New Internationalist

Curiosities

Issue 234

new internationalist
issue 234 - August 1992

Questions
...that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this,
your section, and be answered by other readers. Please address
your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.

Why is it inadvisable - or dangerous - to allow victims of electrical torture
to take fluids until many hours after the ordeal?

. After electrical torture the body retains some of the electrical impulses and as most fluids are conductors of electricity it is like adding fuel to a fire.

Henry W Johnson,
Bessemer, US

What are the origins of the terms left wing and right wing?

. For thousands of years in Western culture 'right' has stood for the status quo and 'left' for the opposition. It is interesting that the Latin word for left is sinister, which to us means evil, and the Latin for right, dexter, has given rise to positive meanings such as 'dexterity'.

The Romans apparently believed that the human soul resided in the heels - the good side in the right heel, the bad in the left. But from where these ideas of right being 'good' and left being 'bad' originated, I do not know.

Spencer Fitz-Gibbon,
Manchester, UK

[image, unknown]
CAMERA PRESS

Is it true that unleaded petrol is less efficient and therefore worse for the environment than
leaded in terms of the amount of carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide produced?

. No. In a car with an engine that's been properly tuned to run on unleaded petrol, the latter is no less efficient than leaded fuel.

What's more, unleaded petrol should be used with a catalytic converter as this considerably reduces emissions of the gases which affect local air quality. These are hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide.

To give you an idea of the scale, emissions of carbon monoxide are eight times greater and emissions of nitrogen oxide are about 12 times greater if a catalytic converter has not been fitted.

As regards emissions of sulphur dioxide, these are minimal as the sulphur content of petrol is very low.

Fran Morrison,
Shell-UK, London, UK

Awaiting your answers...

Where did the wretched term (economic) 'basket case' come from?
Who used it first and in reference to which country?

Stephen Langford,
Paddington, Australia

Was one of British Queen Victoria's grandmothers an African princess?
Is it true that Queen Victoria's first child was black and was for this reason 'destroyed'?

Jasmine Lail,
Nottingham, UK

Can anyone recommend a book about trepannation or tell me anything about
the benefits of having a hole bored in the skull?

Datydd Saer,
Cardiff, UK

Cartoon by POLYP

If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities,
New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK,
or to your local NI office (click here for addresses).

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