Ever Wonder Why? Or How?


We always hear information that amazes or intrigues us and makes us wonder “how or why?”. We all know, for example, that certain insects are attracted to light, but why are they attracted to light? Dog owners know that they should never let dogs eat chocolate, but why does it actually make them so sick? We amass information every day, but we usually just take it in and save it without examining it any further, so how about digging some of it up and look for the “how and why” behind them.

Deadly Salt!

Do you know that the salt you sprinkle on your food every day as an essential cooking ingredient is deadly for other creatures? If you have a slug infestation, for example, all you need is some table salt to get rid of it. Why is that?

Well, if you have ever seen a slug, then you know that they look slimy and plump, like a little tube filled with jelly. Slugs’ bodies are made up of mostly water; due to their lack of an exterior shell, they protect their exterior by generating a protective mucus, which makes them hard to pick up by birds. Since retaining their body moisture is key to their survival, they prefer to live in moist and damp places, and only come out at night.

So, what exactly happens when you sprinkle salt on them? Salt is hygroscopic; meaning, it has the ability to draw, as well as retain water molecules from the surrounding environment. The salt on the slugs’ membrane form a salty solution, creating an imbalance between the amount of salt on the outside and inside; this triggers osmosis, so water moves from the place where there is a lot of it, to the place where there is less of it, in order to recreate a balance. Therefore, the slug’s permeable skin allows the water to seep out of its body and it ends up causing the slug to dehydrate and die.

Dog-Killing Chocolate!

Many people love chocolate because it is a mood booster and tastes lovely; however, what many people do not know is that chocolate is not safe for everyone. Not all species have the same digestive capabilities; for example, cows can eat and digest grass easily, while we cannot. Similarly, while we can digest chocolate, dogs cannot.

The issue lies within the components making chocolate; cocoa beans contain caffeine and a chemical compound called theobromine, which is toxic to dogs because they metabolize it much slower than we do, causing them great problems. If dogs eat chocolate, they can suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, and in extreme cases they can suffer from high blood pressure, seizures, tremors, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrest. The most dangerous kind of chocolate is the unsweetened dark kind, since it contains the highest level of theobromine.

If a dog does ingest chocolate, the first step to take is to induce vomiting in order to stop the theobromine from entering the dog’s system. By giving a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water to the dog, it will make them vomit, then the dog should be rushed to the veterinarian.

We are witness to interesting phenomena all the time; we hear facts and take them without questioning their occurrence. However, when we look into it, we find unraveled parallel worlds, we get to discover so much new information, and we gain insight into the lives of creatures we share this Earth with.



*Published in SCIplanet, Autumn 2014 Issue "How Things Work".

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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