Our semi-weekly survey of the tidbits that cross The (now) Eight-Year-Old’s desk.
In the news:
Fossils of sea creature give clues to early limb evolution (Chicago Sun-Times)
Another entry for the “I’m grateful that sucker’s extinct” file. At more than 2 meters long, Aegirocassis benmoulae was one of the largest arthropods to have ever existed. Researchers are analyzing this giant fossil to learn more about how limbs developed in modern-day arthropods like lobsters, spiders, and insects.
Researchers may have solved the origin-of-life conundrum (Science)
The origin of life is a pesky problem, from a scientific perspective at least. Before life can begin, specific basic ingredients—nucleic acids, amino acids, and lipids—have to be present and interact with each other in specific ways.
The problem for scientists has been that those basic ingredients are actually fairly complex little molecules themselves. How did they first appear, and once they were around, what triggered the next set of reactions necessary to create life on Earth?
Recently, researchers announced a possible scientific solution. A team of chemists led by John Sutherland at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have described how hydrogen cyanide (HCN) — a common compound in comets that were raining down on Earth daily in that period — could have combined with hydrogen sulfide (H2S) already on the Earth’s surface, and ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun to trigger a series of chemical reactions that could have produced the building blocks of life on Earth.
Scientists are careful to caution that this is not necessarily how life actually began, but merely one plausible scenario for what might have happened.
Ancient Mars Had an Ocean, Scientists Say (New York Times)
New research suggests that far more of Mars’ surface was underwater than previously thought. The finding makes it that much more likely that life once thrived on Mars as well.
A sampling of this week’s books:
- Mr. Pants: It’s Go Time! by Scott McCormick (Illustrated by R. H. Lazzell): It’s the last day of summer and Mr. Pants knows exactly how it wants to spend it. Sadly, his sisters have other — less awesome — ideas.
- I Survived #11: The Great Chicago Fire, 1871 by Lauren Tarshis: A boy struggles to stay alive as around him, Chicago burns.
- National Geographic Readers: Rocks and Minerals by Kathleen Wiedner Zoehfeld: This book pairs lovely photographs of sparkling crystals, molten lava, and other natural bling with an easy-to-read scientific text from a respected children’s book author.
- Rescue Princesses #5 The Snow Jewel by Paula Harrison: The Rescue Princesses travel to Northernland for a spot of sledding, hot cocoa, and an inevitably adorable kitten rescue.
- What’s The Seven-Year-Old reading this week? (Caterpickles)