Skip to main content Skip to navigation

How do I make a diary?

How do I make a diary?  -Nimra, Kitchener, Ontario

Dear Diary,

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?

Will electricity ever run out?  -Zoe, WA

Dear Zoe,

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 …

Why are ripe fruits sweet?

Why are ripe fruits sweet and why is it so important?  -Alexa, Schenzhen, China

Dear Alexa,

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 clothing?

Can you grow stuff like thread, cloth, silk, and most importantly, clothing? -Jay, Colorado

Dear Jay,

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.

» More …

Drifting out to space

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 ...

A lightning suit

Dear Dr. Universe,

I wanted to know if there is something lightning won’t come near. I just wanted to know so I could protect myself against lightning.Thanks, Philip

Dear Philip,

If you’re thinking of making a suit of rubber, forget it. It won’t work. There is nothing lightning won’t come near. It is unpredictable and very powerful, so just get that rubber suit out of your head.

» More …