31
votes
2answers
6k views

What actually happens when my leg 'falls asleep'?

Most people have experienced the temporary loss of feeling and tingling in their leg resulting from sitting in an abnormal position for a short while. Usually you get a loss of feeling in your leg ...
30
votes
3answers
5k views

Do trees really get a large share of their mass from the carbon in the air?

I remember hearing that trees and other plants actually obtain a large amount of their mass from the carbon floating in the air, not the ground beneath them. Does the makeup of air actually contain ...
30
votes
3answers
16k views

Why draw blood from veins rather than arteries?

Why draw blood from veins rather than arteries? Is it more convenient or safer?
30
votes
4answers
724 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?
30
votes
3answers
6k views

Can humans perceive sounds above 20 kHz?

In the never-ending debate raging in the audiophile community about sound quality and what humans can or cannot hear, it is very very very very incredibly often cited that the upper-limit of the ...
30
votes
5answers
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 ...
29
votes
8answers
527 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 ...
29
votes
3answers
3k views

How could humans have interbred with Neanderthals if we're a different species?

To be clear, I'm not doubting that homo sapiens and homo neanderthalensis did interbreed: of that much I'm convinced. Within the past few years I've seen an upcropping of pop-sci articles discussing ...
29
votes
2answers
7k 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
6answers
4k views

Why isn't a virus “alive”?

The recent news about a new supermassive virus being discovered got me thinking. What biological differences between viruses and cellular organisms have made viruses be deemed non-living?
28
votes
1answer
4k views

Why is the brain white?

I have read many articles about how the brain is the most power-hungry organ in any living complex organism, requiring about 70% of it's oxygen supplies in the resting state. Since the usual medium ...
28
votes
2answers
6k views

What do ants do with our finger nails?

There is place in my house where I cut my nails. Here, there is an ant hole where an ant colony is seen. Whenever I cut my nails from here, they take my nails inside their hole. I was wondering what ...
28
votes
1answer
2k views

How long will a vegetable live for after being harvested?

I understand this might depend on the types of vegetables, but is there an average or studied specifics? Does it die immediately? Is there a way to precisely diagnose death in plants? If so, what are ...
28
votes
1answer
2k views

Ripening bananas artificially: What is the biological reason

I am a resident of the tropical island of Sri Lanka, and we have a strange traditional method to ripen our bananas quickly. What we do is this: We dig a pit in earth that is enough to put the whole ...
27
votes
5answers
7k views

If evolution is not about improvement, why is there so much improvement?

In my last question I asked why we don't see improvement in artificial life simulations of evolution. It seems I had fallen for a common misconception, that evolution was about improvement. One ...
27
votes
1answer
7k views

Why does a coconut have exactly three holes

A theory says: As coconut is a sibling of palm, somehow long time ago, three palms were in a same husk. Based on evolution theory, it's how the coconut was born in the world with three holes. ...
27
votes
1answer
4k views

How many mosquitoes would it take to “drain” enough blood to put a person into shock?

I'm just curious, how many mosquito "bites" (mosquitoes which have removed blood from a person) would it take to remove enough blood to put a person into shock? (Putting aside all reasons why it ...
27
votes
2answers
5k views

Why do tattoos persist if body cells are regularly renewed?

I am not quite sure if it is true, but I read somewhere that within 7 years all the body's cells are replaced with new ones. I am not quite sure if it is cells or atoms. If it is then why do tattoos ...
27
votes
1answer
3k views

Is humans' height ideal?

More or less we humans are around 1.70 meters tall. My question is, would it be possible to scale us? that is, is it in principle possible having humans 1 cm tall, or 10 meters tall or is there some ...
27
votes
2answers
758 views

What are the trajectories of flying insects?

Many flying insects tend to have very jagged trajectories. For moves of a fruit fly looks like a random walk. Is there any research on the properties of trajectories (e.g. their fractal dimension or ...
27
votes
3answers
492 views

Is telomere length a reliable measure of health/lifespan?

Several companies are commercializing tests for telomere length such as this one here. I understand the basic mechanism for why telomeres shorten during DNA replication, but how good is the evidence ...
27
votes
4answers
21k views

How does cerebrospinal fluid circulate in the central nervous system?

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is produced in the choroid plexus of the lateral ventricles and in the 4th ventricle of the brain. CSF then circulates through the ventricles of the brain and the ...
27
votes
1answer
4k views

Why do ants live so long?

I was surprised to learn that worker ants in some species live many years. I would have expected a lifespan of a few weeks or months (which is apparently the case for many species). What factors ...
27
votes
1answer
20k views

Why do cockroaches flip over when they die?

This question has always mystified me since young. For beetles, I can reason that they flip over because they have a higher centre of gravity causing them to be in unstable equilibrium when they tuck ...
26
votes
7answers
9k views

How do we know that humans and chimpanzees evolved from a common ape ancestor? [closed]

Richard Dawkins in one of his videos says that Evolution is a fact and not just a theory. He goes on to say that man and chimpanzees both evolve from apes. Is this correct (Is evolution a fact and ...
26
votes
6answers
3k views

If a trait would be advantageous to an organism, why hasn't it evolved?

If a trait would be advantageous to an organism then why hasn't it evolved yet? Conversely, if a trait is not advantageous or mildly disadvantageous, why does it exist? In other words why does ...
26
votes
6answers
6k views

How should I ship plasmids?

I shipped 10 µL of my vector miniprep to a collaborator in a 1.5 mL eppendorf parafilmed shut and stuffed into a 50 mL conical with some paper-towel padding. However, something happened on the way ...
26
votes
5answers
711 views

Are there any substance that are more dangerous at low dose than at higher dose?

It is commonly admitted that The dose makes the poison which means as a person, the more I take a substance, the more risk I take for my health. There is even an indicator called LD50 (see ...
26
votes
2answers
477 views

How do biological communities at deep-ocean hydrothermal vents migrate between vents?

Much interest in the astrobiology community has been generated by the discovery of biological communities populating deep-ocean hydrothermal vents (i.e. "black smokers"). (1) These ecosystems rely on ...
26
votes
3answers
8k views

How long does antibiotic-dosed LB maintain good selection?

Various people in our lab will prepare a liter or so of LB, add kanamycin to 25-37 mg/L for selection, and store it at 4 °C for minipreps or other small cultures (where dosing straight LB with a 1000X ...
26
votes
6answers
12k views

Why is cold water more refreshing than warm water?

Obviously, the temperature of water does not affect its chemical composition. At least not in the ranges we are likely to drink it in. Yet it is clearly far more pleasant and refreshing to drink cool ...
26
votes
2answers
12k views

Where do migratory birds go when it rains?

I was reading a comic from XKCD which inspired me to ask this question: "well, where do they go when it rains?" I know that when it rains you usually don't see any birds flying through the sky. I ...
25
votes
4answers
3k views

How do trees manage to grow equally in all directions?

I was walking down a road with these beautifully huge trees when this question occurred to me. Large trees with many thick branches have to grow equally in all directions, or they would tip over. Is ...
25
votes
7answers
5k views

Is there anything that is completely non-toxic to humans at any dose?

Lately I have seen a number of unrelated "scientific" debates over whether certain substances should be outlawed because they are toxic to humans. My initial, informal reaction is usually to respond ...
25
votes
2answers
2k views

Why was disease transfer to the Americas one-way?

It is well known that the European colonists brought many infectious diseases to the Americas, and that these had a deadly effect on the native populations, because they had no immunity to them. Were ...
25
votes
3answers
41k views

If the brain has no pain receptors, how come you can get a headache?

I've read many years ago in books, that the brain has no nerves on it, and if someone was touching your brain, you couldn't feel a thing. Just two days before now, I had a very bad migraine, due to a ...
25
votes
1answer
4k views

How long do your eyes need to adapt to darkness and reach full contrast?

I heard you should wait some time until your eyes adapt to darkness and are able to see smallest luminosity differences, otherwise you might overlook faint objects in the ocular. Are there any rules ...
25
votes
1answer
814 views

How did viruses come to be?

My question is out of curiosity and got me thinking. How did viruses with the head, tail and tail fibres actually evolve? These viruses look more like machines than biological entities. Are there any ...
25
votes
1answer
236 views

Does this recording sound like the pulses emitted by bats?

Out of curiosity, I recorded sounds in an area with lots of bats, hoping to be able to "hear" the bats communicating by lowering the ultrasound to a level down to the frequency which can be heard by a ...
24
votes
3answers
2k views

Hot water and bacteria

I know that it is common to say, "use hot water when washing your hands" or when you've got a cut, "wash your hands with warm water," etc. I was wondering, why is this the case? Since bacteria grow in ...
24
votes
4answers
13k views

Can humans eat grass?

Can a human eat grass and digest it? Could it be possible to use it as food just like other plants such as wheat or beans?
24
votes
3answers
2k views

What limits our healing speed?

Our bodies can repair quite a number of injuries very well. However, it takes time. For larger wounds, complete recovery can last many weeks. Why is this time so long, what is the most important ...
24
votes
3answers
2k views

Is it necessary to conduct a power analysis before beginning an experiment?

I know that power analysis is the statistically valid way to ensure you use the correct numer of samples or repeats in an experiment. But I have never seen any biologist actually conduct a power ...
24
votes
5answers
14k views

Does red light preserve your night vision?

A number of companies have started marketing LED lamps that can be switched to a red mode. The claim is that red light is less harmful to one's night vision. Given that our eyes are less sensitive to ...
24
votes
4answers
689 views

How are the boundaries of a gene determined?

What statistical processes and methods are used by geneticists/molecular biologists to know where one gene starts and one ends?
24
votes
1answer
8k views

What do you see when your eyes are closed?

If you are in pitch black and you close your eyes, you sometimes can see strange shapes of various colors. A lot of the time these shapes and colors change as you observe them. This phenomenon still ...
24
votes
3answers
51k views

Why do mammalian red blood cells lack a nucleus?

How did the red blood cell in humans get to lose its nucleus (and other organelles)? Does the bone marrow just not put the nucleus in, or is it stripped out at some stage in the construction of the ...
24
votes
2answers
646 views

Smallest viable reproducing population

What is the smallest viable reproducing population, such as in a human population. By viable I mean a population which keeps genetic defects low (enough). A very strongly related question: what is ...
24
votes
2answers
2k views

Why Is Most Life Symmetrical Externally But Not Internally?

Mammals, reptiles, arachnids, insects, etc are all as far as I am aware symmetrical in appearance. Take a human for instance, make a line from the top of our head right down the middle. However, ...
24
votes
2answers
12k views

What causes fingerprints to form and why is the pattern formed unique?

I've found research that suggests that the reason we develop fingerprints is because they aid us with feeling surfaces (Scheibert, et al. 2008) and not to increase friction and help with the gripping ...

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