L.Dutch
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How do Glass Ants create their tunnels?
Accepted answer
192 votes

Joe, this is the HQ. It's likely the ants do not really melt the glass. In the 20th century some material scientists on Earth developed a kind of photoresist (called spin-on glass) which, after ...

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Can a casino system prove my (divine) luck as cheating?
140 votes

For "clear" probabilistic games (like roulette, where the probability of victory are well known, and 1/37 on a single number) they can easily tell, on statistic base, if you are cheating or not. For "...

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What is the utilitarian purpose of artificial waterfalls?
125 votes

Still water is heaven for proliferating algae, bacteria and annoying insects like mosquitoes. A large city with large bodies of still water is a recipe for plague spreading. Having water on the move ...

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Why do the aliens buy Earth whiskey instead of just downloading the copy and creating it themselves?
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120 votes

Status symbol. Plain and simple. Doing a carbon copy is easy and cheap. But if you can afford the original one it means you have a huge load of moneys at your disposal. And those moneys are no good ...

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Building a road to escape Earth's gravity by making a pyramid on Antartica
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113 votes

The maximum height a mountain can have on Earth is a tad more than what Mount Everest is high. This is due to the fact that when you increase the height of the structure, you are also increasing the ...

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Humans are Gone: Do the Chickens Make It?
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111 votes

I think chickens will duck extinction (pun intended), thanks to their adaptability. When I was a kid we used to have chickens in our farm (surrounding environment was Maquis shrubland), which were ...

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Would earthlike planets in other solar systems have well-known Earth gemstones such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires?
110 votes

Crystal structure is dictated by Gibbs free energy. Once you have the right chemicals and the right conditions, nothing prevents the formation of the desired gems. The only gems you would not ...

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Avoiding moral hazard concerning Pokolpok (ancient Maya ball game)
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107 votes

The winners are not killed immediately, but after a few months, which they spend in a rather leisurely life: exempted from work, supplied with food and their only task being breeding with a large ...

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Time Warp: Modern chemist as court alchemist
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106 votes

Why struggling for gold, which any king and even merchant of the medieval world has, when you can go for Aluminum, which no king yet has? Aluminum is shiny, like gold. Aluminum is malleable in thin ...

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How would trees communicate?
101 votes

Plants already communicate, we simply ignore or are just now starting to discover most of the mechanisms they use. An African tree has been found capable of communicating with its neighbors to warn ...

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Why do aliens who visit us have higher tech than us? Couldn't they wait for us to have it too?
96 votes

We think we are advanced but still barely able to send devices within the gravitational influence of our star. We managed to send living samples of our species on our satellite, but just for few days ...

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Sword in the rock - make it last the ages
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95 votes

Merlin knows about metallurgy, and will place in the immediate surroundings of the rock (or even IN the rock) a sacrificial anode made of magnesium, aluminium, zinc or another suitable metal. A ...

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How do I explain a unicorn discharging powerful electricity at a distance?
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90 votes

The unicorns are symbiotic with a jumping spider species, residing on the horn. The horn is kept at (or can be quickly charged to) a sufficient high potential, and the jumping spiders can be directed ...

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Would anything bad happen to humanity if quantum tunneling stopped working overnight?
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88 votes

We wouldn't notice anything because we would be dead. And with us all life forms. Oh, yeah, that count as "the worst which could happen", I guess. Why? Quantum tunneling plays a role in ...

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What event would cause a huge, dominant nation to adopt the language of a smaller, inferior one?
88 votes

When the Roman conquered Greece, they were so fascinated from their civilization that they put a straw in that land and started avidly sucking their culture. It was common practice for students to ...

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Is it possible for two symbiotic lifeforms to be born from the same egg?
88 votes

Mitochondria are responsible for allowing oxygen breathing in all Eukaryotes. Chloroplast are responsible for photosynthesis in plants. They both carry their own DNA, it is thought they are symbiotic ...

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In the late 1940’s to early 1950’s what technology was available that could melt a LOT of ice?
87 votes

Around that time someone in the US government proposed to use nukes to widen Panama Channel. Project Plowshare was the overall United States program for the development of techniques to use ...

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How long would it take to “domesticate” humans?
84 votes

One doesn't need to selectively breed humans for selecting character features. Education can go a long way, as it was proven by the Romans: take the children of the aristocracy of a conquered people ...

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Why are potions always brewed in extreme bulk?
83 votes

For the same reason that to mine precious metals or stones you need to process a lot of ore: dilution. If potion making was just a matter of mixing the right ingredients, any wannabe mage would just ...

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How could intelligent animals defend against humans?
Accepted answer
83 votes

First thought would be "make an army of lions, bears, tigers, wolves or whatever top predator you have". But that would be wrong. All of them are easily spottable from a distance, and are good targets ...

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Is there a scientifically valid explanation for a circle of islands?
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82 votes

An half submerged crater can give you a circular set of islands. You can choose among various craters: Volcanic craters, like Santorini Mountains subsided into the oceans or eroded by changing sea ...

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Speedrun to the moon in one lifetime?
80 votes

I don't think it's feasible. First of all, for anything they need, they might know what they need to build, but they have no way to reach the place where the raw materials are located. E.g. Jim: &...

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Would somebody from the middle ages be able to identify an atomic / nuclear bomb?
78 votes

For your reference: some years ago in Brazil a scrap thief, while salvaging through the remnants of a hospital, found a piece of material which emitted a nice glowing blue light. He was smart enough ...

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Why would a sleeper ship be designed to only wake one person in case of emergency?
Accepted answer
77 votes

A simple humanitarian reason. If the problem is normal-serious, the troubleshooter can fix it, eventually awaking specific other persons. This individual is highly trained, augmented, decked out ...

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How to hide an urban landmark?
Accepted answer
77 votes

During WWII the city of Alexandria, in Egypt, was under menace of being bombed by the German bombers. Since it was known that the bombing would have taken place overnight, it was decided to build in ...

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Why do ogres eat people?
71 votes

It's just out of superstition. Like in some traditional medicines it is believed that eating rhino's horns will provide big benefits to a man's virility or other feats along that line, for the ogres ...

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Of strange atmospheres - the survivable but unbreathable
69 votes

an atmosphere that is lethal if you get a breath or two but won't burn your skin off or poison you anyway when you walk out the door without your moon suit? take our atmosphere and remove all the ...

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How could an animal "smell" carbon monoxide?
67 votes

You just need to have the appropriate chemireceptor which is triggered by CO molecules. Sensitivity is less of an issue: our nose can detect certain molecules at very low concentrations, like H2S, ...

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Why would a compass not work in my world?
Accepted answer
65 votes

Large magnetic ore deposits everywhere, altering the reading of the magnetic North on a compass. They have noticed that a magnetized needle aligns along a preferential direction, but that direction ...

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What is the earliest point in history that Big Brother could exist?
65 votes

In the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) a system very similar to Big Brother was in place, though not relying on technology, but using human informants only. It was set up by the Stasi: Full-...

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