How do I make a diary? -Nimra, Kitchener, Ontario
Oh, I mean…Dear Nimra,
Making a diary is like creating your own top-secret book. So, I headed straight for a Washington State University library where there are more than a million books.
My friend Linnea Nelson was working with some of the books from the special collections when I went to visit her in the lab. She is a conservator, so part of her job is to repair and re-build old books. It preserves their history.
Some of the books had an old smell that wafted up into my little nose. The smell comes from different chemical compounds that escape into the air, including one similar to vanilla. The compounds are in the ink, paper, and other materials used to keep the pages together. And one way to keep the pages together is to bind them with thread. » More …
Will electricity ever run out? -Zoe, WA
Scientists could see and feel electricity in nature long before they discovered how to make it. Maybe you’ve seen it during a powerful electrical storm or felt a little shock from static electricity.
It happens because of tiny parts of atoms. They’re called electrons and they are everywhere. » More …
I saw a caterpillar and a butterfly in the neighbor’s yard. So my question is, what exactly happens inside the little sack they’re in while they transform into a butterfly and HOW exactly do they do it? -Eston
Springtime sets the stage for one of the greatest transformations in the natural world.
“It’s the construction of a butterfly or moth from caterpillar soup,” said my friend David James, an entomologist at Washington State University. James studies the science behind metamorphosis, or how a creature transforms. » More …
Why are ripe fruits sweet and why is it so important? -Alexa, Schenzhen, China
My friend Kate Evans said the answer really depends on whether you want the perspective of a person, a plant, or even a cat. Evans is a plant scientist at Washington State University in Wenatchee, where she investigates fruit in the Apple Capital of the World.
She explained how long ago, wild apples actually grew in forests. Without farmers around to plant them in orchards, trees had to scatter their own seeds to survive.
For some trees, the key to survival is growing sweet, ripe fruit. » More …
Can you grow stuff like thread, cloth, silk, and most importantly, clothing? -Jay, Colorado
We can use all kinds of animal, bug, and plant materials to make cloth. Even some of the tiniest living things on the planet can make cloth, too.
I heard about this from my friend Hang Liu, a Washington State University professor who studies the science of materials we use and wear every day.
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Where does dirt come from? -Brian, Pullman, WA
In just a word, the story of soil goes something like this: “CLORPT!" It’s fun to say, and it helps explain how tough rock turns into the soft soil farmers need to grow food and feed the world. » More ...
Our universe would look so different, Kyle. You might not recognize it even if you could be here to see it. Unfortunately, there probably wouldn’t be a whole lot to see.
I learned about this from Washington State University professor and physicist Matthew McCluskey, who studies the material world. He explained how gravity pulls together dust, gas, and little particles floating around space to make massive clumps of matter that form stars and planets.
For example: planet Earth. Every particle in the Earth is pulling on you at this very moment--every single one. » More ...