Author Archives: jeffrey

How Do You Make Lunch In Space?

From aboard the International Space Station, astronaut Chris Hadfield explains how to make a peanut butter tortilla in zero-gravity.

When Leopards See Their Own Reflection

Here’s a cool video that shows what happens when a pair of leopards encounter a mirror in the forest, enabling them to see their reflection for the first time.

How Do You Poop in Space?

Here’s a video from Minute Physics that answers the burning questions of how astronauts peed and pooped — and whether the Apollo astronauts left their poop behind on the moon.

Harnessing the Power of Spider Silk

spiderA professor at Arizona State University is studying the silk that spiders spin to build their webs. Scientists have discovered that spiders can spin six different kinds of silk. Each kind of silk has different properties. Some kinds of silk are very stretchy, while other kinds are sticky. The most amazing thing is that spider silk is very strong — as strong as steel, in fact.

So why don’t we farm spiders and use their silk to build useful things? Professor Jeff Yarger has the answer:

The reason is that spiders don’t produce silk in large quantities.

“You can put lots of silkworms in a small area and genetically modify them to go from the larval state to a moth in 20-30 days. Spiders take longer. But let’s get to the crux of it—spiders don’t like each other. They eat each other,” he explains.

The scientists came up with an idea to make spider silk without using actual spiders. They altered silkworms to enable them to make spider silk. But there was another problem — the silk spun by silkworms was not as strong as real spider silk. Their next challenge is to use a powerful scanner called a Magnetic Resonance Image machine to look more closely at the altered silkworms in hopes of perfecting artificial spider silk.

via Researchers aim to harness power of spider silk | ASU News.

Mongoose War: Now With More Baby Mongoose Cuteness

This video from BBC Earth depicts a pretty awesome battle between rival tribes of mongooses. An invading pack of mongooses is attempting to wipe out another family of mongooses, who have to flee while carrying their little baby mongooses.

This is an excerpt from a BBC television show called Banded Brothers, which depicts the lives and behaviors of mongooses in the African nation of Uganda.

Learning About Chemistry by Making Candy

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From the Duke University Research Blog comes this report describing how college students are learning chemistry by making candy. In the course, students explore the way that sugar turns into totally different foods depending on the way it’s cooked. The article also includes a few candy recipes used by the students that you can try at home.

The Question You Can Always Ask: “How Do You Know That?”

A nine-year old girl asked a NASA tour guide about the age of moon rocks. Her family taught her that the universe is only 6,000 years old, which scientists believe is nowhere close to the truth. Who’s right here, and why? And was this little girl right to question the scientists?

Scientist PZ Meyers of the University of Minnesota provides an excellent kid-friendly explanation not only of the radiometric dating process that’s used to determine the age of very old things like moon rocks, but also of how and when it’s appropriate to question what we know about the natural world. (In short: it’s important for a scientist to be critical-minded, but it’s important to ask questions and pay attention to answers that provide more information instead of reinforcing ideas that we already have.)

Oscar-Winner Natalie Portman was a Kid Scientist

Here’s a story from the New York Times about Natalie Portman, the actress you may remember as Princess Amidala from Star Wars Episodes I, II and III. Apparently she was quite the kid scientist in high school; she was a semifinalist in the national Intel Science Talent search!

Portman is 29 years old now and is about to have a baby of her own. Last night she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, playing a ballerina in a film called “Black Swan”. This just goes to show that you don’t have to choose between being a princess, a ballerina, or a scientist — you can be all three if you want!

Original Research on Bees from Eight-Year-Olds

From Gawker comes a cool story about a group of kids in England who did original research on the behavior of bees. The kids set up an experiment with colored lights to see if bees are able to remember the location of food.

Their research was so good it was published in a scientific journal called Biology Letters. Super cool!