Viewing: evolution

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

May 12

May 12, 2017

Mosque swallow, Ibis (quarterly journal of the British Ornithologists Union), Vol. IV, 1862.

Of Flying Birds and Cold Dinosaurs

How did birds come to fly? Did ancient reptiles, like us, look up into the great big blue yonder and dream of soaring? No, nothing so poetic, but rather something very practical led to flight.

Posted in Modern Bestiary

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

May 1

May 1, 2015

Morning in a Pine Forest, Ivan Shishkin, 1889.

A-Z Modern Bestiary: Bears in the Balance

Bears are individuals with great curiosity and keen faculties, and they act for all sorts of reasons that we can only guess at. Ultimately, in the words of notable bear behaviorist Else Poulsen, “bears do things for bear reasons.”

Posted in Modern Bestiary

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

Mar 24

March 24, 2014

Blue Ridge Mountains, Ken Thomas

Evolution of the Southern Appalachian Mountains

Asheville is built amidst rolling hills, the worn remains of an epic geological history that tells of continents colliding and the vast amounts of time that eroded the ancient mountains such clashings created.

Posted in Science

Mar 12

March 12, 2014

Narcissus pseudonarcissus and Narcissus poeticus, Hans-Simon Holtzbecker, 1659.

Flowers for Thought: Narcissus and Evolution

Today the daffodils have unfurled: bright yellow petals proclaiming winter’s dominance at last has ended. These trumpet-bearers of spring were my favorite flower as a child, and I would sneak through parks like some small-time criminal to break a few stems and whisk home with the evidence. Years later when I became an avid reader of Greek mythology, I was surprised to learn that these sweet flowers were also known by the name Narcissus and were associated with a very strange tale of tragic self-adoration.

Posted in Myths & Folktales, Sociology