The pace of life is such that we rarely have the luxury to stop and think. We take so much on trust. We assume that we know why something happens or the way things work. It is only when we stop and think that nagging doubts or questions creep into our subconscious. For those of us blessed – or is it cursed? – with an enquiring mind, once the seed of a question has been planted, we need to find the answer.
The purpose of this book is to shed light on some of those nagging and irritating questions. There is no overarching design behind the fifty questions. They are just some of the topics that have puzzled me (a self-confessed ignoramus on all matters scientific) over the years, and I have now had the time to find the answers. Fortunately, greater brains than mine have grappled with some of the issues and carried out bizarre experiments or made quantum leaps of logic to push out further the frontiers of human knowledge. This book celebrates this quest and thirst for knowledge.
In these pages we will explore how our body works: why we blush, why we feel colder when we step out of the shower, and whether there is a finite limit to how long our hair will grow. We will perfect some essential life skills such as how to spot a liar, handle a hangover, rid ourselves of hiccups, and construct the perfect cream scone. There are some deep existential questions to answer, like how long is a generation and whether we are only six feet away from a rat. And then there are some really maddening questions like, Why do we still use a QWERTY keyboard? and Why do the British persist in driving on the left hand side of the road? All will be revealed inside these pages.
We also consider some left-field questions like: Do we lose weight when we fart? Do elephants take longer to urinate than horses? and When you are caught in the rain, do you get wetter if you run or walk to your destination? Life would be all the poorer without the answers to questions like these.
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A classics graduate from Trinity College, Cambridge, Martin Fone had a successful career in the insurance industry. He co-authored two books on public sector risk management that were adopted by the Institute of Risk Management as their standard textbooks.
Since retiring, Martin has had the opportunity to develop his interests, mainly reading, writing, and thinking – or, as his wife puts it, locking himself away in his office for a few hours a day. In particular, he has been blogging and writing in his tongue-in-cheek, irreverent style about the quirks, idiocies, and idiosyncrasies of life, both modern and ancient. This book reflects this change in direction and follows on from his previous successful publication, Fifty Clever Bastards.