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Environmental Science Syllabus

Environmental Science

       Weekly guide to what we’re doing in class



Fraud in science

This is a work in progress.

My First Fraud Kit

Image by Aurich Lawson, ArsTechnia, Epic fraud: How to succeed in science (without doing any)

Science is a self-correcting enterprise.

But science is generally about investigating nature – not investigating the human investigators themselves. Scientists don’t assume that everyone else’s research is always correct, but realistically they operate on the presumption that research is earnest and honest.  When a scientist decides to engage in fraud, in some disciplines, their fake results are often harder to detect.


Lysenko, Russia, and genetics-denial

Lysenkoism was named for Russian botanist Trofim Denisovich Lysenko. It occurred in Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union. Lysenkoism mandated that all biological research conducted in the USSR conform to a modified Lamarckian evolutionary theory. Communists wanted this to be true because it promised a biology based on a moldable view of life consistent with Marxist-Leninist dogma.

Lysenkoists employed a form of political correctness to instill terror in anyone who disagreed with their dogma. People who disagreed with them faced public denunciation, loss of Communist Party membership, loss of employment, and even arrest by the secret police. Between Lysenko’s grip on power and the “disappearances” of numerous of his opponents, it would be years until the Soviet biology program would recover. – adapted from RationalWiki.

“It was an ugly picture of what happens when science is subservient to ideology, arguable the most extreme example in history. As a result of Lysenko’s crank ideas, the famine that was already underway was worsened. Lysenkoism was also exported to other communist countries like China, who also experienced horrible famine. Millions of people starved due to Lysenko’s crank ideas, making him arguably the scientist with the largest body count in human history.” – The Return of Lysenkoism

Supposed link between personality types and cancer

A remarkable series of fraudulent papers which attempted to convince people that lung cancer wasn’t caused by cigarettes. This fake research turns out to have been funded by the cigarette lobby.

“In 1992, Anthony Pelosi voiced concerns in the British Medical Journal about controversial findings from Hans Eysenck – one of the most influential British psychologists of all time – and German researcher Ronald Grossarth-Maticek. Those findings claimed personality played a bigger part in people’s chances of dying from cancer or heart disease than smoking. Almost three decades later, Eysenck’s institution have recommended these studies be retracted from academic journals. Hannah Devlin speaks to Pelosi about the twists and turns in his ultimately successful journey. And to the Guardian’s health editor, Sarah Boseley, about how revelations from tobacco industry documents played a crucial role.”

Taking on Eysenck: one man’s mission to challenge a giant of psychology

Fake link between vaccines and autism

Andrew Wakefield, claimed that he had shown a link between vaccines and autism .

“He was found guilty of dishonesty in his research and banned from medicine by the UK General Medical Council following an investigation by Brian Deer of the London Sunday Times.” – Wikipedia

Anesthesiology research fraud

Yoshitaka Fujii (Japan), researcher in anesthesiology, fabricated data in at least 183 scientific papers, setting what is believed to be a record. A committee reviewing 212 papers published by Fujii over a span of 20 years found that 126 were entirely fabricated, with no scientific work done. – Wikipedia


Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology and Politics in Science


You Believe the Science? What “Science?”

Yoshihiro Sato: Researcher at the center of an epic fraud remains an enigma to those who exposed him

Yoshitaka Fujii: Epic fraud: How to succeed in science (without doing any)

Scientific Misconduct (Wikipedia)


The thinking error at the root of science denial

Excerpted from The thinking error at the root of science denial

Characteristics of science denial

from de.wikipedia.org, 5_characteristics_of_science_denial.jpg

By Jeremy P. Shapiro, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences, Case Western Reserve University May 8, 2018, theconversation.com

As a psychotherapist, I see a striking parallel between a type of thinking involved in many mental health disturbances and the reasoning behind science denial. As I explain in my book “Psychotherapeutic Diagrams,” dichotomous thinking, also called black-and-white and all-or-none thinking, is a factor in depression, anxiety, aggression and, especially, borderline personality disorder.

In this type of cognition, a spectrum of possibilities is divided into two parts, with a blurring of distinctions within those categories. Shades of gray are missed; everything is considered either black or white. Dichotomous thinking is not always or inevitably wrong, but it is a poor tool for understanding complicated realities because these usually involve spectrums of possibilities, not binaries.

Spectrums are sometimes split in very asymmetric ways, with one-half of the binary much larger than the other.

For example, perfectionists categorize their work as either perfect or unsatisfactory; good and very good outcomes are lumped together with poor ones in the unsatisfactory category.

In borderline personality disorder, relationship partners are perceived as either all good or all bad, so one hurtful behavior catapults the partner from the good to the bad category.

It’s like a pass/fail grading system in which 100 percent correct earns a P and everything else gets an F.

In my observations, I see science deniers engage in dichotomous thinking about truth claims. In evaluating the evidence for a hypothesis or theory, they divide the spectrum of possibilities into two unequal parts: perfect certainty and inconclusive controversy. Any bit of data that does not support a theory is misunderstood to mean that the formulation is fundamentally in doubt, regardless of the amount of supportive evidence.

Similarly, deniers perceive the spectrum of scientific agreement as divided into two unequal parts: perfect consensus and no consensus at all. Any departure from 100 percent agreement is categorized as a lack of agreement, which is misinterpreted as indicating fundamental controversy in the field.

There is no ‘proof’ in science

In my view, science deniers misapply the concept of “proof.”

Proof exists in mathematics and logic but not in science. Research builds knowledge in progressive increments. As empirical evidence accumulates, there are more and more accurate approximations of ultimate truth but no final end point to the process.

Deniers exploit the distinction between proof and compelling evidence by categorizing empirically well-supported ideas as “unproven.” Such statements are technically correct but extremely misleading, because there are no proven ideas in science, and evidence-based ideas are the best guides for action we have.

I have observed deniers use a three-step strategy to mislead the scientifically unsophisticated. First, they cite areas of uncertainty or controversy, no matter how minor, within the body of research that invalidates their desired course of action. Second, they categorize the overall scientific status of that body of research as uncertain and controversial. Finally, deniers advocate proceeding as if the research did not exist.

For example, climate change skeptics jump from the realization that we do not completely understand all climate-related variables to the inference that we have no reliable knowledge at all. Similarly, they give equal weight to the 97 percent of climate scientists who believe in human-caused global warming and the 3 percent who do not, even though many of the latter receive support from the fossil fuels industry.

This same type of thinking can be seen among creationists. They seem to misinterpret any limitation or flux in evolutionary theory to mean that the validity of this body of research is fundamentally in doubt.


This website is educational. Materials within it are being used in accord with the Fair Use doctrine, as defined by United States law.
§107. Limitations on Exclusive Rights: Fair Use. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phone records or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use, the factors to be considered shall include: the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. (added pub. l 94-553, Title I, 101, Oct 19, 1976, 90 Stat 2546)

Why is the Earth still hot?

I. The formation of the Earth created a huge amount of heat

The Earth is thought to have formed from the collision of many rocky asteroids, perhaps hundreds of kilometers in diameter, in the early solar system.

Formation of Solar System

As the proto-Earth gradually bulked up, continuing asteroid collisions and gravitational collapse kept the planet molten.

Heavier elements – in particular iron – would have sunk to the core in 10 to 100 million years’ time, carrying with it other elements that bind to iron.

Radioactive potassium may be major heat source in Earth’s core,  Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley News, 12/13/2003

II. More heat generated when dense material sank down towards the center of Earth

When the Earth was first formed this material was not solid; some was hot enough to become viscous (like silly putty) or even liquid (like lava.)

The denser material was mostly iron and some radioactive metals.

This dense metal slowly sank towards the center, while less dense rock floated upwards.

This process itself created a lot of friction, which created a lot of heat.

“Gradually, however, the Earth would have cooled off and become a dead rocky globe with a cold iron ball at the core if not for the continued release of heat by the decay of radioactive elements like:

potassium-40, uranium-238 and thorium-232, which have half-lives of 1.25 billion, 4 billion and 14 billion years, respectively.

About one in every thousand potassium atoms is radioactive.”

III. Heat from the decay of radioactive elements.

Most metals we know are stable. Think of Nickel, Iron, Copper and Gold. If you put them in a box so that they don’t get exposed to oxygen, then they don’t rust, and never change. Millions of years from now they will still be around.

What’s inside metal atoms? Electrons, protons and neutrons. In a metal atom, the number of these particles will normally never change.

Example: Iron-56 26 protons, 30 neutrons, 26 electrons.
But some very large atoms are special: they not stable – they do change, all by themselves. These are called radioactive elements.

Uranium-238 92 protons, 146 neutrons, 92 electrons

-> spontaneously will change into

Plutonium-239 94 protons, 145 neutrons, 94 electrons + heat
– – –

In sum, there was no shortage of heat in the early earth, and the planet’s inability to cool off quickly results in the continued high temperatures of the Earth’s interior. In effect, not only do the earth’s plates act as a blanket on the interior, but not even convective heat transport in the solid mantle provides a particularly efficient mechanism for heat loss.

The planet does lose some heat through the processes that drive plate tectonics, especially at mid-ocean ridges. For comparison, smaller bodies such as Mars and the Moon show little evidence for recent tectonic activity or volcanism.

We derive our primary estimate of the temperature of the deep earth from the melting behavior of iron at ultrahigh pressures.

We know that the earth’s core depths from 2,886 kilometers to the center at 6,371 kilometers (1,794 to 3,960 miles), is predominantly iron, with some contaminants.

How? The speed of sound through the core (as measured from the velocity at which seismic waves travel across it) and the density of the core are quite similar to those seen in of iron at high pressures and temperatures, as measured in the laboratory. Iron is the only element that closely matches the seismic properties of the earth’s core and is also sufficiently abundant present in sufficient abundance in the universe to make up the approximately 35 percent of the mass of the planet present in the core.

The earth’s core is divided into two separate regions: the liquid outer core and the solid inner core, with the transition between the two lying at a depth of 5,156 kilometers (3,204 miles).

Therefore, If we can measure the melting temperature of iron at the extreme pressure of the boundary between the inner and outer cores, then this lab temperature should reasonably closely approximate the real temperature at this liquid-solid interface. Scientists in mineral physics laboratories use lasers and high-pressure devices called diamond-anvil cells to re-create these hellish pressures and temperatures as closely as possible.

Those experiments provide a stiff challenge, but our estimates for the melting temperature of iron at these conditions range from about 4,500 to 7,500 kelvins (about 7,600 to 13,000 degrees F).

As the outer core is fluid and presumably convecting (and with an additional correction for the presence of impurities in the outer core), we can extrapolate this range of temperatures to a temperature at the base of Earth’s mantle (the top of the outer core) of roughly 3,500 to 5,500 kelvins (5,800 to 9,400 degrees F) at the base of the earth’s mantle.

The bottom line here is simply that a large part of the interior of the planet (the outer core) is composed of somewhat impure molten iron alloy. The melting temperature of iron under deep-earth conditions is high, thus providing prima facie evidence that the deep earth is quite hot.

Gregory Lyzenga is an associate professor of physics at Harvey Mudd College. He provided some additional details on estimating the temperature of the earth’s core:

How do we know the temperature? The answer is that we really don’t–at least not with great certainty or precision. The center of the earth lies 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) beneath our feet, but the deepest that it has ever been possible to drill to make direct measurements of temperature (or other physical quantities) is just about 10 kilometers (six miles).

Ironically, the core of the earth is by far less accessible more inaccessible to direct probing than would be the surface of Pluto. Not only do we not have the technology to “go to the core,” but it is not at all clear how it will ever be possible to do so.

As a result, scientists must infer the temperature in the earth’s deep interior indirectly. Observing the speed at which of passage of seismic waves pass through the earth allows geophysicists to determine the density and stiffness of rocks at depths inaccessible to direct examination.

If it is possible to match up those properties with the properties of known substances at elevated temperatures and pressures, it is possible (in principle) to infer what the environmental conditions must be deep in the earth.

The problem with this is that the conditions are so extreme at the earth’s center that it is very difficult to perform any kind of laboratory experiment that faithfully simulates conditions in the earth’s core.

Nevertheless, geophysicists are constantly trying these experiments and improving on them, so that their results can be extrapolated to the earth’s center, where the pressure is more than three million times atmospheric pressure.

The bottom line of these efforts is that there is a rather wide range of current estimates of the earth’s core temperature. The “popular” estimates range from about 4,000 kelvins up to over 7,000 kelvins (about 7,000 to 12,000 degrees F).

If we knew the melting temperature of iron very precisely at high pressure, we could pin down the temperature of the Earth’s core more precisely, because it is largely made up of molten iron. But until our experiments at high temperature and pressure become more precise, uncertainty in this fundamental property of our planet will persist.

What will happen with the Earth cools?

When the Earth’s core finally does cool – billions of years from now – then Earth will solidify and there will be no more plate tectonics. Therefore there will be

  1. No more earthquakes

  2. No more volcanic eruptions

  3. no more island building

  4. No more mountain building

The Earth’s surface will eventually be eroded down to a flatter surface, marred only by new impact craters. Earth will then be a geologically dead planet, like the Moon.

Some scientists estimate that “The planet is now cooling about 100°C every 1 billion years, so eventually, maybe several billions of years from now, the waning rays of a dying sun will shine down on a tectonically dead planet whose continents are frozen in place.”


How do we know what lies at the Earth’s core?

How we know what lies at the Earth’s core. BBC

Addressing misconceptions

If the Earth’s core is radioactive why is there no radiation at the surface?

Click the link to read the article, but short version, there indeed is radioactivity here on the Earth’s surface!

External resources and discussions

What percent of the Earth’s core is uranium? earthscience.stackexchange.com

Claim: Radioactive decay accounts for half of Earth’s heat, and related, What Keeps the Earth Cooking? Berkeley Lab scientists join their KamLAND colleagues to measure the radioactive sources of Earth’s heat flow

A fascinating although somewhat controversial article, Andrault, Denis & Monteux, J. & Le Bars, Michael & Samuel, H.. (2016). The deep Earth may not be cooling down. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 443. 10.1016/j.epsl.2016.03.020.



This website is educational. Materials within it are being used in accord with the Fair Use doctrine, as defined by United States law.
§107. Limitations on Exclusive Rights: Fair Use. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phone records or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use, the factors to be considered shall include: the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. (added pub. l 94-553, Title I, 101, Oct 19, 1976, 90 Stat 2546)

Teaching science with augmented reality


Creating virtual reality in the classroom: What do these terms mean?

XR- Extended Reality

the emerging umbrella term for all immersive computer virtual experience technologies. These technologies AR, VR, and MR.

Augmented Reality (AR)

When virtual information and objects are overlaid on the real world. This experience enhances the real world with digital details such as images, text, and animation. This means users are not isolated from the real world and can still interact and see what’s going on in front of them.

In this example, while looking through my cell phone we can see this three dimensional CRISPR enzyme floating in three dimensions.

Crispr AR Augmented Reality enzyme protein

Photo by RK (c) 2019

Virtual Reality (VR)

Users are fully immersed in a simulated digital environment. Individuals must put on a VR headset or head-mounted display to get a 360 -degree view of an artificial world. This fools their brain into believing they are walking on the moon, swimming under the ocean or stepped into whatever new world the VR developers created.

Virtual Reality

A team of researchers at ESA’s mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, are investigating new concepts for controlling rovers on a planet and satellites in orbit. Image from the ESA, esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2017/07/Reality_check

Mixed reality (MR), aka Hybrid Reality

Digital and real-world objects co-exist and can interact with one another in real-time. This experience requires an MR headset… Microsoft’s HoloLens is a great example that, e.g., allows you to place digital objects into the room you are standing in and give you the ability to spin it around or interact with the digital object in any way possible.

Microsoft Hololens XR MR AR

Image from Microsoft

Excerpts of these definitions from Bernard Marr, What Is Extended Reality Technology? A Simple Explanation For Anyone, Forbes, 8/12/2019

Augmented reality in science class

When students actively participate in augmented reality learning, the class is effectively a lab, as opposed to being a lecture.  Here we are studying ecosystems with an app from the World Wildlife Foundation, WWF Rivers.

WWF Rivers AR Augmented Reality app Kaiser Ecology

Photo by RK (c) 2019

This student has their head in the clouds 😉

Kaiser AR Augmented Realitt Ecology WWF Rivers

Photo by RK (c) 2019

Here we are using the Google Expeditions app, on a Pixel 3A smartphone. The plug-in is “Earth Geology” by Vida systems. For more details see Google Expeditions – Education in VR.

As we walk around the room, we see the Earth and all of it’s layers in a realistic 3D view. Here we stood above the arctic circle, and took screenshots as we moved down latitude, until we were above the antarctic.

Augmented Reality AR Earth Science Inner Core Mantle

Photo by RK (c) 2019

Augmented Reality AR Earth Science Inner Core Mantle 2

Photo by RK (c) 2019


What kind of learning standards do students address when using augmented reality science lessons?

Learning Standards

NGSS Cross-Cutting Concepts

6. Structure and Function – The way an object is shaped or structured determines many of its properties and functions: Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts; therefore, complex natural and designed structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function

Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science (DLCS) Curriculum Framework

Modeling and Simulation [6-8.CT.e] – 3. Select and use computer simulations, individually and collaboratively, to gather, view, analyze, and report results for content-related problems (e.g., migration, trade, cellular function).

Digital Tools [9-12.DTC.a] – 2. Select digital tools or resources based on their efficiency and effectiveness to use for a project or assignment and justify the selection.

American Association of School Librarians: Standards Framework for Learners

1. Inquire: Build new knowledge by inquiring, thinking critically, identifying problems, and developing strategies for solving problems

Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles

AP-CSP Curriculum Guides
LO 3.1.3 Explain the insight and knowledge gained from digitally processed data by using appropriate visualizations, notations, and precise language.
EK 3.1.3A Visualization tools and software can communicate information about data.
EK 3.1.3E Interactivity with data is an aspect of communicating.

MCAS Classification

MCAS Classification questions

MCAS 2010 Biology exam

32. The table below shows the classifications of three different sea lions.

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 10.16.10 AM

a. Identify which two of the sea lions are most closely related.
b. Justify your answer to part (a).
c. Describe and explain two types of evidence scientists would have used to determine the proper classifications of these three sea lions.


February 2018

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 9.34.04 AM



5. A scientist concludes that two organisms belong to the same species within the
class Mammalia. Which of the following observations most likely led the scientist
to conclude that the organisms are the same species?

A. The organisms move in the same way.
B. The organisms live in the same habitat.
C. The organisms are nocturnal and carnivorous.
D. The organisms mate and produce fertile offspring.


24. The brush mouse and the northwestern deermouse are both classified in the
genus Peromyscus. Which of the following conclusions can be made from this information?
A. The two types of mice live in the same habitat.
B. The two types of mice have the same fur color.
C. The two types of mice are closely related to each other.
D. The two types of mice can successfully interbreed with each other.



32. The table below gives the common names, scientific names, and known geographic locations of several wild cats.

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 10.21.36 AM

a. Using their common names, identify all the wild cats listed in the table that belong to the same genus.

b. Identify and explain one type of evidence scientists could have used to classify these wild cats.

The three kinds of tigers listed in the table are all classified as one species.

c. Based on the information in the table, identify which kind of tiger has the greatest chance of becoming a separate species. Explain your answer.

d. Describe how scientists could determine if one of the kinds of tigers becomes a separate species.



33. The table below shows taxonomic information for the gray wolf and four other species.

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 10.25.25 AM

Based on this information, which of the following lists the species in order from most closely related to least closely related to the gray wolf ?

A. 1, 2, 3, 4
B. 1, 2, 4, 3
C. 2, 1, 3, 4
D. 2, 1, 4, 3


31. All organisms classified in kingdom Animalia must also be classified as
which of the following?
A. Archaea
B. Eubacteria
C. Eukaryota
D. Protista


45. A student researching bears found the chart below in a textbook. The chart shows the
classifications of several types of bears.

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 10.27.06 AM

Which of the following conclusions is best supported by the data given in this chart?

A. Modern bears evolved from species that are now extinct.
B. The short-faced bear was the ancestor of the Asiatic black bear.
C. Present day bear species are more closely related than their ancestors were.
D. Natural selection favored the brown bear over the American black bear. .


MCAS Plants

MCAS Plant questions from the Biology MCAS

February 2018

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 9.34.04 AM


31. A plant species growing along a coast produces seeds with fluffy hair-like
fibers on one end. A seed from one of the plants is shown below:

Seed fluffy fiber

Some of these seeds were dispersed by the wind to islands off the coast, where new plants grew. Within 10 years, the seeds of the island plants were different
from the seeds of the mainland plants. Compared to the mainland seeds, the
island seeds were heavier and had shorter hair-like fibers. Which of the following statements best explains why heavier seeds with shorter fibers were favored in the island environment?

A. These seeds carried more genes than the mainland seeds did.
B. These seeds were less likely to be blown off the island by wind.
C. The island plants needed to prevent animals from eating the seeds.
D. The island plants used more energy to produce heavy seeds than to grow.


33. Students investigated the effect of acid rain on photosynthesis. Several plants
were given water with a pH of 4 each day for two months. The results showed
that the plants had a reduced rate of photosynthesis.

How did the acidic water most likely reduce the plants’ rate of photosynthesis?

A. by storing excess oxygen produced by the plants
B. by changing the effectiveness of enzymes in the plants
C. by causing root hairs to grow on the roots of the plants
D. by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide taken in by the plants


34. Waxes form a waterproof coating over the stems and leaves of many terrestrial plants. The waxes are composed of fatty acids linked to long-chain alcohols. Based on this information, waxes are which type of organic molecule?

A. lipids .  B. nucleotides .  C. polysaccharides .  D. proteins


37. Maltose is a carbohydrate molecule that provides energy to plants early in their
life cycle. Which elements are most common in a molecule of maltose?

A. carbon and hydrogen
B. copper and nitrogen
C. iron and phosphorus
D. magnesium and sulfur


Algae, and the scientific method

The rate of photosynthesis in organisms depends in part on the wavelength of visible light. In the late 1800s, Thomas Engelmann demonstrated the relationship between the wavelength of light and the rate of photosynthesis. His experiment is described below.

• Engelmann used a prism to produce a visible light spectrum of violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red light.
• He shined the light spectrum onto cells of the algae Spirogyra.
• Once the light was shining on the Spirogyra cells, Engelmann added aerobic bacteria to the system. Aerobic bacteria need oxygen to live and grow.
• After adding the bacteria, Engelmann observed the regions of the light spectrum where the bacteria concentrated around the Spirogyra cells.

The setup and results of Engelmann’s experiment are represented by the diagram below:

Engelmann’s experiment Spirogyra algae spectrum prism

Mark your answers to multiple-choice questions 8 through 11 in the spaces provided in your Student Answer Booklet. Do not write your answers in this test booklet, but you may work out solutions to multiple-choice questions in the test booklet.

8. Why are the greatest numbers of aerobic bacteria found at the 400–500 nm and 600–700 nm wavelengths of light?

A. Photosynthesis rates are highest there, producing large amounts of water.
B. Photosynthesis rates are highest there, producing large amounts of oxygen.
C. Photosynthesis rates are lowest there, producing small amounts of glucose.
D. Photosynthesis rates are lowest there, producing small amounts of carbon dioxide.

9. What is the role of visible light when Spirogyra cells perform photosynthesis?
A. It provides the energy for the photosynthesis reaction.
B. It concentrates the photosynthesis products for export.
C. It activates the DNA that directs the photosynthesis reaction.
D. It transports photosynthesis reactants across the cell membrane.

10. What is exchanged between the Spirogyra and the bacteria in
Engelmann’s experiment?

A. DNA and RNA
B. starch granules and spores
C. chlorophyll and cytoplasm
D. oxygen and carbon dioxide

11. A scientist used Engelmann’s data to predict how the concentrations of different substances in and around Spirogyra cells will change when the cells are exposed to different wavelengths of light. A graph for one substance is shown below.

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 9.50.51 AM

What is represented on the y-axis?

A. chlorophyll concentration .        B. hydrogen concentration
C. oxygen concentration .        D. water concentration


Spring 2018 MCAS

3. All corn plants contain the ZmLA1 gene. Some corn plants contain a certain mutation in the ZmLA1 gene. The graph below shows the amount of ZmLA1 RNA produced in plants with the normal gene and in plants with the mutated gene.

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 9.54.47 AM

Based on the graph, what most likely happens in corn plant cells as a direct result of the mutated gene?

A. DNA replication increases.
B. Lipid production decreases.
C. Glucose synthesis increases.
D. Protein production decreases.


4. The growth of plants in many ecosystems is limited by the supply of
nitrogen. Which of the following groups of organisms plays the largest role in
moving nitrogen between the atmosphere and plants?

A. bacteria .      B. earthworms .      C. insects .    D. protists


7. Lithops are multicellular organisms found in sandy soil in deserts. They
have large, central vacuoles in their cells that store water. Which of the following best classifies lithops?
A. They are bacteria because they store water.
B. They are animals because they are multicellular.
C. They are fungi because they are found in sandy soil.
D. They are plants because they have large, central vacuoles.


14. There are many fungus species that live inside plant tissues. What determines
whether the relationship between a fungus and a plant is commensalism,
mutualism, or parasitism?

A. where the fungus is located in the plant
B. how long the fungus survives in the plant
C. whether the fungus reproduces in the plant with spores, seeds, or runners
D. whether the effect of the fungus on the plant is neutral, positive, or negative


37. Plants in floodplains often get covered by water during floods. Some
plants survive the floods because they can continue photosynthesis
underwater. However, the plants’ rates of photosynthesis are much lower
underwater than above water.

Which of the following helps to explain why the rates of photosynthesis are
lower underwater than above water?

A. There is too much oxygen in the water.
B. There is no carbon dioxide in the water.
C. The chloroplasts do not function underwater.
D. The available light is less intense underwater.


February 2017

17. Carbon fixation is an important part of the carbon cycle. Carbon fixation is the conversion of carbon dioxide into organic compounds such as glucose. Which of the following organisms cannot fix carbon?

A. grass
B. green algae
C. mushrooms
D. oak trees


3. A botanist studied two groups of rice plants to determine how they are related. Both groups of plants have similar shapes, but one group has longer stalks. When the botanist cross-pollinated plants from one group with plants from the other group, the seeds produced did not sprout or grow.

Which of the following conclusions is best supported by this information?

A. The two groups are the same species because the plants have similar shapes.
B. The two groups are different species because they have differently sized stalks.
C. The two groups are different species because the seeds produced cannot sprout or grow.
D. The two groups are the same species because the plants were cross-pollinated and produced seeds


20. A partial food web is shown below. Which organisms in the food web are both primary and secondary consumers?

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 10.08.21 AM

A. bluegills
B. cattails
C. coyotes
D. snakes


28. A student looks at a cell under a microscope. Which of the following
observations would indicate that the cell is from a plant rather than an animal?

A. a nucleus located inside of the cell
B. numerous cilia on the outside of the cell
C. chloroplasts in the cytoplasm of the cell
D. a thin membrane around the edge of the cell


30. Prolonged periods of drought in an area cause decreases in plant population
sizes. Which of the following statements describes how the decreases in plant
population sizes then affect other populations in the area?

A. Omnivore population sizes increase, and herbivore population sizes increase.
B. Omnivore population sizes decrease, and carnivore population sizes increase.
C. Herbivore population sizes increase, and carnivore population sizes decrease.
D. Herbivore population sizes decrease, and carnivore population sizes decrease.


Resource under construction


Pseudoscience is a belief system which tries to gain legitimacy by wearing the trappings of science, but fails to abide by the rigorous methodology and standards of evidence that are the marks of actual science.

Pseudoscientists adopt the vocabulary of science, describing conjectures as hypotheses, theories, or laws, providing “evidence” from observation and “expert” testimonies, or developing what appear to be mathematical models of their ideas. However, in pseudoscience there is no attempt to follow the scientific method, provide falsifiable predictions, or develop double blind experiments.

Intro adapted from RationalWiki

Pseudoscience is characterized by:

contradictory, exaggerated or unfalsifiable claims

reliance on confirmation bias rather than rigorous attempts at refutation

lack of openness to evaluation by other experts

absence of systematic practices when developing hypotheses

continued adherence long after the pseudoscientific hypotheses have been experimentally discredited.

(list here adapted from Wikipedia)

If crazy phenomenon worked then companies would use it

Image from xkcd.com/808/



Below are red flags that a supposedly “scientific” claim is in fact pseudoscience.  These essays are from Graham Coghill’s excellent website, ScienceOrNot. We have indicators of good science (Hallmarks of Science) and indicators of bad science (Science Red Flags).  The articles on his website are covered by a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License (unless otherwise stated).

The ‘scientifically proven’ subterfuge. Scammers and deniers use two forms of  this tactic:

  • they claim that their idea/discovery/product is valid because it has been ‘scientifically proven’
  • they refuse to accept someone else’s claim unless it can be ‘scientifically proven’
Persecuted prophets and maligned mavericks: The Galileo Gambit.  Users of this tactic will try to persuade you that they belong to a tradition of maverick scientists who have been responsible for great advances despite being persecuted by mainstream science.
Empty edicts – absence of empirical evidence  This tactic shows up when people make claims in the form of bald statements – “this is the way it is” or “this is true” or “I know/believe this” or “everybody knows this” – without any reference to supporting evidence.
Anecdotes, testimonials and urban legends  Those who use this tactic try to present stories about specific cases or events as supporting evidence. The stories range from personal testimonials, to anecdotes about acquaintances, to tales about unidentifiable subjects.
Charges of conspiracy, collusion and connivance  Conspiracy theorists usually start by targeting weaknesses in an accepted model, then propose a conspiracy that explains why their ‘better’ model has been suppressed. Although there can be overwhelming evidence favouring the accepted model, they claim that this simply means the conspiracy has been successful.
Stressing status and appealing to authority People who use this tactic try to convince you by quoting some ‘authority’ who agrees with their claims and pointing to that person’s status, position or qualifications, instead of producing real-world evidence. The tactic is known as the argument from authority.
Devious deception in displaying data: Cherry picking In cherry-picking, people use legitimate evidence, but not all of the evidence. They select segments of evidence that appear to support their argument and hide or ignore the rest of the evidence which tends to refute it.
Repetition of discredited arguments – parroting PRATT In this tactic, people persist in repeating claims that have been shown over and over to have no foundation. Look for slogans, sweeping statements or claims that look as though they could easily be refuted.
Duplicity and distraction – false dichotomy In this tactic, people assert that there are only two possible (and usually opposite) positions to choose from, when in fact there are more. They try to argue that if one position is shown to be false, then the other must be correct.
Wishful thinking – favouring fantasy over fact We all fall victim to this tactic because we use it on ourselves. We like to believe things that conform with our wishes or desires, even to the extent of ignoring evidence to the contrary.
Appeals to ancient wisdom – trusting traditional trickery People who use this tactic try to persuade you that a certain explanation, treatment or model must be correct because it’s been around for a long time.
Technobabble and tenuous terminology: the use of pseudo scientific language In this tactic, people use invented terms that sound “sciencey” or co-opt real science terms and apply them incorrectly.
Confusing correlation with causation: rooster syndrome This is the natural human tendency to assume that, if two events or phenomena consistently occur at about the same time, then one is the cause of the other. Hence “rooster syndrome”, from the rooster who believed that his crowing caused the sun to rise.
Straw man: crushing concocted canards When this tactic is used, it’s always in response to an argument put up by an opponent. Unable to come up with a reasoned response, the perpetrator constructs a distorted, incorrect version (the “straw man”) of the opponent’s argument, and then proceeds to tear it to shreds.
Indelible initial impressions: the anchoring effect Anchoring is the human tendency to rely almost entirely on one piece of evidence or study, usually one that we encountered early, when making a decision.
Perceiving phoney patterns: apophenia This happens when you convince yourself, or someone tries to convince you, that some data reveal a significant pattern when really the data are random or meaningless.
Esoteric energy and fanciful forces. This tactic is easy to pick because people who use it try to convince you that some kind of elusive energy or power or force is responsible for whatever effect they are promoting.
Banishing boundaries and pushing panaceas – applying models where they don’t belong Those who use this tactic take a model that works under certain conditions and try to apply it more widely to circumstances beyond its scope, where it does not work. Look for jargon, sweeping statements and vague, rambling “explanations” that try to sound scientific.
Averting anxiety with cosmic connectivity: magical thinking Magical thinking is present when anyone argues that everything is connected: thoughts, symbols and rituals can have distant physical and mental effects; inanimate objects can have intentions and mystical influences. Often, the connectivity is supposedly mediated by some mysterious energy, force or vibration and there is much talk of holism, resonance, balance, essences and higher states.
Single study syndrome – clutching at convenient confirmation This tactic shows up when a person who has a vested interest in a particular point of view pounces on some new finding which seems to either support or threaten that point of view. It’s usually used in a context where the weight of evidence is against the perpetrator’s view.
Appeal to nature – the authenticity axiom You are expected to accept without question that anything ‘natural’ is good, and anything ‘artificial’, ‘synthetic’ or ‘man-made’ is bad.
The reversed responsibility response – switching the burden of proof This tactic is usually used by someone who’s made a claim and then been asked for evidence to support it. Their response is to demand that you show that the claim is wrong and if you can’t, to insist that this means their claim is true.
The scary science scenario – science portrayed as evil. The perpetrators try to convince you that scientific knowledge has resulted in overwhelmingly more harm than good. They identify environmental disasters, accidents, human tragedies, hazards, weapons and uncomfortable ideas that have some link to scientific discoveries and claim that science must be blamed for the any damage they cause. They may even go so far as claiming that scientists themselves are generally cold, unfeeling people who enjoy causing harm.
False balance – cultivating counterfeit controversy to create confusion  This tactic is promoted by peddlers of bad science and pseudoscience and is often taken up by journalists and politicians. In discussing an issue, they insist that “both sides” be presented.  Many journalists routinely look for a representative of each “side” to include in their stories, even though it might be inappropriate. Groups or individuals who are pushing nonsense or marginal ideas like to exploit this tendency so that their point of view gains undeserved publicity.
Confirmation bias – ferreting favourable findings while overlooking opposing observations  This is a cognitive bias that we all suffer from. We go out of our way to look for evidence that confirms our ideas and avoid evidence that would contradict them..
Crafty contrarians and wily watchdogs – donning the mantle of shrewdness  This is an attitude adopted by a person – and it’s usually an older male – who has achieved success within his profession. This person feels entitled to make pronouncements about areas in which he has no competence. He believes he has developed a knack for making good judgements based on ‘intuition’ or ‘gut feeling’ and you are expected to respect his opinions because of his reputation for astuteness. His opinions are usually at odds with the accepted science.
The appeal to common sense – garbage in the guise of gumption  The perpetrator tries to persuade you to accept or reject a claim based on what’s supposedly “common sense”. Look out for key words such as “Obviously, …”, “Naturally, …”, “Everyone knows …” or “It goes without saying that …”.
Ostensible oppression of opposing opinions – claims of rights violated. In this tactic, people insist that their right to express their opinion, or their right to free speech, is being denied. This is their reaction to having their opinions dismissed, rejected or ignored by mainstream scientific forums. They refuse to accept that their opinions fail because they do not meet the standards for publication in those forums.
The alarmism accusation – claims of crises created to funnel funding. Those who use this tactic insist that the current scientific consensus on some issue is corrupt. This, they claim, is because a group of scientists has colluded to hype the position which favours its own interests. The purported motive is to attract funding for their research. Look for derisive terms such as “follow the money” or “pal review”.