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Volume 4 Issue 9 Jan-Jul 2011

Special Issue - Climate Changes



Online full text at

Supported by OsterMed Ltd.


e, Ian and Alyson at OsterMed Ltd are very pleased to support the climate change competition and the Young Scientists Journal. The world faces many major problems but perhaps the greatest long-term threat to our way of life or even our very existence is the prospect of catastrophic climate change. Although people of our generation, the current politicians, are beginning to take this seriously and to encourage investment in cleaner energy and better insulation of homes, I suspect that we all know that this is not nearly enough. The fact that the worst downstream consequences of dwindling natural reserves and escalating greenhouse gases are still many years away, and that many people are not convinced of the serious nature of the problem, enables politicians in all countries to take some small steps but to shy away from really big decisions that could have a major impact. It seems likely that for seriously damaging global warming to be attenuated or averted, two things need to happen almost in parallel. We need more breakthroughs in the production of clean or carbon-neutral energy, and we need the worlds’ politicians and peoples to come together in concerted action to bring about the necessary changes. Regarding the first point, in our life times we have seen astounding revolutions in biology, medicine and computing, but mostly this has occurred with step-wise advances in ideas, understanding and technology – but all proceeding at a great pace. With so much energy freely available to us in the form of electromagnetic radiation, heat, wind and tides and chemical/ nuclear reactions, surely we will also see a revolution in the production of energy whereby we no longer need to rely on fossil fuels. Again this may come from stepwise advances with many people building on the ideas of others. Hopefully the scientists and entrepreneurs of the younger generation will be at the forefront and we will see new technologies tested and implemented more quickly than we ever thought possible. We were encouraged by many of the ideas presented by the entrants to the climate change competition. With regard to the second point, it is the younger generation who will have to cope with the most damaging effects of global warming, and the world needs its young citizens to make their voices heard, and to come up with new ideas for how to implement changes in the way energy is used and to reduce and eventually eliminate reliance on fossil fuels.

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Volume 4 | Issue 9 | Jan - Jul 2011

Contents... Editorial Pamela Barazza Flores .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Cleodie Swire .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Climate Changes Bio-diesel and Bio-gas: Alternatives of the present Aiswarjya Mahapatra, Rit Nanda .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 4 Climate change: Our choice Nick Hilton.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Harnessing the power of radioactivity Naomi Robertson .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 Noctilucent clouds or polar mesospheric clouds Gustavo Bonilla .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13 Can nuclear power save the climate? Christopher Loyn .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 16 Can space-based solar power save the climate? Jamie Faure .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .20 Can “terra preta� be used to combat climate change? Kristi Lui .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24 Top ten easy-read books on climate change Hannah Todd .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 28 Water as an alternative fuel Sandy Clark .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30

Research Article Do artificial nails and nail polish interfere with the accurate measurement of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry? Otana Jakpor .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33

Interview Engineers' advice to students Will Goldsmith, Sam Gearing, Kim Dunn, George Harvey, Cleodie Swire .. .. .. .. .. .. 38

Published by MEDKNOW PUBLICATIONS & MEDIA PVT. LTD. B5-12, Kanara Business Center, Off Link Rd, Ghatkopar (E), Mumbai - 400075, INDIA. Phone: 91-22-6649 1818 Web:

Young Scientists Journal

Volume 4 | Issue 9 | Jan - Jul 2011

Editorial Board Chief Editor: Pamela Barraza Flores, Mexico Lead Editor: Courtney Williams, UK

Editorial Team Members Team Leader: Courtney Williams, UK Christopher Barry, UK Kim Dunn, UK Natalie Hackman, UK Aaron Hakim, Canada Otana Jakpor, USA Kartik Madiraju, Canada Muna Oli, USA Kimi Tur, UK Alex Lee, Hong Kong Jarred Goodman, USA Jonathan Wang, USA

Publicity Team Izy Wingrad, UK Cleodie Swire, UK

Technical Team Team Leader: Malcolm Morgan, UK Jacob Hamblin-Pyke, UK Andrew Sultana, UK Jeffrey Chan, UK

Content Sub-Team: Team Leader: George Harvey, UK Sam Gearing, UK (Multimedia) Will Goldsmith, UK Tim Perkins, UK

Young Advisory Board Jonathan Rogers, UK Malcolm Morgan, UK

Internationals Advisory Board Team Leader: Christina Astin, UK Ghazwan Butrous, UK Mark Orders, UK Joanne Manaster, USA Paul Soderberg, USA Andreia Azevedo-Soares, UK Lee Riley, USA Paul Soderberg, USA Corky Valenti, USA Anna Grigoryan, USA / Armenia Vince Bennett, USA Don Eliseo Lucero-Prisno, UK Mike Bennett, USA Linda Crouch, UK Tony Grady, USA Steven Chambers, UK Ian Yorston, UK Thijs Kouwenhoven, China Charlie Barclay, UK

This magazine web-based Young Scientists Journal is online journal open access journal ( It has been in existence since June 06 and contains articles written by young scientists for young scientists. It is where young scientists get their research and review articles published. Published by MEDKNOW PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA PVT. LTD. B5-12, Kanara Business Center, Off Link Road, Ghatkopar (E), Mumbai - 400075, INDIA. Phone: 91-22-6649 1818 Web:

Editorial The Young Scientists Journal team is very proud to present this new issue on climate change. This theme was proposed because we, young researchers, believe that there are changes that can be made to help reduce the effects and impacts of this worldwide dilemma. In this issue, you will come across articles about both new initiatives and old ideas that our authors believe in and hope that you will start to believe in too. This issue’s authors are very enthusiastic about science changing the planet’s future, and our future. It is exciting to know that real solutions to these problems lie in these scientists’ hands and yours too. Furthermore, you will find the results from our last article competition. I can assure you it was a very tough call. The winning articles were the one by Kristi Lui about a type of soil called terra preta which has a huge capacity for holding carbon dioxide, and the other one by Jamie Faure on how space-based solar power could be employed to feed our energy requirements. Our other competitors have produced great articles as well, proposing various other potential methods that we could employ to take the pressure off the depleting supply of fossil fuels. Are we the people who will see them put into practice? Outside of the competition, you will also find various other climate change themed articles in this issue. What are the other environmental effects have never been thought of? Noctilucent clouds are a phenomenon that NASA is now studying as it is thought that the rise in CO2 emissions is related to the clouds’ appearance since the 1950s. Also, take a look at the suggestions made by Hannah Todd on the top ten easy-read books about climate change. There is no better way to have fun and learn than reading a good book. Interviews and more articles make our new issue one that I have really enjoyed overseeing as Chief Editor. All the Editors, Professor Butrous and I have watched it transform into what you now have before you. We hope that you learn a lot from it and it makes you think about new ways to change our present and future. Can you think of any new solutions? But above all, we hope that you have fun with it.

Pamela Barazza Flores Chief Editor DOI: 10.4103/0974-6102.83363

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9


Editorial Recently, I became the Editorial Team Leader of the Young Scientists Journal and it fell to me to clear out the assortment of articles that had not made it to publication and which had been collecting for over 3 years. We have now updated the process, with a group of over ten Editors working to process the articles as quickly as possible. To supplement this new approach, we are going to launch an “Early Release� section that will store the edited articles online until a group large enough to make them into an issue is collected. We hope that this will make the development of the articles much more efficient and rewarding for the authors as they will hopefully be able to see the finished item much sooner after submitting the article. For anyone wishing to become an Editor, the process has also been simplified and improved. If you would like to contribute to the journal in this way, I will be happy to send you a simple document detailing the format to which we edit the articles and the stages of the editing process. If you feel certain that you would like to be an Editor, I will then send you an article for you to work on. When you finish and return the article to me, I provide feedback and ask you to make any necessary amendments. I hope you will consider joining the team as an Editor and becoming part of a dynamic global team of young science journalists. I look forward to hearing from you – just register as a user on the site and send a message to to express your interest in becoming an Editor.

Cleodie Swire Head of the Editorial Team DOI: 10.4103/0974-6102.83364


Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9


Climate Changes

Bio-diesel and Bio-gas: Alternatives of the present Aiswarjya Mahapatra, Rit Nanda School of Petroleum Technology, Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India. DOI: 10.4103/0974-6102.83365


Today’s world is extremely dependent on hydrocarbons for its energy requirements. Unfortunately, these resources are exhaustible and are being used up at a rapid rate. Thus, there is a need for alternative energy sources. Biofuels (biodiesel and biogas) provide an efficient and inexpensive alternative. This paper shows a cost comparison between biofuels and their hydrocarbon variants.

Introduction Biodiesel and biogas are two very good propositions to replace non-renewable energy sources like petroleum, natural gas and coal in the future. It is therefore necessary to ask whether or not these are viable propositions even in this petroleum age. In this paper, the authors have tried to answer this question and tried to justify as best as possible why there is a strong case for adopting these two as alternatives in the present day.

Biodiesel Biodiesel in this paper will refer to the biodiesel extracted from jatropha, unless otherwise mentioned. Jatropha is a drought-resistant perennial plant, growing well in marginal/poor soil. It is easy to establish, grows relatively quickly and lives, producing seeds, for 50 years. It produces seeds with an average oil content ranging from 37% up to 60%. The oil can 4

be combusted as fuel without being refined. It burns with a clear smoke-free flame and has been tested successfully as a fuel for simple diesel engines. The uses of jatropha are multiple. Though its main purpose is in the production of biodiesel, it has medical properties as well and can be used for the treatment of diseases and ailments like cancer, piles, snakebite, paralysis and dropsy. The press cakes that are formed when extracting oil from the seeds are good fertilisers. The oil extracted also has insecticidal properties. There are many benefits of using biodiesel. Firstly, it is a clean fuel. By “clean�, we mean it is friendly to the environment. The second major benefit of biodiesel is that it is highly biodegradable. Because of its very low degradability, crude is often a big problem in cases like oil spills. Biodiesel eliminates this problem. Biodiesel is also immensely helpful in reducing pollution as it significantly reduces CO2 emissions compared to the conventional diesel. By Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

using biodiesel, the emission of carbon dioxide is reduced by 80% and the emission of sulphur dioxide is reduced by 100%. Its use also results in a drop of cancer risks by 90%. Another major benefit is that it can be mixed with mineral oil diesel and the mixture can be used as fuel. Biodiesel as an alternative to mineral oil diesel It is interesting to ask, since a major chunk of petroleum in India goes to the transport sector, how effective biodiesel is as an alternative to mineral oil diesel, both in terms of performance and cost. A study[1] indicates that biodiesel can be used with mineral oil diesel in diesel engines. In fact, a mixture of 20% biodiesel along with 80% diesel, referred to as B20, has properties similar to the conventional diesel oil and can be used in normal diesel engines. It has also been established by experiments[2] that 2.6% biodiesel blended with diesel (B2.6) enhances the engine performance. To be able to commercially produce and market biodiesel, certain prerequisites need to be adhered to. The whole process can be divided into two phases: the agricultural phase and the industrial phase. The agricultural phase includes the scientific cultivation of jatropha. The industrial phase includes the production of jatropha oil and mixing it with diesel. The industrial process includes the extraction of jatropha oil from the seeds as well as the biodiesel production which is done by transesterification of the jatropha oil and methanol in the presence of a catalyst like NaOCH3. From a business perspective, if a person were to follow the above procedure, the cost that would be involved in making jatropha oil is given in Table 1.[3] This is quite close to the Indian public sector figure of `25/l. It has been already stated that B20 and B2.6 can be used in diesel engines and that B2.6 increases engine performance. B20’s cost would amount to: (0.2 × 100 × 21.34 + 0.8 × 100 × 32)/100 l = `29.87/100 l. This would mean a saving of `2.13 per 100 l compared to a base price of `32/l for diesel. Hence, it is definitely economically viable to use B20 as engine oil. It has also been proven that B2.6 increases the engine efficiency because the jatropha oil acts as an ignition-accelerator additive to the diesel oil. If one were to market this as high-quality diesel, the cost would amount to: Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Table 1: Costs involved in making biodiesel S. No. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 10. Total

For plant producing 530 l/day of biodiesel Jatropha oil Methanol Catalyst (25% NaOCH3) Neutralizer (HCl) Electricity Depreciation/Interest Maintenance Freight and transportation Blending cost

Cost/Rupees 17 0.83 0.48 0.06 0.48 1.00 0.24 0.95 0.30 21.34/l

Table 2: Engine emission results from the University of Idaho Emission with respect to 100% diesel Hydrocarbons Carbon monoxide Nitrous oxides Carbon dioxide Particulates

B100 (100% jatropha oil) (%)

B20 (%)

−52.4 −47.6 −10.0 +0.9 +9.9

−19 −26.1 −3.7 +0.7 −2.8

(0.026 × 100 × 21.34 + 0.974 × 100 × 32)/100 l = `31.72/100 l. This means a saving of `0.28 per 100 l, again, compared to a base price of `32/l for diesel. But if it were to be marketed as high-quality diesel and we add a further `3 to the base price for its cost, then it gives `3.28 profit per 100 l. Thus, it can be pointed out that biodiesel is an alternative that has immense potential even today. It ought to be further pointed out that adding jatropha oil to diesel also makes it more eco-friendly as is illustrated in Table 2.[4]

Biogas Biogas is another fuel that has huge potential. This paper is about the specific case for it as a substitute for cooking fuel, more specifically LPG in India. Biogas basically consists of methane with small amounts of other gases such as ethane and propane. It is produced from organic waste, which is referred to as biomass. Organic waste may include decomposable matter like animal and household waste, sawdust, glycerine, plant matter, etc. In a country like India which is highly dependent on imports (oil and gas) for energy production, it can prove to be an inexpensive and easily available alternative. The government spends huge amounts subsidising LPG for the consumers. If it were to lift that, it will place a huge burden on the common man. Using biogas instead of LPG would significantly reduce the expense incurred 5

by both the public and the government. Also, the government is severely lagging behind in its aim to provide rural India with affordable and clean cooking fuel. Thus, biogas can also serve as a really good fuel for the rural population of India.

price by the same method would come out to be $ 9.4 (`470) per MMBTU which is still significantly higher than $ 3 (`150) per MMBTU of biogas.

Biogas can be produced by creating slurry out of the biomass and allowing it to decay anaerobically in an underground tank. In this process, biogas is produced when the biomass decays. Then, the gas needs to be purified after which it can be compressed and either directly transported or marketed in cylinders.

Using biofuels as alternatives can decrease the dependence on conventional fuels like petroleum and natural gas even in the present day scenario. As has been discussed, biodiesel is inexpensive by around `10/l. Also, after blending with diesel, the costs of both normal fuel oil diesel and highquality diesel reduce by `2.13 and `3.28 per 100 l, respectively. Biodiesel blends like B20 are significantly less polluting in comparison to mineral oil diesel with respect to hydrocarbon, particulates and noxious gas emissions. Biogas is also a cleaner fuel and is inexpensive by around $6.4 per MMBTU in comparison to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). Thus, it can be used as a substitute for cooking gas in many places, especially the rural areas of India.

Biogas as an alternative to cooking gas (LPG) The cost of wood biomass with approximately 4 5 % m o i s t u r e i s a b o u t $ 2 . 1 4 ( `1 0 7 ) p e r MMBTU.[5] Considering a gasification efficiency of 70%, it amounts to $2.14 (`107) per 700 MBTU which is the same as $ 3 (`150) per MMBTU. Further, considering 14.6 kg of gas in a standard cylinder costing about `350 (say $ 7) and considering the calorific value of LPG to be 46.1 MJ/kg,[6] the cost of LPG turns out to be $ 11 (`550) per MMBTU. The calculations are shown below: 46.1 MJ/kg × 14.6 kg × 1/1055 BTU/J = 0.6379 MMBTU A cylinder costs $ 7 (`350); therefore, the cost of LPG is: $ 7/0.6379 MMBTU = $ 11 (`550) per MMBTU (approx.) Even if we consider that the tripping and other costs are included in the LPG cylinder price and we take the price of the cylinder to be `300 (say $ 6), the


References 1. De Jongh J, Adriaans T. “Jatropha oil quality related to use indiesel engines and refining methods.” Technical Note 2007. 2. Forson FK, Oduro EK, Hammond DE. Performance of jatropha oil blends in a diesel engine. Department of Mechanical Engineering, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana: KNUST; 2004. 3. Van Gerpen, John H. Oilseeds and Biodiesel Workshop. Billings, Montana: 9 Jan 2008. 4. Hofman. Vern Biodiesel Fuel.NDSU Extension Service. 2003. 5. Martin JR. Biomass Energy Economics.Western Forest Economists. 43rd Annual meeting, 2008. 6. Available from: petroleum_gas [Last cited on 2011].

About the Authors Aiswarjya Mahapatra is from Bhubaneswar, India. He completed his senior schooling at BJB Junior College, Bhubaneswar, India. He is now pursuing an Engineering degree at the Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India. He has a keen interest in Energy related issues. One of his long term ambitions is to develop a sustainable energy alternative / supplement to our existing sources. His areas of interest include alternative energy sources, alternative hydrocarbon sources and energy economics. Rit Nanda completed his schooling from Delhi Public School, Dwarka, New Delhi, India in the science stream. He is currently pursuing his engineering in the field of petroleum and energy sciences, from Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India, and his ambition is to become an energy professional and researcher.


Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Climate Changes

Climate change: Our choice Nick Hilton The King’s School Canterbury, E-mail: DOI: 10.4103/0974-6102.83373

The answer to climate change does not lie in any one solution. Clearly, the answer is to find a source of energy that does not contribute to emissions, but this is unrealistic, especially in the short term. The effects on the UK will not be overly severe, which leaves the danger that developed countries could become negligent of their responsibility to the rest of the world which will bear the brunt of global climate change. Asking people to individually change their consumer habits is idealism rather than a reality; people are inherently attached to the familiar. Therefore, the only effective way of approaching the problem is to go directly to the perpetrators and cut off the problem at its source. The first issue to address is the consequence of a dramatic shift in global temperatures. The UK consensus seems to support the idea that global warming will add to the amount of river flooding in the north and rising tides along the southern coastline. Flash floods in England are infrequent but cause major disruption to public services, mainly because as a country with a temperate climate we are not familiar with the occurrence. Currently, pragmatism would dictate that the financial burden of building river supports does not outweigh the potential benefits of the system. Therefore, under the current conditions, it is not worthwhile building specific defenses to combat these effects, which is the reason why the floods have been so severe in the past. An increase in the amount of river flooding would be dangerous for the affected regions, but it would also prompt swift government expenditure to stem the problem. Therefore, looking at the issue from a UK perspective is not an immediate cause for concern. The global cause for concern is mainly for developing countries Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

that are unable to fund aid programs following climatic disaster. For society to continue to exist on Earth, it must accept that measures need to be taken globally, especially for the less economically developed countries. The effects of climatic disaster in Africa, for example, would have negative effects on trade, industry and immigration on a worldwide scale. The issue that is most important to address when combating climate change is very broad and could be applied to numerous examples that have major effects on the environment. In order to make a clear demonstration of the effect, I have chosen cars to express my ideas. Cars have a large impact on the environment and yet could easily be made more efficient and therefore less damaging. My argument is not that changing the way cars run would help tackle climate change, but that these issues must be addressed universally. The issue with combating climate change is the human psyche. A human object relationship has developed through the course of technological progress so much that the supposed “luxuries” (such as internet, telephones, cars, …) have come to be perceived as necessities. It is extremely unrealistic to ask people to cut down on their use of electricity or their consumption of fossil fuels. Little can be achieved by people turning out lights in their houses; this practice was developed so that people would be more eco-friendly on a general scale. However, these pioneering initiatives are counteracted by basic consumerism. In October 2009, the Ford Company sold 23,454 new cars in the UK alone, a 13.88% market share.[1] The Ford Focus is the UK’s most popular 7

car with 101,593 units sold in 2008,[2] [Figure 1] and yet its fuel efficiency cannot stand up to the competition. In a list of the Top 10 most fuel-efficient cars in the UK today, there is not a single entry for Ford, let alone its Focus range. The list is dominated by Citroen, Renault, Toyota and Honda; all of these cars are, somewhat unsurprisingly, diesel or petrol hybrids. However, in hard economic times when the cost of petrol is increasing, there is still a consumer preference to cars that run on unleaded petrol. The effects of this attachment reverberate around the globe in the form of climate change; if everyone drove the “Honda Insight�, then the emissions from cars around the globe would be drastically slashed. This sounds almost as altruistic as expecting everyone to turn off their lights, but the reality is quite different. The technology for fuel-efficient cars has been around for years, as has the technology that would make fossil fuel consumption everywhere more efficient. However, these efforts are being stifled once again by mankind itself. The petrol versus diesel debate has been an ongoing saga, but recent sales have reverted since 2002 to dominance for petrol; this is unsurprising given the knowledge of human fuel consumption. However, it is not just the consumers who will not give up their inefficient cars. Global oil corporations like Exxon Mobil have continued to report record profits in recent years, with sales in 2007 recording $ 404 billion.[3] This is fairly astonishing given the diminishing reserves of their precious commodity, but it relies on an almost symbiotic relationship with car manufacturers like Ford, who put a great deal of money into making extremely inefficient cars based on the knowledge that the human attachment theory makes it unlikely that their customers will change their habits. The first

Figure 1: A Ford Focus - the car in the number one sales spot in many countries


Honda hybrid was shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1997 and the Insight was introduced in 1999; yet, even a decade later, this technology has not replaced the outdated unleaded petrol engine. April 2009 marked the first time that a hybrid car, the Honda Insight, reached the number one sales spot for a car in Japan and this has not been repeated outside of its country of origin. Instead, this spot goes to cars like the Ford Focus which are bought for esthetic and status value, rather than in an attempt to curb CO2 emissions. Cars are only an indicator of the consumerist problem. The same process goes through for any item that runs on the burning of fossil fuels which, in a technology-based society, is almost everything. The worst offending country in terms of emissions per capita is Qatar, a country that has developed at a rate that is unsupportable. Even though the country has ingrained natural resources, countries like Qatar show the danger of progressive consumerism, especially when corporations are eager to repeat the tactics that they have used to ensnare customers in developed countries. The answer to this problem is for the national governments to place caps on product efficiency; clear ultimatums for companies would make it impossible for them to exploit their markets. For example, all car manufacturers could be made to meet a level of fuel efficiency in the family cars group. In this group, the most fuel efficient car is the Volkswagen Passat Saloon which emits 114 g of CO2/km.[4] Governments should therefore insist that all family cars meet the 114 g/km mark, or they will not be allowed to trade in that country. Whilst it is difficult to persuade car companies to join with the scientific consensus on the subject, strict government legislation could rule out any attempts to subvert fuel efficiency regulations. If this trend was adopted by the G20 countries, then countries with high CO2 emissions, like Qatar, would have little choice other than to follow the Western regulation on the subject. If the efficiency gain can outweigh the greenhouse gas emissions of electricity more effectively, then tighter regulations can be introduced over the next 20 years, cutting down the CO2 g/km figure repeatedly. The technology that has been around for a decade needs to be used immediately and effectively if cars are to lessen their effect on the environment. This theory can apply to all fossil fuels, particularly coal which still accounts for 50% of the US electricity grid and this could easily be cut down if companies were willing to make responsible investments in other technologies that could have a massive impact on global emissions. Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Energy is available as it stands, and until another source presents itself, it is important that the world acts as a unit in establishing the most effective way of powering itself. There is a responsibility for countries to look after themselves and one another. Climate change will have an enormous effect on low-lying regions, coastal countries and dry climates particularly, which means that some of the poorest people in the world will face even greater destitution. Combating this requires more than general agreements such as Kyoto about slashing CO2 emissions; it needs specific trade sanctions on companies which will not make more efficient products of their own volition. In the end, the effects of climate change will be felt whether we act or not

because the wheel is already in motion for another cycle of climate change, but the case for damage limitation is strong and is the only thing that can sustain an already fragile planet.

References 1.

Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 2. Available from: news/newcars/49771.html [Last cited on 2011]. 3. Available from: business/01cnd-exxon. [Last cited on 2011]. 4. Available from: features/britains_best_value_company_cars. [Last cited on 2011].

About the Author Nick Hilton was at The King’s School Canterbury and left in 2010. He is currently taking a year out of studies before applying to University.

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9


Climate Changes

Harnessing the power of radioactivity Naomi Robertson Tobermory High School, E-mail: DOI: 10.4103/0974-6102.83379

Although radiation is often seen as a problem, some may be unaware of the fact that it plays an important role in our lives.

The History of Radioactivity In 1896, natural radioactivity was first observed by Henri Becquerel. Marie and Pierre Curie continued to work on this area, discovering new elements which had strong radioactive properties. These three physicists shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 for their work on radioactivity. Ernest Rutherford also contributed to the related discoveries of alpha and beta radiation, and identified the phenomenon of radioactive “half-life”. The discoveries of radioactivity, both natural and artificial, have evolved to cure and create problems in human life [Figure 1]. When radioactivity was first discovered, it simply

Figure 1: Pierre and Marie Curie in the laboratory (from http://


meant “related to rays”, although today when people hear of radioactivity, it is often something that is regarded with a certain fear. Radioactivity is a property of unstable nuclei, whereby they spontaneously decay into nuclei of other elements. This is usually accompanied by radiation; there are three types of radiation emitted from radioactive substances: alpha particles, beta particles and a high-energy electromagnetic wave called gamma rays. When a substance decays, it ejects these particles and energy is released. The danger is that gamma rays can cause radiation sickness and produce radioactive waste, which in the wrong hands could cause mass devastation. However, in highly controlled situations, radioactivity can be very useful. For example, the energy produced by radioactivity is important in industry and the military. In 1896, Henri Becquerel’s previous work was overshadowed by his discovery of natural radioactivity; this work was sparked by fellow physicist Wilhelm Röntgen who had recently discovered X-rays [Figure 2]. Becquerel studied uranium salts and established that they had radioactive properties. He later found that the rays emitted made gas ionize and were different from X-rays because they could be deflected by magnetic and electric fields. In 1898, the Curies announced the discovery of radium and polonium by fractionation of pitchblende; they continued to work on the properties of these substances and their findings became the foundations of future research into nuclear physics. Marie Curie continued her work on radioactivity, and in World War I (WWI), she set up France’s first military radiology center. By October 1914, the first 20 radiology vehicles were equipped Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Figure 2: Print of one of the first X-rays of Wilhelm Röntgen - the hand of his wife Anna taken on 12/22/1895 (from wiki/File:Anna_Berthe_Roentgen.gif)

and ready to help injured soldiers. Marie knew that X-rays could save soldiers, as they could be used to see bullets, shrapnel and broken bones. In 1899, Ernest Rutherford discovered and named alpha and beta radiation, and in 1900, P. Villard identified gamma radiation. Finally, in 1934, Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie were the first to discover an example of artificial radioactivity by bombarding non-radioactive elements with alpha particles.

Effects of Nuclear Energy based on Radioactivity Nuclear power is a controversial subject. It is one of the most efficient ways of creating power to use in our homes but it comes with expensive faults. Nuclear fission is the process in which an atom is split to release energy. Using this method in controlled chain reactions, a huge amount of energy can be produced. Even though it is a non-renewable source, it is clean, as it does not give off carbon dioxide or any other harmful gases, making it a strong possibility for future power generation. However, there are huge problems with this type of power. In an uncontrolled situation, nuclear bombs can be created and used with devastating effect. Unfortunately, we have experienced this before, when they were first developed and used in World War II (WWII) to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki [Figure 3]. Another disaster took place in the 1980s when a nuclear reactor blew up and ejected radioactive waste into the atmosphere. It was blown into Western Europe and we are still seeing the effects today. In the Ukraine, children were born with deformities and Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Figure 3: Atomic bombing of Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right) (from

developed cancer; today, most children there still develop leukemia at an early age. The disaster also ruined livestock in the Welsh mountains; sheep were being born with their organs outside their body, which then went on and affected the livelihood of the farmers for a decade. Even today, that land is not for livestock. In another incident at Dounreay Nuclear Power Station in Scotland, radioactive waste leaked into the sea and was found washed up on nearby beaches. They still continue to scan the beach for metallic particles. Nuclear fission is very risky and can lead to distressing effects, meaning that nuclear power stations can take up to 50 years to decommission and the radioactive waste has to be buried deep underground to ensure the public’s safety. An alternative to nuclear fission is nuclear fusion.

Nuclear Fusion and the Atom Nuclear fusion occurs when two nuclei collide to form a heavier nucleus, with a large amount of energy being released in the process. This is both a cleaner and less dangerous way of producing energy and scientists today see it as the future way of powering the world. It is the best method as the radioactive waste produced is not dangerous like that formed by nuclear fission, and there are no carbon emissions either. The two atoms used are isotopes of hydrogen: deuterium and tritium. Although hydrogen is technically a finite resource, it has been calculated that this would not be a significant factor against nuclear fusion. Scientists are currently creating energy in this way but it is not efficient or economical yet. It is estimated that within 50 years, it will have been perfected and will also help to combat global warming. 11

Figure 4: The Turin Shroud was radio-carbon dated, which proved it was created between 1260 and 1390 (from wiki/File:Turin_plasch.jpg)

Figure 5: The Sun (from by_the_Atmospheric_Imaging_Assembly_of_NASA's_Solar_Dynamics_ Observatory_-_20100801.jpg)

Other Uses of Radiation

has to be applied using carefully controlled doses or it can have an opposite effect, worsening a patient’s condition.

Radioactivity can be put to many uses, particularly in the fields of medicine, industry and archaeological research. Radio-carbon dating is a way of calculating the time since living matter died [Figure 4]. All living things contain a small amount of carbon-14, a radioisotope taken from the atmosphere, which continues to radiate after death. The emission gradually decreases; so, the age of the remains can be calculated from its radioactive strength. Textiles, leather, parchment, basketwork and wood carvings can all be dated using this method. Not only is carbon dating used to date organic material found at an archaeological site, but also it can be used in pathology to date dead bodies.

Treatment with Radiation X-rays and gamma rays can also be used effectively to treat cancer. Between 50 and 60% of cancer patients are treated at some time using radiation, allowing some to undergo less drastic surgery. There are three techniques used to treat cancer or other diseases using radiation. Teletherapy applies radiation to the outside of the body and can treat cancer inside or on the skin. A radioactive source can also be put inside the body to irradiate tumors; this is used for the treatment of organ diseases. Radiation

Radiation in Our Everyday Lives Radiation happens in our day-to-day lives without us even noticing. The universe is full of nuclear reactors more commonly called stars; our sun radiates light and heat to us, which we depend on [Figure 5]. Without radiation, there would be no life on Earth, and the universe would be a totally different place. The discovery of radioactivity is the basis of many of the scientific discoveries that have led us to develop further. Whether it is broken bones, wounded soldiers, cancer patients, carbon dating, the future of our power stations or trying to understand how the universe works, we use our knowledge of radioactivity to assist us. Though man has sometimes taken this knowledge and abused it with adverse effects, I believe that we should continue to develop the technology and that it can be successfully used as a help rather than a hindrance. The founding figures of radioactivity did not set out to achieve all of these things, but like almost every scientific discovery that started with a desire for knowledge, it led to remedies and opportunities. Whatever is the opinion on radioactivity, it has become an essential tool.

About the Author Naomi Robertson studied Physics, Chemistry, Maths, History and English at Tobermory High School on the Isle of Mull. She enjoys studying astronomy by going out with her telescope at night, and reading scientific journals. 12

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Climate Changes

Noctilucent clouds or polar mesospheric clouds Gustavo Bonilla ITESM Campus Guadalajara, E-mail: DOI: 10.4103/0974-6102.83380

Introduction In 1997, many countries agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and signed the Kyoto Protocol and have been more aware about climate change since then. It was prompted by global alterations in weather, the oceans, atmosphere and temperature, which are already modifying the natural cycles on the planet. Climate change has a large impact on the environment. Many natural phenomena are modified and intensified, leading to even more drastic consequences. Climate change is not simply “global warming” or “the greenhouse effect” – it is a series of massive changes, some of which are not even understood yet. Besides polar ice melting, more powerful hurricanes, warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, the extinction of species, droughts and floods, many other destructive consequences are yet to come. These phenomena will cause more and more disturbances to the planet's ecosystem. In this article, some events possibly connected to climate change are discussed, of which very few people are aware.

Noctilucent Clouds or Polar Mesospheric Clouds Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) are also called polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs). They mostly appear at latitudes between 50° and 70° north and south of the equator in summer months, and exist at altitudes of about 80 km (50 miles) in the upper atmosphere,[1] Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

which is also known as the mesosphere – much higher than any other clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere [Figure 1]. NLCs are primarily composed of tiny (about 100 nm in diameter) ice particles. This is quite interesting because the mesosphere is extremely dry. (The Sahara desert has approximately one hundred million more water particles than the mesosphere.) Moreover, very low temperatures are required for ice particles to form. Hence, NLCs are only present in polar regions during the summer, when the temperature in the mesosphere is below 120°C (180°F).[1] The presence of an aerosol (airborne liquid or solid particle) is necessary for NLCs to form, so that water can freeze on its surface. In other words, water needs a surface to adhere to so that it can form droplets or ice crystals. This chemical process is called nucleation. If humans emit more and more particles into the atmosphere, more NLCs will be formed in the mesosphere. Furthermore, the greenhouse effect caused by the emission of carbon dioxide, methane, and many other gases is warming the lower atmosphere, which in turn cools the upper atmosphere. If temperature in the mesosphere is lower, it follows that more NLCs will be formed. NLCs were only recognized in the late 19th century and the phenomenon has been studied by the NASA mission Aeronomy of Ice in the mesosphere (AIM) since 2007. The purpose of this satellite mission is to further understand the causes and consequences of NLCs and their possible connections to climate change – it was the scientists involved in this project who first suggested a link between NLCs and climate change. 13

Figure 1: Noctilucent clouds (from

produce carbonic acid, changing the water chemistry. This process is called acidification and it causes harm to marine life, especially in the coral reefs especially in the coral reefs, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: A healthy coral (left) and a 'bleached' coral [from http://]

Coral Bleaching Do you know whether climate change affects the oceans or the atmosphere the most? In fact, a quarter of globally emitted carbon dioxide gas is absorbed by the oceans.[2] The world's oceans are being modified on an immense scale by increasing temperatures and the emission of greenhouse gases. When carbon dioxide gas is absorbed by water, under certain conditions, the compounds will react and 14

Coral reefs are the most abundant ecosystem in the whole biosphere and are an important support for all marine species. They are the habitat of many fish, plants, seaweeds and sponges, which represent the beginning of the ocean food chain. Unfortunately, coral reefs need special environmental conditions to survive. When these conditions are absent, corals become stress-conditioned and die. This process is called coral bleaching because corals whiten when stressed. Causes of coral bleaching • Water acidification: This is caused by the reaction of water and carbon dioxide, in which carbonic acid is produced. Since corals are composed of calcium carbonates, the acid will react with these compounds and destroy the corals. • Increase in water temperature: Most of the heat trapped in the atmosphere is also absorbed by the oceans, modifying global sea temperatures. Coral reefs are very sensitive to temperature changes and most of them live in areas where the temperature ranges between 25°C and 29°C (77°F and 84°F). If they are exposed to Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

high temperatures, they will be at risk of being damaged or destroyed.[3] • Changes in salinity: Melting of the polar glaciers modifies the concentration of salt in water, resulting in coral bleaching. If corals disappear, thousands of species will vanish and the ocean will become a completely different place. The increasing temperatures and concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are directly affecting the oceans. From this example, one can see that the effects of global warming are more than just melting polar glaciers.

cannot do everything. But if 6 billion people on this planet come together to overcome this obstacle – a global issue that involves and affects all of us – we may be close to solving this problem and be able to continue living on Earth, this place we call home.



I had the opportunity to talk with a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Dr. Mario Molina, and I asked him what young people could do to make a difference to climate change. He answered, “The solution of climate change depends solely on governments and big companies around the world; all that young people can do is speak up to authorities and demand a change”. I totally agree with him. A single man


The whole planet is changing and the Earth is the only place we have for a home. In the words of Al Gore, “That is what is at stake, our ability to live on planet Earth, to a future as a civilization. It is our time to secure our future; that’s the future in which we’re going to live our life”.[4]

Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 2. The Ocean Carbon Cycle. Harvard Magazine, Nov-Dec 2002. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 3. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 4. Available from: viewquotes.cgi?action=search&Movie=An+Inconvenient+Tru th [Last cited on 2011].

About the Author Gustavo J. Bonilla participated in the “International Youth Conference on the Environment in Japan” when the city was celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol. He has also taken part in some research with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) when they studied pollution and new climatic effects, such as noctilucent clouds, the melting of glaciers and coral bleaching. Finally, he has contributed to the promotion of Green Energies by organizing three substantial symposiums about climate change and renewable energy resources.

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9


Climate Changes

Can nuclear power save the climate? Christopher Loyn The King’s School Canterbury, E-mail: DOI: 10.4103/0974-6102.83381

The Problem During the 20th century, the average global temperature rose by 0.74°C (±0.18), and it is predicted to rise by a further 1.1°C (with some estimates predicting as much as 6.4°C) during the 21st century [Figure 1].[1] Considering the incredibly delicate nature of the conditions required for life, especially the complex organisms and varied ecosystems existing on Earth, even slight temperature changes by a single degree can lead to dire consequences for many species. It is therefore of the utmost importance to discover why the Earth is warming up and whether anything can be done about it.

Why is it Happening? It is known that greenhouse gases cause the heating

of the Earth’s atmosphere (ironically needed for organisms to survive) by trapping infrared radiation reflected by the Earth (originally from the Sun), and one of the main greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide, which makes up somewhere between 9 and 26% of the greenhouse gases.[2] The total carbon dioxide emissions in 2006 were 28,431,741 thousand metric tonnes,[3] and in an assessment report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has announced that most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.[4] About three-quarters (90% in the USA) of the increase in CO2 from human activity over the past 20 years has been caused by the burning of fossil fuels.[5]

The Problem with Fossil Fuels The world relies on the burning of fossil fuels for 80–90% of its energy consumption [474 EJ (x1018 J) in 2008].[6] This energy consumption is likely to increase in the immediate future as more countries “develop”. In India, a developing country, the energy use per person is about 0.7 kW, whereas in the USA, a developed country, the energy use per person is about 11.4 kW,[6] which is over 16 times as much. Although fossil fuels are an effective way of producing energy, they are finite as they form over millions of years. The remaining energy reserves of fossil fuels and amount of time that they are likely to last is shown in Table 1.

Figure 1: A graph showing how global temperatures changed in the 20th century (from Temperature_Record_(NASA).svg)


Therefore, the main way that humans currently tap energy reserves (by burning fossil fuels) is not only contributing to climate change by releasing vast Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Table 1: Fossil fuel energy reserves Fuel

Energy reserves [ZJ (×1021 J)]

Coal Oil Gas

290.0 18.4 15.7

Time that this resource is likely to last (years) 417 167 43

amounts of greenhouse gases, but will also run out in the near future. Because of this, it is extremely important to come up with an alternative and effective way of producing energy. The release of greenhouse gases from the combustion of fossil fuels is not the only cause of climate change, but it is a major one and is likely to increase rapidly in the future. Furthermore, the Earth has been shown to be able to “heal” itself, if damaging changes happen to it. For example, the ozone layer is now reforming back to its original size, having been broken down by various human chemicals such as CFCs, which are now strictly controlled. Theories like the “Gaia Hypothesis” help to explain this ability of the Earth as a whole to deal with changes up to a point. If the release of fossil fuels into the atmosphere is stopped very soon, before the damage becomes irreversible, then it would appear likely that the Earth will be able to recover from the damage that has been caused. Therefore, the main concern for the human race is surely to discover an alternative way of producing energy, not only to deal with the massive and increasing energy demand, but also to prevent the need to burn fossil fuels, which are causing climate change and will run out in the near future.

Alternative Sources of Energy Apart from fossil fuels, there are many other energy reserves, most of which are sustainable. However, considering that the combustion of fossil fuels makes up such a large percentage of total energy production, the alternative forms of energy used at the moment are clearly not as effective as burning fossil fuels, so will not be able to easily replace them in producing energy for humans. For example, one of the largest renewable energy sources is hydropower, which produces only around 2% of the world’s total energy requirements.[6] The building of large hydroelectric power stations and dams has many drawbacks: it is expensive, they can only be built in certain places, and there are many environmental issues associated with them, such as flooding (not always accidental) which can destroy ecosystems and even force tens of thousands of people to move. Other renewable resources have similar problems with expense and specific requirements for their situation, and also Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

have the problem of producing energy unreliably: for example, wind turbines only rotate if there is enough wind from the right direction, and if there is too much wind, they must be stopped as it is too dangerous to allow them to run. Therefore, the most sustainable and reliable source of energy that is known of at the present is nuclear power. Nuclear power There are two ways of sourcing usable energy using nuclear power: nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. Nuclear fission Nuclear fission is already widely used in nuclear power stations, currently generating around 6% of all the world’s energy needs.[7] This works by harnessing the energy released when a large unstable isotope of a particular radioactive element (such as uranium-235 or plutonium-239) is split apart by a slow-moving neutron into two smaller elements and three more slow moving neutrons (thus starting a chain reaction). However, nuclear fission has a few drawbacks. It produces a large amount of harmful radioactive waste, around 3 m³ annually from a large nuclear reactor. By 2007, the USA had amassed over 50,000 metric tons of radioactive waste.[7] This waste is dangerously radioactive: it must be stored in safe conditions for as much as 10,000 years to prevent harm to the general public by radiation. Furthermore, the main fissile fuel for nuclear reactors is uranium, which is a finite resource. The known reserves are thought to last for about a century, but uranium deposits are spread quite thinly, which can make economic mining difficult. So, although nuclear fission does not produce greenhouse gases, which cause climate change, it produces hazardous nuclear waste which is difficult to deal with, uranium is a finite resource, and there are serious concerns about whether nuclear fusion has the capacity to replace fossil fuels as the primary method of generating energy for humans. Therefore, nuclear fusion is the only known effective potential substitute for fossil fuels that will not cause climate change [Figure 2]. Nuclear fusion Nuclear fusion is the process which powers the stars. It is therefore a very potent source of energy, and if tapped properly could produce vast amounts of energy quickly, effectively and relatively safely. It relies on the idea that the fusing (joining together) of two nuclei of an element lighter than iron into a single heavier element releases energy. However, at long distances, the two nuclei repel each other 17

as there are strong repulsive electrostatic forces between the positively charged protons of the two nuclei. The nuclei must be brought closer together to allow the nuclear force (which is stronger at shorter distances) to overcome the electrostatic force, and allow the nuclei to fuse. Therefore, the two nuclei need to have energy themselves in order to get close enough to fuse. This energy can be provided through accelerating the nuclei at high speeds toward one another. This is called beam–beam fusion when both nuclei are accelerating and beam–target fusion when one nucleus is accelerated toward another. The energy can also be provided by heating them to a high temperature (thermonuclear fusion). When the nuclei are heated to a very high temperature, they enter the plasma state. There are three main types of fusion: D–D (where two deuterium nuclei, an isotope of hydrogen with two neutrons instead of one, fuse), D–T (where a deuterium nucleus and a tritium nucleus, another isotope of hydrogen with three neutrons, fuse) and D–He3 (where deuterium fuses with an isotope of helium with only three neutrons). Nearly all the reactants of these fusions are isotopes of hydrogen [Figure 3]. This is because hydrogen is the element with the lowest atomic number, so has the fewest number of protons (only one) and results in a weak electrostatic force that needs to be overcome for fusion to occur. Figure 4 shows how the speed of these three reactions depends upon the temperature that the reactants are heated to (in thermonuclear fusion). Figure 4 shows that the optimum temperature needed for the D–T reaction (the fastest of all three) is around 10 billion Kelvin [or 100 keV (kilo electron volts, a unit of energy] – a huge amount of energy. Therefore, attempts are being made to discover other ways of reaching the required temperature without merely heating. One example is a “tokamak”, a machine which uses a toroidal (the shape created when a circle is rotated around a fixed point, i.e. roughly the shape of a ring donut) magnetic field to confine super heated plasma necessary for a state of stable equilibrium, needed for controlled thermonuclear fusion power. Application of nuclear fusion Unfortunately, nuclear fusion has yet to be developed far enough to be used effectively in civilian power stations. However, it has been utilized by the military in the form of a “hydrogen bomb”, first tested in 1952. The first fission–fusion–fission based nuclear 18

Figure 2: A diagram showing an example of nuclear fission (from http://

Figure 3: A diagram showing an example of nuclear fusion (from http://

Figure 4: Fusion reaction rates (from File:Fusion_rxnrate.svg)

weapons (where a fission reaction causes the main fusion reaction which then causes a final fission reaction) released around 500 times more energy than the first pure fission weapons. This shows that nuclear fusion has the potential to produce much Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

more energy than nuclear fission. Although advances in the field of nuclear fusion have been slow over the last 50 years, the first nuclear fusion power station is estimated to be built by 2018. The advantages of nuclear fusion There is an abundant supply of all the resources needed for the various types of nuclear fusion. Deuterium can be easily extracted from ordinary water (the surface waters of the Earth contain more than 10 million million tons of deuterium).[8] Tritium can be extracted from lithium (which can be taken from sea waters, with enough reserves to last for 60 million years).[9] Secondly, there is much less of a chance of devastating nuclear accidents occurring, as there are only small amounts of deuterium and tritium in the fusion reaction zone. If any malfunction occurred, then the plasma within the containment vessel would merely hit the walls and cool. Thirdly, as there is no burning of any substance, no harmful gases are released which could accumulate in the atmosphere and cause climate change. Lastly, there are no highly radioactive products produced, which must be awkwardly stored, as there are from nuclear fission reactions.

Conclusion Therefore, as climate change is mostly being caused by the proliferation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, these greenhouse gases (most importantly, carbon dioxide) must not be produced in

the large quantities that they are today. The burning of fossil fuels to produce energy must be stopped, and another energy source be used to replace it. This will stop any further damage to the Earth through climate change, allowing it time to “recover”. From the available data, it would appear that nuclear fusion is the way forward. Although it has still not been effectively implicated as a viable energy resource, this is likely to happen during the next 10 years. Nuclear fusion has clear advantages over other energy resources and has the potential to produce an enormous amount of energy. All life on Earth gets its energy from the Sun, and the Sun produces its energy through nuclear fusion. We should too.

References 1. Available from: temperature_record [Last cited on 2011]. 2. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 3. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 4. Available from: recent_climate_change [Last cited on 2011]. 5. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 6. Available from: resources_and_consumption [Last cited on 2011]. 7. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 8. Available from: html [Last cited on 2011]. 9. Available from: [Last cited on 2011].

About the Author Christopher Loyn is in the Upper 6th at The King’s School Canterbury. He is studying Chemistry, Biology, Physics and English Literature, and has aspirations to read Medicine at University. His main hobby is music: he plays trombone and cello, and sings tenor in various choirs.

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9


Climate Changes

Can space-based solar power save the climate? Jamie Faure The King’s School Canterbury, E-mail: DOI: 10.4103/0974-6102.83382

Introduction How shall we tackle climate change? This is still an unresolved question. Here, I will put forward an idea and argue its case. Burning fuels creates carbon dioxide, which thickens the atmosphere. Consequently, an increasing amount of the Sun’s heat is trapped. So, to tackle climate change, we must stop burning fuels. However, fuel is needed for energy. Therefore, we need to find other sources of energy that do not adversely impact the environment.

Space-based Solar Power What I think has the most potential in reducing global warming is Space-based Solar Power (SBSP) [Figure 1]. This technology involves placing solar satellites in space, where their energy production is unaffected by seasons, weather, the day and night cycle, and the filtering effect of the Earth’s atmosphere. The Sun’s energy for us is virtually unlimited (around 5 billion years to go).[1] In addition, the satellites are placed nearer to the Sun in space than to the Earth, so they receive more of the Sun’s energy. The satellite then transmits power to the Earth using a laser or microwave beam.[2] Transmission by microwaves has already been tested by NASA, and proven possible. In space, solar irradiance is 144% higher than in the Earth,[2] which means there is a lot more power available up there! Japan has already been working on this idea for 30 years and invested over 20 billion dollars, hoping to finish their project by 2030.[3] The Americans and the Russians are also at the breach, 20

Figure 1: A SBSP satellite (from File:Solardisk.jpg)

working on a similar idea. The problem with this solution is that we would need to make sure the laser or microwave beam is perfectly orientated toward its receptor on Earth, and would not hit planes or other satellites. Further development is needed before this method is actually feasible. On 19 November 2009, two astronauts went into space to begin the installation of solar cells on the International Space Station (ISS). The two astronauts were part of the crew of the shuttle Discovery. More outings like this are scheduled to take place in the next few years, providing the space station with a greater supply of power. Soon, the station would be able to host not only three, but six astronauts permanently.[4] The Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) wants to buy 200 MW of power in space from the firm Solaren. Solaren has been planning for 7 years to send a Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

satellite to space, which is designed to gather power. A PG&E representative says, “We are convinced this technology is to be taken very seriously. It is astounding to see how much energy is available in space”.[5] Another company called Space Energy is also developing this technology.

the Sun’s energy that hits them.[6] Like solar cells, these are affected by the day and night cycle, the weather, clouds, etc. So, even if this method could be incredibly useful, allowing one to spray a fence with this paint and set up their own “solar power station”, it is not as effective as SBSP.

There is also the option of placing solar cells on our only natural satellite, the Moon. This idea involves building a solar plant on the moon using resources found locally. The stations would be built on the two quarters of the moon that are visible to us, as one of them is always facing the sun. Energy is retransmitted to Earth using microwaves or laser, but this only works when the solar cells are in a direct line with the station on Earth.


Nuclear Other “less good” options include nuclear energy, which provides a reliable source of power that does not contribute to climate change and is relatively cheaper. However, it could be dangerous if the plant is not properly run. The nuclear waste produced as a side product is very radioactive but we have not found a way to safely dispose of this highly dangerous material yet. Moreover, the waste can be used to make nuclear weapons. If terrorists targeted nuclear power plants, catastrophic consequences would result. In addition, nuclear energy is non-renewable and the “ingredient” for nuclear power, Uranium, would run out sometime soon.

Solar Obviously, building land-based solar power stations is another option. However, they can be affected by clouds, the filtering of the atmosphere, the weather, and the day and night cycle, which make them a lot less effective than space-based solar cells. Yes, they are cheaper and easier to set up, but in my opinion, it is not really worth it. One breakthrough of solar power is the discovery of photovoltaic spray paint. This paint, which is made up of tiny particles of photovoltaic cells, can be sprayed on any surface. These sun-absorbing particles then all gather and conduct power. So, if a wire is connected to the “paint”, power can be transported to wherever it is needed. Nonetheless, this only collects 2% of the Sun’s energy directed at them, whilst the usual solar cells harvest 14% of Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Biofuels are preferable to petroleum but they still emit harmful greenhouse gases, though a lot less than petrol. In addition, there are too many petrol-only cars on the road to switch to biofuels and there are not many petrol stations that have a pump suited to biofuels. Biofuels have low energy efficiency as the level of energy they generate is much less than the amount needed to grow the crops. Another problem is that switching 5% of the nation’s petrol needs to biofuels would involve diverting 60% of the existing crops for biofuels’ production.[7]

Wind Wind power has certain benefits. Besides the fact that it is a renewable source of energy, the wind turbines can be built on farmland, leaving the land below available for farming, and they can be used as tourist attractions. However, in my opinion, it does not help matters enough. Wind power is unreliable as wind is not always available. Wind turbines are expensive to build and many people find them ugly. They are usually noisy when operating and can possibly affect television reception. Moreover, they can be harmful to birds. New wind turbine projects include M.A.R.S. or the Magenn Air Rotor System [Figure 2]. This is an easily transportable helium-filled balloon placed at an altitude of 300 m. The contraption is a sort of cylinder, which spins under the influence of wind, facilitated by the flaps on the sides.[8] There is no need to mention that the cables could be a nuisance, as the high-tension cables would get tangled up easily. Storms or lightning could also be very dangerous for objects on the ground, as the wires connect the balloon to the ground. Another idea is being developed by Makani Power and Kite Gen [Figure 3]. This involves a kite that collects energy in three steps. Firstly, the kite rises, unraveling a cable that is connected to a generator 21

Figure 2: A Magenn Air Rotor System (from

on the ground. This process generates electricity in the generator. Once the cable is fully unraveled, the kite tilts, so it no longer catches the wind. Lastly, the cable is rewound, bringing the kite back to the ground. This step only uses up 12% of the power generated in step one. Like M.A.R.S., the cable could be dangerous, and storms are to be watched out for. Also, if more than one kite is flying in a certain area, the cables may get mixed up and cause inconvenience. What is the craziest thing one can do with a wind turbine? Sending the contraption into the jet stream. Although it seems unbelievable, it is being considered by Sky Wind Power. Four rotors, connected to each other, make up the wind turbine. The device rises into the jet stream like a helicopter, where it tilts and starts collecting energy. Electricity is conveyed back to the ground level via a 10 km cable.[9] Along the same lines, Joby Energy has developed the same sort of idea, but with 96 inter-connected rotors, 175 m long, and weighing 100 tonnes. It is estimated to be capable of producing up to 30 MW of power.[10] These two projects are not developed yet and would definitely encounter some problems like the immense tension the 10 km cable would have to withstand, especially when there are powerful storms in the jet stream and wind speeds can reach 400 km/hour. Controlling the ascent would also be incredibly difficult. Yes, there is also the problem of cables getting tangled up and the danger of lightning.

Hydroelectric Hydroelectric power is already producing over 20% of the world’s electricity.[11] The generators in the dams 22

Figure 3: A Makani kite (from google-wants-to-make-clean-energy-cheaper-than-coal.html)

can produce electricity constantly. No pollution is caused and water can be stored above the dam, in wait for peaks in demand. The disadvantages of these dams are the high construction costs and that they could flood large areas upstream which would affect wildlife and the local population. Moreover, finding a suitable site to build a dam can be difficult. If the dam breaks, floods can be very dangerous to the people living in downstream areas.

Geothermal Heat from below the ground can be used to generate power. In places like Iceland and New Zealand, geothermal power can be a very important source of energy and it has a number of advantages. It is a renewable energy and is non-polluting. No fuel is needed and power stations do not take up much space. Once the station is built, the cost of generating power is almost free. However, there are certain disadvantages too. Very few sites are suitable for building geothermal power stations and the construction cost is high. For years these sites may run out of steam. Also, dangerous minerals or gases may be given off from below.

Two Children Per Couple Policy Another idea to reduce global warming is setting a policy which only allows two children per couple.[12] This would reduce birth rates and therefore reduce the natural increase. With fewer people, there would be a smaller demand for power. However, this does not really solve global warming, but delays it, stops our growth and would not help us find better energy sources. Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9



There are three main ways of harnessing tidal power: offshore turbines, tidal barrages and tidal reefs. The advantages are that once a station is built, power is free and can be produced reliably. Also, tides are easily predictable.

To conclude, although SBSP is not the perfect solution, I believe it is the best option open to us. Now, we have the technology, and when the demand for power rises, all we have to do is make some more satellites! Global warming will then be a thing of the past. Also, if satellites could be “wired” to cars, instead of transmitting power to a station, it would be possible for cars run to on space-based solar energy!

Offshore turbines are underwater “propellers” out at sea that rotate due to tides and subsequently generate power. The problems with these are that the turbine has to be joined to the floor so that it does not move, and therefore, is only suitable in shallow waters. In addition, they are expensive to build and may cause harm to marine life. Tidal barrages are like hydroelectric dams, except that they are placed across an estuary and harness tidal power instead of gravitational potential energy. The disadvantages are that they are expensive to build, may disrupt the tides, and stop fish and boats passing through. Tidal reefs are like tidal barrages, except that sections can be opened to allow ships and fish to pass through. They affect the tides much less than tidal barrages. However, they are more expensive than tidal barrages. Tides can only be harnessed for 10 hours each day, when the tides are moving in or out.

Pumping Gases Out of the Atmosphere The last idea is to pump heat-trapping gases like nitrogen out of the atmosphere, but this idea has not been developed yet. There is a lot of nitrogen in the atmosphere, and pumping it out could reduce global warming. I do not think this can effectively solve the problem of climate change, but would only buy us some time. Nonetheless, we should work on it more to make this method viable.

References 1. Vieru T. How to Make the Planet Sustain Life for Longer. Softpedia Jun 13, 2009. How-To-Make-the-Planet-Sustain-Life-for-Longer-114106.shtml [Last cited on 2011]. 2. Available from: solar_power [Last cited on 2011]. 3. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 4. ‘Travauxd’installation des nouveaux panneauxsolairessurl’ISS’. Euronews, March 20, 2009. Available from: http://fr.euronews net/2009/03/20/travaux-d-installation-des-nouveauxpanneaux-solaires-sur-l-iss/ [Last cited on 2011]. 5. Tolman B. ‘Des panneauxsolairesdans l''espace pour acheminer de l''énergierenouvelable sur Terre ?’. Paperblog Apr 22 2009. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 6. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 7. West L. ‘The Pros and Cons of Biofuels: Can biofuels cure America’s addiction to oil?’. Available from: http://environment. [Last cited on 2011]. 8. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 9. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 10. Vance E. ‘High Hopes’. Nature Vol 460, Jul 30 2009. [Last cited on 2011]. 11. Available from: htm [Last cited on 2011]. 12. Rebecca S. ‘Limit families to two children to combat climate change.’ The Telegraph, Jul 24 2008. Available from: http:// [Last cited on 2011].

About the Author Jamie Faure is an academic scholar at The King’s School Canterbury. His hobbies are sports, strategic games, gymnastics and Origami. His favorite subjects are Chemistry, Physics, Maths, French and CDT.

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9


Climate Changes

Can “terra preta” be used to combat climate change? Winner of OsterMed prize for “Climate change” competition Kristi Lui The Harker School, DOI: 10.4103/0974-6102.83383


Today, the world faces the imminent concern of environmental consequences brought on by poor technological and agricultural practices. Though political and scientific steps are being taken to prevent lasting impacts on worldwide populations, this article assesses the efficacy of a relatively new natural approach to the problem: terra preta. Found in the forests of the Amazon, this natural soil (also known as agrichar) possesses the chemical ability to modify ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate (RuBP) and allows the synthetic molecule to play a more definitive role in photosynthesis carbon fixation. In addition to exploring the scientific background of this solution, this article investigates its social and political implications. Bioengineering conventions, like those in Australia just starting to take form, serve as optimal champions of emphasis on agrichar production. Raising awareness about this 90% carbon-efficient soil will ensure that the environmental movement takes precedence in the public mind.

Introduction By the end of with century, 182 million sub-Saharan Africans could die of disease "directly attributable" to climate change.[1] By 2030, more than 60 million more Africans will be exposed to malaria if temperatures rise by 2°C.[2] One-sixth of the world's population will face water shortages because of the retreating glaciers.[2] And why is that? Because the modern world has not slowed to allow the environment to overcome these serious health hurdles. In 2008, the United States consumed 20.4 million barrels of oil per day.[3] According to the Hinkle 24

Charitable Foundation, “Across the entire US economy, total carbon dioxide emissions per household totaled a staggering 59 tons or 118,000 pounds in 2003. When compared to the rest of the world, US households account for over six times as much carbon dioxide emissions than the remainder of the world per year, on average” [Figure 1].[4] Year after year, despite constant awareness of the American consumer, the quantity of emissions from just fossil fuels has been increasing dramatically as the society sees more cars on the road, more environmentally dirty manufacturing plants, and more careless electric consumption. In total, 8.38 gigatons Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

(GtC) of carbon were released by the United States in 2006 [Figure 2].[5]

Current Approaches The current approach to the unmitigated problem of global warming is two-pronged, political and scientific. With the world leaders taking slow steps by setting goals of lower global emissions, such as the EU mandate for limiting temperature rise to 2°C,[6] it seems that politics has found a heavy weight in environmental preservation. However, political power is not as strong as solid scientific solutions that will both change our treatment of the environment and offset the harm done. What has been emphasized today has had a peanut butter spread effect, meaning energy and money has been wasted. Instead of concentrating on a single solution, they are spread out in different areas of invention, all of which have rendered no certain success. Perhaps the cleanest alternative source is wind power; however, the cost financially and spatially is too great compared to a lower cost-to higher output of fossil fuel. Furthermore, 20 mph winds are required for capable operation, and winds are locally intermittent. Alternative fuels like corn ethanol serve only to aggravate world poverty as food prices are driven up, and agricultural farmland is now used for energy cultivation. Another public favorite, nuclear power, has several negative impacts. Not only is the nuclear waste produced projected to be the size of the Yucca Mountain with deadly radioactive consequences, but also the high terrorist potential posed by countries with nuclear capability is frightening. Financially, uranium has become $ 40 more expensive in a span of 5 years. Lastly, the Oxford Research Group concludes, “The nuclear fuel cycle is responsible for emitting 84 to 122 grams of carbon dioxide per kWh [kilowatt hour], mostly from uranium mining, plant construction, and plant decommissioning”.[7] All in all, the current methods of solving global warming and reshaping our energy economies have been unsuccessful. The panacea Terra preta do Indio, also known as biochar or agrichar (the global brand name) is the most plausible answer to our problems today. In short, agrichar is the antithesis of how many climate change scientists approach the global warming problem. Rather than finding a way to reform our energy economies, which could be a long process the Earth cannot afford, Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Figure 1: A diagram to show what the average American’s carbon dioxide emissions come from (from energyfacts/uses/residence.html)

Figure 2: A graph to show how carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have changed. Source: Earth Policy Institute, Eco-Economy Indicators (from C52/)

agrichar mitigates and offsets current CO2 levels. Through a process called carbon sequestration, agrichar creates permanent repositories for holding carbon dioxide. Geologic formations and terrestrial ecosystems are the two ways to accomplish total carbon sequestration. The pores in many of these geologic formations have formed an impermeable membrane with overlaying layers to prevent material from leaking out; to this day, they hold large amounts of oil and gas, accumulated and held for centuries. By taking out the natural gas and oil in the rock repository at this time, carbon dioxide can be permanently injected in its place. In particular, saline formations with brine have high retention of materials, depending on the size, permeability, and heterogeneity of the particular formation in question. Not only will we be able to 25

store away tons of emissions, but also we can take advantage of a plethora of natural resources. At this point in time, however, permeability is still in question: the existence of carbon retention is true enough, but quantity is not clear. One of the most successful approaches to this method of carbon sequestration in the world today was discovered mistakenly in the wet rainforests of the Amazon. Though similar in nearly every aspect to the yellow oxisol (highly weathered soil that is found primarily in the intertropical regions of the world) that surrounds these patches of dark soil, terra preta hides a truly precious ability. Unlike most soils and fertilizers used in today's gardens, terra preta do Indio has the property of which when burned, releases some carbon dioxide but retains more than 80% – an astonishing discovery that has dubbed it a carbon negative fuel. According to Jeremy Faludi (a professor of green design at Stanford University), "[With] twenty times the carbon of normal soils, terra preta is the legacy of ancient Amazonians who predate Western civilization”. Amazonian Dark Earths have high carbon contents of up to 150 g C/kg (coulomb per kilogram) soil in comparison to the surrounding soils with 20–30 g C/kg soil.[8] This being said, the potential for carbon lock in this soil could offset the emissions that increase daily around the world.

Composition Composed of pottery shards, fine charcoal bits, and waste, agrichar itself may not seem very impressive. However, the amount of effort and energy required to take normal, infertile soil in the backyard and create agrichar is not much. The pyrolyzation of farm waste at low temperatures and simple grinding of charcoal bits can recreate what the long-dead people of the Amazon had done for their very own farmyards. Pyrolyzation is the process of low temperature burning of biomass such as leaves, branches, or soil without oxygen [Figure 3]. This prevents the release of carbon dioxide. This makes bioenergy carbonnegative and improves soil health.[9] The key ingredient is the fine charcoal. Scientists have found that the most fertile soils contained 40–90% charcoal.[10] Though this finding was counterintuitive for most soil scientists because charcoal is an inert material whose effect on the soil’s productivity was assumed to be little to none, they found that charcoal in fact made the soil far more fertile due to its partnering community of bacteria. Within the charcoal 26

Figure 3: A gasifier (which converts carbonaceous materials, such as coal, petroleum, biofuel, or biomass, into carbon monoxide and hydrogen) in the process of pyrolyzation (from http://www.

itself, there are resins that contain nutrients, released by the bacteria’s enzymes and enjoyed by the plant. These resins are nourishing because they absorb minerals from rainwater and the environment. Once a corresponding soil bacterium comes along, the nutrients are then released to the plant. Not only does the soil no longer need to sit fallow, but also the plant yield is much higher even without the use of fertilizers.

Conclusion Terra preta offers various financial, social, economic, and environmental benefits in comparison to the current solutions to global warming. The next step has already been taken in Canada and Australia in conventions with United States bio-geochemists and Australian biofuel engineers. Lehman of Cornell University is also conducting research and studies to maximize productivity of the dark soils and prepare for mass production to truly make a worldwide impact on global warming. Although “the techniques of the Amazonians remain an enigma, their system of slash-and-smolder locked half of the carbon of burnt vegetation in a stable form like terra preta instead of Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

the carbon emitting process of slash-and-burn�.[8] With these tips in mind, a global effort can be amassed to face off what could be an impending doom if we simply wait. Rather than take up several initiatives with little chance of success, creation of terra preta could appease our environmental concerns and provide us with a more solid future in environmental conservation.

References 1. A v a i l a b l e f r o m : h t t p : / / w w w . l t s c o t l a n d . o r g . u k / exploringclimatechange/impacts/heatwavesdroughtsflooding. asp [last cited on 2011]. 2. Oliver R. Rich, poor and climate change. CNN Feb 18, 2008. Available from: eco.class/[last cited on 2011]. 3. Bush B. U.S. oil demand and prices slip in August 2008. API Apr 2 2009, Available from:

us_oil_demand_august.cfm [Last cited on 2011]. 4. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 5. Brown L. Carbon dioxide emissions are rapidly rapidly accelerating, according to the Earth Policy Institute. Treehugger Aug 5 2008. Available from: http://www.treehugger. com/files/2008/05/carbon-dioxide-emissions-are-rapidlyaccelerating.php [Last cited on 2011]. 6. A v a i l a b l e f r o m : h t t p : / / w w w . s c i e n c e d a i l y . c o m / releases/2009/05/090502092019.htm [Last cited on 2011]. 7. A v a i l a b l e f r o m : h t t p : / / w w w . s p e a k e r p o i n t s . c o m / files/2008-2009%20Alternative%20Energy%20Incentives/ Camps%20Sorted%20By%20Argument/Nuclear%20 Power%20Aff/Michigan%20Nuclear%20Power%20Good%20 Bad.pdf [Last cited on 2011]. 8. Zaks D, Monfreda C. Terra Preta: Black is the new Green. Worldchanging, Aug 14 2006. Available from: http://www. [Last cited on 2011]. 9. A v a i l a b l e f r o m : h t t p : / / w w w . s c i e n c e d a i l y . c o m / releases/2007/05/070511211255.htm [Last cited on 2011]. 10. Scott. Saving the planet while saving the farm. Available from: [Last cited on 2011].

About the Author Kristi Lui is 17. She is interested in public and global health. At school, she enjoys taking Advanced Placement Chemistry and Biology. She is a voracious reader of the classics and loves Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson. Kristi is a basketball and softball player as well. In her spare time, she loves to sing along with her sister's piano-playing or to play with her dog. Most of her weekends are spent at debate tournaments; last season, she was captain of the Public Forum Debate team.

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9


Climate Changes

Top ten easy-read books on climate change Hannah Todd The King’s School Canterbury, E-mail: DOI: 10.4103/0974-6102.83384

The Earth’s climate always keeps changing, but it is the recent acceleration of this change that has caused concern to many scientists, authors and all people with a vested interest in our environment. Our understanding of the beginning of this increased rate of climate change is now thought to have begun with our discovery that the use of fossil fuels increases the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect. As we have started gaining greater knowledge of the causes of climate change, there has been a surge of books on the topic. This has been great for all those wishing to read up on the subject but leads to confusion as to which books to choose and which would be the most accessible to those with a limited understanding of the subject. So here is a list of the top ten books on the subject of climate change, which target people with a passion for the topic but who may not have the necessary knowledge to tackle more advanced works on the subject. The Weather Makers How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth by Tim Flannery is written in an easily readable way. He covers many questions that are dealt with in other relevant books but also tackles the question of the future of life. Collapse How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond is not a book about global warming as such, but is more of an account of “how societies choose to fail or succeed”. 28

It provides critical information for evaluating the climate change debate. Climate of Uncertainty Climate of Uncertainty by William Stewart confronts the issues of global warming, renewable energy, expanding populations and sustainability. This book tackles climate change in a well-balanced, concise, but informative fashion. Cool It The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming by Bjørn Lomborg provides a fresh, individual perspective on the global warming debate. As the title suggests, its view is controversial but it never argues that global warming is not happening. What it does argue is that a political component has started appearing in the debate concerning global warming, which overwhelms any other point of view. Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years, updated and expanded edition by Dennis T. Avery takes on and expands many of the skeptical arguments concerning global warming but without adopting the scathing tone of many other controversial books. The book comprises a summary of research from an extremely wide variety of sources that relate to the question of the Earth's temperature variations. Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

The Long Emergency Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century by James Howard Kunstler is a fairly bleak outlook on the effects of global warming and resource depletion. It can be summed up by the phrase "Fuel Drop + Climate Change + Disease + Water Drop = Great Depression".

Hot, Flat, and Crowded Why We Need a Green Revolution – and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman puts forward the case for clean energy and provides renewable and efficient alternatives and solutions to our use of fossil fuels. He asks for both collaboration and innovation and ultimately concludes that the economic solutions to achieve this lie in private industry.

The Hot Topic What We Can Do About Global Warming by Gabrielle Walker is similar to “The Weather Makers” in that it examines a wide range of climate related topics and provides a perfect base of both the theory of global warming and the potential renewable alternatives, on which to build up knowledge of climate change.

With Speed and Violence Why scientists fear tipping points in climate change by Fred Pearce warns of the accelerating dangers of global warming. He includes melting ice sheets, thawing permafrost, loss of the rainforest, and the collapse of the Gulf Stream amongst his list of the undesirable effects of global warming.

Our Choice A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis by Al Gore provides readers with information on energy, the population, and resource depletion. Some of the points Al Gore makes are explained laboriously and may, therefore, take time to comprehend. But despite being fairly large, the book provides scientific facts with simple explanations and covers the science and politics behind the issue of global warming.

Apart from considering the purchase of these ten books, you may also be interested in subscribing to the leading international, peer-reviewed journal on responses to climate change, Climate Policy, accessible via the link The journal provides a high quality of research and analysis on the policy issues raised by climate change, and provides a forum for commentary and debate concerning all the different regions of the world. Bibliography All images sourced from:

About the Author Hannah Todd is 17 years old and goes to The King's School Canterbury, where she is currently taking her AS levels. She studies Physics, Maths, History, Politics and Art. In the future, she would like to study History and Politics at University and then do a Law conversion course. In her free time, she likes to play sport and also enjoys music and reading.

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9


Climate Changes

Water as an alternative fuel Sandy Clark Tonbridge School, E-mail: DOI: 10.4103/0974-6102.83385

Climate change represents the biggest single challenge to mankind today. Unchecked, global warming will threaten the existence not only of human beings but also of every living thing on the planet. Many scientists are convinced that the main cause of this phenomenon is the inexorable increase in carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, primarily oil and coal. Since the dawn of history, man has been sending such gases skyward, but never on such a scale as in modern times. Witness the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries through to the growth in large-scale manufacturing, the invention of the internal combustion engine, and the rise in motorized transport throughout the 20th century. Nowadays, we witness the destruction and torching of millions of acres of tropical and other forests. At the same time, man’s demand for energy remains insatiable. Every year, the world pumps an estimated 28 billion tons or more of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere[1] [Figure 1] – that is, around 4 tons for every man, woman and child – and this figure continues to rise. With the greenhouse effect, more of the Sun’s heat remains trapped between the Earth’s surface and the upper atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise and ice sheets and glaciers to melt, pushing up sea levels and leading to higher tides and flooding in low-lying landscapes such as those bordering the Bay of Bengal. As habitats change, the breeding and migration patterns of wildlife are also affected. Some species simply cannot adapt to their new environment and 30

therefore face extinction. Similar seismic changes are taking place in rivers and seas. Ocean currents could well be influenced, causing further disruption to the world’s weather patterns. The fact remains – nobody knows for certain where all of this is leading to but the prognosis is depressing. However, the world may still be diverted from its path to self-destruction. “Dirty” fossil fuels are a finite resource and will run out one day, and with certain nations still reluctant to commit to and invest in nuclear power, the longer-term future may well hinge on ending civilization’s almost total dependence on fossil fuels and finding alternative sources of clean, cheap and renewable energy. A start has been made with the development of “green” technologies such as wind and wave power, solar panels, and tapping into heat from geothermal reservoirs. Even taken together, though, these measures barely scratch the surface of the problem. However, there is one potential source of energy that has long been one of the “holy grails” of science. This is to release the vast energy locked up in the planet’s most plentiful resource – water. A process to split water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, and use the hydrogen to power the planet would most likely meet all of the world’s energy needs at a stroke and, at the same time, consign fossil fuels to the dustbin of history. Using water as a fuel is a far from recent concept. Indeed, one application dates back to more than 200 years to a Swiss inventor. François Isaac de Rivaz is credited with creating the world’s first internal combustion engine, fueled by a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. He used his brainchild to develop the world’s first vehicle to be propeled by such an engine [Figure 2]. Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Over the next two centuries, however, oil and coal became the undisputed heavyweight champions of the energy market as the world industrialized. Moving into modern times, with such fuels still relatively cheap and plentiful, there was always little urgency or desire to look elsewhere for different sources of energy. But here in the 21st century, priorities have shifted and the need to unlock the vast potential of water is now more pressing than ever and the stakes are infinitely higher. The attractions of taking water to produce usable energy are evident. Undoubtedly, the idea would tick all of the boxes for mankind and its environment. It sounds incredible, but in energy terms, a simple glass of water may be considered a power station in miniature. One scientific estimate suggests, “an eight-ounce glass of water can yield as much energy as half a million barrels of petroleum”[Figure 3].[2]

To the layman it all sounds like science fiction, yet at the same time achievable. However, the route to producing energy from water on an industrial scale and in a sustainable and viable way is far from straight forward. (Had it been, somebody would have done it by now!) Water can certainly be reduced to its constituent parts. However, breaking those covalent bonds that hold the atoms of hydrogen and oxygen together – even using the most efficient process known to man – requires an input of energy far larger than the amount that would be released. A look at the chemistry involved offers some explanation. Every schoolboy knows that water is made from hydrogen and oxygen, but this does not present the total picture of what really goes into the creation of a molecule of water [Figure 4]. The chemical equation tells us: 2H2 + O2  2H2O

Figure 1: A graph to show how the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are increasing (from File:Mauna)_Loa_Carbon_Dioxide-en.svg)

Figure 2: An automobile built by François Isaac de Rivaz - the first use of an internal combustion engine (from t229-datas-da-historia-do-automovel-english)

Figure 3: One glass of water could produce as much energy as half a billion barrels of petrol (from

Figure 4: A water molecule (red represents the oxygen atom and white the hydrogen atoms) (from File:Water_molecule.svg)

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9


However, something is missing from this equation – energy. The formation of water from its elements produces, in addition to water, a tremendous amount of energy. Thus, 2H2 + O2  2H2O + energy So, to reverse the process and break the bonds would require considerable energy. That is the crux of the problem, and solving that conundrum makes the medieval alchemist’s efforts to turn lead into gold seem like a stroll in the park by comparison.

Conclusion So, what is the way forward? As things stand, time is running out for planet Earth. Yet, the solution to its energy needs – and, as a consequence, an end to global warming – might appear tantalizingly within reach. However, the issue is rarely, if ever, publicly debated by politicians and/or business leaders. While billions of pounds, dollars, and Euros are diverted into all corners of society at large, and science in particular, the sums spent on research in this vital area remain a mere drop in the ocean. Across the nations, there seems precious little political will to commission meaningful research into discovering the key. And, of course, there are powerful vested interests in the petrochemical lobby which would be severely inconvenienced if the bottom suddenly fell out of the hydrocarbons market – and with it, the massive economic and political clout enjoyed by Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Counties (OPEC) countries and other such producers.

I believe that governments everywhere should invest considerably more than at present in research into obtaining energy from water. Given an affordable and sustainable process to create limitless supplies of clean, cheap and renewable energy in this way, this would go far toward combating global warming. In the process, it would alleviate many of the greatest challenges confronting mankind – overpopulation, poverty and famine, dwindling natural resources and threats to biodiversity – and contribute to sustainable development. If all nations acting alone refuse to respond, for whatever reason, then, it should be the duty of a global body such as the United Nations or UNESCO, or maybe the Nobel Foundation or G20, to pick up the gauntlet instead. The scientific obstacles may appear insuperable, but it is said that even the longest journey must start with the first step. Mankind, in whatever guise, should commit to taking that first step and to driving the process forward, thereby heralding a new dawn for all of us on Earth. The prize, when it is gained, will be well worth the effort.

References 1. Available from: [Last cited on 2011]. 2. Available from: apr/10/ben-bova-nuclear-fusion-promises-unlimited-power-f/ [Last cited on 2011].

About the Author Sandy Clark studied Maths, Physics and Chemistry at A Level at Tonbridge School.


Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Research Article

Do artificial nails and nail polish interfere with the accurate measurement of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry? Otana Jakpor

University of Southern California (USC),

DOI: 10.4103/0974-6102.83388


Several studies in medical publications on the effects of nail polish on pulse oximetry have yielded contradictory results. Previous studies on the effect of artificial nails on pulse oximetry have focused on acrylic nails, although there are several different types of artificial nails made of various materials that remain untested. In this study, the investigator desires to clarify the effect of nail polish; in addition, this study focuses on inexpensive "artificial nail tips" made of ABS plastic, which are sold widely in drugstores for home application. These plastic artificial nail tips tend to be quite thick; therefore, it is expedient to determine whether or not they interfere with the accurate measurement of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry. These tips may also be painted at home with nail polish and there have been no studies on the combined effects of nail polish and artificial nails. Six colors of nail polish were tested on 23 subjects using two different types of pulse oximeter – a small portable device and a larger stationary device. The experiment was repeated using artificial nail tips made from ABS plastic that had been painted with the six colors of nail polish. Each subject had a bare index finger nail as a simultaneous control. The difference in oxygen saturation between each color finger and the control finger was determined. In addition, extended color testing was done on a single subject, using 27 different colors of various shades and brands. Colored artificial nail tips and nail polish had little or no significant effect on the measurement of oxygen saturation. There was no statistically significant effect on the measurements made by the more sophisticated stationary machine. However, with the less expensive portable device, there were trivial drops in the oxygen saturation measurement that did reach statistical significance with the blue, pink, and white nail polish and wine-colored artificial nails, but were too small to be considered clinically significant. Nail polish and plastic artificial nail tips do not interfere with the accurate measurement of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry.

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9


Introduction The objective of this study was to determine whether or not artificial nails and nail polish interfere with the accurate measurement of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry. A pulse oximeter is, in essence, a "mini-spectrophotometer" that works by shining light through the nail and measuring how much light is absorbed, in order to determine the oxygen saturation of the blood. In this study, the investigator hypothesized that if a person wears artificial nails or nail polish, then the artificial nails or nail polish will block some of the light from shining through the nail and thus interfere with the accurate measurement of oxygen saturation. The purpose of this research is to provide data that may aid decision-making by medical personnel. These data could help them decide whether or not to remove nail polish or artificial nails during a respiratory emergency. This is important because inhaling fumes from nail polish remover can cause asthma to worsen. Certainly, soaking fingertips in acetone for 15–20 minutes in order to remove artificial nails could be problematic. To complicate matters, both asthma and the use of nail products are widespread. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are presently approximately 16 million asthmatics in the United States.[1] There is some controversy in medical publications about the effect of nail polish, and this study seeks to clarify this issue. Previous studies on the effect of artificial nails on pulse oximetry have examined acrylic nails, but there are still several different types of artificial nails made of various materials that have not been tested. The artificial nails used in this study are inexpensive "artificial nail tips" made of ABS plastic, which are sold widely in drugstores for home application. These plastic artificial nail tips tend to be quite thick; therefore, it is important to determine whether or not they interfere with the accurate measurement of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry. These tips may also be painted at home with nail polish and there have been no studies on the combined effects of nail polish and artificial nails.

Materials and Methods Oxygen saturation is the percentage of heme groups in the blood that have been filled with oxygen. Pulse oximetry is a commonly used non-invasive method 34

Table 1: Table of experiments Experiment #1 – A study of six colors of artificial nails on 23 subjects Experiment #2 – A study of six colors of nail polish on 23 subjects Experiment #3 – A study of 27 different colors of various brands on a single subject

to measure oxygen saturation by clipping a probe onto the fingertip. In pulse oximetry, two wavelengths of light are beamed through the nail bed, usually at 660 nm (red) and 940 nm (near infrared) and the relative absorption is determined. Pulse oximeters are designed to single out the arterial blood pulses. They distinguish pulsating blood from bone, fingernails, and venous blood, which do not pulsate. Three experiments were performed as shown in Table 1. In Experiment #1, after obtaining informed consent, 23 subjects were tested to determine the effect of six colors of painted artificial nails. Fing’rs French Manicure Nail Kits (Natural Sport Length French plastic artificial nail tips) were purchased for experimentation. The investigator painted the plastic artificial nail tips with the following colors of Avon Quick Dry Nail Polish: white (Snowflake), red (Red Red), blue (Sizzling Sky), pink (Carnival), and wine (Red Wine), Clear. Each artificial nail tip was painted with two coats of color and one clear top coat. One fingernail was left bare to serve as a simultaneous control. Then, the investigator measured the oxygen saturation on each finger of the test subject. Each subject's color reading was subtracted from the control reading to determine the change in oxygen saturation. This experiment was done twice using two different types of pulse oximeters – Nonin Onyx, and Nellcor N-395. The Nonin Onyx is a very compact portable pulse oximeter that might be used for spot checks in a doctor’s office, while the Nellcor N-395 is a stationary machine used for continuous monitoring in intensive care units. In Experiment #2, the same six colors of nail polish were tested on 23 subjects and the oxygen saturation readings were measured. The same procedure as in Experiment #1 was performed, except that nail polish was painted directly on the nails, rather than on artificial nails. Again, two color coats and one clear top coat were used, reflecting common practice. In Experiment #3, extended color testing was performed on a single subject, using 27 different colors of a variety of brands. Some of these colors included metallic and frost finishes. Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Statistical analysis was performed in Experiments #1 and #2 to determine the mean change in oxygen saturation, standard deviation, standard error of the mean, and 95% confidence intervals for each color test. These calculations were repeated to determine the mean difference between each color and the control. Standard deviation is a statistical measure of how spread out the data is from the mean. A statistical calculator on a website was used to determine the standard deviation (S) and 95% confidence intervals (CI). σ=


x − ( x) 2

i =1 i


Standard error of the mean (SEM) is another statistical measure of spread which is more appropriate than standard deviation when dealing with samples rather than the entire true population. The SEM was calculated by using the equation: Sx =

σ N

where σ is the standard deviation and N the number of measurements. A range of plausible values are indicated by the 95% confidence intervals. The 95% confidence intervals are estimated by multiplying the SEM times two. In this experiment, if the confidence intervals cross zero, there is no statistically significant change. For Experiment #3, the change in the oxygen saturation readings was calculated.

Results and Discussion Contrary to the hypothesis, the results showed that


The results of Experiment #2 are shown in Figures 3 and 4. In Experiment #2, there was a small but statistically significant drop in oxygen saturation reading when fingers with blue, pink, and white nail polish were tested with the Nonin pulse oximeter [Figure 3]. However, these tiny drops with the blue, pink, and white nail polish were too small to be clinically significant. In both Experiments #1 and #2, the Nellcor pulse oximeter readings did not have any statistically significant change with any color [Figures 2 and 4]. The Nellcor pulse oximeter is a larger and more expensive monitor used in intensive care units, while the Nonin pulse oximeter is a convenient, compact, portable model often used in medical offices.

0.20 0.00

0.00 -0.09




-0.40 -0.60

For example, in Experiment #1 with the Nonin pulse oximeter, the wine-colored artificial nails caused a mean drop in saturation reading of 0.44% pt. ± 0.42% pt., a trivial decrease. This must be viewed in the context of the pulse oximeter’s own much larger measurement error of ±2.0%.




There were a few tiny, though statistically significant, drops in some readings with certain colors when measured by one of the pulse oximeters (Nonin) in Experiments #1 and #2 [Figures 1 and 2]. However, these tiny drops with the blue, pink, and white nail polish and wine-colored artificial nails were too small to be clinically significant.




most colors of artificial nails and nail polish had little or no significant effect on the accurate measurement of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry. Instead, the null hypothesis was supported. The results of Experiment #1 are shown in Figures 1 and 2.




-0.80 -100


control white clear red blue pink wine


Figure 1: Mean change in Oxygen saturation readings (%pt.) Experiment #1: Artificial Nail Experiment on 23 Subjects Nonin Pulse Oximeter

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

-0.40 -0.60 -0.80 -1.00

-0.13 -0.17


-0.26 -0.48

-0.22 control white clear red blue pink wine


Figure 2: Mean change in Oxygen saturation readings (%pt.) Experiment #1: Artificial Nail Experiment on 23 Subjects Nellcor Pulse Oximeter



0.60 0.40 0.20




-0.80 -1.00 -1.20 -1.40



-0.40 -0.60





-0.48 -0.74

0.00 control white clear red blue pink wine


0.00 -0.17



0.17 control white clear red blue pink wine

-0.30 -0.44


Figure 3: Mean change in Oxygen saturation readings (%pt.) Experiment #2: Nail Polish Experiment on 23 Subjects Nonin Pulse Oximeter

Figure 4: Mean change in Oxygen saturation readings (%pt.) Experiment #2: Nail Polish Experiment on 23 Subjects Nellcor Pulse Oximeter

The finding that most colors of artificial nails and nail polish have little or no significant effect on oxygen saturation readings reveals that the technology in some pulse oximeters is sophisticated enough to single out the pulsating arterial blood, in order to avoid interference from non-pulsating substances such as artificial nails.

Table 2: Experiment #3 extended experimentation with nonin pulse oximeter

The slightly differing results between the two different pulse oximeters suggest that the controversy in the literature on nail polish might be due to differences in the technology of the pulse oximeters used in those studies. There have been advances in the technology of pulse oximeters, and more recent studies on nail polish have found less interference. In Experiment #3, 27 different colors of different brands of nail polish were tested on a single subject to determine if the research findings could be generalized to many brands and colors of nail polish [Tables 2 and 3]. Only 2 of the 27 colors caused a drop in reading of over 2% when measured with the Nonin pulse oximeter and only 1 of the 27 colors caused a drop when measured with the Nellcor pulse oximeter.

Conclusion Contrary to the study's hypothesis, this research found that most of the artificial nails and nail polish tested did not interfere with the measurement of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry. Most colors had little or no significant effect. No changes found in this study were clinically significant. These results contradict the view widely held by many medical personnel that nail polish and artificial nails must 36


Test 1 Control Ocean Frost, Jordana Berry Blue, Savvy Mean Streak, Sally Girl Dumped, Sally Girl Cool Blue Blast, Wetnwild Metal Ice, Kleancolor Spun, Sally Girl Caribbean Frost, Wetnwild It's So Me, Sally Girl Fearless, L'Oreal Paris Test 2 Control Impulsive, L'Oreal Paris Island Fuchsia, Jordana Gorgeous Grape, Jordana Fuchsia, Heaven So Disco, Sally Girl Steel, Wetnwild Strong, L'Oreal Paris Lemon Tropic, Jordana Wild Green Sizzle, Savvy Test 3 Control Black, NYC Gotta Have It, Sally Girl Sandstone, Jordana Night Spell, Revlon Yellow, Heaven Orange, Heaven Bronze, Wetnwild Amped, Sally Girl

Oxygen saturation (%)

∆ Oxygen saturation

99 98 98 98 98 98 98 98 99 98 98

0 −1 −1 −1 −1 −1 −1 −1 0 −1 −1

100 97 95 98 98 98 98 98 98 99

0 −3 −5 −2 −2 −2 −2 −2 −2 −1

98 99 98 98 97 98 99 98 99

0 1 0 0 −1 0 1 0 1

be removed to obtain an accurate measurement of oxygen saturation. This research is original in that a Medline search shows no studies on colored artificial plastic nail tips in the peer-reviewed published medical literature. In Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Table 3: Experiment #3 extended experimentation with nellcor pulse oximeter Color Test 1 Control Ocean Frost, Jordana Berry Blue, Savvy Mean Streak, Sally Girl Dumped, Sally Girl Cool Blue Blast, Wetnwild Metal Ice, Kleancolor Spun, Sally Girl Caribbean Frost, Wetnwild It's So Me, Sally Girl Fearless, L'Oreal Paris Test 2 Control Impulsive, L'Oreal Paris Island Fuchsia, Jordana Gorgeous Grape, Jordana Fuchsia, Heaven So Disco, Sally Girl Steel, Wetnwild Strong, L'Oreal Paris Lemon Tropic, Jordana Wild Green Sizzle, Savvy Test 3 Control Black, NYC Gotta Have It, Sally Girl Sandstone, Jordana Night Spell, Revlon Yellow, Heaven Orange, Heaven Bronze, Wetnwild Amped, Sally Girl

Oxygen saturation (%)

∆ Oxygen saturation

99 99 99 97 98 98 99 98 98 98 99

0 0 −2 −2 −1 0 0 −1 −1 −1 0

100 99 100 99 99 99 100 97 99 100

0 −1 0 −1 −1 −1 0 −3 −1 0

99 99 98 97 99 99 99 99 97

0 0 −1 −2 0 0 0 0 −2

addition, this study has a larger sample size than most published studies on nail polish. It is also the first study of nail polish to use two different brands of pulse oximeters, and thus it clarifies some of the contradictory results found in the published literature on nail polish. Certainly, the sophistication of technology in each particular pulse oximeter used in research will sway the results. This research provides valuable information for paramedics, nurses, and physicians dealing with emergency situations involving patients in respiratory distress. Nail polish should not be removed when a patient presents in respiratory distress, as the fumes from nail polish remover could exacerbate asthma.

Acknowledgments I would like to thank my mother, Karen Jakpor, for letting me use her pulse oximeters. I am also grateful to my many test subjects, without whom this research would not have been possible.

Reference 1.

"Faststats Asthma." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available from: [Last updated on 2009 May 15, accessed on 2009 Aug 11].

About the Author Otana Jakpor, a seventeen-year-old is a freshman at the University of Southern California (USC), studying global health. She is enrolled in USC's Baccalaureate MD Program. Otana's special interest in respiratory health stems from her concern over her mother's frequent hospitalizations for severe asthma. Otana serves as a volunteer spokesperson for the American Lung Association. Otana gave a poster board presentation of her research on the effects of artificial nails and nail polish on pulse oximetry at the American Thoracic Society (ATS) meeting in San Diego on May 17, 2009. She joined the Young Scientists Journal’s board of editors after meeting Professor Ghazwan Butrous at the ATS meeting.

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9



Engineers' advice to students Will Goldsmith, Sam Gearing, Kim Dunn, George Harvey, Cleodie Swire The King’s School Canterbury, E-mail:

Interview with Emily Cummins and Rob Harris We recently set up interviews with two of the world’s up-and-coming “green” scientists, Emily Cummins and Rob Harris [Figure 1]. The 22-year-old Emily Cummins is the student inventor of the sustainable fridge, which uses dirty water to keep clean, fresh water cool, particularly in developing countries. From a young age, Emily was doing “boyish things” and began to knock about with hammers and other basic tools in her grandfather’s shed. This “ability to be creative” inspired her and she knew early on in her life that she wanted to be an engineer. An Arkwright scholar, Rob Harris works at Elementa Consulting and is involved in the “green” building technologies, working to develop entirely sustainable

Figure 1: (l to r) Emily Cummins, Rob Harris, Kim Dunn and Cleodie Swire


buildings. He particularly enjoyed product design, and was sponsored by a company similar to the one he now works for, which is how he became interested in “green” building techniques. What is the best invention ever? Emily Cummins: The Internet because the research, resources and contacts available online has opened up a whole new area of study, and without it our lives as we know them would be very different. Rob Harris: The combustion engine has to be one of the best inventions ever, which has allowed machines and vehicles to operate on the combustion of fuel. Although this has been around for the last 200 years, the true extent of the ability of machines operated by combustion engines is only just coming apparent. Cars are constantly being improved, trains made faster, and new machines to help us humans in

Figure 2: Emily's fridge (from

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

everyday life constantly being designed. The next big invention to come is a way to make this engine 100% carbon neutral. Whose ideas did you build on? Emily Cummins: If we talk about the water carrier, the inspiration was from Dyson’s Ballbarrow in the sense that he had a product with a ball and that allowed the wheelbarrow to be more stable over a rough terrain. I also was inspired by Trevor Baylis because I loved Trevor Baylis’ theory that you could take a product that you use in the UK and make it suitable for use in developing countries, which is what I did with my fridge. I love looking at what other people have done to try and make things different. With my fridge [Figure 2], I also looked at the way in which our bodies sweat to cool down and the pot-in-pot refrigerator. Are there any compromises compared to a normal fridge? Emily Cummins: Yes, you have to top it up, you have to add water to it, so it is obviously not as easy as a normal fridge, but the situation is choosing between not using a fridge and using a fridge that you have to top up. I am actually at the moment working on a version that will reuse the water, so it is not a lost system. Do you plan to continue in the sustainable field of engineering? Emily Cummins: I learn the best by watching other people and seeing how other people work. So, when I finish university, I am going to try and spend some time in developing countries because the people I worked with were so resourceful. They make use of everything and they have had to think over the years about not having life as easy as we do, to have to come up with their own techniques. So, I think that technology lies somewhere between the two, in between us and them. We need to take a step back and developing countries need to take a step forward in terms of technology, and I want to be the facilitator of that. What inspired you to enter the sustainable branch of construction? Emily Cummins: The reason I got into sustainability was that there was a group that worked with our school, called Practical Action, which wants young people to think about sustainability. Listening to the inspirational teacher who spoke about how big a problem for the world climate change is, and the Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

extreme thought that we would have to start sharing kettles with our neighbors and our TVs with our streets within the next 25 years made me realise that I wanted to do something that would change people’s mindsets and offer them an alternative. Rob Harris: The Energy Performance in Building Directive that came in a number of years ago has completely changed the construction industry and the way the country is beginning to think about how they use energy. A building services engineer, as I am, must be sustainable if they are going to be a building services engineer of the future. Sustainability is a massive subject now, which in maybe 30, 40 years, will be the norm. Therefore, all businesses need to orientate themselves around that element. For everyday people, is being “green” about turning lights off? Rob Harris: It could be things like that or using energyefficient light bulbs or having photovoltaic cells on your roof. What it really comes down to is what is going to be a sustainable home in the future. Emily Cummins: I think people do not want to change the way they live; they have got their standard of living, and what a designer’s job is is to redesign the products in the homes so that they are energy efficient, but are also the same standard that they were before. It is hard to say to somebody that they cannot have something, even though they had it before. That is what the difficulty is; when people earn money and think therefore that they should have what they want. At the moment, is sustainable building much more expensive to do? Rob Harris: It has been said that adding sustainable issues to a building project can add about 10% onto the cost. With sustainable products, you are generally looking at a payback; if it pays itself back within its lifetime, it has not actually cost you anything more. Over the lifetime of a building, say a 150 years, you might actually save money. Is there anything you could suggest to young people about sustainability? Rob Harris: Sustainability is a massive sector and there are loads of opportunities out there at the moment to develop different solutions and different ideas within that sector. It is a really interesting sector to be in, and you get the opportunity to meet some really interesting people. 39

Emily Cummins: My advice for a young person would probably be that although it may not have the “cool factor” as the jobs of the people in the public light , it is the engineers who give the action to the football players and other jobs because without the film crews, without the sound engineers, they would not be in their jobs in the first place. It is also the engineers and the designers who are going to change this world; it is these people who are going to make the difference. Would not that be a much more exciting to think that you could actually change the world, rather than just being known now? Tips for students wanting to become engineers The useful subjects to study are product design, Physics and Maths, but Rob advises to do “one you love” as Physics and Maths can be a lot of hard work. They also advise anyone interested to find relevant work experience and enter any competitions that are available; these look great on CVs and are great experiences for life.

Interview with Nick Showen and Andrew Parr Nick Showen and Andrew Parr are both engineers with a lot of experience in automation. They were interviewed after attending a design and technology exhibition at The King’s School Canterbury [Figure 3]. Nick is the founder of Jali, an automated computer numerically controlled (CNC) company that specializes in making bespoke MDF furniture in a way that can be as efficient as mass production. Customers can design their furniture on his website which then goes into the automated computer system. Items are nested to reduce waste and then sent to CNC routers where they are cut out of MDF. The items are then spray painted and boxed, and the customers receive their flat packed furniture in a matter of days. The design of the company means that it can be run by only a few people as “double handling” of data is minimized. Andrew is now a technical author who writes engineering books but he used to work for Thamesteel, specialized in electronic controlled steel rolling. They are one of the fastest growing steel manufacturers in the UK, producing over 800,000 tonnes of steel a year. What is the most exciting thing about your work? Nick Showen: Engineering is about solving problems 40

Figure 3: (l to r) Nick Showen, William Goldsmith and Andrew Parr

and it is the ability to overcome these problems that provides an endless buzz. I am always looking to solve manufacturing and engineering problems within my own business and the priorities of problems shift with the commercial world. Because of this, there are always projects going on that are parts of a continual development. Andrew Parr: When I was working for Thamesteel, I would be involved in projects that lasted between 18 months and 2 years from the concept to completion. The feeling when the whole thing would come together and suddenly all worked was like having ten balls in the air at once and then having them all land on the ground at the same time. It is a tremendous feeling of pride that you have when something that you have worked on for 2 years actually works and does what it was supposed to do. What inspired you to become an engineer? Nick Showen: From a very young age, I was always interested in how things worked and had a fascination with making things. Andrew Parr: For me, it was very similar; I used to have a big number eight Meccano set and used to love building things with it. In fact, when I was working at British Steel, the engineers in the technical office had big Meccano sets and would actually build their ideas as a way of exploring an idea. How did you get into engineering? Nick Showen: I studied Chemistry at university and was always interested in the idea of design. I was probably more interested in electronics but decided to do Chemistry because I thought that it was a more fundamental subject. I began working Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

for myself and started by filling a shed with bits of machinery. When I started, I would usually get a job and then try and figure out how I was actually going to do it afterward. Andrew Parr: After leaving university, I went to work for English Electric which was one of the classic British engineering companies. From there, I went to British Steel and worked in the steel industry for 20 years. What is your prediction for the next big invention? Nick Showen: I think that the next big step will be in artificial intelligence. It will take automation to the next level as it will allow machines to do the thinking as well as follow mechanical processes. I believe that it will make the invention of the Internet seem to fade into insignificance.

Interview with Brian Blandford, Mike Percival, Kirti Rajwani and Chris Billinge [Figure 4] Dr. Brian Blandford designs night-vision goggles, head-up displays and has written textbooks on optics. He became an engineer due to a curiosity about how things work and what things comprise, and from his early years took things apart and fixed machinery. His advice to people wanting to become an engineer is to read books and journals and join clubs, developing their interests whilst also becoming familiar with the trade. Mike Percival, who is an “aero engineer” for “Rolls Royce”, was rather sucked into becoming an engineer, as both of his parents were in the profession. He tried to escape the career path by studying Geology, but with prior knowledge and a good understanding of Maths and Physics, he found himself heading toward the future that he at first was not keen on. He then found that his distaste in the theory of science did not matter, as engineering was a practical science, and therefore suited him far better. He is involved in recruitment and requires people to have relevant work experience if they want a job or to become an apprentice. Engineering requires a range of skills including physical, practical, mental and social, but to really succeed, you must be passionate about your work.

Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Figure 4: (l to r) Chris Billinge, Kirti Rajwani, George Harvey, Brian Blandford and Mike Percival

Kirti Rajwani is an engineer for the “Euro fighter”. She is extremely successful to have such a job, as she is also in work placement at “Amphenol” and has only just finished her degree. She is far happier working, as at University her course was theory based, but now she can develop more practical skills. As a young child, she had a thirst for knowledge; she wanted to discover how things worked and how they were going to work. She was not interested in dolls; she was more interested in cars, and in her dreams of discovery she saw flying cars, demonstrating her aspirations even as a young girl. She chose to come to England (from India) so that she could study more, as in India the only real course in engineering-related matters is mechanics. She believes that passion, enthusiasm, dedication and devotion are all keys to succeeding in any career, but to become an engineer one must get involved in projects and use gap years to get experience. Chris Billinge also works for Amphenol Ltd. Like others, he became interested in engineering at a young age. He loved “fiddling with bits” and finding out what made them and how they work. He became an engineer because he disliked the way the country was heading, turning from a practical, industry-led place into a finance and money-juggling regime. To him, the main thing is experience and qualification. Amphenol are good at nurturing talent, but formal training and experience must be balanced to get a job. To get involved in industry, Chris has started a project for teenagers called “Young Dragons” which gives commercial and practical experience.


About the Authors Will Goldsmith: (Age 17 yrs.) William Goldsmith is currently in his last year of A levels, studying Physics, Maths and Design Technology. Next year, he hopes to study electromechanical engineering at Southampton University, with the view to go on to work in the power industry and promote sustainable energy. He has many hobbies but particularly enjoys sailing. E-mail: Sam Gearing: (Age 17 yrs.) Samuel James Leonard Gearing is in the Lower Sixth at The King’s School Canterbury. He is studying AS level courses in Design and Technology, Mandarin Chinese, Theater Studies, Politics and Photography. He enjoys going to theme parks, the cinema and theaters, as well as acting and directing. His future aspirations are to go to drama school and to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, either acting or directing. E-mail: Kim Dunn: (Age 17 yrs.) Kim Dunn is in the Upper Sixth of The King's School Canterbury studying Biology, Geology, English and Photography and hopes to do Geology at university, focusing on Palaeontology. She enjoys sport, especially hockey and cross-country. E-mail:

George Harvey: (Age 16 yrs.) George Harvey is doing Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Further Maths and Photography at AS Level at The King's School Canterbury. He hopes to be a Doctor in the future. E-mail:

Cleodie Swire: (Age 16 yrs.) Cleodie Swire is doing Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Further Maths and Spanish at AS Level, and has already taken French. She is currently at The King's School Canterbury and hopes to do Biology at University. She enjoys doing sport, especially hockey, and traveling. E-mail:


Young Scientists Journal | 2011 | Issue 9

Young Scientist Journeys Editors: Paul Soderberg and Christina Astin

This book is the first book of The Butrous foundation’s Journeys Trilogy. Young scientists of the past talk to today’s young scientists about the future. The authors were members of the Student Science Society in high school in Thailand in the 1960s, and now, near their own 60s, they share the most important things they learned about science specifically and life generally during their own young scientist journeys in the years since they published The SSS Bulletin, a scientific journal for the International School Bangkok. Reading this first book is a journey, that starts on this page and ends on the last one, having taken you, Young Scientist, to hundreds of amazing “places,” like nanotechnology, Song Dynasty China, machines the length of football fields, and orchids that detest wasps. But the best reason to The Butrous Foundation, which is take the journey through dedicated to empowering today the these pages is that this scientists of tomorrow. This book will help you foundation already publishes Young prepare for all your other journeys. Some of these will be Scientists Journal, the world’s first and physical ones, from place to place, such as to scientific only scientific journal of, by, and for, conferences. Others will be professional journeys, like from all the world’s youngsters (aged 12Botany to Astrobiology, or from lab intern to assistant to 20) who want to have science careers researcher to lab director. But the main ones, the most exciting or want to use science in other of all your journeys, will be into the Great Unknown. That is careers. 100% of proceeds from sales where all the undiscovered elements are, as well as all other of The Journeys Trilogy will go to the inhabited planets and every new species, plus incredible things Foundation to help it continue to like communication with dolphins in their own language, and fulfill its mission to empower technological innovations that will make today’s cutting-edge youngsters everywhere. marvels seem like blunt Stone Age implements. For further information please write to Book Details: Title: Young Scientist Journeys Editors: Paul Soderberg and Christina Astin Paperback: 332 pages Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches, Weight: 345 grams Publisher: The Butrous Foundation (September 26, 2010) ISBN-10: 0956644007 ISBN-13: 978-0956644008 Website: Retailer price: £12.45 / $19.95

The Butrous Foundation Journeys Trilogy Thirty-one years ago, Sir Peter Medawar wrote Advice to a Young Scientist, a wonderful book directed to university students. The Butrous Foundation’s Journeys Trilogy is particularly for those aged 12 to 20 who are inspired to have careers in science or to use the path of science in other careers. The three volumes are particularly for those aged 12 to 20 who are inspired to have careers in science or to use the path of science in other careers. It is to “mentor in print” these young people that we undertook the creation and publication of this trilogy. Young Scientist Journeys (Volume 1) This book My Science Roadmaps (Volume 2) The findings of journeys into key science issues, this volume is a veritable treasure map of “clues” that lead a young scientist to a successful and fulfilling career, presented within the context of the wisdom of the great gurus and teachers of the past in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Great Science Journeys (Volume 3) An elite gathering of well-known scientists reflect on their own journeys that resulted not only in personal success but also in the enrichment of humanity, including Akira Endo, whose discovery as a young scientist of statins has saved countless millions of lives.

Table of Contents: Introduction: The Journeys Trilogy, Ghazwan Butrous . . . 11 Chapter 1. Science is All Around You, Phil Reeves . . . 17 Chapter 2. The Beauty of Science, and The Young Scientists Journal, Christina Astin . . . 19 Chapter 3. The Long Journey to This Book, Paul Soderberg . . . 25 Chapter 4. Dare to Imagine and Imagine to Dare, Lee Riley . . . 43 Chapter 5. How the Science Club Helped Me Become a Human Being, Andy Bernay-Roman . . . 55 Chapter 6. Your Journey and the Future, Paul Soderberg . . . 63 Chapter 7. Engineering as a Ministry, Vince Bennett . . . 83 Chapter 8. Cold Facts, Warm Hearts: Saving Lives With Science, Dee Woodhull . . . 99 Chapter 9. My Journeys in Search of Freedom, Mike Bennett . . . 107 Chapter 10. Insects and Artworks and Mr. Reeves, Ann Ladd Ferencz . . . 121 Chapter 11. Window to Endless Fascination, Doorway to Experience for Life: the Science Club, Kim Pao Yu . . . 129 Chapter 12. Life is Like Butterflies and Stars, Corky Valenti . . . 135 Chapter 13. Tend to Your Root, Walteen Grady Truely . . . 143 Chapter 14. Lessons from Tadpoles and Poinsettias, Susan Norlander . . . 149 Chapter 15. It’s All About Systems—and People, J. Glenn Morris . . . 157 Chapter 16. A Journey of a Thousand Miles, Kwon Ping Ho . . . 165 Chapter 17. The Two Keys to Making a Better World: How-Do and Can-Do, Tony Grady . . . 185 Chapter 18. Becoming a Scientist Through the Secrets of Plants, Ellen (Jones) Maxon . . . 195 Chapter 19. The Essence of Excellence in Everything (and the Secret of Life), Jameela Lanza . . . 203 Chapter 20. The Families of a Scientist, Eva Raphaël . . . 211 Appendix: Lists of Articles by Young Scientists, Past and Present . . . 229 The SSS Bulletin, 1966-1970 . . . 230-237 The Young Scientists Journal, 2008-present . . . 237-241 Acknowledgements . . . 243 The Other Two Titles in the Journeys Trilogy . . . 247 Contents of Volume 2 . . . 249 Excerpt from Volume 3: A Great Scientist . . . 251 Index . . . 273

Editors Christina Astin and Paul Soderberg

The Butrous Foundation

The Butrous Foundation

The foundation aims to motivate young people to pursue scientific careers enhancing scientific and communication It aims to pro-scientific Theby foundation aims creativity to motivate young people pursue vide a platform for young people all over the world (ages 12-20 years) to careers by enhancing scientific creativity and communication skills. participate in scientific advancements and to encourage them to express It aims provide a creatively. platform for young people all over the world their to ideas freely and

(ages 12-20 years) to participate in scientific advancements and to The Butrous encourage them toFoundation express their ideas freely and creatively. The Butrous Foundation is a private foundation established in 2006. The TheButrous current interestFoundation of the foundation is to fund activities that serve its mission. Butrous Foundation The Mission

The Butrous Foundation is a private foundation established in TheThe foundation aims to motivate young people to pursue 2006. current interest of the foundation is to scientific fund activities careers by enhancing scientific creativity and communication skills. that serve its mission. It aims to provide a platform for young people all over the world The(ages Mission 12-20 years) to participate in scientific advancements and to Theencourage foundation aims to motivate young people to pursue them to express their ideas freely and creatively. scientific careers by enhancing scientific creativity and Thematic approaches to achieve the foundation mission: communication skills. It aims to provide a platform for young 1. To enhance communication and friendship between young people peopleall allover over world (ages 12-20 years) to participate in thethe world and to help each other with their scientific scientific advancements and to encourage them to express their interests. 2. To promote ideals of co-operation and the interchange of ideas freely and the creatively. knowledge and ideas. 3. To enhance the application of science and its role in global soThematic approaches to achieve the foundation mission: ciety and culture. 1. To communication and young 4. enhance To help young people make links withfriendship scientists in between order to take advantage of global knowledge, and participate in the advancepeople all over the world and to help each other with their ment of science. scientific interests. 5. To encourage young people to show their creativity, inspire them 2. To promote thefull ideals of co-operation and the of to reach their potential and to be role models for interchange the next knowledge and ideas. generation. 6. To encourage discipline of of good scienceand where 3. To enhance thethe application science itsopen roleminds in global and respect to other ideas dominate. society and culture. 7. To help global society to value the contributions of young 4. To help young people make links with scientists in order to people and enable them to reach their full potential, take advantage of globaljournal knowledge, and participate in the visit Young Scientists

advancement of science. 5. To encourage young people to show their creativity, inspire them to reach their full potential and to be role models for the next generation.

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