How long is the giant anteater’s tongue?

Anteaters are slow-moving mammals with long snouts and claws and no teeth. If you can image it, a giant anteater can grow a tongue up to 2 feet (0.60 meters) long! The anteater uses its long tongue to investigate anthills in South America’s tropical dry forests, rain forests, and savannas. It sticks its long, sticky tongue down the anthill, twirls it around, and scoops up a mouthful of ants. Anteaters can eat mouthful after mouthful of ants—up to 30,000 per day! It also eats termites and other insects.

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How does a bicycle work?

A bicycle is a simple device that increases the power that you have in the muscles of your legs, taking you faster and farther than you could ever run. When you push the pedals of your bike around once, the pedal sprocket—the wheel with teeth to which the pedals are attached—goes around once, too. But it pulls a chain along, one that is connected to a much smaller sprocket (with fewer teeth to grip each link of the chain) in the center of your bike’s rear wheel. This smaller sprocket moves around a number of times for each single turn of your pedals, moving your bike wheels a lot faster than you’re moving your feet! Some bicycles have several “speeds,” which means that they have a number of gears (called derailleurs) that vary the rate at which the wheels turn. These extra sprockets are located at the pedals and rear wheel of a bike, where levers move the driving chain sideways, from one to another.

A special spring system keeps the chain tight when it changes from a larger to a smaller sprocket. Although you might think that a rider would always want the wheels of his or her bike to move as fast as possible for each pedal turn, that is not always the case. When going uphill, for instance, a rider can get more force out of a wheel that turns fewer times, making the task easier.

How does a fax machine work?

A fax machine, also called a telefacsimile, transmits (carries) graphic and textual information from one location to another through telephone lines. A transmitting machine uses either a digital or analog scanner to convert the black-and-white representations of the image into electrical signals that are transmitted through the telephone lines to a receiving machine. The receiving unit converts the transmission back to an image of the original and prints it. In its broadest definition, a fax terminal is simply a copier that can transmit and receive images. Although the fax was invented by Alexander Bain of Scotland in 1842, it wasn’t until 1924 that it was first used to transmit wire photos from Cleveland to New York as part of the newspaper industry.

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Why is Earth mostly crater-free compared to the pockmarked Moon?

Earth is more active, in terms of both geology and weather, which makes it hard for craters to remain. Even those craters scientists can see on the surface—which may be millions of years old—have been overgrown by vegetation, weathered by wind and rain, and changed by earthquakes and landslides. The Moon, meanwhile, is geologically quiet and has almost no weather, so its hundreds of thousands of craters are easy to see.

The craters are the result of both meteorites and volcanic activity. Interestingly, some of the oldest Earth rocks might be awaiting discovery on the Moon, having been blasted there billions of years ago by asteroid impacts that shook both worlds.

How long is a fortnight?

The word fortnight is a unit of time that equals fourteen days. It comes from the Old English word feorwertyne niht, meaning “fourteen nights.” The term is used in Great Britain, where salaries and most social security benefits are paid on a fortnightly basis, but in the United States people use the term “two weeks.”

In many languages, there is no single word for a two-week period and the equivalent of “fourteen days” has to be used. In Spanish, Italian, French, and Portuguese, the terms quince días, quindicina, quinzaine, and quinzena—all meaning “fifteen days”—are used.

How did written punctuation originate?

It wasn’t until the end of the fifteenth century that the Italian printer Aldus Manutius introduced the system of markings we call punctuation. The proper use of punctuation marks is a learned skill that has eluded even great writers ever since. Mark Twain once filled the last page of a manuscript with all the various symbols of punctuation and instructed his editor to disperse them within the story as he saw fit.

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Will a wart go away if I wrap it in duct tape?

Maybe. Warts are skin infections caused by a common virus called HPV (human papillomavirus). They are perfectly “normal,” in that health researchers estimate that three out of four people will develop a wart some time in their lives, usually on their hands or feet. It can take months or years for a wart to disappear on its own. To speed up the process, some skin doctors recommend wrapping the wart in duct tape until it disappears.

The duct tape removes dead skin from the wart, thereby gradually killing off the wart virus that lives in the skin. It may also trigger the body’s immune system to attack the wart virus. Otherwise the wart can be removed by a doctor with a laser or liquid nitrogen, a substance that freezes the skin, killing the cells.

What are muscles made of?

Our muscles, which make up about half of our body mass, control the way the body moves. Muscles work together all the time, whether we are actively playing sports, or quietly reading and writing. Muscles lie in bands just beneath the surface of the skin. A muscle is made up of thousands of fibers bundled together within a protective sheath that consists of blood vessels and nerves. These nerves can be up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) long. A muscle becomes stronger when you work it, which is why people Who regularly exercise have more defined muscle tone than those Who do not exercise. There are about 660 muscles in the human body. The three types of muscle tissue are skeletal, cardiac, and smooth. The main and most unique characteristic of muscle tissue is its ability to contract, or shorten, making some type of movement possible.

Skeletal muscles hold the bones together, and are often called “voluntary” muscles because the brain controls them. The cardiac muscle, which is found only in the heart, contracts to send blood from the heart into the arteries. The brain sends signals to the cardiac muscle to speed up or slow down its contractions, called the heartbeat. Smooth muscles, located in the internal organs such as the stomach and intestines, help these organs or tissues do their job, such as help you digest and eliminate your food.

Do people still mine for gold in America?

Yes. Yet unlike a few centuries ago, gold panning today is primarily a recreational activity. Gold nuggets are found in areas where lode deposits and erosion have occurred—for example, in streams, rivers, ravines, and lake areas. All you need is a gold pan, a shovel, and a lot of patience. Both gold mines and gold prospecting sites exist in national parks from near Montgomery, Alabama to Washington, D.C. In addition, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and Alabama have many gold mines and prospecting sites.

These states were America’s main source of gold for 45 years before the California Gold Rush of 1838, when gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. Its news spread like wildfire, resulting in some 300,000 people coming to California to pan for gold. In California, the five counties of Mariposa, Tuolumne, Calaveras, Amador, and El Dorado—nicknamed the “Mother Lode”—still have gold for discovery. In 1837, the U.S. government established gold coin mints in Georgia and North Carolina to avoid transporting the raw gold to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, where coins are made.