Five Science Brain Teasers That May Leave You Stumped
The science-minded tend to love brain teasers, so as the RCS editor, I've been lucky to stumble upon a few of them over the years. I'd like to share five of my favorites. For some of you, they might be easy, for others, deceptively challenging, but all of them teach us something. And that's what really matters!
You'll find the answers below the image of Star Trek's Data and Geordi, dressed as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
1. A semi-truck with an enclosed trailer full of perched birds needs to cross a rickety, worn bridge. If all the birds took flight at the same time, will it reduce the trailer's weight and make the crossing less perilous?
2. Between the Earth and the Moon, there's a point where their gravitational attraction cancels out. Is this point closer to the Earth or the Moon?
3. There's a very simple formula behind the following sequence. Can you figure it out?
3 4 6 8 12 14 18
4. Only two chemical elements are liquid at room temperature. What are they?
5. If the mass of the Earth increased, your weight would increase as well. But what would happen to your weight if the mass of the Sun increased?
1. No. As the birds fly, their wings push the air down, creating a force which equals their force at rest on the truck trailer's floor. Thus, the trailer's weight would not change. Need some help thinking about this? Air is technically a fluid, just like water. So imagine the truck is filled with swimming fish instead of flying birds. The weight of the trailer would stay the same no matter where the fish swim.
2. Closer to the moon. Much closer, in fact. That's because the Earth's mass is about 81 times that of the Moon, so its gravitational 'pull' extends further.
3. It's the the first seven prime numbers – 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and 17 – each with +1 added! Were you stumped? Be honest... (H/T to Numberphile)
4. Bromine and Mercury. A red-brown liquid at room temperature, Bromine is a halogen lke fluorine and chlorine, meaning that it produces salts upon reacting with metals. It commonly accumulates in ocean floor brine pools. Mercury is a silvery metallic element that is as entrancing as it is toxic.
5. Nothing! As Florida Atlantic University Emeritus Professor in Physics Dr. Robin Jordan explained, "Our 'Earthweight' is determined by the gravitational force of the Earth on us and the Sun does not affect our local weight. The reason is that we and the Earth are both falling towards the Sun as we orbit the Sun. So, just as a person in a car that falls off a cliff is not "pressed" into the seat no matter how strong the Earth's gravitational force, our weight is not affected by the Sun's gravitational force."