Silly Question: Telling some ox tales

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The Independent Culture
OXTAILS and the weather have aroused great interest during the past week. Nick Kimber had queried the scarcity of oxen despite huge quantities of oxtail soup. Dr Alan Long replies with a history of oxtails 'raised in a feat of fine muscular coordination to herald a triumph of bovine excretion' and assures us that the tails are removed only from dead beasts.

May Rhodes says that the soup is only stirred with an oxtail, still attached and thus reusable. A J Clayden, however, claims that scientific techniques have bred a species which periodically shed their tails.

The most logically consistent reply comes from R Isaacs, who informs us that the rest of the ox is cut up into cubes. 'This also explains why you never see tails on Oxo cubes' he says.

Robert Young asked why, if hot air rises, it gets colder the higher you go. Professor Roy Ward gives a complete explanation, which summarises as follows: Short-wave solar radiation heats the earth's surface, which transmits long- wave radiation to the atmosphere, leading to a temperature gradient away from the earth's surface. Rising parcels of warm air lose heat through expansion, but at a different rate to the temperature gradient mentioned above. In unstable conditions, hot air parcels continue rising, leading to clouds and rain, particularly when Amanda Cottam is wearing her brown shoes.

Fran Sinclair detects a false assumption: 'I wash my hair: it rains', she says. 'This is cause and effect. It is the purest of coincidences that Amanda Cottam wears her brown shoes on the same day.'

Malcolm Brooks of the Met Office, after quoting Charles' and Boyle's laws to explain the problem ends: 'I can't answer Ms Cottam's question, but would she please let us know when and where she is going to wear her brown shoes.' To be safe, we'll put him in touch with Ms Sinclair too.

This week's questions:

If cloth was rationed during the last war, why did men wear baggy trousers? (Iain Cowan)

Why do we never see a lavatory on the Starship Enterprise? (C Dye)

Why are triangular sandwiches consider posher than square ones? (George Oliver)

Answers to: Silly Questions, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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