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Tool Use Comes Naturally to Crows
A Grim Future for Some Killer Whales
Gliders in the Family
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How Much Babies Know
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Night of the living ants
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Cooking Up Superhard Diamonds
Gooey Secrets of Mussel Power
The hottest soup in New York
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A Classroom of the Mind
Look into My Eyes
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The bug that may have killed a dinosaur
A Rainforest Trapped in Amber
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Earth
A Dire Shortage of Water
Island of Hope
Less Mixing Can Affect Lake's Ecosystem
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Shrinking Fish
Ready, unplug, drive
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If Only Bones Could Speak
Stonehenge Settlement
Of Lice and Old Clothes
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Strong Bones for Life
Moving Good Fats from Fish to Mice
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Ministry of Education Announces 82 GSAT Scholarships for 2010
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How a Venus Flytrap Snaps Shut
Detecting True Art
Math of the World
Human Body
Sleeping Soundly for a Longer Life
Taking the sting out of scorpion venom
Speedy Gene Gives Runners a Boost
Invertebrates
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Sponges
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Scottish Folds
Asiatic Bears
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How children learn
Choosing a Preschool: What to Consider
Expert report highlights the importance to parents of reading to children!
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Speedy stars
Dreams of Floating in Space
Einstein's Skateboard
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The algae invasion
Hungry bug seeks hot meal
Bright Blooms That Glow
Reptiles
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Space and Astronomy
Supernovas Shed Light on Dark Energy
Gravity Tractor as Asteroid Mover
Big Galaxy Swallows Little Galaxy
Technology and Engineering
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
Supersuits for Superheroes
Machine Copy
The Parts of Speech
What is a Verb?
What is a Noun
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Transportation
How to Fly Like a Bat
Troubles with Hubble
Charged cars that would charge
Weather
Antarctica warms, which threatens penguins
The solar system's biggest junkyard
Science loses out when ice caps melt
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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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