What makes life alive?

24 02 2010

Pebble plants (Lithops salicola) among rocks. What distinguishes one from the other?

What is it, exactly, that makes a thing alive? Why do we call a rabbit alive, but not a rock? Here’s a little dialog to help clarify the problem. This is hardly comprehensive and I reserve the right to make sweeping edits in the future! But here it is, just below the fold:

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David Attenborough and More on Youtube!!

17 01 2010

The man himself! Sir David Attenborough.

The unparalleled naturalist David Attenborough has participated in a huge number of fantastic nature documentaries over the year, and it turns out a fair number of these are available on youtube! Having stumbled on these yesterday and spent several hours enjoying them, I felt compelled to share them with you, the public hungry for knowledge!

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More New Tunes from John Boswell

6 01 2010

Ooooh, Johnny, lay another dose of those sweet scientific sounds on me! The new track is titled “The Unbroken Thread,” and it features David Attenborough, Carl Sagan, and Jane Goodall. Here it is:

Until next time!

-Neil





The Times They Are A-Changing

27 09 2009
Beautiful fall colors! But where do they come from, and why are they coating the ground?

Beautiful fall colors! But where do they come from, and why are they coating the ground?

Hello! I haven’t done one of these long posts in a little while, so I thought I would remedy that. If you’re one of those people who seem to be suddenly coming to visit this site in great numbers, welcome! I’m glad to have you. Anyway, let’s get on with it.

I wanted to discuss the changes going on all around for those of us living in temperate deciduous forests like the kind in the northeastern United States. Every year, billions and billions of trees shed their leaves to prepare for winter. The precursor to this amputation is the emergence of beautiful and vivid fall leaf color.  But what accounts for this color, and why do trees shed their leaves in the first place? In this exciting two-part series, we’ll answer both questions! First, why do some trees lose their leaves in the fall?
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Rat Eating Plant Discovered on Slopes of Mt. Victoria!

7 09 2009
This pitcher plant, Nepenthes muluensis, is closely related to the newly discovered species. Note the slippery lip and the deep cavity.

This pitcher plant, Nepenthes muluensis, is closely related to the newly discovered species. Note the slippery lip and the deep cavity.

This is pretty cool. Researchers on an expedition to the Philippines’ Mt. Victoria have discovered a type of pitcher plant that specializes in rats. The pitcher plant is an awesome organism that lures prey with the promise of sweet smelling nectar. Once the victim climbs up on the lip of the plant, a waxy coating on the plant’s surface causes it to slip into the pitcher, where it drowns. Slowly, digestive enzymes or symbiotic creatures digest the captured animal, breaking it down into its constituent parts. These nutrients are then absorbed by the lining of the pitcher and used by the plant. This newly discovered organism, named Nepenthes attenboroughii after the wonderful David Attenborough, can be seen in a video on the Sun’s website here. Click the link for hot plant-on-rat action.

A plant that consumes rats. Awesome… Just imagine what other fantastic organisms remain to be discovered!

-Neil

P.S. I tried to think of a way to work this joke in but I couldn’t, so here it is. “I guess in this case, curiosity killed the rat!” Ha ha ha ha ha! I hope you treasure this joke… and may it fill you with gleeful laughter long into the night.