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Planet Earth for Children

This section is focused on our earth! Find out planet secrets, from rainforests to sea turtles. Be a science sleuth and track our planet earth — oceans, mountains, places, nature, global warming, pollution, the natural world and much more. Amazing facts and unusual behaviour of reptiles, insects, animals, birds, rainforests… Come in and join our Earth Science for Kids club.

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Global Warming: Melting kingdom of the Polar Bear

Global Warming: Melting kingdom of the Polar Bear

Through the long and dark Arctic winter, the mother Polar Bear sat quietly in her den. She had given birth to her cubs, and was waiting for them to grow strong enough to follow her out to the ice pack. The ice pack is her refrigerator, the place where she gets her food. It’s quite literally a floating, rotating gyre or “cap” of ice that covers the Earth’s northern pole. Along its edges of cracked and broken ice swims the Polar Bear’s food: ringed seals, bearded seals, harp and hooded seals and, occasionally, carcasses of beached beluga whales, walruses, narwhals, and bowhead whales. After months of waiting in her den with her cubs, the mother Polar Bear comes out weak and starving. She can almost smell her next meal: fresh seals swimming in the water on the edge of the ice cap. When she ambles out, followed by her two cubs, she’s looking much thinner than she did a few months ago. There is not a moment to lose....

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Penguin Sweaters

Penguin Sweaters

Oil spills can have a devastating effect on marine life. After an oil spill, one of the most important jobs of rescuers is to fish out oil soaked birds and animals, clean them and rehabilitate them before releasing them into the wild again. Recently, after an oil spill in the Australian waters, environmentalists claimed that the oil slicks were threatening the existence of the little blue penguins in the south of Australia. These tiny, blue-backed penguins are barely 41 centimetres in height – half the height of the world’s biggest, and famous Emperor penguins of Antarctica. A penguin has shiny feathers that are coated in natural oils which make it waterproof and keep the bird warm in the icy waters. Crude oil from a spill destroys these natural oils and the bird fails to protect itself from the cold. And, since it preens its feathers using its beak, it is liable to swallow poisonous oil and die. During rescue operations, after a minor spill, officials at the Phillip Island...

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Mosquito Menace

Mosquito Menace

Guess what besides fat raindrops, rain clouds in Mumbai bring? Those tiny terrors, mosquitoes. Result: nights spent tossing and turning, and swatting the insects. But the next morning you wake up with those tell tale red marks on your arms, pause to think if you took a bath or not the previous night. That’s right. Human sweat turns mosquitoes on more than anything else. Research carried out by scientists in The Netherlands say that mosquitoes are actually quite finicky about whom they sting and never ever nibble at random. They find sweaty people absolutely irresistible however and the more stale the sweat the better. Yuck! Apparently the mosquitoes are attracted by a particular bacterium in human perspiration. However, scientists are yet to identify the bacteria. Once they manage to target the specific chemical, you can be sure they will find an antidote for it, that will help them create a mosquito repellent that works! But it’s not as if all mosquitoes are thirsty for human blood. Some prefer biting...

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Venice is Sinking

Venice is Sinking

Most people all over the world travel by the road. In a city in Italy however, waterways make up the primary commuting routes. The city of Venice, rich in architectural marvels, is best known for its canals. Unfortunately, this beautiful city of flat-bottomed boats (Gondolas), churches and quaint cobbled streets is sinking and sinking fast. Known as the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’, Venice is situated on 120 islands formed by canals in the lagoon between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers, at the northern extremity of the Adriatic Sea. And even the bits of firm ground have rather boggy foundations and all this is slowly getting eroded. Why is Venice sinking? The existing ground water table and the global climate changes that have raised sea levels by several inches, are proving disastrous for the city. As sea-ice melts and water levels rise, floods in Venice are getting from bad to worse. And buildings are already feeling the impact of this phenomenon, with their foundations literally being...

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The Secrets of the Ocean Floor

The Secrets of the Ocean Floor

It is one question that is not a quizmasters’ favourite: which is the tallest mountain on earth? The answer is bound to come fast and snappy – Mt Everest, at a height of 29,000 feet. But that is only on land. For, if you were to measure from the bottom of the ocean, the tallest mountain in the world will probably be Mauna Kea in Hawaii. It rises more than 15,748 feet under the sea and another 13,779 feet above it. The total comes to more than 29, 527 feet. There are such deep trenches in the deep sea that a mountain like Everest could disappear into them without a trace! (A trench is a long, narrow, steep depression in the ocean floor). But, as US marine scientist Cindy Lee Dover points out in her eloquent book, ‘Deep Ocean Journeys: Discovering New Life at the Bottom of the Sea’ (1996), the seafloor is the “largest and least known wilderness on our planet. We know more about the surface of...

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What is Vetiver Grass?

What is Vetiver Grass?

If you ask someone what vetiver is, chances are that you might get a blank look. But mention the word khus, and most people will be all-smiles. For this grass have the sweetest and coolest fragrance that beat the summer heat. That is why for centuries Indians have had vetiver or khus mats and screens in their homes. A steady sprinkle of water is enough to keep the hot summer wind out. Chrysopogon zizanioides, commonly known as vetiver found abundantly in India, is of Asian origin. It gets its name from the Tamil word ‘vetriver’, meaning root. From India it travelled to the West Indies, Fiji and Africa, where a new use was found for it – as a sponge to hold the soil in place and prevent erosion, according to a report by the Academy for Mountain Environics, an NGO based in Dehra Dun, in north India. Creating environmentally sustainable technologies at the local level, is its main concern. How does vetiver prevent erosion? The grass is planted...

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Dealing With the Potential Danger of a Meteor Hitting Earth

Dealing With the Potential Danger of a Meteor Hitting Earth

Our solar system is like a busy traffic round-about. The sun is at the centre of this round-about which drives a large number of heavenly bodies, including planets, comets and large and small rocks around it. While the earth and the other planets chart fairly fixed paths around the sun, our smaller solar siblings, like rocks, do not believe in staying in their lanes. As a result, a large rock – the size of a small city – bangs into the earth every once in a while. One such collision may have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The effect of the collision can be seen on the plains of Mexico in the shape of a mile long crater. However, humans can do more than being sitting ducks if there is a similar shoot out now. That seems to be the idea of a group of scientists, from the Department of Space Studies, Southwest Research Institute, in Boulder, Colorado, US. They are trying to make...

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Marine Militants: Bioinvasion propagated through Cargo Ships

Marine Militants: Bioinvasion propagated through Cargo Ships

What would happen if all the lions in Africa are carried away to some other place? The deer population will rise as there will not be anyone to kill them. With this population boom, the deer would need more food. After a point, there will no grass left to feed subsequent generations. This would lead to the destruction of the entire ecosystem which thrives and sustains itself on the grass. And the grasslands will turn into a desert. Similarly, if an organism were to reach a place where it finds suitable living conditions but no natural enemies, it would spoil that ecosystem as well. This is exactly what is happening. Bio-Invasion Ships carry huge loads of cargo which they transport from port to port. When these ships are not carrying cargo, they need something equal to the weight of cargo to move steadily on water. This is done by filling huge tanks called ballast tanks with water. When the ship has to take on the cargo, the ballast tanks...

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