How To Earn Some Extra Credit!

    Interested in earning some extra credit?  You can earn the equivalent of 1 Pass Stamp for presenting to the class a short report on a science topic, or some current news-worthy science story.  Extra credit opportunities occur every Friday at the beginning of the period.  You will need to research your topic so that you understand it well enough to present it to the class without simply reading a paper to the students.  In addition you will need to turn in to Mr. Cypher about half a page of your own summary of your topic.  You can present two different topics per week for a total of two Pass stamps.  You must meet all the requirements to earn extra credit!  You cannot simply turn in your work without reporting to the class.  Part of this extra credit requirement is designed to give you experience in public speaking.

    So where can you find information?  You can look in newspapers or magazines for science articles.  You might see or hear something on TV, the radio, or on the web.  Wherever you find your information, you must provide source information.  For a newspaper or magazine article, bring in the story.  If your source is from TV or radio you should record what station, time, and program you gathered the information from.  If your source is the web, you can provide the URL (the site's web address found in the top address bar in your browser).

    If you are reporting on a general topic that you find interesting give the sources of where you learned about the topic (book title, publisher and publishing date), or any other source information as explained above.

    You can pick from one of the links I have summarized below or use one of the web portal links at the very bottom of this page (Science Alerts, Science News For Kids and more!).  Links that I summarize are added when I find something I believe is science newsworthy, but don't hesitate to explore the web portals to find your own interesting topic!

    Don't wait until the end of the quarter to start doing extra credit!  Do it early and often throughout the grading period so you can build up some points in the "bank" in case your quarter grade is poor. 


Below are some suggested stories or find your own at the web portals further below!


Have you heard of crytocurrencies like bitcoin? These are alternative currencies (like money) that are being created by computers that perform increasingly complex calculations to "mine" digital tokens.  Besides the danger of losing wealth speculating on alternative currencies, individuals who are running computers to create digital tokens are using enough energy to be a danger to our climate!  Read more here


The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is the world's leading multi-national group of scientists and world leaders charged with informing and recommending actions that countries can collectively take to avoid and avert the worst of global warning/climate changes to our planet that will directly affect human health.  A report issued in October to 2018 warns that we have very little time left to dramatically reduce our use of coal, oil and natural gas (fossil fuels) if we want to avoid catastrophic changes to planet Earth and the future of life.  Read more here


Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael and Typhoon (typhoons are hurricanes that hit Asia...) Jebi (Japan) and Luban (Northern Indian Ocean) are all just recent examples of large tropical cyclones that occur naturally during the transition from summer into winter every year. But scientists are concerned about what will happen as Earth continues to warm with global warming/climate change.  Here's a great page explaining more of what we know about the natural causes of these massive tropical cyclone storms and how they might change in the future.  John


Many scientists today are declaring that humans have entered a new geologic epoch known as the Anthropocene based on our impact on the Earth which is, and will be great enough to leave clear indications in the future fossil record.  But one of Earth's most esteemed biologists, Edward O. Wilson suggests a better name might be the Eremocene for the Age of Loneliness.  Read more in his own words here


Many students might have heard about Hurricane Florence that hit the Carolina Sates with heavy rain and wind over several days, but fewer may have heard of Typhoon Mangkhut which slammed into the Philippines as the most powerful tropical cyclone of 2018. Read more about these two monster storms and find out what scientists know about links between hurricanes and typhoons (same thing with different names...) and climate change.  Here's the link.


California experienced another year of record wildfires by September 2018 even before the Fall fire season began.  What are scientists saying about the links to climate change and global warming as Californians increasingly become aware that living with on-going fire concerns are becoming the new norm.  Read more here


In September of 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed ambitious legislation mandating 100% renewable electricity requirements for the State by 2045.  Can we meet the challenge?  And how will we ever achieve such a lofty goal?  Read more here


Climate change in the past was much slower than that which we are experiencing today. It was caused primarily by natural variations in Earth's orbit and are named Milankovitch Cycles for the scientists who discovered them. But recently scientists have discovered yet another solar system cycle that perturbs Earth's orbit over 400,000 years that seem to help explain subtle changes in past climate change events.  Check it out here


Fungi (plural for fungus) are one of the 6 major Kingdoms of life on planet Earth.  And yet scientists remark that we probably only know about 10% of fungal species.  Check out more about these incredibly important organisms here!


The Long Now Foundation is building a clock that can run without human intervention for 10,000 years inside a mountain in Texas.  About 10,000 years ago the Holocene epoch began when the Earth had melted off most of the ice from the last great Pleistocene ice ages and marked the beginning of the transition of humans from hunter-gatherers to our modern civilization today. What will the Earth be like 10,000 years from now, and will there be people around to read the clock?  You can read more here and even learn how to visit if you are around in the future. 


A 2017 study of nature reserves in Germany found a 75% decline of flying insects.  This is a first of a kind study and suggests that insects may be declining in vast numbers all around the world.  Such news would be devastating for all life on planet Earth as insects make up half of all animals on Earth by mass and thus are a critical part of food webs as primary consumers.  Read more here!


How vulnerable is the East Bay to a devastating earthquake?  The Hayward fault is our local fault and is part of the San Andreas fault system which roughly separates the North American Plate from the Pacific plate.  We know that plate boundaries are where earthquakes are more likely to occur, so what do scientists know about our local earthquake potential?  Click here to find out!


Want to learn more about the fascinating human story of how our species migrated out of Africa over the course of our 200,000 year history?  Here is a great site that shows the routes we took, and the when and why's of our great journey out of Africa to take over planet Earth.  You can also learn how anthropologists uncover the evidence for this most human of stories.


July 2017 saw Death Valley, Ca, which is the lowest place in the United States, break a 100 year record for the hottest month in the U.S.  With an average temperature of 107.4, even tourists who come to see if they can endure the heat found it just a bit too much.  Read more here


We use plastics for just about everything. It is a convenient material for use in so many of our products.  But plastics which were first mass produced after World War II are now everywhere including inside our own bodies!  Find out more here


Why are zoo keepers in a Czech zoo sawing off the horns on their rhinoceros'?  They're doing it to save this amazing mega-fauna beast from extinction at the hand of Homo sapiens.  Read more here


Did you hear that a landslide of garbage killed dozens of people in the African nation of Ethiopia in March of 2017?  Most of the victims were women and children.  Read the grim news here


Did you hear about the people who died while waiting on hold after dialing 911 because the T-Mobile corporation has had a nationwide glitch in their mobile network beginning in 2016, that makes "ghost calls" to 911 that then crashes the 911 emergency response system?  Sometimes technology kills without purpose.  Read all about it here.  


We learned a little bit about the importance of Cepheid Variable Stars as a means of determining the distance to stars and galaxies. Did you know that Henrietta Leavitt was the key scientist who solely with her patience and unique mind, was instrumental in adding this important milestone on the way to understanding the breadth of the Universe?  Read more about her here!


Did you hear in the summer of 2016 that a handful of scientists think there might be a Outer Gas Giant planet somewhere in the Kuiper Belt? Planets that are far away are hard to spot, even large ones because they are much smaller than an average star and they primarily reflect light rather than radiate it. The University of California has a website that you or anyone can go to were you can search animated images that might have a planet in them, and only human eyes (not computers!) and human brains are good at this type of image sorting. Interested?  You might be the discoverer of the ninth planet!!  Check it out here


Remember the famous Baby Ruth candy bar in the pool scene from the movie Caddyshack?  Let's not go there....  But recently Canadian scientists found a way to determine how many swimming pools and hot-tubs in their sample-size were contaminated by people peeing in the pool.  Can you guess how many swimming pools and hot-tubs were contaminated with urine?  Find out here


Have you heard how children and adults were being poisoned by lead in Flint Michigan? When the city switched water sources to a river that leeched lead from the old lead pipes, the water that came out of the tab had levels of lead that are known to be dangerous to human health and especially the developing brains of children. The lead poisoning of children from old pipes combined with varying water supplies is a problem all over the country including Oakland, Ca. Read about it here!


Can letting young children play in the dirt help them avoid asthma(?!!) as well as many other "developed world diseases"?  According to this medical researcher the answer is yes!  Check it out here


If you added up all the mass of the animals on Earth, half would be insects and most of them would be beetles.  Here's a beetle that rides on the back of an ant that is camouflaged to look like a second ant butt!  Read more here!


Getting enough sleep is important in so many ways, especially if you are young and trying to remember what you learned in class that day.  Click here to find out how sleep is critical to memory! 


The daughter of this scientist Dad has been telling her friends to be careful around popping balloons. As she and her Dad have learned the way popping balloons make their loud sound can cause permanent damage to young ears.  read more here!


A tiny 2mm fossilized creature that pooped out of it's mouth is the ancestor to all the vertebrate animals on Earth, which includes us Homo sapiens!  Yuck, that's gross!  Read more here!


Is there an ocean's worth of water in Earth's mantle?  Olivine crystals which make up some of the minerals in ocean crust have been discovered to be full of water deep in the mantle.  But you can't drink it!  Read more here!



NASA scientists are learning more about Martian Ice Ages!  Mars was in the midst of an ice age almost half a million years ago, but unlike on Earth where the poles grow ice, on Mars ice grows and covers the equator.  Find out why here


Year after year, historical records of the Earth's average annual temperature are being broken.  And the monthly world-wide average temperature for August 2016 broke the world historical record for the greatest monthly temperature increase above the 20th Century average by an astronomical amount, suggesting that 2016 will prove to be yet another record breaking year of high average temperatures.  More importantly, the evidence is pointing to increasingly rapid global temperature increases suggesting that global warning and climate change are accelerating.  Read more here


Have you heard about the Zika Virus?  It's a virus that is spread by mosquitoes and is associated with microencephaly, a neurodevelopmental disorder as well as other diseases.  Click here to see how climate change is spreading this tropical disease world-wide. 


Why is eating less meat a healthy solution to combating climate change?  Click here to find out. 


Have you heard of the "Blob"?  No, it's not a monster from a horror movie.  However it is a scary new massive body of warmer than unusual Pacific Ocean waters off the California Coast and beyond that is leading to weird weather and disruption of the marine food chain.  Read more of this critical news here


Recent news about the unstoppable collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is not good news for seven billion and rising Homo sapiens.  Read here how sea level rise estimates will now have to be revised upwards! 


Extreme arctic temperatures on the East Coast and record drought on the West Coast of North America lead many to wonder what these extremes may have to do with global warming and climate change.  Read here about California's worst drought in recorded history and here for how the polar vortex that affected the East Coast during the winter of 2013-2014 may very well be linked to warming in the Arctic


100,000 bats fell from the sky over a town in Australia when they hit a parcel of super heated air as the Southern Hemisphere continent experiences the hottest summer in it's history.  Read more here


Recent genetic studies of mitochondrial DNA recovered from Neanderthal fossils suggest that this last human "cousins" of ours might have almost gone extinct 50,000 years ago and only barely survived in one small region of Western Europe before finally succumbing to extinction with the coming of Cro-Magnon man (us!).  Read more here


Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in November 2013 and may have released massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere further exacerbating climate change.  Read more here.


Our modern world's overuse of antibiotics is producing bacteria for which we have no medical defense.  What might the consequences be?  Some scientists fear we may be at risk of losing modern medicine as we know it, amongst other modern technologies related to food production.  Read more here.


Tornado swarms in the Midwest in November?  An outbreak of deadly tornado swarms in mid-November 2013 across the middle of the United States is unusual for the time of year and provides further evidence that our world is experiencing more extreme weather events more frequently due to climate change as predicted by scientists.  Read more here


Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever recorded to make landfall on record.  Is this what living with climate change means as we move into a world with increasingly ferocious deadly storms as climate change progresses?  Prince Charles of England thinks so.  Read more here


Did you hear about the flash flooding that hit the Colorado Front Range on September 12, 2013?  Or how about the record flooding in Calgary Canada earlier the same year in June? The fact is these record setting deluges are predicted by climate change modeling and they are happening more frequently.  But you will rarely find any mention of the terms climate change or global warming in the reporting.  That's too bad as incidents like these and many other recent local record flooding events can help the public raise their level of consciousness about the impact of our fossil fuel use.  You can read about how unusual the Front Range flood was here


Are fires in the West (like the Yosemite Rim Fire) increasing over time due to climate change?  What are the historical fire-management plans that have contributed to the problem and what can we do to prevent large fires in our future?  Read more here


How high might seas get in this century due to the melting of ice due to climate change?  Read more of what we know and what we don't know here


What are the Japanese doing to control the loss of radioactive waste water from escaping from their destroyed nuclear reactor from a tsunami in 2011?  Read more here


At 1-1.5 meters this catfish is huge and leaps out of the water to eat birds!  The catfish was imported from Eastern Europe and is an amazing example of evolution in action!  Read more and don't miss the video here


Reports are now coming in from climate scientists that ice is melting and sea level is rising three times faster than was occurring in the 90's.  Has Earth reached a tipping point?  Read more here


Why would birds ever build their nests with cigarette butts?  Maybe because it is conferring some kind of adaptive advantage.  Read the curious story here


Finally Voyager I has reached interstellar space (the space between the stars)!  Read here about the little space satellite that may be the only human artifact left long from now should Homo sapiens go extinct. 


How do you get people to reduce littering?  Build a trash can that makes a sound as if the trash you just dropped in the can fell two hundred feet and makes a "clang!" when it hits bottom.  Check it out here


When the mess from October 2012 extra-tropical storm Sandy is all cleaned up, the damage done may equal the fifth (or greater!) largest natural disaster in America's history.  But just how "natural" was Sandy?  It's been called a "Frankenstorm".  And just like Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, Sandy may be yet another recent historically significant extreme weather that we will look back on and realize climate change was well underway now in our time.  Read more here


Have you heard of China's Three Gorges Dam?  Over a million people were moved from their homes, many by force and without just compensation, to flood a giant tributary of the Yangtze River, one of the world's largest.  China hopes to generate unprecedented gigawatts of electricity to power one of the world's largest economy (second only to the U.S), but is environmental disaster already looming?  Read more here


Extra-tropical storm Sandy hit the east coast of the United States in October 2012, but how about out here in the West?  Could California expect to possibly experience deadly extreme storms of such magnitude?  Read more here


From the same country that prosecuted and imprisoned Galileo, the father of modern science, comes an Italian court judgment sentencing six earthquake scientists to six years in prison for their predictions about a 2009 earthquake.  Should scientists be held criminally accountable if their predictions are not 100% accurate?  Read more here


Are Homo sapiens living up to their namesake humans the wise?  On planet Earth today the extinction rate has been estimated to be 1000 times higher than it would be naturally.  One sad example is the epic loss of elephants in Africa due to the illegal ivory trade.  Although there is a ban on killing elephants to cut off and sell their ivory tusks, their carcasses littler the landscape throughout their native habitat as bandits continue to kill them, cut off their tusks and leave them to rot in the equatorial African Sun.  Read more about this tragedy here


Here's a real criminal!  One corrupt American businessman took one million in Canadian dollars from a group of indigenous people inhabiting an island off the west coast of Canada in a promise to help restore salmon stock to their fishing grounds.  What he then did was to dump 100 metric tonnes of iron sulfate into the western Pacific Ocean causing the world's largest artificial algae bloom.  At 10,000 square kilometers this bloom is now being monitored for it's killing potential as it may be crating one of the world's latest ocean dead zones.  Read about this scandalous act here


Have you heard of Sudden Oak Death?  You live in California which has the highest diversity of oak tree species on Planet Earth.  But 15 years ago an invasive fungal species imported to the U.S. in nursery plants began infecting our beautiful oak woodlands and we are losing them by the millions with widespread deaths accelerating across the state in the coming years.  Read about this awful news here


Sea ice in the arctic has been called the "canary in the coal mine" when it comes to measuring the state of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change on Earth.  The measurements of the amount of ice at the end of summer as of September 2012 have reached all time lows since record keeping began in 1979.  What might this mean for Homo sapiens on our home planet?  Read more here


There are fossil specimens from at least 13 other members of our genus: Homo.  The 13th and most recent discovery of a new Homo species was announced in the summer of 2012.  The Denisovans are a species that was previously unknown and may have been closely related to Neanderthals.  Read more here


Genetic studies and the fossil record suggest that there were at least two great waves of migration of early Homo sapiens out of Africa, the "birthplace" of our species.  The earliest migration to all the other continents may have began about 100,000 years ago.  A recent hypothesis says however that as our earliest migrations were unsuccessful likely due to changes in the climate, modern humans may literally owe their lives to one last great migration out of Africa about 50,000 years ago when we may have been down to only about 2000 individuals!  Read more here


The world's largest coral reef is in serious trouble.  Australia's Great Barrier Reef is now half dead.  Coral is the base of the food chain in the oceans and supports at least 25% of fish on the planet.  What is the cause and implications for planet Earth and the life it sustains?  Read more here


Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, launched nearly simultaneously in 1977, were the first interplanetary satellites to explore the other worlds of our Solar System beyond Earth and the Moon.  Today they are nearly at the point where interstellar space begins (the space beyond the influence of the Sun - the Space between stars!).  They each carry on board a golden disc recording digital data about life on Earth - a calling card to other alien civilizations that may be out there!  Read more here


Members of the Maldives Islands Nation leaders met underwater in scuba gear to sign a treaty imploring the World's Developed Nations to cut their carbon emissions.  Why did the President and members of the government of this island Nation, that sits 1 meter above current sea level, do such a seemingly silly thing?  Read more here


Africa's  Olduvai Gorge continues to expand our understanding of human origins!  A recent discovery of an ancestor to humans from 4.4 million years ago has been announced. Read more here


Have you heard about the clown who is visiting the International Space Station?  What is he there to promote?  Read more here


Have you heard of global warming and climate change?  Here's a good page for an introduction to this most important of all environmental issues facing our planet.  Read all about it here


Have you ever been north of the Bay Area to Clear Lake?  Toady it is one of the most polluted fresh water bodies in the United States.  Find out how mining wastes have polluted this once famous resort destination by clicking here


A plume of natural gas, methane, has been discovered rising from the planet Mars.  Methane is a metabolic byproduct, but can have a geological origins as well.  Does that mean Mars has organisms living deep below its surface?  It might!  Read more here


Have scientists discovered the cause of the Younger Dryas, a cool period on Earth 13,000 years ago?  Evidence of scattered nano-diamonds suggests that a comet or even a swarm of comets may have struck the Earth and caused this mini ice age.  Check it out here


Scientists have confirmed that they believe they are seeing convection on Enceladus, one of Saturns large exotic moons.  But rather than rock being recycled like on Earth, Enceladus appears to be recycling water!  Read more here


Geologist drilling into lave flows in Hawaii just tapped into a magma chamber that can be studied in situ for the first time in history!  Read more here


Have you heard that 2008 was one second longer than 2007?  Atomic clocks which keep time better than any timepiece on Earth are falling out of synch with the Earth as it travels through space.  Check it out here


How many years do we have before we need to take the growing problem of climate change seriously before we suffer dangerous consequences?  The answer may surprise you.  Read more here.  


Growing space junk is a problem for future rocket flights and satellites and spacecraft in low Earth orbit.  What can we do about it?  Read more here


What are the brightest stars in the night sky?  What can we see with just our our eyes?  Checkout visual delights and what we are missing due to light pollution when stargazing.  Read more here


California often suffers from drought.  What are some practical ways to conserve water so we'll have water during dry times?  Check it out here


Yet another study has once again shown that multi-tasking is a myth.  Unfortunately if we want to do something well or learn something effectively we need to focus one one thing at at time.  Learn about the study here


One of the most energetic mysteries in the Universe are gamma ray bursters.  Astronomers observe massive amounts of energy that appear to erupt from a certain type  of neutron star and can outshine an entire galaxy for a brief moment.  read more here


The Large Hadron Collider is the world's largest particle accelerator and as such is both the world's best microscope and telescope!  But will the world end in the creation of a black hole?  Read more here!


The Red List is an annual list of mammals facing extinction.  This years list is particularly grim as one fourth to half of the worlds mammals are threatened or facing extinction as well as one in two primates, our most closely related organisms.  Read the grim news here


Is there really a great mass of plastic garbage the size of Texas swirling in the Pacific Ocean?  Unfortunately, yes.  Check it out here


As the world moves into a new era of expensive fuels one island nation is blessed with an abundance of renewable energy resources to weather the coming fuels pricing storm.  Read about Iceland's development of renewable energy sources here


Would you know what to do after a major earthquake here in the Bay Area?  This is earthquake country and we are due for a big one!  You can learn more here


Did you know that the South Bay is part of the biggest wetland restoration project in the United States?  Read more about what's going on right in your own backyard here


Why is San Francisco banning phthalates plastic consumer products like children's chew toys?  Pthalates, (pronounced thalates) have been linked to cancer and reproductive health and are banned in Europe, but not here.  Read more here


October 2007 was the 50th year anniversary of Sputnik the world's first artificial satellite and marked the beginning of the space age.  Read more about the history of this momentous event here




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