Ask Mr Brain . . . all will be explained

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2000, 12:00am

What keeps the planets from falling in space?

Enormous objects such as planets and stars create a lot of gravity because they have a lot of matter occupying a relatively small space. The sun creates a lot of gravity and can therefore keep us in orbit. The same thing applies to Earth and its moon.

On Earth, when you let go of something, it will fall to the ground. This is because the Earth has gravity. In space, there is no up or down because there is no gravity.

And because there are no forces of gravity from either above or below our solar system, the only force holding the planets where they are, is the sun's gravitational pull. The planets are not pulled in any other direction, and consequently, they stay where they are.

What causes phobias?


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A phobia is an irrational fear of a specific situation, activity or object.

The phobia forces the sufferer to avoid whatever is feared because with it comes a number of troubling symptoms such as anxiety, rapid heartbeat, sweating, cold or hot flashes, choking or smothering feelings, shaking, dizziness or faintness and panic attacks.

Social phobia is a fear of being painfully embarrassed in a social setting.

Agoraphobia, which often accompanies panic disorder, is a fear of being alone in public places or being in any situation that might provoke a panic attack, or from which escape might be difficult.

Many people experience specific phobias, such as fear of dogs, closed-in places, heights, escalators, tunnels, water, flying and injuries involving blood.

Adults with phobias realise their fears are irrational but facing the feared object or situation still brings a panic attack.

No one knows for sure what causes them.

What is the origin of the potato chip?

Americans have to thank Thomas Jefferson for helping to create one of their food obsessions.

Legend has it that Jefferson brought 'pommes frites' or fried potatoes, back from France, eventually serving them at a White House dinner. Decades later a cook transformed the thick, trendy, fried potato into a thin, salty, crisp one. Thus he unintentionally created a classic.

Another legend is that in 1853, a restaurant customer in New York complained about the thickness of his fried potatoes and returned them to the cook. The cook, out of spite, sliced some potatoes as thinly as possible, fried them and sent them back to the picky customer. To his surprise the man loved them and a popular new dish was born.