Whether you’re strolling through the sand, dipping into some freshwater, or lounging atop a blanket of grass, the beach is a great place to enjoy a warm Summer day.
For almost a week before I took my trip to Sauble Beach, all I could picture was a shoreline in complete solitude, with the focus only on the rippling of wave-crests in the ocean. I then scheduled the weekend off, and took a trip to the beach to indulge in all the sights I spent way too much time thinking about at work.
I remember heading home and before packing my bag and getting dressed, I reached for a bottle of sunscreen. It’s almost instinctive at this point, but instead of mindlessly throwing it into my duffle bag, I took a moment to understand how it really works.
Now, I’d like to think of our Sun as the saviour of life. It’s a heat source, a power source, a light source, and we often overlook how much we truly depend on its existence. As with anything though, there’s some good and some bad, and it all comes down to moderation.
The Sun is innately a mass of radiation, and one way to protect ourselves from its ultraviolet (UV) rays, is sunscreen. The ingredients in sunscreen have been formulated not only to reflect the Sun’s rays – thanks to its white tone – but to also react with the rays in place of our skin. If you notice on some sunscreen bottles, application must be done every couple of hours because over time, the energy from the Sun’s rays break down the chemicals, leaving your skin exposed.
“As with anything though, there’s some good and some bad, and it’s all drilled down to moderation.”
Remember reading that? Well, it’s true. Too much exposure to Sun rays may be harmful, but a moderate amount may actually be a great source of vitamin D! Unlike most other vitamins that need to be absorbed through our diet, the energy from the Sun’s rays is sufficient to spark a reaction in our skin cells, resulting in the synthesis of vitamin D. Yeah, it’s another one of evolution’s great advantages because even though it should, our diet may not always contain the nutritional value that’s appropriate for us. Vitamin D for example, helps to absorb calcium, which facilitates bone growth!
Before I knew it, my beach day had come and almost gone, but my favourite part of the day was just beginning. I awe at sunsets and sunrises no matter where I am, but they’re the best in places like this. Open spaces with naked nature, where the air leaves you sticky, but it’s somehow the freshest you’ve ever been surrounded by.
As I was staring off into the abyss of the ocean, and as my eyes traced the lilac smoke strokes in the sky, I wondered why it didn’t always look like this, engulfed in cotton candy hues or fierce and fiery tones.
Now, before we can understand what causes the Sky’s varying colour palette, we should understand that each colour is associated to a specific range of energy. Blue-toned colours acquire the most energy, red-tones acquire the least, and every other colour in the rainbow lays in between.
I later found out that the colour of the sky correlates to the angle of the Sun’s rays as they penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere. At around noon, the Sun is more or less directly above us, which positions it at a shorter distance that when it sets or rises. This shorter distance means that the rays don’t interact with as many air particles, so they are able to hold onto their energy.
Think about yourself for example. If you’re taking a walk down the street and you’re bumping into a lot of pedestrians, you’ll feel more tired and less energetic than if you were strolling along a clear path.
As for the sunrays that reach our line of sight, since they’re higher in energy we see tones of blue. This also reasons why daily temperatures often peak around noon, it’s because of all those highly energetic and highly heated rays!
As the Sun then approaches or is near the horizon, the rays penetrate on an angle and travel a greater distance to the surface of the Earth. They then lose a lot more energy from the increased number of colliding air particles, and the colours we see are those lower on the colour-energy scale, as lilacs or tones of red and orange.
At that point I had done enough inquiring for the day and for the rest of the evening I sat back into my lawn chair with my legs kicked up on my cooler. The mosquito bites and the intense heat was worth it because the skyline reminded me of how much this world has to offer. The greatest masterpieces of this time are truly those that are unmodified by humans. So go on out there, and considerately explore whatever engulfs your soul with bliss, and stay tuned as we explore the next Day in the Science of Life!
About the Author
Ashnie Badal is a Creative Communications Coordinator at IdeaMosaic Inc., a platform that plays at the intersection of science and creativity, to create and distribute science engagement tools. She is currently completing a B.Sc in Chemistry at Ryerson University. Along with the desire to increase the accessibility of science, she aims to contribute to ongoing research that continues to drive the species on this planet forward.