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Published: Wednesday, December 20, 2017 @ 8:46 AM
— Winter solstice is sneaking up on us just as quickly as stuffed turkeys and Christmas trees. This year's solstice will take place on Thursday, Dec. 21.
The astronomical phenomenon happens as the earth orbits the sun (see this helpful animation). During the winter, one hemisphere (this applies to North and South) is tilted away from the sun and receives sunlight at a more oblique angle, causing a drop in temperature.
The winter solstice is the point of earth’s orbit when this trend stops and that hemisphere begins to receive more and more sunlight at a steep angle. This causes temperatures to rise and days to grow longer.
The winter solstice is the shortest day and the longest night of the year and is culturally considered the first day of winter. Since ancient times it's been celebrated as a holiday and has helped shape many cultural traditions.
Winter solstice traces back to ancient history.
Ancient humans noticed the shortening of the days and were terrified that one day there would be no more daylight left. With time, people realized that after this day each year, the sun began moving towards them, again. They began to observe the day in various ways and created traditions to entice the sun to come back, known as solstice celebrations. Some of those traditions included offering gifts of imitation fruit (symbols of fertility) and the lighting of yule logs, a special log that is burned through the night of the winter solstice to help bring light to the darkest night of the year and to help reignite the sun.
It's no coincidence Christmas Day coincides with the winter solstice.
In modern times, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day. Many believe that celebrating the birth of Jesus was set to sync with the December solstice because from that point on, the days begin to have more daylight in the Northern Hemisphere. However, according to historian David Gwynn, Christmas was set on Dec. 25 to offset pagan celebrations of Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun), a Roman holiday.
Another connection to Christmas is the term Yule, derived from the Norse word jól, which refers to the pre-Christian winter solstice festival.
Ginger has been a longstanding favorite of the winter solstice.
Making gingerbread houses and cookies around Christmas time is a tradition for many people that brings warmth and happiness to their homes. But did you know that this special herb was unknown to Europeans until it was brought back by returning crusaders in the early 1100s? It was a big hit and became a holiday favorite, used in gingerbread and teas.
Winter solstice bonfires started the tradition of feasts during the holiday season.
Heavy meals, also known as feasts, were very common at solstice bonfires. Much of the food we eat today at feasts, including pork (reminiscent of wild boar hunts common in northern Europe) and other meats. At this time of the year, farmers harvested their herds to avoid having to feed them over winter, and the wives harvested all the herbs.
Soltices are different from equinoxes.
Solstices are easily confused with equinoxes but are not the same thing. Like solstices, equinoxes happen twice a year, occurring in the spring and fall instead of the winter and summer. And while solstices occur during the time when the sun is farthest from the equatorial plane, equinoxes occur at the time when the sun spends the same amount of time at the equatorial plane, giving equal lengths to day and night.
It's one of the few times a year you can get up close to the rocks at Stonehenge.
Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 5:30 PM
— You're in Washington D.C. on a freezing cold morning, ice frosting your vehicles windows. Not wanting a cold drive to the office, you ask your partner to start the car for you as they leave.
Sounds perfectly reasonable right? Well, beware because if you leave that vehicle running for more than 3 minutes, you may have to pay a whopping $5,000 fine! It's not exactly common knowledge, but many states actually have laws against letting your car idle, even in the cold when you just want a warm drive to work.
Some states or cities even have laws against using automatic car starters, according to Lifewire. Such laws are an outgrowth of existing laws against leaving your car running while you're not inside.
In Atlanta, the law states: "No person shall stop or stand any truck or bus on any street or public place and idle for more than 15 minutes," according to a compilation of idling laws on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) website. Violators face a minimum fine of $500, but there is also a clause that allows for up to 25 minutes when the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
While you may think Washington D.C.'s and Atlanta's regulations are a bit extreme, Ohio has a zero tolerance policy for idling, according to Men's Health. But the citation is also significantly less, set at $50. The Buckeye state isn't the only place in the country taking a hard line stance against idling either. The city of Auburn in California also promises $50 fines to anyone caught running their parked vehicle.
Another example is Colorado, where idling is forbidden, unless the temperatures dip below 20 degrees. Many other cities and states have similar regulations, setting rules based on temperatures and/or time limits.
Of course, there's logic behind putting such laws on the books. With scientists around the world regularly warning humanity about the dire and ballooning effects of climate change, cutting down on vehicle emissions is an important, albeit seemingly small, step to address the issue.
Just last months, a new scientific study revealed that the worst-case predictions regarding climate change are likely the most accurate. The results followed the November publication of an open letter to humanity from more than 15,000 international scientists urging society to address major environmental concerns before it's "too late."
As scientists continue to sound the alarm bells, it certainly pays to be cautious. Even if a few minutes of idling doesn't seem like a big cost to the environment, we have to think on a mass scale. If tens of millions of Americans run their cars for several extra minutes each day, the emissions skyrocket.
At the same time, there has to be a middle ground. In the bitter cold winter temperatures, sometimes preheating your car is the only option. Fortunately, places – such as Atlanta – have added some common sense to their regulation, allowing drivers ample time to heat up their vehicles in low temperatures without risking a fine.
Here's a list of states that have laws against idling, according to the EPA.
Some of the regulations are city specific, while others are state-wide. If you're now concerned that you might have been regularly or occasionally breaking the law, you can check your area's regulations via the EPA's roundup.
Remember, stay warm out there! But also be conscious of the environment and avoid unnecessary fines.
Published: Thursday, June 01, 2017 @ 2:22 AM
SYDNEY — The so-called “faceless fish” was last seen less than a decade after the end of the Civil War, in 1873. The animal was finally brought to the surface again earlier this month when an Australian research vessel discovered one lurking nearly three miles deep.
Dr. Tim O’Hara, the chief scientist on the Australian ship, told The Guardian on Wednesday that “the little fish looks amazing because the mouth is actually situated at the bottom of the animal so, when you look side-on, you can’t see any eyes, you can’t see any nose or gills or mouth. ... It looks like two rear-ends on a fish.”
Published: Monday, April 03, 2017 @ 11:07 AM
— Summer is coming!
Although the first official day of spring didn’t hit until March 20, by the first day of April this year, some parts of the U.S. had already hit temperatures in the 80s and 90s.
Here are 10 tips on safety during warm temperatures:
1. Go outside in moderation
Most things are best in moderation. While it’s tempting to be outside as much as you can while the sun is out, especially after a long winter, it’s well researched that extended sun exposure is not good for you.
Reduce exposure to the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest.
2. Wear a hat
If you are outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat to cover your face and neck. Look for hats that include UV ratings on the labels.
Wear loose-fitting clothing to keep cool and to protect your skin from the sun and mosquitoes.
3. Wear sunglasses
It’s not just because you’re cool -- sunglasses help protect your eyes. Wear sunglasses that provide 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.
Chronic exposure to the sun can cause cataracts, which left untreated, can lead to blindness.
4. Wear sunscreen
When you’re out on the beach, liberally apply sunscreen (at least SPF 15) 15 minutes before stepping on the sand and re-apply at least every two hours -- sunscreen prevents skin cancer and prevents premature aging.
5. Take heat breaks
Hiking, biking, yard sports -- they’re all fun summer things to do. But if the temperatures are climbing into the 90s or 100s, that can quickly lead to dehydration.
Keep physical activities to a minimum during excessively high temperatures. Whether working or playing outside, drink plenty of water even if you are not thirsty, and take rest breaks in the shade.
6. Take little ones out of the car
If the temperatures are climbing, no one you care about should be left in a parked car, especially infants, children or frail elderly people. And don’t leave them unattended. It can take as little as 10 minutes for the temperature inside a car to rise to levels that can kill.
7. Ward off overheating
To prevent overheating and/or sunstroke, use cool compresses, misting, showers and baths. If you or someone nearby experiences a rapid, strong pulse, feels delirious, becomes unconscious or has a body temperature above 102, call 911 immediately.
8. Keep an eye on young swimmers
Young children love to cool off in the water, but they can get over their heads quickly. Prevent children from drowning by combining adult supervision at all times and have a safety barrier that surrounds a pool or spa.
Drowning is the leading cause of injury deaths for children under 5.
9. Defend your home from insects
Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Some mosquitoes carry West Nile virus which often mimics influenza, with fevers, body aches and eye pain. West Nile virus can cause serious health complications, and in rare cases, death.
Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flower pots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls. Mosquitoes breed and lay eggs in standing water.
10. Defend yourself from insects
Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535 according to label instructions. You can also make your own with essential oils, natural witch hazel, distilled water and vegetable glycerin.
Mosquitoes usually bite in the early morning and evening, so it is important to wear repellent at those times.
Published: Thursday, May 19, 2016 @ 5:12 PM
Saltwater Brewery, a famous beer spot in Delray Beach, Florida, is making waves for its innovative new packaging, which it hopes will lead to saving marine life.
CraftBeer.com reported Saltwater has created a new six-pack ring that is both eco-friendly and edible.
The rings are completely biodegradable, as resistant and efficient as plastic and made of barley and wheat ribbons, which makes them edible for marine animals that come in contact with them, CraftBeer.com reported.
“It’s a big investment for a small brewery created by fisherman, surfers and people that love the sea,” Peter Agardy, head of brand at the brewery, said in a promotional video.
The rings are being marketed as the first of their kind and could help save wildlife.
“We hope to influence the big guys and hopefully inspire them to get on board,” company president Chris Gove said in the video.
Saltwater Brewery had no comment beyond its statements in the video.