13 July 2009

Curiosities #5

Prose introduction to "Hiawatha" by Lewis Carroll:
In an age of imitation, I can claim no special merit for this slight attempt at doing what is known to be so easy. Any fairly practised writer, with the slightest ear for rhythm, could compose, for hours together, in the easy running metre of "The Song of Hiawatha." Having, then, distinctly stated that I challenge no attention in the following little poem to its merely verbal jingle, I must beg the candid reader to confine his criticism to its treatment of the subject.
(note that this "prose" introduction is also in the Hiawatha meter!)

Why do skaters always do their leaps and twirls in a counterclockwise direction? And dancers? Why do dogs circle CCW a few times before lying down? Why, when I was learning to fly an airplane, did I prefer doing my 360s in a CCW turn, and resisted the other direction? (Mensa newsletter, 1991)

Cinnamon, mint oil and thyme keep potatoes fresher longer. Left in storage, potatoes tend to sprout. When they do they soften, shrivel and spoil. At the same time, their starches convert to sugars that darken during cooking, creating brown spots on French fries and potato chips. Synthetic chemicals can delay the sprouting, but there are natural alternatives. Oils extracted from peppermint and other plants seem to suppress the growth of the green shoots. Almonds, cinnamon, cumin and thyme contain aromatic aldehydes and alcohols that destroy the potato eye - the growth spot where roots and stems form. Other cells in the potato survive, but they convert their starch to sugar more slowly. These natural sprouting inhibitors also kill a fungus that causes dry rot in potatoes. The USDA says that washing and cooking will remove all traces of the spices.
-- reported at the annual meeting of the Potato Association of America, 1991

A substantial amount of Third World hunger could be alleviated if farmers would shake their beans. Even carefully stored, they remain vulnerable to weevils. Weevil larvae bore through a bean's tough outer coat and feed inside the seeds; it takes a larva 24-48 hours of nearly continuous scraping to pierce the hull of the average bean. During that time, the insect braces itself against another bean or the side of the container for leverage. Michigan State grad student Martha Quentin tried jostling the beans; buckets or bags of beans shaken twice a day for two weeks had 97% fewer weevils. Larvae either starved or were crushed by the tumbling. The same procedure works on another less serious agricultural pest "thus helping also to control the lesser to two weevils." -- Washington Post, 9/19/91


  1. I've always subscribed to the theory that CCW motion is easier than CW because most people are right-handed / right-sided. A constant left turn requires power from the right side.

  2. Cooper makes sense. When I make a dance turn, my first inclination is to go clockwise. I'm left-handed.

  3. Any dog owners here that can verify, or not, #1? Humans are about 90% right-handed; are dogs?


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