Incredibly, the Why column has been in business for six years. It is now more than just a column, it's an institution, a beloved American tradition, like leaving work early on Fridays, falling asleep during baseball games and lying to children.
Today we will review but a sampling of what we have learned to date. In the same sense that the Why column is a bold distillation of all that humankind has learned lo these many millennia, so too will today's installment seek to distill everything we have written lo these six years. We invite the reader to distill today's column into a single one-syllable word.The skin on your fingers doesn't shrivel in a bathtub; it expands. Sound moves seven to eight times faster underwater than in the atmosphere. Of all the human beings who have ever been born, 7.7 percent are alive today. Avoiding eye contact with someone passing on the street is called "polite inattention."
Individual jetpacks like those used on "Jonny Quest" are impractical due to the weight of the fuel.
There are only two types of clouds: layer and convective. The Halsey-Taylor two-hole water fountain is designed to make the two streams of water converge at the apex of the arc of water, thus creating a fuller, wider, broader, rounder, more watery drink.
Although Herb Woodley and the mailman in Blondie look disturbingly alike, they are not, repeat, not the same person; and Herb, on closer examination, has a stronger jawline and a cleft chin. The reason Nixon taped his own nefarious conversations was he figured he could edit the tapes later. As turkeys have been bred for fatness they have lost some of their innate cunning.
The birth of Jesus is celebrated on Dec. 25, as opposed to some other day, because the Romans needed to replace the pagan holiday called the Feast of the Unconquered Sun.
The lowest score one can get on either the math or verbal SAT is 200 because the College Board didn't want anyone to feel that he or she had zero intelligence.
Some socks droop on the ankle because they are made of "air-entangled" nylon rather than "twisted" nylon. You get a runny nose when you cry because the tears drain into the nose through the tiny hole at the corner of your eye, called the puncta lacrimalia.
Heat is more efficiently transferred through the hull ("pericarp") of popcorn than through the hull of regular sweet corn or feed corn. Porous objects get darker when they get wet because they become more transparent to light, thus reflecting less of it.
The YKK on a zipper stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikigaisha. A football team on offense can't launch a midget carrying the football up and over the defensive line for a touchdown because it would violate Rule 17 of section 6 of the Official Football Rules: "No player of the side in possession of the ball shall use his hands, arms or body to push, pull or hold upon his feet the player carrying the ball."
The myth of mass suicide by lemmings was promulgated in part by a filmmaker who herded a bunch of lemmings off a cliff for the 1958 Disney documentary "White Wilderness." Because movie producers used to get top billing instead of directors, nobody remembers who directed "Gone With The Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz"; it was Victor Fleming. The giant fetus at the end of "2001: A Space Odyssey" is the ultimate evolved human, a Nietzschean Superman, capable of surviving in the vacuum of space.
Within an 80-light-year radius of the Earth are about 1,000 sun-like stars that conceivably could have planets with intelligent civilizations. If you go out to 160 light-years the number increases by a factor of 10. Scientists are listening for signals from these star systems, but they do not send any intentional signals themselves for fear that aliens would come to Earth and either kill or enslave us.
The last wild cow died in Poland in 1627.
Birds do not love their mates, and in fact will try to kill one another in a caged environment because they don't even recognize each other.
A fetus is about 90 percent water, a newborn about 70 percent water, and a mature adult about 60 percent water. The secret of McDonald's french fries is that they are steam-blanched rather than water-blanched. Possoms lie motionless because they know that many predators, wary of spoiled meat, only eat creatures that are writhing in agony.
A monkey pounding randomly on a typewriter would very likely write Hamlet given an infinite amount of time - but that outcome is not quite an absolute certainty.
If you went back in time, you could conceivably alter the course of history - but you wouldn't. Because you didn't.
Philosophers are divided about the nature of truth; one camp says there is such a thing as objective truth that accurately describes reality, while another camps says truth is merely a useful descriptive tool within certain self-consistent systems.
Some quarters have residual red or black paint on them because they have been used by bar owners in jukeboxes to get the joint jumping; they belong to the bar rather than the vending machine company.
Humor is funny because of overlapping but incompatible frames of reference.
We exist to spread love in a large, cold universe.