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Craig Conley's Blog

HALOGENS, NOBLES, AND ALKALINES

04/20/14 at 04:04 AM

In the chemical elements, there are three classes which are unique…with their uniqueness centered upon their outermost valance electron in the electron shells surrounding the nucleus of their atoms. The Halogens are all missing one electron in their outermost electron shell. Being short one electron to complete or fill the shell means these elements react with other elements by attracting them. They want to fill that shell. The Halogen elements are: Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine, Iodine, and Astatine. The Noble gases all have their outermost electron shells filled exactly to the correct amounts. They are unreactive with other elements; they don’t need to mix with them to complete themselves. The Noble gases are: Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon, and Radon. The Alkaline elements all have one lone electron occupying their outermost electron shell. In other words, they’ve started a new shell, but it only has the one electron it in so far. That lone electron makes them extremely reactive with other elements. They want to attach...

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STRETCHING AND SQUEEZING

04/18/14 at 04:58 AM

No, this isn’t about sex. It’s about how gravity acts on planets and moons (and stars). While doing the research for a blog on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, and how the giant planet would stretch and squeeze the moon during its orbit, I realized that this phenomenon is widespread in our Universe. Almost every single body in the heavens is stretched and squashed by a neighbor sometime. Within our Solar System, another prime example besides Enceladus is poor little Io, Jupiter’s innermost of the four Galilean satellites. That little moon is so mashed and mangled by giant Jupiter that it spews molten lava from every pore and vent! The heat generated by the constant tidal surges makes Io the most volcanic body in our Solar System. Our own Earth is stretched and squeezed daily by our Moon. The ocean tides are the result of this squashing and stretching, accounting for a 21 to 31 inch rise in ocean water levels depending on the Moon’s (and Sun’s) position relative to Earth. Double-star (binaries) systems have intense deformations resulting from...

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ENCELADUS WATER SPOUTS

04/16/14 at 04:46 AM

The recent discovery of a probable ocean of water on Saturn’s moon Enceladus has renewed the search for alien life on other worlds. And, this one is right here in our own Solar System! The jets of water which the Cassini spacecraft observed spraying outward from the South Pole of the 500 kilometer-wide moon have been linked to the stretching and contracting of Enceladus as it orbits giant Saturn. The jets of Enceladus apparently work like adjustable garden hose nozzles. The nozzles are almost closed when Enceladus is closer to Saturn and are most open when the moon is farthest away. This has to do with how Saturn squeezes and releases the moon with its gravity. The way the jets react so responsively to the changing stresses on Enceladus suggests they have their origins in a large body of liquid water. Since liquid water was the key to the development of life on Earth, these discoveries whet the appetite to know whether life exists everywhere water is present. For years scientists hypothesized the intensity of the jets likely varied over time...

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CHANGING OF THE GUARD

04/14/14 at 04:10 AM

I remember when I was growing up and all the actresses and actors in the movies were icons from my Dad’s day…I used to accept them as the prime beautiful people. But then, I began to grow up and suddenly there were new names in the headlines…a new generation were taking the stage. Suddenly, all those older celebrities began to age right before my very eyes…they were getting wrinkles and age lines, things sagged and cellulite showed up. But the new cadre was splendid. Young and fresh; filled with sexuality and beckoning, they somehow seemed inexperienced, yet enticing…all the attributes of what was needed for me and my desires. Now, years later, I watch as those lovelies are being replaced one by one with the new guard. What a shame. I loved them so dearly. But it brings to mind how the never-ending cycle of life continues. Reproduction is such a basic and undeniable aspect of our being. Nothing can stop it. Not even Hollywood. As the old guard fades, a new one replaces it...

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SPECTROSCOPY LINES

04/12/14 at 04:40 AM

Light consists of electromagnetic radiation of different wavelengths. When the chemical elements (or their compounds) are heated, they emit energy in the form of light (blackbody radiation – heat an iron ball and it glows red, then orange, then white, etc., the more heat you apply). Using a prism to break up the light into its constituent components of color gives us a spectrum. Each component (or color) of the light has a different wavelength. In fine detail, the spectrum appears as a series of lines called the line spectrum. Each element has a different atomic spectrum. The way we identify what a distant star is composed of, i.e., its chemical makeup, comes as a result of the way fine lines appear in the electromagnetic spectrum coming from it. When an atom emits a photon (radiates light), it changes its energy state, usually going from higher to lower. Since each element emits a characteristic set of discrete wavelengths according to its electronic structure...

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A PULSAR PERSPECTIVE

04/10/14 at 04:05 AM

This is about one of my favorite objects in the sky; the Crab Pulsar. I was thinking the other day, just imagining as science-fiction writers do, about what it would be like if you were on the surface of the Crab Pulsar. It hit me that it would be very strange indeed. First, a little background. The Crab Pulsar is the remnant of a supernova which exploded in 1054 AD and was recorded by Chinese astronomers. It was said that when the star exploded, it was so bright that it cast a shadow for two weeks until it faded. As the supernova was relatively close to Earth (only 7,000 light years away) this is understandable. What the explosion left behind is a neutron star; a body that has nothing but neutrons in it, hence no electrical repulsion to push apart the atoms and therefore incredibly dense. This neutron star is roughly 12.5 miles across – not very big as astronomical bodies go. But – it is spinning at the incredible speed of 30 times per second. 30 times every second! A ball big enough to be 12 miles across spinning at 30 times per second is stunning. Now, if you...

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WATER SPOUTS AND BLACK HOLES

04/08/14 at 04:40 AM

I’ll get in trouble for this, but here goes anyway. I’m going to assert that when we look at the centers of galaxies, we should be thinking in terms of fluid dynamics, not infinite gravity wells. When you see a hurricane, or watch water going down the drain, there’s a hole in the middle of the swirling mass. There’s nothing in it, but it’s not a black hole! It’s the result of angular momentum. The rotation slings the rotating stuff out into a circle, leaving an empty circle for it to spin around. In the case of water, sometimes a water spout is produced, ejecting the water going into the spinning vortex out in a vertical stream at a 90° angle to the rotation disk. We see such things coming out of galactic centers…massive jets of X-ray particles at high energy levels, which is what you’d expect if stars were being poured into the swirling vortex and shattered. Think about it – most of the gravity at a galactic center would not be centered on a single point within the spinning vortex, but would instead be concentrated in the rim of the circle...

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THE MOON AND THE SUN

04/06/14 at 04:38 AM

I find it the most amazing coincidence that, when viewed from our perspective here on Earth, both the Sun and the Moon appear to be exactly the same size. Anyone with even a rudimentary grasp of science nowadays knows that the two orbs are definitely NOT the same size, yet to us, they appear to be like that in the sky. The ramifications for centuries of spiritualism, deities, and metaphysical musings…all are influenced by this amazing size-equality. Two perfectly round orbs; one brilliantly glowing and so bright you can barely look at it, and the other, an identical shape and size, but softer and almost a pastel white. One rules the day; and one rules the night. At times, the Moon even appears in daytime, but is dramatically overshadowed by the Sun. The truth of the matter is, of course, that the Moon orbits the Earth at just the precise distance to make it appear the same size as the Sun, but the Sun is 93,000,000 miles away...

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THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION

04/04/14 at 04:04 AM

Recently an in-depth analysis of the Kennedy assassination was presented on PBS. In it, the presenters offered convincing evidence that there were actually only three shots fired; one miss, one hitting Kennedy in the neck and passing through to Governor Connally’s body, and one head shot which killed Kennedy. They demonstrated how the head shot would have caused all the nerves in Kennedy’s body to activate the stronger back muscles and cause the backwards jerk seen on the film. To my mind, the show laid to rest any possible conspiracy theories about Lee Harvey Oswald acting in tandem with anyone else. He did it entirely by himself. Test firings of the rifle and modern re-measurements of timelines and trajectories demonstrate undeniably that Oswald acted alone. Okay, fine. That explains how it was done. But…it doesn’t explain why! The motivation for Oswald killing Kennedy could have come from...

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APRIL FOOL'S DAY

04/02/14 at 04:42 AM

The earliest recorded association between 1 April and foolishness is an ambiguous reference in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392). In Italy, France and Belgium, children and adults traditionally tack paper fishes on each other's back as a trick and shout "April fish!" in their local languages. The 1 April tradition in France, Romandy and French-speaking Canada includes poisson d'avril (literally "April's fish"), attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim's back without being noticed. In Scotland, April Fools' Day is traditionally called Hunt-the-Gowk Day ("gowk" is Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person), although this name has fallen into disuse. The traditional prank is to ask someone to deliver a sealed message requesting help of some sort. In fact, the message reads "Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile". Most Swedish and Danish news media outlets will publish exactly one false story on 1 April, for newspapers this will typically be a first-page article but not the top headline. The Flemish tradition...

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SUPERNOVA SURVIVOR

03/31/14 at 04:01 AM

When a massive star runs out fuel, it collapses and explodes as a supernova. Although these explosions are extremely powerful, it is possible for a companion star to endure the blast. A team of astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes has found evidence for one of these survivors. It’s named DEM L241. This hardy star is in a stellar explosion’s debris field − also called a supernova remnant – located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small companion galaxy to the Milky Way. The supernova remnant remains hot and therefore X-ray bright for thousands of years, long after the original explosion occurred. In this case, an X-ray point-like source has been located and is one component of a binary star system. In such a celestial pair, either a neutron star or black hole (formed when the star went supernova) is in orbit with a star much larger than our Sun. As they orbit one another, the dense neutron star...

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CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS

03/29/14 at 04:50 AM

UN scientists are set to deliver their darkest report yet on the impacts of climate change, pointing to a future stalked by floods, drought, conflict and economic damage if carbon emissions go untamed. Scientists and government representatives will meet in Yokohama, Japan, on Tuesday to hammer out a 29-page summary. It will be unveiled on March 31. The work comes six months after the first volume in the long-awaited Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report declared scientists were more certain than ever that humans caused global warming. It predicted global temperatures would rise 0.3-4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5-8.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century, adding to roughly 0.7°C since the Industrial Revolution. Seas will creep up by 26-82 centimeters (10.4-32.8 inches) by 2100. The draft warns costs will spiral with each additional degree, although it is hard to forecast by how much. Warming of 2.5°C over pre-industrial times - 0.5°C more than the UN's target - may cost 0.2-2.0% of global annual income, a figure that could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Many scientists concur...

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THOUGHTS ON DEATH

03/27/14 at 04:12 AM

I wonder about the strange condition of being called ‘Death’. What is its purpose? Well, what comes to mind first is that it is the end, or finish, of life. Otherwise, life would go on forever, and if you think about it, that would be undesirable. Obviously, there must be some mechanism to close it out, to bring it to a halt, to bring it to an end. Death accomplishes that function. The question comes up: What purpose would existing for any length of time in a thing called ‘the Death State’ serve? Answer: None whatsoever. The condition known as ‘Being’ is for living. Not for ‘being dead’. To dip into the philosophical (and a touch of the metaphysical) there is a relationship between the Seer and the Seen which implies purpose, i.e., without someone to see it, why would it be…or even How could it be? Understand, the word ‘Being’ transcends both life and death…both are being things…even ‘not-being’ would still be a thing and therefore is a part of the broader classification of that general category of Being. This ‘being’ that is our Universe is for life and living, there’s no place for death to exist in it…therefore death is relegated to only serving the function of providing the end of life, a mechanical process, a simple flip of a switch. Another thought is that in the past certain philosophers have referred to death as an event where a ‘forgetting’ takes place...

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ODE TO SELENE, GODDESS OF THE MOON

03/25/14 at 04:04 AM

In Greek mythology, Selene is the goddess of the moon. She is the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, and sister of the sun-god Helios, and of Eos, goddess of the dawn. She drives her moon chariot across the heavens. Several lovers are attributed to her in various myths, including Zeus, Pan, and the mortal Endymion. In classical times, Selene was often identified with Artemis, much as her brother, Helios, was identified with Apollo. Both Selene and Artemis were also associated with Hecate, and all three were regarded as lunar goddesses, although only Selene was regarded as the personification of the moon itself. Her Roman equivalent is Luna. Selene is best known for her affair with the beautiful mortal Endymion. The account tells of Selene's "mad passion" and her visiting the "fair Endymion" in a cave on Mount Latmus. Quintus Smyrnaeus' The Fall of Troy tells that, while Endymion slept in his cave beside his cattle, "Selene watched him from on high, and slid from heaven to earth; for passionate love drew down the immortal stainless Queen of Night." The eternally sleeping Endymion was...

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MISUSE OF GOVERNMENT ASSETS

03/23/14 at 04:25 AM

The big fire we had last summer in the Black Forest section of Colorado Springs has been the source of numerous inquiries concerning blame and conduct of officials. A testy dialogue has arisen between the Sheriff’s Department and the Fire Department. Each side claims the other mishandled the firefighting effort. Now, new information has come to light as a result of an independent investigation by a third party. It seems that firefighters were instructed by someone to pull themselves out of the main fire line and go to protect one particular home. That home belonged to a senior public official who was associated with the Sheriff’s Department. The firefighters did as they were instructed, of course, and duly saved the structure from destruction. But pulling them off the line may have cost other, less well-placed, residents their homes. This cannot stand. I know that government employees have a long history of misappropriating government equipment and resources – it’s such a huge organization and it buys supplies in such huge quantities, who’s going to miss a ball-point pen, or a ream of paper,..

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CELLS AND DRIVING

03/21/14 at 04:24 AM

Here in Colorado, we recently lost a bid to make using cell phones while driving illegal. It seemed the legislators in the State Capitol wouldn’t muster the courage to vote for a law that might make them unpopular. That’s too bad. Surely they know that in order to be reasonable and have a decent life, sometimes you have to embrace unpleasant things. It’s not all sweetness and light, you know. Plato writes about how opposites are necessary in order to define each other. That is exactly true. You wouldn’t know what light was unless you had dark to compare it to. You wouldn’t know what big was unless you had little to compare it to. The same with near and far, smooth and bumpy, fast and slow, etc, etc. It’s only by holding a thing up alongside its opposite that we are able to recognize it. Its opposite defines it. The duality is inescapable…it rules our lives. This also applies to good and bad. Both are necessary. If it was just always good, then it would become boring after a while…having the bad come along gives contrast, the very contrast we need in order to know that a thing is good. When it comes to cell phones and driving,..

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EUROPA CLIPPER MISSION

03/19/14 at 04:18 AM

NASA has given the go-ahead for a mission to study Jupiter’s moon, Europa. This strange world has a surface of ice, and scientists theorize it has an ocean of water beneath the surface that could provide a home for living things. Two probes, one for Europa, and the other for the moon Ganymede, are to launch in 2020 on two separate launch vehicles from different launch sites. The orbiters would reach the Jupiter system in 2026 and spend at least three years conducting research. Europa has a network of crisscrossing cracks which may serve as a record of the stresses caused by massive tides in the moon's global ocean. These tides occur because Europa travels around Jupiter in a slightly oval-shaped orbit. When Europa comes closer to the planet, the moon gets stretched like a rubber band, with the ocean height at the long ends rising nearly 100 feet. That's roughly as high as the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, but it happens on a body that measures only about one-quarter of Earth's diameter. When Europa moves farther from Jupiter, it relaxes back into the shape of a ball. The moon's ice layer has to stretch and flex to accommodate these changes...

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AEROSOLS AND GREENHOUSE GASES

03/17/14 at 04:22 AM

Global temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.22° Fahrenheit (0.12° Celsius) per decade since 1951. But since 1998, the rate of warming has been only 0.09° F (0.05° C) per decade - even as atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to rise at a rate similar to previous decades. Carbon dioxide is the most significant greenhouse gas generated by humans. In order to understand the role played by carbon dioxide emissions in global warming, it is necessary to account for the effects of atmospheric aerosols. Improving our understanding of how airborne particles, called aerosols, drive climate change is critical. Aerosols are produced by both natural sources – such as volcanoes, wildfire and sea spray – and sources such as manufacturing activities, automobiles and energy production. Depending on their make-up, some aerosols cause warming, while others create a cooling effect. Multiple studies have shown the Northern Hemisphere plays a stronger role than the Southern Hemisphere in transient climate change. One reason for the disproportionate influence of the Northern Hemisphere, particularly as it pertains to the impact of aerosols, is that most man-made aerosols are released from the more industrialized regions north of the equator...

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EQUAL DAY AND NIGHT

03/15/14 at 04:42 AM

We are approaching the Spring Equinox. It happens on the 21st of March (or the 20th to some folks) and it will be the day that there are exactly equal amounts of both daylight and night time. It happens again at the Fall Equinox, on September 21st. I notice the evening-out of the light and dark as it approaches. Sunrise and sunset will occur on the same minute of the same hour – just 12 hours apart. It’s somehow uniquely normal when it happens, as if this was the way time was supposed to be – half light and half dark. I understand that the axial tilt of the Earth causes the shortening and lengthening of the days and nights – after all, that tilt is what makes our seasons – but on those two days every year, the Earth, at that latitude, is facing the Sun squarely. Its rotation divides daylight and night time into equal portions…neither long days of summer, nor long nights of winter. How strange that that only happens on those two...

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STOLEN PASSPORTS

03/13/14 at 04:17 AM

This recent airplane disaster in Malaysia has raised concerns about several passengers who boarded the flight using stolen passports. One passport had been stolen more than two years ago. I suppose it takes that long for the stolen property to work its way through the various fences and sellers of such stuff. I find it incomprehensible that the illegitimate user of that passport was able to make it through so many security and verification checkpoints with it. When I’ve traveled internationally, it’s become one of the most unendurable and annoying tasks I’ve ever known - to navigate all those checkpoint procedures. I remember when you used to just hand over your passport, the clerk would ask you, “Business or Pleasure?” and you were on your way. But unfortunately, with all these despicable, cowardly terrorist happenings going on nowadays, those of us who aren’t involved in trying to make some not-too-well-thought-out statement have to suffer for the weasels who are jerking around doing that crap...

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An Excerpt from my New Book 'A SIRIUS SCORCHING'

03/11/14 at 04:06 AM

Suddenly, a rapidly moving rocket appeared zipping towards them from space. As Pointer watched, a shiny silvery ball was ejected from it into the center of the swarm of patrol boats. Pointer momentarily froze with trepidation, but then galvanized! “Ingram! Get out of there! Something is heading for you! Now! Move!” “Something is heading for us?” Lieutenant Ingram sounded confused. “Is it a…?” Suddenly, the radio went dead. A blinding flash filled the viewscreen. Two seconds later, a powerful impact rattled the huge cruiser. Crewmen held their hands to their ears as the compression wave penetrated even within the massive hull. Captain Pointer was knocked off his feet. Charlie Wong stayed upright by holding onto the back of the Captain‘s chair where he had positioned himself when they entered, but his eyes opened wide with fear. Lieutenant Coggins wobbled on his feet but shook off the effects with a determined effort. The big viewscreen was blank. He stepped to the console and readjusted the external cameras and the surface of AX709B appeared. He surveyed it quickly and then pointed to the viewscreen, “Look!” A small shuttle had lifted up out of a crater just beyond the horizon of the asteroid and was spewing blue fire from her thrusters, heading for open space...

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THE UNRECOGNIZABLE AMERICA

03/09/14 at 04:46 AM

I read the other day where a UK politician called parts of England “unrecognizable” because of the influx of so many immigrants from Eastern Europe. I realized that we have the same situation developing over here. Many immigrants coming into this country don’t speak English and they therefore tend to congregate together…where the language they do speak can be understood. It makes little ‘cells’ – places where America doesn’t exist. Fine for them, but not for those of us who are native to America. Mind you, I’m not trying to be racist here, but all the countries in the world (well, most of them) have a history that defines the character of the people living in them. If another person wants to go live in that country, he cannot refuse to accept that…and that means he (or she) must embrace the culture of the country they are going to live in, not bring the culture they left behind in and try to assert that it is dominant. Having an ‘open door’ policy to others is very friendly, certainly speaks of high ideals, and offers great opportunity for human beings to grow and better themselves the world over. But national character must be preserved. MUST BE! We don’t want to end up some light-brown-skinned, unremarkable, homogenous group of people covering the face of the globe. We want variety…differences. It’s what makes the world go round. It is grossly unfair...

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TIME FOR TOBACCO TO PAY

03/07/14 at 04:40 AM

Every time I see ads for these new e-cigarettes, I see red. As a former smoker who suffers from diminished lung capacity, I abhor anything which encourages that foul habit – including the so-called ‘safe’ e-cigarettes. They still promote the tobacco habit; the mannerisms, the ridiculous ‘cool’ ethos, it’s the same technique as smoking a cigarette. And the tobacco companies are buying up the e-cigarette market. I think we need to fix blame here where it belongs. Those tobacco companies knew all along what health damage their products were causing. They used every legal trick in the book to keep selling a hugely addictive and harmful substance. They manipulated the media to mask (read ‘hide’) the ill effects of tobacco use and defended their drug-pushing activities using such terms as “free speech”, or “free enterprise” – often claiming that they weren’t ‘forcing’ anyone to use their product. That’s a bald-faced lie. If you know something is addictive (strongly addictive) and you offer to sell it to another person, that’s forcing them to use it. No other way of describing it will do. You get them hooked, as they say in the drug parlance. Well, this...

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KEPLER PLANET BONANZA

03/05/14 at 04:38 AM

NASA's Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system. Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system. Four of these new planets are less than 2.5 times the size of Earth and orbit in their sun's habitable zone, defined as the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet may be suitable for life-giving liquid water. One of these new habitable zone planets, called Kepler-296f, orbits a star half the size and 5 percent as bright as our sun. Kepler-296f is twice the size of Earth, but scientists do not know whether the planet is a gaseous world, with a thick hydrogen-helium envelope, or if it is a water world...

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NITRATES

03/03/14 at 04:37 AM

Nitrates are commonly found as three Oxygen atoms bound to one Nitrogen atom (NO3). Almost all inorganic nitrate salts are soluble in water at standard temperature and pressure. A common example of an inorganic nitrate salt is Potassium nitrate (saltpeter). A rich source of inorganic nitrate in the human body comes from diets rich in leafy green foods, such as spinach and arugula. It is now believed that dietary nitrate in the form of plant-based foods is converted in the body to nitric oxide which reduces hypertension. Nitrates are mainly produced for use as fertilizers in agriculture because of their high solubility and biodegradability. The main nitrates are Ammonium, Sodium, Potassium, and Calcium salts. Several million kilograms are produced annually for this purpose. The second major application of nitrates is as oxidizing agents, most notably in explosives where the rapid oxidation of Carbon compounds liberates large volumes of gases, like in gunpowder. Sodium nitrate is used to remove air bubbles from molten glass and...

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