October 4, 1996
Junk mail is rapidly becoming a household crisis. In recent years, junk mail has steadily become the lifeblood of the postal system, which is like replacing plasma with Kool-Aid. It’s becoming such a crisis, in fact, that if I don’t get to the recycle center soon, the clothing catalogs alone are going to force me out of the house on a tsunami of slick pages. The worst thing about junk mail is it’s addictive. Last night I caught myself sitting on my back patio reading about a home glue maker–discounted to $79.99!–and seriously thinking that I’d like to be able to make my own post-it notes. And at first glance a combination toilet brush and ice cream scoop seems like a good idea, but if it was really that great, what’s it doing in one of those catalogs? That’s the logic that normally eludes us when we’re confronted with the possibility of owning a limited edition guaranteed authentic strand of Elvis’s hair. To make it even worse, all these places accept every credit card ever invented. They’ll take Third World Express, Eastern Europe Economy, Recession International…some of these places are so desperate to get rid of 20,000 copies of Hickory Swillith and the Log Cabin Boys on 8-track that they’ll take roubles, bottle caps, food stamps–anything to get new addresses. When they get a long enough list of addresses, they can sell them to other junk mail companies–part of the great junk mail ecology–and invest that money in something really good. Sure, it may take fifteen or twenty years, but they’ll tell you junk mail is the ultimate way to get rich quick. They know that the stuffed monkey with a lighter on its head or the wacky shaving razor that squirts fake blood (WARNING: MAY IRRITATE SKIN) is going to be their gravy train ticket. Then they’ll be able to retire to some quiet place in the country where the post office will never find them…
The beguiling ideas about science quoted here were gleaned from essays, exams, and class room discussions. Most were from 5th and 6th graders. They illustrate Mark Twain’s contention that the ‘most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.’
Question: What is one horsepower?
Answer: One horsepower is the amount of energy it takes to drag a horse 500 feet in one second.
You can listen to thunder after lightening and tell how close you came to getting hit. If you don’t hear it you got hit, so never mind.
Talc is found on rocks and on babies.
The law of gravity says no fair jumping up without coming back down.
When they broke open molecules, they found they were only stuffed with atoms.
But when they broke open atoms, they found them stuffed with explosions.
When people run around and around in circles we say they are crazy.
When planets do it we say they are orbiting.
Rainbows are just to look at, not to really understand.
While the earth seems to be knowingly keeping its distance from the sun, it is really only centrificating.
Someday we may discover how to make magnets that can point in any direction.
South America has cold summers and hot winters, but somehow they still manage.
Most books now say our sun is a star. But it still knows how to change back into a sun in the daytime.
Water freezes at 32 degrees and boils at 212 degrees. There are 180 degrees between freezing and boiling because there are 180 degrees between north and south.
A vibration is a motion that cannot make up its mind which way it wants to go.
There are 26 vitamins in all, but some of the letters are yet to be discovered. Finding them all means living forever.
There is a tremendous weight pushing down on the center of the Earth because of so much population stomping around up there these days.
Lime is a green-tasting rock.
Many dead animals in the past changed to fossils while others preferred to be oil.
Genetics explain why you look like your father and if you don’t why you should.
Vacuums are nothings. We only mention them to let them know we know they’re there.
Some oxygen molecules help fires burn while others help make water, so sometimes it’s brother against brother.
Some people can tell what time it is by looking at the sun. But I have never been able to make out the numbers.
We say the cause of perfume disappearing is evaporation. Evaporation gets blamed for a lot of things people forget to put the top on.
To most people solutions mean finding the answers. But to chemists solutions are things that are still all mixed up.
In looking at a drop of water under a microscope, we find there are twice as many H’s as O’s.
Clouds are high flying fogs.
I am not sure how clouds get formed. But the clouds know how to do it, and that is the important thing.
Clouds just keep circling the earth around and around. And around.There is not much else to do.
Water vapor gets together in a cloud. When it is big enough to becalled a drop, it does.
Humidity is the experience of looking for air and finding water.
We keep track of the humidity in the air so we won’t drown when we breathe.
Rain is often known as soft water, oppositely known as hail.
Rain is saved up in cloud banks.
In some rocks you can find the fossil footprints of fishes.
Cyanide is so poisonous that one drop of it on a dogs tongue will kill the strongest man.
A blizzard is when it snows sideways.
A hurricane is a breeze of a bigly size.
A monsoon is a French gentleman.
Thunder is a rich source of loudness.
Isotherms and isobars are even more important than their names sound.
It is so hot in some places that the people there have to live in other places.
The wind is like the air, only pushier.