Twenty degrees, eh? Well, let’s just see about that. (We’ll assume that we’re dealing with Fahrenheit cucumbers, rather than Celsius.) If cucumbers are always twenty degrees cooler than their surroundings, let’s put a cucumber into a barrel with a whole bunch of other cucumbers and wait to see what happens. Will they fight it out, […]
Why Do We Have Earwax, What Is the Purpose of Earwax, and Why Is Earwax Sometimes a Different Color?
About 2,000 sebum-producing sebaceous glands and specialized sweat-like apocrine glands in the outer third of the ear canal produce mildly acidic secretions, called cerumen. Earwax is a mixture of cerumen, skin cells, and hair fragments from the ear canal, plus bacteria and other substances caught in this waxy matrix. Earwax normally moves out of the […]
In theory, water that has been boiled and cooled will freeze faster than plain cold tap water. Boiling removes the air bubbles that tend to slow down the freezing process, and it also reduces the amount of liquid. However, in your kitchen or ours, the time difference is so minuscule, it wouldn’t be noticeable. So […]
What the United States Census Bureau calls the geographic center of area is the point on which the surface of a geographical entity would balance if the surface were a plane of uniform weight per unit of area. For the United States, that point has been in Butte County, South Dakota, on the state’s western […]
The origin of the term southpaw reaches all the way back in time to, well, baseball. All baseball diamonds are created equal: the pitcher faces west, the batter faces east. This helps the batter survive a careening pitch by keeping the setting sun out of his eyes. It also means that the pitcher’s left hand […]
How Do Bacterial Diseases Develop Antibiotic Resistance and How Does Antibiotic Misuse Create Superbugs?
A drug that kills bacteria is referred to as an antibiotic. Many antibiotics have been developed since Ehrlich founded chemotherapy and Alexander Fleming discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin, in 1928. There is a growing problem, however, with the use of antibiotics. They have been overused. Just as humans develop immunity to diseases, bacteria develop immunity […]
The sun will eventually go out just like all the other stars in the universe. By looking at the rate at which the sun is consuming its fuel, scientists have estimated that it has about 5 or 6 billion more years of life in it before it begins to fade away. Actually, it will be […]
Photographic film wasn’t as sensitive as it is today, so the exposures had to be longer and therefore further apart in time. The cameras shot only 16 pictures per second, rather than 24. In that longer amount of time between pictures, the people moved farther, so in a second’s worth of pictures they seem to […]
The short answer is that cooking makes proteins harder and carbohydrates softer. We’ll leave meats out of this, because the toughness or tenderness of a cut of meat depends in a very complex way on the muscle structure of the animal, the portion of the animal it came from, and on precisely how it’s being […]
Standard procedure is for the octopus to squirt the ink, change its own color as camouflage, and simultaneously jet away under the inky murk’s cover. While the ink does do a good job of this, it also holds a secret weapon that further facilitates an octopus’s escape. The ink, even when diluted in the ocean, […]
How is the Googolplex the Largest Number in the World, Who Invented it, and How Big is the Googolplex?
In order to calculate massive quantities, American Edward Kasner coined the “googol,” which is a one followed by one hundred zeros. But the “googolplex” is now the largest number and is a one followed by a billion zeros. It allows us to calculate that the number of electrons passing through a forty-watt light bulb in […]
Calling butter a fat is like calling a truffle a mushroom. Butter’s magic arises from its uniqueness, not only in its history and renowned flavor but in its composition. Butter contains a relatively large amount of water, and it’s the water that gives butter its unfat-like properties, such as being able to bring a sauce […]
Some members of the deadly nightshade family, Solanaceae, produce chemicals called glycoalkaloids, which are toxins. Normal amounts of the parts of these plants that are normally consumed are not ordinarily toxic to human beings, though the potato plant itself is very toxic, as is the tomato plant. Consuming very large quantities of potato skins, 2.4 […]
The Star Trek television show was created by a man named Gene Roddenberry. In tribute to the man and his promotion of far-ranging space travel, some Trek-loving scientists have coined the term “Roddenberry” to mean the distance traveled at the speed of light during a “traveler year.” A traveler year is an Earth year as […]
Why Is Grilled Cheese So Stringy and What Causes Cheese On a Pizza To Get Stringy When It Is Pulled Apart?
Uncooked cheese contains long-chain protein molecules more or less curled up in a fatty, watery mess. When you heat cheese, the fats and proteins melt and if you fiddle with the fluid, the chains can get dragged into strings. Grab a bit of the molten cheese and pull, and you get a filament, in much […]
What Is Spontaneous Generation and How Did the Theory of Spontaneous Generation Explain the Origin of Life?
The theory of spontaneous generation was widely accepted in Leeuwenhoek’s time. This theory asserted that lower forms of life, such as worms or lice, originated from inorganic matter. Leeuwenhoek showed that these creatures developed from tiny eggs. He documented the life cycle of ants and the development of larvae and pupae from eggs. The debate […]
If you smoke, you’re anywhere from twenty to thirty times more likely to die of lung cancer than a nonsmoker. And you are much more likely to die of heart disease or another lung disorder than a nonsmoker, too. Nicotine patch, anyone? Or just quit cold turkey, that works too.
The Peruvian coastal plain in South America is home to a wonder of archaeology. The ground is scarred by images, or geoglyphs, known as the Nazca lines, thought to have been constructed by the people of Nazca between 500 BCE and 500 CE. The ancient artworks, most easily viewed from the air, were created by […]
What Causes Dandruff, Where Does Dandruff Come From, and How Does Anti Dandruff Shampoo Work To Stop Flakes?
Dandruff is believed to be caused by overgrowth of yeasts such as Pityrosporum ovale which live on normal healthy human skin. Also known as pityriasis simplex capillitii, dandruff is sometimes caused by frequent exposure to extreme heat and cold. The scalp specific fungus, Malassezia globosa, causes local irritation resulting in hyperproliferation of the cells, or […]
Although it sounds like a lot, and certainly seems like a lot if you’re the one doing the climbing, even Mount Everest is only 5.5 miles high. Considering that the sun is 93 million miles away from Earth, a measly 5.5 isn’t going to largely effect the amount and intensity of the sunlight you’re receiving. […]
How Did the Periodic Table of the Elements Originate and Who First Listed the Elements By Atomic Weight?
The discoveries of chemists like Dalton, Lavoisier, and Avogadro concerning atoms and atomic weights made it easier for scientists to detect new elements. In 1808, John Dalton created a table of the 21 known elements. By 1860 there were 63 known elements and chemists were beginning to notice similarities in the properties of some of […]
It’s true that earthquakes can create tsunami waves that often devastate distant coastlines. Strangely, though, they don’t do much damage until they actually approach land. That’s because in the open sea, a tsunami is a lateral wave that travels far beneath the surface of the water. Traveling underwater at great speed, it barely affects the […]
The kneading motion with the forepaws is often done when the cat is in a pleased or expectant mood. It probably imitates the kneading of a mammary gland by a nursing kitten, stimulating the release of milk from the mommy cat. The behavior is also called milk-treading. However, there are also scent glands on the […]
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. […]
Tea leaves contain tannins, a loose collection of chemicals that give tea much of its flavor and body, and especially that astringent, puckering effect in the mouth. They dissolve in water to form a clear solution, as long as the water isn’t too cold or slightly alkaline. Your cloudiness occurs when some of the tannins […]
Jupiter is the biggest planet in the solar system. Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System and is the fifth planet from the Sun. The planet was named after the Roman God Jupiter by the Romans and it has over 60 moons orbiting it. Pluto, still officially called a planet, is the smallest.
What Were Ptolemy’s Contributions To Geography and How Was Ptolemy Influential In the History of Cartography?
Ptolemy might rather be remembered for his contributions to geography than to astronomy. His maps of the world were so accurate for the time that they were used by scholars all over the world for centuries. Christopher Columbus based his theory of finding a westward route to India on Ptolemy’s maps. Ptolemy’s book Guide to […]
There are nearly three hundred species in the squirrel family, and some of them, called tree squirrels, are expert tree nest builders. Some other species dig burrows and build nests there. Tree squirrels belong to the genus Sciurus. Their nests are called dreys. The common gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, is a tree squirrel. Its natural […]
Without the ultimate proof of the force behind continental drift, Alfred Wegener’s theory was rejected by most as a fairy tale. The first hint of proof came right after Wegener’s death, with the confirmation of the submerged mountain range called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge under the Atlantic Ocean and a central valley along its crest. Wegener […]
Lovebugs are best known for their nuptial flight, and are Bibionid flies of the species Plecia nearctica. They come out in huge numbers, emerging in a synchronized fashion twice a year, especially in fall, when the clouds of them are so thick they impair driving visibility. They fly around with the tips of their abdomens […]
In Galen’s time, the Roman Empire ruled Greece. Like the Greeks, the Romans did not believe in human dissection. Galen was able to find other ways to answer his questions about human anatomy. He found out all he could from studying the outside of the body. He felt bones and muscles to understand their structure […]
If there were a sudden overnight flip of the Earth’s magnetic field, scouts might be in trouble with their compasses, but most electrical appliances would not be affected. The compass needle is just a little magnet that lines up with the magnetic field lines of Earth; these imaginary lines converge on a spot near Greenland. […]
How Did Antoine Lavoisier Devise a Systematic Chemical Nomenclature and What Was the First Chemistry Textbook?
Antoine Lavoisier was a great admirer of the Swedish scientist Carolus Linnaeus, who started a classification system for biology. Inspired by Linnaeus, Lavoisier, and three other French chemists set up a new chemical naming system. An exact system of prefixes and suffixes would now clearly describe chemical compounds. For example, carbon dioxide contained twice as […]
The difference between a star and a planet is only a matter of size. The reason the sun “burns” is because it’s so big. The weight of the sun’s mass on itself crushes everything within its coreincluding tiny, usually uncrushable atoms. When atoms are broken, their innermost partsthe nucleifreely bounce around and run into each […]
How Long Can You Live On Beer Alone and Are Different Beers Like Ales, Stouts, and Lagers More Nutritious?
Beer has had a reputation since antiquity as being a staple in the diet, often called “liquid bread.” In ancient Egypt, workers received beer as part of their salary, as did the ladies-in-waiting of Queen Elizabeth I of England. In 1492, one gallon of beer per day was the standard allocation for sailors in the […]
Just as an animal’s fur stands on end when cold, hair stands on end as a response to threatening noises or sights. This bristling is thought to occur to make the animal look larger, and therefore more formidable, to an opponent. Bristling fur as a response to cold keeps the animal warmer by increasing the […]