One advantage of living in the information age is learning new things every day. Even more interesting is when we learn stuff that we thought we already knew but apparently didn't, like the fact that the sun is a sphere. Yep, science just found that out in February 2011. Next they're going to tell us that they just figured out whether the chicken or egg came first. Actually ....
#7. Which Came First: The Chicken or the Egg?
If you're anything like us, you probably spent a good part of your college years in a Denny's booth debating the universe's biggest mysteries, like how rad exactly is Dave Matthews Band live? And will baby tees and chunky Rachel layers ever go out of style? Eventually, we all arrived at the age-old dilemma that asks which came first: the chicken or the egg? And more importantly, who gives a crap? Well, Stephen Hawking, for starters, weighed in on the debate. He said it had to be the egg, and since Stephen Hawking majored in Super Genius at Mega Whiz University, we could probably just take his word for it.
What We Just Found Out
It was the chicken. SUCK IT, HAWKING! HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A FRIGGIN IDIOT???
Via Wikimedia Commons
Not such a big man now, are you, Hawking?
In the summer of 2010, British researchers cracked the eneggma when they discovered that the protein necessary to create the eggshell was fowlnd exclusively in the ovaries of the chicken. So the chicken had to come first, because the eggshell can't be made without that protein. Where did the chicken come from? Maybe a hybrid dinosaur called a chickosaurus. We don't know. We weren't there.
Via James Gurney
Bwok bwok ROAR!
The protein ovocledidin-17 controls the eggshell crystallization process, and without it, the shell couldn't form at all. Scientists weren't just trying to settle a bet between Hawking and some other scientist, either. Understanding what eggshells are made of has some pretty incredible real-world applications, such as strengthening synthetic bones or stopping freaking global warming.
One of the newest ways scientists are trying to tackle global warming is by capturing all that excess CO2 that cars and hairspray canisters have been farting into the air, then storing it until we figure out how to make flat-screen TVs out of it. Understanding the protein that makes eggs form can help us crystallize carbon dioxide into limestone, presumably so we can then dump it into the ocean. Because what harm could possibly come from putting genetically modified rocks into the ocean?
#6. Why Hair Turns Gray
The only people who are 100 percent cool with being grey/gray are Jennifer and Macy. The rest of us are willing to spend $42.5 billion a year covering it up. That's more than Americans spend every year on diet products, and look at how fat we are. Even women so decrepit that they're one wrinkly foot in the already-dug grave feel compelled to cover their gray hair, as if a little bleach is all it takes to make you forget they're a million years old.
Gentlemen prefer blondes! Like me!
Gray hair is one of those things that just sort of makes sense. The ink cartridges in our printers run out when they get old. Why wouldn't the ones in our heads run out of color, too? They're pretty much asking for it, since they keep printing everything in the same color.
What We Just Found Out
Actually, it's just the opposite. When we go gray, our bodies are bleaching our hair from the inside out.
Everyone's body makes hydrogen peroxide naturally. The buildup eventually gets so colossal that it blocks the melanin -- your body's natural hair dye. Without that melanin, the hairs turn gray, then eventually white. And just like that, we're old.
It apparently happened to Steve Martin at the ripe old age of 4.
So how did we just figure this out? After examining cell cultures of hair follicles, researchers found that aging adults have lower levels of an enzyme that breaks up hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. Basically, your scalp is the site of a battle between good and evil every day of your life. Right now, bleached barbarians are invading your hair from the inside of your scalp. Those of you whose bodies still produce colored hair have soldiers guarding each hair follicle and repelling the barbarians successfully. However, one day, your guards will decide they're too old for this shit and up and retire. Now the Ostrogoths reign over your follicular empire, and your glorious colored-hair civilization is over.
And they never, ever give up.
The good news is that knowing how the process works goes a long way toward knowing how to stop it from happening altogether. Imagine a world where you don't have to go gray if you don't want to, where your grandparents and great-grandparents keep the hair of their youth, where you have to get up close to tell whether someone is bangable.
#5. The Moon: What's Up With That?
Unless you're a Druid, a poet, a werewolf or some heinous combination of all three, you probably don't spend much time thinking about the moon. We notice when it's there, forget about it when it's hidden and occasionally laugh at the suckers who used to think it was made out of cheese.
Oh, and goths. Goths love them some moon.
Here's the thing, though. Despite the fact that the moon is obviously the closest thing to the Earth in the universe, or that we've been on it, up until fairly recently, we knew surprisingly little about it. Why is one side of the moon pockmarked while the other is smooth? How'd it get there? What's it made of? An annoying-enough person could have argued that the whole cheese theory technically could have been right, and up until recently, scientists would have had to back down. Sure, they had some good guesses, just like we've got guesses as to why starving people have big fat bellies (they're tricking us for sympathy). That doesn't mean they're right.
You dirty, manipulative bastards.
What We Just Found Out
No one has been on the moon for almost 40 years, so it's not like we could just pop up there and start digging and sticking thermometers into its craters. Fortunately, astronauts left seismometers on the moon during the Apollo missions that transmitted moonquake data back to Earth until 1977. Recently, a professor and a graduate student at Arizona State University took those numbers and applied a new method of analysis to them called array processing. By layering seismic recordings together and studying them at the same time, they were able to detect very faint signals they couldn't hear before. Then they used those signals, or "echoes," to map out what was going on beneath the moon's surface using the same techniques geoscientists use to figure out what's going on beneath the Earth's surface. Next, they high-fived each other and screamed, "Bla-DOW! Science!"
Yay! Time to break out the orange juice and people clothes!
The data told Professor Clever and his student minion that the moon has a solid, iron-rich core, just like the Earth's, and that the core is surrounded by a liquid iron outer core, also just like the Earth's. Both the Earth's core and the moon's core are made of iron, nickel and light elements like sulfur.
This is important, because it supports the prevalent theory of how the moon got there, which is that a Mars-size body hit Mother Earth, which chunked Baby Earth fetuses out into space, which eventually accelerated and melded together to make the moon. Sure, it doesn't explain where cheese comes from, but it's a start.
#4. Pruney Fingers
Remember the first time you noticed how your hands got wrinkly when you stayed in the bathtub too long? And how you assumed the wrinkling was caused by an aging curse cast by your neighbor, who was clearly a voodoo queen because she was the only woman in town who wore a turban? And remember how your mom explained that it was sitting in a bathtub for an hour and a half, not black magic, that gave you Shar-Pei hands? Turns out your mom was talking out of her ass.
She was trying to cover a terrible, terrible secret.
Not only did science not completely understand why you got pruney fingers in the bathtub, it didn't know why your skin didn't disintegrate after taking on so much water. This, apparently, was a real conundrum to scientists. They looked at your skin under a microscope, worked up some advanced mathematical models and decided that your skin should just fall apart like crepe paper in the rain every time you take a bath.
What We Just Found Out
Math. Math is under our skin, doing its mathy work, keeping our skin intact and unmelted.
Take a look:
That's a model of a gyroid, which is a geometrical shape found all over the natural world. Mathematicians think that fibers of keratin in our skin are actually woven into this shape as well, which is important, because it means the skin can expand but keep its structure because the fibers have so many connections to one another. With this pattern, the fibers can "swell to fill a volume seven times greater than its original shape."
That's what's happening when your skin wrinkles. It's absorbing water, which makes it grow in volume. Since the rest of your hand is still the same size, your skin begins to wrinkle the same way a glove would if it was too big for your hand. As unnerving as it might be to think that your skin is getting too baggy for the rest of your body, it's better than the alternative.
Most geometric models, when asked to grow in volume, just break up. To illustrate this, try taking a bath in a tub made of corrugated cardboard. Not so easy, is it? That's because unlike your skin, that cardboard is woven together in a gyroidless pattern, which falls apart.
As scientists learn more about gyroids, they might be able to use the pattern for synthetic skin, bandages, bulletproof vests and more weather-resistant housing for the homeless population.