Go Ask Your Father: Iron, Hemoglobin, Quarks, and Far Out Man

Happy Ground Hog Day! Our groundhog saw his shadow so it’s 6 more weeks of winter for us.

I love the snow. I love the cold. For now, anyway. When winter is over I’ll be done with it, but for now, I’m enjoying it. However, Mother Nature is playing roulette with the weather. Tuesday we had 6 inches of snow that cancelled school. Wednesday we had a half inch of ice that cancelled school. Today it’s raining and 4 C. Tonight the temperature will drop to -15. Sunday it goes back up to 3. Maybe she’s not playing roulette. Maybe she’s on a trampoline. Up. Down. Up. Down….

Bang was read a book about rockets and he came to the word sub-orbital. He sounded it out perfectly. Sub. Orbital. However, when he put it all together it because suh borbital. No matter how much I tried to correct him, he just couldn’t get it right. We ended up in fits of laughter and I gave up the battle.

1. Why is your hemoglobin low?

I went to give blood back in January. It’s something I love doing it because provides me a chance to save someone’s life and it costs my nothing but little prick in my arm. Plus, I get juice and cookies afterwards, too. My university had blood drives twice a year. Once in the spring and once in the fall and I would give both times. Here, there is a drive 5 times a year and I try to give 4 of those times. The boys have been coming with me for a year now. Of course, they both fear needles like normal people fear falling out of airplanes, but they come for the cookies. Bang loves to watch them put the needle in and is full of questions for the nurses. However, this time, when they tested my hemoglobin, it was too low. For the first time ever, I was unable to give blood. My only guess as to why it was low is because I gave blood three times last year, two of which were in August and November. Having done that and being over 40 (aka not as young as I used to be) my iron hadn’t had time to replenish. Though, Google tells me it could be dehydration, lead poisoning, or kidney failure. Tip: don’t use Google to diagnose your body.

2. Why do we have iron in our blood?

It would take the iron from 450 people to make a sword. In our bodies, only 1 part in 10,000 is iron. Iron is a major component of hemoglobin. If my hemoglobin count is low, so is my iron. Hemoglobin and iron are important component in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. It also maintains healthy cells, skin, hair (just not my hair), and nails. Males have about 4 grams of iron while females have 3.5 grams. So never mind the gym, your blood is pumping iron 24/7.

3. What’s a quark?

It’s what a subatomic duck says! If you get it, welcome to nerd club. The name was chosen in 1964 from the novel “Finnigan’s Wake”.

Three quarks for Muster Mark.

If you think atoms are the smallest things on Earth, you’re wrong. Atoms’ nuclei are consist of protons and neutrons. Those protons and neutrons are made of quarks. There are 6 kinds of quarks (and antiquarks): up, down, top, bottom, strange, and charm. Particles made of quarks are called hadrons. You may have heard that really big hadron smasher aptly named The Large Hadron Collider. It is the facility that is large (26.7 km circumference) and not the hadrons (about the size of a certain president’s common sense). Fun fact: When two quarks are pulled apart, their bond gets stronger until they are separated. Once separated they form two sets of quarks. I could go into more detail and explain their baryon and lepton numbers but I’d just be copying and pasting because the rest of it is so far over my head it’s suh borbital.

4. What’s the farthest people have been from Earth?

I, myself, have a tendency to drift away from Earth from time to time often enough. Lalaland is most definitely not a place on Earth. DW radios me back in; “Hello, Earth to Eric”. However, some people seem to be so far Earth they can’t return. Those people withstanding, the farthest humans have been from Earth were in orbit around the moon. That put them 248,655 miles away. This was accomplished by the Apollo 13 crew; Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert while passing over the far side of the moon 158 miles from the lunar surface. However, the farthest spacecraft from Earth is 119 times farther. Launched September 5, 1977 Voyager 1 is now 13,158,907,100 miles away. It was officially outside our solar system an in interstellar space in 2013. To see the 115 images and hear the music, sounds, and greetings on it’s Golden Disk, visit this NASA site.

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Go Ask Your Father: Static Electricity, Space Deaths, Metallurgy, Seasons

“Day three. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day.”

Thanks, A Momma’s View for the challenge


I don’t know if your weather is acting all wonky, too, but ours is a bit off its rocker. The temps are reaching 20-22 degrees (C) (70-74F). Once upon a time snow suits were worn under Halloween costumes. I’m really hoping this isn’t the calm before the storm. I’m really hoping that winter isn’t going to be as long and cold as summer was long and hot. This week has been the ideal perfect temperature. Sunny. A little breeze. No sign of hurt-your-face-cold. No sign of that four letter bad word s-n-o-w. Though it’s not bad to me, I like s-n-o-w.

1. What’s static electricity and how does it make a balloon stick to the wall?

Static electricity is a great way to study electricity without getting hurt. Mostly. It’s hilarious to watch kids go down a plastic slide and get to the bottom and see their hair standing on end. Or shock each other after jumping on the trampoline in sock feet. It’s even worse in the winter when the air is dryer. Speaking of dryer, we laundry doers have a great time battling static. All those dry clothes rubbing together can make a lightning bolt of it. The easiest way to think of it is as shell. On the shell are electrons and different elements have a different number of electrons. When two object rub against each other, like your butt going down the slide, some electron swapping occurrs. The atoms that have space on their shell take electrons from the other surface that doesn’t have room for more. The thug surface that stole electrons is not negatively charged while the victimized surface that lost electrons is positively charged (it now has more protons than electrons). Thank to your butt you are negatively charged, too, no matter how optomistic you are. Since like charges repel each other (just like magnets) your negatively charged hair stands on end as each strand repels all the others. Mine doesn’t do that. Then you go and touch something that is grounded and you release your negativity and are shocked to feel it happen. What you are feeling is all the electrons moving to the neutrally charged surface. It can be upwards of 25,000 volts! So when you rub a balloon on your head, electrons transfer from your hair to the balloon. Now the balloon is negatively charged and those electrons are attracted to the protons on the wall and the balloon sticks.

2. Has anyone ever died in space?

There have been four space vehicular accidents since 1967 that has killed four cosmonauts (Russian astronauts) and 14 astronauts. The first cosmonaut actually died when his space capsule hit the ground at roughly 150 mph when the capsule’s parachute failed to open upon reentry. On June 30, 1971 3 cosmonauts died after detatching from the space station, Salyut 1. A pressure valve accidently opened and they suffocated. Georgi Dobrovolski, Viktor Patsayev, and Vladislav Volkov are the only three to have ever died in space (above 62 miles). In January of 1986 seven astronauts died when the Challenger space shuttle exploded 73 seconds after lift-off. A faulty O-ring caused a fuel leakage and the demise of a great crew, among them, teacher Christa McAuliffe. In 2003 seven more astronauts died upon reentry when damage to teh thermal protection system caused structural damage and the shuttle broke apart over Texas and Louisanna. Many more have given their lives during training and testing. Without any of them we would not be where are today as we explore the cosmos.

3. How do you build metal? With wood or something?

Poor Bang is slightly confused on the production of metal. No wood goes into the making of any metal. Copper was first discovered around 9000 BC. Since then many alloys (metal mixtures like tin and copper to make bronze) have been created. To make metal you first need to mine it. Vast amounts of rock and dirt need to be excavated to collect the ore (raw metal, like bread is raw toast). Excavating is relatively the same for all metals. Refining and producing specific metals requires different processes. To make copper an added chemical binds to the copper and is then submerged in water. Air is pumped in from the bottom and the coated copper clings to the bubbles and rises to the surface. Then it’s put in a smelter and gets melted at 2,000 degrees. Not your normal oven temperature. Silica is added and any iron in the ore mixes with it and rises to the surface and is skimmed off, leaving the copper at the bottom. Simply put, this copper mixture is only 95% pure, still impure enough to leave deformities. An electric current is run through it copper is deposited on cathodes while the impurities (gold, silver, selenium, and tellurium) form a slime on the bottom and are process separately to be recovered. This is very simplified. To learn more visit your friendly, local blacksmith. Thanks to 12,000 years of science we have metal for everything.

4. Why do we have seasons?

So we don’t have too much summer or too much winter.

Just kidding. You didn’t believe me, did you?

This answer is easy compared to making metal. The Earth is tilted at a 23.5 degree angle. So instead of spinning perfectly upright it spins more like this thing…

But it’s not the spin of the Earth that gives us the seasons. That rotation gives us night and day. The tilt of the axis changes the angle of the sun’s rays as the Earth travels through its orbit around the sun. When the northern axis points toward the sun, the northern hemisphere experiences baseball, beach days, and long hot, days. When the southern end points to the sun the north gets football, skiing, and long, cold nights. The southern hemisphere gets the exact opposite. I still can’t comprehend Christmas being in the summer time. Y’all down there are weird. I’m surprised you haven’t fallen off the Earth yet, being upside down all the time.

U is for Universe: #atozchallenge

Infinitesimally tiny we are. It would take 59,520 people stacked standing upright to reach outer space. If you stacked that many ants atop each other it wouldn’t be the size of a human. It would be 200 feet tall. We are closer in mass to that of a single atom than we are to the size of the Earth. The entire human population can fit comfortably inside Texas.   As we expand outward we get even smaller.

1,300 Earths would fit in our solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter.
1,300,000 Earths would fit inside our sun.
Arcturus, the largest known star, is 26 times bigger than the sun.

Continue expanding outward and we see the solar system. Zoom out further we can see our Milky Way galaxy. Continue outward and our galaxy turns to a smudge as we see millions of other galaxies each with their own population of billions of stars. Continue still further and we see our known universe. There is no comparison between you and the Universe. 

10 to the power of 21. That is 10 to the 21st. 1021.  That is 10 with 21 zeros after it.

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = 10 septillion. That’s the estimate on how many stars there are in the Universe. If you’re not familiar with Hubble’s “Deep Field” photograph, NASA pointed that famous telescope at a completely empty piece of sky. Over 10 days it collected this image that represents just 1/24 millionth of the night sky:

Two of those points of light are stars within our Milky Way. All the rest are galaxies. Yes, galaxies comprised of millions and millions of their own stars. 

How amazing is this? How amazing is it knowing that there is something so much larger than ourselves. Something so large we can’t possible begin to imagine the size and scope of it. Yet, being what seems to us, infinitely huge, it’s all made of the same stuff.

The five most populus elements in the universe are hydrogen, helium, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. Ironically, those are the same five most abundant elements here on Earth. We are not here and the rest of the universe out there. We are the Universe. We are made of stars.

 

Better Than Star Wars

Sometimes when you write one post it inspires ideas for your next. That’s what happened when I wrote last week’s episode of “Go Ask Your Father“.

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Crash asked what TIE stands for. A T.I.E. fighter is, of course, a Star Wars vehicle. It’s what Vader and his Empire gang fly. T.I.E stands for Twin Ion Engine.

 

While I was researching that answer I discovered how a twin ion engine works, I found a real life NASA story about ion engines. To put it as simply as I can, an ion engine takes a gas, like xenon, smashes them off each other so they lose electrons and then shove it through an electric field. When the ion is shot from the engine the rocket/spaceship/probe/whatever it’s attached to, it’s propelled forward. Thanks to Newton and his third law; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Hence, when the ion goes backwards, the rocket goes forward. If you’ve ever inflated a balloon just to let it go and watch it zoom around the room then you understand Newton’s third law. There’s your physics lesson for the day. There will be a test later.

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A long time ago, the year of 2007, NASA developed and successfully tested an ion engine (NSTAR). While the force generated was equal to the force needed to hold up a sheet of paper it could generate that force for incredibly long periods of time, think years, with incredibly little fuel. The DAWN mission, a mission to send an orbiter to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter to study Ceres and Vesta, uses this engine. It reached speeds over 41,000 kmh (25,500 mph).

“If you remember the TIE fighters that Darth Vader and the Evil Empire used to fight the rebel alliance, TIE stood for ‘twin ion engines’,” he said. “Well, Dawn does the Star Wars TIE fighters one better because we use three ion engines.”

However, NASA has improved upon that engine from 9 years ago. The NEXT (NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster) produces up to 3 times the amount of force as its predecessor and was tested continuously for 51,000 hours (6 years). Imagine having to fill up once every 6 years!

It doesn’t stop there, though. There is yet another ion engine being developed that will far exceed the performance capabilities of NEXT. The first engine (NSTAR) would be the equivalent of a ’92 Toyota Carolla. The NEXT would be a Corvette. The NSTAR a Lamborghini. Perhaps one day these engines will power our own vehicles and finally end our dependency on fossil fuels. Gas stations will look extremely different by then!

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Research gathered from:
NASA
New Scientist

This Taboo Word Challenge wasn’t too tough today! Today’s word was “in”.
To read more posts without the Taboo Word (in) or to join the challenge just click the blue frog…

To add the blue frog to your post get the InLinkz code.

 

Monday Humor

I just got back from a 4 mile run (it was a short one). I say “got back” what really happened was that I got off the treadmill. So my brain is tired now. This is what tired brain thinks is funny.

I took a selfie today. Well, I didn’t take it, per say. So I guess it’s just a photo of me. Oh, there’s a couple hundred thousand others in the picture, too. An ussie. It’s what we look like from space. If you look close, you can almost see our igloo from there!

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