Questions Children Ask (with some answers)

The Daily Mail, an appallingly bad British newspaper, published a list of questions that parents struggle to answer from their children. The survey it was from is unnamed, but it claimed to have asked 2,500 parents. This image from the article summarises them:

I’ve had a go at giving some answers, but they aren’t detailed answers. Unanswerable questions and ‘Where do babies come from?’ are ignored. The latter merely because it isn’t hard to answer, just awkward.

How is electricity made?

A common way is as follows: Get some sort of wheel to move. This could be a water wheel, or it could be from evaporated water from burning coal or from a nuclear reaction. The wheel then rotates a wire around the magnet (or rotates the magnet instead). When an electrical conductor cuts a magnet (when it is moving perpendicular to it) an electrical current is generated.

What are black holes?

Black holes are things in space that has such a strong gravitational pull that not even light can escape from its gravitational field.

What is infinity?

Maths is free, infinity is whatever you want it to be 🙂

Why is the sky blue?

Some light is absorbed by particles in the sky before it reaches our eyes. Light of all wave lengths is emitted from the Sun, but those with a smaller wavelength are absorbed more. Blue has the least wavelength of all, and so it gets absorbed the most. It then gets re-emitted in any direction. As you can see blue light from any angle, the sky looks blue.

So the sun itself looks like the colours that are left: Red and Green. Red and green light together looks yellow.

Why do we have a leap year?

A day is 24 hours and there are 365 days in a calendar year. The problem is that in a solar year there are actually about 365.25 days. Thus every four years an extra day is added in order to sync the calendar and the solar position together, so that seasons fall at the same time every year.

In fact, it is a bit less than 365.25 days for a solar year, and so some leap years are ‘missed out’.

How do birds/planes fly?

By the upward force caused by air moving under their wings, and the forward force eventually caused by the air flowing over its wings.

Why do onions make you cry?

When you cut up an onion, you let various chemicals in it mix together. They react to form a particular chemical that can react with the water in your eyes to create sulphuric acid, which burns your eyes! So when the chemical gets in the air and gets to your eyes, it stings, and so your body releases more tears in order to protect your eyes.

Where does the wind come from?

Air on the earth keeps getting heated up, or cools down, for various reasons. When air cold air and hot air are next to each other one moves above the other and winds are formed.

Why is the sea salty?

It comes from eroded rocks in the sea and in rivers that feed the sea.

How big is the world?

One way of finding this out is assuming it is a sphere and measuring the curvature. You find out the diameter is about 8,000 miles. You can work out from that it is about 25,000 miles to go around. You can also work out that it is about 200 million square miles.

Britain is about 95,000 square miles, and so the earth is 2,000 times the area of Britain.

What is a prime number?

It is a positive whole number such that only itself and 1 are divisors. 1 is not counted as a prime number.

They are important as every number is the product of prime numbers in a unique way.

What makes thunder?

The lightening heats up the air around it very quickly. As it moves away, it makes the thunder noise.

Why do we blink?

To keep them from becoming dry and also to try and prevent bits of grit getting in them.

Where does water come from?

Water is not really used up (in general), and so we just keep reusing the water that has always been on earth.

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One Response to Questions Children Ask (with some answers)

1. Rohan McLeod says:

I suppose one judges these things according to how one would have wished it answered
for oneself.I have come to realise I have always had what could be termed an
‘ontological’ bias; not that I knew what that word meant as child.
For example when I came across ‘A stitch in time, saves nine’;
my natural inclination was to start worrying about ‘stitches in space’,
preparatory to the seeming mind bending notion of ‘stitches in time’
…..the popular meaning when I finally ‘got it’ was something of a let down !;
thus
//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

>How is electricity made?

>A common way is as follows: Get some sort of wheel to move. This could be a water wheel, or
>it could be from evaporated water from burning coal or from a nuclear reaction. The wheel
>then rotates a wire around the magnet (or rotates the magnet instead). When an electrical
>conductor cuts a magnet (when it is moving perpendicular to it) an electrical current is
>generated.

We don’t really know what electricity is.
In modern physics matter consists of atoms.
Atoms consist of electrons which are negative electicity and nucleii which are positive;
there is also anti-matter where the ‘electrons’ are positive and the nucleii negative;
if an electron collides with a positron they turn into light!
When the electrons get separated from the nucleii, sometimes by magnetism as in generators;
some times by chemistry as in batteries; sometimes by friction as in thunder-storms;
a force seeking to return them to the positive matter develops. We call this force
‘voltage. Sometimes as in thunder-storms this is very large, millions of volts.
This can cause enormous numbers of electrons, which we call electrical currents to
flow back to the positive matter.

>What are black holes?

>Black holes are things in space that has such a strong gravitational pull that not even
>light can escape from its gravitational field.

Newton thought the reason planets went around the sun, instead of just going straight
on; was because of a force called gravity.Modern physics after Einstein thinks that
the Sun curves space-time so that the shortest distance between two points is no
longer a straight line,thus the planets curve around the Sun.
When the density of a mass becomes large enough the space-time curvature around it
becomes so great that light curves around it and can’t escape, we call this a ‘black-hole.
It is thought nowadays that most galaxies have large black-holes at their centres.
Some people believe that microscopic black-holes only as large as an atom and as heavy
as the Earth exist.They are believed to evaporate by radiation finally dissappearing
in a large explosion,

>What is infinity?

>Maths is free, infinity is whatever you want it to be 🙂

……….. tut tut, you should be ashamed ….. those poor young minds ;-|

>Why do we have a leap year?

>A day is 24 hours and there are 365 days in a calendar year. The problem is that in a solar
>year there are actually about 365.25 days. Thus every four years an extra day is added in
>order to sync the calendar and the solar position together, so that seasons fall at the
>same time every year.
>In fact, it is a bit less than 365.25 days for a solar year, and so some leap years are
>‘missed out’.

There is not an exact number of days in a year, nor does the Moon go round the Earth
an exact number of times in a year.But calendars have an exact number of days and months
in a year.Thus early types of calendars used to get out of synch with the
seasons.For example in the northern hemisphere people liked December,January,Febuary to be
winter;etc;In our more sophisticated modern calendar a fixed but complex set of corrections
involving inserting extra days in ‘leap-years’helps solve this problem.

>What is a prime number?

>It is a positive whole number such that only itself and 1 are divisors. 1 is not counted as
>a prime number.
>They are important as every number is the product of prime numbers in a unique way.

(Hoping you will excuse my impudence !)
A prime number is a positive whole number which has exactly two different positive whole
number factors, itself and one. Zero is not prime because it has an infinite number of
different positive whole number factors apart from itself.One is not prime because
it has zero different positive whole number factors apart from itself.
All positive whole numbers can be uniquely represented by the ordered set of positive whole
numbers; which are the powers of the ordered prime factors; which make it up.

>What makes thunder?

>The lightening heats up the air around it very quickly. As it moves away, it makes the
>thunder noise.

Well as stated at the beginning there is an ideosyncratic element involved with
their percieved satisfaction;
but I would probably anticipate :
‘What is lightening ?’after this:
try
When water evaporates it forms a gas which mixes with air.This mixture rises in the
atmosphere and gets colder. As the water gas gets colder the molecules bunch togeither
forming minute droplets on the way to forming a cloud.Perhaps due to the friction
of air molecules the droplets accumulate electric charge.As the droplets continue
to combine and get larger their charge accumulates.As they get larger the speed
at which they fall gets larger and eventually it rains.Because they were carrying charge;
the cloud finishes up with a net charge with respect the ground.When this ‘voltage’
gets large enough the insulation of the air between the cloud and ground ‘breaks’,
and the ionised air discharges the electricity to ground.

>Where does water come from?

>Water is not really used up (in general), and so we just keep reusing the water that has
>always been on earth.

Water is made by ‘burning’ oxygen and hydrogen;which are two elements of the periodic table.
Most of the hydrogen is believed to have been formed as the temperature of the universe
cooled after the Big-Bang 14 billion years ago.Much of the hydrogen fused to become helium
in stars and in subsequent generations of stars all the other elements of the periodic table ;including oxygen were formed.Whenever a molecule of two or more elements could form and release energy
in the process a stable compound is formed.Thus water is a stable compound.A great
deal of material found in the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter and the Ort cloud
beyond Pluto is thought to consist of water-ice. Earth is thought to have formed
by the accummulation and subsequent bombard of he Earth by such material.Thus
we have water.