Interesting things are happening all around us. When we come across something that we are not familiar with, it’s not unusual for our minds to go, “Hey, let’s Google it!”, just to make sure that the story checks out. “Google it!” is a phrase commonly used by all of us. However, we all have those days where we just don’t have the energy or the patience to surf the internet for the answers. Well, if you’re having one of those days and you also like to learn new things, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we have a collection of some of the most interesting stuff for you so that you don’t have to spend time searching for them.
1. Why does sunlight make the skin appear darker but lightens the hair?
The shades of color we observe around us is dependent on an object’s absorbing and reflection capabilities. When it comes to our skin and hair, they both contain melanin and are responsible for the tanning of the skin when exposed to sunlight. Melanin has the ability to absorb and deflect UV rays, thus protecting us. However, as time goes by, the prolonged exposure causes melanin to degrade, reducing the amount of light deflected, as well as changing the color of melanin.
The cells in the hair are lifeless – only comprising of lipids, water, pigments, and structural proteins – and the light reflected will appear lighter since the comprised contents do not help to retain the hair’s natural color. Until new strands grow, the hair will retain its light color when exposed to sun’s rays. In the case of our skin, melanin is alive and reacts to UV rays. When we are exposed to the sun’s rays for an extended period, our bodies produce a hormone that binds with the melanin making cells; thus causing the cells to produce even more melanin. At the same time, the melanin disperses into the upper layers and appears darker. This is the process that leads to a suntan which protects us from the harmful rays of the sun, however, prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays can increase the chance of skin cancer. (source)
2. Why do clocks run clock-wise?
Before mechanical clocks were invented, people relied on sundials to know time and the clocks turning clock-wise has everything to do with sundials. In the northern hemisphere, the earth rotates counter-clockwise, so viewers see the sun moving across the sky in a clockwise direction. When the first sundial was invented in 293 BC by mathematician and astronomer Theodosius of Bithynia, it was designed to cast shadows in the clockwise direction, following the sun. Mechanical clocks can be invented to run either clock-wise or counter clock-wise. However, the earliest ones were designed the same way as the sundial; probably because people were used to reading time that way. (source)
3. Why do we hate listening to our own voice on a recording?
It’s not uncommon for us to hear our own voice and think to ourselves, “Is that really us? I don’t sound like that!”. This is because we hear our own voice in a different way rather than how other people perceive it. When we speak, our voice travels through air, and reaches our ears. At the same time, when our vocal cords vibrate to create sound, the vibration travels through our bones and reaches our ear drums to create a false sense of bass. Our brains then combine the two sounds together and we perceive them as one.
However, when we hear it through a recording, the bass is eliminated and thus it sounds more high pitched than our version. A study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine found that when recorded sounds were played, only 38% of the participants were able to identify their own voice immediately. According to Martin Birchall, professor of laryngology at University College London, this is because of the distorted sound that creates a vocal self image rather than reality. (source)
4. Why do lawns have a distinctive smell when we mow them?
The smell of freshly cut grass is pleasing for some during the summer months. Of course having a clean yard is important but have you ever wondered what causes the “fresh cut grass” smell? It’s actually a chemical defense that also provides first aid to the plants. When the lawnmower trims the grass, the plants release airborne chemical compounds that save them from the trauma. The volatile organic compounds called green leaf volatiles (GLVs) are released during the process, which helps the plants heal at a faster rate. Scientists also believe that the chemical also acts as a distress signal, letting nearby plants know about the incident. (source)
5. Why does eating something cold give us brain freeze?
A brain freeze or ice cream headache is something we have all experienced at least once. It is actually a short-term headache caused when rapid consumption of anything that is extremely cold touches the upper palate (roof of the mouth). According to Medical News Today, a brain freeze typically occurs when the weather is hot and an individual consumes something cold at a fast pace.
When the cold substance touches the upper palate, it causes vasoconstriction (a narrowing of the blood vessels). Scientists studied 13 healthy individuals who were asked to sip cold water through a straw while touching the roof of their mouths. As the subjects sipped cold water, their blood flow in the brain was monitored. The results showed that when the participants encountered brain freeze, there was a dramatic and sudden increase in blood flow through the brain’s anterior cerebral artery. While the sensation does not cause anything serious, it can be extremely unpleasant and can be eliminated by consuming some warm water. (source)
6. Why do birds fly in a V-formation?
When it’s Autumn, we see migrating birds fly in a V formation, but why exactly do they do that? After studying various migratory birds, scientists finally have answers. According to them, it serves two important purposes: to conserve energy and to keep track of all the birds in the group. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, which reduces the wind resistance. Every bird takes turns flying in the front and when they get tired, they move back in the formation. This technique allows them to travel for hundreds of miles before needing to land and rest.
The second purpose is to simply keep track of all the birds who are flying together. When staying in the V formation, it allows everyone to see and communicate with each other. Fighter pilots also use the same formation because it increases the visibility of all the aircrafts. (source)
7. Do our phones have the ability to make emergency calls when there’s no network coverage?
It might come as a surprise but in most countries you can make an emergency call even when your carrier has no network coverage in the area. In order to make communication possible, network towers are required. When we place a call, the smartphone sends a signal and the nearest available tower would receive it. The signals are then transmitted to the destination, and then to the person with whom we are trying to connect. However, the whole process only works when we are within the range of a network tower.
In the case where our phones have no network, some smartphones might display a message stating that only “emergency calls can be made”. SIM cards work on the Global System For Mobile (GSM) feature. Today, if the home network is not available, most SIM cards allow phones to connect to towers of other service providers. In order to establish a connection for emergency purposes, most countries have adapted this technique that allows people to make emergency calls using other networks. In countries like the US, smartphones have the ability to place emergency calls even when SIM cards are not functional. (source)
8. Why are internet bots not capable of overriding “I am not a robot” checkboxes?
The popularity and ease of the internet allows many bad apples among us to conduct malicious acts. Since the rise of internet bots, Google has been working to find a simple solution that saves time for users like us and to also block bots from making spam comments. So, Google came up with a simple solution that was reCAPTCHA, an efficient way to stop bots in their tracks. The latest version of reCAPTCHA is so advanced that it is capable of detecting whether the user is a human or a bot with just the click of a button. How exactly does Google determine whether the user is a bot or not?
When a human checks the “I’m not a robot” box, the mouse pointer is moved to perform the action. Google has created an elaborate system that tracks the movement of the mouse and determines whether the pattern matches with any of the pre-recorded movements. Apart from that, while we click the checkbox, it also analyzes data such as the user’s IP address, screen resolution, browser details, mouse clicks, number of key strokes and so on. So, while the checkbox appears to be a simple tool, there are hundreds of thousands of processes happening within. (source)
9. Have you ever noticed that we tend to to skip certain words and we don’t always notice when there are two of of them?
Sometimes, it takes us a while to see or even understand that our brain actually skips over certain words if they are repeated more than once. The skipping process occurs because we read probabilistically. When we move our eyes from one position to another, it appears smooth to us but in reality, our eyes move in jerks, called saccades. So, instead of reading each and every word, our brain tries to minimize the number of saccades it takes to read something and aims at the next saccade based on what we’ve read so far.
During the process of reading, our brain tends to figure out the sentence before we are done reading it. Words such as “the, of and to” are predictable words since there aren’t many alternatives for them. This is why the human mind tends to ignore the the second “the”. (source)
10. Why do we close our eyes when we eat anything sour?
It’s common for us to scrunch our face when we bite on something sour; especially a lemon. So, why do we all have this unusual yet natural reaction? The reason is because sour foods contain a lot of acid. When such foods touch our tongues, it sends a signal to our brain that we are eating something extremely sour. Due to our natural instinct to protect ourselves, the brain perceives the sourness to be dangerous or something that could make us sick. Scientists believe that the squinting of eyes, wrinkling of face and other reactions that occur when we eat sour foods could be a sign, warning others to stay away from foods that might hurt us. (source)
11. Why is dust white against a black backdrop and black against a white one?
Dust is actually grey in color. Whether the dust particle comes from the street, the curtains or your bed, all dust particles are grey or light colored. When the dust lands on a keyboard, depending on the shade, the particles are either very visible or less visible. Dust landing on darker shades such as blue, black or teal will reveal more dust, while lighter shades conceal them. It’s a matter of how we perceive it. It’s a common misconception that darker shades attract more dust. The truth is, the dark colored keyboards absorb light and dust being a lighter color reflects it; making it visible. When it lands on a lighter colored keyboard, both the keys and the dust particles reflect light, making them extremely hard to see.
12. Why do we get motion sickness?
Motion sickness is a common ailment that has been recorded since ancient times. It occurs when there’s a conflict between our senses. For example, suppose you are driving down some winding road. While your eyes see one thing, the muscles in your body feel another. At the same time, your inner ears hear different sounds. When the brain receives these mixed signals, it has trouble making sense of the situation, thus causing you to feel dizzy and sick. (source)
13. Why don’t our eyes freeze at sub-zero temperatures?
Have you ever noticed that when we go out into very cold temperatures, our eyes don’t feel cold or freeze? Our eyes are capable of surviving extremely cold temperatures, totally unprotected. Unlike other body parts, our eyes are constantly pumped with a strong supply of warm blood. Apart from that, our eyes are placed deep within our head and surrounded by bone and tissue that keeps it warm. When we are in cold surroundings, our body starts diverting more blood to the brain (as well as other vital organs), which also helps the eyes stay warm. (source)
14. Why does flying make us feel exhausted?
Flying is the easiest and safest way to travel. Flying from one place to another can be extremely tiring but why do we get tired just from sitting in one position? When we are flying at altitudes of 30,000+ feet, the cabin keeps changing pressure to ensure that passengers are receiving enough breathable air. At the same time, when being at higher altitudes, the low humidity causes you to lose more fluids. Being at higher altitudes causes water molecules to be passed from you into the air, which in turn causes the low fluid levels or dehydration. Dehydrating can cause you to feel tired and staying hydrated during the flight can help reduce tiredness.
Another factor that causes tiredness is the constant vibrations caused by the airplane’s turbines. Although these vibrations are gentle, they are constant. While most people don’t feel the vibrations, they can cause your muscles to move constantly and drain your energy. Sitting on cushions on your seat and using a pillow on your neck can help reduce vibrations. (source)
15. Why are water bottles manufactured with a ‘flat’ bottom while soda bottles come with a ‘five pointed’ bottom?
Soda bottles, especially those made of plastic, are manufactured with five bumps called corrugations. While most people think that the bumps are designed to give the bottles a unique look, it’s actually a careful design that helps the liquid change volume under different conditions. The bumps or the corrugations at the bottom increase the bottle strength. Since most sodas are served cold, they are refrigerated. When room temperature soda is refrigerated, there is a change with the volume and pressure inside the bottle.
The five tips of the bumps slightly expand or contract depending on the pressure inside, thus helping the bottle adjust to the change in conditions. Water bottles on the other hand are not pressurized or carbonated, so there’s no change in pressure, unlike soda bottles. This is why water bottles have flat bottoms. (source)