Q: Why does women's clothing have buttons on the left side, whereas men's buttons are on the right?—G. Versace
A: The most widely accepted explanation points to the fact that women have traditionally worn more restrictive clothing than men, such as a corset with garments fitted tightly over it, making it difficult for a woman to dress herself, says University of North Carolina costume historian Nancy J. Nelson. Hence she would employ a dresser.
"The buttons are therefore on the right side for the dresser, and the left for the dressee. Over time, women became so accustomed to this that even the advent of mass production and the availability of more comfortable clothing styles have done little to change the tradition."
Q: Dreams reportedly played a role in the invention of the sewing machine, discovery of the benzene molecule, the formulation of the plot of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and many others. More prosaically, might "sleeping on it" help solve a brainteaser like "What two words start and end with H-E?" –R. Van Winkle
A: Yes, says Harvard's Deirdre Barrett in The
Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use Dreams for Creative Problem Solving– and How You Can Too. Check out this charming example of how one doctor cracked the puzzle in his sleep. His dream: He's doing garden work and gets an intense chest pain. Woman he lives with starts laughing a squeaky "hee... hee... hee." Her laughter puzzles him, but she calls an ambulance, he's taken, but the road is blocked by a brain that's fallen out. At the hospital, all are laughing "hee... hee... hee."
"Take the pain away," he asks the Doctor, but the Doctor says, "No, first tell me precisely what's wrong." "I've had a coronary," he says. "Jargon won't do, you must tell me in plain language," the Doc replies, all the while going "hee... hee... hee."
He gets angry, saying "Why do you keep laughing? I could have my pain forever, you could call it anything, even heartache."
The Doctor stops laughing, saying, "You can go home."
"But I still feel pain, I'm only halfway better," he says.
"Then you must see another Doctor, a word specialist." He leaves the hospital, and the real-life doctor who posed the teaser appears in the dream, saying he hears his colleague is not quite well. "I just want to go to sleep and not think about it," he says. "Not before you learn to juggle words and pains," says the word octor. "Riddles give me headaches." At this, his pain goes away and he awakens.
So, did this one give you HEartacHE and HEadacHE too?
Q: In the classic theoretical falling elevator of physics classes everywhere, the occupants go into astronaut-like freefall, momentarily weightless, but soon meet a rude fate below. What might happen when a real elevator falls? – I. Newton
A: In one of the rare cases on record, a safety elevator plummeted from the 38th floor of the Empire State Building in 1945, when a military plane struck the building above and cut all the cables, says Louis A. Bloomfield in How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life.
The car dropped to the basement, but the accordion-like squashed air in the shaft built up a backpressure, plus a mountain of severed cables served as a cushion below. Add on the effect of the emergency bumper at the bottom of the shaft, and the "only occupant of the car, a 20-year-old elevator operator, survived without serious injury."