Sunburn – Factoids and Public Service Announcement…

Even when it’s lovely and cool you can still sunburn, so cover up or put on some sunscreen!

 

I went to a fly-in on Sunday, it was so windy I had to hold my hat most of the day. Other than the flying hat, it was gorgeous weather. Enjoyed watching the planes take off and land. Didn’t get fantastic photos, but I felt like I was on the hunt trying to catch them and get my timing right.

I also learned firsthand just how much debris a helicopter sends flying…

 

Noticed a few hours after getting home that I was *really* pink. Oops!

 

After hunting down my aloe and downing a lot of water, I remembered reading something about the specific cause of sunburn.

 

Sunburn is the body’s reaction to damage to the skin cells caused by UV-B light.

 

Ultraviolet light damages cells by messing with their DNA.

 

If there are two thymine (the T of the famous CGAT) bases in a row it can cause them to fuse together. This puts a kink in the DNA strand. That messes with reading and replication and is what either kills or irritates the cells.

 

(There’s a more complex discussion here if you’re so inclined. I first ran across this factoid in Sam Kean‘s new book, The Violinist’s Thumb. Scientists have found that whether or not damage occurs depends on just where two Ts are stacked together when the ultraviolet light strikes. It takes tiny segments of a second for the damage to occur, which is part of the reason you can sunburn so quickly.)

 

Almost all animals and plants have enzymes to fix T-T kinks in DNA, but along some evolutionary path mammals lost them. Which is why we all can sunburn. Yay?

There was also a bit of a car show, everything was scrunched together, but I loved the idea of the massively overhauled hot rod reflected in the staid still original paint of a classic car.

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