Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2015/ Quirks Questions

Quirks Questions

It has taken years, but I have finally succeeded: I have written an entry so tedious that even the most determined reader will not be able to slog through it.

Here's the backstory: Quirks and Quirks is coming to Kitchener-Waterloo for its annual listener question show. I suspected that I learned of this announcement too late to submit a question, but I was upset that I could not even think of a good science question to ask. That made me anxious about how quickly my mental faculties are deteriorating, and so in a pulse of midlife-crisis-driven energy I came up with 100 science questions that could conceivably be posed to Quirks and Quarks. What follows is that list.

The answers to many of these questions can be found on the internet, but it isn't as if I am industrious enough to find those answers. I am not that interested in learning anything or improving myself, after all. I am just interested in proving that I could have submitted a question, if I had gotten around to doing so in time.

I am surprised at how many of these questions concerned nature and animals, and how few concerned physics or chemistry, but maybe I shouldn't be. Ranger Rick magazine poisoned me forever. Also I think a lot about sleep. I tried to avoid asking questions that I had already seen answered elsewhere, but I did not always succeed.

Without further ado, here is the list:

  1. Why do narwhals have tusks?
  2. Why do walruses have tusks?
  3. Why is it more chilly in the spring than the fall?
  4. How do woodpeckers avoid headaches?
  5. How do frogs and snails survive winter? I know they burrow in the mud. Then what?
  6. How smart are rats compared to humans?
  7. How smart are octopi compared to humans?
  8. How did deer get salt before salt licks? What natural sources of salt are there in the woods?
  9. How long can mushroom plants live?
  10. How long can printed books last?
  11. How long can USB flash drives last and still be viable (assuming USB ports are still available and we can understand the file format)?
  12. What has been the outcome of the pine beetle catastrophe in British Columbia? Have the forests recovered? Has the beetle jumped species?
  13. Why do I feel less hungry than usual after going on a long bike ride?
  14. Are there wild cows? Herds of feral cows?
  15. What is the most efficient way for humans to desalinate water?
  16. What is the most efficient way to store energy?
  17. What is the most efficient way to store electricity?
  18. How close are we to curing diabetes? What are the most promising cures?
  19. What are the simplest animals that sleep?
  20. Do plants need to sleep? Is there an equivalent?
  21. What are the simplest animals that dream?
  22. Do single-celled organisms that divide by mitosis die of old age? What happens to their telomeres?
  23. What animals laugh?
  24. How quickly are we running out of phosphorus?
  25. How fast do gravity waves travel?
  26. How close are we to curing tooth decay?
  27. How deep in the ocean could a human colony survive indefinitely?
  28. How do natural magnets form?
  29. What's special about sliced bread?
  30. In what context was the wheel invented?
  31. Do skunks have a good sense of smell?
  32. Can plants feel pleasure?
  33. How far apart can organisms diverge evolutionarily and still produce viable offspring?
  34. Is there an analogy for left/righthandedness in elephants? Octopi? Other animals?
  35. How long can viruses stay viable outside a host?
  36. Why do scallops have eyes?
  37. If we could wipe out passenger pigeons in America, why can't we wipe out rabbits in Australia?
  38. Why is sweat salty?
  39. How do mushrooms grow so quickly?
  40. Do migratory birds sleep during their flights?
  41. How can we tell that animals dream at all?
  42. Are there multicellular organisms that don't breathe oxygen?
  43. What are the physical limits on tree height?
  44. How are phosphorus deposits created?
  45. Are we using up all the fossils? Will there be dinosaur fossils left for post-human civilizations to discover?
  46. Do we know what causes bee colony collapse disorder? Has the connection to neonicotinoids been proven definitively?
  47. Can we synthesize spider silk? Silkworm silk?
  48. Why aren't humans furry like other primates?
  49. Why is 'teh' such a common typo?
  50. Is the theory of succession forests debunked?
  51. How deep in the Earth could humans live indefinitely?
  52. What animals tolerate fire?
  53. What will happen to the continents? In what directions are they moving?
  54. How can we detect the chemical compositions of distant planets? How do we get enough data from faraway stars?
  55. Why are are giraffes so tall? How did their ancestors get tall?
  56. Why aren't metals uniformly distributed in the earth? Why do they collect in veins?
  57. Why do I weigh less in the morning than just before I go to sleep?
  58. What happens when we sleep? How does the body recover?
  59. How many calories does a blue whale need ber day?
  60. Are there any other animals that have some form of written communication?
  61. Why is spider silk strong? Are there stronger silks?
  62. What animals listen on the lowest sound registers? What listen on the highest?
  63. Have windmills been redesigned to avoid killing birds and bats?
  64. What are the oldest cultivated crops?
  65. What are the oldest cultivated animals?
  66. What are the harshest conditions under which life can survive?
  67. Is desertification increasing in predictable ways?
  68. How can we link climate change to specific observable events? At what point does weather become climate?
  69. How does the body generate vitamin D from sunlight?
  70. Is radiation beneficial in small doses?
  71. What is the smartest insect?
  72. What is the dumbest mammal?
  73. What substance is most toxic to humans?
  74. Are there practical applications for noble gas compounds?
  75. How are the whooping cranes doing?
  76. How big can goldfish grow? How do they know to stay small in fishbowls?
  77. Can rare earth metals be recovered from electronics?
  78. How plausible is the panspermia hypothesis?
  79. How much electricity does the Internet use? What generates this electricty?
  80. Could we have Internet access on Mars? How slow would it be?
  81. How often do volcanos form islands?
  82. What was the most recent island formed by a volcano?
  83. Do plants get cancer?
  84. Are wild foods more nutrient-dense than cultivated ones? Why?
  85. How do noise-cancelling earphones work? Do they damage your ears?
  86. Will bacteria eventually be able to break down plastics?
  87. How do plantain plants soothe pain?
  88. Can we harness lightning for energy?
  89. Why are foreskins retractable?
  90. Is there an upper limit to the number of calories a human can absorb in one day?
  91. How did feathers evolve?
  92. Are pens still made from squid ink? Does this endanger squids?
  93. How premature can a baby be born and still survive?
  94. How do newborns perceive the world?
  95. How do onions caramelize? Isn't the sugar already present in the onion?
  96. Is it feasible to produce hydrocarbons through renewable energy?
  97. Is laser-guided nuclear fusion feasible? What would it take to start up the research program again?
  98. Are thorium nuclear reactors financially viable? Why don't we see more of them?
  99. How smart are cats? Are they smarter than rats?
  100. When did we discover bleach? When did we start using it to sterilize things?