Tue, 01/16/2018 - 10:04pm

NC Science Now Reporter's blog

Dirt On Dirt

What’s in dirt anyway?

Admit it.

After sinking the shovel or trowel into the ground to plant something, you end up looking at the dirt that is pulled up and asking yourself, “Just what is in dirt that helps plants to grow?”

We’ve all asked the question at some point. So, to keep things really simple, the answer is that there is a lot of 'stuff' in dirt — including rocks, sand, clay and organic matter. The United States Environmental Protection Agency says the average soil sample is 45% minerals, 25% water, 25% air, and 5% organic matter.

Clay Capital

Remember that phrase from the famous baseball movie Field of Dreams — “If you build it, they will come.” The character was referring to a baseball field. In other words, if you build the field, fans will come to see a game.

When talking about the pottery industry in North Carolina, a twist on the phrase would be “If Mother Nature deposits it, potters will come.”

The 'it' I’m talking about is clay.

Exercise Principles

While people may not think of living organisms as machines, in many ways, they perform a lot like machines. So it's not surprising that coaches often refer to an athlete’s body as a machine during training.
Years back, I remember friends who played sports talking about how their coaches told them to consider their bodies as machines and to “take care of the machine and it will take care of you.”

A Big Byte

Bits and bytes are terms that are used constantly when talking about computers. And there’s good reason, because the words describe data and disc space, or disc storage space, as well as the memory in a computer system. But just what do they describe? Here’s a quick lesson, but hold on — your brain might explode.

Driving the Fight or Flight Response

There’s no doubt that human behavior has evolved over time. What worked for humans as hunter-gatherers or nomads tens of thousands of years ago may not be quite as helpful trying to navigate city life today. But while behaviors may be adapted to changing times, scientists say the psychological, biological and physiological roots of those behaviors never completely go away.

It is the close connection between movement and hearing that Duke researchers are studying. That connection helps drive the behavior response system known as “fight or flight.” 

The Great Bird Count

North Carolina plays a vital role in the life of dozens of species of migratory waterfowl in North America. But to find out just how well we are playing that important role, researchers have to count the birds.

Take, for example, the eastern population of tundra swans.

The birds get their name — tundra swan — from their home. Amazingly, the birds fly across the continent, from the tundras of Alaska and Western Canada, to spend the winter in North Carolina. The birds begin arriving in late October and stay through the middle of February.

Salamanders and Climate Change

I think it’s safe to say we all got a good chuckle when researchers reported that flatulent cattle were a problem in terms of climate change.

The image of gassy cows stuck in everybody’s mind, even though the smelly number is real (the livestock industry emits about 14.5% of human-associated greenhouse gases).

But now it’s time to turn our climate change spotlight from large cows to tiny salamanders. That’s because it turns out that salamanders also play a role in the global carbon cycle — but in a good way.

Cherokee 101

Cherokee has been spoken for thousands of years. However, during most of that time, it was never written down. There simply wasn’t a need to do it.

The Cherokee syllabary, with symbols based on letters from the Latin alphabet, was developed between 1808 and 1824. Unlike the traditional languages and alphabets to which we are accustomed, those symbols represent syllables, not just letters.

This is hello written in the Cherokee syllabary: