Largest Meteorite Left No Crater On Earth

By Anupum Pant

You should know: Meteor vs. Meteoroid vs. Meteorite

Meteor: The streak of light that we see in the sky is “Meteor”. When debris enters earth and gets burned up while entering, it leaves a streak of light. Unlike what is popularly believed, meteor is not the debris itself rather the word “meteor” refers to only the flash of light.

Meteoroid: A meteoroid is a mass that is small – ranging from a kilometer to only a few millimeters in diameter. Most meteoroids that enter the Earth’s atmosphere are so small that they vaporize completely and never reach the planet’s surface.

Meteorite: If the Meteoroid survives and reaches the earth’s surface, it becomes a Meteorite.

Hoba the Meteorite

About 80,000 years back, a ridiculously huge mix of Iron and Nickel entered the earth. It was so large that what was left out of all the burning through the atmosphere, measured 66,000 kg in the end. About half ton of this meteorite has gone to laboratories for research. Even after accounting for losses towards laboratories and vandalism, it is still the largest single mass of natural Iron on the Earth’s surface. It is the largest meteorite ever discovered till date and is called “Hoba”.

This meteorite was discovered by a farmer in Namibia in the year 1920. Since then, due to its mass, it has never been moved. The meteorite and the site has been declared as a national monument by the Namibian government and several tourists visit it every year.

Farmer’s Story: 

One winter as I was hunting at the farm Hoba I noticed a strange rock. I sat down on it. Only its upper part was visible. The rock was black, and all around it was calcareous soil. I scratched the rock with my knife and saw there was a shine beneath the surface. I then chiselled off a piece and took it to the SWA Maatskappy in Grootfontein, whose director established it to be a meteorite.

If that was hardly interesting…

The most puzzling thing about this meteorite is probably not that it belongs to a very rare class of meteorites (Ataxite), but the fact that it has no crater to be seen around it. Normally, a meteorite of this size should have left a crater hundreds of meters wide.

The best theory that explains the absence of any preserved crater around it is that, this piece of rock must have hit the earth’s surface at a very low angle. As a result, it must have skipped on the surface like a flat stone on water surface. And in the end, must have landed at the place where it lies today.

Paper Bags Are Not Better Than Plastic Bags

By Anupum Pant

Plastic bags are terrible things. They choke animals, aren’t easy to recycle, do not break down, pollute our oceans, their production adds to our oil demands…and the list goes on. Some time back, we realized their ill effects and started taking steps that would encourage people to use bags made of alternative materials. Furthermore, several cities all over the world have banned the use of plastic bags.

Side Note: Interestingly, plastic bags aren’t actually banned for any of those reasons. They are banned because they tend to fly with the wind and move out of your trash fairly easily. They create a mess at places where they aren’t supposed to. That is the major reason as to why they are being banned.

In 2007, San Francisco banned plastic bags for supermarkets and pharmacies. Last year, it got expanded to all retail stores. Now, they have been banned for restaurant takeaways too. Also, the use of plastic bags at retail stores has been banned in several Indian cities. But the point isn’t to list out all the cities where it has been banned. There are many cities. I hope you get the idea…

When it comes to finding an alternative for plastic bags, paper bags seem to be the first choice. But it turns out, paper bags are not better than plastic bags.  Most of us underestimate their ill effects. Here are a few reasons that will make you realize why paper bags are not so good:

The point isn’t to make paper bags look bad or to make plastic look good or vice versa. It is to dispel the image of “the green paper bag” from our minds.

Reasons

Production: Production of paper bags all over the world involves cutting down 14 million trees every year. It is estimated that the production of paper bags creates 70 % more air pollution than plastic bag production.
Production of paper bags also results in much more water getting polluted when compared to the production of plastic bags. This is because their manufacturing process requires a lot of water.
Almost the same amount of petroleum used for plastic bags (for the material) gets consumed in making of paper bags to fuel the machines plus transportation.

Weight: Paper weighs a lot more than plastic. It is estimated that to carry the same number of paper bags it takes 7 times the transportation it takes to haul plastic bags. More trucks, more pollution, greater greenhouse impact.

Space: Paper bags occupy a lot more space than plastic bags do. This creates a problem at landfills that are getting filled to the brim already.

Recycling: Paper bag activists would say, plastic bags live for ever in the landfills. Yes they do, but there, paper bags do not decompose within a meaningful time period either. In fact, most of the stuff lives on for a long time in landfills. Landfills aren’t meant to make things degrade. With a paucity of oxygen and water in landfills, it is hard for things to decompose there. Even food items thrown away at landfills last for years.
That said, even plastic bags are almost never recycled.

Also they tear easily. As a result, more number of paper bags have to be used.

Solution

Both of them – plastic and paper bags – are equally bad. Recently developed biodegradable plastic bags are not any good either (they have a bigger carbon footprint). Carrying canvas, cloth or jute bags and saving them for future use is probably the best alternative.

If you liked this, you’ll probably also like – Understanding the Impending Helium Crisis

The Red Rain of Kerala

By Anupum Pant

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In the year 2001, between 25th July and 25th September, people from the Indian state of Kerela (Kottayam and Idukki districts) experienced a bizarre oddity – The Red Rain of Kerala. Sporadic heavy downpours of mysteriously colored water left the people of Kerala dazed. More recently, red rains were also seen in parts of Sri Lanka between 15th November and 27th December, 2012.

Yellow, Black and Green rains have also been reported several times since 1896.

Red Rain of Kerala – Studies

A study conducted in India showed that the rain was colored because these raindrops contained millions of spherical and oval red particles which had an internal structure. These things looked like biological cells. Initially, when scientists weren’t able to confirm the existence of DNA (a fact which has baffled scientists) in them, in spite of an internal structure present in the cells, some started claiming that the origin of these red particles was extraterrestrial, possibly, coming from an exploded meteor.

Later the mystery was solved, the presence of DNA was confirmed and a study, destroying popular media claims, concluded that the red rain of Kerala had been colored due to airborne spores originating from a type of algae. There was nothing alien about it.

The unusual color of the rain was due to the presence of a unicellular micro-organism belonging to Kingdom Protista, of the Phylum Euglenozoa, known as Trachelomonas. Trachelomonas was the main cause of reddish downpours in other regions of the world as well.

[Source: The Red Rain of Kerala]