The short answer is that aflatoxin is of very little concern. Aflatoxin is produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus, and most people don’t eat moldy food, because it tastes bad. Documented human aflatoxin problems usually occur in tropical countries, where the wet climate is conducive to mold growth, or in extremely poor ones, where people […]
Actually, your fingers and toes aren’t wrinkling at all but puckering from swelling. The thick outside layer of skin, called the stratum corneum, takes on excess water when saturatedsort of like when dried beans are soaked in water. The underlying skin and connective tissue around the stratum corneum doesn’t absorb water and therefore doesn’t swell […]
What Other Useful Plants Did George Washington Carver Promote As Alternatives To Cotton Besides Peanuts?
George Washington Carver’s botanical studies were not limited to the peanut. He discovered that other plants renourished the soil and had many uses. Carver found over 100 products that could be made from the sweet potato, including molasses, paste, and rubber. He created a process to obtain paint pigments from clay. This was another economic […]
This is one of those questions that seems so natural that we forget to ask them. But that’s what I’m here for: to make you wonder about things you take for granted, and then to replace your complacency with the smugness of knowing. The water in your hair or clothes must first be converted from […]
Who Was Alfred Wegener and Why Was Wegener’s Theory of Continental Drift Not Accepted By Other Geologists?
In 1596, the Flemish mapmaker Abraham Ortelius proposed a strange theory. He suggested that all the continents of Earth were once joined together and had drifted apart over the course of time due to earthquakes and floods. He offered no evidence other than that the coastlines of Africa and South America seemed to fit together […]
Many of the explanations offered for the sharp pain runners feel during hard breathing, usually on the right side, involve muscle stress or spasms in or near the diaphragm. Because the muscle stress is probably caused by a rhythmic, repetitive activity, the solution is to develop techniques to break up that stressful rhythm. Runners could […]
Ordinary hiccups, resulting from things like overeating and stress, are usually benign. But hiccups can indicate a serious problem, and a prolonged, uncontrollable bout may lead to debilitating consequences like fatigue, weight loss, depression, problems with heart rhythm, esophageal reflux, and possibly exhaustion and death in a weakened patient. In a famous case, Pope Pius […]
The theory we like best is that it’s your body’s reaction to perceptual dissonance. While riding in a car, you’re in an enclosed area in which your eyes perceive that nothing nearby is moving, but your ears and the rest of your body feel like you indeed are moving. In an effort to solve that […]
Strictly speaking, infrared radiation is neither light nor heat. It’s not light because we can’t see it, and it’s not heat because it contains no substance that is capable of being hot. I like to call it “heat in transit.” We’ll see why. Infrared radiation is nothing more than a certain segment of the broad […]
Immunity is long-lasting because some of the many kinds of cells that make up the normal human immune system are naturally able to retain a “memory” of the defense efforts aroused by certain infections or vaccines. There are many kinds of immune cells, including T cells and different types of white cells. Their interaction with […]
It depends on how far you are from the lightning. The closer you are, the higher the pitch of the sound you hear; the farther away you are, the lower the rumble. First, we have to remind ourselves of what thunder is. A stroke of lightning is extremely fast; it occurs with what might be […]
In 1960, Louis Leakey found the skull, leg, foot, and hand bones of another hominid in Tanzania, East Africa. It was dated at around 2 million years old, just slightly older than Zinj. The bones showed that this ancestor walked on two feet and had a large brain, but there were differences. The teeth were […]
Imagine a beast taller than a giraffe and heavier than two elephants. Paraceratherium was the dinosaur of its day. It filled the same ecological niche as the huge sauropod dinosaurs, like Diplodocus, that lived 120 million years earlier, roaming through lightly forested plains and eating the leaves of trees, which it stripped off the branches […]
Part of the reason Nikola Tesla has remained unappreciated as a scientist is that his ideas were so brilliant that they were far ahead of their time. Here are some examples. Tesla discovered the basic science behind radar, the electron microscope, and the microwave oven. Edison called his idea for radar “ridiculous,” so it was […]
The sky is blue for the same reason that cigarette smoke is blue: the preferential scattering of blue light by tiny particles. Pure air is colorless, of course, meaning that all visible wavelengths (colors) of light pass through it without being absorbed. But it contains molecules and, often, suspended dust motes that are smaller than […]
The silver stuff in an Etch A Sketch is the metal aluminum, ground so finely that it sticks to everything. This is true even if it manages to escape the insides of the Etch A Sketch. This powder inside the toy is peppered with little plastic beads that keep it from clumping. The window of […]
The measurement of rainfall is fairly straightforward, but snowfall presents problems that make measurements somewhat arbitrary. For rain, the meteorology department at Pennsylvania State uses a simple cylindrical tube to catch it. The amount that falls in a given period is poured into a smaller cylindrical tube that is carefully gradated and measured with something […]
The Pythagoreans-ancient Greek followers of the mathematician Pythagoras-were a brilliant lot. They came up with the mathematical truism, The square of the length of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides. They also mathematically figured out the correct shape of Earth. In working out […]
The colors are actually glowing atoms, stimulated by electricity. It’s pretty much the same as making the colors in fireworks: Stimulate atoms with energy, and they’ll quickly get rid of the excess energy by emitting light of their own characteristic colors. There are a couple of differences (fortunately) between fireworks and neon signs. In neon […]
How Did Hippocrates Influence the Treatment of Athletes In Ancient Greece and How Did Doctors Treat Injuries?
Before Hippocrates’ time, the only medical treatment available to most Greeks was the ill-informed efforts of the doctor-priests. However, Greek athletes had received expert care since the first Olympian games were held in 776 B.C. in Olympia, Greece. Athletic trainers were highly respected and paid well for their services. Males in ancient Greece took pride […]
A boomerang is like two spinning aeroplane wings joined in the middle. It is held almost vertically before it is thrown end over end. Because it spins in this way, the top wing actually goes away from you faster than the bottom wing. This makes the sideways push on the top wing, similar to lift […]
Why did Francisco Goya’s work change so drastically from conventional portraits to dark and grotesque subjects?
When Francisco Goya’s work changed drastically from conventional portraits to dark and grotesque subjects, it was probably the result of lead poisoning. Through his mid-forties, Francisco Goya was not only a court painter but also well known for his tame and innocuous subjects. But all that changed when he was forty-six. In 1792 he contracted […]
Scientists would find it difficult and perhaps pointless to try to prove an explanation, but can make some educated guesses. All canids, that is, wolves, coyotes, dogs, etc., typically circle before they lie down, though not every single member of all species will do this. The old assumption was that it was to stamp down […]
The active ingredient in pepper spray, capsaicin, comes from the chilli plant. Produced to protect the plant’s seeds from being crushed by the teeth of grazing animals, this molecule binds to TRPV1 receptors on the endings of pain nerves, causing them to fire and inducing a feeling similar to burning. Pepper spray is a concentrated […]
In a car crash, it makes no difference whether you are relaxed or tense. In fact, drunken drivers have a greater chance of being injured or killed. Checking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration accident files, researchers compared survival rates and serious injury rates in serious crashes for drinkers and nondrinkers and found that the […]
Nobody has specifically studied this aspect of sneezing, but there are logical reasons that would explain why people do not sneeze overnight. The reason people sneeze is that the inside of the nose swells up, much like blowing up a balloon. When a windblown particle of anything, an allergen or a particle of dust, hits […]
Recent studies show that birds like Robins find worms in the ground visually, not by hearing or smell. When robins run along the lawn, cocking their heads, it looks like listening, but actually it is just looking. What the robin usually sees is the castings or pellets of mud at the entrance to the worm […]
First, a little explanation for those more refined readers among us: a “high-colonic irrigation” is a high-powered enema in which up to twenty gallons of liquid are pumped into your intestines a few pints at a time, with a really smelly liquid pouring out afterward. A few “alternative health” gurus claim that cleaning out your […]
You may have observed female dragonflies depositing their fertilized eggs into the water, where they will hatch into larvae. The eggs are sometimes inserted into underwater plant stems and sometimes smeared onto the surface of the water. More than three hundred eggs may be laid at one time. Sometimes several hundred females lay their eggs […]
The United Nations keeps a registry and a data center at NASA assigns designations, but only communications satellites are subject to practical controls. Every satellite must be registered to a particular country, for reasons of liability under space law. A registry has been maintained by the UN Secretariat since 1962, and another registry, established under […]
Ordinarily, water is the best mixer in the world, and I don’t mean just with Scotch. It mixes with, it associates intimately with, it even welcomes into its very bosom, that is, it dissolves, more substances than any other liquid. That’s why it is sometimes called the universal solvent. But there is one family of […]
Unless you live on a farm in the middle of Nebraska and the nearest house is thirty miles down the road, birds do not become dependent on you as a sole source of food. Birds come to feeders for supplemental food. They prefer to eat natural food, and given the choice between ant steak and […]
The only thing at work in a deodorant is fragrance. It may be natural fragrances from oils, or it may be chemical perfumes, but when you use it, all you’re doing is masking the smell. An antiperspirant, however, contains aluminum or zirconium to block pores so sweat can’t escape from the sweat glands as easily, […]
What Happens To the Umbilical Cord After the Baby Is Born and What Procedure Was Used Before Modern Medicine?
Umbilical cords consist of three blood vessels and a surrounding medium called Wharton’s jelly, the whole lot enclosed by a sheath. This makes the cord too thick to be tied in a knot. Today, where medical supplies are readily available, a plastic clamp is used to compress the cord and cut off the blood supply. […]
It’s usually more humid in the summer because there’s more water vapor available. I don’t mean that the oceans, lakes and rivers somehow expand in the heat. (Well, maybe a tad.) More precipitation? Perhaps. But it’s not the amount of water itself; the humidity can be quite low over the middle of the ocean. What […]
How Was George Washington Carver America’s First Environmentalist and How Were His Ideas Ahead of Their Time?
George Washington Carver had many thoughts on the environment that were years ahead of their time. He once said, “There is no better plant food than the things we ignore or throw away every day.” Carver taught his students how to make compost of leaves, garbage, and weeds long before the organic gardening movement of […]