Getting kids into science

This is a lovely article we’d like to share:

Getting Kids Interested In Science: Parents, Teachers & Educators Comment

I don’t know if you’re a parent, but one of the toughest things is to get them to actually LIKE studying, and WANT to study. It’s difficult. But I always disliked the idea of forcing any child to do anything, which is why I would much prefer to encourage my child to take their own interest in studying.

As far as I am concerned, science is inherently interesting (why else would I have started a science news blog?) and there’s something wrong if kids have an automatic disgust for it.

In this article, many different people talk about how you can actively get kids interested in science. Worth reading! See also how to get your kids interested in STEM from lifehacker.


That’s how crocodiles have survived mass extinction

How have crocodiles managed to stay alive despite the various mass extinctions that have occurred since they set foot on Earth? This is the question that a team of researchers at the Milner Center for Evolution at the University of Bath tried to answer.
Crocodiles are one of the oldest surviving lineages to date. They have survived two extinctions in particular: the late Cretaceous extinction, the most notorious one that wiped dinosaurs off the globe 66 million years ago, and a lesser extinction than the Eocene, which occurred 33.9 million years ago, the extinction that wiped out so many aquatic species.

This is not the first study trying to answer this riddle. Previous studies have suggested that diet may have helped these animals cope with these difficult conditions as well as their semi-aquatic behaviour (in essence they are neither marine nor terrestrial animals).
However, a new study, which appeared in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, suggests that the answer lies in their particular reproductive biology.

The sex of crocodile cubs, in fact, is determined by the temperature at which they are incubated since these animals do not have sex chromosomes. The higher the temperature during the incubation phase, the more likely it is that males are born. It is a little the discourse of the turtles only that for these last ones the contrary is true.

Precisely for this reason the climate changes, which are seeing an ongoing global warming, are partly beginning to influence also the reproductive biology of this type of animals. For example, in some turtle populations 80% of turtles are born female, something that could lead to devastating consequences for these animals in the near future.

Going back to crocodiles, the scientists have analyzed 20 different species, coming from all over the world, discovering that the smaller species tend to live closer to the equator while the bigger species tend to live at higher latitudes and in more temperate climates. They also discovered that incubation temperatures are not latitude related.

This means that crocodiles may not be threatened in the future, as are turtles, by climate change in relation to birth levels. It should also be added that crocodiles themselves, unlike turtles, take care of their young (turtles lay their eggs on the beach and then leave the young alone).

And it is precisely this more practical approach to parenting that has evidently allowed crocodiles to survive the aforementioned mass extinctions.
This does not mean that crocodiles are not globally threatened: there are human activities that, for these animals, could be considered a more threatening factor than mass extinction.


139 other trans-Neptunian objects discovered, periphery of the increasingly crowded solar system

The neighborhood of the solar system beyond Neptune is full of surprises. Analyzing data from the Dark Energy Survey (DES), a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has in fact confirmed the presence of more than 300 additional Transneptunian objects (TNO), of which center 139 new discoveries, several of them considered as minor planets or dwarf planets, in these remote areas of the solar system.

The study, published in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, also describes what can be defined as a new approach to find objects of this kind, something useful also for future research, and above all to find the much coveted Planet Nine, also called Planet X, a hypothetical planet (and not a dwarf or minor planet) that would circulate undisturbed in the most remote areas of the solar system.

The DES survey was not initially conducted to discover new objects beyond Neptune but to understand the nature of dark energy by analyzing, through high-precision images, the area of the southern sky everything that can be observed from that position, primarily galaxies and supernovae. However, the succulent data have made the astronomers’ hearts beat faster, including graduate student Pedro Bernardinelli and professors Gary Bernstein and Masao Sako from the University of Pennsylvania.
Bernardinelli explains that to find TNO all you need to do is find a way to see the object move in the background, which makes it easier to find them.

The researcher, with the help of the two professors, started a first phase in which he had to work on as many as 7 billion possible objects detected by the software, interesting movements of transient objects on a fixed background, which indicated the proximity of these same objects to galaxies, supernovae or other distant objects.
As this list of candidates was skimmed, through a new method developed by Bernardinelli himself, and after many months of work, the result was 316 confirmed trans-Neptunian objects, of which 139 are new discoveries as never previously published.

Since there are only 3000 TNOs in total, this new catalogue represents 10% of all known TNOs. These are objects that are 30 to 90 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. In addition, some of these objects have extremely long orbits due to which at some point they will be very far away, well beyond Pluto and far beyond the distances that now separate them from the Sun.
The method used by Bernardinelli could be used in the future to make similar discoveries, as the researcher himself explains: “Many of the programs we have developed can be easily applied to any other large data set, such as the one that the Rubin Observatory will produce”.


Getting rid of objects is more difficult for those who suffer from loneliness

Getting rid of old things, and thus keeping the house tidier, is more difficult for those who suffer from loneliness. This is the conclusion of a study taken from HealthDay and carried out by researcher Catherine Cole of the University of Iowa.

According to the researcher, it is those people who feel the most lonely who are most attached to objects, such as a dress or a childhood toy. This makes it more difficult for them to separate from those same objects.

And, as the researcher herself reveals, feeling lonely is not a feeling that is limited only to those people who are actually socially isolated but can also affect those people who have normal social contacts. Even the latter can feel literally disconnected from society and this can happen even temporarily.

Of course, the inability to get rid of objects can lead to several annoying consequences including the accumulation of the same objects in the home, which is increasingly linked to a real syndrome defined as “accumulation syndrome,” resulting in chronic disorder that for some people can reach alarming and even dangerous levels for their health.


Neanderthal’s were also skilled divers to collect bivalves and shells

When we think of Neanderthals our thoughts usually go to hunter-gatherers but these hominids were most likely also skilled swimmers and were also able to dive underwater to collect seafood. This is the result of a study conducted by a team of researchers led by Paola Villa of the University of Colorado Boulder who analyzed several findings found in the Grotta dei Moscerini, a cave located near a beach in Lazio.

Already several decades ago archaeologists had collected several interesting artifacts and remains of animal planets, mostly shells, from this area but the team of researchers revealed new secrets in a new study that appeared on PLOS ONE. The Neanderthals not only collected shells and any edible marine animals that lay on the beach but also dived several meters to better meet their dietary needs.

These clues show that the Neanderthals actually had a much deeper relationship with the sea than previously thought, something that many paleoanthropologists did not pay much attention to. Villa, together with his colleagues, analyzed the tools that the Neanderthals used to work the shells in order to transform them into useful cutting tools.

Many of the shells found showed dull and slightly abraded exteriors, as if they had been polished over time, indicating that they had been taken from a sandy beach. However, several other shells, at least a quarter of the total, show that they were torn directly from their natural habitat at the bottom of the sea.

According to the researcher, the Neanderthals used to submerge to a depth of up to four meters to collect live seafood and bivalves, naturally without any diving equipment, which indicates a certain degree of skill, probably equal to that of Homo sapiens, at least as far as obtaining food from the deep water.

This study will help to change the idea of Neanderthals seen as hunters of large mammals.