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Ask Dr. Universe Search Results

Here are your search results for cats

Why are cats scared of cucumbers/snakes?

Dear Aurelia,

It’s been almost ten years since someone went viral for recording a cat freaking out about a cucumber. In that video, a human sneaked up behind a cat while it was eating. They silently placed a cucumber behind the cat. When the cat turned around, it jumped super high and ran away. Soon, lots of people were making those videos.

I asked my friend Jessica Bunch why all those cats were scared. She’s a veterinarian at Washington State University.

She told me that cats can be surprised by new things. That’s especially true if the new thing shows up without warning. Or while the cat has its guard down. Like when a cat is eating, and a human sneaks up with a cucumber.

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Why do cats rub their cheeks on stuff?

Dear Lara,

Sometimes I get an overwhelming urge to rub my face on things I love—like my microscope. Other times I’m so happy to see my tortoiseshell roommate that we bump our heads together.

I talked about why I do that with my friend Dr. Jessica Bell. She’s a veterinarian at Washington State University.

She told me that cats rub their cheeks on things when they’re happy or want to say that thing belongs to them.

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Why do cats purr?

Dear Kaylee,

I purr all. the. time. I purr when I get a good question like yours. I purr when I finish answering a question. I even purr when I’m struggling to find an answer.

Luckily, Dr. Sarah Guess says that’s normal. She’s a veterinarian at Washington State University. She told me that cats purr when they’re content and when they’re stressed out. It can be a little confusing for humans.

Scientists have two ideas about why cats purr. It could have come from the way mother cats care for kittens. Or it could keep their bones and tissues healthy.

But experts don’t agree on the answer yet.

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Why do cats and dogs spin around before they sit?

Dear Antonio, That’s a great observation about cats and dogs. Even I wasn’t sure why cats spin around before they sit down, so I took your question to my friend Dr. Jessica Bell. She is a veterinarian at the Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital and has seen quite a few cats and dogs walk in a little circle before they sit down. “It’s a common thing we observe as veterinarians, but we can't talk to cats and dogs and ask them ‘why,’” she said. “From a behavioral standpoint, it probably stems back to their wild instinct.” Read More ...

Why do cats like lasers?

Not only do I enjoy answering science questions from kids, but I also like naps, tuna fish sandwiches, and chasing lasers. I wasn’t entirely sure why I like chasing those little red dots. I asked my friend Leticia Fanucchi, a veterinarian at Washington State University.

“Cats like lasers because they are predators and like to chase or hunt anything that moves fast around them,” Fanucchi said.

A zipping red light that quickly switches directions might have a similar motion to a mouse or other critter. The light sort of mimics an animal scurrying around to escape its prey. Even though we cats know the … » More …

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Do all animals pass gas? Do cats fart?

Dear Hasandi and Harrison,

If you’ve ever been near a cat or dog when they tooted, the smell might have sent you running right out of the room. A lot of animals pass gas. But believe it or not, some animals do not.

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Why do cats lose their whiskers?

Dear Nisi,

Just like humans, us cats lose hair. Have you ever brushed your hair and found that some ends up on the brush? Sometimes human hair falls out. It is the body’s way of shedding, or getting rid of dead skin and hair.

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Why do we need the sun?

Dear Samai ,

Right now, the sun is shining through my window. It feels warm on my muzzle.

I talked about the sun with Guy Worthey. He’s a professor of astronomy and physics at Washington State University.

He told me that our lives depend on the sun.

“The sun keeps you warm and powers everything,” Worthey said. “Without it, Earth would be a frozen nightmare.”

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What would happen to female honey bees if male bees didn’t exist?

Dear Emmie,

When I want something sweet, I pull out a jar of honey made by my bee friends at Washington State University. I talked about your question with one of the insect scientists there, Rae Olsson.

They told me a honey bee colony includes one female queen, many female workers and, depending on the time of year, some male drones.

Workers have lots of jobs. They gather nectar and pollen. They take care of each other, the queen and the baby bees.

A drone’s only job is to mate with a queen from another colony.

The queen’s only job is to … » More …

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Why are dolphins mammals and not fish?

Dear Evie,

As fellow mammals, you and I have a lot in common. It’s easy to see our similarities because humans and cats spend lots of time together. We may even be roommates or family.

But humans and cats don’t usually have dolphin besties. It’s harder to see what we have in common when our bodies and lives are so different.

To better understand mammal life, I talked with my friend Kevin Turner. He teaches marine biology at Washington State University.

“The name mammal comes from the presence of mammary glands,” Turner said. “So, the major characteristic of mammals is that we have mammary glands to produce milk for our offspring.”

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How do flowers use sunlight and water to grow?

Dear Jackie,

When I was a kitten, my family measured how tall I was. They marked it on the wall. It was amazing to see how much I grew.

I talked about how plants grow with Helmut Kirchhoff. He’s a scientist at Washington State University. He studies plants and biochemistry.

He told me plants grow by making new cells. To make a new cell, an existing cell splits into two. That’s called cell division. Then, the new cells grow bigger. That’s called cell growth. So, a plant can make its stem or roots longer by making new cells in those places. When it’s time to bloom, a plant can make new types of cells that form flowers.

Plants need the right ingredients to do cell division and cell growth.

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Yearning for a side of whimsy with your science? Bring on the quizzes.

Do you love plants? Let’s see which endangered plant matches your vibe.

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I get lots of cat questions. What’s your feline familiar?

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Take a dip in these dinosaur questions. Then figure out your dino doppelganger.

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Chill on land or water? Who doesn’t love an amphibian? Find your amphi-bestie.

(After you hit submit, scroll … » More …

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Why do owls stay up at night?

Dear Zelezina,

I love how humans use figures of speech about animals to describe their behavior. An early bird is someone who likes to get up early. A night owl is someone who loves to be awake late at night—like an owl.

I talked about why owls stay up all night with my friend Dr. Marcie Logsdon. She’s a wildlife veterinarian at Washington State University.

She told me that for many owls, the dark is a good time to catch a meal.

“Owls are just taking advantage of a time when they can excel at finding prey because there are a lot of other things that are active at night, too—like rodents,” Logsdon said.

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Why do all insects have six legs?

Dear Charlie,

There are about 40 kinds of cats out there—like me. There’s only one kind of human on Earth now. But there are more than a million kinds of insects. That’s just the insect species we know about.

Every single one of those insects has six legs.

I talked about why that is with my friend Allan Felsot. He’s an insect scientist at Washington State University.

He told me there must be some evolutionary reason insects have six legs—like better stability when walking.

“In biology, every ‘why’ question has the same answer,” Felsot said. “Things are the way they are because of adaptations that have allowed organisms to live longer.”

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How does it rain?

Like most cats, I don’t love wet fur. I check a weather app every morning to see if I need an umbrella. But how rain happens was a mystery to me.

So, I talked about rain with my friend Nathan Santo Domingo. He’s a field meteorologist with AgWeatherNet of Washington State University. That’s a weather tool for farmers, gardeners and other people in Washington.

“The first thing to remember is that Earth’s surface is 71% water,” Santo Domingo said. “We also have a giant orb in the sky—the sun—that’s feeding energy into the atmosphere and reaching down to Earth’s surface.”

The sun’s energy changes the water in the oceans, rivers and lakes. The water changes from a liquid to a gas called water vapor. That water vapor floats up into the bubble of gas that surrounds Earth—called the atmosphere.

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Are unicorns real?

Dear Emma,

My favorite animated GIFs are the ones with cats riding unicorns. I’m delighted to tell you about a real unicorn that lived a long time ago: the Siberian unicorn.

The Siberian unicorn was bulky and furry. It had a big hump on its back. Its horn was three feet long. That’s as big as a human preschooler!

This real-life unicorn was a kind of rhino from Eurasia. But it was bigger than modern rhinos and probably galloped like a horse.

Scientists have known about Siberian unicorns since 1808. For a long time, they thought the unicorns went extinct 200,000 years ago. Recently, that changed. Now they think the unicorns went extinct closer to 39,000 years ago.

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Did dinosaurs eat humans?

Dear Brileigh,

If you looked inside a T. rex mouth, you’d see some 12-inch teeth. That’s longer than my tail!

I asked my friend Aaron Blackwell if dinosaurs used those big chompers on humans. He’s an anthropologist who studies human biology at Washington State University. He told me dinosaurs and humans didn’t live at the same time.

“Dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago—before there were even primates,” Blackwell said. “So, they could never have eaten a human or even a monkey.”

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What if there were no predators to eat the birds?

Dear Katy,

Don’t let the lab coat fool you. I enjoy chattering at birds as much as the next cat. Staring out the window and vibrating my mouth to “chirp” helps me relax after a long day.

My wild cousins do take things a bit further—namely, predation. It’s not pretty, but it’s an important part of keeping life in balance.

I talked about predators with my friend Travis King. He’s a Ph.D. student at Washington State University. He studies big cats like lynx and jaguars.

“It’s a balancing act between predators, disease, food and space,” King said. “If you take away predators, you lose one of the factors keeping an ecosystem in balance.”

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Do animals feel home-like in wildlife sanctuaries?

Dear Haniya,

There are lots of things that make a place feel like home. Your home is probably full of sights, sounds and smells that feel familiar and cozy. Those things are important for animals in captivity, too.

To find out more, I talked with Charles Robbins, a wildlife biologist at Washington State University. He started the WSU Bear Center. It’s the only grizzly bear research center in the United States.

“The most important thing to bears and probably most animals is a feeling of safety—that they’re not being hurt, and the food is good,” Robbins said. “Probably all the same things that … » More …

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How did life begin?

Dear Kelsey,

The universe is a big place. Thinking about how we fit into it is part of what makes humans (and cats like me) special.

I talked about your question with my friend Afshin Khan who studied astrobiology and environmental science at Washington State University. Astrobiologists explore how life began. They also look for signs of life outside Earth.

Khan told me your question is a huge mystery.

“We have very good ideas about what could have happened,” she said. “In different labs around the world, we’ve gotten very close to simulating some of those conditions. But simulations can only get so … » More …

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Why do we have toenails and fingernails?

Dear Chloe, Maybe you like to paint your toenails beautiful colors or admire the dirt under your fingernails when you come in from playing outside. But you’re right to notice that nails must be more than just decoration. To learn more, I talked to my friend Edward Johnson, an assistant professor of anatomy and physiology at Washington State University. Johnson reminded me that humans are primates, just like gorillas or orangutans. If you look closely at a primate’s hand or foot, you’ll see their nails look a lot like yours. They’re wide and flat at the ends of their fingers and toes. Read More ...

Why do people have feelings like boredom, happiness, sadness and love?

Dear Sophia,

You’re stuck inside on a rainy day when all of a sudden you start to feel a bit bored. Maybe you aren’t sure what to do with the feeling. Maybe you decide to read a book or bake some cookies and the feeling starts to fade.

Perhaps you then start feeling happiness from doing an activity you love. You know, pretty much everyone experiences a variety of different feelings every day.

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How come some people can’t see color?

Dear Pearl,

Our brains have the amazing ability to gather information and interpret it. This ability to gather and interpret—or perceive— is a big part of what helps humans see colors.

Our eyes have tiny cones that receive light, turn it into chemical energy and activate nerves that can send information to the brain. You might see an apple and think to yourself, “That’s the color red.”

My friend Rachna Narula, an optometrist at Washington State University, told me all about it.

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How does COVID-19 affect our household pets?

Dear Kolton,

A lot of researchers around the world are investigating this very question. While we don’t know everything about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus affects household pets, there are some things we do know.

My friend Dr. Raelynn Farnsworth, a veterinarian at Washington State University, told me all about it.

The risk of household pets spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus to humans currently seems to be very low, she said. But a human who has the virus could potentially spread it to an animal, like a cat or dog, if they’ve been in close contact.

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Why do animals have different hearing?

Dear Dorothy,

You’re right—different animals can hear different types of sounds. To find out more about it, I talked to my friend Dr. Vishal Murthy, a veterinarian at Washington State University.

Murthy reminded me sound comes from vibrations that travel through the air. For instance, when you feed your pet, the kibbles that fall into the bowl send out vibrations to your pet’s ears.

Some animals, like cats, dogs, elephants and humans, have ears that stick out and can help funnel these vibrations into the inner ear.

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Sleep: Why does sleep feel short?

That’s a great observation. When my friend Ashley Ingiosi was a kid, she remembers how napping in the car during a four-hour drive to her grandparents’ house seemed to make the time fly by. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. As a researcher at Washington State University, Ingiosi is really curious about what goes on within the human brain during sleep. She was happy to help with your question. Read More ...

How do we clone things?

From frogs to sheep to cats, humans have learned to clone all kinds of organisms. Like you, I was curious how it all works, so I talked to my friend Jon Oatley, a researcher at Washington State University. First, he told me that mammals—like you and me—are made up of billions of building blocks called cells. Other organisms, like amoebas, are just a single cell. Inside each cell is a nucleus, which is like a small envelope that protects something very important: DNA. Read More ...

How did people figure out how much a whole planet weighs?

About 300 years ago during another pandemic, there was a person named Sir Isaac Newton who spent a lot of time at home thinking about the universe. He was thinking about how objects fall and started to wonder if the same force that made objects fall also kept the moon in its orbit. He called this force gravity. That’s what I found out from my friend Guy Worthey, an astronomer at Washington State University. Gravity plays a big part in the answer to your question, and we’ll explore that in just a moment. Read More ...

Why do we get goosebumps?

Dear Nolan,

If you’ve ever been outside on a cold day, you may have noticed how your arm hairs stood up and you felt some goosebumps.

Humans get goosebumps for different reasons and one of those reasons has to do with temperature.

My friend Ryan Driskell, an assistant professor at Washington State University, is really curious about the innerworkings of skin.

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Why do we get tears when we yawn?

You’re right, a lot of people get tears when they yawn. When you yawn, you actually use lot of muscles in your face. Maybe you can feel the stretch in your jaw, cheeks and eyes. As the muscles in your face contract, they can put a lot of pressure on the plumbing system that is in charge of making your tears. That’s what I found out from my friend Karin Biggs, an adjunct professor at Washington State University who teaches anatomy. Read More ...

Can dogs tell time?

Dr. Universe, a grey cat with a lab coat, thinking

Dear Sam,

Dogs might not use clocks to tell time like humans do, but they are pretty good at following a schedule. They often know when it is time for a walk, dinner, or sleep.

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Why do I like buffalo wings and not broccoli?

Dear Joe,

You’re not alone—cats don’t like broccoli much either. As a carnivore, I think a nice, meaty buffalo wing sounds great.

But humans are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and meat. They’ve developed a taste for all kinds of things growing and living all over the world. So where do individual people’s preferences come from?

To find out, I visited Carolyn Ross, a professor of Food Science at Washington State University. Like you, she is very curious about why people like the foods they like.

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How are seashells formed? And why are they different colors? Can seashells live or die?

Dear Caroline,

Seashells come in an astounding variety. Some are curved and round, others long and tube-like. Some are smooth, others bumpy. Some are large, others small. Plus, they come in a rainbow of colors: red, green, brown, purple, pink, and more.

All that variety comes from the same source: little animals called mollusks, with a mighty muscle called a mantle.

I found out all about them from my friend Richelle Tanner, a scientist at Washington State University. She is very curious about the ocean and knows a lot about mollusks, a type of animal with a soft, moist body.

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Why do people have different fingerprints?

Dear Mary,

Did you know even identical twins have different fingerprints? It can be hard to tell twins apart, but a close look at their fingertips can reveal who’s who. The reason lies partly in their genes, but mostly from the unique way everyone’s skin grows before birth.

That’s what I learned from my friend David M. Conley, a professor at Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

“The reason fingerprints are unique is the same reason individual humans are unique,” Conley said. “Variation is the norm, not the exception.”

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How To Properly Wear A Face Mask

Hey cool cats. I’m Dr. Universe. Whenever I go out and about, I make sure to wear my face mask. One way that germs enter the body is through the nose and mouth. The mouth and nose are interconnected. That’s why it’s so important that my face mask covers them both. I clean my hands before and after handling the mask and to avoid exposure to germs, I don’t want to touch the front of the mask. When I take off the mask, I use the loops or ties. When worn properly, this … » More …

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How To Properly Wash Your Hands

Hey cool cats, I’m Dr. Universe. When I come home from exploring, I always wash my hands. It takes about 20 seconds. I use soap and water. To keep track of time, I sing my ABCs. It’s important to wash the hands between the fingers and under the nails, anywhere germs might be hiding. I also wash up before making food, eating, using the bathroom, or touching my ears, nose, or mouth, places where germs can enter the body. With a little soap, water, and maybe even a song, we can all do … » More …

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What does social distancing mean?

Hey cool cats, I’m Dr. Universe. When I run errands or explore the outdoors, I make sure to practice social distancing. That means keeping at least six feet of distance between me and others who do not live in my house. How wide is six feet? The length of a female lion, The wingspan of a bald eagle, or about three cats. It’s important to social distance because germs can spread from person-to-person. That’s why I like to give my neighbors plenty of space on the sidewalk and in the grocery store aisle. … » More …

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Why are dogs important to humans?

Dear Stephani, Dogs are important to humans in all kinds of ways. The connection between the two goes back thousands of years. A long time ago, wolves would trail along after humans on hunting trips and eat any scraps they could find. Eventually these wolves evolved into dogs that helped protect the hunters and gatherers. Read More ...

Why do we sneeze?

Imagine you are home sick from school or are just playing outside when all of a sudden—ah-ah-ah-choo! It might seem like that sneeze came out of nowhere, but a lot of things went on in the brain and body to make it happen. That’s what I found out from my friend Hans Haverkamp, a scientist at Washington State University who is really curious about the human body and how it works. Read More ...

How do you make mummies?

When we think of mummies, we might imagine the kind from ancient Egypt wrapped up in linen. But there are lots of ways to make mummies—and they can even form in nature. That’s what I found out from my friend Shannon Tushingham, an archaeologist at Washington State University and director of the WSU Museum of Anthropology. Read More ...

How do lasers work?

Dear Manna,

Humans use lasers for everything from scanning barcodes and putting on light shows to performing delicate eye surgery and measuring the distances between objects in space.

Cats also like to chase lasers, but I wasn’t sure how they worked. I asked my friend Chris Keane, a physics professor at Washington State University. Keane came to WSU from the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he helped work on a laser as big as a football stadium.

The light we see

First, we have to know a bit about light. Whether it’s light from our sun or your flashlight, … » More …

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How do batteries work?

Dear Shereen and Jasmine, Batteries can power up all kinds of gadgets. To find out how batteries work, I decided to visit my friend and materials engineer Min-Kyu Song. He makes batteries in his lab at Washington State University. As you might know, materials are made up of atoms—and atoms have tiny parts called electrons. If you’ve ever felt a spark when you touched a doorknob, you’ve felt electrons making the jump from your body to the door. Read More ...

Why do we get phobias?

We all experience fear in our lives. It is a useful tool that helps humans and other animals survive. I happen to be afraid of dogs, thunderstorms, and water. But fears are quite different from phobias. A phobia is an intense fear of an object or situation, often one that you actually don’t need to fear. It can create a lot of anxiety. It can cause your heart rate to speed up, make it hard to breathe, and trigger nervousness, vomiting, sweating, or dizziness. Read More ...

Do fish pee?

Dr. Universe, a grey cat with a lab coat, thinking
Not only do fish pee, but their pee gives other animals in the ocean what they need to survive. That’s what I found out from my friend, Cori Kane, a marine biologist at Oregon State University who got her Ph.D. at Washington State University. She knows a lot about coral reefs in our oceans. Coral reefs look like a ridge made of rock, but they are actually made up of living things. Corals need a few things to survive. They need clear, warm water, sunlight, and nutrients, a kind of food that helps them grow. There aren’t usually a lot of nutrients in water near coral reefs. Luckily, there are a lot of nutrients in fish pee—and a lot of fish in the reef. Read More ...

Can you tell me about bunnies?

Bunnies are hopping all over our planet. Some hop through snow and deserts while others hop through wetlands and woods. There are lots of different kinds of rabbits and they are all a little different. For the most part, a bunny hops, or actually runs, anywhere between 25 and 45 mph That’s even faster than most house cats can run. Rabbits are related to another group of animals called hares. Actually, rabbits and hares are in the same family, Leporidae. Hares look a lot like rabbits, but they have much bigger ears and bigger feet. Read More ...

Why do we have five fingers and toes?

Dear Eli, While humans may be one of the few animals that can give a high five, they are one of many with five fingers and toes. Humans are part of the primate family, which also includes monkeys, apes, and even lemurs. As a member of the family, you also have fingernails instead of claws and pads on your fingertips that help with your sense of touch. Read More ...

How many suns are in the universe?

Hey cool cats, I’m Dr. Universe, here to answer your baffling science questions like this one. How many suns are in the universe? The sun is actually a star, our nearest star, but there are lots of stars out there. Maybe you’ve tried counting them before. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven stars make up the big dipper. Astronomers estimate that the human eye could spot about 9,000 stars. Of course, the Earth blocks our vision so we only see about half of those in the night sky. If we use binoculars, … » More …

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Why do bees make hexagons in their hives?

Hey cool cats, I’m Dr. Universe, here to answer your baffling science questions, like this one. Why do bees make hexagons in their hives? When bees make hexagons in their hives, the six-sided shapes fit together perfectly. You know, if you think about it, other shapes wouldn’t work quite as well. Circles would leave gaps in the honeycomb. Squares and triangles wouldn’t leave gaps, but the hexagon works even better. The hexagon uses the least amount of material to hold the most weight. Bees can use these hexagons to store things. The queen … » More …

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Do plants get sunburns?

Hey cool cats, I’m Dr. Universe here to answer your baffling science questions. Like this one, “Dear Dr. Universe, Why don’t plants get sunburns?” That’s a great observation. For as much time as plants spend outside, we don’t see too many with a sunburn. Plants need sun to grow, but not too much sun. Since they can’t move into the shade, put on a hat or sunscreen, they have their own way of staying safe in the sun. They make their own kind of sunblock. Of course, it isn’t much like the sunscreen … » More …

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What is slime?

Hey, cool cats. I’m Dr. Universe here to answer your baffling science questions like this one. What is slime? Our world is full of slime makers. Slugs make gooey trails. Bacteria create slippery slime in pipes. Slime in your joints helps protect your bones. Slime is between a solid and a liquid. It’s a non-Newtonian fluid. You can make it right at home. Dissolve a teaspoon of borax in a cup of water. In another bowl, mix together half a cup of liquid glue and half a cup of water. Then combine everything. … » More …

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Why is the ocean salty?

Hey cool cats, I’m Dr. Universe, here to answer your baffling science question. Like this one. Dear Dr. Universe, why is the ocean salty? If we took all of the salt from our oceans and spread it over Earth’s surface, it would be almost 500 feet high. It all starts with rocks and dirt on land. Salt is one of the many minerals in rocks. A lot of it is the kind you might sprinkle on food, sodium chloride. As you might guess, it’s made up atoms called sodium and chlorine. Water is … » More …

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Why are apples red?

Hey cool cats, I’m Dr. Universe. Here to answer your baffling science questions. Like this one. Dear Dr. Universe why are apples red? In nature different colors sometimes send a message to different plants and animals. The message might be don’t eat me as is the case of some brightly colored poisonous frogs. Other times it might be a chameleon using it’s colors to attract a mate saying hey look over here. But scientists think the apples red color might just be a way of telling hungry animals we’re delicious. Long before humans … » More …

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Why do feet smell?

Hey cool cats, I’m Dr. Universe here to answer your baffling science questions. Like this one. Dear Dr. Universe, why do feet smell? We live in a world filled with all kinds of smells. Take off your tennis shoes after a long day and you might even get a whiff of something pretty stinky. You can blame it on your bacteria. Millions of these tiny things live on your feet. While bacteria are too small to see without a microscope, sometimes you can simply smell them doing their job. They like dark, damp … » More …

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Why do animals hibernate?

Hey cool cats, I’m Dr. Universe, here to answer your baffling science questions like this one: Dear Dr. Universe, why do animals hibernate? Animals survive winter in different ways. Some penguins huddle together in groups to create heat. Lots of birds fly south to warmer weather. Maybe you put on mittens and a coat. Then there are the hibernators. Bears, bats, frogs, and salamanders for example. Hibernation is a kind of deep long winter sleep but it isn’t exactly the same kind of sleep these animals would normally have at night. During hibernation … » More …

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Why do we have ear wax?

Hey, cool cats. I’m Doctor Universe, here to answer you’re baffling science questions. Like this one. Dear Doctor Universe, why do we have earwax? Just the other day I was scratching my ears when I found some earwax. It was pretty gross, but it also made me very curious. We have earwax for many of the same reasons we’ve got boogers in our nose. Earwax helps invaders like bacteria and dirt from getting deep into our ears. It also protects our inner ears which connect to important nerves that we use for balance … » More …

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How Do Bones Form?

Hey cool cats, I’m Dr. Universe, here to answer your baffling science questions like this one. How do bones form? Most humans have 206 bones. But did you know, you are actually born with about 300? Before you were born, your skeleton was soft and bendy. Then when you were a baby, some of those bones started to fuse together to become bigger bones. Meanwhile, cells in your body were helping make your bones even stronger. We all have bone-eating cells and bone-building cells that work in a big cycle. Since the day … » More …

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Why do we have eyelashes?

Across the animal kingdom, we see all kinds of eyelashes. They come in different sizes, shapes and textures. They also come in different colors, though most fall somewhere between black, brown, and blonde. All of them are actually hairs and the scientific term is “cilia.”

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Do you have any experiments you can recommend?

Dear Etta and Friends:

You can try all kinds of fun experiments at home. It really all depends on what you are curious about. Lately, I’ve seen some really great sunsets and started wondering what gives them their colors.

I decided to ask my friend Tom Johnson, who leads fun physics demonstrations for kids visiting Washington State University. I asked him if he had any simple ideas for an experiment I could try out in my lab, or even the kitchen. One idea he had was to create a sunset in a cup.

Maybe you can try it, too. You’ll need a flashlight, a … » More …

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Why do we get fevers?

Dear Marcelina,

Lots of warm-blooded animals get sick, including cats. I’ve had a fever before, but I wasn’t entirely sure why we warm up when we get sick. I decided to ask my friend and professor Phil Mixter at Washington State University.

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How do fish breathe?

Hello Nghi,

Cats, humans, and fish all breath for the same reason. We need oxygen. Oxygen is one of the things our bodies use to make energy.

Just like the hungry feeling you get when you haven’t eaten, your body uses oxygen to keep everything running. Unlike the breaks you take between meals, the breaks you take between breathes are much shorter. Most people take about 12 breaths per minute.

While it may seem like we breath only oxygen, there are lots of other gasses in the air. When we breath in, our lungs fill up with all this gas. The lungs take the oxygen … » More …

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Why do we get tired?

Dear Ellie,

Sleep is one of the most important functions of our body. It helps us feel rested and gives us energy. Getting a good night’s sleep is important for our health. But when we don’t get enough sleep, or haven’t slept in a long time, we feel tired.

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The Curiosity Corner

Every smart science cat needs a great sidekick. Student science writers in the Murrow College of Communication help Dr. Universe connect K-8 students with researchers at Washington State University.

Why do people like to listen to songs over and over? – Daniel, 13, Richland, WA

By Cameron Sheppard

We don’t just use our ears to hear music. A big part of hearing also has to do with our brains. Our ears certainly are necessary to help us hear, but it is our brain that helps interpret the sounds in our environment.

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How does rubber bounce?

Whether it comes from trees or is made by scientists in a lab, rubber can really bounce. Well, a rubber band or rubber on your shoes might not be very bouncy. But a super bouncy rubber ball? It can really catch some air.

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How does water in the ocean move?

Dear Case,

You know, most cats like to stay a comfortable distance from water.

But when I got your science question about our big ocean, I was ready to jump right in.

Ocean water moves in all kinds of ways. Waves curl and crash on the shore. Big conveyer belts of water, currents, flow for thousands of miles around our planet. The tides go out and come back in.

And yes, the wind plays a big part in all of it. That’s what I found out when I went to visit my friend Jeff Vervoort, … » More …

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Why do we get scared?

Dear Jack,

While our fears might be different, we all get scared sometimes. Vacuums, dogs, and even cucumbers make my hair stand on end. Perhaps for you it’s spiders, the dark, or the thought of monsters under your bed.

My friend Michael Delahoyde is really curious about what freaks us out. As an English professor at Washington State University, he’s even taught a course about monsters.

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How do spiders make silk? And 5 other great STEM questions to explore in October

How do spiders make silk?

Spiders can do some amazing things with their sticky, stretchy, and super-strong silk. Us cats are pretty curious about these little silk-spinning machines, too. Besides chasing spiders around, I’ve watched them use silk to build webs, catch bugs, and protect their young spiderlings.Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 9.05.13 AM

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Do bats have habits?

You are onto something. Quick, to the bat-lab! That’s where I met up with my friend Christine Portfors, a scientist at Washington State University who studies fruit bats.

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Why … » More …

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Why do volcanoes “die”?

Dear Loretta,

Each volcano’s life is a little different. Many of them are born when big chunks of the Earth’s crust, or tectonic plates, collide or move away from each other. The moving plates force hot, liquid rock, or magma, to rise up from deep within the Earth.

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Are we getting lazier?

Dear Aaryan,

We cats have a reputation for being lazy. We sleep a lot. But the truth is when I got your question, I didn’t know much about laziness. So, I decided to talk about it with a couple of psychologists here at Washington State University.

My first stop was the Psychology of Physical Activity Lab. That’s where I met up with my friend, Professor Anne E. Cox.

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Are aliens real?

Dear Lily and Heidi,

Well, we don’t know for certain. Looking up to the stars at night, I’ve often wondered if alien cats are out chasing alien mice or taking naps on other planets.

My imagination aside, your questions are like those scientists are asking, too. And it’s no wonder we are so curious.

With billions of planets in our galaxy, including small Earth-like worlds, the possibility of life out there is an exciting thought to many people. So, humans have set out to look for planets that might support life.

In fact, this month scientists announced the Kepler spacecraft’s discovery of … » More …

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