What Causes a Brain Freeze?

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We’ve all experienced it before. You come home after a work-out or a long day in the sun, and your first instinct is to grab the coldest drink you can find. You start gulping down the drink a mile an hour too quickly andBAMM ahhh that awkward, face-scrunching feeling of a brain freeze. But what exactly causes a brain freeze? and why is the pain in the forehead, after all, shouldn’t it be somewhere in the mouth?

brain-freeze

We’ll take a look at the two most common theories since many others exist.

Theory #1

When a cold food or beverage touches the roof of your mouth, the sudden drop in temperature constricts the capillaries in your sinuses. As a self-defense mechanism, blood is quickly rushed to those capillaries to warm up the surrounding tissue. The warmer blood causes the capillaries to rapidly expand. This rapid constriction and expansion of capillaries triggers the pain receptors to send pain signals. The pain signals travel to the brain via the trigeminal nerve, which is the same nerve that is responsible for facial sensations and pain. As a result, the brain interprets the signal as coming from the forehead, which is called “referred pain” because the origin of the pain is in a different location from where it is felt.

medical_information_cleveland_clinic_migraines_headaches_cluster_headaches_trigeminal_nerve

Theory #2

When a cold food or beverage is ingested, the anterior cerebral artery increases blood flow to the frontal and medial lobes in an attempt to “adapt” to the freeze. The increase in blood flow leads to an increase in artery size. The combined effects of these self-defense mechanisms is an increased intracranial pressure which may be interpreted by the brain as a headache or the notorious “brain freeze.”

17277-yes_hurts1What can be done to combat the ruthless pain of a brain freeze?

– Decreasing the rate of intake of the cold food or beverage would definitely help.

– If you are not willing to slow down your consumption rate, then placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth will also help.

– Another technique is to place your thumb or any other warm object on the roof of your mouth.

– Also, a warm cup of water will do the job quickly.

Slurpee_brainfreeze

What do you think? Do you like this? How about a question for next week’s blog.

Sources used-

http://chemistry.about.com/od/howthingsworkfaqs/f/how-brain-freeze-works.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice-cream_headache

http://www.foodrepublic.com/2011/07/11/what-causes-brain-freeze

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/what-really-causes-brain-freeze/

http://brokensecrets.com/2011/03/04/brain-freeze-is-triggered-in-the-sinuses/

Why do clothes shrink?

It’s a modern day tragedy: you have a favorite piece of clothing that fits you perfectly, but when it comes out of the wash, it shrunk. What happened? what did you do wrong? Well, lets take a look.

There are two types of shrinkage, relaxation shrinkage and progressive shrinkage.

Relaxation shrinkage, mostly common in cotton, takes place due to the way the fabric is manufactured. During construction of new clothes, tension is applied to cotton yarns. This tension is suddenly released between the fibers when they are exposed to heat, whether they are steamed, washed or dried. As a result, the fabric shrinks to its natural size, which happens to not be the size that you tried on at the store [insert crying face]. This type of shrinkage is common in most cotton fabrics, which is why they are expected to shrink in the very first wash.

The other type of shrinkage, called progressive shrinkage, is common in animal fabrics (hair) such as wool, mohair and cashmere. As the name implies, during progressive shrinkage, the clothing shrinks a little more each time it is thrown in the wash. But why does this happen? Like the hair on our head, these animal hairs have scales on them. So when the wool gets wet and warm, the scales on the side tend to stick out. Then as you agitate these and rub the fibers against each other in the wash, they lock together. As you continue to agitate the fibers, they get stuck together more and more and the fabric continues to get thicker and thicker and shorter and shorter.

Man-made fabrics like polyester, will never shrink. The only reason a synthetic fiber will ever shrink is if there is a blend of natural fibers in the fabric. Here is a good way to look at it, the more natural fibers present, the more likely the clothing article will shrink.

In an attempt to debunk some myths, Whirlpool, an appliances company conducted some tests to determine where in the laundry process shrinking takes place. According to their study, it is the hot water from the washer that causes the most shrinking, and not the action of the dryer. In addition, the study found that some shrinking takes place in the dryer not because of the heat of the dryer, but because of the spinning action of the dryer.

What do you think? Do you like this? How about a question for next week’s blog.

Sources used-

http://www.ehow.com/info_8568102_clothes-shrink-dryer.html

http://www.ehow.com/about_6360634_clothes-shrink-washer-dryer_.html

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98759520

How Is Lightning Generated?

At any one time, there are about 2000 thunderstorms happening all around the world. In one day, about 8 million lightning strikes take place, unleashing the power of more than 2 million tons of TNT!! But how do they form in the first place?

Here it goes:

Clouds are in the first layer of the atmosphere, called the Troposphere. Currents of turbulent wind causes clouds to mix and hit each other. As a result, friction is produced between tiny water and ice particles called “hydrometeors.”

Electrostatic charge begins to build up in these clouds. For unknown reasons, the lighter particles pick up the positive charge and the heavier particles pick up the negative charge. As a result, the top of the clouds become positively charged and the bottom of the clouds become negatively charged.

 We know that opposites attract and insulators inhibit.  As positive and negative charges begin to separate, an electric field begins to generate between the top and bottom of the clouds. Further separation of the positive and negative charges strengthen the electric field.

Since air is a very good insulator that inhibits electric flow, a LARGE amount of charge (measured in millions of Volts) needs to generate before lightning can take place. Once this threshold is reached, the strength of the build-up of charge overcomes the strength of the insulating air, and LIGHTNING STRIKES! BAM

When lightning strikes the ground, the heat from the electricity raises the heat of the surrounding air to 20,000 degrees celsius (three times hotter than the surface of the sun) VERY quickly. As a result, the air is compressed and explodes outward from the channel, forming a shockwave of compressed particles in every direction. The rapidly expanding waves of compressed air create a very loud noise that we call Thunder.

What do you think? Do you like this? How about a question you would like me to answer for next week’s blog.

Sources Used-

http://regentsprep.org/regents/physics/phys03/alightnin/

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/articles/article/howdothunderstormswork-2/

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/lightning/lightning.htm

http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/thunder.html

Why Do Onions Make Us Cry?

You’ve probably experienced the burning and tearing in your eyes when you cut onions. But why do onions affect our eyes the way they do? What kinds of chemicals are in play?

Well, here it is.

When onions grow in the soil, they absorb many nutrients including sulfur. When an onion reaches our kitchen counter, it does not emit any gases and no matter how long we stare at the onion, we will not tear.

But when we cut into the onion, we break the cell membranes and allow the chemicals that are normally separated by their compartments to spill out and mix. Some of these chemicals include “amino acid sulfoxides” and various enzymes that carry important functions in the onions.

Now that these chemicals are free to mix, they create what is called “propanethiol S-oxide” which is a volatile sulfur gas. This gas floats into our watery lubricated eyes and creates sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid (H2SO4) is one of the six strong acids of chemistry. Therefore, the sulfuric acid burns, stimulating our eyes to release more tears and to wash away the irritant.

So what can we do to minimize these uncomfortable side-effects?

1. By putting the onions in the freezer 30 minutes before cutting them, you will slow down the activity of the enzymes, therefore reducing the amount of volatile sulfur gas that is created.

2. By cooking the onions in hot water, you will denature the enzymes (inactivate them) and also reduce the amount of volatile sulfur gas that is created.

3. By putting goggles on, the volatile sulfur gas will not come in contact with your eyes, preventing any sulfuric acid from forming on your eyes.

Onion sufferers don’t worry, scientists are breeding a new strain of onions that have decreased levels of harmful enzymes so that tear-inducing onions could become a thing of the past.

What do you guys think? Do you like this? How about a question you would like me to answer for next week’s blog.

Sources Used-

http://chemistry.about.com/od/chemistryfaqs/f/onionscry.htm

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2011/02/why-do-onions-make-us-cry.html

http://www.humantouchofchemistry.com/why-onions-make-us-cry.htm

Why Is Yawning Contagious?

Generally, yawning is associated with boredom, tiredness and lack of stimulation. But why is it that when someone in the room yawns, its sets off a chain reaction and many others follow?

Well, scientists have come up with 3 theories to help explain why yawning is contagious. You decide which you like best! 

1. The Evolutionary Theory- Like other animals that yawn (all vertebrates[fish, chimpanzees, dogs. . .]) we yawn to show our teeth, intimidate others and express dominance. So why is yawning contagious? According to this theory, one person yawns after another to subconsciously show their dominance. This theory explains why dogs yawn right before they attack and why olympic athletes usually yawn right before their event. I like this theory because it takes an evolutionary perspective and it takes our instinctual animal behaviors into consideration.

2. The Brain-Cooling Theory- Yawning is the body’s mechanism to cool the brain. In a study done in 2007, participants had cold packs applied to their foreheads while they watched videos of people yawning. The cold packs practically eliminated contagious yawning. According to this theory, yawning decreases brain temperatures which allows for the brain to function more efficiently. So why is yawning contagious? This theory doesn’t really explain why yawning is contagious, but it gives an interesting reason physiologically that may one day be tied to why yawning is contagious. I think this is an interesting study and that more research needs to be done, but according to this theory there is no explanation as to why yawning is contagious.

3. Theory of Empathy- Yawning when others do is a sign of empathy and social bonding. According to a new study, yawning is a shared experience that promotes social bonding. Specifically, yawning diffuses stress after a period of being on high alert and spreads a feeling of calm throughout a group. So why is yawning contagious? According to this theory, those who are no longer on high alert are most likely to yawn after another person because it diffuses any tension and it brings calmness to a group. I like this theory because it makes sense and it really explains why yawning is contagious. Those that are most comfortable with the environment will yawn and those that are still on high alert will not.

How many times did you yawn just by reading this?!?!

What do you guys think? Do you like this? How about a question you would like me to answer for next week’s blog.

Sources Used-

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/03/really-the-claim-yawning-cools-the-brain/

http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/family/question5721.htm

http://news.discovery.com/human/yawning-social-behavior.html

Why Does Alcohol Not Freeze?

Well, thats not exactly true. Alcohol does freeze, but our refrigerators don’t have the umph to do what it takes. Lets take a closer look at alcohol.

In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxyl functional group (-OH) is bound to a carbon atom. There are many types of alcohols and many uses for them. For example, methanol is a type of alcohol found in your car’s antifreeze, ethanol is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages and isopropyl alcohol is a type of alcohol found inhand sanitizers like Purell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freezing points of different substances are influenced by the strengths of intermolecular bonds. The stronger the forces between molecules, the more easily the substance will freeze, i.e. the substance will freeze at a higher temperature. So for example, water forms four very strong Hydrogen bonds between four other water molecules. Therefore, it freezes at a relatively high temperature of 34 °F (0 °C). On the other hand, alcohol has weak intermolecular forces because it only forms one hydrogen bond with other molecules and as a result freezes at a very low temperature -174.6 °F (-114.7 °C).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The exact freezing point of vodka, gin, tequila, rum, whiskey and other liqueurs is dependent on their proof, or alcohol per volume. The lower the proof, the warmer the freezing point: the higher the proof, the colder the freezing point. As a result of this, beers and other low proof beverages could freeze more easily.

Since most household refrigerators are kept between -10 and 0 °F (-23 and -18 °C), we never get to see frozen alcohol. So next time someone asks you why alcohol cant freeze, impress them.

What do you guys think? Do you like this? How about a question you would like me to answer for next week’s blog.

Sources Used-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigerator

http://web.ncsu.edu/abstract/science/wms-alcohol-freezing/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol

http://cocktails.about.com/od/mixology/f/alcohol_freeze.htm

Why Is The Sky Blue?

Logos

To understand why the sky is blue, we first have to understand the composition of the the atmosphere. The atmosphere is mostly made up of nitrogen gas (78%), oxygen gas (21%) and small amounts of many other gases. In addition to the gases, the atmosphere has dust particles, pollen from flowers, evaporated salt from the oceans, and ashes and soot from incompletely burned organic matter. Near the ocean or after a rainstorm there may be more particles of water in the air. Pollution can add a variety of gasses, dust and soot to the atmosphere as well.

Now that we understand what our atmosphere is made up of, we have to take a better look at light particles (pun!). Light particles, or photons, are particles that travel in motions of waves. These light waves are vibrating electric and magnetic fields. Visible light is only a small part of what we call the electromagnetic spectrum. We classify light based on three characteristics: Wavelength, Amplitude, and Frequency. Wavelength is the distance between the tops (crests) of waves. Frequency is the number of waves that pass by each second. And Amplitude is the height of the waves.

When light travels through space, it travels in a straight line. As light enters Earth’s atmosphere, it comes into contact with dust particles and gas molecules and other components of the atmosphere that we discussed earlier. Dust particles and water droplets are much larger than the wavelength of visible light so when light hits these, it is either reflected and bounces off or refracted and breaks up into the many colors of the visible light spectrum (Rainbow!!). Gas molecules, unlike water droplets and dust, are much smaller and behave differently when photons hit them. When light hits a gas molecule, some of the light will be absorbed by the molecule. The light that is absorbed most frequently is the higher frequency blues, more so than the lower frequency reds. After some time, the gas molecule radiates (releases) the same light that it absorbed (most likely the higher frequency blue). The absorbed blue light is radiated in all different directions in the sky. Most of this blue light reaches us here on the land and as a result we see the sky as blue. 

Ethos

After taking basic chemistry courses, I can say that the theory that light being radiated by gas molecules is possible because as a photon hits a gas molecule, it excites the electrons in the outermost layer of its electron cloud and the electron is kicked up an energy level. As we all know, the universe is trying to achieve minimum energy to become more stable. As a result, the electron in its excited state falls back down to it normal shell, and releases energy in the form of light. Which is what we see.

Pathos

The sky is blue because it makes us all feel better about ourselves. The blue color of the sky gives me a warm fuzzy feeling every time I look at it. It makes me feel better about my day and it makes me feel like I’m in a warm place. When the sky is not blue, I get emotional and sometimes I cry.

What do you guys think? Do you like this? How about a question you would like me to answer for next weeks blog.

Sources Used-

http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/atmospheric/sky.htm

http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/blue-sky/

http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/sky_blue.html