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Why Don'r Spiders Stick To Their Webs

And Other Scientific Surprises

Robert Matthews

If you're covering a fixed distance - say, getting to work - it makes no difference to calories burned if you walk or run.

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The mathematician William Shanks calculated the value of pi to 707 digits in 1873, a feat that took him 15 years. Pre-computers, no-one was keen to check his calculations. But pi is believed to be made up of completely random numbers, and so each digit should be equally represented. It turned out that Shanks calc was suspiciously short of 7s. It wasn't until 1945 that the reason was found - he'd made a mistake which resulted in every digit after the 527th one being wrong (or to put it another way, he'd completely wasted the last 3 years)

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Soccer goalkeepers don't have time to react to ball trajectory when defending penalty kicks. It takes half a second for the ball to travel to the net, which is about the speed of human reactions. Film shows that goalkeeper starts moving about 100 milliseconds before the striker connects. The most useful cue that they are reacting to is that the non-striking foot is usually (85% of the time) in the direction the kick is going.

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Modern rail lines don't have expansion joints. Continuously Welded Track (CWT) is heated and stretched as it is laid down. This has the effect of putting more space between the atoms in the steel, giving them more room to expand.

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Why men have nipples. The cells which form nipples develop when embryo a month old. Not until 8 weeks later that embryo exposed to the hormones - principally testosterone - which determine maleness.

Skin colour is a trade-off between protection against skin cancer, so dark skin in tropics where sun's rays more direct, and the need to make Vitamin D, which requires ultraviolet sunlight.

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