How does it work and why?

How does it work and why

How does it work and why?

1

Why do stars look the same color with the naked eye?

How and why does it work

Under dim lighting, our eyes are not sensitive to color and so we perceive the light from most stars as white, although in reality, their colors range from red to blue. Our eyes contain two types of light-sensitive cells – rods and cones. Rods enable us to see differences in brightness but do not perceive differences in color. Cones allow us to distinguish colors, but are only effective when the light is bright enough. In very low light we, therefore, see using just the rods, essentially viewing our surroundings in black and white.

Similarly, when gazing at a faint light such as a star in the night sky, we see only white, even if the star is actually red or blue. Under good viewing conditions, the colors of the brightest stars can, however, be perceived with the naked eye. Binoculars or a telescope focus more light towards your eye, allowing you to see star colors.

2

Why does toast land butter side down?

How and why does it work

The height of the average table is such that a tumbling slice of toast typically only has time to make half a rotation before it hits the floor face down. The toast’s spin depends on the size of the toast, the height of the fall and the angle at which it is dropped. Since toast usually falls at an angle, it begins to rotate but is likely to reach the floor midway through its first rotation. To make it more likely to land face up, you could drop it from twice the height, or perhaps eat your toast upside down.

3

How do planes land in Antarctica?

How and why does it work

Aircraft in Antarctica typically use skis to land on ‘skiways’ made of compacted snow. However, wheeled planes can also land on ice under the right conditions. Most planes are equipped with interchangeable wheels and skis so that they can take off from solid ground and land on snow.

Taking off from skis is particularly tricky, but booster rockets can be used to help pick up speed. Pilots in Antarctica also have to contend with strong winds, snow and sudden changes in weather. In the heart of the Antarctic winter, when 24-hour darkness reigns, treacherous conditions mean flights are operated only in an extreme emergency.

4

What is the Turing test?

How and why does it work

The Turing test is an experiment used as a benchmark for artificial intelligence, developed in 1951 by Alan Turing. In a Turing test, the interrogator exchanges are written messages with either an artificial intelligence source or a person, seeking to establish from their responses whether they are a machine or a human.

In one variation of the Turing test, if the computer is taken for a human more than 30 per cent of the time during a series of five- minute conversations, it passes as ‘intelligent7. Some claim that the Turing test was passed for the first time in 2014 by a computer program called Eugene Goostman, which fooled 33 per cent of judges into believing it was human.

5

Why don’t we go back to the Moon?

How and why does it work

The last manned mission to the Moon was Apollo 17 in 1972, but various orbiters have continued to probe our closest neighbor ever since. We stopped sending humans mainly due to a lack of funding. Once the Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union was over, the public and political leaders lost interest in space exploration and so funding was scaled back.

Priorities within the field also changed, shifting towards building space stations and sending humans into low-Earth orbit instead. Space agencies and some private companies are now setting their sights on a more distant target, with plans to reach Mars by 2030.

6

Why do some medicines have to be taken with water and others taken with meals?

How and why does it work

When you swallow a tablet, the active ingredients in the medication need to enter your bloodstream. Tablets don’t spend very long in your mouth, and the stomach lining is coated in thick mucus, so most medicines are only absorbed once they reach the small intestine.

This means that they have to survive the first part of your digestive system unharmed. Eating food increases the amount of acid in the stomach and the secretion of digestive enzymes, and some medicines can end up being destroyed if they are taken with a meal. For others, particular foods like grapefruit, bananas and green vegetables, can interact with the active ingredients and neutralize their effect.

Some are absorbed better with food, and for others, a meal can help to prevent nausea or damage to the stomach lining. The instructions for different medicines depend on their ingredients, so it’s always best to take the advice of your doctor and to read the advice sheet included in the packet.

7

Why do lemurs only live on the island, of Madagascar?

How and why does it work

Around 160 million (According to evolutionists- however evolution remains still a theory, not to be confused with actual scientifically proven fact) years ago, Madagascar broke away from Africa. Relords of lemur-like primate fossils date back approximately 60 million years have been found in mainland Africa, and further records show that they soon made the journey to Madagascar, which continued to drift east. Roughly 30 million years later, when monkeys made an appearance, they drove lemurs in other parts of like world towards extinction.

However, the lemurs on Madagascar were isolated from predators and competition, thriving to this very day in all of Madagascans ecosystems. They have now evolved to be even more like their intelligent and adaptive primate monkey cousins.

8

What was Egyptian makeup made of?

How and why does it work

Kohl was made from carbon, lead sulfide or manganese oxide. Green makeup was made from malachite and other copper-based minerals, and rouge was made with ground red ochre mixed with water.

9

What part of the world is furthest from the center of the Earth?

How and why does it work

Earth’s slightly flattened shape means it bulges around the equator, making Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador the furthest point from the planet’s center, although Everest is higher above sea level.

10

Why aren’t our eyelids completely opaque?

How and why does it work

Our cells are mostly transparent, and your eyelids have the thinnest skin anywhere in the body, so light can still get through. It’s tinted red because it has to travel through your blood vessels.

11

How do bone conducting headphones work?

How and why does it work

When you listen to music through regular headphones, the sound waves travel through your ears and cause your eardrums to vibrate. These vibrations then reach a fluid filled structure called the cochlea in your inner ear, which converts them into electrical impulses and sends them down the auditory nerve to the brain.

Bone-conducting headphones bypass the first part of this process altogether, as instead of transmitting sound waves into your ears, they vibrate the bones inside your head. These vibrations then travel directly to the cochlea, protecting your eardrums from the damage that can be caused by listening to loud music, reducing the risk of long-term hearing problems.

12

Is water essential for life?

How and why does it work

Water is indispensable for living creatures because of its unique chemical properties. As a solvent, almost all substances can easily be dissolved in it. And since water flows, important nutrients can, therefore, be carried to cells in it, and waste carried away.

Water can exist as a solid, liquid and gas within a narrow range of temperatures. In its liquid form, it exists at the temperatures commonly found on the surface of Earth. Furthermore, water is able to expand and become less dense as it freezes. The resultant floating ice protects the water underneath by insulating it and preventing water across the whole surface of the planet from freezing. Without water, most life on Earth would perish.

13

How does voice recognition work with different accents?

How and why does it work

Voice recognition systems use a number of different techniques, but basically, they rely on analyzing the sounds we make, breaking them down into a pattern of data, and then matching this to a database of sounds that correspond to particular words.

The databases were originally collected from people speaking very clearly, but because words spoken in an accent don’t properly match with these, voice recognition systems sometimes don’t work very well when people talk with accents. However, as these databases have got larger they include more audio samples from people speaking in accents, so voice recognition systems should get better at recognizing them with time.

14

Is there a cure for hiccups?

How and why does it work

Hiccups are caused by a sheet of muscle under the lungs, called the diaphragm. Its normal function is to draw air in and out of the lungs, but if it contracts suddenly, air rushes in past the vocal cords and they close, making a hiccup sound.

These involuntary contractions are thought to be caused by the phrenic nerve, which supplies the diaphragm itself, and the vagus nerve, which commands the heart, lungs and digestive system. Attempts to cure hiccups work by trying to disrupt these signals and get the diaphragm back under control, for example, holding your breath, drinking a pint of water or breathing into a paper bag.

15

How do bumper cars work?

How and why does it work

Bumper cars are powered by electricity. When you press on the pedal to make the car go, you switch on a motor that drives it forward. Unlike other electric cars, which run on batteries, most bumper cars draw their electricity from the ceiling or the floor.

A metal pole on the car reaches up to a grid of electric wires in the ceiling and contacts underneath the car connect it to the metal floor, completing an electric circuit when the ride is switched on. Modern bumper cars sometimes use a different system, drawing their power from electrified metal strips on the floor instead.

16

Why did the USSR break up?

How and why does it work

The dissolution of the Soviet Union was kick-started by the radical reforms implemented by the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev. The long-time Communist Party politician came to power in 1985 and inherited a stagnant economy, which he addressed with a two-tiered policy of reform. The first tier was the policy of ‘glasnost’, or freedom of speech, and the second was the policy of perestroika’, or restructuring, which loosened the government’s grip on the economy.

However, this second tier was slow to produce results, and so the public used their newly allotted freedom of speech to express their frustration with the government. The governments on the fringes of the USSR began a series of nationalist independence movements and broke away from the power of Moscow one by one. On 25 December 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union soon fell, with the new Commonwealth of Independent Republics forming in its place.

17

Is hair really self-cleaning?

How and why does it work

Yes and no. Shampoos get your hair clean through the action of detergents designed to remove oil, sweat, dead skin cells and dirt from the hair and scalp. The body can’t do this naturally, but it does have its own cleaning mechanism. The scalp naturally produces a fatty substance called sebum, which helps to protect the skin and stop the growth of microbes.

If you stop washing our hair, this oil starts to build up, but after a while, it tends to reach a balance; it won’t feel as ‘clean’ as if you washed it with detergent, but it won’t keep getting greasier either.

18

Are the plants grown onboard the ISS safe to eat?

How and why does it work

Plants are grown on the International Space Station (ISS) in a spacious garden called the Veggie system. Instead of growing in soil under the Sun, the plants grow on ‘pillows’ of nutrients beneath LED lighting. They are small-scale and mostly experimental, but safe to eat.

19

How do music-identifying apps work?

How and why does it work

Music identifying apps like Shazam are able to tell you the name and artist of a song by listening to a short sample of it through your device’s microphone. To do this, the song must have first been ‘fingerprinted’ by the service and included in its database. This involves plotting the song on a time-frequency graph called a spectrogram, with points of the peak intensity of frequency recorded as a fingerprint. When you activate the app it searches the database for a match.

20

Why aren’t peanuts real nuts?

How and why does it work

Despite its name, a peanut is actually a legume, not a nut. True nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, grow on trees. Legumes, on the other hand, are edible seeds that grow underground. A peanut is composed of a seed, known as a kernel, which grows inside a pod and resembles other legumes such as beans and lentils in terms of its structure and nutritional value. However, we don’t consume the Peanut’s pod, like we do with other legumes. Furthermore, the way we include peanuts in our diet far more resembles the way we eat nuts than it does other legumes.

21

Why do we produce mucus?

How and why does it work

Mucus is a sticky fluid made from proteins coated in sugar molecules. These act a bit like sponges, attracting lots of water to become a thick gel. It is produced by lots of different parts of the body, and in different places, it serves different functions. For example, in the airways, mucus helps to trap particles in the air before they reach the tiny air sacs of the lungs, while in the digestive system it helps to lubricate food as it slides down the throat and through the intestines. Mucus also helps to protect the stomach lining from the burning effects of stomach acid.

22

Why don’t trains go uphill very well?

How and why does it work

Trains are very efficient at traveling on level ground because there is so little friction between their metal wheels and the smooth metal tracks. Also, only a tiny part of their wheels are in contact with the rails at any time. When the train goes uphill, however, it has to work harder to overcome the effects of gravity, but as the wheels have so little grip on the rails the train struggles to increase its tractive force and slows down or slips. Mountain railway trains sometimes use a cogwheel to grip a rack on the tracks to help them climb better and prevent slipping.

23

Which monarch had the shortest reign?

How and why does it work

One of the shortest-reigning monarchs was King Louis XIX. Louis-Antoine of France succeeded his father in July 1830, but he abdicated within 20 minutes of ascending the throne. Louis-Antoine shares the record with Crown Prince Luis Filipe of Portugal, who became king once his father was assassinated on 1 February 1908. However, Luis was wounded in the same attack, dying 20 minutes after his father.

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