Wednesday, February 28, 2024

SciShow explains the connection between the age of the Earth and unleaded gasoline plus more about lead

Today's topic for an evergreen entry is lead and today's source is SciShow. I begin with SciShow asking How Do We Know How Old the Earth Is?

In the wake of World War 2, Clair Patterson embarked on a scientific quest to find out how old the Earth really is. His hard work paid off, but it also revealed a modern danger.
I have already shown this to my geology students to explain how scientists know how old the Earth is using radiometric dating of meteorites and I might show it to my environmental science students to illustrate how prevalent lead was and still is in our environment and the long-running effort to remove lead from gasoline, at least in the U.S. If I do, it would serve as an example of three of Commoner's Laws: Everything is connected to everything else, there is no away, and there is no free lunch. Nature knows best? Whatever that would be, it doesn't involve lead!

SciShow uploaded the above video on January 30th. The channel continued examining lead yesterday when it posted Why Does Everything Decay Into Lead.

If you look at a copy of the periodic table, you might notice that basically every element after lead is labelled as radioactive. And the vast majority of those elements wind up decaying into some version of lead eventually. But why is lead so special?
I may have heard of magic numbers and nuclear shells before, but I don't recall it sticking. If it doesn't stick, have I really learned anything? If not and it sticks this time, then I have learned something new. It's always a good day when I learn something new. I hope my readers agree.

These weren't SciShow's first videos about lead. A good candidate for that would be Lead: The Original Artificial Sweetener from 2015.

Lead is really useful when you add it to things like paint and gasoline. Problem is, it’s also poisonous.

Hosted by: Hank Green
I think I'm more likely to show this to my environmental science students. It's shorter and more focused on lead's hazards. Besides, Hank Green is an entertaining host. Newer is not always better!

That's it for today's science lesson. Stay tuned for Leap Year Day!

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