Oddities explained

If you have wondered why hair turns grey or fingers get crinkled in the bath this book has the answers.

india Updated: Oct 17, 2006 16:21 IST

If you have ever wondered why hair turns grey, fingers get crinkled in the bath or if the Great Wall of China really is visible from space, Mick O'Hare has the answers.

He knows why left-handers are at greater risk of accidents, how ants manage to survive in the microwave and that, despite what mothers may have said, there is no connection between being cold and having one.

O'Hare is not a genius or a mad scientist but the editor of a new book called Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? which provides answers to that perplexing and unusual question and 114 others.

"It is kind of science miscellany," he told Reuters.

The book is a latest in a series based on questions and answers, supplied by readers, which appear in a column in the weekly magazine New Scientist.

"We just took the best questions and answers that appeared in the magazine and turned them into a book," O'Hare, the production editor at the magazine, added.

Each week the magazine receives hundreds of questions and answers to queries. Only a fraction make it into the column that has been going since 1994.

Questions and answers arrive from all over the world and cover everything from domestic science, weird weather, odd plants and animals and quirky science.

"There are lots about bodily functions," O'Hare said, adding that he can't recall a question for which he hasn't received an answer.


He usually knows an answer is correct because so many readers have responded with the same solution. But there has been the occasional dispute when experts have been called in to help.

"I'm not an expert in every field so I call on my colleagues who are quite widely versed in scientific disciplines to help me," he explained.

Over the years he seen some very odd questions and is constantly fascinated and amazed by what people ask.

"The one that really caused a big fuss when it came out and everyone thought was absolutely wonderful was -- 'Why is snot green?"' he said.

Another one of his all-time favourites is -- does beheading hurt?

Two of the most commonly asked questions are -- why is the sky blue and why does hair turn grey?

"Both of those are in the book," he added.

O'Hare has also been surprised by some of the answers. One he remembers well is the answer to whether black trousers make your bottom look smaller.

"Apparently there really is evidence and someone has done scientific work on it. It really does make your bottom look smaller," he said, adding it has something to do with shadows.

Earlier books based on the column have gone into several print runs due to popular demand which has left O'Hare with yet another question.

"It would be nice to know why the books have been so successful," he said.

First Published: Oct 17, 2006 16:21 IST