The Readers Ask
Where did 7up get its name? Why do J.B. Hunt's trucks drive so slowly? When will US auto companies start making safer air bags? What do the colors on CDs mean? Do fast-food chains really toss out burgers after only 10 minutes? What animal life-form weighs the most - mammals, reptiles, fish, or insects?
Today, we revive "The Readers Ask," a Monitor feature last seen on Jan. 31, 1967. You are invited to send questions to: The Readers Ask, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115. To get things rolling, these first questions were supplied by staff members, who of course are also readers.Skip to next paragraph
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Q Which animal group has the greatest total mass, by weight - reptiles, mammals, fish, or insects?
A Insects, by far. To illustrate: for every human being on Earth, there are 1,500 pounds of termites.
Q Is cigar smoking on the rise? Cigars seem to be Hollywood's hot fashion.
A Cigar-smoking hit a modern-day low of 2.1 billion stogies in 1993. But by 1996, cigar use had risen almost 40 percent. Unlike cigarettes, cigars are not required to display health warnings. Yet smokers may spend up to a hour smoking a single cigar that can contain as much nicotine as a package of cigarettes. Once attractive primarily to older men, cigars are now popular with young adults, both male and female.
Q Between 1990 and Aug. 1, 1997, auto air bags killed 77 people - 31 drivers, 43 children, and three adult passengers in the United States. When will auto companies begin making safer air bags that deploy at speeds slower than 200 miles per hour?
A Automakers already build cars with air bags that deploy at less than 200 m.p.h., but the issue is not just speed, it's power. Cars of various designs require air bags that deploy at various speeds. All new 1998 US cars and most '98 imports will have bags that are 20 to 35 percent less powerful than previous models. Government officials emphasize that it is crucial to wear seat belts when in a car with air bags, even the lower-powered ones. Most of the 77 people who were killed by bags were not wearing belts. New cars with the depowered bags will be equipped with window decals to inform buyers.
Q Prince Charles of England played a key role in the Hong Kong handover only July 1. He wore a military uniform part of the day, and later a civilian suit. Is he an officer in the military?
A The Prince of Wales's first service appointment came in 1969 as colonel-in-chief of the Royal Regiment of Wales. He became colonel of the Welsh Guards in 1975 and now holds a number of service appointments. In 1971, he spent six months at the Royal Air Force College, where he earned his RAF wings. That autumn, he entered the Royal Navy. After service on a guided-missile destroyer and two frigates, he qualified as a helicopter pilot in 1974. Later he joined the 845 Naval Air Squadron on commando flying duties from the aircraft-carrier HMS Bronington. He left the Navy in 1976. The prince currently holds the rank of captain, Royal Navy, and group captain, Royal Air Force.
Q Where did Western culture get the tradition of wearing neckties?
A Ties were worn by Croatian horsemen during the Thirty Years War in Europe (1616-1648). The horsemen gained visibility during the war and ultimately inculcated Western society with the "tie culture."
Q Do fast-food outlets really throw out burgers after just five or 10 minutes?
A Often they do. Hardees says that an average restaurant in its chain may toss between 5 and 10 percent of its burgers a day. Once a burger is boxed, maximum holding time is about 10 minutes. A McDonald's official says that after a few minutes of waiting time, prepared burgers "no longer meet our quality standards."
Q Where did 7up and Dr. Pepper get their names?
A 7up, originally known as "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda," was introduced two weeks before the great stock market crash of 1929. In 1936, the name became 7up. There are various stories told about the name's origin. One has it that the drink's inventor saw a cattle brand that resembled 7up. A popular card game at the time was also called 7up. Dr. Pepper is one of the oldest soft drink brands in America. It was created in 1885 in Waco, Texas. Among well-known brands, only Vernors (a ginger ale begun during the Civil War) and Hires Root Beer are older. According to Dr. Pepper lore, the drink originated in the pharmacy of W. B. Morrison. At one time, Mr. Morrison had been in love with the daughter of an employer, Mr. Pepper. It was common in those days to precede a product's name with "Dr." to make it sound healthier.