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The Straight Dope

I just read in an academic paper (Macintyre and Sooman, Lancet, 1991) that in modern populations, the cuckoldry rate–i.e., the rate at which men are deceived into raising offspring that are genetically not their own–is 10 to 15 percent. This would make genealogy and family reunions a moot point. What’s the straight dope? –Curious, via […]

Posted inNews & Politics

The Straight Dope

Ahoy, matey. Pirates are often depicted with a parrot on their shoulder. What’s the basis for this? Was there a specific pirate from history or literature that had a feathered friend? –Craig, Phoenix What were the origins of the skull and crossbones, as seen on pirate-ship flags? –Kelly, Cypress, Texas Concluding our two-part colloquium on […]

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The Straight Dope

Everyone is familiar with the idea of buried pirate treasure, and maps where “X marks the spot.” But is there any evidence of such a practice? Were there ever any pirate treasure maps as described? –Jimmy Breck-McKye, South Yorkshire, UK With Talk Like a Pirate Day still fresh in memory and Halloween coming up, now […]

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The Straight Dope

Since Alexander Litvinenko’s death there’s been a lot of talk about polonium-210, the radioactive material that killed him. This brought to light another issue seldom discussed in the media–that tobacco contains high levels of the stuff, due to chemical fertilizers. In 1990 Surgeon General C. Everett Koop went on record stating that radiation from tobacco […]

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The Straight Dope

Major plot points in some recent movies have involved the evacuation of a town due to its being intentionally flooded by a new dam. Has this ever happened in real life? Are there submerged towns scattered about this great land containing untold riches, ripe for harvest? –Mattyj, via e-mail Has this ever happened? You’re kidding, […]

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The Straight Dope

My dad and I were discussing how long meat kept in the freezer remains safe for consumption. He mentioned that an organization called the Explorers Club had thawed out a prehistoric woolly mammoth, cooked it, and eaten it. This seemed dubious at best to me, so I thought I’d ask that great font of wisdom, […]

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The Straight Dope

I was watching an episode of Nature on PBS about sea turtles, and at one point the narrator mentioned vast deposits of methane at the bottom of the ocean in solid form. Then he gave some vague warning that the warming oceans may unleash all this methane into the atmosphere. What’s the straight dope on […]

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Is salt healthy? Why does it make food taste so good? And other salty answers to salty questions

What are the supposed healthful benefits of sea salt? Does it have any minerals that standard table salt doesn’t? Could current sea salt contain human-induced toxins of one sort or another, due to pollution, that salt formed millennia ago wouldn’t? —Kerinsky, via e-mail The main thing sea salt has going for it is happy vibes. […]

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Are Greek myths more than legends?

In mythology class the other day, my teacher mentioned that Agamemnon’s death mask had been found, which coupled with the discovery of Troy in the 19th century makes me wonder if the war and characters Homer described were real. What’s the evidence, and what’s the straight dope on this so-called death mask? —Briana, Montana Forget […]

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Do smaller, more fuel-efficient cars cause more traffic accidents?

I’ve come across several references recently to the alleged fact that the introduction of federal automobile fuel efficiency standards in the United States has increased the number of automobile deaths. The only sources cited are “free-market” think tanks. Is there any empirical evidence for this claim? If the federal government banned small cars, would highway […]