Curiosity Corner: This and That

From the file of This and That

Curiosity Corner


Dr. Jerry D. Wilson

Emeritus Professor of Physics

Lander University

Some short questions and answers, which I hope you find interesting.

Question: Why do we say a “pair” of pants?

Reply: We do “pair” in other instances, too, for example, a pair of shorts or panties. (Pair of shoes – OK, there are two of them.) The use of the plural for pants goes back to old tailoring days. In those days, breeches (or britches) were made in two parts, one for each leg. The pieces were put on each leg and tied or belted at the waist. The “pair” usage lived on after the garments were made in one piece.

Good thing they didn’t make shirts separately for each arm or we would have a pair of shirts.

Question: Throughout life, what organ gradually diminishes in size?

Reply: A small organ beneath the breastbone, called the thymus, gets smaller as a person gets past puberty. It grows from 15 grams at birth to 35 grams at puberty, and then gradually decreases in size and mass. It may be only 6 grams at the age of 70. The function of the thymus is uncertain, but it is believed to play a role in a person’s immune system, which appears to decrease with age.

Question: What is the Bermuda Triangle?

Reply: This is a triangular area formed by southern Florida, the Bermuda Islands and Puerto Rico. Ships and aircraft have vanished when passing through this area, seemingly without a trace. The earliest recorded disappearance was that of a ship in 1918. Probably the most famous incident was that of Flight 19 in December 1945. A squadron of five Navy torpedo

bombers with 14 crewmen left Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., then disappeared after radioing several distress calls. A seaplane sent to search for the squadron also disappeared. Airliners and passengers disappeared in 1948 and 1951, and a tanker ship disappeared in 1963.

There has been a lot written on the Bermuda Triangle, with various explanations … bad weather, faulty compasses or magnetic variations of some sort, inexperience, etc., even some sinister, unknown force or abduction by some extraterrestrial beings.

I have no idea. Beam me up Scotty.

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): Life is like drawing without an eraser. –Anon

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or e-mail Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to

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