(Illustration by Eric Shansby)

The other day I watched my dog steal second base. Murphy was romping on a high-school baseball diamond, and she sprinted the 90 feet between bases. True, she stole second base from third base, but we are not discussing her baseball acumen. We are discussing speed. At a dead run she seemed faster than a baseball player, which then got me wondering: Can a dog outrun Usain Bolt?

Back home I Googled “Can a dog outrun ... ” and instantly a drop-down menu suggested “Usain Bolt.” So it’s been wondered before. A lot!

So, what other odd prompts might Google offer in response to open-ended questions?

How much would it cost to ... build the Death Star from Star Wars?

Yes, this pressing issue has been robustly gnawed over by nerdsperts (including some from NASA). The fiscal projections range from $8.1 quadrillion to $14.6 septillion, both figures being tens of thousands of times larger than the combined gross domestic products of all countries on Earth. And cost is not even the greatest impediment. The Death Star is more than 60 miles in diameter; positing that it had the mass of a Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, the experts say it would require more steel than could be produced from iron and carbon available on Earth, so we would have to obtain the stuff by strip-mining asteroids, a project requiring unimaginable risks and un-invented technologies. So.


Can a dog outrun ... Usain Bolt?

Bolt could outrun Murphy, though it would be close, but Shakey Jakey would have him eating dust. In the 100-meter dash, Bolt motors at 27.78 mph, slightly faster than a typical big, athletic dog. But it’s nowhere near the top speed of a star greyhound like Shakey, who lives in Australia. Shakey ran only one race in his career, won it by an astonishing 22 lengths, and was retired to stud. At top speed, Shakey passes 40 on the radar gun.

Can women get ... prostate cancer?

Chickens don’t have elbows, and women don’t have prostates. Right?

Wrong. Roughly 10 years ago the Federative International Committee on Anatomical Terminology officially changed the name of the Skene’s gland, which only women have, to “the female prostate.” Why? Gender politics were likely involved. The Skene’s gland — which can become cancerous — has been lately found to be homologous to the male prostate in function, including the production of ejaculate. Feminists feel this fact gives more dignity to the female orgasm.

Also, chickens do have elbows.

Will anyone ever make ... a time machine?

Whether time travel is possible is huge on the Internet. The answer is highly speculative, but physicists sometimes offer an initially startling answer: “It is not only possible, it is happening. You are traveling through time right now. Your speed is one hour per hour.” Physicists are hilarious.

What is that thing called ... under your tongue?

Good question! It gets asked a lot, and judging from the chatter, most people not only do not really want to know the name of that thing, they do not want to acknowledge they have one. That is because, by rare consensus, it is the single creepiest visible part of the human body. It is as though God, who in general put all the foul, hideous stuff inside us, made a terrible mistake. Alternative theory: It is an alien fetus deposited into our faces and is now in larval state, trying to escape. Discussion of this thing turns normal people into children. It’s the “frenulum.”

How many cats … is too many?

One. That’s my answer, not the Internet’s. The Internet says five. My answer is based on my kitten, Barnaby, who not one hour ago walked onto my laptop and somehow irredeemably erased this entire column. I had to write it all over again.

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