181 Slices
Medium 9781770907010

A Backward Look

Dr. Joe Schwarcz ECW Press ePub

Moses “looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.” That passage from Exodus is one of the most famous ones in the entire Bible! After all, it was from that burning bush on Mount Horeb that God spoke to Moses, telling him that he had been chosen to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt.

Searching for possible scientific explanations for Biblical phenomena is an interesting pastime. Of course that is all it is, because for those who have faith that Biblical accounts are based on true miracles, no scientific explanation is necessary. And for those who are skeptical that the Bible is factual, no scientific rationalization is needed for events they believe never occurred. Whatever one’s point of view, Biblical stories can serve as a springboard for leaping into some captivating science.

Suggestions have been made that the Dictamnus albus plant, found throughout northern Africa, is a candidate for the burning bush. In the summer, the plant, also known as the “gas plant,” exudes a variety of volatile oils that can catch fire readily and may give the impression that the bush is burning. So was Moses witnessing the combustion of a mix of terpenes, flavonoids, coumarins and phenylpropanoids? An interesting hypothesis about the burning bush, but one that can be readily doused.

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Medium 9781770907041

2 | Seeds and Their Dispersal

Jesse Vernon Trail ECW Press ePub

After pollination and fertilization, flowers produce seeds that are dispersed to enable the continuation (growth) of most flowering plant species.

Seed size and shape vary considerably, as does the quantity produced by each plant. The containers or capsules that contain a plant’s seeds also come in an almost infinite variety of shapes and sizes, though fruits, nuts, pods and cones are the main types. Animals (including man), birds and other wildlife enjoy eating these and unwittingly disperse a plant’s seeds, often to great distances.

Many plants use fascinating methods to disperse their seeds, including catapult-like ejection, hitchhiking, parachutes or even planting their own seeds. Other plants require just the right circumstances for even one of their many seeds to germinate. Some produce seeds with exceptionally hard coats or incredible viability. We’ll explore these clever adaptations that help ensure future generations.

The dry tropical forests of northern Venezuela are home to a special epiphytic orchid often referred to as the American swan orchid, Cycnoches chlorochilon. An epiphyte is a plant that is rooted not in the soil, but on the surfaces of other plants and trees. In late summer, the swan orchid is in full bloom, displaying large, fragrant greenish-yellow blossoms that are delightfully intricate in form.

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5 | The Vital Importance of Water and Air

Jesse Vernon Trail ECW Press ePub

Water is not only the most abundant matter on earth, but it is also essential to all life on the planet. The vast, awesome oceans compose around 70 percent of the planet’s surface. Beyond that, there are glaciers, ice caps, mist, fog, clouds and all forms of precipitation, such as rain and snow. Don’t forget lakes, streams, groundwater, runoff and water in the soil. And there’s more — the water in the bodies of all living organisms.

Water and air are intricately interrelated. When we speak of air here, we refer mainly to the oxygen and carbon dioxide portion. These two elements, like water, are essential to all life on earth, particularly in the plant processes of photosynthesis and respiration.

To begin, plants are composed of 85 to 90 percent water — a pretty phenomenal percentage. This water content is often found in plant leaves and particularly in herbaceous plants. The importance of water becomes evident when moisture is reduced by heat, drought or other means — if water loss is extreme, the plant will wilt and eventually die.

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Medium 9781770906983

Five: Politics

Dan Rubinstein ECW Press ePub

“Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man?”

— Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience”

“I learnt how distant my colleagues and I in government were from the lives of others. Our policy papers existed in a grotesque jargon space of misleading phrases about ‘transparent, predictable and accountable financial processes.’ I had become more confident disagreeing … because my walk had showed me real people in real places.”

— Rory Stewart, Member of Parliament, U.K.

“Female salmon fake their orgasms.”

Six men are standing on the rocky flats beside the River Lune, in northwestern England, discussing the threats confronting the local fishery. This used to be one of the best sea trout rivers in the United Kingdom. Not anymore. Nitrates and phosphates from the fertilizing slurry spread over adjacent fields leach into the water. Heavy rainstorms, increasingly frequent of late, disturb the streambed gravel and destroy spawning nests. A proposed hydroelectric project could disrupt the flow. And at the mouth of the Lune, some 15 miles away, salmon-farm escapees migrate through the Kent Channel, bringing sea lice and possibly other diseases.

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Medium 9781770904958

Yellow Submarines

Mark Coakley ECW Press ePub

Yellow Submarines

“How big it got — it wasn’t supposed to be that big.”

— Robert Bleich

A year after the start of the Molson grow op, Bleich and Walker had enough free time to build their own grow op, inside an old barn in the city of Kawartha Lakes, Ontario. Glenn Day helped them construct an airtight shell in the barn. When completed, Bleich and Walker sold the grow op to a local businessman named Pierre Homard,* Bleich keeping a 10 percent ownership share. Neither Bleich nor Walker told Dolic and Freeman about this grow op, but in the summer of 2003, Bleich’s bosses found out about his activities on the side. Bleich later said he believed it was Glenn Day who told on him to Dolic and Freeman. Dolic accused Bleich of a “conflict of interest” — because he was not giving all of his loyalty to his work at the Molson grow op — and fired Bleich, who went back to what he described as “selling ounces here and there, doing my own thing.” He denied this was a “falling out” with Dolic and Freeman, saying he remained friends with both after the firing and sometimes visited the old Molson factory.

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