Science behind the records header

You may have seen photos of the world’s tallest living man, watched the video of the loudest burp and been astonished by the iconic longest fingernails record holders.

However, the Guinness World Records: Science & Stuff book takes a new look at these records, explaining the science behind such extraordinary achievements.

Below are five records and their scientific explanations that are featured in the book. How many of these do you already know?

1. Fingernails

In an average lifetime, each of our fingernails has the potential to grow around 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in) – so anybody could attempt the longest fingernails on a single hand (ever) record… if they wanted to.

India’s Shridhar Chillal (pictured above) hasn’t cut the nails on his left hand since 1952 and they’ve been growing ever since.

They measured a combined total of 909.6 cm (29 ft 10.1 in) in 2014 – which is about as long as a London bus.Longest full body-contact ice endurance

2. Endurance

Wim “The Iceman” Hoff used his knowledge of science to help him achieve the longest full body-contact ice endurance.

The Dutchman has mastered a special breathing technique that seems to trick his body into burning stored fat, keeping his body temperature steady.

He managed a time of 1 hr 53 min 02 sec in 2013, but this was beaten by China’s Jin Songhao in 2014.

3. Skulls

American wrestler and strongman John Ferraro (aka Gino Martino), has achieved some records that will be pretty tough to beat: most nails hammered with the head in one minute and most concrete blocks broken on the head with a bowling ball in three minutes.

His ability to withstand these challenges is due to his unusually thick skull. The average human skull is 7 mm thick, whereas John’s is 16 mm!

Of course, he has to pair his physical attributes with some very intense training in order to attempt these records without hurting himself.

Loudest burp

4. Noise

Some people can burp words by controlling their oesophagus. The medical term for this is "esophageal speech".

Brit Paul Hunn has taken the art of burping to the next level though, achieving the world’s Loudest burp.

At 109.9 dB, his record-breaking belch was louder than a large orchestra!

He recommends drinking a lot of fizzy pop and breathing in as much air as possible before attempting a record setting burp.

Why does this help? When your body detects a big bubble of gas in your stomach, it opens the sphincters at the top and bottom of your oesophagus, allowing the gas to move up to your mouth.

Illustration of GWR Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday and tallest man ever Robert Wadlow

5. Growth

As the tallest living man, Turkey’s Sultan Kösen is one of the most iconic Guinness World Records title holders.

Sultan's growth and massive height caused by a condition known as "pituitary gigantism", which is the result of an over-production of growth hormone.

Growth hormone is released from the pituitary gland in the brain; if the gland is damaged by, say, a tumour, it can release too much (or too little) hormone. The effects of over-production includes large hands, a thickening of the bones, and painful joints.

Sultan was offered a life-changing operation in 2010 which has stopped the tallest man in the world from growing further.

However the tallest man (ever), Robert Wadlow (whose 100th birthday would have been this month), reached even greater heights. When he was last measured he was 2.72 m (8 ft 11.1 in) tall.

To find out more – plus read about the science of slam dunks, the smelliest substances, over-engineered inventions and the physics of cats – pick up a copy of Guinness World Records: Science & Stuff.

The new book is out now in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It will hit stores in the UK on 8 March, but is available for pre-order now.