Tree Tuesday

One of our readers has recently moved back to Canada from Mexico and they’re missing the blooming of their favourite tree, the Royal Poinciana also known as the Flamboyant Tree. It’s easy to see why the these trees would be missed. Many people consider the Royal Poinciana to be the most beautiful flowering tree in the world. Native to Madagascar the trees were introduced to Mexico in the 19th century and quickly came to be loved.

In Yucatan, these beautiful flowering trees became favorite ornamental trees to grow near Mayan huts, villages, urban avenues and parks.  Its orchid shaped deep orange-red flowers are truly exquisite, one petal is different from the rest with light tone and deep shades of orange magenta spot; flowers grow in clusters, blooms in May and summer the Flamboyan trees are fully covered with flowers without their pinnae leaflets (foliage). Flamboyan seeds grow in large “machete like” hard pods.

Mexico is only one of many warm climates where the Flamboyant tree has prospered. According to Wikimedia the Royal Poinciana is now successfully cultivated worldwide in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

The blooming of the royal poinciana is certainly an event to be celebrated as its flowers are large, bright and plentiful.

The flowers of the royal poinciana are large and normally a shade of yellow, orange, or bright red. Each flower has four spreading petals that measure up to 3 inches (about 8 cm) in length and a fifth petal called the standard that is upright and a little bigger than the other petals. The standard is distinctive because of its white and yellow spots. Another common name of the royal poinciana is peacock flower because the physical appearance of the flowers is similar to that of a peacock with its feathers up.

Because of its size and wide umbrella shape the royal poinciana is an excellent shade tree and is beloved wherever it grows. There is also research being done that shows the plant has much more to offer than just beauty and shade. Studies have found anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties along with an ability to increase wound healing and aid in glucose tolerance in diabetic mice. If you’re interested, the article linked below at the Liliana Usvat blog also offers information on the propagation of the tree and the current research studies being done on the plant.

via – Liliana Usvat – Reforestation and Medicinal use of the trees

Tree Tuesday

©voyager, all rights reserved

The effects of human-caused increased greenhouse gases were predicted as early as the turn of the 20th Century and according to the Ivan Semeniuk of the Canadian Globe and Mail a NASA study of tree rings from the last 120 years is helping to prove out this theory.

In 1896, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius made a prescient calculation that showed the vast quantities of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning coal and other fossil fuels would eventually cause the planet to get warmer.

Little did he realize that the effect he described was already under way and being dutifully recorded by a ready-made monitoring system distributed around the globe in the form of trees.

The growth record of trees is recorded in their rings and this growth is highly sensitive to changes in moisture.

Tree rings are among the most direct ways of measuring past climate because trees are sensitive to soil moisture. In drier years, trees grow more slowly and the annual rings that are recorded in their trunks become narrower. By comparing overlapping tree-ring patterns in wood that grew at different times on different continents, scientists have gradually built up “drought atlases” that show changes in moisture distribution dating back to the year 1400 or, in some areas, even earlier.

Drought atlases are nothing new, but using trees to measure the effects of drought across time and region is new science and it’s showing some startling trends.

The scientists found that after centuries of normal variations during which some places alternately became wetter or drier relative to each other, an additional effect on moisture emerged around 1900 that is consistent with climate change. Over all, the data show that much of North America, Australia and the Mediterranean have been getting drier over the past 120 years while parts of Asia, including India and western China, have been getting wetter.

The effect was especially pronounced during the first half of the 20th century, but became more subdued between 1950 and 1975. Since then, it has accelerated. The scientists posit that a huge increase in the release of sulphates and other airborne chemicals in the postwar era served to temporarily counteract the effect of greenhouse gases by deflecting sunlight and promoting cloud formation. This countertrend later subsided after air-quality regulations went into effect in North America and Europe.

The results of this study help confirm that human activity is directly related to global climate change, although trees in the southern hemisphere were not included because their growth patterns are not as seasonally visible.

So it seems that trees are helping to relate the story of climate change in new ways. I’m not surprised. Trees have proven to be one of mankind’s best natural resources and now they’re talking to us in ways we can understand. Whether people will listen is another matter.

 

Via: The Globe and Mail, May 2/19, Ivan Semeniuk

Tree Tuesday

Trees in the News:

A massive yellow meranti found in the Dunam Valley area of Malaysia has been confirmed to be the world’s tallest tropical tree at 330 ft. (100.5 meters). Originally seen from the air, the tree was climbed by a daring local man with a tape measure to confirm it’s status. Logging is prohibited in the area and it is thought that there may be even larger trees as yet undiscovered in the same area. The video has some very nice aerial photography.

 

From The Smithsonian Magazine

Journey’s End

As we all know, Opportunity was declared officially MIA a short while ago. I had planned on preparing a more sensical post as tribute, but instead, here is a short list of links on the subject:

Opportunity Rover (xkcd)

Opportunity (xkcd)

Spirit (xkcd) (I know I know but it’s a good one)

It’s Time to Say Goodbye to Our Beloved Mars Rover

NASA Declares a Beloved Mars Mission Over

Six Things to Know About NASA’s Opportunity Rover

The Mars Opportunity rover has officially ghosted Earth

Death and Opportunity

And finally, from the futuristic fiction department, A Martian Hunts for the Red Planet’s Past – And His Own

 

Youtube Video: Flat Earth OR Why Do People Reject Science? | Philosophy Tube

Phil O´Sofy Toobe is great leftist channel. I do not agree with everything in his videos, but that is not because I disagree with him on principle – I disagree with him on practicality. In short, I think we are fucked beyond hope, because human race as a whole is irredeemable and this prevents sensible implementation of leftist policies on greater scale.

In this video he tackles some of the whats and whys behind science denialism. I recommend many of his other videos – and there realy are many. I still haven’t seen them all.

#WomenInScience Day

Yesterday was Women and Girls in Science Day, which I only found out when it was almost over.

In the spirit of my work, here’s an article via The Atlantic, The History of Women in Science is Hidden in Plain Sight.

Over the last few years, a team of students led by Emilia Huerta-Sánchez from Brown University and Rori Rohlfs from San Francisco State University have been searching through two decades’ worth of acknowledgments in genetics papers and discovering women who were never given the credit that would be expected for today’s researchers. They identified dozens of female programmers who made important but unrecognized contributions. Some were repeatedly thanked in the acknowledgments of several papers, but were never recognized as authors. They became literal footnotes in scientific history, despite helping to make that history.

“When Emilia and I look at our elders in population genetics, there are very, very few women,” says Rohlfs. “But there were women and they were doing this work. To even know that they existed is a big deal to me.”

That seems to be the key – to even know that they existed. I know every time I find out about a woman in a field of science previously understood to be all male, I have Feelings, and it always feels like a big deal.

And I wish it wouldn’t.

YouTube Video: A Super-Material You Can Make In Your Kitchen (Starlite?)

Today a bit of chemistry and engineering that took my fancy. I have read about Starlite before, and I always wondered what it was made of. It would be swell if it could be made to actually work on big scale.

There are other materials that have similarly amazing insulating properties – aerogels – but they are brittle and a pain in the arse to make at home (i tried, and failed).

I am already thinking about how to use this in knifemaking.

Oh and sorry for being so quiet, but I was away for almost a week without internet and I am still catching my breath after getting back to work after.

Slavic Saturday

I used to collect books by Karl May. What, you might ask, has a German writer have to do with Slavic Saturday? Well, I used to only collect editions that were illustrated by Zdeněk Burian. I would collect them still, only I rarely have a chance to visit an antiquarian bookshop nowadays.

Cover of a set of photoreproductions. “Pravěk” means prehistory. Click for full size.

Outside of our little land, he is probably most known for his paleoart, which to my mind simply has no equal in past or present. It might not be the most accurate paleoart by today’s standards as science progresses, but those pictures are so alive that they still have value and still are inspiring. One of my most prized possessions is a set of loose sheets of photographic reproductions of his works – this was also one of the first of his works I have got my hands on. The mammoths on the cover are simply amazing – and that is an understatement. I would very much love to see the original paintings some day, everyone who had the honor tells me their impact is much greater than of the reproductions.

The back side of one of the sheets. Click for full size.

Each sheet in the book represents some specific geological era and it contains one A4 color reproduction of an oil painting on the front, and some black & white inks and some text on the back. Shame it was not published in other languages, and is not even published now in CZ, because I think many aspiring artists, paleontologists and paleoartists would benefit greatly from being exposed to this work more. I never cease to be impressed by what he was capable of achieving with just black ink and a pen.

His paleoart has been a great inspiration to me. I wanted to be a painter and to achieve such great things, but alas I lack the talent. Burian’s genius has in fact demonstrated itself early on, when at the age of mere 14 years he was accepted into study at Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, which he left just two years later. And he went straight into the most difficult branch of the painting and drawing business – illustrating books. I consider this to be the most difficult part, because not only is the artist forced to draw realistic humans, the scenes also have to be living and dynamic in order to truly add to the book. And here he got his first claim to fame, by illustrating adventure books both by renown authors (like Karl May and Jules Verne) and pure pulp fiction trash. He was extremely prolific, the amount of work he managed to do in his life is staggering.

An illustration of the book “The Son of Bear Hunter” by Karl May. The book is in very poor condition, almost falling apart. I paid for it anyway. Click for full size.

I have failed my dream of becoming as good an artist as he was, but this did not spoil my love for his art and my appreciation of his technique, and I still learned a lot from him and thanks to him. There are many books out there containing his illustrations that I did not get my hands on yet. I will never pass the chance should it occur.

Kosmoss

As somebody famous once said, we are the pale blue dot. From far enough away, invisible. Insignificant. Tiny. An isolated speck in an isolationist universe. In the cold mountain air, I found the stars had an extra sharpness at night. Humans can go so far in that darkness, but it is laughably close on the grand scale of galaxies. Here’s a peek into the great universe, as taken by me in Austria:

Our satellite, our companion.
©rq, all rights reserved.

My favourite constellation, Orion. We call it the Hunter here, and I wonder if its variety of names is as diverse as that of the Big Dipper?
©rq, all rights reserved.

But as much as I want to be just excited about another scientific and technological achievement, it’s hard to disconnect from the news today. Humans can be so selfish, and inconsiderate, and greedy, and destructive. Anyway, here’s Muriel Rukeyser back in 1968:

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.
I lived in the first century of these wars.

It appears to be the second century of these wars. And the universe goes on and will go on without us, because humans are just that important. I just wish we could be selfish enough to consider mutual survival.