The Answers To All Those Burning Questions You’ve Been Too Embarrassed To Ask

When you were a kid, you probably asked the question, “why?” all the time. Why is the sky blue? Why do cats always land on their feet? Why can’t I have ice cream for dinner? Over time, the word “why” seems to appear in your vocabulary less and less. Now, as an adult, you don’t ask it nearly as much as you should.

That’s why we’ve asked the questions for you. Keep reading to learn why robots can’t get past CAPCHAs, why salt and pepper are the go-to table spices, and why vanilla smells sweet but tastes bitter.

Why Do 5-Year-Olds (And Under) Like To Watch The Same Movie Every Day For Months At A Time?

GettyImages-952442238
Photo by Tasia Wells/Getty Images for Kinder Ready, Inc.

“Young children love repetition, whether it’s watching a video or listening to song lyrics, because it’s the best way for them to acquire and master new skills. In order to learn something well, children this age practice it until they get it right, hence the repeated watching.

What is your child practicing by repeatedly watching a video? It depends on the video, of course, but it could be that he doesn’t yet understand the storyline. And the more he watches, the better he’s able to understand.” —u/Sumit316

Why Does A Good Pair Of Headphones/Earphones Make It Feel Like The Sound Is Coming From Inside The Middle Of Your Head?

GettyImages-1042093828
Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

“To put it simply, whenever a sound comes out of both the left and right channels at an equal volume, your brain will often trick you into believing that the sound is coming from the midpoint between the two channels, creating what’s known as a Phantom Center.

And since the left and right channels are on either side of your head, your brain will have you believe that the sound is coming from the middle of your head.” —u/TheRambunctiousFlan

Why Do Some Letters Have A Completely Different Character When Written In Uppercase (A/a, R/r, E/e, etc), Whereas Others Simply Have A Larger Version Of Themselves (S/s, P/p, W/w, etc)?

eli53
Photo by Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty Images

“Because it’s a shortcut, a simplified system created by scribes who had to write a lot by hand. So these scribes (some of them were monks) discovered that instead of raising the pen from the paper over and over again to write a new, separated letter, it was easier and faster to keep a continuous line that flows tying one letter to the next.

This system, called cursive, works great for some of the Latin letters, but not for most of them which had to be adapted. This is why A, B, E F, G, H, I, L, M, N, Q, R and sometimes S look very different in cursive from their uppercase versions. This cursive system was later adapted by printers as the lowercase fonts.” —u/R3dd170rX

Do Donated Organs Age According To The Donor´s Age Or Do They Adapt To The Age Of The New Body?

eli52
Photo by Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Basically, the answer is that the donated organs do not adapt to the age of the new body. Reddit user u/ItsGetDaved answered,

“Once inside the recipient, the donated organ will be under constant attack from the recipient’s immune system, which will prematurely age the organ. Because of this, transplant recipients take immunosuppressive drugs to reduce the amount of damage their own immune system will do to the new organ. It’s a balancing act between suppressing the immune system enough to stave off rejection of the new organ (which is almost always inevitable) and having enough of an immune system to fight off basic infections. This is why it can be difficult to find a match when looking for an organ. The closer the new organ is to the recipients own genetic markers the better.”

Apparently, The Smell Of Freshly Mowed Grass Is Actually Chemicals That Grass Releases To Warn Other Grass Of The Oncoming Danger. Why Would This Be A Thing Since There’s Literally Nothing Grass Can Do To Avoid The Oncoming Danger?

eli51
Photo By Jerry Cleveland/The Denver Post via Getty Images

“They aren’t warning other grass. The chemicals being released do a couple things. They help heal the grass, and help seal the grass so that it’s a bit more resistant to dmg (doesn’t do much against a steel blade, but helps against a caterpillar).

And it can help to call certain bugs that feed on the bugs that feed on the grass. Some grasses will also release certain chemicals that make their leaves taste awful to bugs. Some grasses can also concentrate nutrients into their roots to better rebuild.” —u/cardboard-cutout

Why Does A Candle Not Create Smoke When Burning But Lots Of Smoke When You Blow It Out?

GettyImages-461837280
Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

According to Reddit user u/krystar78, “When the flame is lit…that smoke is being burned. The smoke is vaporized wax. When you blow it out, the wick is still hot enough to vaporize wax, but not ignite it. If you cool the wick like lick your finger or put in water, the wick is no longer hot enough to vaporize wax.”

Science is way too cool. Never mind me, I’ll just be blowing out candles for the next few minutes.

Why Do Certain Foods (Like Vanilla Extract) Smell So Sweet Yet Taste So Bitter Even Though Our Smell And Taste Senses Are So Closely Intertwined?

GettyImages-494802469
Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

“Vanilla doesn’t smell sweet. It smells like vanilla. Your brain associates vanilla with sweetness, so you think it smells sweet.

The brain can do weird things like that. Like how you aren’t really capable of feeling wet. You use a bunch of other cues to determine if your hand is wet or dry, and it’s why it’s so hard to tell if laundry is dry after it’s become cold.” —u/kung-fu_hippy

Why Is, No Matter The Color Of The Shampoo, The Foam Always White?

GettyImages-534988794
Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images

Reddit user u/nokvok let us in on the secret:

“Because the bubbles that make up the foam are so thin that the pigments that make up the color are too thinly spread to matter much. Instead, the light is fractured everywhere by every bubble making it effectively reflecting white light.” When I was a kid, I always wanted to blow purple bubbles. Now I know why purple bubbles just aren’t a thing.

If Fruit Is Sweet To Encourage Animals To Eat It And Carry The Seeds Away From The Parent Tree, How Do Lemons And Limes Fit Into This Mix?

GettyImages-676634252
Photo by Waring Abbott/Getty Images

“Most of the types of “citrus” plants that we grow and sell in produce sections now were crossbred from a mix of only a few original plants. Lemons come from “Citron,” a really thick-rinded fruit with a small but sweet pulpy core, and “Bitter Orange,” which is what it sounds like. Limes come from a citrus-type tree called “Micrantha.”

But even so, just because they taste sour doesn’t mean that animals won’t eat and spread them. A lemon DOES have sugars and, in the same way we humans like a little bitterness, animals may appreciate it too. Food doesn’t have to taste sweet to be extremely healthy and an easy source of calories.” —u/the_original_Retro

Why Aren’t Power Lines In The US Buried Underground So That Everyone Doesn’t Lose Power During Hurricanes And Other Natural Disasters?

GettyImages-870521164
Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Reddit user u/SpectacularOcelot let us in on the details, and it’s pretty simple.

“Hi! I’m actually an estimator for a large electrical contractor, so I think I can comment on this pretty accurately. In large cities you’re correct, there’s a reason you don’t see power lines draped across buildings in Manhattan. And even more affluent neighborhoods will have the lines buried. But there’s one enormous reason that ALL lines aren’t buried: cost.

How Come You Can Be Falling Asleep Watching TV, Then Wide Awake When You Go To Bed Five Minutes Later?

GettyImages-872413836
Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

“The brain is like a group of people talking to each other. When you’re watching TV, the part of your brain that watches TV says “Shut up guys, I’m watching TV,” so you can focus without thinking about cake or math. As a result, the others sit silent, grow bored, and fall asleep, until only the TV watcher part of the brain is left. Left by himself, he too gets bored and falls asleep.

When you’re in bed, assuming you aren’t counting sheep or something, the entire brain is kind of in free time mode, and any part of the brain can speak up if it wants to. They start talking to each other, and even if one of them starts to drift to sleep, the others wake it up either by deliberately talking to the sleepyheads or just being noisy. Eventually more and more of the parts of the brain fall asleep from sheer exhaustion no matter how loud the others are, and eventually the last one passes out and you are asleep.” —u/Solid_Waste

If Humans Need Such A Balanced Diet To Stay Healthy, How Is It That Most Animals Seem To Get Away With Having A Very Narrow Diet?

GettyImages-967842364
Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

“Very few animals have extremely narrow diets, and animals tend to eat things that we don’t. For example, carnivores will eat organs and entrails, while most of the time humans throw these out. Those organs often are packed with nutrients which are almost impossible to find in muscle tissue, which is most of what we think of as “meat”. Plant eaters usually eat a lot more by volume and often have lots of helpful microbes in their gut to help digest their food.

It is possible to stay alive on a very limited diet. It’s healthier to eat more whole foods and get a broader range of nutrients. Also, eating “just one food” is a little misleading. If that one food is whole cooked potatoes, you can probably survive indefinitely. If that one food is white bread, you’ll suffer from metabolic issues due to a lack of essential nutrients (white flour is made by removing the most nutritious parts of the grain, so it’s missing a lot of good stuff).”— u/iGarbanzo

How Do Animals With White Fur Manage To Keep It Clean All The Time, Even After Killing An Animal And Getting Covered In Its Blood?

GettyImages-989406434
Photo by Antonia Hofmann/picture alliance via Getty Images

“What people tend to forget (or perhaps be unaware of) is that animal fur is not really comparable to say human-made fabrics. So stains on white linen or cotton are much harder to get rid of. Animal fur is actually most of the time covered in sebaceous secretions, eg oil from glands in the skin (which we notice if we don’t wash our hair for a while, it gets greasy).

This makes the fur a lot easier to clean when the animal grooms itself, or when swimming or rolling through snow. Things just don’t stick as easily. Compare to say a waxed fabric. That also repels water and dirt, and can often be cleaned just by brushing it.” —u/Erriv

Why Can Some Birds, Which Do Not Even Have Lips, Perfectly Mimic Human Language, While Chimpanzees, Which Have Mouths And Lips Much More Similar To Humans, Cannot?

GettyImages-989406446
Photo by Antonia Hofmann/picture alliance via Getty Images

“Chimpanzees communicate mainly by gestures and facial expressions. They do make noises, but they’re not the most important part like they are for us. Chimps only have four distinct noises, “grunts, barks, screams, and hoots”. The way they distinguish meaning from these is how loud they are and whether they’re low or high pitched.

So chimps don’t need the phonetic range that a human or a bird has. They don’t need their muscles to make the kind of complex sounds that humans use. Evolution made some changes to our anatomy that allow us to make a wide range of sounds, but chimps don’t need that so they never developed it.” —u/WarmerClimates

Where Do Internet Providers Get Their Internet From And Why Can’t We Make Our Own?

GettyImages-1056960330
Photo by Fernando Leon/Getty Images for MoveOn

“The Internet is like a series of roads. Let’s say you built a road from your house to your friends. You and your friend could go real fast to each other’s houses. But what if you wanted to go to some else’s house? Or the mall, or school? You would have to connect your road with your towns road. You would pay your town money to access their roads from yours, now you can go anywhere in town, and still have direct access to your friends through your road.

But now, your buddy’s neighbor wants to take your private road to get to his house instead of the main road, as a short cut. So your neighbor pays you a monthly fee to get access to your road. Now, you are acting like the ISP. Now let’s say all your neighbors do this. Suddenly, you can’t travel as fast on your road now, there’s too much congestion! So, you have to build another road.” —u/rob132

Why Can’t Bots Check ‘I Am Not A Robot’ Checkboxes?

GettyImages-1058114568
Photo by Christian Charisius/picture alliance via Getty Images

“Actually, clicking the box is a rather trivial part of what those CAPTCHAs are looking for. What they’re actually looking for are things like: did the ‘user’ instantly move their mouse to the exact coordinates of the box, or did they traverse thru the page like a human would? Is the user scrolling to the box, or are they remotely executing javascript to trigger a scroll to the box? How long after page load did the user find the box?

Too quickly is obviously a red flag, but taking too long is also. Commonly, to get around reCAPTCHA you’ll need to find out 4-5 areas to click in addition to the initial click. The way that most people do this is using CAPTCHA services, which are real people solving them and returning the answer to you (i.e. for a text captcha, you’d send them the image and they’d send back the letters/numbers).” —u/reifenstag

Caffeine Has Almost No Calories But Seems To Give Us A Burst Of Energy On Its Own. Where Does The Body Get This Energy From? Is Caffeine Forcing The Body To Use Stored Fat?

GettyImages-1068464122
Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

“Caffeine works in two ways to make you feel that way. First, it prevents the brain from telling you that you are tired. You can think of your brain as a bunch of locked boxes with different things inside of them. Some of these boxes have things that make you happy, others make you sad. Some have things that tell you it is time to go to sleep. Caffeine jams itself into the lock on the sleepy time box so that your brain can’t open it. That keeps you from feeling tired.

Caffeine also can help open the box that tells your body to go into extra energy mode. Things like your heart can work faster or slower depending on what you need. Caffeine tricks the body into thinking it needs to go into extra energy mode. Caffine doesn’t create this energy, the body is just using what it has stored more quickly.” —u/SeattleBattles

If There Is No Cellphone Signal, How Does The “Emergency Calls Only” Mode Work?

GettyImages-1069182236
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

Reddit user u/billythewolf answered, “Your phone is allowed to use any network it’s physically capable of using for emergency calls, whereas normally it can only use networks you’ve paid to use E.G. signals from a Verizon tower.”

User u/goldenthroneadded, “to fill in any dead spots, sometimes small towers are erected in remote areas. These are network-less and will only respond to emergency calls.” Apparently, military towers can also be used for emergency calls.

Why Is Restaurant Food Vastly More Calorie Dense Than Preparing Food At Home? Even At Restaurants Where They Cook Everything Fresh, The Calorie Count Is Insane.

GettyImages-1070428822
Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images

A few actual restaurant chefs chimed in on this one. Reddit user UbuSit said, “Professional Chef Here, just to give u an idea of how much butter goes in one dish. I use a 2:1 potato to butter ratio when making mashed potatoes. That’s one dish. So there’s that.”

u/wokka7 added, “Worked in Mexican fine dining for a bit. Our rice and beans were basically just lard with some rice or beans floating in it. People love it.”

How After 5000 Years Of Humanity Surviving Off Of Bread Do We Have So Many People Within The Last Decade Who Are Entirely Allergic To Gluten?

GettyImages-1070846708
Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“We don’t know. There are a number of theories about this. To clarify, while the increase may be exaggerated by people who falsely claim intolerance when they probably have other health issues (or are hypochondriacs), there is actually an increase in people with diagnosable gluten intolerance. And gluten intolerance is different than celiac. I’m taking here about gluten intolerance. Some possible causes include changes in the gut microbiome and changes in how we process and make bread.

On the processing side, one interesting theory is that the germ of wheat helps us process the gluten in some way. It has lots of nutrients, vitamins, fats, etc. Modern wheat flour (even most whole grain stuff) is made by separating the germ from the rest of the wheat first, then processing. This causes the flour to keep longer but removes all those nutrients. This is why flour/cereals need to be fortified. However, we only fortify with the vitamins and minerals for which we notice obvious deficiencies. So it’s entirely feasible that we are neglecting to add something back into the flour that helps SOME people not develop gluten intolerance.” —u/p3tunia

Why Can People Walk Many Miles Without Discomfort, But When They Stand For More Than 15 Minutes Or So, They Get Uncomfortable?

GettyImages-1071525746
Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images

Reddit user u/faykin had a lot to say about this topic:

“Your leg veins have one-way valves in them. They work when the skeletal muscles around them contract and release. When you are walking around, the flexion/relaxation of the walking muscles is literally pumping the blood back to your torso. When you are standing still, you aren’t getting that pumping action naturally. You could flex/release your legs intentionally while standing, but it’s not nearly as effective as walking is.”

Why Are Human Eye Colors Restricted To Brown, Blue, Green, And In Extremely Rare Cases, Red, As Opposed To Other Colors?

GettyImages-464369938
Photo by Selin Alemdar/Getty Images

“Eye color is in the Iris, and the Iris has two layers, a back layer that’s always fully pigmented, and a thicker front layer. The pigment is melanin, same that makes our skin different colors. Now when the front layer is densely pigmented, it appears dark, like brown or even black (though shine a bright enough light and you’ll see black eyes are just very dark brown).

If it’s not pigmented, it appears light blue. Why? Same reason the sky’s blue, light scatters in it. Light scattering is a different topic, but basically short wavelengths (ie blue) bounce differently in the fluffy front layer without pigment. What about in between? Well it turns out if there’s pigment but it’s not super dense, it’s a bit of a lighter brown or dark orange. We call these amber eyes. If it’s between amber and blue, then it’s like a cross between light orange and blue. That’s how you get green eyes.” —u/sixsidepentagon

Coffee And Cocoa Beans Are Awful Raw, And Both Require Significant Processing To Provide Their Eventual Awesomeness. How Did This Get Cultivated?

GettyImages-976726594
De Agostini / Getty Images

“Yemeni goatherders noticed their goats eating coffee beans and acting up, so they tried them, too. Like a lot of veggies, man figured out roasting can help the flavor, or that it tastes good with a broth. When they felt its effects it was then used to stay awake for night prayers.

There’s been some speculation that the origin was Ethiopia, a theory which has its sources, too, and is close enough to the Arabian peninsula connection most historians pin the origin to.” —u/Choppergold

Why Does The The Human Mind Ignore The Second “The”?

GettyImages-632083184
Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

“The human brain, when reading, doesn’t actually see every word unless you’re not fluent in a particular language. Your eyes actually take in multiple words at a time and parse the sentence based on the words you’ve taken in.

This also means that unless a particular particle is deadly important to the sentence, your brain ignores it. It also partially explains why you sometimes go back over a sentence if it doesn’t parse correctly. An extra “the” doesn’t change the meaning of a sentence, so you continue as if you understood.” —u/TyrannicalDuck

The Guitar And Piano Seem Like The Two Most Widely-Used Instruments. Is That Because Of Their Resonance? Or Range?

GettyImages-959483270
Photo Credit: Getty Images

“It’s because they are polyphonic instruments, as compared to most instruments which can only play one note. They can play chords, a pianist can play a chord and a melody. ‘Much more versatility.

If you are a bass player, sax player, drummer, it is a lot of fun, but to really do anything, you need a band to play with. Keyboard or guitar can play solo or with a group.”—u/chinmakes5

How Did Salt And Pepper Become The Chosen Ones Of Food Spices?

GettyImages-614762732
Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for NYCWFF

“Salt preserves food (by drying it) and is readily attainable (from the sea). Pepper preserves meat (piperine kills bacteria and repels maggots but is harmless to humans). Over time, cultures that embraced preservatives like this prospered and their cuisine spread. In India, they use a whole different set of spices.

The reason salt and pepper came to grace restaurant tables with all those other spices out there is **French cooking and Louis XIV. ** At the time that formal dining came into fashion, French culture was influential throughout the western world. Louis XIV was an influential man as the king of France. He didn’t like as much salt or pepper in his food but others did so he created the custom of having his chefs put it on the table rather than cooked in. The custom spread and western culture helped spread it all over the world.” —u/fox-mcleod

Why Is It That The Orange Juice I Buy That Contains “Over 22 Whole Oranges” Costs $1.89, Yet I’d Pay Nearly 5x That To Buy 22 Whole Oranges?

GettyImages-577723375
Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

“Used to work in an orange packing shed. The juicing oranges were usually the lumpy, weird shaped ones that can’t be sold loose, and don’t fit nicely into the packing boxes. They all get lumped together in a bin, so would be much cheaper to transport. There’s also more of them than the nice “Grade A” ones that get sold loose.

There were also “Grade B” oranges which were perfectly fine to eat but couldn’t be sold in America because they were “ugly”. These usually went to less economically developed countries. Remember the produce you buy in shops is the most aesthetically pleasing pick of the crop.” —u/some_toast_

In Most Machines And Appliances, Why Does An Engineer Choose, For Example, A Philips Head Screw For One Component But A Flathead Or Hex For Another?

GettyImages-520440718
Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images

“The Philips head is designed so the screwdriver slips out if you put too much torque (twisting force) on it. So you can safely screw it on full speed with an electric screwdriver, with no risk of breaking anything.

The hex bolt doesn’t slip out, so it’s useful if you need to screw it really, really tight, or if there is no easy access to the screw, and you can’t push against the screwdriver. The Torx head (star shape) is like the Hex but allows even more torque. It doesn’t slip, but you have to be really careful or use screwdriver with torque limiter.”

How Do DJs Give Live Concerts If All Of Their Sounds Are Digitally Created And Recorded? Seems To Me They Could Just Hit The Play Button, Which Would Defeat The Purpose Of A Live Performance.

GettyImages-1080290096
Photo by Romain Maurice/Getty Images for Haute Living

“Many DJs perform by ‘hitting the play button’. However, there are several other methods to perform live as a DJ as well. Using Ableton in performance mode is a popular choice for many DJs and allows you to manipulate which tracks play in real time.

For example, the DJ might have isolated vocal mixes and isolated pre-made backing tracks (these isolated tracks are called stems) and might mix and match them to create music in real time.” —u/awesomeaviator

How Do Smelling Salts Wake You Up After You’ve Been Unconscious?

GettyImages-515951576
Photo Credit: Getty Images

According to Reddit user u/Sablemint, they release ammonia gas. Ammonia is an irritant that triggers an inhalation reflex, which also increases heart rate. This cancels the physical effects of fainting – a reduced heart rate, breathing, and metabolism in general. It won’t keep you awake, but it can keep you from passing out in certain situations.”

Ammonia can be pretty dangerous though, so don’t go smelling this stuff if you don’t need to. There’s a reason it’s fallen out of fashion.