What are E-Numbers? – Read on to find out…

The name that is given to any additive, preservative or an emulsion used in the production and preparation of food is the ‘E-Number’. This shows that this ‘product’ has been for use in Europe and the USA (but not necessarily in all countries).

Types of additives and preservatives:

1) E 100 – Food colours (Example – E 102 – Tartrazine)

2) E 200 – Preservatives (Example – E 211 – Sodium Benzoate)

3) E 300 – Antioxidants 9 (Example – E 300 – Ascorbic Acid)

4) E 400 – Emulsifiers, Gelling Agents, Thickeners (Example – E 404 – Calcium Alginate)

5) E 900 – Sweeteners (Example – E 951 – Aspartame)

6) Others – Acidity Regulators, Bulking Agents and Flavour Enhances (Example – E 621 MSG)

E-Numbers that are Advisable for Children to Avoid –

Some of the E numbers that the UK government have suggested that children should avoid, especially if they have shown any signs of suffering from hyperactivity, these include:

1) E 102 – tartrazine. As well as hyperactivity, this has been linked to asthma, stomach problems, tiredness and skin irritation. This is commonly found in food such as biscuits, sweets and interestingly mushy peas.

2) E 110 – sunset yellow. In addition to behavioural problems and hyperactivity, it has also been linked allergies and gastric problems. It has been found in foods such as in ice creams, soft drinks and sweets.

3) E 112 – carmoisine. This has also been linked to an increase in allergies and intolerances. This product is commonly used in biscuits, jelly, ready meals and sweets.

4) E 124 – ponceau 4R. This has been linked to instances of allergies and intolerances. This product can be found in biscuits, drinks and sweets.

5) E 129 – allure red. This has been linked with asthma, difficulties in digesting food, gastric upset, stomach aches and even vomiting. This product can be commonly found in foods such as sausages and soft drinks.

6) E104 – quinoline yellow. It has also been linked with issues of asthma and skin irritation. It has been found in products such as smoked meats (including fish), pickles, fizzy drinks, biscuits, chocolate and sweets.

7) E 211 – Sodium benzoate. This product has been linked to asthma, breathing difficulties, head aches and also hyperactivity. This product is often found in foods such as baked foods (cakes and pastries), ice lollies, ice creams and fizzy drinks.

I hope this gives you a better idea on what are E numbers when used in food and which ones should be avoided.

Thank you for reading.

Animal Fact File: The Polar Bear

The scientific name for the polar bear is ‘Ursus Maritimus’. The polar bear inhabits much of the Arctic, Northern Canada and Northern Alaska. The polar bear is rare at the very north of the Arctic (commonly known as the Arctic basin) this is due to the fact that seal which are the primary food source for polar bears are only found in very low numbers. A male polar bear can weigh around 600 kg while females weigh 350 kg. Due to the hostile conditions that the polar bear inhabits human encroachment is less of an issue; this means the polar bear has been able to keep much of its range (over 85%) which is more than any other carnivore on the planet.

The polar bear has many adaptations these include:

1) Capable of eating large quantities of meat – A polar bear can eat 20% of its entire body weight in a single meal. This is a helpful adaptation because this helps the polar bear to cope for long periods of time without food. Also by eating vast amounts of meat it helps the animal to put on as much fat as possible as this helps to keep the polar bear warm during the bitterly cold winters of the Arctic.

2) Thick fur to protect against the cold – A polar bears coat is 3 cm thick, to keep the polar bear warm. The polar bear also has over 10 cm of fat (blubber).

3) Dark coloured skin – Although the polar bear may appear to be white its skin is actually black. The polar bear’s black skin is designed to absorb the sun’s rays to help to keep the animal warm, (especially during the winter months).

4) An excellent sense of smell – The polar bear has around 100 million sensory receptors in its nose, while a human has a mere 10 million. This means that the polar bear is more than capable of detecting the scent of its prey from up 2.5 miles away.

5) Short and curved claws – Polar bears have strong and curved claws which are used to grip into the ice to prevent them from slipping on the ice.

6) Very strong shoulders – When hunting seals that are under the ice the polar bear will often break the ice (which is often very thick about 1 – 2 meters) with an enormous amount of force using their front paws. The force that is used by the bear is more than enough to dislocate the shoulders of the average human.

7) White (hallow) fur – Polar bears have white fur to blend into their environment so, they can hunt more easily and to reflect any heat loss from the skin back into the body.

8) Small ears and tail – Polar bears have small ears and a small tails to minimize the concentration of heat loss.

9) Very large paws – The polar has very large paws in order to spread out its weight over the ice (this prevents the ice from breaking).

10) Capable of reducing its metabolism – The polar bear will often reduce its metabolic rate in the winter, this enables the animal to survive when food is in short supply.

11) Although the polar bear is the most carnivorous of all the bear species, it is capable of eating a wide variety of vegetation if there are not enough seals to find.

The reason why brown bears are closely related to polar bears is because the polar bear apparently evolved from brown bears. Around 6 million years a small population of brown bears visited the Arctic to hunt for seals. However the elements prevented them from leaving the Arctic. This population of ‘brown bears’ became smaller as they began to die out, but some were able to survive … and thrive. By 3.5 million years ago these ‘brown bears’ evolved into the modern day polar bear.

The polar bear is an excellent swimmer and can often be seen over 150 miles away from land or ice. The polar bear’s body fat helps keep it afloat and can swim at around 6 mph. On land the bear can cover vast distances in its search for seals. The polar bear can reach speeds of up to 30 mph and can maintain that for nearly 3.5 kilometres. The polar mainly eats seals (such as ringed and bearded seals) along with narwhals, beluga whales, reindeer, bird’s eggs and even walruses. Also the polar bear is the only predator that will kill humans for food.

Female polar bears that are due to have cubs will enter a semi-dormant state after entering their dens during October; the cubs are usually born in January. They emerge in early April with the female having eaten nothing for 6 months. The female waits until her cubs are able to walk for long distances, after which they walk to the sea hunt seals. The mother will care and protect them for 3 years until they leave. The polar bear is very adaptable and is the largest and most powerful predators in the world, wolves and brown bears will often avoid adult polar bears, but will kill young cubs. The polar bear has a life span of no more than 25 years. The polar bear is classified as an ‘Extremophile’ as it is capable of surviving in its hostile environment.

Thanks for reading.

The Discovery of the Electron

The idea of atoms existing was put forward by the famous Ancient Greek philosopher Democritus who thought that everything around us was made up of minuscule particles.
Democritus thought that by cutting an object could he could continue cutting it continuously. He concluded that this was not possible as there would be a piece that would be far too small to cut. Democritus also thought that these very small pieces (particles) were the basic building blocks of everything around us.

The word ‘atom’ comes from the Greek word ‘atomos’.
In the beginning of the 19th century John Dalton showed that atoms actually existed. He found out that there were atoms for every single element in the periodic table. During this time they did experiments with electric currents. These experiments involved obtaining the electric current and passing it through a gas.

In the 19th these scientists built glass tubes which had metal contacts on each end and got rid of most of the air in the tube and put an extremely high voltage between the metal contacts. If there was a wire between the metal contacts the electric current would have flowed through the wire, however the current had to go through the small quantity of gas still in the glass tube, and this caused powerful and spectacular arrays of glowing lights.
What happened was electric currents were being forced through the gas which was hitting the atoms of the gas which shook them to form light.

As technology improved better vacuums were made which were capable of getting rid of all the gas in glass test tubes. JJ Thompson passed an electric current through the vacuum which hit the glass and created a small green speck. When Thompson used magnets the green speck would move and also when he applied a voltage to the glass tube the speck would move again. Also when he used both of them at the same time the speck would stay still (he balanced the electric and magnetic force).

JJ Thompson was head of the ‘Cavendish Laboratory’ in Cambridge where he carefully studied the electrical beam which is known as a ‘cathode ray’. In the modern era the ‘Cavendish Laboratory’ has all the equipment that Thompson ‘apparently’ used for his experiments including the ones which he used to discover the electron. The word ‘apparently’ is used because he was not necessarily good at carrying out experiments.

On one of the apparatus there is a small disk made of metal where electrons were emitted. At first Thompson was unsure what this beam of light was, so he changed the material of the cathode to see if it was the property of cathode material. He also changed the number of gas particles in the glass tube. However each time he changed the variables of the experiment he still saw the green light, this meant that this was caused by the property of the matter not the material.

This concluded that these are charges of negative electricity which was carried by particles of matter.

Although Thompson had influenced the discovery of the electron, there were other scientists who were carrying out a similar experiment. In Berlin a German physicist was doing a more effective experiment unfortunately he misinterpreted his results. He thought that the beams of light in his tube were the flow of matter however he did not think that these were individual particles.
The electron was discovered in 1897.

Soon after the electron was discovered an American physicist Robert Millikan was able to calculate the electron’s charge and mass. He found out that the electron has a negative charge and was about 2000 times lighter than the smallest atom.

JJ Thompson thought that if there are electrons which have a negative charge in an atom then there must be a positive charge as well to counteract the negative charge. He put forward his idea of the ‘plum pudding model’. This meant that the electrons were meant to be surrounded by a circle of positive matter. This was what people thought the atom looked like towards the end of the 19th century.
However this idea was altered by Ernst Rutherford who came from New Zealand. In 1907 at Manchester Rutherford set up a famous experiment, this was where a small machine would expel (shoot) out alpha particles which would come into contact with a very thin foil of gold. Rutherford discovered that 1 in 8000 alpha particles were deflected back from the gold foil. Alpha particles are large and positively charged. This means that the alpha particles have hit a positive atom in the gold foil which causes them to be repelled.

Rutherford though that these atoms must have had a positive centre. After several experiments involving many different kinds of atoms Rutherford concluded that the atom consisted of a positive nucleus with negative electrons on the outside. This idea was similar to a solar system with the electrons orbiting the nucleus at the centre; this means that atoms are mostly empty space.

Electrons are loosely attached to the atom. This is important for technology which makes the electron the most useful subatomic particle. The electron can be useful for motors and electricity.

In 2008 a group of scientists from Sweden recorded the electron in motion which happens to be similar like a hummingbird flapping its wing.
The human understanding of electrons has allowed us to improve our technology and produce items such as computers and lasers.

This experiment could allow us to see inside electrons and molecules which would give us tools such as controlling a chemical reaction.

The atom has ‘sub-structure’ and we can fill its inner workings. Electrons are fundamental particles, but protons and neutrons are not. Protons and neutrons are composed of smaller particles known as quarks.

Thank you for reading.

Animal Fact File: The Camel

There are only 2 species of camel left the dromedary or one humped camel which has the scientific name Camelus dromedaries and the bacterian camel or two humped camel which has the scientific name Camelus bactrianus. Both of these species have been domesticated; however there are no wild populations of the dromedary camel left, the camels inhabiting much of Western Australia are not really wild, but feral or ‘bewildered’. A small wild population of the bacterian camel still exists in the Mongolian Desert (in central Asia) where they number only 700 individuals.

The camel has many adaptations these include:

1) Long eyelashes – This protects the camel’s eyes from the sun, sand and dust.

2) Thick leathery patches on the knees – This protects the camel’s knees from getting burned when it is kneeling on the hot desert sand.

3) Fat stored in the camel’s hump – The fat stored in the hump means that camels are able to go for long periods of time (about 2 months) without food and water.

4) Long, powerful legs – The camel is capable of walking long distances in the desert and can reach speeds of nearly 40 mph although they tire out quickly. However they can maintain speeds of around 25 mph. The legs also keep the camel’s body away from the hot ground and it can defend itself from predators by kicking. Another defence mechanism for the camel is they will often spit usually expelling some of the contents in their stomach or putting a rock in their mouth to act like a missile, this will often deter most predators.

5) Sharp teeth – These enable the camel to feed from tough desert plants.

6) The nostrils can be closed – This prevents sand from coming into the camel’s nose and causing problems such as suffocation.

7) Board, a flat leathery pad at the bottom of the camel’s feet – These pads prevent the camel’s feet from burning due to the hot ground. These also spread out the camel’s weight to prevent it from sinking into the sand.

8) The camel’s fur/hair – The camel’s fur is slightly thick on its back to protect it from the radiation from the sun whereas, the lower half of its body has very little fur or hair to prevent the camel from overheating.

9) Able to tolerate a high body temperature – The camel only begins to produce sweat only once its core body temperature has reached 41 degrees Celsius. The camel can manage losing up to 20% of their weight through sweating; however many other animals can lose no more than 13% of their weight through sweating otherwise cardiac failure will occur.

10) Capable of significantly reducing water loss – The camel will produce very little urine which will often have a very high concentration of urea. Also the waste products (dung) of the camel are so dry they can be used to fuel fires.

11) Able to take in large quantities of water – A camel weighing over half a tonne can drink around 200 litres of water within just 3 minutes. The camel can do this because its red blood cells are oval instead of circular like other mammals; this means these red blood cells do not rupture when large quantities of water is taken in.

12) The camel’s milk is low in fat and sugar, but high in protein and is around 3 times more nutritious than cow’s milk, which allows young camels to grow quickly and get the nutrients they need.

The camel is a very successful animal and can survive in some of the hostile places on earth making it known as an ‘Extremophile’. The dromedary camel can be commonly found throughout North Africa and the Middle East. The bacterian camel can be found in mainly Central Asia. The camel has a life span of about 45 years, but can live longer.

Thanks for reading.

Animal Fact File: Eurasian Sparrowhawk

The scientific name for the Eurasian Sparrowhawk is ‘Accipiter nisus’. The sparrow hawk gets its name not because it eats sparrows, but because a staggering 96% of its diet consists of other birds. The sparrow hawk is a highly successful bird of prey and can be seen throughout Europe (including Britain), many parts of Asia and small areas of North Africa.

The sparrow hawk is very adaptable and can be seen in many environments such as:

1) Farmland

2) Grassland

3) Urban areas

4) Woodland which have different tree species

5) Meadows

6) Parks

In this species the female is around 20% larger than the male. Due to this size difference the male sparrow hawk will often take smaller birds such as buntings, tits and finches. The female sparrow hawk preys on large birds such as blackbirds, doves and pigeons. However if there are not many birds around the sparrow hawk will target small mammals, amphibian, reptiles and even bats to supplement their diet.

Breeding occurs in February seen after nest building; the nest is usually 70 cm in diameter and is made of sticks and plant matter. Around 5 eggs are laid which are bluish in colour and have brown specks, these hatches within 32 days; the chicks are cared for by both parents however the male will provide most of the food for the female while she is incubating the eggs. The chicks will fledge after around 26 days. Less than 35% of fledged chicks will survive their first winter, while adults have a survival rate of 70% for each passing year.

Facts about sparrow hawks include:

1) Around 125 species of birds have known to be become prey for sparrow hawks from tits to pheasants.

2) Female sparrow hawks are often 45% heavier than males, this means that when the male tries to impress the female he is very wary as the female can injure if not kill him.

3) Sparrow hawk populations are maintained by the number of prey items that are available not the other way around.

4) In the 1960s a pesticide known as DDT was used which caused horrific declines for the species across the UK.

5) Many young sparrow hawks will often nest within 25km of where they hatched.

6) The female sparrow hawk can survive for around 7 days without food, while the smaller male can only survive a mere 3 days.

7) Female sparrow hawks have a longer life expectancy than males, they can live for 10 years, while the male can only live for 8 years.

8) Sparrow hawks became a protected species in the UK during the early 1960s.

9) The female is heavily dependent on the male to provide her with extra food so that she can produce eggs.

10) Sparrow hawks will often eat their prey while they are still alive.

There are around 6 different subspecies of sparrow hawks; the one that inhabits the UK is ‘Accipiter nisus nisus’. The sparrow hawk is a highly successful predator and can take one third of young great tit and less than 30% of adult blue tits. There are often false reports that sparrow hawks are causing the decline of Britain’s song bird, this is completely untrue, the lack of nesting sites and limited food resources play a major factor. However people will often go and illegally kill sparrow hawks for this rather poor reason.

The sparrow hawk continues to thrive throughout its range despite persecution from game keepers and farmers. The sparrow hawk is vitally important at maintaining the balance of the ecosystem as they prevent the numbers of their prey from growing too large.

Thanks for reading.

The Puma: Successful predator or on the brink of extinction?

The scientific name for the puma is ‘Felis Concolor’. The puma has more than 40 different names in the English language alone (more than any other mammal in the world).

These names include:

1) Catamount

2) Cougar

3) Mountain Lion

4) Panther

5) Red Tiger

6) Puma

Part of the reason why the puma has so many names is that it is widely distributed throughout the Americas; they are also the most widespread mammal in the whole of the Western hemisphere. Each name given to the puma is unique to the area where it was named. Due to this large distribution there are believed to be 7 different subspecies of puma, each with a slightly different colour and size.

The puma can survive in almost any habitat, these include:

1) Freezing coniferous forests in Southern Canada (where temperatures plummet to as low as -25 degrees Celsius.

2) Hot, dry deserts in Mexico and Southern USA.

3) Lush, green tropical rainforests in the Amazon.

4) To mountainous terrain in the tip of South America.

The puma has an excellent sense of hearing and eye sight meaning that it can detect prey from up to 2 miles away in total darkness. The puma has very large paws compared to its body size; this is an evolutionary adaptation which means the puma can cling onto the prey animal that it attacking. The puma is a very strong and powerful animal. An interesting fact is that 80% of the entire body mass of male pumas is pure muscle, while in females it is around 70%. The puma is a solitary hunter and is often found alone.

The puma weighs in at an average of around 110 kg and reach 9 feet in length. The puma can reach speeds of 50 mph and maintain that for at least 1.5 km. The puma can jump vertically up to 4 meters in the air and catapult themselves forward meaning they can cover up to 20 meters in a single bound. The puma is a very efficient predator and it has a hunting success rate of 83% its rival the wolf averages a mere 10%. The puma will always target the neck of the animal it is attacking by doing this it kill the prey item very quickly, because of this the puma can bring down animals that weigh 5 times more than themselves. All these characteristics have helped to assure that the puma is the most successful predator in the Western hemisphere.

Apart from humans the cougar has no natural predators. However it will often compete fiercely against its enemies. The puma is a superbly adaptable animal and this has proved to be a major advantage when tackling ‘human encroachment’. As humans reduce the amount of land available to the puma, they often have to retreat into difficult mountainous terrain; however its adaptability insures the survival of the species in the wild. In fact the puma can tolerate much higher levels of ‘human encroachment’ than its rivals meaning that it has a major advantage over its competitors.

The puma’s rivals are:

1) The American Brown Bear (also known as the grizzly bear).

2) The American Black Bear.

3) The American Gray Wolf.

In some cases the puma’s enemies will try to steal a kill; however they only usurping only 20% of the puma’s kills. The puma will often try to kill its rivals to eliminate the excess competition and to provide safer environments for their cubs. A single litter will have around 5 cubs which are born blind and completely helpless. Their eyes fully open at 3 weeks of age. They stay with their mothers for 1 – 2 years learning how to hunt.

Attacks on humans are rare, but still occur, however the majority were caused as these animals were provoked and some of these attack were … fatal. Despite the decline of the puma over the past century the animal is still thriving across the Americas. It is capable of surviving in some of the hostile regions on the planet making it the successful and numerous mammals in the western hemisphere.

Thanks for reading!

Are Big Cats In the UK?

Big cats have been reported to inhabit the British countryside. The main known reason how these animals came to Britain is that many owners of these exotic animals chose to release them due to the introduction of the ‘Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976’. The first sighting of these creatures date as far back as the 18th where a well known writer (William Cobbett) believed he saw a mid-sized cat climbing a tree.

Throughout the 19th century there are increasing reports, sightings and evidence for these creatures inhabiting the British Isles. In 1991 a European lynx was shot in Norfolk due to killing over 10 sheep in a very small amount of time. However the issue was just reported in 2003 as the farmer thought that he had shot an endangered species. In 1993 a leopard was shot in the ‘Isle of Wright’ for killing livestock. In 2001 a lynx was captured in North London and taken into London Zoo. It was then discovered to be under 2 years of age.

In June 2006 a video was taken of a large black cat (possibly a panther) in the rural areas of Aberdeenshire. In mid 2009 a video was taken of a large black cat that was walking next to railway line in Argyll, it is apparent that big cats with dark colours have been reported on several occasions before. In 2010 a video footage was taken of a 5 foot black cat in Gloucestershire.

There have been very few attacks from big cats on people in Britain. There are 2 well known big cat attacks on people. In 2000 a young boy was attacked by what appears to be a black panther in South Wales. This evidence for big cats living in the UK is unique because is yields physical impressions, the attack left him with 5 claw marks on the left side of his face.

There has been some DNA evidence which confirms the existence of the ‘British big cats’. In 2011 DNA testing which was done by Durham University shows that a leopard was living in Northern Devon.

These creatures feed on roe deer, fallow deer, sika deer, and young deer. They will also target birds, rabbits and small mammals. There have been several reports of big cats killing livestock however this happens only in extreme cases such as poor weather, lack of natural prey or the animal is injured. The species of big cats that inhabit Britain are the leopard, the Black Panther (which accounts to the majority of reports); the puma (where 30% of sightings fit its description), Jaguar, Lynx, Ocelot, Jungle cat and even lions have been reported.

The Puma and the Black Panther are the most commonly reported cats in the UK there is also reports of a big cat that is completely unique to Britain and unknown to science however there is very little information on this particular species. The Puma is by far going to be one of the successful cats in the UK (please note the puma is classified as a small cat this is because it can purr and it is more closely related to small felines rather than big cats). The puma is highly adaptable and can easily survive in the UK. One reason why the large felines have been so successful in the UK is that there is a wide abundance of prey and there is very little competition for food and territory.

These animals must be breeding in the UK, many big cats live no more than 20 years in captivity, however there have been sighting since the 1970s. Between 2004 to 2005 there have been around 18 reports of big cats with cubs which is evidence that these creatures are breeding.

These animals do provide their advantages, these include:

1) Controlling deer populations

2) Encourage people to come to Britain (if they become more numerous) which will fuel the economy.

3) The lynx was once native to Britain, the fact that it is amongst many reports suggests that it can be re-introduced back into the UK. It also means that there could already be small breeding populations throughout the British Isles.

These creatures will only attack if corned so it is advisably that a reasonable amount of space is given if you decide to look for these animals. There have been a few reports of big cats growling at people, this meant that the cat was corned and had no where to escape. They growl to intimidate people so they back away giving an opportunity for the cat to escape.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and please leave a comment if you wish.