Category Archives: Science/Nature

A brief history of ants

By: Isabelle Baidoo

Although ants are seemingly small and insignificant creatures; their history is quite interesting and lengthy.

The ant (Formicidae) evolved from vespoid wasp ancestors in the Cretaceous Period roughly 145.5 million years ago. Today there are more than 13,800 species of ants that have been discovered, but scientists estimate that there are 22,000 species in total.

Ants are a Superorganism meaning they are a group of living organisms that work together as one to grow and develop. All ants play an important role in the colony. There are the ants that look after the baby ants, others that collect and prepare food, then there are the ants that dig and clean the nest. Some ants are born for their job, but others will change roles as they grow.

They live in colonies all over the world in almost every continent. Ants have snuck their way into Antarctica where they can only survive around humans. They live in trees, soil, rocks, logs, and small acorns or pinecones.

Defending their colony and their nest is a common struggle for ants. All ants can bite, and some have bodies specifically made for fighting. There’s also ants with stingers similar to bees, ants that squirt acid out of their abdomen, or ants that emit a potent smell. Although this seems rather violent, there are certain ants who don’t feel the need to fight and just hide or remain very still.

These colonies are mostly made up of female ants. Worker ants are all related and their mother is the queen ant of the colony. Once a year when a new colony is ready to be made, male ants and new queens are born. Both males and queens are born with wings. The males use these wings to fly and mate with the new queens, but their lives are very short because their only job is to mate. There is at least one queen per colony and many worker ants. Ants can be smarter than humans when they work together as a colony.

Ants’ lives begin with the mother laying a round squishy egg; which will eventually hatch into an ant larva. The ant larva eats and grows, then develops all the necessary adult body parts within its body; this is the pupa stage. They then shed their old skin and become an adult ant.

Ants come in a very wide variety of colors. Not all ants are just red, black, or brown. There are species of ants all over the world that range from green, gold, yellow, and even blue. In Australia there are shiny blue ants called Blue Ants. They can be bright metallic blue or green and are often found in flowers.

Some ants are farmer ants such as the leafcutter. There is a specific group of ants called “fungus-growing ants” that are fully self-sufficient; they create gardens of fungi to eat, and feed their fungi leaves and soil to keep it fresh. Then there are “rancher ants” who herd smaller bugs like aphids from plant to plant to help them cross safely from weather and predators. In return, the aphids provide sugar water to the ants.

Ants are commonly consumed in Asian, African, and Latin countries. Some popular edible ant species are: leafcutters, weavers, honey, and black ants. This is because they’re such a plentiful species and are relatively easy to locate.

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What’s the deal with eels?

By: Caden Kipfmueller

Freshwater eels are widely regarded as one of nature’s great mysteries. The gender and reproduction habits of this species have perplexed scientists and great thinkers alike for centuries. Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle was famous for his belief that eels did not conform to gender in the same way that most species of fish do, and Sigmund Freud once was pushed to the brink of insanity when hundreds of dissections led to absolutely no new information on the topic.

Eels are one of the few species of animal that still has more questions than answers in modern biology, and it has taken most of human history to produce what still amounts to an incomplete understanding of the creature.

The lack of information that scientists have about eel reproduction is extensive. Eels have never been observed mating, either in captivity or the wild. Additionally, sexual organs have never been spotted on the eel at any stage of its life. Given the abundance of the species and its prominence around the world, this is an unprecedented phenomenon, and one that has never occurred before. Naturally, there is a great degree of speculation regarding how exactly more eels are made, but the most widely accepted theory is rather strange.

As the current scientific consensus agrees, freshwater eels begin their lives in the Sargasso Sea, a part of the Atlantic Ocean that is almost a highway of ocean currents, all going in different directions. At this time, scientists do not know why specifically the Sargasso Sea is the point of origin for eels, but the youngest eel larvae recorded have been located there. From the Sargasso Sea, eels begin to migrate to other parts of the world, swimming to freshwater locations by going against the current in rivers.

During this process, the eels undergo a variety of metamorphoses, the first of which is the transition from larvae to glass eel (a stage in the life of an eel named after the almost see-through pigmentation they take on during this phase). Once the eel has found a home in freshwater, it will settle. Life doesn’t change much for eels at this point, but they do still undergo some additional metamorphoses.

After an indeterminate time, the eel reaches what scientists regard as mating age. This age is different for every individual eel, and the range for when it could occur is dependent on a variety of factors in the eel’s environment. Upon reaching maturity, the eel heads back to the Sargasso Sea to mate, dying shortly after. As said before, scientists do not know exactly how eels mate, just that sexual organs likely develop during an additional metamorphosis to prepare for reproduction.

Ultimately, the freshwater eel is still very much a creature shrouded in mystery. It may be hundreds more years before more information is discovered about them, but given the recent rate of discovery in science, many feel like it is just a matter of time before the secrets of the eel are eventually revealed.

Artemis 2 space exploration

By: Mushtaq Yonis

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A new mission to the moon is coming up next year, the Artmetis 2 exploration. This exciting journey is going to happen in the Orion MPCV spaceship.

This mission will include a lunar flyby, which is when a spaceship orbits the moon without landing. The first flyby was the Soviet Union’s in 1959.

The Artemis 2 will have 4 crew members whose names are Jeremy Hansen, Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch. Reid Wiseman as the commander, Victor Glover as the pilot, and Christina Koch and Jeremy Hansen as the mission specialists.

If you don’t know, there are 3 Artemis missions:

  • Artemis 1 – was an uncrewed test of the Orion spaceship on November of 2022
  • Artemis 2 – crewed flight that will take place in November of 2024
  • Artemis 3 – crewed flight that will land on the moon and will take place no earlier than 2025

The Artemis missions are a series of lunar exploration missions that have been designed to send humans farther into space than they have ever been before.

The crew will fly the Orion, which is an exploratory vehicle designed for longer flights beyond the moon. It will fly 8889 km beyond the moon and then return to Earth. The mission will take a minimum of 10 days.

This mission will be the first time with astronauts who are women and POC. For a reminder the crew will not be landing on the moon but instead will be doing a flyby.

NASA will also collect information about the moon’s environment and potential challenges astronauts might encounter. This will be used for NASA’s goals in establishing a permanent human presence on the moon.

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Jupiter: A world more than its size

By: Trump Vang

Looking at the night sky many objects shine brightly. The moon is easily the brightest out of these objects, followed by Venus and then Jupiter. Despite it being much farther away than most other visible objects, Jupiter still shines brightly due to its size.

Jupiter is known as a gas giant. This term refers to worlds that are mainly composed of gasses and other substances. These types of planets won’t have a solid surface, rather showing a mix of clouds and atmospheric storms.

A day on the planet lasts around 9 hours, being the fastest out of any object in our solar system. Although its year is much longer at a whopping 12 Earth years. In relation to Earth’s calendar system, it’s like having roughly 10,450 days within a year.

It stands as the biggest, largest and most massive planet within our solar system. In past times, humans named the planets after certain aspects they held; Jupiter was named after the king of the Roman gods due to its enormous size. Although, the planet has much more to show than just its mass.

Its appearance shows a multitude of colors in band-like layers created from its clouds. Although its most distinct aspect is a storm known as the ‘Big Red Spot’ on its ‘surface’. Unlike storms on Earth, the ‘Big Red Spot’ is more permanent, having lasted over 300 years. Its furousity doesn’t stop there, as its size is also unmatched, being nearly three times as big as the Earth in its entirety.

The planet also contains a strange relationship with the Earth. Earth has always been under attack by asteroids, or large space rocks. Often an asteroid may pass close to Earth, but as of this moment, it has been a long time since we’ve had a collision with them. One of the main reasons for this is Jupiter’s influence on them.

Image taken from: Image taken from

Without the planet, the existence of life could have never had a chance through the abundant asteroid collisions. So how does Jupiter affect the paths of these asteroids? Due to its large size, Jupiter is able to disrupt the orbits of asteroids, sending them out into far space, far away from the reaches of Earth. Through this, our planet was given the time to grow and produce life, bringing us to where we are today.

Jupiter is an interesting world with many quirks and aspects, from its storms to its presence and influence on other celestial objects. Taking a look at the massive planet, it stands as not only the giant in our solar system, but a world full of colors and gasses orbiting through space.

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According to science these 8 foods make you happy

By: Jasmine Williams

I don’t think you would say diets make you happy, but they actually can, and play crucial roles in our happiness. Whether we know it or not, they affect how we feel. Here are the top eight food favorites that make you happy, according to ‘CNET’.

1. Dark chocolate
This is personally not my favorite, or really anyone’s, but it is more healthy for the body because it has half the sugar than any other chocolate. Here are three components that correlate with feelings of happiness in chocolate. Serotonin is a messenger that brings satisfaction, happiness, and optimism. Theobromine is not as strong, but can boost your mood like phenylethylalanine. Phenylethylalanine is another amino acid but it creates dopamine, which acts like an antidepressant.

2. Bananas
Bananas are not everyone’s favorite fruit but they can maintain your mood. Bananas are rich in B6, a vitamin that creates serotonin. One medium size banana has around 0.4 mg.

3. Coconut
Many people have not tried coconut, I’m one of them, but it’s scientifically proven that coconuts can boost your energy. It is known to have medium-chain triglycerides, which are a type of fat.

4. Coffee
A lot of people drink coffee. About 1 million people, and a 2016 meta-analysis says that coffee can lower the risk of depression.

5. Avocado
Avocado has nutrients including choline, a component that is used to maintain your nervous system and mood. Avocados are rich in vitamin B. Vitamin B has shown to lower stress levels.

6. Berries
A 2016 study showed that eating fruits and vegetables in general can improve mental health. But berries are plentiful in flavonoids (antioxidants). They can reduce depression symptoms.

7. Fermented food
Foods like kimchi, kombucha and yogurt, go through the fermentation process. They create probiotics that lead to a healthy gut. Important because 90% of serotonin comes from healthy guts.

8. Mushrooms
Mushrooms are full of vitamin D which has been known to have qualities of stimulants that can increase your mood. To get the full effect, let your mushrooms get some sunlight before cooking.

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Pluto’s planetary status

By: Trump Vang

As of today, Pluto stands as a dwarf planet that orbits farther than Neptune. Many describe it as a cold and airless world, one with a year of 248 Earth years. Pluto hasn’t always been like this though, rather filling in a role much bigger than what it is today.

On February 18th, 1930, Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh. Previously there were eight planets in the solar system, and many anticipated the surprise of a ninth planet out in the edges of the system. Their suspicions were correct, and Tombaugh’s intense searching through the night sky would find this ‘planet’.

Many had expected the planet to have a similar size to the 8th planet, Neptune, but they were to be disappointed. As more information came about Pluto, estimates on its size soon shrank. From a Neptune sized object, Pluto was downsized to an Earth sized object, then all the way down to being even smaller than Mercury.

Although Pluto’s size had been properly found, it was still considered a planet. Nothing else would change that, until the discovery of another ‘planet’ within that area.

Pluto was in a region, known as the Kuiper belt. This area of the solar system contained many small icy asteroids, orbiting all together in the shape of a belt. The Kuiper Belt also contained other spherical objects, just like Pluto. Though due to the fact that Pluto still stood as the largest out of these objects, it held onto its planetary status.

This was until the discovery of another spherical object, Eris. Pluto and Eris were very similar in size, though Pluto still reigned bigger in the size department. Though once Eris’s weight (mass) was calculated, it was found that Pluto wasn’t exactly the largest in this group of objects anymore.

For some time, many accepted Pluto, Eris, and a few others as planets, but others saw the issue with this. If they kept accepting these celestial objects as ‘planets’, they would just keep finding more, and before they knew it, they would have a multitude of planets to sort through. To combat this, scientists knew they would have to put a stop to this planet

In 2006, the IAU (International Astronomical Union) set guidelines for classifying planets. There were three rules in specific that were used to determine an object’s classification:

  1. The object orbits around the Sun
  2. It has enough mass to keep a spherical shape
  3. The orbit that the object takes, must be cleared (So, the object orbits by itself, having enough gravitational mass to clear its orbit)

Pluto had passed the first two rules, though its classification as a planet was knocked down by the third rule. Orbiting in the Kuiper Belt, there were trillions of small objects, showing Pluto’s inability to clear its orbit. Due to this, Pluto’s status as a planet was removed.

Ever since that point, there have been just 8 planets in the solar system. Pluto and its other spherical friends were all demoted to the classification under the term, ‘Dwarf Planet’.

More dwarf planets have been discovered ever since the term’s creation. Pluto still stands as one of the largest objects within this classification.

Although not being a planet, the world is still interesting in many aspects. Recently, a spacecraft named New Horizons visited this world, showing its surface and moon system to us. Pluto is truly a fascinating world, showing what beauty can be found, even in the outer stretches of the solar system.

The importance of nature

By: Tasha Cudinski

Nature is all around us. There are 66 state parks in Minnesota and many other natural areas that are open for visitors. Even though we have all of this natural space it is rarely taken advantage of, instead choosing to spend time in cities made of concrete.

Studies have shown that there are massive benefits to people who spend time outside with others. According to several studies on visitors to parks, spending time outside can actually boost your immune system by doing things such as lowering your blood pressure and increasing the amount of white blood cells in your body.

There have also been studies that indicate that spending time outdoors can help with your mental health, such as one study which showed time in nature to help decrease symptoms of PTSD in military veterans by 21%. There is not much understanding about how nature is capable of this, but one theory is that this happens because of the awe that nature inspires in those that observe it.

Nature is a wonderful resource but it also has a long and dark history of racial violence and segregation. For a very long time minorities were kept out of the picture when it came to natural spaces. For the people who come from a background of racial bias and discrimination, nature is not associated with the same thoughts and feelings that it may be for white people. In many instances nature is associated with the idea of violence and even lynchings. Because of this there are significantly fewer people of color who visit outdoor areas.

Nature has been shown to be beneficial to people’s health and if you have the opportunity to, try and spend some time outside with people you care about. It will not only help you make some happy memories, but it will also help boost your physical and mental health.

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The Willow Project

By: Lauren Kottke & Ella Sutherland

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Climate change seems to be the problem in the world that is growing bigger every year. Every couple of months and years a new problem emerges surrounding the topic of climate change. Water levels are rising, species of different animals are going extinct, the ozone layer is heating up, and the trash in the ocean is growing by the second. And it doesn’t seem like the problem is going to be fixed anytime soon. The new environment talk is about The Willow Project.

The Willow Project is an oil drilling venture which was just passed by the Biden administration. Oil drilling is a very wealthy business in the United States and across the world. Oil is necessary for everyday life like heating buildings and creating electricity, but the downside of oil drilling is that it severely damages our planet. It releases toxic gasses into the atmosphere and oftentimes chemicals are disposed of into water. Oil spills aren’t uncommon for oil drilling sites, and are very damaging. They hurt the environment and animals in that area.

The project had been an issue in the White House for months with much debate. The Biden administration did not necessarily want to pass the project, but had no choice. Conoco, the company leading The Willow Project, already had existing leases on the land. Also, the project was already approved by the Trump administration back in 2020 which made it harder for them to deny Conoco.

This whole project will take up to 30 years, with a total cost of $8 billion dollars. Originally, Conoco wanted to build five oil drilling sites, but the Biden administration negotiated for three sites. Even still, with two less sites, Conoco will be able to retrieve 90% of the oil.

Although the project was approved, it might not mean that they can start construction right away. There are many groups trying to stop the project from proceeding. One in particular is EarthJustice, who have filed a complaint against the company. The goal for them is to get an injunction which then will put the project on hold. This is very important because if they can stop the project for now, they can stop it for a year. The timing of building the oil sites is crucial because of the seasons in Alaska. Winter is expected to be done by mid April. And that is the perfect time for Conoco to start construction.

Another reason why the Willow Project is not a very positive thing is the environmental side effects. It can speed up global warming as well as severely alter many animal’s habitats and migration patterns. Just a few of the species that would be greatly affected by this project are the Teshekpuk caribou herd, polar bears, and migratory birds.

With all this being said there are a couple positives to this project. First off, this project would need many people working on it and would provide almost 2,500 jobs for people in construction, as well as around 300 long-term jobs.

Secondly, it would help Alaska’s economy and tax revenues. Willow could provide up to 10 billion dollars when all is finished.

Overall, the cons weigh out the pros by quite a bit and the Willow Project will do more harm than good. This project has many side effects and in our opinion this should never have been approved.

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A planet that shouldn’t exist

By: Jasmine Williams

There is a glowing crimson, red, and small planet called TOI-5205b. The planet is 285 light years away. The planet is named after TOI-5205 because it’s right next to it. These red planets are only half as hot as the sun. According to ‘CNET’, this is a dwarf planet located in the Milky Way. These dwarf planets are ordinary stars, and have a very long life span. The heat of TOI-5205 is measured to be around 3,227 degrees Celsius, and the sun, 5,526 degrees Celsius.

It is strange that TOI-5205b hosts gas giant planets because normally dwarf planets do not do that. In general, people had thought that sunlike stars host tinier planets that are not their size. “The host star, TOI-5205, is just about four times the size of Jupiter, yet it has somehow managed to form a Jupiter-sized planet, which is quite surprising!” Kanodia, an astronomer, had stated.

In order to create a gas giant planet, the original core had to have enough rocky material. Also, the disk cannot evaporate before a massive center is made, according to Kanodia. Afterwards, a rocky planetary core is made, and gas from the disk has a large amount of gas. Around the core a large amount of gas from the disk is collected, and it soon creates a luminous planet. For gas giants such as Jupiter and TOI-5205b, a known model of planet formation says that in order to create a rocky planetary core, it requires about 10 disk’s of material that Earth masses have. TOI-5205’s original disk had the ingredients to form a Jupiter-like planet, but it’s odd that TOI-5205’s disk had enough ingredients that gas giants used to make a big planet.

TOI-5205b had bypassed all the guardrails. To conclude, Kanodia had stated, “TOI-5205b — while definitely an outlier — isn’t the only one. If so, how frequently do these forbidden planets form?”

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Venus and Jupiter conjuction in the sky

By: Trump Vang

On March 1st and 2nd, the Venus and Jupiter conjunction happened. Within the clear night sky, onlookers could see both planets with only a pinky finger distance between them each. It was the closest that any of these two planets reached during their conjunction.

For those who don’t know, an astronomical conjunction is when two objects, either a moon, planet or star appear close together within the night sky. They don’t have any influence or scientific value, rather just being nice to look at and admire. These astronomical events happen rarely, but often more than once a year.

In this conjunction, both planets are relatively bright, in fact being the brightest in Earth’s night sky out of all the solar system’s planets. Although between Venus and Jupiter, Venus shines brighter. This allows for their conjunction to be easily viewed, even with some city skyline trying to outshine their brightness.

If you missed their conjunction this year, don’t worry! The conjunction event between the two planets often happens every year, being roughly 13 months. The next conjunction between the two planets shouldn’t be until May 23rd, 2024. Don’t miss out on seeing the two planets in the sky together next year!

Along with this, it’s not just Venus and Jupiter who are coming together in the night sky.

On March 28, onlookers will be able to see the smallest planet, Mercury and largest planet, Jupiter in the sky together.

Following that, Venus and Uranus will be seen together in the night sky on March 30th.

Many conjunctions follow this one between Venus and Jupiter.

Take some time to admire the night sky, and its many shining lights. Although snow is still throughout the landscapes outside, it’s nice to view the upcoming conjunctions, and enjoy what you see.