If the earth stopped spinning would we fall off of it? Which way would we fall if we did? Or would there just be less gravity?
--Grant Shepard, age seven, Oak Park, Illinois
You gotta be prepared for anything, kid. If you'd asked this a couple years ago I would have said, "The earth stop spinning? Right, and Bill Clinton's gonna be reelected president."
If the earth stopped spinning we would not fall off of it. Despite what a lot of people apparently think, spinning has nothing to do with gravity, which is a function of the earth's mass. On the contrary, spinning tends to throw you off the earth. Were it to stop, we would be stuck here more firmly than ever. That's because, due to the lack of centrifugal force, you would weigh more.
(Don't know what centrifugal force is? Go ask your parents. No way they're palming all their kid's questions off on me.)
How much more would you weigh? Well, figuring in your newtons, your velocity, and your gravitational constant . . . about five ounces for a hundred-pound person. At the equator. An effect you could achieve right now if you merely went to the north pole. And which might be canceled out anyway because a stationary earth would cease to flatten at the poles. So maybe not that big a deal.
The real difference, apart from the end of life as we know it, would be that, no matter what hemisphere you were in, the bathwater would go straight down the drain.
Recently my wife and I successfully reproduced ourselves--that is, we had a baby. We're enjoying little Binky so much that we like her to sleep in bed with us, but our parents and some friends have expressed concern that we might roll over and suffocate her while sleeping. Our reply is that we're so happy she's there that there's no way we would just forget and crush her. I seem to recall hearing somewhere that, while a lot of people worry about it, there is no record of any new parent ever smothering a baby by accident while sleeping. So what about it, Cecil? Can you shed some light on this controversial issue?
--David Jenkins, New York City
"Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king [Solomon], and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. And this woman's child died in the night, because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear" (1 Kings 3:16-21).
Come on, you say, it's the Bible. Since when do we accept the Bible as gospel?
I rest my case.
Cecil, I have asked many people, but nobody knows. How did Bazooka Joe lose his right eye?
--Loren St. Clair, Chicago
My servant J.K. Fabian--sorry, in biblical mode. My assistant has inquired and is assured by the folks at Topps, the makers of Bazooka, that Bazooka Joe has 20/20 vision in both eyes and was merely equipped with a patch to give him a distinctive look. Yeah, like a mohawk or a tattoo was too rad, so let's sacrifice binocular vision. Then again, I guess it worked for Brenda Starr's buddy Basil St. John.
QUESTIONS WE'RE STILL THINKING ABOUT
A while back there was a lot of news about some nut in Scotland who went to a school and killed 16 or 17 kids. I noticed repeated references in the early stories concerning the killer's habit of writing letters to the editor. My questions are: (1) Have a lot of mass murderers been found to have written letters to the editor prior to their killing sprees? And (2) Is writing to your column a sign of violent mental instability? --J.T. Colfax, San Francisco
Oh, I don't think so. If one judges from the return addresses, less than 1 percent of my correspondents write from in prison. Of course there is that fellow David English, who sent me a letter a while back exhibiting an unhealthy interest in a book entitled "If We Can Keep a Severed Head Alive." But he probably writes to Ann Landers too. Besides, give me some credit. I'm keeping Slug Signorino off the streets.
Is there something you need to get straight? Cecil Adams can deliver the Straight Dope on any topic. Write Cecil Adams at the Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611; E-mail him at email@example.com; or visit the Straight Dope area at America Online, keyword: Straight Dope.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration by Slug Signorino.