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Science: Kids do better if you pay them for grades

Capitalist education? Kids get better grades if you pay for them | Blog | Futurismic

As a kid, my dad would pay me $2 per A. And that's it.

About two-thirds of the 59 high-poverty schools in the Sparks program — which pays seventh-graders up to $500 and fourth-graders as much as $250 for their performance on a total of 10 assessments — improved their scores since last year’s state tests by margins above the citywide average.

The gains at some schools approached 40 percentage points.

For example, at PS 188 on the Lower East Side, 76 percent of fourth-graders met or exceeded state benchmarks in English — 39.6 percentage points higher than last year, when the kids were in third grade.

At MS 343 in The Bronx, 94 percent of seventh-graders met or surpassed state standards in math this year — 37.3 points higher than last year, when the students were sixth-graders.

Did a shattered dwarf planet scar the moon?

Broken dwarf planet may have scarred the moon - space - 10 June 2009 - New Scientist

Several large impact scars on the moon appear to be around 3.9 billion years old, suggesting that the Earth and other objects of the inner solar system were heavily pounded at that time. Most astronomers believe that the bombardment was caused by shifts in the orbits of the giant planets, which destabilised the asteroid belt, hurling giant rocks our way.

But the distribution of small and large lunar craters does not match the numbers of small and large objects in the asteroid belt today, says a team led by Matija Cuk of Harvard University, who spoke at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Toronto, Canada, last week.

Cuk says one possible alternative is that a dwarf planet or single large asteroid "hundreds or maybe 1000 kilometres across" did the damage after being ripped apart by gravity when it came too close to Earth or another inner planet. It then littered the inner solar system with impactors.

June 09, 2009

Jellyfish threatening to dominate oceans

Jellyfish threaten to 'dominate' oceans › News in Science (ABC Science)

Giant jelly fish are taking over parts of the world's oceans due to overfishing and other human activities, say researchers.

Dr Anthony Richardson of CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research and colleagues, report their findings in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

"We need to take management action to avert the marine systems of the world flipping over to being jellyfish dominated," says Richardson, who is also a marine biologist at the University of Queensland.

The Echidna breaks all the rules

Basics - Brainy Echidna Proves Looks Aren’t Everything - NYTimes.com

It's a shy, nocturnal, immaculate, pacifist that is nearly impossible for scientists to study in the wild. It has a huge brain, lays eggs and seems to be genetically half a bird.

. . . Reproductively, monotremes [the family echidnas belong to] are like a VCR-DVD unit, an embodiment of a technology in transition. They lay leathery eggs, as reptiles do, but then feed the so-called puggles that hatch with milk — though drizzled out of glands in the chest rather than expressed through nippled teats, and sometimes so enriched with iron that it looks pink.

Monotreme sex determination also holds its allure. In most mammals, a single set of XX chromosomes signifies a girl, a set of XY specifies a boy. For reasons that remain mysterious, monotremes have multiple sets of sex chromosomes, four or more parading pairs of XXs and XYs, or something else altogether: a few of those extra sex chromosomes look suspiciously birdlike. Another avianlike feature is the cloaca, the single orifice through which an echidna or platypus voids waste, has sex and lays eggs, and by which the group gets its name. Yet through that uni-perforation, a male echnida can extrude a four-headed penis.

However they conduct their affairs, monotremes do it remarkably well. Not only are they the oldest surviving mammalian group, but individual monotremes can live 50 years or longer. Peggy Rismiller of the University of Adelaide has studied the short-beaked echidna, or spiny anteater, since 1988. “One of the females we’ve been radiotracking since 1988 is at least 45, and she’s still reproducing,” Dr. Rismiller said.

The next time someone goes on and on about the lack of transitional forms in nature, slap them and scream ECHIDNA!

New Scientist Eight more bizarre species that are new to science

Gallery - Eight more bizarre species that are new to science - Image 3 - New Scientist

Self-destructive palm

Tahina spectabilis is the palm that flowers itself to death.

Commonly known as the Tahina palm, the gigantic plant produces a huge mass of flowers. Most palms flower throughout their lives, but the Tahina Palm does so only once – at the end of its life. After fruiting, the palm dies and collapses.

The new genus is unrelated to any other of the 170-plus palms of Madagascar and is only known to grow in the northwestern Analalava district. Fewer than 100 individuals have been identified.

June 08, 2009

Photo Gallery: Mercury

Mercury and MESSENGER - The Big Picture - Boston.com