What is the difference between self-pollination and cross-pollination?

Since flowers possess both male and female parts, some flowers can fertilize themselves— or fertilize another flower on the same plant—which is called self-pollination. Or the ovules of one flower may be fertilized by the pollen of a different flowering plant of the same species, a method called cross-pollination.

The wind, water, insects, and other animals help to carry pollen from one flower to another. Crosspollination usually produces a better plant: the offspring of cross-pollination possesses the genetic traits of two parents, which may give it new characteristics that will help it survive in an always-changing environment. Cross-pollination is so desirable, in fact, that many flowering plants have developed different ways to keep selfpollination from happening. In the flowers of a spiderwort plant, for example, the stamens are ready to release pollen grains before the pistils are ready to accept them, so the pollen has to travel to other spiderwort plants in search of a ripe pistil.

Does the red color in fruit juice really come from a beetle?

Yes. The red coloring that makes many juices and jams red is from a natural dye called carmine. Carmine is derived from conchineal, or conchineal extract, Which comes from the bodies of a female beetle (Dactylopius coccus) that lives on the Opuntia cactus. The insect is boiled and the scales of the insect are crushed into a red powder.

It takes about 70,000 insects to make one pound of cochineal. The ancient Aztecs used cochineal as a dye for cloth and other items, and today it is widely used as a coloring agent for food, beverages, and cosmetics.

Where did croissants, or crescent rolls, originate?

In 1683, during a time when all the nations of Europe were at war with each other, the Turkish army laid siege to the city of Vienna. The following year Poland joined Vienna against the Turks, who were ultimately forced to lift the siege in 1689.

As a celebration of victory, a Viennese baker introduced crescent-shaped rolls, or “croissants,” copying the shape of the crescent Islamic symbol on the Turkish flag.

Are soap, booger, and earwax really jellybean flavors?

Yes! And so are dirt, earthworm, vomit, and grass. It’s not really clear how the folks at the jelly belly company figured out the flavor recipe for each bean, but those that have tried them say they are authentic tasting! Jellybeans, a type of candy made from sugar, corn syrup, and food starch, have traditionally been made with fruit flavoring.

One company, called Jelly Belly, made flavors like butter popcorn, cotton candy, and watermelon in the 1980s. These jellybeans were endorsed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who kept a jar of them on his desk in the White House, and who also made them the first jelly beans in outer space, sending them on the 1983 Challenger shuttle as a surprise for the astronauts.

What causes a rainbow?

A rainbow is an arc that shows all the colors, with their different wavelengths, that make up visible light. Seven colors make up a rainbow, and they always appear in the same order: red, with the longest wavelength, is on the top, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo (a deep reddish-blue that is often difficult to see), and violet, which has the shortest wavelength. A good way to remember the order of those colors is by taking the first letter of each to spell “ROYGBIV,” pronounced “roy-jee-biv.” A rainbow occurs when sunlight passes through water droplets and is refracted or bent by their rounded shape into separate wavelengths.

Rainbows can sometimes be spotted in the spray of lawn sprinklers, in the mist of waterfalls, and—most spectacularly—in the sky during a rain shower when the Sun is still shining. A rainbow appears in the part of the sky opposite the Sun. Because the Sun must also be low in the sky, near the horizon, late afternoon is the best time to look for a rainbow if the day has been sunny with a few short rain showers or thunderstorms.

How hot is the Sun?

The Sun is extremely hot. The surface of the Sun (or its outer visible layer, called the photosphere) is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,537 degrees Celsius)— about 50 times the temperature required to boil water.

The core of the Sun, where solar energy is created, reaches 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). It is so intense that nuclear reactions take place there.

Why is the ladybug considered good luck?

Called either “ladybird” or “ladybug,” the little red beetle with the black spots is the well-known and beloved subject of a nursery rhyme and is called a “lady” after the Virgin Mary because it emerges around March 25, the time of the Feast of the Annunciation, which is also known as Lady Day.

Called the “Mary bug” in German, the ladybug brings good luck to a garden by eating unwanted pests.

Why do people get married?

Throughout the centuries—and in different parts of the world—men and women have married for a variety of reasons. It used to be common for young people to marry the person their parents chose for them, and some cultures continue to practice arranged marriages. Throughout most of the world today, however, a man and a woman usually marry because they love each other and want to be together and care for one another for the rest of their lives.

Adults often want to have children together and raise them in a family. While people don’t have to be married in order to have children, many people feel more comfortable raising a family as part of a married couple. When a man and a woman marry they make their permanent partnership public. After a marriage ceremony, they are connected by a legal contract— a marriage license—that can be dissolved by another legal decree known as a divorce (though death legally ends a marriage as well). Marriage grants a couple a new legal and social status, changing such things as the way they pay taxes and the amount they pay for health insurance.

What is literacy?

Literacy is more than just the ability to read and write. According to the Department of Education and other government sites, literacy is defined as an individual’s ability to read, write, speak in one’s native language, and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family, and in society.

This is a broader view of literacy than just an individual’s ability to read. As information and technology have increasingly shaped society, the skills we need to function successfully have gone beyond reading.

Why do I cry when I’m unhappy or hurt myself?

Scientists don’t really know why we cry when we’re unhappy or hurt (or sometimes, even joyful). But tears help express deeply felt emotions and often release stress and tension from the body. From our earliest days, when we were babies and could not yet communicate through language, crying let the people around us know that we needed something.

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Frequently, even after we become older, crying still serves as a wordless signal that something help or comfort is needed. In places all over the world, no matter what language is spoken, crying expresses emotions that are easily understood by all.