Questions Cecil didn't answer for you

I thought the teeming hundreds would like to answer some of the questions YOU sent to Cecil that he didn’t answer. We can try to answer them in one thread. I forwarded the question from here on shoe polish cans to Cecil, listing it as from the original member who brought it up. Why are there little holes in some Kiwi shoe polish cans that are covered by a piece of tape? And then other cans don’t have that hole.

You get the idea.

I don’t want this to be Mailbag sort of thing. Actually I don’t quite understand the mailbag Forum.


Why do anchovies spark when you microwave them?

“Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing yourself is enlightenment.” - Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher

Re: sparking anchovies

If their skin contains metallic elements in pure-enough form, I imagine it’d act like alumninum foil and produce sparks.

I think Cecil answered why metals spark; something to do with the loose electron association in metals.

I found this out the hard way. I covered a dish with a paper towel before nuking it. But the dish had metallic decoration on the side. Paper + sparks = fire + ash-covered food. 8-(

>I think Cecil answered why metals spark;
>something to do with the loose electron
>association in metals.
The microwaves get picked up like an antena and the cause electrons in the metal to slosh to one side of the metal object (actually the slosh back an forth)
This makes one side positive and the other negative. The voltage can get very high, if two metal objects are close enough, or if the object is close enough to the microwave wall,(which is metal) the electron zap over!

Some stuff that contains metal particals, but has a high resistance, wont arc but will get pretty hot. These things include UPC sybols, that silver carboard on microwave and ferrous glazing on some plates.

As for anchovies, the metal skin sounds reasonable, but I’m almost afraid to ask, what kind of metal is it?

I may have asked this from Cecil, but anyway:They sell fox and bobcat urine extracts at the hardware.It is supposed to repell cats, gophers,whatever, you name it. Any data/experience on this?

How the Mailbag works:
People send questions to Cecil. Some of these, he writes into his columns. Some of them, he tosses aside with a laugh. Some of them, he tosses aside with a frown. Some, he tosses over to Jane and li’l Ed… questions of some interest, that Cecil himself doesn’t want to tackle (for a variety of reasons, Cecil’s rationales are pretty much unfathomable.)

Those questions, Jane gives to the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board, and a staff member tries to answer. Ed Zotti reviews and edits (what he does best) the answers and then posts them on the Mailbag. That’s how the Mailbag works.

How the Mailbag Forum works:
Just like the forum COMMENTS ON CECIL’S COLUMNS, the forum COMMENTS ABOUT MAILBAG QUESTIONS is a Message Board for making comments, reactions, jokes etc about Mailbag items. (It might be more appropriate if the forum were named “COMMENTS ABOUT MAILBAG ANSWERS” but what’s done is done.)

That helpful?

Well, maybe. It’s a round-about practical process. I do see where it fits in in the books.

Two uses:

  1. As an attractant for trapping and hunting.

  2. As a cover-scent for close contact with creatures that are indifferent to these smells. For example, Deer have an excellent sence of smell, putting fox urine on your shoes would attempt to cover your human oder and make you smell like a post that a fox has urinated on. Usefull for hunting, photography, study by observation, etc

Okay, so why does bobcat urine spark when you microwave it?


Question for cecil: What exactly is chewing gum and who invented it?

Charles Panati, in EXTRAORDINARY ORIGINS OF EVERYDAY THINGS, says that chewing gum really started with the Aztecs, but was made popular by Generalissimo Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna – the Mexican commander who opposed and massacred the folks at the Alamo. The end result of that war was the secession of Texas from Mexico; Santa Anna was one of the few Mexican commanders not executed for his war crimes. He entered the U.S. and retired to Staten Island, NY, bringing with him a large chunk of chicle, the dried milky sap or latex of the Mexican jungle tree the sapodilla. The Aztecs called it chictli, a tasteless resin that was chewed. It was a favorite of Santa Anna, and he introduced it to a photographer and inventor, Thomas Adams.

Adams (no relation to Cecil, so far as we know) tried to convert the chicle into an inexpensive synthetic rubber, but failed. Instead, he tried to market it as an alternative to the then-popular wads of paraffin was sold as chew.

The first “small tasteless chicle balls went on sale in Hoboken, New Jersey, drugstore in February 1871 for a penny apiece.” (Hey, Dogster!) It sold well, being a superior chew to wax, and was marketed in long-thin strips so a druggist could break off a penny length.

A druggist from Louisville, KY, named John Colgan flavored the stuff in 1875 with “the medicinal balsam of tolu, an aromatic resin from a South American legume tree…familiar to children in the 1870s as a standard cough syrup.”

The success of Colgan’s Taffy-Tolu spawned other flavored chicles. Thomas Adams introduced sassafras gum, as well as a licorice flavored one named Black Jack (the oldest flavored chewing gum still on the market). In 1880, a Cleveland manufacturer introduced peppermit flavored chewing gum.

Adams also invented the chewing gum vending machine in the 1880s.

William Wrigley Jr introduced spearmint in 1892, followed by Juicy Fruit the next year, which became America’s top selling turn-of-[last]-century chewing gum.

Modern gum “is not Santa Anna’s original taffy-like chicle, but a gentler synthetic polymer, polyvinyl acetate, itself tasteless odorless and unappetizingly named.”

[Quoted material from Charles Panati, in the work cited above.]

Uh, don’t look, I’m putting this gum under the chair.I have to check this out.

The first “small tasteless chicle balls went on sale in Hoboken, New Jersey, drugstore in February 1871 for a penny apiece.” (Hey, Dogster!)

Baseball, Sinatra, and now gum. I’d better get famous, so the legend of Hoboken can grow.

yer dog

HoBOKen??? Oooooooo, I’m dyyyyyyyin’!!!

While were still available at least as late as the 50’s, at least in Maine.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

Do cell phones present a health risk? Other than while driving.