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Inkless science

Science LOVES questions: just like kids do.

* Broomstick Block & Tackle * Coin Catch * Table Tap-A-Pallooza * The Glass Band

photo: Elizabeth Williams Bushey with magnifying glass


Have YOU got a question? You can write in.

Your science questions answered here - weird stuff, fun stuff, and what the heck IS that stuff.

From Grant, 6, in Ohio:

Q: I have two red Starbust. How do I know which one is chewy?
A: Starburst® candy is basically TAFFY candy. To make taffy, you cook down sugar, butter, and other ingredients. (WITH A GROWNUP! TAFFY GETS VERY, VERY, HOT!) Once it cools down, you have to pull it, and pull it, and pull it - for about ten minutes or so.

This pulling that you do "aerates" the taffy - that is, it adds tiny little air bubbles into the the taffy, which is what makes it chewy. If you didn't pull it, it would just be sort of melt-in-your-mouth type candy.

Since Starburst® candy is made in a factory - and since they make so very much of it - you're bound, every once in a while, to get SOME differences in chewiness. Some pieces just get more or less air in them.

So, every once in a while, you actually CAN get two pieces that look exactly the same, but aren't the same when it comes to being chewy. Nobody's perfect. Not even factories.


Hair are the facts:

Q - How many hairs do I have on my head?
A - We all have between 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on their head. Guess what else? We LOSE about 60 hairs every day. (That's as many hairs as about two or three classrooms full of kids!) It's okay, though. We grow new hair all the time. In fact, no hair on our heads is older than about six years.

Q - Why is some hair curly, and some hair straight?
A - Hair grows out of your head out of a follicle (FOLL-i-kull), almost like a tulip grows out of a bulb. Whether or not your hair is curly depends on what shape the follicle is. If the follicle is perfectly round, your hair will be straight. The flatter the circle, the curlier your hair will be.

diagram of hair follicle follicle shapes determine hair texture - the flatter the oval, the curlier the hair

Q - What makes hair different colors?
A- Hair color, like skin color, is unique to individuals, and everyone has a beautiful shade of their own. Everyone's is a little bit different because they have different levels of pigment, or coloring, called melanin (MELL-ah-nin), or keratin (KER-ah-tin). Melanin is dark brown. Keratin is reddish-yellow. People can have one, or the other, or a combination of both present in their hair follicles.

If your hair is brown or black, some people call you a "brunette." (broo-NET)

If your hair is yellow, some people call you a "blonde." (blahnd)

If your hair is reddish-yellow, some people call you a "strawberry blonde."

If you have red hair, some people may call you "redhead."

None of these names matter. You are beautiful no matter what color your hair is.

Of course, some people like to experiment with different color hair, and so when they get old enough, they color their hair another color. Brunettes may become blondes, blondes may become redheads, and some people even go with pink, green or purple hair. My nine-year-old daughter colored her hair blue last summer.

It just goes to show you: what really makes you handsome, or beautiful, is being smart enough to understand the science behind the hair color - not the hair color itself!

Q- Why do we get goose bumps?
A - Ooooh! That question gives me goose bumps!

Sometimes they're called goose pimples, but whatever you call them, they're COOL.

Each hair - as you know, from reading the questions above - grows from a single follicle in your skin. Believe it or not, humans have hair follicles ALL OVER OUR BODIES!

Go ahead. Take a look! (Told you!)

We have hair almost everywhere. It's just very, very fine - almost invisible in spots. But the follicle is still there. When we get cold - or scared - our bodies respond. Our hair literally stands up on end, to trap more air, and make us warmer.

To make our hair stand on end, the follicles get stiff - that's what goose bumps are.
Q- What are eyelashes for? I mean, they're pretty on girls, but why do BOYS need them?
A- We all need eyelashes, believe it or not. Whether they are long or short, thick or thin, eyelashes protect our eyes from dust, pollution, and other harmful stuff in the air.

camelOf course, it doesn't feel so good when an eyelash falls out and lands right in our eye! Never fear, though. Then we can fall back on tears!

Try never to rub your eye. Eyes are very delicate and scratch easily. Instead, blink A LOT. This will make your eyes produce tears, and will probably wash out the eyelash.

In the meantime, be grateful for your eyelashes. You can be sure that camels are. They have very long eyelashes to protect their eyes from desert sand.


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All material © Elizabeth Bushey, except where indicated.

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