moon"– a phrase that has been around at least 400 years, according to folklorist Philip Hiscock– has at least two common meanings: One is the second full moon occurring in a calendar month, which happens roughly once every three years.

The other meaning signifies an actual bluing of the moon's (or sun's) appearance. Ordinarily the moon looks white or yellow, or maybe orange or red when low in the sky.

But blue moons are rare indeed– brought on by particles of volcanic dust or forest fire ash being released into the atmosphere. These particles, to cause bluing, must be of a certain rare critical size, as occurred in 1950 in Alberta, Canada, when airborne oil droplets from forest fires blued the moon as far away as Scotland.

Either way, you can assume your friend's marriage bed needs some heavy stoking.

Q. For you sexual literati, what's the "Coolidge effect"? ­F. Leghorn

A. The story goes that when U.S. President Calvin Coolidge's wife spotted a rooster mating repeatedly, she said to her guide, "Tell Mr. Coolidge about that."

When informed of the remark, her husband asked: "Was this always with the same hen?" Told that it wasn't, he retorted: "Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge."

Thus the "Coolidge effect"– a biological fact refers to the extra stimulative power of a novel mate for humans as well as other species.

Q. There's a baby babbling away in a carriage right outside the United Nations Building. Could a linguist tell what language Mom and Dad speak? ­B. Huey

A. Not before age six months, when all "phonemes" (vocal building blocks) of all the world's languages are still evident. But as baby nears talk take-off, "foreign" phonemes are dropped from the babble repertoire. Now a trained ear could identify baby's language-to-be.

Q. It hovers in mid-air, it's a startling vision, few people have seen one, most can't explain it, it's not a UFO. It's a "floating finger sausage." Ever lay eyes on one? ­R. Serling

A. Point your index fingers toward each other about 5 inches in front of your eyes, with the tips half an inch apart. Now look between and past your fingers to the wall beyond. Can you see the disembodied chunk of finger, sausage shaped, with a nail at either end, floating between your fingertips? "Retinal disparity" creates the illusion, says Hope College psychologist David G. Myers, with your right eye seeing a slightly different view from your left eye, more pronounced for nearby objects. This is used in making 3-D movies and "Viewmaster" 3-D scenes, where a pair of cameras set a few inches apart simulate depth perception.

Observe that you can wiggle the sausage or shrink it or enlarge it by shifting the distances to and between your fingertips. But you can't cook it.

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