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See the Wikipedia FAQ for questions about Wikipedia itself. This page is for general info requests.

The help desk page will, we hope, serve much the same function as a library's help desk. Do you have a question that you want answered by Wikipedia? Then ask below!

If you know an answer, give only a very limited answer on this page. Just post a link to the Wikipedia article that contains the answer (although you might have to supply a few missing details, relevant to the specific question, here on this page). See the first item below for an example.

To request that an article be written, go to requested articles.

11/23/2001: How many different methods of producing non-alcoholic beer are there (I have heard 3), and do the different methods typically produce different alcohol contents? Are there any non-alc beers which contain 0% alcohol? In Germany there are some marketed as such. Is it legal for minors to buy non-alc beer in the U.S.? Is this state or federally regulated?

2001-11-07: If you look at a chart of the International Phonetic Alphabet (see, under pulmonary consonants, there are several combinations of features not given IPA symbols, but not marked as impossible either. Why? Could a language use those consonants? e.g. bilabial tap and approximant, labiodental plosive, trill and tap, retroflex trill and lateral fricative, etc... -- SJK

What is the best way to view the upcoming Leonids meteor shower? Will everyone be able to see it? Might it be a dud? (Posted Nov. 16.)

What is the cause of halos around the moon? I found an answer here: [1]. This is a NASA page. So a follow-up question: can we use that content here on Wikipedia, or not? (Anyone want to do the research?) (Posted Nov. 2, 2001.) -- NASA photos are PD unless listed as copyrighted. This one of the halo is listed as c. by Juan Carlos Casado ( allows informational and educational use of photos, links to NASA, & screenshots of pages but it says nothing about the actual text of the pages. The best person to contact appears to be Brian Dunbar, Internet Services Manager, NASA Office of Public Affairs. Sorry, no e-mail address but you can snail mail via NASA Headquarters - Washington, DC 20546

What are the chances of human colonization of the moon and Mars? Are there any active plans for this? What are some of the prerequisites? (Posted October 24, 2001.) -- There are no plans for this by any current spacefaring organizations, but see Mars Direct for a feasable near-term idea. In the extreme long-term, see Terraforming. I can't find any good entries for medium-term colonization methods offhand (space habitats, etc.).

What does the scroll lock do? Eean (Oct 8 2001) -- not much in today's software; see scroll lock.

I heard on the news shortly after 9/11 that they may have secret military tribunals in the US. Did anything come of this? (Oct 6 2001) -- (i don't think so, but maybe you are thinking of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court).

Who was Thomas Reid and what did he have to do with the Scottish School of Common Sense? (Posted June 26.) -- See Thomas Reid and common sense.

In "A Study in Scarlet" by Arthur Conan Doyle, an account is given of the early history of the Mormons, in which they are made out to be grossly intolerant, extremely brutal to dissenters, and in which leaders are portrayed as all being polygamists. In what details is Doyle's story correct, and in what details is it exaggerated? (Posted June 26.) (SEE Mormons -- I added what I know)

What aspects of the topic of probability are studied by philosophy? What are some of the leading philosophical theories of probability? (Posted June 26.)

What is the early history of the violin? What instrument did the violin come from? When did it enter into use in various folk musics (as the fiddle)? (Posted June 26.)

What is the history of Finno-Ugric people and language (I'm not sure what to call the relevant article)? How did it come to be that people who speak closely-related languages live in such relatively far-flung places as Finland, Hungary, and the middle of Russia (Udmurtia)? (Posted June 26.)

Presumably, at some point in history, the days on which the weekend or Sabbath is held were made consistent around the world. Presumably, they weren't always the same day. So when did that happen, and was there any resistance? For example, when did Japan start observing weekends at the same time as Europe? (Posted June 26.) Hmm. for a book-length answer, see Eviatar Zerubavel, The Seven Day Circle: The History and Meaning of the Week.

Surely, sociologists and / or anthropologists have studied the leading characteristics of small towns. What are their main conclusions? (Posted June 26.)

Why do joints pop? Why do knuckles and backs crack? Is it dangerous to constantly crack knuckles or backs? (Not sure what article this would be answered called "joint"? Maybe not?) (Posted June 26.) -- I'd put it under cracking knuckles, since that seems to be the most common joint-cracking habit as far as I can see. Have created a stubby article answering why the sound is generated under cracking knuckles, looking for info on the consequences of doing this...

What are the main practical applications of mathematics? (Not sure what article would have this answer...) (Posted June 26.) Well, poker of course! More seriously, I can't think of any major practical field offhand that isn't dependant on mathematics. physics, engineering, telecommunications, architecture, aeronautics, computer science, accounting all come to mind as biggies.

What grains are eaten throughout the world, and how are they eaten? (Posted June 26.)

What exactly is a parade, why do people insist on holding them on an annual basis, and what is their history? (Posted June 26.)

What is the deepest lake in the world? What lake has the greatest volume of water? What lake has the greatest surface area? How do geologists define the word "lake"? (Posted June 26.) (first and third questions answered - July 16)

How do the different parts of a computer (processor, memory, etc.) work together with software to create a functioning desktop computer? I imagine this should be answered on computer, which now has a paltry line, "programmable machine that processes data," and a link to computing, which page consists just of a list of links. Even computer hardware consists of a list of links. All I wanna know is how a computer works.  :-) (Posted June 29.)

Is interstellar space travel possible? (Posted July 13.) See interstellar travel.

Why isn't there powdered alcohol? (Wouldn't that be great? "Just add water...") (Posted July 16.) I have an answer, but no good article to put it in - see /Talk

Playing with a magnifying glass and a piece of paper on a sunny day, I had the brilliant idea of making a really, really big magnifying glass, in Arizona, and using it to make electricity? C'mon, tell me why this isn't the next big thing in alternative energy circles!! (July 16.) I have an answer, but no good article to put it in - see /Talk -- put it in solar power.

Why is arsenic poisonous? -- Partial answer at arsenic.

I have a question about NP-complete problems. (There are a couple of small articles on this, but their names seem to be rapidly mobile lately, try searching.) OK, so 3-SAT is NP-complete. That's where you have to satisfy clauses that are the OR of three different variables, each possibly negated. How about if the clauses are the XOR of three variables. How about if the clauses are Majority function of three variables, each possibly negated. (That is 2 or 3 out of 3 must be true). How about if exactly one must be true, etc. added August 20.

What determines when close-packed crystals will be face-centered cubic and when they will be hexagonal? What about related structures, like ZnS, diamond, and silicon? (Sep 2)

What are the largest moons in the solar system? A few are larger than Mercury, no? (Posted Sept. 4.) -- See moon for a list of those bigger than Pluto.

What exactly is going on on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange? Stock exchange and New York Stock Exchange do not yet contain an answer. (Posted Sept. 17.) (Today, a lot of moaning, gnashing of teeth, and beating of breasts.) (Doesn't that happen every day?)