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.
Turning now to the sun and earth, the quickest answer to the question is to divide the volume of the sun by the volume of the earth, to find an answer of 1.3 million earths. Indeed, the sun is quite large. But, here we have only thought about the volume, which means: to fit this many earths, we will have to break them all up and crush them together to remove all of the extra spaces in between. If, instead, we decide to pack the earths carefully inside the sun without breaking any, then we will always be left with some extra spaces in between, as when stacking marbles or cannon balls. Nature has taught us the most efficient arrangement for such stacking. The atoms in metals like copper, silver and gold are packed in the best possible arrangement, something called "close packing". Even with this close packing, still about 26% of the space always goes to waste. So, in the end, we will only be able to fit about a million earths inside the sun. Keep in mind, though, that after all of this careful packing, all of these millions earths will quickly burn up into something called a plasma.
- If fire needs air to breathe and the sun is a ball of fire, how does the sun stay lit if there is no air in space?
- How do they measure how far away stars are?
- What is the aurora borealis and why does it occur?
- Where do tornadoes come from?
- Why is it you can see lightning as it goes through the air, but not a laser beam?
- Does the mass of the Earth increase with the increasing population? If not, why not?
- In space, are solar panels being used for power? What about nuclear power?
- How many dimensions are there?
- Can lava rock be heated and turned back into lava?
- Why does the moon rise and set in a few hours some nights and on other nights, the moon will rise at early darkness and still be in the sky the next morning?