Does my goldfish know who I am? Book answers kid's difficult questions

Published Monday, Nov 18 2013, 22:00 GMT  |  By  |  Add comment
Why do onions make us cry? Do spiders speak? Children often ask questions that can sometimes be rather tricky to answer, which is why the genius book, "Does my goldfish know who I am?" has been launched.

Created by Gemma Elwin Harris, it gets some of Britain's science and nature experts to answer questions that have been asked by primary school children.

This book provides answers to some of the most difficult questions that kids ask, so next time that you're put on the spot, you can reach for this book and impress even the most probing of children.

Here are some of our favourites…

Why do onions make us cry?
Matthew, age 9, and Eleanor, age 5
Greg Foot, daredevil scientist, says:

Slicing through an onion with a knife rips through its cells, releasing various chemicals that react together. After 30 seconds, a sulphur-carrying gas is produced that wafts up to your eyes and mixes with the water, producing a burning sulphuric acid.

A signal is sent to your tear glands to boost the production of tears to flush it away.

Does my goldfish know who I am?

© Faber and Faber

Where does counting come from?
Tommy, age 7
Alex Bellos, maths author, says:

Probably from gazing at the moon, our ancient ancestors will have noticed that the Moon follows a cycle from Full Moon to New Moon and then back again.

To track the position of the moon, our ancestors would have made notches on pieces of wood to mark the days as they passed. The purpose of counting therefore stemmed from the human desire to track time, which thousands of years later led to the invention of numbers.

Why do mosquitoes only bite some people?
Charlotte, age 8
Dr Rob Hicks, GP and medical journalist, says:

Mosquitoes have a really powerful sense of smell and are attracted to chemicals that we all release from our bodies. One of these is carbon dioxide which is in the air we breathe out and acts as a signpost to help them find a possible meal.

Women and large people tend to breathe out more carbon dioxide, the more breathed out, the easier it is for the mosquito to find you. It detects whether the combination of chemicals from the person's body means they will be a tasty snack or not.

When I yawn, who do people near me yawn too?
Alex, age 7
Dr Jack Lewis, neuroscientist and broadcaster says:

You yawn when your brain becomes a little hotter than it needs to be to work well. Yawning helps cool down the brain on its way up into your brain. This helps you to feel more alert and fights the tiredness.

When other people "catch" your yawn their brain gets cooled down as well. This gets everyone more alert and focused at the same time.

Extracted from Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am? by Gemma Elwin Harris, published by Faber and Faber, price £12.99 for hardback.

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