The Reason Why Lobsters Turn Bright Red When You Boil Them

Fudio/iStock via Getty Images
Fudio/iStock via Getty Images

If the fire-engine red of the lobster on your plate makes you painfully aware that it was boiled alive, think of it this way: The bright color is simply the result of a chemical reaction.

Lobsters’ usual greenish-blue hue serves them well in life, camouflaging them from the predatory eyes of cod, haddock, and other large fish that prowl the ocean floor. Anita Kim, a scientist at the New England Aquarium, explained to Live Science that this color results from the combination of two molecules.

One is astaxanthin, a bright red carotenoid that lobsters absorb by eating things that contain it. The other is crustacyanin, a protein that already exists in lobsters. When crustacyanin binds with astaxanthin, it twists the molecule into a different shape, which changes how it reflects light. So instead of red, live lobsters are blue.

Then, when you boil one of the tasty crustaceans, the heat causes the crustacyanin molecules to contort into new shapes. In doing so, they release the astaxanthin molecules, which rebound to their original shape and red color. Michele Cianci, a biochemist at Italy’s Marche Polytechnic University where the phenomenon was investigated, likened it to manipulating a rubber band with your hands. “You can impose any kind of configuration you want,” he told Live Science. “When you release the rubber band, it goes back to its own shape.”

The same thing happens with shrimp, which go from ghostly gray to pink when you cook them. How, then, do flamingos turn pink from eating raw, almost colorless shrimp? Crustacyanin releases its hold on astaxanthin during the flamingos’ digestion process just like it does when heated.

By the way, don’t feel guilty about having torn your lobster away from its one true love—they don’t really mate for life.

[h/t Live Science]

Why You Should Never Charge Your Phone in Public USB Ports Without a USB Data Blocker

Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images
Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images

The USB charging ports that have popped up at airports, coffee shops, and even outdoor stations around cities in recent years are definitely a lifesaver when your smartphone is down to its last bit of juice. A dead phone is annoying at best and downright dangerous at worst, so it’s totally understandable why you’d jump at the chance to revive it at your earliest opportunity.

However, those public ports might not be as benevolent as they seem. According to Afar, hackers can load malware onto those stations—or on the cables left plugged into the stations—which can then deliver passwords and other data right from your device to the hacker’s. If you have used a public port recently, don’t panic; TechCrunch reports that these cases are fairly rare. Having said that, it’s definitely better not to risk it, especially considering what a nightmare it would be to have your identity stolen.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office explains that the easiest way to prevent becoming a victim of this type of scam, often referred to as juice-jacking, is simply to abstain from using public USB charging ports. Instead, invest in a portable charger, or plug your own charger into an actual AC power outlet.

But unoccupied power outlets are notoriously hard to come by in public places, and portable chargers themselves can also run out of battery life. Luckily, there’s a small, inexpensive device called a data blocker that will enable you to use public USB charging ports without worrying about juice-jacking. It looks a little like a flash drive with an extra slot, but it lacks the two wires usually found in USB chargers that can download and upload data. That way, your device will charge without transferring any information.

You can get two of them for $11 from Amazon here.

[h/t Afar]

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The Ingenious Reason Medieval Castle Staircases Were Built Clockwise

Shaiith/iStock via Getty Images
Shaiith/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones or medieval programs in general, you’re probably familiar with action-packed battle scenes during which soldiers storm castles, dodge arrows, and dash up spiral staircases. And, while those spiral staircases might not necessarily ascend clockwise in every television show or movie you’ve watched, they usually did in real life.

According to Nerdist, medieval architects built staircases to wrap around in a clockwise direction in order to disadvantage any enemies who might climb them. Since most soldiers wielded swords in their right hands, this meant that their swings would be inhibited by the inner wall, and they’d have to round each curve before striking—fully exposing themselves in the process.

Just as the clockwise spiral hindered attackers, so, too, did it favor the castle’s defenders. As they descended, they could swing their swords in arcs that matched the curve of the outer wall, and use the inner wall as a partial shield. And, because the outer wall runs along the wider edge of the stairs, there was also more room for defenders to swing. So, if you’re planning on storming a medieval castle any time soon, you should try to recruit as many left-handed soldiers as possible. And if you’re defending one, it’s best to station your lefties on crossbow duty and leave the tower-defending to the righties.

On his blog All Things Medieval, Will Kalif explains that the individual stairs themselves provided another useful advantage to protectors of the realm. Because the individual steps weren’t all designed with the same specifications, it made for much more uneven staircases than what we see today. This wouldn’t impede the defenders, having grown accustomed to the inconsistencies of the staircases in their home castle, but it could definitely trip up the attackers. Plus, going down a set of stairs is always less labor-intensive than going up.

Staircase construction and battle tactics are far from the only things that have changed since the Middle Ages. Back then, people even walked differently than we do—find out how (and why) here.

[h/t Nerdist]

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