Double Helix blog

An illustration of an underground Mars base.

25 May 2017
by David
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Making bricks on Mars

An illustration of an underground Mars base.

A future Mars base could be made from Mars dirt!
Image: NASA

If you’ve ever dreamed of living on Mars, you’ve probably realised you’ll need a place to live. That’s one reason to be excited about Martian brick research being conducted by scientists in the United States. Recently, a team showed that it’s actually quite easy to make bricks out of Mars dirt. But how did they get the dirt to test in the first place?

Mars is a long way away from Earth. Which is why every mission to Mars has been a one-way trip. Scientists have never sent a sample of Mars back to Earth. But decades of experiments on rovers, landers and orbital spaceships means we know quite a lot about Martian dust. Continue Reading →

16 May 2017
by David
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Mathematical treasure hunt

a pearlescent shellMaths is everywhere! But it can be hard to find if you don’t know what to look for. Try this mathematical treasure hunt and you’ll soon discover some amazing mathematical secrets!

You will need

What to do

Continue Reading →

A blue helicopter.

12 May 2017
by David
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Hovering surprise for earthquake scientists

A blue helicopter.

Using earthquake detectors, scientists were able to count the blades on this helicopter!
Image: Alain Rioux

Iceland is a remote and beautiful island, brimming with volcanoes. Volcanic eruptions give the Earth an almighty shake, so it’s no surprise that Iceland has lots of earthquake measuring seismometers. But you might be surprised to find out what these instruments are picking up.

Recently, a team of scientists placed several seismometers around an Icelandic volcano. As the data came in, they found some strange vibrations. They were weak and fast, and they seemed to come from very close to the surface of the Earth. Continue Reading →

small circles of paper with the numbers 1, 2, 5, 13, 29 and 64 written on them.

2 May 2017
by David
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Thirteen cent coins

small circles of paper with the numbers 1, 2, 5, 13, 29 and 64 written on them.

Do you prefer these coins to the regular ones?

You’re probably familiar with 20 cent and 50 cent coins. But different countries have different values for their coins. So what’s the best way to number coins?

You will need

  • Australian silver coins:
    • 5 x 50 cents
    • 5 x 20 cents
    • 5 x 10 cents
    • 5 x 5 cents
  • Pen and paper
  • Scissors
  • Stopwatch

Setting up

Continue Reading →

An egg with a green yolk in a bowl

13 April 2017
by David
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Green eggs

An egg with a green yolk in a bowl

Prank your friends with a green egg!

Time for an Easter trick! There are lots of eggs around at this time of year, but this one is sure to raise some eyebrows. And when you’re finished, you can get your parents to help you cook your green egg, so you can gross out your entire family!

Safety: Use clean equipment when handling food. Younger readers should ask an adult to help cook eggs.

You will need

  • 2 bowls
  • Fresh eggs
  • Empty plastic bottle
  • Fork
  • Green food dye

Continue Reading →

12 April 2017
by David
0 comments

Microscope: Sleepy sunshine

A bouy sleeping in the sunshine, on a green hill.

Time for a snooze in the sun!
Image: ©iStock.com/imagedepotpro

Double Helix magazine is looking for your science questions! Our Microscope column answers the thorniest science queries you can throw at us. Email us at helix.editor@csiro.au and you could have your question published. Here’s a sample question to get you thinking.

Aisha Goshti asks: Why does the Sun makes you feel sleepy? Continue Reading →

7 April 2017
by David
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Scientific notation sprinkles

In everyday life, most numbers we use are less than 1000. Sometimes scientists need to use MUCH larger numbers. Here’s an insight into how they do it.

You will need

  • Jar of hundreds and thousands sprinkles
  • Measuring spoons and cup
  • Pen
  • Sticky notes

What to do

Continue Reading →

Nihonium element 113, Moscovium element 115, Tennessine element 117, and Oganesson element 118

30 March 2017
by David
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The world welcomes four new elements

Nihonium element 113, Moscovium element 115, Tennessine element 117, and Oganesson element 118

Welcome to the four newest members of the periodic table!

The periodic table doesn’t change very often, which is why it’s worth celebrating when it does. This month, three new elements were inaugurated at a ceremony in Russia. And in Tokyo, a fourth was welcomed to the world. Say hello to moscovium, tennessine, oganessson and nihonium!

Let’s back up a bit: what is an element? Elements are the different types of atoms that exist. So oxygen is an element, and hydrogen is an element, but water is not – it’s a chemical made of oxygen and hydrogen atoms. Continue Reading →