Topic: Physical Science

Using grass for electricity

Science Middle School

Burning Grass for Alternative Electricity

Life Science Earth and Space Science Environment Ecosystems Physical Science

Energy experts are thinking about ways to replace coal that’s burned in American power stations. One alternative is to burn plants because they can produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. This is called biomass power. This public radio story looks at a movement in the Midwest that uses millions of acres of grass for biomass power.

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Weathering and erosion

Science Middle School

Beach Erosion Threatens Infrastructure

Earth and Space Science Environment Geography Physical Science Ecosystems Human Impacts Oceans

What happens when human structures and nature come into conflict? Ocean Beach in San Francisco is naturally eroding, but the consequence of this shifting shoreline is that a sewage treatment plant is put in peril. Without intervention, raw sewage could be dumped into the ocean. A rock wall has temporarily stabilized the pipeline, but not without complications. Now other solutions are being considered, including construction of an artificial dune.

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Mosquitoes and raindrops

Science Middle School

Mosquitoes and Raindrops

Life Science Physical Science

Have you every wondered how mosquitoes survive a rainstorm? The mosquitoes receive a pelting as if, on a human scale we were being hit with huge boulders! This public radio story describes the different experiments the researchers tried and how they discovered the secret to mosquitoes’ survival. Turns out… it’s all physics! This is a great example of the physics concepts of momentum and impulse.

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Mimicking a beetle

Science Middle School

Biomimicry and a Desert Beetle

Life Science Earth and Space Science Engineering Physical Science Ecology

Copying the way a desert beetle gets water, scientists have designed a membrane that can extract water from the air. Since all air contains water, even in the desert, this could provide a very inexpensive way to supply drinking water. This audio story describes an application of the idea of “biomimicry,” or using ideas from nature to solve technological problems. Listen to learn how this idea can help solve the problem of scarce drinking water.

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Rare earth elements

Science Middle School

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China Owns Most Rare Earth Elements Used in Electronics

Technology Environment Physical Science Geology Energy

Rare earth minerals are very important to today's electronics. Your iPod, laptop, and television use them. They make electronics light so they don't need much power. But the Chinese have a lock on the production of rare earth elements and this could become a problem for the US.

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Energy in the future

Science Middle School

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Improving Battery Storage

Technology Engineering Physical Science Energy Electricity

How is energy produced? This public radio story explores the relationships between energy and power. It looks at how energy is stored in batteries. Scientists are still working on how to best contain energy to store for later.

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Cloud seeding

Science Middle School

Cloud Seeding for Weather Modification

Earth and Space Science Environment Weather and Climate Physical Science Agriculture Energy

There is a debate over whether cloud seeding is an efficient way to produce more snow and rain in places where droughts are the worst. Opponents claim that the chemicals that are sprayed into the air to create more water are toxic and could cause health issues in the future. Others believe this is the only way to for some gas and electric companies to obtain more energy. Listen to learn about the other concerns at hand and if this the history of this process.

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Fighting gravity

Science Middle School

Gravity's Strong Pull is Actually a Weak Force

Earth and Space Science Physical Science Forces and Newton's Laws

Even though it is the weakest of all forces, gravity is why we exist. Gravity keeps the earth, moon, and sun in orbit. It keeps us on the ground instead of floating in space. Listen to hear how gravity affects the velocity in rockets, the shapes of planets, the trajectories of baseballs, and even the strength of the human leg bones.

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