Science in Environment

Every year the National Science Day in India is celebrated on 28th February on the eve to commemorate our very own Indian Scientist, Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman. On this day in 1928, he discovered a phenomenon of scattering of photons which was later known as ‘Raman Effect’ for which he also won a Nobel Prize.

It’s rightly said, ‘Science is everywhere, you just need a perspective to notice it’. Well, if we think deeper into this, we’ll realize how everything around us happens because of different phenomena in science. From running wherein, the muscles contract and relax that gives rise to movement, to various ariel formations of birds while they fly, especially the forward-V pattern which they form is well known to all.

But do we ever question WHY does it happen, or are we curious to know the science behind each of it?

Nevertheless, let's look at few scientific phenomena that take place in our environment.

1. Ever wondered how plants take up water from the roots to the top of the plant against gravity? Let’s have a look into it!

We all have observed what happens when a straw is placed in a glass of juice, the level of juice in the straw is high as compared to the one in glass. Now this is due to capillary action.

Capillary action is the phenomenon by which water rises in a cylindrical column. The narrower the column the higher the capillarity; similarly, the denser the substratum present in the column, the higher the capillary effect.

Hence, this is the reason why clayey and loamy soils are better options when it comes to growing healthy plants. Along with being rich in nutrients it also retains moisture due to its texture and structure and helps water reach the transport channels of plants thereby helping them grow well.

2. How do marine animals die due to an oil spill?

Generally, liquid petroleum hydrocarbon (comprises various oils like crude oil, diesel fuel, etc.) spills during the oil spill. Due to varied density, oil forms a separate layer on the water blocking the light to penetrate into water as well preventing the exchange of air between the atmosphere and water. This oil barrier decreases the amount of oxygen dissolving in the water, thereby suffocating the marine animals.

The marine mammals also tend to inhale the oil vapours that can lead to pneumonia and other serious complications. Animals like turtles and whales, who inhale directly, generally swim near the surface, and hence are affected more due to oil spills. Apart from these, various other birds and animals suffer due to oil spills.

3. Why were old houses/ buildings naturally cooler than what they are today?

Now this question has multiple answers to justify the WHY! Let's look at a few answers to it.

a. Building material: Back in the past, the houses were constructed using mud and stones and few other natural building materials, all of which not only provided insulation but also gave rise to the reverse effect. Mud is a bad conductor of heat and hence when the temperature outside is more than the temperature inside, one will automatically feel cool in the house.

Whereas on the other hand, today the houses are built of cement and concrete, and have the property of absorbing heat, thereby heating the interior of the house as well.

b. Glass buildings: Today in many cities, we have buildings that are completely covered with glass. So what about that? It enhances the aesthetics of cities, don’t they?

Now here’s how they affect us!

We live in the tropics which receive maximum sunlight as compared to the people living in temperate, due to which the temperature is high. The glass buildings reflect sunlight which is further reflected to the ground or nearby buildings. The other buildings near the glass building now will receive more sunlight thereby increasing the temperature and hence we feel more hot near glass buildings.

c. High ceilings: In the past, there were no ACs or ceiling fans and hence to solve the problem of ventilation and cooling, they came up with a basic idea to design the building structures such that the rooms have high ceilings and strategically place the doors and windows to allow air ventilation.

In old buildings, there are small windows on the higher part of the wall and windows in the opposite direction at lower end.

The warm air tends to rise up inside the room and leave an envelope of comparatively cooler air down.

Air circulation in rooms with high ceilings.

Rooms with less height, reduces the probability of free air movement thereby making the place uncomfortable and leading to stagnation of the indoor air.The windows also allowed enough sunlight in, brightening up the space instantly and naturally killing the bacteria in the room.

These are a few examples of how there is science behind environmental phenomena that we observe. Stay tuned for more examples!

Prakriti Bagdi

Programme Assistant