Agriculture
Watering the Air
Watching out for vultures
New Gene Fights Potato Blight
Amphibians
Bullfrogs
Newts
Salamanders and Newts
Animals
Roach Love Songs
Gliders in the Family
Firefly Delight
Behavior
When Darwin got sick of feathers
Longer lives for wild elephants
The Disappearing Newspaper
Birds
Woodpecker
Crows
Swifts
Chemistry and Materials
The Taste of Bubbles
The memory of a material
A Butterfly's Electric Glow
Computers
Galaxies on the go
Lighting goes digital
Look into My Eyes
Dinosaurs and Fossils
Hall of Dinos
Dinosaurs Grow Up
Digging Dinos
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Earth
Coral Gardens
Rocking the House
Farms sprout in cities
Environment
The Oily Gulf
Saving Wetlands
Improving the Camel
Finding the Past
Fakes in the museum
Stonehenge Settlement
Untangling Human Origins
Fish
Codfish
Tiger Sharks
Angler Fish
Food and Nutrition
Moving Good Fats from Fish to Mice
How Super Are Superfruits?
Chocolate Rules
GSAT English Rules
Finding Subjects and Verbs
Whoever vs. Whomever
Who vs. That vs. Which
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GSAT stars reap scholarship glory
10 Common Mistakes When Preparing for the GSAT Math Test
Tarrant High overcoming the odds
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42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
GSAT Exam Preparation
GSAT Mathematics
How to Slice a Cake Fairly
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Deep-space dancers
Human Body
Flu Patrol
Surviving Olympic Heat
Attacking Asthma
Invertebrates
Hermit Crabs
Mussels
Earthworms
Mammals
Lynxes
Blue Bear
Manatees
Parents
Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud
The Surprising Meaning and Benefits of Nursery Rhymes
What Not to Say to Emerging Readers
Physics
Electric Backpack
The Pressure of Scuba Diving
Spin, Splat, and Scramble
Plants
A Change in Leaf Color
Underwater Jungles
Pumping Up Poison Ivy
Reptiles
Copperhead Snakes
Crocodiles
Iguanas
Space and Astronomy
Pluto's New Moons
Sounds of Titan
Super Star Cluster in the Neighborhood
Technology and Engineering
Dancing with Robots
Crime Lab
Drawing Energy out of Wastewater
The Parts of Speech
What is a Preposition?
Pronouns
What is a Verb?
Transportation
Seen on the Science Fair Scene
Revving Up Green Machines
Tinkering With the Basic Bike
Weather
Catching Some Rays
Warmest Year on Record
Where rivers run uphill
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Little Bits of Trouble

If you've kicked around a soccer ball, you may have noticed the pattern on the ball's surface. The ball is stitched together from 12 patches with five sides (pentagons) and 20 patches with six sides (hexagons). About 20 years ago, chemists discovered that carbon can form into molecules with the same shape. They nicknamed them buckyballs. These strong, hollow particles may someday be used to carry medicine or even block the action of certain viruses. Scientists have now found that buckyballs can harm living cells. Research by Eva Oberdörster, a biologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and her team shows that these molecules damage brain cells in fish. Buckyballs belong to a group of materials known as nanomaterials. The prefix "nano" means one-billionth. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter—roughly the width of just five carbon atoms lined up in a row. So, a buckyball is an extremely tiny particle—only a few ten-thousandths of the width of a human hair. To make a nanomaterial, scientists manipulate individual atoms to build molecules of different shapes. Groups of these molecules form materials with particular characteristics, making them suitable for different jobs. For example, some nanomaterials are already being used in makeup and sunscreens. Because buckyballs may someday be used in industry, Oberdörster and her team conducted experiments to find out if the molecules are toxic. The researchers added different quantities of buckyballs to water in a fish tank. After 48 hours, they removed the fish from the tank and checked different parts of the fishes' bodies for damage. Although none of them died, the exposed fish showed 17 times as much damage to brain cells as did fish not exposed to buckyballs. In a separate experiment, Vicki Colvin of Rice University in Houston found that buckyballs damage human cells growing in a lab. But she also found a possible solution to the problem. Coating buckyballs with other kinds of simple molecules appears to make buckyballs safer. Nanomaterial particles come in all sorts of sizes and shapes, so it's not yet known whether they all have the same harmful effects that buckyballs do. It's going to take a lot more experiments to sort out all the possible health effects of these amazing, new materials.—S. McDonagh

Little Bits of Trouble
Little Bits of Trouble








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