Have you wondered ‘why it rains’? Did you ever ask ‘how it rains’? Have you explored ‘when it rains’? Have you tried to find out ‘where it rains’? Do you understand what rain is? We learn by asking questions. The 5 important questions we ask involve these 5 words: the 4 “W”s and 1 “H”, which are Why, When, Where, What and How. With these 5 words, you are ready to explore the world and begin your journey of discovery. Each question would raise other questions. For example if you ask “Where it rains?”, you may find out that some places rain a lot – resulting in floods, whilst in some places it does not rain enough – resulting in deserts. Then you will want to ask why it rains more in some places and less in others. Science is about asking the right questions. When you find answers to one question, it normally results in many new questions. Science is about having a systematic way of asking these questions. After you have asked the right question, you will want to find ways to find the answers. There are many ways to find the answers you need. You can ask your parents or teachers. You may go to the library to find the suitable book. You can run your own experiments to find out the answers. These days, you can also go to the internet to discover the answers for yourself. Science is about the systematic way of finding the answers to your questions. After you have found the answers, you may want to discuss with your parents about the answers you have found. You may want to check with your teachers about the new information you have discovered. You may want to debate your findings with your friends. Science is about explaining your new knowledge to other people in a way that they agree with you. It is about re-examining your answers if others do not agree with you. Science is about finding new knowledge and adding them to the existing oceans of knowledge. It is your way of contributing to how we understand the world. A person of science is eager to have all his opinion regenerated and his ideas rationalized through immersing himself in facts and devoting his efforts to finding the truth, not as he understands it, but as he has yet to understand it. Thus science is like a house of knowledge; each fact is a brick that makes up the house. However, a pile of brick is not a house, and a collection of facts is not necessarily science. It is our job to use these bricks and build our house of knowledge. Science Fair is about your building your own house of knowledge. We have been created with 5 senses: to see, to taste, to smell, to feel and to hear. Edwin Hubble, an American Scientist, once said that “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the Universe around him and calls the adventure Science”. Science can be learned best if you use all 5 senses to explore the world around you. They are all used as inputs to the ‘motherboard’ which we call the brain. The brain tells us if what we see is delightful or not, if what we taste is yummy or bland, if what we smell is pleasant or rotten, if what we fell is nice or coarse, or if what we hear is melodic or just loud. The brain also tells us what we like to do and what we do not like. So the time has come for you to explore the world and begin your journey of knowledge. To download this article, please click here.
If you get into a car on a hot day when it is parked outside, do you feel hot? Did you notice that it is much hotter inside the car than outside of the vehicle? Why is the interior of the car hot? There are times when the inside of a car gets so hot that it can cook an egg. This is very common, especially in a hot country like Malaysia. We can say that the environment inside the car is hotter than that of outside of the car. Therefore there are two types of environment – natural environment like in a jungle and man-made environment like inside a car. This is the environment. It is what surrounds us. It is the air we breathe. It is the water we drink. It is the soil which supports us. Our environment can be divided into two very broad categories: the living and the non-living. The Earth is the only planet we know in the Universe where there is life. Life on Earth is unique. Everything interacts with each other. The river that flows carves a valley for the river to flow. The mountains form a barrier which makes the wind change direction to flow around it. The air filled with water vapour transports water hundreds of miles before releasing it as rain. Thus these objects, which we call non-living, interact with each other. These non-living objects then interact with living beings. The soil is made up of humus, which is rotting plants. The soil supports plants which in turn help keep the soil in place so that the latter is not blown away by the wind. Plants add oxygen to the air, changing the composition of the air. This oxygen is used by animals to produce energy for them to live and move. The environment is a complex interaction of everything; everything you see. Did you know that we should consume about 2 litres of water daily to live healthily? You would drink an average of 75,000 litres of water throughout your lifetime. This is more than 230,000 large glasses of water which would not even fit into your house. Did you know that in your lifetime you would consume about 1 part in 1000 of all the available air in the atmosphere? This means that the people living in your neighbourhood would probably consume all the air on the planet in their lifetime, and nothing will be left for others to breathe. However this does not happen since we always have air to breathe. This is the natural environment which is an ‘engine’ that recycles. In fact you may be recycling billions of atoms from Sir Isaac Newton’s days or even from the dinosaurs’ age thousands of years ago as your breathe! There are many ‘engines’ that does the recycling. One example is a tree. A tree changes carbon dioxide, which we produce, back into oxygen which we consume. One object’s waste is another object’s food. Nothing is wasted in the natural environment. The natural environment is a recycling plant. This is what makes our air breathable and our water drinkable. Thus the environment flows within you and I. We are the environment. It is the water that flows through us and keeps us alive as we drink it. It is the air which we breathe flowing into us and out of our body as fast as a single breath. It is the food we eat that is incorporated into our body. It is that which makes our bones. Did you know that our skeleton is replaced with a new skeleton about 14 times in our lifetime? The environment changes us, as we change it. The environment is what we see – its beauty and vibrant colour. It is the environment which we feel and touch every day. The environment is what we smell like when we are in a rose garden. The environment is what we hear like the songs of birds early in the morning. The environment is what we taste, like the sweetness of cool water on a hot day. The environment can be destroyed, regenerated and protected. We have the power to destroy it. We have the power to protect it. However we do not have the power to regenerate it. So it is our job not to destroy it but to protect it, so that nature can continue its work to regenerate and recycle – so that the future generation will also have clean air to breathe and safe water to drink. To download this article, please click Here
The Earth is sometimes known as the green planet. Do you know why? If you look at Earth from space, you will notice that the Earth is more blue than green. There are also other planets in the solar system which are blue; for example, Uranus and Neptune are also blue in colour. So why do we call our planet the green planet? The answer is simple. Earth has got plants in it and plants are green. No other planet has plants. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, distinguished plants as living beings, which do not move, from animals which are often mobile and able to catch their food. Plants do not need to move because they generally make their own food. They make their food with a process called photosynthesis using chlorophyll which is green in colour. This is why plants are green. Plants are the living entities that ‘gave life’ to this planet. Long time ago there was no oxygen on Earth. The plants of the Earth, through photosynthesis, produced oxygen on Earth. So you can say that plants actually ‘gave life’ to the Earth. You and I cannot be alive today without plants. Plants also produce food. Plants take water and nutrients from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air to produce food for us to eat. Even the chickens we eat get their food from the plants. So, ultimately, if there are no plants on Earth, there will be no food on Earth either. The study of plants by scientists is called botany (from ancient Greek word which means grass). A person who is engaged in the study of botany is called a botanist. A botanist can be involved in a wide range of scientific disciplines which includes structure of plants, growth of plants, reproduction and many more. A botanist also tries to identify edible, medicinal and poisonous plants. There are around 2,000 plant species which are cultivated for food. This makes this subject one of the oldest branches of science. This is because all humans have to eat, and people needed to know which plant they could eat and which ones they could not. Some of the important scientists in the history of botany include Theophrastus, Ibn al-Baitar, Carl Linnaeus and Gregor Mendel. Generally there are plants that grow in the wild and plants that are grown by humans. Agriculture, also called farming, is the growing of plants by humans. Most of the foods we eat are grown by humans. Some plants like cotton are also grown to make clothes. There are many parts of the plant we can eat. A lot of plants grow from seeds. Seeds are high in nutrients which are needed for the plant to start growing. It is also for this reason why the majority of foods consumed by human beings are also seed-based foods. Edible seeds include cereals (maize, wheat, rice, etc.), legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc.) and nuts (such as hazelnut, almond, etc.). The other types of food from plants are fruits which are ripened ovaries of plants, including the seeds within, like the mango fruit with the seed inside. Many plants produce fruits that are attractive as a food for animals. This is so that the animals will eat the fruits and excrete the seeds at another place. This is how plants are able to ‘move’ from one place to another. Finally, vegetables are another type of plant matter that is commonly eaten as food. They include root vegetables (potatoes and carrots), leaf vegetables (spinach and lettuce), bulbs (onion family), stem vegetables (bamboo shoots and asparagus), and inflorescence vegetables (globe artichokes and broccoli) and other vegetables such as cabbage or cauliflower. Plants are also major sources of water we consume every day. For example, apples contain 85% water, bananas – 76%, broccoli – 91%, uncooked cabbage – 92%, uncooked carrots – 88% and so on. Plants are the best way to consume water, and a lot of water in fruits and vegetables also contain important nutrients for our body such as sodium and iron. We need iron to produce red blood cells in our body. Without blood, we will not be alive. This is because red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of our body. We also use plants in our daily lives. For instance, the paper you use is from plants. Paper is made from pulp which comes from wood. We also make a lot of the clothes we wear from cotton which is also derived from the plant. The wooden chair and table we sit on also come from plants. A lot of our houses are also built with wood. Plants are also important to humans and animals because they are a good source of medicine. They can be insect repellent or an antiseptic when you fall down and bruise you knee. They can also help reduce fever, provide pain relief and many more. For example, the “Neem” has many traditional Ayurvedic uses in India, such as for the treatment of acne, fever, malaria, tuberculosis and others. This tree is so important in India that all people of India have their own language name for it. For instance, Neem in Bengali is called Nimgachh, in Gujarati – Leemdo, in Tamil – Vembu, in Punjabi – Nimb, in Oriya – Nimo, in Telegu – Vepa, in Kannada – Bevinmar, Kahibevu and so on. In fact in Malayalam it has many names such as Veppu, Aryaveppu, Aruveppu, Kaippan, Veppu and Vepa. Traditional societies place lots of importance on plants. This is why they give it many names. The photosynthesis conducted by land plants is the ultimate source of energy and organic material on Earth. Plants are the primary producers in most land-based ecosystems such as the rainforest in Malaysia. They form the basis of the food web for all living creatures of Earth. Many animals need plants for shelter as well as oxygen and food. So life on Earth is possible without animals or humans, but it is not possible without plants. Plant material is also used to feed the animals we grow for meat, milk and other products for humans. These animals are called livestock. Expansion of grazing land for livestock is a key factor in deforestation, especially in South America where about 70% of previously forested land in the Amazon is used as pasture and to feed crops. Each year, 99% of the animals killed in the United States die to be eaten. In the U.S. alone, over 10 billion animals are slaughtered for human consumption every year — more than 1 million birds, pigs, cows and other animals every hour. Therefore, for the betterment of our environment and the plant species of the world, we should eat more vegetables/fruits and less meat. There is no doubt that plants are important to the survival of the Earth. They provide us with oxygen which we breathe, food which we eat, water which we drink, shelter from rain and sun, medicine when we are sick and even paper which we use to learn. It is important for us to understand and respect plants. It is important we protect plants from being destroyed for no good reason, for without it, we will not be able to continue living on Earth. To download this article, please click Here
Earth is a third planet from the sun. It is part of the Solar System. The Solar System consists of the Sun and astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it. These objects are planets (like the Earth), comets (like Haley comet) and asteroids (located mostly between Mars and Jupiter). The Earth is just floating in space and moves around the Sun. It takes the Earth 365 days (1 year) to go around the Sun. Earth is the largest of the terrestrial planets in the Solar System. A terrestrial planet is rocky and hard. There are 4 rocky planets in the Solar System which are Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Earth is the largest rocky planet. The other types of planets in the Solar System are the ‘gas giants’, which are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These planets are neither hard nor rocky, but are full of gasses, like a balloon. The body of the Earth can be divided into 3 main sections. The sections are the curst, the mantle and the core. We live on the Earth’s crust. The Earth produces its own heat like the Sun, which mostly comes from the core. The core is very hot, so hot that it melts metals. The Earth also has a layer of gas which surrounds it called the atmosphere. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface by keeping heat inside, and reduces temperature extremes between day and night. In other words, the atmosphere keeps the Earth the way we know and feel it every day. On rainy days the atmosphere is cold and humid. On sunny days, the atmosphere is dry and hot. The atmosphere keeps us alive and is made of what we call air. Air is what we call the atmosphere used in breathing for animals and photosynthesis for plants. Dry air contains roughly (by volume) 78.1% nitrogen, 21.0% oxygen, 0.9% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide and small amounts of other gases. Air also contains different amounts of water vapour. The air is also responsible for air pressure, like the air in the tyres of our car. The average air pressure at sea level is about 1 atmosphere (atm) = 101.3 kPa (kilopascals) or the total weight of the air above a unit area at the point where the pressure is measured. Air is also inside our bodies and exerts pressure from inside our bodies. Light that passes through our atmosphere causes the light to scatter. A phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering result in shorter (blue colour) wavelengths scattering more easily than longer (red colour) wavelengths. This is the reason why the sky looks blue because you are seeing scattered blue light. This is also why the sunset is red. Light scattering is also the reason why the sea is blue. Earth is also special since it contains liquid water. More than 70% of the Earth’s surface, an area of some 361 million square kilometres, is covered by ocean. That is almost 1100 times the size of Malaysia. Since there is so much water on its surface, the Earth is also known as the Blue Planet. The Ocean is also salty. The average salinity of the Earth’s oceans is about 3.5% or if you were to take 1 kilogram of water and boil it until no water is left, you will be left with 35 grams of salt. The rest of the planet surface (25%) is made of the land which we walk and play on. The Earth’s surface which is not covered by water consists of mountains, deserts, plains, plateaus and other types of surfaces. A desert is one extreme of the Earth’s surface where there is very little water. Plains are flat surfaces, and plateaus are flat surfaces on high land. These types of land are located in areas with different climates. Climate is made up of and measured by temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, precipitation (rain fall) and others. So a type of climate can be defined using the above measurements. There are many ways to divide the climates of the Earth. Some of the types of climate include rain forest, monsoon, tropical savanna, Mediterranean climate, tundra, polar ice cap, desert and others. Malaysia has the rainforest climate where tigers live. The lions in Africa live mostly in areas called tropical savanna. As we can see, different types of animals live in different types of climates. The ability of animals to live in different climates depends on their ability to adapt to their environment. Earth is a unique and special planet in the Universe. It is the only known living planet. Life began on Earth about 3.5 billion years ago. That is a not very long time ago. Life evolved in stages, starting with single cells to multiple cell organisms. Life forms can therefore be divided into the broad classes of plants and animals, which can then be further sub-divided. The discipline of biological classification is called taxonomy where the term ‘species’ refers to one of its basic units, each having a classification name. Humans like you and me belong to the “Homo Sapiens” species. “Homo” in Latin language means ‘man’ and “sapiens” means “wise”. So we are the “wise men” species. There are so many types of animals on Earth mostly because Earth has oxygen which most living beings breath. In the year 1774, a scientist named Lavoisier did experiments on oxidation and gave the first correct explanation of how combustion works. Combustion is the process when a piece of wood is burning. He found that combustion needs oxygen. Combustion produces energy. Animals use the same process to produce energy inside their body which enables them to do work like walk and run. To produce energy, we burn food in our body which needs oxygen. So oxygen has become the gas which allows us to produce energy to do things. Oxygen makes Earth special and able to support life. Oxygen is produced by plants using a process called photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a process which plants use to turn carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and food such as rice and vegetables. We eat the rice to produce carbon dioxide and energy. So living beings like us are part of the Earth’s way to maintain the planet’s climate. So it is important for you and me to play a role to keep our mother Earth a living planet. Earth is a beautiful planet. Earth is our mother. Earth is our home. Let us together love and take care of her so that she can take care of us. Her wellbeing is our wellbeing. To download this article, please click Here