This Week: Ancient water = ancient habitat?
In the News: Maggots, leeches, parasitic worms
Coming Thursday: Roaches: A lot smarter than you thought!
Ecologists are desperate to forestall a devastating invasion of the Lakes. Can electric fences block carp from Lake Michigan, or should canal be closed?
Classroom Activity Page: Tsunamis are caused by violent disturbances of the sea floor; usually due to an earthquake. The 2004 “Christmas tsunami” offshore of Sumatra was one of the worst natural disasters on record. Fewer people died in Japan in 2011, but the giant waves caused explosions, havoc and public radiation exposures at a six-reactor nuclear complex. What are tsunamis? Are they predictable? What are people doing to reduce the harm?
Classroom Activity Page: Four genomes for ants have just been decoded. The genetic information gives us a better picture of why ants are so successful, and helps us understand why leaf-cutter ants live in a close, mutually beneficial relationship (symbiosis) with fungus. Some argue that leaf-cutters are the most industrious farmers on Earth.
Classroom Activity Page: One species of amoeba can transport and plant bacteria when it runs short of its normal food, bacteria in the soil. A recent study is the first proof that anything smaller than an ant can “farm,” and shows how evolution can produce alternative strategies to meet the challenges of survival.
Classroom Activity Page: The fossil of a plesiosaur, which was a large, dangerous predator of the seas between 200 and 85 million years ago, showed strong evidence of being pregnant. Evidence for pregnancy included the location of the unborn plesiosaur, its size, and the fact that its bones were not fully hardened, or ossified. The find helps flesh out the evolutionary transition between laying eggs and live birth.
Classroom Activity Page: Don’t leave any goodies behind at the crime scene. Collect the bugs. Collect the maggots, and don’t EVER leave a ransom note! Forensic science — it’s better than ever!
Classroom Activity Page: Higher temperatures are only part of the climate change forecast. Are current extreme weather events a sign that warming is already here? What do climate models forecast for weather around the globe? Why is it so hard to predict the climate?
Classroom Activity Page: Volcanoes are big movers and shakers in the business of continually redesigning the Earth’s landscape. With no concern for nearby people or ecosystems, volcanoes release toxic gases, climate-altering ash, lava and rock. How does this work? Are scientists getting better at predicting volcanic eruptions? How do areas recover after destruction?
Classroom Activity Page: Embryonic stem cells can transform themselves into every cell in your body. As the field of stem cell research continues to evolve, the debate between the medical promises and the ethical implications persists. What are patients and researchers to do?
Classroom Activity Page: Tornadoes are capable of serious destruction. What gets them twisting? Where do they get their energy? How can we protect ourselves when a tornado is approaching?
Classroom Activity Page: As disease-infected mosquitoes expand their range, these bugs rise higher on the “menace to human health” list. What makes mosquitoes such perfect agents for disease transfer? Is global warming a factor? How is modern technology being harnessed in the war against skeeters?
Classroom Activity Page: The poles are fascinating, partly because they are such difficult places to visit, work and live. They still guard many mysteries that we’d like to unravel, including the survival of polar animals, the history of ancient peoples, and the understanding of Earth’s climate.
Classroom Activity Page Without soil, we starve. Unfortunately, throughout the world, human activities have degraded dirt, endangering our ability to feed a growing population. How can we save our soil and get ourselves out of a food crisis?
For 15 years, we’ve presented the science behind the news. The Why Files are accurate, engaging, entertaining and educational. Check our links from national science teaching standards to specific Why Files — all 750 of them! Whether it’s geology or archaeology, weather or human behavior, The Why Files has it covered.
Classroom Activity Page: Each year, as influenza season approaches, medical authorities must scramble to predict which strains of flu will be most important, and then grow enough vaccine to inoculate the population. Why does this take so much time, and what are some alternative strategies that might speed the process?