Aug
09
2006

A continuation of the odds and ends questions

Q: Why do people blink?

A: People blink because the eye needs to be kept clean and moist. Every time you blink your eyelid coats the eye with fluids that keep your eyes moist and that flush away gunk. Blinking also helps prevent gunk from entering your eyes in the first place – lowering the lids and eyelashes forms a barrier that is hard for gunk to penetrate. Interestingly, you bink less when you are concentrating on something (like driving or surfing the internet).

Q: How tall can a willow tree be when they are full grown?

A: That depends on what species of willow tree you are referring to – there are lots. The White Willow can reach heights up to 100 feet, while the Artic Willow grows to less than a foot in height!

Space shuttle bathroom: A typical space shuttle bathroom.  Image courtesy NASA.
Space shuttle bathroom: A typical space shuttle bathroom. Image courtesy NASA.
Q: How do astronauts go to the bathroom in space?

A: Typically, there are toilets similar in function to toilets on Earth, but they use air suction instead of water to make the waste go where they want it to, since there is no gravity. Solid wastes are compressed and stored on-board, and then removed after returning to Earth. Waste water is vented to space, although future systems may be able to recycle it. The NASA web site has a short video on the subject.

Q: Why doesn’t a duck quack echo?

A: This is an urban legend – duck quacks do echo. This site proves it.

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