technoquest

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

QWhich is the smallest muscle in the body? Which is the largest?

The smallest muscles in the body, like the smallest bones in the body, are in the middle ear. Called the stapedius and the tensor tympani, these tiny muscles allow the delicate hearing apparatus to move so that we can hear sounds clearly.

Identifying the largest muscle is more difficult. The most powerful muscle is probably the gluteus maximus - the muscle that makes up the bottom; the longest is the sartorius, which runs from the hip to the knee; and the largest in surface area is the latissimus dorsi, the broad muscle that covers the back.

Q Why do apples go brown?

Tannins in the apple react with the air, which oxidises them and turns them brown. Tannins are found in tea, too. Tannin is actualy a rather loose definition for a chemical that includes a group of compounds called phenolics - containing one or more benzene rings with an -OH (hydroxyl) group on it. All of the phenolics taste bitter, and are found in petals and some fruits.

Q What are wormholes, and do they really exist?

In modern physics and cosmology, wormholes are at present just a theory rather than a proven phenomenon. The theory describes them as short cuts in space, associated with black holes. Imagine you leave your house and go for a walk from Wembley to Aberdeen. At Wembley is a black hole into which you disappear. You then immediately appear out of a wormhole in Aberdeen and continue your journey to the local pub. The distance actually travelled in our space is simply the distance from your house to the black hole plus the distance from the wormhole to the pub. The bit of the journey between Wembley and Aberdeen is never actually travelled. Because you're not actually going very far, it doesn't take very long. To an outside observer though, you have travelled from Wembley to Aberdeen, and very quickly. That observer, calculating the speed of the journey, would suggest that you had travelled faster than the speed of light. In reality your speed was no faster than your normal walking speed; you just shortened your journey. So wormholes don't actually speed you up, they just make your journey shorter.

Q We know that staying out in ultraviolet (UV) light can cause skin cancer; but is infra-red light hazardous too?

UV light has a shorter wavelength than visible light, and infrared light a longer wavelength. In general, the shorter the wavelength, the more energy a photon imparts when it hits a molecule. UV photons (say, from the sun) can carry enough energy so that if they hit a DNA molecule, they can change the chemical structure of a piece of the genetic code so it does not work properly. This can lead to mutation and cancer. Infrared light carries far less energy (less even than visible light) because it has a longer wavelength. This energy warms rather than damages, and is dissipated as heat. Thus infrared light should only damage us by overheating us, and you tend to notice when this is happening. Although UV is far more dangerous, it takes a while for the sunburn it causes to become apparent, so that we can cause ourselves quite a lot of damage without being aware of itn

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

You can also visit the technoquest World Wide Web site at http:/www.campus.bt.com/ CampusWorld/pub/ScienceNet

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Display Account Manager

£25,000 to £35,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: The Company Our client are th...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director

£80 – 120K : Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director – Ad tech - £80 – 120K...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

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
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas