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Hot on ice: 'Why do the Dutch wear orange?' and other most-searched questions

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Ireen Wust of the Netherlands celebrates after winning gold in the women's 3,000-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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Ireen Wust of the Netherlands celebrates after winning gold in the women's 3,000-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Summer or winter, Dutch athletes inevitably turn out in orange. The propensity toward that vibrant hue has prompted people to wonder, "Why do the Dutch wear orange?"

One definitive answer comes from "Stuff Dutch People Like" (which is "the study of all things orange"). While the Dutch flag is red, white and blue, it once waved orange, white and blue. That brilliant shade was actually a tribute to Willem van Oranje -- who was also known as William of Orange. He led the 16th-century revolt against the Spanish and was assassinated for his efforts — but eventually after the Eighty Years' War, the Netherlands achieved independence.

[ Photos: Five can’t-miss Olympic stories from Feb. 10 ]

Readers weighed in on the question posed earlier, Why don't Russians smile? Historians note that not smiling was definitely a cultural trait reinforced during the early Soviet era. Unlike the bourgeois Americans, a Russian smile — when finally delivered — would be sincere and honest. As for comments:

I asked this Uzbek woman who was a native Russian speaker what surprised her most about America and after thinking a few seconds she said "everybody smiles". I was surprised at the answer so I mentioned it to an optician who was from Russia and immediately she said "It's true, it's true". She said that she can always tell when a person enters her shop if they're American or Russian by that. I think it's more that Russians tend to be rather dour. Considering their history and weather one can hardly blame them.
As Russian I would say, if in Russia somebody smile to you it means he likes you, if somebody ask how are you it means he is really interested. If somebody call you friend it means you are real friend not just stranger. Be sure if Russian do not like you he would show it as well. So you can be sure what oppponents feel about you. InAmerica people othen use smile to protect personal space not to show real attitude.
Russians smile. But only, if they have the genuine feeling to smile. Their life has been hard, brutal and arduous during the centuries, there was not much to be happy about; so smiling did not come easily. They literally despise the fake(!) smiling of Americans - the phoniness upsets them.

Some other questions percolating in Yahoo Search:

How many time zones in Russia? The simple answer is nine. However, in 2010, then-president Dmitry Medvedev recommended eliminating two time zones, which covered four Russian regions, to increase efficiency: "The less fractional division of the country," he declared, "will enable us to resolve a number of transport and communications issues, will increase its manageability and strengthen the position of Russia as an important chain in the world's global infrastructure." Vladimir Putin, wearing his prime minister ushanka at the time, signed the decrees to make it so.

How fast do speed skaters go? Before we get to that answer, it's worth calling out the Wall Street Journal's charmingly simple animation showing how much faster the athletes in the 500 meter event have become. Canadian Jeremy Wotherspoon holds the world record at 34:03, followed by Kang-Seo Lee of Korea (34.2), and Joji Kato of Japan (34.21).

[ Photos: Is American Kate Hansen the most charming athlete in Sochi? ]

How do you steer a luge? Sliders (the preferred term over lugers) uses hands to get going, then they lie supine, stiff yet relaxed as they maneuver. Double luge athletes Mark Grimemette goes into more detail about the muscles involved in a 2010 New York Times interactive: a turn of the head, a flex of the shoulder, and the drop of the foot are enough to steer at speeds of 90 miles an hour.

How tall is Bob Costas? Actually most of the questions dealing with the NBC sportscaster were about that puffy eye of his, but a few did wonder about his verticality. Most sources list Costas as 5'7", but he admitted as recently as January, "I know I'm 5'6" and some kind of fraction, and so I've always thought the fraction went up so I list myself as 5'7"."

Here's something else readers wanted to know: Why do ski poles look bent on TV? Could it be an optical illusion that might have to do with the screen's raster scan that gives a slight strobe effect? Something to do with persistence of vision? Share the wisdom in the comments below.

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