Carrots Don’t Really Make your Eyes Better

By Anupum Pant

I have been lied about taste areas on the tongue, gas station & cellphones and what not! I feel everything I have ever known is wrong. And here we have one other myth that got busted today. I always thought was true. Thanks to the following Vsauce video (0:28 seconds) which opened my eyes and sent me to research on this topic.

I was so sure about carrots helping your eyesight that I had never questioned this belief. My parents told me, the doctors told me, my teachers and every one else (even Kawaii) told me.

Eat more carrots. Carrots will improve your vision.

eat more carrot kawaii

The truth about carrots

The truth is, carrots of course are good for the health of your eyes like any healthy diet is, but they don’t improve your vision. You won’t start seeing in the dark if you eat more carrots. Your normal diet gets you enough of vitamin – A to keep your eyes healthy. Carrots do no extra magic.

Carrots contain a substance called beta-carotene, which gets converted into vitamin – A and as everyone knows vitamin – A is good for your eyes. Of course the lack of vitamin – A in your diet could land your eyes in a problem. But you normally get enough of it through a normal diet. You don’t need carrots to keep your eyes disease free. Any more of vitamin – A supplied by carrots isn’t going to make your vision better. 

What is more interesting is how this propaganda started…

The Interesting Myth Origin

Turns out, “carrots make you see better” was a widespread World war II propaganda, clearly a bold faced lie which was used to save London from the tyranny of Nazi. It probably did better than the best email scam ever. The lie blew up, and today it has reached almost every living kid. I’m pretty sure even textbooks mention this.

During the WWII, the Royal Air Force started using radar to spot Luftwaffe bombers at night. But they wanted to keep this trick of their’s a secret. To achieve secrecy What did they do? They started a propaganda.

A story came into existence. According to it, a very skilled British Pilot, “Cats’ Eyes” who ate a lot of carrots, had developed a night-vision of sorts, and had gained the ability to spot German bombers at night by just tweaking his diet habits. British civillians loved the story and started eating more carrots. They thought it would improve their vision and they’d start seeing at night. The story spread like wild fire. Who would have known that the Cats’ eyes story was a propaganda issued by the Navy to conceal their use of radar technology.

[Read more]

The propaganda of course did save London.

Too much of anything is bad

FYI: Like too much of anything, even too much of Vitamin – A can be toxic. Deaths rarely happen due to this. But, they do!
Also, eating too much carrot may overdose your body with beta-carotene and could cause Carotenemia. As a result, your skin would turn yellow. It looks like jaundice, but it’s harmless and easily reversible.

Watch How 32 Metronomes get Synchronized Automatically!

By Anupum Pant

Background

From biological cells to celestial bodies spontaneous synchronisation is found everywhere in the nature. In simple words, you could call “spontaneous synchronisation” as “a natural self-organisational behaviour” in things. Where, out of a chaos, uniform order starts appearing. If that feels too abstract to understand, read on…

Probably the first human to note this effect was a Dutch physicist, Huygens. Huygens noticed this when he was working on a ship with two pendulum clocks. For very long times, his work of calculating longitudes required him to watch these clocks swinging away their pendulums. He would lie on the bed and watch them go. There was one weird thing he noticed about these pendulum clocks. No matter how the pendulums started swinging, after an hour or so, both the pendulums ended up synchronized! This was a perfect example of uniform order appearing out of no where from an apparent chaos.

The effect amazed scientists for about 350 years. Only then some researchers at Georgia Tech University, were they able to produce a perfect mathematical model that proved it. So, what was happening on the boat? In a similar fashion, would all pendulum clocks in the world get spontaneously synchronized? Let’s look at the following example to find the answer.

Synchronizing metronomes

Think of it this way. You have a couple of metronomes with you – the physical ones, the ones that are based on pendulums. You start each one of them and there is almost no chance that you’d get them perfectly synchronized in the first go. So what do you do to get them synced?

You simply keep all of these metronomes (ticking with the same frequency but different phase relations) on a free-floating table. That gets them synchronized in a matter of minutes. See how the 32 metronomes completely out of sync of each other get synchronized in the following video. Note that they are on a surface that is free-floating.

Adam Milkovich explains the effect very beautifully in the following video:

Another video – Link

Back to Huygens

Now, if we come to see the boat as a free-floating base and the 2 discordant pendulum clocks as metronomes, the segue of their motion into a perfectly synchronized one, makes complete sense.

The only difference is that the boat was a pretty huge free-floating base – something which has a relatively very high mass as compared to the pendulums. And then there is the drag on water; other forces etc.. The pendulums had a very very tiny effect on the boat and in turn, were able to transfer only a teeny bit of energy with every oscillation. So it took longer.

I find it pretty incredible that it even happened in an hour. I think it would have taken a much longer time, given the huge difference in their masses. May be Huygens exaggerated. Or it was a very small boat. Anyway, that is the reason, Huygens’ clocks took about an hour to get synchronized. While the ones we see above are able to do it in a matter of minutes.

Back to the Question

Would all pendulum clocks in the world would get spontaneously synchronized?

Well, I’m not too sure. But this is how I see it:

I think of Earth as a really really really huge free-floating boat. Now, the movement of pendulums on Earth certainly has an effect on the earth. And in turn the other pendulums get affected. And they end up synchronized at some point. But the first effect itself is unimaginably small.

I mean, the Earth is so massive that even if all of the 7 billion people on Earth jumped at the same time, the 6-trillion-trillion-kilogram Earth would move so less. Earth would move about a hundredth of the radius of a single hydrogen atom.

So, pendulums would hardly have any effect. But the effect would certainly be there.

Therefore, I’d say the answer is yes. Yes, all the pendulum clocks on earth would eventually get synchronized. But it would probably take so long, that even earth, leave alone pendulum clocks, would cease existing.

Toy idea: Well, that gives me a great idea for a toy. 5 – 10 pendulums inside a huge pendulum. The inner ones would get beautifully synchronized automatically!

Hit like if you learnt something today.

A Mountain on Earth Taller Than The Mt. Everest

By Anupum Pant

Background

Of course there are taller mountains than the Everest. Like if you consider the whole solar system, the tallest mountain is in Mars. It is about 2.5 times the height of Mt. Everest, and had it been on Earth, going to its peak would have required you to wear a space suit. It is about 21 km tall!

But here on earth, you’d think Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain. No, it is not. In fact, the peak of Mt. Everest is of course the Highest peak. So, it is the “Highest” mountain, not the “tallest”. The tallest one would be the Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Subtle differences, you see…

Tallest means – Measuring the mountain from its base to the peak. (Which seems pretty fair to me, but it isn’t the norm).
Highest means – Measuring the mountain from the sea level to the peak.

Measuring Heights

Mountain peaks are measured from the sea level. Suppose a mountain is in the sea, the part of it which lies below the sea isn’t added to it’s height. So a mountain lying in the sea says, “unfair!”

Measuring sea level in turn is another complex problem because the sea isn’t at the same level everywhere. In fact, the sea level is much higher at the base of a mountain because the mountain’s mass increases the gravity and pulls the sea water making it higher there. Even if there isn’t any sea around mount Everest, the calculated sea level (higher than normal) is used as the base of the mountain. From this raised sea level to the peak, Mt. Everest measures 8,848 m.

This is how sea level is calculated:

Therefore, Mt.  Everest is 8,848 meters tall, because there is no part of it which is under the sea (because there is no sea there). Also, Mt. Everest is 8,848 meters high because its peak is 8,848 meters from the calculated sea level.

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano in Hawaii, is not popularly known because it’s peak is just 4207 m above the sea level. So, it is 4,207 meters high. Mt. Everest is much higher!

But the important thing to note is that a huge part of the volcano is under the sea level. In other words, its base is on the ocean bed, not on land. So, if measured from the base, it is 10,100 meters tall! That is more than 1.2 kilometres taller than the mount Everest.

Mount kea is tallest mountain

That means, if there were no sea, Mauna Kea would have been a clear winner. Think of it this way – Suppose you cut both the mountain at their bases and place them on a huge flat land, Kea would be 1.2 kilometers higher! Given it is not a constant, I wonder why “sea level” is used as a standard to measure heights of mountains.

Clearly, Kea should be known better. School text books should at least have a mention of it.

 Another Twist

Now if you think that is all I have to say about the highest and tallest things, you are wrong. There are all sorts of complex measurements we can do. What if, you start measuring the height of a mountain from the centre of the earth?

I don’t think that would be fair given the odd shape of earth – It is about 42 km farther across the equator than it is at the poles. That is too much distance to ignore. Had earth been a perfect sphere, this measurement would have made sense.

earth measured at poles and equator
earth measured at poles and equator

Nevertheless, let’s imagine that we have started measuring the height of a mountain peak by measuring its distance from the centre of the earth. In that case, Mt. Chimborazo, an ice-capped inactive volcano and the highest mountain in Ecuador, would have been the highest one. Even with a peak which is at an elevation of 6,268 meters from the sea level, it is still the most distant place from the centre of the earth. The peak of it is 6,384 km from the centre, while that of Mt. Everest is 6,382 km from the centre of the earth. In some way, even Chimborazo is taller than Mt. Everest. Still, we’re never taught about it in schools!

If there are any science teachers reading this, please tell these things to the kids. I’ll be honoured!

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