NASA's Perseverance Rover on Mars has a 'Pet Rock'

by Theodore Morrison, age 14

Perseverance, a rover engineered by NASA, has managed to acquire an interesting tag-along friend while exploring Mars, the fourth-farthest planet from our sun. This friend isn’t sentient though; it’s a rock that got stuck in one of Perseverance’s wheels while the rover was investigating the formation of another rock.

So far, this “pet” of the Perseverance has traveled with the vehicle for 5.3 miles across a crater of the red planet. Spokespeople from NASA have expressed that they have viewed the rock occasionally through photos transmitted from the rover. There is a possibility that the rock could fall from the rover. If it did fall, it could possibly land among a different variant of rock. All of this travel encourages NASA that the rover has been able to carry the rock without damage to any significant system.

Perseverance is as large as an average car and has hosted this unexpected guest since February 4th of this year. On the rock’s journey alongside Perseverance, it has traveled across its landing site which was named after a deceased science-fiction author, Octavia Brown, and has advanced across the residue of a former delta. [read more]

How Do Astronomers Know the Universe is Expanding?

by Justin Medina Ruiz, age 13

In 1929, Edwin Hubble discovered that galaxies were moving away from one another. In the mid–1990s, astronomers dedicated themselves to learning how fast the universe grows.

The driving force behind the universe expanding is dark matter, which makes up 74 percent of matter.

The first theory, named the “Big Crunch,” states that dark energy will simply stop expanding and gravity will shrink the universe until reaching a single point. Another possibility is that dark energy will cause the universe to be ripped apart, tearing galaxies, planets, stars, and all life along with it, known as the “Big Rip.” All atoms would be destroyed. [read more]

Watch Out for Poison Hemlock in Wisconsin

by Anissa Attidekou, age 12

There are a wide variety of poisonous plants that are toxic to humans and animals. Some can lead to extreme pain and others can even be deadly. One of these deadly plants is named the poison hemlock.

Poison hemlock flourish in damp environments. It can be found next to fences, roads, near creeks, irrigation streams, and fields. This plant grows in almost every state, including Wisconsin; however, it does not grow in Alaska, Hawaii, or Florida according to the USDA (United States department of Agriculture). As a biennial species, poison hemlock does not reproduce or grow flowers in its first growing season. This is called vegetative state. Poison hemlock is most dangerous during summer and fall time.

The plant first has small clusters of white flowers that eventually develop into “green, deeply ridged fruit that contains several seeds.“ USDA explains as the plant matures, the green turns grayish brown. According to the U.S. Park Service, poison hemlock does not have a very pleasant odor. The plant can be about two to 10 feet tall, according to the National Park Service. Do not mistake the poison hemlock for wild parsnips. Confusing these two plants is the most common reason why people are poisoned. [read more]

What Will it Take to Survive a Trip to Mars?

by Jason Medina Ruiz, age 11

Mars, along with our solar system, was formed from a large spinning disk of gas and dust. Astronomers believe that this occurred about 4.6 billion years ago. Reaching Mars will be the longest journey in human history. The trip has a distance of about 225 million kilometers, with six months to arrive, and six months to return to Earth.

There is a lot to take under consideration for a potential mission to the Red Planet. One of these things will be figuring out how to get there and having the necessary materials. A problem that astronauts will encounter is space radiation. Since astronauts will be away from the protection of the Earth's magnetic field, charged particles from high energy cosmic rays can negatively impact their health. The chances of getting cancer and serious health issues increase with exposure to these rays.

Mars has an atmosphere that is 100 times less dense than Earth. While our atmosphere is nitrogen and oxygen rich, the Martian atmosphere is composed primarily of carbon dioxide. With an atmosphere like that, Mars would take a person's breath away. [read more]

Pluto Is Not a Planet – It’s a Dwarf Planet

by Hiba Al-Quraishi, age 14

Pluto is referred to as a “dwarf planet” due to its diminutive size. Pluto is only half the size of North America which is why it’s categorized as a dwarf planet.

Pluto is located in the Kuiper Belt. This is a region on the outskirts of our solar system where frozen objects and dwarf planets can be found. Pluto is the largest dwarf planet in that region, earning it the nickname “King of the Kuiper Belt.” Understanding that part of our solar system could aid our understanding of how our solar system came to be.

The majority of planets in the solar system orbit the sun in nearly perfect circles. Pluto, on the other hand, orbits around the Sun in an oval-shaped orbit. For around eight percent of its orbit, Pluto is closer to the Sun than Neptune. Its orbit also deviates from the neat plane in which other planets orbit; it orbits the Sun in a lop-sided pattern. Pluto takes 248 Earth years to complete a full orbit around the sun. [read more]

Scientists Study Sleep-Deprived Mosquitoes to Prevent the Spread of Deadly Diseases

by Emily Rodriguez Lima, age 13

Humans and mosquitoes are more alike than you may want to believe; new research suggests mosquitoes prefer sleep over food when sleep-deprived.

As we all know, mosquitoes can be deadly, carrying diseases like Zika, Dengue, and Malaria. These diseases can cause death upon adults and even young children. Since most mosquitoes are active at night, people place nets over their beds for protection. Researchers are interested in mosquito sleep cycles, as awareness of sleep cycles can help predict diseases.

The presence of food can rouse a relaxing mosquito. It can be difficult sometimes to tell when they are asleep because they look similar to when they are simply relaxed. To better understand it, scientists track their behavior. Mosquitoes that have a long rests are more likely to land on people than mosquitoes that barely get any sleep. Oluwasuen Ajayi was part of a research team on mosquitos from the University of Ohio-Cincinnati. [read more]

Birds, The Dinosaurs That Survived Extinction

by Justin Medina , age 13

Around 66 million years ago, a six-mile wide asteroid called ”Chicxulub” caused one of the most fatal mass extinction events in all of history. When the impact happened, over three quarters of all life on Earth died along with most of the dinosaurs. Fortunately, Earth still carries an extension of dinosaurs: birds.

After the impact, fewer than ten different animal categories survived and were instantly forced into megasurvivorship, which means the animals were able to escape the mass extinction. While the asteroid disintegrated into ash, the sky was completely covered in smoke, blocking the sun. As a result, many plants perished.

With smoke filling the air, baby birds would die due to pollution. Birds could not see very well, making it difficult to find food. After many months of surviving, the atmosphere cleared, allowing the sun to shine again on the Earth’s surface. Plants began to grow again and animals could hunt. [read more]

Acid Rain: A Consequence of Pollution

by Jason Medina, age 11

Acid rain has been around for 150 years, the same amount of time coal has been used for power. Acid rain impacts the well-being of animals, plants, trees, and lakes.

Every year, one hundred million tons of sulphur dioxide are pumped into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. In the 1970s, the United States alone produced thirty-two million tons. When sulphur dioxide is in the atmosphere and it mixes with rain, it creates acid rain. Acidity is a measure of hydrogen ion concentration (pH) and the lower the pH value, the more acidic a substance becomes. The pH of distilled water is seven and natural rainwater is around 5.6. The acid rain is dropping the pH of some lakes to below five.

Almost 1,800 lakes in the south of Norway are more or less devoid of fish. In half of Sweden's lakes, the fish are seriously depleted and the salmon rivers suffer badly as well. In Canada, some fifty thousand lakes have also been affected as well as hundreds of lakes in the Adirondacks in New York state. The more acidic the condition is, the more aluminum that dissolves from the soil. When the aluminum is in the water, it impairs the gills of the fish and they have trouble breathing. [read more]

Women Pioneers in the STEM Fields

by Devika Pal, age 17

As early as the mid-19th century, women made vast contributions to astronomy. They had to fight for representation and recognition in this field. Pioneers such as Maria Mitchell and a group of women known as the Harvard Computers paved the way for the women who followed. However, even now, many women struggle to receive credit for their work.

Maria Mitchell is recognized as the first professional woman astronomer in the United States. She discovered a comet in 1847 using a small telescope, which was later named after her, Miss Mitchell’s Comet. The discovery was initially credited to Italian astronomer Francesco de Vico even though he discovered it after she did; it was not until later that it was credited to Mitchell. The first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Joseph Henry, even published the comet’s discovery in 1848 without mention of Mitchell’s name. His actions reflect the refusal to credit women astronomers for their achievements, a common tendency at that time. Despite being initially overlooked, she was admitted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1848, becoming the first woman to be recognized by the Academy.

During the early 20th century, Harvard Observatory Director Edward Charles Pickering put together a team of women astronomers who came to be known as the “Harvard Computers.” These women carried out astronomical calculations and invented the Harvard spectral classification, which they used to classify hundreds of stars. Over a century later, this system is still being used by modern astronomers. However, the women worked in substandard conditions, only earning 25 to 50 cents an hour, much less than the men made, while performing a similar wide range of duties. Even Annie Jump Cannon—who was central to development of the Havard classification system—was not credited by name in the title. [read more]

The Evolution of the Universe

by Julian Medina Ruiz, age 12

Humans have dedicated the past two thousand years to observing space in its entirety. Within this time period, three distinct theories have been proposed: the geocentric model, the heliocentric model, and the expanding universe.

The geocentric model, introduced circa 360 BCE by Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, implied that Earth is the center of the universe. The word “geocentric” derives from the Greek “geo,” meaning Earth and “centric,” meaning “center.” The geocentric model was later replaced with a newer theory: the heliocentric model.

This second theory was proposed in 1543 by another famous mathematician, Copernicus, followed by Isaac Newton’s three laws of gravity. The theory implies that the sun lies at the center of the solar system with “helios,” meaning “sun.” This theory was correct, but it still remains unclear where the universe is located. [read more]

Behind Vietnam's Deadliest Fertilizer

by Valeria Moreno Lopez, age 16

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military proposed the usage of herbicides in wartime to sabotage the living conditions of the enemy. Operation Ranch Hand was a program that created various herbicide compounds to destroy crops and plants in urban and agricultural areas that could benefit Vietnam’s forces.

Several companies, including Monsanto and Dow Chemical, were involved in the production of the herbicide compounds. Multiple mixes were made, such as Agent White, Purple, Orange, Pink, Blue, and Green. Though all of them were deployed, Agent Orange turned out to be the most dangerous. It is a combination of toxic chemicals and herbicide, which contains small amounts of TCDD, a type of dioxin. Even the smallest amounts could be harmful to those exposed, as it is a carcinogen— a cancer factor. Throughout 1962 to 1971, 13 million gallons of Agent Orange were aerially sprayed in regions of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Dioxins are a toxic chemical that can affect people’s health in unfortunate ways, if exposed long enough. Apart from being carcinogens, they are also associated with nerve and muscle disorders, heart diseases, and liver problems. Dioxins can last many years in the environment, seeping into water and food chains. They can enter animal systems and be present in the food most commonly consumed like meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products. [read more]

Interesting Tornado Facts That Will Make Your Head Spin

by Dilma Attidekou, age 8

Tornadoes can be really dangerous. If a strong gust of wind catches your attention, go somewhere safe, it might be a tornado. You should stay away from windows. Also, you should go to a basement or first floor, squat down , and cover your head with your hands.

A tornado is a funnel shape of rotating wind that touches the ground. Tornadoes are so complex that scientists don’t completely understand how they work. Tornadoes are cones made of powerful wind that can destroy buildings such as houses and towns. Tornadoes form from thunderstorms and bad weather. They can be unpredictable which is why they're deadly.

Tornado watches and warnings can help keep people safe. A tornado watch is given when the weather conditions look like a tornado could form. A tornado warning is announced when a tornado has fully formed. [read more]

Webb Space Telescope Sends New Images to Scientists on Planet Earth

by Ashley Mercado, age 13

NASA has finally revealed the first set of beautiful images taken from a new space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope. The first picture from the Space Telescope was a plethora of distant galaxies that go deeper than scientists have ever seen. NASA says the new Webb Telescope will eventually replace the Hubble Telescope. Some of Webb’s images show areas of the universe Hubble has already studied, and some show areas Hubble could not reach.

Webb used infrared light which allowed scientists to obtain a clearer images and show places they have not yet studied. NASA administrator Bill Nelson said, “Every image is a new discovery and each will give humanity a view of the universe that we’ve never seen before.” In the new images, astronomers are looking for two nebulae: the Southern Ring Nebula and the Carina Nebula. They are also looking for five galaxies, known as Stephan’s Quintet, as well as the recently discovered gas planet called WASP-96b.

The strong telescope launched last December from French Guiana in South America and reached its final destination one million miles away in January. The telescope contains many requirements that must be met it in order to take pictures. For example, the telescope uses mirrors to focus its view on spots in space, so these mirrors have to be precisely aligned to function. Webb uses infrared detectors that operate in cold enough conditions to be able to use the telescope in space. By using Webb, scientists are able to see back in time, as lightyears represent the amount of time it takes for a celestial body’s light to reach Earth. [read more]

NASA Helicopter 'Ingenuity' Explores the Surface of Mars

by Camila Cruz, age 14

Earth’s atmosphere allows us to fly a helicopter. Recently, NASA wanted to know if a helicopter could be flown on a different planet, such as Mars, where its atmosphere is thinner.

A helicopter named Ingenuity was sent by NASA to go to Mars. On July 30th, 2020, Ingenuity was attached to a space rover called Perseverance, which was also sent to Mars by NASA. In February of 2021, Ingenuity safely landed on Mars. It has many different purposes, one of them being to test if a helicopter could take flight on a thin atmosphere like Mars. It also made it easier to take pictures of the Red Planet in previously difficult regions.

Ingenuity was successful in all its early missions. On the first flight, it reached up to ten feet high. The helicopter has taken flight around 28 times since its landing. Ingenuity has exceeded NASA’s expectations. It reached its highest altitude of 39 feet and a max speed of 12.3 mph. The helicopter would attach back to the rover and transfer its data to it. NASA had scheduled communication sessions with Perseverance where it would send its collected data to NASA and receive commands from Earth. [read more]

Large Meteor Crashes to Earth in Wisconsin

by Justin Medina Ruiz, age 13

In April of 2010, a large meteor struck across the Midwest skies, passing Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri at an altitude ranging between 6,000 to 12,000 feet. The meteoroid released heavy amounts of sound energy, known as a sonic boom, which was heard hundreds of miles away.

The meteoroid rapidly decreased in size, burning up, as it traveled down through the Earth’s sub-atmosphere, until it eventually crashed near Lancaster, Wisconsin. According to the National Weather Service, no one was injured. The impact, however, destroyed several trees and houses and left a huge scar on the Earth’s surface. Scientists estimated that while burning up, it exploded with a force equivalent to 20 tons of TNT.

This is not the first account of a meteor crash in Wisconsin. On record, approximately 13 meteorites have hit the State since the 1860s. These cometary remains were observed. They weighed between one and 530 pounds. When meteors are spotted in the sky, they are called “falls,” and when recovered from the ground, they are called “finds.” [read more]

Archaeologists Discover World's Oldest Town in Turkey

by Daniel Garduno, age 11

Archaeologists have recently discovered a town in Turkey near Mesopotamia that they believe is the oldest known town in the world.

The old Turkish city is called Catalhoyuk and is about 9,000 years old. From what archeologists estimate, 10,000 people used to live in this region; now the town is a set of decomposing ruins. The town of Catalhoyuk had no front doors, and homes were built right next to each other. Evidence shows that instead of using streets and paths to travel between homes, people usually had to walk across the rooftops. Without any current resources, the town looks prehistoric.

Catalhoyuk is known for various things. A signature of the townsfolk in this area was their talent for art. Their art was mostly creative design that included murals and sculptures. The townsfolk usually put their finished art in interiors and exteriors of the most used room - an ancient equivalent of changing wallpaper every few months. Usually the main room was featured with red painted plaster bull skulls attached to the walls of the room. They also used animal bones and remains which included beaks, teeth, skulls, and tusks. [read more]

As Electric Car Sales Increase, Ford and GM Struggle to Catch Tesla

by Giovanni Tecuatl Lopez, age 17

Have you ever wondered if Tesla has competitors in the electric car market? Both Ford and General Motors (GM) have Tesla as target number one; these companies, already in the electric car market, plan to close the gap between them and Tesla.

Tesla founded by Elon Musk was a small company that rapidly grew due to taking over the electric car market. In the last two years, Tesla has sold around 13 times more electric vehicles (EVs) than both Ford and GM combined. Both companies have a plan to level the playing field with Tesla by making and selling EVs as fast as possible before the gap has a chance to grow even more.

General Motors’ plan is to create more than a dozen models with a variety of prices. The current CEO is Mary Barra, an electrical engineer who has worked inside the factories most of her career; Barra now has blueprints to produce many distinctive EVs. The models consist of battery cells, motors and other resources made in the factories. Although this process will take longer to complete, this will reduce the cost and allow production to grow rapidly. [read more]

Equinox and Solstice Determined by Earth’s Tilt and Orbit Around the Sun.

by Kelly Vazquez, age 17

An equinox is an event in which day and night are approximately the same lengths of time everywhere and the sun stands on the equator. The autumnal equinox indicates that autumn is beginning, and the spring equinox signifies the start of spring. In the northern hemisphere, the autumnal equinox happens between September 21st and 24th. However, in the southern hemisphere, the autumnal equinox occurs around March 19th and 21st. This is due to the Earth's tilt and its orbit around the Sun.

The Earth's axis of rotation is a straight line that goes through the North and South Poles. As the Earth spins on its axis of rotation each day and travels around the orbital/ecliptic plane, it orbits around the Sun for a year. Throughout its path, the Earth maintains a constant axial tilt of 23.4 degrees from the orbital plane towards the Sun.

Even though the North and South poles each take turns pointing towards the Sun for six months every year; the North Pole always points towards the star Polaris and the South Pole always points towards the star Polaris Australis. But twice a year, neither points towards the Sun. This makes the Sun rest on the equator, thus creating the equinox. [read more]

Cardinals in Wisconsin: These Beautiful Birds are Moving North

by Allison Torres, age 13

Northern cardinals are highly valued and favored songbirds in North America. These birds typically nest in Northern Wisconsin, along with parts of Minnesota and even Canada.

Cardinals generally avoid the south of North America and stay up north, mainly for the mass abundance of sunflower seeds which is a popular bird feeder. A cardinal’s eating period mainly occur in early morning and late night. As prey, they try to camouflage to hide from their predators. Aside from sunflower seeds, cardinals feed on insects, berries, and vegetables. In the colder months, cardinals travel in flocks to find more food.

During non-winter seasons, males and females usually raise their offspring together in nests hidden in bushes. Males, which are larger than the females, guard their territory and provide food for the chicks. Females keep the eggs warm and safe. After hatching, the parents keep feeding the chicks for one to two months. [read more]

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Tracking the Full Moons of Autumn in Wisconsin

by Ayelen Florez, age 12

In the fall season, Wisconsin has one of the best skies to view at night. During this season, the skies are clear and the weather is cool and it is the best time to go stargazing. When the autumn moons light up the dark night for farmers and hunters, many people use the moon to keep track of fall events.

A way to monitor the moon is to remember that there are at least twelve full moons each year. Every full moon has its own unique nickname and is easy to spot and track.

The “Harvest Moon.” is the full moon that happens during September and sometimes October. This full moon is the closest to the autumnal equinox, which is when that the sun shines on the equatorial pathway. This moon got its name because it refers to an annual period in which farmers harvest crops and hunters gather food for the winter. [read more]

Megadrought in California Threatens Western Joshua Tree

by Sol-Saray, age 10

Have you ever heard of the Western Joshua Tree? The Western Joshua Tree is known for its spiky branches. It also looks similar to an acacia tree.

The Western Joshua Tree is usually spotted in deserts in California. There are places in California where the law prevents chopping down Joshua Trees. Aside from the law protecting it, the Department of Fish and Wildlife reports that there is an abundance of these trees, meaning the tree's extinction risk is low.

Despite the tree's low risk-status, there are still factors threatening the Western Joshua Tree. One of these threats is climate change. This is the process of the Earth heating up, largely due to pollution. Climate change is leading to droughts that are causing more wildfires, both of which are threats to the Western Joshua Tree. [read more]

Chemistry Tower on UW Campus Increases Access to STEM Education

by Sandy Flores-Ruiz, age 16

The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently finished construction on a new and improved Chemistry Tower building located on University Avenue on campus. After construction delays due to COVID-19 and other issues, the university introduced the building earlier this year.

UW-Madison Professor Robert McMahon told the media that, “The new building addresses a really serious need on the campus for STEM education.”

Over the past two decades, the chemistry department has struggled to keep up with the demand. As many as one fifth of UW-students take introductory chemistry at a different institution. This can mean some students take longer to graduate. About half of UW-Madison undergraduates take a chemistry course during their freshman year. But, with the new building, more than 7,000 students will be able to take at least one chemistry course each semester. [read more]

First "True" Millipede Species that Actually has 1,000 Legs

by Camila Cruz, age 14

The millipede is the animal with the most legs to ever exist. Recently, scientists discovered the first real millipede species in Australia, 200-feet-below the surface.

You might be confused about how it was the first real millipede. All the millipedes that were previously discovered aren’t actually millipedes, since they don’t have 1000 legs. The newly discovered species has around 1,306 legs and no eyes. They were found 200 feet underground, so the creatures are colorless. Lacking color is common for animals that live where the sun does not reach. They are shaped like worms and have cone-shaped heads, which makes it easier for them to move around and dig.

The word millipede is derived from Eumillipes persephone, named after Persephone, the Greek goddess, queen of the underworld. Millipede is Latin for “a thousand feet.” Millipedes can start off by having only eight legs but as their skin sheds, they grow longer giving them more legs. By size, this is the longest species by far. The previous worldrecord holder was a female millipede that was just less than four inches long and only had 750 legs. [read more]

Reminders of the Past: Impact Craters

by Aissata Bah, age 12

Our planet is filled with impact craters – reminders of past strikes of meteorites dating back over two billion years.

A meteorite is a huge rock in space that goes through the atmosphere and usually burns up before it hits the ground. However, when a meteorite lands by hitting a hard surface, it creates a big crater which can vaporize to a temperature that melts rocks and leaves gigantic holes.

Some famous craters are Meteor Crater (known as Barringer Crater), Vredefort Crater and the Tycho Crater. The Meteor Crater was the first crater to be discovered. It was formed 50,000 years ago. Vredefort Crater, is the largest crater on Earth. Over time it has changed appearance and is now difficult to see. The Tycho Crater, which hit the moon, is about 108 million years old. [read more]

Why Are Scientists Excited About these Ancient Footprints?

by Jazmin Becerril Gonzalez, age 14

A study published last year in the journal Science suggests that humans reached North America long before prior scientifically-accepted evidence was established, approximately 23,000 thousand years ago. The researchers behind this study came to this conclusion due to recently-discovered human footprints dating back to this time period.

Matthew Bennett, a researcher at Bournemouth University in England, led a group of scientists to investigate these newly-uncovered fossilized footprints. These fossils were found next to a lakebed located in White Sands National Park in New Mexico, an area filled with chalk-colored sand dunes. The team of researchers concluded that these footprints had resulted from mostly children and teenagers walking around this location during a several-thousand-year period.

The researchers were able to date these fossils more accurately due to the fact that footprints remain trapped in place with sediment layers. "One of the beautiful things about footprints is that, unlike stone tools or bones, they can't be moved up or down the stratigraphy," Bennett says. "They're fixed, and they're very precise." As Bennett and his colleagues researched the footprints, they also discovered fossilized seeds from a species of ancient aquatic plant called spiral ditch grass in the sediment layers. These seeds could easily be carbon-dated which gave the research team a relatively-precise estimate for the age of the footprints. The age they settled on for these footprints ranged between 21,000 to 23,000 years ago, a time period landing during the last Glacial Maximum. [read more]

The Last Living Dinosaurs

by Amelia Mieko Pearson, age 12

You may not know this but birds are dinosaurs! As much as they do not look like dinosaurs, the connection between these two species does exist. In the Jurassic age, 150 years ago, the first bird was hatched from a small and feathery raptor-like dinosaur and became another branch of the dinosaur family tree.

Birds were hatched and survived for more than 80 million years. They all look different in their own ways. Some can swim, some fly, and others have unique patterns on their feathers.

Scientists group dinosaurs into two categories, avian and non-avian. The creation of these groups began after a major event that occurred 66 million years ago. That was the period when an asteroid struck, triggering a mass extinction. Over 75% of Earth’s animals disappeared. The only dinosaurs that survived were beaked birds. [read more]

Scientists Discover a New Genus of Tarantulas

by Max Moreno, age 9

The Bambootula was found in early January 2022. This spider is located in northern Thailand. Its scientific name is Taksinus Bambus, also known as Bambootula. This spider gets its unique name from the bamboo stems where it makes its home. Scientists say that this is the first time in 104 years that a person has found a new genus in Asia.

This spider lives in bamboo because it serves as a safe place to hide from predators. The spider can not make holes in the bamboo stem itself, so it finds one that is getting eaten or one that breaks naturally. When the spider is inside, it makes a retreat hole from silk to keep it secure and also help it move around.

This spider was found by a wildlife youtuber named JoCho Sippawat. Sippawat was cutting bamboo in the forest close to his house when the spider fell off a bamboo stem. Sippawat showed a picture of the spider to Narin Chomphuphuang, a biologist who studies spiders at Khon Kaen University in Thailand. As soon as Chomphuphuang and other scientists saw the picture, they knew right away that this was a new spider species. [read more]

New Drone Set to Land on Saturn's Moon by 2034

by Theodore B. Morrison, age 14

Titan, a moon of Saturn, will soon host a new drone mission by NASA, nicknamed “Dragonfly.” The mission will aim to answer questions related to the moon's Earth-like environment.

The Saturn moon only has 14% of Earth’s gravity but shares geological features such as valleys, mountain ridges, mesas, and dunes. During one recent mission, a probe broadcasted a 2.5-hour film to NASA as it descended into Titan’s atmosphere. The broadcast revealed the presence of ice and shorelines, similar to Earth.

Titan houses one of the only sanctuaries for living organisms to exist in this solar system. The organism in Titan has been labelled as tholins and are complex organic molecules that have been subjected to radiation and sunlight for long swathes of time. [read more]

Giant Jaguar or American Lion? Scientists Study a Species that Roamed Wisconsin During the Last Ice Age

by Jessica Lopez, age 13

The American Lion is an extinct big cat that populated North America about 11,000 years ago. This is around the same time that the humans who survived the Ice Age migrated to what is now known as Wisconsin. The American lion is also referred to as the American cave lion or the North American lion. It was one of the largest cats to exist on Earth.

The American lion has some similarities to other living species in the big cat family and with another extinct species, a type of European cave lion. For this reason, scientists have had difficulty pinpointing where this species exactly originated. Researchers have conducted various studies to try to determine the relatives of the American lion. It turns out that aside from being similar to many species of big cats, such as jaguars, the American lion seems akin to several species from Asia and Africa.

Another more recent study contradicts the hypothesis of the American lion being closely related to jaguars. Ancient samples of DNA were tested and now show that this lion was most directly related to the species of extinct European cave lions along with living African lions. [read more]

New Fossil Discovery Sheds Light on a Mesozoic Era Species

by Chelsea Zheng

The Ichthyosaur is well known by the name “sea dragon.” In February 2021, a 32 foot long Ichthyosaur fossil from 180 million years ago was found in England. This was the largest and most complete skeleton of its kind.

The name “sea dragon” comes from scientists' observations of the Ichthyosaurs' appearance. They are suspected to have had big eyes and teeth, and looked similarly to dolphins. They grew to be around 82 feet long with a weight of one ton for their skull alone.

During the existence of this creature, huge marine animals prowled in the oceans while dinosaurs roamed on land. They appeared for the first time about 250 million years ago and disappeared around 90 million years ago. [read more]

What Makes Owls Unique? It’s Their Eyeballs!

by Sofia Zapata, age 12

Owls are fascinating creatures. They are known for their big wide eyes, although they don't actually have eyeballs at all.

Instead, owls have sclerotic rings in their eyes. Sclerotic rings are rings of bone found in the eyes of many animals. Human eyes are different from owl eyes because humans don't have sclerotic rings. Owls are unable to roll their eyes; this means they have to turn their entire head to see around them. Owls make up for their lack of eye movement by turning their necks about 270 degrees in both directions, and 90 degrees up and down.

Owls' eyes are gigantic, the eyes alone make up about 3 percent of its entire body. Owls are farsighted, they can't focus on objects that are too close. But to make up for this, the owls' whiskers are used to detect objects that are in close proximity. [read more]

Could Baby Pterosaurs Fly? Some Scientists Think So

by Melanie Bautista, age 16

Pterosaurs were a diverse group of ancient flying reptiles. Pterosaurs emerged 228 million years ago, lived among other dinosaurs and died off 66 million years ago. Until recently, it was a mystery whether these birds could actually get off the ground during their early stages of life.

Darren Naish, a paleontologist at the University of Southampton in England, decided to take on this mystery of whether or not baby pterosaurs could fly at an early age. Naish and his team of researchers studied the fossilized remains of the humerus bone, found in the wing of the pterosaur. The humerus bone helped the pterosaurs take flight. Knowing this, researchers could hypothesize whether baby pterosaurs could carry themselves off the ground.

The scientists measured the length of the humerus and the birds’ wingspan, and determined how much weight each wing could carry. They discovered that baby pterosaurs wings were stronger than those of an adult, suggesting they could fly rather than just glide. They also found the humerus bone to be shorter and broader. This helped the birds quickly change direction with greater speed, but not for long distances. [read more]

Sharp Decline in Florida Manatee Population Alarms Experts

by Dayanara Flores Gonzalez

A Manatee is a large and slow-moving aquatic animal that lives in Florida. Sadly, these creatures are going extinct.

Manatees are herbivores, which means they only eat plants. Manatees like to eat seagrass, algae, and other plants located in freshwater. They live along the Atlantic coast of North America from Massachusetts to Texas. They often move north in the summer. But in the winter manatees are usually found in areas like Florida because they require warm temperatures to survive.

Today’s manatees are starving to death. About 1,000 of the region’s manatees have died in the past few years. That's close to one-sixth of the entire manatee population in the Southeastern U.S and Puerto Rico. The Indian River in Florida is one place where manatees are dying due to starvation and pollution. [read more]

Debunking Common Shark Misconceptions

by Elim Eyobed, age 10

There is a common misconception among surfers in which they think that since there are dolphins swimming then there must be no sharks around the area. An expert on sharks at the University of San Diego, Andrew Nosal says, “This is a myth.”

Additionally, another shark expert at Florida Atlantic University, Stephen Kajiura, agrees with Nosal’s claim. He states, “If anything it’s the opposite….If you see dolphins, more often than not, there might be sharks in that same area.” Since these aquatic creatures are most likely to be in close contact with one another, it could hint at the idea that they are neutral to each other.

Sharks and dolphins are carnivores, meaning that both parties usually hunt in similar areas. The misconception originates from the false idea that sharks and dolphins are natural enemies, hence the idea that they might not be in nearby territories. Although dolphins and sharks usually ignore each other, dolphins will occasionally attack sharks whenever they feel threatened. [read more]

New Study Suggests Cannabis May Cause
Long Term Changes to Teen Brains

by Kelly Vazquez, age 16

Since the late 1930s, cannabis, otherwise known as marijuana, has been a topic of great debate in the United States. Currently, many states have legalized marijuana or decriminalized it for recreational and medical use. Despite the growing movement to legalize recreational use for adults, Matthew Albaugh, professor at University of Vermont, explains that it can still be harmful for young users. He stated,“Brain areas that change the most during adolescence may be especially vulnerable to cannabis exposure.” There have been significant studies that indicate cannabis having brain altering effects on humans.

Albaugh and his team conducted a study with 799 14-year-olds throughout four European countries: Germany, France, Ireland, and England. The kids received MRI scans and five years later, the study was repeated with the same kids. During the second MRI, 46% of them said they had tried cannabis; approximately 75% said they had used the substance 10 or more times. The study showed that there was quite a contrast between the prefrontal cortex (which is responsible for decisions, impulses, and focus) of those who used cannabis and those who didn’t. The prefrontal cortex had thinned faster for those who used cannabis than those who didn’t, even more so for those who used it frequently. These results have been somewhat inconsistent since researchers can’t experiment with real teenagers. However, results do add to the existing data that supports the claim that cannabis affects the brain's development. [read more]

How Do Plants Defend Themselves?

by Ruben Beceril Gonzalez, age 9

Although plants are seen as simple organisms that grow from the ground, they are very much alive and still require methods of defending themselves. Animals are able to run away or defend themselves with various physical attributes such as their claws, teeth, poison, and sometimes spikes. Plants, however, can't run away. They usually have to stay still and be consumed, but some plants can defend themselves with their special abilities and characteristics.

Plants use a variety of techniques to protect themselves from mammals, birds, and insects. One defense mechanism that various plants have is spiky leaves. For example, tropical plants known as screw pines have rows of sharp leaves running down their edges and midribs. Animals that run into these plants can get impaled and seriously hurt.

Similar to spiky leaves, some plants have thorns and spines for protection. One of these plants is the cactus. These plants live in hot and dry places and their spines act as a defense from predators that try to consume their water. Another plant well known for its defense is the rose. Roses have flexible stems with thorns that can be straight or curved. Predators can get easily trapped in the spiky thorns. [read more]

Humans Have Deliberately Shaped the Genetics of Living Things for Thousands of Years

by Jordan Banks, age 14

Did you know that many different types of animals and the food you eat are affected by artificial selection? The meat you consume and maybe even your household pet are the products of centuries or even millennia artificial selection.

The definition of artificial selection is 'breeding to produce desired characteristics in animal or plant offspring.' Natural selection, in contrast, is when an organism independently adapts to their environment to survive. Humans cause artificial selection when they mold the organisms to what people desire.

Many animals are a product of artificial selection. For example, dogs go through artificial selection by dog breeding. The dog originally comes from the wolf, but with thousands of years of breeding we have many different types of dogs. Today we have dogs such as goldendoodles and french bulldogs, both of which were artificially selected. [read more]

Tectonic Plates: They Rock!

by Dani Garduno, age 10

Have you heard about tectonic plates? Tectonic plates are large separate pieces of the sea floor. Seismologists have recently learned something new about tectonic plates. Seismologists thought that the tectonic plates drifted apart naturally. Now, seismologists discovered rock rising; We now know why we were drifting.

When tectonic plates move together, they sometimes collide and cause cracks in the seafloor, exposing lava. Over time, this lava is forced up to the surface as magma by the Earth’s mantle. Magma rises to the surface and is cooled down by water, eventually becoming rock. This process is called rock rising. Rock rising may be the cause of the continents to flow away from each other.

Unfortunately, because the continents are flowing away from each other, this may cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Rock rising may happen afterwards. It happens when the tectonic plates collide with each other. After the plates have calmed down, they separate from each other. There is a crack that appears and lava spits out of the crack. This is what causes natural eruptions. These eruptions will cause shock waves that will ricochet around the world. [read more]

World's Oldest Wild Bird Still Hatching Eggs at 70

by Elim Eyobed, age 10

Have you ever wondered how old birds can live? There is one special bird, Wisdom, who has lived for 70 years! She is the oldest living banded bird in her species. This is twice as long as the average Laysan Albatross bird species life expectancy. In 1956, researchers found Wisdom on Midway Atoll which is near Hawaii in the North Pacific Ocean.

After extensive research, biologists have concluded that Wisdom has laid hatched around 30 to 36 chicks so far! It’s commonly believed that birds breed in the same process as humans, but not Wisdom. Wisdom has hatched chicks every year for the past 15 years. Usually, the older a bird gets, the fewer chicks they hatch. However, since she’s so old, she outlived all of her mates. Wisdom’s most recent egg hatched in early 2021 on a piece of land in the Pacific Ocean.

Wisdom travels hundreds of thousands of miles all around the world to get away from predators and to find new mates. It’s not known if Wisdom will continue to lay eggs but up to this point, she has grown the population of her species exponentially, more than any other Laysan Albatross bird. [read more]

Velociraptor or Deinonychus? Did the Jurassic Park Movie
Get its Dinosaurs Mixed Up?

by Zale Thoronka, age 12

Did you know the movie Jurassic Park probably featured Deinonychus dinosaurs instead of Velociraptors?

The Deinonychus dinosaur was not the first raptor-like dinosaur to be found, but it is one of the largest at 10 feet long. It had three claws on each hand and four toes on each foot. There was one small toe, one extra-big toe, and one normal-sized toe, which it stood on. The fourth toe was used to kill, and it worked like the blade of a can opener. In addition, the Deinonychus had sharp, serrated teeth, long limbs, and a huge tail.

Deinonychus had a relatively large brain, so it was intelligent. It was fast and strong on its feet. Like an acrobat, it could jump very high and perhaps twist mid-air. And the Deinonychus could use its sharp claws as hooks to climb up the bodies of its prey. [read more]

Humans Have Always Marveled at the World Around Us

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 11

A natural phenomenon is something that happens on its own in the universe. It is not caused by humans. A phenomenon can be as small as a storm or as big as a comet in space.

Common phenomena that occur in space are comets and meteorites that travel near Earth. A comet is an icy solar system body that releases gases as it travels close to the sun. It can periodically be seen from Earth. A meteorite is broken bits of comets and asteroids that fall to Earth. The biggest recorded meteorite that fell into Earth was found in Namibia, South Africa in 1920, it measured nine feet long and weighed 60 tons.

Something that you might see in movies can be the northern lights or the aurora borealis. Their vari-colored bands of light can be seen across the sky in the polar region and are caused by particles from the sun reaching the Earth's magnetic field. [read more]

Archaeopteryx: The Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs

by Malaya Lawson, age 10

The fossil remains of Archaeopteryx were such an important discovery due to the species' having features of both reptile-like dinosaurs and birds. This is fascinating since it could mean the Archaeopteryxwas on an evolutionary pathway between two species. In other words, the Archaeopteryxwas a creature that best shows the transition of reptile creatures evolving to birds.

The Archaeopteryxwas small in size, it was about as big as a modern-day crow. Similar to any other bird, it was also covered in feathers. This bird-like creature could also take flight, but it's believed that it only flew in small bursts. Since the creature didn’t have a big sternum or strong muscles it wasn’t able to fly for too long in the air.

This bird could have been found in what is now known as Germany during the late Jurassic period. The Archaeopteryxfossils are now located in museums in Berlin, Germany, and the United Kingdom. What's interesting about the Archaeopteryxis that it was alive 150 million years ago. Researchers know this because the fossils have well-preserved wings, feathers, and flat sternum. Not only that, but it also had teeth and a bony tail. The fossil’s uniqueness makes it one of the most important fossils to be discovered. [read more]

Scientists Create New form of Flexible Ice

by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 13

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you tried to bend an icicle? Ice is almost always a well-structured, stiff and brittle substance. Icicles have a thin and pristine feel to them that is slick and spotless. However, through recent scientific discoveries, pure ice grown in labs can transform into an elastic and bendable substance using electric voltage to make flexible ice.

Icicles, also known as crystals, contain small defects such as tiny cracks, pores or dislocated sections. In contrast, the whiskers of ice grown in labs are a fraction of the width of a normal human hair, and lack the defects of normal ice.

The process of making flexible ice was discovered by Peizhen Xu who attends the University of Zhejiang, located in China. They used a needle to insert electric voltage inside a chilled chamber causing the cold vapor to form into crystals called ice whiskers. Bending the crystal’s fibers makes the core of the crystal compress on the inside of the curve causing it to tighten up and flatten. Crystals can make up a variety of shapes such as a square, triangle, star or hexagon. The shapes in which the crystals can morph depends on the change in temperature and pressure. [read more]

Ancient Human Relative Discovered in Northern China

by Felix Berkelman, age 15

The recent discovery of the skull of an unknown human relative in northeastern China is creating a stir in the scientific community.

The skull was originally found in 1933 by a bridge construction worker in Harben, China during the Japanese occupation of the city. To keep the Japanese from finding it, the worker hid it in an abandoned well, where it remained for decades until it was retrieved by his grandson in 2018, shortly before his grandfather’s death. However, it was only recently that this important discovery became widely known. The skull is thought to be around 146,000 years old and is in exceptionally good condition.

The unusual features of the skull have left scientists debating over what species it belongs to. It is considerably larger than other humanoid skulls, suggesting that its owner was bigger and taller than the average human. It has wide nostrils for breathing in the cold and a thick brow ridge, features associated with Neanderthals. However, it also has more human-like facial features, such as a gentle curve in the brow and a rounder head shape. [read more]

The Asteroid that Killed the Dinosaurs Also Changed the Forest

by Dani Garduno, age 10

People are familiar with the asteroid that killed off dinosaurs; however, that asteroid also killed 75 percent of life on Earth, including many trees. The forests eventually transformed into the rainforests we see today.

Before the asteroid, there were a lot of different plant species populating the Earth. Half of the plants were conifers and ferns, while the other half were flowering trees and shrubs. When it rained, nutrients flowed out of the soil. The conifers could grow despite the lack of nutrients. These trees had the unique ability of being able to grow with very little food, which was helpful for survival. Herbivores, specifically sauropods, the largest animals ever to walk our planet, helped prevent the trees from over expanding by opening gaps in the top of the forests. Insects also lived in the forests. Some insects only ate one type of plant leaf and other insects were generalists, which meant they ate many types of plants and were able to survive after the impact.

66 million years ago, the fireball hit overnight and triggered a massive extinction event. Plants, animals, and the soil were changed into present day Colombia. Woodlands were changed into rainforests like the Amazon. It took six million years for the rich diversity to return. The woodlands were replaced by dark, moist, green trees and shrubs. Many of these types of trees are seen today. When the asteroid hit, ash from the fires fertilized the soil and grew flowering trees and shrubs. These species evolved to create canopies, which blocked sunlight from the forest floor. [read more]

Strange Sea Creatures Were the Earliest form of Vertebrate Life

by Dilma Attidekou, age 7

Did you know that the first fish were unable to bite with their jaws but rather they sucked up their prey from the mud?

Around 500 million years ago, the first fish appeared. As protection, these early fish had hard, curved plates of bone all over their bodies. They also ate differently. Some sucked their food while others were strong hunters with sharp bones in their jaws to cut up their food.

Ancient fish looked very different from fish today. Some could walk out of water. Other ancient fish look like sharks. They were spiny and had big teeth. Many types of early fish were fierce hunters. Over time, ancient fish changed to look like modern fish. [read more]

What Gave the T-Rex its Powerful Bite?

by Jules Da Costa, age 13

Scientists always knew the Tyrannosaurus Rex (T - Rex) had a powerful bite but they were unsure why. Now, new research explains the science behind why the bite had such tremendous power.

Scientists have recently gathered data about the T- Rex’s bite. They discovered that the bone-crushing bite was powered by a stiff lower jaw. The stiffness came from a small boomerang-shaped bone called the prearticular. A study presented in April 2021 shows that this bone was what gave the T- Rex its flexible lower jaw. A flexible lower jaw allowed them to open their mouth wider than most reptiles to bite larger prey. Like all reptiles, T-Rex had a joint in their lower jawbone called the intramandibular joint. Scientists have shown that with a bone spanning this intramandibular joint, the T-Rex could produce a bite force of more than six metric tons of power, which is the weight of an average delivery truck.

The scientists used 3-D scans and computer models to discover how the T-Rex bite was so powerful. One of the scientists was John Fortner. He is a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. John and his colleagues are using some advanced technologies to dig deeper for information about the T-Rex’s bite. First, they started a 3-D scan of its skull. After the scan, they used a computer model to see how the mandible would move. Finally, the scientists created two different versions of the jawbone to see how ligaments and the prearticular affected the bite strength. [read more]

New Science Shows Einstein Was Right About Gravity Waves

by Allison Torres, age 12

Gravitational waves are identifiable changes in space-time that are produced when objects move at significantly high speeds. According to NASA, gravitational waves can be made when a star explodes asymmetrically, when two big stars orbit each other, or when two black holes orbit each other and merge. For example, when objects move, they create waves, just like when you shake a stick back and forth in the water. The same physics applies when a planet or star shakes back and forth at incredibly high speeds, only instead of waves in the water, gravitational waves are created.

In his famous general theory of relativity, Albert Einstein was the first to theorize the idea of gravitational waves. Einstein explained how large objects can make changes in space-time when spiraling closer to each other, and those changes, or ripples, are what he called gravitational waves. However, he wasn’t confident in his theory, and the technology didn’t exist at the time to prove it.

It is very difficult for scientists to measure or detect these gravitational waves, because they are so small and there are few scientific instruments that can detect them. Nevertheless, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is specialized in detecting these gravitational waves. LIGO can detect if any gravitational waves are reaching our planet. LIGO has two observatories so any gravitational waves that are detected can be double-checked for accuracy. [read more]

The Brontosaurus: Not a Real Dinosaur... Until Now!

by Jazmin Becerril Gonzalez, age 13

Sauropods, some of the largest animals to ever roam the earth, were long-necked and long-tailed dinosaurs often portrayed in movies eating from the top of the trees. The Brontosaurus, also known as the “thunder lizard,” is part of the sauropod family, but until recently many thought it didn’t exist.

Othniel Charles Marsh was the paleontologist who named the Brontosaurus genus in 1879 describing it as a separate species of sauropod. In 1903 another paleontologist, Elmer Riggs, believed that the Brontosaurus was part of the same genus as the Apatosaurus which had been identified in 1877. Since the Apatosaurus study was published first, the name Brontosaurus was removed as a type of dinosaur species.

But that is not the end of the story, a recent study looked at the differences between the Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus fossils. Emanuel Tschopp, a vertebrate paleontologist at the New University of Lisbon in Portugal, concluded that the neck is where differences between the Brontosaurus and the Apatosaurus are most noticeable. The Apatosaurus has a wider, shorter neck compared to the Brontosaurus, suggesting they were from different species. [read more]

Epidemiologists: The Scientists Who Study Pandemics

by Eleanor Pleasnick, age 12

There are many illnesses in the world, such as the novel Coronavirus, which is currently fueling a global pandemic. Between 1918-1920, there was another pandemic: the Spanish flu pandemic. These are just a couple of examples of the diseases that epidemiologists study by observing these illnesses and their patterns.

According to National Geographic, epidemiologists study infectious surfaces and spread within communities, as well as injuries acquired in the workplace and as a result of crimes. Aside from studying such illnesses, epidemiologists also focus on the effects of environmental exposures to pollution and substance abuse and how they relate to people's mental and physical health. They do this so that they can figure out more about the effects of people’s surroundings on human mortality and illness.

To describe illnesses, epidemiologists explain mortality rates, prevalence, and incidence using statistics from the communities. Prevalence is the total number of current cases, incidence means the number of new cases within a certain time frame, and the mortality rate is the number of deaths overall within a community. Using measurements and calculations, epidemiologists can use the data from individual communities and apply them to the whole population. [read more]

The Dinosaur Decline Started Long Before the Asteroid Hit

by Moises A. Hernandez, age 16

About 66 million years ago, an asteroid struck the Yucatán Peninsula and caused apocalyptic ecological havoc, including tsunamis, an overheated atmosphere, darkened skies, and a cold wave. It is estimated that this event wiped away seventy-five percent of known life on Earth, including dinosaurs. But, is this the whole story?

Paleontologists are studying life of past geological periods as shown from fossil remains. This disaster, which marks the shift from the Cretaceous geological time period to the Paleogene geological time period, has been named by scientists as the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (K/Pg). To have a better understanding of this event, researchers have begun to examine the patterns of life before and after the impact, as opposed to only at the moment.

“In order to get an idea of what happened in the wake of the asteroid impact, we need solid baseline data on what rates of background extinction were like before the K/Pg took place,” said Paul Barrett, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, England. Having this baseline data would help scientists determine whether the asteroid strike was the primary cause of the extinction of so much of life on Earth or was simply the coup de gre of destructive events already underway. [read more]

Scientist Discovers New Metal-Eating Bacteria in an Unusual Place: His Sink

by Jazmin Becerril Gonzalez, age 13

Bacteria are perhaps the earliest form of life on Earth and can be found everywhere. Earlier this year, scientists accidentally discovered something pretty crazy: a metal eating bacteria that they had suspected existed for decades but were unable to identify.

Dr. Jared Leadbetter, a microbiologist at California Institute of Technology, discovered the bacteria after leaving a glass jar covered with chemicals used in other experiments to soak in tap water in his office sink. When he returned after several months, he found a dark material covering the jar. At this point, he and his team conducted experiments trying to figure out what caused this chemical reaction. They concluded that the dark material was oxidized manganese caused by newly discovered bacteria which probably exists in tap water.

What makes this bacterium so unique is that it feeds and survives off metal by converting carbon dioxide into biomass in a process called chemosynthesis. Since the bacterium is found in tap water, scientists theorize that a chemical reaction between manganese oxides and the bacterium is responsible for clogging the water system pipes with manganese. Scientists are hoping this knowledge about the chemical reaction between the manganese oxides and bacteria will help solve the problem of clogged pipes. Researchers also want to use this discovery to further understand manganese nodules, metallic balls that contain rare metals found on the seafloor. [read more]

The Unsolved Mystery of the Rarest form of Lightning

by Aissata Bah, age 10

Did you know that there is a kind of lightning called ball lightning? It does exist but it is really rare.

Ball lightning, also known as globe lightning, appears as a floating sphere with lightning coming out of it. Ball lightning ranges in color from blue to orange to yellow but is only visible for a few seconds. Sometimes it has a hissing sound and a bad odor.

People have speculated about ball lightning for centuries. One of the first times that ball lightning was sighted happened in 1638 when a “great ball of fire” flew through a church window in England, according to National Geographic. Some people think that ball lightning occurrences are hallucinations but most scientists think that it is real even if they don't know what causes it. [read more]

The Hair-Rasing Science of Static Electricity

by Camila Cruz, age 13

Have you ever rubbed a balloon against your hair, causing it to stand up? This happens because of static electricity. This type of electricity is stationary, meaning it does not flow or move.

Hair has a positive charge. So when a person rubs a balloon on their hair, negative charges transfer to the balloon from the hair, leaving it positively charged and the balloon negatively charged . Because positive and negative charges attract each other, the hair is drawn towards the balloon causing it to look like the hair is standing up.

Static electricity can be much more forceful than just making hair stand up. For example, lightning is made with static electricity. When the clouds rub against each other, they charge up, creating an enormous spark called lightning. [read more]

Last Stand of an Ice Age Species

by Gabriella Shell, age 14

Woolly mammoths are an extinct branch of the elephant family that once roamed the Ice Age landscape from from Spain to Canada. In prehistoric times, Asia was connected to North America by a natural landbridge running from what is now Russia to Alaska. And glaciers covered most of modern-day Eurasia and Canada.

Most scientists say mammoths became extinct 10,000 years ago. Nevertheless, some still believe that mammoths roam the Earth to this day, tucked away in the dense taiga, a coniferous forest, in Yakutia, Russia.

There are a few stories of these ancient beasts roaming in small groups deep in the heart of the Siberian taiga. There have even been some documentaries dedicated to finding out if the woolly mammoths really are extinct. [read more]

New Science May Improve Genetic Diversity Among Critically Endangered Cheetah Populations

by Devika Pal, age 15

In February, researchers at three institutions developed a breakthrough process to potentially conserve the cheetah population worldwide. The institutions involved in making this accomplishment possible were the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), and the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Texas.

Using in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer, biologists and zoologists were able to deliver two cheetah cubs. In Vitro fertilization is the process by which the eggs of one female are fertilized by the sperm of a male, and the embryo is carried by a surrogate mother. Such a process comes as the cheetah population faces lowering numbers and the risks of inbreeding.

This accomplishment “...really opens the door to many new opportunities that can help the global cheetah population,” said Jason Ahistus, a Carnivore Curator at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. [read more]

New Study Reveals the Complexities of Early Human Migration

by Devika Pal, age 15

A study published recently in the biomedical journal Cell, paints a new picture of human history. Omer Gokcumen, a geneticist at the University at Buffalo, describes early human genetics as “almost as a spider web of interactions, rather than a tree with distinct branches.” This new way of looking at history explains how Neanderthal genes integrated into the human race throughout the years.

Neanderthals have a reputation for being unintelligent, when in fact, they were a refined species. They were skilled hunters and showed artistic abilities. Archaeologists originally found Neanderthal fossils in Europe and Eurasia from 200,000 to 40,000 years ago. The common ancestors of Neanderthals and humans left Africa around 600,000 years ago.

Dr. David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School was the first to create a Neanderthal genome. A genome shows the DNA present in a cell. The comparisons between the Neanderthal genome and that of humans have suggested that Asians and Europeans have more Neanderthal DNA than Africans do. In 2010, a study using Neanderthal fossil DNA found that humans and Neanderthals only crossed paths 60,000 years ago, after humans left Africa. This reinforced the notion that modern-day Africans have hardly any Neanderthal DNA. However, this year’s study challenged that theory. [read more]

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If you were to get bitten by the rhinoceros viper a small amount of its venom would kill you. [read more...]
Science has recently discovered how to reverse time… in quantum computers. This discovery, however, just reinforces the belief that reversing time is impossible in the natural world, largely due to the extreme manipulations required to rearrange the structure of just one particle. Besides, even if the technology were possible, there would be a near infinite amount of ways to rearrange the atoms of an object until you finally reached the desired arrangement. [read more...]
Out in the fields of thick sandhill wire grass—also called pineland threeawn—just outside of the town of Cheraw in South Carolina, a 65-year-old retired English teacher and self-taught naturalist, is America’s Turtle Whisperer. [read more...]
Death Valley is located between California and Nevada and is known to be the hottest, driest place in the world. Including its name, Death Valley is very unique compared to other national parks. One of the oddest features of this park are the sailing stones. [read more...]
Between the Southern Ocean and McMurdo Antarctic Research Station there lies the Ross Ice Shelf. During the months of December and January, the time when America sends the most supplies by boat to the research station, there is about 27 kilometers of ice in between the station, and the edge of the ice shelf. This ice can be over three meters thick. [read more...]
In 2018, the Sidewalk Labs C.E.O. Dan Doctoroff had a goal. His goal was to build the first 21st-century city, not out of steel or concrete, but out of wood. So far, it's looking pretty good. Teng Li, a mechanical engineer at the University of Maryland, works with his colleagues to create a high-performance type of wood that's as strong as steel but weighs six times less. This kind of wood is said to be able to replace the steel used for cars, airplanes, and even buildings. [read more...]
Mosquito repellent typically contains two main chemicals: DEET and picaridin. However, a recent discovery found that using bacteria is much more powerful in terms of ridding mosquitoes. [read more...]
Recent studies at Yale University indicate that drinking diet soda after defeating colon cancer can lessen chances of the cancer returning. [read more...]
Neutrinos are one of the oldest riddles in physics and astronomy. Thanks to IceCube, though, scientists learned about them. [read more...]
The way we taste food is with our taste cells that function on our tongue. Our taste cells have certain receptors that help new cells know where to go to replace old cells that have stopped working. Then our new cells will emerge where our old cells were originally. [read more...]
On the right hand of a 17-year-old boy, there is an extra finger. He controls it with his own muscles and tendons. [read more...]
A connection between modern day birds and dinosaurs has been discovered by researchers at UW-Madison. The fossil of a small, winged dinosaur called Lori is at the forefront of this discovery. [read more...]
Each year, between 12,000 and 56,000 Americans die from influenza, more commonly known as the flu, and related complications. To combat this disease, scientists have decided to take on a different approach to developing a new flu treatment. [read more...]
Former president Ronald Reagan founded national ice cream month in 1948. He recognized its “nutritious and wholesome qualities.” [read more...]
Did you know that fat is necessary to feed our brains? Fat was useful to early humans, as it fed their growing and hungry brains, as well as protected them against starvation. Now, fat is needed because we have moved from the “fat primate” to, in many cases, the “obese primate.” [read more...]
The emerald ash borer is a non-native invasive beetle from East Asia. It is infamously known for invading the precious ash trees in North America, particularly in Michigan and Wisconsin. It destroys the trees by disrupting the flow of nutrients below the bark. [read more...]
There are about 2,000 long-nosed, inquisitive-faced tree shrews that reside in Yunnan, China in the Kunming Institute of Zoology. These tree shrews are the only mammal besides humans known to consume hot chili peppers. [read more...]
Have you ever wondered if plants can die from radiations and nuclear disasters? [read more...]
While reading Plant Cycle, I came across many new words. For example, Germination, Sprout, Pollen, Reproduction, and Ovules. [read more...]
The world’s insect numbers are shrinking and threatening nature. This is causing a catastrophic change in nature’s ecosystems. The numbers are dropping so fast that it is becoming a global crisis. [read more...]
In early 2018 an unlikely visitor touched down in the Sahara Desert—a snowstorm. [read more...]
To be a black woman in the United States has always been hard. Especially during the era of segregation. During this time African Americans did not have the same rights as white people, for example, they could not drink from the same water fountain, use the same bathroom, or sit in the front of the bus. For these reasons, the story of Patricia Bath is inspiring. [read more...]
Would you say hurricanes are stronger than tropical cyclones? The answer is yes, the difference between them, is the destructive power and wind speed the hurricanes release. [read more...]
No solid evidence has been found that Airpods are harmful to ears. However US scientists did a peer reviewed study about radiation. They wanted to know if Airpods cause cancer. US scientists tried two radiation tests on rats and they gave the rats cancer on both occasions. This is the only animal that they have tried it on. We don’t know what would happen if it is tested on another animal. [read more...]
Hurricanes are similar to tornadoes, but they form over water. While the official name for these types of storms is tropical cyclones, they are also called typhoons or cyclones, depending on where they occur. They cause damage to coastal cities and can kill thousands of people, and leave thousands of others homeless. [read more...]
Instead of finding a new species of snake sliding through their habitat in Chiapas, Mexico, scientists found a new species of snake called Cenaspis Aenigma in a coral snake’s belly. [read more...]
The story of human evolution is a long and complicated one. The line towards modern humans did not simply develop in one direction, but has had many divergences. A recent discovery in the Philippines has managed to shed light on one such divergence, Homo luzonensis. [read more...]
The lake sturgeon is a fish native to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. The species’ population is declining rapidly; however, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has failed to respond to growing calls for action, prompting conservation groups to file suit. [read more...]
America has had a long history of racial discrimination. Various unfair practices have been implemented into society, changing the course of success for hundreds of communities, and especially for people of color. [read more...]
If you ever want to see the birth of a star, you are not in luck because it takes “just” millions of years for them to form. [read more...]
Recent studies have shown that an insect repellent called DEET not only keeps insects away but does so by confusing their sense of smell. The repellent temporarily messes up the brain work of insects, leading to confusion in the odor receptors of an organism. As a result, insects don’t even go around their favorite smells if DEET is present. [read more...]
Imagine a future where storms, droughts, and floods are much more destructive and much more common than they are today. In this foreseeable future, the world's ecosystems have altered completely with polar bears and many other animals extinct and others migrating across the globe. Diseases exist in areas they had never been before. This future could become a reality if humans do not slow down the current global warming problem. [read more...]
Many people wonder what the term is for when water travels from a glacier to the ocean to a cloud. There is one simple answer: the water cycle. [read more...]
Mars is the fourth planet away from the sun. Mars has a thin atmosphere, which can possibly trap water and make it as thin as ice beneath the surface of Mars. There’s even a chance that Mars can have fossils of life forms. In 1984. scientists discovered there was a meteorite that landed in Antarctica and came in the form of a four pound rock which came from Mars. [read more...]
The first ever image of a black hole, taken in an international effort, has been released by the National Science Foundation. The seemingly ominous mass is located in the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy, 55 million light years away from our planet. [read more...]
Coming to Madison is a new state-of-the-art production facility for Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics, Inc. (FCDI). The company, formerly known as Cellular Dynamics International, was founded by James Thomson, a UW-Madison stem cell pioneer, in 2004. In 2015, Fujifilm Holdings Corp., a Japanese company, purchased and renamed Cellular Dynamics International for $307 million. [read more...]
There is now a surgical glue that is able to close wounds in 60 seconds. Methacryloyl Tropoelastin, or MeTro, is a surgical glue with “natural highly elastic proteins with light-sensitive molecules,” which allows the glue to set in 60 seconds when exposed to UV light. The UV-treatment enables the glue to construct tight bonds with the structure on the surface of the tissue. [read more...]
For centuries in human history, one of the biggest problems in health has been the race to find a cure for major life-threatening diseases like cancer. Recently, the rise of genome sequencing research has alleviated some pains of illnesses and some even suggest the field has the potential to eradicate these epidemics altogether. [read more...]
Imagine it is the year 2514. A scientist had arrived at the University of Edinburgh, unboxed a container, and grew glass vials of bacteria left by a scientist of today’s world. [read more...]
Did you know that the snow leopard is capable of killing prey three times its own size? A snow leopard is a kind of leopard that can be found throughout the mountains of Asia, Afghanistan, Russia, and many other places. [read more...]
If you have experienced or heard of a 100-year flood, you might think that there won’t be a flood like this in another 99 years, but you are wrong. [read more...]
Food takes longer to cook at altitudes higher than 3,000 feet above sea level. The key factor is the decrease in air pressure. Lower air pressure drops the boiling point of water by approximately 1-degree Fahrenheit for every 500 feet in increased elevation. [read more...]
Daily hygienic products such as deodorant, perfume, and soaps turn out to be some of the world’s biggest pollutants. Ironically, these products that enhance good smells contaminate the atmosphere at rates and levels similar to those of cars and other motor vehicles. [read more...]
Pluto’s status as a full-fledged planet was fleeting, lasting only a few decades. The planetary object was later classified as a dwarf planet in 2006. But only a few people know what a dwarf planet is, much less why the label played such a big role in Pluto’s fate. [read more...]
The Sun is a star that gives humans living on Earth light and heat so that they can survive. Without the sun, there would be no life and everything would be cold and dark. [read more...]
When you hear about an asteroid hitting Earth, you probably think about Hollywood movies. But have you ever thought of what would happen if an asteroid actually struck Earth? The chances are slim, but it is possible. And if it did happen, the human race as we know it would be obliterated. [read more...]
In physics, a culturally perceived “man’s science,” only two women had ever won the Nobel Prize, according to Rachel Ivie from the Statistical Research Center at the American Institute of Physics. This past year, in the fall of 2018, a third took home one of the most prestigious awards in science. [read more...]
In the winter months, people miss valuable time at school and work due to the unbearable sniffles and itchy throats caused by the common cold. The thought that there is a correlation between cold weather and sickness is so prevalent that many people question if cooler weather can really leave people feeling under the weather. Dr. Stan Spinner, chief medical officer for Texas Children’s Pediatrics, says cold weather does not make people sick; however, the environmental changes that come along with the change in temperature have the ability to leave people feeling ill. [read more...]
The space capsule was once the safest form of transportation. This was because the amount of money and expertise put into the United States’ space research made sure that the program was, statistically, safer than driving on a freeway during rush hour. [read more...]
Earthquakes are powerful, dangerous, and terrifying natural disasters and they can also be the cause behind bigger and more dangerous disasters. [read more...]
Scientists have recently discovered an animal fossil dating nearly 20 million years earlier than the Cambrian explosion of life. This first known fossil existed 558 million years ago, while the Cambrian explosion happened 540 million years ago. That’s when modern looking animals such as snails and arthropods emerged. [read more...]
Bugs do not survive without protection for very long. Unlike other animals, bugs have an exoskeleton on the outside of their bodies. This is a shield that protects the bug. When the bug grows and the shell becomes too tight, it molts. When a bug molts, it means the bug sheds its shell. [read more...]
In the lower Rio Grande River Valley, there is great biodiversity that will be negatively affected due to the construction of the border wall. [read more...]
Have you ever noticed that when someone near you yawns, you yawn too? Scientists have noticed the same reaction with scratching, and they are using mice to test this theory. [read more...]
Stem rust, a fungus disease affecting cereal crops such as wheat, is raising concern among pathologists. An issue that plant scientists thought was resolved resurfaced, and they are currently working to develop different types of resistance to this disease. [read more...]
Zimbabwean high school student, Macdonald Chirara recently developed a device to power his community with waste. [read more...]
Hurricanes threaten millions of people all over the globe. From formation to the naming process, Simpson Street Free Press is here to answer all your questions about hurricanes. [read more...]
At age 24, Matt Hiznay, a second-year medical student at the University of Toledo, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Stage IV means that the cancer is deadly and survival is slim. Only one percent of stage IV cancer survivors can say they beat cancer. [read more...]
According to, a boulder is “a detached and rounded or worn rock, especially a large one.” Back in the early 1600s, fur traders who were crossing Lake Superior heard stories of a large rock that was lying on the edge of the Ontonagon River. It was said that the boulder weighed five tons, was as big as a house, and was made of solid copper. [read more...]
Going to the dentist has traditionally been a dreaded activity for adults and kids alike. But until recently, we weren’t aware of just how long people have been practicing dentistry, nor their strange methods of care. [read more...]
It was an agonizing 6.5 seconds. The members of the InSight lander mission team and NASA officials waited with bated breaths as the $850 million lander shot through Mars’ atmosphere at 12,300 mph, entering at precisely 12 degrees. InSight’s heat shields endured temperatures of 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. Atmospheric forces managed to decelerate the lander before it parachuted down, towards the surface of the Red Planet. [read more...]