NOVA: Gross Science Collection

Expand/Collapse NOVA: Gross Science Collection


Why do we smell different when we’re sick? Why does cheese smell like feet? Why don’t vultures get sick from eating rotting meat?

Science is filled with stories: some of them are beautiful and some of them are gross. Really gross. Gross Science, a YouTube series hosted by Anna Rothschild, tells bizarre stories from the slimy, smelly, creepy world of science.

In this collection, you’ll find original short-form videos and DIY experiments from Gross Science, which is produced by NOVA and PBS Digital Studios. Learn about amphibians that eat their mother’s skin, strange uses for bacon, how poop can be used to cure an infection, and more gross science topics.

  • Gross Science | Why Don’t Vultures Get Food Poisoning?

    Learn how vultures eat rotting meat without getting sick, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Vultures are meat-eating scavengers; instead of hunting prey, they wait for carcasses left behind from other hunters. Their incredibly acidic stomachs help kill the pathogens in the rotting meat. Additionally, the intestines of vultures are colonized by species of bacteria that are related to disease-causing ones typically found on rotting meat, which gives vultures a natural tolerance to the bacteria. However, vultures aren’t immune to everything. Certain medications given to livestock are poisonous to vultures. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | How Far Do Sneezes and Vomit Travel?

    Learn how far coughs, sneezes, and vomit travel, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Scientists can use technology to track the liquids that fly out of noses and mouths and study how far germs can travel. Researchers at MIT used high-speed cameras to reveal that the droplets in a cough or sneeze travel in an invisible gas cloud, which can carry germs much farther than people previously thought. Researchers use robots to simulate the act of puking to study the spread of norovirus. One episode of projectile vomiting can contaminate close to 84 square feet, and virus particles can also be suspended in the air. This research reveals that germs are easily spread and may linger in places that appear to be clean. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | Would You Wear Clothes Made from Slime?

    Learn how hagfish slime could be used to make clothing, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Hagfish are eel-like creatures that release slime when attacked. The slime is composed of mucus and threadlike fibers made of proteins, which clog the mouths and gills of assailants, making them unable to breathe. Hagfish slime fibers are like super-strong silk. Scientists think that if they can genetically engineer organisms to produce similar fibers, it could be an eco-friendly, high-performance clothing material of the future. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | Sea Cucumber Evisceration

    Learn how sea cucumbers eject and regenerate parts of their internal organs, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Sea cucumbers are marine animals that can undergo a form of autotomy called evisceration—a sea cucumber can shoot out its internal organs. After evisceration, sea cucumbers regenerate their lost organs through dedifferentiation: certain cells stop performing their current function and become capable of other functions. If scientists could figure out how sea cucumbers dedifferentiate their cells, they could potentially stimulate human cells to regrow lost limbs or heal spinal injuries. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Check out Connections within Support Materials for the links referenced in the video.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | Recycling Poop

    Learn how poop can be recycled to produce fertilizer, heat, and electricity, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. At Jordan Dairy Farms in Massachusetts, poop is collected from cows to power and fertilize the farm. Animal poop contains microorganisms that produce an energy-filled gas called methane. On the farm, manure is pumped to a giant tank called an anaerobic digester, where the methane gets funneled into an electricity-producing engine. Methane is used to produce electricity, and the leftover digestate is used to make fertilizer. Human sewage can also be treated in huge anaerobic digesters, such as those at the Deer Island Treatment Plant, to produce heat, electricity, and fertilizer. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | Can Poop Cure an Infection?

    Learn how fecal transplants are an effective treatment for Clostridium difficile colitis, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Inside every person’s digestive tract are trillions of bacteria and other microbes that make up the gut microbiome. These microbial communities perform essential functions like producing molecules that your colon cells need to survive, and extracting nutrients from your food. However, when something upsets the balance of the microbes in the gut, bacteria such as C. difficile can flourish out of control, and deadly inflammations can occur. Doctors can reset the microbial balance using a fecal transplant: They place a healthy donor's fecal matter into the patient's gut to recolonize microbes and out-compete the disease-causing bacteria. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | Could We Rid the World of Mosquitoes?

    Learn about the pros and cons of eradicating mosquitoes, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Mosquitoes can transmit many diseases, including the Zika virus, which is correlated with birth defects in babies. Genetic technology, such as the CRISPR gene drive, has the potential to keep mosquitoes from spreading disease. With the CRISPR gene drive, scientists can easily insert genes into organisms that could keep mosquitoes from transmitting a certain disease or that could ensure that all baby mosquitoes are born male, which in time would effectively wipe out the population. This powerful tool has the ability to rapidly change whole populations of fast-breeding creatures in the wild, but it brings up many ethical questions. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Check out Connections within Support Materials for the links referenced in the video.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | Could Kangaroo Farts Curb Global Warming?

    Learn how kangaroo gut microbiomes could curb global warming, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, are gases in our atmosphere that trap heat. In moderation, greenhouse gases are vital to life on Earth. However, when the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are too high, the planet warms dangerously. Cows release a lot of methane through their burps, farts, and manure. Kangaroos have a plant-based diet like cows but they release much less methane because they have different microbes in their guts. If researchers can figure out how to make cow guts more like kangaroo guts, they could help curb global warming. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | How to Make Glow-in-the-Dark Slime

    Learn how to make glow-in-the-dark slime with household items, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. You will need hot water, borax, glow-in-the-dark paint, and school glue. School glue is made of a polymer called polyvinyl acetate, which makes the glue thick and viscous. Adding borax makes the glue even thicker. The phosphors in the paint emit photons over time, creating the lingering glow. To make slime, first vigorously mix half a cup of glue and two tablespoons of paint with two-thirds of a cup of hot water. In a separate bowl, dissolve two teaspoons of borax in one-third of a cup of hot water. Finally, add two tablespoons of the borax solution to the glue solution. To see the slime glow in the dark, charge it by holding it under a light. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Caution: Touching borax is okay, but keep it away from your eyes, mouth, and open cuts. Wash your hands after use.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | Why Do You Always Get Sick After Final Exams?

    Learn why students tend to get sick after final exams, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Research has shown that people who slept an average of less than seven hours a night in the weeks leading up to an exam were almost three times more likely to get sick. Stress can also have a huge effect on our health, lowering the activity of cells that help fight viruses. In addition, traveling right after exams can result in contact with many different pathogens. In all likelihood, a post-exam cold probably comes from a combination of these factors—plus others like poor diet, lack of exercise, and the time it takes a particular pathogen to start replicating. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | You Have Mites Living on Your Face

    Learn about mites that live and die on your face, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Face mites, or Demodex mites, are very common; most healthy adults have at least a few. People usually acquire their first mites during childhood. The mites live in hair follicles or sebaceous glands and crawl onto the skin surface to mate. Each mite stores its waste in its abdomen; when the mite dies, feces leaks over the skin surface. Some scientists think that the bacteria in the mites' feces could be related to certain skin conditions like rosacea or blepharitis. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | Guinea Worm Disease: A Waterborne Parasitic Infection

    Learn about a disease caused by a parasitic infection from a three-foot-long worm, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Dracunculiasis is caused by the Guinea worm—a nematode that has historically been a major problem in Asia and Africa. People can be infected when they drink water contaminated with water fleas, which house guinea worm larvae. Over the course of a year, the matured female Guinea worm burrows through the body of its human host and forms a blister full of larvae in the foot, which bursts when exposed to water. Filtering drinking water, and preventing the contamination of water, can stop the spread of the disease. In the mid-eighties, there were over three million cases of Guinea worm disease; however, in 2014 there were only 126 cases. In the next few years, Guinea worm disease will probably become the first parasitic disease to be eradicated. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | See Microbes with This DIY Phone Microscope

    Learn how to see microbes with your phone, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. You will need a smartphone, a laser pointer, poster tack, a piece of white paper, clear plastic packaging, a flashlight, and some water from a puddle. Take the lens out of the laser pointer and place the poster tack around the lens of the phone. Then, attach the laser pointer lens to the camera on your phone, with the convex side facing outward, and smooth out the poster tack. Cut two small strips of plastic to create a microscope slide, and place a droplet of water from a puddle between the strips. Place the slide on the white paper on top of a flashlight. Focus your DIY phone microscope, and zoom in on the sample until you see organisms. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Check out Connections within Support Materials for the links referenced in the video.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | How Different Diseases Make You Smell

    Learn how diseases can make you have different body odors, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Doctors have known since the time of Hippocrates that diseases produce distinct odors in people. For example, typhoid makes you smell like freshly baked brown bread, and the skin of people with yellow fever smells like a butcher shop. Dogs can actually sniff out certain types of cancer. Scientists are working on creating smelling machines that could be used to detect diseases. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | What Lives in Cheese?

    Learn about the mites, bacteria, and fungi that make cheese delicious, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Cheeses come in many different forms, but most are made of the same handful of ingredients: milk, salt, a combination of enzymes called “rennet,” and bacteria. Mixing in bacteria allows milk to ferment, and creates a diversity of flavors and textures in cheese. Cheese makers can also create other varieties by adding fungus, mites, and maggots to the mix. Many other foods, such as bread, wine, yogurt, and pickles, are created in similar ways. They are made by letting other organisms, like yeast and bacteria, digest parts of the food before humans do. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | What Is the Plague?

    Learn about different types of plague, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Plague, an infectious disease, is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. It is endemic in rodents in the western United States and in many countries around the world. People can be infected when bitten by a flea that has also bitten an infected animal. If the disease is left untreated, the bacteria can spread to your lungs, causing pneumonic plague—the deadliest form of infection. In the past, the plague killed about 66 percent of infected people in the United States; however, it is now highly treatable with antibiotics. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Check out Connections within Support Materials for the links referenced in the video.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | White Sand Beaches Are Made of Fish Poop

    Learn about parrotfish and their role in reef communities, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Parrotfish live in tropical waters near coral reefs. They eat algae that cling to the coral; pieces of coral pass through their digestive system and come out the other end as a fine, white sand. It is estimated that a single giant humphead parrotfish can poop out over 11,000 pounds of sand a year. Research shows that these fish help to keep reefs clean and healthy, and are an important part of reef communities. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | The Strangest Use for Bacon

    Learn how doctors use bacon therapy to remove botflies, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Human botflies, also called Dermatobia hominis, are insects from Central and South America that feast on animal flesh. Humans can become infested with botfly larvae through mosquitoes. At first, the infestation, called furuncular myiasis, resembles a bug bite or a pimple, but the bump gets bigger and more painful over time as the larvae grow. There are a few ways to extract botfly larvae, including bacon therapy: raw meat or pork fat is placed over the hole in the skin to coax the parasitic larvae out of their subcutaneous homes. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | Why Do These Babies Eat Their Mother's Skin?

    Learn why caecilian babies eat their mother’s skin, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Caecilians are legless amphibians that live underground in rainforests throughout most of the world. For years, scientists were puzzled by the rapid growth of baby caecilians until they observed the offspring eating the mother's skin. This behavior is called maternal dermatophagy. The mother grows a layer of especially fatty skin specifically for her babies to eat. Maternal dermatophagy is similar to breast-feeding in humans, in which the mother produces a food source from her own body for her offspring to consume. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Gross Science | What Can You Learn from Ancient Poop?

    Learn how archaeologists use poop to learn about ancient civilizations, in this episode of Gross Science from NOVA. Poop fossils are called coprolites; they are very rare because feces are difficult to preserve. When poop is fossilized, whatever else was in the poop is mineralized as well. The composition of coprolites can provide valuable information about ancient people, including what they ate, where they lived, or even how they died. This resource is part of the NOVA: Gross Science Collection.

    Grades: 6-12

Brand:
Funder:
Funder:
Producer: