What Came First – Chicken or Egg?

October 25, 2015 / Animal Factoids, Paradox / 0 Comments /
header image of a chicken

It is an age old puzzle – a chicken must have come from an egg, but, for an egg to exist, a chicken must have laid it, so which came first? Neither seems be be able to exist without the other before it, but we know that at some point in time one must have come first as part of the natural order of things. So, lets look at the different ways to approach the question.

 

Clarification

First of all, the question needs to be clarified, because eggs have been laid for many many of years before chickens existed. We know that most dinosaurs laid eggs, and so if you are asking which came first a generic egg, or a chicken, the answer is very obviously the egg.

However, most people understand the question to be which a chicken egg and a chicken, and so this is what we will look at here.

 

Approach 1 – what is a chicken egg?

A chicken egg can be defined as 1 of three:

  • An egg laid by a chicken
  • An egg containing a chicken
  • An egg laid by a chicken which also contains a chicken

However, most people will agree that a chicken egg would be an egg laid by a chicken. If you can imagine going to buy some eggs from the supermarket, all the eggs are called chicken eggs because they are laid by a chicken, regardless of what genetic alterations there may have been to the embryo inside the egg. Imagine if a chicken laid an egg that contained pigeon, you would still call the egg a chicken egg, but the offspring would be a pigeon.

Following this approach then, a pseudo- chicken (something similar to a chicken, but not quite a chicken) must have laid a pseudo-chicken egg, which contained the genetically altered pseudo-chicken, that we all call a chicken. This chicken then went on to lay chicken eggs, and so the chicken came first.

Granted, this is open to interpretation. If you define a chicken egg as an egg which contains a chicken, then the egg must have come first, so lets look at the science.

 

Approach 2 – Science

Research have identified a protein in a chicken egg shell called OC-17 which is critical to the egg forming process, and can only be made chicken ovaries. So even if an egg laid by a pseudo-chicken contains a chicken, it is still a pseudo-chicken egg, because a chicken egg contains the OC-17 protein, which can only be made is a chicken’s ovaries.  With this in mind a chicken egg cannot have been layen without a chicken, and so again, the chicken must have come first.

 

Approach 3 – Apply it to another situation

I would say this approach isn’t very accurate than the above approaches, but it can sometimes be useful to approach the problem from a different angle.

You can also apply this question to humans, because we humans also produce eggs (they just aren’t laid), and you could ask “what came first, a human, or a human egg“. In this scenario, you would have a pseudo-human with a egg in their ovaries, which is fertilised by a pseudo-human sperm. It is possible that the genetic material needed to create a human is in the sperm, and the egg is 100% perfect pseudo-human genes, which makes the egg beyond doubt a pseudo-human egg. Only once the egg is fertilised is the human created, at which point it is an embryo, not an egg. By this logic, the human came first, not the egg, and so if we apply the conclusion back into the original question, we get the same answer – the chicken came first.

 

Conclusion

When approaching the puzzle logically and scientifically, the conclusions are the same – the chicken must have come first, because a chicken egg cannot be created without a chicken, but a chicken can be created by genetic mutations from a pseudo-chicken.

Image courtesy of Rob and Stephanie Levy

This Youtube video will give an overview of the information found on the article tab. If you want to know more about the topic, or want to see where the information came from, have a read of the article after you watch the video.

Due to genetic research, it would apear that the chicken had to come first, in order for a chicken egg to be layed. The chicken came from a pseudo-chicken type creatures egg.


What Happens When a Fly Hits a Train?

July 26, 2015 / Paradox / 0 Comments /

A common physics paradoxical puzzle is ‘what happens when a fly hits a train?’. According to the laws of physics, every force has an equal and opposite reaction. If this is true, then what a train hits a fly, the fly hits the train with exactly the same force – which you’d think should at least stop the train. Obviously, the train doesn’t stop, and in reality the fly will splat on the train – so what is going on? The laws of physics are laws, and can’t be broken, yet we know from experience and logic that the fly will just end up as a bug splat on the train. So lets have a look at at this problem in a bit more detail.

 

The fly will make a sound

When a train hits a fly, a faint ‘twang’ sound will be heard. Perhaps it will be hard to hear over the roar of the train, but it is made – I promise. This sound is a glimpse into what is going on over a very short period of time upon impact.

When the train hits the fly, the fly does indeed stop the part of the train which it hits. Say for arguments sake that the fly is 1cm2, a 1cm2 part of the train will be stopped and deflected back slightly by the fly, but only for a very very short period of time.  As the fly has a very small mass in relation to the force, the fly will accelerate very quickly up to the speed of the train. The acceleration of the fly is so great, that it manages to reach the same speed as the train over the distance of the indent.

Once the fly has reached the same speed as the train, which will happen incredibly quickly, the part of the train which indented will ping back to its original place, and overshoot. It will continue to vibrate in this manner until its original shape is restored, this is called elastic deformation.This vibration will release some energy as sound in the same way as hitting a metal sheet with a tennis ball does. I have tried my best to put this in three simple diagrams below so you can visualise what is going on (you can click to enlarge).

This is true for every such collision, and no matter how rigid a material is, there is always some amount of elasticity in it to allow this to happen. If you were to make an incredibly rigid material which had absolutely no elasticity, a fly would probably break a hole right through it, if it hit a fly at the same speed of a train.

A picture showing what happens when a train hits a fly

Summary

So the laws of physics are intact – every force does have an equal and opposite force. When the train hits the fly, the fly will indeed exert the same force back onto the train, but only on a small part of the train, which will cause it to deform elastically for a very short period of time before returning back to its original position. I did begin to do the calculations to illustrate how it all works, but there are a lot of unknown variable such as how far back the train dents when the fly hits (which is going to be a tiny number), which make it impossible.

So to answer the question – the fly will cause a very small part of the train for a very short period of time. This part of the train will vibrate under the impact until it reaches its original position.

Image courtesy of Don Harbor