Do Penguins Have Knees?

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-12-16
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Ponder, if you will What happens to your Social Security number when you die? Why are peanuts listed as an ingredient in plain M&Ms? Why is Barbie's hair made out of nylon, but Ken's hair is plastic? What makes up the ever-mysterious "new-car smell"? Pop-culture guru David Feldman demystifies these topics and so much more in Do Penguins Have Knees? -- the unchallenged source of answers to civilization's most perplexing questions. Part of the Imponderables series, Do Penguins Have Knees? arms readers with the knowledge about everyday life that encyclopedias, dictionaries, and almanacs just don't have. And think about it, where else are you going to get to the bottom of how beer was kept cold in the Old West?


Do Penguins Have Knees?
An Imponderables Book

Why Don't You Feel or See a Mosquito Bite Until After It Begins to Itch?

We would like to think that the reason we don't feel the mosquito biting us is that Mother Nature is merciful. If we were aware that the mosquito was in the process of sinking its mouth into our flesh, we might panic, especially because a simple mosquito bite takes a lot longer than we suspected.

A female mosquito doesn't believe in a casual "slam bam, thank you, ma'am." On the contrary, mosquitoes will usually rest on all six legs on human skin for at least a minute or so before starting to bite. Mosquitoes are so light and their biting technique so skillful that most humans cannot feel them, ever though the insect may be resting on their skin for five minutes or more.

When the mosquito decides to finally make her move and press her lancets into a nice, juicy capillary, the insertion takes about a minute. She lubricates her mouthparts with her own saliva and proceeds to suck the blood for up to three minute until her stomach is literally about to burst. She withdraws her lancets in a few seconds and flies off to deposit her eggs, assuring the world that the mosquito will not soon make the endangered species list.

A few sensitive souls feel a mosquito's bite immediately. But most of us are aware of itching (or in some cases, pain) only after the mosquito is long gone not because of the bite or the loss of blood but because of the saliva left behind. The mosquito's saliva acts not only as a lubricant in the biting process but as an anesthetic to the bitee. For most people, the saliva is a blessing since it allows us to be oblivious to the fact that our blood is being sucked by a loathsome insect. Unfortunately, the saliva contains anticoagulant components that cause allergic reactions in many people. This allergic reaction, not the bite itself, is what causes the little lumps and itchy sensations that make us wonder why mosquitoes exist in this otherwise often wonderful world.

Submitted by Alesia Richards of Erie, Pennsylvania.

Why Doesn't Milk in the Refrigerator Ever Taste As Cold As the Water or Soda in the Refrigerator?

Actually, milk does get as cold as water or soda. If you are having a particularly boring Saturday night, you might want to stick a thermometer into the liquids to prove this.

Milk at the same temperature as water or soda just doesn't taste as cold to us because milk contains fat solids. We perceive solids as less cold than liquids. Taste experts refer to this phenomenon as "mouth feel."

If the milk/water/soda test wasn't exciting enough for you, run a test in your freezer compartment that will demonstrate the same principle. Put a pint of premium high-butterfat ice cream in the freezer along with a pint of low-fat or nonfat frozen yogurt.

Consume them. We'll bet you two to one that the yogurt will taste colder than the ice cream. For the sake of research, we recently performed this experiment with due rigor, and because we wanted to go out of our way to assure the accuracy of the experiment, we conducted the test on many different flavors of ice cream and yogurt. Oh, the sacrifices we make for our readers!

Submitted by Pat O'Conner of Forest Hills, New York.

Why Are Address Labels on Subscription Magazines Usually Placed Upside-Down?

Our usually reliable sources at the United States Postal Service struck out on this Imponderable, but we were rescued by our friends at Neodata Services. Neodata, the largest fulfillment house in the United States, which we profiled in Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses?, is the company that processes all those subscription forms you send to Boulder, Colorado.

By luck, we rang up Neodata's Biff Bilstein when he was in a meeting with sales executives Mark Earley and Rob Farson. The three share over seventy-five years of experience in the magazine business. "So," we implored, "why are address labels placed upside-down?"

They conferred and answered as one. Even though the folks at the USPS don't seem to know it, the labels are placed upside down to accommodate the postal carrier. All magazines are bound on the left-hand side. Our hypothetical postal carrier being right-handed, naturally picks up a magazine by the spine with his or her right hand to read the address label-the magazine is thus automatically turned upside down. But the label is now "right side up" and easily read by the postal carrier. Nifty huh?

Do Penguins Have Knees?
An Imponderables Book
. Copyright © by David Feldman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Do Penguins Have Knees?: An Imponderables® Book by David Feldman
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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