Does the ability to roll one's tongue affect one's taste? Well, good question. While we're at it, is there ultraviolet radiation on bread mold; are there hidden dangers in polystyrene cups?
And just how does the hornbeetle stridulate? Or, what is the future of flies? More important, is St. Mary's County a "banana belt?"
The answers to these questions and many more could be found at the 33rd Annual Science Fair for the Prince George's area, sponsored last weekend at Prince George's Community College by the Prince George's Science Fair Association, a private group. On display were top student projects from junior and senior high schools in Prince George's, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties.
Of the 319 students whose research projects were exhibited at the fair, four won grand prizes. The winners in the senior divison -- John Lunny Jr., 15, of McDonough High in Charles County and Paul Young, 17 of Elanor Roosevelt Senior High in Prince George's County -- will go on to compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair in Milwaukee, Wisc., May 11.
Caglan Aras, 15, a freshman at Eleanor Roosevelt Senior High and Mark Erdly, 14, a freshman at Lackey High in Charles County, were the grand prize winners in the junior division.
Lunny and Young promise to bring stiff competition to the International fair with their complex projects and brillant minds.
Lunny, a sophomore who maintains a 4.0 grade point average, already has completed college-level courses in computer science, computer operations and FORTRAN programming. He also has completed three algebra courses and courses in geometry, triogonometry and analytic geometry.
His project, titled "How Do We Know if a Number is Prime?," dealt with intricate mathematics.
"A prime number is only divisible by one and itself. I wanted to find a way to generate primes. . . . I first programmed most of the great mathmaticians' thoughts into the IBM 370 computer, then I programmed my own theories and tried to come out with a program where you could enter any number and find out if it was a prime," explained Lunny, who lives in White Plains.
"Unfortunately, due to time and the limits of the IBM 370, I was only able to generate the primes to 5,000," he continued.
Lunny wants to work with "much larger computers" and to develop a mathematical equation for finding a prime number. He plans to major in computer programming in college and eventually work as a systems analyst.
Young the other senior-divison grand prize winner, proved his keen knowledge of biology with a project titled "Microsporidan Control of Beetles."
"I infected a group of beetles with microsporidan, a type of spore-forming protozoan parasite, and compared them to an uninfected group of beetles. The infected group had lower mating frequencies and produced fewer young per generation," explained Young, who lives in Camp Springs.
"I was trying to see if you could use micro-organisms to control a beetle population. The parasite species I used was nosema whitei, which was not damaging to humans," he continued.
Young was the only winner who, during an interview, expressed gratitude to others for their guidance. He mentioned the help he had received from Dr. Earlene Armstrong, a research scientist at the University of Maryland at College Park and Joseph Kroto, an adviser and biology teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt Senior High.
"I plan to major (at college) in an agricultural area of biology," said Young, who graduates from high school this spring and has been accepted at Cornell and Washington universities. He is waiting to hear from Princeton and Yale.
Approximately 80 percent of those entering the regional fair won awards for their efforts.
Other projects also tackled difficult theories. There were titles such as "Velocity Estimate for Milky Way Galaxy," "Viral Effects of Chloroplasts," "Effect of Paramecia Due to Stimuli," "Effect of Chloral Hydrate on Cilia" and "Hydrogen Production by Solar Energy."
But the project that best combined a sense of scienfic curiosity with fashion trendiness was creatively called "Buttoning Down Nature's Preppy Look." The word "preppey" derived from the bright pinks, oranges and blues used in the kit the student used to test soil conditions.
Mother Nature would have loved it.