Where Did Yodeling Originate and More Questions From Our Readers

You asked our experts, we got the answers

Ben Kirchner

Where did yodeling originate?
Joseph Gingell
Gilbert, Arizona

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.
Daniel Sheehy
Director and Curator, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Why do dogs see in black and white?
Karima Herd
Medford, Massachusetts

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.
Don Moore
Associate Director of Animal Care Sciences, National Zoo

Did Native Americans learn scalping from European settlers?
Bernadette Ayala
Deltona, Florida

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.
Mary Ahenakew
Cultural Information Specialist, American Indian Museum
George Gustav
Heye Center, New York City

Do animals brought up from the seafloor suffer ill effects, such as the bends, from the change in pressure?
Theron Schultz
Madison, Wisconsin

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!
Carole Baldwin
Marine Zoologist, Natural History Museum

Why can’t we on Earth see the far side of the Moon?
Susan Ortiz
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.
David DeVorkin
Senior Curator, Division of Space History, Air and Space Museum

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