It's been a long year for the Explainer. In the past 12 months, we've answered more than 200 questions. The Explainer has revealed that President Bush is shrinking and investigated why Satan smells like rotten eggs. Regular readers have learned how to deliver a professional head butt, what to do when your eyeball falls out of its socket, and how many cell phones can fit up your rear end.
There's only space to answer a small fraction of the questions that arrive in our in-box. Today, the Explainer offers a glimpse at a few of the 7,000 queries that, for one reason or another, Slate felt ill-equipped or unwilling to answer in 2006.
And that's not all! We want you, Explainer readers, to let us know which of the questions listed below deserves an answer. The question that gets the most reader votes will be addressed in an upcoming Explainer column. (Editor's note, Dec. 26: Voting for the Explainer Question of the Year is now closed.)
The Explainer's Unanswered Questions From 2006
• What comes after 999 trillion?
• Why do train whistles at night always sound lonely and mournful? Not so in the daytime.
• Given the exchange and dispersion of matter, how likely is it/how often do we inhale/consume and/or incorporate into our own protein structure molecules that were once in some historical figure, say Abraham Lincoln?
• Lasers are now powerful and small (at least I think they are), so why don't our troops carry laser guns?
• Why is smooth peanut butter cheaper than nutty?
• If we taught animals to talk, how would that affect the world?
• What would happen to the stock market if a meteor impacted the earth? What would happen to the global markets and the U.S. market? Say a meteor hits inside U.S. borders and takes out two states.
• Is it possible to collect all the cookie dough in Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream and actually bake cookies from it?
• How clean is bar soap in a public bathroom? Is it "self-cleaning," since it's soap? It seems like a health hazard to me.
• Why did Zidane head-butt his opponent in the World Cup final? Do the French not fight with their fists?
• When we are approaching another person, like in a hallway, why do we step to our left? That is, try and pass right-shoulder-to-right-shoulder.