Paleontology 

Did Plant-Eating Dinosaurs Have Cheeks?

By Ali Nabavizadeh (@Vert_Anatomist) Above: Comparison of previous head muscle reconstruction (on left, showing hypothetical “cheek” muscle) and new head muscle reconstruction (on right) in the horned ceratopsian dinosaur Triceratops. Modified from Nabavizadeh (2018). An animal’s anatomy can tell us a lot about how it lived, including how it moved, how it ate, how it breathed, and just about any other physiological process involving morphology. In studying modern vertebrates, performing dissections is essential for understanding anatomical similarities and differences between various species and what these comparisons can tell us about…

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Biology Botany Chemistry 

To Grow or Not to Grow? Bacteria Make Seeds Think!

By Radhika Desikan A seed is the beginning of new life for most flowering plants. It has all the potential to develop into a new plant, with its own stored food used for germination (the sprouting of a seed). However, if you have done any gardening, you might know that not all seeds always germinate. Whether or not a seed grows into a plant is determined by a number of factors, such as the presence of oxygen, water, and the right temperature. Seeds have a remarkable ability to detect whether…

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Environment Technology 

The Impact of Developing Biofuels on Travel Emissions

By Emily Folk (@EmilySFolk) Approximately 29 percent of the energy the US consumes is for transportation, and about 92 percent of US transportation is fueled by petroleum products. As a result, transportation is the sector that produces the most greenhouse gas emissions in the US. With the threat of climate change and other environmental challenges looming, we need to find a way to reduce emissions from the transportation sector. Biofuels are one potential solution. What Are Biofuels? Biofuel is fuel made from organic matter known as biomass. This organic matter…

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Maize Biology 

Do We Really Need Fertilizers To Grow Crops?

By Radhika Desikan We all learn that plants can make their own food via a complex process called photosynthesis. However, to make their food, and to grow properly, plants need nutrients (chemicals) such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium from the soil. Although these chemicals are naturally present in most soils, years of intensive farming have depleted soils of these nutrients. As a result, humans have resorted to using artificial fertilizers, which are basically synthetic nutrients manufactured through a process that uses a lot of energy, and produces a lot…

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Geology 

The Wonderful World of Minerals

By Nadine Gabriel (@NadWGab) There are currently 5414 known minerals, from abellaite to zykaite. But what exactly are minerals? And how are they used in our everyday life? A mineral is a naturally occurring element or compound that is solid at room temperature and has an ordered atomic arrangement. Since some people get minerals mixed up with rocks, here’s a simple analogy you can use to memorise the distinction: minerals are like Lego blocks—they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colours; rocks, on the other hand, are like…

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Biology Genetics 

Did Life On Earth Start as an RNA World?

By Emily Bentley You might not speak Latin, but you probably understand the concept of omnis cellula e cellula—all cells come from other cells. For several thousand years, many scholars endorsed the idea of spontaneous generation, which held that certain plants and animals are created whole from inorganic matter like dust, mud, or rotting meat. In 1668 this notion was disproved by Italian physician and biologist Francesco Redi. His experiments showed that maggots appeared only on meat that had been exposed to egg-laying flies, providing some of the first evidence…

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Astronomy Chemistry 

Two Weeks as a Visiting Astronomer in the Quiet Zone

By Olivia Wilkins (@livwithoutlimit) Pictured in the image above is the Jansky Laboratory, where scientific research is conducted at the Green Bank Observatory, with the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in the background. The Jansky Lab is named for physicist and telephone engineer Karl Guthe Jansky, who in the 1930s first detected radio waves coming from the center of the Milky Way. Image by author. Green Bank, West Virginia is known as “America’s Quietest Town”: there is no cell-phone service, and the use of wireless Internet, digital cameras, and even microwaves…

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Environment Physics 

How Wildfires Start Their Own Weather

By Emily Folk (@EmilySFolk) In the past decade, the United States has seen no shortage of natural disasters. From hurricanes that tear across the coast, destroying homes and flooding properties, to wildfires that consume thousands of acres of land, nature is often vicious and indifferent to human life. But it is also very peculiar. Most consider wildfires transient in their destruction, a singular event that burns forests and homes before firefighters quell the flames. But under the right conditions, an intense wildfire can produce its own weather with the potential…

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Biology Genetics Health 

Depression: In Our Genes or All In Our Heads?

By Mary McMillan (@maryemcmillan) World Health Organization estimated that more than 300 million people around the world are currently affected by depression. That’s just over 4 percent of the world’s population. Despite how serious this disorder is and the huge numbers of people that suffer from it, there is still a lot of stigma associated with having depression, and people often misunderstand what causes it (Jorm, 2000). You may have heard people say that depression is all in someone’s head and that they should just get over it. However, scientists…

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