And now, back to the original post (drawing a curtain around Paula and Notthemama). Pay no attention to the women behind the curtain…
Cecil undoubtedly does both, Federalist. He knows an awful lot, and this gives him a pretty good feeling for an answer, as well as a good idea where to go to flesh out answers. If you look through the archive, you will see answers Cecil handled directly (such as Why do wet things look darker than dry things?) and those where he engaged in efforts to obtain answers from those who know (such as In the old Lone Ranger series, what did “kemosabe” mean?). Then there are MY favorites: the questions Cecil does research to answer, such as: Which will keep you drier, running through the rain or walking?.
One should note, Cecil’s answers are not universally accepted, and he has to do follow-up work at times, such as with: Who invented the smiley face? (one of my all time favorites). Sometimes, the masses here on the SDMB refuse to easily accept Cecil’s answers, and you can find any number of threads here challenging Cecil’s ideas on Sucking spaghetti, revisited by the master at: How do you suck spaghetti? (cont’d). Some of our SDSAB members who answer the mailbag questions have taken up Cecil’s ways, though perhaps to excess (see for example what happened to poor Eutychus at How many cities are there in the U.S.?; we still wonder if he made a complete recovery…).
And then, there are the instances where, gasp, dare I say it and let the cat out of the bag… oh what the hell, I’m going for it!.. Cecil is wrong. Mind you, it happens with limited frequency. And I’m NOT talking about situations where people disagree with his opinions (e.g.:What’s up with homeopathy?; see the current thread on this in this forum). I’m talking about actual factual error. For instance, there is Cecil’s dismissal of anyone actually liking Circus Peanuts (see Does anybody actually like Circus Peanuts candy? and the follow-up at Readers’ shocking confession: we LIKE Circus Peanuts!). Yes, this borders close to the opinion category. Recently, the SDMB managed to identify a minor error from Cecil regarding manhole covers, noting that a cover shaped as an equilateral triangle can fall in (see: Why are manhole covers round?). Of course, like most of us, Cecil will find an escape clause (see: Was Cecil wrong about the weight of clouds? (cont’d)). But, occaisionally, even when the reason for his mistake is understandable, he will indeed admit error (see: Update: Did Thomas Jefferson father children by his slave mistress?). To me, that makes Cecil’s work worth reading, research, knowledge, or just flat out funny opinion.