Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 4.28.09

Why is the sky blue?  Why can’t dogs talk? When I taste bleu cheese, how can I know if I taste the same thing everyone else tastes? (And, if I do, why do you people eat that??)  Will I ever be able to travel like TV Mike did in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?

Anyone have simple, easy-to-understand answers for the invariably curious kids today?

(ok fine, or for me?  why does ANYONE eat bleu cheese, seriously?)

a.real.girl

A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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49 Comments

  1. Easiest answer: Go ask your mother.

    And why do people eat bleu cheese? It must be a side-effect of vaccinations! Vaccinations cause autism, swine flu, AND they cause you to enjoy yucky foods like bleu cheese and spinach! Popeye’s powers are a genetic mutation caused by vaccines! Because they! are! bad!
    :D

  2. I eat Blue Cheese (Stilton mostly) because I like the taste. It takes all sorts I suppose. Some people believe you can get Cheese out of a spray can.

    The sky’s blue due to rayleigh scattering of light by nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere. NOT Blue Cheese falling to earth from the moon

  3. I do like blue cheeses, too. Maybe you’re just having the crappy kind. ;)

    (Seriously, Danish Blue is awesome. Spain makes a pretty decent one that I can never remember the name of, as well.)

  4. The sky is blue, because the air is colored blue. (Technically true; aside from Rayleigh scattering, the air itself is made up of gases which are slightly blue by themselves.)

    Dog’s cant talk because they don’t have a voicebox like me and you! (Again, ignoring the fully developed hyoid bone we have and the other accoutrements nature has given us for locution, a puppy’s voicebox just ain’t shaped to make the noises we make.)

    I like bleu cheese! And to be quite honest, I don’t really know if you”taste” the same way I do. On your tongue, the chemicals for “bleu cheese flavor” interact with the taste buds just like they would on mine, and in our brains pretty much the same parts react to the sensation. As to why you don’t like it, it’s probably because you’re weird! Nah-nah!

    Traveling from one spot into another instantly sounds cool, but you probably wouldn’t like like being taken apart at one end and slapped back together on the other! Especially if you end up, itsy-bitsy!

    Now let Uncle MiddleMan get some work done!

  5. Answering these as if talking to my five-year-old…

    Light from the sun gets scattered when it passes through the air. The blue part gets scattered more and make the sky look blue. The red part gets scattered least and that’s why sunsets look red.

    Their brains and mouths don’t work that way. Most animals can’t talk. Humans are the odd ones out.

    Probably not. Everybody has roughly the same sense of taste and smell but it’s different enough that some people like things other people don’t.

    Probably not. It would take a huge amount of energy and computing power to beam someone from one place to another. Maybe sometime in the future but not any time soon.

    I happen to like the taste of bleu cheese, especially Stilton. It probably tastes different for me than it does for you.

  6. Count me in as a blue-cheese-fan (Danish Blue specifically). As for the Star Trek/Willy Wonka style transporter, is it possible, quite likely. Is it a good idea, I’m not so sure. Would you still be the ‘same’ person with the same consciousness, or would the transporter-copy be an exact (non-continuous) replica with your memories? What happens if the ‘pattern’ gets corrupted or degraded in transmission? Could you make multiple copies of the same pattern (clones, in effect)?

    I think that matter>energy inversion and transmission will be great for moving relatively simple inanimate objects around (imagine getting your stuff delivered by transporter!), but not so good for complex or living things.

  7. It’s beyond me why people eat bleu cheese! It looks nasty, MOLD, and the one time I tried t it tasted less than spectacular. Also it gave me a three-hour migraine of hiding under a blanket from the light, sobbing in pain, in a trailer with two little girls under the age of ten. That was NOT fun.

  8. People like bleu c cheese because it is an acquired taste, and acquired taste is the same reason people eat everything else that taste like shit. You have to eat it when you hate it, and after eating it while hating it for who knows how long, your body will trick you into liking it to shield your mind from the taste. Even if you think you like bleu cheese, your mind is just protecting you by fooling itself that it actually likes it.

  9. I read somewhere once (always an authoritative source) that people do taste things differently. Some people are genetically predisposed to not find bitter flavors as unpleasant as others. These bitter-liking people tend to seek out and relish intense flavors like dark coffee, bleu cheese, anchovies, Vegemite, dark chocolate, and so on. I’m like this and so is everyone in my family. I swear someday I will make a sausage and Vegemite pizza!

    I have a great explanation for blue sky that kids love. Say to the kid, “Suppose you’re the sky, and I have a ping-pong-ball launcher. Each ball represents a bit of blue light. I’m going to unload a major stream of ping-pong balls at you. What’s going to happen?” Eventually you can work around to the fact that the balls are going to go every which way and the ones that come back towards me I’ll be able to see. Now for red light; suppose I have a bowling-ball launcher…

  10. Why is the sky blue?
    It’s something to do with how the stuff in the deep sky reflects/refracts the light hitting it.

    Why can’t dogs talk?
    Their larynx don’t support that function, and their brains, AFAIK, don’t support the ability to learn complex sentence structure/syntax.

    When I taste bleu cheese, how can I know if I taste the same thing everyone else tastes? (And, if I do, why do you people eat that??)
    #1 You can’t.
    #2 I think a fascinating thing here would be to find out if the taste-smelling process that happens inside the mouth and back-of-throat of a person that likes bleu cheese and a person that dislikes bleu cheese is similar or different. My default assumption would, of course, be that it’s similar, but I could be wrong.

    Besides that, the other reason why two different people might not like bleu cheese is, of course, that outside of salt/sour/sweet/bitter, taste (which not counting the aforementioned categories is really smell) is highly subjective. I mean even if the smell-at-back-of-throat process is the same for all people, how an individual interprets a given smell-taste varies greatly depending on their background, what their mom fed them as a child, and who knows what else.

    Will I ever be able to travel like TV Mike did in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?
    Probably not. Well… Ok, if you can figure out how to create a device as small as a quarter capable of putting out enough Joules/s to powering New York City for a year, then maybe we can make something snazzy with rockets. Rockets are nifty. Sadly, from what I’ve seen, rockets are also *not* very reliable, so you’d better bring a parachute and have your will updated before you take off.


    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  11. Addendum: The ability to edit comments would be nice.
    I made some typos, sorry about that.

    I also answered the Willie Wonka question incorrectly because I misread it. I thought you were asking about the contraption at the end of the movie that Charlie and Willie were flying around it.

    As for the TV Mike transmission thing: Really, really highly doubtful. You still have the problem of where-in-the-world will you get all that energy, but now you also have the problem of how-in-the-world do you record the exact, complete structure of a complex object, and how do you rebuild it somewhere else? (note: the destroying-the-object part is pretty easy. :-) )


    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  12. @MarlowePI: No really, it’s the most amazing martini you will ever have! Get a large pimento stuffed martini olive and remove the pimento and then stuff with soft room temp Roquefort cheese and put in the fridge for a while to firm up. Then make a really cold dry martini with frozen gin and a bit of lemon peel. The flavor of the gin goes perfectly with the salty blue cheese flavor…, Guaranteed!

  13. And to answer the AI just tell the kids that yes, Mr. Peabody was a talking dog with a PhD and he invented the Way-back Machine, which can take you back in time and could probably make you smaller, but is not likely change the color of the sky. Now go back and watch your cartoons while I’m busy with this martini.

  14. @marilove:

    A friends two-year-old begged for the bottle of homemade stout dad was drinking. It was down to the yeasty sediment so dad figured, “Why not? Teach the kid a life lesson.” Kid took a sip, made a face, then downed the rest. Chip off the old block.

  15. The sky is turquoise (I’m colourblind) and I understand the physics but I still don’t know why !
    My dog could talk me in to taking him for walks in the rain, And he told me that blue cheese tastes metallic and is good for you, and you know how dogs have a superior sense of smell… not sure about their taste , they do eat there own sick !!

  16. The sky is blue because if it were green we wouldn’t know where to stop mowing.

    Dogs can’t talk like humans the same way humans can’t bark like dogs.

    You can’t.

    No.

    Isn’t it past your bedtime baby buddha?

  17. Bleu cheese is a very powerful flavor. I don’t really enjoy eating it straight unless it’s a milder variety. But I occasionally use it to complement other flavors. It is excellent, for instance, on a burger or steak.

  18. The sky is blue because the painting contractor had a ton of blue paint left over from some pool jobs.

    Dogs don’t talk because they are shy about their high, squeaky voices.

    We’re not sure if everyone experiences the same thing when they taste the same thing. Once we figure out how to swap brains between bodies, we’ll be able to answer that question.

    People eat blue cheese when they run out of green cheese.

    You will only be able to travel like TV Mike if you are willing to face the Taffy Room afterwards.

    The duck is there because that’s where the duck wants to be.

    Those are my stories, and I’m sticking to them.

  19. “Transporters” – Many proponents of this supposed future technology cite how we so easily move data all over the place, over wires, radio waves, lasers, etc. But the fact is, we _don’t_ move data. We copy it to a new location, and then delete the original. Many a SF story has dealt with this. However, they always have to contrive a reason for the “delete” part. In Trek, I think, in order to “read” a living thing, you had to destroy it, or something. But that’s silly. Even if it was true, would you consent to die so a copy of you could do fun stuff at a place you couldn’t get to?

    Like FTL, I don’t think this one is going anywhere, ever, no matter how advanced our tech gets.

    Advanced future Homeopathy, OTOH, will almost certainly be able to provide teleportation, FTL, and unlimited Blue Cheese.

  20. You know what an absolutly delicous and really easy to prepare meal is? Roast one head of garlic for every two dinners, then serve that with warm crusty bread and about 2 0z of strong bleu cheese per dinner, pair this with bottles of chianti, if anyone wants desert serve thin slices of dark chocolate with either strong black coffee or frangelico. You alternate the bleu cheese with all of the roasted garlic spread on the warm crusty bread. Sips of wine and it is so delicious. This can be as intimate as a couple or as large as you want to make it.

  21. Blue cheese is awesome. I will not listen, I will brook no argument.
    Also, since martinis are being discussed, I must say that my current favorite is the vesper, (a la casino royale, with my own modifications.)
    1 oz. gin
    3 oz. vodka
    1/4 oz. lillet blanc
    dash of orange bitters (I like regans #6)
    all ingredients in shaker, shake. make a nice, big, oval piece of orange peel, and spritz the inside of your cocktail glass with the oil in the peel. rub the peel around the rim. strain the drink into the glass, drop the peel in. Mmmmm. 4 oz. of booze in one tasty cocktail.
    (Though I am also a big fan of the classic gin martini, and I will try blue cheese stuffed olives immediately)

  22. @Gabrielbrawley:
    I am so hungry now. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but a great dessert is to pour a bit of dark chocolate sauce into a wine glass, tilting the glass and rotating it to coat the inside of the glass. now pour in some good ruby port, and enjoy.

  23. I should not be allowed near kids because I cannot help but answer all of their questions with outrageous lies and make up elaborate stories with faked evidence. (Like the Undershirt Fairy who brings your first training bra. Or Shoe Harvest Day when your new shoes are finally ripe and can be plucked from the shoetree.)

    “Did you just ask why dogs can’t talk? Hrmm. Maybe dogs just don’t like you. The sky is blue because it’s a boy. What do you mean you don’t like bleu cheese? Your tongue must be broken and we ought to take you to the doctor to get that checked out.”

    Awful I know, but hey — no one asks Aunt Lizzie to babysit.

  24. To paraphrase Einstein, to the extent that an answer to a curious kid’s question is simple, it is not true; to the extent that it is true, it is not simple.

    As for bleu cheese, even some proponents would classify it as a stinky cheese, or even, perish the thought, as smelling of feet. So if we don’t experience it the same way, perhaps we experience it in kind (I’ve never heard of anyone describing a bleu cheese as smelling of roses or apple blossoms).

    Now, is it wrong that I am looking forward to the weekend to have a dinner of bleu-cheese olive martinis and chocolate-and-port dessert?

    P.S., To speak of Stilton as being merely a bleu cheese is to speak of Guinness as being merely beer, or for the sadly limited palate, to speak of chocolate as being “tasty.”

  25. Bleu d’Auvergne is my favorite which comes from the same French region that gives us Cantal and Saint Nectaire cheeses (among others). I like a nice chunk with thinly sliced, juicy pears.

    I agree that it seems that some folks hate bitter flavors like my husband–bitterness can be an harbinger for possible poison. We joke that if we lived in the times of foraging, I would probably poison myself and my tribe with the ‘fruits’ of my foraging labors, while he would starve his tribe because he would avoid a lot of nutritious though bitter tasting foods.

    I just gag looking at him eating his sweets (he can eat them and remain thin also). He gags as I mix chopped black olives, anchovies, chili peppers, crushed garlic, chopped mushrooms, bleu cheese bits, and yogurt all together and gobble it down.

    As far as kids asking tons of questions, I will often say, that it is a very interesting question, and if I don’t know the answer that I will look it up and get back to them. They learn, I learn. Total win. Other times, I suggest they ask their parents (Why should I have all the fun?)

  26. @Jimmy: Actually, I looked it up, and the one I’m thinking of is Valdeon. It’s from the same region, but it’s cured. I love the slightly spicier taste it gets from the curing process. The effect is a bit peppery.

  27. Dogs do talk. They talk in Dog. Let’s go to the dog park and see if we can understand what they are saying!

    Because you say it tastes like the same things I say it tastes like. But you may not like the same tastes that I do. Hey… lets do some taste tests and see what different foods taste like other foods!

    I don’t think we’ll be able to send you places with a TV camera, ever. We might leave something out!

    The sky is blue because blue pigment was the cheapest.

  28. @junco: That recipe will make my weekend anticipation all the sweeter (or bitter but that doesn’t read as well). Thanks!

    @Logicel: Indeed Bleu d’Auvergne is quite wonderful. I tried an Irish blue a couple of weeks ago at the suggestion of my cheese monger and it was very impressive.

  29. To quote and old filk song:

    ‘Nuclear fusion makes the stars to shine/ Tropisms make the ivy twine/
    Raleigh scattering makes the sky so blue/
    And gonads and hormones are why I love you.’

    I would point out that dogs do talk; we just don’t understand. [If asked why they don’t speak English: Well, dogs aren’t allowed in ESL classes because they won’t sit quietly at a desk.]

    Lots of things taste different to other people. That’s why spinach makes Mummy sick up. [It does, infallibly. The taste of spinach is beyond bitter to me – something about a TAS2R38 variation and 6-n-Propylthiouracil.] But a good Stilton with some cranberry/apple jam is a tongue’s delight.

    No, you can’t travel like that, but you can use Mummy’s frequent flyer miles, which is almost as good, and the nice airplane people will serve you soda and peanuts, which Willy Wonka never did.

  30. I tell my six year old daughter that dads really don’t like looking stupid and so if they don’t know the answer to a child’s question they will make one up. I tell her I do it to her too. She’s shaping up to be a pretty good skeptic.

    “Once upon a time, a small child asked how the world was made and the child’s father, who didn’t know much about science, made up a story about a magician called God.
    “And that’s why your mother goes to chuch”

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