Has laughing gas killed anyone?

When we talk about greenhouse gases, we often think of carbon-dioxide (CO2). But did you know nitrous oxide (N2O), also called laughing gas, is a potent greenhouse gas, with ozone-depleting property?

You must be aware that a greenhouse gas is a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and keeps the planet warm. This process called the greenhouse effect is a good thing. Without it the world would be a frozen, uninhabitable place. However, too much greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can cause the temperature to increase out of control. The more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the hotter the earth will become. It changes the Earth's climate system and affect all forms of life.

The main gases responsible for the greenhouse effect include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapour. While carbon dioxide and to some extent methane have gained the recognition as climate change villains, N20 emission has largely been ignored in climate policies, despite its significant contribution to climate change.

A 2020 review of nitrous oxide sources and sinks found that emissions rose 30% in the last four decades. Nitrous oxide is responsible for roughly 7% of global warming since preindustrial times. Most N20 emissions have come from emerging countries like India, China and Brazil.

What are the sources of N20?

Nitrous oxide in the atmosphere comes from both natural and anthropogenic sources. The largest source of nitrous oxide is agriculture (73%), and the majority of agricultural emissions result from usage of nitrogen fertilizers and ill-management of animals waste.

Fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes are the other important source of nitrous oxide emissions. Biomass burning, atmospheric deposition and wastewater treatment are the other sources.

Why is N20 a cause for concern?

Like other greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide absorbs radiation and traps heat in the atmosphere. N20 has a long lifespan in the atmosphere-about 114 years.

N20 is nearly 300 times more potent at warming the planet than carbon dioxide, which means that even small sources of emissions can have a significant impact on the climate.

N20 has emerged as the most critical ozone depleting substance. It is stable in the lowest level of the atmosphere, the troposphere and acts like a greenhouse gas. When it migrates up to the stratosphere, it reacts with ozone and depletes it.

The growing demand for food and feed for animals and increased usage of fertilizers will further increase global nitrous oxide emissions.

Picture Credit : Google

How playing cards has an ancient Indian connection?

Playing cards are supposed to have originated in Tang China, but were very popular in India as Krida patram, and later in Mughal times as Ganjifa. Beautiful round cards in materials like Ivory, wood, and silk were made.

Modern Polo was picked up by the British in the 19th century from a game played by Manipuri royalty in North East India. However, it is a 2000-year-old game from Persia, which had spread to India, China and even the Byzantine Empire. The Persian name was Chogan, but it was called Pulu in Manipur, which means wooden ball. It was a favourite of royalty. Qutbuddin Aibak died playing it in Lahore. Akbar invented a flaming ball so that he could play it at night. Variations like Elephant Polo were also popular.


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How martial arts of Kung Fu has an ancient Indian connection?

Shaolin Kung Fu was the first institutionalised martial art in China, which influenced others like judo and karate. The story of its origin in the temple of Shaolin is given in various Chinese texts. An Indian monk Bodhidharma, who is supposed to have been a Pallava prince, came to China in the 6th century.

“The Dharma Master was a South Indian of the Western Region. He was the third son of a great Indian king. His ambition lay in the Mahayana path, and so he put aside his white layman’s robe for the black robe of a monk [...] Lamenting the decline of the true teaching in the outlands, he subsequently crossed distant mountains and seas, travelling about propagating the teaching in Han and Wei.”

After many years, he started living in the Shaolin temple, and developed the Chan (from “Dhyan”) school of mediation, which became “Zen” in Japan. In the classical Yoga approach, he believed that physical fitness of the monks was eesential for concentration, and developed exercises like martial arts, as he had been trained as a warrior. One can see the resemblance between Shaolin Kung Fu and surviving Indian Martial arts like Kalaripayattu. He is known as Damo in China, Daruma dolls are very popular in Japan, depicting him with a black curly beard.


Picture Credit : Google

The future of natural gas

Although new areas of gas are being found from time to time, we are using up our known supplies of natural gas very quickly. Scientists are now looking for alternative sources of natural gas. They are also trying to find fuels that do not cause as much pollution.


There are natural gas supplies deep in the Arctic ice.

This natural gas has been found in wet snow and ice. The Arctic could be a useful new source of natural gas. However, extracting the gas might seriously damage the natural balance of the area.





New ways of drilling for gas do not damage the natural environment.

Powerful laser beams of light can be used to drill into the ground. This causes less pollution than a huge mechanical drill. Instead of building offshore rigs, robotic machines are sent to the bottom of the ocean.





Seaweed can be turned into gas.

Ocean plants, such as sea kelp, can be turned into methane gas that we can burn for energy. Sea kelp farms have been set up in the ocean to grow the seaweed. In the future, huge kelp farms could produce renewable gas energy.


Saving gas today

We can’t replace natural gas but we can use less energy. Insulation and double glazing in your home help to save heat. Even just turning off lights when not needed can make a big difference! Saving energy also reduces pollution.




Recycling can save energy.

Materials such as glass and plastic can be recycled. This means that they can be broken down and used to make something new. Recycling uses less energy than making objects from new glass or plastic. If you recycle two glass bottles it saves enough to boil five cups of tea!






Turning down the heating can save gas.

In most homes, more than half of the energy used is for heating. You can save gas by turning the heating down slightly and wearing a jumper instead. Boilers that only heat your water when you need it are also a good way to save energy.




Factories could also save a lot more energy.

Gas is widely used in industry. Factories need to reduce the amount of energy that  they are using. Some factories are buying more efficient equipment that needs less energy to work. Factories are also looking at ways to reduce the amount of polluting gases that they release into the air.