Answer: All are true, as hockey was originally played with a lacrosse ball until exasperated rink owners got tired of all the broken windows from errant orbs, says Alain Hache in "The Physics of Hockey." So they cut the ball into three pieces and kept the middle section. "Ever since 1885, the game has been played with just such a rubber slice."Rubber of course is one of the most elastic materials on Earth and even vulcanization, a process discovered by American inventor Charles Goodyear in 1839, doesn't stop pucks from bouncing. In fact, they bounce too much, the reason for the refrigeration; a cold puck will bounce to only about half the height of a warm one. "Unfortunately, this creates a new problem: a hard frozen puck traveling at 90 mph is a dangerous projectile!" As to the $50,000 puck, the Fox TV network once engineered a version with a superimposed blue cometlike TV trailer that turned red on screen at speeds beyond 70 mph. But hard-core fans were not thrilled nor were the players, who claimed the puck's screws skewed its sliding.
Question: If you took a concession break at the cinema or theater and found not popcorn and candy but oranges to buy, where would you be?
Answer: It's not so much a matter of where but when, since up until the end of the 19th century in Europe, oranges were a symbol of affluence and good times, accompanying festive occasions, says Pierre Laszlo in "Citrus: A History."
Served at weddings and banquets, oranges were also offered at the theater. During the Renaissance, specialized peddlers called orange-men and orange-women would roam the streets of large cities like London, Paris and Amsterdam carrying baskets filled with the fruit.Up until World War I, theaters were also places for oranges. Here were "the predecessors of the vendors now selling popcorn and candy at the entrance of American movie theaters or hot dogs and chips at stadiums."
Question: A doctor tells you you've got eight months to live. How might understanding the nature of mathematical "mean" or "median" breathe new hope into you and, if you're very lucky, point the way to 20 more years of life for you?
Answer: This happened to Harvard paleontologist and author Stephen Jay Gould, who after being diagnosed with a rare abdominal cancer in 1982, learned that the median survival time was only eight months, say Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot in "The Tiger That Isn't: Seeing Through a World of Numbers."
Gould was stunned. Yet within about 15 minutes, he started analyzing: The median is the point where half of the numbers are above and half are below, meaning that half the people so diagnosed would be dead within eight months but half would live longer than eight months. Since his condition was caught early, he felt he had good reason to believe he'd be in the upper half. Moreover, since the statistical "tail" of the longevity distribution extended out several years beyond median, he had a chance of living well beyond the eight months.This understanding allowed Gould to breathe a sigh of relief and to feel he had time left to plan, to fight to live. "He lived not eight months, but another 20 years, and when he did die, in 2002, it was of an unrelated cancer."
Send STRANGE questions to brothers Bill and Rich at [email protected], coauthors of "Can a Guy Get Pregnant? Scientific Answers to Everyday (and Not-So- Everyday) Questions," from Pi Press.