Technology

Solar power scientists are now using molten salt to store the sun’s energy. Here’s the science of how it works.

Wind energy may have lots of fans but solar energy, we love you watts and watts! In June 2019, China’s Dunhuang molten salt solar thermal power plant hit 100MW, its maximum power levels. The plant will provide 390 million kWh of clean power each year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 3500 tons. And it can run 24-hours a day, even when the sun does not shine. It does this by storing energy in a molten salt solution for later use. More and more solar power plants are turning to molten salt to solve solar energy’s number one problem – where to get energy at nighttime or when the sun is behind clouds. Solar energy could be stored in normal batteries but batteries…
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Space

The American flags on the moon – are they still standing?

We’ve all seen the pictures of astronauts triumphantly placing an American flag on the surface of the moon, evidence of mankind’s excursion to a heavenly body far from home. But flag planting wasn’t as easy as the astronauts made it seem. American flags on the moon Apollo 11, the first mission to land on the moon, learned an important lesson about the moon’s surface when they tried to plant the American flag. It has been supposed that the dirt on the moon would be similar to earth’s. It was not and its unusual composition made the flag impossible to plant deeply into the soil. Unlike dirt granules on earth which are roundish, moon dirt is flattened with sharp edges. The granules tend to lock into…
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Chemical Reactions

Testing dishes for the presence of lead (and how to detect gunshot residue)

Uses for lead Lead metal is easy to work with and resists corrosion which makes it a desirable metal for many purposes. However, lead is also very dangerous to your health. Lead is used to create glass-like finish on walls, toys, or dishes. It also acts as a sealer to prevent moisture from damaging surfaces. These properties make it excellent for paint and coatings for walls and dishes. However, breathing in lead-based paint particles from the paint causes lead poisoning. Lead poisoning Lead poisoning occurs when lead enters the bloodstream and binds to enzymes in our body causing the enzymes to lose their critical functionality – everything from digestion to neural processing is impacted by lead poisoning. People suffering from lead poisoning may experience seizures…
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Animal Kingdom

An eagle has amazing eyes – it can even see UV light which lets it track an animal by its urine trail.

Eagles are regal, powerful animals. At the top of the bird food chain, they can grow up to 7-foot wide and weigh up to 15 lbs. They can carry their weight (15 pounds) while flying. This lets them carry an animal about the weight of a baby mule deer. Their eyes are extremely powerful, about 3-times more powerful than a human’s eye (their eyesight is about 20/5 vs. 20/20 for a human). An eagle’s eye fills a large portion of its head. Unlike a human, their eyes are fixed – they cannot move their eyes in the eyeball socket. To look around, they must turn their head. When hunting, they swivel their head back and forth looking for prey. Their fixed eye design gives the…
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Animal Kingdom

The shiny cocoons of the orange-spotted tiger clearwing butterfly look like beautiful gold jewels.

No, these golden beauties are not fine jewelry or decorative trinkets. Although they look metallic, they are actually made of chitin, the material that gives some insects their shiny look. And inside these chitin containers, are baby butterflies! The orange-spotted tiger clearwing butterfly (or mechantis polymnia) lives in the jungles from Mexico down to the Amazon forests. They are colorful orange, yellow, and black butterflies, similar to a monarch butterfly, and grow to about 3-inches wide. The shiny golden cocoons they spin contain pupae, the third stage of baby butterfly’s development. Since pupae cannot move and are unable to defend themselves, they often rely on the appearance of their cocoon to deter predators. It is believed that the shiny surface of the orange-spotted tiger clearwing’s…
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Animal Kingdom

Here’s why some people get bitten by mosquitoes more than others.

It’s true. Mosquitoes prefer biting some people over others and now scientists know why. As it turns out, about 20% of people are especially yummy to mosquitoes. Here’s why. Mosquitoes smell carbon dioxide Mosquitoes find victims by smelling carbon dioxide. They can smell it from across a large yard. People who exhale more carbon dioxide than others become targets. This is why children, who breathe smaller breaths, are bitten less often than adults. Mosquitoes prefer dark colors Just as we see with human beings, to a mosquito, certain colors stand out more than others. If you wear black, dark blue, or red, mosquitoes will swarm your way. Mosquitoes smell lactic acid Mosquitoes can also smell lactic acid, the chemical excreted when you exercise. They also…
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Space

Here’s what our solar system looks like while flying through space.

We know that planets revolve around the Sun but did you know the entire solar system is moving through space? The Sun and the entire solar system orbit around the center of the Milky Way galaxy at a speed of about 500,00 MPH. If we take into account the movement of the solar system, the planets movement around the Sun looks more like the animation above.
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Light

The absorption of light by blood experiment – an experiment with blood and colored lights.

The absorption of electromagnetic radiation happens all around us. In fact, this absorption process is the cornerstone for many modern-day technologies. Absorption of electromagnetic radiations allows the conversion of solar energy into electricity. The absorption of microwave electromagnetic radiation is what makes radars work. And our bodies absorb electromagnetic radiation too. Certain frequencies are absorbed easier by our bodies than others. In this experiment, we will demonstrate the body’s absorption of a common frequency range of electromagnetic radiation – visible light. In a darkened room, we will hold a red LED flashlight to our thumb. The thumb will glow bright red indicating much of the light passed right through our thumb. When we hold a green LED flashlight to our thumbs however, almost all of…
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Technology

Watch this Air Force test sled reach a mind boggling 6,599 miles/hour (Mach 8.6).

Hold on tight because this video shows a high-speed test at the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico that makes us think the Air Force should be designing roller coasters. The sled in this video reaches a dazzling speed of 6,599 miles/hour. That's Mach for the science nerds.   The Holloman High Speed Test Track (HHSTT) is a United States Department of Defense/Air Force aerospace ground test facility located at Holloman Air Force Base in south-central New Mexico. According to the Air Force: "The Holloman High-Speed Test Track is a 10-mile long, precision-aligned track that provides scientists and engineers a platform from which to conduct their various missions. Tests on the track provide valid data on problems which cannot be solved by other ground…
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Space

Here’s what a flame looks like in space, where there is no gravity.

How a flame burns in space When a flame burns on earth, heated gases rise from the fire, drawing oxygen in and pushing combustion molecules out. As the flame burns, it heats the air around it and causes it to expand and rise upward. Denser air sinks downward to fill the void. The process continues in a sort of loop. This upward rising of air is what causes the classic teardrop shape we see in a candle flame. In microgravity however, hot gases do not rise. Air pretty much remains unmoved in all areas around the flame. So an entirely different process, called molecular diffusion, drives flame behavior and gives it an unusual round appearance. Since no flow of air replaces the oxygen that is…
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