Science Q & A

Q.l’ve heard a lot of talk lately that srientists have identified as many as six dimensions. After the first three, what could the others be for and where have they been all this time?

A. The fourth dimension, or “space/ time,” was invented by Einstein and has already been around for eighty-odd years. It’s self-explanatory, and since it’s really not so new, it need not concern us here. The fifth dimension “is a fairly recent development,” according to Dr. Estvan kertesz, Rod Serling Professor of Whatnot at the Palo Alto Institute of Astro-Everything. “Basically, it seems to be the place where all the other dimensions intersect, if you catch my meaning.”

Scientists remain uncertain of the function of the sixth dimension, but recent research, supported by decades of anecdotal evidence, suggests that it is that part of the cosmos where things like house keys and theater tickets go for those few minutes between the time you can’t find them and the moment they reappear exactly where you remember putting them.

Q, When you take an aspirin or some other remedy for pain, how does it know what part of your body to go to?

A. The principle according to which analgesics locate pain is very similar to the more familiar itch-scratch response. For example, if your foot itches, you don’t scratch your nose. Similarly, pain-killing medications rush to where they’re needed and nowhere else. It’s just one of those things.

Q. Settle a bet: my father-in-law says that superconductors will change the shape of society as we know it, but l insist that such technological advances are merely devices by which investor-owned utility companies will more efficiently bilk the American consumerfurther aggregating our nation s great wealth in the hands of the few rich. Who is right? A. You’re both wrong. A spokesman for the Long Island Lighting Company’s Center for Socio-Dimensional Stability reports that “societies take on certain shapes in response to forces that are entirely unrelated to the provision of electric service.”

Q. After seven years of marriage my girlfriend and her husband are going through arough time, and I wondered if you would please reprint your response to “DNAching in Detroit" from last summer.

A. Glad to:

“You must be referring to heptase, one of the more devious amino acids. In combination with most free-radical proteins it results in benign nucleotides, but on rare occasions it produces mischievous anomalies called polypeptides. Molecular biologists are reluctant to assert that such compounds can in fact cause irreconcilable differences’ or ‘the death of romance,’ but no one is willing to deny it, either.”

I hope this helps, and good luck to your girlfriend and her husband.

Q. Why is a cop never around when you need one?

A. Such phenomena form the keystone of the burgeoning new scientific field of zero/nothingness universality, which holds that the universe is not in fact anthropocentric and that mankind-generated causalities are inconsequential in the context of cosmic machinations. This explains why young people who have their whole lives ahead of them rarely win lotteries no matter how much they need the money, as well as why policemen are nowhere to be found when you need them. Italian scientists, who are at the forefront of this research, characterize their work as “che sarà saràismo.

Q. I’m a meteorology buff. Last January, while changing a tire on Interstate 90 just outside Billings, my husband remarked, among other things, that it was “cold as helloutside. Was that merely an oxymoronic simile uttered in numbness or does Stan know something I don’t?

A. “Historically, hell has been represented as a region of high thermal output,” says Fr. Frank Kelvin, S.J., the chairman of the graduate department of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning at Loyola University, “but facilities managers and engineers have long known that various other factors, such as relative humidity (expressed as a percentage) and air velocity (expressed as cubic feet per minute), can and do affect comfort levels.

“Theoretically, therefore, one can feel chilly even when one is in a place where the temperature is high enough, say, to boil mercury.

“In view of the miscreant population of hell, however, the likeliest explanation is that some prankster either lowered the thermostat or blew out the pilot light.” □