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Eye Safety During Solar Eclipses

Posted by rajascientist Wednesday, July 22, 2009 0 comments

The Sun can be viewed safely with the naked eye only during the few brief seconds or minutes of a total solar eclipse. Partial eclipses, annular eclipses, and the partial phases of total eclipses are never safe to watch without taking special precautions. Even when 99% of the Sun's surface is obscured during the partial phases of a total eclipse, the remaining photospheric crescent is intensely bright and cannot be viewed safely without eye protection [Chou, 1981; Marsh, 1982]. Do not attempt to observe the partial or annular phases of any eclipse with the naked eye. Failure to use appropriate filtration may result in permanent eye damage or blindness!

Generally, the same equipment, techniques and precautions used to observe the Sun outside of eclipse are required for annular eclipses and the partial phases of total eclipses [Reynolds & Sweetsir, 1995; Pasachoff & Covington, 1993; Pasachoff & Menzel, 1992; Sherrod, 1981]. The safest and most inexpensive of these methods is by projection, in which a pinhole or small opening is used to cast the image of the Sun on a screen placed a half-meter or more beyond the opening. Projected images of the Sun may even be seen on the ground in the small openings created by interlacing fingers, or in the dappled sunlight beneath a leafy tree. Binoculars can also be used to project a magnified image of the Sun on a white card, but you must avoid the temptation of using these instruments for direct viewing.
The Sun can be viewed directly only when using filters specifically designed for this purpose. Such filters usually have a thin layer of aluminum, chromium or silver deposited on their surfaces that attenuates ultraviolet, visible, and infrared energy. One of the most widely available filters for safe solar viewing is a number 14 welder's glass, available through welding supply outlets. More recently, aluminized mylar has become a popular, inexpensive alternative. Mylar can easily be cut with scissors and adapted to any kind of box or viewing device. A number of sources for solar filters are listed below. No filter is safe to use with any optical device (i.e. - telescope, binoculars, etc.) unless it has been specifically designed for that purpose. Experienced amateur and professional astronomers may also use one or two layers of completely exposed and fully developed black-and-white film, provided the film contains a silver emulsion. Since all developed color films lack silver, they are always unsafe for use in solar viewing.
Unsafe filters include color film, some non-silver black and white film, medical x-ray films with images on them, smoked glass, photographic neutral density filters and polarizing filters. Solar filters designed to thread into eyepieces which are often sold with inexpensive telescopes are also dangerous. They should not be used for viewing the Sun at any time since they often crack from overheating. Do not experiment with other filters unless you are certain that they are safe. Damage to the eyes comes predominantly from invisible infrared wavelengths. The fact that the Sun appears dark in a filter or that you feel no discomfort does not guarantee that your eyes are safe. Avoid all unnecessary risks. Your local planetarium or amateur astronomy club is a good source for additional information.
In spite of these precautions, the total phase of an eclipse can and should be viewed without any filters whatsoever. The naked eye view of totality is completely safe and is overwhelmingly awe-inspiring!


Posted by rajascientist Wednesday, July 8, 2009 0 comments

Before you next flush the toilet, consider this: Scientists in Singapore have developed a battery powered by urine.
Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology created the credit card-size battery as a disposable power source for medical test kits.
Urine Power
To make the battery, Lee and his colleagues soaked a piece of paper in a solution of copper chloride and sandwiched it between strips of magnesium and copper. This sandwich was then laminated between two sheets of transparent plastic.
When a drop of urine is added to the paper through a slit in the plastic, a chemical reaction takes place that produces electricity, Lee said.
The prototype battery produced about 1.5 volts, the same as a standard AA battery, and runs for about 90 minutes. Researchers said the power, voltage, and lifetime of the battery can be improved by adjusting the geometry and materials used.
Scientist have combined refuelling your car and relieving yourself by creating a new catalyst that can extract hydrogen from urine

The catalyst could not only fuel the hydrogen-powered cars of the future, but could also help clean up municipal wastewater, reported on Monday.

Gerardine Botte of Ohio University uses an electrolytic approach to produce hydrogen from urine — the most abundant waste on earth — at a fraction of the cost of producing hydrogen from water.

Urine’s major constituent is urea, which incorporates four hydrogen atoms per molecule — importantly, less tightly bonded than the hydrogen atoms in water molecules.
Botte uses electrolysis to break the molecule apart, developing an inexpensive nickel-based electrode to efficiently oxidise the urea.

To break the molecule down, a voltage of 0.37V needs to be applied across the cell, which is much less than the 1.23V needed to split water.

“During the electrochemical process the urea gets adsorbed on to the nickel electrode surface, which passes the electrons needed to break up the molecule,” Botte told Chemistry World journal.

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