Ask A Guru

October and November, 2003

Q: Is it true that Mickey Mouse is known as Topolino in Italy? (ASHsSWEETcandi - 2003/11/26)
A: Yes.

Well that was certainly easy. We'll pat ourselves on the back now. Yeah, we rule. Ok, how about we actually go a little further. Here is the name of Micky Mouse in several different countries.

Italian - Topolino, Spanish (Mexican) - El Raton Mickey, German - Micky Maus, Finnish - Mikki Hiiri, Norwegian - Mikke Mus, Swedish - Musse Pigg, Greek - Mikki Maous, Russian - Mikki Maus, Polish - Myszka Mikey, Chinese (Mandarin) - Milaoshu, Hungarian - Miki Egér, Indonesian - Miki Tikus, Turkish - Miki, Estonian - Miki Hiir, Bulgarian - Miki Maus, Slovak - My`'sjak Miky, Icelandic - Mikki Mús, Serbo-Croatian - Miki Maus, Faeroese - Mikkjal Mus.

As you can see that pants-wearing rat gets around.

Q: How does a black haired and brown haired couple end up with a natural red head for a child? (Jamie Fisher - 2003/11/21)
A: This is certainly an odd condition that most people attribute to the mailman, but in actuality it's fairly common. Well, the mailman being involved is common as well, but I'm talking about red hair.

There are four genes that control the amount of melanin your body produces. Melanin is your body's natural pigment which, among other things, affects hair color. In order to have red hair all four of your hair genes must be recessive.

Because red hair is quadruple recessive, it can often lie dormant for several generations before chance allows it to come forth. Thus, even though there might not be red hair for several generations above you and you can still have red hair without need for a red headed mailman.

Q: Who is "Hoyle" when referring to "according to Hoyle"? (A Wandering Soul - 2003/11/20)
A: This is indeed the same Hoyle that you see on playing cards. The man's name was Edmond Hoyle (1672-1769). He wrote the modern rules for several indoor games including quadrille, piquet, and backgammon (he was obviously popular with the ladies).

Originally, the phrase was used only when referring to indoor games who's rules were written by Hoyle, but as time went on it became a widely used phrase by various institutions.

Now when people use the phrase "according to Hoyle" they are meaning "adhering to the common rules". Thus if someone did not win a game according to Hoyle, they may have bent the rules or found a loophole.

There is also an evil secret behind Edmund Hoyle, because his name is an anagram for "honey muddle". This obviously means he was a creature of the darkness.

Q: How can black holes be small but have huge gravity which disobeys the laws of physics? (MHamManiac - 2003/11/19)
A: Talking about black holes is always a strange thing, because we still don't fully understand how they work. By "we" I mean those stupid scientists, not the gurus.

From what we've gathered black holes are formed from very large stars (much larger than our sun) that have used up all their fuel and collapse upon themselves until they are so dense and their gravity becomes so strong that even light cannot escape its pull (known as the Event Horizon). Without light escaping, all we see is a black area in space, hence the name, black hole. (Scientists are so creative.)

Technically speaking, black holes do not disobey the laws of physics. It's impossible to disobey the true laws of physics. The best you can hope for is to disobey our current understanding of physics. So to answer your question, black holes do obey the laws of physics. However, the question should really be, why don't we fully understand how black holes work?

That is an extremely difficult question because if you get close enough to run tests on black holes they will suck your body in one atom at a time completely annihilating you. (Sucks doesn't it?) So all of our testing must be done from afar, using the surrounding celestial bodies for information which is a much slower way to gather information. For example, there is a black hole at the center of our galaxy, who knew?

Q: What happens inside your body when you get cramps? (Kimberly Sue - 2003/11/11)
A: Everyone loves getting cramps, right? Of course, they're right up there with squeezing lemon juice into your eyes.

A cramp is caused when your muscles begin to spasm for one of several reasons including fatigue, conditioning, and hydration.

Fatigue causes cramps because you're pushing your muscles to the limit and they decide to revolt against you with cramping.

Conditioning is just a matter of how much your body is used to activity. If you're a worthless layabout, you'll get cramps sooner than people who run track. Stretching is very important for preventing cramps.

Hydration is very important. When your body swaps potassium and sodium to feed your cells it uses up water. Dehydration can cause a build up of nitrogen to get trapped in the cells which will cause cramping as well.

Q: Why does hunting make men horny? (Heidi Good - 2003/11/06)
This is wrong. A: Ah yes the time honored quandary about sex, guns, and big furry animals.

It's actually quite simple. Hunting puts people in a heightened state of anticipation. When the moment of the kill comes, the hunter gets a massive adrenaline rush and feels a sense of euphoric pride. This puts them in the mood to get their freak on.

Of course, they're usually wasted from tanking down gallons of beer. Not to mention they are covered in blood, fur, feathers, etc. These two things combined turn them into a raving sex machine.

As we all know, murdering Bambi's mom is such a turn on the opposite sex.

Q: Why is there no 'E' in the US grading scale? (MHamManiac - 2003/11/03)
A: Interesting question. First of all, there is no federal grading system that all schools or universities have to accept, they can create their own. However, most of them use the ABCDF system for grading. But why skip the E? Is it unlucky like the 13th floor?

Most US grading scales work on a point system to easily determine your GPA (Grade Point Average). A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, and F = 0. Add up your grades, divide by the number of classes, and you have your GPA. So what wacko skipped E and used F?

Unlike A through D, the F actually stands for the word 'Failure'. Thus, we use an F instead of an E (similarly some people use an I for incomplete, P for Pass, C for credit, etc.).

Still, we must ask, why use a word for one grade and use letters for the others? Personally, we would like to know why they even use letters at all and not the numbers they stand for?

The reason is because the geniuses on the school boards aren't really geniuses at all, but big monkeys with severe banana addictions and superstitious views on the letter E.

Q: What causes sand to squeak? (Katie and Nikia - 2003/10/28)
A: Squeaking sand is a phenomena that many people aren't aware of (because they sit on their couch too much). Even less people know about booming sand which occurs on the dunes of some deserts.

Musical sand is rather odd. You walk along a beach and as your feet drag the sand lets out a chirp similar to squeaking chalk. Why does this happen? What causes the noise? Who shot JFK?

Squeaking sand can be found on beaches on every continent in the world (except maybe Antarctica). Not all beaches squeak though, it only occurs when a certain types of sand (silicates, carbonate of lime, etc.), with grains at a certain size (around 300 micrometers), create layers from the wind and moisture. The sand also has to be well weathered, smooth, and fairly spherical.

The strange squeaking noise is caused from the friction of the layers rubbing against each other (keep your minds out of the gutter please).

Also, polluted sand will not squeak. So if a beach stops squeaking, it's because foreign matter has mixed in with the sand and taken away its voice. So if your beach squeaks, you know it's clean.

For a much more technical review (including some mathematical equations) check out this site.

Q: Which state doesn't have any naturally formed lakes and natural forming rocks? (Paul Nantkes - 2003/10/22)
A: This is an interesting question. You're either trying to stump us or get an answer for a school project. Either way, you won't.

There is only one state out of the US's fifty that does not have any natural lakes, and that is Maryland. Many people will swear that there are other states, but they're wrong. Texas has at least one natural lake (Caddo Lake), so does Missouri, Colorado, and Oklahoma (states commonly thought not to have natural lakes).

For the second part of your question, the state must also not have natural forming rocks. Well this eliminates Maryland, because it has the Allegheny Mountains running through it which is creating new rocks all the time.

So, none of the states adhere to the stipulations of your question, sorry.

In fact, pretty much any state that has a river in it is naturally creating sedimentary rocks, so chances are all states are creating rocks naturally.

Guru's note: both Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico don't have natural lakes, but they're not good enough to be official states.

Q: What is space expanding into? (MHamManiac - 2003/10/10)
A: Now this is a humdinger of a question! We do know the answer, but you're not going to like it. The correct answer is: 'Nothing' (we told you you wouldn't like it).

Here's the explanation. The universe is defined as 'everything in existence'. Because we are, by definition, part of the universe, it is impossible for us to measure anything outside of it.

However, the universe is indeed stretching (expanding is a confusing word to use), we can tell because of the redshift of light from stars proves they are getting further away from us. So with the universe stretching, it should be getting bigger right? Well, current theories favor a universe that is infinite in size, thus it has no center, ending, or edge. So the expansion we see is merely expansion in an infinite area.

Are you following along so far? ...No? Too bad!

Whenever infinity comes into play everything stops making sense because we don't really have a basis for comparison. A good analogy to use is counting with numbers. At the number one, you are infinitely far from infinity, and at the number one billion you are still infinitely far from infinity. The same holds true with the universe. It's stretching in size, but because it's already infinitely large, it's not actually getting bigger.

For a much more detailed answer, and even more difficult to understand, check this site.

Q: What does SAT and Ph.D. stand for? (MHamManiac - 2003/10/07)
A: SAT is a bit of a odd ball. When the SAT was originally created SAT stood for something, but now it means as much as Brittney Spears' acting career (i.e. nothing).

In 1901 it was known as the Scholastic Achievement Test and was used as a means of measuring a college hopeful's mental facilities. In 1941 the name was changed to mean Scholastic Aptitude Test. During the next few decades the test became the primary method of testing students and actual schools were setup to help people score better on them. It was for this reason that in 1990 the name was changed again to Scholastic Assessment Test. This name change was placed in effect because people were coaching the students on how to take the test, and it no longer graded their scholastic aptitude. With all these hard to follow changes the College Board decided in 1994 to not even bother worrying about what SAT stands for and simply say that it no longer stands for anything. Talk about an easy way out, but what do you expect from the silly College Board.

And to prevent you, or anyone else, from asking the next obvious question, ACT stands for American College Test.

As far as the degrees go: Ph.D. - Doctor of Philosophy. M.D. - Medical Doctor. Psy.D. - Doctor of Psychology. M.S.W. - Masters in Social Work. M.Ed. - Masters in Education. M.S. - Masters of Science. M.A. - Masters of Arts. Ed.S. - Educational Specialist.

We would just like to mention that all of our gurus have a B.S. in various subjects, and that we have all received perfect scores on the UCHEETE test.

Q: Why is the sky blue? (Kaite - 2003/10/02)
A: This is one of those questions that's just too darn complicated for its own good. We expected this question, but we've been dreading it because, unless you're a nerd who's in love with the electromagnetic spectrum, the answer is incredibly boring.

Visible light travels in waves just like sound waves, radio waves, and microwaves. The light that we get from the sun contains all the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). However, when all these colors are mixed together we see them as white.

Red light has the longest wavelength, blue, indigo, and violet have the shortest. When the light from the sun travels through our atmosphere it collides with the molecules of air (nitrogen, oxygen, etc.) This collision scatters some of the light (known as Rayleigh scattering). The shorter the wavelength, the more light gets scattered. Thus, the blue, indigo, and violet light is scattered the most.

The more light that gets scattered, the more is absorbed in the atmosphere. The human eye isn't very sensitive to violet light, so we primarily see the blue and indigo light in the sky.

Now wasn't that exciting? Kind of makes you want to drop everything and become a scientist doesn't it? Oh yeah!