Hands-On Science

The City from the Ooze: Effects on Earth's Environment

Maybe you've wondered how Ooze City ties into physics, since all of the other projects have something to do with atmospheric or space science. The fact is that microbes, like the residents of Ooze City, have an enormous effect on Earth's atmosphere and environment, but nobody fully understands exactly what the effect is!

Scientists are concerned about the ways that human pollution may affect our environment, since we dump so many chemicals into the air and water. Atmospheric scientists are especially concerned about carbon dioxide, methane, and other gasses that could change how much heat the atmosphere absorbs from the sun. If the temperature of the atmosphere changes by even a few degrees, it could have a big effect on how crops grow, how often we have hurricanes and typhoons, and many other things.

Microbes are an important part of the picture, and one that we don't understand very well. As we've seen in Ooze City, some of the microbes take in oxygen from the air, and others generate hydrogen sulfide which escapes into the air. Microbes also take in carbon dioxide, and give off methane. These microbes are everywhere...in the oceans (plankton), lakes, marshes, wetlands, forests, and just about anywhere that you find moist soil, so the amount of gasses that they use or produce could be the key to understanding how human pollution will affect the Earth.

Some of the questions that scientists want to understand about the way natural Ooze Cities affect the environment include:

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