142
votes
3answers
42k views

Why do I only breathe out of one nostril?

I was just sitting with my hand next to my nose and I realized that air was only coming out of the right nostril. Why is that? I would think I would use both, it seems much more efficient. Have I ...
81
votes
2answers
2k views

How many times did life emerge from the ocean?

Evolution is often mistakenly depicted as linear in popular culture. One main feature of this depiction in popular culture, but even in science popularisation, is that some ocean-dwelling animal sheds ...
70
votes
5answers
2k views

Is there a reason why human eyesight and plants make use of the same wavelength of light?

The accepted range for the wavelengths of light that the human eye can detect is roughly between 400nm and 700nm. Is it a co-incidence that these wavelengths are identical to those in the ...
65
votes
4answers
40k views

Why is uracil used in RNA rather than thymine?

What is the advantage gained by the substitution of thymine with uracil? I have read previously that it is due to thymine being "better protected" and therefore more suited to the storage role of ...
64
votes
1answer
6k views

Do bacteria die of old age?

I know that the cells of mammals at least stop dividing when they are old, and then die a programmed cell death. Then other cells have to replace them. But in a bacterial colony, each cell ...
61
votes
5answers
10k views

Does DNA have the equivalent of IF-statements, WHILE loops, or function calls? How about GOTO?

Does DNA have anything like IF-statements, GOTO-jumps, or WHILE loops? In software development, these constructs have the following functions: IF-statements: An IF statement executes the code in a ...
58
votes
4answers
7k views

Why 22 amino acids instead of 64?

This question got me thinking about amino acids and the ambiguity in the genetic code. With 4 nucleotides in RNA and 3 per codon, there are 64 codons. However, these 64 codons only code for 22 ...
57
votes
3answers
3k views

Why did the process of sleep evolve in many animals? What is its evolutionary advantage?

The process of sleep seems to be very disadvantageous to an organism as it is extremely vulnerable to predation for several hours at a time. Why is sleep necessary in so many animals? What advantage ...
53
votes
6answers
4k views

Why do plants have green leaves and not red?

I know plants are green due to chlorophyll. Surely it would be more beneficial for plants to be red than green as by being green they reflect green light and do not absorb it even though green light ...
52
votes
2answers
2k views

Is there any evidence that sexual selection may lead to extinction of species?

Darwin suggested that sexual selection, especially by female choice, may counter natural selection. Theoretical models, such as a Fisherian runaway process, suggest that evolution of preference and ...
50
votes
11answers
11k views

Can humans survive without consuming life? [closed]

Some people say that it's awful that humans eat animals. They feel that it's barbaric, because you're killing life and then on top of that, you're eating it, and that you should eat vegetation ...
47
votes
3answers
9k views

How does the brain's energy consumption depend on mental activity?

What is the impact of mental activity on the energy consumption of the human brain? I am most interested in intellectually demanding tasks (e.g., chess matches, solving a puzzle, taking a difficult ...
46
votes
4answers
29k views

Death because of distilled water consumption

One of my friends said that I would die if I drank distilled water (we were using it in a chemistry experiment) I gave it a go and surprisingly did not die. I did a bit of Googling and found this ...
46
votes
5answers
4k views

Life without DNA?

I'm by no means an expert in the field, merely a curious visitor, but I've been thinking about this and Google isn't of much help. Do we know of any lifeforms that don't have the conventional ...
46
votes
1answer
12k views

Why do Humans not produce Vitamin C like other mammals?

Why do most mammals produce their own Vitamin C? Why do Humans not?
43
votes
2answers
7k views

Do ants or other insects sleep, and if so why?

I was thinking yesterday about insects (as there was a spider in the house, and I couldn't help but think of anything else, even though they aren't insects), and I started to wonder if ants sleep? ...
43
votes
4answers
3k views

Why are there no wheeled animals?

In physics, "almost everything is already discovered, and all that remains is to fill a few unimportant holes." (See Jolly.) Therefore, on Physics SE, people are veering off into different directions: ...
41
votes
2answers
8k views

Can a woman give birth to twins with different fathers?

Is it possible for a woman to conceive from two different men and give birth to half-siblings?
40
votes
1answer
3k views

What could cause a forest of bent trees?

While hiking on the northern Idaho-Montana border, I encountered a large area where virtually every tree is bent at the base in the downhill direction. Only the very largest and very smallest trees ...
40
votes
1answer
21k views

Why Does Salt Water Help Sore Throats?

I am having some trouble understanding how salt water, a simple solution, could so effectively remove the pains of a sore throat. I do believe that the answer is closely related to hypo/hyper-tonic ...
38
votes
4answers
2k views

What exactly are computers used for in DNA sequencing?

I've thoroughly read the Wikipedia article on DNA sequencing and can't get one thing. There's some hardcore chemistry involved in the process that somehow splits the DNA and then isolates its parts. ...
38
votes
3answers
3k views

Why does cracking a joint make noise?

What causes the noise when you crack a joint? Is joint cracking harmful?
38
votes
5answers
1k views

Human perception of time depending on age

From what I can tell and what thus far all people with whom I discussed this subject confirmed is that time appears to "accelerate" as we age. Digging a little, most explanations I found basically ...
37
votes
3answers
1k views

Can scientists create totally synthetic life?

This particular question has been of a great deal of interest to me, especially since it dives at the heart of abiogenesis.
35
votes
3answers
890 views

How does the sensitive plant detect vibrations?

The sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica) is a remarkable little plant whose characteristic feature is its ability to droop its leaves when disturbed: Apparently, this ability to droop rests on the cells ...
35
votes
5answers
2k views

Why do men have nipples?

I'd be tempted to call nipples in men vestigial, but that suggests they have no modern function. They do have a function, of course, but only in women. So why do men (and all male mammals) have them? ...
35
votes
2answers
599 views

Is there evidence that some non-human species perform sexual selection based primarily on intelligence? How do they do this?

I'm a biology amateur, but it seems like sexual selection is almost always performed based on physical characteristics, the outcome of physical contests, or some sort elaborate courtship. But do any ...
35
votes
3answers
4k views

Why is polyploidy lethal for some organisms while for others is not?

Polyploidy is the multiplication of number of chromosomal sets from 2n to 3n (triploidy), 4n (tetraploidy) and so on. It is quite common in plants, for example many crops like wheat or Brassica forms. ...
34
votes
2answers
2k views

How do cockroaches resist the effects of ionizing radiation?

Cockroaches are very hardy insects. It is known that, among other things, they are able to withstand bursts of ionizing radiation that would kill a human being. The explanations of this observed ...
34
votes
4answers
2k views

Why do smaller mammals move intermittently?

I was watching a nice little video on youtube but couldn't help but notice how snappy smaller animals such as rats and chipmunks move. By snappy I mean how the animal moves in almost discrete states ...
34
votes
2answers
812 views

Why don't teeth glow?

Hydroxyapatite is the main component of tooth enamel. It contains phosphorus in the form of phosphates, pyrophosphates etc. that are found to exhibit the the property of phosphorescence. But why don't ...
34
votes
1answer
2k views

Is the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” beneficial for marine wildlife?

A study was just released by researchers at Scripps Institute of Oceanography revealing a drastic increase in the amount of plastic adrift in the Pacific Ocean. According to the paper, the amount of ...
33
votes
4answers
81k views

What's the maximum and minimum temperature a human can survive?

This is a question that has been in my mind since I was a kid. I'm not a doctor, nor even a biology student, just a curious person. What is the minimum and maximum temperature a human body can stand ...
32
votes
5answers
7k views

What does the human body use oxygen for besides the final electron acceptor in the electron transport chain?

My biology teachers never explained why animals need to breathe oxygen, just that we organisms die if we don't get oxygen for too long. Maybe one of them happened to mention that its used to make ATP. ...
32
votes
5answers
3k views

Is there an advantage to antibacterial soap?

There are plenty of different hand soaps out there, as well as hand sanitizers. Is there an advantage to soaps that claim that they're antibacterial vs soaps that just say soap? In particular I'm ...
31
votes
7answers
5k views

Why does evolution not make our life longer?

Why does evolution not make life longer for humans or any other species?
31
votes
4answers
5k views

Do plants produce any heat?

Many plants (e.g. roses, palms) can be protected from frost during the winter if shielded with an appropriate coat that can be bought in garden shops. Do plants produce any heat that can be kept ...
31
votes
1answer
4k views

What causes morning wood?

Sometimes men wake up with an erection in the morning. Why does this happen?
31
votes
5answers
1k views

Why do we age? or Do we have a theory of senescence?

There seem to be a number of ideas about why we age. Hypotheses include the gradual accumulation of cell metabolic products affecting organism function and the reduction of telomere length during cell ...
31
votes
1answer
850 views

What is itching?

What exactly at the molecular level is itching? What physiological function does itching serve, if any? I cant remember the reference but a PLCb3 null mice lost the itch phenotype, so presumably it is ...
30
votes
5answers
2k views

Why are there no organisms with metal body parts, like weapons, bones, and armour? (Or are there?)

Reading this question, Why are there no wheeled animals?, I wondered why no organisms seem to make use of the tensile and other strengths of metal, as we do in metal tools and constructions. I am ...
30
votes
4answers
15k views

Is there any advantage to one blood type over another?

All humans can be grouped into ABO and Rh+/- blood groups (at a minimum). Is there any advantage at all to one group or the other? This article hints that there are some pathogens that display a ...
30
votes
3answers
15k views

Why do eukaryotic organisms have introns in their DNA?

We touched on introns and exons in my bio class, but unfortunately we didn't really talk about why Eukaryotes have introns. It would seem they would have to have some purpose since prokaryotes do not ...
29
votes
4answers
6k views

Why don't mammals have more than 4 limbs?

Arthropods have 6 or more limbs and arthropods with 6 limbs appear to move faster than arthropods with 8 limbs so I wonder whether this might have something to do with fast and efficient locomotion. ...
29
votes
4answers
648 views

Why are amino acids in biology homochiral?

Why are nearly all amino acids in organisms left-handed (exception is glycine which has no isomer) when abiotic samples typical have an even mix of left- and right-handed molecules?
28
votes
2answers
6k views

What is the advantage of circular DNA in bacteria?

From what I understand, bacteria have circular DNA. What advantages does it have over linear strands like for eukaryotes? Do there exist bacteria with more than one ring of DNA?
28
votes
1answer
19k views

How does laughing gas (N₂O) work?

Laughing gas (N2O), well, makes people laugh. How does just a gas make us do that, there has to be some hormones at work... So, I wanted to know how this works? What is the mechanism?
28
votes
4answers
2k views

Why did life not evolve to use radio?

We use electromagnetic communication everywhere these days. Cell phones, wifi, old-school radio transmissions, television, deep space communication, etc. I'm curious about some of the possible ...
28
votes
1answer
500 views

How does a cell know its size?

Cells come in all sorts of sizes. How do they regulate their cell size to the point where similar cell types have a fairly mono-disperse size distribution? Reasked from ...
27
votes
7answers
463 views

Has there been any observation of species adapting the evolution process?

I am very interested in the evolution of the evolution process itself. There are of course a lot of things that influence how evolution will work, but for this question, I am interested in things that ...

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