Scientists often compare Earth to an onion because the planet is made up of many layers of rocks of different densities. On the outside, there is a think crust of hard, cold rock, which is about 4 miles (7 kilometers) thick under the oceans and 22 miles (35 kilometers) thick under the continents. The crust—the layer we live on—surrounds a hard, rocky surface that marks the top of the mantle, called the lithosphere. Most of Earth is made of its mantle, Which goes almost halfway down to Earth’s center.
At the very center is Earth’s core, which has a center of solid iron and nickel about the size of the Moon (called the inner core) and a molten exterior (called the outer core). The temperature of Earth increases about 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2.2 degrees Celsius) for every 0.62 miles (1 kilometer) down you go, reaching temperatures as high as 11,000 degrees Fahrenheit (6,093 degrees Celsius) at its center.
There is no way specific way to place an order for a baby brother or a baby sister. The gender (boy or girl) of a baby is determined by whether the father’s fertilizing sperm has an X or a Y chromosome. An X chromosome will lead to a girl, and a Y to a boy. (Mothers always contribute an X chromosome.) Although scientific methods are available to help parents organize their chromosomes and take advantage of the fact that the “boy” sperm has less DNA than “girl” sperm, they can be expensive and unreliable. One method, called the Shettles method, recommends that if parents want a girl, they should plan to make a baby right around the time of ovulation.
At this time, the egg is as far away as possible from the incoming sperm so the long-distance runners of the sperm world, the X sperm, have a better chance of making it to the egg. For a boy, the method suggests that parents plan to make a baby about two to four days after ovulation. That way, the short-distance sprinting Y sperm can make it to the egg first. Many doctors say that although this method is based in science, it is no guarantee that a couple will have a baby boy or a baby girl.
The Joshua tree is a desert tree that grows in southwestern North America, in California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. A native of the Mojave Desert, these droughttolerant trees thrive in the open grasslands of California’s Joshua Tree National Park. The Mormon pioneers named this tree after the prophet Joshua, because its extended branches resembled the outstretched arm of Joshua as he pointed with his spear to the ancient city of Ai. The trees are twisted and spiky, with tough leaves, and look a little bit like a tree from a Dr. Seuss book. Joshua trees can grow from seed or from an underground rhizome of another Joshua tree. They grow very slowly, sometimes 3.9 to 7.8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) in their first few years.
The tallest trees reach about 49 feet (15 meters) tall. The trunk of a Joshua tree is made of thousands of small fibers and does not have yearly growth rings, Which makes it hard for scientists to tell the tree’s age. Although the fragile tree has shallow roots, if it survives the harsh desert environment, it can live hundreds— even thousands—of years.
Living species of sequoias are some of the biggest and widest trees in the world. The tallest trees are the coastal redwoods of California, while the widest ones are the giant sequoias, which have much larger trunks and branches. These trees grow in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Central California at elevations of about 6,500 feet (1,981 meters). The trees have survived for 2,000 or 3,000 years. Some of the largest sequoia trees measure 35 feet (10.6 meters) in diameter and up to 300 feet (91 meters) in height.
Their bark can be 4 feet (1.2 meters) thick! Many are found in California’s Sequoia National Park. The General Sherman, for example, is one of the tallest giant sequoias in the world, with a height of about 275 feet (85 meters).
The good thing about fission-generated nuclear energy is that very little fuel is needed to produce huge amounts of energy. (Two pounds of nuclear fuel could produce as much energy as 6.5 million pounds of coal, for instance!) The challenging part is that the process must be very carefully controlled. (In a nuclear reactor, control rods that absorb neutrons are moved in and out of the core to control the process.) If it isn’t controlled, the result could be a build up of pressure within the reactor. If this continues, radioactive gases might be released along with steam. It was a situation like this that happened at the Chernobyl plant in the Soviet Union in 1986, resulting in radioactive pollution that still exists today. An uncontrolled nuclear reaction can cause harmful radioactive materials (such as iodine isotopes that can cause thyroid cancer) to be released into the environment. This by-product of nuclear fission is a problem connected with nuclear power. Nuclear reactors are encased in thick layers of steel and concrete to keep radiation from escaping.
And because leftover nuclear fuel is highly radioactive, it must be carefully stored far away from people for decades or even centuries before it is safe again. Transporting and disposing of dangerous waste is another challenge presented by nuclear power; at present, used fuel is sealed in safety containers and buried deep underground. The nuclear process that we get our power from is called fission, where atomic nuclei that break apart produce great energy and heat. But nuclear power can also be created by a process called fusion, where atomic nuclei join together. Scientists are still working on creating a satisfactory fusion reactor. The Sun produces its great energy and heat through the nuclear fusion of its hydrogen gases.
Guglielmo Marconi, of Bologna, Italy, was the first to prove that radio signals could be sent over long distances. Radio is the radiation and detection of signals spread through space as electromagnetic waves to convey information.
It was first called wireless telegraphy because it duplicated the effect of telegraphy without using wires. On December 21, 1901, Marconi successfully sent Morse code signals from Newfoundland to England.
Living creatures need oxygen to survive, and fish are no exception. Human beings 68 use their lungs to take in oxygen, and fish breathe using their gills. A fish’s gills are full of blood vessels that absorb the tiny particles of oxygen from the water.
The fish sucks the water in through its mouth and squirts it out through its gills; during this process, the gills take the oxygen from the water into the blood vessels. A fish’s gills are not constructed to take oxygen from the air, so they cannot breathe on dry land.
A roller coaster works the same way as a bicycle coasting down a hill. When you ride your bike to the top of a hill, you pedal to get there. Then, to coast down the hill, you take your feet off the pedals and glide down the other side. If the slope is steep enough, you can go very fast. Similarly, a roller coaster is only powered at the beginning of the ride, when the coaster, or train, is pulled up the first hill. When it goes over the top of the hill, the weight of the train itself, pulled downward by gravity, is what keeps the entire unit moving.
There are no cables that pull the train around the track. This conversion of potential energy (stored energy) to kinetic energy (the energy of motion) is What drives the roller coaster, which often reaches 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) per hour. Running wheels guide the train on the track, and friction wheels control the train’s movement to either side of the track. A final set of wheels keeps the train on the track even if it is upside down. Air brakes stop the car as the ride ends.
Most adult insects, including bees and dragonflies, have two large compound eyes, made up of separate, sometimes thousands, of lenses. They all point in different directions to give the insect a very wide field of vision.
The lenses also help the insect see movement, enabling it to react quickly to seize its prey or escape danger. You can witness this yourself as you try to swat a fly in your home it’s almost impossible to catch a flying insect!