Many people realize they can tell the temperature by counting the chirps a cricket makes. But how does the cricket know what temperature it is?
———- from Brian W. of Laramie, Wyoming
Brian, while you’re out on the veranda swatting mosquitos and complaining to your friends about how hot it is, the cricket sits in air-conditioned comfort watching the evening news. Out of bordome, perhaps, or a genuine need to give us information, the cricket communicates this weather data to you. The cricket will also click out (in Morse code) the final sports scores, national headlines and such phrases as “Now this”, “Coming up at 11,” or “Our White House Correspondent filed this report.” Some scientists call the cricket the Ted Koppel of the insect world, which is accurate but somewhat silly. After all, you’ll never see Ted Koppel rubbing his legs together. At least I hope you won’t.
I’m a graduate student in botany. Ever since the last recession, the papers have been full of stories about plant closures. I’m concerned. With all of these closures, will there be any plants left for me to study when I graduate?
———- from Larry Widell of Rockford, IL
It sounds to me like you’ve spent too long with your nose in a book, Larry. You see there are two different kinds of plants: one grows in the ground and the other one hires factory workers. Oh, sure, there are superficial resemblances. If a tree fell in a forest and another on a factory with nobody there to hear it, neither tree would make a noise. But there the resemblance ends. You can’t tell the forest for the trees, Larry, and you should consider a different career. I recommend factory work. As a matter of fact, there’s a job opening in a plant near you. Bring your resume. Just knock at the stamen and ask for Joe.
———- from Jennifer and Ellen of Missoula, MT
Because the natural enzymes in a cow’s body act as a kind of internal blender. You can, if you wish, put your ear on a cow’s udder and actually hear the blending process. You can even twist the cow’s ear to achieve different effects, such as mix, whip and puree. I can’t recommend listening to a cow’s udder, however. It makes the cow very nervous. Putting one’s head under a cow is a job for a trained scientist. By the way, a cow can actually produce ice cream. Since this process involves putting a cow in a cyclotron and spinning her at 500 revolutions per second in subzero temperatures, I can’t really recommend this process either. You should probably just go to the store for your dairy products like everybody else and leave the poor cow alone.
Many doctors are now saying that breakdancing can be physically dangerous. Since I spent most of my free time in the ’80s breakdancing, can you tell me if there’s any truth to this?
———- from George Turner of Des Moines, IA
Breakdancing was invented by nuclear physicists. Back in the ’50s, if a physicist wanted to be the life of a party, all he had to do was drop to the floor, spin around real fast and shout, “Hey, look at me, everybody, I’m a cyclotron!” Today, of course, breakdancing is out of the lab and into the streets. Well, let me tell you the only possible danger was that breakdancing, like a cyclotron, could have split your atoms if you went too fast. Many physicists now have an identical twin as a result of their party fun. Still, if you were a lonely breakdancer, this might appeal to you. Or have you noticed a new twin in the past decade, George?
———- from Barbara S. of Portales, NM