“Why do spiders make webs and what are they made of?” asks Emily (7)


Thanks Team and thank you Emily. My first thoughts are about catching a spider and trying to keep it at home or somewhere else or finding a spider in the wild so that you can see it making, or looking after its web. I am however reluctant to suggest both catching a spider or keeping it in an indoors.

In some countries spiders can be dangerous so please do not interfere with it until an adult has identified it and  said that it is OK to collect it, or observe it closely.  If, with an adults permission, you can keep a spider then a large plastic aquarium would probably provide a good home for it.

A spider’s web is made of a type of silk, so ask an adult if they could find some silk for you to investigate. Maybe you could use it to make a web and see how strong it is?

If you do keep a spider, at home, or in the classroom you will have to decide how you will feed it. That will be an interesting investigation.

Look at this video of a garden spider building its web. In the first part of the video everything is slowed down. In the second part of the video things are at the real speed of web building.

“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.?

Many thanks to
Chris Leone for his images
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. This is the dust that is in the atmosphere. In the experiment the milk acts as a ‘dust’ in the water.

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, like that below).

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.

Revised 10/1/18 to include experiment and colour example.

“How did evolution happen?” asks Parm (10)


Parm, it’s all due to some wonderful stuff called DNA however the beginning of life is at the moment attributed to  a simpler chemical called RNA. Somehow 4.5 billion years ago, in a hot chemical quagmire a collection of complex chemical structure was formed which was living, it could reproduce itself. It is thought that this microscopic entity was quite close to the structure of present day bacterias although, it’s make up was completely different. For example it didn’t breathe Oxygen, it is thought that it might have breathed a chemical called Ammonia and it expelled Oxygen. It also, in its structure contained a crude DNA structure.

From this humble beginning all life on Earth evolved dictated by changes in the  DNA molecules that were part of their structure. Plants, Insects, Bacteria, Animals, Fungi, Algae,  all life contains their own DNA molecules which dictate their continued existence.

So for Jeremey, our snail there has been, for some reason, a small change in her/his DNA. The spiral is wrong. Maybe it might be wrong but it might help Jeremy eat a plant that he/she couldn’t eat before and therefore survive and breed more snails like him/her.

Over the millions of years that life has existed on our Earth, now and then, new life , created by old life, experiences a slight change in the DNA, and that means that the new life is slightly different from the life of its parents (plants, animals, fungi ….). If the new life survives, that life will create more new life in it’s form, evolution has taken place.

Hope this makes sense Parm. Any thoughts? Write them in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box.

Brandon S (10) asked “What kinds of alligators are there?

Nice question Brandon. Alligators and Crocodiles belong to the same family called the Crocodilians.

In a question from Kaia my team introduced the idea of ‘species’ and  said that, for example, there are 20,000 species of butterfly which means there are 20,000 different kinds of butterfly. There are however only two different types (species) of alligator – the American Alligator and the Chinese Alligator. Like butterflies they are almost identical the only difference with the alligators is their size.

There is a lot of work that has gone on by scientists to catalogue animals/insects/plants and other living things. For example you are in the family Sapiens and the Species Homo.

Brandon a question for you. Can you spot the differences  between a crocodile and an alligator?  They are in the same family. Try and let me know.

Thank you for your question.

“How many living things are on Earth?” asks Kaia (8)

Thanks team.

If you want a definition of ‘living’please click on the link.

The species  butterfly has  20,000 of the 1 million species in the insect group. At any one time there must be thousands of living Cabbage White butterflies flying around so you have 20,000 different types of butterfly flying around and maybe there are 50,000 of each type living at any one time.  Help. I must admit the calculations are frightening so i cheated and looked at the work of other scientists who say that there are  8 million species and each species has millions of living specimens. 

The homo species (us) has 9 billion living specimens, I suspect the ant population is considerably bigger than that so in answer to your question …. and then think of the number of plants  ….and then the number of bacteria …..there is no believable answer. However somebody has tried and they had difficulty putting all the numbers on their sheet of paper. Sorry Kaia.

If there are other questions which you may have thought of then please fill in the Reply box below or ask another question.  

Revised 17/102017  Numbers on image changed and text rewritten.

Laura G (10) asked “Is it possible to collect condensation to water a garden?”

Laura, have you ever on a warm day noticed faint water droppings on leaves of some of your plants. Where has this water come from? It might have come from the leaf itself or alternatively it might have come from the atmosphere. The atmosphere/air around us can hold an immense amount of water in its vapour form. For example a parcel of 1 cubic meter of air at 30 degrees centigrade could contain 28g ( or 28 cc) of water. There is therefore a good chance that those drips on the leaf came from the atmosphere.

The fog fence provides a surface that is colder* than the air around it and therefore a place where water vapour can condense and the water collected. The water can then be used for irrigation of plant life AND the plant life itself generates it’s own water vapour so it is possible to use a fog fence , in a desert like area to collect water, feed it to plants and begin the process of creating a self sustaining green environment.

I am happy for suggested revisions to the above arguments.

*Sorry Laura,I have given you a completely wrong bit of information. It is very unlikely that the fence would be at a different temperature from the air around us. So how does it aid condensation?  It’s made of metal. What do you feel when you touch a metal object that has been lying around on your table?.

See a previous question that may give you a clue.

It feels cold. Why? It should be at the same temperature as the rest of the objects on the table. It feels cold because metal is a good conductor of heat and as your fingers are quite warm it conducts the heat away from them and they feel cold. Maybe the metal in the fence is conducting heat away from the water vapour and because it loses heat it changes from the vapour form to the liquid form …..condensation.

Para added 15/10/17

link added  15/01/18

Mary Ann (10) asks “Why are most leaves on trees green?”

Mary Ann. I sometimes think it is amazing that  leaves are so successful because they reflect green light ….the don’t want it.

Remember that white light from the Sun is a mixture of all different colours.Below you can see the result of white light being passed through a prism. the chlorophyll in leaf absorbs the deep blue and the red light and reflects the green light.

For red leaves the chlorophyll is hiding in the colour of the leaf. Our eyes cannot see it.
If you want to know a little bit more then ask another question.

(Anyone reading this post who wants to ask a question or make a comment please feel free to do so)