Category Archives: Humans

Vamanos con Astro_Jose!

astro_joseWe love space and rockets, but we’ve been following this week’s planned Space Shuttle launch more carefully because one of the astronauts speaks both English and Spanish. He’s been posting short messages in both languages on Twitter using the name @Astro_Jose. If you know English or Spanish (or both) it’s fun to see what he has to say about the process of going into space.

Jose attended graduate school at UC Santa Barbara; the alumni magazine has an article on alumni astronauts, including Astro_Jose.

Musical Minds

Oliver Sacks We can’t stop thinking about an episode of the PBS show “Nova” we watched a couple weeks ago called “Musical Minds”. Oliver Sacks is a famous neurologist, a doctor who specializes in treating the body’s brain and nervous system. In “Musical Minds”, he talked with a young autistic man who is a brilliant piano player, a man with Tourette Syndrome whose symptoms stop when he plays the drums, and a woman who just heard noise when someone played music for her. The coolest story was about the man who got hit by lightning and suddenly was able to play beautiful music for the first time in his life.

You can watch a video clip, read a transcript of the show, and see Dr. Sacks’ answers to viewer questions on PBS.org, a great site for kid scientists to get information!

Photo credit: Mars Hill Church Seattle

Why Do We Have Feelings?

“Good Grief” by camps

Today we were wondering about feelings. It’s fun to have good feelings, like the excitement you feel when you realize the end of the school year is a few weeks away. But sometimes we have bad feelings, too.

We talked about grief, the feeling you get when you lose something, or when someone close to you goes away. Why do we have feelings like grief? Wouldn’t it be better if we never felt bad? After talking about it for a while, we decided that grief has a purpose — it reminds us to value and love our family and friends while they’re with us.

Throughout history, people have wondered about their feelings. Poets and philosophers try to make sense of how we feel. But there are also scientists who investigate the way people feel. These scientists are called psychologists. Some psychologists are like doctors for your feelings; they try to help people who feel bad. Other psychologists do research to figure out why people feel different ways in the first place.

Why Do We Have Hair?

Hair by much_ado_about_nothing

Like most mammals, people have hair over most of their bodies. We aren’t covered with fur all over our bodies like animals are, and scientists think that people today have less hair than primitive humans did. Because of the way that creatures change over time, humans born today have less hair than they did thousands of years ago. But scientists don’t really know why this is — having less hair probably didn’t make it easier for ancient humans to survive.

It’s possible that people decided long ago that humans with certain kinds of hair were just more beautiful, and so those kinds of humans had more babies that looked like them.

Although you have hair on most of your body, some of it is too fine to see. Two places where you don’t have any hair are the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.

Do you notice that adult men usually have more hair on their bodies than women? Adult men grow hair on their faces and on their upper bodies, while women do not. It’s possible to remove hair from your body by shaving it off.

Children don’t have much hair on their bodies (except for the hair on your head, of course). But as you grow older, your body will gradually change and you’ll grow more hair on different parts of your body. By the time you finish high school, your body hair will look more like what you see on an adult’s body.

Why Are Humans Animals?

Helena and Putto by jeffreymcmanus

Are humans animals? We don’t usually think of ourselves as being similar to dogs, cats or frogs, but to scientists, in many ways we are.

Scientists mostly divide the world of living things into animals and plants. If something gets its energy from sunlight and doesn’t move around on its own, a scientist will usually call that creature a plant. Grass, moss, pumpkins and apple trees are all examples of plants.

If a creature gets its energy from eating other things and it can move around on its own, then scientists call it an animal. Dogs, cats, frogs, fish, dinosaurs, and humans are all examples of animals.

Scientists have names for different kinds of animals depending on which kind of food they like to eat. An animal that eats mostly plants is called an herbivore. Horses and sheep are herbivores. Animals that eat mostly meat are called carnivores. Lions and tigers are carnivores. People are omnivores — we can eat both meat and plants (although some people choose not to). Dogs and pigs, as well as some birds and some fish, are also omnivores.

The Truth About Cavemen

Caveman at Guildford Museum by felinebird

You might have heard stories about cavemen or seen them on television. Some people use the word “caveman” to describe primitive men and women who lived on Earth long ago, used weapons like spears and clubs, and found food by hunting and gathering.

There were primitive people who lived in caves thousands of years ago. But scientists don’t usually use the word “caveman” to describe ancient people. They use more precise terms depending on what kind of early humans they’re talking about. Primitive humans started appearing on Earth long ago — two hundred thousand years ago — and we call these humans homo sapiens. You and I are homo sapiens, too. There are older kinds of human ancestors like the Neanderthals, a kind of early human that lived in Europe thousands of years before homo sapiens appeared.

Neanderthals have since died out. As with dinosaurs, scientists know about them because of fossils: bones and other objects that we dig out of the ground. Scientists who study old things buried in the ground are called paleontologists.

In cartoons and stories you sometimes see cavemen and dinosaurs together. But scientists know that people and dinosaurs never lived on Earth at the same time. The dinosaurs died out long before humans appeared on Earth.