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Hot Topics

Hot Topics

The National Science Education Standards emphasize the need to relate science instruction to students’ everyday experiences. BioEd Online seeks to meet this need by informing teachers of current, newsworthy biology topics, and by providing options for introducing this content into the classroom.

Periodically, BioEd Online will produce and offer short topical summaries on “Hot Topics,” areas of biology that are receiving national attention. These summaries, accompanied by annotated slides, are designed specifically for classroom use. We hope they will be of use to you, and we welcome your suggestions for future “Hot Topics.”

  • Eclipse Safety and Educational Resources for Teachers

    Eclipse Safety and Educational Resources for TeachersHot Topic

    Solar eclipses are captivating celestial events that occur when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, temporarily blocking the Sun’s light. As educators, it’s essential to help students grasp the science behind these phenomena while emphasizing safety precautions.

  • Information for Educators on COVID-19

    Information for Educators on COVID-19Hot Topic

    COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus that first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. BioEd provides teaching resources and links to science and health information to help you and your students prevent disease.

  • Polio Risk On the Rise

    Polio Risk On the RiseHot Topic

    Recent outbreaks of poliovirus in Asia, Africa and the Middle East are a powerful reminder that polio still poses a serious threat to human health worldwide. Learn more about the ongoing battle with this Hot Topic.

  • California Drought: Impacts and Outlook

    California Drought: Impacts and OutlookHot Topic

    California has been in extreme drought for several years, causing a statewide emergency with wide-ranging impacts. Learn how climate change is affecting California and other parts of the United States, and what it could mean in the long-term.

  • Polar Vortex: Arctic Temps Smash Records

    Polar Vortex: Arctic Temps Smash RecordsHot Topic

    The severe cold snap of January 2014 was caused by a polar vortex—an ominous-sounding weather phenomenon that actually is part of the normal accumulation of cold air over the poles. A polar vortex is a spinning, large area of low pressure, found over both the North and South poles. 

  • The Cinnamon Challenge

    The Cinnamon ChallengeHot Topic

    The “Cinnamon Challenge” is a social phenomenon, spread largely through social media, which carries serious risks. Remarkably, people who participate in this “challenge” willingly accept entirely avoidable risk, even though there is no apparent benefit. The rise of the “Cinnamon Challenge” demonstrates how social media can quickly spread a cultural trend among teenagers, comedians, NBA players, and even politicians.

  • Bird Flu

    Bird Flu, UpdatedHot Topic

    Bird flu is once again in the news. Cases of human infection with the H7N9 subtype of influenza A have been reported in China. This subtype of the virus already spreads more easily from birds to humans than H5N1 did, and there is concern that it might adapt to be sustainably transmitted from human to human. This, of course, is the recipe for a pandemic.

  • Ricin: The Chemical and the Threat

    Ricin: The Chemical and the ThreatHot Topic

    Ricin, one of the most poisonous naturally occurring substances, has a long history as a chemical weapon. Since at least World War I, governments have investigated its use on the battlefield. In September 1978, a Bulgarian dissident, Georgi Markov, was assassinated by a pellet of ricin shot into his leg. There also have been multiple incidents of ricin being sent through the mail. Most recently, in April 2013, envelopes containing powdered ricin were sent to President Obama and US Senator, Roger Wicker. Understanding this chemical, how it works, and how it is used can help to minimize its danger.

  • Embryonic Stem Cells

    Embryonic Stem CellsHot Topic

    In the United States, a political debate is raging about whether or not to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Current policy only allows federal monies to be used for research on 21 stem cell lines that existed before 2001. Legislation currently being discussed would allow funding for research on new stem cell lines derived from surplus embryos from fertility clinics.

  • Tsunami

    TsunamiHot Topic

    The tragic December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami resulted from a powerful earthquake (9.0) southwest of Sumatra. This was the largest earthquake registered worldwide in 40 years.

  • Homo floresiensis

    Homo floresiensisHot Topic

    The discovery of remains belonging to a new short-statured, human-like species is causing a stir among anthropologists. The new species is named Homo floresiensis, after the Indonesian island (Flores Island), east of Java, where the skeleton of a three-foot tall adult female was discovered.

  • Japanese Earthquake and Tsunamis: Before and After

    Japanese Earthquake and Tsunamis: Before and AfterHot Topic

    On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Japan. The earthquake, aftershocks and related tsunamis devastated miles of the Japanese coastline.

  • New Hope for Fading Memories: Alzheimer's Disease

    New Hope for Fading Memories: Alzheimer's DiseaseHot Topic

    We often take for granted the ability to plan a project, carry out our daily "to do" list, or remember the steps in performing a certain task. But imagine walking into your kitchen and just standing there because you've forgotten how to prepare a bowl of cereal or toast bread. You may not even remember where you are, or why you are there. Such experiences are commonplace for individuals who suffer from the mind-robbing condition known as Alzheimer's disease (AD).

  • STDs and Teens

    STDs and TeensHot Topic

    A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 3.2 million girls between the ages of 14 and 19 in the US are infected with at least one sexually transmitted disease.

  • Understanding Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus

    Understanding Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureusHot Topic

    What is Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)?
    Over time, MRSA staph bacteria have developed resistance to a family of antibiotics known as beta lactams, which includes methicillin, penicillin, oxacillin, and amoxicillin. During the past four decades, several forms of MRSA that have evolved from the more easily controlled staph microbe have become major public health problems.

  • Adult Neurogenesis

    Adult NeurogenesisHot Topic

    The last decade of the 20th century, proclaimed the "Decade of the Brain," yielded tremendous advances in the field of neuroscience. Insights into the biology of drug addiction, as well as the neuronal mechanisms that underlie learning and memory, provided exciting revelations about some of the brain's primary functions. Perhaps the decade's most surprising finding was the discovery that the human brain is capable of generating new neurons throughout life.

  • Mad Cow Disease

    Mad Cow DiseaseHot Topic

    Mad Cow Disease (known scientifically as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE) is an illness that attacks the brain and spinal cord in adult cattle.

  • Flu Basics

    Flu BasicsHot Topic

    The influenza virus, a member of the family Orthomyxoviridae (Greek myxa, means "mucus"), is one of the world’s most important and dangerous respiratory pathogens.