STRANGE BUT TRUE
Q: Who invented the roller coaster and how long can you stay on one?
A: “When Russian daredevils got bored sledding down hills in the 1600s, they decided to ramp things up by building ‘flying mountains’ — elaborate five-story ice ramps with drops as steep as 50 degrees,” say Noah Davis and Lucas Reilly in Mental Floss magazine. They sledded on hollowed-out blocks of ice, but in 1804 the French added a track and wheels, though the wheels had a tendency to fly off. “By the 1840s, centrifugal railways featured the first loop-de-loops, flipping riders around a perfect circle that created G-forces three times stronger than most modern coasters.”
As to the length of a ride, Richard Rodriguez in 2007 spent 17 straight days and nights on a roller coaster in Blackpool, England — eating, drinking and sleeping there with only a five-minute break every hour to clean up and use the bathroom. Five years later, Rodriguez upped his riding time to 112 consecutive days, though he did take the night off when the park closed.
Q: Statistically speaking, there are differences between percentage rates and total numbers, differences between men and women from one country to the next and from one year to the next. Taken together, some of the numbers are encouraging, others are quite deadly. Do you get our drift here?
A: We’re talking about smoking. First, the encouraging numbers: From 1980 to 2012, global smoking rates declined from 41 percent to 31 percent among men, and from nearly 11 percent to 6 percent among women, reports Science News magazine, drawing on data from the Journal of the American Medical Association. “But because of population growth, the total number of daily smokers increased from 721 million to 967 million” — for an increase of some 246 million. And in just about every country, many more men than women still smoke.
And for one of the truly discouraging numbers: An estimated 5.7 million people worldwide died from smoking in 2010 alone.
Q: When you’re a dentist with a longtime interest in craniofacial work, particularly on children with deformities, how might they signal back to you just how important your work has been to them?
A: Just ask Dr. Jerold Goldberg, dentist and former dean of the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, who believes such work can be deeply gratifying and can have an enormous impact on kids’ lives, says Bill Lubinger in Think: A Magazine of Case Western Reserve University. The doctor recounts treating one 8-year-old boy who required some segments of hipbone put in his jaw. Over the course of three or four operations, “We moved his whole upper jaw and the middle of his face forward.”
Then, when he was a senior and ready to graduate, the only fix-it work remaining was to his slightly asymmetrical nose. Goldberg recalls their conversation: “You and I have been through a lot, so when you get your nose fixed there, you’ll be done.” Looking at the doctor intently, the young man replied, “Doctor, I’m graduating from high school, I’m going to Notre Dame, I have a football scholarship, and I’m dating the best-looking girl in school. Why exactly do I have to get my nose done?” What a question, thought Goldberg, who looked back at him and said, “You know something? Silly me, I guess you don’t.”
Send questions to brothers Bill and Rich Sones at firstname.lastname@example.org.