technoquest - Science - News - The Independent

technoquest

Q Sunlight seems to be more powerful and more capable of burning human skin in the past 20 years. Have specific dangerous wavelengths in the spectrum increased in intensity recently?

A If the energy output of the sun increased, there would be no reason for all wavelengths not to increase to the same extent. It is therefore unlikely that some wavelengths have increased in intensity more than others. The higher incidence of skin cancer is more likely to be caused by our changing social habits: we sunbathe more than we did and go on holiday to sunny countries. Although the protective ozone layer in the earth's atmosphere is getting thinner as a result of pollution from CFC gases, the "holes" have been found only over Antarctica (and to a lesser extent the Arctic) and there is no evidence as yet linking the thinning over temperate latitudes with the increased incidence of skin cancer.

Q Why do some cars have a static build-up and others don't?

A It is thought to have something to do with the carbon content of the car tyres. Tyres with high carbon content are more likely to dissipate static electricity.

Q Why is nitrogen used in so many explosive materials if it is so inert?

A Nitrogen gas is inert because there are three bonds holding together only two molecules. If you like, it doesn't have any hands free. In explosives, the nitrogen atoms are held to other atoms quite loosely and can therefore form other bonds readily. This makes them an unstable material.

Q Who discovered black holes?

A Pierre Laplace, the 18th-century French philosopher, first suggested the existence of a gravity field so strong that light could not escape. Albert Einstein did the mathematics and John Wheeler coined the term "black hole". As yet there is no absolute proof that a black hole exists, although there is very strong evidence suggesting it does.

Q Why isn't there a cure for the common cold?

A The common cold is caused by many different viruses. At the moment we have few medicines to treat virus infections. Those which do exist are far too strong (and have potentially unpleasant side-effects) to risk using them just to get rid of a cold. There is no vaccine for the common cold because so many different viruses cause it and it is impossible to cope with them all. A cold makes you feel a bit grotty for a few days and then you can fight it off without treatment. So a "cure" isn't really needed.

Q How do bees navigate?

A Bees navigate using the position of the sun in relation to their journey. This information is conveyed to other members of the hive through a dance that the bees do.

These questions and answers are provided by Science Line. You can use its Dial-A-Scientist service on 0345 600444

CHRISTOPHER RILEY

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Sport
David Moyes and Rio Ferdinand
FootballRio Ferdinand on why the former manager failed at United
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
News
i100
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories