Category Archives: Deskarati Q&A

Why do humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes?

Why do humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes? Why not 13? Or 27? Well, it would take a while to trace the history of each of our chromosomes. But the tale of how we got down to 23 pairs from the … Continue reading

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How Much Heat Does a Computer Give Out?

Hot_Computer

Every computing device produces heat in proportion to the electricity it consumes. ENIAC, one of the first room-sized behemoths of the 1940s, used 174 kilowatts to run its vacuum tubes; these days, you have about as much computing power in … Continue reading

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Where do the terms Utopia and Dystopia come from?

The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_by_Bosch

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, oil on oak panels. Utopia The term utopia was coined in Greek by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia, describing a fictional island society in the Atlantic Ocean. The word comes … Continue reading

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Is it Better to Walk or Run in the Rain?

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Is a Magnetic Field Made of Photons?

Photon

The electromagnetic interaction is mediated by the constant exchange of photons from one charged object to another. The magnetic field is really just a classical approximation to the photon-exchange picture. In a moving reference frame, a magnetic field appears instead … Continue reading

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Why are cooling towers hyperbolic in section?

cooling-towers-nice

This is actually a difficult engineering question. The superiority of a hyperboloidal shell over conical or cylindrical isn’t clear cut, especially over a conical shell. But the chief difference is that at all surface points of both the cone and … Continue reading

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Which Line is Longer?

optical spy box optical illusion

  The Optical Spy box is split into the top third and the bottom two thirds. So which line is longer, the diagonal splitting the top third A-B or the diagonal splitting the bottom two thirds B-C?

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What’s the difference between a Chromosome a Chromatid and a Chromatin?

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Why do we say: ‘resting on your laurels’

In Ancient Greece, victorious athletes were presented with laurel wreaths to wear. They were, and still are, signs of great accomplishment, unless you start resting on them To ‘rest on your laurels’ means that you get lazy or complacent about … Continue reading

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How big are the ocean’s biggest animals?

WEB_Marine_Org_size

Click to enlarge Want to know what life is really like under the sea? From whales and sharks to squids, crabs and clams, this infographic shows just how big the ocean’s most colossal animals can get. Via NatGeo.

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Why do bananas get sweeter as they ripen?

Fruits disperse their seeds when animals eat them. By suddenly increasing the sugar content, plants encourage animals to selectively eat the fruits with mature seeds that have developed the protective coatings they will need to survive passage through the digestive … Continue reading

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Deskarati Fun Fact

Apple_optical_illusion

There are so many different kind of apples, that if you ate a new one everyday, it would take over 20 years to try them all.

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Why do we eat turkey dinners?

Swans, peacocks and boars’ heads graced aristocrats’ tables; more modest households made do with whatever seasonal fare they could find – chicken or goose, perhaps, or the odd pigeon. It’s claimed that one William Strickland brought back the first six … Continue reading

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What is an exciton?

exciton

An exciton forms when an atom absorbs a photon and excites an electron, moving it from the valence band of its atom into the conduction band. In turn, this leaves behind a positively-charged electron hole. The exciton is the combination of the electron and … Continue reading

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Can you really go blind by staring at the Sun?

It’s possible, but the hazard is often exaggerated. Even at midday, a normal eye will only let in enough light to heat the retina by about 4°C. You need at least 10°C to cause thermal damage. Looking at the Sun … Continue reading

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Why is it called ‘Black Friday’?

black-friday-sale

Black Friday has been adopted as the unofficial opening to the Christmas shopping period. It all began in the United States as a day of ‘doorbuster’ sales the day after Thanksgiving but increasingly, Britain is getting into the swing of … Continue reading

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What is a Billabong?

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What Does Sound Look Like?

You can actually see sound waves as they travel through the air thanks to a clever photographic trick.

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Are there any mitochondria in our red blood cells?

Are there any mitochondria in our red blood cells? | Pimm - Partial immortalization

One thing people usually know is that human red blood cells do not have cell nuclei, so they are lacking chromosomal DNA. But far less people have a guess about mitochondria’s presence in the erythrocytes. So are there any mitochondria … Continue reading

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Why Do We Say “O’Clock”?

The practice of saying “o’clock” is simply a remnant of simpler times when clocks weren’t very prevalent and people told time by a variety of means, depending on where they were and what references were available. Generally, of course, the … Continue reading

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