How did we get the idea that the stork delivered babies?

The suggestion that storks delivered babies came from Scandinavia and was promoted by the writings of Hans Christian Andersen. Storks had a habit of nesting on warm chimneys and would often lift articles from clotheslines then stuff them into these nests, which to children looked like they were stuffing babies down the flue.

The stork is also very nurturing and protective of its young, which helped it become symbolic of good parenthood.

How is steel used in skyscrapers?

Tall, multistory structures called skyscrapers are made of steel, which is sturdier and lighter in weight than other building materials, such as brick and stone. In the late 1800s, when steel production became common, architects experimented with steel, forming it into long, thin pieces called girders. The first skyscrapers, built in the United States in the 1880s, were constructed using vertical columns and horizontal beams made from steel girders. This supporting skeleton allowed buildings to rise to 10 or more stories. Skyscrapers grew taller when designers began using bundled steel tubes instead of heavy girders.

Tube buildings, like Chicago’s Sears Tower, get most of their support from a stiff grid of steel columns and beams in their outer walls. The lighter weight pieces need less support, and so architects can 144 add more height. Additional beams can be placed diagonally for additional support while adding little extra weight. The girders and beams are bolted together and welded on all sides so that the building will not sway from side to side as a unit when there is wind.

The bald eagle’s head is covered with white feathers. So why is it called the bald eagle?

Because one meaning of the word “bald” that is not commonly used anymore refers to white markings. “Bald” used to refer to people with white hair. Due to excessive hunting, environmental pollution, and loss of habitat, the bald eagle population became dangerously low at one point, prompting the U.S. Congress to pass a law protecting it. Bald eagles were once listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an endangered species, meaning they were close to being extinct. Thanks to the laws protecting it, these birds have rebounded a bit. They are now listed as threatened, which means they are not as close to being extinct as they once were, but their numbers are still few (only about 50,000 in the United States), and it is illegal to hunt them.

Were dinosaurs warm-blooded?

Scientists have conflicting opinions about whether dinosaurs were warm-blooded or cold-blooded. Some paleontologists think that all dinosaurs were “warm-blooded” in the same way that modern birds and mammals are, with a high rate of metabolism (body chemistry). Some scientists think they were “cold-blooded,” much like modern reptiles. Some scientists think that very big dinosaurs could have had warm bodies because of their large body size, just as some sea turtles do today. It may be that some dinosaurs were warm-blooded—the problem is that it is hard to find evidence that shows with certainty what dinosaur metabolisms were like. An understanding of dinosaur metabolism helps paleontologists understand the behavior of dinosaurs. If they were cold-blooded, they were most probably sluggish, with only occasional bursts of quickness.

In addition, they probably would not have been very smart creatures. Like modern crocodiles, they probably spent most of their time basking in the sun, moving only to get more food. On the other hand, if dinosaurs were warm-blooded, then they were probably active, social animals. They would have been quick, alert, and intelligent. They would have spent much of their time actively grazing, like the modern antelope, or hunting in packs, like the lion.

Why do we say that someone with a hidden agenda has “an axe to grind”?

As a boy, Benjamin Franklin was sharpening tools in his father’s yard when a stranger carrying an axe came by and praised the boy on how good he was with the grindstone. He then asked Franklin if he would show him how it would work on his own axe. Once his axe was sharpened, the stranger simply laughed and walked away, giving young Franklin a valuable lesson about people with “an axe to grind.”

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.

Does every country have its own flag?

Every country has a national flag, including the United States. Flags date back to around 1000 B.C.E., when the Egyptians used primitive versions of flags—some were even made out of wood or metal—to identify themselves and to signal to others. Ships started using flags at sea to signal to each other and to harbors, often to let them know they had a diseased crew aboard. Flags are still used today to let sailors know what weather conditions await at sea. The military also made use of flags to rally its troops. During the ancient wars, capturing an enemy’s flag was considered an honorable seizure.

Today, the most popular use of flags is to identify and symbolize the world’s countries, which became commonplace in the 1700s. When new lands are discovered—and, for example when Mount Everest and the Moon were conquered—explorers raise their country’s flag as a sign of their being the first to set foot on these unchartered lands.

Why are barns usually painted red?

Paint coats wood, protecting it from sunlight and rain damage and making it last longer. When early farmers had enough money to paint their barns, they usually used inexpensive paint because the structures were so large. Ferrous oxide, a chemical powder that gives paint its red color, was readily available and cost little. Thrifty farmers in New England, New York, and the upper Midwest region painted their barns red. In those places, red barns remain a tradition. But there are plenty of barns in other parts of the country that are not red. Early farmers that were poor—especially in regions like Appalachia and the South—left their barns unpainted because they did not have the money to do the job.

Unpainted wood usually weathers to a soft gray color. And in places like Pennsylvania, Maryland, and some southern Midwestern states, the most frequently seen barn color is white. Some people think that white barns grew popular when dairy farming became more important after the Civil War; white suggests cleanliness and purity, desirable qualities to be associated with milk production. Special farms where fancy horses or prize livestock were raised sometimes had barns painted unusual colors, like yellow, green, or black.

Why are vain people said to be “looking for the limelight”?

In the early days of theatre, the players were lit by gas lamps hidden across the front of the stage. Early in the twentieth century, it was discovered that if a stick of lime was added to the gas, the light became more intense, and so they began to use the “limelight” to illuminate the spot on stage where the most important part of the play took place. Later called the “spotlight,” the “limelight” was where all actors fought to be.

Which planets experience the greenhouse effect?

The greenhouse effect describes a warming phenomenon. (In a greenhouse, closed glass windows cause heat to become trapped inside.) The greenhouse effect occurs when a planet’s atmosphere allows heat from the Sun to enter, but refuses to let it leave. A good example of the greenhouse effect can be found on Venus.

There, solar radiation penetrates the atmosphere, reaches the surface, and is reflected back into the atmosphere. The re-radiated heat is trapped by carbon dioxide, which is abundant in Venus’s atmosphere. The result is that Venus has a scorching surface temperature of 900 degrees Fahrenheit (482 degrees Celsius). The greenhouse effect can also be found on Earth and in the upper atmospheres of the giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.