The Ultimate Book of Mind-Blowing Answers

The Ultimate Book of Mind-Blowing Answers

In this special edition, the experts from BBC Science Focus Magazine reveal the mind-blowing answers to the perplexing questions that baffle the brightest of brains. Puzzling questions like... ❱❱ Why do astronauts always wear white suits? ❱❱ Do solar panels work better on hot days? ❱❱ Why don’t horses have toes? ❱❱ What state of matter is fire: solid, liquid or gas? ❱❱ If clouds can weigh tonnes, how do they stay aloft?

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2 min
assume nothing

You’d be surprised at how many things each of us takes for granted. Whether you call it common sense, assumed knowledge or simply the details you don’t need to think about, the sheer amount of stuff that we unquestioningly accept is staggering. Stuff like the fact that the Earth is constantly spinning, or that some materials are magnetic, or that water is clear, or that – somewhat conveniently – there are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour. But take a moment to consider any one of those facts and questions very quickly start to arise. Questions like: why can’t I feel the Earth spinning? What makes something magnetic? If water is clear, why is the sea blue? And who decided how long a second should be? On the…

1 min
eye opener

What is this? This rainbow explosion may resemble the shape of a brain but it’s actually a map of a mouse kidney, as revealed by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) – a type of magnetic resonance imaging. DTI tracks the motions of water molecules passing through the fine tubes inside the kidney. The fluid travelling through these ‘tubules’ has nutrients removed and waste products added as it’s turned into urine. The colours of the fibres in this image represent their orientation, building a 3D representation of the architecture of the kidney. This photo was the winner of 2018’s BMC Research in Progress photo competition. VISIT US FOR MORE AMAZING IMAGES: SCIENCEFOCUS BBCSCIENCEFOCUS…

20 min
human body

IS MUSCLE MEMORY REAL? There are two kinds, both very real. The first, properly called ‘procedural memory’, strengthens the synaptic pathways in your brain for specific coordinated sequences of muscle movements that you perform often. This is what allows a guitar player to form the chord shapes without consciously considering the position of each finger, for example. There is another kind of muscle memory, though. If you’ve previously put on muscle mass through training, then it’s easier to bulk up again in the future than if you had never trained before. Muscle cells gain extra nuclei during training and these can last for 15 years, even after the muscle fibres have shrunk back to normal size. It’s as if the muscles ‘remember’ their previous strength and find it easier to return…

1 min
…when i have a panic attack?

1. EYES Pupils open wider to increase the light reaching the retina. This boosts vision in low light and improves the ‘frame rate’ for rapidly moving objects. 2. BRAIN Attention narrows to focus exclusively on the perceived source of the threat. If there is no physical danger, this can feel like tunnel vision. 3. HEART Pulse rate rises. Your chest feels like it is thumping and you hear the sudden swooshing in your ears as your blood flow increases. 4. STOMACH Blood is diverted away from your stomach and kidneys, because these are less important in a crisis. This can make you feel sick. 5. LEGS Your circulation and nervous system are getting your legs ready to run. If you have nothing to flee, the muscles will begin trembling uncontrollably. 6. SKIN You sweat because your body is preparing to shed…

1 min
eye opener

What is this? The Milky Way forms a shimmering arc above the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a cluster of 66 radio telescopes that are studying light from some of the oldest galaxies in the Universe. To reduce the amount of light absorbed by the vapour in Earth’s atmosphere, these telescopes have been built 5,000m above sea level in one of driest places on the planet. The conditions here are ideal, as not only is light absorption reduced but there’s also very little light pollution or radio interference. Just to the right of the nearest telescope, you can see the kite-shaped group of four stars known as the Southern Cross. PHORÁLEK/ESO VISIT US FOR MORE AMAZING IMAGES: SCIENCEFOCUS BBCSCIENCEFOCUS…

14 min

WHY DO ASTRONAUTS ALWAYS USE WHITE SUITS? Space is a dangerous environment and presents extremes of both hot and cold for the human explorer. To allow spacesuit cooling (and heating) systems to work most efficiently, they are made of material that reflects much of the incident radiation (mostly sunlight) that falls on them; hence, they are white. Another reason for using white material is it this helps astronauts to be visible to crew members, even in the darkness of the Earth’s shadow. AGu COULD WE USE RADIOMETRIC DATING ON ‘OUMUAMUA? Discovered in October 2017, ‘Oumuamua was the first object of interstellar origin found in the Solar System. It is a fascinating object; an elongated red rock about 230 metres long, by 35 metres wide, but its origin is a mystery. Radiometric dating has…