The History of Going Commando and More Questions from Our Readers

Smithsonian curators also answer queries about how music affects your mood

Ask Smithsonian
Sounds that stimulate moods are probably related to memory and cultural values. Illustration by Elvis Swift

Does music really influence people’s moods?
Nick Saunders
Greensboro, North Carolina

Yes—but the same sounds can provoke very different responses. Among the Suyá/Kisedje Indians in Mato Grosso, Brazil, singing leads the performers to experience euphoria. Some of the women listening, however, will cry as they remember dead loved ones who enjoyed singing those songs. Which sounds stimulate which moods is probably related to memory and shared cultural values.
Anthony Seeger
Director Emeritus, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Were there efforts to reunite Virginia and West Virginia after the Civil War?
Mark Grupe
San Francisco, California

Yes. In October 1861, thirty-nine counties in Virginia not held by Confederate troops voted to secede and form a new state—West Virginia. At the end of the war, in 1865, the Virginia Assembly voted to nullify the West Virginians’ actions. That started a legal battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to decide the constitutionality of the case. Thus West Virginia won de facto recognition as a state.
James Barber
Historian, National Portrait Gallery

If the Persians had won the Greco- Persian Wars, how would our world be different?
Karima Brown Herd
Medford, Massachusetts

If the Persians had won those wars (which were fought between 499 and 449 B.C.), Greek ideas of art, philosophy and science likely would never have spread to become the foundation of Western civilization. We might be looking back to ancient Persia as the birthplace of democracy and reading the philosopher-poets Rumi and Omar Khayyam instead of Socrates and Plato.
Massumeh Farhad
Chief Curator, Freer and Sackler Galleries

Did Native Americans wear undergarments before contact with Europeans?
Kathleen Kelley
Sugarland, Texas

Not really—but then, neither did Europeans wear underwear before contact with Native Americans. American Indian men and women wore loin- or breechcloths, which might be considered undergarments or outer garments, depending on climate and tribal lifestyle. But what we deem “going commando” today was more the norm until the 18th century—among native peoples and Europeans.
Adrienne Smith (Cherokee/Muscogee Nations of Oklahoma)
Manager, ImagiNATIONS Activity Center, National Museum of the American Indian

When two spiral galaxies collide, as the Milky Way and Andromeda are projected to do in billions of years, and if they merge rather than glance off each other, will the two black holes at their centers also merge?
Marcia Ream
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Yes. Quite a few computer simulations demonstrate this outcome. But don’t worry; our solar system is too far away from the galactic center to be affected.
Pepi Fabbiano
Astrophysicist, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

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