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PC Technician says Learn Something New Every Day

Learn Something New Every Day

Let's just set the record straight right from the get-go. “Tinfoil” is an obsolete term, as there has been no tin in the foil since about 1926. The foil is made almost entirely of aluminum, which should probably be your favourite metal for good reasons. Reynolds brand foil is 98.5% aluminum, leaving that 1.5% to [...]

It seems no matter how enlightened we become, the level of hokum in the world stays the same. In the dark ages you could not fault a person for believing that leeches and blood-letting could cure all ailments. The education just wasn't available. But now, as scientists are peeking into the fabric of the universe, [...]

The Delbouf illusion shows us that the perceived size of things can be manipulated by changing the size of nearby things. A person of average height would look tiny standing beside the 8 foot 11 inch Robert Wadlow. Not only would they look smaller, but it might affect your feelings and attitude about that person. [...]

It was in Medieval times when a toothed wheel used in machinery came to be known as a gear. This was the very beginning, when they were made of wood, and very large compared to the fine workings of a pocket watch. The technical function of gears is to transmit torque. In the example of the classic [...]

The choice between boxers or briefs is one that has only been available for about 80 years. For the century prior, about 1830 on, the prevalent underwear for men was the “Union Suit”, or something you might call long-johns. A full-body flannel suit, sometimes using the infamous buttoned bum-flap. Boxer shorts are so-named because they [...]

Have you ever seen a t-shirt that changes colour when it is in direct sunlight? Or perhaps new colours become visible? Maybe you have some of those fancy prescription glasses that become tinted sunglasses as you step outside. All that falls under the name Photochromism. Photo being light, and chromo being colour. It’s a minutely [...]

To make sure you're ready to go for April Fools Day, I'm going to teach you how to eat a goldfish to shock and awe your friends. I'm not talking about Goldfish crackers. That's less exciting. Rather, imagine you are at your friend's house. You are admiring her fish-tank when you reach into the tank, [...]

Have you ever seen a photograph that makes the world look tiny? Even through you know it's real, you can't help but see it as a close-up of a miniature model train village in a retired-person's basement. Have a look at this video of my city, Calgary, to see the illusion in action. "Moving Calgary" [...]

I have a friend who teaches a grade six class. Yesterday she began explaining how the moonlight is really just light reflected from the sun, when the whole class erupted into a volcano of curiosity. She couldn't keep up with all the great questions they were asking, and had them write them all down. She [...]

Back about 2000 years ago, the Greek scientists were becoming fascinated with magnetism when they stumbled upon lodestones, a naturally occurring magnet. Lodestone is a piece of magnetite, an iron oxide, which produces a strong magnetic field. Now, to be clear, not all magnetite is magnetic (it won't stick to your fridge by itself) but [...]

I've been wanting to work more video content into my LSNED blog, but I've been having enough trouble finding time to write and illustrate articles, let alone write, rehearse, record, edit, and post videos. Fortunately Steve from the Calgary International Children's Festival offered to do all the hard work for me! So, BEHOLD! The first, [...]

A plane zips across the sky, leaving in its wake a long line of white cloud. There is a conspiracy theory that swears this is the government spraying the world with “mind-control agents” for nefarious means. A little bit of science reveals the truth. The white line, called a condensation trail, or contrail, is made [...]

The brightest star that we can see in the night sky has been named Sirius, an ancient Greek word for “glowing”. It’s one of the closest stars to earth, about 8.5 light years away, and we can look forward to it getting brighter for the next 60,000 years as it inches ever closer to us. [...]

Alas, it has been a while since I’ve written a new LSNED article. There are only 24 hours in a day, you know! Twenty-four seems like an arbitrary number to choose for hours in a day. Consider that somebody along the way had to decide how long an hour was, and how many could squeeze [...]

I was talking with an amateur astronomer this morning who, in reference to another astronomer and blogger I mentioned, said “He’s great… except that he believes in black holes.” The comment caught me off guard. Up until that moment I had no idea that “black holes” was a topic of controversy. I dug into research [...]

There is a lot of hub-bub about a neutrino that was witnessed moving faster than the speed of light, a feat which was deemed impossible by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. The science community is working overtime to figure out if the experiment can be repeated and confirmed, as it would have a major impact [...]

Giraffes on the African plain primarily eat the leaves and buds of the Acacia tree. The tree has developed sharp thorns along its branches to try to fend off the herds, but the Giraffe has kept pace, evolving a long and dexterous tongue. A giraffe’s tongue will be about 18 to 20 inches in length. [...]

The Paradox Frog, Pseudis paradoxa, is native to South America found in the warm tropical lowlands of the Amazon forest, and other regions in the neighbourhood. It is considered a paradox after it thoroughly confused early biologists who happened upon it. They first decided that a young frog grew into an old tadpole, which would [...]

Dear LSNED, I have a “microfiber” cloth in my kitchen that was advertised as a miracle. What is so special about it? After use, should I have it blessed or can it be cleaned normally? -John Paul Hey JP, Technically, a microfiber is any fiber (as in a single strand of a textile) that is [...]

Dear LSNED, Why do cats go crazy over catnip? Also, “a cat I know” acted strange after getting into some olives. Are they related? -Percival Fluffington Dear Percy, First off, not all cats react to catnip. It appears to be genetic. Up until a kitten is three months old, they don’t care for catnip at [...]

Dear LSNED, You know those two little bumps between your nose and your lip? What is that called, and why is it there? -Bumpy Lips Dear Bumpy, In the medical textbooks, the focus isn’t so much on the two bumps, but the groove or dip between them. This groove, which extends down from your nose [...]

Dear LSNED, Why do I always burn my mouth when eating potatoes? Why do they stay so hot? -Hot Tater Dear Ms. Tater, It is true that, long after the asparagus has gone cold, your baked potato will be deliciously, or perhaps dangerously warm. The reason behind this is the high heat capacity of a [...]

A quick search on the internet machine reveals that a lot of people are very concerned and suspicious about the ingredients in their toothpaste. Let’s face it, the thought of putting Dicalcium Phosphate Dihydrate in your mouth may sound a bit scary. For the concerned consumer, there is actually a big market out there for [...]

Recycling is kind of the cool thing to do these days, which will have to do until we get better at the “reduce and reuse” parts. You may dutifully recycle your plastic beverage containers on a weekly basis, and if you’re following the local guidelines, you’re probably dutifully removing all the bottle caps before they [...]

If you’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places, try your local tennis game. Event the most inexperienced player will have no trouble finding love on the court. In tennis scoring, love means zero. This is believed to come from the French word l’oeuf, for egg. The egg shape signifies a round zero, [...]

It’s easy to shrug off electricity as a mundane part of life, but the more I think about it, the more it seems like magic. Electricity is the passing of electrons, the tiniest part of an individual atom, down the line from one atom to another like a hot potato. This electron flow is what [...]

I’ve already made my case for being skeptical towards global warming and climate change hysteria. The single biggest influence on the earth’s climate is the sun. It’s a burning ball of gas that is bigger than a million earths, and counts for 99.8% of all matter in our solar system. It’s kind of a big [...]

Be mindful, world travelers, when you order a tall glass of cool lemonade. It can mean different things in different parts of the world. It all started with limonade in France. It was simply water with some pure lemon juice added for a spritz of flavour. In french the addition of -ade adds action or [...]

When you mix regular off-the-shelf cornstarch with regular from-the-tap water you get yourself a physical anomaly. A substance that can be both a liquid and a solid at the same temperature. It’s called a non-Newtonian fluid because it doesn’t behave according to the what Sir Isaac Newton discovered about the viscosity (flow) of liquids. In [...]

Yesterday we learned that pigments, the chemical compounds that add colour to everything, have to be sourced from somewhere. Some of those sources will gross you out. You, ma’am, have bugs on your face right now. Carmine red is a popular pigment for it vibrant red colour. The source of carmine is the Dactylopius coccus, [...]

Artists and painters have it good. They can fulfill their imagination with all the colours they could ever want. But it wasn’t always so. Ancient cave paintings were pretty well limited to dark browns and reds, making use of rusted iron or earth. Bright blue and purple have become associated with royalty because, up until [...]

Cheese is made from milk. Milk is white. So why is your cheddar cheese yellow? It does not get that way from the natural process of making cheese. The colour comes from adding annatto. This comes from the fruit of the Anachio tree found in tropical South America. In that area it may be commonly [...]

I’m always interested in how words evolve over time. Nowadays we have the dictionary to settle all disputes about what’s proper or not, but the whole idea of the printed word is relatively new. As languages were created and shared through speaking, much like the telephone game, when the word was finally written down at [...]

Why are there so many candies and treats that are “blue raspberry” flavour? There is no such thing as a blue raspberry in the natural world. Most all raspberries are red, though the Rubus leucodermis, sometimes called a “blue raspberry” does turn from dark red to purple as it ripens. The flavour is purely an [...]

I assume we all have a basic understanding of an electric circuit. You run two wires between each end of a battery, and each terminal of a lightbulb socket, and let there be light. You can add a switch in the middle of one of the wires to break the flow of electricity and now [...]

In 1916, the American south was in the midst of the boll weevil crisis. The small beetle came from Mexico and was “just a-lookin’ for a home”. It was wreaking havoc on the cotton crops, which was the primary industry in much of the southern US at the time. That year, George Washington Carver was [...]

The Atlantic Hagfish is a uniquely gross sea creature which has been called the Slime Eel for its special ability to be very very icky. One hagfish, which is a snake-like fish, not an eel, about 18 inches long, can produce enough thick gooey slime to fill a milk jug in one go. The slime [...]

It’s Harry Houdini‘s birthday today. In his honour let’s talk about locks. As a famous escape artist, lock picking was his bread and butter. First, let’s understand how a lock works. I’ll only be talking about the common pin-tumbler lock. (usually called a Yale lock, after its inventor in 1860) This is the sort you [...]

Nuclear power has a bad reputation. Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and now Fukushima in Japan bring up the worst fears of tapping atomic energy. However, I feel optimistic about the future of nuclear power generators as a solution to our energy and pollution woes. So does France, apparently, which is generating 77% of its electricity [...]

All radio and TV broadcasts are assigned a “call sign“, a sequence of three or four letters such as WKRP in Cincinnati. I got curious as to how these came about and why. When my parents grew up, in a rural area, you and all your neighbours shared the same wired phone line. That means [...]

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