Northern Lights

The northern lights are one of the biggest draws to visiting Iceland, however they are also one of the most elusive and unpredictable attractions this country has.
The northern lights are the result of electrically charged particles from the sun colliding with gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing displays of bright, colourful dancing lights. They are visible in the magnetic polar regions of the northern and southern hemispheres (they are known as Aurora australis in the south) and they can range in colour from white, green, pink and purple.
According to the Northern Lights Centre in Canada, scientific studies have found that the northern and southern Auroras often occur at the same time as mirror images. This of course means that the Auroras are often happening, even if they aren’t visible to us down on the ground. In the northern hemisphere, the lights are best seen from Iceland, Greenland, northern Norway, Siberia, the Canadian territories and Alaska. Thanks to the latitude of the North American continent in relation to the magnetic pole, the lights have been seen as far south as New Orleans! This is a rare and remarkable thing, though. In Iceland, seeing the northern lights is most certainly annual and regular, although still rather unpredictable.

Guaranteed darkness is the first important factor to see the Northern Lights. The best season to see it is from September to mid-April – these are the months where there are full dark nights. Some sources will recommend November to February, as they are the darkest months with the longest possible window to see the lights, however these sources often fail to take into account that these months can have the worst weather with lots of rain and snow. It is also not unheard of to see the lights as early as mid-August, once the final traces of the midnight sun summer are gone.


5 Tips for Staying Safe in Avalanche Country

1. Get Smart

“I really stress that the best way to survive an avalanche is not to be in one,” said Jeff Lane, a Snow Ranger. “Once that happens, you’re basically hoping for the best.”

Educate yourself with professional avalanche instruction and practice what you learn. “I think the experience is really critical,” Lane said. “It’s a long-term process, and it’s hard to take a two- or three-day course and know all there is to know to keep yourself safe.”


2. Know It Can Happen to You

About 150 people are killed each year in avalanches, a number that’s uncomfortably high considering the relatively small numbers who regularly venture into avalanche terrain. Ninety percent of such incidents are triggered by the victim or someone in their party, and most of those people are experienced skiers, snowboarders, or snowmobilers with some level of avalanche awareness under their belts.

Having the knowledge to make good decisions doesn’t help unless you put it to use. Conditions may change throughout the day and so should your evaluations. Be realistic and be ready to back off no matter how tempting a line, persuasive a partner, or pressing outside concerns—like the last chance for turns at the end of an epic trip—may seem.


3. Know Before You Go

 Pay attention to recent weather and avoid avalanche terrain within 24 hours of a storm that brings a foot (30 centimeters) or more of fresh snow, which is when slides are most common.

Avalanche danger starts on the climb up, so stick to low-angle ridges or dense trees when possible. Move from one safe terrain area to another and, if you must cross “avy terrain,” spread your party out so not everyone is exposed to danger at the same time. When it’s time to make turns, use the same evaluation skills to identify safer areas and head down one at a time—while watching your partners carefully.


4. Gear Up                                                                                                                                     Don’t venture into avy terrain, even for “just one run,” without the proper tools. Carry a beacon, probe, and shovel and know how to use them. Make sure your partners also know how to use them so they can find you and help if disaster strikes.

These tools are tried and true, but more modern gear is also helping to decrease the chances of injury or death. Wearable avalanche airbag systems are designed to keep people on top of a slide rather than buried in it, which increases the odds of survival significantly. AvaLung systems have breathing mouthpieces that can stave off asphyxiation for buried victims and buy more time for rescue.

And don’t forget that most basic piece of equipment—a helmet.

5. Swim, Reach, Hope for Help

It takes only a few seconds for sliding snow to reach 80 miles (130 kilometers) an hour. If worse comes to worse and you are caught in a slide, try to escape to the side, grab a tree, or “swim” hard to try to stay near the surface—but realize you’re most likely at the mercy of the avalanche’s massive force, Lane said.

When a slide stops it will quickly settle like concrete, so try to clear air space to breathe around your face and stick a hand upward and out of the snow if possible.

If dug out within 15 minutes victims have a 90 percent chance of survival—if they’ve not been killed by trauma in the fall. After that the odds drop quickly. Only 20 percent of buried victims are still alive after 45 minutes, and beyond two hours few ever survive.

Despite the dangers, the lure of fresh turns and promise of backcountry solitude will continue to draw people into avalanche terrain. Know that these rewards never come without risk.


Plane Search Shows World’s Oceans Are Full of Trash

But as hundreds of objects sighted off the Australian coast as possible aircraft debris turn out to be discarded fishing equipment, cargo container parts, or plastic shopping bags, a new narrative is emerging in the hunt for the missing plane: There’s more garbage out there than you think. Most of it is plastic. And marine life ingests it, with catastrophic consequences.



“This is the first time the whole world is watching, and so it’s a good time for people to understand that our oceans are garbage dumps,” says Kathleen Dohan a scientist at Earth and Space Research in Seattle, Washington, who maps ocean surface currents. “This is a problem in every ocean basin.”


Dohan plotted the movement of debris in a time-lapse video that shows where objects dropped into the ocean will end up in ten years. The objects migrate to regions known as garbage patches. The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans have two patches each, north and south. The Indian Ocean’s garbage patch is centered roughly halfway between Africa and Australia.


Great Pacific Garbage Patch the Largest

That was the case in last summer’s Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, when logs, telephone poles, and other wood debris from the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami drifted into the Texas-size Great Pacific Garbage Patch halfway between Hawaii and California.

“There were a dozen or more reports about collisions, and some of the boats were damaged by this floating wood,” says Nikolai Maximenko, an oceanographer at the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, who has been studying the earthquake debris’ drift across the Pacific.

Maximenko estimates that 100,000 to one million large wood objects, including timber and beams from houses, are still floating in the area.

“There is an analogy between that and the Malaysian plane,” he says. “In both cases, we were not able to find anything identifiable on satellite images. We do not have an observation system to track individual objects. This system needs to be built.”

Although the formation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was predicted in the 1970s by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, it wasn’t documented until 1999 by a sailor named Charles Moore, who competed in the Transpacific race.


Plastics Ingested by Birds, Turtles, Whales

About 90 percent of the debris in all five garbage patches is plastic, says Marcus Eriksen, a marine scientist and founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, which works to reduce pollution from disposable plastics. “This is relatively new if you think about plastic. Only since the 1950s [have] consumers [used] plastics. Now, a half-century later, we are seeing an abundant accumulation of microplastics from all single-use, throwaway plastics like bags, bottles, bottle caps, kitchen utensils. I have pulled cigarette lighters from hundreds of bird skeletons.”

He says sea turtles and California gray whales are also big unintentional consumers of plastic.

“You can see fish bites, so gradually, the plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces,” says Maximenko. “After it reaches certain sizes, it can be ingested and then it quickly disappears.”

The highest concentration of plastics can be found in the North Atlantic garbage patch, which receives most of its content from the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe.



Acid Rain

Acid rain describes any form of precipitation with high levels of nitric and sulfuric acids. It can also occur in the form of snow, fog, and tiny bits of dry material that settle to Earth.

Rotting vegetation and erupting volcanoes release some chemicals that can cause acid rain, but most acid rain falls because of human activities.

When humans burn fossil fuels, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are released into the atmosphere. These chemical gases react with water, oxygen, and other substances to form mild solutions of sulfuric and nitric acid. Winds may spread these acidic solutions across the atmosphere and over hundreds of miles. When acid rain reaches Earth, it flows across the surface in runoff water, enters water systems, and sinks into the soil.

Acid rain has many ecological effects, but none is greater than its impact on lakes, streams, wetlands, and other aquatic environments.

Some species can tolerate acidic waters better than others.

Acid rain also damages forests, especially those at higher elevations. It robs the soil of essential nutrients and releases aluminum in the soil, which makes it hard for trees to take up water. Trees’ leaves and needles are also harmed by acids


Oparin’s theory

Alexander Oparin was a Russian biochemist, notable for his contributions to the theory of the origin of life on Earth, and particularly for the “primordial soup” theory of the evolution of life from carbon-based molecules. Oparin also devoted considerable effort to enzymology and helped to develop the foundations of industrial biochemistry in the USSR. He received numerous decorations and awards for his work, and has been called “the Darwin of the 20th Century”.

In 1924, Oparin officially put forward his influential theory that life on Earth developed through gradual chemical evolution of carbon-based molecules in a “primordial soup”, at just about the same time as the British biologist J. B. S. Haldane was independently proposing a similar theory. As early as 1922, at a meeting of the Russian Botanical Society, he had first introduced his concept of a primordial organism arising in a brew of already-formed organic compounds. He asserted the following tenets:

1.There is no fundamental difference between a living organism and lifeless matter, and the complex combination of manifestations and properties so characteristic of life must have arisen in the process of the evolution of matter.
2.The infant Earth had possessed a strongly reducing atmosphere, containing methane, ammonia, hydrogen and water vapour, which were the raw materials for the evolution of life.
3.As the molecules grew and increased in complexity, new properties came into being and a new colloidal-chemical order was imposed on the simpler organic chemical relations, determined by the spatial arrangement and mutual relationship of the molecules.
4.Even in this early process, competition, speed of growth, struggle for existence and natural selection determined the form of material organization which has become characteristic of living things.
5.Living organisms are open systems, and so must receive energy and materials from outside themselves, and are not therefore limited by the Second Law of Thermodynamics (which is applicable only to closed systems in which energy is not replenished).

Oparin showed how organic chemicals in solution may spontaneously form droplets and layers, and outlined a way in which basic organic chemicals might form into microscopic localized systems (possible precursors of cells) from which primitive living things could develop. He suggested that different types of coacervates might have formed in the Earth’s primordial ocean and, subsequently, been subject to a selection process, eventually leading to life.

He effectively extended Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution backwards in time to explain how simple organic and inorganic materials might have combined into more complex organic compounds, which could then have formed primordial organisms. His proposal that life developed effectively by chance, through a progression from simple to complex self-duplicating organic compounds, initially met with strong opposition, but has since received experimental support (such as the famous 1953 experiments of Stanley Miller and Harold Urey at the University of Chicago), and has been accepted as a legitimate hypothesis by the scientific community.


central America: pacific coast of Panama

The exceptional diversity found in this region corresponds with high variation in climatic conditions within small areas, and regular hurricane and El Nino disturbances that bring both high and low extremes in rainfall in a ecoregion where dry and rainy seasons are already extreme. Climatic conditions range from dry to humid and rainy tropical, and humid subtropical. The types of mangroves found depend heavily on salinity levels, which depend on the supply of freshwater, levels of evapotranspiration associated with the climate, and distance from tidal channels, which affects levels of marine inundation. Wetlands play an important role in storing freshwater for release during the dry seasons.

Location and General Description
The Gulf of Panama mangroves include those on the eastern side of the Pacific coast of the country, from the Parita Bay to the San Miguel Gulf, and include the Chame Bay and the Panama Bay in between. There is great variability found within this region. Annual rainfall varies from an average of 1,070 mm in the western part of the ecoregion to 3,000 mm in the eastern part, where mangroves are better developed. Tidal amplitude ranges from 2-6 meters (D’Croz 1993). Rainfall covers the region between May and December, which is the rainy season. The dry season occurs from January to April. The low pressure systems strengthen winds coming from the east, which bring stronger storms, and winds that are capable of damaging mangroves, paired with higher freshwater inputs that keep the mangroves inundated for prolonged periods. Another regular disturbance is from El Ninós, which severely reduces rainfall, disturbing mangrove reproductive cycles by limiting available freshwater.

Because of high evapotranspiration rates and the severity of the dry seasons, there is a water deficit in this ecoregion most of the year. Thus, extreme values are more important than the mean values of river discharge to get an understanding of the effects of seasonal rainfall on river load and its influence on mangroves. In general, the river basins are of high relief and therefore prone to erosion caused by agricultural practices, livestock grazing and deforestation, together with steep slopes, seasonally intense rainfall, highly erodible soils, and high concentrations of people and livestock; the direct result of which is high sedimentation and nutrient loading. Therefore, sand and mud are abundant.

Current Status
Mangroves of the Gulf of Panama ecoregion cover approximately 892.78 km2 of this region’s total 2,424 km2. 21.45 km2 have been converted to salt flats, shrimp ponds, crops, cattle farming, tidally flooded land, non-vegetated land and agriculture. Most of this decrease has occurred on the Pacific Coast in the Chiriqui area – the greatest losses to shrimp farming have occurred in the more saline areas (D’Croz 1993).

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation
Classification and linework for all mangrove ecoregions in Latin America and the Caribbean follow the results of a mangrove ecoregion workshop (1994) and subsequent report (Olson et al. 1996).


Fun biochemistry facts

1. What allows cows to digest cellulose (in grass)?
Beta-amylase. We only possess alpha-amylase, so if you have ever tried to ingest grass as a child, your stomach never broke it down.

2.What is the field in medicine dealing with biology, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer?
Oncology, coming from the Greek word ‘onkos’, meaning bulk or mass.

3.What causes bruises to turn a greenish, yellow color over time?
Biliverdin; an injury to the capillaries injure red blood cells, which turns your skin violet. The first product is biliverdin, which is green in color, followed by bilirudin, which is yellow in color.

4.If you stretched out your DNA from one cell, how long would it be?
Six feet.

5.Humans share 60% of DNA with a banana.

6.Nails on long fingers grow faster than those on short fingers; fingernails grow 4x faster than toenails.

7.Humans contain about 1/2 lb of salt in the average body.

8.The only letter that does not appear on the periodic table is J.

9.The human body contains enough carbon to provide graphite for 9000 pencils.

10.Lightning produces 03, which strengthens the ozone layer of the atmosphere.

11.The rarest naturally occurring element is astatine; the Earth’s crust only has about 28g of it.

12.1 bucket of water contains more atoms than there are bucketfuls of water in the Atlantic Ocean.

13.20% of the oxygen derives from the Amazon Rainforest.

14.Bee stings are acidic; wasp stings are alkaline.

15.Hot peppers get their heat from capsaisin; birds are immune to the burning sensation.

16.Liquid air has a bluish tint, like water.

Genetic mutations: Uner Tan syndrome

The Uner Tan syndrome (UTS) is an example of genetic mutation, whose most obvious property is that the affected ones basically walk on all fours. It was proposed by the Turkish evolutionary biologist Uner Tan, after watching and studying five members of the Ulas family in rural Turkey. these five individuals walk in a cuadrupedal locomotion, and have a congenital brain impairment.

A BBC documentary explains that ‘the genetic nature of this syndrome suggest a backward stage in human evolution, which is most probably caused by genetic mutation, rendering, in turn, the transition from quadrupedality to bipedality. This would then be consistent with theories of punctuated evolution.


Human genome

A genome is an organism’s complete set of genes. at the beginning of 1990’s, a project called the Human Genome Project was started. Its aim was to study and store information about the human genome. By April 2003, all the sequences of nucleotides in the human genome were located.

It’s know that the human haploid genome, which consists of the 23 different chromosomes, contains about 3000 million pairs of nitrogenous bases which is the equivalent of 30000. 99.9% of these are identical in every person. In other words, the differences between individuals constitute no more than 0.1% of the genome.


The Water

What is water?:

Water(H2O) is the substance most abundant on Earth and is the only one found in the atmosphere in liquid, solid and gaseous state.
The largest reservoir of water is in the oceans, which contain 97% of the water that exists in the Earth. It is salt water, which only allows the life of marine flora and fauna. The rest is fresh water, but not all are available: much remains always freeze, forming ice caps and glaciers.


  • At this temperature can survive frogs and fish, which are animals that have no mechanisms regulating their body heat.
  • Large bodies of water, such as oceans store heat received from the sun and release it slowly.
  • Water dissolves many substances and retained even when the temperature varies.
  • Plants and animals equilibrate its temperature .
  • Water is a vehicle for animal derived therefrom.
  • Water is an important means of energy exchange .


Water’s cycle:

The water does not always stay in the same places. We’ve all seen falling from the clouds when it rains or snows, we have seen runs along the rivers and streams.

Relation with living beins:

Water is essential for life, because no organism survives without it. It is an essential constituent of living matter and hydrogen source for organisms. It also influences them through the atmosphere and climate. It is the medium in which the abundant and varied aquatic flora and fauna develops.
Living things are made up mostly of water. In the case of marine animals the percentage of water can exceed 95%. The dried seeds, which retain only traces of moisture, can not germinate without water absorb large amounts of water involved in all vital functions of plants and animals.