What's the point of earwax?

Formerly known as cerumen (suh-ROO-men), earwax is produced by glands in the outer ear canal to keep the ears moisturised, preventing dry, itchy ears.

The wax acts as a shield to protect the inner-ear from dust, bacteria and insects.

Ears are designed to clean themselves by normal jaw movement and producing new earwax to push the excess wax out.

A build-up of wax in the ear can block soundwaves and cause infections. This needs to be treated by a professional.


Using a cotton bud or attempting to remove earwax yourself is strongly discouraged.

When birds fly in a flock, how come they don't bump into each other?

The beauty and intricacy of bird flight formations, or murmurations, has inspired analysis and many studies.

Some believed there is a form of collective thinking such as "natural telepathy" or a "group soul".

Zoologist Wayne Potts debunked this in 1984 and said birds don't simply follow a leader, they watch up to seven birds around them and use minute changes in movement to anticipate what to do next.

Potts called this chorus line hypothesis and compared it to a "Mexican" wave that ripples through sports fans at a stadium.

Unlike geese, where there is a clear leader, other flocks are democratic, where any member can start a movement and the others will follow.

A study of budgies by the University of Queensland showed each bird was conditioned to veer right to avoid a collision and suggested a hierarchy system where the more-dominant birds fly at a lower altitude which is more energy-efficient, and the non-dominant bird is forced to fly higher.

Why do individual socks go missing?

We lose individual socks because we just don't care enough. Photo / stock
We lose individual socks because we just don't care enough. Photo / stock

In short, because we don't care about them enough.


A study commissioned by Samsung in 2016 discovered Brits lose an average of 15 socks a year, and 1264 over a lifetime.

The main reasons for sock-loss included items falling under furniture, blowing off the washing line, or becoming separated across different wash loads and never being reconciled.

Other factors were psychological: A lack of care for the smaller items of clothing because of perceived value, giving up the search too easily, leaving socks lying around, and denial.

Why do I always choose the slowest queue at the checkout?

This is a lesson in psychology and illusion.

The maths tells us if there are four lines, then you have only a 25 per cent chance of choosing the fastest one.

It also says one single line that disperses to several checkouts is faster and more efficient.


But those figures don't recognise the human element, and how thinking changes behaviour.

In the book "Why does the other line always move faster?" author David Andrews said our perception of time changes when we are waiting.

A University of Washington study suggested parallel queues move faster because, subconsciously, the checkout operators take more responsibility for their queue if they feel like they have a direct impact on how fast it moves.

The single queue meant workers were less motivated to work quickly because they weren't solely responsible for the progress.

There's also some healthy competition thrown in, so everyone gets to be part of the race.

Some tips for choosing a faster queue: Line up on the left, most people are right-handed so they automatically queue in lines leaning to the right.


Men are more likely to get impatient and change queues.

How do people design new colours and are there any more to discover?

Technically, no.

All the colours have been discovered, but there are new ways of "seeing" and experiencing colours, and there are colours that the human eye can't distinguish between because the light frequencies cancel each other out.

Sadly there are no more colours waiting to be discovered. Photo / stock
Sadly there are no more colours waiting to be discovered. Photo / stock

In 2015, Oregon State University discovered a new shade of blue, apparently the first "new" blue to be discovered since cobalt blue in 1802.

The colour, YInMn blue, was made by mixing Yttrium, Indium and Manganese oxides.

The pigment absorbs red and green wavelengths, and light reflects only blue. Because of this, it can be used on buildings and roofs because it reflects infrared light.


The new shade was released in 2017 by Crayola as a new crayon colour, Bluetiful.