It’s sparkly and shiny – and valuable. Gold played a vital role in America’s growth as a nation. In fact, it changed the course of our history. Have you ever heard of the gold rush? There were actually two of them. The first one started in California in 1848. A large gold nugget was found in Sacramento Valley, and gold flakes were found in the American River. News and rumors about the discovery traveled all over the world. There were stories of miners and farmers stumbling across large chunks of gold worth thousands of dollars. People rushed to California to test their luck and try to find their fortune. Some people did find large amounts of gold, but most miners worked long hours and only found a few flakes. However, it is estimated that $2 billion worth of precious metal was extracted from the earth during that time. Maybe even more importantly, 100,000 people came to California and built towns all over the state. This drastic increase in population led to California becoming a state in 1850. The other gold rush – the one in Colorado – started in 1858. Gold was first discovered in the area in 1849, but everyone was focused on the California gold rush at the time. The largest gold deposit in Colorado was found at Pikes Peak, and so it was called the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. Just as in California, thousands of people rushed to try and make their fortunes. They moved to Colorado and founded towns around the miners. Some of the towns still exist like Denver, which is now the capital. So many people moving to Colorado made the area eligible to become a territory of the United States and then a state. While a lot of positive things came from the gold rushes in California and Colorado, there were also some negative impacts. The widespread mining destroyed a lot of the environment. Forests were cut down, and rivers were heavily polluted, which was terrible for animals and people that lived in the area. Another problem is that many native people were forced to leave their lands so the gold could be removed and sold. History.com Coloradoencyclopedia.org Goldrushnuggets.com
George Washington Carver When you’re eating a bagel smothered with peanut butter, what are you thinking? You’re probably not thinking about a man who died in 1943, but maybe you should be. For many, the name George Washington Carver makes them think of peanuts. The truth is, Carver was up to much more than the great peanut accomplishments he is known for. But thank goodness the plain old peanut has become a simple, small symbol that reminds us of a great American dreamer, teacher and agricultural chemist. Because George Washington Carver was born a slave, it’s difficult to know exactly when his birthday was. All he knew was that he was born some time around 1861. Can you imagine not knowing when to celebrate your birthday? Carver didn’t let this unknown fact about his life define who he became. In 1865, the United States declared slavery to be an extinct practice, and Carver was no longer owned by a slave master. He was about 4, maybe 5 years old at the time, so he remained on his former master’s land until he left to start school around the same age that most of us are already attending middle school. He grew up to be a great entrepreneur and professor at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, which we now know as Tuskegee University in Alabama. During his life, he made amazing scientific advances that led to a better agricultural economy for the Southern states. A few of the plants he experimented with were peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans. He talked Southern farmers into planting these foods instead of cotton after the cotton plant depleted certain nutrients from the ground. This gave the land a chance to recover. And it’s true that he found 300 uses for the peanut, but that’s not the whole picture. He also discovered 118 uses for sweet potatoes. If you’ve ever licked a stamp to send a letter, placed a sandwich in a plastic bag or patted on makeup for a dance recital, then you’ve probably used stamp adhesive, plastic or cosmetics that George Washington Carver’s scientific discoveries made possible.
Genetics What makes a rose red rather than pink? A dog’s tail short rather than long? A person’s eyes brown rather than blue? All these factors (and many more) are decided by genetics. Every organism is made of cells, and it is inside these cells that the genetic material lives. In the 1850s and ‘60s, Gregor Mendel used pea plants to track traits like plant height, pod shape and color, seed shape and color and flower position and color. He tracked changes from generation to generation. By doing this, Mendel noticed that certain traits were dominant and others were recessive. Mendel is now considered the founder of the science of genetics. The study of genetics has come a long way since then. Scientists have figured out how to genetically modify plants, not just track traits. In 1983, a farmer inserted an antibiotic-resistant gene into a tobacco plant. This was the beginning of genetically engineered plants. Now, it is common to do this, so crops become resistant to certain pests and diseases. Some plants can be modified in other ways, too. In China, researchers have figured out a way to genetically modify rice. By inserting nutrients into the developing seed, they’ve produced rice that could potentially decrease the risk of certain cancers as well as heart disease and other illnesses. Scientists are applying this knowledge to human genetics, too. With a flake of skin, a drop of blood, a piece of hair or a sample of saliva, they can explain why someone has physical traits, see if they are vulnerable to certain illnesses and see where their ancestors originated! Someday, we may be able to use genetics to help keep people healthier so they can live longer lives. While genetic engineering is a relatively new science, farmers have been using genetics for tens of thousands of years. Breeding plants and animals to bring out desired traits is nothing new. That’s how people domesticated animals. There is evidence dating back to 9000 BCE that suggests this is when people domesticated sheep, cows, pigs and goats. It’s how people developed crops thousands of years ago, too. Around 10,500 BCE, villages in Southwest Asia appear to be the first to have planned and harvested plants that were previously found only in the wild.
HEROES protecting people from harsh leaders, enemies becoming best friends, friends having adventures together, losing people you love, searching for the meaning of life — these are all common themes in stories. In fact, the Epic of Gilgamesh, what is commonly known as one of the oldest surviving written stories of all time, includes all of these. Written on stone tablets, the earliest version of the story dates back to the 18th century B.C.E. and takes place in Mesopotamia, which includes modern-day Iraq and Kuwait and parts of Syria and Turkey. Gilgamesh, who is half man/half god, is the king of Uruk. He’s handsome and brave, but he’s not a nice king. He’s so mean, in fact, that the gods create a wild man named Enkidu to keep the king from hurting the citizens. Enkidu challenges King Gilgamesh to a fight. The king wins, but the two become friends and head out on an adventure. They travel to the Cedar Forest, kill the forest guardian and cut down the Sacred Cedar. Later, they kill the Bull of Heaven. The gods are furious and sentence Enkidu to death, and he gets sick and dies. Gilgamesh is crushed by the loss of his friend. To make himself feel better, he sets out to find the secret of eternal life. In the end, he finds out from a wise man that, “life, which you look for, you will never find. For when the gods created man, they let death be his share, and life withheld in their own hands.” It’s not unusual for people to make up stories with their kings as heroes. It’s a way to honor their leaders. Stories have other functions, too. They entertain us. They teach us things. They inspire us. They are often a record of historical facts. Before stories were written, one of the most effective and efficient ways to pass down lessons, history and other facts was by telling someone else. It’s still a great way to pass along information and to make someone think, smile or laugh
Fossils are an important source of information. Whether it is a body fossil, like a shell or bone, or a trace fossil, like a dinosaur footprint or coprolites (petrified animal droppings), each one has a story to tell. ey can tell us a lot about plants and animals that lived a long time ago and the environments in which they lived. Many fossils look a lot like plants and animals with which we are familiar, but some are like no living thing we’ve seen before. There are several ways a fossil is made. Sometimes a bug gets caught in tree sap. e sap covers the bug and preserves it. at’s a fossil. Sometimes an animal may get stuck in tar. Their bones are preserved in the tar. ose are fossils, too. Read on to learn more about other kinds of fossils and how they are formed. Body Fossils Usually, when a plant or animal dies, it rots, leaving no trace that it ever existed. But when conditions are right, a fossil forms. When a plant or animal dies and sinks to the bottom of a body of a large body of water, the soft parts rot away. The skeleton settles on the floor of the body of water. Sand and mud cover it. As time passes, more and more mud and sand build up, putting pressure on the skeleton. This pressure turns the skeleton into a rock. If the rock stays buried long enough, it dissolves and the skeleton leaves a hole shaped like the animals bones. Then, water fills the cavity. Minerals in the water crystallize inside the hole and make a cast. It’s the same shape as the skeleton, but the skeleton isn’t there anymore! Later, as the earth shifts and changes through things like earthquakes, shifting coastlines, mountain building and other events, the fossil is brought to the surface. Trace Fossils Footprints, skin prints, burrows, eggs and even animal waste can sometimes be fossilized. These fossils often tell scientists about the behavior of the animals that made them. Skin prints and footprints become fossils when an animal makes an impression in a muddy area. Then the mud is buried, and the imprint turns into stone. Footprint fossils are useful because they tell scientists about how the animal walked and if it likely lived alone or in a group. It’s not always easy to match a footprint to a particular species of animal though. Coprolites, or fossilized droppings, are especially useful because scientists can learn a lot about what an animal ate. Sometimes the coprolites include things like plants and spores from species that no longer exist. It can also reveal things about the size of the animal that left it.
Just like any other living thing on the planet, humans rely on the resources around them to provide everything that is necessary to live. In some places, it is harder to get these resources than others. One of the most difficult resources to acquire for many people is clean water. For example, although it borders the Mediterranean Sea, Israel is a desert. In a year, the country might get around 537 millimeters of rain. That is only about 21 inches of rain for an entire year, which means that getting clean water for daily activities like drinking, cooking, bathing and farming is difficult and can be expensive. So, the Israeli government started desalinating water from the sea. Desalination is a process that extracts minerals from saline (salty) water. Using desalination means the people in Israel will not need rain to have fresh, clean water. This is usually done in large facilities that can produce 627,000 cubic meters of water a day. That’s 165,635,877 gallons of water – each day! These facilities produce 20 percent of the water for households in Israel. Many submarines and ships use desalination, but only 1 percent of the people in the world rely on it for fresh water. The U.N. thinks that by 2025, 14 percent of the world will rely on desalination. It cost the Israeli government $500 million to make the four desalinization plants it currently uses. Specialists think that soon Israel will use desalination for 50 percent of its water. The process used to take the salt and other minerals out of the water is called reverse osmosis or RO. Pipes with special membranes keep the salt behind and push fresh water through. These technologies being used to generate clean water are important. Submarines and ships have used similar techniques to turn seawater into drinking water for years, but they didn’t need to change large amounts of water. For many years, people thought that it would be too expensive to use these technologies to provide water for large amounts of people. Israel is proving that it doesn’t have to be expensive to turn ocean water into drinking water. This technology has the potential to help many other nations that don’t have access to a lot of rainwater but do have access to the ocean. It could also be useful to countries if they could sell water to their neighbors who may not have access to the ocean. Australia and Singapore are just two examples of countries starting to use this same technology.
Can You Imagine A World With No Plants Sure, it would look weird, but think about all the useful things plants do. They produce oxygen. They are a food source for people and animals. They provide materials that we use to make clothes, medicines, houses, paper and more. They reduce erosion and water runoff. They provide shelter for animals. They clean the air and the water. The world would be a very different place without plants. For something that has such a big impact on the world, plants sometimes seem like a mystery. Have you ever wondered how plants work? Of course, there are many different parts that make up a plant, but here are the basics. The six main parts of a plant are the roots, stem, leaves, owers, fruits and seeds. The roots absorb water and nutrients from the soil. Often there are root hairs on the root. Their job it to help absorb whatever the plant needs from the soil. Roots have another job, too. They help to keep the plant from falling over. Think about big trees during a strong windstorm. Sometimes the trees sway, but they don’t fall over. That is because their roots are holding them in place. Once the roots absorb water and nutrients, the stem carries these to the leaves. Once the nutrients are turned into glucose (by the leaves), the stem helps carry them to the rest of the plant. Depending on the type of plant, stems are woody (like a tree) or herbaceous (soft, like a dandelion). The stem also supports the plant while it grows, holding the leaves up so they can face the sun and absorb sunlight. Leaves take the water and nutrients that the plant gets from the ground and uses sunlight to make a sugar called glucose. Glucose is the food that keeps plants alive. This process of making glucose is called photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, the leaves take in carbon dioxide and release water and oxygen. Once the glucose is made, the stem helps transport it throughout the rest of the plant. Flowers on a plant, while they often look pretty, have a very important job; to make more plants so the species can survive. The process that plants use to reproduce is called pollination. Bees, butter ies and other pollinators carry pollen from one plant to another. Sometimes the wind will also carry pollen from one place to another. Plants that have been pollinated can make seeds. Once that happens, the plant will make fruit to protect the seed while it develops. Eventually, the fruit is either eaten and the seed is carried away by whatever ate it and deposited somewhere else, or it falls off the plant and potentially germinates and grows nearby.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, economics is a social science concerned chie y with description and analysis of the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. ere are people who study patterns in how much people earn, how much companies produce and distribute and how much people consume of di erent products. These people are called economists. Something interesting that economists have found is that these all change — production, distribution, consumption, etc., based on a variety of factors. An economic expansion, or boom, is when companies are producing a lot of products and consumers are spending a lot on goods and services. Most people who want jobs are able to nd work during economic growth periods. A recession is a period of reduced economic activity, and a depression is a period of low general economic activity marked especially by rising levels of unemployment. The worst depression in U. S. history was from 1929-1939. It was the longest and most severe economic downturn in the history of the Western world. e stock market crashed in 1929, causing millions of investors to lose money. Without investments, companies stopped producing as much and had to get rid of workers. This left many people with no way to earn money to pay their bills and take care of their families. At the height of the depression, between 13 and 15 million people were unemployed. The U.S. was not the only country a ected by the Great Depression. Because there was so much trade between countries, everyone noticed when America stopped producing and exporting many of its goods. Because of this, Europe was also devastated by the nancial downturn, especially Poland, Germany and Austria.
Weather As much as we hate to admit it, weather plays an important role in our lives every day. On warm sunny days, it is fun to play outside. Cold, rainy days, though, aren’t as much fun when it comes to being outside. Deciding whether you will be able to play outside is one good reason to track weather, but there are plenty of other reasons, too. If you are planning to take a trip, host a big event like a birthday party or if you have a sporting event coming up, you will likely be interested in the weather forecast for that day. And if you are someone whose work depends on the weather, you can bet that knowing the latest forecast is important. Farmers, truck drivers, pilots, commercial shermen and many other professionals are influenced by weather. Things like temperature, wind direction, wind speed and precipitation are all factors that have to consider to get their work done. We have tools like radar and satellites that help predict and track weather, but there are other tools we can use, too. The temperature tells us how cold or hot it is outside. ere are several scales and units for measuring temperature (Celsius, Fahrenheit and Kelvin). e tool used to measure temperature is called a thermometer. For weather-related things, knowing the temperature is important. What you would wear to go outside in 30 degrees Fahrenheit (a coat and hat and gloves) is very different from what you would wear to go outside in 90 degrees Fahrenheit (shorts and sandals). Wind direction and wind speed may not be something you think about as you head go to school in the morning, but if you are a pilot (or a passenger on an airplane) or a sailor, wind speed and direction are important to you! Some tools that people use to measure wind speed and direction are weather vanes, windsocks and anemometers. Precipitation is a weather component that affects us all. Rain, sleet, hail and snow are all types of precipitation. Not only does precipitation play a part in how we plan our day, it is also an important part of the water cycle. Rain gauges are used to measure precipitation. Measuring things like temperature and wind and precipitation may not sound very exciting, but it is important. Over time, these measurements help scientists understand weather patterns and how they affect our world.
Can you imagine visiting another planet? Or even living on one? If it were possible, would you choose to do it? For many, space is a symbol of endless possibilities. Every year, scientists discover new planets with environments unlike anything they could have imagined. We know these distant bodies have the potential to revolutionize science and make many people rich. The biggest question is do they also have the potential to sustain human life? There are currently two big ideas about how humans could physically interact with space: space tourism and colonization. Space tourism is already a growing industry. There are companies that let regular people experience space for fun. The biggest problem with space tourism right now is that it is incredibly expensive. But for a price, people can pay to experience space-like conditions. One of the cheapest options is called a zero-gravity flight. It uses a Boeing 727, a large airplane, to simulate the zero-gravity experience of space. Tourists can flip and float for about 20 minutes, thanks to the freefalling airplane. It is like space, but tourists don’t leave the atmosphere. One of these experiences costs around $5,000 per person. A one-week stay in space is $20 million. For now, only the very wealthy can afford these trips, but that used to be the same for cars. The more popular space trips become, the cheaper the technologies will get and the more people will be able to experience space. Colonizing space is different than space tourism. It’s relatively easy to keep a human alive in space for a short period of time; it is much harder the longer they stay off planet Earth. Most of the plans for colonization are focused on Mars because it is our closest neighbor. One of the most popular ideas about how to colonize Mars involves 3D printing. Instead of making everything on Earth and launching it all to Mars, the idea is to send a printer and use materials on Mars to make whatever the astronauts and colonists need. It is a much cheaper option and allows the colonists the opportunity to change designs based on what they learn. It will still take decades of planning and hard work, though. To learn more visit these sites www.cnn.com www.nasa.gov www.space.com science.howstuffworks.com
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