These are the kinds of questions that got me put into the "special class" in school...

Is the Internet Causing Obesity?

Ordering products online usually saves time, and often saves money. It also saves calories. You hit a few keys, click the mouse, and open your door to receive the parcel. Calories burned: about 25. Before the Internet, you had to get in your car, drive to the mall, park, walk to the shop, carry the stuff to your car, drive home - maybe stop for gas - and open the front door for the second time. Calories burned: about 200. If you average two online purchases per week, you'll avoid burning 17,500 calories over a year. That's equivalent to about five pounds of body fat. If ten million people do this - a very conservative estimate - there will be about 25,000 tons of extra fat accumulating every year in the US alone. The cure: every time you place an online order, get on your treadmill for twenty minutes.

Is it Time to De-criminalize Sex?

Outlawing prostitution is a relatively modern social practice. Most ancient cultures, so far as I am aware - at least the pre-Christian ones - treated it as an ordinary form of commerce. Western societies have demonized it and prosecuted it for so long that it has become a taken-for-granted part of our moral and legal codes. But longevity doesn't make it any more sensible or logical. The principle seems to be: you can charge a person money to do an unimaginable range of intimate things to his or her body, except giving them an orgasm. You can cut their hair, drill holes in their teeth, remove parts of their body, enlarge other parts, vacuum fat from under their skin, encase them in mud, rearrange their bones and joints, massage them, inscribe indelible pictures onto their skin - but you can't give them an orgasm for pay. You can do it for free, but if they pay you to do it, you can both go to jail. I don't get it.

The Ancient Greeks Would Have Loved McDonalds

Historians tell us that the Roman Empire was beginning its rise to glory at roughly the same time that classic Greek culture was declining - give or take a few centuries. The Greeks were consummate architects and sculptors, but the Romans became consummate engineers. Curiously, the ancient Greeks never developed the arch - the absolutely fundamental feature of almost all Roman structures, and later the defining feature of Gothic cathedral building. As a result, Greek buildings - think, for example, of the famous Parthenon, the temple to Athena, patron goddess of Athens - had to have lots of columns. The maximum distance between any two columns was limited by the strength of the stone beams that spanned their tops. All types of stone are very strong in compression, but relatively weak in tension, or bending. Roman arch-based structures, such as the famous aqueducts in Segovia, Spain, still stand after nearly 2,000 years. Perhaps even more curiously, the Incas of Peru didn't invent the arch, either, even though experts consider them to have been some of the most skilled stone masons in history. Up until the time of their fall at the hands of Francisco Pizarro in the sixteenth century, they still built narrow doorways, hallways, and chambers with post and beam designs.

Political Deadlock: Count Your Blessings

Many Americans are currently distressed, disappointed, and disgusted with their political leadership in Washington. Destructive deadlock seems to be the order of the day, and probably will remain so for quite some time to come. However, there may be a perverse up-side to all of the un-statesmanly behavior: it could be worse. Humorist Will Rogers said "You ought to be glad you're not getting all the government you're paying for." I find the idea an efficient government to be a rather terrifying thought. Perhaps the founders of the republic set up the system of "checks and balances," knowing the awful consequences that might occur if one of the major houses of government were to come under the control of a skillful political operator - or party - with despotic ambitions. The political system they designed almost guarantees a slow-moving, bureaucratic, unimaginative process that resists the influence of both talent and ambition. It's a system that's amazingly resilient to human dumbness and human perversity. As much as I'd like to see more intelligent effort and more intelligent solutions, on most days I take a certain comfort in knowing that they're all tied together at the ankles.

Why Don't We Have Women "Juniors?"

The custom of giving male children the same first names as their fathers has been around for a long time in Western societies. Two pairs of US presidents - the Adams's and the Bushes, were "senior" and "junior" versions. When people speak of "John F. Kennedy Jr.," they invoke the long shadow of the charismatic martyred president as they refer to the son. Yet it's exceedingly rare for a woman to bear the same first name as her mother. To refer to someone as "Mary Jones, Jr." - even before she marries and possibly gives up her family name - would seem so strange as to be somehow socially unacceptable. The question seems to be one that conjures up all sorts of determined attempts to "make sense" of society, to "explain" why things are the way they are. And yet it might just be one of those unanswerable ones: that's just the way it is.

Karl Albrecht is a management consultant and author of more than 20 books on professional achievement, organizational performance, and business strategy. He studies cognitive styles and the development of advanced thinking skills. He is the author of many books including Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success, Practical Intelligence: the Art and Science of Common Sense, and Mindex Thinking Style Profile. The Mensa society honored him with its lifetime achievement award, for significant contributions by a member to the understanding of intelligence. Originally a physicist, and having served as a military intelligence officer and business executive, he now consults, lectures, and writes about whatever he thinks would be fun.


About the Author

Karl Albrecht Ph.D.

Karl Albrecht, Ph.D., is the author of more than 20 books, including Practical Intelligence: the Art & Science of Common Sense.

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