How do plants respond to their environment? Sunflowers track the sun; morning glories close up at night, and Venus flytraps sense and trap prey. Can you recreate these feats of botany and biology with circuitry?
From February 1 through February 5, the fourth and fifth-grade students at Garrison Forest School will engineer their own plants that react to external stimuli in GFS’s second annual STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art/design and math) week.
The Northern Map Turtle’s shell is criss-crossed with fine yellow patterns that resemble contour lines (hence the name). They are “avid baskers.” The female map turtle is five times larger than the male, and while she uses her powerful jaws to crush and eat mollusks, he mostly nibbles on aquatic insect larvae. And in Maryland, these sun-loving, human-shy turtles are endangered due to hunting, pollution, and development — but not if students at Towson University and the Eastern Shore town of Port Deposit (pop. 653) have anything to do with it.
To my mind, the only thing that sounds more intimidating than a black hole is a supermassive black hole — yes, that’s apparently a thing. If you’re not impressed, consider this: Johns Hopkins astronomers recently caught a supermassive black hole devouring an innocent red giant that happened to orbit a little to close. And I’m not just saying “devour” because I went to school for writing and not astronomy — that’s the way the scientists describe it, too. The black hole in question literally consumed much of the star, shredding it apart in the process. “It’s a very messy process,” says Johns Hopkins astronomer Suvi Gezari.
This sort of predatory behavior is quite rare, occurring about once every 10,000 years per galaxy, so the evidence gathered by the Hopkins team is truly unprecedented. Because, of course, nothing emerges from beyond the event horizon of a black hole — not even light — it’s impossible to actually see what takes place inside. But Gezari and her colleagues tracked the black hole’s outburst, or the radiation flares at the edge of event horizon, they were able to figure out what was going on. An examination of the stellar debris around the scene indicates that the star (RIP) was a red giant, a particularly swollen, helium-heavy kind of star, which is what our own sun is slated to become in five billion or so years.
If this is the sort of thing that gives you nightmares, you can at least rest assured that it happened very, very far from us: about two billion light-years away, to be exact(ish).