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FASCINATING FACTS: 10 INTERESTING FACTS YOU ALWAYS WONDERED ABOUT

Google it!” is what we would say if we need to find an answer for something. For everything from relationship advice to recipes, Google is our go-to solution for almost everything. But there are times when we would wonder why some everyday things are how they are, but wipe it out of our minds to “focus on more important things.” Sometimes finding an answer on Google means surfing endlessly through web pages that eventually lead us elsewhere making a virtual maze of a kind. This article answers those questions in one place through ten interesting facts that you’re too lazy to Google.

1. Why does freshly cut grass have that distinct smell?

Image credit: Pixabay

Although the smell of freshly cut grass is very good, the reason behind the smell is not something one would like to hear. To put in one word, the smell is trauma. When the grass is cut, organic compounds called green leaf volatiles (GLV) are released in a much higher amount than usual from the plants. These compounds help in closing the wound in the plant at the place where the grass has been cut along with playing a role in preventing fungal growth. Some of the compounds aid in the formation of new cells while others act as distress signals.

For humans, the GLVs are pleasing to the nose. The group of eight, related, oxygenated hydrocarbons along with alcohols and aldehydes cause the “green odor” that we smell after the grass is freshly cut. However, this “green odor” comes at a cost as the GLVs form “bad” ozone that is detrimental to the environment and is the main component of photochemical smog in the atmosphere. (source)

2. Why does it seem like we look better in the mirror than we do in a photograph?

Image credit: Pixabay

The photographs we see are actually flipped, mirror images of ourselves. We are used to seeing ourselves in the mirror, and so our snapshots don’t seem to look right. This has a lot do with the fact that most human faces are not symmetrical – one eye or ear might be slightly bigger than the other, or we may have a mark or mole on our faces. Some people part their hair on one side which is what they prefer, but the photographs show it flipped making the image look odd.

When you see a photograph, you expect a certain image of you that stems from the memory of your face in the mirror. You don’t see what you expect which leads to disappointment, and you don’t like how you look in the photograph. On the other hand, your family and friends might end up liking the photograph of you and find nothing wrong with it because that is how you appear to them every day. It all boils down to expectations. (source)

3. Why do most water bottles have a flat bottom and most soda or soft drink bottles have a five-pointed bottom?

Image credit: sewmanyways.blogspot.com
When the soda or soft drink bottles were engineered, two major things were kept in mind. The design of the bottles was not made so for looks. One reason is the bottle must be able to withstand the change in volume that occurs when the chilled liquid increases in temperature and shouldn’t topple. The second reason is it should be able to resist the process where the bottles are pressurized to fill the gas as the drinks are carbonated.

A “five-pointed” corrugation in most of the soda bottles makes them stronger. When you try to crush the top of a soda or soft drink bottle, it is easier to do so than to try and crush its bottom, as the latter has stronger resistance to force. The bottles become narrower towards the top to improve stability. In case of water bottles and juice bottles, since they are not pressurized, they don’t have as many bumps as the soda bottles. However, even water bottles have small indents on the bottom to improve stability. (source)

4. Why does standing in one place make your legs sorer than walking?

Image credit: Pixabay

Walking doesn’t make our leg muscles as sore as it would when we are just standing. There are many reasons behind that. When we stand, the calf muscles in our legs are under great pressure as they take all the weight. This tires the legs out as opposed to when we are walking when other muscles in the thighs, buttocks, core, and arms share the burden with the calves. Standing also tires the feet. Also, our legs do not get a break, as none of them are off ground for even a second when we are standing, but when we walk, the legs get a quick break alternatively.

Standing still can hinder the heart from pumping blood efficiently. This is one reason why our feet swell after long periods of standing. While walking, the muscles contract which helps the heart to pump blood. These were the physiological aspects. There is a mental aspect too. While standing, as we are stagnant in one place as opposed to walking when the sights around keep changing, we tend to get bored and focus more on the pain and tiredness in our legs. Walking is also known to release endorphins, the feel-good neurotransmitter. (source)

5. Why is the foam of a shampoo always white irrespective of the shampoo’s color?

Image credit: Pixabay

To understand this better, let’s use an analogy. When a balloon is deflated, it is opaque with its color very much visible. As we go on inflating the balloon, it becomes lighter in color. If we continue to inflate the balloon without bursting it, there will come a point when it will become almost white. The same is the case with the bubbles that form in the foam of a shampoo. The pigments in the shampoo become so thin when mixed with water that the visible light gets scattered. The light rays get reflected in several directions after striking a surface (bubbles in this case) much like how the sky appears white or grey at times. Also, the dye that is used in coloring a shampoo is highly diluted, which means that when further diluted with water, the color becomes much lighter.

The scattering of light in case of the foam happens as the light has to pass through several bubbles, which means several surfaces. The light spreads in multiple directions making it almost impossible for the human eye to detect colors. The same thing happens with soap bars, body washes, hand washes, etc. (12)

6. Why does a candle not produce smoke when burning, but lots of smoke when you blow it out?

Image credit: Pixabay

There are two parts of a candle: the wax and the wick. The wick is the thread-like thing that sticks out and which we light with a match. The wax is the fuel that burns producing light through the capillary action of the wick. When the candle is burning, we do not see smoke coming out of it. When we blow it out, what we see is not smoke but vaporized paraffin wax that was acting as fuel. The candle wax is not just melting, it is also vaporizing.

The vaporized paraffin wax is to candle wax what steam is to water. When we blow out a candle, some heat due to combustion remains in the wick. This heat continues to vaporize the candle wax for a few seconds. As there is no flame, the wax doesn’t burn properly and condenses in the colder air around the wick forming the smoke which stops after a few seconds and turns solid. Try an experiment of blowing out a candle and re-lighting it through the smoke without touching the wick. It acts as a conclusive proof that the smoke is indeed vaporized candle wax. (source)

7. Why do men lose weight faster than women?

Image credit: Pixabay

study that was published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism talked about how 2,200 overweight adults from Europe, Australia, and New Zealand were put on an 800-calorie diet for eight weeks. At the end of the eight-week period, it was observed that men lost 16% more weight than women. A few other not-so-good results were observed in women including a decrease in HDL cholesterol, bone mineral density, and lean body mass, all of which can cause a slow metabolism.

The reason why men lose weight faster than women is because men are physiologically built to burn fat faster. They have a higher metabolic rate and more lean muscle mass that consumes more calories. Because men have a higher metabolic rate, they need to consume more calories. In the case of the study mentioned above, as both men and women consumed an equal amount of calories, a larger calorie deficit was created for men which resulted in the shedding of more kilograms. (source)

8. Why does our skin get darker and our hair gets lighter under the Sun?

Image credit: Pixabay

Our hair and skin both have melanin, a pigmented polymer that serves as a protection from the ultra-violet (UV) rays of the Sun. Melanin is responsible for absorbing and scattering the UV rays, but in case of prolonged exposure, it degrades.  Our skin cells react to the UV rays causing the body to produce a hormone that binds to melanin-making cells. This makes the skin produce more melanin which becomes darker as it disperses from the lower layer of the skin to its upper layer. This is what darkens our skin and causes a suntan.

In case of our hair, since the cells are dead, new melanin is not produced once the melanin that is already present is exhausted. The hair cells are comprised of structured proteins, lipids, water, and pigments which in no way help the hair retain its original color. So, the hair gets lighter under the Sun and remains that way until they are cut and new strands grow in the place of the damaged, lighter ones. (source)

9. Why don’t we recognize own voice in a recording?

Image credit: Pixabay

It is common to not to “sound like yourself” in recordings, and there is a reason. When we hear other people talk, the sound waves travel through the air and vibrate our eardrums. The same happens when we hear our own voice in addition to one more thing. Our vocal cords vibrate when we speak, and these vibrations are a second source of sound for us. So, when we speak, what we hear is a combination of these two sounds.

When we hear a recording of our voice, the only thing we hear is the external stimulus and not the vocal cord vibrations making it sound very different to us, almost unrecognizable as we are not used to hearing it. According to a study, when people heard recordings of their own voices, only 38% were able to immediately identify their own voice. The recording of our own voice is at a higher pitch and does not have a false sense of bass like the one we have when we hear ourselves speak. (12)

10. Why do our fingernails grow faster than our toenails? 

Image credit: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

Our fingernails grow two to three times faster than our toenails. There are a lot of similarities between our fingernails and toenails. Both have a distal matrix (below the cuticle) from where new nails grow. The distal matrix has epithelial cells which die over time and leave behind the protein keratin. A key enzyme called transglutaminase is mixed with keratin and other proteins and fats which then grows into a hardened nail. However, the growth patterns of the nails in the toes and the ones in the fingers are different.

One popular theory for the slower growth of toenails is that lesser blood flow reaches the feet than the hands resulting in lesser oxygen and nutrients for the growth of new cells in the toenails’ distal matrix. We also tend to cover our feet in socks and shoes reducing circulation. Another theory is that our fingernails undergo more trauma than our toenails as we use our hands more and for a variety of tasks. The trauma caused brings about an increase in the growth of the epithelial cells which results in more growth. It has also been observed that as we age, our nail growth slows down by around 30%. The growth also slows down in the winter. (source)

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