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I once saw a pair of shoes hanging from a power line. Why didn’t the shoes get burned up by the electricity in the line?
Answer: Shoes hanging on a power line don’t get burned for the same reason that birds standing on a power line don’t get shocked: They don’t give electricity a path to the ground, so electricity stays in the line and does not go through them. But if the shoes were to touch a power line and a power pole at the same time, they would provide a path to the ground and would get blasted with electric current. It wouldn’t be pretty! By the way, if you ever see someone throwing shoes up onto a line, tell them to stop! The shoes can damage the power line, or someone trying to get the shoes down could be seriously shocked or even killed.
Why does the flame on my stove burners look blue, but the flame of a campfire is yellow?
Answer: A natural gas flame burns hotter than a campfire. In general, cooler flames appear yellow, orange, or red, while hotter flames look blue or white. (Flecks of orange in your gas flames are OK, but if the flame is yellow, large, and flickering, the appliance may need a safety adjustment by a qualified repair person.)
I have heard that landfills can be a source of energy. How does that work?
Answer: Organic waste emits methane as it decomposes—or rots—in a landfill. Landfills can collect and treat the methane, and then sell it as a commercial fuel; or they can burn it to generate steam and electricity. Today, there are almost 400 gas energy landfill projects operating in the United States.
Do electric eels really create electricity?
Answer: Yes! An electric eel uses chemicals in its body to manufacture electricity. A large electric eel can produce a charge of up to 650 volts, which is more than five times the shocking power of a household outlet.
Who discovered natural gas?
Answer: The ancient Chinese were the first to discover underground deposits of natural gas. In 600 BC, Confucius wrote of wells 100 feet deep yielding water and natural gas along the Tibetan border. The Chinese piped the gas to where it was needed through long, hollow bamboo stalks.
What’s the difference between global warming and the greenhouse effect?
Answer: The greenhouse effect is created because certain gases sent into our atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, allow radiation from the sun to pass through the earth’s atmosphere, but prevent a portion of the infrared radiation from the earth’s surface and lower atmosphere from escaping into outer space. This process occurs naturally; without it our planet’s temperatures would be about 60 degrees cooler! Life as we know it simply would not exist without the natural greenhouse effect. However, many scientists believe global warming is happening because the greenhouse effect has become intensified by human activities: These activities (primarily the burning of fossil fuels) add more carbon dioxide and other gases to the atmosphere and accelerate the earth’s natural warming process.
What kind of a difference does it really make to replace a regular light bulb with an energy-saving one?
Answer: Replacing one incandescent light bulb with an energy-saving compact fluorescent bulb prevents about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere from power plants, and saves about $67 dollars in energy costs over the bulb's lifetime.