Leading article: Ask a sensible question...

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The Independent Online

It's cheering news that Does Anything Eat Wasps?, a collection of readers' questions answered over the years by New Scientist magazine, is becoming this Christmas's surprise literary hit.

Disinterested curiosity is a valuable quality for all of us, at any age: encouraging powers of observation, mental alertness and an informed scepticism. The rise in popularity of the pub quiz shows that a well-stocked and inquiring mind is still considered an admirable asset in this country.

Children are constantly asking simple questions such as "Why is the sky blue?" - the answer to which, if pursued long enough, can take one to rarefied levels of physics.

Scientists realise that the questions they address remain constant; it's just the answers that change and become more complex. To ask "How long could you live on beer?" is the beginning of wisdom.