Category Archives: Commentary

General science interest stories in biology, chemistry, geology and physics

Why Moths are Obsessed with Lamps | National Geographic

Moths, primarily nocturnal insects, have evolved to travel by the light of the moon and stars. This way of travel is called transverse orientation. What moth evolution couldn’t account for was the proliferation of constant electric light in our modern world. When Thomas Edison patented the lightbulb on January 27, 1880 it was a bad day in moth history. Lightbulbs began to act as artificial moons, confusing moths and overwhelming their senses.

Key Takeaways:

  • Moths have navigated for millions of years by the light of the moon.
  • The method of travel is called transverse orientation.
  • Evolution couldn’t account for the proliferation of constant electric light.

“The story of the lamp and the moth is one of fatal attraction. The theory is that these primarily nocturnal insects have evolved to travel by the light of the moon and stars. This way of travel is called transverse orientation. An easy way to think about transverse orientation is to imagine a sailor traveling in the direction of the North Star. In theory, moths similarly follow the light source at a precise position and a precise angle to their bodies.”

Read more:

air bag

The Insane Physics of Airbags

We have already added seat belts and crumple zones to cars. Is there anything else we can include? How about we add an explosive in the steering wheel. Brilliant. That’s exactly what we will do. We will put a bomb in the car and it will save lives. Exploring the science behind the airbag.

Key Takeaways:

  • The original idea for the automotive airbag dates back to the early 1950s.
  • it’s a chemical reaction that produces gas to fill the bag—but that’s essentially an explosion.
  • The entire process of inflating the airbag during a crash occurs in fractions of seconds.

“It turns out the only way to get an airbag to inflate fast enough to be useful is with an explosive.”

Read more:

golden blood

Golden blood: the rarest blood in the world

Rh-null blood is extremely rare, with only about 40 people worldwide known to have it. This rarest of blood types lacks all 61 antigens in the Rh system. The first successful human blood transfusion happened in 1818, but even after that, many transfusion patients suffered sudden unexplained deaths. It wasn’t until 1909 that Austrian physician Karl Landsteiner figures out the basics of blood groups and cataloged the A, B, AB and O blood types, which are caused by proteins called antigens.

Key Takeaways:

  • What makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It’s very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.

“Golden blood sounds like the latest in medical quackery. As in, get a golden blood transfusion to balance your tantric midichlorians and receive a free charcoal ice cream cleanse. Don’t let the New-Agey moniker throw you. Golden blood is actually the nickname for Rh-null, the world’s rarest blood type.”

Read more:

Science of Coffee

A chemistry teacher’s guide to the perfect cup of coffee

Can chemistry help us make the perfect cup of coffee? You are about to find out how.
Science can help us explain how these ideas and tips might work – and how to make the ultimate cup of coffee. If you are a coffee connoisseur (or even if you are not!) I know you will pick up a few tips.

Key Takeaways:

  • Various aspects of the brewing process are looked at with tips on how to improve it.
  • Types of coffee and grinds are looked at as well.
  • Equipped with the knowledge of the science behind the extraction process, a better morning coffee is within your grasp.

“Sometimes you just want a caffeine hit to wake you up, but if you appreciate the finer points of a cup of coffee, it’s worth going right down to the chemistry of the water, milk, sugar – and salt”

Read more:

The outrageous plan to haul icebergs to Africa

A growing issue around the world is the shortage of fresh water. However, experts have come up with a plan that includes towing large icebergs from Antarctica to areas in need of the water. The amount of fresh water that would result from a melting iceberg is more than what the world consumes of freshwater. These proposals have been present for many years but never acted upon. Many places in Africa are considering the possibilities of this idea and how difficult it could be getting an iceberg to where it is needed.

Key Takeaways:

  • Experts are seriously considering harvesting Antarctic icebergs and hauling them to Cape Town.
  • This untapped flow of water has enticed scientists and entrepreneurs for over a century.

“As South Africa faces ever more severe water shortages, some experts are seriously considering a proposal to harvest Antarctic icebergs and haul them to Cape Town.”

Read more:

Flowers pollen bees

8 Super Fragrant Flowers That Pollinators Love – Birds and Blooms

Flowers are not only visually stunning, but they contribute in many other ways to the environment. There are many animals and birds that require these flowers to live. They produce pollen which is essential for many types of wildlife. These particular flowers are not only beautiful, but they actually do have many different purposes!

Key Takeaways:

  • Some people do not realize the power that plants actually do have in this world.
  • There are some animals out there that rely on the pollen and things that plants produce.
  • Not only do plants simply look pretty as a decoration, but they also have very practical purposes.

“Get more from your fragrant favorites, and create a romantic container garden on a patio or terrace with any one of these eight super sweet perennials.”

Read more: