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

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Data Analytics Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading organisation...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Insight Analyst Vacancy - Leading Marketing Agency

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency have won a fe...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices