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Arr! Belay, me hearties! No? Don't feel like it? Okay, suit yourselves. Collected Wisdom was just getting into character for an item about expanses of water.

THE QUESTION: Landlubber Luke Mastin of Toronto wanted to know why the seas and oceans are salty (and very salty at that) but other large bodies of water, including the Great Lakes, are not.

THE ANSWER: Lakes are fed by rivers, which in turn are fed by rainwater. As rainwater passes through soil and around rocks, it dissolves some minerals, including salt, but contains these minerals in very low concentrations.

However, while lakes are fed by rivers, they are also drained by them.

"The Great Lakes are not (noticeably) salty because water flows into them as well as out of them, carrying away the low concentrations of minerals in the water," writes Michael Moore of Toronto.

Eventually, this water, with its small load of dissolved minerals or salts, reaches the sea. "The oceans are therefore salty because water flows into them but leaves only by evaporation, leaving the minerals behind to get ever more concentrated," writes Mr. Moore.

Adds John Yandon of Ottawa: "If a lake has no outflow, it will become as salty, or more so, than the oceans. Some notable examples of salty lakes are the Great Salt Lake in Utah, the Salton Sea in California and the Dead Sea in Jordan."


Rick Page of Victoria challenges Michael Lennick's statement last week that TV commercials aren't really louder than regular TV programs.

"Producers do compress the audio signal of commercials to reduce the loudest sounds and increase the quietest sounds," writes Mr. Page. "However, then they boost the average sound level so that commercials not only 'sound' louder, but really are louder on average than the programs."


Why do the flag patches worn on the right shoulders of U.S. soldiers (see picture) show the Stars and Stripes in reverse? Bernard Bennell of Toronto has been puzzling over this.

Where did the term "Lazy Susan" come from? Jim Hogue of Tuxedo, Man., wants to know

The ever-curious Robin Barfoot of Toronto asks: We have all heard of MI-5 and MI-6, but what happened to, or what were, MI-1 through MI-4?

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