What is a computer virus?

A virus is a malicious software program that infects computer files or hard disk drives and then makes copies of itself. Many activities that kids do online can leave computers vulnerable to viruses. E-mail attachments are a common means of distributing viruses, but viruses can also be downloaded when you share files and open instant message attachments. In order to keep your computer safe, never open an e-mail attachment you haven’t requested.

Send an e-mail to friends to confirm that they meant to send you an attachment. Also, you can configure your instant messaging program so you can’t receive files from other users. Never download any program without checking with a parent first. You can protect your computer by always running up-to-date firewall software, by running antivirus software regularly, and by periodically scanning your computer for spyware or other unwanted software and immediately removing it.

Why should I drink lots of water?

All living things need water to survive. Without water, the human body stops working properly. Water makes up more than 50 percent of your body weight and a person cannot survive for more than a few days without it. Water flushes toxins out of your organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose, and throat tissues.

Water is also in lymph, a fluid that is part of your immune system, which helps you fight off illness. You need water to digest your food, to get rid of waste, and to sweat. Too little water in your body leads to dehydration, and it can make you tired and unable to function. Your body gets water from drinking it, but lots of foods, such as fruits and vegetables, contain water too.

What are coral reefs?

Tropical coral reefs are ridgelike or moundlike structures composed of corals and other aquatic organisms. They border the shorelines of more than 100 countries. Although coral reefs comprise less than 0.5 percent of the ocean floor, it is estimated that more than 90 percent of marine species are directly or indirectly dependent on them—they are home to approximately 4,000 species of fish alone.

Reefs protect human populations along coastlines from wave and storm damage by serving as buffers between oceans and near-shore communities. The Great Barrier Reef, located in northeast Australia’s Coral Sea, measures 1,616 miles (2,000 kilometers) in length. It the largest living structure on Earth, and can be seen from the Moon.

What is the International Date Line?

Located at 0 degrees longitude, the prime meridian passes through Greenwich, England. Halfway around the world in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (180 degrees from Greenwich) is the International Date Line (IDL), where the date changes across the boundary of the time zone.

The entire world is on the same date only at the instant when it is noon in Greenwich, England, and midnight at the IDL. At all other times, there are different dates on each side of the IDL.

How does a rocket blast off?

Explosive chemical reactions are what send spacecraft into space. A rocket burns fuel to produce a jet of hot, expanding gas. What fuel is used varies, but whatever the mixture, it causes the explosive chemical reaction.

Because a rocket needs thrust to escape Earth’s gravity, the explosive chemical reaction takes place in a confined chamber and releases gases into a cone-shaped nozzle out the back end of the rocket. The cone shape accelerates the gases and they blast out of the engine at up to 9,941 miles (15,998 kilometers) per hour.

How do seeds become plants?

Once seeds are fully developed, they need a good place to grow. If they just fell to the ground beneath their parent plant, they would struggle, competing against each other for sunlight, water, and minerals. Most seeds need to travel—by wind, water, or with the help of insects and other animals—to better places to germinate, or start to grow into new plants. Some seeds, like those from conifer and maple trees, have wings attached. Others, like those of dandelions, have parachutes made of tiny hairs. Both features allow the seeds to be carried great distances by the wind, and they sometimes land in spots that are good for germination. Water carries other seeds to good growing places; the hard, watertight shell of a coconut, for instance, allows it to travel many miles at sea before finding a beach where conditions are suitable for growth.

Seeds sometimes have to wait a long time before they find good places to grow, places where the sun, moisture, and temperature are right. Most seeds are designed for the wait, protected by a hard outer pod (except those of conifers). Some seeds wait years to germinate, and some just never do. But inside each seed pod is a baby plant, or embryo, and endosperm, a supply of starchy food that will be used for early growth if germination takes place. Then a tiny root will reach down into the soil, and a tiny green shoot will reach up, toward the light.

What is a planet?

The word “planet” comes from the Greek word for “wanderer.” Ancient astronomers defined planets as objects that moved in the night sky against a background of fixed stars. Today, astronomers define a planet as an object in orbit around the Sun that is large enough (massive enough) to have its self-gravity pull itself into a round, or nearly round, shape.

In addition, a planet orbits in a clear path around the Sun—there are no other bodies in its path that it must “sweep up” (or clear) as it moves around the Sun.

What are the patterns of stars called?

Fixed groups of stars that seem to form a particular shape, such as that of a person, animal, or object, are called constellations. Astronomers have identified 88 constellations and many of them represent characters from Greek and Roman mythology.

For example, the name Hydra, the largest constellation, comes from the water snake monster killed by Hercules in ancient mythology. Some of the constellation names are in Latin; for example, Cygnus means Swan and Scorpius means Scorpion.

How does an electric car work?

On the outside, most electric cars look exactly like gas-powered cars. An electric car does not have a tailpipe or a gas tank, but the overall structure is basically the same. Instead of a huge engine, an electric car uses an electric motor to convert electric energy stored in batteries into mechanical energy.

Different combinations of generating mechanisms—solar panels, generative braking, internal combustion engines driving a generator, fuel cells— and storage mechanisms are used in electric vehicles.

How is cotton harvested?

Cotton, which comes from flowering Gossypium plants, is a key vegetable fiber used for making clothes, and oil from its seeds can be used in cooking or for making soap. The cotton plant grows in 17 states that make up the U.S. “Cotton Belt”: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Kansas. In the United States, where cotton is no longer picked by hand, machines called pickers or strippers harvest the crops.

Cotton-picking machines have spindles that pick (twist) the seed cotton from the burrs that are attached to plants’ stems. Doffers— a series of circular rubber pads—then remove the seed cotton from the spindles and knock the seed cotton into a conveying system. Conventional cotton stripping machines use rollers equipped with alternating bats and brushes to knock the fluffy white bolls, which contain seeds and hairs, from the plants into a conveyor. After harvest, most of the cotton is pressed into large blocks for storage. These cotton bundles are then transported to the cotton gin, a machine that pulls out the seeds from the cotton bolls.