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Ask Dr. Universe Archives

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 little piece of fabric can help make a big difference. We can all do our part to stay safe and healthy.

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 our part to stay safe and healthy.

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. We can all do our part to stay safe and healthy.

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.