Why aren't girls named 'Junior?'

The first order of business is to identify what family or tribe you belong to— in ancient times, and to a considerable extent now, these were the people who’d have your back.

Naked singularities

Hawking says black holes “should be redefined as metastable bound states of the gravitational field,” which I take to mean they may not necessarily be the one-way ticket to oblivion previously assumed.

Is MS on the increase? Seems so, right?

Multiple sclerosis is now the most common neurological disorder affecting young adults of northern European descent.

Will zinc go the way of Vitamin C?

Okay, Cecil. Sixteen years ago, at the end of a column about whether zinc lozenges cure the common cold, you wrote: “Today you don’t hear much about vitamin C as a cold cure.

Racial breakdown of officer shootings

Police used handguns to kill nonthreatening blacks far out of proportion to other races.

Should you ever wash jeans?

Freezing your jeans is an idea that's been floating around the Internet for a while.

Not the way to lose one's virginity

The hymen is far from infallible as an indicator of sexual activity.

Trauma when you're a baby

Do you really remember everything?
Early in my mother's pregnancy, she became aware her father had a terminal illness. He died two months before I was born.

LGBT people and attractiveness traits

A related question is whether in a gay or lesbian relationship one of the partners habitually assumes the masculine role while the other plays the female.

Monkeys, monogamy, and morality

How many Americans will experience lifetime monogamy? Answer: less than half. As of 2011 for every 6.8 marriages there were 3.6 divorces—a 53 percent rate. This is significantly more than just ten years earlier.

Brits + dish soap = yucky taste

A country that gives its traditional dishes names such as 'toad-in-the-hole,' 'bubble and squeak,' and 'spotted dick' isn't setting itself a high bar, foodwise.

Killer germs under melting ice

Researchers who discovered the 30,000-year-old bug claim it's the oldest known virus still infectious. The RNA of a tomato-plant virus was recovered from Greenlandic glacial ice formed between 500 and 140,000 years ago.

Stealing penises

Baffled Westerners may wonder what kind of idiot could seriously believe his penis had been stolen.

Mao: Dirty Old Chairman?

Mao 'was happiest and most satisfied with several young women simultaneously sharing his bed,' Li writes. 'He encouraged his sexual partners to introduce him to others for shared orgies, allegedly in the interest of his longevity and strength.'

Boy nipples vs. girl nipples: Why we get to see one and not the other

Female humans are the only primates with permanently enlarged breasts, which has led to much harebrained speculation about why.

Fahrenheit, schmarenheit

Who'd be foolish enough to invent a scale that wouldn't permit thermometers to be reliably calibrated? In contrast, the freezing point of fresh water, as in an ice/water mixture, is constant for practical purposes.

How much would it cost to outfit and run your own pirate ship & crew?

A 27-meter replica of the Black Pearl, with room for 70 tourists, eight crew, and six bronze cannons was listed for sale online at $2 million but later reduced to $750,000.

What is high quality booze, really?

At the low end, where we're talking about beverages drunk from paper bags, chemistry can demonstrate what separates rotgut from decent stuff. Above a certain point, however, we find more useful insight in psychology.

Brain transplants: Who wins?

If a brain transplant were possible, would the recipient take on the personality of the donor?

Giant hog farms: Apocalypse now?

A modern hog-raising operation may house tens of thousands of animals, all producing waste, which flows into a vast holding pond and mainly stays there—when all goes according to plan.

Getting the lead out

The correlation between childhood lead exposure and adult violent crime is consistent across jurisdictions at all levels, including cities, counties, states, and nations.

Broken clocks and murder verdicts

In detective fiction, a common plot device is the broken clock or watch that tells the time of the murder. Does this ever happen?

Are serial killers often bed-wetters?

Bed-wetting has often been linked to antisocial tendencies, mostly as part of an unholy triad of behavioral disorders: enuresis (bed-wetting), fire-setting, and animal abuse.

Fracking: What's the bottom line?

I don't dismiss concerns. Nonetheless, the environmental cost of fracking so far seems controllable and beats alternatives like coal.

Neanderthal vs. Homo Sapiens: Who ya got?

Homo sapiens began spreading out of Africa around 60,000 years ago, and reached Europe 45,000 years ago. A short time after that, archeologically speaking, the Neanderthals were gone. Just how short is a matter of debate—some researchers think it may have been as little as 5,000 years.What happened?

Files in cakes, yeah!

The most creative cake-mediated breakout we heard about was that of Eamon de Valera, the Irish nationalist leader, who'd been imprisoned in England for his role in the 1916 Easter Rising.

Can alcoholics just say 'stop'?

I have a dear friend who’s an alcoholic. When he came out of treatment, I told him I couldn’t see why he wasn’t able to condition himself to have, say, a single glass of beer and stop at that.

Everything Zen? I don't think so

We do have a host of meditation practitioners making testable claims—for example, the TM crowd declares their technique improves cognitive function and increases intelligence. It's to such folk we now turn.

Prostitution and inflation

I once heard someone — it may have been my father — claim the price for a prostitute has remained relatively stable throughout the ages. Has it, relative to the price of, say, bread, games, household utensils, etc? I realize this is a complex question, but still, can anything sensible be said about it?

Knitting navel lint

Could one knit a sweater from human navel lint? — Craig Charles, Dallas

Bitcoin: Currency of the future?

Recently you mentioned bitcoin as a popular medium of exchange in the deep, dark Web. A couple friends have tried to get me to invest in bitcoin because it's supposedly the "currency of the future."

Can bad GPS directions kill you?

Are there any figures for people seriously injured or even killed by bad GPS directions? I'm not talking about distracted drivers, but rather schlubs that followed GPS off a cliff or something.

Miss America = success?

No Miss America led a truly Dismal life. Instead, the continuum started at Meh and up through Modest and Successful to Star.

Moon meteors: Visible or no?

NASA has asked the scientists operating the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, now mapping the moon's surface, to take a picture of the March 17 crater, and they expect to get around to it later this year.

Do goats really eat dynamite and explode?

The earliest account we could find of a dynamite-eating goat was an 1899 story from a Boston newspaper relating a New Mexico mining-camp yarn in which a voracious specimen allegedly ate 27 sticks.

Oral sex & cancer: What's the connection?

One high-profile case may be actor Michael Douglas, who blames his throat cancer on cunnilingus, although without more information about his use of tobacco and alcohol, such factors can't be ruled out.

The all-important trained housefly question

Dividing 110 pounds by the lift of a housefly, we find you'd need five million of the insects to lift you off the ground.

Secret societies vs. not-so-secret societies: Who ya got?

The columns I find interesting are the ones about secret societies: the Illuminati, the Bilderbergs, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the Masons, etc. I'm not sure whether I should beat 'em, join 'em, or continue to relegate them to the land of paranoid delusions. Give me the Straight Dope?

Disease & time travel

For most of human history it would be difficult for our traveler to avoid smallpox, cowpox, and variations of influenza unknown to modern times; lepers and plague victims would warrant a wide berth.

Motorcycle seats & sperm

A metastudy found that more than half of male bicyclists suffered from genital numbness, and between an eighth and a quarter said they suffered from ED. Female cyclists don't have it any better, reporting numbness, difficult urination, pain, and difficulty achieving orgasm.

Can corporations kill?

If Hollywood has taught me anything, it's that working for a multinational corporation (or investigating one as a journalist) carries the risk you'll uncover damning information revealing a vast criminal conspiracy, which will lead to your attempted murder (if you're the main character) or your successful murder (if you're the main character's source/best friend/avuncular mentor). This got me wondering: Has this ever happened?

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