Label: Science News
January 28, 2016
Water on Mars
Did you see the recent announcement from NASA (America’s space agency) about finding evidence of water on Mars? Scientists have long thought that there may have been water on this desert planet in the past, but these latest images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are extraordinary because they show evidence of water flowing today.
Do you see the dark streaks in this image? These streaks are from the minerals left behind when briny (salty) water flows down the slopes in the Martian "summer."
Why is this important for us? If there is liquid water on Mars, then it makes it much more possible that we can travel there to explore Mars ourselves. The rocket needed to carry astronauts on the year-long trip to Mars will be much lighter if it doesn’t have to carry water. There is currently no Mars mission planned…but I bet there will be soon.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
October 29, 2015
Baby Bat Rescue
Are you as fascinated by bats as I am? I love to watch them come out just after the sun sets and begin to feed on insects on summer nights. I have not seen as many in recent years because we have a fungus called "white nose syndrome" endangering the Brown Bat here in North America. Scientists are still trying to find a way to protect our native bats.
A different species, a large fruit bat known as the Spectacled Flying Fox, is facing its own challenges in Queensland, Australia.
It turns out that the problem for these bats is ticks, which dig into the bats’ skin and inject a paralyzing poison. Once their feet are paralyzed, they can no longer hang upside down from tree branches to sleep, and they die.
The time of year when the ticks are most plentiful is also the time when most baby flying foxes are born, so rescuers realized a number of years ago that they needed to come up with a plan to save these orphaned baby bats.
Veterinarians in Queensland set up the Tolga Bat Hospital, and hundreds of orphaned baby fruit bats are being rescued each year and raised at the hospital until they can be released into the wild.
Isn’t is good to see these magnificent wild animals being cared for by humans?
Photo: Jurgen Freund / naturepl.com
March 27, 2015
Meet the Ili Pika
Look at this cute, tiny animal. It is called an Ili Pika (pronounced "illy PEEK-ah" or "Pika" for short) and it lives in the mountains in China. The pika is very small, measuring just 7 inches (20 centimeters) long. That is about the same length as a 3-year-old’s foot.
The Ili Pika is an endangered species, with less than 1,000 known to be in existence. They live on rocky mountain slopes and eat the grasses there, but as global warming leads to rising temperatures, the mountain glaciers are shrinking, forcing the pikas to gradually retreat to mountain tops to find the cool moisture that nurtures the grasses that they eat.
Ili Pikas also tend to live alone and they are not as vocal as other pika species. So if predators are near, Ili pikas are not able to call out and alert each other. Because of these threats, scientists in China are working to establish an organization to study and protect this animal.
Some people think that this tiny animal inspired the famous Pokemon character, Pikachu. What do you think?
September 22, 2014
Learning about Mars
Our newest Mars explorer, NASA’s Maven satellite, has successfully arrived at the red planet and begun its orbit!
It takes a very long time to travel from Earth to Mars, even at the speed that a rocket travels. We launched this satellite 10 months ago, and it has been hurtling toward Mars ever since. This weekend the satellite fired its thrusters——basically jamming on the brakes——so that it would be captured by the planet’s gravity and settle into orbit around Mars.
It all went flawlessly, and now the satellite will study Mars’ high atmosphere, collecting more data as we try to piece together the story of the history of the Martian environment—- what is there today, and how it has changed over time.
This story has captivated scientists for centuries, and I continue to be fascinated as we learn more and more about my favorite planet (other than Earth, of course!).....which reminds me of a funny story.
My eBook PLANET MARS has been updated twice since 2010 because we are learning so much from the rovers that are studying its surface. The second update happened while our sound producer was in the studio, recording the narration for the book. My phone rang, and Dan, the producer, said: "The Curiosity Rover landed yesterday, and I’m just about to record your book. Don’t you want to add a page about Curiosity?" Of course I did. So I quickly did some research, wrote a page and found a photograph to illustrate it, and the new audio was recorded that same day. Now, THAT is what I call up-to-date!
These days I am working on a new book about Mars, which will be the third installment in my Shipmate’s Guide to Our Solar System series. It won’t be done til sometime next year, but I can give you a preview of the cover:
September 9, 2013
Discovery! The Largest Volcano
In today’s Science News, scientists have discovered one of the largest known volcanoes in our Solar System under the Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 miles east of Japan. That’s right, the new volcano, named Tamu Massif, is not only the largest volcano on Earth (by far), it is one of the largest in the Solar System. Quite a discovery, right here at home!
Tamu Massif covers an area of about 120,000 square miles - about the size of the state of New Mexico. That is 60 times bigger than Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, which up until now we had thought was the largest volcano on Earth.
Fortunately, the huge volcano is no longer active, but scientists are eager to study it and try to learn more about how these mega volcanoes form.
There is much that we are still learning, about Earth’s geology and about animals, under the oceans that cover 70% of the surface of our planet.
September 3, 2013
Science fans, are you ready for a great, new school year? We are back from our summer break and have so many exciting things to share with you!
If you are new here, this is what you can expect from us (nearly) every week.
Monday: Science News. There is always something new and exciting being explored, explained or discovered. We try to share the latest with you.
Tuesday: Cool Photo of the Week.
Wednesday: Writing Wednesday. Your chance to publish your own writing on the Seymour Science blog!
Thursday: Wild Card. Sometimes we publish your reviews of Seymour Simon’s books, sometimes we share cool videos….check in with us on Thursdays to see what is happening!
Friday: A New Animal Joke or Riddle on the front page of Seymour’s website.
Also, any time you want to drop by, we have built up several hundred stories about topics you may be interested in. On the left hand side of Seymour’s Blog page, there is a list called "Labels." This lets you find previous stories about subject you are interested in. So if you like "Animals," click on that link and you can explore 173 previous stories about animals. Fascinated by "Space"? There are lots of stories there, too.
If this sounds like fun, please visit www.SeymourSimon.com and write often by clicking on "Comments" at the bottom of any blog story! This is a community of kids who are explorers, and we love hearing from you!
Posted by: Liz Nealon
May 20, 2013
Huge Saturn Hurricane
The Cassini spacecraft continues to send back simply extraordinary photographs of Saturn. The latest is an image of an enormous hurricane currently raging at Saturn’s north pole. The eye - just the eye - of this hurricane stretches 1,250 miles (2,000 km) across. That is the length of the entire West Coast of the United States - from the southern tip of California all the way up to the Canadian border.
Scientists don’t know how long this hurricane has been in existence, because when Cassini arrived the north pole was covered in winter darkness (a year on Saturn lasts 29 Earth years). But now that it is light, we can see this huge storm which seems very similar to, though much bigger than what we call a hurricane here on Earth.
This photograph is false-color, by the way. That means that color has been added to the original image to help us see the details.
March 27, 2013
Science News: Imagination in Action
An advertising billboard that produces water? Strange as it sounds, that is exactly what is happening in a dry, desert area just outside Lima, Peru. The Spanish words on this billboard read: "A billboard that produces drinkable water from air. It’s imagination in action."
A new engineering college opened there just last year, and they were trying to figure out a way to attract students. When they started thinking about how to grab the attention of future engineers, they decided to put "imagination into action" and show that it is possible to solve people’s everyday problems through engineering and technology.
Here’s how it works. This is a very dry, desert area where some people do not have access to clean drinking water, though they are surrounded by salty seawater. The inside of the billboard has machines that extract water from the humidity in the air, store it in tanks, and filter out the salt to make it drinkable. The water then flows down a pipe to a faucet that anyone can use. The blue words on the pole that say "Agua. Aquí" means "Water. Here!" with an arrow pointing down at the faucet. So far, this single billboard is producing about 25 gallons (96 liters) of drinkable water every day.
This is just one project, but it shows what we can do by applying our human imagination to figuring out how to use the resources around us to meet everyone’s needs.
March 18, 2013
Science News: GPS Shoes
Have you ever seen the movie The Wizard of Oz? All through that story, Dorothy wishes to go home, until she finally realizes that she can get there by clicking her heels together three times while repeating "There’s no place like home."
Inspired by the idea of clicking your heels together to find your way home, a British designer named Dominic Wilcox has created a pair of GPS shoes.
That’s right. These shoes have an antenna that pokes out like a tag in the back, and when you click your heels together, it activates the GPS. Look at this photograph:
The left shoe tip has a circle of lights. The light in the middle lights up to show you that the GPS is on. And whichever one of the lights that is on in the surrounding circle points the direction that you should be going.
The right shoe’s line of lights tells the wearer how far he or she has to go. The circles light up from front to back as you get closer to your destination.
For now, this is only an experiment. But it is not hard to imagine a day not too far in the future when things that we wear, from shoes to watch bands, carry devices that keep us plugged in to data like GPS, weather information, shopping information, or even our cell phones!
Photo: Dominic Wilcox
February 18, 2013
Dolphin “Superpod” Seen Off California Coast
Tourists on a whale watching boat off the coast of California saw a rare sight this week. Their boat followed thousands of dolphins in a superpod that the captain estimated was seven miles (11 kilometers) long and five miles (8 kilometers) wide. The ship’s captain estimated there were 100,000 dolphins.
Of course, we know that dolphins are highly social animals, living in pods of as many as a dozen dolphins. Sometimes, especially when there is a lot of food in the area, pods come together into superpods. That appears to be what happened here.
Can you imagine all the talking with that many dolphins together? I would love to have seen (and heard) that sight!