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The Straight Dope

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Where do "dust bunnies" (or, depending on size, "dust rhinos") come from? You know, those tumbleweed sort of things that you accidentally pull out from under your bed when you're looking for dirty socks. Why do they form? Is it seasonally related? Any relationship to the presence of pets or small children? Can they be prevented? --Mystified in Madison, Wisconsin

Proud though Cecil is of his contributions to science, he recognizes that he stands on the shoulders of giants. Journalist Penny Ward Moser, for instance. In November of 1986 Ms. Moser squandered eight full pages in Discover magazine on this ridiculous topic, which surely qualifies as some sort of landmark in the history of journalism. Among other things, she persuaded her editors to let her send her dust bunnies out for--honest--laboratory analysis. Her findings were as follows: (1) Dust bunnies consist of any number of things, including pet and human hairs, pillow feathers, insect parts, clothing bits and other fibers, soil, mold spores, meteor dust, pollen, yeast, and God knows what else. (2) They form under your bed because that's where they find "still air pockets," where they can grow unmolested. You want to get rid of them, get rid of the air pockets--e.g., plop El Mattress on La Floor.

Dust bunnies may also be found in ducts and vents, where they get blown by air currents, or stuck to spiders' webs on ceilings or in corners. They're arguably more prevalent in winter, because the windows are closed and the breeze doesn't disperse them. Keep those windows open year-round, and I guarantee you'll never complain about dust bunnies again.

By way of epilogue, I might mention that Ms. Moser was able to parlay her story (and others in a similar vein) into a gig as a contributor to Sports Illustrated--I guess they figured if you can write about dust balls, you're certainly qualified to deal with the likes of Brian Bosworth. Truly, the woman is an example to us all.

What is kundalini? It came up in Spalding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia (twice), it seemed significant, and it's not in any of our dictionaries. (We tried three languages.) Also, Love and Rockets titled an album "Kundalini Express," without explanation, but at least we know how to spell it. Any ideas? --Sabine and Scheleen, Washington, D.C.

Millions of 'em, honey, but let's deal with kundalini first. It happens Bantam just sent me a new book on the subject--Kundalini for the New Age: Selected Writings of Gopi Krishna, edited by Gene Kieffer. The "New Age" should give you a clue what's up here, but in case you have any lingering doubts, you should know that kundalini has been endorsed by none other than Shirley MacLaine, leading candidate for Post Toastie of the decade.

Kundalini, it seems, is a "Sanskrit term for a latent energy said to be coiled in the base of the spine." Sounds a good deal like tapeworm, but never fear. Tap into your kundalini, as I understand it, and you can experience pure consciousness, see God, and never have to worry about ho-hum mouth again. Kundalini was introduced to the West by Gopi Krishna (1903-1984), an Indian yogi who got Kieffer to establish the Kundalini Research Foundation in New York. Krishna first experienced kundalini in 1937 after meditating three hours every morning for 17 years. One day he felt "a strange sensation below the spine," and shortly thereafter, he wrote, "with a roar like that of a waterfall, I felt a stream of liquid light entering my brain through the spinal cord." Certain rude jokes occur to me, but I will suppress them.

Though his dominant emotions were exaltation and happiness, Krishna subsequently experienced 13 years of negative kundalini, owing to illness and, no doubt, World War II. During this time, however, he also underwent a "highly accelerated evolutionary transformation," until in 1950 he achieved a "stable cosmic consciousness." He then began preaching the virtues of kundalini to the world. Krishna and Kieffer have a good deal else to say about solar principles, psychic currents, and other matters that I do not feel competent to address. You're into this kind of thing, read the book.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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