I just found out I have pretty high levels of radon in my basement. What are the effects of radon? Where does it come from?

Question Answered by Arthur Rood, President K-Spar Inc. Radon-222 is a tasteless, odorless gas formed by the decay of radium-226. Radium-226 is a naturally occurring radioactive element that is present in most soils and masonry building materials in small quantities. Typical radium-226 concentrations in soil range from 0.5 to 2 picocuries per gram, but in…

How does fermenting food work to preserve it?

Question answered by Miles Knowles MBA Sustainability from Bard College and studied resilience in food systems. The historical purpose of fermentation was preserving fresh food in a time before refrigeration, although the health benefits of lactic acid fermentation have sparked a new generation of home fermentation enthusiasts. Lactic acid fermentation, or lacto-fermentation, is an anaerobic…

How do apples turn from green to red?

Question Answered by Alana Jensen, Environmental Educator, INL ESER Program Apples on the tree all start out green. The green color of apples is due to a pigment called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is also present in leaves and helps the plant convert sunlight into energy so it can grow. At the height of photosynthesis, during the…

We read that baking a cake involves chemistry. What chemical processes take place during the baking? (Part 2)

Question answered by Dr. Catherine Riddle, Radiochemist, Idaho National Laboratory Baking causes a chemical change in your ingredients from raw batter to cooked cakes, breads, cookies, or biscuits. Since there are multiple reactions depending on what you are baking, let’s look specifically at the chemistry that goes into baking a cake step by step. Last…

When getting coffee, the people at Starbucks ask, “Do you want to leave room for sugar and cream?” Do I need to leave space if I just add sugar?

Question answered by Catherine Riddle, PhD, Radiochemist, Idaho National Laboratory The chemistry of coffee is complex to start with so adding sugar, milk or both makes it even more so. There are many systems at work in a cup of coffee including density, inter-molecular spacing, temperature and concentration. Believe it or not, there is a…

Is coal a sedimentary rock?

Answered by Kurt Edwards, Geologist and GIS Analyst, INL ESER Program he short answer is yes, coal is a sedimentary rock. Coal is formed mainly from plant material that accumulates in a swampy environment. These plants that become coal, lived before and during the time of the dinosaurs. When the plants died they would sink…