How Does Aspirin Find A Headache?: An Imponderables Book

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-01-12
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Ponder, if you will ...Do snakes sneeze? Why didn't the three musketeers carry muskets? What happens to the holes that are punched out of looseleaf paper? Why don't people smile in old photos?Pop culture guru David Feldman demystifies these questions and much more in How Does Aspirin Find a Headache? Part of the Imponderablesr series -- the unchallenged source of answers to civilization's most perplexing conundrums -- and charmingly illustrated by Kassie Schwan, this book provides you with knowledge about everyday life that encyclopedias, dictionaries, and almanacs just don't have. And think about it, where else are you going to find out why glue doesn't get stuck in the bottle?

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xvii
Why Don't We Ever See Cockroaches in Our Usually Crumb-Filled Cars?p. 3
Why Does Barbie Have Realistic Nylon Hair While Ken Is Stuck with Plastic Hair or Painted Hair?p. 4
On the U.S. Penny, Why Is the "o" in the "UNITED STATES oF AMERICA" on the Reverse Side in Lower Case?p. 5
What Do All the Chime Signals on Airlines Mean? Are They Uniform from Airline to Airline?p. 6
Are Lions Really Afraid of Kitchen Chairs?p. 9
Why Is Pistachio Ice Cream Colored Green?p. 12
Why Are Graves Six Feet Deep and Who Determined They Should Be That Deep?p. 14
Why Doesn't Ham Change Color When Cooked, Like Other Meats?p. 15
Why Does Warm Milk Serve as an Effective Sleep-Inducer for Many People?p. 17
Why Doesn't Glue Get Stuck in the Bottle?p. 18
Why Don't People in Old Photographs Ever Seem to Smile?p. 19
Why Did Men Thrust Their Right Hand into Their Jackets in Old Photographs?p. 24
Why Are Carpenter's Pencils Square?p. 27
Why Don't Windshield Wipers in Buses Work in Tandem Like Auto Wipers?p. 28
Why Were Athos, Porthos, and Aramis Called the Three Musketeers When They Fought with Swords Rather Than Muskets?p. 29
Why Don't Public Schools Teach First Aid and CPR Techniques?p. 31
Why Do Peanuts in the Shell Usually Grow in Pairs?p. 34
Why Are Children Taught How to Print Before They Learn Cursive Handwriting?p. 34
Why Do Most Women's Hairbrushes Have Long Handles When Men's Hairbrushes Have Short Handles or No Handles at All?p. 38
Why Do Some Ladybugs Have Spots and Others Have None?p. 39
Why Does a Loud Bang or Opening and Closing the Oven Door Sometimes Make Souffles and Cakes Fall in the Oven?p. 41
Why Do Angel Food Cakes Have to Be Turned Upside-Down While Cooling?p. 43
Why Have Auto Manufacturers Moved the Brights/Dimmer Switch from the Floorboard to the Stalk of the Steering Column?p. 44
Why Is an Ineligible College Athlete Called a "Redshirt"? And Why Do Colleges Redshirt Players?p. 46
If You Dig a Hole and Try to Plug the Hole with the Very Dirt You've Removed, Why Do You Never Have Enough Dirt to Refill the Hole?p. 48
Why Was Twenty-one Chosen as the Age of Majority?p. 50
Why Don't Disc Jockeys Identify the Titles and Artists of the Songs They Play?p. 51
Why Do Pigeons Make a Whistling Sound When They Take Off in Flight?p. 58
What's the Difference Between Skim and Nonfat Milk? And How Do They Skim the Fat from Whole Milk?p. 59
Why Does Some Lowfat Milk Contain One Percent Fat and Other Lowfat Milk Contain Two Percent Fat?p. 60
Why Do Plastic Gallon Milk Containers Have the Counter-Sunk Dips on Their Sides?p. 61
Why Aren't "Green Cards" Green?p. 61
When Do Kids Turn into Goats?p. 64
Why Do Baked Hams Usually Have a Checkerboard Pattern Along the Top?p. 66
What Is the Emblem on the Pittsburgh Steelers' Helmets? And Is There Any Particular Reason Why the Pittsburgh Steelers Are the Only NFL Team to Have Their Logo on Only One Side of Their Helmets?p. 67
Why Did the Rabbit Die When a Pregnant Woman Took the "Rabbit Test"?p. 69
Why Is It That What Looks to Us Like a Half-Moon Is Called a Quarter-Moon by Astronomers?p. 72
What's the Deal with the Grades of Architectural and Art Pencils? What Do "H," "HB," "F," "B," and "E" Stand For?p. 73
How Do Hermit Crabs "Relieve Themselves" When in the Shell Without Getting Filthy? Or Do They Get Filthy?p. 74
Why Does Getting a Hair in Our Mouth Make Us Gag?p. 76
Why Does Pasta Create Foam When Boiling?p. 78
Why Do Many Elderly People, Especially Those Missing Teeth, Constantly Display a Chewing Motion?p. 79
Do Butterflies (and Other Insects) Sneeze or Cough? If So, Do They Do So Loud Enough for Humans to Hear?p. 81
What Is the Liquid That Forms on Top of Yogurt? Is It Water or Does It Have Nutrients? Should It Be Drained or Stirred Back into the Yogurt?p. 82
Why Do Most Yogurts Come with the Fruit on the Bottom? Why Not on the Top? Or Prestirred?p. 83
Why Do You Need to Supply Oxygen to a Tropical Tank When Fish Are Quite Capable of Surviving Without Extra Oxygen in Lakes and Oceans? Why Do You See Oxygen Tanks More in Saltwater Aquariums Than Freshwater?p. 84
What Happens to Criminals' Firearms Confiscated by Police During Arrests?p. 85
Why Is There a Worm on the Bottom of Some Tequila Bottles?p. 88
Do Fish Pee?p. 90
Why Are Screen Door Handles and Knobs Located Higher than Their "Regular" Counterparts?p. 91
Why Aren't Automobiles Designed So That the Headlamps Shut Off Automatically When the Ignition Key Is Removed?p. 92
Why Do Many Blind People Wear Dark Glasses?p. 93
Why Do Many Fast Food Restaurants and Convenience Stores Have Vertical Rulers Alongside Their Main Entranceways?p. 95
What Does "100% Virgin Acrylic" Mean?p. 97
Do Snakes Sneeze?p. 98
Why Do Cookbooks Often Recommend Beating Egg Whites in a Copper Bowl?p. 99
How Does Aspirin Find a Headache?p. 100
Is Goofy Married? If Not, Where Did Television's Goofy, Jr., Come From?p. 102
Why Is "$" the Symbol for the American Dollar?p. 103
What Do Paper Manufacturers Do with the "Holes" Punched Out of Looseleaf Paper? Do They Recycle Them?p. 105
Why Do We Bury the Dead with Heads Toward the West Facing East?p. 106
Why Do Birds Usually Take Flight Against the Wind?p. 107
Why Do Geese Honk Furiously While Migrating? Doesn't Honking Squander Their Energy on Long Flights?p. 108
Why Do Scotsmen Wear Kilts? And Why Didn't Men in Surrounding Areas Wear Kilts?p. 109
Why Are the Muppets Left-Handed?p. 111
Why Do We Have a Delayed Reaction to Sunburn? Why Is Sunburn Often More Evident Twenty-four Hours After We've Been Out in the Sun?p. 114
Why Do Hockey Goalies Sometimes Bang Their Sticks on the Ice While the Puck Is on the Other End of the Rink?p. 116
What Is the Substance That Resembles Red Paint Often Found on Circulated U.S. Coins? And Why Do Quarters Receive the Red Treatment More Often Than Other Coins?p. 117
Why Are So Many Farm Plots Now Circular Instead of Squarish?p. 118
Why Are Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky Called "Commonwealths" Instead of "States"? What's the Difference Between a Commonwealth and a State?p. 119
How Do Engineers Decide Where to Put Curves on Highways?p. 121
Why Are There So Many Different Types of Wine Glasses? Would Champagne Really Taste Worse If Drunk Out of a Burgundy Glass?p. 123
Why Do Soft Breads Get Hard When They Get Stale While Hard Starches Like Crackers Get Softer When Stale?p. 125
Why Do Hardcover Books Have Exposed, Checkered Cloth as Part of Their Bindings (on Top and Bottom)?p. 126
Will Super Glue Stick to Teflon?p. 128
Why Do Many Women's Fingernails Turn Yellow After Repeated Use of Nail Polish?p. 129
Why Are Most Corrugated Boxes from Japan Yellow?p. 130
Why Are Covered Bridges Covered?p. 132
How Do Waiters and Waitresses Get Their Tip Money When the Gratuity Is Placed on a Credit Card?p. 133
Why Do Beacons on Police Cars Flash Blue and Red Lights? Why Are the Blue Lights on the Passenger's Side and the Red Lights on the Driver's Side?p. 135
Why Is It So Hard to Find Single-Serving Cartons of Skim or Lowfat Milk? Why Is It So Hard to Find Single-Serving Cartons of Whole-Milk Chocolate Milk?p. 137
What Happens to the Ink When Newspapers Are Recycled?p. 139
Why Do Lizards Sleep with One Eye Open?p. 141
If Grapes Are Both Green and Purple, Why Are Grape Jellies Always Purple?p. 142
Why Didn't Fire Trucks Have Roofs Until Long After Cars and Trucks Had Roofs?p. 143
Why Are There So Few Brazil Nuts in Mixed Nuts Assortments?p. 145
Why Do American Doors Have Round Door Knobs, While Many Other Countries Use Handles?p. 148
Why Do Starving Children Have Bloated Stomachs?p. 149
Why Do Most Buses and Trucks Keep Their Engines Idling Rather Than Shutting Them Off While Waiting for Passengers or Cargo?p. 150
Why Does One Sometimes Find Sand in the Pockets of New Blue Jeans?p. 152
Why Do So Many Recreational Vehicle Owners Put Cardboard or Plywood Square Covers over Their Wheels?p. 153
Why Are Most People Buried Without Shoes?p. 153
What Is a "New York Steak"? Is It a Cut of Meat? Is It a Part of the Cow? And Why Can't You Find "New York Steaks" in New York?p. 155
Why Are Some Aluminum Cans-Even Different Cans of the Same Product-Harder to Crush Than Others?p. 157
Why Are Pigs Roasted with an Apple in Their Mouths?p. 159
Why Do Many Streets and Sidewalks Glitter? Is There a Secret Glittery Ingredient?p. 160
Why Hasn't Beer Been Marketed in Plastic Bottles Like Soft Drinks?p. 161
Why Do Some Insects Fly in a Straight Line While Others Tend to Zigzag?p. 163
What's the Difference Between "French" and "Italian" Bread?p. 165
Why Have So Many Pigeons in Big Cities Lost Their Toes?p. 166
How Do Highway Officials Decide Where to Put a "Slippery When Wet" Sign?p. 167
Can One Spider Get Caught in the Web of Another Spider? Would It Be Able to Navigate with the Skill of the Spinner?p. 169
To Exactly What Is McDonald's Referring When Its Signs Say "Over 95 Billion Served"?p. 171
Why Are McDonald's Straws Wider in Circumference Than Other Restaurant or Store-Bought Straws?p. 171
Why Are the Burgers Upside-Down When You Unfold the Wrapper of a McDonald's Hamburger?p. 172
What, Exactly, Is the McDonald's Character "The Grimace" Supposed to Be?p. 173
What Did Barney Rubble Do for a Living?p. 173
Why Do We Wave Polaroid Prints in the Air After They Come Out of the Camera?p. 175
Frustables or the Ten Most Wanted Imponderablesp. 177
Frustable Updatep. 183
The Frustables That Will Not Diep. 221
Frustables First Posed in Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise? and First Discussed in When Do Fish Sleep?p. 221
Frustables First Posed in When Do Fish Sleep? and First Discussed in Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses?p. 224
Frustables First Posed in Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? and First Discussed in Do Penguins Have Knees?p. 226
Frustables First Posed in Do Penguins Have Knees? and First Discussed in When Did Wild Poodles Roam the Earth?p. 232
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


How Does Aspirin Find a Headache?

Why Don't We Ever See Cockroaches in Our Usually Crumb-Filled Cars?

Our correspondent, Manny Costa, wonders why an automobile, laden with assorted crumbs, wouldn't be a buffet paradise for our little scampering friends. Mary H. Ross, professor of entomology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, isn't willing to state unequivocally that cockroaches are never found in cars, but she agrees it is rare. And she offers two main reasons why.

For one, cars may get too cold. Cockroaches dislike the cold and would refuse to stay in the car. Secondly, water is essential for cockroaches' survival and reproduction.

Richard Kramer, director of research, education, and technical resources at the National Pest Control Association, told us that while cockroaches require food every seven to ten days, they must take in water every three days. Perhaps a cockroach might be attracted to a stretch limousine with a leaky wet bar, but most of us don't drive limos.

If you really want to entice cockroaches into your automobile, Kramer suggests scattering your empty beverage cans alongside your array of crumbs—you may be able to "support a cockroach infestation for a limited period of time."

Submitted by Manny Costa of Warwick, Rhode Island.

Why Does Barbie Have Realistic Nylon Hair While Ken Is Stuck with Plastic Hair or Painted Hair?

Poor Mattel is being attacked from all sides. Many feminists have criticized Barbie for setting up unrealistic expectations among girls about what their bodies should look like. Mattel answers, understandably, that Barbie was created to be a fashion doll, a model-mannequin suitable for hanging a variety of clothes upon. Of course, girls fantasize about themselves as Barbie, and this identification with the doll is precisely what the critics are worried about.

As if these complaints weren't enough for Mattel to worry about, here come six female Imponderables readers accusing the company of reverse discrimination. "What's the deal with Ken's hair?" they all wondered.

Informal chats with a gaggle of Barbie enthusiasts, both young and middle-aged, yielded the information that most girls are indifferent to Ken. To these fans, "Barbie doll" connotes visions of loveliness, while "Ken doll" evokes the image of the sterile figure atop wedding cakes.

Mattel's research indicates that there isn't much demand among girls for more realistic hair for Ken. Lisa McKendall, manager of marketing communications for Mattel, provides an explanation:

In general, the most popular play pattern with fashion dolls among young girls is styling the hair. That is why long, combable hair is such an important feature of fashion dolls. Since the Ken doll's hair is short, there is much less to style and play with, so having "realistic" hair has not been as important.

Needless to say, "Ken hair" is much cheaper for Mattel to produce, particularly because painted hair doesn't have to be "rooted" to the top of the doll's head.

The choice of hairstyles for the Barbie lines is not taken casually. Meryl Friedman, vice-president of marketing for Barbie consumer products, told Imponderables that the length and texture of dolls' hair depends upon which "segment," or line of Barbies, Mattel is conceptualizing. Friedman reports that the best-selling doll in the history of Mattel is the "Totally Hair Barbie" line. The Barbie in the Totally Hair line is ten and one-half inches long—and the doll is only eleven and one half inches tall. In this particular segment, even Ken has combable, if short hair, as McKendall explains:

. . . the Ken doll does have realistic-looking hair and actually comes with styling gel to create many different looks. A special fiber for the hair called Kankelon is produced specifically for us in Japan.

Friedman reports that in 1994, a Ken will be produced with longer hair.

Who says the men's liberation movement hasn't achieved anything?

Submitted by Dona Gray of Whiting, Indiana. Thanks also to Laura and Jenny Dunklee of Sutter Creek, California; Jessica Barmann of Kansas City, Missouri; Rebecca Capowski of Great Falls, Montana; and Nicole McKinley of Rochelle, Illinois.

On the U.S. Penny, Why Is the "o" in the "UNITED STATES oF AMERICA" on the Reverse Side in Lower Case?

Believe it or not, that little "o" is an artistic statement. According to Brenda F. Gatling, chief, executive secretariat of the United States Mint, the designer of the reverse side of the one-cent piece, Frank Gasparra, simply preferred the look of the little "o" alongside the big "F." And this eccentricity is not an anomaly; the Franklin half-dollar and several commemoratives contain the same, puny "o."

Submitted by Jennifer Godwin of Tyrone, Georgia.

What Do All the Chime Signals on Airlines Mean? Are They Uniform from Airline to Airline?

We might not be white-knuckle fliers anymore, but let's put it this way: We're closer to a pale pink than a full-bodied red. So we're not too happy when we find ourselves sitting next to fearful fliers. Why is our fate in life always to be seated alongside a middle-aged passenger taking his or her first flight? Invariably, our rowmates quake when they hear the landing gear go up. And more than one has reacted to the chime signals as if they were a death knell; one skittish woman knocked our Diet Coke off our tray when she heard the chimes. She assumed that the three-chime signal must signify that our flight was doomed. Actually, all that happened of consequence was that our pristine white shirt soon resembled the coat of a dalmatian.

But we always have been curious about the meaning of these chime codes, so we contacted the three largest airlines in the United States—American, United, and Delta—to ask if they would decode the mystery. We were surprised at how forthcoming they were. Nevertheless, for the first time in the history of Imponderables, we are going to withhold some of the information our sources willingly provided, for two reasons. First, airline chime-signals vary not only from airline to airline but from plane to plane within companies, and today's signals are subject to change in the future. Second, every airline does have a code to signify a true emergency, and the airlines aren't particularly excited about the idea of passengers decoding such a signal before the cockpit crew has communicated with flight attendants. Airlines are justifiably concerned about readers confusing emergency signals with innocuous ones and confusing one company's codes with another's. We agree.

Michael Lauria, an experienced pilot at United Airlines, told Imponderables that he has never had to activate an emergency chime signal. He is much more likely to sound one chime, to indicate that the cockpit wishes to speak to the first-class cabin attendant or (two chimes) to the coach flight attendants. Even if Lauria's passengers are enduring particularly nasty turbulence, chances are that the cry for help from the cockpit, expressed by the chimes, is more likely to be for a coffee or a soda than for draconian safety measures.

The number of chimes is not the only way of differentiating signals. Some United planes emit different tone frequencies: a lower-tone chime is heard for a passenger call than for a crew call, and a "bing bong" indicates a call from one flight attendant to another.

American Airlines uses different chime configurations to inform attendants when they should prepare for landing, remain seated with seat belts fastened, and call the cockpit crew. Although American does have a designated emergency signal, like other airlines' it is rarely used.

Delta Airlines features an array of different chime signals, which specify events during a flight. For example, when the "fasten seat belt" signs are turned off, a double high-low chime marks the event. These chimes also tell the flight attendants what elevation the plane has attained. Even during uneventful flights, there are periods of "sterile cockpits," when attendants are not supposed to disturb the cockpit crew except in an emergency. Sterile cockpits occur during takeoff and landing, and even though domestic airlines no longer allow smoking anywhere on the plane, some airlines still use the turning off "no smoking" sign as the marker for when the pilots can be contacted freely.

On most Delta planes, each phone station has a select tone, so that on a widebody plane, the flight attendant can recognize who is calling, and the flight crew can call any one or all of the flight attendant stations at one time. Alison Johnson, manager of aircraft interiors for Delta, told Imponderables that during an emergency, it is important for the flight crew to be able to speak to flight attendants without causing panic among passengers. Obviously, if the entire staff is briefed, a game plan can be established before informing passengers about a potential problem.

Submitted by Gabe Wiener of New York, New York. Thanks also to Dr. Richard Presnell of Augusta, Georgia.How Does Aspirin Find a Headache?. Copyright © by David Feldman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from How Does Aspirin Find a Headache? 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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