Strange But True

Ape the apes: Gorilla diet could save your life
Published on Jan 19th, 2014
0 comments Q. Guess who primatologist Kristen Lucas and her PhD student E.L. put on a crash diet, with great success. –D. FosseyA. Two gorillas at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, reports Case Western Reserve...
Spin doctors: Good pitchers know their physics
Published on Jan 19th, 2014
0 comments Q. What tips did the future baseball pitcher pick up in his college physics class? –N. Ryan A. He learned that a spinning ball may curve as much as 12 inches on its way to the batter, says physicist...
Bra batteries? Bobbin' breasts create energy
Published on Jan 5th, 2014
0 comments Q. If you try to keep abreast of the very latest techniques and technologies, what might be the zaniest idea yet for powering an iPod? –S. JobsA. Harnessing the Dolly Partonesque movements inside a...
Tweet Santa? System might crumble under demand
Published on Dec 22nd, 2011
0 comments Q. What if all the world's couple of billion kids tweeted Santa at the same time? Could the social network bear up under the weight? What if the Jolly Old Gent also had a Facebook account? –M....
Super stimuli: Odd obsessions explain obesity, war
Published on Dec 8th, 2011
0 comments Q. Why did Dutch Nobel laureate Niko Tinbergen paint dummy eggs black with Day-Glo blue polka dots to fool songbirds into thinking they were the real thing? –P. PicassoA. In the 1930s, he discovered...
No crow: Birds can avoid mid-air crashes
Published on Dec 1st, 2011
0 comments Q. Do birds collide? If not, why not? –A. HaleA. "Early one morning, at the start of duck hunting season, I was standing waist-deep in a swamp when two black swans flew overhead, one from the south...
Killer bees! Insects help armies wage war
Published on Nov 24th, 2011
0 comments Q. You know about warring humankind “letting loose the dogs of war," but how about "the bugs of war"? –D. PetraeusA. Fifty years ago, following the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, the U.S....
Big dog: Thunder, fireworks can fool Rover
Published on Nov 17th, 2011
0 comments Q. When the fireworks start, why does my dog shake and run for cover? –B. KellyA. Most dogs do not react to the simple popping of fireworks but rather to the deeper sounds, like the boom of a...
Ditherer: Don't be a lover like J. Alfred
Published on Nov 10th, 2011
0 comments Q. Taken from the title character of T. S. Eliot's 1915 poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" comes the adjective "Prufrockian." What kind of lover is that? –J. FrostA. One marked by timidity...
Koochie-koo: Cute babies get all the attention
Published on Nov 3rd, 2011
0 comments Q. Not to sound too hyperpragmatic, but does a baby's cuteness serve any "purpose"? –J. FarielloA. Cuteness is a type of attractiveness associated with youth, whether a puppy, a kitten, or your...
A bug in your ear: Cockroaches can mean trouble
Published on Oct 27th, 2011
0 comments Q. Cockroaches date back 350 million years, with 4,000 known species, 95 percent living entirely apart from humans. The other 5 percent seem to be universally loathed, living in filth and breeding...
Lion's share: It doesn't mean what you think
Published on Oct 20th, 2011
0 comments Q. When will a lion settle for a lion's share? –J. AdamsonA. Depends on which "lion's share" you're talking about, says Mark Davidson in Right, Wrong, and Risky. The phrase is commonly used to mean "...
Fooled ya! Thinking can make things true
Published on Oct 13th, 2011
0 comments Q. When does "saying become believing"? –G. W. BushA. This happens all too often in life. When University of Oregon psychologist Ray Hyman was in his teens, he supplemented his income by doing magic...
Eye of the...? Culture helps tell us who's gorgeous
Published on Oct 6th, 2011
0 comments Q. When it comes to who we all find attractive, does Nature or Nurture pull the strings? –A. JolieA. We are strongly yanked by both, as beautiful faces and bodies worldwide are generally ones that...
Wolf to dog: It took 12,000 years to create Lassie
Published on Sep 29th, 2011
0 comments Q. How did dogs get to be "man's best friend"? –F. WaltonA. Our relationship with wolves goes back to about 20,000 B.C., when herds of large prey roamed the last Ice Age landscape, hunted by both...
Awesome! Simple act of yawning hard to explain
Published on Sep 22nd, 2011
0 comments Q. Even the most mundane-seeming acts of an average day are anything but. Does that include yawning? –R. V. WinkleA. "As I stretch and yawn before sleep, I remember that there are plenty of...
Hirsute: Abras Syndrome kinda grows on you
Published on Sep 15th, 2011
0 comments Q. Only about 50 cases of Ambras Syndrome have been reported since the Middle Ages. How does this dramatic hereditary condition manifest itself?–W.M. JackA. Men or women grow...
Say cheese: Smiles work better than face lifts
Published on Sep 8th, 2011
0 comments Q. If you don't quite meet our culture's beauty standard, you can just accept yourself, imperfections and all. Or you might get an extreme makeover, sucking away fat, reshaping your nose,...
Flying frass: Grasshopper poop travels far
Published on Sep 1st, 2011
0 comments Q. Did you catch the entomological journal study titled, "Flying distance of frass kicked by the grasshopper Atractomorpha lata and factors affecting the flying distance"? What was the point? –J...
Kiss off: Philomatophobia = no puckering up
Published on Aug 25th, 2011
0 comments Q. What's "philematophobia," in "Philadelphia" (the "city of brotherly love") or anywhere for that matter? –T. HanksA. It's the "fear of kissing," or feeling squeamish about puckering up, says Sheril...
Space burger: Don't use meteor for a weenie roast
Published on Aug 18th, 2011
0 comments Q. A fiery meteor streaks through the Earth's atmosphere, glowing incandescent, and thuds down loudly in your front yard. Could you grill a hamburger on it? –G. ForemanA. It's a common misconception...
Listen up! 'iPod zombies' present hazards
Published on Aug 11th, 2011
0 comments Q. Who's in danger of running down an iPod pedestrian?—B. GatesA. You are if you drive, because "iPodestrians" are everywhere, oblivious to the dangers as they read and compose e-mail, or text, or...
Falling asleep? What keeps us in bed at night?
Published on Jul 28th, 2011
0 comments Q. Many people are restless sleepers, real tossers and turners, but few awaken on the floor. So what keeps us from falling out of bed at night while we sleep?—M. MouseA. There are many opportunities...
Baby switch: Human kids fine with animal moms
Published on Jul 21st, 2011
0 comments Q. What are a few of the truly remarkable adoption stories on record? –E. HowellA. Those involving animals "adopting" humans, usually wolves or wild dogs rearing children, says Deirdre Barrett in...
Outright lie: By any other name, it's not so bad
Published on Jul 21st, 2011
0 comments Q. When might an outright lie feel like something less than fibbing or prevarication? –G. WashingtonA. When you're able to get away with calling it "terminological inexactitude," as did Winston...
Killer kisses: Pucker up without biting
Published on Jul 14th, 2011
0 comments Q. What are the riskiest "kisses" of them all? –J.S. FrostA. The recent rise of interest in vampires, particularly among teens, has brought to the fore the practice of biting another person to draw...
Inside story: Fetus has enough light to read
Published on Jul 7th, 2011
0 comments Q. On a bright sunny day, who just might be the most surprising sharer of the light? Think "womb with a view." –U.G. Turner A. It has long been known that fetuses can smell, taste and hear, prompting...
Strike zone: Seahorse's neck helps it snag prey
Published on Jun 30th, 2011
0 comments Q. Why does a seahorse look so bizarre? –J. CousteauA. Given its equine head, pot belly, and prehensile tail, it's easy to forget that the seahorse is a fish, says New Scientist magazine. Importantly...
Big leap: Elephants, rhinos too big to jump
Published on Jun 23rd, 2011
0 comments Q. Is it true that elephants are the only quadrupeds that cannot jump? –S. BubkaA. Elephants can't jump from ground level anyway, nor can turtles or large crocodiles; even hippos probably can't or...
Gone fisin': Kids hear better than they speak
Published on Jun 16th, 2011
0 comments Q. Is there much difference between what young children hear and what they can say? Asked another way, have you ever heard of the FIS phenomenon? –J. FarielloA. This was first reported by...