STRANGE BUT TRUE
Q: Our possessions tend to define us as a species, and our ability to imbue them with meaning is a universal human trait that develops early in life. So, can you put rough numbers on “the stuff” of your life?
A: By one British estimate, you will likely go through 310 pairs of shoes in your walk through life (U.K. National Statistics), as reported by “New Scientist” magazine.
175: the pairs of jeans you will “love and leave” before you die (U.K. National Statistics).
544: “the deodorants that will disappear under your arms” (U.K. National Statistics).
13: the number of cars the average American will own in his or her lifetime (U.S. automotive statistics).
12: the different homes most Western people will live in during their lifetime (U.S. Census Bureau).
And 1.3 million is the number of “sheets of toilet paper that you'll flush before you fade away” (U.S. data from Kimberly Clark, the Wall Street Journal and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Our relationship to the things we own goes far beyond utility and aesthetics, says the magazine's Michael Bond. Simply put, we love our stuff. As the 19th-century psychologist William James argued, our possessions define who we are: “Between what a man calls me and what he simply calls mine, the line is difficult to draw.”
Q: What are scientists suggesting when they say that “elephants know the subtleties of the human voice”?
A: According to new research in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, elephants can distinguish certain human languages and even determine human gender and relative ages, “Science” magazine reports. For example, they've learned to differentiate the speech of adult male Kamba farmers from those of adult male Maasai hunters, who often spear elephants in retaliation for their tusking and trampling of people or cattle.
When behavioral ecologist Karen McComb of the University of Sussex used concealed loudspeakers to play the voices of the two different ethnic groups, the animals seemed to know the difference. The elephant family groups were more likely to retreat and gather together when hearing the Maasai voices than when the Kamba voices were played. The elephants were much less fearful of the voices of Maasai women or boys. “Young elephants likely learn this sensitivity by watching,” say the researchers, “in a dramatic example of a human threat changing natural behaviors.”
Q: Many baseball records are so well known that fans can rattle them off at will, such as Babe Ruth's longtime record 60 home runs in a season, Roger Maris at 61, Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. But when Stanley Rothman dug a little deeper, he found a host of equally remarkable but not-so-well-known stats. For example, what's the number of consecutive games with the same player hitting at least one home run? What about “the longest consecutive-game on-base streak”?
A: Make that eight games by each of the hard-hitting trio of Dale Long (1956), Don Mattingly (1987) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1993), says Stanley Rothman in “Sandlot Stats.”
As to the second question, there are officially three ways to get credit for getting on base safely: getting a hit, drawing a base on balls, or being hit by a pitch. Reaching base by virtue of a fielder's choice, an error, a dropped third strike or an interference play does not count. As Herm Krabbenhoft reported in the “Baseball Research Journal,” Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941 was actually part of a 74-game on-base streak wrapped around his famous hitting streak.
But Ted Williams holds the consecutive-game on-base record streak of 84 games in 1949, as well as third (69) and fourth (65) places. Indeed, the Splendid Splinter had the highest single-season on-base percentage (OBP) of .553 in 1941. (Barry Bonds surpassed it with a .582 mark in 2002.) Williams also boasted the highest career OBP of .482.
Send STRANGE questions to brothers Bill and Rich Sones at firstname.lastname@example.org.