Category: Brain Dump

Who won the first Nobel Prize and why?

Question from Reggie Doyle When he died, the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel left instructions that his vast wealth should provide annual prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace, for individuals who “during the...

What do the pedals on a piano do?

Question from Gemma Reed When you press a piano key, a hammer inside hits the corresponding strings, just as a device called a damper is lifted. This enables the strings to vibrate, producing a...

Why can parrots talk?

Question from Moira Jones The noises made by most birds are hard-wired into their brains, but three types of birds –hummingbirds, songbirds and parrots – are capable of learning new vocalisations.  Scientists believe that...

What is the ‘internet of things’?

Question from Jenny Aldridge The internet of things (IOT) is the networking of different sorts of electronic devices through the internet, allowing them to collect data and communicate. For example, at home, Wi-Fi light...

Why do lemurs only live on the island of Madagascar?

Question from Kelly Evans Around 160 million years ago, Madagascar broke away from Africa. Records of lemur-like primate fossils date back approximately 60 million years have been found in mainland Africa, and further records show thatthey soon made...

Who invented roller skates?

Question from Joe McKinley The first recorded use of roller skates was in the 1760s, when Belgian-born John Joseph Merlin decided to demonstrate his new invention at a fancy masquerade party in London. After donning his inline skates...

How do superfast cameras work?

Question from Phoebe Sims A superfast camera is an electronic device that uses a charge-coupled device (CCD) or a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) active pixel sensor. The sensor is so sensitive to light that...

What are the ‘poles of cold’?

(Image credit: Maarten Takens) Question from Naomi Isles We’re all familiar with the poles of our planet – the northern and southernmost points according to the spin of the Earth and the position of...

How are materials made waterproof and windproof?

Question from Louise Peacock Weatherproof garments are made by sandwiching together different layers of materials. The outer layer is normally a tightly woven fabric, such as nylon or polyester, combined with a membrane. A...