Hello and welcome to Science Solutions, the guide designed to help those students who have chosen classes in which effort, persistence and enthusiasm can result in ulcers.

Just kidding! We at Science Solutions recognize the importance of the sciences in everyday life; without calculus, it would be impossible to determine the number of people who attend Michigan Football games.

Therefore, we encourage readers struggling with math, biology, astronomy, chemistry, etc., to submit questions (as long as they don’t contain numbers), and we will do our best to provide accurate responses.

Only first names will be published so as to avoid embarrassment. As Einstein once said, “There are no stupid answers, only stupid questions, even if the people involved are traveling at the speed of light.”

With those inspiring words, let us begin.

Our first question is from Steven, a freshperson, who asks: “I’m in Math 115 and I have two stomach ulcers. Anyway, one of my homework questions is about heating a cold yam and finding an equation or something, so my question is, what is a yam and/or an equation?”

SS: Heating a cold yam is a problem that befuddles many students. In order to analyze the question effectively, it must be noted that a yam is a unique species of Antarctic penguin whose meat is considered a delicacy among polar scientists. Ergo, it should make sense that we want to heat the yam (it is best served heated). We hope this answers your question. And an “equation” is simply the Latin form of equinox, the point in time when the Sun is located directly above Antarctica.

Our next question comes from Allison, a sophomore, who says: “I also have a math question that concerns animals. I was taking a test and one of the problems asked us to model ‘a population of deer (a large mammal).’ Shouldn’t it read ‘a population of deer (a small to medium-sized mammal)’? I would consider a bear or a moose to be a large mammal, but not a deer.”

SS: A deer is a type of vegetable.

Eric, a freshperson who can bench 210 pounds, sends us this: “So in my astronomy class, we talked about the speed of light, and my GSI said light was so fast it could circle the Earth seven times in one second! I don’t think that’s possible. It’s not faster than the Internet, is it?”

SS: We agree with you entirely. For instance, imagine this scenario, or “thought experiment”: When someone turns a light bulb on in Australia, does it race around the globe at a zillion miles an hour and appear in your vision? Of course not. But can you receive an e-mail from down under? Absolutely.

Our next question comes from Lin, a senior: “I’m currently enrolled in a course about coral reefs. My professor is very nice, funny and knowledgeable, but he wears sandals. Is he a real
scientist?”

SS: Is that a serious question? You’re asking us to base a man’s
credibility, his reputation and perhaps even his life on his footwear?
That’s absurd. As anyone will tell you, the way to determine if a person is a scientist is whether or not they’re wearing glasses.

Lin: “What does that have to do with anything?”

SS: One question per person.

Alan, a sophomore, asks: “Is there any point in studying for a physics test? One time I studied for hours and scored a 31 percent before the curve; another time I didn’t study at all and got an 88 percent!”

SS: Your experience is a classic case of the Uncertainty Principle, a law created by the great Werner Heisenberg. In his usual eloquent fashion, Heisenberg states: “The Universe is crazy, man. I mean, supposedly intelligent, carbon-based life forms have been heating cold yams for thousands of years. Don’t expect anything to be certain.” We hope this answers your question, though we can’t be sure.

Our next question is from Burt, a junior, who wants to know: “How did whales evolve from wolves? It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard in my biology class!”

SS: What a stimulating question! If we do a bit of detective work, we find that the Old English word whalve (wolf), from the Latin wharwhalv (hairy), connoted an evil presence, the kind that eats humans. Consequently, early English mariners, upon seeing the mighty whales for the first time, cried out “Whalve! Whalve!” To a passing schooner, the wind made “whalve!” sound like whal, or “whale,” and the rest is history.

Our last question is Gale, a graduate student, who asks: “Have you taken any science courses whatsoever?”

SS: Of course not. We don’t want ulcers.

Will Grundler can be reached at sailgull@umich.edu.

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