Category Archives: Science

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


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


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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Why Does Moist, Baled and Stacked Hay Spontaneously Catch Fire?


Mark R. asks: Why does wet hay that is bailed catch on fire? Plant reactions and bacterial growth combine to raise temperatures in even the driest hay bales, although most never catch fire on their own. However, when hay is packed tightly, and enough moisture gets in, the conditions may be right for spontaneous hay combustion. How does this work? […]

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What Causes Warts?


John A. asks: What causes warts and how do you get rid of them safely? A viral infection caused by one of several ubiquitous strains (there are more than 100 known, with the vast majority of humans acquiring at least one strain at some point in our lives) of the pesky human papillomavirus (HPV), skin warts happen as the virus […]

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How Memory Works


Dustin A. asks: How does the brain create memories? A complex network that stretches from your basest sensory organs to the most sophisticated portions of your brain, memory aids in everything from simple movements to complicated tasks, and ultimately makes us who we are. Comprised of three distinct neurological processes, memories can be sensory, short-term or long-term. Sensory Memory Acting […]

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The Flower That Smells Like a Rotting Corpse


Deep in the heart of Indonesia’s Sumatra rainforest, where tigers hunt, rhinos stampede, orangutans play, and cuckoos sing, blooms a flower that does its very best to attract more attention than any of the animals. The rare Amorphophallus Titanum, or Titan Arum, or known by its more descriptive nickname the “Corpse Flower,” is described as the world’s largest flower. But […]

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