How Science Makes Stuff Work

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Every day we’re surrounded by complex mechanisms that, most of us, wouldn’t have the first idea how they work. Luckily, Science doesn’t know that. Here are some simple explanations for how crucial, yet everyday things work in the modern world still evolving all around us…
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Vibrators

Oops! Sorry, we meant to say, “Muscle Massagers.” Either way, the movement is caused by a motor with a weight attached off-center. When the motor spins, the uneven balance forces the unit to vibrate. Umm, that should be massage…
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Smoke Detectors

A laser inside the base unit beams across a detector. If smoke interrupts the beam, the alarm is triggered. Higher quality smoke detectors also contain a “sniffer” which differentiates between “safe” smoke and “dangerous” smoky carbon monoxide. So, where’s there’s fire…
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Refrigeration and A/C

Refrigerators and air conditioners don’t actually “make” cold air, they reduce or remove heated air from the environment. The exchange turns freon gas into a liquid which then “cools down” to its gaseous state temperature and produces “cold” air. But, usually, not enough…
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Bank Vault Locks

Even the biggest vault operates on a simple principle. A bar level locks into place until the right code is entered upon the dial. That pin sequence lines up slots which release the lever. Just don’t try it at the bank…
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Gas Pumps

When you stick a gas pump into your vehicle’s tank, the nozzle senses the difference between air and fluid pressure, ending the stream when the tank is “full.” Or, when you run out of gas money…
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Wristwatch

Another technology that is centuries old. Manually wound wristwatches contain a coil which is little more than a long strip of steel, tightly wound into a circular spring-loaded mechanism. As the clock counts down, the spring is unloaded a “tick” or “tock” at a time.
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Automobile Bumpers

This one is borrowed from nature. Electronic sensors send out a frequency signal which bounces back at a steady rate against solid objects. Thus, it “detects” the presence of other nearby vehicles in exactly the same way bats do when they fly at night. So, how come we still have so many fender benders?
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Nuclear Reactors

You would think this would be complicated. You’d be wrong. Uranium pellets are stacked inside fuel rods which are lowered into a water tank, heating up the water, and producing steam. To control the reaction, the rods are removed and begin to cool down. It wasn’t the earthquake that damaged Fukushima. It was the loss of the water supply cooling the fuel tanks inside the reactor.
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And, Finally…

Yep. Toilets. The way the water flushes is based on a scientific principle that is thousands of years old. Basically, two independent valves gauge the difference in water pressure entering and escaping the tank. When it’s equalized, a plunger covers up the inlet. Simple. Yet, imagine how crappy this world would be without a little help from the Ancients…
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