from the world's big
Dr. Kate Biberdorf explains why boiling water makes it safer and how water molecules are unusual and cool.
- University of Texas professor and science entertainer Kate the Chemist joined Big Think to talk about water molecules and to answer two interesting and important questions: Why does boiling water make it safe to drink, and what happens to water when you boil or freeze it?
- According to Kate, when water is heated to a certain temperature (100°C/ 212°F) the hydrogen bonds break and it goes from a liquid to a gas state. Boiling for a minimum of 5 minutes kills any viruses and bacteria that were in the water.
- "Water is a freak and so it is one of my favorite molecules ever," Kate says. "It has these unique properties and we are surrounded by it constantly. We also are made of water. We have to drink water to survive...It's a really, really fun molecule to investigate."
Understanding the math behind social distancing.
- Proper social distancing includes staying 6ft (2m) away from other people, avoiding all non-essential gatherings or crowds, and working from home if possible.
- During the COVID-19 incubation period of 5 days, each infected person can infect 2.5 more people.
- Using this math, it's easy to determine how many people will go on to be infected after the initial person contracted COVID-19 using various levels of social distancing (0%, 50% and 75% examples are found in this article).
Quarantine and isolation for COVID-19, explained<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwNTM5OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDE1ODE0M30.ehm3SCWC7SG781GVK0D3JL8x2REUOwsyWTn65Z38G8o/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=25%2C0%2C73%2C0&height=700" id="de0c8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="28f421302ea3a309b8c2931944e5cbbf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="stay home stay safe dice conception social distancing self quarantine COVID-19" />
Health professionals suggest 14 days self-quarantine if you feel you may have been in contact with the virus.
Photo by FrankHH on Shutterstock<p>"Self-quarantine" and "flattening the curve" appear to be common phrases so far in 2020, along with hashtags on social media such as #StayHomeSaveLives and #SelfIsolation...but what does all of this truly mean?</p><p>Senior Director of Infection Prevention at Johns Hopkins (<a href="https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-social-distancing-and-self-quarantine" target="_blank">Dr. Lisa Maragakis</a>) explains just how critical social distancing measures are when it comes to fighting the spread of the new strain of coronavirus. </p><p><strong>What is self-quarantine? </strong></p><p>Self-quarantine is the practice of separating yourself away from others due to the potential that you may be sick (maybe you or someone in your household has shown symptoms of COVID-19, for example). </p><p>If you feel you may have been in contact with the virus at some point, health professionals including Dr. Maragakis suggest a self-quarantine of <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/coronavirus-incubation" target="_blank">14 (fourteen) days minimum</a> to determine if you will become ill and/or could be contagious to others. </p><p>During this time, <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/coronavirus" target="_blank">you should</a>:</p><ul><li>Use standard hygiene and washing hands frequently (avoid touching your face)</li><li>Stay at home (have someone else pick up your groceries or use an order-in service)</li><li>Not have visitors</li><li>Refrain from sharing utensils, towels or hygiene products with others in your home</li></ul><p>Once you have completed the minimum quarantine time and no longer show symptoms, this is when you go into "self-isolation" to ensure you do not pick up the virus somewhere and pass it along to others. </p><p><strong>What is self-isolation? </strong></p><p>Isolation, in medical terms, simply means keeping an infected patient away from others to avoid passing the infection. </p><p>Self-isolation in regards to COVID-19 refers to the act of isolating yourself, not specifically with doctor's orders, to avoid contracting the infection and passing it along. </p><p>"<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/article/flatten-curve-coronavirus.html" target="_blank">Flattening the curve</a>" of COVID-19 refers to using protective measures to slow the spread of the infection. </p>
The math behind social distancing: How does it help?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwNTM5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDYwODU5Mn0.FsZXw4yDFrQmEHGNKRnSSdkMxKjPupfiKx52BIgOjQQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="b1cce" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f5ebe339897c94177e0137adb14079f6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="concept of social distancing COVID-19" />
Scientists measure the intensity of an infectious disease by it's "reproduction number", which is the average number of people a sick person could infect.
Image by Poi NATTHAYA on Shutterstock<p> <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html" target="_blank">Social distancing</a> is another term that has become extremely common this year. If carried out properly, social distancing really can save lives. </p><p> <strong>Proper social distancing involves: </strong> </p><ul> <li>Keeping at least 6ft (2m) away from others at all times </li> <li>Avoiding non-essential gatherings and crowds</li> <li>Limiting contact with high-risk groups (the elderly, newborns, etc)</li> <li>Working from home if possible </li> <li>Greeting neighbors or colleagues with a wave instead of handshakes </li> <li>Avoiding going out except for when it's absolutely needed (grocery shopping, to pick up medications, etc) </li> </ul><p> With many places around the world entering "lock-down mode", gatherings including sporting events and concerts have been postponed and people who are able to work from home are being advised to do so to slow down the spread of this virus. </p><p> <strong>How does social distancing help flatten the curve? </strong> </p><p> It all comes down to the math. Scientists at <a href="http://social-distancing.com/" target="_blank">Signer Laboratory</a> in the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California San Diego measure the intensity of an infectious disease by its "reproduction number," which is the average number of people a sick person could infect. </p><p> It's important to keep a couple things in mind when explaining social distancing: </p><ol> <li>There is a direct correlation between social exposure and the reproduction number, which the researchers call R<sub>0</sub>). </li> <li>The incubation period of COVID-19 is approximately 5 days - after this period, the person will either experience symptoms and self-quarantine or be "in the clear". </li> </ol><p> For COVID-19, the average reproduction number (R<sub>0</sub>) has been estimated at 2.5. This means that during the incubation period, each infected person can infect 2.5 more people. </p><p>Here's how the math breaks down for various levels of social distancing, from no measures taken, to 50 and 75 percent social distancing:</p><p> <strong><u>NO SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES </u></strong> </p><ul> <li>Continuing your daily life as though nothing is happening</li> <li>Not practicing social distancing at all</li> </ul><p> <strong>Day 1: </strong>Person A contracts the virus </p><p> <strong>Day 5:</strong> Person A infects up to 2.5 people </p><p> <strong>Day 30:</strong> 406 people have been infected </p><p> <strong><u>REDUCING SOCIAL EXPOSURE - 50% </u></strong> </p><ul> <li>Only leaving your house for work and to get groceries</li> <li>Practicing social distancing at work</li> <li>Not physically touching others</li> </ul><p> <strong>Day 1:</strong> Person A contracts the virus </p><p> <strong>Day 5:</strong> Person A infects up to 1.5 people </p><p> <strong>Day 30: </strong>15 people have been infected </p><p> <strong><u>REDUCING SOCIAL EXPOSURE - 75% </u></strong> </p><ul> <li>Self-isolation</li> <li>Only leave your home once or twice a week for the essential needs such as groceries or medical supplies</li> <li>Not having any visitors</li> </ul><p> <strong>Day 1: </strong>Person A contracts the virus </p><p> <strong>Day 5: </strong>Person A infects up to 0.625 people </p><p> <strong>Day 30:</strong> 2.5 people have been infected </p><p> Scientists and health care professionals agree on this one fundamental truth in these difficult times: social distancing can be thought of as the first line of defense against COVID-19. </p><p> <em>"This pandemic can seem overwhelming, but in truth, every person can help slow down the spread of COVID-19. By doing your part,"</em> explains Dr. Maragakis, <em>"you can make a big difference to your health and that of others around you." </em> </p>
What symptoms to watch for, how to get tested, what to do if you're sick, and when to go to the doctor.
- Differences in symptoms exist between a cold, the flu and coronavirus.
- The CDC issued specific recommendations about what to do if you're sick and when to get tested.
- Calling the doctor is important if you feel sick or have questions.
How do you know you have coronavirus?<p>With so much misinformation flying around, it's important to understand the differences in the symptoms between COVID-19 (the infamous coronavirus), the regular flu, and a cold. A number of symptoms overlap between these three ailments, often making it hard at first to figure out which one you might have.</p><p>In particular, all three share dry coughing, a runny nose, a sore throat, body aches, and fatigue. But a fever is not a frequent symptom of colds, while it's a feature of the flu and coronavirus infections, as are diarrhea and headaches. </p><p>If you find yourself sneezing, that's not as common for the coronavirus or the flu, but would strike you if you had a cold.</p><p>The Spinoff, a media portal from New Zealand, made a <a href="https://thespinoff.co.nz/science/18-03-2020/siouxsie-wiles-how-testing-for-covid-19-works/" target="_blank">handy chart,</a> featured above, which summarizes the variations. </p>
How to get tested<p>The CDC maintains that not everyone needs to get tested, especially as there's been a <a href="https://apnews.com/c335958b1f8f6a37b19b421bc7759722" target="_blank">lasting shortage of tests</a>, which has caused havoc in medical facilities throughout the country and likely damaged containment efforts.</p><p>Another reason to not get tested: Most people who get coronavirus generally develop mild symptoms and can get better at home. </p><p>There's also no special treatment currently available for coronavirus, even if some medicines are being closely studied. </p><p>Furthermore, as CDC writes in bold on <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html" target="_blank">its page</a> "<strong>decisions about testing are at the discretion of state and local health departments and/or individual clinicians</strong>." </p><p>If you believe your symptoms are getting worse and merit testing, you should try giving a call to your state or local health department or your doctor. The doctor would be the one to recommend your case to the state and local department to try to get you tested.</p>
What to do if you’re sick?<p>If you do get sick or think you're falling sick, the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html" target="_blank">CDC recommends</a> some steps to protect both you and the community at large.</p><p><strong>* Stay at home</strong></p><p>Overall, you should stay at home unless you need to get medical care. This is both for your health and for the safety of everyone else, who might be infected if you were to go out. </p><p>You would also be more comfortable at home. </p><p>* While at home, you should still try to stay away from other inhabitants there and seek <strong>isolation,</strong> limiting your interaction with pets and animals to not get them sick either. </p><p>* You should also try to <strong>reduce stress</strong>, as anxiety about the illness can cause you additional ill health whether you have coronavirus or not. The CDC would like for people to take breaks from watching the news and being on social media, taking better care of their bodies, unwinding and connecting with others.<span></span></p><p>* <strong>Call your doctor</strong> before you go to get medical care. Especially if you're feeling worse.</p><p>* <strong>Avoid public transportation</strong> so you don't spread the disease.</p><p>* If you're outside,<strong> wear a </strong><strong>face mask</strong> if you are sick. That way you won't infect people.</p><p>* You should also continue practicing <strong>good hygiene: </strong>wash your hands often; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; cover your mouth while you cough or sneeze, ideally into a tissue or the crook of your elbow, not your hand; and clean and <strong>disinfect high-traffic surfaces</strong> in your house.</p>
10 things you can do to manage COVID-19 at home<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c8fc2dc26ad05f8c90c0fb3c99d2f0e5"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/qPoptbtBjkg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
When to go to the doctor?<p>The <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html" target="_blank">CDC recommends</a> that if you develop<strong> warning signs</strong> for COVID-19, you should consider it an emergency and look for medical attention right away. Remember to call ahead.</p><p>The emergency warning signs are:</p><ul><li>Trouble breathing</li><li>Persistent pain or pressure in the chest</li><li>New confusion or inability to arouse</li><li>Bluish lips or face</li></ul><div>Of course, while this is valuable information, if you have any of the symptoms and have ongoing health concerns, please call your doctor. </div>
Misinformation is rampant—but it is the Internet.
- COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that has likely been transmitted from another animal to humans.
- As of today, over 94,200 people have been affected worldwide, with 3,200 deaths.
- While the American public is generally not in danger, minimizing the risk is not smart either.
Sold out sign is seen on a shelve of a supermarket. Sanitary gels and antibacterial hand wash products become out of stock in several supermarkets as the fear of coronavirus outbreak grows in New York, United States on March 4, 2020.
Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images<h2>A (brief) history of pandemics</h2><p>Pandemics originated with animal domestication roughly 12,000 years ago. Before that time, human interactions with other animals was limited. With the emergence of modern agriculture and global trade (and conquer), disease became more widespread. </p><p>Notable pandemics throughout history include cholera, in which seven pandemics in the nineteenth and twentieth century killed tens of millions of people; smallpox, responsible for 300-500 million deaths in the twentieth century; measles, which killed over 200 million in the last 150 years; and malaria, which <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20121229003910/http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/" target="_blank">killed 655,000 people</a> as recently as 2010. </p><p>For better or worse, COVID-19 is being compared to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919. Over 500 million people were affected globally, with death estimates ranging from 17 million all the way up to 100 million. The danger of relating this coronavirus is that, as mentioned above, this is not a flu; no current vaccines will protect you, and the mortality rate is much higher. Most deaths from that flu epidemic occurred during the second year, however, which we should treat as a cautionary tale. Preparation is essential. </p><h2>To hand sanitize or not to hand sanitize? </h2><p>A COVID-19 vaccine is <a href="http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/03/fauci-vaccine-least-year-away-covid-19-death-toll-rises-9-seattle" target="_blank">at least a year away</a>. That means potential outbreaks right now or in the fall will have to rely on best practices and preventive care. </p><p>At the moment, the consensus is that you are generally safe. Hand washing and not touching your face remain our best defense. The CDC even released a <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2020/02/27/cdc-guide-for-facial-hair-how-do-36-styles-work-with-a-respirator/#144a835d15b0" target="_blank">facial hair guide</a> for respirators (which doesn't bode well for my beard). In summation: live life, cautiously. </p><p>One of the most disturbing trends is the hoarding of hand sanitizers and face masks. Those masks are needed by health care workers, who are the most affected population. You're not decreasing your risk, but you are <a href="https://time.com/5794729/coronavirus-face-masks/" target="_blank">certainly putting others in harm's way</a>. As <em>Time</em> notes, "The CDC recommends surgical masks only for people who already show symptoms of coronavirus and must go outside, since wearing a mask can help prevent spreading the virus by protecting others nearby when you cough or sneeze."</p><p>On <a href="https://www.amazon.com/s?k=hand+sanitizer&crid=ZMYZC6GYXIJV&sprefix=hand+san,aps,207&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_8" target="_blank">Amazon</a>, a 12-pack of Purell is currently being sold for $400, while an 8-pack of another brand is going for the bargain of $130. Hand sanitizers are not as effective as soap. DIY hand sanitizer instructions are booming on social media, yet these solutions can <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/03/health/coronavirus-diy-hand-sanitizer-trnd/index.html" target="_blank">prove dangerous</a>. Keep a bottle of Dr. Bronner's nearby and go about your day. </p><p>We need to be smart about all of this and should not minimize the risks. But fear only creates more anxiety, which has a negative impact on your immune system. All that stress will only make things worse if you do become affected.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. His next book is "</em><em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Researchers evaluated the best and worst ways to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in a recent report.
- A recent report from International Institute for Applied Systems Science evaluated six land-based methods for removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
- Though they concluded that every technique would be a net positive for the world, some were riskier or costlier than others.
- Among the safest, cheapest, and overall best approaches were restoring the wetlands and soil carbon sequestration.
In 2016, the Paris Climate Agreement set out the ambitious goal of limiting the rise in global temperature to below 2°C above its preindustrial levels, preferably to 1.5°C. These numbers might seem small, but the amount of energy needed to transform the entire world's average temperature is tremendous, and so too are its effects. If, for instance, the global temperature blasts past that 2°C mark and reaches 4°C, then nearly all of the U.S. will turn into an uninhabitable desert.
But focusing too much on the doom-and-gloom that climate change discussions so often revolve around can be pretty exhausting. So, let's focus instead on possible solutions. If we're to stay below 2°C, we'll need to deploy a multifaceted strategy. Part of that has to be finding ways to remove the greenhouse gases already in our atmosphere.
Recently, researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Science looked at the top six land-based methods for sucking greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere to evaluate their costs, their benefits, and which might be our best options going forward. While some of them are more risky or higher cost than others, all of them were found to contribute in some way and to effectively remove greenhouse gases from out of atmosphere.
1. Afforestation and reforestation
Between 1990 and 2015, the world lost 290 million hectares of forest. Restoring these depleted reserves (reforestation) and planting in previously un-forested areas (afforestation) is a fairly simple, common-sense approach to fighting climate change. Trees suck CO2 out of the air and store it in their timber — not only that, but they also contribute to food production, help to regulate freshwater, offer habitats to animals, and provide jobs and recreation among other benefits.
On the other hand, afforestation and reforestation require a lot of water usage and take up land that could otherwise be used for farming. Despite this, the researchers estimated that this strategy could remove between 0.5 to 7 gigatons (that's a billion tons) of CO2 from the atmosphere. To put that into context, one estimate provided by Carbon Brief suggests that human beings have released 1,374 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. We don't have to get rid of all of this extra CO2, fortunately; just enough to keep warming within acceptable bounds.
2. Wetland restoration
Wetlands might seem like an odd candidate for being one of the most beneficial features of the planet, but they have the potential to scrub another 2.7 gigatons of CO2 from the air. In fact, although wetlands cover 9 percent of the planet, they're estimated to deliver 23 percent of the total value offered by the globe's ecosystems.
For instance, wetlands are the best regulators of water resources out there—they're even sometimes intentionally developed near sewage plants to help filter out pollutants. They also provide habitats for keystone species, can help to produce certain crops (e.g., rice or cranberries), and are extremely resilient to rising sea levels.
Although they tend to release some methane, the amount of CO2 they suck up is well worth it. Regrettably, however, half of the globe's wetlands have been lost, making their restoration a top priority. In addition to being a cheap venture, the researchers also identified virtually no downsides to restoring wetlands.
3. Soil carbon sequestration
Like wetland restoration, soil carbon sequestration — storing carbon in the soil over the long term — presents few downsides. This can take place through a variety of mechanisms, the biggest one being the photosynthesis of plants. But smart crop management, like rotating crops, planting perennial crops (those that don't need to be replanted every year), and so on, can increase how much carbon is stored in the soil. So too can optimizing fertilizer usage, tilling less intensely, improving water management, and many other techniques. Implementing these techniques could result in a reduction of between 2 and 5 gigatons of CO2.
By farming with the conscious goal of sequestering more carbon in the soil, we also gain the benefit of having more useful soil for use in building materials, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and other industrial applications. Plus, it helps to prevent erosion, preserves the landscape, and increases crop yields.
Flickr user Oregon Department of Forestry
Biochar is the result of biomass pyrolysis; simply put, it's charcoal. When biomass is burned in a low- or no-oxygen environment, it becomes carbonized, locking that carbon into the material and preventing its transference to the atmosphere. Biochar stores carbon in a long-term, durable fashion. Typically, biochar is distributed in soil, where it can help improve food production and balance the pH of acidic soil. Microorganisms in soils also emit nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas, but adding small amounts of biochar significantly reduces these emissions, along with other greenhouse gases other than CO2. Plus, producing biochar can also generate electricity.
However, biochar production has to be done carefully. If produced without following clean guidelines, biochar can actually release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But if done correctly, producing biochar could reduce greenhouse gases by up to 2 gigatons of CO2 a year.
5. Terrestrial enhanced weathering
A considerable amount of chemistry is slowly but consistently being conducted beneath our feet. In particular, weathering plays an important role in soil chemistry. As the soil's minerals break down over time, they release nutrients and form secondary minerals, like clay. We can improve this process and encourage desirable soil chemistry by adding crushed silicate rocks rich in calcium and magnesium and low in metal ions like nickel or chromium. Basalt, for instance, would be a good candidate.
Doing so could reduce soil acidity and encourage the transformation of CO2 into bicarbonate ions, or HCO3-. As an added benefit, run-off HCO3- could increase ocean alkalinity, making the ocean more resistant to pH changes. Although it would have some positive effect, the researchers noted that field-scale assessments of this technique's interactions with other approaches — like reforestation — would be necessary to determine exactly how much terrestrial enhanced weathering could contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
6. Bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS)
An engineer walks through the Bailey Bioenergy Facility in Washington, D.C.
Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images
The use of BECCS is something of a one-two punch; it provides energy, avoiding the need to use fossil fuels, and as feedstocks grow for later use as fuel, they suck CO2 out of the atmosphere. Plants like switchgrass or giant reedgrass make for excellent BECCS feedstocks.
Generally, regular bioenergy is a carbon-zero product, since the fuel sequesters CO2 as it grows and releases CO2 as it's burned for energy. But incorporating carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology in this process results in negative emissions. This beats adding CCS technology to fossil fuel processes, since burning fossil fuels starts off by adding emissions to the atmosphere — existing CCS tech can therefore only reduce fossil fuel emissions, rather than turning them negative as is the case with bioenergy.
If BECCS were implemented at a large scale by the year 2100, it could remove 15 gigatons of CO2 per year. However, doing so would be expensive, and the land taken up to grow bioenergy feedstocks could be used instead to grow food. It would also require a greater use of fertilizers and would require a good amount of water to grow.
With the exception of wetland restoration and soil carbon sequestration, all of these approaches for greenhouse gas removal present some kind of downside that we would need to mitigate. The most challenging approaches would be afforestation/reforestation, BECCS, and biochar production, primarily due to their use of land that could otherwise grow food and their water requirements.
However, the researchers found that all of these methods for greenhouse gas removal would not only reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but, on balance, they would also make our lives better, either by creating jobs, reducing pollution, contributing food, promoting ecological diversity, or other ancillary benefits. Combating climate change is often presented as a costly venture, but in reality, it's more of an investment. By assessing the costs and benefits of approaches such as these six, we can get a better picture of what our return will be.