Archives of Ask A Scientist!
About "Ask A Scientist!"
On September 17th, 1998 the Ithaca Journal ran its first "Ask A Scientist!" article in which Professor Neil Ashcroft , who was then the director of CCMR, answered the question "What is Jupiter made of?" Since then, we have received over 1,000 questions from students and adults from all over the world. Select questions are answered weekly and published in the Ithaca Journal and on our web site. "Ask A Scientist!" reaches more than 21,000 Central New York residents through the Ithaca Journal and countless others around the world throught the "Ask a Scientist!" web site.
Across disciplines and across the state, from Nobel Prize winning scientist David Lee to notable science education advocate Bill Nye, researchers and scientists have been called on to respond to these questions. For more than seven years, kids - and a few adults - have been submitting their queries to find out the answer to life's everyday questions.
There are a few exceptions. Wood is mostly a combination of molecules containing carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. When wood burns, it combines with the oxygen in the air to make water and carbon dioxide, neither of which burn. If wood is burned in air without enough oxygen, some of carbon forms carbon monoxide, which is a very poisonous gas that can be burned.
Most of the natural fuels also contain carbon and form carbon dioxide when burned in air. Carbon dioxide is a "greenhouse" gas which traps heat in the atmosphere, and is leading to global warming. Hydrogen only forms water when it burns with oxygen, and is the cleanest fuel known. The least polluting energy cycle is to use solar energy to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen, and then burn the hydrogen when you need a fuel.
Under conditions found on Earth, water doesn't burn, but if a water molecule were put into the center of a very hot star, its nuclei would fuse giving off more energy. The ultimate nuclear ash is iron which is the lowest energy nucleus. Iron and nickel are formed in very high amounts when a giant star blows up forming a supernova. That is why so many meteorites are nickel-iron in nature. The whole reason for bringing this up is that when the universe was created, only very light atoms were formed. With the exception of hydrogen, practically every atom seen on Earth was formed in the furnace of a supernova.
- I know that a TV screen is made up of lots of blue, green and red dots, so why does the light coming out of it look blue from a distance?
- How does a fluorescent light bulb work?
- How do people know how to make electricity?
- How do you make a man made element?
- Why is a mirror left-right reversed, and not up-down backwards?
- How does sonar work?
- What is a Green Flash?
- Is time travel possible?
- Why do coals appear 'red hot' in a fire and is this the hottest spot in a fire?
- Why does wood turn to ashes in my fireplace?