Nature Exhibits Fascinate Children and Adults Alike in Dallas, TX

Children of all ages are fascinated by the natural world around them. Animals large and small, unique and fascinating plants, even the skeletons of creatures long gone captivate their imaginations and expose them to different forms and stages of life on Earth. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas, works to create interactive experiences to teach children about the many living things with whom we share our planet, while introducing them to new concepts, spectacular animals and new perceptions.

The museum currently has a traveling exhibit open to visitors called ‘Animal Inside Out‘, which explores the biology, zoology and physiology of creatures of all sizes. Created by Dr. Gunther von Hagens and Dr. Angelina Whalley, the exhibit teaches visitors about the skeletal structures,muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nervous systems of various animals, including cows, horses and ostriches, as well how animals breathe, eat and reproduce. Dr. von Hagens and Dr. Whalley hope that their eye-opening exhibition will inspire a new appreciation for living things and awareness for the importance of animal conservation.

The Perot Museum recently ended the ‘Recycle Reef’ summer exhibit, and has additional exhibitions on the way, including ‘The World’s Largest Dinosaurs’, presented by Highland Capital Management with Co-Founder and President James Dondero.

“Dinosaurs rock!” Jim Dondero explained. “The science and fantasy of dinosaurs inspire children of all ages. We are proud to help bring the World’s Largest Dinosaur exhibit to Dallas.”

The ‘World’s Largest Dinosaurs’ exhibit is scheduled for next April.

 

Scientists Discover Tiny Photosynthetic Insect

A Pea Aphid

Scientists have discovered what might be one of the only creatures to use photosynthesis like a plant. Called the pea aphid, this tiny insect seems to turn sunlight into energy for daily use.

While most animals rely on energy from food to obtain adenoise triphosphate, studies have suggested that the pea aphid traps sunlight within its body to generate ATP. This complex is the cellular energy that enables the body to perform biochemical processes.

Aphids are already recognized as different from most animals in that they produce their own carotenoids- pigments that are generated by plants, microorganisms and fungi. Though the ability was originally attributed to a gene swap between the bugs and fungi, new information implies that the substance is related to the aphid’s photosynthetic abilities.

Carotenoids are one of the primary factors in an aphid’s color. Recent research has found that the aphids’ color, and carotenoid production, changes depending on environmental factors. Colder temperatures result in greener aphids with high levels of carotenoids, optimal conditions bred orange aphids with medium levels of carotenoids, and oppressive, limited environments bred white, pigment-less aphids.

A test of ATP levels in each color of aphid showed that the green ones produced more than the white, while the orange produced more when exposed to sunlight than when kept in the dark. A detailed report was published in the Scientific Reports journal just this month.

Camping Trip for the 2012 Perseid Meteor Shower

If you are looking for an impromptu activity to do with your friends, partner or children, tonight is an especially perfect night to embark on a camping trip. Though last minute, the advantage to camping this weekend is the peak of the  2012Perseid meteor shower which can be seen clearly in the night sky, as long as there are no interfering urban lights or glares. According to scientist Bill Cook, more than 100 ‘shooting stars’ can be seen in a single hour during this event.

The moon, Venus and Jupiter will also align in a spectacular display in the night sky, providing a romantic atmosphere or the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about the solar system, Earth and our moon.

Science@NASA released a short video that explains the phenomenon, which ends on August 13th.

 

NASA’s Curiosity and Its Implications

One of the hottest topics in the science and tech world today is the recent landing of NASA’s rover ‘Curiosity’ on Mars. Here, the Washington Post’s Marc Kaufman explains why the project is considered “the mission of the decade.”

 

Another video reflects just how monumental the landing was, as the NASA staff erupts in celebration:

Strawberries- The New Sunscreen?

Sunscreens and other sun-related products are considered some of the most important in skin care. A recent study has discovered a natural, less oily substance that possesses similar qualities: the strawberry.

The research team, comprised of both Italian and Spanish scientists, tested the effect of strawberry extract on human cell structures in concentrations of 0.05, 0.25 and 0.5 milligrams per milliliter. The study’s results proved that the anthocyanins, which are responsible for the red coloring in strawberries and other plants, protect the skin from UVA rays and reduce long-term skin damage from the sun.

“We have verified the protecting effect of strawberry extract against damage to skin cells caused by UVA rays,” said Maurizio Battino of the Universita Politecnia delle Marche.

“These aspects are of great importance as they provide protection for cell lines subject to conditions that can provoke cancer and other skin-related inflammatory and degenerative illnesses.”

Though the findings are undoubtedly significant, their everyday practicality is still under debate.

Sara Tulipani of the University of Barcelona explained:

“These compounds have important anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-tumor properties. At the moment the results act as the basis for future studies evaluating the ‘bioavailability’ and ‘bioactivity’ of anthocyanins in the dermis and epidermis layers of the human skin, whether by adding them to formulations  for external use of by ingesting the fruit itself.”

 

Green Technology and Solar Panel Solutions

Green, environmentally friendly technology is all the rage as global warming concerns heighten and people begin taking responsibility for the health of our home planet.

One of the most popular topics in the sector today is alternative energy; the possibilities, potentials, hardships and numerous advantages. Some progress has even been made, with experts exploring the options of wind power, water power, and of course, solar energy. One of the popular approaches to harnessing the sun’s energy is through the use of solar panels.

In an article discussing new science discoveries, WebEcoist.com presents the two main downsides of solar panels, as well as some new, innovative solutions:

  • Solar panels are typically inflexible and brittle, limiting the versatility of their application. But what if you could just spray solar cells onto any surface and collect energy from the sun? The technology is currently being produced at the University of Texas, where researchers are using nanoparticle “inks” full of tiny photovoltaics made from copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). These particles are 10,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair. Currently, the photovoltaic ink only converts 1% of the sunlight that reaches it into electricity, but the researchers expect to increase the production and have the technology on the market within three to five years.
  • For homeowners that can afford them, the biggest reason not to install rooftop solar panels is often aesthetics: they’re just plain ugly.  But, unobtrusive solar panels that blend in nearly effortlessly with the architecture of a home are now within reach. Dow Solar recently announced a new generation of building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roof shingles, and SRS Energy has created powerful solar panels that look just like standard clay roof tiles.