The Straight Dope | Salt Lake City Weekly

A TP Tale

Why do we wipe?

Pill Drill

How do they measure the effectiveness of birth control?


Can you tell me about the role bacteria play in our lives?

Do the Math

How did anyone do math in Roman numerals?
Let me toss that question right back at you, Leonard: How do you solve complex math problems?

After It's Confiscated ...

What happens to stuff confiscated at security checkpoints?
What happens to all the items taken away at these checkpoints, or at the airports?

Fitness Privacy

Do fitness trackers pose a privacy risk?
I bought a Fitbit for my company's health challenge, and I was surprised to see how it could not only monitor steps but also track sleep, calories and resting heart rate.

Criminal Crash

What does it take to get charged with manslaughter when your negligent driving kills someone? Last year, the driver of a semi entered a bike lane and killed a Chicago bicyclist. He was issued tickets for driving in a bike lane and failure to take due care with a bicyclist. Why mere tickets instead of a more serious charge?


Is PTSD more common among soldiers now than in the past?
Is there any research on whether the incidence of PTSD has increased over time? Could the stout farm boys who fought in World War II cope with greater stress than modern soldiers, or did we just sweep it under the rug back then?

Tax Facts

Why do we have to fill out a 1040 form? The IRS knows what most people owe. Why don't they just send us a bill or a refund?

Sweet Teeth

Just how necessary is the dentist?
I get it—no one likes being told what to do and when to do it, and that goes double for having the corners of your mouth yanked open while steely implements scrape and prod. And surely there's no reason dental maintenance should be exempt from cost-benefit analysis.

Zombie Drug

Is scopolamine as scary as its reputation?
Such exotic tales have lent scopolamine a menacing aura and the grabby sobriquet of "the most dangerous drug in the world." But the milligram and a half in that transdermal patch your general practitioner gave you for motion sickness poses no threat of transforming you into a mindless zombie anytime soon.

Before Obama

Were there black presidents before Obama?
Aside from President Obama, have there been any other American presidents who under the one-drop rule would have been considered black?

Altered Genes

Is CRISPR the big deal everyone says it is?
"I’ve seen claims that it could cure cancer and most genetic diseases, maybe even prolong life to infinity and beyond. Is this kooky futurist crap, or maybe something that’ll be too expensive for mass distribution?"

Anti-Semite Martin Luther

Did Martin Luther instigate the Holocaust? Call me a traditionalist, but I figure that accomplishment can stay on Hitler's rap sheet.

Space Case

Back in the '70s, advance reports that Skylab's crew was to be supplied with small rations of wine inspired so much public outrage that NASA instituted a strict ban on in-flight alcohol consumption.


How do they neutralize the nastiest bathroom stench and replace it with a delightful scent almost immediately?

ASD Epidemic

When I was growing up, there seemed to be hardly any autistic kids around; now they're everywhere.


If a nuclear exchange took place one morning while I was at the office, what signs would let me know that something horrible had happened?


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