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Curious and Curiouser

Karl Kruszelnicki

Most beer is around 4 or 5% alcohol; the rest is practically all water. It's not hard to get a few higher per cent alcohol. But at around 12% the alcohol kills the yeast that turns the sugar into alcohol. Brewers get up to 20% by using special champagne yeast. And by using freeze-distillation it's possible to get up to 40%.

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Magicians use many tricks that rely on how our eyes and brains work. One exploits the after-image and way brain fills in unseen details. A woman stands on stage wearing a form-fitting white dress. The magician tells us he will turn her dress red. The lights dim and he turns on a very bright red spotlight, turning the dress and the woman "red". Weak audience laughs. Magician apologises. He turns off the very bright spotlight and for a split second there is total darkness.

In that split second, trapdoors open around her, and hidden cables rip her dress, which turns out to be held on by velcro, away. All this time the audience "see" the woman via the after-image, even though she's in darkness. The stage lights snap back on and she is now wearing a bright red dress which was hidden all the time under the white one.

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If trying to get rid of germs on your hand, temperature of water makes no difference. What counts is how vigorously you scrub your hands. In fact, the temperature needed to kill the bacteria is over 80 degrees C. If the water is hot enough to kill bacteria, it will scald you. And paper towels are by far best way to dry your hands - using a hot air dryer usually increases the number of bacteria on your hands, because they provide a nice warm, moist place for bacteria to live.

In May 1943 famous Dambuster raids breached dams in Ruhr Valley, causing flooding, damage and loss of life. More than half the 1700 lives lost were Allied POW's, mainly RAF aircrew. Eight of the 19 planes in the raid did not return.

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