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The Straight Dope

How long are these huge dams, like the Hoover Dam, engineered to last? How would we go about replacing it if it began to weaken or became obsolete? What’s the largest dam ever to fail? –Craig S., Jacksonville, Florida Don’t sweat the big dams, chum. It’s the little ones you should worry about. Most of […]

Posted inNews & Politics

The Straight Dope

I work for an electric utility. I’ve heard tales over the years of invisible high-pressure steam leaks in power plants that have “cut people in two.” Any truth to this? –99gre, via e-mail Much to the disappointment of my inner ghoul, so far I’ve turned up no confirmed cases of steam bisection. Could it happen, […]

Posted inNews & Politics

The Straight Dope

I’ve been doing some research on the great American songwriter Irving Berlin and something struck me as odd. Several sources claim he never learned to read or write music. While this is certainly believable for later songwriters with easy access to recording equipment, how was Irving Berlin able to pass his songs along to live […]

Posted inNews & Politics

The Straight Dope

Is there an effective way to get rid of chilblains? I have some boring little ones, located mostly on my right hand, with a couple on the left. The doctor says I possibly have bad circulation, but they will probably go away if I eat properly and avoid sudden changes in temperature. Well, that hasn’t […]

Posted inNews & Politics

The Straight Dope

I’ve searched your archive in vain–how is it that the vital 6eld of phytoestrogen research has escaped your scrutiny? The straight dope, please: Can herbal supplements containing phytoestrogen truly increase a woman’s breast size significantly? Is this method safe, or are there negative side effects (sure they’re bigger, but they feel like baseballs)? You know […]

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The Straight Dope

As tires wear out, rubber is presumably deposited on the road surface. Where is all that rubber? –R.D. Morgan, Camden, South Carolina All over the place, bud–including maybe in your lungs. For a long time conventional wisdom had it that tire particles were too coarse to do much harm and simply wound up as one […]

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The Straight Dope

When I’m feeling cynical about well-publicized criminal trials, I sometimes use the timeworn phrase “they’ve never hung a millionaire in the U.S.” Certainly I can’t think of one. But is it true? –Timothy G. Merker, Chicago If the expression “You simply cannot hang a millionaire in America,” attributed to politician and orator William Bourke Cockran […]

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The Straight Dope

I enjoy spreading lots of vinegar on my salads and other foods. I really think this makes my food taste so much better. My wife keeps pestering me to stop using so much vinegar, contending that the acetic acid will hurt my digestive system. So for the sake of family harmony: Is consuming so much […]

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The Straight Dope

When I told my wife that one reason our refrigerator was having trouble maintaining a low temperature was that it was overfilled, she instantly produced three household-tips books that said a refrigerator is more efficient stuffed to the gills than it is empty. This seems to contradict the first law of physics: You don’t get […]

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The Straight Dope

I’d like the Straight Dope on one of the great controversies: Who was first to reach the north pole? I lean towards Robert Peary because of Frederick Cook’s background, but is it that simple? –Richard, via e-mail Not unless you’ll take “maybe neither of the above” as an answer–the claims of both men were bitterly […]

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The Straight Dope

I hate shaving every day. What would happen if I used one of those temporary hair-removal products on my face? What about the permanent ones? –Dan, Merrick, New York, via e-mail For a minute there I thought I had the perfect solution–castration! No more shaving, and as a bonus you don’t go bald and are […]

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The Straight Dope

My aunt recently died. When I asked about the funeral details, I was told that there would be no graveside service because my aunt had donated her body to science. Nobody seemed to know much more, so I turn to you. How do you donate your body to science? Who wants it and what do […]

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The Straight Dope

According to urban legend, while garlic oil is harmless when consumed, it’s lethal if it gets into your bloodstream. Supposedly, this is why mafiosi used to coat their bullets in garlic oil–so if the shot was off center and hit your shoulder or something it would kill you anyway. I was wondering if you could […]

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The Straight Dope

We all know that oil came from dinosaurs, or, at least, from the decomposition of organic (i.e., formerly living) materials–hence the term “fossil fuels” and the Sinclair dinosaur. But is it really true? Were there really enough dinosaurs–or even plant life–to create the billions and billions of gallons of known oil reserves? What is the […]

Posted inNews & Politics

The Straight Dope

After watching countless spy movies, westerns, and TV cop shows, I wonder: how easy is it to knock someone out by smacking them on the back of the head with a pistol, club, etc? Since I’m not willing to act as a test subject, although I’m pretty sure I’d have plenty of volunteers willing to […]