A few years ago, the Telegraph published an article, the Greatest 101 Questions of All Time
Here are the first ten. I added some photographs found through google images.
1. Where is the safest place to stand outside in a thunderstorm?
Tall, pointy objects standing alone in an open space are more likely to get struck by lightning but it’s by no means a certainty. Sometimes the flat ground next to a tall tree can be hit. A car or other enclosed metal structure is the safest place to be in a thunderstorm. Failing that, a ditch, trench or group of shrubs of uniform height is better than nothing. Keep away from boundary areas between dissimilar terrain (water and land; rock and earth; trees and fields). Also keep at least five meters away from metal objects or other people as lightning will often jump from one object to another.
2. Why do identical twins have different fingerprints?
Although identical twins share the same DNA, they don’t look identical cell-for-cell, because not every aspect of your physical appearance is rigidly determined by your genes. Fingerprints are formed semi-randomly as the fetus develops in the womb and are affected by such things as chance fluctuations of hormone levels. Similarly, the pattern of freckles and moles on the skin is caused by random mutations and will vary
3. Is the human race still getting taller?
The average height, at least in Western society, is increasing because of better childhood nutrition and sexual selection. But the tendency of women to find men taller than six feet (183cm) more attractive can’t be extrapolated upward, and people above 6ft 2in (188cm) are much more likely to suffer back problems. Above 6ft 8in (203cm), and the heart strains to pump blood round the body.
4. Why do I feel cold and shiver when I have a fever?
A fever is when your body increases its internal thermostat, found in the hypothalamus. If you exercise hard or it’s a hot day, your body temperature might increase, but the thermostat remains at around 36.8°C. When you feel hot the hypothalamus tries to correct this with sweating and increased blood flow to the skin. But with a fever, it is the thermostat that has risen. This means your body temperature is now below 36.8°C, so you feel cold and shiver, to try and raise your temperature. The higher body temperature may help fight infection by speeding white blood cell production and slowing bacteria reproduction.
5. What is OK short for?
The most popular theory is that OK comes from ‘oll korrect’, a deliberately misspelled writing of ‘all correct’. It was popularized in Boston newspapers around the 1840s when it was fashionable to go around spelling things incorrectly for humorous effect. Legend also has it that New York Democrats later adopted the abbreviation to promote their candidate Martin Van Buren – the initials ‘OK’ were derived from his nickname, Old Kinderhook.
6. Why can’t we just fill in the ozone hole with man-made ozone?
The sheer scale of the notorious hole – or, more accurately, depleted region – in the Earth’s ozone layer over the Antarctic beggars belief. At its peak each September, it spans an area bigger than the continental United States, and tens of millions of tonnes of ozone would be needed to fill it up again. Simply creating that amount of ozone, let alone getting it where it’s needed, would be astronomically expensive.
7. Why do fingers and toes wrinkle when left in water?
The waterproof coating on our skin gets rubbed away from areas of our bodies like our hands and feet that are frequently in contact with objects. If you immerse yourself in water with a lower concentration of dissolved salts than that of your cell contents, water will be absorbed by osmosis and cause your skin cells to swell. Since they are anchored to the tissues below, they are forced to corrugate to accommodate this.
8. What is a hiccup?
A hiccup comes from an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm, producing a sudden intake of air. The glottis (the vocal apparatus of the larynx) slams shut at the same time, so that the column of air strikes the closed glottis to produce the characteristic, onomatopoeic noise.
9. Is there an easy way to prove the Earth is round?
Yes, travel. Because the Earth’s surface is curved, you’ll notice that different constellations of stars are revealed.
10. Can you have a fish out of water?
Yes. Several species of fish can breathe air and crawl on land. There are about 50 species of flying fish, too.