Hang over: Drive a librarian crazy


Q. You should always be nice to librarians, because you never know when you might need help on a term paper, biz report, whatever. Then again, if you just can't be nice... –S. Johnson

A. You locate several books of nearly equal size and weight, and begin by placing one overhanging a library tabletop edge just far enough so the book's center of mass does not engender torquefall to the floor.

Step 2: Place a second book under the first, with the upper book sticking out and the lower book now acting like a tabletop, describes Jearl Walker in Scientific American. The combined center of mass of the two-book system will allow you to slide the lower book out about another quarter book length. "A few trials will reveal the proper balance."

Next add a third book, then a fourth... You can begin to generate a really nice overhang. The general formula is 1/2 x (1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + 1/4...) to figure the overhang in book lengths. This means it takes at least four books before the stack may overhang by a full book's length.

If you've got lots of time on your steady hands, 31 books may yield a 2-book-lengths overhang. Then move away to savor the expression of startlement on the discovering librarian's face. Tomorrow you can start being nice.

Q. It's said women crave intimacy after lovemaking, whereas men most often slip off to the zzz-onk zone or leave. Can't the two sexes get together at least on this? –J. Child

A. If they play it smart, they'll recall from ninth-grade biology that sexual activity is aerobic, burning calories, converting food into sugar for fuel, says Perry W. Buffington in Cheap Psychological Tricks for Lovers. As blood-sugar levels drop, hunger stirs.

It follows, then, that dining in bed can be a triple-treat here, servicing the guy's need to do something else afterward, while feeding his other appetite along with her hunger for intimacy. Keeps both communicating and tightens those relationship bonds.

Therefore, ladies, "to keep your partner around longer, have the fast food ready so he won't make a fast dash outta there!" Bon appetit!

Q. At the Dollar Auction party game, how much will people pay for an everyday $1 bill? Would you guess $1.50? $2? Even more? Just wait... –G. Washington

A. You say, "I've got a dollar bill here to go to the highest bidder. I'll give it away for a penny, 2 cents, whatever, but there's one other rule: If you're second-highest bidder, you don't get the greenback, but also– make a note–you have to pay me the amount of your losing bid."

Usually someone will venture, "OK, I'll give you a penny for it." "Fine." Now a wall-hanger, sensing an opportunity to make 98 cents, will offer: "I'll see your penny and raise you one." Somebody else (or the initial bidder) will think, "Hmm, why let this person nab an easy 98 cents when I can put my hands on an easy 97 cents?"

Soon the bidding will be up to a dime, then a quarter. Now the second-place bidder will think, "I'll not only miss the buck, I'll lose my 25 cents," and so be forced up.

You might think this madness will end at $1, but this ignores the spot that the runner-up bidder is in, having to shell out 90 cents (say) and get nothing in return. "If I bid $1.05, I'll win the bidding, and lose only 5 cents."

In games, bids as high as $3-$5 are not uncommon, says Allan Teger in Too Much Invested to Quit. In real life, Dollar-Auction-like traps are everywhere, ranging from arms expenditures ("We've already spent X billions on this bomber, so we have to finish the job"), to strikers staying on strike to make good on already lost wages, even to our tendency to watch a bad movie to the bitter end.

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