Ask A Guru

December 2003 and January 2004

Q: Do penguins have knees? (Andr˙ffffe9s ˙ffffc1lvarez - 2004/01/30)
A: After examining these cute, but bizarre, looking birds it certainly appears that they do not have knees. Their feet just seem to stick out of their body without any joints at all.

However, if you murder one, rip its body in half, dig through the feathers and gore, and wipe away the blood, you will see that they do indeed have knees. The reason they don't appear to have them is because their legs are usually tucked under their body and covered in feathers. If you watch them when they jump into water, you can see their legs and knees.

Q: How do those dead bugs get into closed light fixtures? (Nikia - 2004/01/27)

A: Magic.

Okay, it's not magic. Actually, there are a number of reasons you can find dead insects inside your light fixtures.

Many insects are attracted to the light and warmth of the fixtures. I'm sure you've all seen moths and flies congregating around lamps. While they're trying to get closer to the light they sometimes find tiny little holes around the light fixtures that they can squeeze into. Insects aren't the most intelligent creatures and they don't remember how to get out, so they eventually starve to death or burn themselves on the light bulbs. What a way to go.

But I'm sure you've also seen bugs inside of a sealed light fixture without any tiny holes, right? There are still holes, but they are very small. Sometimes insects will lay their eggs near one of these tiny holes and the larvae will hatch and crawl towards the light for warmth. When they finally grow to full size they can't get out and quickly starve to death.

It's also possible that the eggs were laid inside the light at the factory before it was assembled. So even air tight fixtures can have dead bugs inside of it. Or, bugs magically teleport inside them, it could go either way.

This has been a stimulating discussion. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for lunch.

Q: I've just discovered your website and that's just what I've always been dreaming of! You're a star! Here goes the first shot, with my apologies and immense thanks. Long life to almighty guru! Why does water swirl in the bath drain to one side in the north hemisphere, and to the other side in the south? (Andr˙ffffe9s ˙ffffc1lvarez - 2004/01/22)
A: First of all, we adore your praise. In fact we feed off of it. The more praise we get the less time we spend in the clock tower with a high-powered sniper rifle.

Okay, on with the question. You're obviously familiar with the Coriolis Force which effects large air masses such as storms and winds. This effect is caused due to the rotation of the Earth. Although it may seem to be very strong force because it can effect the rotation of tornadoes, it's actually incredibly weak. Thus the Coriolis Force has no effect on small bodies of water.

That's right, all those people who believe that toilets spin in different directions, depending on which hemisphere you're from, are misinformed, a classic case of communal reinforcement. If you test this theory you'll find it false, for example TheAlmightyGuru's bathtub drains clockwise and his sink drains counter-clockwise (aren't you thrilled to know that?). It's all in the manner of the way the water enters the basin and the imperfections of the layout that effect the way a basin drains, not the Coriolis Force.

It is possible to get the Coriolis force to effect the way water drains, but it requires you to go to extreme conditions which don't usually occur in your average bathroom.

Q: Oh Mr. Creepy Guru, tell me this, what bird has claws on its wings? (TheAlphaWolf001 - 2004/01/21)
A: Creepy Guru? Creepy!? We're not creepy! We're... cuddly.

So anyway, you wanna know the bird that has claws, eh? Well 150 million years ago there existed the Archaeopteryx which was basically a lizard with feathers. It had claws on its wings, it even had teeth. However, not everyone agrees that this extinct creature was really bird.

The South American hoatzin (Opisthocomus Hoazin), or as we like to call it, the freak bird, is still living and has claws on its wings. Amazingly, it eats leaves and has a stomach similar to a cow's to digest them which makes the bird smell pretty bad. They're also really goofy looking. We bet the other birds make fun of them.

There are other birds with claws on their wings as well.

Q: I am especially curious how the American's middle finger gesture evolved. (Flibrtjibt - 2004/01/16)
A: There is one explanation of this overly-used gesture on the Internet saying that it comes from the Battle of Agincourt. When the French cut the middle fingers off their prisoners. After the battle, the English won and waved their middle fingers at the French shouting that they could still 'pluck yew'. Whoever came up with this story was indeed creative because there is no historical evidence to this whatsoever.

The middle finger is actually not American in nature at all, although we certainly use it enough. Actually, the gesture stems from Greek and Roman literature where it was called digitus infamis or the infamous digit. Although it may not have been used for the same reason we use it today, it was indeed an obscene gesture used possibly to represent something sexual in nature (i.e. a phallic symbol). Those naughty Romans!

Q: Why is it that no matter what color of bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white? (Nikia - 2004/01/15)
A: An uncountable amount of nude people have asked this question over the years, but they were never answered because they didn't ask us (the fools). Now that this inquiry has been posed to the gurus we will finally lay it rest.

The suds in your bubble bath aren't entirely white. They do have a slight amount of color from the soap, but it's so small it's hard to notice. Actually, all things that create bubbles experience this same phenomenon. Beer, soda, and detergents all produce bubbles that are considerably lighter than the liquid they came from.

Bubbles are composed of a thin spherical film. The film is both translucent and reflective so some of the light that is hitting the bubble is absorbed, but most is reflected. The small amount of light that is absorbed gives the color of the bubble, but the majority that is reflected takes the color of light around it which is usually white.

When you mix any color with white it gets lighter. Because soaps have only a little dye they are easily diluted. Colas however have a dark caramel color, which is why their bubbles appear tan.

To alter this you can replace all your light bulbs with green tinted ones and your bubble bath will turn green.

Q: According to my final exam "Women perform 2/3 of the world's work, acquire 1/10 of the world's income, and own 1/100 of the world's property" explain this using Marxist Feminist Theory. (Mo - 2004/01/14)
A: Firstly, women get way more than 1/10 of the world's income. Any married man will tell you that all of his money goes directly to his wife making his income, in effect, hers. That changes the number drastically.

With that aside, allow us to explain Marxist Feminist Theory. The theory attempts to understand the reasons of the oppression of women in a capitalistic society through the use of Marxism. In plain English, it tries to understand why women are paid less than men on average for doing the same type of work and why the duties of a housewife are considered less important than the duties of the so-called "working class". There are several other topics that the Theory covers, but this question is mostly concerned with work, money, and property.

Marxist Feminist Theory concludes that it isn't individual people at fault, but society itself that causes much of the oppression of women because it labels them "not as important" as men. This causes negative psychological effects on women causing them to feel inferior, thus perpetuating their second-rate treatment, which in turn keeps their pay less than the men's.

Our official standpoint on all matters of oppression is: WE DON'T CARE! Seriously, everybody in the world is being oppressed about something! The gurus are bunch of nerds which means we are oppressed by cheerleaders, but you don't see us crying about it! Everyone is a slave to one machine or another. There is no freedom except the freedom we give ourselves!

Q: If someone were to take a small glass marble and rub it against sandpaper how many hours would it take to get through the marble using only your hand? (MHamManiac - 2004/01/13)
A: First we need to ask, what kind a pathetic wack-job would spend their time grinding down a marble on sandpaper just to see how long it takes to become dust?

Then we need some more information including the size of the marble, the type of glass, the grade and quality of the sandpaper, the pressure applied, the speed of the sanding, what angle the sanding is taking place at, and finally who is a big enough loser to actually do this.

After all those factors have been figured out we'll cheerfully tell you answer. For an estimated answer, how does 4 hours sound?

Q: If you're so f---ing great why the hell do you live like a f---ing recluse? Get a f---ing life. By the way merry f---ing Christmas you greedy little f---er. . . . P.S. I need you to come over to fix my computer. (The Guru's Sister - 2003/12/30)
A: Please excuse us while we attempt to stop laughing (it may be awhile).

Days later... There, all done.

Ah, yes, the joys of family. Anyway, living like a recluse is actually what makes me so great. Holing up in my apartment for months at a time helps keep me amazingly intelligent and wise. It also keeps me away from the bizarre wackos who tend to frequent the outside world (I won't mention any of them in particular).

And yes, I'll fix your computer. I assume I'll have to make a house call?

Q: Why is there a 180-day waiting period for a divorce (with children) to become finalized? (Uneducated plebeian - 2003/12/26)
A: Divorce has become a major concern with the people of the world, and the Guru's are good enough to create a solution that will prevent divorce forever! All we have to do is stop getting married and the problem is solved!

We doubt anyone will use our great idea, so lets get back to the question at hand. Depending on which state you live in the waiting period before and after a divorce is subject to change. Most states have a waiting period for divorces. Some are as long as two years while others have none at all. A few states also have a "cooling-down" period after a divorce before you can get married again.

The reasoning behind this waiting period, is that it forces people to take extra time to think about whether or not they really want a divorce. Which, considering how often people tend to change their minds, is probably a decent idea.

If you want to know more about the waiting periods and laws regarding divorce in your state check out It has plenty of information regarding America's favorite pastime, including really neat "divorce kits" that you can purchase.

Q: What is the origin of crossing your fingers for luck? (Beckalyn - 2003/12/19)
A: Another superstitious habit that has long since lost its meaning and is without a concrete origin. There is probably some old opium addict to thank for this bizarre ritual.

The book Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things by Charles Panati says that it came from pre-Christian times when a cross symbolized unity. People would make crosses with their fingers for luck and well wishing.

Another book, Lore and Language of School Children by Peter and Iona Opie claim that British children used to cross fingers as far back as the early 1900's, and that it was actually two people who would cross their index fingers for a wish and luck, which eventually evolved into one person crossing their first two fingers (This is what happens when you don't have television).

The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable lists a much more solid example stating that the oldest known publication to use the term was back in 1924 in the Ladies' Home Journal. It's context was also used for wishing luck, but doesn't explain why it is done.

We feel that Obi-Wan Kenobi said it best with "In my experience, there's no such thing as luck.". See, the Jedi know all!

Q: What is the rationale for doing such silly things as "knocking on wood"? (Uneducated plebeian - 2003/12/05)
A: Like most superstitious habits, there is no rationale behind it, only superstition.

"Knock on wood" is an Americanized version of the older English phrase "touch wood". It is believed that by being a tree hugger you will grant yourself protection against something you were just speaking about (example: I haven't been mauled by an elephant, knock on wood). There are several possible crackpot reasons as to how this odd ritual came into practice.

Some think has to do with spirits who live in trees, and that by touching the tree would call their protection, or if the spirits were mischievous it would sedate them. A possible Irish origin claims that you knock on wood to let the leprechauns know you are thanking them for good luck. Some say it goes back to an old children's game of tag where you were safe while touching a tree. A Christian origin claims that touching wood helps remind us of the cross on which Jesus was crucified while a Jewish version says it appeared during the Spanish Inquisition when Jews built secret temples which required special knocks to gain admission.

In the end however, it seems the superstition isn't as old as people claim. The earliest record of the phrase comes from 1908, long after many of its bizarre origins are supposed to occur. Regardless, there haven't been very many studies to see if knocking on wood really does help protect you, so it's hard to say if it really works, our money's on 'no'.