There are only 4 letters in the language of life: A, T, C and G.

These letters represent four molecules – adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine – which pair together to form the double helix structure we call deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). DNA is the universal language for writing life’s instruction manual. It tells every living thing on Earth how to look, how to function and how to make more of themselves – meaning all of life is related.

Before we knew about DNA, we categorized living things based on how similar or different they looked. Now, using a process called sequencing, scientists today can record every single base pair (A-T, C-G) in an organism’s DNA. By comparing the genomes of different species, we can now draw a more accurate Genetic Family Tree. Using our shared DNA as a map, we can even find common ancestors in our Genetic Family Tree. It also helps scientists study human health, medicine and childhood development in new ways.

1990-2003

The Human Genome Project revealed the following:

99.9%

of DNA is identical in all humans.


98.8%

of our DNA matches that of Chimpanzees (our closest cousins)

.1%

of our genome
gives each
human their
differences

 

45%

 
of our DNA
matches
green algae

 

52.1%

 
of our DNA
matches
fruit flies

Developing Fine & Gross Motor Skills

Good motor control enables children and babies to explore and interact with their environment, which helps to support many other areas of development throughout their lives. Developing these skills is important for a child’s learning and independence.

Gross motor skills are those related to large muscle groups like those in the legs and arms and include movements such as sitting up, standing, walking, running and throwing. Fine motor skills are those that require the small muscles in the hand and wrist, such as zipping, buttoning and writing. Here are some different ways to strengthen gross and fine motor skills.

To strengthen gross motor skills, try these:
  • Wheelbarrow walking: Hold your child’s feet and have them “walk” on their hands. This promotes upper body and core strength.
  • Unstable surfaces: Walking or crawling on unstable surfaces like pillows or cushions helps develop balance and body strength.
  • Obstacle course: Set up an obstacle course that includes things for your child to hop over, crawl under and climb upon. This combines different gross motor practices into one exciting activity.

To strengthen fine motor skills, try these:
  • Put together puzzles: This develops cognitivand problem-solving skills as well!
  • Help around the house: Setting the table, wiping surfaces with a sponge, stirring food and picking up toys all use fine motor muscles.
  • Do finger plays: Try the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” finger play. Plus, it’s a great way to encourage language. For more ideas, visit Let’s Play Music.

The Fall Night Sky

While our autumn constellations in St. Louis may not provide many easily recognizable patterns, a trained eye will be able to spot some of the most spectacular stories and objects that the year has to offer. To see a star show in the McDonnell Planetarium, view our schedule.

See what constellations and objects you will see this fall.

1

The Great Square of Pegasus
Four bright stars rise in the east after sunset and provide your home base for the fall season. The stars Scheat, Alpheratz, Markab and Algenib shine with nearly equal brightness forming the “Great Square” and the body of the mythical flying horse Pegasus.

2

Andromeda & Perseus
In Greek mythology, Pegasus carries Princess Andromeda across the autumn sky. The Andromeda constellation that you see here is home to the brilliant Andromeda galaxy, which is the closest major galaxy to our own Milky Way. You can even see it with the unaided eye under clear, dark skies.

3

Cassiopeia & Cepheus
Above Andromeda in the north we discover the bright “M” or “W” shape of the favorite constellation Cassiopeia the Queen. Cassiopeia is the mother to Andromeda and is positioned in the heavens next to her husband, Cepheus the King.

4

Mars & Cetus the Whale
You can find Cetus below a brilliant red object that does not twinkle like stars – the planet Mars. The red planet will shine above the horizon and is of special importance this year as NASA’s newest rover – Perseverance – will be halfway to Mars. The rover is expected to touch down on February 18, 2021.

Find out about the disastrous mythological events that brought Andromeda and Perseus together.