Ask a Scientist - February 2012

Have a science related question? Ask away! We'll track down an answer from one of our OMSI scientists and each month post the answers. 


Q: What is the scientific reason behind what happens when you put a cup of water in window sill and the water disappears? - Janet

A: Water evaporates over time - the water molecules change from a liquid into a gas. The water becomes part of the air you breathe. And it might condense onto the window on a cold day, turning back from a gas into a liquid!


Q: Why does aluminum not react to a magnet? - Russell

A: Only 3 of the chemical elements are magnetic - iron, nickel and cobalt. Most magnetic metals are made with iron in them. Steel is a very common metal used in many products, so it can seem like most metal is magnetic. But lots of different metals besides aluminum - like copper, silver and gold - aren't attracted to magnets either.


Q: Why do I get a shock when I touch someone going down a slide? - Judy

A: Static electricity! When you go down a plastic slide, the slide takes some of the electrons out of you and your clothes! Your whole body has a positive electric charge, and when you touch someone else you take some of their negative electrons. The transfer of electrons from one person to another is that shock you feel!


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2 Comments

Why are yawns contagious—and why do we yawn?

I live in N Portland and since 1/24/14, there have been very strange lights in the Eastern sky. I would describe it as what the Aurora Borealis would look like if it were inside the crystal ball that drops for New Years' in Times Square. Never seen anything like it! My neighbor thinks maybe Saturn? What do you think?

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