Ask Mr Brain . . . all will be explained

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2000, 12:00am

Could it be possible for certain types of prehistoric creatures to have survived the disaster that wiped out the dinosaurs millions of years ago? Every animal today descended from a creature that survived that disaster. That is how mammals came to rule the world. In the days of the dinosaurs, there were some little mammals around, and when the big lizards died out, the mammals took over the Earth.

All of today's reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds can be traced back to prehistoric ancestors, however different they may have been. Most animals have evolved and changed a lot since then, but some have changed comparatively little.

Where did Gypsies come from? And what do they do? Gypsies are a dark Caucasoid people originating in northern India and living in modern times worldwide, mainly in Europe. They were once believed to have come from Egypt, but that turned out to be incorrect.

Most Gypsies speak Romany, a language closely related to the modern Indo-European languages of northern India, as well as the major language of the country in which they live.

Gypsy groups left India in repeated migrations and were in Persia by the 11th century, in southeastern Europe by the beginning of the 14th century, and in western Europe by the 15th century.

By the second half of the 20th century, Gypsies had spread throughout North and South America and to Australia. The migratory nature of the Gypsies, their absence in official census returns and their popular classification with other nomadic groups makes the estimating of the total numbers of Gypsies a challenging task. Estimates of the total Gypsy population range from two to five million.

Traditionally, Gypsies have pursued occupations that allowed them to maintain an itinerant life on the perimeters of settled society. The men were livestock traders, animal trainers, tinkers (metal-smiths and utensil repairmen) and musicians. The women told fortunes, sold potions, begged and worked as entertainers.

Can sailing boats sail faster than the wind? A sailing boat can sail faster than the wind. Every moving vehicle, including a sailing boat, creates wind.

For a wind-powered boat, the wind created by the movement of the boat can add to the real wind. The direction of the resultant wind will change by vector addition. By adjusting the angle of the sail, a yacht can take advantage of this extra wind. It can then reach a maximum which is well over the real wind speed.