Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Miscellaneous/2008 January 29

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January 29[edit]

Freezing food[edit]

Let's say you've got some meat or produce that's supposed to be eaten within four days of purchase. On the fourth day, you put it in the freezer. When you defrost it, does the clock reset -- do you get another four days to eat it? Or do you have to eat it right away? -- Mwalcoff (talk) 00:14, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Well, first of all, those "clocks" are hardly precise. They generally say "best before Jan. 31", not "Must absolutely be eaten before Jan. 31 at 23:59 (UTC) or else you'll turn into a toad." So if it said four days, you probably have at least eight days before it starts tasting really rank, regardless of whether those days are interrupted by a stint in the freezer.
With that said, there are a number of factors that affect the answer:
  1. Are we worried about the food going stale, or about it being contaminated by microorganisms?
  2. If we're worried about microorganisms, are they killed by freezing? If so, we can say the "clock resets". If not, it certainly does not.
  3. If we're worried about the food merely going stale, then clearly freezing it does not "reset the clock", as freezing is not generally a way of making stale food taste fresh again. Moreover, depending on what kind of food we're talking about, freezing doesn't necessarily even preserve freshness -- there may be damage due to freezing, particularly if the food is left frozen long enough to suffer freezer burn.
Steve Summit (talk) 01:05, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Yes and no. Per Steve's comment, 'best before' dates are approximate guides—food that's been properly handled and stored will often still be safe to eat well after the given date (though I've had the odd product that is visibly spoiled 'early'.) There's no hard and fast rule, and you should always be alert for signs of spoilage. (How do you know some minimum-wage slacker didn't leave a shipment of meat out in the sun on the loading dock for a few hours while he took his 'lunch' break?)
Freezing will stop or greatly slow the growth of all microorganisms, and will kill many (but definitely not all) of them. So to an extent, the clock is partly reset. What freezing won't do is eliminate any toxins that have been secreted by foodborne pathogens. Our article on foodborne illness discusses the wide variety of nasty chemicals secreted by or released from the bugs that can contaminate our food. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 14:04, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Electicity from Wood[edit]

Is there any type of wood furnace out their that allows you to get electricity for your house? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:36, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Its done on a commercial basis [1] but I cant find anything on domestic generators. —Preceding unsigned comment added by TreeSmiler (talkcontribs) 01:34, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Google search "home wood burning furnace." -- Mwalcoff (talk) 03:09, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
I tried your google search, Mwalcoff, and it didn't work. The question is about making electricity from wood, not about making heat from wood. --M@rēino 05:35, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
You could always stick one end of a Stirling engine in your furnace, and run a dynamo offf it. DuncanHill (talk) 20:00, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
If you can raise steam from burning wood, you can use any old steam turbine generator to generate the electricity.--TreeSmiler (talk) 22:56, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Densely populated islands[edit]

Hi. Where can i find a list of the most densely populated islands in the world? Together with repective data for population density? I can't find an article on wikipedia, nor can i find much googling. kawaputratorque 05:38, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

According to worldislandinfo, Ap Lei Chau is the world's most densely populated island (60,000 inhabitants per sq km). Malé is the most densely populated unbridged island (40,000 per sq km). The smallest island with over one million inhabitants is Manhattan (only 26,000 per sq km). No real "list" though, sorry. ---Sluzzelin talk 05:55, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
We have List of islands by population and List of islands by area. Cross reference those and you can calculate a List of islands by population density. Rockpocket 05:59, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Actually, this seems to be what you want. Rockpocket 06:01, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
That list is interesting, but very incomplete. It seems to only list islands that are involved with the United Nations Environment Programme. Manhattan, for example, is missing. --M@rēino 14:11, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Yes the list seems incomplete as it also omits Ap Lei Chau. But still useful. Thanks. I may just create that page when time permits. :) kawaputratorque 15:38, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Joe Arpaio for US President ?![edit]

Has Joe Arpaio considered running for US President ? (talk) 07:50, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

The reason I asked is that some claim a "common sense" approach to crime, terrorisim is greatly needed. (talk) 08:00, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
He appears to be publicly backing Mitt Romney, which would suggest he isn't thinking of running himself this time around. [2] Rockpocket 08:15, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Thank Ghu. Corvus cornixtalk 22:33, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Correlation of Eyeglasses and Presidential Campaigns[edit]

Has there been a presidental candidate that usually wears glasses while campaigning? They all seem to start wearing them after they win. --Niyant (talk) 08:56, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy's glasses actually helped save his life by slowing an assassin's bullet when he was giving a campaign speech! Rhinoracer (talk) 13:35, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

  • The bullet hit his glasses case (and also the speech itself, which he hadn't yet started giving), but I don't see anything to say that his glasses were in them. Presumably he had them on. --Anonymous, 03:10 UTC, January 30, 2008.
Synchronicity time: Truman's daughter Margaret died yesterday. -- JackofOz (talk) 03:25, 30 January 2008 (UTC)

"Sent a wire"[edit]

What does this expression mean? Saw it in a 1960s episode of The Twilight Zone. Does it mean to send a telegram or something? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:47, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

It means exactly that. FiggyBee (talk) 14:10, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Telegrams were sent by wire, hence the expression. (talk) 14:43, 29 January 2008 (UTC)DT

To send a message by telegraph--TreeSmiler (talk) 22:58, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

what's the longest toll road in the world?[edit]

I work for a company that manages toll roads, and the other day some of us were trying to figure out what's the longest toll road in the world. The Pennsylvania (U.S) Turnpike (532 miles long in three sections came to mind, but we thought there must be something longer elsewhere in the world. A search of Wikipedia and Guinness Book of World Records failed to turn up any citations. As I continue to research this on my own I thought I'd see if any of Wikipedia's volunteers had any info or suggestions. Thanks.Mearch (talk) 14:33, 29 January 2008 (UTC)mearch

The New York State Thruway is supposedly the longest in the US and the World. FiggyBee (talk) 15:03, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association has a global list of toll facilities here. Some of the numbers for (mostly under-construction) toll roads in China are much larger than the figures above (4000, 4400, 5200 miles, etc). --Sean 15:11, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Well, all the ones in China on that site that are longer than the North American examples are shown as under construction.. --Anonymous, 00:25 UTC, January 31, 2008.

The spy satellite[edit]

Why doesn't that spy satellite have built-in TNT that can be remotely activated?

If no electricity works, it should auto-explode if it doesn't get a signal in 30 days or something. A mechanical one which ticks down and is winded back with an electric arm. If it doesn't, it explodes (its lost).

Why don't they think of these things before firing it up in space?! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:12, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

The problem with that would bethat instead of having 1 satellite breaking up in the atmosphere, you would add to the already huge amounts of space junk in the atmosphere. Vagery (talk) 15:44, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Additionally, it's all still going to crash. Breaking up the satellite won't meaningfully change its orbit, and all the pieces (some still significantly large) will rain down over an even larger area. The normal "think of these things before firing it up in space" is to reserve some maneuvering fuel for a controlled de-orbit, which was certainly done with a military satellite that the US doesn't want recovered by anybody else. Something went wrong. Oops, things aren't perfect. As for the specifics of why a break-up isn't a solution, discusses the dangers of both light and heavy uncontrolled pieces. Again, note that the common theme isn't size but control, which TNT does not confer. — Lomn 16:15, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
As has been pointed out, it is more of a risk to have it blow up in space (and potentially damage all sorts of other satellites up there) than it is to let it crash (most of the planet is just ocean, after all, and much of the land area is sparsely inhabited). -- (talk) 16:58, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

You can drive around the M25 motorway in England for eternity ;D (talk) 20:47, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

Interior volume of an MX-5[edit]

Can anyone discover, or work out, the volume of the interior of a 2007 Honda MX-5? The reason I would like to know is because I plan to fill one up to the window-line with rubber ducks. This is a serious question; I currently have a colleague contacting suppliers to price the kind of quantity we would need. Our original plan was to fill the boot only; figures are published on luggage capacity so we know that would have required 150 litres of ducks. Now that we need the volume of the cabin up to the window line, figures are obviously harder to find. I'm hoping the dedicated people here can come up with a convincing estimate so that we know how many ducks to order. (talk) 15:53, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

This google search sems to suggest 46 cubic feet. --Tagishsimon (talk) 16:12, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Isn't the MX-5 a Mazda? My rough count suggests about 1500 dm3 ~ 53 cu ft (but I didn't adjust for your up-to-window-line requirement, it's rather for the whole cabin). And we want a photo when it's done. --Ouro (blah blah) 16:14, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Sorry, yes, it's a Mazda. Thanks for the quick responses here too. Might I ask how you arrived at your rough count? My colleague is somewhat sceptical (having not seen the power of the Reference Desk as I have) about asking some random people on Wikipedia to make this crucial estimate. Being able to reassure him with an idea as to the method would help. As for the photo, I can't promise to be able to take one, but if I do I'll try to make it available. (talk) 17:17, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Well, take first of all the measurements from here. I took the given height and width (reduce the height a bit), and about a third of the overall length of the car. That gave me just above 3000 dm3. But that's a rectangular shape, and the car's interior is nowhere near that - so shave off a bit for the seats, angles and I've come to my estimate. It's rough as pumice, though. Cheers, Ouro (blah blah) 18:03, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
If you want to get a similar visual effect at lower cost, you could fill the footwells and so on with balloons, and then add a thin layer of rubber ducks to cover them. SaundersW (talk) 18:57, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Hmm, that's a very interesting idea - thankyou. The cost of a whole car full of ducks is quite high; we're currently investigating arranging to lease the ducks (or rather, buy with an agreement in place to sell back) but if that proves fruitless then your suggestion might come into play. (talk) 19:58, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
I know we're not supposed to give legal opinions, but I must advise you that's it's against all laws of God and Man to fill a person's car with rubber ducks and not take a picture. --Sean 23:31, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
:-) (talk) 09:59, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
Noted. --Ouro (blah blah) 12:59, 30 January 2008 (UTC)

OK, it looks like we might be on for the full-car option. The cost of buying the ducks is, um, high (like thousands) but we've located a wealthy patron willing to put up the cash in exchange for the amount of amusement it will bring him. We're probably looking at a couple of months' lead time to get everything in place, but I should be able to get you a picture. (talk) 15:38, 1 February 2008 (UTC)

In Melbourne on Australia day a charity floats thousands of ducks in a race. Perhaps you could borrow theirs.Polypipe Wrangler (talk) 18:01, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
Unfortunately our "welathy patron" has turned out to be not quite as generous as he initially indicated. He's putting up GBP200 (still a very hefty amount) leaving us just over 400 to find (we successfully arranged the leasing thing so the costs aren't as high as they might have been). We're putting in some of that ourselves, and starting to trawl work colleagues for additional contributions. (talk) 18:09, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
Keepin' our fingers crossed (right, people?) so your duck-filled Mazda works out (for whatever purpose you need it). --Ouro (blah blah) 13:08, 2 February 2008 (UTC)


"There is a bus with 7 girls.

Each girl has 7 bags.

In each bag, there are 7 big cats

Each big cat has 7 little cats.

Each cat has 4 legs.

How many legs on the bus? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:13, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

None, buses have wheels. --LarryMac | Talk 17:16, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Nice. --Masamage 17:28, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Dammit! I got this question wrong on an internet quiz a few months ago and spent half an hour doing multiplication, trying to figure out where I went wrong. Grrrrr. Deltopia (talk) 19:37, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Was this an actual question or were you just trying to see if we would fall for it?--Dlo2012 (talk) 17:28, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

For way too much analysis on the time-worn ur-example, see As_I_Was_Going_to_St_Ives. jeffjon (talk) 18:07, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
this is a real question, i have seen riddles on here before and though you people might enjoy this one. there is no bus driver. and the answer is not the same as as i was going to saint ives —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:11, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
  • Alright, if you say it's a real question.... The number of cat legs on the bus is: 4 (cat legs/cat) x 8 (cats/cat family) x 7 (cat familes/bag) x 7 (bags/girl) = 1568. The number of total legs is unknown, because it is doubtful that girls would be left unattended on a bus -- even if the bus is stationary, the girls are still at risk of harm from the unsanitary conditions caused by almost 400 cats in a cramped space. But it's at least 1568 + (7x2) = 1582. --M@rēino 20:51, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
SPOILER WARNING it is in fact ten thousand nine hundred and nintey —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:10, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Citation Needed! --LarryMac | Talk 21:12, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
I like the one that goes "you're driving a bus with 7 girls, each girl has 7 cats, each cat ... [and so on] ... What color are the bus driver's eyes?". By that time, most listeners have filled their head with enough math to forget that you told them they're driving the bus. --Sean 23:34, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
On the assumption that "on the bus" means "in the bus", the answer is what said. Seven bags for each of the 7 girls - that's 49 bags; each bag has 7 big cats = that's 49x7 big cats; each big cat has 7 little cats - that's 49x49 little cats; that's 49x56 cats in total; each cat has 4 legs - that's 49x56x4 legs = 10,976 cat legs; plus the 14 human legs belonging to the 7 girls = 10,990. -- JackofOz (talk) 03:23, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
For people who were confused, (as I was) the discrepency between JackofOz's answer and M@rēino's answer is that M@rēino forgot to multiply by 7(girls/bus). APL (talk) 04:50, 30 January 2008 (UTC)

Why not more vandalism?[edit]

Why isn't just about every car everywhere "keyed"? It is nearly impossible to get caught and causes a major headache and annoyance for the owner. I personally have never done anything like that, but less than a year ago, I went out with a hammer wrapped in a plastic bag and was going to smash/damage cars in the middle of the night, being sick of society and humanity in general. But I ended up at home again, having not done anything but walked around. I couldn't make myself do it, even though I had many, many perfect chances with not a soul around as far as the eye could see.

Obviously not everyone has that kind of barrier like I do. So how come the civilized world isn't full of damaged property and basically total anarchy? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:58, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

There are many theories as to why people perform malicious acts. But I think it's safe to say that most people are reasonably happy with life in general. --Merovingian (T, C) 20:01, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Have a look at natural law and Jurisprudence. Also consider the logical implications of your question: What 'benefit' do people get from keying a car? Randomly being extremely mean to a complete stranger is hardly the actions of a 'normal' person and brings no benefit to the individual doing it - yet it introduces risks such as... you may be found doing it, you may feel guilty for having done it (social conscience), you may believe that by your doing something it makes it more likely someone else may and eventually it may 'catch up' with you and happen to your car. Personally i'd suggest you speak with someone who can help if you genuinely considered randomly attacking other people's property because of your own state of mind - it is certainly not the actions of someone who is functioning in society perfectly normally. ny156uk (talk) 20:37, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
  • This New York Times article recently took a swing at the general question of why people exhibit moral behavior even when no enforcement is present. Short answer -- the vast majority of humans appear to be hard-wired for it, most likely because it makes evolutionary sense for a species as extremely social as humans to want to play nicely (or as a Dawkins follower would say, it's The Selfish Gene, not The Selfish Organism). --M@rēino 20:56, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
  • And while Richard Dawkins may not believe there's an invisible man watching all the wicked little things one does, enough people do believe that to make a significant contribution to people generally behaving themselves. --Sean 23:37, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Personally I doubt fear of God keeps most people from being bad. I have more faith in the power of civil law to control people than the power of religion. People huff and puff a lot about religion a lot but I don't honestly see it keeping most of them from doing what they'd rather being doing anyway. As a case in point, most people engage in "sinful" behavior on a daily basis, but relatively few engage in behaviors that have high legal consequences and a perceived high chance of getting caught on a daily basis. People have lived in communities before formal religion ever came about -- community rules, norms, etc., are probably much more powerful than the literal threats of scripture. -- (talk) 02:29, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
In all fairness, the invisible man doesn't have to be God... I speak from personal experience (original research, sorry sorry) that the fear of being caught by somebody is enough to quell my occasional destructive impulse. Poechalkdust (talk) 19:33, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
The basic answer to your question is that on an evolutionary timescale humans that could integrate with a social group well had a higher survival rate and passed their genes on. People who committed random acts of violence became social outcasts and died of. Defiantly something to think about before smashing that window! --S.dedalus (talk) 00:28, 30 January 2008 (UTC)

Most vandalism that does occur seems to have a rationale other than causing damage. If you tag (graffiti) a bridge, for example, you can look at it every day and point it out to your friends until it gets painted over. If you key a random car, you'll probably never see it again, and even if you come across it again, you have to look fairly close up to see the damage. -- Mwalcoff (talk) 01:26, 30 January 2008 (UTC)


Why can one buy an archery bow, including bolts, and gloves on ebay, but not a cross bow? What can one do with a cross bow that one cannot do with a compound bow? also, if a country has very weak gun laws such as uSA, if some one sells a gun on ebay, why can i not buy it in the uk? I need a crossbow! A 1.5kg compound bow, 224km/h mmmm, that'll do. but I would like a crossbow. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:16, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

In the UK, the Crossbows Act 1987 prohibits the sale to, or possession or purchase by, a person under the age of 17 of certain types of crossbow. (Stones, 8-22660) Section 44 Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 increases the minimum age for sale, letting on hire purchase and hiring of crossbows to 18 with effect from 1st October 2007. I'm going to guess that eBay, being unable to vouchsafe for the age of the bidder, refuses to handle the goods. IIRC, that act was passed after a particular crossbow murder somewhere in London ... I think one part reaction and one part concern about the relative accuracy of crossbows drove the legislation ... you almost certainly do not need a crossbow. --Tagishsimon (talk) 21:22, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Not that it's terribly important, but FYI, vouchsafe is not a synonym for "vouch" :) -Elmer Clark (talk) 00:24, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
Thanks. --Tagishsimon (talk) 00:25, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
The crossbow has the same advantage now that it had when it was invented—it takes little skill to hit the target with it. Without at least rudimentary instruction and a bit of practice, you're as likely to hurt yourself as the target with a regular bow. Also, the crossbow can be small enough to conceal easily, and its bolts are relatively small, too. --Milkbreath (talk) 17:27, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
The US might have weak gun laws, but eBay still doesn't risk letting their users sell firearms either, presumably so they don't develop a reputation as some sort of international arms dealer. Recury (talk) 20:33, 30 January 2008 (UTC)


Please kindly I request you to e-mail me some islamic duas for my health, marriage, child birth and conception, labor pain ease, For repentance of sins, for studies, education, protection from Bad jinns and species of all the worlds that can cause harm to me - living , non-living, dead, alive, all non-living, living materials, etc., prosperity, success, Respect, love, care , support, good nature, all the bounties of Allah?

[[Email adress removed to prevent spam. (talk)]] —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:55, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Perhaps you should talk to your caliph? He can answer the questions better than we can. -- (talk) 23:02, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Caliph!! Good grief. That title, which confers a unique authority, has not existed since 1924, when the Ottoman caliphate was abolished. Clio the Muse (talk) 23:44, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Although certain Muslim radicals are trying to revive it...Corvus cornixtalk 23:54, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
To the original poster - the Reference desk probably isn't the best place to ask for religious help. Your Imam or prayer leader may be a better person to ask. Best wishes, DuncanHill (talk) 00:04, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
Can this question be considered as a request for "professional" advice? If so, it should be removed. --Taraborn (talk) 00:56, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
Let's not go out of our way to find loopholes allowing us to remove people's questions... -Elmer Clark (talk) 03:57, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
Anyway, professional advise is permitted. --Masamage 04:09, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
Oops! Shows you how much I know about Islam. Well, at any rate at least I learned something new today, caliphs are to Islam like priests are to Judaism. Haha, next time I will spend a bit more time researching my answer before I post! xD -- (talk) 05:21, 30 January 2008 (UTC)