Ask Mr Brain . . . all will be explained

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 November, 2000, 12:00am

What is a capybara?

The capybara is the largest living rodent. It can grow up to more than one metre long and weigh up to 54 kilograms.

Capybaras look like pigs - their claws look like hoofs, and they have big heads with short, stubby ears.

The capybara is native to South America and is semi-aquatic. They live around water and they have webbed feet and extra layers of fat which make them excellent swimmers.

They eat water plants and grass.

What is a guerilla?

A guerilla is a member of an irregular military force that fights small- scale, limited actions against conventional military forces.

Guerilla tactics involve constantly shifting attack operations and include the use of sabotage and terrorism.

The word guerilla was first used to describe the Spanish-Portuguese irregulars or 'guerrilleros' who helped the Duke of Wellington drive the French from the Iberian Peninsula between 1809 and 1813.

Traditionally, guerilla warfare has been a weapon of protest against alleged wrongs imposed on a people by a foreign invader or ruling government.

The Chinese general Sun-tzu (350 BC) laid down the essential rules of guerilla tactics in The Art of War, advocating deception and surprise.

What are spasms and what causes them?


A spasm is a sudden, involuntary and abnormal contraction of muscles or muscle tissue.

Tonic spasm, or cramp, is characterised by an unusually prolonged and strong muscular contraction, with relaxation taking place slowly. An extreme example of tonic spasm is tetanus. The spasms are so violent and prolonged that the sufferer could die.

The other form of spasm, clonic spasm, the affected muscles contract repeatedly, forcibly, and in quick succession. The most typical example of this form of spasm is epilepsy.

Other examples of spasms are esophageal spasms, coronary spasms and bladder spasms. Spasms may arise from calcium deficiency, panic, fear or over-eating.

Medicines used to prevent or relieve spasmodic muscular activity are called antispasmodics.