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Microbes at the Gas Pump
Amphibians
Poison Dart Frogs
Frogs and Toads
Bullfrogs
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A Tongue and a Half
Revenge of the Cowbirds
Chicken Talk
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Puberty gone wild
Copycat Monkeys
Listen and Learn
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Ospreys
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Chemistry and Materials
Silkís superpowers
Sticky Silky Feet
Hair Detectives
Computers
A New Look at Saturn's rings
Troubles with Hubble
The Book of Life
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Hall of Dinos
The bug that may have killed a dinosaur
Dino Takeout for Mammals
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A Volcano Wakes Up
Explorer of the Extreme Deep
Environment
Shrimpy Invaders
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Sea Otters, Kelp, and Killer Whales
Finding the Past
Ancient Cave Behavior
The Puzzle of Ancient Mariners
Fakes in the museum
Fish
Skates and Rays
Salmon
Piranha
Food and Nutrition
A Taste for Cheese
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GSAT English Rules
Who vs. That vs. Which
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Human Body
Surviving Olympic Heat
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Invertebrates
Grasshoppers
Snails
Starfish
Mammals
Hares
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Parents
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Physics
Gaining a Swift Lift
Electric Backpack
Project Music
Plants
White fuzzy mold not as friendly as it looks
Fastest Plant on Earth
Nature's Alphabet
Reptiles
Komodo Dragons
Alligators
Reptiles
Space and Astronomy
Tossing Out a Black Hole Life Preserver
Saturn's Spongy Moon
A Great Ball of Fire
Technology and Engineering
Weaving with Light
Shape Shifting
Morphing a Wing to Save Fuel
The Parts of Speech
What is a Preposition?
Problems with Prepositions
Adjectives and Adverbs
Transportation
How to Fly Like a Bat
Seen on the Science Fair Scene
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Weather
Warmest Year on Record
A Change in Climate
Earth's Poles in Peril
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Pencil Thin

Imagine a shaving of pencil lead, the kind that might fall on your desk after you use a hand-held sharpener. Now try to imagine a pencil flake that's only one atom thickóless than 1-millionth the thickness of the shaving! Scientists have created just such a thin flake, and they're already thinking about how they can use this incredibly wispy material. Pencil lead isn't really made out of lead. Instead, it's mostly a material called graphite, which consists of many layers of carbon stacked on top of each other. By rubbing pieces of graphite against a hard surface, scientists in England and Russia have broken apart these layers and isolated super-thin sheets of carbon. They call this nanomaterial "few-layer graphene." A second group of researchers created graphene in a different way. They started with a flat, fingernail-size fleck of a hard compound containing silicon and carbon. They then heated the fleck. Silicon evaporated from the top layers of the fleck's surface. This heating left only carbon in these upper layers, and the carbon atoms rearranged themselves to form graphene. Some scientists had predicted that, if such sheets were ever made, they would naturally curl upólike a poster that won't flatten after being rolled up in a tube for a long time. Instead, it turns out the graphene can lie flat. Scientists have been creating and experimenting with nanomaterials made out of carbon for nearly 20 years now. They've created buckyballs, in which carbon atoms are arranged in a pattern like that on a soccer ball. And they've created carbon nanotubes, which are shaped like drinking straws. Graphene is the newcomer. You can think of these new graphene sheets as starting materials that can be bent and molded into structures like those of the buckyball and carbon nanotube. Researchers have already put graphene to work. They've fashioned it into a wire and found that the material can conduct electricity. In fact, scientists expect graphene to produce less heat than normal materials do when they conduct electricity. This property may prove useful for making ultrasmall electronic gadgets that don't burn themselves up. Like ants, carbon nanomaterials are amazingly strong for their tiny size. And because graphene is naturally flat, researchers propose that the sheets would be a great material to use as a tough protective coating on devices. The material could also go into sensitive sensors that would vibrate at different rates in response to different chemicals. So the next time you're using a pencil to scribble notes in class, think of the incredible possibilities of the material you're leaving behind on your sheet of paper.óK. Ramsayer

Pencil Thin
Pencil Thin








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