Question Sheet: Catching Some Rays


Before reading:

  1. Why are people interested in developing alternative forms of energy? 
  2. How do plants create energy? How do people obtain energy?

During reading:

  1. Why are scientists studying how algae make energy? 
  2. Why is the sun an important part of this research? 
  3. What is our main source of energy right now? What is the problem with using

    that source? 

  4. Why are scientists interested in using hydrogen as fuel? 
  5. In what way are algae useful to scientists as they study hydrogen? What

    problems might they pose? 

  6. What does Daniel Nocera mean when he says, “We’re all busily working away to

    try to figure out how to make [photosynthesis] happen outside of the leaf”?

After reading:

  1. Try this experiment. Using a stopwatch, count the number of minutes you

    spend in a day using electrical equipment. List the various pieces of electrical

    equipment you used. Which piece of equipment probably uses the most electricity?

    Create a graph with your class that shows the number of minutes of electricity

    that each student uses in a day. 

  2. The article mentions various ways of making alternative energy. Which way do

    you think is the most likely to solve the world’s energy problems? Why? 

  3. Carbon dioxide sometimes forms naturally and sometimes forms because of

    human activities. Explain how, even though it can be natural, it can harm the


  4. Solar panels, like algae, capture energy from the sun. Why do you think the

    article didn’t focus on solar panels? What is different about how solar panels

    capture solar energy and how algae do it?


Do other countries use as much energy as the United States does? Why might some countries use less energy, or more, than the United States does? Can other countries learn from the countries that use the least energy?


  1. Write an article, similar to one you might read in Science News for


    , about the importance of sunlight to life on Earth. 
  2. How do you think scientists originally figured out that algae could teach

    them how to catch the sun’s rays? Go to the library or search the Web and find

    at least 3 good books or articles about algae. Write a short essay about what

    you learn from reading those sources.