One of the best things about Science is that it answers questions we never realized needed answering. In fact, Science gets so overeager sometimes that it starts answering questions that really shouldn't have been asked in the first place. And then sometimes Science gets stuck on those questions and ends up skipping work at the cancer lab or the rocket dome that day because, for reasons it can no longer recall, it is now direly important that it figures out exactly how many licks it really takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
#5. Is It Possible to Walk Without Spilling Your Coffee?
It doesn't matter if your job involves driving trucks, operating on brains, or ruling the free world -- chances are you still need a dose of caffeine to function in the morning. The problem is that transporting the precious elixir to your workstation, be it a cramped cubicle or a secret laboratory inside a volcano, can be as precarious as walking a tightrope ... while holding scalding liquid.
The flimsy lids are to herd out the weak.
That's why Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer, two fluid physicists from the University of California at Santa Barbara, finally said "no more" and pooled their efforts to answer the age-old question: How the hell do you get from the break room to your desk with all of your finger-skin intact?
"This stopped being science long ago, gentlemen ... now we are playing God."
In order to solve this mystery, the researchers employed a rigorous scientific formula called "a bunch of people carrying cups of coffee to places." In each case, they studied the motion of the volunteer's walk, the trajectory of the coffee mug, and spillage from the mug. By analyzing this data, they found that coffee normally spills between the seventh and 10th step and, in the least helpful discovery ever, that trying to change your pace to stabilize the liquid only makes things worse. The logical conclusion is that coffee -- and probably God -- just straight up hates you.
They went on to try different mug designs, but the Coff-Piece never really took off.
The researchers used all this information to devise a number of scientifically tested ways to transport coffee without spilling a single drop. The first technique they suggest is simply to walk slowly -- most people try to walk fast, as if making the trip shorter decreases the chances of spillage, but that doesn't work thanks to the "no doy" principle. The second suggestion is a little more counterintuitive: watch the cup instead of your feet, since this allows you to make small adjustments to correct for sloshes of the liquid. The third suggestion is to get an unusually shaped cup, one with an interior series of rings to suppress sloshing. They got the idea from the way fuel tanks are stabilized inside missiles. So there you go: block your office hallways by walking infuriatingly slowly, focus on the coffee itself while paying absolutely no attention to where you're going, and carry a missile around. You won't waste a single ounce of precious caffeine for all of the 10 minutes before you're fired.
#4. What Are the Chances of Taking a Group Picture Where No One's Blinking?
Getty Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Quick: Locate a picture of several strangers smiling at the camera in a social situation. Google image search it, or just open up that one weird folder you have where you store all your spy shots of happy families taking portraits. You know, the sad folder named "things I can never have." Open that sucker up: Did someone ruin the photo by blinking at the precise moment it was being taken? Of course they did. That's just one of the two unavoidable realities of life: You will never be loved or happy because you are fundamentally broken inside, and somebody will always blink during a group portrait.
"Blink again, and your next pic will be a coroner's photo."
Photographer Nic Svenson and physicist Piers Barnes set out to figure out why this should be. No, not the whole "you dying alone" thing -- nobody cares about that. They wanted to know why we blink during group photos and how best to avoid it. To begin the experiment, the pair calculated the average number of times people blinked in a minute, which turned out to be 10. Since a blink lasts on average 250 milliseconds and the length of time a camera shutter opens is estimated at eight milliseconds, the probability of a single person ruining a photograph is equal to their expected number of blinks (x) multiplied by the length of time the photographer takes to snap the picture (t).
Apparently someone blinding you with a flashbulb doesn't factor in.
Or, for those of us who slept through math class, it's as simple as this: To calculate the number of shots needed to get a blink-free photo, divide the total number of people in the group by three -- so, if you have 12 people, four snaps should suffice. Unless the lighting is poor: In that case, divide the number of people by two instead, which would leave us at six photos. This is all assuming the group includes fewer than 20 people. If your group photo includes more than that, you're probably loved and respected by your fellow human beings and you have better things to obsess over than blink ratios. You spoiled bastard.
#3. Is Eating Your Boogers Good for You?
University of Saskatchewan biochemistry professor Scott Napper gives a lot of thought to boogers and their consumption, which sounds like something we'd say to ruin his rep with a bunch of second graders. But it's true. And in fact, he posits that there's an important biological reason why children do it. Scott Napper isn't just fooling around here; this is a serious and respected scientific professional.
Carla Shynkaruk, CTV News
His research into why none of the other scientists ever invite him to lunch has proven less fruitful.
As Napper tells his students, the mucus in our noses is designed to catch airborne pathogens in the environment. By eating those pathogens, kids could be teaching their bodies what sort of toxic stuff is floating around them, thus preparing and strengthening their immune systems. Napper also points out that the fact that nasal fluids have a sweet, sugary taste could be a sign that they're supposed to be ingested, rather than shunned and confined to trash bins. Napper presumably also points out that you should "stop making fun of him," and that he is not, in fact, "hitting himself" -- you're just moving his hands in such a way that he appears to be hitting himself.
Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf
"Today we're going to test my theory that a single photo can keep all us from ever getting laid again."