Archives of Ask A Scientist!
About "Ask A Scientist!"
On September 17th, 1998 the Ithaca Journal ran its first "Ask A Scientist!" article in which Professor Neil Ashcroft , who was then the director of CCMR, answered the question "What is Jupiter made of?" Since then, we have received over 1,000 questions from students and adults from all over the world. Select questions are answered weekly and published in the Ithaca Journal and on our web site. "Ask A Scientist!" reaches more than 21,000 Central New York residents through the Ithaca Journal and countless others around the world throught the "Ask a Scientist!" web site.
Across disciplines and across the state, from Nobel Prize winning scientist David Lee to notable science education advocate Bill Nye, researchers and scientists have been called on to respond to these questions. For more than seven years, kids - and a few adults - have been submitting their queries to find out the answer to life's everyday questions.
The anatomy and brain structure of flightless birds indicate that they all descended from ancestors that could fly. In many cases, flightless birds inhabit islands where there are no predators. Without the energetically costly need to take flight from predators, many of these birds have become more specialized for a lifestyle on the ground or in the water and completely lost their ability to fly.
Many kinds of diving birds such as loons, auks, and various ducks, are able to fly but are also well adapted to their almost entirely aquatic existence. Their legs are positioned far back on the body for more efficient paddling, but they can also use their wings for extra power and control when diving and swimming under water.
Penguins have some of the same characteristics of many diving birds, but they have evolved additional features that reflect their highly aquatic lifestyle, such as the reduction and fusion of the wing bones into paddle-like flippers. Also, rather than having hollow bones as flying birds do, penguins have solid heavy bones that function as ballast (weight) for more efficient diving. Furthermore, penguins actually use their wings for moving under water much like any other bird does to move through the air; such that many people remark that penguins appear to be "flying" through the water.
- How are spiders different from insects? How many species of spiders are there? How many different silks are there?
- Do fish see in color?
- Why do some bugs jump?
- What affect will the new "gene-altered" foods have on us?
- Why do your ears ring?
- Why is a tomato considered a fruit and not a vegetable?
- Why are evergreen trees green all year round?
- We've heard that bats can glide but not soar, and we've also heard that they can't glide or soar... only fly by flapping. Can you clear this up for us? (We're asking because, in the summertime when we look up, we're not always sure whether we're seeing are swallows or bats at dusk, and this would help.)
- What is the evolutionary reason for abstract thought, art and expression?
- Why are male robins more colorful than the female robins?