101 Greatest Questions of All Time

The “101 greatest questions of all time” have been answered in BBC Focus magazine.


Here are some of those baffling brainteasers– and the answers of course.

What is ‘OK’ short for?

The most popular theory is that OK comes from “oll korrect”, a deliberate misspelling of “all correct”. It comes from Boston newspapers in the 1840s when it was fashionable to spell things incorrectly for humorous effect.

Does chewing gum really stay inside you for years?

No. Chewing gum is indigestible but it doesn’t have any magic property that allows it to escape the normal digestive transit. Three days is the usual limit.

Would the common cold die out if we all stayed at home?

Yes. Global quarantine would work in theory, but if just one person evaded it the disease would be free to spread again.

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.

Do plants die of old age?

Given good conditions, some plants can live for ever. It takes a change in external conditions to finish them off. But annuals die soon after seeding.

Why is sea air good for you?

It isn’t, particularly. In Victorian England, seaside resorts got a reputation for having healthy air – maybe in comparison to the era’s city smogs.

The seaside’s “bracing” smell is caused by a chemical produced by coastal bacteria, present in very low concentrations. But a study last year found that sea salt can react with chemicals in marine exhaust fumes to worsen the atmospheric pollution in a busy port.

Is talking to yourself a sign of madness?

No. The phenomenon known as “private speech”, in which people talk aloud to themselves when stressed or alone, is perfectly normal.

Do men have cellulite?

Yes. It’s not just women who are cursed with orange peel skin, although in men cellulite tends to be in different places, usually around the neck and abdomen.

Where do phobias come from?

Around 10 per cent of the population suffer from phobias. Some may be triggered by a traumatic event while others are linked to physical problems. Studies suggest that simple phobias are partly genetic while others may be due to cultural history. For example, a fear of spiders may be passed down from the Middle Ages when spiders were associated with the plague, as victims’ deserted homes became shrouded in cobwebs.

Will digital snaps last?

Yes. If you print them out or store them on CD-Rs shielded from light.

Will evolution make us more attractive?

Evolution is already doing this. Sexual attraction is an evolutionary mechanism designed to help us choose a mate with healthy genes.

Can germs catch germs?

Yes. The germ would be an even smaller organism that attacks its host germ from within.

Why do I get more car sick in the back?

It’s probably because you don’t have such a good view of the horizon. Motion sickness occurs when the balance mechanism in your ear registers movement while your eyes are telling you that you are stationary.

Could we live on water and supplements?

No. As well as vitamins and minerals we need carbohydrates, fats and proteins for energy and cell repair.

Do dock leaves sooth nettle stings?

No. This myth arose from parents’ desire to find something nearby with which to placate a stung child.

Do hot drinks cool you down?

Yes. They make your body think you are hotter than you really are so you sweat more and that leads to heat loss.

Does the size of your head affect your IQ?

No. A study concluded there is a correlation between head size and brain size, but that IQ was not related to size.

Would it be possible to surf a tidal wave?

Sort of. Nobody has ever surfed a tsunami, but the Severn Bore is effectively a large tidal wave caused by water being funnelled along the river’s estuary and is regularly surfed.

Does cheese give you nightmares?

Any heavy meal before bed can make you spend more time in REM sleep and therefore you will dream more. But there is no evidence to suggest that cheese is particularly effective at causing dreams, good or bad.

(Via UK Mirror)

Read the full 101 Greatest Questions of All Time in the March issue of BBC Focus on sale now. Find out more at www.bbcfocusmagazine.com.