Laser Guide Stars

Did you ever wonder why we have to have the Hubble Space Telescope so high up in the Earth's orbit? Why not just make a bigger and better telescope on the surface? ...

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Knocking the NOx Out of Coal

Nitrogen is the most common part of the air we breathe. In fact, about 80% of the air is nitrogen. Normally, nitrogen atoms float around joined to each other like chemical couples. But when air is ... Continue reading


Solid Smoke

Ever wondered what is the least dense solid in the world? Well, it is the so called Solid Smoke aerogel developed decades ago by aerospace engineers and recently perfected to its newest, lightest ... Continue reading


Luminol; Trick-or-Treat or Terrible Feat

What does trick-or-treating and crime scene investigation have in common? Hopefully, they don't have much in common, unless the trick-or-treater is wearing a safety glow stick. Glow sticks contain ... Continue reading


NASA Explains Dust Bowl Drought

NASA scientists have an explanation for one of the worst climatic events in the history of the United States, the 'Dust Bowl' drought, which devastated the Great Plains and all but dried up an already ... Continue reading


The Gingerbread Man

TheGingerbreadManDid you know that gingerbread came about because of a smut disease of wheat?

Stinking smut is a disease that replaces the wheat grain with a black powder of spores that has a strong fishy odor. Flour ground from smut-contaminated wheat, although not poisonous, has a gray color and an unpleasant fishy flavor. Many years ago a baker in Europe had a supply of flour ground from smutted wheat and people would not buy bread made from this flour. Rather than discard this tainted flour and suffer a financial loss, the baker added molasses to the dough to mask the dark color and ginger to cover the fishy flavor. So, according to some authorities, gingerbread was created.

The smuts are a large group of plant diseases caused by a family of fungi related to the rust fungi (Basidiomycetes). Among the most important are the smuts attacking various cereal grains such as wheat, rice, and corn. The stinking smuts attacking wheat replace the grain with dark smut balls containing the fungus spores. These smuts are also called bunts, a name that comes from the charred, or burned, appearance of the kernels. The fish oil odor comes from a flammable chemical in the smut spores and explosions often occurred in threshing machines harvesting smutted wheat, as well as in storage bins where sparks from machinery ignited the spore masses.