World’s Strangest

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Why Does Alcohol Cause the Spins?

You lie down to get some sleep after a long night of drinking, and the room seems to be spinning uncontrollably. What gives? The spins happen because of an odd effect alcohol has on your ears — specifically, on three tiny, fluid-filled structures called the semicircular canals. Inside each of these canals is a fluid called [...]

Why People Vomit

We don’t mean the triggers — though that could be a fun post — but the actual physical process. What is it about our physiology that occasionally makes our tummy say, “Come on up, Chuck”? Vomiting is an important function. It rids your body of potential toxins or health hazards. In fact, there’s a specific area [...]

The Science of “Breaking the Seal”

If you like beer, and like it in large quantities, this might be a familiar scenario: You sit down at the bar, get a beer and drink it. You drink another one. Maybe a third. Things have gone well up to this point, but now you have to pee. So you go. Once you return [...]

Is It Really Illegal to Remove Your Mattress Tag?

Spoiler Alert: It is not. But here’s why that warning is on there in the first place. At some point, most of us have heard that we’re not supposed to remove the tags from our mattresses, under penalty of law. Most of the tags even say something like “It is unlawful to remove this tag!” The [...]

Why Did People Used to Wear Powdered Wigs?

For nearly two centuries, powdered wigs—called perukes—were all the rage. The chic hairpiece would have never become popular, however, if it weren’t for a venereal disease, a pair of self-conscious kings, and poor hair hygiene. The peruke’s story begins like many others—with syphilis. By 1580, the STD had become the worst epidemic to strike Europe since the [...]

What Exactly Is the Heat Index?

Is it really not the heat, but the humidity? With temperatures spiking around the country, we thought it might be a good time to answer some questions about the heat index. © BRIAN SNYDER/Reuters/Corbis Why does humidity make us feel hotter? To answer that question, we need to talk about getting sweaty. As you probably remember from your [...]

Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Brain Damage?

Woodpecker image via Shutterstock If you or I bump our heads hard enough on a hunk of wood, it might smart for a while. But to get through an average day, a woodpecker might ram its head into a tree trunk at a speed of 6 or 7 meters per second some 12,000 times without seeming [...]

What Do Chickens Have to Do With Chicken Pox?

Chickens image via Shutterstock The birds themselves? Not a whole lot. Chickens don’t even get infected by the virus — varicella zoster, a member of the herpes family — that causes the rash. (They can however, get an infection with similar effects called fowl pox.) The name, rather, likely comes from chickens’ association with weakness and wimpiness*. Just [...]

Why Do People Say “Holy Mackerel”?

Stephanie and her curious two-year-old want to know why we sometimes say “Holy Mackerel!” Unfortunately, the answer is about as clear as the tomato sauce Brits like to douse the fish in. Mackerel image via Shutterstock One thing most experts agree on is that the phrase is a euphemism for Holy Mary. Blurting “Holy Mackerel” instead of [...]

Prettier at Closing Time: How Beer Goggles Work

AISPIX / Shutterstock.com One of my all-time favorite songs, for which my girlfriend always calls me a redneck, is Mickey Gilley’s “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time.” As the title suggests, it’s about the fact that a little booze makes everyone a little easier on the eyes. Does science have an explanation for [...]