By Chitwan Khosla, Features Editor
Science is about questions and looking for their answers. If Newton hadn’t wondered and looked for why the apple fell to the Earth instead of going up, we might have never found out about gravity. So, like Newton, this section is a quest to find answers in the field of science, logic, and theories. If you have a question about science that you’d like answered, send it to Chitwan at email@example.com
We have always heard and read that UV rays from the sun are harmful, but how exactly do they cause harm?
To begin, we must realize that UV rays, or ultraviolet rays, are not always harmful. In some cases, UV rays are actually useful. They help in some medical treatments and provide the essential vitamin, Vitamin D3 to the body. Even though the sun is their primary source, UV rays are not just emitted by sun but also by other objects like mercury lamps, tanning lamps, laser machines, and often during welding. UV rays are electromagnetic rays that are invisible to us.
Exposure to these rays for excessively long periods of time can be harmful; it may cause sun burns and even skin cancer. This happens because UV rays damage our genetic material in skin cells by striking the epidermis (outermost) layer of our skin and weakening our immune system. UV rays also can adversely affect one’s eyesight by damaging the retina or causing cataract and macular degeneration. UV rays have short wavelengths but high frequency, higher than that of X-rays. This allows these rays to cause changes in the bio-chemical bonds between atoms and ions. The breaking down of the bonds causes serious damage as there are active ions formed. This is the major reason behind the diseases caused by overexposure to UV rays.
We can prevent these by taking some simple preventative measures. Avoid artificial tanning, don’t stay long in sunlight, always use sunscreen with high SPF before exposure to sun, wear good quality sunglasses, and don’t look into the sun. Also, don’t eat or drink anything which has been exposed to sun for a long time; plants and animals get affected by UV rays just like us.
What is geoengineering?
Geoengineering is a combination of techniques and processes to intervene in Earth’s climatic conditions and alter the factors that affect climate. The University of Oxford started the Oxford Geoengineering Programme in 2010 at Oxford Martin School. Their website informs that proposed techniques of geoengineering can be categorized in two main groups: Solar Radiation Management (SRM) and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR).
The website also explains that SRM techniques focus on curbing the rising temperature issues by controlling the sunlight entering Earth’s atmosphere through techniques such as introducing space reflectors and stratospheric aerosols. CDR techniques focus on the removal of excess carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases from Earth’s biosphere in a number of ways such as afforestation, ocean fertilization, ocean alkalinity enhancement, and bio-charring.
Both these main geoengineering techniques aim to reverse the drastic climate changes due to pollution, global warming, and other environmental issues. However, there is a lot of ongoing debate around the validity of geoengineering as some studies conducted have concluded that geoengineering practices can actually have reverse effects.
What is shrimp plastic?
It is actually called shrilk. Shrilk is a form of bio-plastic made from the chitin present in shrimp shells and from a protein in silk. It was developed by researchers of Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University who wanted to make a bio-degradable plastic which is strong and lightweight.
Shrilk can be produced at a large scale and can be moulded into every imaginable thing like other plastics. It can even be used in 3-D printers to print some complex models. It is also safe to package and store food products. Apart from these benefits, this bio-plastic is easily disposable and degenerates in few weeks. The researchers at Wyss Institute have also claimed through an experiment that after shrilk degenerates, it provides nutrients to soil for plant growth as well. This leads to another optimal use of shrilk as bio-fertilizer to enhance plant growth. This bioplastic could be a revolution in plastic industry and we might be soon looking at a time when shrilk will be extensively used.