Elementary Science

Current Events in Science -- Nov. 19, 2016

Sat Nov 19, 2016 8:13 PM

[b][color=black][size=4]If this gets cut off before the end (as sometimes happens in these forums), you can find the whole thing here.
Life Science
New antibiotics discovered by sifting through the human microbiome
Most antibiotics in use today are based on natural molecules produced by bacteria -- and given the rise of antibiotic resistance, there's an urgent need to find more of them.  Unfortunately, using bacteria to produce new antibiotics is difficult.  But now, researchers have a new method -- using computational methods to identify which genes in a microbe's DNA ought to produce antibiotic compounds and then synthesizing those compounds themselves.  They were able to discover two promising new antibiotics without having to culture a single bacterium.
Environmental Science
Large forest die-offs can have effects that affect distant ecosystems
When trees die in one place, it can be good or bad for plants elsewhere, because changes in one place can shift the climate in another place.  Forest loss is known to have a nearby cooling effect, because, without trees, the earth's surface is more reflective and absorbs less sunlight, and loss of vegetation also makes the air drier.  These local effects of deforestation are well known.  But a new study shows that major forest losses can alter global climate by shifting the path of large-scale atmospheric waves or by altering precipitation paths.  Less forest cover can also change how much sunlight is absorbed in the northern versus the southern hemispheres, which can shift tropical rain bands and other climate features.  People have thought about how forest loss matters for an ecosystem, and maybe for local temperatures, but they haven't thought about how that interacts with the global climate.  Scientists are only starting to think about these larger-scale implications.
Earth Science
Rip in crust drives undersea volcanism
Scientists analyzing a volcanic eruption at a mid-ocean ridge under the Pacific have come up with a somewhat different explanation for what initiated it.  Much undersea volcanism is triggered mainly by upwelling magma that reaches a critical pressure and forces its way up.  While that is often the case, a new study shows that the dominant force, at least in one case, was the seafloor itself -- basically that it ripped itself open, allowing the lava to spill out.  A ridge might get torn by what researchers call "plate pull" -- the force exerted when the distant edge of seafloor descends, or subducts, under a continent, slowly lugging the rest behind it.   Stress might also develop because eruptions build symmetrical chains of mountains on either side of the ridge axis, as lava spills down the sides.  This might weaken the center through the sheer force of gravity, somewhat like what happens when one slices a hot dog lengthwise, and the two sides fall apart.  The eruption took place on the East Pacific Rise, some 700 miles off Mexico.
Climate Change
Skimpy sea ice linked to reindeer starvation on land
[size=3][font=Cambria]Unseasonable shrinking of sea ice could create another peril of climate change: increasing ice-overs that starve reindeer and threaten Siberian herders’ way of life.  The worst of these events in the memory of nomadic herders on Russia’s Yamal peninsula destroyed 61,000 of their 275,000 reindeer in 2013, a blow to the he

Matt Bobrowsky
Matthew Bobrowsky
3855 Activity Points

Mon Nov 21, 2016 10:46 AM

Whitney Pomeroy
Whitney Pomeroy
615 Activity Points

Mon Nov 21, 2016 10:55 AM

Thanks for sharing, this is a great reminder (and example of material that could be used) to share relevant information with students so that their studies relate to them on a more personal or local level. Real-world applications (or at least associations) are important to me, as I recall clearly hating when what seemed like busywork was assigned. For me, as a pre-service teacher and environmental studies major, these are excellent starting points to bigger projects or units.
Since this thread is titled "Elementary Science / Current Events in Science" I am curious how you would incorporate these topics in an elementary school classroom to fit within curriculum guidelines.

Whitney Pomeroy
Whitney Pomeroy
615 Activity Points

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