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On a recent afternoon around the lunch counter, my colleagues and I were discussing the attributes of the chicken egg when someone asked, "Which end of the egg comes out first, the round end or the pointed end?" Of course we all took a position, and while wagering of serious money did not take place, our reputations are on the line. I naturally thought of you to answer this question. --Mark Olson, Las Vegas, Nevada

This is what comes of too many hours playing the nickel slots. According to Cornell University professor Kavous Keshavarz, poultry czar on the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board, the egg initially moves through the chicken's oviduct small end first. When it reaches the uterus, however, it hardens (that is, the shell calcifies), rotates 180 degrees, and makes the rest of the trip big end first. This may sound like doing it the hard way, but actually it's the most efficient way to push the egg. When the muscles of the chicken's uterine and vaginal walls squeeze the egg's small (i.e., back) end, it squirts forward and out into the cold, cruel world.

BEEFS

I was amused at your whimsical attitude toward mind-control devices [January 19]. I am not writing to tell you that I was taken to "AREA 51" for tests, nor was I implanted with what in some circles is referred to as the "DOMINATOR," but I am requesting more information on this Mary B. in Plano, Texas. By the way, the chips are implanted into humans through the nose and as far as cars, LOJACK is only the beginning, and how about Ameritech with its phone lines bugging your whole house while you think they are "protecting" you? Are these all not examples of the power authority watching you and I? I did find your work stimulating, although a bit short on available facts and figures, but then again, who reads this thing? People who have an open mind to conspiracy theory or Euro slut trash who are only interested in the here and now? --T. Swanson, Downers Grove, Illinois

Well, at least now we know all the nuts aren't in Texas.

I have a theory that should put to rest this President Carter/killer rabbit thing once and for all [November 10]. I propose that the president's antagonist was not a rabbit but a nutria (Myocastor coypus). The world's largest rodent, the nutria is semiaquatic with webbed hind feet and is very aggressive. Native to South America and valued for its durable fur, the nutria was introduced into the southern United States in the last century and quickly became a well-established pest species. A partially submerged nutria (a lightning-fast swimmer) would look very similar to a rabbit. Its lack of long, rabbitlike ears could easily be overlooked in the fog of battle.

I hope this serves to partially rehabilitate the much-maligned 39th president. --Thomas Canaday, San Francisco, California

You think being attacked by the "world's largest rodent" is an improvement? Then again, it had to give him a taste of what it would be like fending off Ted Kennedy. Incidentally, the nutria isn't the world's largest rodent. The honor, such as it is, goes to the capybara, 110 pounds of pure ugly. Jimmy should count his blessings.

Knowing that your reputation and authority derive from your attention to accuracy, I hate to see you make even the smallest misstatement of fact. In your column of November 3 you stated, "Although the Social Register declined to be specific, I gather it's like the Masons--you have to be invited." You should know that in order to become a Mason a man is not invited. In fact, the first step in becoming a Mason is to ask a Mason how to join the fraternity. The interested person is then given a membership petition to submit to a lodge in his locality. He must also be recommended by Masons in good standing. A committee reviews the petition and interviews the petitioner. Once the committee report is submitted, the lodge votes on whether to accept or reject the petition. If a petition is accepted, the candidate proceeds to be initiated. --James Rader, Past Master, University Lodge Number 1190, AF&AM, Austin, Texas

Cecil could have sworn he had a file in his vast database saying you had to be invited to join the Masons, but he can't find it. No matter. I'm happy to set the record straight. Inasmuch as noted Mason Bob Dole might be president someday, this is one crowd you do not want to tick off.

--CECIL ADAMS

Is there something you need to get straight? Cecil Adams can deliver the Straight Dope on any topic. Write Cecil Adams at the Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611, or E-mail him at cecil@chireader.com.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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