Strange Q & A


Q: When researchers did a study of baseball players, was it the homerun hitters who lived the longest?

A: As much as homerun hitters have going for them, it was the players who hit it off well with others and hence with life who tended to gain the extra years, said David G. Myers in "Exploring Psychology: Ninth Edition." It has been manifestly confirmed happy people tend to be healthier and to outlive their unhappy peers. Even a big, happy smile can forecast longevity, as researchers discovered when examining photos of 150 Major League baseball players who appeared in the 1952 "Baseball Register" and who had died by 2009 (Abel & Kruger, 2010).

"On average, the nonsmilers had died at 73, compared with an average 80 years for those with a broad, genuine smile."

On the other hand, pessimism can be toxic. As noted by Laura Kubzansky and colleagues, even after other risk factors such as smoking have been ruled out, pessimists are twice as likely as optimists to develop coronary heart disease. Other studies have shown in the year following a heart attack, depressed people were about four times more likely to experience further heart problems. As Myers puts it, "depression is disheartening."

Or think of it this way: Happiness is heartening in more ways than one.

Q:Is it possible for a ball to bounce higher than the height from which it was dropped? How would a baseball do in this test?

A: No ball will bounce back 100 percent, not even a superball, which will return about 81 percent of its height off a hard surface, said Louis Bloomfield in "How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life." An ideally elastic ball would have a ratio of exactly 1, rebounding to its initial height, but a real ball wastes some of its collision energy and rebounds to a lesser height. For example, a racket ball will return 72 percent, a golf ball 67 percent, a basketball 64 percent. The loss of energy, and speed, during the collision of a basketball with the backboard makes it easier for the ball to drop into the basket after it bounces than before.

As for the baseball, its rebound energy is only 0.3 times its collision energy, so it will rebound to only 30 percent of its original height.

"Without that dramatic energy loss during a bounce, baseball pitchers would need to wear armor ... Baseballs could be made so lively that every game would be a homerun derby. Just think of all the asterisks!"

Q: What makes the "pronghorn" -- named for its unique cross between horns and antlers -- such a fast runner and an endurance runner to boot?

A: Pronghorns are native to the prairies of North America, and though running animals normally specialize either in endurance or sprinting speed, the pronghorn masters both, topping out at 55 mph while being able to sustain 25-35 mph for up to 12 miles, reports "Science Illustrated" maga zine. Though its build is somewhat stiff, the pronghorn can take steps up to 25 feet long. Its heart is extremely big for an animal its size -- twice the size of a deer's heart -- and so can pump blood and oxygen quite effic iently. Another running adaptation is its deep chest, affording plenty of space for its large oxygenating lungs. Its skinny legs are 3 feet long, ample enough to keep its body high up out of prairie grass, which could slow it down, and these lightweight legs move back and forth with remarkable quick ness. Put it together, the magazine says, and the pronghorn just may be "the best runner of all animals."

Or, in the words of one San Diego Zoo website, the pronghorn is probably the fastest mammal of the "New World," while the cheetah may win in the "Old World."

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