Education & Training

Tricky Science Questions For Kids With Answers

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

1. Does air make shadows?

Yes, air does make shadows by refraction if different regions of air have different indices of refraction. The index of refraction of air can change due to heat, pressure and composition differences. So non-uniform air with different indices of refraction can cause shadows, but uniform air cannot.

2. Can I change my cat into a diamond?

Yes. It is technically possible to turn your deceased pet into a diamond. A diamond is just a collection of carbon atoms in a tightly-packed crystalline pattern. If you take your deceased pet and remove all the hydrogen and oxygen atoms, most of the atoms remaining will be carbon atoms. With further filtering, the remains can be reduced to almost pure carbon. This remaining tissue can be placed in a diamond press and made into a diamond.

3. Which part of the brain is affected when you get headaches?

Most headaches are not caused by the brain being hurt in any way. Enveloping your brain are meninges, muscles, bones, lymph nodes, skin layers, blood vessels, the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and cavities called sinuses. The causes of most headaches are strain or pressure buildup in these areas and not in your brain. In fact, the brain itself lacks pain receptors, so it is impossible to have pain in your brain.

4. Can humans give off radiation?

Yes, humans do give off radiation. Humans give off mostly infrared radiation, i.e. Electromagnetic radiation with a frequency that is lower than visible light. However, clothes block infrared radiation, so someone with his shirt off will emit more radiation than what he emits when it is on.

5. Can a star turn itself into a planet?

Yes, a star can transform into a planet, but this transformation only happens for a particular type of star known as a brown dwarf. A brown dwarf is an object with a mass that is greater than the biggest planets (i.e. more than 13 times the mass of Jupiter) and less than the smallest stars (i.e. less than 80 times the mass of Jupiter).

6. What is the reason for humans to have an appendix even though it is unnecessary?

In fact, the human appendix is not completely unnecessary.  According to a study by a team led by J. H. Grendell of Winthrop University Hospital, people without an appendix experienced recurring intestinal infections 2.5 times as much as people with an intact appendix. Therefore, the appendix seems to play a role in the gut’s defense against infection.

7. How is it that a clear object is transparent and visible at the same time?

Light bends (refracts) as it passes through objects even if the object is made of a transparent material. Because of refraction, the background image ends up changed. Your brain is capable enough to be able to deduce the shape of the object simply by how the background image is distorted.

8. Can fish rain from the sky?

Yes. There are numerous instances of fish raining from the skies; there is no magic in it. It is generally thought that tornadoes are the culprit. When tornadoes move over bodies of water, they become known as waterspouts. Waterspouts suck up ocean water along with the fish or other creatures swimming in the water. The fish thus taken into the tornado’s vortex are blown around in the clouds until the wind speed lowers down enough to let them fall back to the ground, perhaps kilometers away from where they started.

9. Will I be affected by radiation if I stick my hand in the microwave right after it turns off?

First of all, the microwaves emitted by a microwave oven are not harmful: they will only be able to heat you. Microwaves are non-ionizing, which means that they do not have enough energy per photon to rip electrons off of atoms or break chemical bonds, which is what will lead to cancer and radiation sickness.

10. When I expose my fingers to water for a long time, they get wrinkled. Why?

The wrinkling of wet finger tips is a biological response to prolonged contact with water. Finger wrinkling is controlled by the nervous system. Nerve signals cause blood vessels in the finger tips to constrict, reducing the amount of blood in the finger tips. Just as drying out a grape turns it into a wrinkled raisin, the reduction of blood in the finger tips causes them to shrivel and wrinkle.

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