Websites That Will Enlighten and Entertain You

Issue 7

World Wide Web
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If you're like me, you enjoy learning about new things. If you have a gifted child, chances are good you are like me. So every month I gather some websites together with some interesting information, about science, art, music, history, and just about anything else. Sometimes the information is helpful to parents of gifted kids since it might provide some tips or insight into gifted kids and their needs.

Most of the time, though, the information is just plain interesting and much of it is interesting, not just to parents of gifted kids, but to the kids too. Kids who love learning about space, for example, will find the information about an exoplanet's ring system.

This Exoplanet’s Ring System Puts Saturn to Shame

What child fascinated by outer space is unaware of the rings around Saturn? Illustrations we see make them look so beautiful. But if the rings around this newly discover exoplanet were around Saturn, we could see them from earth as easily as we see the moon. Actually, it could be argued that it would be even easier to see the rings since they would be far larger than the moon!  That's because the rings have a diameter of more than 74 million miles - 200 times the diameter of Saturn's rings.

Scientists discover tiny gene fragments linked to brain development and autism

Most of us are familiar now with the double helix of DNA and the genes it contains.

We understand that genes carry various traits that can be handed down from parents to their offspring. But not everyone recognizes the complexity of just how genetic information is processed and passed along. This article discusses "microexons," which influence the way proteins interact. Microexons help generate proteins needed by the nervous system.

If something goes wrong, the function of the proteins can be affected. And that's where this new line of research on brain development and autism is going.

Asteroid impacts may have sparked life on Earth

Speaking of DNA, without DNA there is no life. Scientists tell us that life on Earth started in the primordial ooze. Okay. But HOW? You can't have random amino acids bumping into each other and suddenly creating DNA. DNA (and RNA) is much too complex for that to work. Scientists have been trying to explain where the building blocks of life came from without much success. They are fairly certain of the chemicals that could be found on Earth but didn't know how we went from chemicals to nucleobases (gene fragments). Scientists at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado shot a laser beam at formamide, a chemical believed to have existed on the early Earth, and found that the beam, simulated high energy asteroid impacts, produced enough energy to create nucleobases.

Old humans reveal secrets

I must have had a subconscious desire this month to learn more about DNA and genetics.

Here is another site that discusses those concepts. This time, however, the focus is on the genetic evidence found in the small bits of DNA found in the skeleton of a man who lived in Siberia around 45,000 years ago. The DNA tells us that Neanderthals and early modern humans interbred. DNA found in other early humanoids tell us more, including migration patterns and other findings on development. Blue eyes seem to have developed before light skin. Over-hunting might not be the reason for the extinction of Ice Age mammals. And farming was an idea that spread as farming people moved and assimilated hunter-gatherers into their communities.

Stop Saying, “You’re so smart!” 3 Better Ways to Praise Kids

It's not a good idea to praise gifted kids for things they have no control over - like who they are. And who they are includes being smart. It's like praising a kid for having blue eyes. He did nothing to get those eyes. He didn't do anything to be smart either. It's what a child does that should be praised. A gifted child, like any child, needs to be praised for effort (one good reason to provide gifted kids with tasks that actually require them to put forth some effort). The 3 better ways to praise kids Renee Jain provides are good alternatives. But I have to admit, my highly gifted, highly gifted son didn't respond well to them when I tried them years ago. The little perfectionist just got angry with me. Apparently, I didn't understand that he was supposed to produce perfect...everything. It was a struggle. Still, it's better than saying, "You're so smart." That won't work either and is likely to create more problems.

Occupy Your Brain: On Power, Knowledge, and the Re-Occupation of Common Sense

I can't say that I agree with everything Carol Black says in this piece, but I sure agree with most of it. I mostly agree with the main idea that central control of education is not a very good idea. It's easy to believe that central control is a good thing since that's the way to get uniformity throughout the country. But at what expense? Black answers that question and brings up a few of her own. For instance, she asks who it is that gets to decide what children should and shouldn't learn? This is more important than ever as we hear more people talking about not just standards for a single country, but for the entire globe.

Musicians' Brains Really Do Work Differently — In A Good Way

I'm rather partial to stories about music. After all, my son is currently studying music composition in college. But this story should be of interest to everyone, especially as we see more and more programs for art and music being eliminated because of budget cuts in many schools across the country. This is happening even though study after study show the importance of music in learning. Here's a hint about just how significant playing an instrument is. What neuroscientists say about it is that the mental effort of the brain as a person plays an instrument is unlike what they see with any other activity, even other creative ones.

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