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Cracker Jack comes back, Railroad gauges arise again, Another problem with a car name, Mouth device fights obesity

by K. M. REESE
June 14, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 24


Cracker Jack comes back

The New York Yankees baseball team has countermanded its decision to stop selling Cracker Jack during ball games at Yankee Stadium (C&EN, May 31, page 48). Corey Kilgannon reports in the June 3 New York Times that the Yankees' chief operating officer, Lonn Trose, said, "The fans have spoken."

Frito-Lay, which owns Cracker Jack, had started to package the caramel popcorn-peanut snack in paper bags instead of boxes, but still with a prize inside. Bags, it is said, tend to break and don't sell as well as boxes, so the Yankees opted out, until the fans sounded off.

Reporter Kilgannon spoke with Kate Raffo, 18, a college student, who said: "It's good to see them [Cracker Jack] back. I'm glad the Yankees listened to the fans." Frito-Lay sells Cracker Jack to every major league baseball team but the Montreal Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Meanwhile, from Marvin F. Preiser of Middletown, N.Y., comes word that "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," the song long associated with Cracker Jack, was written by Albert Von Tilzer, "the younger brother of the talented songwriter and publisher Harry Von Tilzer." Preiser says Albert never went to a baseball game until 20 years after he wrote the song.


Railroad gauges arise again

A. B. Di Cyan has chimed in from chicago on the railroad gauge discussion (C&EN, April 26, page 64) by sending a copy of a letter to the editor that appeared in the May issue of ChiMe, the monthly newsletter of Chicago Area Mensa. Di Cyan personally took no stand on the matter.

Anyway, the Mensa letter is signed by Matt Crawford. He writes in part that attributing the origin of the U.S. standard railroad gauge (4 feet, 8.5 inches) to the needs of the war chariots of ancient Imperial Rome is incorrect. The myth, Crawford writes, has been traced to a letter in a 1948 issue of True, the Man's Magazine and has been "rebutted to no avail many times since."

The Roman Republic, Crawford goes on, was founded at least a century after the introduction of larger, stronger horses shot down the chariot as an instrument of war. "Rome never used the chariot for war or commerce," he writes, "and the ceremonial and circus uses may have never reached Britain, the alleged link to railroads."

Roads were deliberately rutted in Roman times, Crawford says, but not for the sake of horse-drawn vehicles. The intended beneficiaries instead were hand-drawn carts, which otherwise would have tended to roll down the rain-shedding crowns of the roads.


Another problem with a car name

Remarks on inappropriate names for automobiles (C&EN, May 17, page 48) prompted James M. Fresco to send from Montreal an article from the spring issue of Touring (Canadian Automobile Association, Quebec). The title is "Lost in Translation?" The author is Eric Lefrançois.

The article opens with an excerpt from a Canadian guide to trade that begins, "A word can have a different meaning in other cultures." Lefrançois then says that General Motors of Canada decided to name a new sedan--this spring's successor to the Buick Regal--La Crosse. The expression has several meanings, it turns out, one of them not very nice. A GM executive who prefers to remain anonymous, Lefrançois reports, said, "The connotation of the word in Quebec completely escaped us!" The car will be renamed Allure in Canada.


Mouth device fights obesity

Scientific Intake, Atlanta, has introduced a device that fits into the mouth and compels the fittee to take smaller bites of food and so fend off obesity. Star Lawrence reported the advance on May 25 in WebMD Medical News.

The DDS System costs nearly $500. It is intended to be custom-designed by a dentist to fit the roof of the client's mouth.

The principle of the device is that, based on normal bites, the brain needs 15 to 20 minutes to tell the stomach that it's full and to stop eating. Says Lawrence, "Fast eaters can do a lot of caloric damage before putting down the fork."



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