Posts tagged: Science news

The “opposite birds”

This big chunk of amber (fossilized tree sap) was found in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, or Burma. It contains traces of a bird that died after becoming stuck in the sap almost 100 million years ago. This is one of the best fossils ever found of the “opposite birds”–a group of birds that lived at the same time as the ancestors of our modern birds, but later became extinct. Who knows what other amazing fossils are waiting to be found?

Read more about it here.

New fossil finds of an ancient relative

Suppose there were two different species of humans alive at the same time? It happened more than once in the past.

In a southern African cave called Rising Star, scientists have discovered many fossils of a species of human relative called Homo naledi. The skulls and skeletons of this extinct human relative are a strange mix of primitive features and more advanced ones. Many questions remain, and much research waits to be done, but the Rising Star fossils promise to tell us more about how our family tree evolved. One fascinating thing about Homo naledi is that the newly discovered fossils appear to be only about 300,000 years old. That’s a very short time in the history of our species! Homo naledi probably roamed the African plains at the same time, and in the same areas, as our own ancestors several hundred thousand years ago.

Great Review for Animal Behavior Revealed

I loved writing the four books in my Animal Behavior Revealed Series. Scientists have made many new and important discoveries about how and why animals do the things they do, and it was a thrill to be able to share their discoveries with my readers. That’s why this outstanding review in School Library Journal made me very happy:

STEFOFF, Rebecca. How Animals Communicate. ISBN 978-1-60870-510-8; ISBN 978-1-60870-612-9. LC 2010036706.

––––. How Animals Feel. ISBN 978-1-60870-511-5; ISBN 978-1-60870-613-6. LC 2010053239.

––––. How Animals Play. ISBN 978-1-60870-512-2; ISBN 978-1-60870-614-3. LC 2010053241.

––––. How Animals Think. ISBN 978-1-60870-513-9; ISBN 978-1-60870-615-0. LC 2010040550.

ea vol: 80p. (Animal Behavior Revealed Series). bibliog. diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. reprods. websites. Cavendish Square. 2013. lib. ed. $34.21; ebk. $34.21.

Gr 5-8–Lively, informative scientific writing explores animal behavior in this excellent series. Engaging sentences smoothly define terms within the texts and develop concepts with logic and clarity. By describing a behavior, then examining human efforts to analyze and understand it, the author brings readers right into the world of science and inquiry, making this set a great vehicle for Common Core concepts. Numerous examples reveal commonalities and differences between species, as well as multiple research approaches used by scientists. The quality of the photographs is average, but many images effectively depict described behaviors (e.g., a baboon opening a car door and the courtship dance of two blue-footed boobies). The indexes are limited; animals such as kangaroos and elephants are not included, but specific creatures such as Koko the Gorilla and broader categories like birds and primates are. Despite this minor flaw, the set is a strong example of high-quality nonfiction. . . . For older readers, Cavendish Square’s “Animal Behavior Revealed” meets high nonfiction standards with lucid prose and well-organized presentation of information.

The books were issued in the fall of 2013 by Cavendish Square Publishing.


Good Science, Bad Science

How do we know whether an idea, belief, or statement is scientific? In Good Science, Bad Science, a series I’m writing now, I explore the basics of the scientific method–a powerful tool for exploring and understanding the world, from atoms to galaxies.

The history of science is one of new ideas constantly replacing old ones, as investigators learn ever more about the workings of the world around them. People used to believe that Earth was the center of the universe, with the Sun and all the stars revolving around it. Now we know that Earth is just one of many planets and asteroids that revolve around the Sun, and that the Sun is just one of trillions upon trillions of stars. A key part of good science is being flexible. A scientific thinker is able to change his or her ideas when new evidence comes along.

The four books of Good Science, Bad Science will examine:

*  old ideas about the shape of the earth, and how science changed them

*  Earth’s place in the universe, and how scientists discovered it

*  the relationship between the mysteries of alchemy and modern chemistry, and

*  the differences between astrology and astronomy.

The series is still in the early stages. Writing the books is a fascinating  journey. I can’t wait to see the finished product.

The First Americans

When did humans first come to the Americas? Scientists have debated this question for years. I wrote about the debate in my 2010 book Modern Humans, part of a four-volume series on human evolution.

Experts used to think that the Americas were peopled starting about 13,000 years ago. That date has been pushed back in recent decades. The latest evidence, summarized in the Americas as early as 18,000 years ago–and they may have come even earlier than that.

The question of when people came to the Americas, and from where, has been a hot topic in scientific circles for a long time. With archaeologists digging for more traces of early humans, and genetic sresearchers casting new light on the ways world populations have merged and split over time, the debate is sure to continue.

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