Answer: Modern biomechanists know that to hurl a fastball, the pitcher must muster 3-4 horsepower, using 24-32 pounds of muscle mostly in his back and thighs, say John Milton et al in "Your Brain on Cubs." Because this necessitates a careful kinetic sequence, the windup is loaded with clues for the batter, whose "mirror neurons" can help signal the type of pitch that's coming. "This may help explain the fact that a great pitcher, Babe Ruth, was also one of the greatest home-run hitters of all time."
To counter the batter "reading the windup," the pitcher uses deception and distraction, sometimes throwing pitches with unpredictable trajectories like the knuckleball. "The neural programs inside the hitter's brain will work best if he attends only to the most relevant information."
Answer: Ubiquitous high-flying flocks of birds collide with commercial aircraft, causing an estimated $1 billion damage worldwide every year, says Clara Moskowitz in Discover magazine. So the FAA simulates inflight collisions to monitor potential damage to aircraft engines: In one "bird-strike" test, technicians at General Electric's facility in Peebles, Ohio, suspend an engine from a giant stand, then start its turbines spinning full force before loading four thawed goose carcasses into a 50-foot-long steel tube and firing them at 200 mph into the engine blades. Passing the test with flying colors was a GEnx jet engine intended for the 787 Dreamline, to be delivered to Japan. So far, real bird carcasses have been utilized but synthetics are now being developed less messy and easier to standardize.
Answer: Think in terms of marketplace value, says Robert Frank in "The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas." According to "assortative mating," 10's tend to marry 10's, 9's tend to marry 9's, and so on. For example, a 9-point man might hope to marry a 10-point woman, but she would have better options, so he can more realistically expect to marry a 9-point woman. For people of either sex, a wide variety of mixes of personal characteristics could produce an overall index value of 9.
So if being blonde contributes positively to a woman's attractiveness index, then a 9-point blonde will tend to have less favorable values than a 9-point brunette for all other characteristics that enter the mix. "On the average, a 9-point blonde will be less healthy, less intelligent, less kind and less pretty on dimensions other than hair color. So if a gentleman could choose to prefer brunettes, he might have good reasons for doing so."
Send STRANGE questions to brothers Bill and Rich at [email protected].