Tag Archives: Q&A

STEM Students answer Children’s Questions #8

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re answering questions on Marine Biology and Oceanography, ahead of World Ocean Day next Monday.

How do they (fish) breath under water?

-asked by Maisie, 9, from Kells Lane Primary School

Fish can breathe under water because they have lungs that are adapted to work under water. These are called gills. Gills are feathery organs full of blood vessels, fish use them to take up oxygen that is dissolved in the water. Oxygen is taken up through the thin walls of the gills and the travels into the cells in the body. However, there are some mammals that are mistaken as fish, such as whales and dolphins. They are just like us and they need to breathe air to survive. Therefore, we often see them swimming into the surface and take up some oxygen from the air.
– Aurelia, Dentistry Student

What is the fastest fish in the world?

-asked by Isobel, 11, from Marden Bridge Middle School

The fastest current known fish is the sailfish, it can swim at speeds of up to 68 miles per hour which is around the same speed as cars travel up the motorway! 
– Demi, Marine Biology Student

How are waves formed?

-asked by James, 10, from Ravenswood Primary School

Most waves are formed by wind blowing over the top of the sea. The stronger the wind the bigger the waves! However there are a couple of different types of wave that aren’t formed by the wind for example the tides are actually a form of wave, which are formed by the gravitational attraction of the sun and the moon on the water. Also tsunamis are a type of wave that is formed by under water earthquakes or eruptions!  
– Demi, Marine Biology Student

How big is the sea?

-asked by Iyla, 7, from Grace Darling Primary School

The sea covers about 71% of the world’s surface and although it is all connected it is usually split into 5 oceans called: The Pacific, the Atlantic (this is the ocean the UK is in), the Indian, the Antarctic and the Arctic ocean. All combined that is 1.3 billion cubic km of water, that’s about 3.47 Quadrillion swimming pools which is 462,667 swimming pools for every person living on the planet! The Atlantic ocean where we are is the second biggest ocean in the world and if you tried to swim from here to America it would take you 50 days if you swam non stop. The deepest bit of the ocean is called the Mariana trench and it is 11,034 metres deep that’s more than mount Everest which is the highest mountain in the world, it’s so deep that only 3 people have ever been there (that’s fewer than have been to the moon). 
-Lizzie, Biology Student

STEM Students answer Children’s Questions #4

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re answering questions around Medicine and Health.

What is blood made of?

-asked by Lacey, 8, from Simonside Primary School

There are many things which make up blood! The easiest way to think about it is that it contains liquids and solids. The liquid part of blood is called plasma which is mainly water with some salts dissolved in it and also some proteins. The plasma allows blood to flow, carrying the solids around the body to where they are needed. The salts are important in controlling how much water is in the body, this is why it is dangerous to eat lots of salt!

The plasma makes up around half of blood, the rest is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Red blood cells have a dip in the middle which gives them lots of space to carry oxygen from the lungs to the body. Oxygen bound to red blood cells is what makes blood red.

The white blood cells come in lots of different types and are part of the immune system which protects the body from germs like bacteria and viruses. They recognise germs which don’t belong in the body and kill them in lots of different ways before they can make us sick.

Platelets are important in allowing us to form scabs when we cut ourselves. The platelets all stick together over a cut and stop us losing too much blood. 
-Ailie, Medical Student & Evolution and Human Behaviour Masters Student

Why do people get allergic reactions to things?

-asked by Abbie, 11, Burnside Primary School

Allergic reactions happen in some people when the immune system overreacts to something harmless, called an allergen, because it thinks it is dangerous to the body. Our immune system is very important to keep our bodies safe from germs such as bacteria and viruses that can cause disease. While the red cells in our blood carry oxygen all around the body, the white blood cells make up the immune system.

The white blood cells are very clever at recognising germs in the body and realising that they don’t belong and can be harmful. When they find a germ, they activate other white blood cells to attack the germ in lots of different ways. Some white blood cells can swallow a germ whole and then dissolve it – this is called phagocytosis. Other white blood cells release antibodies which stop the germs being harmful and cause them to all stick together, others release chemicals such as histamine which causes swelling and brings in more white blood cells to help.

However, in some people the white blood cells get confused and think something safe, like peanuts or shellfish, are harmful to the body. Scientists haven’t figured out why this happens to some people but not others although sometimes it runs in families and is linked to other conditions like asthma and hay-fever. When people with allergies eat or touch something they are allergic to the immune system becomes activated causing redness, swelling and itching. In a serious case the throat may swell up making it hard to breathe, this is why some people with allergies carry an EpiPen which contains adrenaline to stop the swelling.
-Ailie, Medical Student & Evolution and Human Behaviour Masters Student

How many medicines are in the world?

-Asked by Ruby, 10, from Simonside Primary School

It is impossible to know exactly how many different medicines there are, it will be thousands and thousands! The types of medicines used in different parts of the world are very varied and medicines are always changing.

Doctors used to think that all sickness was due to ‘bad blood’ so they put leaches on sick people to suck it out! Luckily, they don’t do that anymore. For most diseases there are many treatments available. For example, there are lots of different inhalers for asthma which are different colours depending on which medicine is inside, and there are tablets you can take too. Which medicine works best depends on the person, sometimes doctors have to try a few before they find the right one. Medicines come in lots of different forms, sometimes you may take an antibiotic as a pill, drink it as a liquid, or have it as an injection.

In summary, there are too many medicines to count! Some things we use every day such as garlic and ginger can be used as medicine if you know what you are doing! Luckily for everyone Scientists and researchers are creating more medicine and treatments every day!
-Ailie, Medical Student & Evolution and Human Behaviour Masters Student

I would like to work in Tropical Medicine. How long would I need to study for?

-asked by Liam, 11, Burnside Primary School

Lots of people work in tropical medicine including biomedical researchers, epidemiologists, doctors and microbiologists to name a few. So the length of time you have to study for will really depend on what aspect of tropical medicine you want to end up in, most researchers for example will have done 4 or 5 years of university and doctors need to have done 5 years of university and 9 years of specialist training. People who work in tropical medicine are always learning new things even after they’ve officially stopped studying.
-JC, Medical Student

STEM Students answer Children’s Questions #3

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re answering the more general questions from children curious what life is like for a scientist.

What made you want to become a scientist?

-asked by Dylan, 10, from Simonside Primary School

Interesting question. I wanted to become a scientist because I find that science is a great way to find out more about the world and how it works. It gives me a whole different way of looking at and understanding the world.

For example, look at your hand and wiggle your fingers, that is all happening due to nerve impulses, which are a form of electricity that travel from the brain along nerves to your fingers instructing them to move.

Or even the reason we see colour such as green is because a green object will absorb all light but green light, and this reflects back making the object look green!

And that’s just the tiniest part of it. There is so much to discover and it’s all so intricate and fits together in such a clever way.

So, a bit of a lengthy answer but in short there is far too much interesting stuff out there for me not to become a scientist and try and find out as much as I can. The best thing is, I will never be able to find out everything, there will always be something for someone else to discover, someone like you, if you wanted!
– James, Biology & Psychology Student

Does your experiments work all the time?

-asked by Farah, 8, from West Jesmond Primary School

Unfortunately they don’t always work out, but that’s what makes science so exciting since we can still learn things from the times things didn’t work out like we planned. Loads of scientific discoveries and new inventions have been made by accident including X-rays, corn flakes and Velcro.
– JC, Medical Student

Why do we need to do science?

-asked by Harith, 7.5, from West Jesmond Primary School

That’s a great question. Science is really important because it helps us answer so many questions like ‘why is the sky blue’ but it also can be used to design and make cars, computers and other great things that people use every day.

It can also help us save and improve lives by creating medicines and new treatments for diseases; figuring out the best way to grow enough food for millions of people; and generating electricity to power homes.

Science is even used in places you might not expect like in producing the colour dyes for your clothes and in your favourite sweets!
-JC, Medical Student & Clare, STEM Outreach Officer

What is your favourite thing about science?

-asked by Jonathon, 11, from Burnside Primary School

I love how science lets me understand all the amazing mysteries in the world, from gravity which stops us from flying into space to electricity which powers my home!

I’m particularly interested in the science of biology and the human body, I find all the different ways the body adapts to change to keep us healthy very clever. Everything in the body is in balance, the lungs breath in more oxygen to supply our muscles when we exercise, and the kidneys hold in salt and water when we are dehydrated. Wanting to learn more, I decided train to be a doctor to learn how to fix the body when things go wrong.

I am amazed by the inventions and discoveries by scientists that help us treat diseases more efficiently. X-rays and CT scanners allow us to see inside the body from the outside while antibiotics and vaccinations treat and prevent infections that would otherwise be fatal.

My overall favourite thing about science is that as it is so broad, there is something to interest everyone! A scientist can be anyone from a zoologist to a nuclear physics to students doing experiments in school! Science is always changing as scientists and researchers making new discoveries that challenge the way we see the world, and engineers and computer scientists come up with inventions that change our day to day life.
-Ailie, Medical Student & Evolution and Human Behaviour Masters Student

If you have any questions that you would like our team to answer, please leave a comment below!

STEM Students answer Children’s Questions #2

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re focusing on Biology questions around DNA and genetics.

First of all we should really explain what DNA is. It stands for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid. It is essentially the building blocks of life. All living things, plants, animals and you are made of DNA. It is a big, long code that tells your body how to make you. You inherit your DNA partly from your mother and partly from your father – that’s why we often look similar to our families.

Do twins have the same DNA?

-asked by Lucy, 11, from Burnside Primary School

Well it really depends on what kind of twins you have. Monozygotic twins (the scientific name for identical twins) do have the exact same DNA as each other because both individuals developed from the same fertilized egg. Dizygotic twins, (non-identical twins), don’t have the same DNA since the individuals are formed from two different eggs that are fertilised at the same time, this is also how twins can be born one boy and one girl.
– JC, Medical Student

How is DNA created?

-asked by Nicole, 11, from Burnside Primary School

DNA is created as a double helix (imagine a twisted ladder shape) of two complementary strands, which mean the strands are matched up to each other. These DNA strands are made of chemical building blocks called nucleotides. We can think of this building blocks as ladders. Each building blocks are made of three parts: a phosphate group, a sugar group and one of four types of nitrogen bases. To form a strand of DNA, nucleotides are linked into chains (one side of the ladder formed), with the phosphate and sugar groups alternating. They are formed like a spiral ladder, where the phosphate and the sugar molecules are the sides and the nitrogen bases act as the rungs. The base from one strand is then connected to complementary base of another DNA strand. So, even though the molecules are very long, a DNA is compact and coiled, which enables it to fit inside packaging we call chromosomes. In humans, we have 23 pairs of chromosomes inside the nucleus of our cells. These contains information and instructions needed for us to develop, grow and reproduce.
– Aurelia, Dental student

How many genes are in a body?

-asked by Kian, 9, from Hylton Castle Primary School

Every cell in your body has a nucleus with the DNA containing all of your genes. Each gene has the special code to make one of the proteins used to build the body. If you stretched out all the genes in the DNA of one cell it would be 2 metres long, and each person has 37 trillion cells! The DNA is very tightly coiled into 23 pairs of chromosomes, one of each pair comes from your mum and the other from your dad. This is why you and your siblings have some features from each of your parents. Scientists say we all have 25,000 genes that decide everything from your skin colour to your height. Everyone has different genes, apart from identical twins, meaning we are all unique and there is no one exactly like you in the entire world!
– Ailie, Evolution and Human Behaviour Masters Student

Is it possible to make a dinosaur come back to life using similar DNA?

-asked by Noah, 11, from Burnside Primary School

A great question, I definitely hope so, but we would have to be careful we don’t want a Jurassic park situation! Some people might say the most similar thing to a dinosaur nowadays would be a reptile, but dinosaurs were more likely warm blooded, unlike reptiles. The most related live group of animals to dinosaurs are birds, did you know chickens are thought to be distantly descended from a T-rex? However, birds aren’t very dinosaur like. Say we wanted to bring a diplodocus back to life, our best bet would be to try and find some source of DNA for example blood in the body of mosquito trapped in amber (like in jurassic park!) and splice (which is like fusing or attaching) it to a similar animal’s DNA.

Scientists have been working on a way to bring Mammoths back, using DNA from dead mammoths which were frozen in ice! They are splicing this DNA to elephant DNA to try and create a hybrid mammoth/elephant hybrid. It might be easier to bring a smaller dinosaur back, like a Compsognathus (a turkey sized dinosaur which was thought to eat small lizards and insects) by forming a hybrid with the most closely related animal today. Whilst scientist haven’t made mammoths de-extinct yet, they have managed to do it briefly with Pyrenean Ibex (a sort of mountain goat with big horns although sadly this didn’t live very long) so perhaps in the future there is hope yet for dinosaurs and mammoths to return, I certainly hope so!
– James, Biology and Psychology Student

Jurassic Park via Giphy.com

STEM Students Answer Children’s Questions #1

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re focusing on questions around Earth Science and other planets.

If the Earth is the right distance away for it to be not too hot, not too cold, how come the north and south pole are cold?

– asked by a student from Blaydon West Primary School

As the Earth goes around the Sun it spins on its own axis. The equator is the closest bit to the sun during the day so it heats up, and stays relatively warm during the night as the atmosphere is good at retaining heat. The poles however are always the furthest part away from the Sun hence never warm up and are thus are the coldest parts of the Earth.
– Leo, Mechanical Engineering Student

How do we get seasons?

– asked by a student from Blaydon West Primary School

The Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted by 23.5 degrees and so some bits of the Earth’s surface are slightly closer to the Sun than the other bits. So in the Summer, the Northern Hemisphere is angled towards the Sun; in the Winter it is angled away from the Sun.
– Leo, Mechanical Engineering Student

What are the rings of a planet made of?

– asked by a student from Mortimer Primary School

There are rings around all of the planets known as gas giants; Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. These rings are made up of asteroid and ice particles. Only the rings around Saturn can be seen from Earth as they contain more ice which reflects the sunlight more. The rings around most of the gas giants (Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune) were formed from the impact of asteroids and meteorites which threw dust out into orbit. Whereas Saturn’s rings were formed by the impact of an icy moon causing a lot of bigger chunks of debris to be thrown into orbit. Although the debris is pushing away from the planet the gravity pulls this debris towards the planet enough to keep it in orbit.
– Jade, Earth Science student

How do you make a planet?

– asked by a student from Bede Burn Primary School

All matter was formed in a huge explosion called the Big Bang over 13 billion years ago. There are two main theories about the formation of planets, but they are both driven by a force called gravity which is the force that keeps us on the ground and causes objects to fall when dropped. Gravity causes the material formed in the big bang to come together forming asteroids and eventually planets. As these asteroids crash into each other they release a lot of heat that causes them to melt. This melting allows the heavier, denser elements to sink to the centre of the planet and the lighter elements rise further up. This separation forms the layers within the planets.
– Jade, Earth Science student

Have any more questions you’d like to ask our experts? Write them in the comments below!