Complicated Ideas Explained Simply
Have you ever just realized that a certain concept or idea was, well, weird? For instance, we've known for years that gluten intolerance is on the rise, but haven't human beings been eating gluten for thousands and thousands of years? What made it pop up just now? That's the kind of question that you can't just Google unless you're already an expert on human digestion and micronutrients and evolution and probably at least a hundred other topics. What we need to understand a question like that is for someone to break it down for us; someone who studied the relevant fields and can give us the same kind of explanation they'd give a child. That's why Reddit's Explain Like I'm Five subreddit is so helpful — any Redditor can take a complex question, throw it up for the rest of the internet to see, and wait for an expert to give them the simplest explanation possible. Check out these questions you maybe didn't even know you had, and their fascinating-but-understandable responses from people in the know.
I have hated my life ever since I got a standing desk...
Explain like I’m five: Why can people walk many miles without discomfort, but when they stand for more than 15 minutes or so, they get uncomfortable? – mynameispineapplejoe
The answer? Your legs need motion to feel good.
Your leg veins have one way valves in them. They work when the skeletal muscles around them contract and release. When you are walking around, the flexion/relaxation of the walking muscles are literally pumping the blood back to your torso. When you are standing still, you aren’t getting that pumping action naturally. You could flex/release your legs intentionally, while standing, but it’s not nearly as effective as walking is. – faykin
Such a satisfying way to listen to music.
Explain like I’m five: Why does a good pair of headphones/earphones make it feel like the sound is coming from inside the middle of your head? – Katiari
The answer? Our brains are messing with us.
To put it simply, whenever a sound comes out of both the left and right channels at an equal volume, your brain will often trick you into believing that the sound is coming from the midpoint between the two channels, creating what’s known as a Phantom Center. And since the left and right channels are on either sides of your head, your brain will have you believe that the sound is coming from the middle of your head. – TheRambunctiousFlan
The worst part is starting the episode over.
Explain like I’m five: How come you can be falling asleep watching TV, then wide awake when you go to bed five minutes later? – Bof_Waffletax
The answer is that your brain is more like a group of friends than a lone traveler.
The brain is like a group of people talking to each other. When you’re watching TV, the part of your brain that watches TV says “Shut up guys, I’m watching TV,” so you can focus without thinking about cake or math. As a result, the others sit silent, grow bored, and fall asleep, until only the TV watcher part of the brain is left. Left by himself, he too gets bored and falls asleep. When you’re in bed, assuming you aren’t counting sheep or something, the entire brain is kind of in free time mode, and any part of the brain can speak up if it wants to. They start talking to each other, and even if one of them starts to drift to sleep, the others wake it up either by deliberately talking to the sleepyheads or just being noisy. Eventually more and more of the parts of the brain fall asleep from sheer exhaustion no matter how loud the others are, and eventually the last one passes out and you are asleep. – Solid_Waste
It's a great question I had never considered.
Explain like I’m five: Do donated organs age according to the donor´s age or do they adapt to the age of the new body? – Tampeiter
The answer? The new body makes the call.
They age according to the age of the donor. There’s a lot of factors in what causes aging, but the upshot is that the organ will have experienced all of those within the donor’s body first — the cell damage due to alcohol, crap food, lack of exercise, age — and the donated part will continue to age from the time of donation. Now the new body it finds itself in is 25 years old, and it loves and cherishes that liver. It takes that liver and coddles it with clean water, veg, and a two kilometer walk every day with a dog that loves them and the world it lives in. Like, seriously, that dog is awesome and great for mental health. So the new liver continues to live one year of age per year, and no added stress and abuse, so it ages normally. The 25-year old body has a 45-year old liver, but it will continue to age normally and now that it’s being treated better, might even last a little longer than expected. – JimBobBoBubba
Did you salt miners forget about that giant body of water or what?
Explain like I’m five: Why is salt mined when there’s a bunch of it available in the ocean? – Yosho2k
The answer? One's easier than the other.
Sea salt takes a lot of space and time to produce. You have to be able to flood huge fields and then you have to wait for evaporation to remove the water and leave the salt behind. Obviously there are pro’s and cons to both which is why we see so many different kinds of salt production. – thewebspinner
Is Target the uber-manufacturer?
Explain like I’m five: How can large chains (Target, Walmart, etc) produce store-brand versions of nearly every product imaginable while industry manufacturers only really produce a single type of item? – pillyg
The answer? Simple economics, baby.
Because they don’t actually make it. So it’s cheaper to buy Costco and they still make money. They then do this with many other products. – Workacct1484
Hey yeah, why can't the outside get comfortable that easily?
Explain like I’m five: Why does making a three degree difference in your homes thermostat feel like a huge change in temperature, but outdoors it feels like nothing? – PeeB4uGoToBed
The answer? Outside is less of a controlled system than inside.
Because outside you have multiple things that affects the way the temperature feels. A slight breeze or moment in the shade will feel cooler. Humidity or the sun shining on you will make it feel warmer. Inside you don’t feel these variables nearly as often. – Ctrlaltdelm8
The "W" truly makes no sense.
Explain like I’m five: Why is W called “double U” when it is clearly “double V”? – therap321
The answer? Old people making decisions in the past.
When Old English was written, it used a mixture of Latin letters and older runes. One of these runes was Wynn, which was used to represent the sound that “W” gives today. That rune was sometimes replaced by the combination uu — a double u — for the same sound. These printing presses and the letters for them were exported everywhere, including to England. The English quickly realized that they didn’t have types for all their letters, so they made do with what they had. Since English didn’t have the w before printing, they simply reused that letter for the Wynn rune, which was missing. It is called “double-u” because it was also sometimes written as “uu” – kf97mopa
Could an adult learn to speak baby?
Explain like I’m five: When toddlers talk ‘gibberish’ are they just making random noises or are they attempting to speak an English sentence that just comes out muddled up? – g0g92
The answer? All those movies where babies communicate are lies.
It’s usually just them learning and playing with all the noises they are capable of vocalizing. You will also notice that pronunciation improves greatly over the next few years as they gain better coordination of their mouth and vocal muscles. – 281fishing
What's up with you, caffiene?
Explain like I’m five: Caffeine has almost no calories, but seems to give us a burst of energy on its own. Where does the body get this energy from? Is caffeine forcing the body to use stored fat? – hellblazer153
The answer? Your brain has hidden stores of feelings juices.
Caffeine works in two ways to make you feel that way. Caffeine also can help open the box that tells your body to go into extra energy mode. Things like your heart can work faster or slower depending on what you need. If you are sitting on the couch watching TV it’s going to go slower, if you are outside working it’s going to speed up. Caffeine tricks the body into thinking it needs to go into extra energy mode. Caffine doesn’t create this energy, the body is just using what it has stored more quickly. Not really any different from you step on the gas in a car. You are telling it to burn more fuel and go faster. – SeattleBattles
I hate using adult shampoo because it so often brings tears!
Explain like I’m five: Why is it children’s shampoo is “tear free” while regular shampoo burns like all hell in the eyes? – droccafella03
The answer? Chemists can decide how much power to give their soaps... at a cost.
Soap is a chemical with a long, and kind of clever, molecule. One end of the molecule attracts water. The other end attracts dirt, particularly oily dirt. So when you wash stuff, the oily-liking end sticks in the oily dirt and the other end gets stuck in water… and so the oily dirt gets pulled away from what you are cleaning when the water-liking end gets pulled away through scrubbing or swirling water around. So put some soap on your greasy hands, and scrub a bit, and all the greasy stuff gets lifted away. So we have a trade-off: oily dirt removal? Or no irritation to the eyes? Which one you want goes to which “soap” you use in your shampoo. And baby shampoo uses the second one even if it doesn’t clean as good as the first, because babies generally don’t stand underneath leaky car oilpans or go swimming in cold deep fryers unless you’re a really bad parent. – the_original_Retro
Captchas do not seem like a great security protocol against robots.
Explain like I’m five: Why can’t bots check ‘I am not a robot’ checkboxes? – EdShnee
The answer? There's a lot more going on in captchas than the box.
Actually, clicking the box is a rather trivial part of what those CAPTCHAs are looking for. What they’re actually looking for are things like: Basically, it’s really, really difficult to make a bot move the mouse, scroll, and react naturally to a page load. – reifenstag
Now that you mention it, peach flavor is pretty much always perfect.
Explain like I’m five: How is peach flavoring so easily captured in gummies, water, etc, when so many other flavors taste obviously fake? – Aladayle
The answer? Peach flavor is easy, brah.
Peaches have less chemical complexity than something like a watermelon for instance. With a peach, scientists have discovered the right set of flavor molecules, sometimes referred to as esters, that create the proper taste of a peach. I also believe the main molecular component that gives a peach its taste can be used as a food additive, like the molecule found in apples. In contrast, the flavor molecule that makes up the most common watermelon taste; red innards, green rind, is referred to as an aldehyde, and isn’t as simple. This molecule is too unstable to be made into a food additive. To top it off, watermelons (like bananas) have an incredibly rich and complex flavor profile in terms of chemical makeup. You also have far more varieties of a watermelon (also like bananas) than you do a peach, making it ever the more complicated. Unless somebody finds something that mimics the watermelon aldehyde properly, or can create a stable compound using it, you’re stuck with not really watermelon flavored watermelon candy and/or treats. – mistershoe88
I just sat down for a flight across the Atlantic, and now I need to get home and... sit down?
Explain like I’m five: Why does travelling make you feel so tired when you’ve just sat there for hours doing nothing? – this-is-plaridel
The answer? You're using a bunch of tiny muscles in these unfamiliar situations.
Former flight medic here. There is lots of data on the “stressors of flight” (many of these stressors are also present in automobiles). As the vehicle moves, the sway and direction change cause you to have to keep yourself upright. These micro movements cause your muscles to be continuously working (even if you don’t realize it). The US Air Force has done studies report conistent exposure to aircraft vibrations can lead to fatuige and increased chance of health problems. – CEPTyler
And finally, a tip for those of you who need to do a little sneaking around.
Explain like I’m five: Why is tip-toeing quiter than normal walking? – theassassin53035
The answer? Your ankle is doing its part.
When you land on the ball of your foot, the ankle acts as a shock absorber. Most people walk and many run landing heel first. When you do that, the force contacting the ground is much greater thus louder. Look at barefoot runners. They all land on the ball, because landing on the heel when running is painful without shoes to act as a shock absorber. – DennisJay Have you ever had to explain a seemingly obvious thing to a person who should definitely know it already? I’m not trying to sound vague or cryptic here, but it’s honestly astounding how many times people have explained ridiculous things to other adults. You can always trust Reddit to come through with people sharing hilariously entertaining and cringe-y stories. One subreddit recently had people sharing the most ridiculous, dumb things they’ve had to explain to other adults. Some of these answers will truly have you shaking your head in disbelief.
Humans have been cooped up inside since COVID-19 brought our world to a standstill.
Thousands have now died from the virus and the spread of it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Lockdowns have been implemented all around the world...
Including Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and many parts of the United States.
It's safe to say that things are now deadly serious.
People all around the world are certainly feeling the strain and staying confined in their homes isn’t as easy as they imagined.
But staying indoors is potentially saving lives...
And it is also saving our planet.
The empty streets have made a staggering impact on the environment...
And this truly goes to show how the human race has severely damaged Planet Earth over the centuries.
Pollution levels are at an all-time low...
Since January, many parts of the world have seen a drastic drop in pollution levels since lockdowns were implemented.
Wuhan in China now has almost unrecognizable stats...
Wuhan is where the coronavirus initially started, and since the city’s lockdown back in January, nitrogen dioxide levels have dropped drastically.
And thanks to these drastic drops in pollution...
Mother Nature is thriving more than ever, with plants flourishing and wildlife making appearances in the most unlikely of places – including bottlenose dolphins recently swimming in the crystal clear canals of Venice in Italy that are usually overridden with tourists.
This is truly incredible to see...
And it goes to show how without us humans taking over the streets, the planet is slowly beginning to heal itself.
Endangered animals are also benefiting from these global lockdowns...
And nature has been allowed to take its course without any interruptions.
And now, something remarkable has happened.
Last week on March the 22nd, a shoreline in Paulista, a town in the north-eastern state of Pernambuco, Brazil, experienced the births of many endangered turtles.
This particular beach is a very popular tourist spot...
But in recent weeks, the beach has been left completely deserted after the state governor Paulo Câmara ordered a partial shutdown in the area, urging residents to stay indoors and restricting them from gathering on beaches.
The absence of tourists has made a wonderful difference...
Ninety-seven hawksbill sea turtles broke free from their shells and took their first cautious steps towards the Atlantic ocean, with almost no one around to witness the scene.
Hawksbill sea turtles are considered a critically endangered species.
The WWF explained how this species of turtle helps maintain the health of coral reefs as they remove prey such as sponges from the reef’s surface and they also provide better access for reef fish to feed.
It was a truly special moment.
The only people there were government workers, who managed to snap pictures of the baby turtles as they made their way down the beach.
The turtles had a little nudge, of course...
A statement from City Hall of Paulista says the hatching of the eggs and the first contact of the animals with the water was only possible thanks to monitoring work carried out by technicians of the Urban Sustainability Center.
Aside from being snatched by birds...
One of the biggest risks that face a baby turtle is being crushed by an unaware beachgoer, so these babies already have a stronger chance of thriving.
It's time to have a serious think about the way we treat our planet...
And these baby turtles are a prime example of how we need to be stepping back and letting Mother Nature take her toll. Make sure to keep scrolling to learn about the pollution decline in Italy since the country went into lockdown…