How Things Work

Are you curious about how machines, computers, and other technologies around us work? Do you just have to know how water gets to the 100th floor of an apartment building, how chameleons change color, or how the compass on your grandfather’s dashboard works? If you do, then this page will help you find the resources that can answer these questions.

Internet Resources

There are several resources available on the Internet. Listed below are several sites that can answer your questions about science and technology:

General Technology

How Stuff Works
It is hard to effectively summarize How Stuff Works, but I will try. This is a huge site that contains information about engines, electronics, household appliances, computers, and even food. All sorts of technologies are covered. The main page has a huge list that links to previously asked questions and specific subject areas. You can also ask your own question or search the site for information about a subject. It offers information about books that deal with the same kind of subject matter and a guide to citing “How Stuff Works” in your papers. Finally, at the bottom of the page is the How Stuff Works Power Panel which allows you to go to specific areas of the site.

The MAD Scientists Network
If you have any questions about science this is the place to go. It covers all subject areas while providing a question answering service, an archive of previously asked questions, and a search engine. However, there is much more to this site. You can also visit the MADSci Library for other sources of information. It offers tips on searching the World Wide Web, careers in science, information on museums, and even more.

How Things Work
The main purpose of this site is to answer questions about physics, and science in general. It allows you to search previous questions or to search questions grouped under a specific subject heading. There is also a link to a page where questions can be asked.

The Astronomy Cafe
This site has several links to sites for information about Astronomy, including “Ask the Astronomer” and “Ask the Space Scientist”. “Ask the Astronomer” is an archive of answered questions while “Ask the Space Scientist” is the site where questions can be asked.

Ask the Experts at Scientific American
The Scientific American-Ask the Experts site archives questions and provides users with the chance to ask new questions. The archives are divided into 9 different categories: Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Computers, Environment, Geology, Mathematics, Medicine, and Physics.

The PZone
The PZone is source that can be consulted in order to gain an understandting of some of the underlying principles of physics. The number #1 purpose is to help young people gain a better understanding of physics. The site is divided into four different sub-categories of physics with a link to a library of definitions and terms.


How a Basic Radio Works

This provides an illustration as to how radio transmission works. Easy to understand, the web page illustrates how radio frequency gets encoded then transmitted through the airwaves. It also shows the receiving end as well.

How a Radio Works
Presented by John J. Krupczak Jr. from Hope College, this web page demonstrates the process of radio transmission – from radio station to the actual radio. This is an illustrated step-by-step approach.

How does XM or Satellite Radio Works
A good background on satellite radio. Web page explains the history as well as the process of how transmissions take place. The discussion also dwells into the components, such as Repeaters and Antennas.


How does a Television Work
This web page provides an in-depth explanation and the history behind the television. It will explain the differences between the earlier models and modern television. It dwells into the specifics such as x-rays, physics, and the ray tubes.

How does Plasma Television Work
This discussion goes into the technical side behind the functioning of a plasma television. It discusses how a plasma TV work with its three fluorescent lights and how it work to produce the color spectrum. There’s a little history here behind plasma televisions.

How do LCD Televisions Work
The discussion here is very technical – explaining the various components (such as the liquid crystal and panel) that comprises an LCD and how they all function together to produce sharp images. There’s also a nice illustration here depicting the separate layers of an LCD screen.


Computer and How They Work
This is a good little history on the PC. It also goes into a discussion on the components that make up a personal computer. You’ll find topics on RAM, ROM, Processors, Input, and Output devices.

How Do Inkjet Printers Work

You’ll find an explanation of how Inkjet printers use ink to print papers. There’s also a comparison between Inkjet and Laser. Discussion also goes in to the speed and how it affects dpi (dots per inch) resolution.

How does the Internet Work
This source explains the components that comprise the internet: the transport system, domain names, and the hardware that makes the Internet possible. There is also some relevant links that support these concepts.


Goes into the history behind the calculator and the components inside of it. Explains what happens after you press a key and how the processing works. Has a nice image of the components within the calculator: keyboard sensor, display, processor chip, etc.

How does Cell Phone Work
Easily readable, this web page discusses how a cell phone conducts a phone call. The area of discussion also mentions the wireless and airwave procedures when the call is in process.

How does a Fax Machine Work
This page discusses the fax machine’s functionalities in a simplified format. It will discuss the components, how it works, and how each part contributes to the fax process.


Toasters: the Inside Story
This is an interesting article that details the history of the toaster yet explained how it functioned at the same time. It goes into discussion on the heating element and explains the difference between a manual toast and a semi-manual toaster.

How a Microwave Oven Works
This is a very illustrated depiction on the inner workings of the microwave. It gets very technical but through the illustrations, you will be able to follow along the process of a heating session.

Refrigerator FAQ
This is a Frequently Asked Questions page about refrigerators. Therefore, you’ll get answers to common questions like “how does a refrigerator works” as well as how to get rid of odor and other related topics.

This pathfinder was updated by Philip Kwan for Dr. Eileen Abels Info 780 Course at Drexel University, Spring, 2008.