Science: Technoquest - Ant death/Whale breath/Hot glass/ Hairy hearing

Questions for this column may be submitted via e-mail to sci.net@campus .bt.com

Q When I squash ants on the kitchen shelf and drop them on the floor, they are cleared away by other ants.Why? Are they eaten? (asked by Luela Palmer)

Most social insects have a well-documented behaviour called necrophoresis which involves the recognition and removal from the nest of dead nest- mates and other decomposing materials. Worker ants recognise the corpses by a number of chemical breakdown products: research by E.O. Wilson, the famous myremecologist (studier of ants), showed that if the "dead ant" chemical is sprayed on a live ant, workers will quickly carry it out of the nest, just as they would a corpse. The live ant then cleans itself off quickly and re-enters the nest - sometimes to be removed a second or third time if they haven't cleaned themselves properly!

Q Why don't whales get the bends?

The simple answer is that they are breath-hold divers, and do not breathe compressed gas at depth like scuba divers. Hence there is less nitrogen available for absorption and what there is was taken in at atmospheric pressure. However, it is more complicated than that. Human breath-hold divers can get the bends through repeated, relatively shallow (20-metre) dives. Dolphins diving below about 70 metres are protected by alveolar collapse - the tiny sacs in the lungs purposely shrink - which prevents gaseous exchange taking place. But the mechanism by which whales avoid the bends on shallower diving schedules is not completely understood.

Q Is it true that swimming pool water can make bleached hair go green?

Yes, it is possible. The peroxide used to bleach hair damages it which makes it more susceptible to collecting impurities such as iron and copper ions from the water. These ions can cause discolouration of the hair.

Q How long does it take for the alcohol in a drink to reach your bloodstream?

On average it takes 20 minutes for alcohol to reach the bloodstream after the first drink, and then approximately 1 hour per unit after this. This varies per person depending on their tolerance to alcohol, of course.

Q How many hairs are there in a human cochlea?

The cochlea, a bit of the ear that helps us hear, has about 15, 500 separate tiny hairs that wave from side to side sending signals to our brains.

Q How is ovenproof glass made?

To make glass tough enough to withstand the high temperatures in cookers, a chemical called boron oxide is added. This also makes the glass resistant to fast temperature changes.

You can also visit the technoquest World Wide Web site at http://www.sciencenet.org.uk

Questions and answers provided by Science Line's Dial-a-Scientist on 0345 600444

Suggested Topics
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all