Fun Facts about Recycling

Since this week was the thirteenth anniversary of America Recycles Day, I wanted to remind you that there is a funny side to the whole recycling and e-waste discussion. For example,  did you know all the valuables you could take out of one million recycled cell phones?

How about: 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, 33 pounds of palladium, and 35,000 pounds of copper! Maybe recycling cell phones could pay for itself – that’s a lot of precious metals…

The federal government has only just started to get involved in electronic waste recycling; most initiatives until now have been on the state level. But some corporations have committed themselves to this effort. HP is one such company.  To date, HP has made one billion ink cartridges out of recycled plastics they collected from their printing and imaging supplies.  The company estimates that their recycling of 160 million ink cartridges and 1.3 billion plastic water bottles – instead of using non-recycled plastic for their products – was the equivalent of taking 3,000 cars off the road for a year!

There is a lesson to be learned here: The more we, as individuals, recycle on  our own, and support the companies who recycle on a large scale, the greater impact we can have on keeping our planet green.

Dolphins in Danger Near Hawaii

Another species is in danger of extinction and the federal government has gone into action. In response to the declining population of a particular type of dolphin, known as the ‘false killer whale’ the federal government is recommending that they be placed on the endangered species list.

The dolphins, which are not whales at all, and which do not even look like killer whales, were studied by the National Marine Fisheries Service. They discovered at least 29 separate threats to the dolphin population which is off the coast of Hawaii. Fears of inbreeding and becoming trapped in fishing lines prompted the action. Although these dolphins live in tropical and temperate water all over the world, the population near Hawaii has reached alarmingly low numbers, about 150 to 170 at most, within about 90 miles of Hawaii.

Sea Level is Rising, But By How Much?

Scientists have been looking for evidence of melting ice in Greenland, which could lead to a disastrous rise in sea level around the world. Finding the water temperature to be relatively warm 40 degrees Fahrenheit, this is just one more bit of information researchers are looking for and need to help answer one of our age’s most pressing questions: How fast is the world’s ice going to melt?

For a long time the belief among scientific experts was that it would take thousands of years for the enormous ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica to collapse, with the concomitant rise in sea level of about 7 inches in this century, the same as it rose in the last century. But this seems to be a hopeful, but unrealistic surmise. The truth is closer to a rise of between three and six feet by the year 2100. Three feet would mean a serious threat to coastal life as we know it.  A six-foot rise would cause a situation that would place thousands of square miles of the American coastline under water. The displacement of tens of millions of people in Asia would also occur.

More research is needed to help decipher what the future holds in store for the next century.

Where Does Daylight Savings Come From?

Now that daylight savings has come to a close, many people are wondering when and why the practice was started in the first place.

Ben Franklin was actually the first to suggest the concept. Franklin wrote of being awakened at 6 a.m. while serving as an ambassador to France, and of being surprised to note that the sun rose much earlier than he normally did. He realized that enormous amounts of resources would be saved if he and his companions rose before noon, and by doing so burned less midnight oil. He then wrote to a newspaper of his idea. So, he was the first to understand that daylight should be taken advantage of; however, he did not really know what to do with his realization.

Daylight savings were recognized in a more major way during World War I. Germany was the first state to implement the time changes, as a means of reducing artificial lighting to save coal for the war. The practice was soon adopted by many.

In 1918 the U.S. federal law set the start and end of daylight saving time for the states that chose to follow it. In World War II, however, daylight savings became mandatory for the whole country, also as a way to save war resources. After the war ended, daylight savings became optional once again.

Water Found on Moon

There are some places on the moon that are wetter than some pretty dry places on earth, like the Sahara Desert. According to the results of an experiment conducted last October by NASA scientists, water, in the form of ice, mixed with soil, was discovered at the bottom of a crater which never sees light, near the south pole of the moon. The dry Sahara sands vary in their water content from about 2 to 5 percent. The water content in the soil in the 60-mile-wide, 2-mile-deep crater named Cabeus was estimated to range from 5.6 percent to as much as 8.5 percent.

NASA scientists, who have been pushing for a return of earthlings to the moon, believe that it would be possible to use this water for drinking after extraction from the soil and then purification. They also speculate that the water could even be used for rocket fuel after the moon water is broken down into its component parts, hydrogen and oxygen, using the fuel to either get back home to earth, or travel on to Mars and beyond.

Unfortunately the hopes of NASA for further moon explorations have recently been dashed. Despite the fact that five years ago the Bush administration supported NASA’s new “Constellation” program to send astronauts back to the moon, President Obama nixed the plan, stating that the plan is too expensive, and anyway “we have already been there.” A compromise plan was reached, passed by Congress and signed by Obama just last week, postponing the program for now, at least for explorers of the human variety.

Are Broken Bones Stronger After They Heal?

Perhaps you have heard this pseudo-fact, or ‘old wives tale’? the logic goes like this: Since we know that bones, just like muscles, grow and strengthen when worked out or put under pressure, therefore the more pressure the bone is under, the stronger it will become. This is a fact, but only up to a point. This explains why certain athletes, such as fencers and tennis players, develop greater bone mass in the arms and legs which they use more in their game; and it also explains why astronauts, under the influence of almost zero gravity, develop bone loss while in space.

However, there is no evidence that a healed broken bone is any stronger than it was before the break. The way a bone heals itself is a remarkable process. First something called a callus forms at the site of the fracture. Calcium is deposited there as an aid to the eventual rebuilding of the bone. The plaster cast which is usually put on the limb is there to protect the site so that it can heal unimpeded. And since there is actually no pressure placed on the limb during healing, the bone there actually becomes weaker, with the exception of the site where the callus is being formed, the place where calcium is being deposited.

The result of this amazing natural process is that there might be a short period during the healing process when the site of the fracture is actually stronger than the bone surrounding it. But later, when you begin to use your arm once again, the areas will reach equal strength. The place of the break is no more, or less, likely to break again. In tests done on healed fractures, the likelihood of another break was equally distributed, including along the place of the previous fracture.

I wouldn’t be too disappointed. After all, how many other things are even as strong as they were before  breaking? That’s the problem with those old wives tales. They just don’t appreciate what we do have.