Archaeology Biology 

Do Mummies Decompose?

By Shayna Keyles (@shaynakeyles) As long as life has existed, so has death—and decomposition. Many cultures throughout history sought to prevent that ugly part of passing with mummification. But is it possible to actually prevent decomposition, or does mummification just slow things down? To find out, we’ll explore different methods of mummification by examining mummies from around the world. But first, we’ll learn a bit more about what happens after we die. What is mummification trying to prevent, anway? How Humans Decompose There are two main chemical stages of decomposition:…

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Biology 

Facial Recognition: How Many Faces Do You Know?

By Kate Stone (@GotScienceOrg) It turns out that many of us are better at facial recognition than we realize. For the first time, science has put a number on how many faces people remember and recognize—a staggering 5,000 on average. Researchers from the University of York tested how many individual faces people could recall from among those they knew personally as well as from popular media. And while 5,000 faces is the average number that people seem to know, Dr. Rob Jenkins, one of the researchers, quickly points out, “Our…

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Biology Environment Health 

Why Plastics Are Dangerous to Our Health

By Emily Folk (@EmilySFolk) It is almost impossible to avoid plastics today. They’re used to package our food, hold the water we drink, and even print our receipts at the grocery store. Though plastics have made life more convenient than ever before, could there be a downside to their prevalence in our world? Scientists are trying to find out. One area of research focuses on how regular contact with plastic might harm the human body, especially because people unknowingly ingest plastic practically every day. To quote the Graduate, “I just…

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Biology Botany Physics 

How Do Plants Know Which Way to Grow?

By Shayna Keyles (@shaynakeyles) How do plants know which way is up and which way is down? No matter which way you put a seed in the soil, it will always send its roots down and its shoots up. (Unless you’re in space–we’ll get back to that later.) The answer lies in tropism: motion in response to external stimulus. This is pretty amazing, considering that in the traditional sense, plants can’t move. Specifically, plants are affected by geotropism, phototropism, and hydrotropism. In other words, plants move toward gravity, light, and water,…

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Biology Videos 

Is Height All In Our Genes?

Dr. Joe Hanson is tall. Most of the people in his family are tall. Does that mean his son will be tall? Turns out the inheritance of height is a lot more complicated than we thought. Scientists know that nature (genes) and nurture (environment) both play a role, but after more than a century of questions, we’re only just now starting to get some answers. In this episode of It’s Okay to Be Smart, learn how the average height of humans changed over time due to agriculture, migration, and industry.…

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Animals Biology 

How Spiders Weave the Perfect Web

By Shayna Keyles (@shaynakeyles). Are you afraid of spiders? I don’t blame you. The spider “embodies the Terrible Mother’s gruesome mysteries of death and dissolution . . . . [I]mages of her terrors are reinforced by the spider’s killing or paralyzing its victims with venom from hollow fangs, and the female’s habitual devouring of the typically smaller male after mating” (Ronnberg, 2010). Despite their reputation as killers and creeps, spiders are often more friendly than fearsome. While it’s true that there are a few species that pose a real danger…

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Deforestation Environment Science Policy 

Commodity-Driven Deforestation Threatens Forests

By Megan Nichols (@nicholsrmegan) The global economy is at the mercy of its consumers, whose needs often have a negative impact on the environment. A recently published study explores the impact of commodity-driven deforestation on forests around the world. What is the difference between deforestation and temporary forest loss? What sort of impact is this commodity-driven deforestation having on global ecosystems? Zero-deforestation agreements The commodity-driven economy is contributing to the decimation of forests across the globe. Projections by the NASA Earth Observatory estimate that if it continues at its current…

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Animals Biology Health Videos 

Will You Still Eat Raw Fish After Watching This Video?

Sushi, sashimi, and poke are delicious. Why? It’s because they’re all made of raw fish! But, have you ever noticed that warning about raw or undercooked seafood at the bottom of restaurant menus? Have you ever wondered why it’s there? It’s there because fish carry a ton of parasites. And if the fish aren’t prepared correctly, then those parasites can make it into your body. This fishy intersection with the wild world of parasites can teach us a lot about how these moochers help keep ecosystems healthy, and why we…

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Biology Health Videos 

How Habits Are Formed

Got a bad habit you just can’t seem to break? That’s because a habit is literally wired into your brain. Every single thought, action, and feeling changes your brain. When repeated enough times, a habit is formed. Some are good, some are bad, but you’re not likely to forget any of them without serious effort. Millions of people, every day, wake up and brush their teeth. Why do we do this? Because we formed a habit. But how do habits form? Well, it all comes down to neuroscience and the…

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Biology Education Opinion 

A Day in the Life of a Vascular Biologist

By Noeline Subramaniam (@spicy_scientist) A vascular biologist studies blood vessels. Blood vessels connect all of our organs and tissues in our body to each other; as such, they play a crucial role in helping to maintain homeostasis—in other words, keeping the balance within our body. They have several important functions including transporting nutrients and removing waste, sensing blood flow, playing a role in the immune system, and much more. The two major types of blood vessels are arteries and veins. Arteries travel away from the heart and veins return to the…

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