Tracking Dangerous Asteroids
Our Kids Science Newsletter this month includes news about tracking dangerous asteroids, birds sensing a tornado swarm in Tennessee, a fun science activity on atoms and why the Mongols were defeated.
Question of the Month
What do sponges eat and why do they have holes?
(answer follows the simple science experiment)
Science Current Events
- Warblers Flee Tornado Storm
- Scientists tracking five golden-winged warblers in Tennessee found they fled toward the Gulf Coast hundreds of miles away one or two days in April. This was just before a swarm of tornadoes hit the region in April. The weather was calm when they left and researchers believe the warblers were able to sense the approaching storm. They fled their nesting sites until the storm was over and then returned to their nest sites when it was safe. It is believed the birds were able
to sense the infrasound waves produced by the deep rumble that tornadoes were generating when they fled.
- Canadian Researchers Find Subsurface Water
- Scientists estimate that they have found more water deep underground than is contained in all the lakes, streams and river on the surface of the Earth. They believe this is the oldest water on our planet. The oldest water ever discovered was recovered from a 1.5 mile deep well in Canada. Results
of this new information has increased the priority of many researchers to look for life in the deep crust of our Earth.
- Reindeer Populations are Declining
- China has been keeping statistics on the number of reindeer living in the country's tundra and woodlands. Since the 1970s they have declined by 28%. The decline is due to inbreeding, poaching, climate change and natural predators. Earlier research found declines in various other reindeer herds around the Arctic varied from 31% to 97%. One-third of the reindeer calves are killed by bears, wolves and lynx each year. Poachers killing the reindeer for their antlers have killed over half of the deaths not due to normal mortality for the reindeer. Part of the decline in the reindeer herds could be the 40 to 60 year population cycle which is a natural cycle for the reindeer.
- Tracking Dangerous Asteroids
- The meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013 increased our awareness of asteroids that
could hit Earth with little or no warning. Researchers think they have a method to detect asteroids that are on a collision course with Earth by studying magnetic field disturbances to the plasma and solar wind that is constantly streaming away from the Sun. Positively charged particles in the asteroids interacting with the plasma and solar wind can be used to detect asteroids before they strike the Earth. Just like advance warning about hurricanes, tornadoes etc. researchers hope to be able to give advance warning before an asteroids hits the Earth.
- The oceans supply most of the water for the water cycle. In a year up to 79 inches (2000 mm) of water evaporates into the air from the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. It would take over a million years for the total supply of water in the two oceans to pass through the air in the water cycle.
- The larva of the polyphemus moth consumes 86,000 times its birth weight in its first 56 days.
- For centuries the Mongol horse archers were almost invincible in battle. The combination of speed and hitting power
had been unchallenged. The Mongols defeated and ruled over many neighboring people during this period. However they were easily defeated by Europeans armed with guns in a series of wars after 1600. Mongolia was then divided and became part of Russia and China.
- Strawberries have more vitamin C than oranges.
Simple Science Activity
In this geology activity you will be creating three molecules that are the building blocks of everything on Earth. You will be creating a water molecule, salt molecule, carbon dioxide molecule, and a silica tetrahedron.
- Different colors of clay
- Water molecule - Create one 2-inch ball of clay for the oxygen atom and two 1-inch balls of clay for the hydrogen atoms. Attach the two smaller balls with toothpicks to the clay oxygen atom.
- Halite (salt) molecule - Create a 2-inch ball for the sodium chloride atoms and a 2.5 inch ball of another color for the chlorine molecule. Combine the two atoms together with a toothpick to form a halite molecule.
- Carbon dioxide molecule - Create two 2-inch oxygen atoms and one 1.5-inch carbon atom. Place the carbon atom in the center of the other two atoms. Attach the three atoms together to form a carbon dioxide molecule by using two toothpicks on each side of the carbon atom.
- Silica tetrahedron - Create four 2-inch oxygen atoms and one 1-inch silica atom. Form an equilateral triangle base by joining three
oxygen atoms together with toothpicks. Place the silica atom in the center of the triangle. Place a toothpick on the top of each of the oxygen atoms so they come together at a point above the oxygen atoms. Press the fourth oxygen atom into the three toothpicks forming a silica tetrahedron.
Science behind the activity
Water is a universal solvent. It dissolves most materials found on Earth including rocks exposed on its surface due to erosion. Oil is an example of molecules that are repelled by water and do not dissolve in it.
Halite is a common mineral that we know as salt. We use halite to salt our food. It is the same salt found in the oceans. Chemists call the mineral halite, sodium chloride.
Carbon dioxide - When we breathe in air it contains a mixture of gases including oxygen. We exhale carbon dioxide when we breathe that is used by plants during photosynthesis. A by-product of photosynthesis is the
oxygen we breathe.
The silica tetrahedron has a negative charge that bonds with many compounds by sharing oxygen atoms to form 95% of the minerals found on the Earth's surface.
Answer to the question of the month
What do sponges eat and why do they have holes?
Sponges are sea creatures that live in the ocean. The holes in a sponge expose more of the sea creature's absorbent surface to the ocean water. Sponges are filter feeders so the holes allow much more water to be filtered for plankton floating in the ocean water than if they were solid.
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