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.

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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.

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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

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your children is perfectly legal. 

Ken Burns on Why Teddy Roosevelt Would Never Get Elected in 2014

Cops Briefly Detain Django Unchained Actress Because They Thought She Was a Prostitute

Minimalist Cocktail Posters Make Mixing Drinks a Cinch

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest of jewels.

Books

Rainbow Parties and Sex Bracelets

Where teenage sex rumors come from—and why they’re bad for parents and kids.

Books

You Had to Be There

What we can learn from things that used to be funny.

Legendary Critic Greil Marcus Measures and Maps Rock History Through 10 Unlikely Songs

Catfish Creator Nev Schulman’s Book Is Just Like Him: Self-Deluded and Completely Infectious

Behold
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 14 2014 7:10 PM Watch Michael Winslow Perform Every Part of “Whole Lotta Love” With Just His Voice
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?