Label: Science News

December 19, 2011



As a major winter storm begins hammering parts of the High Plains in far northeast New Mexico, northwest Texas, western Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas, we started wondering about the snowiest places. Where in the U.S. do people get the most snow every year? 


According to the Weather Channel, #5 on the "snowiest list" is Lead, South Dakota. Lead is in the northern Black Hills, where powerful north winds swirl through the surrounding hills.

  • Average yearly snow: 201.4 inches
  • Population: 3,124
  • Snowiest month: March (35 inches)
  • Snowiest day ever: 52 inches (March 14, 1973)
  • Record Depth: 73 inches (March 1, 1998)


#4: Truckee, California. Truckee is in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which have a long, deadly history of burying pioneers and wagon trains, as well as modern trains, in the mountain passes during huge snowstorms.

  • Average yearly snow: 202.6 inches
  • Population : 16,180
  • Snowiest month: February (44.3 inches) 


#3: Hancock, Michigan. Why do they get so much snow in Hancock? In addition to the fact that it is in the far northern part of the U.S., Hancock is also close to Lake Superior, and the cold winds pick up moisture from the lake.

  • Average yearly snow: 211.7 inches 
  • Population: 4,634
  • Snowiest month: January (65.6 inches)
  • Snowiest day: 26.5 inches (January 18, 1996) 
  • Record depth: 73 inches (February 28, 1937)


#2: Crested Butte, Colorado. At an elevation of 8,860 feet, Crested Butte has a history of spectacular New Year’s storms!

  • Average yearly snow: 215.8 inches
  • Population: 1,487 
  • Snowiest month: January (39.5 inches)
  • Snowiest day: 31 inches (January 1, 1982) 
  • Record depth: 120 inches (December 31, 1923)
#1 - the place in the U.S. that gets the most snow - is Valdez, Alaska.  Why do they get so much snow? One of Earth’s most common low pressure systems, the "Aleutian low," settles in each winter just to the southwest of Valdez. When this happens, large amounts of moisture from the Pacific Ocean flood into southern Alaska and because the air is cold, the result is heavy snow. Consistently. EVERY year!
  • Average yearly snow: 326.3 inches
  • Population: 3,976 
  • Snowiest month: December (71.9 inches) 
  • Snowiest day: 47.5 inches (January 16,1990)


Army of Snowmen Photo Courtesy of Nerd Approved.


For those of you receiving iPads or Nook Color/Tablets this season, Seymour Simon has many quality eBooks available for purchase, some discounted as much as 50% for the holidays. If you are adding reading material to a tablet, please consider making Seymour Simon’s exceptional nonfiction for children part of your collection. Happy holidays to all!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

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

December 14, 2011

A New Zealand woman arrived home yesterday and found an unexpected visitor - a baby seal, asleep on the sofa!

The fur seal pup was nicknamed "Lucky" because he managed to cross a busy road, push into the house through a cat door, and climb up some stairs to get to the couch in the living room. What a clever little pup! 

The woman called animal control. Wildlife experts came and woke Lucky up from his nap and released him back into the sea. 

I once discovered baby flying squirrels living in my attic, but I’ve never experienced anything as interesting as a seal on the sofa. Wouldn’t that be exciting?! 


Photo: Christopher Clark/Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(7) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals, Marine Life   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 11, 2011



There was a full eclipse of the moon yesterday. Those of you on the west coast of the U.S. got a rare treat, as the lunar eclipse happened just at sunrise. Photographer John Harrison took this magnificent shot of the red moon above San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in the blue morning sky.



These images are from Asia, where photographer Humza Mehbub shot a series of images of the lunar eclipse from Lahore, Pakistan. He started photographing Earth’s shadow slipping across the moon at 5:30 p.m., and continued photographing until 7:30 p.m. in Lahore, when the eclipse hit its peak and the moon glowed a deep orange.

I wasn’t able to see it because I live on the Atlantic coast, where it happened during the daytime and was not visible here. Did any of you photograph the eclipse? If you did, send in your photos - I’d love to see!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, moon, Eclipse   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 8, 2011



Forty-nine penguins rescued from an oil spill off New Zealand have been nursed back to health and were released back into the ocean on Tuesday by wildlife rescuers and local schoolchildren.



Don’t you love this photograph of Little Blue Penguins running back into the ocean? 

They were fitted with microchips, so that researchers can track the progress of their recovery.

The birds released Tuesday are among 343 little blue penguins that have been cleaned of oil since a cargo ship ran aground on a reef off the coast of New Zealand on Oct. 5 and spilled some 400 tons of fuel oil. More than 2,000 sea birds died in the spill. Fortunately, marine life experts from New Zealand, Australia and the United States worked together to save the animals who returned happily to the sea this week.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Penguins, Oil Spills, Marine Life   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 7, 2011

The Tokyo car show opened this week, which means we get to see what are called "Concept Cars" - automakers imagining what cars of the future look like, and what they will be able to do. I love new technology and gadgets, so this is always fun for me. 

This year, everyone is talking about Toyota’s Fun-Vii. Vii stands for "vehicle interactive internet," and the car functions like a "smartphone on wheels." The doors of the car are touchscreens, so that drivers can change the way the car looks, communicate with people in other cars, and connect to the Internet while they are driving.


Imagine being able to call up a photograph on your phone, click it, and suddenly your car is wrapped with the photo. 



Or how about you touch the door and video text with the friend who you are meeting?



Perhaps best of all, they imagine that this car will have autopilot, with a virtual reality "co-pilot" who not only drives the car but also reads you your text messages, finds the nearest ice cream shop, or corrects your route when there is traffic ahead.

No one is actually making these cars right now - but it is not quite science fiction, either. Concept cars are based on the technology that engineers are developing right now, so they are almost like a glimpse of the future of driving.

What do you think? Would you like to have a car like this one? Why?


I wasn’t kidding about liking Cool Cars.


I even wrote a book about them!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

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

December 4, 2011

Entomologist (bug scientist) Mark Moffett, who works at the Smithsonian institution, traveled all the way to New Zealand to try to find a Giant Weta (Deinacrida heteracantha).


He found one, all right - what he claims is the largest insect ever found…..or at least, the heaviest. Moffett says: "I did not measure anything but the weight. I’ve seen a walking stick nearly 19 inches long in Sarawak, Malaysia, but it weighed next to nothing." The giant weta weighed in at 2.5 ounces (71 grams) - that is as much as three mice!

These huge insects are members of the cricket family; their genus name, Deinacrida, is Greek for terrible grasshopper. They are vegetarians, which is why Moffett offered her a carrot. "She enjoyed the carrot so much she seemed to ignore the fact she was resting on our hands and carried on munching away. She would have finished the carrot very quickly, but this is an extremely endangered species, and we didn’t want to risk indigestion."


Photo: Mark Moffett / Minden / Solent

I have always been fascinated by big bugs. If you are, too, you can read more here!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals Nobody Loves, Insects   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 1, 2011

Thursday is COOL VIDEO OF THE WEEK day on the Seymour Science blog. Since we’ve been talking about Mars all week long, we thought our video should continue that theme.

This video is a little different than the ones we usually choose. In this case, you have to look really hard to spot a tiny light, moving quickly upward through the night sky (in the center of the screen).

See it?

This video shows the newest Mars explorer craft departing Earth shortly after its launch on November 26. 

The spacecraft is carrying a car-sized robot rover named Curiosity. Scientists hope that information sent back by Curiosity will help them learn a lot more about Mars. They will also be getting critical information that will help them plan for an eventual human mission to the Red Planet.

I love watching the sky and seeing manmade spacecraft passing overhead. Every time I see the International Space Station (ISS) move across the night sky, I applaud as it exits my field of vision. The thought that there are brave human beings far overhead, exploring space and the possibilities of our Solar System, just thrills me. Do you think that one day that we’ll be able to look up in the sky and know that there are humans on their way to Mars? I hope so!

By the way, if you are as interested as I am in seeing the ISS and other satellites in orbit, has an easy-to-use page where you enter your zip code and get schedule for when you can spot these magnificent flybys. You don’t even need a telescope - just clear skies and your own two eyes! 

Video: Gerhard Dangl

Photo: An artist’s concept illustrates what the Mars rover Curiosity will look like on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, space, Video, Space Travel, Exploration, Space Weather   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 29, 2011

For today’s Cool Photo of the Week, Seymour Simon chose this photograph taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, an unmanned satellite that has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2005. The orbiter is searching for evidence that water was once present on the surface of Mars. NASA scientists also want to know whether water was present long enough to support life at some time in the past. 

Look at the deep ditches and trails criss-crossing the sand dunes in an area of Mars known as the Russell Crater. These trails were carved into the landscape by "dust devils," mini-tornadoes that whip across the Martian landscape. The ditches are formed when chunks of frozen carbon dioxide slide down the face of steep dunes.

When I speak at schools, I often tell students about an astronomer named Percival Lowell, who thought he spotted Martian "canals" through his small telescope back in the early 1900s. Do you think it’s possible that he saw these deep trails, leading him to the mistaken idea that the canals must have been dug by intelligent life, or Martians?!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(5) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Astronomy, School Visits, Cool Photo, planets, Mars   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 21, 2011

What is that creature in this beautiful photograph? This animal is known as a "glass squid" (scientific name Leachia).  Sunlight filtering down through the ocean water passes right through the glass squid - it is practically invisible in the light. There are both squid and octopus like this, and they can "hide in plain sight" in sunny water.

However, they do not do so well down in the ocean deep, where there is no sunlight. Down in the deep, there are dangerous predator fish whose bodies produce a bright light that they shine directly on the transparent animals, which become visible in the predator’s "headlight."  The ability of these marine animals to produce their own light is called bioluminescence (BY-oh-loom-i-NESS-ens).

Somehow, their prey - the transparent squid and octopus -  need to have a way to camouflage themselves down in the deep. Researchers at Duke University decided to find out how they do it. They captured some of the squid and put them into a dish full of cold ocean water and shone bright lights on them. They were amazed to discover that the squid switched on their camouflage instantly, changing themselves from clear to a spotted, reddish brown. With that coloring, they can hide more easily in their dark, deep-sea environment. The researchers were amazed to see how quickly they make the change. 

If you are interested in seeing video of their experiment, click on the play button (at left) to see more.



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(7) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals Nobody Loves, Animals, Oceans   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 16, 2011

Update for readers who were interested in our recent story, Rescued Spider Monkeys, about wild animals that are being illegally captured and sold. Nick News just did a half-hour special related to this subject, called DANGEROUS CROSSROADS: In a world where humans keep expanding their habitat, what happens when wild animals inhabit that same space? The special is now available online, so that you can watch it whenever you want to.

Click here to see some excellent reporting on this important topic for animal lovers.

Posted by: Liz Nealon

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

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