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Design even in an orange peel

Scientists discover how the citrus fruit shoots bursts of fragrant oil into the air when peeled

Design even in an orange peel

God designed oranges with the tantalizing ability to explode a burst of aroma whenever someone peels them. Now researchers at the University of Central Florida have discovered how the fruit expels jets of fragrant oil into the air.

According to Andrew Dickerson, a fluid dynamics researcher and the study’s lead author, nature provides the best inspiration for tackling real-world problems.

“We study natural systems to mathematically characterize how creation works,” he said in a statement. Dickerson, who believes in evolution and the Big Bang theory, told me that there “is a divine hand in what we see.”

Scientists already knew that beneath the orange’s hard protective outer skin lies a white spongy layer that contains small pockets of oil.

“Children have been squirting each other in the face with these things for probably hundreds of years, and it is certainly a common experience to see a little bit of mist when you peel a citrus fruit,” Dickerson said. But until now, no one understood how the orange peel’s design could create the build-up of pressure and then the immediate release that erupts into streams of oil shooting from the fruit.

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dickerson and his team, for the first time, mathematically analyzed the orange peel’s construction and documented the size and speed of these oil jets. They discovered that when someone peels the fruit, or squeezes it hard enough, the spongy layer designed to absorb impact compresses, causing the reservoirs of aromatic oil to burst through pores in the rind and propel jets of oil into the air at speeds up to 45 mph. Over a distance of 1 millimeter, these powerful little streams achieve G-Force accelerations equivalent to about 1,000 times that which astronauts experience at launch. A video published on Quartz captures this process.

Dickerson hopes his discovery will inspire the development of new, less costly airborne medications like asthma inhalers or materials that can send a visual warning when they reach maximum stress, such as in bending or twisting.

“Imagine a self-diagnosing bridge,” he said. “It would have an orange-like skin layer and when it was approaching material failure, it could give a preventative warning, a color change perhaps.”

A mud volcano erupts in Berca, Romania.

A mud volcano erupts in Berca, Romania. Ivanov

Earth’s self-destructive tendencies

Climate change alarmists insist human activity produces greenhouse gas emissions that will result in catastrophic global warming. But scientific studies continue to show natural events, unrelated to human activity, contribute far more to these emissions than previously thought. Scientists released two such studies this month.

In one study, published in Science Advances, researchers looked at the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates, which causes a build-up of the powerful greenhouse gas methane in sediment on the ocean’s floor. The gas can form into mud volcanoes, and the researchers drilled 200 meters into one near Japan to collect samples.

Until now, scientists did not clearly understand the role of mud volcanoes in the global methane cycle. Experts previously thought only geodynamic processes produced the methane present in a volcano’s sediment. But to the researchers’ surprise, their sample analysis showed mud volcanoes harbor highly active microorganisms that produce a much larger amount of methane. The researchers concluded these geologic entities may contribute much more to global carbon cycling than formerly understood. If these findings hold true for other mud volcanoes, “then the global models on the origin of atmospheric methane need to be rethought,” they wrote.

In a second study, researchers at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, discovered that dry river beds contribute far more carbon emissions than scientists suspected. The researchers studied 212 dry river beds on every continent on Earth. They found the substantial amount of plant litter that accumulates in them breaks down rapidly when the river begins to flow again, causing high carbon dioxide emissions. —J.B.

A mud volcano erupts in Berca, Romania.

A mud volcano erupts in Berca, Romania. Ivanov

Government cuts funds for alcohol study

Last week, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it will cut funding to the Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health trial after discovering senior officials at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism secretly solicited funding for the $100 million project from some of the world’s largest alcohol producers, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Carlsberg Group, Diageo, Heineken, and Pernod Ricard. The study’s backers manipulated the research plan to ensure an outcome favorable to the sponsors, Science Magazine reported.

Researchers designed the study to determine if one daily serving of alcohol offers health benefits such as reducing coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, as some epidemiological studies suggest. Enrollment for the study, projected to include 7,800 participants, began in February 2018 and regulators suspended it in May.

The NIH intends to take steps to ensure such violations of policy do not take place in other parts of the agency. “NIH has strong policies that detail the standards of conduct for NIH employees, including prohibiting the solicitation of gifts and promoting fairness in grant competitions,” NIH Director Francis S. Collins said in a statement. “We take very seriously any violations of these standards.” —J.B.

Woman sues NASA to keep moon dust

NASA likely never expected a legal fight over a vial of moon dust, but this month a woman filed a preemptive suit against the agency in a bid to keep a sample Neil Armstrong allegedly gave her, along with a handwritten note, in the late 1970s when she was 10 years old, Gizmodo reported.

A handwriting expert authenticated the note but the dust’s origin remains in question. One expert said the sample could have come from the lunar surface while another thought it came from much closer to home. But both agreed they could not rule out a lunar origin.

NASA has not attempted to claim the woman’s vial, but she filed the lawsuit because she feared it might. According to NASA’s lunar handbook, “Lunar samples are the property of the United States government, and it is NASA’s policy that lunar sample materials will be used only for authorized purposes.” The woman claims she has stashed the sample in a safe place. —J.B.

Stephen Hawking, avowed atheist, interred at Westminster Abbey

The ashes of Stephen Hawking, the well-known British theoretical physicist who died March 14, were interred at Westminster Abbey in London on June 15. He is buried alongside Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton. Hawking, a self-avowed atheist, regarded the human brain as a computer that stops working when its components fail. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” he told The Guardian in a 2011 interview. —J.B.

Mom gives life to daughter a second time

More than 3,000 people a month in the United States join the list of those in need of a kidney. Thirteen people die each day waiting for a transplant. In an attempt to make the public more aware of the need for donors, the Methodist Dallas Medical Center recently live-streamed a successful kidney transplant surgery on Facebook. The donor, 47-year-old Maribel Gutierrez, gave a kidney to her 20-year-old daughter Jessica, who suffered from congenital kidney abnormalities and had reached stage 4 kidney failure. The video racked up more than 47,000 views. —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a WORLD contributor who covers science and intelligent design. A clinical psychologist and a World Journalism Institute graduate, Julie resides in Dayton, Ohio.

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