The air around us is not just empty space; it is an integral part of the chemistry of life. Plants are made from carbon dioxide, nitrogen nourishes the soil and oxygen gives us the energy we need to keep our hearts pumping and our brains alive. But how did we come to understand what air is made of? How did we come to know that this invisible stuff around us contains anything at all?
We start at the oldest cliffs of the palaeocontinent Baltica in the Extreme North of Russia atop an ancient mountain now covered in water. From the Urals in the east to the forgotten Tabernas Desert in the west, volcanic landscapes with plants from every climate zone, dolphins and whales will amaze.
Their beauty has captivated us for millennia. Their cost can be extraordinary–some are even considered priceless. Precious gems like diamonds, rubies, emeralds, opal, and jade are the ultimate treasures of the earth, and each one is made from a specific–and often torturous–recipe of chemistry, pressure, and heat. The secrets to their sparkle, color, and even strength lie deep inside the gems themselves, but could they also hold clues to one of the most enduring mysteries in the field of geology? From Tiffany’s workshop in New York to the sapphire mines of Sri Lanka, from North Carolina’s emerald fields to the jade-laden Forbidden City of China.
The disaster began during a routine systems test at reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant located near the town of Pripyat, on April 26, 1986. After a power surge, an emergency shutdown was attempted and after a subsequent power spike, there was a reactor vessel rupture and a series of steam explosions. The cascading course of events led to exposing the graphite moderator of the reactor to the air, causing it to catch fire. This sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere. The fallout from Chernobyl prompted mass evacuations as it drifted over an extensive geographical area, including the western Soviet Union and Europe. Over 350,000 people were resettled from contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia, and the Ukraine. Thirty-one deaths are directly attributed to the accident, and all the deaths were among reactor staff and emergency workers. This is the kind of atmosphere Nelson and Ochota are investigating on Life After: Chernobyl as they attempt to determine how the radiation continues to impact the affected areas. They are allowed to stay for as long as they need to in order to conduct their ground-breaking research, but the duo must also be sure to take the necessary safety precautions. Broadway World noted in their Life After: Chernobyl article that by staying in the area for too long, the radiation exposure could reach dangerously high levels in their bodies, and they must always monitor the radiation levels.
2014 • Environment