ASK JOHN: Can we throw plastic trash into volcanoes?

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Life is a journey filled with joys and sorrows…triumphs and challenges to overcome.

This path that we take can drive us to ask the hard questions, so that’s we’re here to give you the answers with Ask John!

It’s a chance for you to ask whatever is on your mind!

These are questions that were submitted to john from social media.

Our first one came from Instagram. Miguel from Tampa asks- Burgers or Tacos?

“That’s an easy answer- Pizza!” said John.

Seriously, if he had to choose, John said burgers. He prefers Five Guys.

“If you put a taco in front of me, its gone,” said Ed.

Taylor from Wimauma asks- is water wet?

That question is actually the source of intense debate.

The quick answer is yes and no.

Chemist Richard Saykally from UC Berkeley says water is indeed wet. He told the science magazine ‘Nautilus’ water is wet because of what he calls- ‘strong tetrahedral hydrogen bonding.’

In layman’s terms, he’s talking about the very unique molecular bonds that make up water.

But some beg to differ.

According to UC Santa Barbara, ‘wetness’ is the ability of a liquid to adhere to the surface of a solid. So under that definition, water is not wet. Instead it just makes other materials wet.

Our last question comes from Gillian on Twitter. Gillian asks- can plastic trash be put into volcanoes?

It seems like an interesting concept, plastic can take hundreds of years to biodegrade, so why not just incinerate them naturally?

While interesting in theory, unfortunately it wouldn’t work.

We reached out to Dr. Greg Valentine, a volcanologist from the University of Buffalo.

He sent this statement in an email-

I see a couple of problems with this novel idea.  One is that active volcanoes are nasty environments, and one would need to be able to somehow get the trash up to the top amidst all sorts of nasty volcanic gases and high temperatures, and dodging lava flows and blobs of molten rock being thrown out of the volcano.  Seems like that would be dangerous and expensive.

But the bigger problem is that, if one could dump large volumes of trash into an active volcanic crater, the volcano would just throw it back out!  This might be in the form of somewhat incinerated trash, but it’s still trash.  Even if it didn’t get thrown out, the process of burning the trash when it contacted molten rock in the volcano would release all sorts of nasty gases in an uncontrolled way.  Those might mingle with other toxic gases that the volcano is producing anyway, but would definitely make the problem worse.

It seems to me that if incineration is at the heart of the idea, it would be better to build an incinerator that we can control, that is safe, and where the toxic gases produced can be scrubbed out.

American labor laws probably wouldn’t allow human workers to be exposed to such deadly environments. Too much red tape. So this idea may just have to remain a fantasy.

If you have a question for John, you gotta ask him!

Don’t ask Google, ask John! Send him a question on Twitter or Facebook. He just might answer it next Sunday!

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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