All Sections

No articles found

Core Concept

There Is More to Corn than Popcorn and Corn on the Cob!

Corn or maize (Zea mays subsp. mays) is a versatile plant that is part of the grass family or Poaceae. Corn was domesticated in what is now Mexico around 6000 years ago, from a weed called teosinte. While corn and teosinte share many features, the “cob” present in corn is a unique type of spike where many grains or kernels are inserted. Some of the most notable differences between teosinte and corn are due to the human selection of mutant variants of teosinte in a handful of genes. While corn is dependent in human assistance for its survival, many Pre-Columbian civilizations relied on it for their nutrition. Nowadays, corn continues to be one of the most important grain crops in the world and a central part of the diet of many people. In some cases it is used as an additive, and in some places like Mexico, Central America, Colombia and some African countries, as the central component of their cuisine. Such diverse cuisine relies, in turn, on the use of hundreds of different maize landraces, which have different agronomic needs as well as color, size and flavor. In the American continent, landraces are kept and actively selected upon by peasants. These landraces and the agroecological systems they are grown in are a fundamental reservoir of genetic diversity that needs to be acknowledged and protected, in the midst of environmental uncertainty derived from climate change.

Authors

Alma Piñeyro-Nelson / Daniela Sosa-Peredo / Emmanuel González-Ortega / Elena R. Álvarez-Buylla
Reviewed by Maria
Read more

New Discovery

Fruit Flies Can Teach Us How We Forget

Have you ever wondered, “why do we forget?” Can you imagine a life where you can remember everything? Although this is interesting, it might not be a good idea after all. Scientists have started to learn that forgetting is very important for the normal function of our brain. If you cannot erase memories that you don’t need, you could have problems learning new things or focus your attention on the things that are important. Using fruit flies to study learning and forgetting, we discovered a protein named Scribble that is very important for the forgetting of odor memories. Yes, as surprising as it may seem, these small flies can learn and forget. This is explained better below.

Authors

Isaac Cervantes-Sandoval / Ronald L. Davis
Reviewed by New York Times Student Journeys
Read more

New Discovery

Thriving Microbial Life in Ancient Groundwater Deep Inside Earth’s Crust

Did you know that earth beneath your feet is teeming with life? Imagine yourself standing outside. If you start digging, beneath a variable amount of soil you will eventually hit hard rock that is the bedrock forming the Earths crust. Even this seemingly solid material has cracks and pores that contain groundwater, and where there is water, there can be life. Tiny, single-celled creatures called microbes survive and thrive in many environments on Earth that are inhospitable for all other life forms. This is the case also with deep bedrock, where only microbial life is possible. As sunlight and plant-produced substrates are not available in this environment, microbes have to use chemical compounds for their energy and carbon sources. In this study, we wanted to investigate the preferred food for microbes living in the deep subsurface. We discovered that hydrogen is an important energy source for deep microbes, and the microbial communities are prone to change to be able to survive in prevailing environmental conditions.

Authors

Lotta Purkamo
Reviewed by Matías
Read more

New Discovery

The Jump-Roping Brain

Different parts of the brain work together to help us solve problems, play, and pay attention in school. Every task we do is broken down into smaller tasks that different parts of your brain are responsible for completing. To successfully accomplish these tasks, the different parts of your brain need to work together to ‘share’ information. We were interested in how information was shared while rats played a memory game, specifically information relating to where things are and what was last seen. We found that two parts of the brain, the medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, had to work together for the rats to play the game correctly. When the rats played the game well, these two brain areas were synchronized, but when rats did not play the game well and got the problems wrong, these two areas were out of sync and thus could not ‘share’ their information.

Authors

Kate R. Zha / Jennifer Hyman / James M. Hyman
Reviewed by Jacob
Reviewed by Kalamity
Reviewed by Matthew
Read more

New Discovery

Can Teenagers Feel the Pain of Others? Peeking into the Teenage Brain to Find Empathy

Empathy is important for our lives and for our society. What happens in our brains when we feel empathy to someone else in pain? We presented to teenagers pictures of different people in pain (for example, accidentally hitting the knee) and used a machine that can measure their brain in action. The machine focused on an area in the brain which is responsible for empathy. It showed that teenagers felt empathy towards people in pain who are from the same background as them. But it also showed that there was less empathy to people in pain who are from different background as them. These results are similar to results from research on adults. This means that empathy functioning in the brain is also present in teenagers. This study shows that science can be used to let us peek into the brain of teenagers to find brain activity reflecting empathy in different situations.

Authors

Jonathan Levy / Ruth Feldman
Reviewed by Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum
Read more

Core Concept

Why Babies Born Early Can Be Really Sick

The human body is really complex. Different parts of the body form before and after birth. Sometimes babies are born early. When a baby is born early they can be very sick because their body has not finished forming. Doctors take special care of these babies to help them live and grow. To make these babies better, it is important to understand what is making them sick. Babies who are born early can have problems with important parts of their body like their brains, eyes, lungs, heart, and intestines. Doctors and scientists work together to learn more about what is making these babies sick and to figure out how to help them so that these babies can grow up to be kids who can run, play, and do well in school.

Authors

Jessie Newville / Maria C. Ortega / Jessie R. Maxwell
Reviewed by Chloe
Read more

Core Concept

How Do Plants Deal with Dry Days?

Plants regularly face dry conditions. Not having enough water poses a serious threat to a plant’s ability to grow and develop or even just survive! If plants die we will not have enough food to eat! How do plants manage to survive during water shortages? They must somehow be able to sense, respond and adapt to changes is water availability. They do this through a range of adaptations that allow for a plant to combat water shortages. A plant’s morphological armour is mainly focused on decreasing water loss and increasing water storage. Their physiological and biochemical responses however are very complex. These can include changes regulating their actual growth and the ability to protect themselves against toxic compounds accumulating during dry periods. Inevitably all of their responses are directly controlled by the plant’s genes. If we can unravel the genetic code involved in protecting plants against drought we might in the future make genetically modified crops that can withstand global warming and climate changes.

Authors

Christell van der Vyver / Shaun Peters
Reviewed by Hana
Read more

Core Concept

Who Is Afraid of Math? What Is Math Anxiety? And What Can You Do about It?

Mathematics is a necessary skill that people use throughout their lives, such as when they travel, use money, or keep track of time. Therefore, mathematics is an important skill to learn at school. Unfortunately, many children and adults feel stressed and anxious when having to do math. People who experience feelings of stress when faced with math related situations are experiencing ‘math anxiety’. Math anxiety affects many people and is related to poor math ability in school and later during adulthood. Researchers have studied how math anxiety first appears, what is happening in the brain when people experience math anxiety, and how to best help people who are suffering with math anxiety.

Authors

H. Moriah Sokolowski / Daniel Ansari
Reviewed by Christina Seix Academy
Read more

New Discovery

Invasion of the Chinese Pond Mussels—What Makes These Harmless-Looking Animals So Dangerous?

Imagine what you would do if someone transferred you far away from your home to a completely unknown and unfamiliar place? Guess you would do your best to stay alive. In the same way any living being, such as an animal or a plant, would react. And so far this has happened to many of them because people transported them, knowingly or unknowingly. Some of those living beings started to like their new home so much that they spread all around and while doing so, they endangered “native” inhabitants. Because of that, they are considered dangerous and are scientifically called “invasive species.” One of them is the Chinese pond mussel. Scientists still don't understand what makes this seemingly harmless animal turn into a dangerous villain? So, we created a scientific experiment to find out!

Authors

Ivana Babić / Sandra Hudina / Ana Bielen
Reviewed by Tess
Read more

New Discovery

We Are What We Eat: True for Bacteria Too

Bacteria are present everywhere – all around and within us. Are you scared of them? Don’t be, as most bacteria are beneficial for us. Only a small number of them can occasionally cause infections, making us sick. Bacteria do this by dividing quickly inside the human body, that is, by becoming two from one at a fast pace. To fuel growth and division, bacteria need to find their favourite food and be able to process it correctly. Like humans love to eat candies, one of the favourite food choices of bacteria is the simple sugar ‘glucose’. We have found that when glucose is not processed correctly, bacteria cannot divide properly. We want to understand the link between food processing and division in bacteria – especially during infection – so that we can stop them from dividing by either supplying them with a food choice they don’t like or making them process their preferred food choice incorrectly. This will kill the bacteria and prevent them from making us sick.

Authors

Riti Mann / Leigh G. Monahan / Elizabeth J. Harry / Amy L. Bottomley
Reviewed by Aine
Read more