Agriculture
Flush-Free Fertilizer
Cleaning Up Fish Farms
Microbes at the Gas Pump
Amphibians
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Frogs and Toads
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Tool Use Comes Naturally to Crows
Little Bee Brains That Could
New Elephant-Shrew
Behavior
Lost Sight, Found Sound
Chimpanzee Hunting Tools
Night of the living ants
Birds
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Chemistry and Materials
Earth from the inside out
Bang, Sparkle, Burst, and Boom
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Computers
Fingerprint Evidence
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Meet your mysterious relative
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A Living Fossil
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Earth
Wave of Destruction
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Environment
Spotty Survival
The Wolf and the Cow
Fishing for Fun Takes Toll
Finding the Past
Stone Tablet May Solve Maya Mystery
A Volcano's Deadly Ash
Words of the Distant Past
Fish
A Jellyfish's Blurry View
Perches
Cleaning Up Fish Farms
Food and Nutrition
Symbols from the Stone Age
In Search of the Perfect French Fry
Building a Food Pyramid
GSAT English Rules
Whoever vs. Whomever
Subject and Verb Agreement
Who vs. That vs. Which
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2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
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GSAT Practice Papers | GSAT Mathematics | Maths
GSAT Mathematics
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Detecting True Art
Human Body
A Better Flu Shot
Attacking Asthma
Surviving Olympic Heat
Invertebrates
Walking Sticks
Dust Mites
Invertebrates
Mammals
Cornish Rex
Rottweilers
Cows
Parents
Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud
How children learn
The Surprising Meaning and Benefits of Nursery Rhymes
Physics
Powering Ball Lightning
Road Bumps
Electric Backpack
Plants
When Fungi and Algae Marry
Flower family knows its roots
Surprise Visitor
Reptiles
Garter Snakes
Lizards
Chameleons
Space and Astronomy
The two faces of Mars
Solving a Sedna Mystery
Saturn's Spongy Moon
Technology and Engineering
Reach for the Sky
Crime Lab
Drawing Energy out of Wastewater
The Parts of Speech
What is a Noun
What is a Preposition?
What is a Verb?
Transportation
Reach for the Sky
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
Robots on a Rocky Road
Weather
Earth's Poles in Peril
Polar Ice Feels the Heat
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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