Teen Tech Tip of the Week #29: Nitrogen Makes Growth Elemental  
Welcome back to the blog for the next installment of our summer series on the elements! This week we will tackle an important element that is crucial to the growth of virtually all plants and animals on Earth--Nitrogen (N).



Plants and animals alike depend on Nitrogen to promote growth. Plants use Nitrogen in chlorophyll molecules, which are a primary component in photosynthesis. All amino acids contain Nitrogen, and animals need amino acids to synthesize proteins and convert energy for growth and function.

Our atmosphere is approximately 78% Nitrogen, which sounds like there is an abundance of N available for plant and animal productivity, but atmospheric Nitrogen (N2) is unusable by plants and animals, because the N atoms are bound together in a triple bond. For uptake by plants and animals, N2 has to go through a series of conversions.

Nitrogen Conversion

  • Nitrogen Fixation - N2 is converted to NH3 (ammonia) by lightning strikes and soil-dwelling, symbiotic bacteria living on leguminous plants.
  • Assimilation - nitrate (NO3-) and ammonium (NH4+) uptake from plant root hairs in soil
  • Ammonification - plant and animal waste (detritus) is converted from organic matter into ammonium
  • Nitrification - conversion of ammonia to nitrites (NO2-) which is then oxidized to nitrates by soil living bacteria
  • Denitrification - reduction process of nitrates back into atmospheric gas (N2) by bacteria in anaerobic conditions. This last portion of the process is important, because it keeps the cycle in balance.

Human Contribution


Agriculture is heavily dependent on the productivity of soil for plant growth. Starting in the first decade of the 20th Century, scientists started synthesizing ammonia by combining atmospheric N2 with Hydrogen gas (H2)--usually derived from methane (CH4). For more on this process, see Haber-Bosch.

While this process creates a readily accessible form of Nitrogen fertilizer for farmers, it can potentially impact the environment in a harmful way. Excess fertilization with Nitrogen and Phosphorus can wash out of farm fields and end in up in water systems.

An overabundance of these fertilizers can lead to a rapid genesis of potentially harmful algal blooms in waterways. Phytoplankton varieties of algae are plant species and react similarly to fertilizers as terrestrial plants would. This rapid growth can cause an over-use of dissolved oxygen in the water creating a hypoxic aquatic ecosystem, forcing out other organisms.

The take home message when it comes to synthetic Nitrogen fertilization is: balance.

Getting to Know the Nitrogen Cycle


One great way to experience the Nitrogen Cycle for yourself is to start a compost heap. The key to a successful compost operation is balancing the relationship of elemental components, or stoichiometry. Creating a Nitrogen-rich compost heap will allow you to safely fertilize a garden while participating in the Nitrogen Cycle.



For more on composting, be sure to check out Let it Rot!, a capstone volume on composting, and other eBooks at your library.

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Good Things Come in Threes: Great Series for Summer Reading 
Books in a series can be a blessing and a curse! When you finish a fun YA book, how great is it to discover that it is the first book in a trilogy? On the other hand, if the book was amazing, you usually have to wait a year or longer for the next book in the series to be published. Even though the wait is sometimes long and painful, I can’t help myself from starting YA trilogies. You are probably familiar with The Hunger Games series and Twilight…here are some other exciting, young adult series that I highly recommend. Just be warned…once you read one, you will likely be hooked!


You have probably heard your friends mention the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. This older teen novel focuses on Tris, a young teen who has to make a choice to either stay with the friends and family that she is familiar with or to strike out on her own. If you are not familiar with Divergent, stop what you are doing and find a copy to read, however you can! Trust me; it will change your life! The second book in the Divergent series, Insurgent, is available now, and Allegiant, the final book in the series, comes out Oct. 22 of this year.


Another older teen novel I enjoyed, Just One Day , by Gayle Foreman, ended with an amazing cliffhanger...another series! This novel focuses on Allyson and Will, who meet while on vacation in Europe and spend a perfect day together before he vanishes! The sequel, Just One Year, will be published on Oct. 15, 2013 and will be told from Will’s point of view. This is another book that I am eagerly awaiting!



The Selection , by Kiera Cass, is another older teen novel that is the first in a planned series. America Singer is one of 35 young, women vying for the chance to win the heart of Prince Maxon and live in luxury for the rest of her life. This dystopian novel is part Hunger Games, part Bachelorette, and all fun! The Elite is the second novel in this series and I am anxiously waiting for my copy to come in so I can find out what happens next!


Finally, there is Shatter Me, an older teen novel by Tahereh Mafi. In this dystopian novel, Juliette’s touch is lethal…no one can touch her without dying except the boy she has loved forever, Adam. Adam tries to help her escape the cruel government that wants to use Juliette’s powers as a weapon. The second book in the series, Unravel Me, is out now and the library also has her mini e-book, Destroy Me, available to download for free from our eBooks link. This series is truly addictive!

Do you have any trilogies or books in a series that you are obsessed with and love to recommend to friends? Add your favorite series to the comments section below and help spread the word about fun, YA series that would be perfect to complete Teen Summer Reading (TSR) at the library!

-Aimee, Youth Services, Southwest Branch

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Science is Elemental at the Highlands/Shelby Park Branch 
You - yes you - are cordially invited to join us on June 21 and 28 and July 12, 19 and 26, 2 - 4 pm at the Teen Outpost at the Highlands-Shelby Park Library to witness the fun side of Science. Yes, I said fun and science in the same sentence!

As one of my all-time favorite science heroes, Steve Spangler, can prove, science can be (not just a little, but a whole huge amount of) fun. If you have never heard of Steve Spangler, I recommend that you hop over to his YouTube page right now, and watch at least one video. Go ahead, I’ll wait.



See fun and science. Together. If you liked Steve’s videos, you should check out his book Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes, which you can, of course, find at the Outpost.

But wait, the fun doesn’t stop there!


For our first Friday, we will be looking at building catapults and testing how far we can make a marshmallow fly. For our last Friday in July, we will look at non-Newtonian fluids. Katherine will be on hand to talk about Sir Isaac Newton’s lesser known quirks. And what about in between? Well, I guess you’ll just have to stop by and see for yourself.

TTFN –Stephani, Young Adult Services Aficionado, Teen Outpost at the Highlands-Shelby Park Library

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Teen Survivor Night: Science Edition a Success! 
Approximately 90 teens roamed the halls of the Main Library for the Library's 3rd annual Teen Survivor Night. In conjunction with the Library's Teen Summer Reading theme, 'Reading is Elemental,' components of the event revolved around a science motif. Highlights from Survivor Night include mad science experiments, chain reactions, catapults & tower building, scary stories, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Book Dominoes


Check out this video of a 'chain reaction' of books in the Main Lobby:



We hope that you were able to join in on the fun!

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Haunting Mysteries for Summer Reading 
Do you like mysteries? Do you like ghost stories? Do you like mysteries that have ghosts in them? Then I have two perfect books for you: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff and The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington.



Paper Valentine is about a girl named Hannah who is living through one of the hottest Julys on record. And her best friend Lillian died six months before from anorexia. Plus there is a serial killer, a.k.a. the Valentine Killer, on the loose in town. Last, but not least, Lillian is now haunting Hannah and bugging her to investigate the mysterious deaths of the girls who are the serial killer's victims. Creepy in a dead-best-friend-haunting-you-while-a-serial-killer's-on-the-loose kind of way.

The Dead and Buried is about Jade, whose family has just moved into a new house in a new town. Jade is happy about the new house and about the fresh start for her and her family. Unfortunately, the house is haunted by the ghost of a girl who died there and wants to know who killed her--and who doesn't care what she has to do to get the truth and to get her revenge.

-Emily Mauldin, Middletown Branch

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