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How do spiders make silk? And 5 other great STEM questions to explore in October

How do spiders make silk? And other questions to explore in October

How do spiders make silk?

Spiders can do some amazing things with their sticky, stretchy, and super-strong silk. Us cats are pretty curious about these little silk-spinning machines, too. Besides chasing spiders around, I’ve watched them use silk to build webs, catch bugs, and protect their young spiderlings.Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 9.05.13 AM

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Do bats have habits?

You are onto something. Quick, to the bat-lab! That’s where I met up with my friend Christine Portfors, a scientist at Washington State University who studies fruit bats.

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Why do leaves change colors?

Ever since I was a kitten, I’ve loved picking up big maple leaves in the fall. I’d take them home, put them under a piece of paper, and rub the side of a crayon over the top. It makes a great print of the leaf.

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Do spiders have good eyesight?

Most spiders have quite a few eyes, but they usually can’t see very well. Then again, seeing isn’t everything. That’s what I found out when I went to visit my friend Rich Zack, a scientist at Washington State University who knows a lot about insects and spiders.

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Screen-Shot-2016-07-07-at-9.05.40-AMWhy are apples red?

Just the other day I was biting into a crunchy, delicious red apple when I was reminded of your question. I started wondering why apples are red, too. I called up my friend and apple expert Kate Evans, a scientist here at Washington State University. Her research helps us develop new kinds of apples.

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Can we engineer new bones?

A couple months before you were born, your skeleton was soft and bendy. It was made out of cartilage, the same material that’s in your nose and ears now. But when certain cells in your body called osteoblasts and osteoclasts began to work together, new bone started to form.

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Why can birds fly, but we can’t?

Dr. Universe: How can birds fly when they flap their wings, but when we flap our arms nothing happens?  – Ravin, 9, London, UK

Dear Ravin,

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.05.40 AMNo matter how much you flap your arms or I flap my paws, gravity keeps us pulled to Earth. But when birds use their strong muscles to start flapping their wings, something amazing happens. » More …

Why do volcanoes “die”?

Why do volcanoes “die”? -Loretta, 11, Mexico

Dear Loretta,

Each volcano’s life is a little different. Many of them are born when big chunks of the Earth’s crust, or tectonic plates, collide or move away from each other. The moving plates force hot, liquid rock, or magma, to rise up from deep within the Earth. » More …

Plants: How do they hold dirt?

How do plants hold dirt? -Gordon, Pullman, WA

PlantsDear Gordon,

The other day, I wandered into a Washington State University greenhouse and ran into my friend Mechthild Tegeder, a professor and expert on plants.

She gently dug a small plant out of a pot so we could take a closer look. When she lifted it up, I pawed at the clumpy soil hanging from the bottom to reveal some stringy roots. » More …