Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2003 / 10 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Jeff Elder

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Consumer Reports

Decoding the laws of buoyancy; What actually happens when you crack your knuckles?; origin of the expression "three sheets to the wind | Q: Why is it that when you throw a rock in the lake, it sinks, but when you go out on your boat, you float? - Lauren Blanks

A: Lauren, 2,200 years ago, a guy named Archimedes was getting into the bathtub when he suddenly exclaimed, "Ouch! Hot-hot-hot-hot-hot-hot!"

When he finally lowered himself into the tub, Archimedes noticed that the water rose and splashed over the sides.

He ran out into the street, naked, yelling, "Eureka!" Which is Greek for, "I've found it!"

To which the other Greeks responded, "Great, Archimedes. But do you have to show it to us?"

What Archimedes actually found was his law of buoyancy. This basically says that when something is immersed in water, the water pushes back. The more water the object displaces, or moves aside, the harder the water pushes back.

A rock sinks because it's very dense. Its shape doesn't help it do a very good job of displacing water. But a boat's shape spreads its weight out, making the boat less dense and displacing water more effectively. The water pushes up on the wide surface of the boat's bottom, and the boat floats.

Archimedes is also known for his work in geometry, with the lever, and as the father of the "all-over" tan.

Q: What actually happens when you crack your knuckles? - Robert Rubino

A: Robert, when you bend your fingers back, the bones that make up the joint pull apart, creating a gap. This space causes the liquid that surrounds the joint to lose pressure. As a result, gases dissolved in the fluid form bubbles. When the joint is stretched far enough, the pressure in the gap drops so low that the bubbles burst, making the CRACK! sound.

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It takes about a half-hour for the gas to redissolve into the joint fluid. During this time, you can't crack your knuckles.

The most in-depth study on knuckle-cracking showed no connection to arthritis. But knuckle poppers did show slightly swollen knuckles and a decrease in grip strength over time.

Q: What is the origin of the expression "three sheets to the wind?" - Pete Fetzer

A: Pete, word experts say the phrase dates to 1821. The sheet is a reference to a rope on a sailboat. To have a sheet loose in the wind is bad seamanship. To have three loose means you're not capable of controlling the boat. If your buddy's like this tonight, don't let him drive.

A few other synonyms: Drunker'n a boiled owl, sozzled, squiffy, pixilated, spiflicated, capernoited, Andy Capped, bibulous, at peace with the floor, can't see a hole in a ladder, Count Drunkula and smurfed up. source:

TIME FOR A FEW QUICK QUOTES — "I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: No good in a bed, but fine up against a wall." - Eleanor Roosevelt

— "As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind: Every part of this capsule was supplied by the lowest bidder." - John Glenn


On memorable TV commercials:

1. What should you ask any mermaid you happen to see?
2. When it's time to relax, what beer stands clear?
3. Who enthusiastically proclaimed for decades, "They're GRRRREAT!"
4. A luxury car driven by a chauffeur pulls up next to you. What condiment does the wealthy occupant request?
5. A little dab of what will do ya?
6. A great quarterback and as-yet-undiscovered sex symbol appeared in an early `70s Super Bowl ad. Who were they, and what was the product?

— — —


1. What's the best tuna? (Chicken of the Sea!)
2. Miller
3. Tony the Tiger for Frosted Flakes
4. Grey Poupon
5. Brylcreem
6. Joe Namath and Farrah Fawcett pitched Noxzema shave cream

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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here.


10/30/03: Buttoning on the 'correct' side; when you breathe on your hand it feels warm, but when you blow on your hand it feels cool?; Why do dogs eat (and enjoy eating) dirt?; more
10/23/03: 'American Pie' explained; Why are tennis balls seamed like baseballs?; more
10/14/03: Origins of comic strips and hush puppies; a college football quiz; dogs that don't bark
09/24/03: Why do snooze alarms go off every 9 minutes?
09/17/03: Glad You Asked: Fun with college football
09/09/03: What's so great about Wiffle Ball?
09/03/03: What kinda wine goes best with heartache?; What did people do before alarm clocks were invented?; which has more caffeine: coffee or tea?
08/26/03: These inventors were just toying with us
08/12/03: Why do wheels appear to turn backward on film?; showdown over high noon
08/07/03: Wood'n you know it? Money doesn't grow on trees; all we are is dust in the wind
08/05/03: Where have you gone, Calvin, Opus and Cow?; fine feathered friend pecking on itself
07/31/03: How a dashing hero became a notorious traitor
07/29/03: Little red caboose rolling outta sight; From my 'I'll be a monkey's uncle' file
07/24/03: Road scholar: A lesson on asphalt; when identical twins marry
07/23/03: The sweet science of Life Savers' sparks; how do Pop Rocks work? ripping newspaper

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