The Blogging from A to Z challenge is an event each April in which bloggers worldwide prepare 26 posts – one for each letter of the English alphabet – and present them over the course of the month.
This year I will be blogging over at the laboratory website, SIREALonline.com. I will attempt to mirror those posts over here, for those who might be interested.
The A to Z posts by SIREAL will all relate to terms, methods, and scientific results from the analysis of light stable isotopes from natural materials.
Since “Isotope” isn’t a term that will turn up right away, we will quickly define it here:
Atoms (the smallest unit of matter) are composed of protons and neutrons in the nucleus with electrons orbiting. Different elements (e.g. carbon, iron, uranium, oxygen) are distinguished from each other by the number of protons in the nucleus. The number of electrons and neutrons in an atom of a specific element are variable. Isotopes are atoms of elements with varying numbers of neutrons in the nuclei. The addition or loss of neutrons changes the weight of the atom, but does not otherwise greatly affect the way the atom interacts with other atoms. Sometimes, additional neutrons can make an atom radioactive, but many times additional neutrons do not result in radioactivity. Non-radioactive atoms are called stable isotopes.
SIREAL specializes in the measurement of the amount of different stable isotopes of specific elements (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen) from rocks, fossils, animal and plant tissues, and water. The different amounts can provide information about environmental factors (temperature, rainfall, elevation, plant cover) and behavior of animals (dietary preferences).
Throughout the blogging from A to Z challenge, readers of the SIREAL online blog will learn about how the study of stable isotopes applies to real world problems.
For those interested, here are Penny’s past A to Z challenges: