At Edvotek, one of our main jobs involves answering science questions – Are there ways to improve this experiment? Why did only half of the groups get the expected results? How can we create a classroom-friendly version of this new technique? But, the inquiry doesn’t stop when we leave the lab and often follows us home. Here are five science questions from an Edvotek five-year old:
1. Why do the bees like the purple flowers the most? Bees are actually attracted to purple, violet, and blue over any other colors. This is due to the combination of photoreceptors in their eyes. Like humans, bees have three different photoreceptors. However, while our eyes are attuned to combinations of red, blue, and green a bee’s eyes can detect green, blue, and ultraviolet light. This means that bees struggle to see red and orange, and are drawn to blue, violet, and purple flowers. (Image from https://www.beeculture.com/bees-see-matters/)
2. Why do plants need sun and water? Plants are autotrophic, meaning that they can create their own food. Plants accomplish this through photosynthesis, the conversion of light energy into usable chemical energy. Therefore, without sun the plants will run out of energy and eventually die. Water is essential for the survival of all life on Earth. Water helps to transport components throughout the plant, helps to maintain temperature, is necessary for photosynthesis, and helps to maintain the rigidity of the plant. In addition to these, plants also need air (carbon dioxide is particularly important) and soil for nutrients.
3. Are germs alive? Often, when we talk about germs we are referring to microorganisms that can make us sick – bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, and other similar microscopic organisms. To be “alive”, is not always easy to define. All living organisms should be able to organize, grow, and reproduce. Even simple bacteria have complex structures that allow them to survive and move in their environment, grow, and divide into multiple cells. Multicellular organisms can contain trillions of cells that work together to maintain homeostasis and survive. Therefore, we can easily say that bacteria, fungi, and protozoa are alive. Viruses, however, are more complex. Although they can reproduce, they are dependent on the molecular machinery and biochemical energy from a host cell for their activity. Outside of a host, viruses will quickly inactivate. Because of this, most scientists argue that viruses are NOT alive, although the debate continues.
4. What is a scab? Scabs are a protective tissue that covers a wound while it is healing. Immediately after a wound is formed, platelets in your blood will begin to form a clot, sticking together and hardening. A thread-like protein called fibrin helps to bind the platelets together, and as the clot dries it forms a scab. Under the scab a new layer of skin cells will begin to repair the wound, and white blood cells will protect the wound from infection. (Image by Lacey Gerard, Flicker.)
5. Why do we have 5 fingers on each hand? Interestingly, having five digits (fingers or toes) is actually very common in vertebrates. Evolutionary biologists predict that this trait likely developed around 340 million years ago, before the divergence of amphibians and amniotes (for example: birds, reptiles, and mammals). This explains why so many animals have five digits, including primates, lizards, and dogs, as well as bats and even whales (who have remnants of the digits in their fins). Importantly, although evolution explains why so many animals have five digits, it does not explain why we have five digits. Unfortunately, this is one area where we still don’t have a solid answer. Five digits do not seem to provide biomechanical advantages over 4 or 6 digits, so for now it’s unclear why 5 won out.
Cover image: https://www.piqsels.com/en/public-domain-photo-foulh