By Gareth Edwards

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Aztec Dry Cleaning and Fish in Boots

More from the blog that answers your questions about the mysteries of the universe.

candyflossandvodka Is 'Dry-Clean Only' a polite suggestion, or will the world plunge into a swirling vortex of misery and despair if that instruction is not followed?
It’s too early to tell. When in 1874 the immaculately turned-out explorer Ernest Sketchley stumbled across a ruined temple in the heart of the Mexican jungle he made an astonishing find. On the frontispiece of the altar was a beautiful carving of what archeologists believe was an Aztec mohair cardigan. Etched into the stone work above it were a series of mysterious symbols:

Sketchley realized at once that he had stumbled upon the fabled Laundry Of The Gods, but his happiness was short-lived. Eye witness accounts tell how as the great explorer approached the sacred altar his jumper seemed to shrink about him, the colours on his shirt ran, his trousers went all wrinkly and one of his socks became inexplicably lost. He died of what his physician described as a “fatal dishevelment”. News spread and the public were terrified that the curse of the Laundry of the Gods might spread, and  soon across the world clothing manufacturers began to sew the symbols into their wares as a kind of talisman to ward off the anger of the gods, a tradition that continues to this day. While we still do not know the exact meanings of the Aztec inscriptions some believe they carry a stark warning about garment care to future generations. Others believe that if you just chuck everything in the machine at once it will probably all be fine. But dare we run the risk? Dare we?

Clangerfan1 asked: Why aren't there more hedgehogs in the world?
People often like to leave a saucer of milk out for their local hedgehog, but this kind-hearted act can have disastrous consequences for the hedgehog’s unique digestive system. Enzymes in cow’s milk react inside the hedgehog’s stomach to create a kind of inferior cottage cheese and a large quantity of hydrogen. As the hydrogen expands the hedgehog’s density drops and in the cool night air the hedgehog begins to float upwards, faster and faster, gaining in size and buoyancy until on the edge of the ionosphere it explodes in a spiky, cheesy ball of blue flame in the phenomenon we know as a “tiggy burst”.

NanceWhy do people use the adjectives "ice" and "downhill" to describe hockey and skiing? Is hockey on ice and skiing down a hill the norm rather than the exception in sports?
No. Consider the sport of Tennis, which over the years has been popular as Real Tennis, Lawn Tennis, Clay Court Tennis, Table Tennis, Chair Tennis, Shelf Tennis, Fake Tennis, Telephone Tennis, and Horse Tennis. Ice Hockey and Downhill Skiing are merely the modern versions of age old sports and it’s as well to keep the distinctions clear for whenever a new  version of the sport comes along, like Downhill Hockey or Australian Rules Skiing. 

Broken Antler @BrokenAntler Why did the first fish to grow legs decide this was a good idea?
Since time immemorial this is a question that has baffled both scientists and fish. We now know that around 400 million years ago a pair of leg-like limbs first appeared on a coelacanth. We don’t know her name, but let’s call her Sue. Surprisingly, scientists have observed that Sue’s “legs” were unsuitable for walking or swimming and probably made her vulnerable to predators, so it seems likely that Sue was instead using her primitive legs to make some kind of pioneering fashion statement. The fossil record backs up this theory as Sue’s remains were found sporting a pair of bright orange thigh-length platform boots inside the stomach of an early shark. What the other fish thought of all this we can only conjecture, although in the same stratum of Devonian rock other nearby coelacanths appear to be rolling their eyes and tutting. The second fish to grow legs was a lungfish called Julie who went on to colonise the land wearing a pair of sturdy but dull loafers.

If you have enjoyed this blog why not go on to live a long and fulfilling life enriching the lives of those around you with innumerable acts of love and kindness? You could start by asking a question in the comments below…


  1. Since the construction of 'the gherkin' in London, sales of gherkins and other pickles have risen. So why aren't other vegetable-shaped buildings "cropping up" everywhere?

  2. I heard on the news that "fear of maths" is now being added as a "legitimate" phobia that might be treatable. Are there other lesser known we should know about?

    1. I meant to say: Are there other lesser known phobias we ought know about?

  3. What is the real meaning of traffic lights?

  4. Has anybody ever built a triple-decker bus? Or a double-decker car?

  5. Is the apostrophe becoming a banished mark in grammar? I see there replacing they're and its for it's (or worse dont for don't) in numerous texts, tweets, and emails. Is this some kind of bigger plot against the maligned point of punctuation? What's to be done?

  6. If we're not supposed to put cotton buds into our ears what exactly are we supposed to do with them? (I'm trusting you won't say anything smutty to this sincere and heartfelt question...)

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