Blogs: Science

Micrograph of flu virusOne type of microorganism, the virus, has a huge impact on our everyday lives, causing colds, flus, stomach aches. What is a virus, and how is it different, for example, from bacteria? Roll on over to Manchester Children’s University site to play around with beginning facts about viruses and bacteria. (You can also become an expert on mushrooms and other fungi.) And how do these tiny threats get in our body and get us sick? Watch the adventures of the inept "Staph Sargent" and his trusty sidekick as they try to infect the world with germs. And while the Staph Sargent can be defeated by hand-washing, purses are carrying even more bacteria and viruses, as seen in this newscast.

To get up close and personal with these mischief-making microorganisms, you can browse the fascinating and legally downloadable images at the World of Viruses. To see a picture of a specific microorganism, you can also investigate at, Microbe World Beta. For more light-hearted death and destruction, you can read a Virus Comic Book such as the Frozen Horror or infect the world at the almost too realistic Plague Inc game.

If you want to know more, librarians can help you find more resources.


If you think cells are simple boring organisms, well think again, cells are in fact fascinating basic structural, functional living organisms that also refered to as "Building Blocks of Life". Even though cells come in all shapes and sizes, they seem invisible to our eyes. We need the aid of microscopes to explore the world of cells. You can visit “A Tour of the Cell” by clicking on the video below provided by Bozeman Science. Further, you can find out more about cell division through this link “Scientists Solve a Mystery of Cell Division” provided by Today’s Science.

Chromosomes, DNA and Genes

The command center of a cell is it's nucleus. Within the nucleus is the genetic material or the blue print of each cell also known as DNA. The DNA molecules form into a structure that shapes like a letter X. For more information about chromosomes and DNA check out the videos below. 


All of these online resources will help you understand how the human body works, and they also provide great images, diagrams, videos, and explanations.

Images of human bodies depicting the major body systems like: respiratory, skeletal,musculatory, digestive, and sensory systems


If you are in 1st-4th grade and want to know and see how the body works, click on How the Body Works on the Kids Health website to find out about the nervous system, muscles, organs, and the five senses. You can even play games to see how much you know!

You can also use factmonster to find our more information by clicking on Your Body's Systems. (hint: you might have to type it also in the search box next to the fact monster!)

5th-12th grade and beyond! Trying using innerbody for detailed and interactive diagrams and explanations about all the major body systems. Don't forget to scroll down on the web page to see all of the information!

 Try our Teen and Health and Wellness Database and click on the Body Basic page. Just scroll down and click on the topic that you need. (hint: you will need to sign in using  your library card and pin number)

If you need more information beyond what the major body systems do and how they work try the howstuffworks. You will need to type in your specific topic in the search box or you can try this Discovery Fit and Health page which features the major body systems. (hint: don't forget to scroll down on each webpage to view your information. It may look confusing, but just scroll down!) 

Need more information and/or guidance? Contact a Librarian!

Who is this Molly everyone’s talking about?  Why are those girls giggling so much about bath salts?  Cruise over to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s site for teens for information on many kinds of drugs, including street names, addictiveness, effects on the brain, and symptoms of abuse.  Then swing by the University of Utah’s Mouse Party for informative animations of the ways drugs interact with neurons to produce those euphoric effects. 

Perhaps you need to write a research paper on a drug or addiction and you’re casting about for a suitable topic.  Sara Bellum’s blog, produced by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as jumping off points for more research on many angles of drug abuse.  You may be inspired by a blog on e-cigarettes or the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs in sports or how new brain science is influencing addiction treatment.  Learn how addiction works from How Stuff Works and click on links to more articles on specific drugs.  Once you’ve chosen your topic, use the Teen Health and Wellness database with your library card and PIN to find further information and articles.

If you’re debating the pros and cons of drug legalization, take a look at the Drug Policy Alliance website.  They present political arguments and opinions in favor of legalizing marijuana in the United States.  Weigh those against the opinions of CALM (Citizens Against Marijuana Legalization) for your compare and contrast paper.  Librarian Cathy C. gathered lots of recent information on the efforts in Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana in her blog postOpposing Viewpoints Resource Center in Context is available anywhere with your library card and PIN.   Search “drug legalization,” “drug abuse” or “drugs and athletes” for balanced, factual pro/con articles.


For more help, contact a librarian.

If you've ever wanted to move, build or take something apart, you need tools.  The most basic of these are called simple machines.  Used alone or in combination, they allow us to do the jobs we need to do.  They are levers, wheels and axles, pulleys, inclined planes, wedges, and screws.

Simple Machines

Here are some different ways to learn more: quiz yourself, learn their history, build something fun, work on the math and find out how they are used in a job setting.  See how simple machines might have built a mystery castle.  If, after all that, you can't remember what they are, here's a catchy tune to help jog your memory.

Need more information?  Visit your local library.

In the great outdoor laboratory that most of us know as The Planet Earth people are working all the time to determine how mountains and canyons were formed, lakes are made and why volcanoes erupt the way they do.

 They are practicing geology. They also study small and not so small changes that might help to predict the future. The study of the earth doesn’t just involve our planet, it includes other planets, and the activity that human beings are doing on the Earth every day.

The National Geographic Society calls on all of us to recognize the importance of Geo-literacy.

You may love to pick up rocks when you hike or have an assignment to build a volcano. Perhaps you travelled to Crater Lake (put on your 3d glasses for this one) with your family and became fascinated by that very deep, round and blue body of water. You can observe the history of the earth in the small details in your backyard, or the larger than life details of the entire world. Just imagine being able to name any rock formation as your family drives by it on the highway, or rides by it on a bicycle.  

For inspiration take a look at the Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) that will also provide you with links to NASA’s Earth Observatory and Visible Earth

In addition to great books about geology the Multnomah County Library has a couple of electronic encyclopedias that can answer many of your questions about the Earth Sciences. You will need to use your library card number and PIN to login to the New Book of Popular Science or Kids Infobits.

illustration of a geologist

Once you’ve satisfied the Oregon State Standards for elementary, middle and high school students in Earth Science, you can start thinking about career options as a Geoscientist.


While you are waiting for a new blog post from me check out the Student's Link on EPOD. It's just for kids.




Trees at Hoyt ArboretumAre you looking for help identifying trees?  A simple scientific method for identifying plants or animals has an impressive name: the dichotomous (dih-kot-uh-muhs) key.  As you use this tool, you make a series of choices based on characteristics of the item you want to identify.  Oregon State University has an excellent dichotomous key for identifying common trees of the Pacific Northwest.

Sometimes it's helpful to have a small handbook that you can take with you when you're outdoors looking at trees.  You can create your own tree identification handbook by printing some of the Pacific Northwest Native Plants Identification Cards.  Learn about the ID plant cards, search by common name of plants, or search by scientific names of plants.   There's even a blank template (Word doc) so you can create additional cards.

If you want more information, contact a librarian through your computer or at your local library.


There’s lots of ways to measure yourself, and this video tells you some ways to do it.

If you are paying attention to calories, concerned about your weight, planning to exercise, or just want to check how healthy your are, check out these online tools. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) measures the number of calories you burn even if you’re sleeping.  Your Body Mass Index is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight that will help you know if you are under, over or average weight.

You can look up how many calories you burn doing your favorite activities, or how long you should do an activity to lose weight, plus figure out the best exercise to lose weight. If you’re a runner and use a pedometer, you’ll need to measure your step length to figure out how far you run.

Your target heart rate can help you know how hard you should exercise so you can get the most aerobic benefit from your workout.

There are other health calculators you can use, and one that will help you assess your health, exercise, and vulnerability to disease as well. If you need more help, feel free to contact a librarian.

In 2011, the  United States Department of Agriculture replaced the idea of the Food Pyramid with My Plate ,which gives you a plan to figure out what you need to eat to be healthy. But not everyone agreed that My Plate represented healthy eating habits. Healthy Eating Plate vs. USDA Eating Plate argues that the USDA plan was influenced by political and commercial pressures from food industry lobbyists. They said that their plan, created by experts at Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, is better because it’s based on science.


There are also food pyramids created to represent Latino, Asian, African Heritage and Mediterranean Diet food cultures. Which ones match the way you eat? If you need more help researching diet and nutrition, feel free to contact a librarian.


On October 28, 2013, the governors of Oregon, Washington, California, and the premier of British Columbia announced they had agreed to a set of shared goals for the region to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change, called the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy.

Although the plan is not legally binding, it says that Oregon will, among other things, set a price on carbon emissionsestablish a target for reducing carbon emissions, encourage the use of zero-emission vehicles and the design of "net-zero" buildings. 

In 2012, the Union of Concerned Scientists produced Cooler Smarter: practical steps for low-carbon living, which "shows you how to cut your own global warming emissions by twenty percent or more."

Hank Green of the popular Crash Course and Vlogbrothers series explains five human impacts on the environment:




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