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Jun 10

June 10, 2017

Plate 72 from Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur (1904), depicting a grove of mosses.

The Minimalist Genius of Moss

Lost to the cracks, roots of trees, shadowed rock faces, moss is the settler of shady nooks and crannies, hidden in plain sight, carpeting surfaces all around the globe, including the arctic poles. They live where no other plants seek to live, creating homes on seemingly inhospitable, soilless surfaces. And they are far more remarkable than you know…

Posted in Science

Apr 24

April 24, 2017

Le Monde Moderne: Mai, lithographic poster designed by Maurice Pillard Verneuil, printed in Paris by L'Imprimerie de Vaugirard, 1895.

The Blink of an Eye

Humans blink on average 15-20 times a minute and these fragmentary flashes of black add up to about 10% of our hours awake. That’s 10% of your day hidden from your eyes…

Posted in Science

Apr 9

April 9, 2017

Illustration for edition of the Brothers Grimm Fairytales, Albert Weisgerber, Germany, circa 1900.

Nature in the City

We seem to think that nature is absent here in the city, built as it is by human hands for human wants and needs, no other life forms invited to the party unless planted in a pot or kept on leash. Yet, despite the lack of invitation, our cities still teem with non-human life.

Posted in Modern Bestiary, Science

Mar 16

March 16, 2017

William Thomas Horton, illustration in The Savoy No. 7, 1896

As Night Recedes

For most of us today, artificial light keeps the night at bay, and the darkness of winter is avoidable, lightbulbs blazing.

Posted in Science, Sociology

May 6

May 6, 2015

Snow goose, Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, Quebec, taken by Simon Pierre Barrette, 2010.

The Berkeley Pit: Murders Most Fowl

In all the annals of tragedy, the demise of one migrating flock of snow geese may seem of not much consequence, but our story exemplifies this universal truth: there is no waste, only a changing of form.

Posted in Science

Nov 18

November 18, 2014

Pumpkin, Flore des Serres et des Jardins de l'Europe, Vol XIV, Louis Van Houtte, 1861.

Dispelling the Myth of the Passive Plant

For a human, it’s impossible to grasp the reality of life lived as a plant, and many of us have been guilty of removing all possibilities of awareness and responsiveness from the flora family. We pluck a flower for its beauty and never dream that the plant is aware of our theft and sending out a chemical chorus through its whole being to assess the situation.

Posted in Science

Sep 18

September 18, 2014

Two views of an ox's heart, Da Vinci, 1513. This was the first anatomically accurate illustration of a heart.

The Heart: A Flesh and Blood Examination

The palpable, bloody, muscular mass of our carnal heart is wondrous in its own right: from the epic journey our blood travels, to the electrical currents that conduct our heart beat, to the tale of the first heart transplant.

Posted in Science

Aug 13

August 13, 2014

The Angry Sea, James McNeill Whistler, 1884.

In Praise of the Pacific

Staring out into the endless blue water of the Pacific can be both alluring and frightening, especially when I remember that humankind descended from ancient creatures who managed to survive and evolve in that salty, fluxing, fierce, and deep expanse.

Posted in Psychology, Science

Jul 9

July 9, 2014

Dung beetles, from Fabre's Book of Insects, Mrs. Rodolph Stawell, 1921.

Delving into Dirt: From Stardust to Soil

Dust, soil, earth, grime, silt, loam, muck, mud, gunk, filth, grit. The synonyms for dirt are many, and few carry a positive meaning. If something is dirty, it is in need of cleaning. If you’re dishing the dirt, then someone’s dark secrets are being aired. If you’re having dirty thoughts, please, keep them to yourself. But dusty, dirty, mucky material creates structure and contains nourishment, allowing life to flourish…

Posted in Science

May 12

May 12, 2014

Allegory of the sense of smell, Jan Brueghel & Peter Rubens, 1618.

The Wonders of Odors in the Air

Smell is by far the most widely underrated of the five senses nature endowed us with. For most people, little conscious attention is given to the endless parade of, mostly subtle, aromas that invisibly fill our every breath.

Posted in Science

May 6

May 6, 2014

Desert, Konstantin Makovsky

Thanks to Dust from the Sahara

The Sahara desert does not bring to mind the fecundity of tropical jungles. Rather, these two ecosystems seem to be inherently incompatible, completely without connection to one another. What could endless burning sands have to do with a world of humid air, lush plants, and innumerable animal life?

Posted in Science

May 2

May 2, 2014

Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, In the Province of Eiri Suruga, Katsushika Hokusaicirca, 1830

Air: Illuminating the Invisible

Air is most often described as “empty”, as if because this sea of elements cannot be seen by humans eyes there is nothing to see, no substance. But the very fact that you’re alive at this moment is proof that the air is not only far from empty, but is teeming with unseen life, microscopic particles, cosmic dust, chemicals, and elemental forces.

Posted in Science