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Watering the Air
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Frogs and Toads
Polar Bears in Trouble
Thieves of a Feather
Feeding School for Meerkats
Homework blues
Monkeys in the Mirror
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Tropical Birds
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Oldest Writing in the New World
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Fakes in the museum
Flashlight Fishes
Mako Sharks
Sting Ray
Food and Nutrition
Healing Honey
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Extra Strings for New Sounds
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Strange Universe: The Stuff of Darkness
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Cactus Goo for Clean Water
City Trees Beat Country Trees
Black Mamba
Space and Astronomy
Supernovas Shed Light on Dark Energy
Ringing Saturn
Burst Busters
Technology and Engineering
Machine Copy
Riding Sunlight
Model Plane Flies the Atlantic
The Parts of Speech
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Adjectives and Adverbs
Robots on the Road, Again
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Where rivers run uphill
Watering the Air
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Unscrambling a Gem of a Mystery

Hidden inside every shiny green emerald is a geographical mystery. Once an emerald is plucked from a mine in its home country and turned into a piece of jewelry, it can be nearly impossible to figure out where the gem came from in the first place. Now, researchers from France think they have found a solution. It's all about the water. Molecules of water are trapped inside tiny channels in every emerald. Water has the chemical formula H2O. This means that each molecule of water is made up of three atoms: two atoms of hydrogen (H) and one atom of oxygen (O). There are several types of hydrogen atoms. One unusual type, called deuterium, weighs twice as much as the type of hydrogen most commonly found. Some water molecules contain the heavier form of hydrogen instead of the lighter one. It turns out that when you shine a special kind of laser light on an emerald, the heavy hydrogen reacts differently in emeralds from different parts of the world. This signal reveals where a certain emerald came from. So far, the researchers have used their method to trace emeralds to 10 specific mines in seven countries. They can also tell the difference between natural emeralds and human-made ones. Emeralds from some countries cost more than others, so the new technique might help jewelry sellers determine how much their gems are truly worth. It could also help historians trace ancient trade routes. So, every gem carries its own story, and researchers are starting to translate it into a language that we can all understand.—E. Sohn

Unscrambling a Gem of a Mystery
Unscrambling a Gem of a Mystery

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