A S K I N G S
If you know any of the answers, please email me.
N.B. Although some Questions are listed as having Answers, these are not necessarily definitive
and I am always looking to learn more.
H I G H . P R I O R I T Y . Q U E S T I O N S
***** There is a monument on Hyde Park Corner roundabout, London, with these words written on it: 'In Proud Remembrance of the Fourty nine thousand and seventy six of all ranks of the Royal Regiment of Artillery who gave their lives for king and country in the great war 1914-1919'. Why is that 1919 and not 1918, as is usually the case? Great War answer.
**** Does anyone have a chart showing the growth rate of certain trees? For example, how tall is an oak tree after one year, five years, ten years, etc? Tree growth answer.
*** Why doesn't IKEA do a mail order catalogue? Ikea answer.
*** If a human body were dumped from a spaceship, what would happen to it in terms of decomposition? Would it freeze, desiccate and then shatter?
Question from Cheryl Nancarrow:
I cannot remember the name but it was shown on the ABC during the late (?)
1970s. I've had a look at "The Survivors" but it doesn't seem
to ring a bell with me.
What I can remember is that the story took place after a nuclear holocaust (or similar) and there was a group of people (English accents) who were learning to live using primitive methods of doing everyday things. Somewhere in the series they become aware of mutants (but they have a special name in this series) and if I recall correctly, these mutants would eat the normal people if they were to catch them.
I didn't get to watch the whole series but I'm hoping you may be able to assist with the name of the series. It may be The Survivors, but for some reason it just doesn't seem familiar.
Question from Simon Withers:
Incidentally I came across your site again just now while using Google to
try to answer a question of my own: What is LITT5?
I was browsing a pub review web site looking the various locals near my new
office and trying to find a congenial pub to meet somebody for a drink when
I came across the following:
"Cracking pub with strippers. LITT5 & 3 are known to frequent on a Friday
Now who/what the hell is LITT5? I searched on google for LITT5 which threw up an interesting set of results, but didn't answer the question. So I
searched for LITT, thinking that LITTs 5 and 3 are surely part of a larger
family, and that's when I got back to your own web site.
Is there a branch of botany which deals with the area 50 to 100 feet off the ground? Airborne botany? Aviated botany? What is it called? (Aug 05)
(After reading Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku) If white holes exist, they must be spilling out some form of matter. And have been spilling it out for a very long time. We can't detect either white holes or dark matter (or dark energy). Perhaps dark matter comes out of white holes - and we could call it white matter.(Jun 05)
How big is the biggest family (number of children) in the UK? Not with adopted or with stepchildren. All with the same mother and father. I'm guessing around fourteen. Anyone know exactly? (Dec 04)
Is there a name for those similes which wouldn't necessarily work, not unless one of the things being compared happened to have a quality it doesn't always have, that being the quality it is being used for? Example being, 'Hungry like the wolf'. Which really means 'Hungry like the wolf when the wolf is hungry'. This rather than 'Tall like a skyscraper'. Because a skyscraper has to be tall to be a skyscraper but a wolf doesn't necessarily have to be hungry. (Elvis knew about this. 'Her lips are like a volcano that's hot' - i.e., not a volcano that's extinct, which is just as much a volcano.) (Dec 04)
There's a quote from Norman Mailer I sometimes use in creative writing classes. It goes, 'When two men say hello in the street, one of them loses.' But I can't track it down. Help. (26 Oct 04)
Kafka wrote a couple of famous parables about China. But how did he know anything about the place? Had he read any books on the subject? Which books were available? Or was he just going on general knowledge? (5 Feb 03) Plus, are there any other mentions of China in either his letters or his diaries? (27 Nov 03)
B O B . D Y L A N . Q U E S T I O N S
At the very end of 'Eat the Document', Bob Dylan is seen singing a very lovely song, accompanied by Robbie Robertson, in a hotel room. What is it? Where can I get hold of it? (2 Aug 04) Lovely song answer. (Definitive)
In reference to Bob Dylan's song 'Serve Somebody' - a. has anyone ever called Bob 'R.J' or 'Ray'? b. why? (except for the sake of a cheap rhyme). (13 Jul 04) Ray answer.
In reference to Bob Dylan's song 'God On Our Side', did Judas Escariot have God on his side (seeing how the crucifixion and therefore the redemption of the entire human race couldn't have taken place without his betrayal - and I know Dante shoves him halfway up Satan's arse)? (13 Jul 04) God on our side answer.
Why did the cover of John Wesley Harding change colour from buttermilk to light grey? (20 Jun 05)
U N A N S W E R E D . Q U E S T I O N S
Ref. De La Soul: How many times did the Batmobile catch a flat? (22 Sep 03) Batmobile answer.
When Michel Foucault visited San Francisco did he ever take time out from the bathhouses to visit Alcatraz?
H O S P I T A L . Q U E S T I O N S
(Answers no longer needed)
Does anyone know the full etymological meaning of any of these names?
Surnames: Masaryk (Czech), Calixte (Haitian), Delira (Haitian), Auxilaire (Haitian), Myrthil (Haitian), Lu (Chinese), Akliku (Ethiopian), Sani Sokoto (Nigerian), Failte, Mposo, Lee, Quickborn, Zone, Bolland, Pandit, Ooki (Japanese), Aoki (Japanese)
First names: Iqbal, Luckson, Ludger, Othniel, Cyril, Apara (Nigerian), Lij (Ethiopian), Ai (Japanese), Io (Japanese)
Does anyone know names in African or Indian languagues which have the follwoing meanings: Smith, Walker, Villager, House, Wood, Forest, Road, River, Waters, Stream
Is there a good online site to give you the meaning of African surnames? All the ones I can find are crap or cost money. (Sep 05)
Q U E S T I O N S . W I T H . A N S W E R S
(but please let me know anything else you know on the subject)
(* equals new and exciting)
*****If you come across any references in interviews by rock or pop stars to deterioration in their hearing, tinnitus, etc, I'd really like to hear about it. Hearing loss answer.
*****Is burnt toast really carcinogenic? Enough to worry about? (Feb 06) Toast answer.
****How does the human ear make wax? (Aug 05) Wax answer.
***I saw a very interesting tomb in Warsaw old town. It was in the Basilica of St John the Baptist, just on the left hand side as you go in. It showed a knight being embraced by a mitred bishop, or perhaps the Pope. This is the first time I've seen two men embracing on a Christian tomb. There was a Latin inscription which I didn't have time to write down. I'd be really grateful if anyone has any information about this, or about other tomb statues of a similar sort. It was a very lovely thing. (Jun 05) Warsaw tomb.
**Why are the fish on the Great Barrier Reef mostly shaped the way they are, i.e., thin when seen from any angle but the side, and then oblongish? I realise it's evolution, but what environmental factors cause them to be like this? Is this a stupid question? (10 Sep 02) Great barrier reef answer.
*When flax is harvested to make linen, is it dead? Also, when cotton is harvested to make, er, cotton, is that dead? (Sep 05) Cotton and flax answer.
Did dinosaurs get cancer? Dinosaur cancer answer. (Feb 06)
In Albrecht Durer's engraving, Saint Jerome in his Study, 1514, why does St Jerome, writiing right-handedly, have his ink pot on the left side of his desk? (Sep 05) Durer answer.
How are rice cakes made? How do you make rice go puffy like that? (Sep 05) Rice cakes answer.
There is a greater number of a. human beings or b. trees in the United Kingdom? (This question is posed in Ben Moor's Edinburgh show Coelacanth.) (Aug 05) Ben Moor answer. (Definitive)
You know those wooden boxes for putting wooden shapes in (cylinder, oblong box, star, etc), well, my son's has eight holes, and none of the wooden shapes fit through the wrong hole. Mathematically, what is the maximum number of holes possible? (Also the maxiumum given the shapes have a maximum of twelve edges, which the cross has.) This number surely can't be infinite, but how can it be calculated? (Aug 05) Boxes answer.
Why does cheap, pulpy paperback paper go wavy and weird on airplane journeys? (20 Feb 03) Paperbacks answer.
What kind of mental map does a squirrel have of a tree? When it leaps from one branch to another, is it improvisingwith very fast reflexes or following a set route it has many times taken? (Jun 05) Squirrel answer.
Has anyone compiled a top ten list of the first words that babies (English-speaking) say? (Mar 05) First words answer.
Do all airliners (or planes) have to have a curlicue spiral shape in their jet engines? And is it to show which way the turbines turn? (Jun 05) Curlicue answer.
Who designed the red and white Solidarnosc logo? Do they get royalties? (Jun 05) Solidarnosc answer.
Which film is it where the plot involves a group of passengers on a cruise liner on their way to heaven through a sea of clouds? I think it's 1940s or '50s and in black and white. (13 Jul 04) Cruise liner answer. (Definitive)
Is there a good book or CD on how to identify British regional accents? (14 Sep 03) Accents answer.
What is a 'curmbox'? The word appears as my hotmail account is loading. Curmbox answer. (Definitive)
Where does that fluffy, scummy stuff come from that seems to end up in the bottom of a glass of water in which home-made ice cubes have melted? (Or maybe this is just London water.) Ice cubes answer. (Definitive)
A question which came up in China. Why or how is it that different cultures, from a long way back, have dragons as part of their folklore? Chinese dragons aren't all that dissimilar from Welsh. Do they have a common origin? (8 Dec 03) Dragons answer.
When I was in China I saw a '43 storey ivory ball' - with 43 separate ivory balls recessed inside one another. What I want to know is, how exactly is this done? There was a diagram of three stages, but it wasn't particularly helpful. (27 Nov 03) Ivory balls answer.
When was the Cenotaph in Hong Kong built? Any interesting facts about it? (27 Nov 03) Cenotaph answer.
I remember a television series from fifteen or twenty years ago with started with a series of long tracking shot, moving in towards the vanishing point. Each one was of a road or a field. Eventually (I think) a house or a door was reached. This was accompanied by lugubrious pseudo -classical music. It wasn't Heimat, was it? (13 Jul 04) Tracking shot answer. (Definitive)
I read this in The Age newspaper, Melbourne, 'The two Koreas are technically still at war, and recently fought a battle in the Yellow Sea.' Do you know about this? Was it reported anywhere? (10 Sept 02) Koreas answer.
Why is nothing that we eat in England made out of pigs' milk? (14 Sep 03) Pigs answer.
Has there ever been a heretical Christian sect that believed primarily in the Holy Ghost and not so much in the Father and the Son? (6 Jan 04) Holy Ghost answer.
Where in the world is 'Leeks Hills'? It's the title of one track on Brian Eno's Ambient #4: On Land. I can't find it anywhere in England. Eno answer from Eno himself. (Definitive) (Definitive)
Is whether there is an economic term to express the mutually beneficial relationship between supposedly unrelated manufacturing industries, such as sweet-makers and toothpaste-makers? (15 Sep 03) Economics answer.
During a discussion with writer Pauline Melville the question came up of who was a. the ugliest writer ever and b. the best looking. For a. she suggested George Eliot (harsh). For b. Byron (I disagree - sexy he may have been). Any better suggestions? (2 Oct 02) Ugly writers answer.
'it is hard to think of an occasion in a novel of [Henry] James when a real taste is tasted or a real smell smelled.' So writes Seymour Chatman in The Later Style of Henry James. Anyone got any examples to contradict? (5 Feb 03) Henry James answer.
Is gambling in any way subversive of capitalism? Gambling answer.
What is the most moving book you've ever read? (14 Aug 02) Movingbook anwer.
What is the most affecting film you have ever seen? (14 Aug 02) Movingfilm answer.
This isn't really an asking, but I'd like to start collecting the nicknames of crew on movies or TV. You know, the guys who are called something like Fred "Bear" Dink in the credits. If you spot any good ones, let me know. Nicknames answer.
I'm interested in post-nuclear holocaust and other End of the World novels, comics, films and TV shows. Anyone got any good examples? (Jun 03) End of the world answer.
What is the accepted Catholic doctrinal explanation of Jesus' words on the cross, 'My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?' How is it possible for one part of the trinity to be divorced from the rest? (And please don't just say that's the true mystery of the incarnation.) (4 Nov 02) Jesus answer.
Following the controversy over turnouts at the Countryside march and the Stop the War alliance march, do you know how the police really make their estimates of how many people turn up for a demo? (2 Oct 02) Crowds anwer.
How can I tell the difference between a swallow and a swift? (14 Aug 02) Swallow and swift answer.
What is the name of that clear stuff used to stick giveaway CDs to the covers of magazines? Who makes it? Is it a plastic or what? Clear stuff answer. (Definitive)
Do you know the dates between which Penguin classics and Penguin modern classics were a certain colour? For instance, when did orange spines come in? (2 Oct 2) Classics anwer.
I'm trying to put together a list of the lifemasks and deathmasks that have been taken from the faces of famous people (particularly writers). I've got a few so far (Keats, Cromwell, Swift) but if you come across any references, please let me know. Deathmasks answer.
Why notflush when the train is in the station? (4 Nov 02) Flush answer.
Is there a biological reason why a human being and one of the great apes of either sex can't have an ape-baby together? Aren't we 99.9% genetically similar? (20 Feb 03) Apeshag answer.
Whatever happened to David Band, who used to design record covers for Altered Images and Aztec Camera? David Band (in person) answer. (Definitive)
What is the word for the phenomenon of people having jobs that are related to their name i.e., Mr Payne the anaesthetist, Mrs Proudfoot the chiropodist, and Mr Toby Litt the writer. (10 Sep 02) Names answer. (Definitive)
What is the shortest English word containing all the vowels, a e i o u, in that order and also in any order? (14 Aug 02) Vowels answer. (Definitive)
So what choice diseases can one catch from a dodgy toilet seat? (ref: smallpox anxiety, recent viewing of 28 Days Later...) (4 Nov 02) Looseat answer.
I am interested in references to 'the North-West Passage'. What is the earliest that can be found? (18 Jan 03) North-west answer.
I'm interested in finding out about Bill Oddie's musical career. There was recently a letter from him in MOJO. If you have any information, I'd like to hear. Goodies' bootlegs? Oddie answer.
Any suggestions for cult books I might write about? Cultbooks answer.
I once read a book called, I think, Door into Dark. Until recently I remembered this as being by C.J.Cherryh, but I couldn't find it listed at the British Library. It was a fantasy novel, not by Seamus Heaney. Any ideas who it was by? Door answer. (Definitive)
Back in the late '70s, a reporter from, I think, the BBC programme Nationwide, went 'under cover' with the homeless in London (?) I remember that he almost got beaten up, and had to be rescued by his film crew. Do you know anything more about this? Which reporter was it? Nationwide answer. (Definitive)
I think I know this one, but I might as well check. I recently took a flight in a British Airways plane (a Jetstream I think), which appeared to have both propellers and jets. It reversed out of its parking space, then went forwards - all without changing the direction of its propellors. Now, I'm assuming that it did this by altering the angle of the blades on the propellors. Am I right? Propellers answer. (Definitive)
Which is the most 'environmentally friendly', handtowels or hand dryers? Also, if an escalator is running, does it save any energy/electricity to take the stairs instead? Environmentally answer.
Ever heard of a Scottish band called 'The French Impressionists'? Impressionist answer.
Does London, or failing that England, have any pachinko parlours? And if not, why not? Pachinko answer.Pachinko answer.
I recently saw a print, taken from a painting, called 'Dante and Beatrice'. It looked late pre-Raphaelite. Quite technically adept - good perspective, etc. Dante stands on the right of the picture, on a bridge, hand on heart, just having seen Beatrice, one of three, striding along. Who is it by? Dante and Beatrice answer. (Definitive)
What per centage of penalties are scored in the average English football season? Or, even better, what per centage of penalties have been scored since the beginning of the modern game? As the years pass, are more or less successfully converted? Penalties answer.
Name any songs which use birdsong as backing, at any point, beginning, middle or end. Birdsong answer.
Can you list the name of every character Elvis played in every movie in which he appeared, in chronological order? Elvis answer.
Do you, or do you know anyone, who would choose - of their own free will - Virgin Cola over either Coke or Pepsi? Virgin answer.
Does anyone have a full chronological list of everyone who has turned on the Blackpool illuminations? Illuminations answer. And also the Regent Street lights. (No answer yet.)
Which is more disgusting: being stuck on a crowded, sweaty bus or a crowded, sweaty underground train? Reasons? Bustrain answer.