Blog – Historical Geographic

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Hello Readers, Writers, Teachers, and Children!

I’d like to introduce a new series of educational articles that I call Historical Geographic. In this series, we will be covering a wide range of geographic locations, explaining geography terms, and learning a little about the history around each place.

This series will cover well-known locations, like the Nile River and Mount Everest, and introduce some places that may be new to you, such as Salar de Uyuni and the Giant’s Causeway. As always, each article will be written at around a Grade 5 reading level.

I hope you discover some new and exciting things about our amazing planet!

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Science – The Elements – Lithium

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What is an Atom?

The Elements – Helium

What is Lithium?

Lithium is the third element on the periodic table. It has 3 protons, 3 electrons, and 4 neutrons. Lithium gets its name from the Greek word “lithos” which means “stone”.

LithiumLITH-ee-uhm
Atomic Number 3
Atomic Weight6.94
Type of MatterSolid

Lithium is the first element on the periodic table to be a solid at room temperature. It is also the first metal and has a shiny silver color. Lithium is so light that it can float on water! It would be a bad idea to put pure lithium in water though. Lithium explodes when it touches water!

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How was Lithium discovered?

In the 1790s, José Bonifácio discovered a new mineral called petalite in Sweden. He noticed that the rock burned bright red when he threw it in a fire. It burned red because the mineral contained lithium. But he didn’t know that!

Johan August Arfvedson tested petalite in 1817 and figured out that it contained a new metal. He called it “lithium”, probably because it was discovered inside of a stone. He wasn’t able to find a way to separate lithium from the petalite though.

In 1855, two scientists, Robert Bunsen and Augustus Matthiessen, discovered a way to separate pure lithium from minerals. Now it could be studied!

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Fancy Science Words
PetaliteA mineral that contains lithium, aluminum, silicon, and oxygen. It can be clear, yellow, pink, or gray
IonAn atom that has more or less electrons than it has protons

What is Lithium Used For?

The main use for lithium is in rechargeable batteries. Since lithium batteries are so light, they’re great for smartphones, tablets, and laptops. They’re even used in electric cars!

An atom of Lithium

Lithium is used in the glass of huge telescopes to keep lenses and mirrors from getting too hot. It’s also used in grease to keep machinery cool and running smoothly. Some medicines are made with lithium too.

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Science Facts
Lithium batteries work by storing extra electrons. When you charge your battery, electricity flows into the battery and adds electrons to the lithium atoms. This turns the atoms into ions. The atoms move from the positive side of the battery to the negative side. When you use your phone, the lithium atoms move from the negative side of the battery to the positive side. The extra electrons leave the atoms and power your phone!

That’s it for lithium. Next time, we will learn about beryllium. It’s going to be out of this world!

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Science – Prehistoric Times – What Was the Archean Period?

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Prehistoric Times

The Archean (ar-KEE-uhn) Period started about 4 billion years ago and lasted until about 2.5 billion years ago. That’s a looooooooot of zeroes! It was so long ago, that there isn’t much left to find from that time period. But we do know that life probably started during the Archean, and we’ve found a few fossils of bacteria that may be from that time!

Fancy Science Words
Archean PeriodThe period of time between 4 billion to 2.5 billion years ago when life may have begun on earth
Greenhouse GasesGases like carbon dioxide and methane that trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the planet
ZirconA very tough crystal that forms as magma or lava cools
Sedimentary RockRock formed by sand and other small particles as they settle beneath the water
ErosionThe process of water or wind wearing away rocks or soil over time
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What Did the Earth Look Like?

Since there isn’t much left over from the Archean, it’s hard to say exactly what the earth looked like then. The atmosphere was probably thick with greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide. There were probably continents then, but they would have been smaller than today. We do know that there were oceans of water because 4-billion-year-old zircon crystals have been found in sedimentary rocks.

How does that show us that the earth had water? Well, zircon crystals need extreme heat and pressure to form. They probably formed after giant meteorites hit the earth and turned the land into oceans of lava. Water erodes, or wears away, rocks and creates sand. When sand settles together underwater, it can form a sedimentary rock. So, for zircon crystals to get into sedimentary rock, they had to be eroded away by water.

Science Facts
Did you know that about 37% of methane in the atmosphere comes from cows? They should really cover their mouths when they burp!
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What Was the Climate Like?

The sun was much younger during the Archean than it is now. That means that it wouldn’t have been as hot, and there would have been less light. Because the sun was so much weaker, the earth should have frozen solid during that time, but it didn’t! We aren’t totally sure why, but one theory is that all of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere kept the planet warm. Actually, the earth was much hotter than it is today. The temperature was probably somewhere between 130-175° F (55-80° C)!

Fancy Science Words
Single-celled OrganismsLiving creatures whose bodies are made of just one cell
ArchaeaVery tough single-celled organisms. Maybe the first things to ever live
Anaerobic BacteriaBacteria that don’t need oxygen to live
PhotosynthesisThe process some living things use to make food from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water
ChemosynthesisThe process some living things use to make food from rocks and minerals
Proterozoic PeriodThe time period from about 2.5 billion to 541 million years ago
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What Lived Then?

There wasn’t much oxygen, and it was really hot, so only single-celled organisms could live during the Archean. Things like archaea (ar-KEE-uh) and anaerobic (an-uh-ROH-bic) bacteria. Archaea are kind of like bacteria. Some can make food by using photosynthesis or chemosynthesis. Archaea are really tough and can survive in harsh environments. Anaerobic bacteria don’t need oxygen to survive, which is why they would have been able to live during the Archean Period.

Science Facts
There are millions of different types of bacteria on earth. Some can make you sick, and some can make you healthy! They help you digest food, and they turn dead leaves into soil. Bacteria are everywhere!

That’s it for the Archean Period. Next time, we will talk about the Proterozoic (proh-ter-uh-ZOH-ic) Period. Life on earth is about to get more interesting!

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Blog – Prehistoric Times

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Hello Reader, Writers, Teachers, and Children! Our earth is somewhere around 4.5 billion years old. And living things have existed on it for maybe 3.5 billion years. But humans have only been around for some thousands of years. Think of all that we’ve missed!

Dinosaurs, mega sharks, giant sloths, huge ferns, and really, really weird critters! New fossils are discovered every day. With each new discovery, we learn a little more about our past. In this article series, we will talk about the following periods and the plants and animals that lived during those times:

ArcheanPermian
ProterozoicTriassic
CambrianJurassic
OrdovicianCretaceous
SilurianPaleogene
DevonianNeogene
CarboniferousQuaternary

The first two sections, Archean and Proterozoic, cover portions of time known as eons. The other sections are periods that fall under the Phanerozoic Eon, which covers the time from 541 million years ago to today.

These articles will be written at about a Grade 5 reading level. I’ll do my best to make them fun and interesting to read at any age!

By the way, did you know that Tyrannosaurus Rex lived during the Cretaceous Period? I guess Cretaceous Park just doesn’t have that ring to it.

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Science – The Elements – Helium

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What is an Atom?

The Elements – Hydrogen

What is Helium?

Helium is the second element on the periodic table, and the second lightest element in the universe. It has two protons, two electrons, and two neutrons.

Helium gets its name from the Greek word “helios”, which means “sun”, because it was first discovered surrounding the sun!

HeliumHEE-lee-uhm
Atomic Number2
Atomic Weight4.003
Type of MatterGas

Helium is a gas at room temperature, and it has no color or smell. There isn’t much helium on Earth because it’s so light that it floats off into space. Jupiter’s atmosphere has a lot of helium. In fact, it actually rains helium on Jupiter!

How was Helium Discovered?

Pierre Janssen first discovered helium in 1868. While watching a total solar eclipse in India, he noticed a yellow glow around the sun. When heat or electricity runs through an element, it will glow a certain color. The element glowing yellow around the sun was helium!

An atom of Helium

In 1889, William Hillebrand put a mineral called uraninite in acid. It made a gas as it dissolved. That gas was helium. He didn’t know that though!

Finally, in 1895, Sir William Ramsay did a similar experiment. He wasn’t looking for helium, but he found it! This was the first time that helium was discovered on earth.

Fancy Science Words
Total Solar EclipseWhen the moon passes between the earth and the sun and completely covers the sun
UraniniteA mineral made up mostly of uranium and oxygen with some helium, lead, and other elements
Particle AcceleratorA machine that smashes atoms and particles together at high speed so they can be studied
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What is Helium Used for?

Helium is usually collected from natural gas. It is used to make party balloons, weather balloons, and blimps float! Particle accelerators, like the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, get really hot, so they use liquid helium to keep them cool. Helium is also used in car airbags to make them inflate quickly.

Science Facts
Did you know that Helium is a noble gas? Noble gases don’t react with other elements, so they don’t combine with them. Helium atoms don’t make bonds with other atoms, but they aren’t lonely. About a quarter of the atoms in the universe are Helium!

In the next article, we will learn about Lithium. Don’t forget to charge your batteries!

Science – The Elements – Hydrogen

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What is an Atom?

What is Hydrogen?

Hydrogen is the very first element on the periodic table. It’s made up of just one proton and one electron. Hydrogen atoms are the smallest and lightest atoms that exist, and there are more of them in the universe than anything else!

Hydrogen gets its name from two Greek words. Hydro, which means water, and Genes, which means forming. It got that name because, when hydrogen burns, it makes water! Weird, right?

HydrogenHIGH-druh-jinn
Atomic Number1
Atomic Weight1.008
State of MatterGas

Hydrogen is a gas at room temperature, and it has no color or smell. It doesn’t usually show up by itself on earth, but there is still a lot of it here. Water, or H2O, is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.

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How was Hydrogen Discovered?

In the 1500s, a scientist named Paracelsus noticed that when he poured acid onto iron it made bubbles. Those bubbles were hydrogen, but he didn’t know it!

Later, in 1671, Robert Boyle did the same experiment and saw the same bubbles. But he didn’t realize it was hydrogen either!

Finally, in 1766, Henry Cavendish did the same experiment again and discovered that the bubbles were hydrogen gas.

An atom of Hydrogen

What is Hydrogen Used for?

Hydrogen is used as a clean fuel today. Some buses and cars run on hydrogen and make steam instead of pollution! Liquid hydrogen is also used as rocket fuel. Astronauts get to space by blasting out steam! Hydrogen can be used to make powerful nuclear bombs, or to clean cuts. You probably have a bottle of hydrogen peroxide at home!

Science Facts
Did you know that the sun is powered by hydrogen? The sun’s powerful gravity mashes hydrogen atoms together to make helium. When hydrogen turns into helium, a huge amount of energy gets released. That’s where all of the heat and light from the sun comes from!

In the next article, we will learn about Helium. Hopefully, I don’t get too carried away!

The Elements – Helium

Blog – What Topics Interest You?

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Hello Readers, Writers, Teachers, and Children! I have several nonfiction article series planned for the coming months, (I’m stuck at home, what else am I gonna do?) and I’d like to know what topics interest you?

Would you like to hear reviews on literature or analyses of classic books?

Do you want to understand how gravity works or how a tree decides whether to grow leaves or fruit?

Have you wondered what it was like to live in ancient Egypt or why Bluetooth is called Bluetooth? (It’s named after a Viking.)

Let me know your thoughts and interests, and maybe you’ll find a short, easy-to-read article here to answer your questions!

Science – The Elements – What is an Atom?

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If you can eat it, throw it, dance on it, or ride it to the moon, it’s made of atoms. Atoms are all around us, in fact, they are us! So, what exactly is an atom?

What is an Atom?

Simply put, atoms are the building blocks of matter. Things that take up space are made of matter. Things like basketballs, toothpaste, and air. Stuff like electricity and heat are energy, but we will talk about that another time.

Fancy Science Words
MatterAnything that takes up space.
EnergyPower, like electricity or heat.
ElementAnything that is made up of only one type of atom.

There are 118 different types of atoms that we know of. When we are talking about just one type of atom, we call it an element. Hydrogen is an element, and so is Oxygen. When you put them together, you get water!

Can Atoms be Split Apart?

Atoms can be split apart. But splitting an atom will change its element. Atoms can also be smashed together. This changes their element too.

Fancy Science Words
Nuclear FissionSplitting atoms apart.
Nuclear FusionSmashing atoms together.

For example, an atom of Uranium can be split apart into an atom of Barium and an atom of Krypton. This is called Nuclear Fission.

When two Hydrogen atoms get smashed together, they turn into one atom of Helium. This is called Nuclear Fusion, and that’s how the sun gives us heat and light!

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What are Atoms Made of?

Fancy Science Words
ParticlesSmall parts that make up atoms.
ProtonsA particle with a positive charge.
NeutronsA particle with no charge.
ElectronsA particle with a negative charge.
NucleusThe center of an atom. Made up of protons and neutrons.
Periodic TableA chart listing all of the different types of atoms.

Atoms are kind of like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Jelly is jelly and peanut butter is peanut butter, but when you put them together on bread, you get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Atoms are made up of three parts too. These parts are called particles. The three particles that make up an atom are protons, neutrons, and electrons.

An atom of Helium

Protons and neutrons stay in the middle of the atom. This is called the nucleus. Electrons circle the nucleus, just like the moon circles the earth. Atoms stick together because protons and electrons have electrical charges. Protons have a positive charge, and electrons have a negative charge. This makes them want to stick together like two magnets.

ElementAtomic Number
Hydrogen1
Helium2
Oxygen8
Krypton36
Barium56
Uranium92

So, there you have it. Atoms are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and if you stick them together, you can make basketballs and toothpaste. Well… not exactly.

In the next article, we will learn about Hydrogen, the first element on the periodic table. It’s going to be explosive!