10 Simple Questions That Still Totally Baffle Scientists

We can put a man on the moon, but we don't understand why circles work.

confused scientist
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You know the phrase "science doesn't know everything"? It's usually used by smug people to justify the fact that they believe putting a crystal up your nose will cure headaches (or something).

Well, anyway, turns out they're right, science doesn't know everything. In fact, there are a lot of pretty basic questions that the combined powers of science, mathematics and philosophy tend to answer with one, unified shrug. Science, it turns out, is very good and the middlingly difficult problems and it is this that has enabled us to put humans on the moon and change the TV channel without getting up.

However, present them with some of the most basic questions about the world around us and we still draw a blank. So, if you want to excite and irritate a scientist in equal measure, ask them one or all of the following:

10. Bikes, Man, How Do They Work?

Seeing as bicycles have been around since the Victorian period, you'd think we'd have a pretty good idea how these seemingly simple machines work. Indeed, we thought for a long time that we did know how they work, it seemed obvious. It used to be thought that is was the gyroscopic force of the spinning wheels that would cause the bike to remain upright. The maths was all solid and written down by 1910, but there was something about it that gave physicists and mathematicians a niggling feeling that something was wrong.

Then, exactly 100 years later (that's 2010, maths fans) a group of scientists built a special bike with attachments that were designed to cancel out all of the gyroscopic forces ... and the damn thing still remained upright.

As far as we know, there is still no definitive answer as to why bicycles are able to self-correct and steer into a fall. There are many theories flying around but so far no one has managed to nail down exactly how bikes work. For now we'll just have to be glad that they do.

 
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