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science trivia: weekend neuron edition

You must be in need of some science fun facts.
Let’s prepare for a pub quiz or a random Did you know date with someone you want to impress.
Here comes.

There are 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than human cells

Some of us almost compulsively wash our hands, disinfect our iPhones and laptops, or make a grimace when someone in public transportation coughs or god forbid sneezes near us, when, in fact, each and every one of us is a walking petri dish. All the bacteria living inside you could fill a half-gallon jug — there are 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than human cells. Most of these bacteria are helpful, though. In fact, we couldn’t survive without them.

Stomach acid is strong enough to dissolve stainless steel

Your stomach digests food thanks to highly corrosive hydrochloric acid with a pH of 2 to 3. This acid also attacks your stomach lining, which protects itself by secreting an alkali bicarbonate solution. The lining still needs to be replaced continually, and it entirely renews itself every four days.

Lungs do more than help us breathe – they also make blood

Lungs are sacred! They give us something the reason to live and breathe, literally. Well, there’s something else. This holly organ, present in all mammals, is believed to produce more than 10 million platelets (tiny blood cells) per hour. Platelets are critical for hemostasis, thrombosis, and inflammatory responses, but the events that lead to mature platelet production remain incompletely understood.

You can’t taste food without saliva

In order for food to have the taste, chemicals from it must first dissolve in saliva. It’s only once they’ve been dissolved in a liquid that the chemicals can be detected by receptors on taste buds. During this process, some salivary constituents chemically interact with taste substances. For example, salivary buffers (e.g., bicarbonate ions) decrease the concentration of free hydrogen ions (sour taste), and there are some salivary proteins that may bind with bitter taste substances.

In 2.3 billion years it will be too hot for life to exist on Earth

Over the coming hundreds of millions of years, the Sun will continue to get progressively brighter and hotter. In just over 2 billion years, temperatures will be high enough to evaporate our oceans, making life on Earth impossible. Our planet will become a vast desert similar to Mars today. As it expands into a red giant in the following few billion years, scientists predict that the Sun will finally engulf Earth altogether, spelling the definite end for our planet.

Polar bears are nearly undetectable by infrared cameras

Thermal cameras detect the heat lost by a subject as infrared, but polar bears are experts at conserving heat. The bears keep warm due to a thick layer of blubber under the skin. Add to this a dense fur coat and they can endure the chilliest Arctic day.

Venus is the only planet to spin clockwise

Our Solar System started off as a swirling cloud of dust and gas which eventually collapsed into a spinning disc with the Sun at its center. Because of this common origin, all the planets move around the Sun in the same direction and on roughly the same plane. They also all spin in the same direction (counterclockwise if observed from ‘above’) – except Uranus and Venus. Uranus spins on its side, while Venus defiantly spins in the complete opposite direction. The most likely cause of these planetary oddballs is gigantic asteroids which knocked them off course in the distant past.

A new state of matter exists

Alongside solid, liquid, and gaseous states, one extra state of matter has been found and it’s known as time crystals. Created in the lab, the outrageously hard-to-grasp time crystals are structures that repeat periodically in time rather than space, potentially defying the laws of physics. Regular, boringly ordered crystals with a twist: A fourth dimension, time, is added so that the material exhibits different periodic structures over time. What makes these crystals particularly remarkable has less to do with the fact that they repeat in time but rather more with the fact that they’re intrinsically out of equilibrium. Because time crystals are never able to settle down, say into a diamond or ruby, there’s a lot we can learn from them.

The penis is shaped that way for a good reason

Let’s face it. The penis is really is a type of very specialized tool. In human males, the shape of the penis–particularly the umbrella-like ‘lip’ under the tumescent glans head (the coronal ridge) was sculpted by natural selection to retract the semen of any other males who may have had sex with that woman within the previous 48 hours, since this is the approximate length of time that sperm remain viable.

Grasshoppers have ears in their bellies

Unlike humans, grasshoppers do not have ears on the side of their heads. As the ears of people, the grasshopper sound detector is a thin membrane called a tympanum, or “eardrum”. In adults, the tympanum is covered and protected by the wings, and allows the grasshopper to hear the songs of its fellow grasshoppers. The grasshopper tympanum is adapted to vibrate in response to signals that are important to the grasshopper. Male grasshoppers use sounds to call for mates and to claim territory. Females can hear the sound that males make and judge the relative size of the male from the pitch of the call (large males make deeper sounds). Other males can hear the sounds and judge the size of a potential rival. Males use this information to avoid fights with larger male grasshoppers or to chase smaller rivals from their territory.

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