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Three 16-Year-Old Girls Have Made a Huge Scientific Breakthrough

Meet Kinsale, Ireland’s Sophie Healy-Thow, Émer Hickey, and Clara Judge—all 16 years old and all probably smarter than you. They entered the 2014 Google science fair (co-sponsored by National Geographic, Scientific American, Virgin Galactic, and LEGO) and rose to the top of more than 5,000 entries from 90 different countries. They won because their science project is not, say, a solar system made out of styrofoam balls. No, their project, in their words:

…succeeded in showing statistically that two strains of Rhizobium bacteria can significantly accelerate the rate of crop germination (+40% for r.leguminosarum and 28% for r.japonicum; (p<0.0001). R.japonicum also increased the subsequent dry mass of barley by 70% (p<0.0001). We believe that the biochemical mechanism that produced the noted improvements is triggered when flavonoids from the crops prompt the release of lipochitooligosaccharides which catalyse accelerated seed growth.

Well, assuming your head didn’t explode from trying to read that, the long and short of it is that it’s a major agricultural breakthrough, proving that mixing certain types of bacteria with crops will result in larger yields and help with the ongoing fight against global hunger. For their efforts, all three will get a $50,000 scholarship and an all-expense paid trip to the Galapagos Islands …

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