One difference between humans and animals is that animals don’t look up at the sky. All of their food lies within a thin layer on or near the ground.

But our human need for nourishment is more than just food. We need spiritual and intellectual as well as physical nourishment. From the first moment we began to wonder “how” or “why,” we have always looked to the heavens for answers to our wonderings. Sometimes my wonderings are silly little things, and sometimes much more complicated. Silly things like, I’ve often wondered if the Earth’s orbit can be changed if a billion people jumped off the top of a step ladder at the same time? Why we drive on the right, while it seems as though everywhere else in the world, they drive on the left? Why are cloverleaf intersections so complicated?

Where does the rubber go when a tire wears out? Why does the Lone Ranger use silver bullets? What makes Day-Glow colors so bright? Why do mirrors seem to reverse left and right, but not top to bottom? Why do stagecoach wheels appear to be turning backwards? Why do wet things look darker? How come ice is cloudy while unfrozen water is clear? Why is glass transparent? How does a flame know which way is up? Why is a candle flame tapered at the top? Would a polar bear from the North Pole weigh more or less at the equator? Why is the bathroom floor always so cold on your bare feet?

Since January is wintertime in the Northern Hemisphere and summertime in the Southern Hemisphere, does that mean toilets that flush counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere would flush clockwise in the southern hemisphere? How does a simple eraser work? Why do clothes wrinkle? When my 8-year-old can ride a skateboard like he was born on one, how come I can’t stay up two minutes on one at my age? What happens when you shake a bottle of Polly’s Soda Pop? If mom quit dusting everything, how long would it take for us to be buried in dust?

Then, some of my more complicated wonderings have been things like, if I drive my car faster than the speed of light, will the music on my car radio be able to keep up with me? Why are cars so noisy anyway? Can jumping up at the last instant save my life in a falling elevator? What really keeps an airplane up? Are airplanes really safe? Are astronauts weightless? Is 100 degrees twice as hot as 50 degrees? What is temperature anyway? How cold can it get? How hot can it get? Could we counteract global warming by turning on all of our air conditioners at the same time? Why does Earth pull everything toward its exact center? How does hot air defy gravity by rising? If hot air rises, why is it always colder up in the Colorado Rockies?

I know what you’re thinking: Did Albert Einstein have a barber? I’m sure you’ve seen his picture, so it’s a perfectly sane question. Obviously he spent more time cultivating the inside of his head to answer silly questions like mine than he did the outside of his head. My father was a barber, and the last thing he said to me on his deathbed was, “Teddy, why don’t you go get a haircut and look like a decent young man?” So, I’ve always wondered what he thought about Albert Einstein’s hairdo.

Reference: “What Einstein told His Barber,” by Robert L. Wolke.

To reach Ted W. Stillwell send e-mail to or call him at 816-896-3592.