Catch a healthy beat on International Dance Day

International Dance Day is celebrated on 29 April each year since 1982 when it was introduced by the International Theatre Institute (ITI), a UNESCO partner NGO.

The day celebrates dance as a universal art form – crossing all political, cultural and ethnic boundaries, and bringing people together through the common language of movement and rhythm. Each year an outstanding dancer or choreographer is selected as ‘Message Author’ for the event, and this year the honour goes to Taiwanese choreographer Lin Hwai-min. Quoting from his Dance Day message:
“Dance is a powerful expression.
It speaks to earth and heaven.
It speaks of our joy, our fear and our wishes.
Dance speaks of the intangible, yet reveals the state of mind of a person and
the temperaments and characters of a people.”

Dancing can provide you with a healthy, energetic full-body workout. (© All Rights Reserved)
Dancing can provide you with a healthy, energetic full-body workout.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Besides its cultural and artistic significance, dance is also a great physical activity, providing the dancer with a comprehensive full-body workout. As a mode of exercise it has many advantages – not only is it more fun than slogging away in a gym, it’s great for core strength, balance training and flexibility. In this age when many children and adults spend the bulk of their time sitting at a desk behind a computer, rather than engaging in physical activity, dance can become an even more important form of expression. Dance Day Message Author Lin Hwai-min also touches on this important role of dance, saying:
“Come, turn off your television, switch off your computer, and come to dance.
Express yourself through that divine and dignified instrument, which is our body.
Come to dance and join people in the waves of pulses.
Seize that precious and fleeting moment.
Come to celebrate life with dance.”

So come on, enjoy the unity and diversity of dance, feel the rhythm, and exercise your body while you’re at it. Happy International Dance Day, everyone!

Celebrating water cooperation on World Water Day

It’s a big week for the environment, with yesterday’s International Day of Forests followed today by World Water Day.

World Water Day is celebrated on 22 March each year, to focus attention of challenges facing freshwater, and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The day was first celebrated in 1993, making this year the 21st anniversary of World Water Day.

In 2013 the day is dedicated to the theme of cooperation around water.

Water - a precious, yet increasingly scarce resource.(© All Rights Reserved)
Water – a precious, yet increasingly scarce resource.
(© All Rights Reserved)

The importance of sustainable freshwater management, and cooperation around water supply and availability quickly becomes apparent when we look at some of the current facts and medium term future predictions. Currently, worldwide, 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. Given the anticipated growth in the world population, food demand is expected to grow by 50% by 2030, while the demand for renewable energy from sources such as hydropower may rise by up to 60%. All these growths, together with an anticipated decrease in water availability in many regions, will lead to ever-increasing competition for water between the different water-consuming sectors such as the energy sector and the agricultural sector. Changes in diet (for example a shift from a starch-based diet to more meat and dairy) places further pressures on water availability, as producing these foodstuffs typically require more water.

The only way to possibly address the above situation is through multinational water cooperation. Many of the largest freshwater basins around the world are shared by more than one country, making sound cooperation critical. Food production and consumption (which can be equated to ‘virtual water’) is also shared across borders, again requiring responsible management and cooperation practices.

Water cooperation includes the sharing and exchange of scientific knowledge, management strategies and best practices, which are all fundamental to achieve sustainable development and protect the environment.

This is not just an issue that needs to be addressed at national, governmental level. Sound water management and cooperation is required at all levels, and as stated on the World Water Day website, “A general engagement, both individual and collective, is required for disseminating knowledge and the awareness of the value of water cooperation at local, national and international scales.”

James Dewar, frozen air and a new way to store energy

Today is the second time we meet up with Scottish scientist James Dewar. We’ve already discussed his ingenious Dewar flask, made famous by the Thermos company. As mentioned at the time, Dewar worked with some rather chilly subjects – liquified and frozen gases, to be exact – and he created his insulating flask to serve his practical need for a container that could maintain the low temperatures of the liquified gases he studied.

The reason Dewar pops up on this blog today, is again related to his low temperature work. It was on this day, 9 March 1893, that he informed a meeting of the Royal Society that he had succeeded in freezing air into a clear and transparent solid. As reported in The Manufacturer and Builder Volume 25 Issue 7, he requested additional funding to further study the exact properties of this frozen air; he postulated that “it may be a jelly of solid nitrogen containing liquid oxygen, much as calves’ foot jelly contains water diffused in solid gelatine. Or it may be a true ice of liquid air, in which both oxygen and nitrogen exist in the solid form.” Part of this confusion on the part of Dewar was that he had not been able to freeze pure oxygen, hence it was not clear how the oxygen part of the frozen air behaved.

I have no idea how frozen air would look, but it will surely be very, very chilly!(© All Rights Reserved)
I have no idea how frozen air would look, but it will surely be very, very chilly!
(© All Rights Reserved)

Interestingly, frozen air has recently resurfaced as an subject of research interest. As reported last year on various sites such as ecogeek, sustainable business.com and NBC News, a UK-based company Highview Power Storage has developed a proprietary process using cryogenic air (actually nitrogen, liquified at -321 degrees Fahrenheit) as a way to store energy. Available energy is used to freeze/liquify the nitrogen, which is then kept in its frozen form in a highly isolated, giant vacuum flask. When energy is required, the nitrogen is allowed to warm to ambient temperature, and the energy released during its transition to a gas phase, is harvested to drive a turbine that generates electricity.

While the technology is not yet able to achieve the efficiency of current battery technologies, it is a potentially less environmentally harmful, greener approach.

Now there’s a reason to raise a glass of very chilled liquid to James Dewar and his frozen air!

James Prescott Joule and the conservation of energy

Today we celebrate the birthday of James Prescott Joule (24 Dec 1818 – 11 Oct 1889), the English physicist famous for his discovery that the different forms of energy – mechanical, electrical, and heat – are essentially the same thing, and as such are interchangeable.

In wind energy farms, wind energy (a mechanical energy) is converted to electric energy. In the process, some loss occurs in the form of heat generated. Joule's important contribution was to figure out that the total energy (mechanical + electrical + heat), however, remains constant.(© All Rights Reserved)
In wind energy farms, wind energy (a mechanical energy) is converted to electric energy. In the process, some loss occurs in the form of heat generated. Joule’s important contribution was to figure out that the total energy (mechanical + electrical + heat), however, remains constant.
(© All Rights Reserved)

This discovery lead to his formulation of the First Law of Thermodynamics – the Law of Conservation of Energy. The law states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can only be changed from one form to another.

Some of his other important contributions to physics include the definition of the relationship between electrical current, resistance and heat, and also, some 10 years later, the kinetic theory of gases.

His important contributions to the understanding of energy was acknowledged when his name was given to the SI unit for energy – the joule (J).