West Virginians through the generations have marveled at the intermittent flashes of light that take place in the night skies of late spring and summer, as swarms of fireflies emerge from the ground to perform their annual bioluminescence-enhanced mating ritual.
While such displays can be spectacular, particularly if large populations of fireflies are involved, imagine viewing a light show created by thousands of lightning bugs all flashing at the same time, at the same intervals.
Such displays are created by synchronous fireflies, members of two or three of the 2,000 species of fireflies known to exist in North America. Until recently, synchronous fireflies could be found on public lands in the U.S. only in portions of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest, the Oak Ridge Wildlife Management Area in east Tennessee, and South Carolina’s Congaree National Park.
Alvin Drew remembers becoming entranced with airplanes a few months before his fifth birthday. In the fall of 1967, he went to the airport in Baltimore to see his father off on a business trip. In those simpler times, he recalls walking outside to watch the takeoff from a designated area on the runway.
Four-year-olds are into all things big and loud, and seeing an airplane come racing down the runway, popping a wheelie, and then taking off was just about the coolest thing he could imagine. His mom and grandmother, both educators, noted his interest and bought him model airplanes. This nurtured a budding interest in flying and later becoming an astronaut.
“They saw a smoldering fire of curiosity inside me,” Drew said. “They went out and threw as much gasoline on the fire as
Reading is the gateway for learning, but one-third of elementary school students in the United States do not read at grade level. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are exploring how the design of reading materials affects literacy development. They find that an overly busy page with extraneous images can draw the reader’s attention away from the text, resulting in lower understanding of content.
The results of the study are available in the September issue of the journal npj Science of Learning.
“Learning to read is hard work for many kids,” said Anna Fisher, associate professor of psychology and senior author on the paper.
The typical design of books for beginning readers often include engaging and colorful illustrations to help define the characters and setting of the story, offer context for the text and motivate young readers. Fisher and Cassondra Eng, a doctoral candidate in CMU’s Department of Psychology and first