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9 Of Your Weirdest Questions, Answered With Science

We asked for your embarrassing science questions, and now we're answering them. First up: some of the strangest requests we had, about everything from cat sex, to dinosaur noises, and thirsty fish.

1. How do birds pee?

Sandara Pond / Getty Images

Birds only kind of pee. They don't have separate openings for urine and feces, so everything gets mixed up and comes out as a paste through one hole called a cloaca. (See the above diagram, and then go here for more information than you ever wanted to know about bird excretion, courtesy of Eastern Kentucky University.)

Birds also use their cloacas for reproduction, and male birds fertilize female ones in a process called a "cloacal kiss".

2. Can sleeping in a fridge kill you?

Thinkstock

The main thing you need to worry about if you're in a fridge is getting enough air – get stuck inside and you'll eventually suffocate. This was apparently such a problem by 1956 that The Refrigerator Safety Act was passed in the US, meaning all new fridges had to have a mechanism that allowed them to be opened from the inside.

So, yes, sleeping in a fridge could actually kill you, if it's not well-ventilated and you get trapped inside.

3. Why do chickens have red flappy bits on their heads?

Edward Neale - Hume and Marshall, Game Birds of India, Burmah and Ceylon (1879–1881) / Via en.wikipedia.org

That "red flappy bit" on top of a chicken's head is called a comb, and the part that hangs down from its throat is called a wattle. Together, the comb, wattle, and fleshy bits on their earlobes are known as a caruncle.

The caruncle is thought to be ornamental and used by females to work out whether she wants to have a male's chicks. In males, a large caruncle demonstrates high testosterone levels. According to a paper published in 2010, pheasant hens might be able to work out whether a cock has compatible genes from the size of his wattle.

4. Do fish get thirsty?

Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Fish don't technically drink water like we do. Instead, it diffuses through their body from the surrounding water in a process called osmosis. How exactly this happens depends on whether they live in freshwater or seawater.

According to aquaculture specialist William Wurts writing at Scientific American:

In seawater, fish must drink salt water to replace lost fluids and then eliminate the excess salts. Their kidneys produce small volumes of fluid containing high concentrations of salt. Freshwater fish produce large volumes of dilute urine, which is low in salt. Less demand is placed on the kidneys to maintain stable concentrations of blood salts in brackish or low salinity waters.

So all fish do need to take in water, but they probably don't ever actually feel thirsty.

5. How do cats have sex?

Adrian Hillman / Thinkstock

If you really want to know what cats having sex looks like, there are plenty of videos on YouTube that can help you in that department. If you want to know about how weird cat penises are, read on.

The first thing you need to know is that male cats have barbed penises. Click the GIF below to see what that looks like. It's thought that a cat's penis spines help to keep it in place while mating and stimulate ovulation in the female. Also, cats have an actual bone in their penis called a baculum that helps them to maintain their erection. So now you know.

Nat Geo

6. What's the highest anyone has ever counted to?

Moodboard / Getty Images

Jeremy Harper counted to a million in 2007 (watch him finish his epic count here) – he started on June 18 and finished on September 14, counting for 16 hours each day.

If you were to try to attempt a similar feat without breaks, it'd take you just over 11 and a half straight days, counting at one number per second (which, let's be honest, is a bit ambitious when you get into five figures). To count to a billion, it'd take over 31 YEARS.

7. How do we know what noises dinosaurs made?

Ann Winterbotham / Getty Images

Here's a fun fact: The dinosaur sounds you heard in Jurassic Park were actually animal sex noises.

It's not been easy for scientists to work out what dinosaurs would have really sounded like, because the vocal cords they presumably used were made from soft tissues and did not get fossilised. But we can look to their closest living relatives to put the puzzle together.

According to Joe Hanson at It's Okay To Be Smart:

The deep groaning vibrations used by crocodiles and reptiles come from the larynx. Much like in our own vocal chords, air from the lungs vibrates folds of tissue to create rather intimidating vibrations that sound like this. Birds, on the other hand…or wing…use a structure called the syrinx, which is close to a larynx but probably evolved independently. That means that roars and rooster calls could have a different evolutionary origin. One, both, or neither of those structures may have existed in various families of dinosaurs.

Some features possibly related to sounds made by dinosaurs have been fossilised, like the lambeosaur's crest. According to the University of California, Berkeley: "The most accepted theory today of the function of the crest is that it served as a resonating chamber, allowing lambeosaurs to make deep, loud sounds."

8. Why does hair get darker when wet even though water is clear?

Stefangruber / Getty Images

The Naked Scientists have answered this one. Basically, your hair reflects less light when it's wet. Think about it – your hair is way more bouncy when it's dry, so light is being reflected everywhere and it looks lighter. When it's wet, the strands are closer together and light doesn't bounce off as much.

9. What are the Neoplatonic ramifications of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle?

Thierry Dugnolle / Creative Commons / commons.wikimedia.org

Lol jk.

Keep an eye out for more answers to your embarrassing questions in upcoming posts!

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