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Hey Matt!!

My seniors have two important questions. How many times can you recycle paper, and is there dirt in Antartica, or is it all ice?

-- Linsey Kitchens, Grossmont High School

Hey Linsey!! Can't send tomorrow's leaders into the world unprepared, can we. According to the technical association of the paper pulping and recycling industries, you can reuse old paper five to seven times before it craps out. This sounds simple, but how can you tell how many times a cellulose fiber has been processed? Luckily, the fibers check themselves out when their time is done. Paper is recycled by returning it back into its basic form-- individual cellulose fibers-- in big vats of water and chemicals. Young, studly fibers, on only their second or third go-round, maintain their long, springy form. Geriatric fibers are brittle and stiff and eventually shatter. These pieces are filtered out or skimmed off in the processing, before the new paper is made.

As for Antarctica, under thousands of feet of ice is rock. A billion years ago, give or take, Antarctica was part of the supercontinent (Pangaea) from which all continents evolved (via plate tectonics). One chunk, Godwana, split up into such vacation spots as South America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, India, and the eastern side of Antarctica. The western side evolved as smaller plates crashed into each other, which also formed Antarctica's mountains. A meltdown on the west side would give you small rocky islands and mountain peaks. A meltdown on the east would reveal a large shelf of metamorphic rock. The release of pressure from the weight of all that ice would make the rock rebound about 2000 feet, scientists estimate. Like the world's biggest trampoline.

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