Category Archives: Science

What Are Goose Bumps?

goosebumps

Justin R. asks: What is going on in our skin to create goose bumps? A holdover from an earlier stage in our evolution, goose bumps are a function of the autonomic nervous system reacting to a primal threat. Technically, the phenomenon is called the pilomotor reflex, and occurs when the arrector pili muscle, which runs between the base of a […]

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Saccadic Masking

blurry-image

Unknown to most, thousands of times each day we momentarily lose sight of the world around us. Known as saccadic masking, it is a function of the brain protecting us from suffering through blurred images that would otherwise be produced when our eyes move or shift. A saccade is a rapid eye movement between the places where the eye rests […]

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Slower Than a Turtle- The Speed of Electricity

turtle-light-bulb

Lindsey asks: How fast do electrons flow inside electrical cables? You may be surprised to learn that electrons flow through a typical copper wire much slower than a turtle walks. Each wire that conducts a flow of electrons, producing usable electric current, is composed of billions of atoms. To move along it, the electrons have to traverse these atoms, randomly […]

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Who Invented the Fahrenheit and Celsius Temperature Scales and What Zero Degrees Fahrenheit Signifies

Daniel-fahrenheit

B. Halpern asks: 0 degrees Celsius is the freezing point of water. So what is 0 degrees Fahrenheit? Who came up with Celsius and Fahrenheit? Firmly entrenched in American society, the seemingly capricious nature of the Fahrenheit temperature scale could lead one to think that its Dutch inventor, Daniel Fahrenheit, pulled the number for the freezing point (32°F) of water out […]

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The Origins of the Mathematical Convention of Using “X” as the Unknown

mathematics-symbols

Linda P. asks: Why do we always use “x” for everything in math? For hundreds of years, x has been the go-to symbol for the unknown quantity in mathematical equations. So who started this practice? Algebra was born in the Middle East, during the Golden Age of medieval Islamic civilization (750 to 1258 AD), and its early form can be […]

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