This little flower gets a raw deal, often regarded as a weed to be dug up, but it is actually quite pretty, with its bright yellow colour and distinctive leaves. Even the etymology of its name is pretty. Millie explains the origin of dandelion, and how people in other countries refer to this cheery flower.
Perhaps you have heard of the term biotechnology and wondered what it is. You may think you know already – after all, the parts that make up the word are very familiar: bio + technology. You have seen the first part of the word in biology, antibiotics, all sorts of words. It comes from Greek bios, which means ‘life’.
As for technology, it is not just about computers and smartphones. Technology is the practical use of knowledge to create useful things and solve problems. You might like to think of it as tech-knowledge-y. So, taking it one step further, biotechnology is about using biology in technology.
We talked to Alessandra Iscaro, a biotechnology researcher at the University of Florence, Italy, and she explained to us what it is all about.
Today is election day in UK, when the citizens of the country choose their new government. You can read all about how the elections work here. You wouldn’t think that dress codes of ancient Rome would affect the elections of today, but they do! Millie Slavidou explains.
Today is a good day to think about the word ‘candidate’. I rather like the etymology of this one.
It comes from Latin candidus, which is the past participle* of candidare, which meant ‘to make white, to make bright’.
Not because of whitewashing whatever the candidates might have said or done! It was because in ancient Rome candidates who wanted to be elected either to the Senate or any other office wore white robes.
If we take it one step further back, to a root meaning ‘white, shining’, we find that ‘candle’ is a cognate.**
The past particle is the past form of the verb that can also be used as an adjective, like “a fallen tree”. In the case above, the adjective is like saying ‘whitened’ in English. Other examples of past particles are:
past particle: bitten
example: a bitten apple
past particle: chosen
example: aa chosen present
past particle: crashed
example: a crashed bicycle
A cognate is a distant relative, a word ultimately from the same root. Like a third cousin. Here are some examples of cognates.
Germanic runes were originally inscribed on tablets made of beech wood. Modern German for book is Buch!
Today’s featured image is Marasmiellus candidus, a type of mushroom. You will often find the word ‘candidus’ used in botany or biology to describe something that is white, such as crocus candidus or the white woodpecker Melanerpes Candidus. There is even a white monkey called Propithecus candidus.
Lions are felines, which means that they are members of the same wider family as cats. Indeed, they are frequently referred to as “large cats” or something similar.
They live on plains and savanna in Africa and India, where the sun beats down on the grassland so that it fades, withers and turns yellow – just the colour of a lion, which helps to camouflage it, so that it can blend in with its surroundings and stay hidden.
Lions are predators, which means they hunt and kill other animals for their meat. The hunting is usually the task of the lioness, while the male lion provides protection from other lions.
They will generally hunt zebras, antelopes, impala, and even giraffes, hippos and young elephants. The lioness may need to attack quickly, before the prey can run away, and the lion can reach amazing speeds of up to 56 km/h (around 30 mph).
Lions generally live in family groups known as prides. This may be made up of between 7 and 10 animals.
A lioness will normally give birth to a litter of three cubs, although occasionally there may be as many as six. These are blind at birth, and remain so for the first two weeks of life, just like kittens!
Lifespan and Population
When a lion lives in the wild, forced to compete for food, and to fight with other lions, and survive in times when prey may be scarce, it has a life expectancy of around 15 years.
However, lions in captivity, that do not have to fight for their territory and have a ready food supply and medical attention may live up to 30 years – double their wild cousins!
The lion population is in decline, which means that there are fewer and fewer. In Africa, there are an estimated 39,000 lions, whereas in Asia the number stands at just 400.
I expect most of you have heard of antonyms, and even if you haven’t heard the word, you know them and use them every day. Antonyms are words that mean the opposite. For example, hot is the antonym of cold, rich is the antonym of poor.
But what happens when we have a word that doesn’t have another antonym – it is the antonym of itself?! You are probably wondering what on earth that could mean. Well, there are some words that have two meanings which are the opposite of each other. This makes the word its own antonym. Words like this are known as contronyms.
One very common one that we shall start with is a word that you use all the time without ever thinking about it being a contronym. This is left, which can mean “gone, departed” or “still there, remaining” . If you have gone, then you have left, but if everyone else except you has gone, then you are left!