New Chemicals

In 1965, the CAS Chemical Registry System listed 211,934 synthetic chemicals. In 2006, that number rose to 88,758,285 and it’s still growing. Many of the chemicals are in products you use everyday from cosmetics to plastic toys.

Many soak through our skin or are breathed in and can be detected inside our bodies. For instance, researchers sprayed the common household oil, WD-40, on volunteers’ fingertips, and detected it in their blood five minutes later.

The average American male has a sperm count 75% lower than 40 years ago. Could this be partially due to these chemicals?

Radio Waves and Snowflakes

In a 1980 television show, popular astronomer Carl Sagan said, “All of the radio waves from space ever studied equal less than the power of a single snowflake hitting the ground.”

That wasn’t quite true then, but it was close. Today, with many more radio telescopes and many more years of collecting astronomical radio waves, the total power of all the waves studied from space is still much less than the energy your body used while you read this post.

Astronomer Carl Sagan, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Cost of Electricity

If you leave a 60 watt light on for 24 hours, and if your electricity costs about 15 cents per kilowatt/hour, then that light will cost less than 25 cents. If you accidentally leave it on for a whole month, the cost will still only be under $8.00. But there is a hidden cost. The power to run that light comes from a generating station that is most likely either a fossil fuel plant that pollutes the air, or is nuclear, which is risky. If you and thousands of other people turned off unnecessary lights, we may be able to use fewer nuclear or fossil-fuel generating stations.

Molecules

We tend to think of molecules as sub-microscopic little things, and most are. However, with a process known as cross-linking, some molecules are quite large. Cross-linking is used to make plastic, paint, and synthetic rubber stronger. In the same way you can separate pieces of gravel, yet separating a large boulder is much more difficult, cross-linked materials resist separation.

If you are old enough, you may remember when most plastic items were fragile. If you dropped a camera or remote control on the floor, it would shatter. Modern plastics are usually cross-linked so shattering is much less common.

Now, your phone’s casing is made from a single cross-linked molecule. The rubber part of the tires on your car are one molecule each. In fact, the paint on your car is one giant molecule.

This rather typical wheel and tire was shot throught with a wooden board during the Alaska earthquake. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons