December 19, 2012

The Science Behind Rudolph’s Shiny Red Nose – The Daily Orbit

Understanding the science behind Rudolph’s bright red nose

The sun is about to reach its solar maximum

And a CERN lullaby

Let’s get the holidays’ started on today’s Daily Orbit!

Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson….

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen but do you recall, why Rudolph is the most famous reindeer of all. Because of his red nose duh. But why is it so red? Well, we’ll look to science to answer that question. Scientists say it’s because Rudolph’s nose is richly supplied with red blood cells to protect it from freezing in extreme temperatures and to regulate brain temperature. Researchers found a 25% higher density in blood vessels in reindeer noses than in humans. The team said the higher density of mucous glands in reindeers’ noses maintains an optimal climate during changing weather conditions. So as they pull Santa’s sleigh, the increased blood flow keeps the surface warm. But why is Rudolph’s even brighter than others? Researchers joked that alcohol could be a factor. Perhaps, Rudolph’s been hitting the eggnog a little too hard. You naughty reindeer!

Let’s us move on to another hot, bright object – the sun. The sun’s solar activity is marked in roughly 11-year cycles, minimum to minimum, with solar maximum peaking in the middle. Well that time has come. We will reach solar maximum — the peak of its sunspot count – during the summer and fall months of 2013. Why does that matter to us? Well, the sun’s whims can affect our technology-dependent lives by knocking out phones and melting transformers. A single sunspot has a magnetic field thousands of times that of Earth’s. The magnetic lines can get crossed up and cause a release of energy, producing electromagnetic radiation in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. But don’t get too worried yet, scientists say that we are more prepared than ever before to detect this unstable space weather.

So Mom’s…you know the times you just shove a candy bar or Twinkie at your kid for snack time to get ‘em to shut up? Well, with 32% of US children obese, why don’t you try shoving veggies and cheese at them instead? Researchers say that simply taking away snack time to regulate your child’s weight could backfire. So switch it up. In a recent study, researchers found that children who snacked on a combination of vegetables and cheese needed significantly fewer calories to feel satisfied than children who ate a plate of potato chips. So veggies instead of chips! Got it? Moving on…

Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep big collider. Well, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) will be giving its Large Hadron Collider some much needed zzzz’s. Having just completed its first 3 years of proton runs, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator will be getting a break for some maintenance. The collider has produced important finds in the last 3 years, including the potential discovery of the Higgs boson, or “God” particle, by proton-on-proton beam collision experiments. Representatives from CERN said that the “LHC’s performance has exceeded all expectations over the last three years!” So good job LHC! Rest well big collider and we will see you in 2015!

Would you like to know exactly how much dirt and pollution you’re sucking into your lungs at any given moment? Well, researchers are working on that! A team of scientists from the University of California, San Diego have developed a group of small, portable sensors that can monitor air pollution and air quality in real time on a smartphone. The technology, called CitiSense, detects carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone and then produces color-coded readings on a smartphone based on EPA quality rating. The sensors are still a little bulky, but moving forward they plan to create and implement a wireless network that would include hundreds of miniscule environmental sensors on cell phones. I don’t know if I want to constantly know how much pollution I’m exposed to. It might just be depressing.

Well that’s all for your Daily Orbit! Where’s that eggnog, Rudolph?

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