“I have a question about Hermann’s tortoises” says Christopher (10)

Many thanks team. The Western Hermann’s tortoise has evolved in the warmer parts of Europe while the Eastern Hermann’s tortoise has evolved in the colder parts of Europe where the ice age lasted longer. The Eastern tortoise is bigger than the Western one and it has been determined that it probably evolved faster than the Western tortoise. They can be distinguished by their carapace and plastron patterns. The images below are from Chris Leone
The Plastron

The Carapace

Maybe, Christopher you could tell me how long tortoises live? All you need to do is tell me in the Reply box below.?

Changes to title, images  and added information on tortoises (21/11/17)

Ellie (12) asks “What are the damages of hurricanes?”

Great question Ellie. I was going to ask my team to tackle this, however for some reason the question was left unanswered so to apologize I think I will try to answer it myself.

How is a hurricane created?

Air is made up of tiny molecules. When molecules are heated, they move faster. As they move faster they become become spaced farther apart, which makes the air less dense – meaning that there are fewer molecules in a given volume. This also means that the air has a lower overall pressure – pressure is the push of the gas on it’s surroundings. In comparison, cold air is made of more tightly packed molecules, and so it is denser and has relatively higher pressure.

The warmer, lower pressure air begins to move upwards and therefore it creates space below it which is filled by the colder higher pressure air. The warmer air ‘floats’ on the colder air. It also carries with it water vapour – water that has evaporated and contains lots of energy. A wind begins to be created. The hotter the air near the surface of the sea, the lower the pressure and the faster the rise.

As this warm air gets higher it begins to cool and also the water vapour that would have risen with it begins to turn back to water. A cloud begins to form. The energy of the condensing water vapour is given to the cloud.

The cloud of colder air and water vapour begins to move in circles (because the Earth is rotating). It meets other storm clouds. The hurricane is forming and is being fed by the warm air close to the warm sea.

What are the damages of the hurricane?

The strong winds of a hurricane can push water up and onto land. This water can cause major flooding and damage to homes, cars, and boats. Heavy Rains – Hurricanes can cause heavy rains that flood places inland and away from the center of the storm.

This video will help explain the formation of the hurricane.


“How do people survive in the jungle?” asks Lachlan (8)

Thank you team, for your comments.

You are right Homo Sapiens survived because of their hunting and gathering skills.They were better at it than their fellow humans  Homo Neanderthal and the other human groups (Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, Homo rudolfensis …..)

Some clever people have found, that we still have hunting and gathering skills in our blood. So there you are, we will/might be able to cope in a jungle environment.

Revised 11/11/17 – added other homo species.

“Why does the sky go green when it hails?” asks Swifty (11)

What a question? Thanks  team for your thoughts. To me it seems to be a unique mixing of the colours from our sunlight. We know that the blue sky is because of the blue part of the spectrum of colour that comes from the white light from the Sun.

Some of the blue part of that spectrum of light is scattered when it hits the molecules of Oxygen and Nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere. So blue coloured light illuminates the daytime sky. We know that when we see a sunset we can see a red sky in the distance and that is because we are looking at the Sun through a lot more atmosphere than we would do in a normal day. I attach a NASA video that explains this then I will tell you my ideas about a green sky.

My thinking, and that of some others, is that the green sky is linked to the storm clouds (the background image above, was a pause in the hailstorm that the cyclists were experiencing). These were preventing some of the sunlight reaching the viewer who saw a yellow light mixed with the blue sunlight. the mixture of these lights could have caused the green light (a cyano type of light).

Very happy to hear comments and questions. Remember science development is about admitting your ignorance and my thoughts above are just thoughts. You and I need to do some further investigations.

Caroline (10) asks “Will the world ever end?”

Thanks team. It is thought that in 4.5 billion years time the dying Sun, then a Red Dwarf will expand as it runs out of energy. The expansion will reach our worlds orbit so the planet Earth will be destroyed.

Obviously before then the Earth might be hit by asteroids or some other catastrophic event so although the planet might survive, life upon it might be destroyed.

Below is a short animation of the Sun’s expansion at the end of it’s life.








Jessie (13) asked “Why do humans age until 100 years old in average and not further?”

The Hydra are a group of invertebrates (animals that do not have backbones) that look like tiny tubes with tentacles protruding off one end. They grow only about 0.4 inches (10 millimeters) long and eat even tinier aquatic animals AND they seem to be immortal, they can live forever without aging.

So why can’t we? There are several reasons. One of them is the inability of our cells to continually divide. The cells of bacteria seem to be able to divide, and form two daughter cells endlessly. Our cells only seem to be able to divide about 60 times …. so after that time the part of the body that the cells support begins to degenerate (die).

The cell dividing and subsequent regenerating is controlled by our DNA. It tells the body what to do. Over the years our DNA becomes damaged by a variety of things and the instructions for regeneration are lost.

However the hydra survives so maybe that will be a route for researchers to find some answers to the problems we face.


“How is porcelain made?” asks Kaia (8)

Thanks team.There has already been a mention of kaolinite in a question on minerals, see this site.  My team are correct, the difference between ordinary clay pots and porcelain pots is the temperature at which the clay is ‘fired’.

The ‘firing’ process  is linked to the temperature of the kiln.

So a porcelain pot is a pot heated up to much higher temperature than that of other pots. This causes the clay to form a new mineral called Mullite.

Keith (13) asked a question about thermal papers in cash machines.

Keith’s question
More and more places are using thermal paper as a form of receipt paper for customers. With time the information fades. How can one scientifically go about recovering information which may have faded from thermal paper.

Keith, many thanks for the question. I never realised that thermal(heat sensitive) paper was used in so many places and that it is also the basis on which the polaroid camera worked.

Thermal paper is made using a collection of dyes which exist as colourless crystals that become coloured when they interact with an acid.

For those who enjoy their chemistry you might have come across adding a dye called phenolphthalein to an acid solution. The dye changes from colourless to a deep purple.

The applied heat (from the cash register machine) melts a layer in the paper which contains acid crystals. The liquid acid then interacts with the layer below it which contains a colourless crystalline dye which changes colour as the acid interacts with it.  The print then shows. The acid quickly becomes crystalline again.

Over time the print does begin to disappear.

A little investigation.

Obtain an old till receipt which your adults do not want to save. Put it onto an ironing board and with a hot (care) iron, iron it.


To make it more scientific predict what you think might happen before you carry out the experiment. Any ideas, if so you have a hypothesis.  Now find a very old (fading) receipt and using a hair drier blow warm air onto the BACK of the receipt. Again predict.

I think I’ll stop there. Many thanks for the question Keith. Please comment or ask another question.