Science

An illustration of the space station
News Science Technology

Students’ Experiments To Be Conducted In Space

Three students have won the chance to have science experiments they created carried out by astronauts in space.

The students won an international competition called the YouTube Space Lab Contest. Last October, students around the world aged 14 to 18 were invited to come up with ideas for experiments that could be performed on the International Space Station.

The space station is a satellite that orbits the Earth. It includes a research laboratory where astronauts from the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada conduct experiments. Because there is no gravity on the space station, they are able to do experiments they could not do on Earth.

For the contest, students had to make a video explaining their hypothesis – the idea they wanted to test – and the method for doing the experiment. Then they posted the videos on YouTube.

Winners were chosen by people voting on YouTube, and by a panel of judges that included scientists, teachers, astronauts and journalists.

The gnome in Japan
News Science Technology

Nomadic Gnome Puts Gravity To The Test

A plastic garden gnome is travelling around the world to help demonstrate how the pull of gravity changes in different locations.

Gravity is the force that attracts a person or an object to the centre of the Earth. It keeps us on the ground, and it also determines how much we weigh.

Gravity may be slightly stronger or weaker depending on where you are, which means things weigh different amounts in different places on Earth.

The difference is so small – 0.5 per cent or less – that most people using ordinary scales wouldn’t even notice it.

For example, if you weigh 40 kilograms, the difference would be no more than 200 grams higher or lower, depending on where you were.

But even such a small difference would matter to scientists who need to be very accurate when measuring amounts of chemicals for an experiment or comparing weights of different objects.

The Gairdner Award
Health News Science

Canadian Awards Predict Nobel Prize Winners

The Gairdner Foundation recently announced the winners of its 2012 awards.

The Canada Gairdner Awards are given to people who have made a new scientific discovery to combat disease or ease human suffering. It is one of the most important medical awards in the world.

As the Gairdner website puts it, “we’re dedicated to recognizing the world’s most creative and accomplished biomedical scientists.” Biomedical scientists work in medicine and biology (the study of living organisms).

The late James A. Gairdner established the Gairdner Foundation in 1957. Since then, 300 awards have been given. Seventy-three of those award winners have gone on to win a Nobel Prize in either medicine or chemistry.

The awards are selected by Canadians, but they are given to scientists throughout the world.

This year’s seven award winners include three people who broke through mysteries of the human circadian clock, the internal mechanism that controls our sleep and wakefulness, body temperature, and many other functions.

Lake_Vostok_drill_2011
Environment News Science

Does Ancient Antarctic Lake Hold Secrets To Life In Outer Space?

A team of Russian scientists in Antarctica has found an ancient lake buried under more than three kilometres of ice.

The lake – Lake Vostok – has been sealed off from the rest of the world for at least 15 million years.

Scientists think the lake may contain tiny organisms, like bacteria, which are not found anywhere else on earth.

If the organisms exist in the lake, it would be because they have been able to adapt to living in the darkness, saltiness and extreme cold of the hidden lake. In that case, they would likely have developed special features that no other organisms on earth have.

Reconstruction of the Iceman by Kennis © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, Photo Ochsenreiter
News Science Technology

DNA Reveals Clues About “Ötzi The Iceman”

Scientists studying a 5,000-year-old mummy have learned that the man had brown eyes and hair and that he couldn’t digest milk. They also think he may have relatives alive today.

The mummy is nicknamed “Ötzi the Iceman.” He was discovered in 1991 by two people hiking in the Alps in Italy.

By examining the body, scientists found that Ötzi (pronounced “`oetsi”) died from an arrow wound about 5,300 years ago. His body was preserved by ice and snow.

They discovered that he about 45 years old when he died, 1.6 metres tall and weighed 50 kilograms. He wore a goatskin coat, had shoes made from grass and deerskin, and he carried a bow, an arrow and some tools.

Recently scientists have learned even more about the Iceman, by studying his DNA. DNA is a collection of molecules that contains information about the characteristics of an individual plant or animal. This information is stored in the cells that make up each individual.

chocolate; image: Nieuw, Wikimedia Commons
Health Lighter News Science

Chocolate May Be Good For Your Heart

Chocolate – eaten in moderation – may actually be good for you, according to a new study.

The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, said that people who ate small amounts of dark chocolate instead of other high-fat treats, had slight improvements in the health of their heart.

For some participants, their blood pressure came down slightly. Some people had lower insulin levels.

The researchers, at the Norwich Medical School in the UK, studied more than 1,000 people. They asked people to eat chocolate (or not eat chocolate) and then they monitored them to check for changes in their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a type of waxy fat; too much of it can cause damage to the heart.

World's smallest chameleon with a finger
Animals Environment News

World’s Smallest Chameleon Discovered

Scientists have discovered a chameleon so small it could sit on your little finger.

The chameleon, which is about three centimetres long, lives on a small island called Nosy Hara, off the coast of Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean.

It is the smallest chameleon and possibly the smallest reptile ever discovered. It lives among rocks and leaves on the forest floor. At night it sleeps on plants, about five to 10 centimetres above the ground.

It is mostly grey and brown with an orange tail, and it doesn’t change colour like most chameleons do. The scientists say this is because it’s already the right colour to blend in with its surroundings.

Giant Panda
Animals News Politics

Canada To Get Two Panda Bears

Canada is expecting two very special visitors from China.

Er Shun and Ji Li are two giant panda bears, which China will be lending to Canada. The pair will live in Toronto for five years, and then in Calgary for five years.

The giant panda is unique to China. They are more than just a native species, however. To the Chinese, panda bears are very symbolic.

If China lets one of its panda bears live in a country, it’s a sign that China feels warmly towards that country.

In this case, the offer came during a recent four-day visit to China by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Cycad at the royal palace grounds, Laung Prabang, Laos
Environment News Science

12-Million-Year-Old Plant May Soon Be Extinct

Cycads, a very rare type of plant, are in danger of becoming extinct because of poachers.

Poaching usually means to hunt animals illegally. In this case, trees are being taken from the wild.

They are then secretly sold for a lot of money – up to $100,000 each – to people who collect unusual plants.

The first cycads existed during the time of the dinosaurs, during the Jurassic period. The kinds of cycads that are alive today have been around for 12 million years.

They look like a cross between a fern and a palm tree, and they can take hundreds of years to grow to their full size.

Southeast Europe storm 26 January 2012
Environment News Science

Europe In The Grip Of A Cold Snap

Some countries in Europe are experiencing a bitterly cold winter.

Ukraine, in eastern Europe, has been especially hard hit. More than 100 people have died there in the last week, as temperatures dropped as low as -30C. Many of the people who froze to death were homeless people living in the city’s capital, Kiev.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, there have been avalanches and strong winds. The country declared a state of emergency.

One woman in Croatia had to have neighbours help her give birth to her baby after the ambulance could not reach her because of a blizzard. She later named her baby Snjezana, which is Snow White in Croatian.