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Why is there nothing here?

Because we’ve moved to Edmodo!

Click the link to find the new stuff. Feel free to browse the science stories in the archive here, though.

Storybird Assignment

Click here to download the directions for your Storybird Safety assignment.

Yeti crab grows its own food

In the deep ocean off the coast of Costa Rica, scientists have found a species of crab that cultivates gardens of bacteria on its claws, then eats them.

The yeti crab — so-called because of the hair-like bristles that cover its arms — is only the second of its family to be discovered. The first — an even hairier species called Kiwa hirsuta — was found in 2005 near Easter Island.

Andrew Thurber, a marine ecologist now at Oregon State University in Corvallis, identified the second species a year later. “It was a big surprise,” he says. “There’s a tonne of them, they’re not small, and they’re six hours off a major port in Costa Rica.”

Writing in PLoS ONE this week, Thurber named the crab Kiwa puravida, after a common Costa Rican saying that means ‘pure life’.

“Those of us who work in the deep sea expect to discover a strange new species every time we dive,” says Cindy Van Dover, a marine ecologist at Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina. “Kiwa puravida doesn’t disappoint. The original yeti crab was charismatic. This one is even more so.“


Astronomers have confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet in the “habitable zone” around a star not unlike our own.

The planet, Kepler 22-b, lies about 600 light-years away and is about 2.4 times the size of Earth, and has a temperature of about 22C.

It is the closest confirmed planet yet to one like ours – an “Earth 2.0”.

However, the team does not yet know if Kepler 22-b is made mostly of rock, gas or liquid.

During the conference at which the result was announced, the Kepler team said that it had spotted some 1,094 new candidate planets.

The Kepler space telescope was designed to look at a fixed swathe of the night sky, staring intently at about 150,000 stars. The telescope is sensitive enough to see when a planet passes in front of its host star, dimming the star’s light by a minuscule amount.

Kepler identifies these slight changes in starlight as candidate planets, which are then confirmed by further observations by Kepler and other telescopes in orbit and on Earth.

Kepler 22-b was one of 54 candidates reported by the Kepler team in February, and is just the first to be formally confirmed using other telescopes.

More of these “Earth 2.0” candidates are likely to be confirmed in the near future, though a redefinition of the habitable zone’s boundaries has brought that number down to 48.

Kepler 22-b lies at a distance from its sun about 15% less than the distance from the Earth to the Sun, and its year takes about 290 days. However, its sun puts out about 25% less light, keeping the planet at its balmy temperature that would support the existence of liquid water.

The Kepler team had to wait for three passes of the planet before upping its status from “candidate” to “confirmed”.


A Dutch researcher has created a virus with the potential to kill half of the planet’s population. Now, researchers and experts in bioterrorism debate whether it is a good idea to publish the virus creation ”recipe”. However, several voices argue that such research should have not happened in the first place.

The virus is a strain of avian influenza H5N1 genetically modified to be extremely contagious. It was created by researcher Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam, Netherlands. The work was first presented at a conference dedicated to influenza, that took place in September in Malta.

Avian influenza emerged in Asia about 10 years ago. Since then there were fewer than 600 infection cases reported in humans. On the other hand, Fouchier’s genetically modified strain is extremely contagious and dangerous, killing about 50% of infected patients. The former strain did not represent a global threat, as transmission from human to human is rare. Or, at least, it was before Fouchier genetically modified it.


Good luck….

It’s 6pm on Sunday night. Comment question time is now officially over. I’ll be in around 7:45 tomorrow morning to start accepting your projects.

Good night, and good luck.

Science Fair FAQ

To start with, here’s an easier to find copy of the Science Fair instructions.

This post will also start our Science Fair FAQ. Please ask your questions through the comments link below. I will no longer be accepting questions through school email. This way, all you questions will be collected in the comments link. Remember, comment/questions will not show up right away, and read through all of the questions before asking yours. Repeats will not be answered.

While looking for a safe place to weather the cold Martian winter, the rover Opportunity spied a subtle yet intriguing feature on the edge of the giant Endeavour crater: a bright vein of light-toned rock piercing the ruddy, rocky surface of a large rise called Cape York.

Seen above running horizontally at center, in an image colored by Stuart Atkinson, the vein (dubbed “Homestake”) may prove to be hard evidence of phyllosilicates — minerals formed in the presence of a watery environment. If this is the case then this chance discovery would mean that Opportunity, after nearly eight years on Mars, has literally stumbled upon the “Holy Grail” of its entire mission!

Data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has already identified the region around Endeavour Crater as containing phyllosilicates, specifically iron- and magnesium-rich clays known as “smectites”. These minerals are sure signs of past water… most likely salty water that could have been highly conducive to the development of life.

Identifying chemical signatures from orbit is one thing, though… finding and studying actual outcroppings of phyllosilicates at ground level is something else entirely. And this is precisely what the MER team has been hoping Opportunity will do at Endeavour.


Roll out the red carpet! Earth is about to be visited by the largest close-approaching asteroid on record. Known as 2005 YU55, it comes closest to us on November 8th at 23:28 Universal Time (6:28 p.m. EST), when it passes 198,000 miles (319,000 km) from Earth’s surface — closer than the Moon’s orbit.

Discovered nearly six years ago by Robert McMillan at Steward Observatory’s Spacewatch Telescope in Arizona, 2005 YU55 has been this way before. In April 2010 it passed close enough for detailed radar probing by the giant radio dish at Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

The Arecibo observations showed this asteroidal emissary to be a quarter mile (400 m) across and remarkably round. Given its size and diminutive brightness, the object must be quite dark and thus likely carbon-rich. Its rotation period is relatively long, 18 to 20 hours.

In the grand scheme of things it’s more micro-planet than minor planet, but we’ve never knowingly had something this big come this close before. Were it to strike Earth, 2005 YU55 would deliver a kinetic-energy punch equivalent to several thousand megatons of TNT. It’s the kind of potential threat that outer-space sentries lose sleep over.

But fear not: the Arecibo observations allowed dynamicists to recompute the big rock’s orbit with enough accuracy to ensure that it won’t strike Earth within the next 100 years. (That said, it will pass just 175,000 miles from Venus in 2029, close enough to alter its orbit slightly. This adds uncertainty to predictions for its next close encounter with Earth in 2041, when the minimum distance could be anywhere from 200,000 to 30 million miles.)


Extra Science Fair Help

Here’s an excerpt of one of the written reports we looked at today. There may be some typos due to the scanning process, but the gist should be clear.

Also, gaze upon the wonder of the internet at these electronic facsimiles of the exemplar tri-fold board.



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