Posts filed under “Science & Nature”


Dear Dr. Boli: Why are space aliens not visiting us? With all the stars in the galaxy and all the planets spinning around them, there have to be intelligent beings who have overcome the trivial difficulties of faster-than-light travel. Yet they never visit. They never even text me. Are they snobs or what? —Sincerely, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Dear Sir: It is true that the abundance of worlds in our galaxy makes it improbable that there are no other forms of life out there. They might consider it unwise, however, to get themselves mixed up with unpredictably primitive civilizations. It is likely, therefore, that something about our civilization strikes them as primitive. If we look at our planet from an outsider’s point of view, with an unbiased eye, what we notice immediately is that we still have weather. An extraterrestrial species evaluating our world for potential cultural exchange or commercial exploitation would seize on that detail as indicative of the state of our civilization as a whole. “They still have weather,” the scouts’ report would say. “Until they can get their act together and cooperate enough to implement some rudimentary meteorological planning, it is safe to assume that their planet is unprofitably and even dangerously disorganized; their culture has nothing to teach us, and a risk/benefit analysis of the commercial possibilities does not persuade us that this species could be profitably exploited.”

You should consider the possibility, however, that certain advanced extraterrestrial beings would be willing to meet suitably forward-thinking members of the human species on a private basis, subject of course to sensible non-disclosure agreements. Once you have considered that possibility thoroughly, you should show up at the Grandview Park bandstand at half past eleven tonight and bring a good Riesling. For some reason they are particularly fond of Riesling.


…that a rose by any other name would have a far lower Google ranking?

…that the first stationary bicycle was an embarrassing manufacturing error?

…that the Jerusalem artichoke is neither from Jerusalem, nor a choke, nor arty in the least degree?

…that the American Robin (Turdus migratorius) can sing all the songs of Isham Jones except “It Had to Be You”?

…that, in defiance of Darwinian orthodoxy, sponges evolved hundreds of millions of years before the first kitchen sink?

…that Pharaoh’s command to make bricks without straw was a process innovation universally endorsed by today’s brick manufacturers?

…that cumulus clouds are entirely imaginary?


Dear Dr. Boli: I was in the dollar store looking for Zimbabwean dollars, which they didn’t have, but what they did have was oven mitts with the slogan “Enjoy the Journey” printed in cheerful script. And what I want to know is, Where is my oven going? —Sincerely, A Man Who Was Hoping to Be a Trillionaire.

Dear Sir: Your oven is on a journey of self-discovery. It may have grander ambitions: perhaps it dreams of becoming a kiln or a furnace. Or it may be in the early stages of a midlife crisis. This is a voyage on which your oven must travel alone, but you could show solidarity by buying an oven mitt with a cheerful slogan. After all, your oven has taken the heat for you plenty of times.


Third Series.

By our staff artist.

Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla).—A team of ornithologists from Duck Hollow University have undertaken a multi-year study to determine exactly what laughing gulls are laughing at. So far their working hypothesis is that the birds are laughing at teams of ornithologists.


…that Samuel Johnson knew more than fifty insulting terms for Scottish people, but put only seventeen of them into his Dictionary?

…that the islands of Japan form the Chinese character for “laundry detergent”?

…that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is still legally banned in Alabama?

…that world events are the product of inevitable social forces and human agency is an illusion aggressively promoted by Hallmark Cards, Inc.?

…that the extinct nation of Phoenicia is owed several thousand years’ worth of back royalties on the alphabet?

…that the black hole at the center of our galaxy is largely metaphorical?


In response to the advertisement for Brenneman’s Everything Bagels, our correspondent Arkadiy asks, “Americium? Is it better or worse than polonium?”

“Better” and “worse” are subjective measurements with no scientific value whatsoever, and therefore are right up Dr. Boli’s alley. You have come to the right place.

Polonium has the edge in practicality, owing to its traditional use in the heads of polo mallets, whence, of course, the name of the element.

Americium is more widely found in ordinary households, however, since it goes into smoke detectors. That means that any one of us might have come into contact with it and be carrying around an atom or two of americium even as we speak. Et in Arkadiy ego, to coin a phrase.

Which one is better or worse therefore depends on how you feel about polo, or, contrariwise, smoke detectors.


That truck will stop coming toward me long before I have to open my wings and fly away.

Every little old lady with a bag is my friend.

What this statue needs is more of the old Jackson Pollock touch.

If I follow that attractive hen-pigeon from a distance of six inches for the rest of the day, she is bound to notice my admirable qualities.

Humans operating under divine direction have built this city for me, God’s favored creation.

God favors the stupid and unambitious.

That cigarette butt probably tastes like corn.



We were privileged to find a Microsoft technician who was happy to answer some of the questions users frequently ask about the Windows operating system.

Q. I’ve been getting the Blue Screen of Death more often since I upgraded to Windows 11. Is there any way to make that less likely to happen in the future?

A. No.

Q. Windows updates often break features or functions of important software on my computer. Is there an easy way to prevent Windows from updating itself?

A. No.

Q. Is there a good way to transfer large folders of files from my Windows computer to my Android phone?

A. No.

Q. Sometimes Windows loses track of my desktop wallpaper and substitutes the wallpaper from a different desktop. Is there any way to prevent that from happening?

A. No.

Q. Windows always gets slower and slower over the course of a year or so until eventually it has to be reinstalled. Is there any way to keep Windows running efficiently without bogging down like that?

A. No.

Q. I set my computer to suspend after ten minutes, but Windows often ignores that setting, and, come to think of it, a lot of other settings I set. Am I doing something wrong?

A. No. Here in Redmond, we refer to the “Settings” app as the “Suggestion Box.”

Q. There’s this feature in the current version of Windows that’s really useful to me. Will it still be available after the next Windows update?

A. Is it something you really like a lot?

Q. Yes.

A. Is it something you’ve grown to depend on because it makes your life so much easier?

Q. Yes, that’s it exactly.

A. Then no.


Grandfather clock.
Grandmother clock.
Great-uncle clock.
Maiden-aunt clock.
Second-cousin-once-removed clock.
Great-grandniece clock.
Friend-of-the-family-who-is-respectfully-called-“Uncle”-by-the-children clock.
Great-great-great-grandfather clock.