Ask Dr. Catfish Stew, World-Famous Man of Science
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-16 22:57

Dr. Catfish Stew, Ph.D., the world’s most brilliant scientist, knows absolutely everything! He can answer any question in the world! Just send your questions in to catfish @ zombia.com, and watch Dr. Stew astound you with his ingenious answers!

 

Dear Dr. Stew,

Why does sour cream have an expiration date? The cream is sour already.

–Melky C., Bronx, NY

It’s not the “sour” part that the expiration date refers to, it’s the “cream” part. After a while, mold starts to grow on the cream. At this point, the product technically ceases to be a “cream” and becomes instead a “cheese”. Economics makes it cheaper to just toss the product into the dumpster than to comply with truth-in-advertising laws and relabel the product as “Sour Cheese”.

 

Hello, Dr. Stew,

On old records, how does the speed stay at 45 even though the circle gets smaller as you go towards the center? Shouldn’t it slow down since the distance is less?

–Pete Burns, Liverpool, England

This is a corollary to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. Just as time slows down as you approach the speed of light, time also slows down as you approach the center of a rotating disc. So even though a point at the center and a point at the middle both travel at 45 revolutions per minute, the “minute” varies depending on where you are relative to the circle’s center. This is explained by Einstein’s lesser known equation, E = Pi x r².

 


Dear Dr. Stew,

When does afternoon end and evening begin?

–Sidney Lanier, Macon, GA

Few people seem to realize that the word “evening” actually comes from the verb “to even out”. Even fewer know what, exactly, “evening” evens out.

The etymology of the word “afternoon” is obvious, of course: it refers to the time after noon, but before sunset. There was also an old English word, “forenight”, which was the opposite of “afternoon”–meaning the period after sunset, but before midnight. Over time, unfortunately, the word been shortened/merged with “night”, and the resulting lack of precision causes a lot of confusion.

But back in the day, “afternoon” and “forenight” were both common words, with perfect opposite meanings. And being perfect opposites, the two time periods were required by definition to last the same length of time each day.

Under the simple definition of the terms, this only happened twice a year–at the fall and spring equinoxes, when sunset hit at exactly 6pm. Without some process for “evening” these time periods out, “afternoon” would last longer than “forenight” during the summers, and be shorter in the winters, and they would no longer be perfect opposites.

Evening out the two time periods is quite simple. You figure out the amount of time between sunset and 6pm, and subtract that much time from the other side of 6pm, to form the new period of the day called the “evening”.

So for example, if sunset is at 5pm, the “evening” would last from one hour before 6pm until one hour after 6pm, i.e. until 7pm. Subracting two hours from the forenight evens out both the afternoon and the forenight to five hours long each.

Similarly, if sunset is at 7:30pm, the “evening” would last from 4:30pm until 7:30pm, and the “afternoon” and the “forenight” would each be an even four hours and 30 minutes.

So to answer the original question, from the fall equinox until the spring equinox, afternoon ends and evening begins at sunset. From spring until fall, afternoon ends and evening begins at the 6pm mirror of sunset.

 


Dr. Stew,

Why do the Oakland A’s keep beating the Seattle Mariners game after game after game?

–Demilitarized Zone, Seattle, WA

I have no freakin’ idea. They just do.

Comments: 15
1.   das411
2006-08-17 00:26

1.  Hey Dr. Stew,

..what's that smell?

http://www.insidebayarea.com/ci_4188974?source=rss

2.   Ken Arneson
2006-08-17 01:04

2.  The unusual odor is an "olfactide coliserum", a gaseous blend of two further gaseous blends:

1) a pyruvic acid/ammonia blend called "garlicphrylase halitosis", and

2) a blend of hydrogen sulfide and methanethiol called "garlicphrylase flatulensis".

3.   mehmattski
2006-08-17 08:12

3.  Dr. Stew:

Why do you drive on a parkway, yet park on a driveway?

4.   Ken Arneson
2006-08-17 10:56

4.  3 Interesting question. The two instances are competely unrelated, but each has an interesting history behind it.

The driveway was invented in Scotland way back in 1477 by an ordinary farmer named Ewan McAllister. It came about because whenever he'd come home from a trip, his horses be so excited to be home they'd start running straight for the stables.

To slow the horses down upon their arrival at home, McAllister set up a thick, deep lane of gravel alongside his house. He called this lane his "drive whoa".

McAllister tried to sell his invention, but it went slowly at first. It seems people did not want to buy "drive woes". But McAllister cleverly used his problem to solve his problem, by using the homonym to his advantage. The slogan "End your drive woes with a Drive Way" caught on like wildfire, and McAllister became a wealthy man.

*

As for parkways, these are a more recent invention. In the 1920s, a Korean physics student named Wae Man Park noticed the growing traffic problems in his hometown of Seoul, and thought of a way to alleviate the problem. He applied basic wave propagation formulae to traffic flow, and arrived at a now commonly used formula amongst traffic engineers:

c = sqrt(m*e) / L

where:
c = the speed of traffic
m = the smoothness of the road
e = the number of intersections
L = the number of lanes

Park's conclusion, using this formula, was that with just a few, carefully placed multi-lane roads with limited intersections, traffic all across the city could be made to flow much more easily. These multi-lane roads became known as "Parkways" in his honor.

5.   Cliff Corcoran
2006-08-17 13:46

5.  Calvin's dad would be very proud of those last two answers.

6.   Bob Timmermann
2006-08-17 13:54

6.  One of my co-workers found those answers quite sensible.

7.   Philip Michaels
2006-08-17 20:32

7.  Dear Dr. Stew, World-Famous Man of Science:

I am a co-ed at a small midwestern college, and I always suspected your letters weren't from real people. Then, the other day, I attended a baseball game at the Oakland Coliseum and noticed the ball traveled differently during night games than it does during the day.

Why is that?

8.   Ken Arneson
2006-08-17 22:04

8.  7 The gravity of the sun is the most powerful force in our solar system. All the planets (new and old) are locked into their orbits by the sun's awesome gravitational force. The only thing that keeps us from falling into the sun completely is that we are so far away from it, but even at our great distances, the sun's gravity is still there, forever affecting us.

During the daytime, from our point of view, the sun is up in the sky, above us. This has the effect of pulling a flying ball slightly up towards the sky, counteracting the gravitational forces from the nearby earth. As a result, there is less cumulative gravity pulling the ball down during the day time.

During nighttime, of course, the sun is on the other side of the earth. This gives the ball a double-whammy: not only is the ball being pulled down by the earth, it is also being pulled through the earth by the sun.

This is why it is so much easier to hit home runs during the daytime than during the night.

9.   das411
2006-08-17 23:37

9.  Yo Disco Stew,

Are there any Walter Young-style monsters that either the Angels or Rangers can bring up to stuff their benches for the inevitable series of brawls that will happen when they meet again after rosters expand?

Related Q: Are there any records or statistics kept on how often players are ejected and/or suspended for fighting, kind of like how the NHL tracks penalty minutes?

10.   Ken Arneson
2006-08-18 10:39

10.  9 Neither team has a Walter Young (who does?) but here's what I'd like to see:

The Angels call up Bob Zimmermann (6'5", 245) from Arkansas:
minorleaguebaseball.com/app/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=p_pbp&pid=435320

and the Rangers call up Bob Timmermann (about the same height) from the Griddle:
griddle.baseballtoaster.com

and then you get everyone in the ballpark to start spelling their names without the final "n", and then watch the fur fly!

There'd be so much bloodshed, the A's would easily win the AL West by pure attrition.

Related Q: these statistics exist, but the Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits the league from publishing these numbers, because they don't want to encourage someone to start a fight just to lead the league in PIM.

11.   operablogger
2006-08-18 11:21

11.  Hey, Dr. Stew:

Which is heavier, the Washington Monument or the Great Pyramid at Cheops? And what ever happened to Mike Gallego?

12.   Kayaker7
2006-08-18 12:20

12.  A buttered toast always falls on the buttered side. A cat always lands on its feet. So, what happens if you strap a buttered toast on a cat's back with the buttered side up, and tossed them in the air?

13.   ScoobyGoo
2006-08-18 16:03

13.  why do paper cuts hurt so damn much?

14.   For The Turnstiles
2006-08-18 18:19

14.  Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?

15.   Cliff Corcoran
2006-08-18 19:26

15.  Hey, Dr. Stew:

Why is the cake with chocolate frosting and Boston cream in the middle called Boston Cream Pie? (my girlfriend thinks it's because Boston's so stupid that they don't know their piehole from their cakehole)

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