Media Guide – November 4, 2016

Media Guide – November 4, 2016

Grade Level

6-12

minutes

15 minutes or fewer

subject

Media Guide

Each week we provide a rundown of the latest Science Friday stories, ready for classroom use. Last week Science Friday discussed nanoparticles that can make plants into possible bomb detectors, learned about the technique that creates color images under a scanning electron microscope, and learned about some challenges our DNA poses to CRISPR-Cas9.

Also check out our newest Science Club, where we are asking you to Break It Down. Get some ideas for breaking it down here, then share your ideas with #Ibrokeitdown or submit to our form here.

We are still beta-testing this resource and would love your feedback.

No Nose, but a Heck of a Sniffer

Most people look at spinach and see the makings of a healthy salad or side dish. MIT researcher Michael Strano and his team see the leafy green vegetable as a perfect tool for monitoring the environment. In a new paper published this week in Nature Materials, Strano describes how he embedded spinach with carbon nanotubes designed to detect compounds found in bombs.

Vocabulary: nanobionics, nanoparticle, detector, infrared, stomata, evaporation

Audio Excerpt “ No Nose, but a Heck of a Sniffer” Nov. 4, 2016. (Original Segment)

Audio Transcript

Listening Questions

  • Describe how this technology takes advantage of a plant’s innate structure.
  • Michael Strano and his team at MIT have envisioned using these altered plants to detect contaminated groundwater, or to use them as anti-terrorism devices.  Brainstorm other possible uses of plants that can detect chemicals in the air and/or ground.
  • What is the goal of plant nanobionics? How does this type of technology help to protect the environment?

Activity Suggestion

Have students rethink the idea of green design, using the plant detectors from the segment as inspiration.  What other aspects of a space could be shifted to sustainable systems or plant nanobionics systems?  Round it out by having them create drawings/diagrams of their ideas.

We are still beta-testing this resource and would love your feedback.

Multicolor Molecules

Electron microscopes shoot electron beams through objects to create high-resolution images. Though these devices can magnify a specimen millions of times, traditionally, they can’t pick up on one important feature—color. Researchers have developed a new device that could change things. Nick Stockton, a science reporter at WIRED, fills in this story.

Vocabulary: electron microscope, electrons, heavy metals, rare earth metals, lanthanides

Audio Excerpt “Multicolor Molecules” Nov. 4, 2016. (Original Segment)

Audio Transcript

Listening Questions

  • Electron microscope images are normally grayscale.  Explain why color does not normally show up in these images.
  • How are the colors that are created by this new electron scanning technique useful,  even though they are chosen by the scientists?
  • These researchers no longer have funding to continue their work on this project.  Based on the possible research applications, create an argument supporting the continued funding of this project.  Be sure to include possible applications of the research.

Activity Suggestions

  • Have students investigate the difference between lanthanides and heavy metals. Based on the information that students collect on the properties of these different metals, have students discuss why lanthanides are useful for binding to specific molecules.
  • Examine the strengths and weaknesses of different microscope types (TEM, SEM, light, dissecting, etc). Look through images collected by electron microscopes, like the EM Imagery collection which can be found at the CDC Public Health Image Library (PHIL) site by scrolling down to ‘Collections’. What types of information can researchers glean from different styles of images? How might use of the technique that Nick Stockton introduced help researchers with the different images?

We are still beta-testing this resource and would love your feedback.

Just How Easy Is It to Edit DNA?

Several years ago, a new DNA-editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9 swept through biotech labs around the world. The technology, borrowed from a bacterial defense system, uses a pair of molecular scissors to snip DNA within a host cell at predetermined spots. A new gene can then be subbed into the vacant spot. It’s incredibly powerful technology, with huge potential—and sometimes scary consequences.
But too often, says synthetic biologist Karmella Haynes, CRISPR-Cas9 is described in the media as an easy fix for gene editing, when in reality it often fails dozens of times before working. In this segment, Haynes explains the challenges posed by the technique, the subject of her latest paper in ACS Synthetic Biology.

Vocabulary: DNA, CRISPR-Cas9, embryo, bacteria, gene editing, nucleus, restriction enzyme

Audio Excerpt “Just How Easy Is It to Edit DNA?” Nov. 4, 2016. (Original Segment)

Audio Transcript

Listening Questions

  • Why do organisms need a defense system for their DNA?  How do the mechanisms of DNA defense differ between humans and bacteria?
  • What is the challenge to CRISPR-Cas9 that Karmella Haynes’ team is trying to address?
  • Based on this interview, who has the ability and materials to use CRISPR-Cas9? Explain whether you agree or disagree with Rudof Jaenisch’s statement that “any idiot could do it”.
  • In this interview, Ira talks with Karmella Haynes about the idea of a CRISPR kit you can do at home.  Do you think such a kit should be developed?  Be sure to think about potential advances to be made and drawbacks of such a device.

Activity Suggestion

Have students look at the structure of DNA in bacteria and in humans.  Compare and contrast the different structures in the cell.  Based on their examination, have students explain why bacteria need these “scissor” mechanisms to protect their DNA.

We are still beta-testing this resource and would love your feedback.

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About Xochitl Garcia

Xochitl Garcia is Science Friday’s education program assistant. She is a former teacher who loves hanging out with her fat-tailed gecko, which, despite the efforts of students, family, friends, and a fantasy football league to name it, is still only referred to as “the gecko.”

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