Why Are There Boogers in My Nose?

chloe effron
chloe effron

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

Boogers are a sign that your nose is working properly! The snot in your nose is called mucus (MYOO-cuss), but it's much more fun to call it boogers. Mucus is made up of 95 percent water, 3 percent mucin (that's what makes it slimy), and 2 percent other things, like proteins and salt. That's why snot can taste salty. But don't eat your boogers!

Your nose makes up to a quart of mucus each day—enough to fill a small ice cream container! Some days it will be more runny, like when you have a cold. When you are sick, your body makes more mucus to help keep you from getting even sicker. Those days, you might have to keep wiping your nose with a tissue. But other days the mucus stays in your nose and hardens into real boogers.

Mucus is there to protect your nose and your lungs. This slimy stuff keeps the inside of your noise moist so it doesn't dry out. It also traps the dirt, dust, and germs that you breathe in. That way they won't go all the way into your body and cause an infection or make it hard to breathe. Snot also has ingredients that fight off infection, like antibodies (AN-tee-bod-ees) and white blood cells. As the mucus catches dirt or germs, it will either turn hard or get really goopy as your nose tries to flush the bad stuff out of your body.

Sometimes your boogers are weird colors, like white, yellow, or green. Those colors can be caused by the things that can make you sick, like bacteria or a virus, or by the white blood cells fighting them off. So just think of your boogers as part of a slimy shield protecting you. Make sure to leave them in your nose until you find a tissue and a trash can where you can throw away all the germs the boogers collected.

To learn more about boogers and mucus, watch this video from Brit Lab.

Science Finds a Better Way to Calculate 'Dog Years'

thegoodphoto/iStock via Getty Images
thegoodphoto/iStock via Getty Images

Anyone who has ever owned a pet is likely familiar with the concept of “dog years,” which suggests that one year for a dog is like seven years for a human. Using this conversion metric, a 2-year-old dog is akin to a high school freshman, while a 10-year-old dog is ready for an assisted living facility.

If that seems rather arbitrary, that’s because it is. But now, researchers at the University of California, San Diego have come to a more data-based measurement on dog aging through DNA.

The paper, published on the preprint server bioRxiv, based the finding on DNA methylation, a process in which molecules called methyl groups attach themselves to DNA and serve as an indicator of aging. Generally speaking, the older living beings get, the faster the rate of methylation. In the study, 104 Labrador retrievers were examined, with subjects ranging from 1 month to 16 years old. The results of their DNA methylation were compared to human profiles. While the rate of methylation tracked closely between the two—young and old dogs had similar rates to young and old people—adolescent and mature dogs experienced more accelerated aging.

Their recommended formula for comparing dog and human aging? Multiply the natural logarithm of a dog’s age by 16, then add 31. Or, just use this calculator. Users will see that a 2-year-old dog, for example, wouldn’t be the canine equivalent of a 14-year-old. It would be equivalent to 42 human years old and should probably start putting money into a 401(k). But because methylation slows considerably in mid-life, a 5-year-old dog is approximately a 57-year-old human, while a 6-year-old dog is nearing 60 in human years—a minor difference. Things level out as the dog gets much older, with a 10-year-old dog nearing a 70-year-old human.

Different breeds age at different rates, so the formula might not necessarily apply to other dog breeds—only Labs were studied. The work is awaiting peer review, but it does offer a promising glimpse into how our furry companions grow older.

[h/t Live Science]

Sssspectacular: Tree Snakes in Australia Can Actually Jump

sirichai_raksue/iStock via Getty Images
sirichai_raksue/iStock via Getty Images

Ophidiophobia, or fear of snakes, is common among humans. We avoid snakes in the wild, have nightmares about snakes at night, and recoil at snakes on television. We might even be born with the aversion. When researchers showed babies photos of snakes and spiders, their tiny pupils dilated, indicating an arousal response to these ancestral threats.

If you really want to scare a baby, show them footage of an Australian tree snake. Thanks to researchers at Virginia Tech, we now know these non-venomous snakes of the genus Dendrelaphis can become airborne, propelling themselves around treetops like sentient Silly String.

That’s Dendrelaphis pictus, which was caught zipping through the air in 2010. After looking at footage previously filmed by her advisor Jake Socha, Virginia Tech Ph.D. candidate Michelle Graham headed for Australia and built a kind of American Ninja Warrior course for snakes out of PVC piping and tree branches. Graham observed that the snakes tend to spot their landing target, then spring upward. The momentum gets them across gaps that would otherwise not be practical to cross.

Graham next plans to investigate why snakes feel compelled to jump. They might feel a need to escape, or continue moving, or do it because they can. Two scientific papers due in 2020 could provide answers.

Dendrelaphis isn’t the only kind of snake with propulsive capabilities. The Chrysopelea genus includes five species found in Southeast Asia and China, among other places, that can glide through the air.

[h/t National Geographic]

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