Chemical Biologist, nature lover, mom and teacher. The cicada in my hand is just a cicada, but he has big plans, I’m sure.
What a photo! If you looked to the skies last night (January 21st), you may have noticed a bright point of light nearly on top of the Moon. That was Jupiter! Last night was the closest they will come (an event called “conjunction”) until 2026.
Their nearly intersecting “paths” through the sky are only due to our Earthly perspective, of course. Many things in the night sky will appear next to each other if we just wait long enough. What’s especially cool about this photograph is that it captures three levels of astronomical complexity in one image.
First we have our terrestrial satellite, Luna, with the “terminator” line of day/night stretched across a large, dark volcanic plain known as the “Ocean of Storms”, which is an awesome name for a volcanic plain. The next brightest image is Jupiter, our solar system’s largest planet/failed star. And those dots around Jupiter? Those are three of its Galilean moons! The photographer’s Facebook page says there’s four moons of Jupiter in this shot, but I only see three. If we are seeing them in their increasing distance from Jupiter (and that’s a big if, since perspective can play tricks on us), they are probably Io, Europa, and Ganymede.
Map of the supercontinent Pangaea in the Triassic period, when “first appeared beasties of fur and feather”.
The Tethys Ocean looks like it would have had nice beaches to lounge around on, hunting for nautilus shells, sipping Diño Coladas.
(by Richard Morden on Redbubble, available as a poster there if you’d like one!)
Why can’t trees grow taller than 100 metres?
Kaare Jensen of Harvard University and Maciej Zwieniecki of the University of California, Davis, compared 1925 tree species, with leaves ranging from a few millimetres to over 1 metre long, and found that leaf size varied most in relatively short trees.
Jensen thinks the explanation lies in the plant’s circulatory system. Sugars produced in leaves diffuse through a network of tube-shaped cells called the phloem. Sugars accelerate as they move, so the bigger the leaves the faster they reach the rest of the plant. But the phloem in stems, branches and the trunk acts as a bottleneck.
There comes a point when it becomes a waste of energy for leaves to grow any bigger. Tall trees hit this limit when their leaves are still small, because sugars have to move through so much trunk to get to the roots, creating a bigger bottleneck.
Students have asked me this before. Now I can read up and have a proper answer.
“Quite simply, being well-read or educated, to most of us, doesn’t mean that you understand basic physics; it just means you are relatively well-versed in the arts. The question is, is this a bad thing?”
A really interesting read from Sylvia McLain - Why is it that culturally, we don’t expect scientific literacy, despite it being the heart of many aspects of modern life? What do you think? Personally I think that everyone should stop banging on about Brian Cox.