The Explainer questions we never answered in 2007.

The Explainer questions we never answered in 2007.

The Explainer questions we never answered in 2007.

Answers to your questions about the news.
Dec. 19 2007 3:36 PM

The Questions We Never Answered in 2007

Digging through the bottom of the Explainer mailbag.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

Another year of Explaining is drawing to a close. Over the last 12 months, regular readers of the column learned what to do when confronted by a gun-toting madman, how to fight off a band of bloodthirsty monkeys, whether a racehorse really pees like a racehorse, and why the camera adds 10 pounds.

Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

But for every reader question we managed to answer, 50 more arrived in the Explainer inbox. By year's end, these numbered in the thousands. Today, the Explainer renews a holiday tradition and presents an assortment of inquiries culled from our voluminous backlog, which Slate felt ill-equipped or unwilling to answer in 2007.

Once again, we'd like you to let us know which of these unanswered questions is most deserving of an answer. The one receiving the most reader votes will be designated Explainer Question of the Year for 2007 and addressed in an upcoming column.

Vote for the Question of the Year button

The Explainer's Unanswered Questions From 2007

• Could you play sports in space, if you had a spacesuit?

• Can a baby get drunk off of nonalcoholic beer?

• Very rare to find a hotel room with a light on the ceiling, they're usually floor lamps or desk lamps. Is there some structural reason for that?

• Mitt Romney is running for president. His father, George Romney, a former governor of Michigan, ran for president in 1968. Is "Mitt" named for the mitten-shape of Michigan?

• How do surface-dwelling fish survive monster sea storms?


• If I drank a bunch of orange juice, which caused me to get heartburn, then ate a bunch of antacids, would it neutralize the vitamin C, thus providing no benefits from the ingested vitamin? If so, if you ate antacids continually, would you get scurvy?

• I've been looking for information on how the word "dick" became an insult, especially since people still go by the name Dick. Why would anyone choose that name, when it has other meanings?!?!

• Why do male ice skaters have routines that are so feminine in execution? After all these years, there should be some kind of movements on ice that would be more masculine-looking. The gymnastics shows have them.

• Why are some cats softer to the touch than others? Is it possible I have the softest cat in the world?

• In Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity, he says that Jason Bourne can pack with great economy of space, allowing him to pack much more in a small bag than it would seem. How would one do this, and is it even a real thing?

• Do you have any idea why sporting the moustache was so much more common in the military than in any other job in 19th-century Western countries, and to some extent present-day Western countries?

• If an unscrupulous bar owner was to mix diethylene to, say, whiskey, what would the effect be on the consumer?