Q. Is love at first sight possible, or is this just grist for romantic novels and movies? –S. O’Hara
A: Enough couples have described the experience, but it is rare, says David B. Givens, Ph.D., in Love Signals. Chance eye contact is followed by an intuitive flash of recognition across a crowded room, just before Cupid releases the arrow. A great number of positive nonverbal cues spark back and forth in one searing pulse, and a man and woman fuse in amoris extremis after five seconds.
It's like two coveys of quail exploding at each other out of two different bushes simultaneously. Faces, body types, age, clothing, and so on must match the partners' ideals. "Then comes the initial gaze– with dilated pupils, batting lashes, raised shoulders, canted heads, synchronous self-clasping, matched tempo, postural echo, body alignment, head-tossing, and shy smiling, all grading into 'tortured looks' or pumpkin grins– love at first sight. Highly irregular, but it happens."
More likely expect "attraction at first sight," with cues understated and spread out over a period of weeks, and the almighty word playing a critical role in the bonding.
Q: If baseball ever expands all the way to the Lunar Leagues, won't it be a whole new ball game? – C. Ripken
A: Welcome to "moonball," with games played inside huge atmospheric bubble domes, to make up for the moon's lack of air, says physicist Peter J. Brancazio, author of Sport Science. This way, air pressure will be the same as back in San Francisco or Tokyo, same old laws of physics, except that gravity here is about one-sixth of Earth's. So naturally you need a much bigger ballpark because routine fly balls now travel 900-1,200 feet instead of 300, and home-run fences must be 1,300-1,800 feet from home plate.
Bats on the moon feel light as a feather, five ounces instead of 30, but swing heavy. This is because though gravity is less, mass and inertia remain the same.
Here comes the pitch... same old 90-mph fastball but dropping only 4-5 inches en route to the hitter instead of the 2-1/2 feet Earthside. In moonball, a backspinning "heater" will scoop the air and actually rise back up in the curve of a bow, as if defying gravity.
Balls now weigh about an ounce instead of five, so air pressure has an exaggerated effect, making for some wicked pitches. But when hitters do connect, the ball will sail three to four times as far and five times as high, staying aloft for 30 seconds! This will keep outfielders on their toes, with routine shag downs of 500 feet or more and 15-foot leaps at the wall (timing must be exquisite).
A good throwing arm will send a ball a quarter mile on the fly, but because the ball travels no faster than on Earth, runners can tag up on long flyouts and score all the way from first. Infield popups that are dropped become– you guessed it– four-base errors. Some advice to fans: Don't forget your binoculars.
Q. In outer space, could somebody hear you scream? –O. Osbourne
A. No, the promo for the movie Alien got it right– sound waves do not travel in empty space, says Lawrence M. Krauss in The Physics of Star Trek. But "Star Trek" hasn't always been so careful. In one episode, when a space station orbiting the planet Tanuga IV blows up, from our vantage point aboard the Enterprise, we both see it and hear it (kaboom!). What's worse, we hear it at the same time as we see it. Even if sound waves could travel in space, which they can't, their speed is far, far smaller than that of light: 1100 feet per second (in air) compared to 186,000 miles per second! "You don't have to go farther than a local football game to discover that you see things before you hear them."
(Send STRANGE questions to brothers Bill and Rich at firstname.lastname@example.org.)