Agriculture
Vitamin D-licious Mushrooms
Getting the dirt on carbon
Springing forward
Amphibians
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Salamanders and Newts
Newts
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Little Beetle, Big Horns
A Tongue and a Half
Not Slippery When Wet
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Pipefish power from mom
Mice sense each other's fear
Night of the living ants
Birds
Macaws
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Chemistry and Materials
Watching out for vultures
Undercover Detectives
Big Machine Reveals Small Worlds
Computers
Earth from the inside out
Secrets of an Ancient Computer
Hitting the redo button on evolution
Dinosaurs and Fossils
An Ancient Spider's Web
Dino Flesh from Fossil Bone
Message in a dinosaur's teeth
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Earth
A Great Quake Coming?
Petrified Lightning
Springing forward
Environment
Pollution Detective
Seabirds Deliver Arctic Pollutants
Spotty Survival
Finding the Past
Watching deep-space fireworks
If Only Bones Could Speak
A Long Trek to Asia
Fish
Piranha
Swordfish
Flashlight Fishes
Food and Nutrition
In Search of the Perfect French Fry
Turning to Sweets, Fats to Calm the Brain
A Pepper Part that Burns Fat
GSAT English Rules
Subject and Verb Agreement
Problems with Prepositions
Who vs. That vs. Which
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GSAT Mathematics
Setting a Prime Number Record
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Human Body
Taking the sting out of scorpion venom
Teen Brains, Under Construction
A New Touch
Invertebrates
Walking Sticks
Horseshoe Crabs
Flatworms
Mammals
Felines
Persian Cats
Hoofed Mammals
Parents
Children and Media
Expert report highlights the importance to parents of reading to children!
Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud
Physics
One ring around them all
Road Bumps
Spin, Splat, and Scramble
Plants
A Giant Flower's New Family
Getting the dirt on carbon
The algae invasion
Reptiles
Crocodiles
Copperhead Snakes
Alligators
Space and Astronomy
A Very Distant Planet Says "Cheese"
Burst Busters
Icy Red Planet
Technology and Engineering
Reach for the Sky
Switchable Lenses Improve Vision
Space Umbrellas to Shield Earth
The Parts of Speech
What is a Verb?
What is a Noun
Pronouns
Transportation
Flying the Hyper Skies
Ready, unplug, drive
Seen on the Science Fair Scene
Weather
Earth's Poles in Peril
The Best Defense Is a Good Snow Fence
A Dire Shortage of Water
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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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