Kidspace: Short stuff

The return of a dolphin

The Indus River dolphin remains one of the world's most endangered species, but it's making a comeback.

The dolphin, found in Pakistan, is unlike most other dolphins that live in the ocean. That's because this dolphin lives in fresh water. It's also blind. But the animal's highly sensitive sonar abilities allow it to pass easily through the Indus's hazy, silt-filled waters and to detect and catch fish and crustaceans.

There are about 1,330 Indus River Dolphins, according to a survey released earlier this month in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. That's up from 1,100 dolphins in 2001.

But this dolphin could still slide into extinction if more isn't done to protect its habitat, says Gail Braulik, a dolphin biologist. She and other scientists are investigating ways to relocate the dolphins from highly populated areas to places where there are fewer people.


Dwarf dinosaurs? Although most people think they were all big, some dinosaurs were actually small.

But fossils from northern Germany have revealed a dinosaur that evolved into a dwarf, ending up about one-third the size of its closest known relatives, scientists say.

The four-legged herbivore measured about 20 feet long and weighed about a ton.

How did it become smaller? The researchers say it's the tendency of big species to shrink over time when they find themselves on an island. Scientists think that in an environment of limited resources, smaller body size becomes an advantage.

The creature, called Europasaurus holgeri, lived 154 million years ago near what is now the German town of Goslar.

Teens kick it in the World Cup

They would be high school juniors and seniors were they students in the United States. Instead, they're "freshmen" on the world soccer stage.

This month, 11 teenagers from four continents have pulled up their socks, fastened their shinguards, and tucked in their jerseys to play in the World Cup in Germany. They are some of the best – and youngest – soccer players in the world.

Teens have always had a role in World Cup play. Pele led the way as far back as 1958 when, as a 17-year-old, his goals helped propel Brazil to the first of its five world championships.

In Spain in 1982, Norman Whiteside of Northern Ireland became the youngest World Cup player at the age of 17 years, 41 days.

Now you see it, now you don't

Harry Potter had one. Now you can, too.

The invisibility cloak worn by Harry Potter in the popular books by J.K. Rowling is theoretically possible, say US and British researchers.

But don't expect to find the materials in nature (or at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry). They're man-made using artificial composite materials called "metamaterials."

These materials are intended to steer light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation around an object, rendering it essentially invisible.

A cloak made of these materials would neither reflect light nor cast a shadow. Instead, like a river streaming around a smooth boulder, light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation would strike the cloak and simply flow around it, continuing on as if they had never bumped up against an obstacle.

That would give an onlooker the apparent ability to peer right through the cloak, with everything tucked inside concealed from view.

Such a cloak does not exist yet, but early versions could be as close as 18 months away.

At the zoo, too

Live animals aren't the only thing to see this summer at the St. Louis Zoo.

Last month, sculptor Albert Paley completed a steel sculpture called "Animals Always" near one of the zoo's entrances. It's about 36 feet high and 130 feet wide.

In the sculpture, about 60 animals including elephants, giraffes, and snakes peer from behind trees and other plant life.

It was prebuilt in New York, where Mr. Paley works, and then shipped to its permanent location on 20 flatbed trucks. Zoo officials say the three-story sculpture is the largest at any public zoo in the world.

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