Matt: If our temperature is 98.6, why do we feel hot when it’s 85 or 90 outside? — WS, San Diego
That 98.6 business isn’t what it appears to be. That’s an average core body temperature — how hot you are on the inside, not the outside. It’s a measure of the heat created as a by-product of all the body chemistry that keeps us functioning. Our outsides play a part in dissipating this heat so we don’t have a body-core house fire and destroy cells. Skin heat wafts off into the air and keeps our outer temperature much cooler than our innards. This means the gradient between air temp and skin temp is much shallower; they’re much closer together. The closer your skin temp and air temp are to each other, the harder it is for radiated heat to be carried away by the air (convection). So our bodies kick into second gear and start producing sweat to carry off even more heat through evaporation. Or you fan yourself to up the convection rate with moving air. A cold drink will also lower your core temp. The whole system is controlled by your brain’s hypothalamus, designed to make you feel “hot” and avoid a grisly meltdown, in which your core body cells die like shrimp on the barbie.
Hey Matthew: Is it my imagination, or do TV ads and some TV background music have telephone rings in them? I swear I hear the sound of a phone ringing sometimes when I’m watching TV. It doesn’t fool me into thinking my phone’s ringing, but it gets my attention. Sort of sends a little jolt through me. Or am I just hallucinating and taking the first step on a long trail that leads to schizophrenia? — Anonymous and worried, via email
Aha! Another tricky advertising trick exposed. Gotta watch those tricky advertising-trick guys. So you’re hanging around watching Dancing with the Stars or Dr. Who or something. You’re also eating a Philly cheese steak and texting your bestie and cruising iTunes. Advertisers and show producers know you’re doing this. How does a deodorant commercial stand a chance in this scenario? They must get your attention! It’s critical! They’ve paid a gajillion dollars for 30 seconds worth of air time in this show, so they can’t waste it! What to do, what to do...
There are certain sounds in the world that attract attention — a siren, a fart, stuff like that. But perhaps nothing compares to the sound of a phone ringing. (“Oh, goodie! It’s for me! Somebody wants to talk to me! I must respond! I’m not forgotten! I have friends! ”) And this is something that tricky adsters and show producers know, too. Those miserable tricksters.
According to a New York Times story, you won’t find anybody who will outright admit to using those elusive, high-pitched “phantom rings,” as they’re called. But they all admit that high-pitched sounds are becoming more prevalent in today’s carefully composed soundtracks — ads, TV shows, and movies. It’s well known throughout the industry that the human ear gives priority to high-pitched sounds such as babies crying or screams or other sounds of danger. Sounds can mess amazingly with our emotions and thoughts. And since our cell phones are now as significant as body parts for each of us, a high-pitched “phone-like” tone inserted into background music or a mix of sound effects will catch our attention every time. Even if, in the long run, we’re not tricked into thinking it’s our own phone, just the generic phone-ring snaps us out of whatever multitasking coma we’re in. With luck, we might pay attention to the TV to see where the sound came from. Mission accomplished.
A physics professor from McGill University further elucidates. These phantom rings and other similar sounds (such as real-life ambulance sirens) are in the 1000 hertz range. This tonal range is the most elusive when the human ear tries to locate the source. Recall the last time you were in traffic, heard a siren, but couldn’t tell where the sound was coming from. Anyway, the sound hijacks our attention. We are a great herd of manipulated sheep, and don’t let anybody tell you different.
Hey Matt: Why do some people call them “pancakes” while others refer to them as “flapjacks”? And which is the proper terminology in San Diego? I ask because I’ve never heard of an International House of Flapjacks (or an IHOF).— Shawn Higgins, San Diego
Pancakes are ancient and international. They have dozens and dozens of names, depending on where you are stuck to the globe. Even the U.S. calls them johnnycakes, hoecakes, griddle cakes, and on and on. But if you’re in a strict foodie home, you’ll be told that pancakes are light, fried flour and baking powder thingies, while flapjacks are thick and oaty and substantial enough for riders on the range and lumberjacks. Hoecakes are cornmeal. Johnnycakes might be, too, depending on where you live. Here in Sandy Aigo, though, we eat breakfast burritos.