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A Wild Ferret Rise
Missing Moose
Roboroach and Company
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Dino-bite!
Brainy bees know two from three
The nerve of one animal
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Birds We Eat
Ibises
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The newest superheavy in town
Fog Buster
A Light Delay
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Look into My Eyes
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A Living Fossil
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2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
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Earth
Coral Gardens
Detecting an Eerie Sea Glow
Earth's Poles in Peril
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Where rivers run uphill
Plastic Meals for Seals
A Vulture's Hidden Enemy
Finding the Past
Unearthing Ancient Astronomy
Traces of Ancient Campfires
Stonehenge Settlement
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Trout
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Chew for Health
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Subject and Verb Agreement
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March 21-22, 2013: Over 43,000 students will take the GSAT Exam
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GSAT Exam Preparation
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
GSAT Mathematics
Detecting True Art
Prime Time for Cicadas
Math Naturals
Human Body
Walking to Exercise the Brain
Opening a Channel for Tasting Salt
Running with Sneaker Science
Invertebrates
Butterflies
Mollusks
Bedbugs
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Cape Buffalo
Otters
Parents
Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud
The Surprising Meaning and Benefits of Nursery Rhymes
Choosing a Preschool: What to Consider
Physics
Echoes of a Stretched Egg
Gaining a Swift Lift
Invisibility Ring
Plants
Farms sprout in cities
A Giant Flower's New Family
When Fungi and Algae Marry
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Sea Turtles
Cobras
Space and Astronomy
A Moon's Icy Spray
A Star's Belt of Dust and Rocks
A Galaxy Far, Far, Far Away
Technology and Engineering
Slip Sliming Away
Machine Copy
Space Umbrellas to Shield Earth
The Parts of Speech
What is a Preposition?
Problems with Prepositions
What is a Verb?
Transportation
Middle school science adventures
Revving Up Green Machines
Troubles with Hubble
Weather
The Best Defense Is a Good Snow Fence
Warmest Year on Record
Watering the Air
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Cactus Goo for Clean Water

People need water to survive, and the water has to be clean—or they get very sick. Clean water, however, can be hard to come by. Now, scientists are exploring a clever way to make dirty water clean for small communities in Mexico. The secret is the goo from an edible cactus found all over that country. Long ago, people in Latin America used prickly pear cactuses to filter their water, says Norma Alcantar. She's a chemical engineer at the University of South Florida in Tampa. First, they would boil the plant, which they could eat. They then dumped the boiled water into their drinking water. Gritty particles settled to the bottom, and the water on top was good to drink. To see if they could revive this practice, Alcantar and her coworkers studied a material called mucilage, which they extracted from cactus plants. Mucilage is a thick, gooey substance that allows the plant to store water. The researchers already knew that adding mucilage to contaminated water causes floating particles to sink to the bottom. They wanted to know how it works. To figure out what cactus mucilage does, the scientists separated it into two parts—a liquid and a gel. Tests on the gel portion showed that this goo alone could filter water. Even better, the process took just 5 minutes. Aluminum sulfate, a chemical commonly used in water-treatment plants, takes three times as long. In other tests, cactus goo cleared water of half of its arsenic, a toxic chemical, after 36 hours. Next, the researchers plan to test the liquid portion of the cactus mucilage. They also want to figure out which molecules in the goo are doing the job. One goal is to find out how much goo is needed to clean a Mexican village's water supply. By next summer, the scientists hope to have a cactus filtering system set up in a Mexican city called Temamatla. The water there is full of grit and arsenic, and there are lots of cactuses around. It's the perfect place to find out whether these spiny plants can help provide clean, healthy water.—E. Sohn

Cactus Goo for Clean Water
Cactus Goo for Clean Water








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