Worksheet of the Week

Plants Evolved to Survive Cold Weather

Have you ever wondered why some trees lose their leaves in the winter? It’s actually how these trees cope with the cold weather. But what about other plants that seem to disappear during the chilly winter months? Scientists have learned that plants have evolved in different ways to deal with frosty temperatures.

2076329758_53f19f3aa7

Photo by Jason Hollinger

Fossil evidence and records of past climate conditions tip-off that early flowering plants grew in warm tropical regions. As plants continued to grow and spread to different areas, they eventually reached higher elevations where temperatures were cooler. With the cold came challenges for survival so plants evolved in ways to combat the wintry weather.

Plants can’t move to escape the cold and they can’t make heat like humans do to keep warm. But it’s not really the cold that’s the biggest threat to plants—it’s the ice. Freezing and thawing can create air bubbles that can block their internal water flow. So plants that live in colder climates need to protect themselves from the ice.

Photo by muffinn

Photo by muffinn

Here are some ways that plants have evolved to cope with the cold:

Oak trees evolved to avoid freezing by shutting off its water flow from the roots   to its leaves. This is why oak trees lose their leaves during the winter chill. When the warmer weather returns, the flow of water is turned back on and new leaves grow.

Birch trees grow with narrow water transport system which is less prone to blockage during freezing temperatures.

Other plants have the ability to die and come back when the weather becomes warmer. They re-sprout from their roots or grow as new plants from seeds when the weather is right.

New Development in Robotic Technology

It seems that researchers in the scientific field of robotic technology have cracked another difficulty. A new type of robotic arm created by SINTEF, the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia, is now believed to be the solution to make commercial production lines more labor and cost effective.

Photo By: Steve Jurvetson

Photo By: Steve Jurvetson

These new types of robots are equipped with a gripper tool and 3D vision, which allows it to pick up objects in different positions in consistent intervals. Why does this matter so much? Over the years, researchers have tried numerous methods to mimic the action of “bin-picking”, which is the motion of picking an object up and placing it down. With the new advancement, the robots are able to pick up a castor and place is into a box effortlessly. With the implementation of this new technique, it can relief the challenges human beings may face in the production environment. Ultimately, this new development will influence the industrial production line positively.

The researchers will continue to invest in the project in hope of creating a prototype that can bring more convenience to our lives.

Europa – Our Potential Habitable Environment

What is the first criterion to defining a habitable environment for humans? Water to sustain life. Through NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, scientists were able to observe water vapor above the south polar region of Europa, providing the first solid evidence of the existence of an ocean under Europa’s icy crust.

Photo by Lunar and Planetary Institute

Photo by Lunar and Planetary Institute

Researchers are able to speculate that the water vapor is most likely generated when water plumes erupted on the surface. If these findings are proven to be true, this would make Europa the second moon in the solar system known to have water vapor plumes. Also, the evidence provides a general idea of the chemical makeup of Europa and its potential of becoming a habitable environment, without digging through the layers of ice.

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Since this moon has a strong gravitational pull, majority of the -40°F vapor would fall back onto the surface, rather than escaping into space. This new observation, if confirmed, can demonstrate the reliability and power of the Hubble Space Telescope, and its ability to explore new worlds for potentially habitable environments in our solar system.

Join a Crew for ALL-NEW Adventures!

Blasting through obstacles in space is even more exciting when you’re teamed up with some of your Blaster B.F.F.s, which is why we have just added an ALL-NEW “Crew” feature to the Math Blaster Space Station! Just look to our most famous crew of blasters, Max and G.C., to see all of the many amazing adventure that there are to be had when you’re working together as part of an intergalactic gang.

plugin-container 2013-12-12 09-23-19-21
Check out some of the crews that have already been created or start one of your own by selecting the new button, marked “Crews,” in the upper portion of your gaming window. This will immediately pull up the new  Crew board, where you can get an overview of the Blasters that make up your crew or learn more about some of the other top teams!

And the fun doesn’t stop after you’ve simply just joined a crew! Crews are able to earn a whole new range of achievements and are able to combine some of the trophies that they have earned to work their way up our Top Crews rankings.

Check into the game now to start your new adventure as you stand together with your Blaster buddies to use your math knowledge to defend the galaxy! Has your Crew taken command of our new rankings?

Worksheet of the Week

New Discovery: Young Planet Found Outside of Solar System

Have your Blaster been keeping up with the latest space happenings? It seems that a team of astronomers have discovered a giant planet, orbiting a single, sun-like star, right outside of our solar system. What’s most unique about this planet? It weighs 11 times more than Jupiter’s mass, and it is orbiting its star at 650 times the average Earth-Sun distance, which is a formation model that cannot be explained by present theories and knowledge.

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

This young planet is about 13 million years old, and it still glows from the heat that was created during its formation. Earth was created 4.5 billion years ago, which is 350 times older than this giant planet, known as HD 106906 b. Its temperature is about 2,700°F, which is much cooler than its host stars, and thus, emits most of its energy as infrared, not visible light.

Since this planet is orbiting very far from its parent star, astronomers are very puzzled and confused about its odd formation. None of the present theories sustained. This new discovery provided astronomers the opportunity to question planets’ formation, history, and composition.