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 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 & Austin Henderson

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

Who likes getting caught in a downpour without an umbrella? Not this guy and not us. Are we ever going to achieve rainmaker status so we can dial up a few gentle showers one day and a blast of sunshine the next?

By William Harris

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Once considered a semiprecious metal alongside gold and silver, aluminum pretty much languished in obscurity until the 19th century. How did the metal become so ubiquitous?

By William Harris

The Zumwalt is the military's class of next-generation destroyers. Find out how the Zumwalt class destroyer works and learn about Zumwalt technology.

By William Harris

Inventing a useful product or process is serious business — turn a great idea into a marketable widget, and you could earn millions of dollars. But that doesn't mean your widget has to be straitlaced and conservative.

By William Harris, Marianne Spoon & Sascha Bos

Are you hungry for some nitro-scrambled egg-and-bacon ice cream? Did you want a little fried mayo on that sandwich? Molecular gastronomy has cast cooking in a new light and created some seemingly bizarre, but shockingly delicious dishes.

By William Harris

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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 & Desiree Bowie

Most of the world uses the metric system for everyday measurements, but only three countries in the world use the imperial system as their official system of measurement.

By William Harris & Sascha Bos

As the symbol of innovation, the incandescent light bulb is not very innovative. Luckily, there's a new type of light bulb -- a greener one -- that stands poised to replace Edison's most famous invention as the icon of ideation.

By William Harris & Sascha Bos

Biodiversity means rainforests and reefs teeming with species right? There's more to it than that though. Genetic diversity has a big role to play, too. Just ask that cheetah cub.

By William Harris & Austin Henderson

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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 & Chris Pollette

Since Charles Darwin published the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, myths and misinterpretations have eroded public understanding of his ideas. Ready to take another look at one of the related questions that just won't die?

By William Harris & Sascha Bos

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

Like a firefighter or a rock star, an astronaut is one of those jobs kids say they want to have when they grow up. If you're still serious, we can tell you what it takes.

By William Harris & Sascha Bos

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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

An invisibility cloak seems perfectly believable in the magical world of Harry Potter, but in the real world, it's impossible, right? Not so fast.

By William Harris & Robert Lamb

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.

Every species on Earth, from the majestic humpback whale to the bacteria happily living in your gut, has a special role to play within a defined ecosystem. Can organisms ever trade their existing niches for new ones?

By William Harris

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The hunt for exoplanets, planets orbiting sun-like stars, is on! Thanks to new equipment, NASA has spotted thousands of them. But which ones might be able to handle life?

By William Harris & Jacob Silverman

When peering thousands of years into the future, there are certain things we can count on -- evolution, extinction, plate tectonics, climate change and, quite possibly, the eruption of a supervolcano. What else does the Earth's far future hold?

By William Harris

Are we alone? Jodie Foster's character in "Contact" didn't think so, and neither do the scientists who've been listening for an extraterrestrial message for decades.

By William Harris

It's not a pleasant thought, is it? But when you mix chaos theory with a few crazy cosmologists, those tidy, predictable orbits start getting lively.

By William Harris

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If you've traveled recently, you probably raised your arms above your head and waited for a millimeter wave scanner to do its screening thing. During those 10 seconds or so, did you ever wonder exactly how the device produced your image?

By William Harris

Ever heard of a little unit called a femtometer? Can you tell us how much you weigh -- in petagrams? We know you can't, so hurry up and start reading. We have work to do.

By William Harris