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Our correspondent, Manny Costa, wonders why an automobile, laden with assorted crumbs, wouldn't be a buffet paradise for our little scampering friends. Mary H. Ross, professor of entomology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, isn't willing to state unequivocally that cockroaches are never found in cars, but she agrees it is rare. And she offers two main reasons why.
For one, cars may get too cold. Cockroaches dislike the cold and would refuse to stay in the car. Secondly, water is essential for cockroaches' survival and reproduction.
Richard Kramer, director of research, education, and technical resources at the National Pest Control Association, told us that while cockroaches require food every seven to ten days, they must take in water every three days. Perhaps a cockroach might be attracted to a stretch limousine with a leaky wet bar, but most of us don't drive limos.
If you really want to entice cockroaches into your automobile, Kramer suggests scattering your empty beverage cans alongside your array of crumbs--you may be able to "support a cockroach infestation for a limited period of time."
Submitted by Manny Costa of Warwick, Rhode Island.
Poor Mattel is being attacked from all sides. Many feminists have criticized Barbie for setting up unrealistic expectations among girls about what their bodies should look like. Mattel answers, understandably, that Barbie was created to be a fashion doll, a model-mannequin suitable for hanging a variety ofclothes upon. Of course, girls fantasize about themselves as Barbie, and this identification with the doll is precisely what the critics are worried about.
As if these complaints weren't enough for Mattel to worry about, here come six female Imponderables readers accusing the company of reverse discrimination. "What's the deal with Ken's hair?" they all wondered.
Informal chats with a gaggle of Barbie enthusiasts, both young and middle-aged, yielded the information that most girls are indifferent to Ken. To these fans, "Barbie doll" connotes visions of loveliness, while "Ken doll" evokes the image of the sterile figure atop wedding cakes.
Mattel's research indicates that there isn't much demand among girls for more realistic hair for Ken. Lisa McKendall, manager of marketing communications for Mattel, provides an explanation:
In general, the most popular play pattern with fashion dolls among young girls is styling the hair. That is why long, combable hair is such an important feature of fashion dolls. Since the Ken doll's hair is short, there is much less to style and play with, so having "realistic" hair has not been as important.
Needless to say, "Ken hair" is much cheaper for Mattel to produce, particularly because painted hair doesn't have to be "rooted" to the top of the doll's head.
The choice of hairstyles for the Barbie lines is not taken casually. Meryl Friedman, vice-president of marketing for Barbie consumer products, told Imponderables that the length and texture of dolls' hair depends upon which "segment," or line of Barbies, Mattel is conceptualizing. Friedman reports that the best-selling doll in the history of Mattel is the "Totally Hair Barbie" line. The Barbie in the Totally Hair line is ten and one-half inches long--and the doll is only eleven and one half inches tall. In this particular segment, even Ken has combable, if short hair, as McKendall explains:
. . . the Ken doll does have realistic-looking hair and actually comes with styling gel to create many different looks. A special fiber for the hair called Kankelon is produced specifically for us in Japan.
Friedman reports that in 1994, a Ken will be produced with longer hair.
Who says the men's liberation movement hasn't achieved anything?
Submitted by Dona Gray of Whiting, Indiana. Thanks also to Laura and Jenny Dunklee of Sutter Creek, California; Jessica Barmann of Kansas City, Missouri; Rebecca Capowski of Great Falls, Montana; and Nicole McKinley of Rochelle, Illinois.
Believe it or not, that little "o" is an artistic statement. According to Brenda F. Gatling, chief, executive secretariat of the United States Mint, the designer of the reverse side of the one-cent piece, Frank Gasparra, simply preferred the look of the little "o" alongside the big "F." And this eccentricity is not an anomaly; the Franklin half-dollar and several commemoratives contain the same, puny "o."
Submitted by Jennifer Godwin of Tyrone, Georgia.
We might not be white-knuckle fliers anymore, but let's put it this way: We're closer to a pale pink than a full-bodied red. So we're not too happy when we find ourselves sitting next to fearful fliers. Why is our fate in life always to be seated alongside a middle-aged passenger taking his or her first flight? Invariably, our rowmates quake when they hear the landing gear go up. And more than one has reacted to the chime signals as if they were a death knell; one skittish woman knocked our Diet Coke off our tray when she heard the chimes. She assumed that the three-chime signal must signify that our flight was doomed. Actually, all that happened of consequence was that our pristine white shirt soon resembled the coat of a dalmatian.
But we always have been curious about the meaning of these chime codes, so we contacted the three largest airlines in the United States--American, United, and Delta--to ask if they would decode the mystery. We were surprised at how forthcoming they were. Nevertheless, for the first time in the history of Imponderables, we are going to withhold some of the information our sources willingly provided, for two reasons. First, airline chime-signals vary not only from airline to airline but from plane to plane within companies, and today's signals are subject to change in the future. Second, every airline does have a code to signify a true emergency, and the airlines aren't particularly excited about the idea of passengers decoding such a signal before the cockpit crew has communicated with flight attendants. Airlines are justifiably concerned about readers confusing emergency signals with innocuous ones and confusing one company's codes with another's. We agree.
Michael Lauria, an experienced pilot at United Airlines, told Imponderables that he has never had to activate an emergency chime signal. He is much more likely to sound one chime, to indicate that the cockpit wishes to speak to the first-class cabin attendant or (two chimes) to the coach flight attendants. Even if Lauria's passengers are enduring particularly nasty turbulence, chances are that the cry for help from the cockpit, expressed by the chimes, is more likely to be for a coffee or a soda than for draconian safety measures.
The number of chimes is not the only way of differentiating signals. Some United planes emit different tone frequencies: a lower-tone chime is heard for a passenger call than for a crew call, and a "bing bong" indicates a call from one flight attendant to another.
American Airlines uses different chime configurations to inform attendants when they should prepare for landing, remain seated with seat belts fastened, and call the cockpit crew. Although American does have a designated emergency signal, like other airlines' it is rarely used.
Delta Airlines features an array of different chime signals, which specify events during a flight. For example, when the "fasten seat belt" signs are turned off, a double high-low chime marks the event. These chimes also tell the flight attendants what elevation the plane has attained. Even during uneventful flights, there are periods of "sterile cockpits," when attendants are not supposed to disturb the cockpit crew except in an emergency. Sterile cockpits occur during takeoff and landing, and even though domestic airlines no longer allow smoking anywhere on the plane, some airlines still use the turning off "no smoking" sign as the marker for when the pilots can be contacted freely.
On most Delta planes, each phone station has a select tone, so that on a widebody plane, the flight attendant can recognize who is calling, and the flight crew can call any one or all of the flight attendant stations at one time. Alison Johnson, manager of aircraft interiors for Delta, told Imponderables that during an emergency, it is important for the flight crew to be able to speak to flight attendants without causing panic among passengers. Obviously, if the entire staff is briefed, a game plan can be established before informing passengers about a potential problem.
Submitted by Gabe Wiener of New York, New York. Thanks also to Dr. Richard Presnell of Augusta, Georgia.