Smore Science Digest

A biweekly science newsletter for kids
Edition 11 | Oct 01,2022 – Oct 15,2022

Trending News

Scientists Discover How to Break Down PFAs

Polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances in the environment..
Polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances in the environment, Credit: Jacinta Quesada

PFAs, short for polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, have become a big concern for scientists. These substances resist water, oil,, and stains, making them useful in objects ranging from frying pans to makeup. However, these same properties make them difficult to destroy. Therefore, PFAs are also known as the ‘forever chemicals.’ PFAs may remain in the environment and enter water or soil, becoming a severe concern at high levels. Exposure to these chemicals may cause cancer or birth defects. Recently, scientists from Northwestern University have found a way to destroy PFAs.

Dugong Declared Extinct in China

The Dugong – A Relative of The Manatee.
The Dugong – A Relative of The Manatee, Credit: Gejuni

The dugong, thought to have inspired many folk stories about mermaids and sirens, is a mammal related to the manatee. It is known as the ocean’s most gentle giant because of its slow and relaxed behavior. However, this same behavior makes the dugong vulnerable to fishing and shipping accidents. Recently, scientists declared the dugong to be extinct in China, as there have been no verified sightings by scientists since 2000. Only three people surveyed from coastal regions in China have seen a dugong in the past five years.

STEM Challenge

Chill a Drink Challenge

Challenge description: A refrigerator is a convenient way to cool beverages. There are also multiple ways to cool a drink using ice. Some of them will be faster than others. Your challenge is to chill a drink in forty seconds, using ice only. There is no need to use a thermometer to check the temperature.

Materials needed:
• Any drink (should not be pre-cooled)
• Ice
• Glass

Challenge objective: Pour the drink into a glass. If condensation appears on the glass, then the challenge has been cleared.

Futoshiki

Can you do a Futoshiki?

Futoshiki

Rules:  

  1. Fill in the 5 x 5 grid with numbers from 1 to 5, such that no number is repeated twice in a row or column.
  2. Place numbers according to the greater than and lesser than signs wherever applicable.

Previous edition’s answer: 

futukhi

STEM Around Us

Catching lightning in a bottle

The high voltage breakdown of plexiglass creates beautiful fractal patterns called Lichtenberg figures
The high voltage breakdown of plexiglass creates beautiful fractal patterns called Lichtenberg figures. Credits: Bert Hickman

“Catching lightning in a bottle” is an idiom for a nearly impossible goal. While trapping lightning in a bottle is still out of reach, we can trap lightning in plexiglass or acrylic with some clever science.

To start with, lightning is a giant electric spark that occurs in a cloud, between two clouds, or between a cloud and the ground. All forms of electric spark occur due to the movement of electrons. Electrons are particles with a negative charge. When a large number of electrons accumulate in the clouds, they discharge to form lightning. 

Science Video

The Alkali Metals!

Lithium (Li), sodium (Na), potassium (K), rubidium (Rb), caesium (Cs), and francium (Fr) together make up the alkali metals. They are also known as the lithium family of elements. 

Along with hydrogen gas (H), the alkali metals form the first group of the periodic table of elements. All the alkali metals have one outer electron at the atomic level. They quickly lose this electron to gain a +1 positive charge. Having the same arrangement of electrons gives them similar properties. All the alkali metals are shiny, soft, and highly reactive. Because of their softness, a knife can easily cut all alkali metals.

Brain Teaser

A man is looking at a photograph of someone. His friend asks who it is. The man replies, “Brothers and sisters, I have none. But that man’s father is my father’s son.” Who was in the photograph?

Previous edition’s answer:

Turn on the first two switches. Leave them on for five minutes. Once five minutes have passed, turn off the second switch, leaving one switch on. Now go through the door. The light that is still on is connected to the first switch. Whichever of the other two is warm to the touch is connected to the second switch. The bulb that is cold is connected to the switch that was never turned on.

STEM Careers

Watch Ecologist Ronnie Steinitz at Work

Ronnie Steinitz
One of the handful of times that Katie, a 200lb jaguar, was not attempting to tackle me to the ground. I spent several months caring for her at a wildlife refuge in the Bolivian Amazon.

What does an Ecologist do?

Ronnie Steinitz is an ecologist currently in the first year of her doctoral research for her PhD. She studies primate-community interactions in several monkey species in Kibale National Park, Uganda. She also collaborates with the US Geological Survey (USGS) to study bobcat prey preferences with changing climate.

Did you know?

Water can boil and freeze at the same time. By tweaking the pressure and temperature to a certain value, all three states (solid, liquid and gas) can exist together. This value of temperature and pressure is called the triple point.

Science In Depth

How Can We Help Local Organisms To Survive?

"Male Karner Blue Butterfly", Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Midwest Region
"Male Karner Blue Butterfly", Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Midwest Region

What is the Karner blue butterfly?

In 1861, the Karner blue butterfly was discovered in Karner, New York. At just one inch in wingspan, this little friend can fit inside a water bottle cap. The male Karner butterfly is brilliant blue in color, while the female is a subtle blue-gray.

Although the Karner blue was discovered in New York, its home has historically been throughout the Northeast United States. Over 150 years after its discovery, the Karner blue butterfly is an endangered species. Many groups, like nature conservancies and preserves, work hard to help the Karner blue survive. One example is the Albany Pine Bush, near Karner, New York. Scientists have great knowledge about how to support this unique species.

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