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14 Answers to Intriguing Questions That May Leave You Baffled

 

 

Adults, just like children, are often interested in why some things happen and what they mean. But sometimes we don’t have enough time to Google the answers and forget about them later (or we’re too lazy to look them up) so we miss the chance to learn something new about our amazing world.

1. Where did the mermaid myth come from?

In the time of Columbus, it was easy to impress people. Their imagination would actively add details to facts, and the ability to dispel a myth or refute a theory was really limited. At the moment, the most convincing source of the mermaid myth is their resemblance with beluga whales. These creatures are beautiful, elegant, and incredibly smart and social. They sometimes “dress up” in seaweed and can even imitate human speech. They mostly live in the Arctic Ocean and some of them are seen in Irish and Scottish waters. It is probable that beluga whales communicated with superstitious sailors that became easily confused by the seaweed that looked like hair.

2. Is it possible to breathe through the nose and the mouth at the same time?

Theoretically, it is possible if you practice long and hard. This type of breathing is popular among musicians and yogis. But the natural reaction of the body when breathing through the nose is to block the mouth breathing path and vice versa. And breathing in and out at the same time is definitely impossible because inhaling and exhaling is the job of the lungs and not the mouth or the nose. The lungs can’t do 2 things at once. More than that, the trachea can’t let the air go in both directions simultaneously.

3. Why do some noises irritate us so much?

It is known that our ears are most sensitive to the frequencies between 2,000 Hz and 4,000 Hz. The noise of fingernails on a chalkboard is traditionally one of the most unpleasant sounds for most people. The same goes for baby cries. But at the moment, it’s not exactly known what causes the negative emotions. In the 2006 study that received the Ig Nobel Prize, scientists claimed that these frequencies are very similar to the ones that chimpanzees used to make the sound of an alarm. They suppose that we are irritated by these sounds because of our instincts and it’s a defense mechanism. But the most probable idea from neurobiologists right now that is that such sounds stimulate the amygdala — the part of the brain that is connected with fear.

4. Why do we have unpleasant breath in the morning?

Saliva is the natural protection of the mouth. It kills bacteria, flushes them and also dissolves and neutralizes the sulfur compounds that smell bad. So, every time we swallow the saliva, millions of bacteria are washed down the throat together with the pieces of food you eat. In the morning, there is a bad smell from the mouth because at night, there is less saliva in the mouth and we swallow it less often, so the germs are not killed.

5. Can the memory storage in our brain end?

In theory, the memory storage might end, but there have been no documented cases like this. In our brains, there are approximately 2 quadrillion bytes of memory. Compared to a video camera that records data in good quality, we would have enough space for 300 years of footage. So, the number of foreign languages and the amount of theoretical and practical knowledge we attain are determined by patience and persistence, not by a number of years.

6. What would happen if everyone on Earth jumped at the same time?

A part of the energy would return to the legs when you landed. And the rest of it would go into the ground and the air which would lead to some negative consequences. Here are some of them: Firstly, there would be an incredibly loud sound. For example, 200 decibels is the loudest sound ever created on Earth, and the sound of a jet engine is only 150 decibels. So, it’s almost impossible to avoid getting our eardrums ruptured. Secondly, the planet would shake and if the jump happened near the sea, it might cause a tsunami with 100-ft waves (just like in apocalyptic movies). And finally, the shake would possibly lead to an earthquake which could be minor or serious enough to destroy buildings, bridges and so on.

7. Why do people laugh when others are in pain?

This is about situations when someone falls unexpectedly, like in movies when someone slips on a banana peel. The answer to this question is in fact quite simple: a reaction of uncontrollable laughter is a psychological defense mechanism that was formed in childhood when there was something unpleasant around us. The main signs of this defense are denial or distortion of reality at a subconscious level. When we see a person hurt themselves, we imagine this happening to us. In turn, we get scared and have the opposite reaction in order not to panic. So, the more you laugh in such situations, the more compassionate you are.

8. Why do some songs get stuck in our heads?

There are several indications that a tune will get stuck in your head. The music must be simple, and the lyrics should be repetitive. The rhymes are likely short and simple. Another important aspect of a catchy song is the rhythm which can make a person move. Most “earworms” influence not only the memory but also the motor skills. And the last aspect is psychological. A song can get stuck in your mind if you were experiencing strong emotions while listening to it (it doesn’t matter if the emotions were connected with the lyrics or not).

9. Why do dogs tilt their heads when you talk to them?

Our pets can detect even the slightest changes in mimics, body language, and voice. So, when you are telling your dog off for torn shoes or asking them if they want to go for a walk, they tilt their headif they didn’t hear you well. They do this to make sure they heard you right and to see your facial expression better. They can detect our emotions so well that even when you are sad, they can sense it and understand your mood.

10. Why do cats knock things over?

According to doctor Ellen Whiteley, this behavior that many cats demonstrate is actually explained by the instincts. If you watch the way cats play with prey and catch it (for example, a mole or a lizard), you can notice that this is their usual behavior. When a cat pushes some motionless object on a table, it just follows its instincts, suspecting that one of these things can be a live mouse. Another explanation says that a cat might lack attention, and when it notices that its owner reacts to fallen objects and comes to pick it up, it makes the deduction that it’s a great way to attract your attention.

11. Why are we not ticklish when we tickle ourselves?

The article in Nature Neuroscience explains: the somatosensory cortex is responsible for detecting tactile information. Scientists conducted a study that showed when we try to tickle ourselves, we also stimulate the cerebellum. The cerebellum, however, takes part in predicting which signal will be on the surface of our skin. The brain uses the prediction in order not to react to the touch. The same mechanisms function in other brain systems. For example, this is why the picture stays motionless even when we move, despite the fact that the head and the eyes move. The brain stabilizes the image.

12. Why do nettles sting?

There are tiny hairs on the stems and leaves of nettles that look like thorns if you look closely. At the end of every spike, there is a bag with liquid — a mix of 3 elements: formic acid, histamine, and vitamin B4. The sting appears because the hairs touch the skin, break, and the contents of the bag end up on the skin. The formic acid causes irritation and redness. You can remove the symptoms by neutralizing the acid with alkali (soda).

13. When is it best to make important decisions — in the morning or in the evening?

Neuroscience has a straight answer: in the morning. During sleep, there are many important processes going on in the brain, and one of them is the consolidation of the information received during the day. At night, the nervous system works in a different way. There are no distracting factors, so the signals travel in the most efficient way. In other words, we keep thinking even at night, but it doesn’t happen in a nervous state. So in the morning, the decision is more correct. Dreams that come true are explained in the same way: the brain analyzes all the information and makes a prediction about the future.

14. Why do dogs follow us to the toilet?

There are several explanations for why dogs do this. First, dogs are pack animals that are naturally not used to being alone. So, if you are home, the dog will choose to be with you. The second reason is pure curiosity: as you close the door to the bathroom, there may be something interesting happening there, so your pet has to check that. Finally, your dog might just be guarding you. Just imagine if an intruder appears while you are in the bathroom — it won’t be easy for you to deal with them alone.

 

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