The Explainer questions we never answered in 2008.

Answers to your questions about the news.
Dec. 17 2008 6:57 AM

The Questions We Never Answered in 2008

Digging through the bottom of the Explainer mailbag.

(Continued from Page 3)

•  Is the stomach normally full of air like a balloon, or is it squeezed flat by the other organs, like a balloon with no air that spreads open as food and water come in? Are the other organs squeezed and compressed like a squeezed sponge, or are they like a sponge not being squeezed? What about the intestines? Are they squeezed flat normally, or are they open like one of those long balloons that magicians make animals out of? I'm trying to get a picture in my mind what the inside of the body normally looks like.

•  Please explain the method of formation and origin of black holes. Are they located at the Bermuda Triangle area and why there?

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•  Who made up the rule that if you wore a shirt all day, went home, and washed it, you can't wear it the next day?

•  I live in Chicago, where taxi drivers are constantly talking on their phones. To whom are they talking?

•  Why do cockroaches flip over on their backsides when they die? I sprayed RAID into a hole in my wall the other day, and by the next morning I found six cockroaches laid out on my floor, all flipped over and all very dead!

•  Why do the women gymnasts walk around between events with that goofy arm-swing gait?

•  I am 79 years old. I bring this up first to help explain my question. In the late 1930s or early 1940s, I was looking through an old stack of Life magazines, and there was a picture of an old couple sitting on the porch of a cabin (or shack) up in the mountains somewhere in Appalachia, with the notation: "The King and Queen of America?" The small article with the picture stated that if George Washington had become king of the U.S., these two would (under the usual custom) be our king and queen. I have thought of this from time to time, even doubted it. (It might have been part of the propaganda of the time, the Depression years, that we were all equal, etc.) I am dimly aware that George Washington had brothers, and that it is possible that the descent is known. As I remember, it was a lovely picture, the old couple looking out over a valley, with mist, and smoking their corncob pipes. Can you find the picture? Can you tell me whether there was truth in the assertion?

•  Why are pandas names doubled? Ling Ling, Tuan Tuan, Yuan Yuan.

•  Are the frequently used "jaws of life" really necessary or just big-boy toys for rescuers?

•  How long can humans live when they are caught on fire? For example, when a car crashes and explodes turns into a gulf of flames, but humans are alive.