William Harris

Freelance Writer

William Harris has written over 100 articles for HowStuffWorks on topics ranging from who invented the computer to how gold works.

Recent Contributions

The speed of light is like that annoying friend who beats you at every game. What would happen if humans one day surpassed the cosmic speed limit?

By William Harris & Patrick J. Kiger

The list of superstar athletes accused of — and admitting to — taking performance-enhancing drugs is almost as impressive as the number of sports that they compete in. And we're not just talking about steroids.

By William Harris & Jennifer Walker-Journey

You don't have to be a scientist in a white coat to use the scientific method. We all use it every day to make observations and solve problems.

By William Harris

Advertisement

Are you sharper than the contrasting triangles you'll spy on a backgammon board? You'll have to be if you want to master this strategic game.

By William Harris

Your car's suspension maximizes friction between the tires and road and provides steering stability. But how have suspensions evolved over the years and where is the design headed in the future?

By William Harris & Kristen Hall-Geisler

Pisa without its precariously tilted landmark is like San Francisco without the Golden Gate or London without Buckingham Palace. Will the peculiarly enduring tower ever vanish from the Italian skyline?

By William Harris

We'd by lying if we said that the sight of the Grim Reaper standing by our bedside, scythe in hand, wouldn't scare the daylights out of us. How did this well-known personification of death become so frightening?

By William Harris

Advertisement

Here's something to consider: The place you call home likely has walls and glass windows. Both are adept at keeping rain, snow and wind from bothering you in your abode. Only one, though, allows light to enter. Why is that?

By William Harris

Wood, grass and food scraps undergo a process known as biodegradation when they're buried. They're transformed by bacteria in the soil into other useful compounds, but those same bacteria typically turn up their noses at plastic. Luckily, that's not the end of the story.

By William Harris

This person of diverse interests also invented the cowcatcher device for trains, and held a distinguished mathematics professorship at the University of Cambridge.

By William Harris

We humans aren't complete slaves to time. We've devised ways to pack an extra hour of sunshine into our day, thanks to daylight saving time. But who came up with this idea and why do so many people loathe it?

By William Harris & Kathryn Whitbourne

Advertisement

Potatoes? Beef? Salt? Isn't that what comprises the sack of fast food you just paid for? Sort of, along with xanthan gum, caramel color and some other stuff you probably won't find in your kitchen.

By William Harris

For decades, stargazing scientists have been facing their own darkness on the edge of town as they try to explain one of astronomy's greatest mysteries: dark matter. Have they been successful, or will the universe carry its secrets for a long time?

By William Harris & Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D.

Nebulae are collections of dust and gases scattered across the galaxy. They're the sites where stars are born and what's left behind after they die.

By William Harris

We take much for granted about our universe, like it's getting bigger. What if the universe stopped expanding and started collapsing inward with a giant crunch?

By William Harris

Advertisement

Newton's iconic laws of motion are at work all around you, whether you're watching an Olympic swimmer explosively push off a pool wall or a sumo wrestler maintain his stance. So what are they?

By William Harris

Noise-canceling headphones maximize your listening experience by removing ambient noise, all without sacrificing the sound quality of your music. But how do they do it?

By William Harris

Most people know that cars come with two basic transmission types: manuals and automatics. But there's also something in between that offers the best of both worlds -- the dual-clutch transmission. Check it out.

By William Harris

High gas prices are driving people to look at alternatives to fossil fuels, such as a turbine designed by the father of alternating current, Nikola Tesla.

By William Harris

Advertisement

We've been observing and experimenting in the name of science for centuries. But who deserves the honor of being humanity's very first scientist? Is it Euclid, Darwin, Galileo or someone else?

By William Harris

Has this ever happened to you? The meteorologist calls for a massive snowstorm, but the flakes fail to arrive. Chaos theory can shed light on why forecasts fail (and why our orderly world may not be so orderly after all).

By William Harris

Without its keystone, a Roman aqueduct collapses. Does the same travesty befall an ecosystem when a keystone species goes missing from the ecological equation?

By William Harris

Future Victor Frankensteins won't have to become grave robbers to obtain body parts. Instead, we're betting they'll take advantage of a rapidly developing technology known as bioprinting. What do you know about this crazy offshoot of 3-D printing?

By William Harris

Advertisement

If we're ever going to live in a world in which machines behave like people, we humans have some teaching to do. But as this writing robot attests, we're not as far away as you might think.

By William Harris

Some architects and engineers go big. Others get fancy. And yet others aim squarely for the completely bizarre. These imagination-bending, gravity-defying products may induce more than a few OMGs.

By William Harris