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Why Are There So Many Types of Dogs?

Aug-31, 2020

dogs, big dogs, small dogs, poodle, puppies

There are so many breeds of dogs that's it's hard to think of them all as the same species. In fact, there are estimated to be about 339 recognized dog breeds in the world. So, what does it mean to be a "recognized dog breed?"

While all dogs are the same species, Canis lupus familiaris, and share a common ancestor, the Canis lupus of Central Asia, they have changed and evolved from thousands of years of living with humans. Different dog breeds developed as their owners bred their dogs to encourage certain traits, behaviors, and physical characteristics. Some breeds of dogs have existed for a long time, but most are fairly recent, only a few hundred years old. Organized groups of people began to form who bred dogs, whether for a living or as a hobby. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), or World Canine Organization, is considered the authority on dog breeding, but there are other respected organizations like the American Kennel Club and the Westminster Kennel Club, who hosts the famous annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

These days, opinions tend to be mixed on dog breeding. Some argue that many dog breeds have changed too much with time and will only continue to change, negatively effecting future generations of dogs. Some people say that, given how many stray dogs and dogs looking to be adopted there are in the world, we should focus on finding them fur-ever homes instead of creating more puppies. On the other hand, people who like dog breeds would point out that dog breeding has allowed for so many different types of dogs to suit any family and any lifestyle, meaning every person can choose the dog who has literally be designed for them.

Dogs have been with us as companions for over 10,000 years. They enrich our lives, teach responsibility to our children, protect us when in danger, provide comfort and support to the disabled, and so much more. It's easy to assume that dogs will stay by our sides for the next 10,000 years, perhaps following us as we venture out into the solar system and beyond. What forms do you think our furry friends will take? We'll just have to wait and see!

Want to learn more about dog ownership? Check out our series "What's Pup!" over on the Best Brains YouTube channel!

The Science of S'mores

Aug-24, 2020

s'mores, food, dessert, camping, sweet treats

In addition to their yearly cookie sales, the Girl Scouts are also responsible for another iconic treat: the s'more! First published in 1927, the s'more recipe has remained a favorite for backyard barbecues, camping trips, or any place where you can safely roast a marshmallow.

Believe it or not, there's a lot of science that goes into this classic dessert. Let's take a look at what makes a s'more so irresistible.

Part 1: The Graham Cracker

It may surprise you to learn that the sweet cracker with the perfect snap was originally created as a healthy biscuit for vegetarians way back in the 1800's. The two flavors that make graham crackers so distinctive are the sweet taste of honey and the hearty flavor of the wheat, kept whole and coarsely grained for a rustic, robust taste. Graham crackers are the perfect balance to sweet marshmallows and smooth chocolate.

Part 2: The Chocolate

An average chocolate bar melts between 86 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that you can enjoy that delicious melted texture without risking burning your mouth. Chocolate bars get their flavor from a balance of cocoa powder and cocoa butter, both extracted from the cocoa bean. If the cocoa beans are treated with an alkaline solution before being processed, this results in a milder chocolate flavor and a less acidic taste. We call this "Dutch processing," and it's usually very popular in baked goods. However, Hershey chocolate and other chocolate bars are not Dutch processed. This gives the s'more a little bit of a tangy flavor, which again compliments the sweetness of the marshmallow. Chocolate bars are also tempered so that they can retain their shape. Chocolate is heated and then mixed with unmelted chocolate chunks. This combination, along with strict temperature control, creates a stronger structure and allows for the chocolate to set in various molds.

Part 3: The Marshmallow

Marshmallows are one of the oldest confections of all. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, bakers would mix honey with the roots of a pink and white flower called a marshmallow to create a sweet, fluffy treat. Over time and lots of trials which were probably very delicious, bakers created a method using gelatin, sugar, and corn starch to create a fluffy, puffy candy. Originally, marshmallows were laid out in trays and traditionally square or other cut out shapes. But modern automation created the rounded shape we're all familiar with today.

Part 4: The Fire

When a marshmallow is heated, three things happen. Firstly, the air inside the treat heats and expands, making the marshmallow puff up. Secondly, the gelatin inside the marshmallow begin to melt. This creates the molten, gooey interior of the s'more. Lastly, the sugars on the surface heat up and bubble. This process is called caramelization. The sugar molecules begin to oxidize, changing the flavor and color. Too much oxidization and the sugars start to burn, although a charred marshmallow is preferred by many.

When the cooked marshmallow is placed on the chocolate, heat transfers from the marshmallow and into the chocolate, causing it to melt as well. Now that this marvel of science has been constructed, you're ready to begin testing. Taste testing!

Three True Stories About Fearless Girls

Jul-20, 2020

superheros, girls, brave girls, friends, mighty girls

"You can't be what you can't see."

Marian Wright Edelman, American civil rights activist.

More and more attention is being placed on representation, opportunities, and treatment of marginalized groups. We are questioning who gets to make laws, who gets to make hiring decisions, who decides where we go to school, and more. This heightened awareness of our contemporary culture and its biases will be an essential part of our children's generation, so we must raise them to be the best functioning members of this society.

So today, we have three inspirational true stories you can share with your children so that they can see bravery in action!

I COULD DO THAT! Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote

Linda Arms White; Pictures by Nancy Carpenter

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

I COULD DO THAT! Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote

Photo courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

This picture book tells the story of Esther Morris who, from a young age growing up in what was then known as the Wyoming Territory in the mid-1800s, was filled with determination to do more. With engaging art and a tale of tackling challenges at every step along life's journey, Esther Morris inspires our kids to be aware of their surroundings, recognize their own potential, and make amazing things happen!

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman

Kathleen Krull; Pictures by David Diaz

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman

Photo courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Wilma Rudolph is an Olympic athlete with multiple gold medals and an inspiring story of overcoming physical limitations. Wilma Unlimited also features David Diaz's stunning paintings, which expertly capture the feeling of running free. While we may not be able to reach the heights of accomplishment of Wilma, her story can motivate any child to strive beyond whatever they feel limited by. Wilma Unlimited shows us all how to run faster towards our goals!

I Am Malala Young Readers' Edition: How One Girl Stood Up For Education And Changed The World

Malala Yousafzai

Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman

Photo courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Malala Yousafzai has been an inspiring figure for most of her young life. An advocate for children's education, an author, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and an international symbol of bravery and the strength of youth, Malala Yousafzai is at the forefront of a new age of activism and awareness. With this Young Reader's edition of her autobiography, children of any age can learn her story and apply its lessons to their own lives.

Happy Reading!

Breakfast Solutions: Omelet Muffins

Jul-13, 2020

muffin tasty breakfast

When it comes in incredible foods, it's hard to beat the humble egg. However, it is very easy to beat a few eggs together when you're creating a delicious omelet!

Quick to cook, protein-rich, and wonderfully versatile, the omelet is a breakfast staple. At the same time, omelets can be intimidating to cook due to lack of technique. Plus, an omelet can simply be too much food in the morning for one person, especially our kids. Can we find a solution to this delicious dilemma? Of course we can!

Enter the Omelet Muffin. Fluffy, convenient, and tasty, the omelet muffin in an amazing breakfast any time of the year. Made by combining beaten eggs with your favorite omelet ingredients and baking in a muffin tin, you have a smaller and much more portable breakfast than the traditional egg-normous diner omelet with all of the flavor!

In addition to being convenient and nutritious, omelet muffins are perfect for young chefs to test their budding skills. Teach good knife technique by letting your kids cut up cheeses or soft meats like ham, roasted turkey, and pre-cooked bacon with a table knife. Older kids can be trusted to chop onions, tomatoes, scallions, and other veggies which require a sharper blade. Advanced kid chefs can practice dicing with peppers, mushrooms, shallots, and fresh herbs. With the omelet muffin, everyone gets a say as to what flavors they want in their breakfast, and everyone can help with prep. Plus, like we discussed in our Sheet Pan Pancakes article, Omelet Muffins cook all at once. No more does someone have to take on the role of short order cook while everyone else eats!

Omelet muffins are customizable to any taste and many diet restrictions. Plus, they freeze well and can be taken on the go for extra convenience. We think they'll be an amazing Breakfast Solution for your family!

omelette breakfast

How to make Omelet Muffins:

Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease up your muffin pan. A cupcake pan works just fine, too, they just won't need to cook as long. A butter spray is best for this; but you can use real butter or brush with ghee, olive oil, bacon fat, whatever your taste is! Next, prep your ingredients. Remember to cut your ingredients into bite size pieces suitable to the size of your pan. Classic combos of ingredients include the following:

  • Ham, cheddar, onion, and green bell pepper (The Western)
  • Wilted spinach, tomato, and white cheese (The Florentine)
  • Ham, cooked sausage, and cooked bacon (The Meat Lover's)
  • Cooked asparagus and gruyere (The Parisienne)

Make sure that certain vegetables you add get cooked a little on the stovetop before they go in the omelet for best taste. When all your ingredients are ready, prep your egg mixture by cracking eggs into a bowl and whisking until whites and yolks are blended. Add dairy (whole milk, cream, or half and half) for a more quiche-like consistency. Assume one egg for every muffin and make more if needed. Remember to add salt and spices to your eggs for maximum yum!

Now it's time to assemble. Have everyone in the family spoon their chosen ingredients into their muffin cups, then pour the egg mixture on top. Make sure to stir each cup a little to coat and spread out ingredients. Cook in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until eggs are set. You can freeze any leftovers for a quick breakfast or snack anytime! Enjoy!

Tags Family Food

Five Facts About Volcanoes

Jun-15, 2020

plant science, caterpillar, twig, leaf, forest

When we think of the raw, untamed power of the Earth, what better way to portray this than an erupting volcano? Whether symbolized by the fearsome Te Ka from Disney's Moana, or the volcanic explosions of Anger in Pixar's Inside Out, the volcano means rage and destruction for many of us. But volcanoes also provide a vital life force to the Earth as well. Let's learn five cool facts about volcanoes together!

  • While we tend to associate volcanos with hot, tropical climates like Hawaii, volcanos are present on every continent on Earth, even Antarctica. In fact, the largest concentration of volcanos in the world is found on the frozen continent, 138 in total, all lying dormant under the ice. Will they ever erupt again? Scientists are monitoring the situation every day!
  • While Maui might like us to think that he pulled islands out of the sea with his magical fish hook, the truth is that many, many islands around the globe were actually made from underwater volcanoes erupting over time. Additionally, the shifting of tectonic plates can create a column of lava shooting into the water and hardening into a volcanic island. But it's okay, you can still say you're welcome!
  • We tend to think of volcanic eruptions as giant sprays of lava, but many volcanos around the world are much calmer with a lower output. In fact, some volcanoes have been steadily streaming for decades. What's the longest recorded lava flow That's still going today? That would be Mount Yasur in Vanuatu in the South Pacific. This volcano has been erupting several times an hour for 111 years! that's older than Mickey Mouse, Band-Aid brand bandages, and Oreo cookies!
  • Due to how lush and habitable volcanoes can make an area, it isn't surprising that human populations tend to cluster around active and dormant volcanoes alike. Cities like Legazpi City in the Philippines, Shimabara in Japan, Mount Etna in Sicily, and Auckland in New Zealand are all "hot" tourist destinations in part due to their nearby active volcanoes. Don’t worry though, humans have been coexisting with volcanoes for thousands of years, and thanks to modern science, there are many, many plans in place to keep everyone safe!
  • You might think Earth is the only place in our solar system you would find an active volcano, but it turns out that we aren't alone. Some of the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune all have active volcanoes, viewable by our space probes as they float on by. Could a future space colony set themselves up around an active volcano, just like we have on Earth? Time will tell!

Volcanoes are beautiful, life-giving, natural wonders. Volcanology, or the study of volcanos, is an important part of science, not only to learn how our planet works, but also to keep people safe from unexpected eruptions. Would you like to be a volcano scientist? You'd always have a place to cook up s'mores!