Can a coin falling from the top of the Empire State Building kill you? If you sneeze with your eyes open will they pop out? And could 'poo power' help heat the UK? These are three of the intriguing questions which top a list of the strangest science questions the British public would most like to see answered.
The survey of 2,000 British adults was commissioned to celebrate the launch of TV channel Eden?s Pop Science season, which includes programmes Bang Goes the Theory, Super Smart Animals, Things You Need to Know?, and The Secrets of Everything, which starts weeknights at 7pm from Monday 13 May, and aims to show that science does not always have to be serious.
Respondents were asked to raise science questions that baffle them and they would most like to be resolved and answered. The surprising questions revealed in the research, prove that Britons are intrinsically interested in the workings of the world around them. When asked what question they would most like to be answered, 27% of people wanted to know if a coin falling from the top of the Empire State Building could kill you.
The research also revealed that almost a quarter (24%) of curious Britons would be interested to discover what human flesh tastes of. However, only 14% would go as far as allowing a doctor to take a flesh sample to analyse the aroma and create something resembling a ?human burger? that they could eat, as trialled by Greg Foot, Science Daredevil, in the TV series, The Secrets of Everything?
More than two thirds (69%) of men and women said they were open to the idea of using ?poo? to heat their homes and believed it could be a great solution to energy shortages. A further 24% of Britons admitted they have tested the theory, if we sneeze with our eyes open they will pop out. Of those, 70% said they could not keep their eyes open, while an additional quarter (25%) said they had disproved it, and no-one?s eyes had popped out.
The top ten bizarre science questions the British public would like answered:
1) Can a coin falling from the top of the Empire State Building kill you? ? 27% No, a coin falling from the Empire State Building cannot kill a pedestrian and is unlikely to even penetrate the skin. When an object falls to earth it gains speed, eventually reaching the point where it?s weight matches the drag from the ari and it stops accelerating. That?s called its Terminal Velocity. The mass of a penny coin is only about one gram, so its terminal velocity would only be about 67mph.
2) How can you survive a lightning strike? ? 26% The temperature of a lightning bolt is an astounding 54,000 degrees, which is hotter than the surface of sun. It means that if you are hit, you are very unlikely to survive. The safest place to be during a lightning strike is in a moving car because it acts as a ?Faraday Cage? transmitting the charge around through the metal exterior of the car into the ground.
3) Could a person survive in a falling lift if they jumped as it hits the ground? ? 26% Probably not. Momentum is mass multiplied by velocity, so the faster you are travelling when you hit the ground, the more force you will feel. If the lift has been falling for a while, then it will be moving very fast and if you jump up it will lessen the impact. However this difference will probably be so small it will not be noticeable.
4) Could 'poo power' help heat the country? ? 19% Yes, water firm Thames Water has successfully been using human toilet waste to make electricity for the past decade, from either burning sludge or methane derived from its 13 million customers' toilets. This year they have invested a quarter of a billion pounds in six new thermal hydrolysis process plants as part of its ?poo power? program to turn sewage into energy.
5) Why do beans and sprouts make you pass gas? ? 18% Sprouts and beans are hard to digest in the stomach and small intestine because our bodies cannot produce the enzymes needed to break down some of the chemical components they contain. These partially-digested foodstuffs then make their way into the colon where they can fuel a large-bowel bacterial banquet, with predictable effects.
6) Could you survive on a desert island by drinking your own urine? ? 17% No it's impossible - you would die. Urine contains waste products like ammonia and is high in sodium that is toxic to the body in high amounts. If you drank your own urine you would be concentrating the urea in your bloodstream and poison yourself. You can only really expect to survive if you find a source of fresh water.
7) Can dogs as pets actually be good for our health? ? 16% Research shows that, unless you are someone who really dislikes animals or is absolutely too busy to care for one properly, dogs can provide excellent social support, stress relief and other health benefits, perhaps more than people! It has been suggested that dogs can even be trained to smell and detect cancer in people.
8) Why do chillies burn even through they?re cold? ? 16% Chillies do not actually burn, it is just that the capsaicin in the chilli makes the receptors in your mouth think there is something really hot in there. The degree of heat found within a food is often measured on the Scoville scale. Capsaicin affects receptors everywhere, so you normally feel the heat again the next day too.
9) Can we survive on just a diet of insects? ? 15% Yes, insects have numerous attributes that make them attractive sources of highly nutritious and sustainable food. For example caterpillars provide more protein and more iron than the same quantity of minced beef and there are over 1,000 varieties of insects edible to humans.
10) If you sneeze with your eyes open will they pop out? ? 14% This is not true. Your eyes close naturally when you sneeze simply to keep bacteria from getting into your eyes. A few people can sneeze without closing their eyes, (without them popping out) but the average person naturally closes their eyes while sneezing.
The research also revealed the interesting science facts which Britons find the most intriguing, including the fact that during World War II when blood supplies were running low, doctors discovered that the liquid inside young coconuts could be used as a substitute for blood plasma.
In terms of how far the public would go in the name of science, only 11% have participated in medical trials, but a surprising 33% said they would be willing to donate their body to medical science after they die.
TOP FIVE MOST INTERESTING FACTS
The liquid inside young coconuts can be used as a substitute for blood plasma (42%)
If the world was tilted one degree more either way, the planet would not be habitable (35%)
If the population of China walked past you in a single file, the line would never end, because of the rate of reproduction (30%)
The poison arrow-frog has enough poison to kill about 2,200 people (24%)
Sound at the right vibration frequency can bore holes through a solid object (23%)
Greg Foot, Science Daredevil and presenter of The Secrets of Everything, says: ?I have been buried alive, frozen, shot, electrocuted, and even gone under the knife in the name of science? (that last one was to find out what humans taste of!). I'm often described as half science geek, half adrenaline-junkie because I'm really interested in using myself as a human guinea pig to uncover these answer to really intriguing ? and often bizarre scientific questions. Eden?s Pop Science season will answer these questions; showing that science is a great way to get to the bottom of the FAQs we've always wondered about!?
Adrian Wills, UKTV's General Manager of Eden says ?There are many strange and obscure science-related questions we want answered, but are too scared to ask. The aim of Eden?s Pop Science season is to test out some commonly held beliefs and many of the weirder questions you might discuss down the pub. Here at Eden, we want to put the fun back into science and no matter how trivial the question, to encourage curious minds to never stop wondering at our world.?
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Notes to Editors
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From the scale and beauty of BBC blue chip series like Planet Earth, Human Planet and Madagascar to the premieres of Wild Colombia with Nigel Marven and Deserts And Life, Eden guarantees a daily shot of astonishment and high quality natural science programming. New and exclusive to Eden in 2013, David Attenborough?s Natural Curiosities shines the spotlight on nature?s most extraordinary evolutionary anomalies.
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