Label: Science News

January 25, 2013

When a dolphin needed help off the coast of Hawaii, he swam right up to a scuba instructor and let him know.

Keller Laros was leading a group of divers on a tour off the coast of Kona, Hawaii, last week.  "All of a sudden I heard a loud squeak, and I turned around, and the dolphin was literally three feet behind me," Laros said. "He swam right up to me."

The diving instructor could tell that something was wrong, and looking more closely, he saw that there was a fishing line hooked onto his fin.

"I said, ‘come here,’ and he swam right up to me," he said. "I put my hand out and I tried to get the fishing hook out of his left pectoral fin." But the animal was having trouble swimming because his fin was still tangled up in the fishing line. The 10-foot long dolphin - almost twice as long as his rescuer was tall - waited patiently while Laros rummaged through the dive tools that he carries in his suit, pulling out a pair of small scissors.

He was able to clip the line off of the dolphin’s mouth and fin, but there was still a little left. They waited while the dolphin went up for a breath of air and came back down. Then Laros and another dive guide removed as much line from under the fin as they could. 

"I guess the dolphin was happy with our work. He swam away and we never saw him again," he said. "It’s a huge thrill to be able to help an animal that clearly knows what’s going on," he said. "He made the effort to come to us… The dolphin is really intelligent. It’s a relationship. He came to us because he had a problem." 

One of the divers in the class that Laros was teaching had a video camera and filmed the whole interaction. Here it is for you to see. Isn’t that a magnificent moment between two intelligent mammals?


Video courtesy of Jack’s Diving Locker, Kona, Hawaii 




Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals, Dolphins, Video   •  Permalink (link to this article)

January 6, 2013


Scientists think that feathered, two-legged dinosaurs called Oviraptors may have used their muscular tails to shake their feathers as part of a mating dance, just as some male birds do today. One of the researchers who analyzed 75-million-year-old oviraptor fossils said, "I think like peacocks, oviraptors were strutting their stuff by shaking their tail feathers to show off."

Oviraptor tails were short, but were made of many tailbones attached by very strong muscles. This suggests that their tails were both very flexible and very strong, enabling these prehistoric animals to do eye-catching dances and hold powerful poses. The mating dance has apparently been with us through the ages!

Drawing by Sydney Mohr

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: science news, DInosaurs   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 28, 2012

Good morning, and welcome to Writing Wednesday.

  The Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is once again spilling lava into the ocean. This volcano has been erupting continuously from its Pu’u O’o vent since 1983. However, it has been nearly a year since the lava flow traveled the seven-mile (11 kilometer) distance to flow into the ocean.

When hot lava meets cold ocean waves, there is a spectacular display of steam and smoke. Tourists are traveling from all over to visit the volcano to see this rare and beautiful sight.

Your Assignment: Look at this photograph and imagine that you are able to travel to Hawaii’s Big Island to see the volcano and lava flowing down to the ocean. Describe what it is like. What do you see? What do you hear? Smell? How does seeing the hot lava meet the ocean waves make you feel?

When you have finished writing, you can share it with your class, friends or family. Or you can post it here for everyone to read. Just click on the yellow "Comments" button at the bottom of this blog to post your writing.

Photo: Hugh Gentry / Reuters


Note to Educators: Today’s Writing Wednesday exercise is designed to use in support of CCSS Writing Standard #3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Common Core, science news, Writing Wednesday, Volcanoes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 26, 2012

A gecko travels like Spiderman - using its sticky toe pads to walk up walls and across ceilings with ease. 

While those toe pads may seem simple, they are spectacularly designed, with millions of tiny hair-like structures called septulae (SEP-too-lay) that help them cling to any dry surface. A single gecko’s toe pads can hold the weight of two humans!

Researchers have learned recently that this only works when the surface is dry. If a gecko gets wet feet, it loses its grip, along with its "Spiderman" powers!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals, Reptiles   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 21, 2012

I can hardly bring myself to call this the "Cool Photo of the Week." It is more like the ASTOUNDING photo of the week!

This shipwreck was long buried under the sand dunes on Fire Island - a barrier island off Long Island, New York. The force of Hurricane Sandy completely reconfigured the beaches of Fire Island, and exposed the bones of this wrecked schooner.

Park rangers think that it is the wreck of the Bessie White, which ran aground off Fire Island in either 1919 or 1922 - almost 100 years ago! The Bessie White was a four-mast Canadian schooner, went aground in heavy fog. The crew and the ship’s cat escaped in lifeboats, but they couldn’t save the ship or the tons of coal that it was carrying.

Seeing the sand rearranged to the point that this buried shipwreck is revealed really gives you an idea of how strong the winds and surf are during a hurricane. 


Photo: Cheryl Hapke, USGS 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(7) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Oceans, Cool Photo, Hurricanes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 12, 2012

Yesterday was a very special day, because I went to the memorial service for the great writer Jean Craighead George. She died this year at age 92, and her daughter Twig told me that her mother had still been writing up until four days before her death. Isn’t that wonderful?

Jean grew up in a family of naturalists, in a house full of rescued wild animals. She once told an interviewer that when she started kindergarten she was shocked to discover that she was the only child who had a turkey vulture for a pet! She wrote in an essay for "Children’s Books and Their Creators": "I have discovered I cannot dream up characters as incredible as the ones I meet in the wilderness."

  Jean was an outdoorswoman her whole life, and many fellow authors and editors who spoke about knowing her yesterday described trips they made with Jean to visit the wolves in Yellowstone National Park, to the great aquarium in New Orleans, and to observe whales migrating in Alaska. Amy Kellman, a librarian from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a longtime friend of Jean’s, quoted a line from one of Jean Craighead George’s books in which she was describing a peregrine falcon named Oxie, who "did things her own way." Kellman said that she always thought Jean was describing herself when she wrote about the independent falcon.

Her son, Dr. Craig George, is a Senior Wildlife Biologist in Barrow, Alaska, working with bowhead whales. Craig told the gathering that just a few years ago his mother camped with them on unstable ice, at minus 20 degrees, during the bowhead census. "She was absolutely fearless," he said.


Jean Craighead George wrote more than 100 books. The most famous one was JULIE OF THE WOLVES. Have you ever read it? It is a wonderful story about a girl known as Miyax in her small Eskimo village; to her friend in San Francisco, she is Julie. When Miyax runs away from her village, she finds herself lost in the Alaskan wilderness. In danger of starving to death, Miyax survives by copying the ways of the wolves. She is soon accepted into their pack, and when she finally returns to her old life, she struggles to decide who she is - Miyax of the Eskimos—or Julie of the wolves? 


Here is a passage from the story:

Miyax stared hard at the regal black wolf, hoping to catch his eye. She must somehow tell him that she was starving and ask him for food. This could be done she knew, for her father, an Eskimo hunter, had done so.


Jean Craighead George was a great supporter of the Wolf Conservation Center near her home in Chappaqua, New York.

At the end of yesterday’s memorial service, stories, we all sang "This Land is Your Land"......and then Twig asked for a minute of silence.

As we sat quietly, the doors in the back of the auditorium opened and a trainer leading a white wolf entered the room. We all rose to our feet as this gorgeous creature, from the wolf sanctuary that Jean Craighead George loved, took the stage and looked at us all. It was magical.


I admired Jean as a writer and a person. She was, and still is, an inspiration to my own writing. She will always remain one of the towering figures in children’s literature, one of the inspirational models for the rest of us in her field.



Photo: Rocco Staino / School Library Journal

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals, Animal Books, Author Study, nature   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 2, 2012

I am relieved, grateful and aware that we were extremely lucky in the aftermath of the Hurricane Sandy superstorm that has devastated communities all around us. We don’t expect to have power back for quite some time in my neighborhood, but amazingly, though there are downed trees all around us, our house was untouched. We were very, very fortunate, and our hearts ache for our friends and neighbors throughout the Northeast who are struggling to recover from terrible losses.


In the midst of all this sobering news, I was so happy to receive this update today from  the staff at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY. They wrote:  

Although Hurricane Sandy did a number on our Center in South Salem, NY, everyone is safe and sound. Dozens of enormous trees fell victim to the storm’s powerful winds, tearing down several fences in their fall. Although several enclosures were compromised, the wolves remained safe and contained during the powerful storm.

And so the rebuilding begins. 


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals, Hurricanes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

October 29, 2012

Here are a few reasons why weather forecasters are so worried about Hurricane Sandy, nicknamed Frankenstorm. 


  • Sandy is a very large hurricane, one of the largest ever to strike the United States mainland. Instead of having winds and rain a few hundred miles across, Sandy is much bigger. That means many more millions of people are going to experience high winds, heavy rains and powerful storm surges along the coast.
  • Sandy is a very slow moving storm. It will stay around for days rather than hours.
  • Sandy is not weakening as it reaches the coast. It’s expected to join forces with cold air masses and become a hybrid storm like a Frankenstein Monster Storm or "Frankenstorm."
  • Sandy arrives on the coast during a full moon, the highest tides of the month. Sandy’s winds combine with the high tides could push tidal waters 11 feet higher than normal.
  • Sandy will bring in cold air and snow as well as wind and rain. Cold air will join with the warm air of a tropical storm and bring snow as well as wind and rain. So the problems of cold weather storms and warm weather storms are wrapped into one.
  • Sandy is likely to affect New York City, the nation’s largest city. That’s bad news for a city whose many subway tunnels are lower than the surrounding ocean waters.


All in all, Sandy the Frankenstorm is no joke. It’s a dangerous storm that may turn out to be the worst in the history of the Northeast United States.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Hurricanes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

October 29, 2012

FrankenStorm, the monster storm that is about to move into the NorthEast is not a joke. Damaging winds, heavy rains, downed power lines and major flooding are almost inevitable in the next few days. This hurricane has the potential to be one of the most destructive storms in history.

There are things that you and your family can do to prepare in advance. One of the most important is to listen to local news on the radio, TV and the Internet. Follow the advice and instructions that you get from local authorities. Better to be safe than sorry.

If you are going to stay home then it’s a good idea to prepare a basic disaster supply kit. Here’s some of things it should contain:


  • Water, a gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation.
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for sanitation.
  • Battery powered or hand crank radio with extra batteries.
  • Flashlights and extra batteries.
  • First aid kit.
  • Whistle to signal for help if need be.
  • Manual (not electric) can opener for cans of food.
  • Cell phone with a charger that doesn’t depend upon local electricity.
  • Books, games, puzzles and other activities for youngsters.
  • Medicines and other personal supplies.


Be calm and safe. It’s always just best to be prepared for the worst, even though you hope nothing bad actually happens. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Hurricanes   •  Permalink (link to this article)

October 1, 2012

Last week in the UK, people from all over England, Scotland and Wales called the police to report very bright lights in the night sky. One caller said, "I’ve seen shooting stars and meteor showers before, but this was much larger and much more colorful."

Experts think that what people probably saw was "space junk." Dr Tim O’Brien, from the Jodrell Bank Observatory, said it’s not possible to know the exact source. "It’s hard to say exactly, whether it was a chunk of rock coming in from outer space, burning up in the atmosphere, or a bit of space debris which we call space junk, which is basically man-made stuff from a spacecraft that’s burning up in the atmosphere."

I am guessing that it was probably space junk. Meteorites, or pieces of rock, usually blaze across the sky in a matter of seconds. That’s why people call them "shooting stars."

The truth is, we’ve left a pretty big mess of old hardware circling our planet. Those things tend to take longer to burn up as they enter our atmosphere, so more people see them.


Look at this diagram; the blue sphere is Earth. According to NASA, each dot represents a bit of known space junk that’s at least 4 inches (10 cm) in low-Earth orbit, where the space station and shuttles roam. In total, some 19,000 manmade objects this size or bigger were orbiting Earth as of July 2009. And there are lots of smaller ones, too.


No one is quite sure how to do it, but there is no question that it is time for us to clean up our room!

CREDIT: NASA/Orbital Debris Program Office.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, space   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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