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on 27 April 2017
Its OK
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 February 2013
The Great Wall of China commonly thought to be the only non-natural object visible from space, but the claim is incorrect. It's an urban legend comparable to the one about mass suicide by lemmings. Some of these questions, all sent in by ordinary people interested in science and sometimes other matters, which I will come to, and answered by other ordinary people with an insight in their field. I have often wondered why the sky is blue, and the answer is set out by Rick Eraho of Cleckheaton. Apparently it's all down to something called Rayleigh scattering. Blue light, which has a high frequency is scattered ten times more than red light and this same process also explains the red colours we see when the sun is low on the horizon. All light has to travel huge distances to reach us and during the trip the blue light is scattered away, but red light, which is less susceptible to scattering can continue on a direct path to our eyes.

This book also answered another question I'd often wondered about. Why is it that excited soldiers in Iraq and other war sites shoot their guns up into the air without being injured when the bullets return to earth. The answer is, they don't always escape their foolish actions at all and the practice causes injuries with disproportionate fatalities.

On a more prosaic note, what should one do when out shopping with someone else in a large supermarket and they've disappeared on a forage of their own? Is it best to stay still and hope they'll find you, or go on your own search for them? The best strategy may be to wait at the exit of the store on the grounds that the other person may eventually conclude you've gone home and do likewise. The maximum waiting time could extend to be from the time you lost each other until the store closes. A strategy of staying still only works if just one person stays still, then the waiting time is either infinite, if you get locked in, or again, until the store closes. The waiting time, in my experience, is lessened if you have some idea of which aisles will most attract your companion. Easier, I tend to feel, with teenagers, who will gravitate to films, fizzy drinks, or clothes. First, use your intuition.

This is an entertaining and enlightening little book, well worth a look through.
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In 1994, the New Scientist started a column, The last word, devoted to everyday science questions asked by readers, with answers also provided by readers. Originally expected to survive for between one and five years, the column survived way beyond that and as far as I know, it is still going strong. Two books compiled from these columns didn't do much business but a third (Does anything eat wasps?) was a huge success. Its success prompted a subsequent volume (this one), that selects questions and answers from those two unsuccessful volumes and adds questions of more recent origin. A further volume, Do polar bears get lonely?, has also proved hugely successful.

This book consists of nine chapters covering our bodies, feeling OK, plants and animals, food and drink, domestic science, our planet and universe, weird weather, troublesome transport and, for questions that don't fit easily into any of those categories, best of the rest. Note that these chapter headings are slightly different from the previous volume. Two new ones (feeling OK, food and drink) have been added while our planet and universe are combined in one chapter here.

The question that gives the book its title provoked some very good answers explaining how penguins cope with life in the Antarctic, but there`s a more interesting (at least to me) penguin question elsewhere in the book. If polar bears and penguins swapped places, could they survive. The answer seems to be that polar bears would survive in the Antarctic but they would devastate the eco-system and penguins would be particularly vulnerable. Penguins might be capable of surviving in those parts of the Arctic where there are no polar bears, but there's another species that would make their life difficult - us. Attempts to establish northern penguin colonies have failed because people couldn't co-exist with them.

Another question that particularly grabbed my attention was what the time is at the North pole. It sounds easy but of course it isn't, since the pole is on Earth's axis and therefore not in any particular time zone. A variety of answers are supplied, some serious, some not. One of the serious answers explains how it would be possible, using astronomy, to set up some kind of clock, summing that you didn't take a clock or watch with you. One of the less serious answers points out that Father Christmas lives there and, it being in no particular time zone, explains how he is able to deliver all his presents so quickly. Another answer suggests that the North Pole is the true spiritual home of all politicians, because the time can be whatever you want.

The variety of the questions asked and the answers provided is incredible, although I confess that I wouldn't have actually considered asking most of these questions. While this book provides very informative answers, I suspect that you'll have most fun with it if you share it with family and friends.
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on 30 November 2006
This book has carried on the great tradition of the New Scientist's Last Word Column in answering some (115) of those questions that you just don't know the answer to.

Questions like: Why does grilled cheese go stringy; What causes the noise when you crack your knuckles? and How does a (gun) silencer work?

If you liked Does Anything East Wasps? you'll love this. This is a brilliant book for people who want to know how things work and why things happen.
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on 20 December 2007
Preceding reviewer clearly has no imagination: this book is lovely.
There are range of questions: Some are those where you feel you ought to know the answer but don't (such as "why only fingers and toes wrinkle in the bath" or "why mirrors invert left/right but not up/down"), others are things you've noticed but never thought about: "Why does the escalator hand-rail often travel at a different speed to the stairs?"

The answers are universally clear and well written. They are interesting for a wide audience and not patronizing. It's definitely an easy read and fun to pick up and leaf through at random.

Highly recommended!
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on 19 January 2007
THIS IS A GREAT BOOK, 3 of us read it, and we all learned and retained different things. It was explained on the whole simply for the lay person to understand. I read the 1st 2 books and thought this one was as good if not better than the 1st 2 book. Give it as a gift, or read it yourself. EVEN the fussy and difficult will find something to enjoy, laugh and even learn about, if they admit it!!!!
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VINE VOICEon 27 November 2006
A thoroughly informative and fun read - almost everyone will find snippets fascinating. The range of replies to each question adds a further degree of interest.

I, for one, now know more than I necessarily needed to about what birds excrete onto my car and also that I'm amongst the 35% of humans that sneeze in sunlight (apparently rules me out as a fighter pilot).

Entertaining and educational.
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on 6 October 2006
I was a big fan of the first book and this one's even better. Once you start going through the questions, you get more and more caught up in them. As well as knowing about penguins' feet, I'm now also an expert on conkers, the dangerous lives of left-handers, and how to make the perfect cup of tea!
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on 23 November 2007
I wasn't sure about this book, but then I bought DO ANTS HAVE ARSEHOLES? And laughed myself silly. This book is on the same scale.

The book contains questions we've all wondered about, but were afraid to ask. And here they are. With the answers. The great thing about WHY DON'T PENGUINS' FEET FREEZE is that it can be read by adults and children. PG rating. The ideas range from history to physics, to chemistry and strophysics, so you won't be bored, but neither will you be overwhelmed. For other great books, I'd reommend DON'T STOP ME NOW and the book DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDUORY by David Sedaris.
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Now here is a thing. This book actually doesn't tell you the answers in many cases to the questions posed. In fact the questions are generally much better than the answers. The problem is that the questions are not dealt with by the authors or experts in the field of the particular question. They are answered by Joe Public who reads the New Scientist, which is all well and good if the person is Prof of that discipline relevant to the poser, but this is not normally the case. Also the questions are often answered by more than one person and often with differing results. My feeling is that whilst clearly some people are worth listening to, the fact that any old Tom, Dick or Harry with a plausible and possibly right or wrong answer means that you just can't actually feel that you know the correct answer. Sort of defeats the role of the book to be honest.
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