Sunday, October 19, 2008

What I Want To Know

There are Great Mysteries in life, questions that linger, unanswered, over the years. They come to mind for a time and then again another time, when some event triggers them.

One such question for me was, Why do rainbows curve?

I would ask people that question, and most of the time they tried to tell me about prisms and light refraction--concepts I already understood and that had absolutely nothing to do with my question. One time I had seen a triple rainbow: One complete one; underneath it (and with the colors reversed) a second complete rainbow; and to the right, curving away from the first two, was half of a third rainbow. Whatever explanation I received would have to cover all three rainbows, plus one that a co-worker described: from an airplane, he had looked down at the clouds to see a U-shaped rainbow.

I finally got my explanation in two pieces. One person asked if there was a body of water near my triple rainbow that could have reflected light upward to form the second, reversed rainbow. There was: The Yellowstone River. The second answer was given to me by, similar to this article, but with diagrams.

Another question came from my 8th grade General Science class and the limited mini-chemistry lesson we got. It was, How can there be carbon monoxide?

We had learned, in 8th grade, about filling the outer shell of electrons, so we calculated carbon and oxygen and got carbon dioxide. But I wondered, if it took two oxygens to fill up carbon, then how could a carbon/oxygen molecule get by with only one oxygen? I never asked my teacher.

I got my answer about ten years later, on the drive to go cross-country skiing with my husband and a friend of ours. I asked the question, since both of them had been science majors. Our friend had taken Chemistry, so he explained rough concepts of single bonds and double bonds and electron-sharing between atoms. I asked a lot of questions to get it clarified just enough that I could picture how carbon monoxide could exist.

Then I started wondering, How does carbon monoxide kill you? I guessed that it bound to the O2 in the blood, rendering it incapable of being used by the body.

A few years later, we were at the beach with my sister-in-law's family, and she was studying Physiology and happened to be reading about the chemistry of the blood. So I borrowed her textbook and looked up carbon monoxide. I had guessed wrong. It binds to the hemoglobin.

Normally, hemoglobin forms an incomplete bond with the O2, so it's easy to let go of the O2 at the right time. But if carbon monoxide gets in there, it forms a complete bond with the hemoglobin and won't let go. After enough exposure, there isn't enough un-monoxided hemoglobin available to transport the O2 around the body, and your tissues die for lack of oxygen when there's plenty of oxygen in your system. It's very sad. Carbon monoxide is chemically evil. (My apologies to Chemistry majors if I butchered this description. I learned it over 20 years ago.)

That brings me to some still-outstanding Great Mysteries:

Why can't Hollywood get the end credits on movie DVDs sharp enough that you can actually read them?

Why does toothpaste say, "For best results, squeeze from bottom of tube"? Do they put all the fluoride at the bottom, and if you squeeze in the middle, you don't get any fluoride or whiteners?

What's on the other side of the end of the universe?

If you have answers, please let me know.

Better yet, tell me what Great Mysteries have been plaguing you. What is it that you want to know?


Anonymous said...

As far as the DVD question, I'd imagine it has something to do with the fact that the pixels on a TV aren't square, but oblong. Don't know about the rest of your questions, though.


Bryan Alexander said...

Here is a Great Mystery that's been plaguing me: How can someone who says he or she is pro-life support Obama for president?

Malott said...

Why do people (women) care more about what other women think is attractive than they care what men think is attractive?

The interesting thing about carbon monoxide poisoning is that though your body is starved for oxygen, your mucous membranes don't turn blue. They are cherry red.


CO has an affinity for Hgb 200 times that of O2. Also, carbon monoxide hemoglobin, or carboxyhemoglobin is usually elevated in smokers.

Tsofah said...

Regarding the Toothpaste question:

If you squeeze in the middle, you push toothpaste up and toothpaste down. When toothpaste goes up if pushed too hard in the middle, a LOT of it comes out all at once, and therefore, you waste toothpaste. Also, to keep from having to continuously push toothpaste up from the bottom once the tube is almost's all just easiest squeezing and rolling the tube up from the bottome from the very beginning. :-)

Tsofah said...


I can't answer for all women, but:

The reason I rather dress to get compliments from women instead of men is because of wanting to fit in AND...

if a man gives me a compliment, I don't know if he means it, or if his testosterone is just in overdrive.

I have found that many men, if under the influence of hormonal overdrive, will tell me I look great if I were to wear a gunnysack and no makeup and have hairy legs.

If I want honest truth, I can count on my female friends to give it...without condition. If I have a pair of pants that make me look fat, they will tell me. And they don't have to worry if I will make them sleep on the couch for a week. ;-)

Bekah said...

I love this post...I'll have to ponder my questions. I have many, I'm sure, but given that I have not yet had a drop of coffee, it's too early to think of what they might be.

Can honestly say I'd never thought of the rainbow one - but that is very interesting information!

Back to my pondering....

Cool·leen said...

...I guess I'm not anonymous anymore. :/

You should read my latest blog, Ms. Mom.

Goodness gracious, I'm turning into you. Here's a question for you: Why do daughters (more often than not) turn into their mothers? Why does this trend keep occurring in almost every generation?! It brings up the question about whether or not a person is truly her own person.

marvin said...

Why does Hawaii have Interstate Highways?

Christina said...

Gross I know, but where does snot come from? I mean, I can go to bed with a clear head, and wake up with the stuff clogging my entire face. How does that happen?

And then...why does my nose get more stuffed up when I sit and clears up (significantly) when I stand?

Seriously, I really don't understand.

Marvin said...

If moonbats are liberals and wingnuts conservatives, what are anarchists and libertarians? Matter of fact what am I? I fall somewhere in between an anarchist and libertarian.

SkyePuppy said...


Are you Aggies?

(I saw some guys wearing Aggies T-shirts in the DFW airport, and I was surprised they'd admit such a thing.)

Maybe Goobers?

How about the anarchists are aggies (they both start with "A") and the libertarians are goobers.