Dear Dr. Staff: How does a cassette tape hold so much music in such a small place? My pappy told me that it's little tiny Japanese people who hide inside, listen to what people tell them, and then say it back when you push "play" on your tape player. This would seem to make sense since all the tapes I've ever seen came from Japan. But my Uncle Smiley says that that's a bunch of sloth spleens, which is what he calls something when he thinks somebody who says it is lying. Uncle Smiley says its some sort of magnetic stuff on the tape, like a compass needle, but I can't see what good a compass needle would do for remembering how Willie Nelson sounds. Who can I trust, my pappy or Uncle Smiley?
Dear Mild Maven: They're both as wrong as bell peppers in chewing tobacco. Have you ever seen a lava lamp? If so, you've seen those things inside going around like ocean waves. These things you see in the lamp are called waves, too. Well, there's another kind of waves, and these are sound waves. You know when you wave your hand to someone? Well, when you do that, you generate sound waves, and that is how the person you're waving to knows that you're waving to them. All sound is made up of these wave things, and the microphones they use in cassette tape recorders turn these sound waves into waves that are like the waves in the lava lamp. If you look really close at a cassette tape, you'll see that it is actually composed of hundreds and hundreds of really tiny lava lamps, each of which contains a single wave, which is like a little piece of sound. When you listen to all these different lava lamps in succession, it sounds like the sound that went into the microphone when the tape was recorded.