Mar 31, 2013

Earth Day: April 22

 
This cartoon takes a humorous look at the serious issue of endangered environment. Earth Day is celebrated on April 22.

Earth Day is an annual day on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Earth Day is observed on April 22 each year. The April 22 date was designated as International Mother Earth Day by a consensus resolution adopted by the United Nations in 2009. Earth Day is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and is celebrated in more than 192 countries every year.

The name and concept of Earth Day was pioneered by John McConnell in 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco. He proposed March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature's equipoise was later sanctioned in a Proclamation signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on environmental issues. (Adapted from Wikipedia and Grolier Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia)

Mar 30, 2013

Catching a ride


The trumpetfish is an underwater hitchhiker. It is catching a ride through a tropical reef on the back of a Spanish hogfish. The trumpetfish is not being lazy -- swimming with another fish lets it sneak up on his prey. Relationships between animals are common in nature, and they help animals survive. (Grolier Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia)

Mar 29, 2013

The Unified Field Theory

In physics, it is a theory that proposes to unify the four known interactions, or forces—the strong, electromagnetic, weak, and gravitational forces—by a simple set of general laws. Four distinct forces are known to control all the observed interactions in matter: gravitation, electromagnetism, the strong force (a short-range force that holds atomic nuclei together), and the weak force (the force responsible for slow nuclear processes, such as beta decay). The attempts to develop a unified field theory are grounded in the belief that all physical phenomena should ultimately be explainable by some underlying unity.

One of the first to attempt the development of such a theory was Albert Einstein, whose work in relativity had led him to the hypothesis that it should be possible to find a unifying theory for the electromagnetic and gravitational forces. Einstein tried unsuccessfully during the last 30 years of his life to develop a theory that would represent forces and material particles by fields only, in which particles would be regions of very high field intensity. The development of quantum theory, which Einstein rejected, and the discovery of many new particles, however, precluded Einstein's success in formulating a unifying theory based on relativity and classical physics alone.

Mar 28, 2013

Plate Tectonics

It is the theory that the outer shell of the earth is made up of thin, rigid plates that move relative to each other. The theory of plate tectonics was formulated during the early 1960s, and it revolutionized the field of geology. Scientists have successfully used it to explain many geological events, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions as well as mountain building and the formation of the oceans and continents.

Plate tectonics arose from an earlier theory proposed by German scientist Alfred Wegener in 1912. Looking at the shapes of the continents, Wegener found that they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Using this observation, along with geological evidence he found on different continents, he developed the theory of continental drift, which states that today’s continents were once joined together into one large landmass.

Mar 27, 2013

Genetics – The Blueprint of Life: - its beginning

Genetics is the science of heredity, hereditary transmission, and variation of inherited characteristics in living organisms. Although only formally recognized as a branch of biology at the beginning of the 20th century, the study of human genetics has helped to decode the origins of physical traits such as eye and skin color, left- and right-handedness and, more recently, susceptibility to particular diseases. The science of genetics has also overturned many erroneous preconceptions about race and human nature.

In 2006, twin girls born in the U.K. made for a puzzling headline: they appeared to be of two different races. One girl, with fair skin and blond hair, appeared northern European, while her sister had dramatically darker skin and hair. Both of their parents had racially mixed ancestry, and the girls seemed to exhibit features belonging to neither parent. If the twins had been born a hundred years ago, something would have seemed amiss, even supernatural, but modern genetics provides an explanation. A child's skin color is determined by up to seven genes, and mixed-race parents supply genes for skin types of both races. The odds that two mothers' eggs -- one carrying only the genes for "white" features and one carrying only the genes for "black" features -- would be fertilized by two sperm that were exact genetic matches are a thousand to one, unlikely but not impossible.

Mar 26, 2013

Carrots

The wild carrot came from Afghanistan long before the time of Christ. The Greeks and Romans did not set much store by it, and it was used only for limited medicinal purposes before the 16th century, when the Italians brought it to the world's attention. Although it was tasty, the carrot of the time had almost nothing in common with the vegetable of today. It was a thin white or yellow root and fairly tough. It took centuries of selection and hybridization to give it the orange color it has had since the early 19th century. (Inventions and Discoveries)

Mar 25, 2013

The Study of Animals and Animal Life

Some 2,300 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle collected animals, dissected them, and wrote extensive descriptions of their anatomy. He grouped together animals with similar characteristics, described the social organization of bees, the embryological development of chickens, and distinguished whales and dolphins from fish. Modern scientists point to Aristotle as the father of the scientific method. In the centuries after Aristotle’s era, however, superstitions and fantasies about animals often buried facts. For example, after the fall of Rome, a book called the Physiologus by an unknown author examined 49 different animals (some fictional, such as the unicorn), giving each an allegorical interpretation. The Physiologus gained popularity as a teaching companion for the Bible and remained in widespread use for more than a thousand years.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, zoology -- the study of animals and animal life -- emerged as a science, driven by the work of the German scholar St. Albertus Magnus (ca. 1193-1280). Magnus rejected the superstitions associated with biology and reintroduced the work of Aristotle. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Leonardo da Vinci dissected and compared the structure of humans and animals, establishing the concept of homology, the correspondence of parts in different kinds of animals.

Mar 24, 2013

Which pollutants lead to indoor air pollution?


Indoor air pollution, also known as "tight building syndrome," results from conditions in modern, high energy efficiency buildings, which have reduced outside air exchange, or have inadequate ventilation, chemical contamination, and microbial contamination. Indoor air pollution can produce various symptoms, such as headache, nausea, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. In addition houses are affected by indoor air pollution emanating from consumer and building products and from tobacco smoke.
 
Below are listed some pollutants found in houses: 

Asbestos  
Sources: Old or damaged insulation, fireproofing, or acoustical tiles.
Effects: Many years later, chest and abdominal cancers and lung diseases

Biological pollutants 
Sources: Bacteria, mold and mildew, viruses, animal dander and cat saliva, mites, cockroaches, and pollen.
Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; shortness of breath; dizziness; lethargy; fever; digestive problems; asthma; influenza and other infectious diseases

Mar 23, 2013

Staying healthy is not all about eating your vegetables -- though that certainly helps

The prevention experts remind us to also pay attention to the following points with respect to our lifestyle:
  • Believe in something good.
  • Focus on a higher sense of purpose.
  • Develop your unique potential.
  • Eat less, exercise more, and have fun.
  • Love the ones you're with (spouse, children, extended family, faith family, neighbors, co-workers, community members).
  • Achieve balance in your life.
  • Exercise every day, eat a well-balanced diet, maintain meaningful social interactions and relationships, and choose work that is important to you.
  • Find meaning in your life.
  • Get eight hours or more of sleep a day.
  • Manage stress and enjoy your friends.
  • Stay positive and have a family physician who helps you to prevent disease and improve health. (Simple Health Secrets)

Mar 22, 2013

How hard are rocks?

Minerals and rocks are grouped according to their chemical makeup and also by their physical features, such as color, density, grain size, splitting or cleavage lines, crystal type and hardness. The Moh scale is based on the hardness of ten well-known minerals. Each one scratches the mineral above it on the scale, and is scratched by the mineral below it:

1. Talc (a soft powder)
2. GYPSUM
3. CALCITE
4. FLUORITE
5. APATITE
6. ORTHOCLASE
7. QUARTZ
8. TOURMALINE
9. CORUNDUM
10. DIAMOND (the hardest natural substance)
(World of Science)

Mar 21, 2013

Oil lamp

Outside China, oil was not used as a source of lighting until the mid-19th century, when a colorless liquid was extracted from crude oil – a liquid which, when lit, burned with a flame strong enough to provide light without producing offensive smells. This liquid, used in lamps, was known as burning oil. (Inventions and Discoveries)

Mar 20, 2013

The fastest bird

Peregrine Falcon, also known as duck hawk, type of falcon, is considered one of the world’s fastest animals. Peregrine falcons hunt other birds by diving after them and can exceed speeds of 320 km/h (200 mph) during these dives. Peregrines have long been favored by humans for use in falconry to hunt wild game. Once found worldwide, peregrine populations reached the brink of extinction in the 1970s. By the beginning of the 21st century, populations had begun to recover in some areas.

Peregrines grow 38 to 50 cm (15 to 20 in) in length, with females typically about one-third larger than males. The black head has a prominent “mustache” mark on the side of the face.

Peregrines hunt live birds, including chickadees, goldfinches, pigeons, ducks, and gulls. They dive from great heights to strike prey with their talons (claws). If this impact does not kill the prey, the peregrine bites the neck of its victim to ensure death.

Mar 19, 2013

Water Pollution

In 1854, the English physician John Snow first linked water quality with human health when he traced London's cholera epidemic to contaminated public water pumps. Great Britain began purifying water supplies with chlorine, and soon cholera, typhoid, and dysentery were nearly eliminated. In the United States, New Jersey adopted the practice in 1908, and within a few years, most major U.S. cities provided treated water to their residents.

The 20th century brought new, more complicated forms of water pollution. Agricultural expansion led to the introduction of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and concentrated animal wastes from large-scale livestock operations. All of these pollutants eventually wash into rivers, streams, and lakes, contaminating drinking water supplies and endangering aquatic life. Manufacturing plants have released persistent toxins such as PCBs, dioxins, and mercury into rivers across the country, and hospitals discharge large amounts of hazardous waste. Many of the most polluted rivers and lakes have been cleaned up since the 1970s, but a 1999 E.EA. water quality index reported that 21 percent of America’s 2,111 watersheds had serious problems, including pollution and loss of wetlands. Advisories were issued on fish consumption and water use across America.

Mar 18, 2013

Atomic bomb

Also called atom bomb weapon derives its explosive force from the sudden release of energy upon the splitting, or fission, of the nuclei of such heavy elements as plutonium or uranium. The first stage in the construction of the atomic bomb was the discovery of uranium fission by Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman (both German) in 1939.

When a neutron strikes the nucleus of an atom of the isotopes uranium 235 or plutonium-239, it causes that nucleus to split into two fragments, each of which is a nucleus with about half the protons and neutrons of the original nucleus. In the process of splitting, a great amount of thermal energy, as well as gamma rays and two or more neutrons, is released. Under certain conditions, the escapingneutrons strike and thus fission more of the surrounding uranium nuclei, which then emit more neutrons that split still more nuclei. This series of rapidly multiplying fissions culminates in a chain reaction in whichnearly all the fissionable material is consumed, in the process generating the explosion of what is known as an atomic bomb.

Mar 17, 2013

First offshore oil well

On May 4, 1869, Thomas F. Rowland (U.S.) filed the first patent for a fixed drilling platform. The first working offshore oil well was built off the coast of California in 1897. Also in 1869, Samuel Lewis described the principle of the self-elevating mobile platform, but it wasn't until 1954 that the first platform of this type was built. (Inventions and Discoveries)

Mar 16, 2013

The Inauguration of Nobel Prizes

When he died in 1896 the Swedish chemist and industrialist Alfred Nobel bequeathed the greater part of his vast fortune, some £2 million, to provide annual prizes for those who had "conferred the greatest benefit on mankind". They were to be in five categories: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. The first four categories were not surprising, for Nobel himself was an able scientist and a man with some literary pretensions. The fifth did, however, excite comment, for most of his money had been made in armaments. In his later years, however, he had reached the conclusion that armaments might serve better to preserve peace than "revolutions, banquets and long speeches".

Surprisingly, for as an industrialist he was well aware of the need for precision in legal documents, he drafted his will himself, without advice, and in terms so vague and controversial that it took several years to set up the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm. The first prizes were not awarded until 1901: the value of each was £8,000, a very handsome sum in those days, and since greatly increased.

Mar 15, 2013

Rocks of Earth’s crust – their cycle and types

The rocks of Earth’s crust are made of various combinations of minerals, such as silica, olivine, pyroxene and hundreds of others. Minerals, like all substance and matter, are made of atoms, mostly joined into molecules. There is only a limited supply of such atoms, molecules and minerals on the planet. Rocks have been broken down by the forces of weathering and erosion, such as wind, rain, heat, ice and waves. They are then reformed into new rocks by heat, pressure and chemical changes. This means the same minerals go round and round, forming one type of rock and then another, over years of geological time. This process is known as the rock cycle.

Main rock types

There are three main types of rocks:

Igneous rocks form when rock minerals are so hot that they have melted, then they cool and go solid again. The rocks formed when Lava from a volcano goes hard are igneous.

Mar 14, 2013

Three types of primary energy that flow continuously on or to the surface of the Earth

1. Geothermal energy: is heat contained beneath the Earth's crust, and brought to the surface in the form of steam or hot water. The five main sources of this geothermal reservoir are dry, super-heated steam from steam fields below the Earth's surface; mixed hot water, wet steam, etc., from geysers, etc.; dry rocks (into which cold water is pumped to create steam); pressurized water fields of hot water and natural gas beneath ocean beds; and magma (molten rock in or near volcanoes and 5 to 30 miles below the Earth's crust). Most Iceland buildings are heated by geothermal energy, and a few communities in the United States, such as Boise, Idaho, use geothermal home heating. Electric power production, industrial processing, space heating, etc., are fed from geothermal sources. The California Geysers project is the world's largest geothermal electric generating complex with 200 steam wells that provide some 1,300 megawatts of power. The first geothermal power station was built in 1904 at Larderello, Italy.

Mar 13, 2013

What are the Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments vary according to religion and denomination. In the Jewish tradition, the Ten Commandments (based on Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21) are as follows:

1. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

2. You shall have no other god to set against me. You shall not make a carved image for yourself.

3. You shall not make wrong use of the name of the Lord your God.

4. Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy.

5. Honor your father and your mother.

6. You shall not commit murder.

7. You shall not commit adultery.

8. You shall not steal.

9. You shall not give fake evidence against your neighbor.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife; you shall not covet your neighbor's house or anything that belongs to him.

Mar 12, 2013

One of the world's first civilizations …

Persia (which changed its name to Iran in 1935) was one of the world's first civilizations; it has evidence of Neolithic Aryan (peoples who spoke Indo-European languages) settlements from nearly ten thousand years ago. Persians are a non-Arab people who migrated from central Asia. According to National Geographic, “If you draw lines from the Mediterranean to Beijing or Beijing to Cairo or Paris to Delhi, they all pass through Iran, which straddles a region where East meets West. Over 26 centuries, a blending of the hemispheres has been going on here -- trade, cultural interchange, friction -- with Iran smack in the middle."

The Elamites established the first known Persian dynasty in the third millennium BC. Another Aryan people, the Medes (the ancestors of the Kurds of today), created a unified empire in the northwestern part of that region around 625 BC. Cyrus the Great, who issued what some consider the world's first declaration of human rights, overthrew the Medes and established the Achaemenid Empire, expanding Persian control and influence from Egypt to India -- making it one of the largest empires in history. His descendants, Darius and his son Xerxes, invaded Greece but were defeated and expelled from Europe in 479 BC.

Mar 11, 2013

Global Warming and Climate Change

The temperature of the Earth has fluctuated throughout the planet's history, causing both ice ages and periods of intense heat. However, beginning with the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, human activities began to change the composition of the atmosphere and the Earth's climate. While some people disagree that humans are having a significant effect on global climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (LPC.C.), a group of several thousand scientists commissioned by the United Nations, reported in 2007 that "the evidence of global warming is now unequivocal" and said that human activity is the major contributor. The terms climate change and global warning are often used interchangeably, although global warming is only one factor in the larger issue of climate change.

The essential differences between historical climatic change and human-caused global warming include both the rate of the change, which is faster than that to which many plant and animal species can adapt, and also the sizable human population of the Earth, which could cause serious shortages of land, water, and food in the event of a major climate shift. Most climatologists agree that the Earth warmed by 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit between 1850 and 1990, an alarming rate considering that worldwide temperatures rose only 9 degrees Fahrenheit since the end of the last ice age, 12,000 years ago. In fact, the eight warmest years recorded since 1850 occurred between 1998 and 2009. At its current rate, the Earth is likely to warm by an additional 3 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100. According to the LRC.C., such warming would cause both drought and rising sea levels, and destroy water supplies, forests, and agriculture in many parts of the world.

Mar 10, 2013

How the Moon was formed …

About thirty million years into its existence, the early Earth was beginning to take its present shape. Some of the lighter elements that had floated to Earth's surface were already beginning to cool and form a crust. Even so, the inner solar system remained a very crowded place, with many asteroids still wandering about and perhaps as many as twenty planet-sized objects still vying for permanent status. Inevitably, there were collisions, which gradually reduced the number of competitors to the four inner planets we have today.

One such collision involved Earth and a planet roughly the size of Mars, known as Theia. The force of the collision destroyed Theia, but because the blow was glancing, the impact caused a significant portion of Earth's mantle to be ejected into space, along with most of Theia's mantle. Earth's massive gravity held this matter in orbit, however, and about half of it eventually fell back down. The rest coalesced to form the Moon.

Mar 9, 2013

The world’s oldest known flowering plant

In early 1990’s it was reported that scientists at Yale University had identified the world's oldest known flowering plant. Called the Koonwarra plant, it was an herb about an inch (2.5 centimeters) tall. Its tiny flower was probably greenish or beige. The plant lived 120 million years ago and is known only through fossils found in the Koonwama area of southeastern Australia. It is believed that almost all of today's flowering plants are descendants of the Koonwarra plant. (Grolier Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia)

Mar 8, 2013

Our susceptibility to illness depends on our personalities

Excerpt from a conversation with Dr. Dennis Jaffe, a Yale-trained clinical psychologist who has helped thousands of people suffering from depression, burnout, and a whole host of physical ailments recognize and reverse their own self-destructive attitudes. Dr. Jaffe has also authored, edited, and contributed to numerous books related to the power of the mind over the body, including Healing from Within; Mind, Body and Health; and From Burnout to Balance.

Question: We're all aware of the type of people who seem to superimpose stress on their lives, setting unrealistic goals, working against the clock, rejecting anything less than perfect, delegating few tasks because "no one can do it like I can." Social scientists have labeled this collection of traits the Type A personality. But by referring to this pattern of behavior as a "personality," they suggest to us that it is something inherent to our character, that we are "by nature" driven to behave that way. Not surprisingly, too, people so possessed -- the workaholics, perfectionists, worriers -- often resign themselves to an I-can't-help-myself-I-just-am state of mind. How much control do we really have over a self-destructive personality?

Mar 7, 2013

The amazing health benefits of grapefruits

Grapefruits are grown all over the world, but they originated (or discovered) in the 18th century in the Caribbean islands – Barbados, Jamaica, West Indies. Many botanists think the grapefruit was actually the result of a natural cross breeding which occurred between the orange and the pomelo, a citrus fruit that was brought from Indonesia to Barbados in the 17th century. The resulting fruit was given the name "grapefruit" in 1814 in Jamaica, a name which reflects the way it's arranged when it grows-hanging in clusters just like grapes. It is now one of the widely cultivated fruits in the United States, particularly in Florida, California, and other semi-tropical southern states. Florida apparently grows more grapefruit than the rest of the world combined! As with all citrus, the heavier the fruit, the juicier. Florida grapefruits are juicier than those from California and Arizona. However, Western fruit has a thicker skin which is easier to peel. If refrigerated, grapefruit will last for a few weeks. Grapefruit is available all year, but best January through May.

Fresh grapefruit from California and Arizona are available all year and come in several colors including pink, red, white and golden. Each fruit is largely oblate, ranges in diameter from 3-4 inches and weighs up to 150 gram. The fruit usually has slightly thick and tough skin than that in oranges. The flesh is segmented as in oranges. The fruit is very juicy, acidic, and varying in color depending on the cultivars, which include white, pink and red pulps of varying sweetness. You can eat grapefruit just like an orange by peeling it and dividing it into segments. Each medium grapefruit has 10 to 12 sections.

Mar 6, 2013

The five largest lakes in the world

1. Kaspiyskoye More (or Caspian Sur): USSR-Iran

2. Superior: United States-Canada

3. Victoria: Tanzania-Uganda-Kenya

4. Aralskoye More (or Aral Sea): USSR

5. Huroun: United States-Canada

(The Book of Answers, by Barbara Berliner)

Mar 5, 2013

The event that helped draw USA into First World War: - the sinking of the British luxury liner Lusitania

Back in 1915, the war was raging in Europe as Britain and its allies fought Germany and its allies. The United States was officially neutral. The Lusitania's 1,257 passengers and 667 crew members were in high spirits as they set sail from New York City on May 2, bound for Liverpool, England. Their steamship was the world's largest and fastest liner, known as the Empress of the Sea.

The day before, on May 1, Germany had placed a notice in U.S. newspapers warning that the war zone included the waters around the British Isles. Nevertheless, it seemed that the Lusitania's trip would be a smooth and sunny one. On May 7, as the passengers finished lunch, they glimpsed the green fields and white cottages of southern Ireland.

Mar 4, 2013

Why is Persia now called Iran?

The people of this country in southwestern Asia always called their homeland Iran, or "Land of the Aryans." But Westerners started calling it Persia in the sixth century B.C. -- taking the name from Persis, or Parsa (modern Fárs), a region of southern Iran. In 1935, the country's government officially requested that the nation be referred to as Iran. (The Book of Answers, by Barbara Berliner)

Mar 3, 2013

Moscow’s Golden Arches

Soviet consumers enjoyed one of the mainstays of many Americans' diets: the "Beeg Mek." On January 31, 1991, McDonald's opened its first restaurant in the Soviet Union. Located on Pushkin Square in Moscow, it's the biggest McDonald's in the world. It has 27 cash registers and 700 seats and can serve more than 15,000 customers a day. Soviet citizens were delighted with the beautiful restaurant and the tasty food. But best of all they liked the friendly, polite service of the teenagers who waited on them. The food seemed inexpensive to Western tourists: a Big Mac, French fries, and cola cost about 5 rubles -- less than one dollar in U.S. currency. But this was a great deal of money for the average Soviet citizen, earning about 10 rubles a day. Still, many Soviets considered McDonald's food a treat. (Grolier Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia)

Mar 2, 2013

Arabic language

Twenty-six countries around the world have adopted Arabic as an official language - more than any other language but English and French. There are approximately 280 million native speakers, and it is a second language for millions more who are familiar with Arabic through the recitation of the Koran. As with the Chinese language, spoken dialects are not mutually understandable, but Arabic speakers share a written language called Modern Standard Arabic. The main dialects are Levantine (spoken in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine), Egyptian, Iraqi, and Moroccan. Arabic is an official language of the United Nations. (The New York Times ‘Smarter by Sunday – 52 Weekends of Essential Knowledge for the Curious Mind’)

Mar 1, 2013

The world’s first national park

Yellowstone opens in 1885 as the world’s first national park. (New York Times ‘Guide to Essential Knowledge’)