‘What’s the deadliest weapon in the animal kingdom?’ And ‘Why do onions make me cry?’
Some of the best #StopAndAsk questions of Science Week 2017
Friday 17th November – This week as part of Science Week, members of the public have been using the hashtag #StopAndAsk to ask the questions that they’ve always wanted to know the answer to. Science Foundation Ireland, its researchers and the science community have been answering as many of these #StopAndAsk questions as possible
While the questions were broad-ranging in subject matter, some of the more popular topics that really took off were around animals, space, the human body and – the Irish staple – the weather!
Animals were amongst one of the most popular categories of #StopAndAsk questions throughout the week.
What's the deadliest weapon in animal kingdom? Was asked later in the week with the person asking the question thinking either venom, paralysation or to be ripped apart by an animal’s teeth. However, one person came back to say that they would put their money on “the mantis shrimp ‘raptorial appendages’ that boil water and create shockwaves to take down prey!”
We discovered that electricity is lazy when one person asked the Science Week team – Why don’t birds get electrocuted when they sit on electricity power lines? Answer: Electricity is lazy! It looks for the path of least resistance. Birds aren't good conductors of electricity - copper wires are the easier route. The electricity bypasses the birds and keeps flowing along the wire instead. However, if the bird touches the ground or another electric wire with a different voltage while sitting on the wire, then it would get shocked and likely die.
With the arrival of the new baby rhino in Dublin Zoo, Science Week was also asked – What's a rhino's horn made of and at what age does it grow? Answer: A rhino's horn is composed primarily of keratin (the same protein that makes up human hair and nails). In White Rhinos the front horn becomes visible at 1-2 months old. The back horn is visible from around a year old.
We discovered that Killer whales aren’t really whales at all this week - they are actually members of the dolphin family. This was discovered when Sminky Shorts asked his burning question – why do whales beach themselves? – and created an animation as part of the answer he found.
The human body was another very popular topic throughout the week with many people wanting to know why does our hair turn grey? Why some people go bald? and how do anti-aging creams work? Science Week produced a couple of videos to answer the question Why does our hair turn grey? and Why do we scratch an itch?
We also learnt that onions make you cry as a way of protecting your eyes – when you cut an onion, the cells break and a gas is formed. This gas mixes with the water in your eyes to form sulphuric acid which burns your eyes. Your body produces tears to wash it away and protect your eyes!
Beauty blogger, Louise Cooney asked – How do anti-aging creams work?
Answer: It depends on the active ingredient but most creams aim to increase the skin’s production of collagen, a protein that keeps the skin firm and elastic.
Dr. Ruth Freeman, Director of Strategy and Communications at Science Foundation Ireland said:
“Science Week continues until this Sunday and we want as many people as possible to get involved and ask the questions that have always made them curious. Members of the public have already asked some really insightful and interesting questions - they were even more diverse, entertaining and challenging than we had expected.
We’re calling on everyone to use the #StopAndAsk hashtag on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Science Week is a great opportunity to explore the world of science and technology that surrounds us. Science helps us to ask and answer the questions, solve the problems and shape the future, so we think it is valuable for everyone to engage in that conversation.”
Space was another popular topic with one person avoiding doing their homework and asking - What happens if you are sucked into a black hole? The answer given was: This is a great question with no easy answer but a lot of fascinating ideas. To an outside observer you get burnt to a crisp. But to you, you just keep on floating.
Some future astronauts asked - Is there any other planet or moon that humans can live on?
Answer: Saturn's moon Titan might be a cool place to live. With its thick atmosphere, you wouldn't need a space suit - just an oxygen mask and a lot of very warm clothes.
Science Week also produced an interesting video to ask the question ‘Can you fire a gun in space?’ which was also released during the week.
Hundreds of events are being held nationwide to celebrate Science Week from the 12th to the 19th of November. For a full list of the thrilling science shows, hands-on workshops and talks across the country, visit the Science Week website www.scienceweek.ie.
Join the #StopAndAsk conversation on social media using #StopAndAsk and watch out for science all around you!