How Many ‘ologies’ do you Know

 

I often listen to podcasts when I walk Jack, and I’ve found a new one that I think you’d really like, too. It’s called ‘Ologies’ and the host Ali Ward is an Emmy award-winning science journalist. She’s worked on such shows as ‘Brainchild’ (Netflix), ‘How to Build Everything’ (Science Channel) and ‘In The Wild’ with co-host Adam Savage of Mythbusters.
Alie Ward is a charming and humorous host, and every week, she interviews a scientist from a different ‘Ology’ or specialty area, and questions them on what their field is all about. She approaches each subject with a genuine sense of curiosity and wonder. What you hear as the end product is a bunch of scientists who are passionate about their work telling stories and talking about what they love. Each interview ends with a lightning round of questions sent in by her patrons. One of her mottos is, “Never be afraid to ask a smart person a stupid question.” Or a smart one, either – Alie, herself, has a science background and prepares well for each interview, so the conversations are compelling and intelligent with a pleasant touch of humour. As an interviewer, she allows each guest space and time to tell their best stories in that passionate way of nerds.

‘ Ologies’ is Alie’s own brainchild, something that she thought about doing for many years before finally putting it together. There are currently over a hundred ‘Ologies’ available and Alie intends to keep going. She also makes a donation on each show to the charity of the Ologists choice and then features the charity on her website.  I’ve been binging on it for about 2 weeks, and I’m hooked. Give it a listen. This is the website for the show, and you should be able to find it via most podcast players.

Tree Tuesday

Chic Choc Mountains, Gaspe Peninsula ©voyager, all rights reserved

There’s one more reason to love trees. A new study from The Crowther Lab, ETH Zurich, published in the Journal of Science, July 2019, says that targeted reforestation could isolate 2/3 of human-made carbon emissions and would be the best way to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The researchers calculated that under the current climate conditions, Earth’s land could support 4.4 billion hectares of continuous tree cover. That is 1.6 billion more than the currently existing 2.8 billion hectares. Of these 1.6 billion hectares, 0.9 billion hectares fulfill the criterion of not being used by hu-mans. This means that there is currently an area of the size of the US available for tree restoration. Once mature, these new forests could store 205 billion tonnes of carbon: about two thirds of the 300 billion tonnes of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution.

Calculations were made based on current conditions and cities and agricultural areas were not included because those areas are necessary to support human life.

According to Prof. Thomas Crowther, co-author of the study and founder of the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich: “We all knew that restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we didn’t really know how big the impact would be. Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today. But we must act quickly, as new forests will take decades to mature and achieve their full potential as a source of natural carbon storage…. The study also shows which parts of the world are most suited to forest restoration. The greatest potential can be found in just six countries: Russia (151 million hectares); the US (103 million hectares); Canada (78.4 million hectares); Australia (58 million hectares); Brazil (49.7 million hectares); and China (40.2 million hectares).

I encourage you to check out the Crowther Website where you can read the report in full. The site also offers a tool that allows you to pinpoint any area on the globe to find out about its reforestation potential.

 

via: Science Daily

Tree Tuesday

One of my favourite perspectives for photographing trees is looking up, way up, because a tall tree silhouetted against the sky is majestic. In winter their uppermost bare branches create beautiful patterns in the sky that look sculptural to me. Some trees, though, create sculptural bare spaces in the summer, too, through a phenomenon known as “crown shyness.”

If you look up toward certain types of towering trees—including eucalyptus, Sitka spruce, and Japanese larch—you may notice a unique phenomenon: the uppermost branches don’t touch. Known as “crown shyness,” this natural occurrence results in rupture-like patterns in the forest canopy that seem to perfectly outline the trees’ striking silhouettes.

Numerous scientists have been studying crown shyness since the 1920’s and several theories have been put forward, but no one knows for certain what causes it.

One possibility is that it occurs when the branches of trees (particularly those in areas with high winds) bump into each other. Another suggested explanation is that it enables the perennial plants to receive optimal light for photosynthesis. Perhaps the most prominent theory, however, is that the gaps prevent the proliferation of invasive insects.

My favourite theory is the one that postulates the trees are trying to avoid bumping into one another. It seems so polite and I can imagine woody conversations along the lines of “oops – so sorry old chap – didn’t mean to crowd you. I’ll just move over here.”

I think it’s stunning and hope I get a chance to see it someday. If you’re lucky enough see it, please take a photo and share.

Here’s one last photo from the story, but I encourage you to check out the full story and look at all the photos. The link is below.

The full story and more photos are at: My Modern Met

My thanks to rq for sending this story my way.

The Art of Book Design: Easy Guide to the Constellations

Today’s book comes from Anne, Cranky Cat Lady and it’s absolutely charming. I’m pretty sure it’s a rare first edition and it looks to be in good shape for a book that’s 119 years old.

James Gall. An Easy Guide to The Constellations With A Miniature Atlas of The Stars. Gall and Inglis, London, 1900.

Jack’s Walk

Part of the floodplain at our park. ©voyager, all rights reserved

Can anyone tell me what the man in these photos is doing? Jack and I encountered him at our local park yesterday. He was slowly walking from one side of the creek to the other along a measuring tape laid out between the banks. He would move a step or two and stop, then fiddle with his machine and look up to the sky for a while and then fiddle with his machine again until he was satisfied with something and then he’d take another step or two and repeat the process. At the rate he was moving it would take him an hour or more to cross our wee creek. I suspect it’s related to the flooding you can see in the first photo. Two years ago they removed the concrete barriers lining the creek and naturalized the banks. It was an all summer long project and it was quite picturesque when completed. Since then, though, the area around the creek floods easily and essentially makes large areas of the park unusable.

I would have stopped to ask him what he was doing, but the children in the photo were tossing stones into the creek that kept landing close to the poor man and the 2 adults in their group let several minutes pass before stopping the action. I thought the fellow

really didn’t need anyone else annoying him. Also, I didn’t want Jack to go into the creek because the last time he did he came out smelling like a sewer. We watched for a while and finally came home with my curiosity piqued, but not satisfied. If you have a clue or a notion about this endeavor I’d sure appreciate it if you’d share.

That’s curious.©voyager, all rights reserved

 

Very curious. ©voyager, all rights reserved

What’s he looking for up there? ©voyager, all rights reserved

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