The Explainer questions we never answered.

Answers to your questions about the news.
Dec. 20 2006 6:07 AM

The Unanswered Questions

Digging through the bottom of the Explainer mailbag.

Listen to an interview with the author here, or sign up for Slate's free daily podcast on iTunes.

Explainer logo by Robert Neubecker. Click image to expand.

It's been a long year for the Explainer. In the past 12 months, we've answered more than 200 questions. The Explainer has revealed that President Bush is shrinking and investigated why Satan smells like rotten eggs. Regular readers have learned how to deliver a professional head butt, what to do when your eyeball falls out of its socket, and how many cell phones can fit up your rear end.

Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

There's only space to answer a small fraction of the questions that arrive in our in-box. Today, the Explainer offers a glimpse at a few of the 7,000 queries that, for one reason or another, Slate felt ill-equipped or unwilling to answer in 2006.

Advertisement

And that's not all! We want you, Explainer readers, to let us know which of the questions listed below deserves an answer. The question that gets the most reader votes will be addressed in an upcoming Explainer column. (Editor's note, Dec. 26: Voting for the Explainer Question of the Year is now closed.)

The Explainer's Unanswered Questions From 2006

• What comes after 999 trillion?

• Why do train whistles at night always sound lonely and mournful? Not so in the daytime.

• Given the exchange and dispersion of matter, how likely is it/how often do we inhale/consume and/or incorporate into our own protein structure molecules that were once in some historical figure, say Abraham Lincoln?

• Lasers are now powerful and small (at least I think they are), so why don't our troops carry laser guns?

• Why is smooth peanut butter cheaper than nutty?

• If we taught animals to talk, how would that affect the world?

• What would happen to the stock market if a meteor impacted the earth? What would happen to the global markets and the U.S. market? Say a meteor hits inside U.S. borders and takes out two states.

• Is it possible to collect all the cookie dough in Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream and actually bake cookies from it?

• How clean is bar soap in a public bathroom? Is it "self-cleaning," since it's soap? It seems like a health hazard to me.

• Why did Zidane head-butt his opponent in the World Cup final? Do the French not fight with their fists?

• When we are approaching another person, like in a hallway, why do we step to our left? That is, try and pass right-shoulder-to-right-shoulder.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.