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The Green Life: Another Use for Rubber Ducks

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October 06, 2008

Another Use for Rubber Ducks

Rubber_ducks_istock_000006003382x_2Rubber ducks might not be fit for your toddler (unless they're phthalate-free), but they're fine for science experiments. It seems the bath toys are now playing a role in glacier research. A fleet of 90 rubber ducks and a football-sized probe were recently lowered into the moulins, or tubular holes that provide a pathway for flowing water, in Greenland's fastest-moving glacier to help scientists determine the exact mechanisms that cause glaciers to speed up in the summer.

Each of the ducks is marked with an e-mail address and the words "science experiment" and "reward" written in three languages. E-mails will allow Alberto Behar of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to determine where the rubber ducks (and, more importantly, the glacier water) end up. The somewhat more sophisticated probe will signal its position via GPS, while sensors will supply information about pressure, temperature, and acceleration.

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