Agriculture
Middle school science adventures
Springing forward
Hungry bug seeks hot meal
Amphibians
Bullfrogs
Salamanders
Tree Frogs
Animals
The Secret Lives of Grizzlies
Cool Penguins
Sea Giants and Island Pygmies
Behavior
Sugar-pill medicine
Longer lives for wild elephants
GSAT Mathematics Quiz, Teaching Math, teaching anxiety
Birds
Cassowaries
Carnivorous Birds
Ibises
Chemistry and Materials
The Buzz about Caffeine
Watching out for vultures
These gems make their own way
Computers
The hungry blob at the edge of the universe
New twists for phantom limbs
Seen on the Science Fair Scene
Dinosaurs and Fossils
Early Birds Ready to Rumble
The bug that may have killed a dinosaur
Did Dinosaurs Do Handstands?
E Learning Jamaica
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
Earth
Deep Drilling at Sea
The Rise of Yellowstone
Riding to Earth's Core
Environment
Antarctica warms, which threatens penguins
Swimming with Sharks and Stingrays
Seabirds Deliver Arctic Pollutants
Finding the Past
A Big Discovery about Little People
Untangling Human Origins
Early Maya Writing
Fish
Tuna
Sturgeons
Barracudas
Food and Nutrition
A Pepper Part that Burns Fat
The Color of Health
Turning to Sweets, Fats to Calm the Brain
GSAT English Rules
Who vs. Whom
Whoever vs. Whomever
Adjectives and Adverbs
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
Tarrant High overcoming the odds
How are students placed after passing the GSAT exam
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
GSAT Scholarship
GSAT Mathematics
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
Losing with Heads or Tails
10 Common Mistakes When Preparing for the GSAT Math Test
Human Body
Flu Patrol
Surviving Olympic Heat
Teen Brains, Under Construction
Invertebrates
Starfish
Flatworms
Sea Anemones
Mammals
Boxers
African Wild Dog
Aquatic Animals
Parents
Choosing a Preschool: What to Consider
Children and Media
What Not to Say to Emerging Readers
Physics
The Pressure of Scuba Diving
Invisibility Ring
Electric Backpack
Plants
Pumping Up Poison Ivy
Fungus Hunt
A Change in Leaf Color
Reptiles
Black Mamba
Rattlesnakes
Boa Constrictors
Space and Astronomy
An Earthlike Planet
Ready, Set, Supernova
Zooming In on the Wild Sun
Technology and Engineering
Crime Lab
Spinach Power for Solar Cells
A Satellite of Your Own
The Parts of Speech
What is a Noun
What is a Verb?
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Transportation
Robots on the Road, Again
Seen on the Science Fair Scene
Ready, unplug, drive
Weather
A Change in Climate
Science loses out when ice caps melt
Watering the Air
Add your Article

Sweet, Sticky Science

Real maple syrup sweetens even the dullest breakfast, and it's no mystery why. The sticky stuff you pour on your pancakes is at least two-thirds sugar. People have been collecting sap from maple trees to make syrup for hundreds of years. But today, new technologies are making the process faster and more efficient. Researchers are even looking into ways to make trees produce sweeter sap in the first place. "Essentially, there is nothing about the way we produce syrup now that is anything like it was 100 years ago," says plant ecologist Brian Chabot of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Sugary sugar maples One thing has stayed the same as far as maple syrup production is concerned: the need for sap-producing trees. More than 100 species of maple trees grow worldwide, but only a few produce syrup-worthy sap. The most popular syrup tree—the sugar maple (Acer saccharum)—grows in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. A forest of sap-producing maples is called a sugar bush. Only maples that grow in the north produce enough sap for syrup making. Timing is important too. Tree sap flows when below-freezing nighttime temperatures are followed by rapidly warming mornings and above-freezing days. This ideal weather situation occurs for several weeks in autumn and spring. Most producers, however, make syrup in March. It's still chilly then, but at least at the end of the season workers can clean their equipment without freezing. Chabot and his colleagues are analyzing weather patterns to more accurately predict when sap extraction should begin. For now, syrup makers have to estimate the best time to drill the holes, or taps, that let the sap flow. Sap suckers The sap that comes from a tree is very watery. It has just 2 percent sugar and only a faint maple syrup taste. To concentrate the sap's flavor and sweetness, producers must boil away most of the water. On average, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make just 1 gallon of syrup, says Timothy Perkins, director of the Proctor Maple Research Center at the University of Vermont in Underhill Center. People used to collect sap in buckets and then boil it in kettles. Over time, syrup makers replaced the buckets with networks of tubing that use gravity to move sap from trees to a central refinery, called a sugarhouse. Today's newest vacuum systems literally suck the sap from the trees. In a forest in upstate New York, 4,000 taps and 30 miles of tubing are helping scientists learn more about the vacuuming process. The scientists hope to be able to help syrup producers figure out the optimal number of taps, the best size and length of the tubing, and what size pumps will extract the most syrup. "With a vacuum," Chabot says, "You can pretty much double the yield from a maple tree." The evaporation process has also been through an overhaul. Machines that take in sap at one end and spit syrup out the other have replaced kettles, Perkins says. The sap travels through a heated "gutter" that helps evaporate the water. Some of these gutters are hundreds of feet long. Forest for the trees Other research focuses on the trees themselves. A small percentage of maple trees naturally produce sap with more than double the average sugar concentration, Chabot says. This extra-sweet sap requires less energy to process. So, researchers are planting cuttings from some of these trees. When the trees are grown, the scientists will study them to try to figure out what makes their sap so sugary. Some new evidence suggests that maple trees might grow faster and produce sweeter sap if they have more access to light. Chabot is developing ways to manage a forest so that maple trees get the right amount of light. He's also working on methods to predict which trees are best to tap. One of the biggest concerns for today's syrup producers is global warming. Over the past 40 years, Chabot says, the spring sap run has come earlier, and the season is now 2 or 3 days shorter than it used to be. That's a lot of time to lose from a season that usually lasts 30 days at most. As temperatures warm, maple syrup production might retreat farther north. "It's very important for sugar makers to be aware of the health of their trees," Perkins says, because it can take 50 years before a maple is big enough to produce sap. "If you do something that damages the tree, it's not going to just grow back." A matter of taste As efficient as all these new technologies are, it's not clear how they'll affect another important factor: the syrup's flavor. Producers send samples of strange-tasting syrups to Perkins and his team for chemical analysis. The scientists try to figure out what went wrong in the syrup-making process. "I eat plenty of maple syrup, but the funny thing is that what we get isn't the best, but the worst syrup," Perkins says. "I expect we will be focusing on [flavors] a lot for the next 10 years." Despite all the innovations, scientists have yet to discover the secret of the perfect maple syrup. "There's quite a bit left to improve," Chabot says.

Sweet, Sticky Science
Sweet, Sticky Science








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™