Q: I’ve seen trend designers selling clothes primarily based on kente material from Ghana. Is it insensitive for non-Ghanaians to put on it?
—Lilia Morris | New York City
Colorful kente material—fabricated from handwoven silk and cotton—has been a part of Ghanaian custom for lots of of years. The colours and patterns in any given piece inform a narrative. Within Ghana, kente designs are used for particular events and are even protected by regulation. Diana Baird N’Diaye, a cultural specialist at the Center for Folklife and Culture Heritage, thinks it’s tremendous for Americans, particularly these of African ancestry, to put on acceptable kente patterns to occasions corresponding to graduations and funerals, so long as the material itself was handwoven in Africa. When designers make summary patterns primarily based on the look of kente, she thinks they need to make it clear to the public the place they’re getting their inspiration. But they shouldn’t copy precise kente patterns. “It’s not just a decorative print,” she says.
Q: How do zoos preserve infectious ailments from spreading amongst animals? Are there particular vaccines for lions or bears?
—Christopher Hu | Shaker Heights, Ohio
Many zoo animals can thank pets for his or her vaccines, says Kailey Anderson, a veterinary resident at the National Zoo. Most vaccine analysis has been executed on domesticated animals. So when vets need to inoculate a large rat, as an example, they’ll use a vaccine developed for pet rodents. Sometimes a species isn’t associated to a standard pet or farm animal, so vets will take a look at elements like weight loss plan, metabolism and habits. That’s why elephants get vaccines designed for horses, and bears get vaccines designed for canines.
Q: Does paved-over soil have any microbial life? If not, can the microbes ever return?
—Dorothy West | Reston, Virginia
Before employees pour cement or roll asphalt, they strip away the high stage of the soil the place many tiny life-forms thrive. Microbes want vegetation to thrive and vice versa, says Pat Megonigal, biogeochemist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. The tiny organisms decompose lifeless plant elements, turning them into nutrient-rich soil. Even after pavement has been eliminated, it could take lots of of years for the soil’s ecosystem to recuperate. But scientists pace up the course of by introducing nutrient-rich compounds that assist each microbes and vegetation flourish.
Q: My son-in-law and I differ on why the moon is all the time bigger when it’s near the horizon. He says it’s an phantasm attributable to distance. I feel it’s the moisture in the environment appearing as a magnifying prism. Is both of those concepts appropriate?
—Paul Ziebarth | Buffalo, New York
The environment can play a task, particularly in altering the moon’s shade. But the “moon illusion,” which has fascinated people since historical instances, has a extra broadly accepted clarification, says David DeVorkin, curator of area historical past at the National Air and Space Museum. When the moon is on the horizon, it’s typically positioned close to objects like timber and homes, inflicting it to look bigger than it does when it’s remoted excessive up in an empty sky. Still, this isn’t the complete story. Astronauts in area additionally see the moon showing to alter dimension, even when there’s nothing in the foreground. The causes for the phantasm are nonetheless a bit mysterious—a dependable matter of dialog whereas standing underneath the evening sky.
It’s your flip to Ask Smithsonian.
Like this text?
SIGN UP for our publication