Page 6 - Science Facts

If you try to grow an apple tree from an apple seed, there is a nearly 100% guarantee that the apples will be COMPLETELY different from the one that had the seed.

Planting apple seeds does not mean you’re going to get what you want. You might still get an apple tree, but it almost certainly won’t be the kind of apple tree from which the seed came from.

This is because seedling apples are an example of what’s called “extreme heterozygotes,” meaning that rather than inheriting DNA from their parents to create a new apple with those characteristics, they are instead significantly different from their parents.

Of course, there are apple orchards that contain only one type of apple tree, so there must be a way to get the kind of tree that you want. This is true, and it’s done through a process called grafting.

Grafting is a horticultural technique whereby tissues from one plant are inserted into those of another so that the two sets of vascular tissues may join together.

Another way to think of this is the root providing the scaffolding for the plant, while the other plant’s characteristics are put on top of that to make the kind of tree you want.

Grafting allows growers to choose pretty exact characteristics for their trees. The rootstock used for the bottom of the graft can be selected to produce trees of a large variety of sizes, as well as changing the winter hardiness, insect and disease resistance, and soil preference of the resulting tree.


There was a time when a cleaning lady was one of only two people to know the sun was not near the center of the Milky Way!

Harlow Shapley was an American astronomer who lived from 1885 to 1972. His effect on science isn’t widely known outside of scientific circles, but he certainly had a great one.

He was one of the first to suggest the habitable or goldilocks zone for planets which he called the “liquid water belt.” But what he is most known for is correctly estimating the size of the Milky Way and the sun’s place within it.

This great accomplishment came when Shapley was working to determine distances to globular clusters under a fellowship at Princeton.

The discovery came when he was working late one night. He was so excited that he knew he had to share it with someone, so he found the only other person in the building: a cleaning lady.

The two stood looking at his graph as he explained that they were the only two people on Earth who understood that humanity lives, not near the center of a small star system, but in the suburbs of a vast wheel of stars.


A hybrot, or hybrid robot, is part nature, part machine, connecting neurons to a robot!

It may seem like science fiction, but scientists have found a way to create a cybernetic organism in the form of a robot that's controlled by a computer that uses electric and biological parts!

This has been going on since 1993, and so far the biological components have been mostly rat neurons.

The reason this came about was not to build a terminator or avatar. Actually, Steve Potter, the researcher who led the group that came up with the idea for hybrots, did it to better understand how neurons learn.

Previously, traditional, isolated cultured networks wouldn't work very well because the neurons didn't receive any data; they would only output data.

He decided to provide a body for the neurons early in his research, first in computer simulation and then in reality, so that neurons would have feedback.

In that way, if the cells learned, he and his group might observe the changes that came about in the network.

"People say learning is a change in behavior that comes from experience," he said. "For a cultured network to learn, it must first be able to behave."

As the robot moves, it functions as a sensory system, delivering feedback to the neurons through the electrodes. For example, the robot has sensors for light and feeds electrical signals proportional to the light back to the electrodes.

Said Potter: "We return information to the dish on the intensity of light as the robot gets closer and the light gets brighter."


Some awesome lists!

Music affects plant growth, and now we may know why! Not all music has the same effect, though...

Studies in the 60s and 70s showed that plants respond to music.

Different kinds caused different effects. Plants responded best to classical and Indian devotional music.In a controlled environment, plants exposed to these kinds of music had lush and abundant growth and good root development.

Exposure to country music or silence brought about no abnormal growth reaction, while jazz produced more abundant growth.

Plants that listened to rock did pretty poorly, showing signs that they were in the dying stage. Plants exposed solely to white noise died quickly.

Recently, researchers have found genes in rice that are expressed more strongly when listening to Beethoven's Midnight Sonata. The results of these studies suggests that plants can somehow "hear."

It was further found that the genes were more active when exposed to frequencies from 125Hz to 250Hz, while the genes were less responsive to frequencies of 50Hz.

Some are skeptical of the result, though. Several different factors could have led to the genes being more expressive. Wind is an example. The study took into account sunlight by experimenting in light and darkness, so that was ruled out.


This fungus, discovered in the jungles of Ecuador, can live on polyurethane alone and might be the solution to plastic waste!

Countless items are made of common plastic, and it used to be a known fact that all items made from plastic and discarded would still be in tact for generations to come. This is because plastic does not disintegrate or decompose on, or in, landfills.

But now it has met its match! A fungus was discovered that will happily 'eat' plastic and can live on it alone. What's even better is that it can do so in anaerobic (oxygen free) environments—like at the bottom of a landfill.

The fungi, Pestalotiopsis microspora, are the first anyone has found to survive on a steady diet of polyurethane alone. It was discovered in the jungles of Ecuador by students from Yale University, while on the University's annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory.

Student Pria Anand recorded the fungi's amazing behavior and Jonathan Russell isolated the enzymes that allow it to 'eat' polyurethane. They published their findings, concluding the microbe is "a promising source of biodiversity from which to screen for metabolic properties useful for bioremediation."

We may soon have fields of fungi digesting anything from unwanted garden hoses to garden furniture and out-dated shoes – which is a much more pleasing thought than being outlived by something you threw away!



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