I am confused about the hearts of insects
June 10, 2019 4:47 PM   Subscribe

At University of California at Santa Barbara's ScienceLine, UCSB research scientists answer questions from teachers and students in K-12 schools. Are you "confused about the hearts of insects?" Maybe you want to know "Where does salt come from?" Or perhaps you have "been researching, and Venus seems AWFUL. Is there anything good about Venus?"

The first questions date back to 2001 and the most recent from 2019.
- Please tell me how the water on Mars is bad for us
- How do bears know when to wake up?
- Do cats have belly buttons?
- Why do tornados not form in coastal states like California?
- What is the difference between cat’s eyes and owl’s eyes

My favorite set of answers so far is to "What is the most poisonous animal on the earth?"
*If you want to know the animal that will kill you the quickest, then perhaps it is the highly poisonous box jellyfish, or sea wasp, that lives in the ocean.
*If you want to know the animal that has the most deadly poison in the world, regardless of whether it injects you with enough poison to kill you or not, then it could be the sea anemone.
*If you want to know which organisms cause the most widespread poisoning, then the answer could be the dinoflagellates
posted by spamandkimchi (10 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Venus may seem like a harsh and awful place, but lucky for us, we don’t have to live there!

posted by GenjiandProust at 5:19 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]

These are great! There are sooo many of them.

Skimming through, my favorites are the "broken" questions--because it's fun to see how a person trained as a scientist (in particular, as compared to, say, a poet) goes about answering the unanswerable. They call to mind for me some experiences from my early career in tech support.

Is it possible to grow your DNA back after sexual reproduction?

How do we exist? ("Interesting question Ethan.")

How come whenever I go round and round in a circle it looks like I am going very, very fast, when really I am going very slowly? It is so strange. I very much want to know! So, if you have an answer please send it to me. Until my next question, good bye!
posted by The Minotaur at 5:36 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]

These are just the right length and tone! They give technical answers, not a lot of metaphorical children's non-fiction style answers. But the answers go into only the amount of detail need to convey the basics. Excellent !
posted by latkes at 7:34 PM on June 10

Hahaha these questions are adorable! They remind me of a well-curated set of things a slightly dopey neural net might emit.
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:09 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

Wasn't it Elie Wiesel who wrote, "I have looked into the heart of the insect and I stared in the face of evil"?
posted by tenderly at 10:06 PM on June 10

The answer to the tornado question is seriously lacking. Fewer tornadoes form in certain coastal states, but California averages 10.6 tornadoes per year. Tornadoes have been reported in every state. I'd also like to invite the person who answered that to enjoy a Great Plains severe thunderstorm sometime to see if they still use the adjective "weak."

That's one of only two questions I've looked at so far, because it hit me where I live. I found the answer to the bear question quite interesting, and I'm not badmouthing the project.
posted by bryon at 10:26 PM on June 10

Oh, this is good! Much better than Reddit's Explain Like I'm Five which sadly often ends up like "explain like I'm a resonably educated Western adult".
posted by Harald74 at 2:31 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

I love these! What a great project.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 6:52 AM on June 11

Oh man- happy to see this site showing up here... but also, it's kind of an outing of me.... which I'm conflicted about enjoying anonymity. Anywho- I'm the backend to this work. It's a wonderful fulfilling (small part) of what I do. We get grads and faculty from across disciplines to help answer basic questions for kids. It's a ton of fun. In 2015 Google discovered us and we went from 100 hits a day to 15,000 - nothing catastrophic for a VM but it put me on notice.

More after I actually get to work...
posted by mrzz at 8:16 AM on June 11 [10 favorites]

Tornadoes in California are, for the most part, more like dust devils than actual tornadoes. They're like the (non-hurricane-associated) ones here in Miami, very short and very weak.

Tornadoes in the plains that spawn from supercell thunderstorms really are quite different than the kind you get from elevated storms, MCSes, or squall lines. The latter only very rarely produce long track tornadoes and it's uncommon for them to be more than F0-F1.
posted by wierdo at 9:52 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

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