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In Science and Politics, Expect the Unexpected

Two findings reported this month illustrate how science changes.  Paradigms and policies can have their scientific underpinnings yanked out from under them, causing both consternation and opportunities for new ways of thinking. Bring back the acid rain:  Pick your poison: acid rain or global warming.  Acid rain was the bogeyman of the 1980s, leading to […]

Plant Pores March to Their Own Beat

Plants have pores called stomata that open and close (see 09/13/2006).  These gates of the leaf surface provide plant protection from invaders, and allow the transpiration of gases and water vapor in and out, depending on conditions.  The stomata of many plants open wide during the day to allow in carbon dioxide, but close at […]

Plants Have an Immune System, Too

We know that animals fight disease with an army of patrols swimming in blood, but how do plants cope?  They are exposed to pathogens, too: everything from bacteria to fungi, worms and insects.  Without a central nervous system or circulatory system to help, are our gentle green friends at the mercy of what comes?  The […]

Self-cleaning Surfaces Take the Lotus Position

Photovoltaic cells and microelectromechanical systems have a problem: they collect dirt.  What to do?  Look to the lotus, says a EurekAlert article about research at Georgia Institute of Technology.  Dr. C. P. Wong and team took inspiration from the self-cleaning surfaces of lotus leaves.  “Despite growing in muddy conditions, the leaves and flowers remain clean […]

What’s Inside a Spore?  Nanotechnology

The spores that are emitted from fungi and ferns are so tiny, the appear like dust in the wind.  Who would have ever thought such specks could exhibit nano-technological wonders like scientists have found recently: Evapo-Motors:  Scientists at U of Michigan were intrigued by how ferns turn the power of evaporation into launching pads.  The […]

Plant Protection: A Modern Medieval Castle Story

Vigilant guards stand at the gates.  In times of peace, they let down the drawbridge, and the townspeople carry on their trade.  Farmers bring in their crops for the marketplace, and local craftsmen and pedlars keep the local economy bustling.  Yet the sentries maintain a watchful eye, aware that numerous interlopers are about.  Aliens constantly […]

Grass Shack Makes a Comeback

Oh, what a feeling: Toyota Roof Garden wants to replace your roof with grass.  Bill Christensen at Live Science says that the car company’s grass tiles include imbedded irrigation piping, provide good thermal insulation and reflect less urban heat to the atmosphere.  The special grass only needs mowing once a year.  Company website (Japanese): Toyota […]

Darwin’s Yard De-Evolves

According to the BBC News biodiversity in Darwin’s yard at Down House in England has declined 15% since he fastidiously catalogued plant species there in 1855. This story signifies nothing significant.  Biodiversity naturally declines in some grasslands as forests encroach and a climax community develops.  Evolutionists would not expect noteworthy genetic change in just 150 […]

Plants Use Electrical Sunscreen

Perhaps only a scientist, or a kid, would worry about how a plant doesn’t get sunburn, but it took elaborate scientific work for six months to find the answer.  EurekAlert told about research at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State that found how plants get rid of excess solar energy.  They use carotenoids, molecules responsible […]

Plant Hula-Hoop Railroads Build Cell Walls

Solving a long-standing mystery about how plants build cell walls, Stanford scientists imaged molecular machines traveling along hoop-shaped rings around the inside of the cell.  Publishing in Science, Paradez, Somerville and Ehrhardt proved that cellulose synthase (CESA), a machine that manufactures cellulose composed of six subunits arranged in rosettes, rides like a rail car on […]

Cactus Evolution Explained

Phew, finally: now we know how cacti evolved, reports EurekAlert.  Ouch!  On second thought, how’s that again?     Two Yale scientists set out to figure out how the succulent plants turned leaves into spines.  Using molecular methods, they identified the earliest cactus, but then said it “already showed water use patterns that are similar […]

Plant Species Divisions Are As Distinct As Those of Animals

Plants were thought to speciate differently than animals.  Evolutionary taxonomists presumed that their species barriers were more fuzzy, with hybridization, polyploidy and other mechanisms blurring the lines between species.  Not so, claim three scientists from Indiana University writing in Nature.1  These perceptions may just be artifacts of the plants selected for study: Many botanists doubt […]

Of Talking Trees and Plant Perfumes

It’s not just Middle Earth where the trees talk.  The forests of Regular Earth have a language, too: a chemical language called the “invisible bouquet” by Pamela J. Hines, introducing a special series of articles on plant communication in Science.1  Of the thousands of different metabolites that plants can produce, many form a cloud around […]

Plants Contribute to Global Warming?

If anyone needs a reminder that scientists still have a lot to learn, consider this major discovery of something right under their noses that caught them completely off guard.  Up to a third of methane in the atmosphere comes from plants.  This is not only a baffling puzzle about how or why plants would create […]

Evolutionary “Arms Race” – Is Coevolution Relentless?

Camellias and the weevils that attack their seeds seem locked in conflict.  The thicker a camellia grows its protective woody covering around its seeds, the longer the feeding tube on some weevil to break through and devour.  John R. Thompson talked about such “coevolutionary arms races” in Current Biology1 and asked whether such wars can […]
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