99 Complex Things Explained as Briefly as Possible

These 99 things might seem complicated, but they can all be easily explained in a few words.
Trevor English
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The world around us is a fairly interesting place. It's also a fairly complex one. Understanding things like astrophysics and rocket science aren't simple walks in the park... or are they?

Let us explain 99 highly complex things as simply as possible.

1. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy works by stopping your body from making new cells in hopes that the cancer cells die off before your good cells do.

2. RAM/Hard Drive

RAM is like a computer's short-term memory, the hard drive is like its long-term memory.

3. IP Addresses

IP Addresses are like a street address but for computers connected on a network.

4. Derivatives

"See how this is changing? The change is changing by this much." That's what a derivative in Calculus is.

5. Explosions

Explosions are just lots of energy released really fast.

6. Water Towers

Water Towers are just pressured batteries for pipe networks. They store water at tall heights which pressurizes the system when needed.

7. Constellations

Constellations are just lines we drew to help us remember stars' locations.

8. Orbits

Orbits are just things falling sideways fast and continuously missing the ground.

9. Nuclear Reactors

In Nuclear Reactors, a hot radioactive rock boils water that creates steam that makes power through a turbine generator.

10. Programming

All computer programming is simply "If this, then do that." The rest is simply syntax.

11. Google

Google is just a tool that predicts what you want based on what other people have wanted.

12. Cancer

Cancer is just cells that forget how to die.


13. Computer Errors

Computers do exactly what they're told to do. Errors occur when they aren't told clear enough.

14. Alcohol

Alcohol, like beer, is just bacteria poop. Yeast eats sugar and excretes ethanol and CO2.

15. Four-Stroke Engines

Four-stroke engines, like your car's engine, function in a repeating pattern of Suck, Squish, Bang, Blow.

16. Computers

Computers are a series of switches that are on or off combined to produce a desired result.

17. Interest

Interest on loans is just a rental fee for money.

18. Temperature

Cold doesn't exist, it is simply the absence of heat. The less heat something has, the colder it is.

19. American Football

American Football is a group of people that gets 4 tries to go ten yards while other people stop them from doing that.

20. Zero Gravity

A state of being in zero gravity is only in relation to a reference point. In reality, you are never not under the influence of gravity.

21. Value

A product is worth whatever purchasers decide to pay. That's value.

22. CDs and DVDs

CDs store data just like records, except the grooves are microscopic and made my lasers. Blue Ray DVDs just have tinier laser marked dots.

23. Body Heat

Your body maintains its temperature because heat is a byproduct of the metabolic process of digesting food.

24. 3D Printing

3D printers slice up an object into tiny layers and then print out hot plastic where each of those layers says to.

25. AI Learning

Artificially Intelligent Algorithms learn by being shown a bunch of things and being told which is right. The algorithm develops its own coding structure to arrive at its own conclusions reflective of what its learned.


26. Sink Aerators

Sinks have aerators to increase the surface area of a smaller amount of water. Decreasing water usage with the same efficiency.

27. Active Noise Cancelling

Active noise canceling works by mimicking a given noise and outputting the inverse waveform so that both soundwaves are canceled out.

28. Mercury Thermometers

Mercury thermometers work by knowing what height Mercury is at a given temperature, i.e. how much mercury expands when it changes temperature.

29. Cameras

Cameras are just devices that expose sensors or chemicals to patterns of light for variable amounts of time. Those sensors or chemicals record that light for later viewing.

30. Hydraulics

Hydraulics work because water or oil is incompressible. That means you can apply a small force over a great distance on one end and get a large force that moves something a small distance on the other.

31. Radio

Radio works by inputting an electrical current into a transmitter which creates waves that then hit a receiver causing the electrons inside, to vibrate creating the original signal electrical current. Different radio stations operate at different vibrations in the waves.

32. Sight

You see because your eyes have received and interpreted photons sent from the source, which cease to exist after you see them. 2 people can see the same thing but they can't see the same photon.

33. Words

Words have meaning because we all agree on their meaning.

34. Differentials

Differential gears allow for wheels on the same axis to spin at different rates. Without a differential, your car would slide instead of turn.

35. English Grammar

English grammar is simple. I before E except after C. But not always.

36. String Theory

String Theory states that everything in the universe is a vibrating string in a cosmic concert of vibrations.

37. Global Warming

Global Warming is where excess CO2 traps energy and destabilizes natural climate cycles. The debate is what's causing that excess.

38. Copyright

Copyright is the right to make copies. If you don't have it, you can't replicate it.

39. Hard Drives

Hard Drives are just magnetic record players on a microscopic scale.

40. Flight

Planes fly by utilizing an engine to create thrust. That pushes the plane faster, creating low pressure over the wing because of it's shape. High pressure under wing pushes up – and voila, flight.

41. Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is just a router and modem yelling ones and zeros back and forth. The router functions as the middle man between your device and the world wide web.

42. Entropy

Entropy means you can't break even. You cannot return to the same energy state, because there is always an increase in disorder, or entropy.

43. Sickness

We feel sick because our immune system is trying to kill the sickness. Coughing, runny nose, fever, queeziness, nearly every symptom is evidence of a healthy immune system.

44. Calories

1 Calorie is the amount of energy it would take to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius.

45. Fire Hydrants

Fire hydrants are massive simple valves that allow firefighters full access to water pressure in a pipe network to fight a fire.

46. Atoms

Atoms are the building blocks of matter, made up of smaller particles called protons, neutrons, and electrons.

47. Elements

An element is a material made completely of one type of atom.

48. Calculus

Calculus is a segment of mathematics focusing simply on finding the area under curves.

49. Pi

Pi is just the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.

50. Torque

Torque is just the twisting force that causes something to rotate.

51. Horsepower

Horsepower is just the measure of how much work something can do in a given amount of time.

52. Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency works by miners, people with a computer providing CPU work to provide encryption, and in return, they get money. Other people can buy that currency without doing the work.

53. Chance of Death

If you're alive, you have a 100% chance of dying, the only question is when.

54. Energy

Energy is never created or destroyed, only transferred. This is true across all of the universe.

55. Reading This

The images you're seeing on this page that is this post is actually just a collection of red, green, and blue colors displayed close together.

56. IoT

The internet of things is just a buzzword for connecting physical objects to the internet using sensors, software, and controllers.

57. Concrete

Concrete is just rocks glued together. Cement is the binding glue, a compound made from cooked limestone and clay. When water is added to cement as well as sand or rocks, it creates concrete.

58. Satellites

Satellites are essentially giant mirrors in space that allow signals to be bounced around earth at much greater speeds.

59. Air Conditioners

Air Conditioners cool by taking heat from the air and transferring it to a liquid refrigerant and then transfer that refrigerant's heat is to outside air. Then repeat.

60. Wastewater Treatment

When you flush a toilet, somebody at a water treatment plant filters out the waste, lets particles settle, kills the bacteria in a disinfection process, and then releases the water into a stream or river.

61. Steel

Steel is just iron with carbon added, which increases the strength of the material's chemical bonds.

62. Diamonds

Among gemstones, Diamonds are the most common. They're considered rare and expensive only because corporations control the flow.

63. Solar Power

Solar panels work by capturing an electrical current caused by photons from the sun's light knocking electrons from layers of conductive material.

64. Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-Ion batteries work by storing energy in electrodes. Lithium ions, electrically charged atoms, move negative to postive when discharging and in reverse when charging.

65. Nuclear Bombs

Nuclear bombs work by releasing energy either through Fission, the splitting of an atom in two, or Fusion, the joining of 2 small atoms to make a larger one. Of the two, Fusion is more powerful and more efficient.

66. Wireless Charging

Wireless Charging works by transforming electricity into a magnetic field that can be received by a device and turned back into electricity.

67. Fluid Dynamics

Fluid dynamics is the study of how liquids and gasses work. Mass and energy is never created or destroyed and momentum is always conserved.

68. Wine

Wine is just grape juice that has had it's sugar eaten and digested by bacteria.

69. Flash Drives

Flash Drives are just electronically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM). Electrons change the state of "gates" in a pattern that can be read and understood as files.

70. Time Dilation

Gravity and speed affect how we experience time. A stationary person on earth will experience time differently than one moving fast in space.

71. Quantum Theory

Quantum theory is the theoretical basis of modern physics that explains the nature and behavior of matter and energy on the atomic and subatomic level.

72. QWERTY Keyboard

We don't use the QWERTY keyboard because it's the best or fastest, just because it won out in a marketing war when typewriters were becoming popular.

73. Structural Engineering

Structural engineering is just predicting whether a material can withstand a load or multiple loads without failing utlizing calculus and physics.

74. Audio Mixing

Audio Mixing involves combining every individual track into a song into one master track making the waveform sound the best as possible.

75. Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics is trying to understand how to stop or deal with four forces – lift, weight, thrust and drag – to achieve a goal.

76. Coal Fire Power Plants

Coal burns – makes pressurized steam – pressure steam turns generator – power.

77. Airplane Propellers

Airplane propellers are just spinning wings facing forward. They produce thrust or lift, like wings, but in a forward direction.

78. LEDs

LEDs are just electrons passing through a material, which causes some energy to be let off as light. Color is dependent upon the type of material it is passed through.

79. LTE Networks

LTE or Long Term Evolution networks are standards and protocols set in place about how to transfer data between a carrier and a device. LTE is the newest, fastest standard.

80. Computer-Aided Design

Computer-Aided Design, or CAD, allows engineers to draw things in 2D or 3D and understand how something might work or function all in a computer.

81. Telescopes

Telescopes either refract or reflect. They refract by using lenses to distort light from the sky and make them larger or reflect by using shaped mirrors to distort light to make something appear larger.

82. Laser Printing

Laser printing uses a laser to give a drum negative charges where ink should go. Toner or ink is attracted to those locations and the drum spins, ink is transferred to the paper through different electrical charge, then the paper is pressed in hot rollers to seal the ink.

83. Window Tinting

Window tinting materials use dies and metals coated onto a plastic surface to reflect and absorb photons from the sun, allowing only a portion of light through based on tint intensity.

84. Taxes

Tax is simply a charge imposed by the government of a region for the privilege of living there or purchasing there used to fund said government.

85. Credit Card Numbers

All credit card numbers contain a secret code called the Luhn algorithm. If all the numbers add up to a number divisible by 10 in a certain algorithmic sequence, the number is valid.

86. CNC Machining

Computer Numerically Controlled Machining is a method of translating digital designs to wood or metal using computer code that tells a drillbit how to move.

87. Facebook Advertising

Facebook is free because they make money by allowing other people to deliver ads to you based on what Facebook knows about your life.

88. Thermal Conductivity

Thermal conductivity is the ability of a material to conduct heat. Metals are good at conducting heat, so they feel cold because they take more heat from you when you touch them.

89. Algorithms

An algorithm is just a recipe for a computer. However, sometimes the steps in that recipe require computers to determine their own decision.

90. Monty Hall Problem

Two choices don't always mean 50-50 odds. If choosing between 3 doors with one right door, you pick one and have a 33% chance of being right. One wrong door is opened, given the chance, you should always switch to the other door because it contains the sum of the opened door and that door, or 66% chance of being right.

91. Quantum Teleportation

Quantum Teleportation functions on the principle of quantum entanglement, meaning particles, like photons, are connected physically over great distances. That means whatever one photon does, so does the other, thus teleportation.

92. Black Holes

Black holes are thought to be the result of curving space-time caused by an object with an enormous dense mass. Nothing escapes.

93. Roundabouts

Roundabouts allow cars to move in a circle where roads meet improving flow efficiency and increasing safety compared to 4-way intersections.

94. Traffic Flow

Traffic flow theory states that expanding roads actually makes traffic worse due to that in almost every case, there will always be cars to fill the expansion. More cars = more traffic.

95. Sonar

Sonar is just listening for an echo to a sound you sent out. By knowing the original sound and comparing it to the echo, you can determine distance, size, shape, and other features.

96. Color Blindness

Color Blindness occurs because certain photoreceptor cells in the back of your eye are damaged and cannot process wavelengths of light, like red or green.

97. MRI Machines

MRI machines work by creating a strong magnetic field around you that reacts with protons (hydrogen atoms) in your body creating a signal that can then be interpreted into an image.

98. Candles

Candles don't burn the wick, rather the which is used to increase the surface area of melted wax so that it can boil. The vaporized wax is what fuels the flame.

99. Radiation

Radiation is just energy that travels in the form of waves or particles. That energy can come from a decaying atom or an electromagnetic source. Some kinds are harmful to humans and others aren't.

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