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The Science Behind Why It Hurts So Much to Step on a LEGO

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Death, taxes, and stepping on a LEGO: the three universal inevitabilities. We can’t tell you how to prevent any of them, but we can offer some scientific insight into that last item. Check out the video below from the American Chemical Society for a brief overview of the physiology, chemistry, and physics of stepping on a LEGO.

The struggle is real, and really painful for a number of reasons. Start with the soles of your tender feet, which are bristling with as many as 200,000 sensory receptors apiece. This is generally a good thing; your body needs tactile information about where your feet are taking you, and if it’s safe to continue. Pain is a way of signaling that your feet are in danger. The problem is that, well, pain hurts. 

The pain is then compounded by the little bricks themselves, which are chemically engineered to be nearly indestructible. As a result, the bricks’ nubs and sharp corners mash into your foot, amplifying your pain receptors’ cries for help.

The third layer of pain arises from the actual force of your foot upon the LEGO. Physics textbooks often note the seeming paradox of the stiletto and the elephant—that a 100-pound woman in stiletto heels exerts more pressure on the ground (or some unlucky foot) than a 6000-pound elephant. The same principles apply here, albeit in reverse: The small surface area of the LEGO is pushed into your foot with the full force of your body weight. 

Ouch.

Header image from YouTube // American Chemical Society 

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science
What's the Saltiest Water in the World?
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iStock // lucamato

Saltwater is common around the world—indeed, salty oceans cover more than two-thirds of the globe. Typical saltwater found in our oceans is about 3.5% salt by weight. But in some areas, we find naturally occurring saltwater that's far saltier. The saltiest water yet discovered is more than 12 times saltier than typical seawater.

Gaet’ale is a pond in Ethiopia which currently holds the record as the most saline water body on Earth. The water in that pond is 43.3% dissolved solids by weight—most of that being salt. This kind of water is called hypersaline for its extreme salt concentration.

In the video below, Professor Martyn Poliakoff explains this natural phenomenon—why it's so salty, how the temperature of the pond affects its salinity, and even why this particular saltwater has a yellow tint. Enjoy:

For the paper Poliakoff describes, check out this abstract.

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Food
How to Make Perfect Fried Chicken, According to Chemistry
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Cooking amazing fried chicken isn’t just art—it’s also chemistry. Learn the science behind the sizzle by watching the American Chemical Society’s latest "Reactions" video below.

Host Kyle Nackers explains the three important chemical processes that occur as your bird browns in the skillet—hydrolysis, oxidation, and polymerization—and he also provides expert-backed cooking hacks to help you whip up the perfect picnic snack.

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