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Ask Dr. Universe erik.solveson

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, we could see even more stars, about 200,000 of them. A small telescope can help us see more than 15 million stars and even more powerful telescopes can help us look for other galaxies which are home to even more stars. Have you ever been stargazing? What did you see in the night sky? Tell us about it sometime at Dr.Universe@wsu.edu.

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 bees eggs, pollen, and honey. For having never done a day of math homework in their lives, bees use some pretty creative geometry and engineering to build their headquarters. You can send your own science question to Dr. Universe at Washington State University. Visit AskDrUniverse.wsu.edu.

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 you and I might use. Plants make their sunscreen out of a special combination of building blocks called molecules. They join together to make a compound, and block out ultraviolet light from the sun. It’s the kind of light that can cause damage to skin, or other living tissues. The compound still allows other kinds of sunlight to come through. That way, the plant can live and grow without getting fried in the sun. Send me a science question of your own at stage.web.wsu.edu/askdruniverse.

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. The glue contains long chains of molecules. We call them polymers. You might think of them like cooked spaghetti noodles that are all tangled up. If we let the noodles dry out a bit, we’d see they’d start sticking to one another. What was once a free flowing liquid is now thickened by polymers, a fun slime you can mold, bounce, twist and stretch. Send me a science question of your own at AskDrUniverse.wsu.edu.

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 really good at dissolving salt. You can see this in action, just by adding a little salt to a cup of water. The chemical reaction in water, pulls different parts of salt away from each other. Streams and rivers help dissolve the salts from the rock and carry it into the ocean. But not all salt stays in the ocean. Find out where it goes. Or send me a science question of your own at AskDrUniverse.wsu.edu.

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 were shopping for apples at the supermarket bears were scavenging for fruit in forests. One idea is that bears are particularly attracted to red. A color that really pops against green leaves. When bears see the red fruit they eat it digest it and poop out the seeds. That way new generations of trees can grow and produce even more apples. Send me a science question of your own at AskDrUniverse.wsu.edu.

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 warm places where they can eat dead skin and drink sweat. Inside your shoes and socks for example. There are more glands that produce sweat on your feet than on any other part of the human body. As bacteria eat there, they also turn your dead skin and sweat into chemical products that can really reek. It might just make you wanna plug your nose, but at least you’ll know the system that helps you smell, your olfactory system, is working well. Got a science question of your own? Send it in at AskDrUniverse.wsu.edu.

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 these animals have slower heartbeats, a lot of them can go without food for months at a time, and many don’t even have to wake up to go to the bathroom. All of these things help them survive the season. While some animals hibernate in winter, others estivate during hot, dry seasons. Can you think of some things animals might need to survive in these conditions? You can submit a science question of your own at AskDrUniverse.wsu.edu.

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 buggers 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 and hearing. The outer ear is an earwax factory. It’s where special glands under your skin produce the sticky, wet wax. When it comes to keeping our ears clean and fresh, it’s best to just dab our ears with a towel after a bath. And remember, don’t ever stick anything smaller then your elbow in your ear. You can submit a science question of your own at AskDrUniverse.wsu.edu.