Where did yodeling originate?
In his book Kühreichen oder Kühreigen: Yodeling and Yodeling Song in Appenzell (1890), the scholar Alfred Tobler reports that the first documented reference to yodeling in Europe was as early as 1545. But yodeling can be heard in Persian classical music, African Pygmy music, Scandinavian music, the Mexican son huasteco and other musical traditions. Such a range suggests it originated millennia ago and in an indeterminable place.
Director and Curator, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Why do dogs see in black and white?
Actually, they don’t. They are red-green colorblind—the canine eye lacks one of the three types of color-discerning cone cells in the human eye—but they can see colors, just on a narrower, less vibrant spectrum than we see.
Associate Director of Animal Care Sciences, National Zoo
Did Native Americans learn scalping from European settlers?
No. But note that only a few tribes took enemy scalps as trophies of war; many Native people considered the practice repugnant. English and French colonists encouraged it by offering bounties to Indians, first for Indian scalps and then for the scalps of the colonists’ white enemies. The ritual became part of the American Indian stereotype through early frontier literature and Hollywood westerns.
Cultural Information Specialist, American Indian Museum
Heye Center, New York City
Do animals brought up from the seafloor suffer ill effects, such as the bends, from the change in pressure?
It depends on whether the animal has an enclosed air sac. Most shallow and semi-deep fishes have enclosed sacs, called gas bladders or swim bladders, for buoyancy control. If you rapidly reel in a fish from 100 or 200 feet deep, the bladder will expand and may even be partially forced out of the mouth. But deep-sea fishes lack an air bladder—it wouldn’t do them any good because, at depth, the air would be squeezed out by water pressure—and would suffer no pressure-related problems. Temperature change might be a bigger issue. It’s cold down deep!
Marine Zoologist, Natural History Museum
Why can’t we on Earth see the far side of the Moon?
San Antonio, Texas
Because the Moon’s rotation on its axis has become tidally locked in its revolution around the Earth. This took hundreds of millions, if not billions, of years. As the Earth’s ocean tides moved with the Moon, they braked the Earth’s rotation a teeny bit; this lost rotational energy was transferred to the Moon, which gained revolutionary oomph, and thereby moved slowly but surely farther from the Earth, to the point where the bodies became tidally locked.
Senior Curator, Division of Space History, Air and Space Museum