Earth Science

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Delicious DNA

In 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of the DNA molecule, the double helix. Their discovery led to many developments in the fields of forensic science and biotechnology and in the understanding of heredity and genetic diseases. The two high school seniors featured in this SciFri Vfideo were able to apply DNA extraction for a more practical application: to find out what really is in the food that we eat. In this activity, students will review and discuss the definition, function and importance of DNA.

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Gassy Microbes

Some microbes produce different types of gases as a byproduct of their metabolic processes. The microbes in this Science Friday Video released an odorless and flammable gas called methane. The type of gas or gases released by a microbe depends on the species and their metabolic characteristics. In this activity, students will conduct an experiment to observe the metabolic process of yeast by using household ingredients. Students will vary conditions in the yeast’s surrounding environment and observe the amount of gas that the yeast releases

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What is Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is the study of what happens when things get very, very small – only a few atoms in size. The word “nanometer” means one billionth of a meter, perhaps five or six atoms long. At the nanoscale, materials can have very different physical or chemical properties, even though they are the same. In particular, super thin films of material, only a few nanometers thick, can cause interference within light reflecting off them, resulting in beautiful displays of colors.

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Let’s Grow Some Crystals!

A crystal is a natural solid made up of a repeated pattern of molecules connected together. Crystals can form through the slow cooling of molten material (gemstones), or when a warm gas such as oxygen cools down (snowflakes), or when a liquid that contains dissolved minerals cools very slowly (salt). In this activity, students will observe various substances and determine whether these substances are crystals based on their physical properties. They will also learn one of the processes for crystal formation and how to create their own crystals by cooling a supersaturated solution.

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Sound Science

Sound is all around us. Everything we hear in our day-to-day lives has a distinctive sound, from the jingling of keys to the tapping of footsteps in a hallway. Sound is created when objects vibrate. These vibrations cause the air around them to vibrate, sending sound waves in various directions. Some objects tend to vibrate at a specific rate. This is known as their resonant frequency. In this activity, students will explore the vibrating nature of sound and how it travels from molecule to molecule.

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Gooey Gak

Complex fluids are special kinds of mixtures that have characteristics of more than one phase of matter. In this video, the combination of cornstarch and water resulted in a substance that exhibited the properties of a solid and a liquid depending on the amount of pressure or force applied to it. These types of fluids that don’t behave like what we think of as “normal” fluids are called non-Newtonian fluids. Many non-Newtonian fluids are made of polymers, long chains of repeating molecules that give the fluid unusual physical properties such as flexibility and strength.

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Let’s Make Some Static!

Although scientists do not fully understand the mechanism behind lightning, they think it is created when particles collide with other particles, causing them to generate and build up large amounts of static charges. The same basic process that creates lightning also occurs on a much smaller scale when you get a shock after shuffling across a carpet and touching a doorknob. What is giving you a shock is static electricity. In this set of activities, students will generate static electricity by rubbing or “charging” a balloon.

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Basketball Physics

Many popular sports, including basketball, are based upon the use of a ball. Yet each type of ball is easily associated with a specific sport, because each ball is distinctly different. A ball’s performance is directly influenced by its characteristics or properties. For example, the oval shape of a football allows it to travel farther in the air than a ball that is round. In this activity, students will explore the properties of various balls from different sports, and discuss why the design of each ball is suited to its associated sport.

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